§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Douglas Hogg.]
§ Mr. Speaker
Before we start this important foreign affairs debate, I should like to tell the House that many right hon. Members wish to take part. I make a special appeal for short contributions today.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Sir Geoffrey Howe)
Before turning to wider issues, I shall start by bringing the House up to date on events in Grenada.
The United States Secretary for Defence has announced that hostilities ended on 2 November and that 3,000 United States troops will have left Grenada by the weekend. Pockets of resistance may, however, linger on for some time, especially in the interior of the island. Her Majesty's Government regret the loss of life that occurred at the mental hospital near Fort Frederick and sympathise with the families of those who lost their lives. Overall, however, the death toll has been relatively low, a fact for which everyone in the House can be thankful.
A British consular team has been in Grenada since last weekend. It has established the whereabouts of British nationals and has checked on their welfare. Over 100 British nationals have already left the island. I am delighted to confirm that we have received no reports of any British casualties.
The fact that the Governor-General is safe and well and firmly back in the saddle is something that the whole House will welcome. Let me emphasise one thing about which there has been some misunderstanding. The Governor-General is not in any sense a representative of the British Government. He is the representative of the Queen as the head of state of Grenada.
Powers delegated to the Governor-General in that capacity give him authority to take certain actions in the present vacuum. In the exercise of these powers he has announced that he will be calling together a group of responsible Grenadian citizens as an advisory council, to assist him in governing the country until it can be restored to normal democratic conditions. He is taking steps to assemble a small team of experienced officials to assist him in securing the resumption of civilian administration in the island.
We shall be glad to give all possible help in that process, either by ourselves or in conjunction with others, especially our partners in the Commonwealth. Mr. Rushford, a former Foreign Office legal adviser who drafted the constitution of Grenada, and Mr. Braithwaite, of the Commonwealth Secretariat, have already arrived in Grenada.
The interim administration in the island will face major tasks. It must organise free and fair elections in conditions of peace, and must put in hand the reconstruction of the island and its economy.
The organisation of elections may take some months. For them to be free and fair and above reproach they must be properly organised and properly supervised. Here again, we shall be glad to do all we can to help. As the House will be aware, that is something where we and other members of the Commonwealth have a great deal of relevant experience.
1009 If Grenada is to return to normal democratic life, it will be essential for conditions of peace and security to be restored to the island. Commonwealth assistance with an interim security force and with policing on the island have both been suggested. I have seen the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth twice in the past few days and he is now pursuing his discussions in New York. We are in close touch with Commonwealth missions there, and of course with the Governor-General in Grenada. The two functions are, of course, closely related. It will be important for any such security force to have a properly constituted structure of command, clear objectives and a time frame within which its mission must be accomplished. If it is to operate effectively it will also, of course, need the active support of the interim administration of Grenada and of other states of the Caribbean. Let me make it plain that we shall want to respond positively to requests for help in this field.
Reconstruction and economic development are a further essential ingredient in the return to normal conditions. We have already made clear to the Governor-General our willingness to help in that task. He has welcomed our offer to send a high level team of advisers, including aid experts and the regional police adviser, to assess the position and make proposals. They should arrive in Grenada tomorrow. Sir Paul Scoon has also welcomed our decision to resume forthwith our bilateral aid relationship with Grenada, which will involve capital assistance as well as technical co-operation.
In discussing Grenada, I have deliberately been looking to the future as I am sure that that is what the House would wish, but let me dispose of certain lines of argument that have been pursued over the past week.
Some hon. Members have argued that we should have condemned the intervention outright and voted against it at the United Nations. Other hon. Members have argued exactly the opposite. The position, quite simply, is this: we took the view that our participation in military intervention was not justified. We hold to that view, but we are not prepared to condemn, nor shall we condemn, the United States and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States for the action that they took. To have voted for any of the resolutions that have been before the Security Council and the General Assembly would have meant calling for an immediate withdrawal of United States and OECS troops.
Is that the result that hon. Members want who have urged me in that direction? Do they want guerrilla fighters from Cuba and the people's revolutionary army to remain free to create anarchy and bloodshed? Do they want to destroy the second chance for democracy that is now opened up to the people of Grenada? If that is what the Labour party wants, it should have the courage to say so in so many words. I must say that it is a grossly irresponsible policy, which Her Majesty's Government utterly reject.
Even more irresponsible is the way in which some Opposition Members have linked or sought to link the Grenada crisis with fundamental questions of western security in an orgy of anti-Americanism. They seem to take pleasure in criticising our most important ally, the support of which for western Europe is underlined by the presence on this side of the Atlantic of 300,000 troops and their dependants.
1010 The leader of the Labour party said not long ago that the United States and the Soviet Union presented an almost equal threat to the security of Britain. On the basis of such a belief, the destructive rhetoric that we have heard might just be explicable. Even so, I do not understand those who warn us against megaphone diplomacy in relation to the Soviet Union while urging it upon us in our dealings with our allies.
The flames of anti-Americanism on the Opposition Benches have been fanned with notable enthusiasm——
§ Mr. Neil Kinnock (Islwyn)
If the right hon. and learned Gentleman is going to quote me to try to improve his speeches, he had better quote me accurately. I said that there is almost an equity of menace to world stability, not an equality of threat to the security of Britain.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
What the right hon. Gentleman has just said serves only to clarify the falsity of his view. To regard that as an equity of menace is a wholly unfounded premise.
The flames of anti-Americanism have been fanned with enthusiasm by the one person in the Opposition whose major positions of responsibility in past Governments should have to taught him better. I refer of course to the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), the Labour spokesman on foreign affairs. We have witnessed the performance of a man who knows that his party will be in opposition for many years and that he will not have to account for his irresponsibility. It may have served to gain him a place in the shadow Cabinet, but at what a price.
As to the argument put forward by some of my hon. Friends, that we should have joined in the action taken by the United States, I should like to say this. Certainly we share the same objectives. We all want to see democracy and the rule of law prosper in Grenada and in the Caribbean more generally, just as we did in the south Atlantic, when we took the action that we did in the Falklands. That same rule of law informed the decision that we were called upon to take over intervention in Grenada. The case was less clear cut, of course, as General Austin and his friends had clearly shown their contempt for the values that we uphold.
We gave, as we should, full weight to the British interests at stake as well as the risks to British citizens on Grenada, and we concluded that British military intervention would not have been jusified. Other countries, including some Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean, reached the same conclusion.
The whole House must realise increasingly how difficult it is in an imperfect world to deal effectively with the likely consequences of a bloody coup such as the one in Grenada. It is important that we should recognise that these events have highlighted a particular problem affecting small independent nations. As my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Sir P. Goodhart) put it to me, they can be highjacked almost as easily as an airliner. They are peculiarly vulnerable to small bands of determined people who want power and are prepared to do anything to get it. The question whether more could be done to provide security to small nations is one to which further thought should properly be given. I intend to follow this up with our friends in the Commonwealth and elsewhere.
§ Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Ealing, Southall)
During the three years in which the Bishop Government were in 1011 power, progressive steps were taken to improve the economy of Grenada. Will the co-operatives, fish farms and the rest be safeguarded? Will the Foreign Secretary give an assurance that he will take a special interest in the economic progress and the attack on unemployment that was made in Grenada at that time?
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
The purpose of the early mission by our aid advisers is to enable us to take a view as to what can and should be preserved by economic assistance as soon as possible. If the hon. Member is right in what he has said, all the greater is the tragedy of the ruthless execution of Mr. Bishop by the murderous gang.
Some people see last week's events in the Caribbean as reflecting the continuing tension between East and West. The facts which have emerged about the extent and nature of the Cuban presence on Grenada are certainly relevant, but it is important to be clear, in each such case, just how much weight to place on what is often a more complex picture. It is important to keep a clear head about the fundamentals of the relationship between East and West.
Our first priority is and must be the security of our nation. The Russians certainly take the same view about theirs. But we have to take account, too, of the brute fact that they appear in practice to see their security as requiring the invasion of Afghanistan, the suppression of Solidarity in Poland, the shooting down of 269 innocent civilians and an arms build-up going far beyond the realistic needs of defence. So long as that is the case, the Soviet Union should not he surprised if the world outside its borders feels threatened by those very same actions and takes measures to ensure that its essential security interests are defended.
That is why the present Government, indeed the Alliance as a whole, remain determined to maintain the armed forces necessary to our security. We remain equally determined to work for balance and effective measures of disarmament. We proved once again last week our desire not to retain more nuclear weapons that are strictly necessary for deterrence when NATO defence Ministers announced a reduction of 2,000 nuclear warheads in Europe, in addition to the 1,000 removed by the United States in 1980.
We want to make headway in developing a more normal relationship between East and West over a broader front. Of course the obstacles are all too clear. We have to accept that change in the Soviet Union will be a long-term process and that western influence will probably be slight. Change in eastern Europe will also be slow, but that is no reason to confine our efforts only to maintaining adequate defences.
We must be prepared, and we are ready, to put our views directly to the Russians and to do so at all levels. Contacts between East and West are not an end in themselves. Nor should they be. They are a means to an end. Our aim is to convey our views to the Russians without unnecessary asperity, but without ambiguity. And we are very ready to listen to what they want to tell us. That was the spirit in which, two months ago, I saw Mr. Gromyko in Madrid and, more recently, Mr. Kostandov, the Soviet Deputy Prime Minister, in London. We are now looking for a similar response from the Soviet Union.
This is above all necessary in the negotiations on intermediate nuclear forces in Geneva. The House must face the probability that agreement will not be reached in Geneva before the end of the year. The Russians, with a 1012 mixture of threats and apparent inducements, have tried their best to divert public opinion in the West. But they have not made an effort where it really matters—at the negotiating table. Nothing that they have said so far changes their fundamental position. They are still demanding that they should, but that the United States should not, be allowed medium-range missiles in Europe. That is unacceptable to us and to the Alliance as a whole.
That is why, barring some quite unexpected change in the Soviet position, it will be necessary for NATO to begin to deploy its own INF missiles by the end of this year. We hoped that this could have been avoided — we have worked hard to avoid it—but Soviet intransigence has left us with no choice.
Deployment will not in any way affect our resolve to pursue an arms control agreement after that time. If it proves necessary to implement the full deployment programme, this will take place over five years. But deployment can be and will be halted or reversed whenever progress in Geneva so warrants. I remain determined, the Government remain determined, indeed the West remains determined, to work for such an outcome.
The Soviet leaders, for their part, must make their position clear. Are they interested in balanced disarmament, or have they stayed at Geneva, as all too many people fear, merely in the hope of maintaining unilateral advantage?
We are greatly concerned also to see early progress in the other negotiations in progress in Geneva — the START talks on rductions of strategic nuclear weapons.
The INF and the START talks are of course bilateral negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union. We in Britain are, however, very closely involved with our allies in the formulation of policy, particularly in INF, because it is of such vital importance to the Alliance as a whole.
As for our own strategic systems, there can be no question of agreeing to the inclusion of those weapons in the INF negotiations in Geneva. Those talks are specifically not about strategic weapons. They do not include the strategic weapons of the United States or the Soviet Union and there is no logical reason why they should include ours. As far as strategic arms control is concerned, we must remember that our force represents less than 3 per cent. of the strategic nuclear forces available to the United States or to the Soviet Union. It would make no sense as things stand for us to seek to trade reductions with the Russians.
But we have never said never. We have made it clear that if Soviet and United States strategic arsenals were to be very substantially reduced and if no significant changes had occurred in Soviet defensive capabilities, Britain would want to review her position and to consider how best we could contribute to arms control in the light of that reduced threat.
These are fundamental issues between East and West. They are crucial also to the prospects for peace in the world. But not all conflict in the world can or should be seen as a by-product of conflict between East and West.
§ Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton and Wallington)
I very much welcome the positive statement of my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary about the Government's commitment to multilateral arms control 1013 and disarmament. Can he say what progress is being made on the comprehensive test ban treaty in which the Government should be involved?
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
I am not prepared to enlarge on that matter, as my speech is already quite long enough.
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman will have to think on his feet.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
I wish to refer to the long-drawn-out war in the Gulf. Numerous mediators have tried to end the bloody and pointless conflict between Iran and Iraq. So far, regrettably, they have all failed. The whole world would like to see a speedy settlement on terms acceptable to both sides. We shall continue to support any initiatives which offer a realistic chance of bringing that about.
Just as urgent is the need for a settlement of the wider Arab-Israel dispute. Time is not on the side of peace in that region. But the fact remains that there is no alternative to a negotiated settlement. The difficulties are formidable, but the principles spelt out in the Venice declaration and the commitment to a peaceful solution at the Arab summit at Fez provide the right landmarks and President Reagan's plan remains the best route map available. We are doing all in our power to encourage the parties to return to that road.
The urgent need is for a firm commitment by all the parties to the principles on which negotiated agreement could be based. That was the message which my right hon. Friend took with her to Washington when she had talks with President Reagan a month ago, and that is the message which is being carried by my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Mr. Luce), who has just visited Israel and the West Bank and is today in Jordan. But no country outside that region can produce peace. Only the parties themselves can make that peace.
So it is with the Lebanon. The multinational force is there to give support to the Lebanese Government and armed forces in the Beirut area. The British contingent is there to help in that task. It is a delicate and dangerous mission. Our troops are carrying it out with distinction and courage. They have won the trust of all sides; and trust is a precious commodity in Lebanon.
I know the whole House shares my feelings of revulsion for the recent horrendous attack on the American and French contingents. Both countries have, of course, weighed their position very carefully in the light of their tragic losses. They have made clear their determination that those unspeakable acts will not weaken their resolve to continue that mission. I discussed the position of the multinational force with the foreign ministers of the United States, France and Italy in Paris last Thursday. The force is a symbol of our commitment to help create the circumstances in which the Lebanese Government can pursue political reconciliation and restore stability. It should not, and it will not, stay a day longer than is necessary and justified by what is happening on the ground. But there can be no question of pulling it out at this stage.
The ceasefire which came into effect on 26 September was an important step forward, but it will not last in a political vacuum. It is therefore now more important than ever, and more urgent than ever, that the Lebanese should grasp this opportunity to reach an agreement which will 1014 help them to live together in peace. Outsiders can help create the right environment for these vital negotiations. The withdrawal of Israeli and Syrian forces remains a very important, and very difficult, objective, but it is for the Lebanese leaders themselves to make the painful concessions which will be needed from all sides in Lebanon if a lasting bargain is to be struck. That is the purpose of the talks which began in Geneva on Monday. It is now for the Lebanese to show that they want independence. We have made it absolutely clear to them that we are not prepared to wait indefinitely for the steps necessary to make it a reality.
It is not possible in a speech of this kind to deal with all the questions of foreign policy to which the House— and I myself—attach importance. Nor is it possible to weave the answers to all the questions into some seamless web of principle. The primary point perhaps is that as Foreign Secretary it is my duty, which I seek to discharge, to uphold the interests of this country and its people.
Against that background, I should like very briefly to say a word about Hong Kong, about which there is, quite properly, deep interest in the House. As my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham explained in the short debate on Monday night, the most recent session of talks about Hong Kong took place on 19–20 October. That session was described by both sides as useful and constructive. We are right to take encouragement from this.
The next round of talks will be on 14–15 November. Our objective remains clear. We are seeking a settlement which will secure stability and prosperity for Hong Kong, and in a way acceptable to China and to the people of Hong Kong and to this Parliament.
I can well understand the feelings of uncertainty among people in Hong Kong, but there are solid reasons for them to face the future with confidence. Their economy has great underlying strength. The Hong Kong Government have acted decisively to stabilise the Hong Kong dollar.
I was able to discuss these questions with the Chinese Foreign Minister in New York just over a month ago. It was quite clear that we are approaching these talks with an agreed common purpose. There is still much ground —and much difficult ground—to be covered, but I have no doubt that there is a common will to bring the talks to a successful conclusion. However, it is necessary and right that these talks should be conducted in an atmosphere of complete confidentiality. I hope the House will bear with that, knowing that this is an essential element in eventual success.
We shall continue to consult closely with Hong Kong. Unofficial members of the Governor's executive council came for the second time to London early last month, and met my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and myself. We shared a complete understanding on the issues involved. That is the basis on which we intend to proceed.
§ Sir Paul Bryan (Boothferry)
Would it not be as well to point out at this juncture how prosperous Hong Kong is in manufacturing? It is doing extremely well.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
That is one of the many aspects of Hong Kong's prosperity and one of the reasons why I say that there can be confidence on the basis on which to carry through the negotiations.
§ Mr. John Browne (Winchester)
I support entirely my right hon. and learned Friend's wishes and the reasons for having the negotiations carried out under the strictest 1015 confidentiality, as I believe it stops fluctuations in the market for one thing. Would he be prepared to say whether or not within that confidentiality there would be any willingness on behalf of Her Majesty's Government to take equity in things like the proposed new nuclear power station?
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
That is a separate question. We are certainly interested in the prospects for a prosperous partnership between British manufacturing firms and the proposed nuclear power station at Guandong. We are prepared to consider any arrangement that would make sense to the Chinese Government and ourselves to achieve that.
Finally, I turn to the European Community. It is now certain that the future of this country lies in the Community. That was made absolutely clear by the people in the election in June. Our continuing task in the Community is to make a full success of our membership. Since the beginning of July I have spent many days in negotiation with our Common Market partners and can report to the House that throughout the Community there is greater recognition that there is a real budgetary problem for the Community as a whole to be resolved and beyond that a greater willingness to negotiate to resolve that problem. [Laughter.] Opposition Members may laugh, but the recognition by all the countries of the Community of the existence of this problem is a major step forward.
When Labour were thrown out of government in 1979 the budget problem was dismissed throughout Europe with the words, "What Budget problem?" I can confirm that to the House. At that time, in 1979, in day after day of negotiations, we were seeking to persuade our partners in the Community that a problem existed. If one conducts negotiations now, they start from the premise that there is a problem which goes beyond the interests of this country. It is recognised that the budget problem of the Community has to be solved if the Community is to grow successfully, as we all wish and as Britain's economic and political interests demand. Failure in the forthcoming negotiations would be a serious setback.
Spending within the community has become distorted, primarily because 65 per cent. of the budget is devoted to the common agricultural policy. spending has also risen faster than resources. I have made it clear that we would be prepared to consider an increase in the Community's own resources provided that—I stress this—two very important conditions are met. First, agreement must be reached on an effective control of the rate of increase of agricultural and other expenditure. Secondly, this must be accompanied by an arrangement to ensure a fair sharing of the financial burden, so that no country has to pay a share disproportionate to its relative national wealth. Only in those circumstances, as the Prime Minister and I have made clear, could we consider an increase in the 1 per cent. VAT limit.
§ Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)
Would my right hon. and learned Friend go a bit further? Since at any one time the public expenditure cake in Europe is finite, if Europe is to spend more money, that means that Europe will be controlling more policies and we will be controlling fewer policies and spending less money. That would be a surrender of sovereignty by the House. If Europe is to have more money, we in this country will be seeking new schemes of public expenditure so that we can 1016 get our share of that money. Since hon. Members on this side of the House do not wish to go for more schemes of public expenditure and since also many people on both sides of the House would resist an increase in the resources, will my right hoe. and learned Friend go further and say that in no circumstances will this country agree to an increase in Community resources?
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
The purpose of what I have just been saying is precisely the opposite to what my hon. Friend has invited me to say. I have set out clearly the conditions under which we would be prepared to consider an increase in those resources.
Our specific proposals on the budget concentrate on correcting inequitable burdens by setting firm limits, based on relative prosperity and gross domestic product, to the net budgetary burden that any member should be expected to bear. That is the British proposal for a safety net. If we contributed more than our due one year, our contribution the following year would simply be reduced by the amount due under the safety net arrangement.
The second crucial point is reform of the CAP. Agriculture is the largest industry in our economy. Our self-sufficiency in food products is growing. I greatly welcome that. However, the price that we have had to pay for that success has been too high—above all the cost to the taxpayer of subsidised surpluses which cannot be disposed of inside the Community or sensibly outside.
We have therefore proposed the introduction of a strict financial guideline which must be embodied in the Community's budgetary procedures. This will ensure that the rate of growth of CAP expenditure is kept markedly lower than the rate of growth of the Community's resources. That will not freeze agricultural spending or exclude flexibility to deal with unforeseen crises, but it will ensure that CAP spending is kept within strictly confined limits and it will back up the measures which are necessary to bring about a better market balance for agricultural commodities.
This will be a difficult element in the negotiations that will continue at the Athens summit in December. The concept I have outlined is in tune with the Commission's intentions. It represents one aspect of the changing mood in Europe and it is in line with the intentions of most other member states. The Dutch, for example, are thinking along much the same lines as us, and I have never heard them criticised for lack of Community spirit or attachment to the CAP. Reiteration of good intentions is not enough. The fundamental requirement is that we must now achieve arrangements which guarantee results.
I am also looking forward to the development of new policies. At Stuttgart we made proposals concerning transport and energy policy, the environment, innovation and advanced technology. All are areas in which the Community should now take specific action. Such action could be taken without incurring additional expenditure and it would greatly benefit the Community.
Many more hard days and nights of negotiation lie ahead before those objectives are achieved, but the mood among our Community partners on the need for change is much more evident. Our chipping away at the logjam is yielding results and we are much more likely to achieve success because, unlike the divided Labour party, there is no doubt whatsoever about the Government's commitment to Europe.
§ Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)
I understand that this is our last debate on foreign affairs before the Commonwealth conference. My right hon. and learned Friend will be aware of the deep anxiety of many hon. Members about the detention of Bishop Muzorewa. Britain might have no legal responsibility for the bishop but we have a strong moral responsibility for him as he implemented the six principles and put almost blind trust in the Government during the Lancaster House conference. Will my right hon. and learned Friend undertake to raise, or get the Prime Minister to raise, the case of Bishop Muzorewa and that of the air force officers who are still under detention when they meet Mr. Mugabe at the forthcoming Commonwealth conference?
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I will consider those points. My right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) no doubt understands the limitations of our formal responsibility, but I shall certainly bear in mind the points that he has made.
My final point follows from the observations that I have just made. Britain is no longer an imperial power, but we remain deeply respected. That respect is based on our tradition of law and fair dealing and on our readiness to take difficult decisions in britain's interests and stand by them.
In Europe, in disarmament negotiations, in the middle east or in Grenada the answers are not to be found in the glib one-line propositions that we hear from the Opposition. They say that we should withdraw from Europe—what nonsense — abandon nuclear defence— what nonsense—pull out of Lebanon and condemn the United States. Stop the world—Labour wants to get off. That is a grotesque way for a major political party to tackle world problems. The Labour party is long on insults, short on solutions. We do not believe in trading insults with our friends. We build bridges, not demolish them. That is in the interests of Britain, of the Commonwealth, of Europe and the Atlantic Alliance. That is the policy which the Government will continue to pursue.
§ Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)
The Secretary of State has covered many issues. I shall take up many of the points that he made. I can say on behalf of many right hon. and hon. Members that as the Foreign Secretary has shown such a lack of knowledge and judgment when dealing with the problems of an independent Commonwealth country of which Britain has long experience, it is difficult to have much confidence in his knowledge or judgment on the issues that he discussed today.
It is only a few months since the House last discussed foreign affairs in their broader context. We must agree, however, that in all respects the world is now an even more dangerous place than it was in the summer. An effective dialogue between Western powers and the Soviet Union has now almost come to a halt. There are growing strains between the United States and its European allies in every aspect of policy—even in defence which is the core of our relationship. Armed conflict is growing worse in the middle east, the horn of Africa and in central America. The background to that deterioration in the political scene is the world economy, which is threatend by a debt crisis which worsens every week. The Philippines, Hong Kong, Israel and South Korea are all new entrants to the list of 1018 countries that suffer from the debt crisis. Moreover, there is a risk of a trade war between the European Community and the United States.
In such gloomy circumstances the House and Government must concentrate primarily on the issues of direct concern to the United Kingdom or on issues on which the British Government can hope to exert an important influence for the good. I shall deal first with the deepening conflict between Washington and Moscow and then consider some of its implications in the Caribbean, central and Latin America and in the middle east. I shall not discuss Hong Kong as it will be dealt with in the Opposition's winding-up speech. Nor shall I deal with in the Community budget, primarily because my imagination is still reeling from the shock of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's revelation that there is a problem with the Community budget and our partners are aware of it.
Nor shall I deal in detail with what the Foreign Secretary said about disarmament. However, I wish to make one observation about the central issue of the role of British nuclear forces in the disarmament discussions. The Foreign Secretary knows very well that the Soviet Union has not asked Britain to reduce her nuclear forces. That has not been the issue. We have been asked simply that they should be taken into account in the discussions on intermediate nuclear forces between the Soviet Union and the United States as they represent part of the western European-based threat to the Soviet Union.
§ Mr. Healey
What I say is accepted by the Soviet and United States Governments. As I pointed out on Monday when we discussed these matters at greater length, Secretary Weinburger included British nuclear forces not in the strategic forces with which he dealt in his statement on fiscal 1984, but in the theatre nuclear forces allocated to supreme allied command Europe. It is illogical for the British Government to refuse to allow the Americans to include them in the threat as they obviously form part of it. Their range is less than that of the Russian SS20s and they were taken account of in early discussions between the United States and the Soviet Union, although that was done tacitly in protocols.
I start with the problem in Washington and I speak, as the Foreign Secretary conceded, as a man who has spent most of his political life defending the British relationship with the United States against critics, not least those in my party. Since President Reagan won office, Washington has been the theatre of a struggle between pragmatists and ideologues. There is no denying that the ideologues now have the upper hand, but the struggle continues and America's friends and allies, not only in NATO but in Latin America, can influence that struggle, and it is vital that we should seek to do so.
The ideology, which now has the upper hand and which determined the invasion of Grenada, was described in chilling terms in an interview with Mrs. Jeane Kirkpatrick in a recent issue of Encounter magazine, long extracts of which were published in The Times. It is based on the proposition that the world is exclusively the scene of a cold war between Russia and the United States, in which Russia is winning because America is not taking the cold war sufficiently seriously; that the failure of America and her 1019 allies to take the cold war seriously enough is both a sin and a political blunder, because the cold war is a moral crusade of good against evil.
President Reagan made his views about that clear even before he was elected when he said:The Soviet Union underlies all the unrest that is going on. If they were not engaged in this game of dominoes, there would not be any hot spots in the world".He believed that then and he believes it now. A few months ago in Orlando, Florida, he described the Soviet Union as "an evil empire" andthe focus of evil in the modern world".He went on to say—I know there are ideologues on the Conservative Benches who take the same view:We Americans are enjoined by Scripture and the Lord Jesus Christ to oppose the sin and evil in the world.He returned to the same theme in the television address he gave last week, which sought to justify the presence of American marines in Lebanon and the invasion of Grenada. He asked of Lebanon:Can the United States, or the free world for that matter, stand by and see the Middle East incorporated into the Soviet Bloc?I shall deal with some of the implications of that in a moment. He went on to say:We are a nation with global responsibilities. We are not somewhere else in the world protecting someone else's interests. We are there protecting our own.He also used those arguments and principles to justify the invasion of Grenada.
I hope that the Foreign Secretary will assure the House that he still agrees with what he said once or twice last week and with rather more force on Sunday, which was that it is unacceptable for the American President to assert the right of the United States to intervene by military force anywhere in the world where it believes United States interests to be at stake.
The United States is not the only member of the Western Alliance to have been guilty of unilateral action. The British Government took unilateral action and violated international law at Suez in 1966. I attacked their action then as I attack the American Government's action today. It is also true, as the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) said a few days ago, that President Reagan is not the first American President to have acted unilaterally. Almost exactly 10 years ago in October 1973, without consulting Her Majesty's Government, the United States put all its nuclear forces in the United Kingdom on alert, not for a purpose covered by NATO but to deter the possible dispatch of Soviet troops to Egypt during the Yom Kippur war. Sir James Cable says in a letter to The Times today that Secretary of State Kissinger justified the failure to consult his allies—a failure that is wholly contrary to the understandings that The Prime Minister asked us to accept on cruise—with the words:To be frank, we could not have accepted a judgment different from our own … allies should be consulted wherever possible. But emergencies are sure to arise again; and it will not be in anyone's interest if the chief protector of free world security is hamstrung by bureaucratic procedure.Those are Secretary Kissinger's own words and they fully justify the views of those who spoke from both sides of the House during Monday's debate on the installation of cruise missiles in favour of giving the British Government physical control over the firing of those missiles, as we had physical control over the firing of the four missiles which were introduced into Britain in 1958 when Prime Minister Macmillan was head of the Government.
1020 Such control is especially important at a time when the American Administration is guided by the ideology which, as I describe in its own words,reserves the right to act anywhere in the world by military force if it feels its interests threatened",and to act in areas not covered by the rules of the North Atlantic Alliance, as it did in 1973.
§ Mr. Churchill
Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that American forces are in Lebanon or in Grenada other than by the invitation of the embodiment of constitutional authority in those countries?
§ Mr. Healey
They were invited in by the Government of Lebanon, and I shall return to the implications of that in a moment. That is not so in Grenada, and I shall be dealing with the hon. Gentleman's point in detail shortly.
The idea that Soviet Communism is the cause of all the trouble in the modern world is just as ridiculous as its mirror image — the view of infantile pseudo-Marxists that all the trouble in the world is caused by capitalism. The world suffered from wars and revolutions for at least 2,000 years before the Spinning Jenny was invented or the Bolsheviks stormed the Winter Palace. To attribute all the complex problems of the world, with their different backgrounds and history, to this comic strip interpretation which President Reagan undoubtedly genuinely believes is profoundly dangerous to world peace; and it is the duty of anyone who cares for world peace or for the Alliance to say so and to keep on saying so until this ridiculous fantasy disappears from the formulation of American policy.
However, the Prime Minister went out of her way to endorse President Reagan's approach on her previous trip to the United States in a speech which rightly earned her a rebuke from Lord Carrington that she was indulging in megaphone diplomacy. I hope that she recognises now where such opportunistic rhetoric has led her. If, as the Prime Minister then said,Force and dictatorship are the only governing principles of Soviet policy",I ask her to ask herself, and I ask the House to ask itself, why the Soviet Union did not attack China in the early 1960s when their relations were at an all-time low, when the Soviet Union had a large arsenal of nuclear weapons and China had none. China also had no friends in the world, because at that time the United States was as hostile to Peking as was the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union attacked Afghanistan because the reaction of Western Governments to the first infringements of Afghanistan's neutrality was so supine that it had installed a Communist Government—those Governments were quite wrong to do so, and we should have protested at the time—and it thought that there would be no reaction. It was wrong. I am glad that there was a reaction and that the reaction from these Benches was as strong as that from the Government Benches.
Ever since the second world war, the Soviet Union has been cautious about using the Red Army outside the area the Soviet Government believes to be recognised by the West as being within its sphere of influence. I believe that the Alliance between Europe and the United States is fundamental not just to the security of Great Britain but to the peace of the world. To those both on the Right and the Left of British politics who ask Britain to leave the Alliance, I say that there is no chance whatever that, if the Alliance broke up, the United States would revert to the 1021 passive neutrality in world affairs that it observed before the second world war. If the Alliance broke up, global unilateralism would be unrestrained.
The Alliance will not survive, however, unless America's allies join the powerful forces inside the United States itself that are as worried as I am about the new elements in American policy. The views of Mr. George Ball, for example, who served America well in many Administrations as a Minister for foreign affairs, appeared in The Times last week. He spoke as one who believes that if America continues to go it alone in a holy war against Communism, it will be a disaster for the world and a disaster for the United States. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Tip O'Neill, who could not be described as soft on Communism, has described the Grenada invasion as gunboat diplomacy and a breach of international law.
In an interview on Sunday, the Foreign Secretary belatedly made it clear that he shares that view. It is very disappointing that he did not join members of the Commonwealth such as New Zealand and Canada, and members of NATO such as the Netherlands and France, in condemning America's action on this occasion. By seeking to ride two horses, he has fallen between two stools. [Interruption.] The circus metaphor comes easily to mind when one is talking about the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I fear that it is irresistible.
We must join our friends in Europe and elsewhere— notably in the Commonwealth — in warning the United States Administration against its current approach to foreign policy, particularly in central America and the middle east, which at present are the areas of greatest danger.
Before I deal with the broad implications for central America of what happened in Grenada, I have some questions for the Foreign Secretary about Grenada itself. The right hon. Gentleman said that the casualties had been lower than might have been expected. I am not sure whether he was referring to casualties among the fighting forces, or civilian casualties. It appears to me, however, and my view is confirmed in the newspapers, that there has been no attempt to collect figures for the civilian casualties. We learnt belatedly that in an attack on a mental hospital—a tragic error—30 people were killed, 70 reported missing and many injured. However, British journalists now on the island state that there were other civilian casualties. I wonder whether the Minister who replies to the debate will tell us whether Her Majesty's Government know how many innocent civilians were victims of the invasion.
The second question that I put to the Minister was raised a moment ago and concerns the role of the Governor-General. There must still be doubt about the timing and circumstances of the invitation that he issued for intervention, and to whom it was addressed. The Prime Minister of Dominica said that the request for intervention was made on the Friday and Saturday before the invasion. The Governor-General said that he decided to ask for intervention on the Sunday evening and confirmed his request—whatever that means—on Monday, in a letter that was delivered on Wednesday, and which some people believe was drafted by American officials rather than by him.
1022 The Governor-General told British journalists — according to the weekend newspapers—that he had not asked for military intervention, or for intervention by the United States. However, in the "Panorama" programme on Monday he told the British television audience that he had invited the United States to intervene. My right hon. and learned Friend Lord Elwyn-Jones, who was the Lord Chancellor in the previous Labour Government, spoke in the other place on Monday. I refer hon. Members to column 516 of Hansard. He said not only that the Organisation of East Caribbean States had no legal right, under the 1981 treaty, to intervene or to ask others to intervene, but that the Governor-General had no right to invite a foreign power to invade his native land without first taking advice from the Queen.
The Governor-General spoke to the Palace on the Sunday, as the Prime Minister told us when she spoke on Tuesday of last week, and made no mention of his intention or desire to issue such an invitation. He was free to contact the Palace on Monday, because the invasion did not take place until Monday night. However, he did not do so, and gave no sign of an intention to do so. Yet the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, told the other place in a debate on Monday that the authority of the Governor-General derived from the Queen and that he was her representative. There was no legal authority for the intervention that the Governor-General requested, if in fact he requested it. That is one of the disturbing elements in the whole affair.
I raise these points, because if Sir Paul Scoon does not act as the focus for the restoration of democratic government on Grenada it is difficult to see what can be done. Just then, I nearly said "Barbados", but Barbados was anyway acting on behalf of Grenada last week, was it not? If Sir Paul Scoon wishes to act—as I hope he will — as a focus for the restoration of democratic government in Grenada, it is vital that he should be seen by the world and the people of Grenada as a wholly independent figure, and not as the agent of any foreign Government. It is vital that that should be made clear and that, whatever may have happened in the past, there can be no imputation against Sir Paul Scoon's objectivity or his role as a completely national, independent arbitrator, who is not responsible to any foreign power.
§ Sir Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that the Governor-General was in an impossible position, and that if he had publicly asked for the intervention of outside forces while he was in Grenada he would have been murdered by the leaders of the coup? Under those circumstances, how could he give clear instructions?
§ Mr. Healey
According to the Prime Minister of Dominica, Sir Paul Scoon asked for intervention on the previous Friday and Saturday. It was open to him to reveal his intention in his telephone conversation with the Palace, and even more so in his conversation on Sunday with the representative of the British high Commissioner in his private apartment on Grenada. He did not do so, and the Prime Minster made this clear last week. Great uncertainty must remain about whether he in fact asked for intervention; if so, when, and whether he took the decision on his own or was persuaded to confirm it while he was on the battleship Guam and when his hosts would not allow him to contact certain people.
1023 The House would agree that if Sir Paul Scoon accepts responsibility and free elections are held, all American troops must be out of the island and some impartial body must be present to monitor and to guarantee law and order during the election. I understand that, although American troops have been reduced substantially, there are still 1,500 or 2,000 on the island which, on an island of 100,000 inhabitants, is a pretty substantial number. Therefore, it is important that some impartial body can guarantee law and order from the earliest moment. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman agrees that the Commonwealth seems to be the most suitable and likely body to assume this role. I hope that the Minister when he replies will make it clear that when the Foreign Secretary talked about a positive response he meant that if we are asked to contribute to a Commonwealth force we shall agree. This point was not wholly clear from what the right hon. Gentleman said.
I turn to the broader implications of the invasion for the central American region as a whole. The right hon. Gentleman must know, because he has ambassadors in all of the capitals concerned, that the invasion was seen by many as a rehearsal for the invasion of Nicaragua or Cuba or for direct American military intervention in El Salvador. The circumstances in each of those three countries could justify intervention, according to the rules that President Reagan announced in his television broadcast the other day.
The Prime Minister told the world on Sunday during a television interview that she would stick her neck out— a dangerous procedure in some company—and say that America would not invade Nicaragua. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will tell us that she had some information to justify so dangerous and uncharacteristic an action. Has she been informed by the American President that this is not on? I should hope so. I can think of nothing more calculated to send a wave of anti-Americanism sweeping over the West and Europe than a repetition in Nicaragua of the Grenada invasion.
The United States intervened in Grenada in breach of American commitments under the Organisation of American States charter, the Rio treaty, and the United Nations charter. Its action has been condemned during the past week by every Latin American Government who do not owe their survival to American support. I believe that I am correct in saying that the only Latin American Governments who failed to condemn American action were El Salvador, Guatemala and Chile. The intervention was condemned by every Government in the Ponta Pora group, on which President Reagan says that he now relies to obtain a peaceful settlement in El Salvador. If the United States President were to repeat the Grenadian adventure in any other part of Latin America, he would do a disastrous disservice to his country and to world peace. At the moment, he has assembled more forces in the independent country of Honduras than have taken part in any other American exercise. They will stay there longer than any other exercise has lasted. President Reagan said at the beginning that the exercise would last six months; now, apparently, it could go on indefinitely. We know that the only reason that he is describing their presence as an exercise is that it is a means of evading control by the American Congress under the War Powers Act.
1024 I believe that all America's friends should counsel it in its own best interest to take those troops out immediately, since that is the only way in which the United States can make it clear that it does not intend to invade Nicaragua.
The United Kingdom still has two direct responsibilities in south America—Belize and the Falkland Islands. The House can compare Her Majesty's Government's policies towards these two remaining responsibilities. The Prime Minister has chosen to spend thousands of millions of pounds to build a military base on the Falklands to defend 400 families, which are under no military threat, especially now that Mr. Alfonsin has won the election in Argentina. As the House knows, he was an outspoken opponent of the generals' invasion. He has said many times that he has no intention of pursuing Argentina's claim to the Falklands by military force. He plans to try to reorganise Argentina's forces so that they would not be capable of that type of action.
At the same time as the Government are pouring money into the Falklands, they are threatening to pull out a small British detachment from Belize to save not thousands of millions of pounds but, I believe, £25 million. Our forces are in Belize to defend a large population against a real threat from a neighbouring military dictatorship.
I suggest to the Prime Minister that she reverse her policies. She should stop talking about leaving Belize, because what she said about it—this leaked rapidly; she did not leak it herself—was an exact repetition of the blunder she had made that led to the Falklands incident. That statement was the exact equivalent to the decision to withdraw HMS Endurance from the Falkland Islands. She was sending the wrong signal to a military dictator for the second time in the same area. It almost beggars the imagination that the Prime Minister could have acted so foolishly.
I suggest that some attempt be made while the opportunity is right to get in touch with Mr. Alfonsin and to consider how normal relations with Argentina can most rapidly be restored. Undoubtedly, the most useful first step would be a freeze on additional spending in the Falklands —something which would be welcome to the Chancellor of the Exchequer who is still trying to get £240 million knocked off this year's budget, if we are to believe the Financial Times which has normally been a much more reliable source of information about Her Majesty's Government than Ministers.
The United Kingdom should seriously consider what can be done to persuade Argentina and other countries in the area not to spend the same sums on building up their military forces as they have in recent years. I know that the Prime Minister is trying to dissuade President Reagan from recommencing arms deliveries to Argentina, although he could rightly protest that the first thing she did when the war with the Argentines was over was to authorise British firms to put essential machinery into German warships for delivery to Argentina this summer. More importantly, she must stop her currently planned arms deliveries to the tottering dictatorship in Chile, which is Argentina's deadly enemy. Argentina has every right to want to maintain strong forces so long as it is threatened by the Pinochet dictatorship over the many territorial disputes that they have.
I understand that HMS Antrim, the ship upon which we relied to rescue our citizens from Grenada, is being sold to Chile with a number of Jaguars equipped with Sea Eagle. It would make a great deal of sense for us and the 1025 United States to get together and agree upon a moritorium of arms deliveries to that part of the world and, better still, if we could persuade France and Israel to join a similar moritorium.
Arms expenditure in that part of the world does not just buttress military dictatorships; it is the main cause of the debt problem which could even now bring down the private banking system in ruins.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
Is it not interesting that after the recent disturbances which took place in Chile in which children were killed there was no condemnation of the Chilean Government's action by the Prime Minister or her Foreign Secretary?
§ Mr. Healey
I cannot confirm that. I have a feeling that some protest was delivered to the Chilean ambassador. An answer to that can perhaps be given later.
The troubles in the Lebanon today are not the result of a Soviet plot. Fighting has been going on between the various communities at least since the crusades. Fighting is certain to continue unless the Christian minority can be persuaded to give a fairer share of political power to the Muslim majority and Syria's historical interest in the Lebanon is recognised.
The Government should make it clear to the Governments of Lebanon and the United States that we will withdraw our participation in the peacekeeping force unless the Geneva negotiations succeed in achieving those two objects.
The settlement of the current intercommunal problem in the Lebanon will not be sufficient unless account is also taken of the 300,000 Palestinians who are not represented at Geneva, some 100 of whom are carrying weapons. It was their presence in the Lebanon nine years ago which led the Christian Government to invite Syria into the Lebanon with the agreement of Israel and the United States. I learn that there was a savage attack this morning on Yasser Arafat's men in which many were killed. There is no doubt that so long as the Palestinians remain in Lebanon they will be open to the type of massacre that they suffered in Chatila camp a year ago.
The Palestinians must be given somewhere to live, and it cannot be another Arab country. They were pushed out of Jordan and the Lebanon. Syria certainly will not accept them nor will any other Arab country. There is only one place that they can go, and that is where they came from —the West Bank of the Jordan, and Gaza. However, the Israeli Government are colonising the West Bank.
Many people believe that the main purpose of the invasion of Lebanon was to distract world attention from the build up of settlements on the West Bank which has been going on apace since then.
§ Mr. Cyril D. Townsend (Bexleyheath)
The right hon. Gentleman will recall that a few weeks ago he called for the precipitate withdrawal of the British contingent from the Lebanon when it was helping to facilitate the current talks on the Lebanon in Switzerland. Would not such a withdrawal have given the wrong message to the Syrians, embarrass our allies and weaken Great Britain's strong position in the Middle East?
§ Mr. Healey
The hon. Gentleman is wrong. The House will recall that I said here, and many times on radio and 1026 television before the House reassembled, exactly what I am saying now, that the conditions for the maintenance of British forces in the Lebanon must be a move by the Lebanese Government to a fairer sharing of power with the Muslim community and recognition of Syria's legitimate, historical interests in Lebanon. I said that if that could not be achieved we should discuss multilateral withdrawal with other members of the peacekeeping force and only if that failed should we go for unilateral withdrawal.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber)
Like many other people, the right hon. Gentleman has said that he believes that there should be a shift in the traditional balance of the Lebanese Government in favour of the Muslims. How should that be done? Is he saying that the Maronites should give up the presidency?
§ Mr. Healey
I will not take the decisions that the hon. Gentleman said—I agree with him on this—could be taken only by those who are present at the Geneva talks. There is a variety of methods by which an acceptable solution can be found. It will not be found if the United States Government make it clear that they will support the Maronite Christians in the argument, and still less if they use military force to protect them while they refuse to move in that direction, which is what they did recently.
President Reagan said one helpful thing during his television speech last week—that he wanted to return to the peace plan that he launched a year ago. I suggest that we should all use our influence to achieve that, but we must not forget that the main reason that the peace plan never got off the ground was that Mr. Begin's Government rejected it out of hand from the word go and refused to discuss it. Therefore, it was not worth any of the other parties to the dispute taking the risk of moving in that direction.
I fear that if we cannot achieve a rapid move in that direction, America may slip back into an alliance with Israel which would produce exactly the result that President Reagan wants to avoid. It would push the whole of the Arab middle east into the Soviet embrace.
The war between Iran and Iraq has already cost about 300,000 lives. It reduced the supply of middle east oil to the rest of the world when, fortunately, there was an oil glut so that no one was seriously inconvenienced. I believe that the French Government were profoundly unwise to have supplied the Iraqi Government with Super Etendards for delivering Exocet missiles. As I came in today I heard an unconfirmed report that one of those aircraft has sunk a Greek tanker in the Gulf.
The risk of explosion is great. The Iranians have threatened to block Hormuz. The Americans have said that if they do they will intervene directly in the war. There is no doubt that if America intervenes there would be a grave risk of the Soviet Union intervening as well. The West must use all its influence in the search for a peaceful settlement, either along the lines of the French proposal at the Security Council or the Bahraini suggestion which is being discussed in the Gulf.
I do not believe that any foreseeable circumstances can justify American military intervention in the Gulf war. If the straits of Hormuz were blocked most people, including Mr. Yamani, believe that it could be cleared within a week if not days. The consumer countries have enormous stocks of oil upon which they could draw to make good a 1027 temporary shortfall and prevent oil prices rocketing. The Saudis could send more oil through their pipeline to the Mediterranean and efforts could be made to open the Iraqi pipeline.
In a rational world, the United States, knowing what is at stake in the middle east, would be discussing these problems with the Soviet Union, but the dialogue between those countries has almost ceased. If it ever takes place it will be a dialogue of the deaf. It is vital that that dialogue be restored. It is not easy for Great Britain to play a role especially as the Prime Minister has so often supported the Americans' decision on many of these issues. The European Community might collectively play a useful role.
If we cannot restore the Soviet-American dialogue, we shall not just see an extrapolation of the trends of the past 12 months, which is bad enough; we risk a chain reaction of negative responses on both sides which could produce a complete collapse of relations within 12 months.
I conclude with some words uttered by the Canadian Prime Minister in a thoughtful speech that he made last week:I will tell you right away that I am deeply troubled: by an intellectual climate of acrimony and uncertainty; by the parlous state of East-West relations; by a super power relationship which is dangerously confrontational; and by a widening gap between military strategy and political purpose. All these reveal most profoundly the urgent need to assert the pre-eminence of the mind of man over the machines of war.I believe that the influence of the British Government must be used to reassert the pre-eminence of the mind of man. I only wish I had more confidence in their willingness and ability to do so.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Before I call the first of the Privy Councillors to speak, I appeal to them to display their usual restraint and to speak briefly.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Rippon (Hexham)
I shall bear in mind your injunction, Mr. Speaker.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) has been playing the role of world statesman today. The tone of his speech was milder than many of his recent pronouncements, here and in the United States, but the content hardly bears examination. I shall not examine it in detail, but it is clear that if one studies carefully what the right hon. Gentleman has said and done over a great many years—his reference to Suez shows this; what he did in the far east, in the Gulf, how he turned round in his attitude to Europe—one sees that he rarely says or does anything of which in the last resort the Kremlin would disapprove.
§ Mr. Rippon
When I listen to the right hon. Gentleman I am reminded of a Commonwealth Prime Minister who once said of him to me, "He has the best trained Marxist mind in the Western world." His casuistry is marvellous. If the right hon. Gentleman went to work on a bicycle he would ride it vigorously in one direction and then turn round in front of one's very eyes and say, "I am still going in the same direction." Sometimes he speaks with such authority that people are apt to believe that he pursues a consistent purpose.
§ Mr. Healey
I am fascinated that the right hon. and learned Gentleman finds it so difficult to deal with any of the points I made that he must go in for the trumpery of character assassination. But whose character is he assassinating? He began by saying that I had been an absolutely consistent agent for the Soviet Union for the last 30 years and the next moment he said that I change direction every few days. Can he help on that?
§ Mr. Rippon
The right hon. Gentleman makes my point. He thinks like a Marxist; he can change direction while giving the impression that he is still going the same way. I am simply saying that when we analyse what the right hon. Gentleman said we discover that we have listened to a speech today which would give great satisfaction to the Politburo, and I hope that the House will reject the attack that he made on President Reagan and the United States Administration.
I shall put my remarks in the context of what has happened in Grenada. Whatever view we take of the action and attitude that Her Majesty's Government have adopted, we are agreed, as we always are in these situations, that we should try to avoid being found in similar disarray in future.
My belief, already expressed, is that we should have given immediate support to our Commonwealth partners in the eastern Caribbean, who rightly felt threatened by a military coup and the prospect of extensive Soviet-Cuban subversion in their area. We now know, whatever the right hon. Member for Leeds, East may say — the Government have made it clear—that by one means or another the Governor-General invited the United States' Caribbean intervention in circumstances in which I believe that intervention was legitimate and, as the Governor-General said, inevitable.
I share the view expressed by Lord Home in another place that we should have supported Jamaica, Barbados and the United States in the United Nations instead of abjectly abstaining both on the vote in the Security Council and yesterday in the General Assembly. On the other hand, we are right to be concerned about the inadequacy of the machinery for consultation between ourselves and the United States. That needs to be strengthened.
But what about our special relationship with our Commonwealth countries? 'What concerns me greatly is that we seem to have had no clear communication from the Governor-General or from the Prime Ministers of, for example, Barbados, St. Lucia or Dominica, all of whom have expressed great dismay at the lack of support that they have received from the British Government.
Apart from the bizarre episode of the telex that somehow got misdirected, what is really of concern is that we took no steps to find out from our Commonwealth partners what was happening. After all, one can hardly expect a telephone call from the Governor-General in the middle of a bloody revolution. He was manifestly in great difficulty in that situation, so surely the onus was or the British Government to find out what was going on.
In that connection, it may be thought that our man in Grenada might have told us, but we did not have one. There were dozens of Soviet and East German officials and hundreds of Cubans there, but there was no representative of the British Government in a Commonwealth country in a situation which had been deteriorating for some time. Also in that connection, it may be remembered that the 1029 fifth report of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee drew attention to this matter during the 1981–82 Session, specifically recommending thatthe post in Grenada should be strengthenedso that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office might be adequately informed of all economic, social and political developments on the island. Instead, it seems that we have been uninformed to the bitter end.
I appreciate that there are difficulties in knowing exactly what happened in the course of the crisis, but I hope that the Government will consider issuing a document stating precisely what they did and heard during the critical period between the assassination of the Prime Minister and some of his Ministers and the commencement of the intervention.
There are, however, wider issues, to which I wish to refer, in the broader context of our foreign policy. We must above all look at why we are continually reacting to crises rather than anticipating and, hopefully, avoiding them. We tend to send the fire engines—apparently we did not even have a fire engine to send on this occasion —when the fire has broken out. There are a number of lessons that we have to learn, the first being that President Reagan was right when he said:Events in Grenada and the Lebanon, though oceans apart, are closely related".That is because the interests of the free world are indivisible. So, too, is the defence of democracy, freedom and justice. There are some, not least in this House, who want to have some sort of divergence between our Atlantic, European and Commonwealth interests and they are apt to say that they are for one rather than another. In fact, they are all British interests and they are complementary.
I welcome the comment in the Foreign Secretary's speech—this is the second lesson that we must learn—to the effect that Britain can have real influence in the world only within a European context. I welcome my right hon. Friend's commitment to Europe. The Stuttgart declaration this year is worth remembering, when the Heads of State and Government, including our Prime Minister, said that theyreaffirm their will to transform the whole complex of relations between their states into a European union.They particularly declared their determinationto strengthen and develop European political co-operation, convinced, as they are, that by speaking with a single voice on foreign policy, including aspects of security, Europe can contribute to the preservation of peace.We must set about making a reality of that rhetoric.
The third lesson that we must learn is in many ways the most important. It is the folly of spending billions of pounds on defence and yet grudging every penny spent on the pursuit of the coherent foreign policy that is necessary to prevent subversion and conflict.
We usually blame the Foreign Office for failure to provide information or to know what is happening, when we should really blame the Treasury. Whenever there is a financial squeeze, the Treasury argues that all Departments must bear their share of the economies. It says that because house improvement grants have got out of line and the Department of the Environment has to make savings it follows that the Foreign Office and other Departments must bear their share of economies. It is 1030 dangerous as well as illogical when that policy results, as I believe it has done, in a situation such as has arisen in the Eastern Caribbean, and as it did in the Falklands, too.
The fifth report of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs gave us fair warning. It is a massive document, and it clearly showed how all the countries in the region were beset, as they are still beset, by economic problems which could be the foundations of serious conflict at any time. Freedom and poverty cannot indefinitely exist together. Britain, the United States and Europe should have been working together in the eastern Caribbean for a long time to promote the trade and interests of those small countries.
I believe, for example, that the United States was wrong, after the devastation of the banana industry in the Windward Islands after Hurricane Allen in 1981 — including, of course, Grenada—to make it a condition of United States aid that no part of the funds should be allocated or made available to rehabilitate the banana industry in Grenada. That illustrates the folly at times of our foreign policy and attitudes. It also illustrates how counterproductive are economic sanctions, which are so frequently called for.
I recall that when we joined the Community we ourselves gave the eastern Caribbean countries solemn assurances that we would aid them in protecting their trading interests. I remember at that time warning the United States, which was asking them to choose preference areas between Europe and the United States, that if they were not careful—I think it was The Voice of Lucia in February 1971 which quoted me —and if they pursued that policy, they could find seven or eight Cubas on their hands. We got perilously close to that last week.
The West India Committee in 1981 talked about the economic problems of the area, saying:Any move which isolates or weakens links with Grenada is likely to push it nearer total dependence on aid donors whose presence in the islands may be detrimental to British interests—not just United States interests. I am glad that the Foreign Secretary made it clear this afternoon that we shall restore bilateral aid and technical co-operation. The Minister of State in the other place said that we would be ready to send food, medical supplies and help in the process of reconstruction. The tragedy is that we are doing this after and not before the event.
We must therefore share a measure of blame with the United States for having allowed conditions to be created in the east Caribbean in which subversion and revolution flourish. We would do well to learn that lesson, perhaps above all else, if we hope to win the battle against Communist and subversive forces.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South and Penarth)
The international situation is bleak. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said, it is dangerous, but it is not hopeless.
In the short space of time in which Back Benchers are rightly circumscribed, I want to say four things. First, Britain needs a more vigorous diplomacy than we have had for some time. Secondly, the biggest cause of tension at present is the arms race. What we need, above all, is arms control and disarmament. The number of nuclear weapons now strewn in Europe is ridiculous and absurd. Thirdly, we need a continuous discussion with the Soviet Union on the matters that divide us, as well as on the few matters 1031 that unite us. We should not hesitate to bring those issues into the open and have discussions with the Soviet Union about them. Lastly, the recent unwise and impetuous actions of the United States should not be used to undermine the Alliance, which has been and is the bedrock of our security.
I welcome much of what the Foreign Secretary said this afternoon. That he is ready to listen to the Russians, that he is ready to place his views before them, and that deployment can be halted or even reversed, given favourable circumstances, all make good sense. However, I am bound to say that that is very different from what we have heard from the Prime Minister in particular and in the speeches to which my right hon. Friend referred. More of the kind of speech that we heard from the right hon. and learned Gentleman today and less of the Prime Minister's Canadian-type speech will do us a lot more good and help to reduce tension.
I ask for a more vigorous foreign policy. I say to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, in all friendliness, that he has what I believe is nowadays called a "laid back" style. I am sure that in his wildest and most outrageous moments he would not describe himself as a human dynamo.
I believe strongly that, faced with the problems that exist today, the right hon. and learned Gentleman has an opportunity to play a vigorous and important role through a number of channels, both directly and indirectly, to deal with some of the problems. Every hon. Member who moves around the world must have received calls—not always disinterested — for us to play a more important role and take an interest in and show a deeper concern for what is happening, because of our history and experience.
There is something in that. At a time when there is less cohesion in the Western Alliance than I can remember for many years, Britain could play a helpful role, both through various institutions and directly. The plain truth—and I say this as one who is a strong supporter of the Alliance, as the House knows—is that there is less agreement, less belief, in the correctness of the United States analysis of world problems or of the remedies that it proposes in some directions than I can remember. This is an opportunity for an ally of the United States and a member of the Alliance to play a part in that situation.
It is depressing to list the regional conflicts that are incapable of settlement. As my right hon. Friend said, it is absurd to lay all the blame at the door of the Soviet Union. Many of the conflicts seem almost irreconcilable. He referred, for example, to Lebanon, and that is certainly true in that area. However, Grenada does not present such a problem. It is not divided by great differences between its own people. Nor is it divided from the neighbouring islands. There is no deep-seated history of the problem. In my view, the action of the United States, taken as it was, and in the way that it was, was unwise and precipitate. It displayed a lack of understanding of the consequences. It has brought welcome relief to the people of Grenada and out of evil can come good, as we all know, but it failed to take into account the immensely complicated problem of acknowledging the principle of the inviolable integrity of a sovereign state, however small.
I wish that British foreign policy and British diplomacy had been more vigorous and more active. We are a leading member of the Commonwealth. We were aware of the problems that were growing. Mr. Tom Adams, the Prime Minister of Barbados, made no secret of his worry and 1032 concern about the danger, not of the invasion of Grenada particularly, but of small islands in the Caribbean being taken over by a Mafia group type of people who could make great difficulties for lightly armed islands in the Caribbean.
The Foreign Secretary, instead of waiting for that to happen—I know the problems that flow across his table —should, by inserting a jab into several people, make sure that these problems are handled more actively and positively by the Foreign Office. We could have taken the lead in an issue such as this, which was boiling up. As recently as July I was in touch with the Prime Minister of Barbados because of his desire to have some lightly armed coastal vessels because of the danger that he saw. If I knew that as a Back Bencher, the Commonwealth section of the Foreign Office must have been aware of it.
I regret that, because of a failure of dynamism and a failure to take the initiative, we now have a divided Commonwealth. I hear that Mrs. Ghandi is saying that in no circumstances will she take part in any Commonwealth force and that this matter must be left to the United Nations. This is essentially a Commonwealth problem. We should give the lead, and we could have helped to resolve this problem.
My criticism of the United States is that President Reagan is insisting on making Grenada an example of his global anti-Communist policy. I shall not linger on this topic, because my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East dealt with this efffectively. President Reagan's is a doctrine that puts all conflicts, however regional, however local, whatever their origins, into an East-West context.
That is an error into which the Prime Minister frequently falls. As a consequence, small conflicts become enlarged and take on a deeper significance than they should, because they become a function of East-West conflict. I urge the Foreign Secretary—I thought that I detected this idea in his speech—to try to separate these things in the way recommended by my right hon. Friend. This simplistic trap is one from which President Reagan must be diverted, and the British Government have a big responsibility in arguing with him—as much as I hope they will argue and discuss with the Soviet Union—the way in which he should look at this problem. His way is calculated to heighten tension, worsen relations and not solve any issues.
I have heard more than one person say that the danger does not come from war in Europe, and I agree with that. I have little doubt that we shall maintain the peace in Europe. The Soviet Union attaches as high a priority to that as we do. The danger comes from some of the small regional conflicts becoming a flashpoint that will involve the super powers and the two alliances in a situation which may become uncontrollable. These conflicts are not the central cause of our dispute with the Soviet Union, but they are used to promote the interests of either one side or the other. Therefore, they are the most likely tinderbox.
A number of these conflicts would still continue even if there were an East-West understanding. However, much of the danger of engulfing the rest of us would be removed if there were an understanding. The Soviet Union regards the present world situation as dangerous. One official said to me that it was more dangerous than at any time since the great patriotic war. Each of us regards the other as the principal threat to its security. Neither of us can be satisfied with the other's present posture.
1033 I believe that deterrence has been effective since the end of the second world war, but I have every desire to ensure that deterrence is kept to a minimum, both for political reasons and because of the strain on our economy and those of the other countries involved. The installation of Pershing and the Soviet counter-response, which will inevitably come, will not enhance the security of either side. It will increase joint insecurity. The arms race must be curbed.
In the Soviet Union there are great doubts about President Reagan's seriousness in embarking on such an agreement. I offer my view here, as I have offered it in my other conversations, that while this may have been true during the first two years of this presidency, both the President and the British Government are now ready to come to an arms agreement if it can be satisfactorily worked out between both sides. Given that negotiations would take place privately and there would be no attempt to make public propaganda, it is not impossible to come to an understanding and an agreement that would increase security, because it would increase the confidence that each side has in the other. I am glad to see the Foreign Secretary nodding, and I hope that means that he agrees with me.
We do not know the nature or the extent of the response of the Soviet Union to Pershing. At some lower levels the Soviets insisted that continuing the talks was useless because the Americans would, by their action in deploying Pershing, make it worthless to do so. I replied with the crisp comment that Mr. Attlee used to make, "Never walk out because you have only to walk back."
If the position gets worse, as it may do with the deployment of Pershing—the Soviets are not bothered about cruise, Pershing is the weapon about which they are really concerned — we should not regard that as desperate. We would find that after a time there would be a resumption of negotiations perhaps in a different forum. We must have that hope, and that is my conclusion from the conversations that I have had.
We need a new forum, and here I come to another point made by my right hon. Friend. When discussing these matters in a logical and rational way I find it difficult to resist the argument that the British and French nuclear forces are excluded from the intermediate nuclear forces talks and from START. How can one justify their exclusion from both? I have used arguments, which I shall not use again this afternoon, in reply to that point of view, but I am not satisfied that they enhance the cause of reducing tension.
I suggest to the Government, and even more to the Government of President Mitterrand, that we should not put away into the Greek caves, as President Mitterrand seemed to suggest, the idea of including French nuclear forces in some distant negotiations but that perhaps the best way forward after an interim and difficult period through which we shall go may be to bring INF talks, intermediate range talks and START together. We, the British and the French, should be prepared to be included in these discussions, as my right hon. Friend said, for the purpose of counting, whatever the views different people may take about the consequences of having or not having Trident when it comes.
I have already said that we should discuss with the Soviet Union issues on which we have fundamental 1034 differences. I can vouch that it is possible to have a rational, logical, non-propagandist discussion with the Russians. Sir John Thomson, our ambassador to the United Nations, told me not long ago that the great thing in international relations was to explain, explain, and explain again. Having had the advantage of recent talks in the Soviet Union, I venture to say that the Russians may understand a little more of our anxieties and the reason for them than we think, and perhaps I understand a little more why they take the view that they do. There can be nothing lost by talking about the fundamental issues that divide us.
I strongly take the view that there is nothing so dangerous to us at the moment than our isolation and the mutual ignorance that we have of each other, apart from several small institutions in the heart of Moscow which make a detailed investigation of, and research into, the entrails of the Conservative party and the woes of my party. They are ready to discuss these matters in great detail and with great knowledge. Apart from that handful of people, they are ignorant of the way in which we look at these matters. I know from some of the comments that I hear that we are in the same state of blindness about them and that is dangerous.
I hope that the Foreign Secretary will follow up at all levels the views that I am putting forward. Sometimes these efforts will be harnessed through the European Community, sometimes through the Commonwealth and sometimes through the United Nations, but there is a role for Britain independently to play, with her history, experience and background knowledge, in one of the most difficult world problems through which I have lived.
The Falklands is another case where we should act ourselves. I hope that the Prime Minister will dismiss from her mind the absurd notion that 50 years must pass before we do anything about the Falklands. With a new Argentine Administration in power, we should start to talk about ways in which we can find a solution. It may involve sovereignty in one form or another, but we have been prepared to consider it—my Government were and the Prime Minister's Government have been prepared to consider it in the past. We should be prepared to consider these matters. Here is another opportunity for the Foreign Secretary to lay off the laid back approach, take on a dynamic approach, and bustle around the world and get a few things done.
I say that to the right hon. and learned Gentleman in all kindness. He knows that I seek to secure the reputation and safety of Britain and to ensure that we play our full part in securing a lessening of the tension between us and the Soviet Union. I know that some Conservative Members do not mind that tension, but I do. I believe that it is far too dangerous to permit, because of the consequences in other areas.
I think that the Soviets are ready to thicken up the channels of communication. It sounds as though the right hon. and learned Gentleman is ready to do so. We can lose nothing. I beg of him to begin a dialogue—I think that he has already started modestly—and I urge him to act quickly and, without giving away our position, to act in such a way that Britain's reputation and her history will command respect from many other people.
§ Mr. Mark Robinson (Newport, West)
It is always a special moment for a new Member of Parliament when he rises to make a maiden speech, and sometimes the 1035 culmination of the childhood aspiration which many have to speak in this august Chamber. It is therefore with some trepidation that I make my initial intervention in the hope that this step, however tentative, will be the first of many in this historic place.
I represent the new constituency of Newport, West and as such I have no one predecessor on whom I can heap fulsome praise. My constituents, however, would wish me to mention my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Stradling Thomas) and the hon. Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes), both of whom have looked after my constituents for many years. If I can come within a small distance of their contributions I will be worthy at least of a place in this House.
Newport, West mirrors the problems and challenges that the nation faces. It is an industrial town and the constituency takes in everything in Newport west of the river Usk and includes the outlying towns of Caerleon, Rogerstone, Bassaleg and Marshfield. It contains heavy and light industry and a strong agricultural component. The problems it faces are the problems of high unemployment, and the challenges it faces are the challenges of the new industries, particularly the high technology industries that are coming to south Wales down the M4 corridor. It is perhaps a microcosm of the nation and an exciting place to represent.
Newport is strategically located in terms of communications, particularly with the development of new roads throughout south Gwent. In that context I must mention the Severn bridge, our link with England. That has been a controversial topic in recent days but I hope that we can get back to a reasoned debate about the future of the bridge. The discussion that has been going on in the past few days has been highly damaging, particularly to the cause of the new industries that we are trying to attract not only into my constituency but to the region as a whole.
I speak today having had more than a decade of experience in international affairs: first, in the executive office of the secretary-general of the United Nations and, secondly, in a similar capacity at the Commonwealth Secretariat. I hope therefore that the House will not mind if I spend a few moments focusing my remarks on Grenada, not so much on what has happened in the past few weeks as on what lies in store for that troubled island in the future.
It is a sad day in the transition from empire to modern Commonwealth when one of our former colonies that has come to independence has had its Government changed through the intervention of an outside force, albeit that of one of our principal allies. We have steered more than 40 countries to independence and we have never as yet had to intervene to change their Governments. There have been tyrannies far worse than the tyranny in Grenada—I think particularly of Uganda. But the disagreements we have had with our principal ally over the past few days, as in any relationship with friends, with business partners or with allies when voiced publicly and voiced sensibly, do not weaken or destroy relationships but rather enhance them. I do not take the view that has been voiced in other quarters that this represents a fundamental change in the relationship between the United States and Britain. Far from it — I feel that the frankness that has been engendered in the debate should be a cause for reassurance in future relations with our principal ally.
The aim for Grenada must surely be the re-establishment of democracy in a way acceptable to the 1036 people of Grenada and to the wider international community. That is an area in which Britain and the Commonwealth have the experience to help. We have a track record with Zimbabwe and we have recent experience in Uganda. I feel sure that the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in New Delhi offers the opportunity, in the words of the late Prime Minister Nehru, to add "a touch of healing". It is worth remembering that the Caribbean part of the Commonwealth has hitherto been peaceful and the region can only suffer if it is drawn into the vicissitudes of great power rivalry. If we can help to restore a sense of balance within that part of the Caribbean, we will have made a notable contribution.
There has been much discussion behind the scenes about the need to tackle the issue of the political and economic problems of the micro states. When this sorry incident is behind us the focus of that discussion should be heightened a little in public awareness. Many small Governments face difficult problems with which they do not have the infrastructure to cope. They cannot defend themselves when their Governments are taken over by a bunch of bandits and similarly they are exposed to the vicissitudes of economic change in a manner that larger independent Commonwealth Governments do not have to withstand. There is a way, through our aid and development programme, to help these smaller micro states and I urge my right hon. and learned Friend to give some further thought to this when the crisis is over.
I am mindful of your injunction to be brief, Mr. Deputy Speaker, so I will draw my remarks to a close by briefly touching upon two other areas of concern. Indeed, they have already been touched upon in this debate.
I welcome the return to democracy in Argentina. The election of Senator Raul Alfonsin may provide an olive branch on which we must not turn our backs. Even if it is only an opportunity to end the state of hostilities which still exists between our two countries, we should take it as a first and paramount step. Secure as the future of the Falkland islanders may be now, in the long term, unless Britain and Argentina can redevelop their friendship, there will always be a black cloud hanging over the long-term future of the islanders.
Hong Kong requires a creative solution. I was grateful to hear the reassurances of my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary this afternoon. But the problems of Hong Kong will be extremely difficult to solve. Business confidence and the need to secure Hong Kong's economy are important. The danger lies in negotiations dragging on for too long, thereby causing confidence gradually to be sapped. That is not something that either this Government or the Chinese Government would want.
I thank the House for listening to me so patiently this afternoon.
§ Mr. Roy Jenkins (Glasgow, Hillhead)
The hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Robinson) made a fluent, informed and penetrating maiden speech to which the House listened with great attention. Although he is a relatively young Member—he was born in the year in which I made my maiden speech — he brings to the House considerable international experience.
The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) rather rebuked the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. 1037 Walden) for having similar experience. I would not do that. The hon. Member for Newport, West brings valuable experience to the House. If he speaks on future occasions as he has on this occasion, he will command tremendous attention.
We read in at least one newspaper today that the Foreign Secretary is fighting for his political life. That did not make him red in tooth or claw during his speech. I hope that he survives. Any infelicities of presentation that he may have committed during the past 10 days are nothing compared with the mistaken and damaging policies that he pursued as Chancellor of the Exchequer during the past four years. He was rewarded with a transfer to the Foreign Office, with almost universal acclaim—except, perhaps, from the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Pym).
When I went to Brussels recently, for the first time in two and three quarter years—I have been occupied in British politics recently — I was impressed by the number of people who said that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has made an impact on the Council of Ministers as a Foreign Secretary. Admittedly, they gave a good reason for that — the right hon. and learned Gentleman is impervious to boredom, which is an important quality in the affairs of Europe. It is also—[Interruption.] [AN HON. MEMBER: "The lights are going out all over Europe."]
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)
Order. This is the Deputy Speaker speaking. The sitting is suspended until lighting is restored.
§ Sitting suspended.5.59 pm
§ On resuming——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I think it wise to suspend the sitting for a few more minutes until we have the engineers' report on how effectively the lighting has been restored. I hope that the House will bear with me until we have that report.
§ 6 pm
§ Sitting suspended.
§ 6.5 pm
§ On resuming——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I can inform the House that the engineers have been able carry out makeshift repairs which they hope will sustain us through the sitting. Therefore, it might be sensible to resume our proceedings.
Before I call the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) to continue, I should explain that the digital clocks have been affected by the electrical fault and are not recording the correct time.
§ Mr. Jenkins
Perhaps I should begin, Mr. Deputy Speaker, by asking the leave of the House to speak for the third time in this debate.
I shall not go back to the beginning. I was engaged in talking about the present Foreign Secretary rather than about Sir Edward Grey. At least we have had the lights lit more quickly than he expected on that evening in 1914.
Although the Foreign Secretary bears a heavy responsibility for what he did at the Treasury, he does not 1038 deserve to be under quite as much attack as some people think. I do not quarrel with him too much on the substance of what he has done about Grenada. Certainly I do not quarrel with his decision not to support the American invasion. Equally, in view of our relationship with the Americans—as their principal ally—to abstain in the Security Council was a sufficient condemnation.
Let us be clear that on the substance of this issue, as of others, the Prime Minister is every bit as responsible as the Foreign Secretary. Moreover, she has the special humiliation—and to some extent the real humiliation—of being so disregarded by the Americans because it is she, not the Foreign Secretary, who has so cultivated her special relationship with President Reagan. Nor would it be remotely creditable or sensible for her to consider sacking another Foreign Secretary at present. I read in one newspaper this morning that senior Conservatives were saying — it is always senior Conservatives; I wonder how senior one has to be a senior rather than a junior Conservative——
§ Mr. Jenkins
No. For example, I am sure that the right hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) now counts as a senior Conservative and he is certainly not senile. I read that they were making the good but obvious joke that to lose one Foreign Secretary might be a misfortune but to lose three would point to carelessness. It is better to go back to the original Wilde — to lose the first is a misfortune, to lose the second careless, although perhaps a little deliberate—but to lose a third would cast grave doubt on the other partner in the relationship, the Prime Minister at 10 Downing street.
There is no doubt that all the evidence shows strongly that British foreign policy has by far the best chance of working effectively when there is a good balance of power between the Foreign Office and No. 10. When that is not so, when the power flows too much and when the Prime Minister tries to run the whole thing, it does not work well. That was true in the latter days of the Lloyd George coalition when Curzon was as weak as he was grand. It was true in the late 1930s when Neville Chamberlain tried to do far too much at No. 10 Downing Street. There was a complete contrast between the position then and that of the days of Attlee and Sevin. While there is no doubt that nobody now thinks that Attlee was weak, none the less prerogatives of foreign policy-making remained where they belong—with the Foreign Secretary in the Foreign Office, subject to discussion with the Cabinet.
The Foreign Office has been much maligned recently. I hold no particular brief for it. It so happens that it is the only one of the three traditionally great Departments of state in which I have never served. However, I have worked with it closely and seen it in operation. [AN HON. MEMBER: "The right hon. Gentleman is not likely to now."] No, I am not likely to now, and nor is the hon. Member. However, he has some years to go and I may be wrong. I have worked in a close relationship with representatives of the Foreign Office, often to some extent in a semi-adversarial relationship.
My view is that if anything, compared with other Departments, there is too great, and not too small, a concentration of talent in the Foreign Office. The view that it constantly represents interests other than those of Britain is the most primitive chauvinism, and nothing else. In any 1039 event, one would not have a good foreign policy with a demoralised Foreign Office. It is a bad Minister who blames his officials. I do not accuse the Foreign Secretary of doing that. It is a bad Prime Minister who is constantly leaking and hinting that the Department that others manage to use well enough is not worthy of her leadership.
§ Mr. Robert Jackson (Wantage)
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that often the attacks on the Foreign Office are a case of trying to shoot the messenger bearing ill tidings?
§ Mr. Jenkins
I do. I thank the hon. Gentleman for having added to the point that I was endeavouring to make.
I mentioned good foreign policy for Britain. That begs the question of what is good foreign policy for Britain in our present circumstances of limited resources, with far too much being devoted to fortress Falklands. It is a ludicrous amount. The Soviet Union, perhaps because of an uncertain internal balance, may be less predictable than at many periods in the past. It is potentially menacing. The United States Administration arouses much distrust across the political spectrum not only in this country but in the rest of Europe. I agree with the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour), who said on Monday that this is the most unreliable United States Administration since the war. However, we have to live with it and we may have to live with it for another four years after 1984. Let us not deceive ourselves that all previous United States Administrations received unanimous trust and enthusiastic approval in the House and in this country at all periods since 1945. This Administration in not the worst. There was much distrust when Secretary Dulles dominated the Eisenhower Administration.
§ Mr. Jenkins
On the whole, quite right.
Even when the best American Administrations, as they now seem, were in full control, there were waves of distrust. I vividly remember the occasion when, at the end of 1950, it was thought that President Truman would drop the atomic bomb on the Chinese, and when panic went through the Lobbies of the House. Mr. Attlee had to announce that he would go to Washington to stop it. When he got there, he discovered that President Truman had no intention of doing any such thing. None the less, the mission achieved two or three minor successes. The Cuban missile crisis is now considered a classic example of cool rationalism in foreign policy. The idea that opinion here was solid throughout those anxious nine days is far from the full truth.
There are several lessons to be learnt. In a continuing alliance, which is the basis of our security and defence policy, if it is going to mean anything, we cannot call it into question every time the major partner does something that we do not like. We should also be restrained in our criticism—not necessarily in our advice or the firmness of our views — and not whip up feeling, as, to a substantial extent, the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) has done not so much today, but previously.
There is a continuing dichotomy about our attitude and the attitude throughout Europe towards the United States policy. We are torn between the fear that America will desert us and apprehension that she wants to use us as, for 1040 her, a relatively safe battlefield. If she does nothing, we are inclined to accuse her of weakness. If she does something, we accuse her of rashness.
We should not give up our rights of independent judgment and criticism. However, we should have just a little sensitivity to how things look from the other end of the telescope. It is not enough to say, as the right hon. Member for Leeds, East has, that it is perfectly all right to say what we like because things have been said more sharply and critically inside the United States. Throughout the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the most dreadful things were said in America about him. If they had been echoed by Winston Churchill or leading Members of the House, the outlook would not have been so bright in 1941. I believe that it was a profound misjudgment to go into Grenada as the Americans did. There are law-abiding and long-term considerations that we should keep in mind.
The other lesson that we should learn is that it is highly desirable that we should strengthen the European pillar of NATO. It is a false dichotomy to say "Europe or NATO", but it is not false to say that we should have a more collective and effective political and defence policy within the European part of the NATO Alliance. The European Community now has a larger gross national product than the United States. With regard to conventional forces, the EC provides the overwhelming proportion of the ground forces and most of the ships. It is in a considerable position today. The European Community will be enlarged. It will be more complete, with the inclusion of Spain and Portugal.
We should be prepared to take a more substantial political and defence role. If we want to do so, we must settle the budget question in the near future. I believe that the Foreign Secretary appreciates that. The debate has been going on for four years or more. My recollection is vivid. It is not correct, as the Foreign Secretary said, that the matter was not raised during the prime ministership of the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan). It was. However, it was only just beginning to surface because the imbalance was beginning to surface. It became a more violent question of dispute in the year following that.
The Prime Minister has been a most powerful, some might say virulent, arguer of the British point of view. She is not always the most effective negotiator. Lord Carrington picked up a solution that was no better than the one the Prime Minister rejected in 1980. Be that as it may, the right hon. Lady is a most powerful proponent of our case.
However, if Europe is to play its full part in the world political balance, every European Council should not he turned into an accountants' wrangle. That has happened for two, three or four years now. We have got near 1.0 getting a substantial part of what we can get. The question must be brought to an end at Athens. The sums that we are discussing are less than those involved in the Falklands. There is no reason why we should not get a good and fair deal, but there is a reason why we should see matters in proportion.
I believe that Europe must take part in the disarmament negotiations. The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth was quite correct to say that it is impossible to maintain that the British and French deterrents cannot be counted in either the intermediate or the strategic talks. Anyone who understands the subject must realise that that is a wholly untenable position.
1041 I believe that those talks can and will continue in a new phase even after some cruise and, more dangerously, Pershing missiles have been deployed. In all our arguments on these matters, there is a danger of our becoming obsessed with a particular weapon that suddenly seizes the imagination and of not thinking out the underlying philosophy. I certainly do not believe that a few cruise missiles will make all the difference. The Russians will still talk if they judge it to be in their interests and we judge it to be in ours to do so.
The essential factor is not the deployment of a particular weapon but whether in the world as a whole we can stand back and say that there is no point and great danger in continuing with a great escalation of nuclear stocks because it will be immensely damaging and will probably ultimately destroy world civilisation. It is not true that the end of the time for negotiations has come. It may come some day, but at the moment the opportunities for negotiation are great. We should be willing to include the French and British deterrents in START and to bring a European voice to put full pressure on the Americans. We should not be washing our hands of anything to do with the nastiness of the deterrent while we shelter under its shield. That is unacceptable and hypocritical. We should be pressing for a more urgent approach and endeavouring to do so on a European basis.
§ Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)
First, I add my congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Mr. Robinson) on his informed, sensitive and sensible speech. We look forward to hearing from him again in the future. He brings useful experience to the House, although I am sure that he will understand when I say that I suspect that his constituents will wish him to follow more in the path of my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Stradling Thomas) than in that of his other predecessor. He is most welcome to the House and I sincerely congratulate him. I was especially impressed by what he said about the relationships between this country and the United States — a subject on which I should have liked to follow the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins), but time does not permit.
When I told the Prime Minister after the last general election that I should prefer not to continue as a Minister at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, it was not because I had lost interest in foreign affairs but because I thought that my remaining would be taken to mean that I believed that my right hon. Friend the previous Foreign Secretary had been properly treated. As that was not my view, the right course seemed to me to be to return to the Back Benches where I can continue to take an interest in foreign affairs and other matters.
Today I shall confine myself to just one of the many subjects that one is always tempted to raise in debates such as this—the Caribbean. First, however, following the right hon. Member for Hillhead, I wish to say something in defence of the Foreign Office. Hon. Members may have seen the report in the Daily Telegraph on 28 October entitledFalklands ghosts in corridors of Foreign Office".That article set out at length a very curious view of the way in which the Foreign Office works, how it disseminates 1042 information and how its officials conduct their business. By implication, it sought also to attribute blame to one or two named members of the service. I thought that it was an extraordinary article to have been written by such an experienced diplomatic correspondent as Mr. John Miller, so I rang him up and told him so.
It does no good to anyone to suggest that the Foreign Office was taking a battering and that the familiar questions were being asked as to who were the guilty men. It is pointless to suggest that the Foreign Office does not use telegrams, that messages are passed from desk to desk by cleft stick and that the information coming in does not reach Ministers. The Foreign Office does not work in the way suggested in that article. It certainly did not work like that when I was there and I am sure that it does not work like that now. The head of the news department at the FCO will perform a useful service if he will take Mr. Miller aside and explain to him how the Foreign Office really works.
The House should be in no doubt that whatever reports came in about the situation in the Caribbean would be seen very quickly by Ministers at the Foreign Office and by the Prime Minister, as I am sure that she would confirm. The responsibility for what happens rests with Ministers and not with officials. It is wholly unfair to blame officials and I hope that there will be less of that in the future. It is equally unfair to heap blame on my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary because he sometimes has to stonewall at the Dispatch Box. That has certainly happened before. Indeed, from time to time mumbling has been hailed as the height of statesmanship. Members of other parties have had to do their share of it, too, but it is not particularly desirable and I am sure that the House agrees that it should happen very rarely.
When I first took on responsibilities at the Foreign Office in response to the Prime Minister's invitation after the Falklands crisis, I asked whether there was in general circulation throughout the Department a concise and clear statement of British foreign policy on one sheet of paper. My admirable private secretary replied, "Minister, there certainly ought to be." The question was oversimplified, of course, because the variations and complexities of our foreign policy in different parts of the world would make it impossible to get it all on to one sheet of paper.
§ Mr. Onslow
If the hon. Gentleman has a simple mind, two sheets might be enough for him. Whatever the number of sheets, I believe that we need a positive, clear and coherent policy in the conduct of our overseas relations and that everyone should understand what that policy is so that we are not forced to react piecemeal to each crisis as it occurs.
I believe that the basic problem now is that for a number of years this country has not had a clear Caribbean policy. That state of affairs goes back long before 1979 and long before the independence of Grenada. It goes back over Governments of both parties and I freely accept any responsibility that I bear for n. I wish now to offer some constructive comments on this unsatisfactory situation.
The problem arises partly because as a country we never thought through our proper role in the post-colonial era. In this instance, we have not done enough to meet or to understand the legitimate concerns about security of the small east Caribbean states that we called into existence.
1043 Individually they are very small and even when they combine they cannot command much military power. They are in a perilous environment and it is understandable that events in Grenada, like the earlier events in Surinam, should alarm them exceedingly. Given our long affinity with them, we should have recognised that and developed our policy accordingly.
We have also not shown sufficient understanding of the legitimate concerns of the United States people and Government. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) synthesized this into a comic-strip mentality for President Reagan, but I believe that the right hon. Member for Hillhead was closer to the truth. It is clear from history as far back as the Monroe doctrine that America has always regarded itself as having a special position in its own waters. The Caribbean is so close to the Americans' back door that it is unreasonable to expect them not to take heed of what happens there.
Another deficiency is that we have not really identified where our own true interests lie. I hope that we can at least agree that if we want to evolve a coherent policy we will not do it by aid alone. Political and economic policies should go hand in hand and should be complementary. It is idle to expect economic progress in an insecure environment, so security must be a precondition of the success of aid policy. In the Commonwealth Caribbean surely we do not wish to see these small states, either singly or collectively, devoting enormous resources to building up their military capability, particularly when we know that, whatever efforts they make, they are unlikely to succeed against the threat that they can see as real from Cuban imperialism. Our aid to all Caribbean countries and dependencies there last year amounted to some £30 million; we gave Mexico £34 million and the Sudan £39 million. There is an imbalance which I hope will be detected by my right hon. and learned Friend.
It might be possible — perhaps some Opposition Members would like this to happen—for us to wash our hands of all responsibility for security in this area and simply say that time has moved on, that colonial status has ended and that we have other preoccupations, so we should leave it to others in the area to sort it out themselves. In effect, that would be to leave the area to be the cockpit for a power struggle between the Americans on the one hand and the Cubans, as Russian surrogates, on the other. I do not think hon. Members would wish to do this. I have a sincere belief that many people in the country would not wish to do it. I do not believe it is possible for us honourably to do it with the position as it is. As we have been reminded, we have a continuing security responsibility in Belize.
§ Mr. Onslow
The hon. Gentleman asks, "For how long?" I well remember standing at the Dispatch Box saying that a British garrison would remain in Belize for an appropriate period. It is, of course, an ideal parliamentary answer because it does not add very much to the stock of human knowledge.
§ Mr. Onslow
I hope the hon. Gentleman will excuse me of stonewalling, because I will readily concede, as I think he will, that the presence of that garrison acts as a 1044 deterrent to the invasion of Belize by Guatemala. I hope he will agree that it is important that there should be security in Belize. The question, of course, is how that security is to be provided. If there are ways other than by the deployment of our own military resources that we can provide Belize with sufficient security, we should be working towards them. But it is a big "if".
We ought to reassess the situation because foreign policy in this area in particular should be driven by our real interests rather than by some imagined scarcity or lack of available military resources. The resources should be deployed, if need be, as a servant of policy rather than the other way round. Certainly we must not create or perpetuate a situation in which the Foreign Secretary of the day is left to make bricks without straw as has happened from time to time during the last 30 years.
After what has happened in Grenada, a unilateral British withdrawal from Belize would do further harm to relations between this country and the United States, as well as precipitating a further decline in the stability of the area. It is not something that we should contemplate under these circumstances. I hope very much that the Government will show that they agree.
§ Mr. Onslow
I am sorry, but I will not give way. I want to deal with two more points before I sit down.
As to Grenada, it is difficult for us to take a credible initiative, but it should be possible for us to respond to one. Indeed, I was glad to hear the Foreign Secretary say that we would take a positive attitude to a Commonwealth security force in Grenada if one were to be formed. I hope that means that there would be a British uniformed component in such a force.
I hope the Commonwealth Caribbean states in the area, who have been given scant attention in the House in the, discussions on this subject, will feel that it would be a good time for them to call a regional security conference to which they would invite us, the Canadians, the French, who have 5,000 troops in the Caribbean on a permanent basis, and the Americans too. If such an invitation should come, the Prime Minister's response should be prompt and positive.
From such a conference might come a longer-term arrangement. Although I disapprove violently of Ministers in the Foreign Office travelling excessively—there is a terrible temptation to do so—it would be well received in the eastern Caribbean in particular if a Foreign Office Minister were to go there and talk to Miss Charles, Mr. Adams, Mr. Compton and Mr. Seaga and show them that we are prepared to listen to their side of what happened rather than rely on press reports or second-hand accounts. That should be done soon, reluctant as I am to force travel upon my right hon. and hon. Friends.
In many parts of the country from top to bottom there is a reinforced reluctance after the Falklands to contemplate the use of British troops in security exercises or commitments which will expose them to high degrees of risk. That is understandable.
§ Mr. Onslow
I do not think the hon. Gentleman is right. [Interruption.] Although the lights have gone out, I can complete my speech without referring to my notes.
1045 When the hon. Gentleman reacts as he does to my statement, I hope that he will not fall into the same trap as so many of his hon. Friends of suggesting that anyone who says from the Government Benches that our troops have a role to play in keeping peace around the world is saying that we are a war party. I do not believe that we are a war party. I do not believe that the use of British troops in support of peacekeeping operations is in any way an act of belligerence. In the context of the Caribbean, this is a course which we should be prepared to contemplate. If we were to contemplate it, albeit belatedly, that would earn this country greater respect among many of our friends.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Despite the failure of the lighting, I am afraid there is no way in which we can have injury time for this debate. Does the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) require the lights for his speech?
§ Mr. Ian Mikardo (Bow and Poplar)
No, thank you, Sir.
Like the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) and the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) I should like to add my thanks to the hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Robinson) for what I thought was one of the best of the many maiden speeches I have heard in the House. I have a fellow feeling with him because, although the debate has now consumed more than half the time available, he and I so far are the only contributors who are not either Privy Councillors or former Ministers. I hope this means that as of now the common or garden Back Bencher will have a chance of speaking.
No doubt the hon. Member for Woking struck a chord of support in many of us when he told the House of his desire when he went to the Foreign Office to find, if I may paraphrase what he said, an established body of principle against which the Foreign Office ought to reference its policies and its actions. Perhaps he did not notice that that is in sharp contrast with a sentence that the Foreign Secretary threw in almost as an aside—perhaps I should say as a laid-back effort—during his speech. He said that he would find it difficult to relate any of the policies or actions that he discussed to any established body of principle. I might be a bit old-fashioned, but I believe that everyone should relate his actions to an established body of principle, especially when he carries high responsibility. The most important principle for all of those who are engaged in international relations on behalf of this or any other country is that, when considering the merit or demerit of action that is taken in different parts of the world, they should not apply or accept double standards. I am worried that many of the Government's attitudes, including that to the United States' invasion of Grenada, show an acceptance or application of double standards.
The Foreign Secretary reminded us of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Almost every right hon. and hon. Member strongly condemned that invasion. However, the United States invasion of Grenada is a mirror image of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Resemblances between the two are almost uncanny. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If Conservative Members are patient I shall try to present some evidence. There are no fewer than five resemblances between the two operations.
First, the real reason for the invasion of Afghanistan was not that given by the Soviet Uion. Its real reason was 1046 its desire to ensure that Afghanistan was run by a puppet or compliant Government. The real reason for the United States' invasion of Grenada was to ensure the existence of a compliant and acceptable Government, if not one which was the puppet of Washington.
The second remarkable resemblance is that, before invading Afghanistan, the Soviet Union did not bother to find out what its allies felt about such an invasion. Nor did the United States bother to find out what its allies felt about an invasion of Grenada.
The third uncanny resemblance is that the Soviet Union went into Afghanistan because, we were told, it was invited by the authorities there. None of us believed that any more than we believe that the moon is made of green cheese. The United States says that it went into Grenada because it was invited. Anyone who believes that that invitation was spontaneous and not inspired — if not actually drafted — by the invitee must be as green as grass.
The fourth resemblance is that the Soviet Union went into Afghanistan on the ground that there was a threat in its back yard. After changing its mind several times, the United States says that it went into Grenada as there was a threat in its back yard.
The Americans regard Grenada as being in their back yard although it is a tiny little island that is separated from the United States by a vast expanse of sea. Afghanistan shares a border with the Soviet Union. It is most certainly in the Soviet Union's back yard. What was the threat in the Americans' back yard? We are told that the Grenadians were building an airbase which could be used for military purposes. I do not know how many hon. Members have read the statement which the Plessey Company issued yesterday. It has been doing much of the work there. Plessey is scarcely a spokesman for the Kremlin.
The company described in great detail what work it has been doing and the type of base that is being made. It says that the base has exactly the same characteristics as four or five civil airports in other parts of the Caribbean. Moreover, Plessey listed about 12 things which would be required in any military airport, none of which is being installed in Grenada. Therefore, on the evidence provided by the chaps who are building the airbase, the American allegation that the airbase posed a threat in their back yard is revealed to be complete nonsense.
Use of the threat in the back yard as an excuse to send soldiers anywhere can create dangerous precedents. Turkey is part of the Soviet Union's back yard, as the two countries share a boundary. The Americans found stores of automatic rifles in Grenada and say that their existence proved that someone would attack Washington with them. It is not necessary to look far to discover nuclear warheads in Turkey which are aimed at Soviet cities. Will their existence give the Soviet Union a reason for invading Turkey? Surely we would not accept that. The similarities that I have mentioned cannot be wished away.
§ Mr. Peter Tapsell (East Lindsey)
I do not have time to refute the four resemblances which the hon. Gentleman has drawn. They are all fallacious but the first is fundamental. He said that the Soviet Union went into Afghanistan because it wanted that country to be run by a subservient Government. I visited Afghanistan shortly before the Russian invasion and talked to Noor Mohammed Taraki who was President at the time. He was a thorough-going Communist and Marxist and told me so.
1047 Therefore, the Soviets already had a subservient Government before he was murdered and before they invaded Afghanistan. The hon. Gentleman's comparisons between Afghanistan and Grenada are utterly false.
§ Mr. Mikardo
The hon. Gentleman has made my case for me. Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that the Soviet Union was not satisfied with the Afghanistan Government and invaded to install one that was satisfactory. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for reinforcing my case. I only regret that I shall not have time to give way to him again.
The fifth close resemblance between the two invasions is that in both cases the invaders kept the press out for as long as possible so that they could establish their own untrue version of events before the press could get the truth out. Most right hon. and hon. Members will have read the feature in The Observer last Sunday headed "Why Washington lied". It was a well-researched and well-documented piece, and there can be no doubt from it that Washington lied and that the American Government kept the press out of Grenada, just as the Russians kept the press out of Afghanistan, so that their lies would not be exposed.
I thought that the hon. Member for East Lindsey (Mr. Tapsell) was going to draw the distinction that has been made between the two invasions, but he was not clever enough. Mrs. Jeane Kirkpatrick made that distinction when she said that the two cases could not be compared because the Russians intended to stay in Afghanistan and the Americans to leave Grenada. The fact is that the Russians will stay in Afghanistan until they have set up a Government there that they like and believe will be completely secure when they leave. It has taken them longer than they expected. They have bitten off far more than they expected to chew. The Americans are leaving Grenada because they are satisfied that they have established the conditions for a puppet or complaisant Government which will remain in power.
The Foreign Secretary referred to the Falklands in the context of Grenada, as have other right hon. and hon. Members. If we did not apply double standards in our attitudes to other parts of the world, we would argue that when Argentina invaded the Falklands we sent a task force because a foreign power had invaded a Commonwealth territory and, therefore, we should send a task force to Grenada. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, the Prime Minister said that British athletes should not go to the Moscow Olympics. The United States invaded Grenada without justification under international law, the rules of the United Nations, or the rules of the Organisation of American States, but the Prime Minister has not yet said that British athletes should not go to the Los Angeles Olympics. Those are the questions that arise when one considers double standards.
Events in Grenada and in Lebanon have been linked during tonight's debate, although I am not sure how valid that is. Many people apply double standards concerning Lebanon. Recently, I received a questionnaire about Lebanon—it may have been sent to all right hon. and hon. Members — distributed by an hon. Member on behalf of a lobbying organisation. The first question was whether the Israeli army should withdraw from Lebanon. However, there was no question about whether the Syrian army should withdraw from Lebanon. Nor did it ask whether the Iranian troops there should withdraw. Iran has a war of its own and I cannot imagine what Iranian troops 1048 are doing in Lebanon instead of defending their own country. There was no question whether Libyan troops should withdraw from the Lebanon.
§ Mr. Mikardo
That was my answer to the question. The Israeli, Syrian, Iranian, Libyan, Palestinian and all other troops should leave Lebanon. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman agrees with me. My point was that we were not asked about that, but only whether the Israeli troops should withdraw.
The Syrians justify their presence in Lebanon by saying that they came by invitation, as they did. They were invited to help in the peacekeeping process, and so they did for a little while. Since then all their efforts have been directed to destabilising the country.
There are few people in Lebanon who believe that Syria was not at the back of the blowing up of the United States embassy, and there are few people in Lebanon who believe that Syria was not at the back of the recent attacks on the French paratroopers and the United States marines. We know that Syria is at the back of the civil war in Al Fatah. The only fighting that is going on in Lebanon today as we conduct our debate is continuing in Tripoli between two sections of Al Fatah—those who support Mr. Arafat and those who are bankrolled, armed and actively supported with troops in the field by the Government of Syria.
Why does not someone say that the Syrians should leave Lebanon? In fomenting the civil war within Al Fatah, the Syrians have ruined the claims of the PLO that, as the chosen representative of the Palestinians, it should take part in negotiations about a settlement in that area. There have been previous difficulties about that, especially as the PLO has always said that it does not wish to take part in negotiations. It said that in response to the Venice agreement which Lord Carrington negotiated with great difficulty and produced with such a fanfare of trumpets. The declaration said that the PLO should be brought into the negotiations, and Lord Carrington expected the Israelis to be angry and the PLO to kiss him on both cheeks. However, the Israelis rejected it, and the PLO rejected it even more strongly. Its representatives said: "We do not want your Christmas pudding. We do not believe in negotiations. We believe that our problems will be settled by force and out of the barrel of a gun."
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member for Bow and Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) is not giving way, and I am sure that he will bear in mind the fact that many hon. Members wish to speak in the debate.
§ Mr. Mikardo
That was exactly what I had in mind, Mr. Speaker. I know what my hon. Friend is going to ask, and I shall answer him privately when we leave the Chamber this evening.
The right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) said that there was a necessity for Europe to speak with one voice. It spoke with one voice in the Venice declaration, but that was the most outstanding failure of a political initiative for as far back as I can remember. The proposal was rejected completely.
1049 Mr. Arafat said today that Syrian and Libyan troops are shooting at him. The civil war is bound to cause people to ask, if we believe that the PLO should be brought into the negotiations, whether it should be Mr. Arafat's PLO or the anti-Arafat PLO. They say that they are the chosen representatives of their people, but who chose them? When was the election? Who was the electorate and who were the candidates? The Syrian influence in the Lebanon has been completely mischievous and we have not paid enough attention to it.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) made a superb speech today, but he made a mistake when he referred to the historic interests of Syria in Lebanon. The only historic interest that Syria has in Lebanon is that Syria conquered Lebanon and colonised it. The French have the same historic interest, and the Turks have an even longer historic interest because Lebanon was part of the Ottoman empire for much longer than it was part of greater Syria. The real menace in the middle east, perhaps second only to that of the Ayatollah Khomeini, is the fact that Syria has never abandoned the dream of recreating greater Syria, which included Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan. When King Hussein of Jordan has a sleepless night and lies there tossing and turning, he is worrying not about the wicked Israelis but about the Syrians. He knows that the real threat to him is the dream of a greater Syria.
People never think about that fundamental part of the problem of a middle east settlement. They oversimplify the problem by thinking in terms only of Israeli-Arab conflict. In fact, the inter-Arab conflicts are much more dangerous, partly because some of them are inspired by religion. Not only are Moslems set against Christians, but Moslem is set against Moslem. There are more than two different groups of Moslems who treat each other with the same brotherly love as some of the Christians in Ulster. [Interruption.] Conservative Members should not laugh at that. Throughout history, religious differences have caused more bloodshed than almost any others. The rivalry between Shi'a and Sunni represents a real danger. It is no joke. Even if the callow hon. Members around him do not know that, the right hon. and learned Gentleman ought to know it. He should not laugh.
I shall end as I began. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, no."] These little minor public schoolboys with their little games are a poor lot. This is a schoolboy humour.
Whatever action we take in any part of the world, we ought to act with reference to a body of principle. We ought to ask ourselves whether, in taking that action, we are guilty of applying double standards. That is the litmus paper test of the decency and honour of any action that affects other peoples of the world.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. As the House knows, I have no authority to control the length of speeches. However, I would ask hon. Members to bear in mind the fact that many of their colleagues wish to take part in this debate. Although the digital clocks are out of order, the clocks at the end of the Table are still working.
§ Mr. Stefan Terlezki (Cardiff, West)
I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me to speak for the first time in the House, with my Anglo-Ukrainian-Welsh accent.
1050 I should like to tell the House something about the constituency of Cardiff, West which I am honoured, proud and privileged to represent. Cardiff, West and its people could perhaps be described as the United Nations on a smaller scale. There are the Welsh, the English, the Scots, the Irish, the Ukrainians, the Poles, the Pakistanis, the Africans, the West Indians, the Indians, the Italians, the Spanish, the Portuguese and people from many other parts of the old and the new Commonwealth. Strong community links have been forged with the ethnic minorities on a very amicable basis, and social, educational and cultural understanding is being promoted. I am proud that Cardiff, West can be looked upon as a model of good relationships between different people, and those people, too, are proud to be British.
I am pleased to say that we have several colleges, high schools, and junior and infant schools, as well as a Church of England school, a Church of Wales school, Roman Catholic schools, nursery schools, and special and private schools. Again, those schools help pupils with different social and religious backgrounds to integrate into society and to be good citizens of Great Britain. There is some light industry in the constituency as well as hospitals, good shopping facilities and Cardiff City football club. Indeed, I was once privileged to be that club's chairman. Of course, there are also rugby clubs and quite a few political and non-political clubs. We also have the BBC and HTV studios in the constituency.
I hope that you will allow me, Mr. Speaker, to use two words that have echoed through the House, throughout the land, and over the oceans and hills. They are "Order, Order". Those are the words of my predecessor, Mr. George Thomas, or "our George" as he is affectionately known. He is now, of course, Viscount Tonypandy and he certainly deserves that great honour. I have known him for many years, as my wife was born just a few miles up from Tonypandy. He and I have much in common, in relation to not only the Rhondda and Tonypandy, but the broad fabric of the social structure of our society.
Mr. Thomas served the people in Cardiff, West exceptionally well for 38 years. Although I have no intention of following in his footsteps to the Speaker's Chair, I should certainly like to follow him in being as good a Member of Parliament for Cardiff, West as he was, and in being as much in touch with the people there as he has been in the past 38 years. He is a great and much-loved man. I greatly respect him, and am very happy to have paid him a great tribute in this great House.
People matter a great deal to me, irrespective of their colour or background. We must all try to help, protect and respect one another, to be good citizens, to respect the law of the land and to be good patriots of this great country. People in many parts of the world have sought for centuries to copy our constitution and laws and so to guarantee their liberties. The antiquity and continuity of our political structure is a marvel to many. As a result of our ancestors' endeavours, our freedom and democracy are now second to none. I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but I have found the silver lining in reaching the Mother of Parliaments, the cradle of freedom and democracy. I am very proud to be here and to speak, knowing very well that I do so in freedom. If my father and my friends in the Ukraine knew that I was standing here and what I was saying, their tears would flow with joy.
1051 The purpose of our foreign policy is to help, as we have done and continue to do, in many parts of the world, materially, culturally, educationally, politically, democratically and in many other ways, when possible. Soviet foreign policy exports Marxist ideology in great quantity—most of the time against the wishes of the people. Its aim is not to introduce freedom and democracy, but to suppress and eradicate them whenever possible. If one looks at where Marxism is preached and practised, one will have no illusion about which foreign policy serves its people best — Soviet or British. I have experienced feudalism, Marxism, Communism, Fascism, Nazism and, at the age of 15, a slave labour camp. I believe that I can justifiably claim that I know how to appreciate freedom and democracy.
I knew nothing about British foreign policy or Britain's freedom and democracy until we were liberated by the British and the Americans in 1945. One may well ask: what about the Russian liberators? They liberated a part of Europe from its freedom, democracy and good living standards and they have put an iron curtain around it. Since 1945 people have been born and lived in open prisons. If people do not believe me, they should write to my friends and my father in the Ukraine. If they are allowed to tell us, they will.
British foreign policy protects and defends Britain on all fronts — land, sea and in the air. Let us not be rhetorical and use a sea of words when we talk about defending Britain. Defending Britain means that what our fathers and grandfathers have fought and died for is worth defending and protecting, so that we, our children and our grandchildren will live in freedom without experiencing slavery, tyranny and oppression, as, regrettably, some of us had to.
Communism is not interested in the flourishing of a country, the health and welfare of its people, freedom, political democracy, religion, culture or its history. Soviet imperialism has oppressed, abused and terrorised nations and has kept many in a political straitjacket in the name of Socialism, Marxism and Leninism.
There are more than 3 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Where are the supporters for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and all other do-gooders? Why do they not protest and go to Moscow? Why do they not go to Leningrad, Warsaw, Prague, Budapest and Afghanistan and put their arms around the Russian militarism? We should remember that there are no unilateralists in the Kremlin.
It is not a case of being better red than dead. The option is peace through deterrence and disarmament negotiations. In the Soviet Union, a person could be red and dead— and I know it. Ask the Ukrainians, the Poles, Czechoslovakians, Hungarians, Latvians, Estonians, Lithuanians and Afghans the meaning of tyranny, barbarism and oppression, which are so brutally executed by the Soviet Marxist regime. If people in this great country of ours believe that the grass is greener in the Soviet Union, let them go there and find out for themselves.
§ Mr. Terlezki
There are apparatchiks and apologists for the Soviet Union, who would dearly like the Government to disarm the Army, sink the Navy, ditch the 1052 Air Force, and the Utopian state would be complete. That will hot happen. The vast majority of the British people are too resilient to fall for that. Of course we must negotiate with the Soviets. Let us compromise if need be, but only when the compromise is on equal and realistic terms, without cheating.
The Pope speaks for peace, about multilateral, not unilateral, disarmament and about a reduction of nuclear and conventional weapons. Where are the Christians in the CND? Why do they not listen and follow their leader? I do. They are misleading the public, especially the young generation who grew up in peace, protected by military strength. Let us negotiate not only for a reduction of military arsenals, but for their dismantling. Let us negotiate for the zero option. Let the Soviets make ploughs and tractors out of their military hardware so that they can plough the fields, sow the corn and reap the harvest to feed their people.
Mr. Andropov said that when it comes to unilateral disarmament the Soviet people are not naive. I say to Mr. Andropov that nor are the British. The British spirit of freedom is too strong and too resilient to be crushed by the tanks of tyrants. My regret is that some of the British who were born here take democracy for granted and play directly into the hands of our potential enemies.
I am proud to be British and free to speak without fear, to worship God in my own way, to stand up for what I believe to be right and to oppose what I believe to be wrong and to choose who shall govern my country. I pledge to uphold this heritage of freedom for me, Britain, the oppressed nations and all mankind.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)
The hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Terlezki) has had a more vivid experience than most who make their maiden speeches of what awaits him when he seeks to address the House in subsequent debates, for he was kept waiting for considerably longer than is usually the lot of maiden speakers.
I do not wish to stand unnecessarily between the House and other hon. Members who wish to take part in the debate, but they will not begrudge me a moment, as one who in his former constituency had numerous and valuable Ukrainian constituents, to say to the hon. Member that we are interested to see in a new incarnation the constituency which was represented by our Speaker, and hope that he will achieve his ambitions in the place at which he has travelled so far to arrive.
One of the disadvantages of a general debate on foreign affairs on the motion for the Adjournment is that the debate swings to and fro between one subject and another and the opportunity to bring the Government to explanation and answer on any one topic is difficult to attain. I feel sometimes it is a pity that the Opposition fail to put on the Order Paper a motion which might concentrate such a debate as this.
I want to direct what I have to say to one question only, which—it does no credit to the House—has riot been debated during the 10 months that 100 British service men have been serving in the Lebanon. It took the deaths of 300 young men for that question to be taken seriously and for the reason why our troops are there to be asked in the House or outside.
1053 I want to put two points. First, I should like clarification of the exact status and position of those 100 British troops in the Lebanon. I should then like to consider the practical purpose and justification of their presence.
If I am correct, it is the exchange of notes reproduced in Cmnd. 8823 which is the basis of the presence of that force in the Lebanon. The exchange of notes delineates the purpose of the multinational force; but then it goes on curiously to say:The British Military Force shall carry out such tasks as may be agreed between the United Kingdom and Lebanese Governments, consistent with the Mandate of the MNFI find it difficult to read that exchange of notes and not come to the conclusion—indeed it is a conclusion which I welcome if it is correct — that our troops in the Lebanon are not part of the multinational force, but are in that country under a separate agreement between this country and the Government of the Lebanon.
§ Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd (Morecambe and Lunesdale)
I am looking at the top of the document from which the right hon. Gentleman is reading. It says:Exchange of notes between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of the Lebanese Republic concerning the Deployment of a British Contingent for the Multi-National Force in Lebanon.
§ Mr. Powell
I am well aware of that, but frequently a title, as newspaper readers will be aware, does not correspond with the content.
It appears to me that these documents were carefully drawn and that we ought to understand clearly the "tasks" which have been "agreed" between our Government and the Government of the Lebanon for our troops in that place.
Their purpose there has been variously explained and justified. We were told by the Foreign Secretary this afternoon that the multinational force—for this purpose perhaps we could regard the tasks of the British troops as not necessarily distinct — was to help to support the Lebanese Government and to enable the Lebanese Government to procure reconciliation in that country because, as the Foreign Secretary said,Outsiders can help create the right environment".I believe that all experience is at variance with that purpose, that it is contrary to all experience that lasting stability in a country such as Lebanon is likely to be brought about and maintained by the introduction of foreign armed forces. Consequently, there is an inescapable contradiction between the professed purpose and the likelihood of that purpose succeeding. But if that is the purpose of the relatively large American force and the French contingent, what have we to say about the presence of 100 British troops? However high may be our estimation of their value, however great our pride in their prowess, what contribution do 100 troops make to the exalted purpose of the multinational force which has been set before us?
We are told that our troops are impartial in circumstances in which an impartial presence is desirable; but that is in contradiction with the terms upon which they are there. They are there to be on the side of the Lebanese Government to carry out the tasks which have been agreed with the Lebanese Government.
There is only one purpose which can be served, only one explanation that can be given, for 100 British troops 1054 —no less, no more—being stationed in the Lebanon. They are there as a token. In the game of four-handed whist—the Americans, the Italians, the French and the British—the British are playing dummy; and those least friendly to the Foreign Secretary might say that was a role for which he is endowed by nature and by training.
But if we are to play dummy, if we are in the Lebanon to be a token, what support is that token intended to convey? What is the policy? What are the conceptions, what are the intentions, for which Britain is betokening support?
The United States' President recently referred to the Lebanon as an area of American vital interest. That would be an astonishing statement, if we were not so used to the lighthearted use of terms such as "vital interest". After all, the Lebanon is separated from the United States by the width of the Atlantic ocean and the Mediterranean sea. What therefore, we might inquire, can be the vital, the life-concerning interest, of the United States in the state of affairs in Lebanon? The answer comes quickly: "To keep out the Russians." It is assumed that, were there not such a force in the Lebanon, were the Americans not involved in the Lebanon, then before you, Mr. Speaker, could say, "Order, order," we should find the Russians in Tyre and Sidon.
That is hallucination. That is the world picture with which, apparently, the American state and those who implement its policies appear to live. It is indeed the sort of contention which it is difficult to demolish with full, logical cogency, because there is always the possibility of saying that "The Russians are not in this or that place simply because they have been prevented by American policy." It is the old, tired story of the man who threw bits of The Times out of the railway carriage window to keep away the elephants, and claimed that his success was proved by the absence of elephants. It is so easy to say in one theatre after another—whether it be the Caribbean or the middle east—that it is the hand of America, the forces of America and her allies which prevent Russia filling what otherwise is represented as a vacuum.
I do not believe that we are so destitute of the means of arriving at an assessment of probability in this matter. I remember that 20 years ago there was a common metaphor in use. It was the domino metaphor. When the United States poured its forces into Vietnam, and when we in this country were urged—indeed, we came within a whisker of falling into the trap of taking that advice—to put a token force into that country in support of the United States, we were always told, "It is a question of dominoes. If Vietnam goes Communist, then Thailand goes Communist. If Thailand goes Communist, Malaysia is lost. If Malaysia is lost, Indonesia is lost."
It may seem strange and unfamiliar to hon. Members today to be reminded of that absurd notion. If so, it is only because experience and events have proved how absurd it was. No more conclusively could the United States have been defeated, more firmly could Communism—if that is what it is — have been installed than happened in Vietnam. The purposes for which the Americans fought, the purposes which they regarded as vital to themselves in Saigon were lost irrevocably. They were lost; but nothing happened. None of the dominoes fell; and south-east Asia has retained its principal features virtually unchanged since the American catastrophe.
If we were not involved in the Lebanon — if that American policy for which we are providing token support 1055 were not being carried out there — no doubt Russia would seek what is called influence over the state which would emerge and the Government which would be formed in that territory. But she would be much too wise —her performance in the past is the evidence for this—to seek physically to occupy that territory.
So we pursue a chimera. Attached to the United States and its philosophy, we place ourselves at the service of a wholly unrealistic view of the world and in particular of the middle east. Some may say: It is just a token, so why worry? It is no token for those 100 men of ours who are in the Lebanon. This House does not have the right to demand from its service men the risk of life and limb in the service of a policy and of purposes which are inherently insustainable and which in that context this House has never debated or approved. We should bring our men back from the Lebanon. They had no business to be sent there in the first place.
§ Sir Frederic Bennett (Torbay)
In view of your admonition to be brief, Mr. Speaker, I shall resist the temptation to comment on the speech of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) which, as always, I shall find easier to unravel the day after it is made, when I read it in Hansard tomorrow, than I do when listening to it. As the right hon. Gentleman's arguments unfold not all of them, put together, appear to be completely logical.
I wish at the outset to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr.Terlezki) on his maiden speech. It was controversial and aroused some ire on the Opposition Benches, although it drew virtually unanimous applause from the Conservative Benches. I warn him that in future he will have to put up with a less conciliatory reaction from Labour Members than he enjoyed today as I have often had to do.
He mentioned his joint Ukranian ancestry to me a few evenings ago. I was not surprised by what he told me, because I have been concerned with the Free Ukranian movement since the last war. He is just the type of person we need in our midst, a man who knows from actual suffering exactly what living under the Soviet system implies. There is no need for him to read books or for us to advise him to read books on that subject. Our numbers have been strengthened by having with us someone who, it cannot be denied, has personal knowledge of the sort he described in his speech and which he mentioned to me in greater detail the other evening. I wish him luck in his various national garbs and loyalties.
We listened to a typical speech from the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), who I regret is temporarily not in his place. It was rather more muted than the speech he made last week; all the awful things that he presaged would follow from the American Caribbean intervention do not seem to be happening. The fact that his seat in the shadow Cabinet is now secure may have contributed to a quieter speech from him today.
There was no more talk from the right hon. Gentleman of a long guerrilla war waged from the mountains by indignant Grenadians with the help of construction workers from the airport which has allegedly been built for peaceful purposes. I was interested as I listened to the right hon. Gentleman last week to be instructed that the airfield was intended not for warlike but for peaceful purposes. I wondered how those Cuban construction engineers who 1056 were taking part in such a peaceful project would be able to carry out a successful guerrilla campaign in the mountains, using their picks, shovels and cement mixers.
At the end of his speech my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) indulged in a mild reproof of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East. Considering how the right hon. Member for Leeds, East enjoys the reputation of being a political bully-boy who hurls insults at anybody and everybody, it was surprising to hear him express indignation when for once he received some of that treatment from the Conservative Benches. He seemed to adopt an attitude of pained indignation—that anyone should dare to be rude to him—when he should be the last to complain at such treatment.
Sir Paul Scoon, a distinguished individual, has not received a fair hearing from certain people in this House and outside and, being myself admittedly a not important constitutional lawyer, I believe that certain things should be put right. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East seemed to adopt an almost neo-colonial role as he spoke about what the Governor-General should or should not have done, the right hon. Gentleman having previously said that he had no responsibilities to the British Government, which of course he did not.
Constitutionally, in the absence of the Queen, Sir Paul was, and remains, the Head of State of Grenada. Except when the Queen is on the island, he is the Head of State and has the rights and constitutional duties reserved to him under the constitution, which was gifted to Grenada by Britain. Normally a governor-general exercising those responsibilities has the advantage of acting on the advice of his Ministers. It was difficult for him to do that when his Ministers had been murdered. Under those circumstances he had little or no option but to seek in some way to save his country.
§ Sir Frederic Bennett
I shall not give way. Mr. Speaker has appealed to us to make short speeches and not to give way and I propose to abide by that so as to allow time for others to speak.
Considering the duties that he had to carry out, Sir Paul was a man in a desperate position and undoubtedly he was constitutionally right to approach his neighbours in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States for their help, and they in turn, if they so wished—as sovereign states, not as neo-colonial states—were entitled to appeal to any country to help protect their security. I regret that they did not come to us. On balance, they probably did the right thing, because, whatever our response would have been, we were not in a position to make the rapid reaction that was needed.
It is only a week since we were told—we even heard it today from the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) — that there was a parallel between Afghanistan and Grenada. I do not remember many newspaper articles commenting on how the newsmen had been welcomed by the Afghans or on how wonderful it was that the Soviets had arrived. In Grenada, not even the most violent critics of American action were able to deny that the overwhelming response of the Grenadian public was to say, "Thank God you came with your friends and rescued us." So to compare that situation with Afghanistan is not only ludicrous, but mischievous in the extreme, because it does not relate to the facts.
1057 I shall concentrate my few remaining remarks about the Caribbean on the future. There has already been too much discussion about where a telegram went, who should have consulted whom, why someone should have consulted someone else, and whether we were right in voting, abstaining or doing otherwise in the United Nations. I believe that the Grenadians would like us to concentrate together on the future, and ensure that their country can return to economic, social and political stability. In my view, we are in the process of doing that.
I have a feeling that in six months' time, unless something goes very wrong, it will be hard for critics of Barbados, Jamaica, St. Lucia, the United States and the other countries that came to the aid of Grenada to make nasty remarks about what has happened in Grenada, when they see how the people will be living then, compared with the time when they were on the verge of being taken over as a satellite state of the Soviet Union through the medium of Cuba. That is the course on which they were set. The course was fortunately reversed, and the people of Grenada have been given the chance to regain the democratic constitution which I am confident will be to their benefit.
I shall say only one word about the middle east.
§ Sir Frederic Bennett
It does not help to interrupt. It merely prolongs the agony of Labour Members who do not want to listen.
In my opinion, we cannot sustain for long the purpose of keeping forces in the middle east. Here I agree with the right hon. Member for Down, South—not for all the reasons that he gave, but because I believe that the forces are not performing any useful function. They are keeping peace only in the sense that it is less likely that Syria and Israel will engage in open hostilities while they are there. In so far as they are trying to create a peaceful environment for people to conduct successful negotiations, I suspect that they have a negative, not positive, role.
If the current series of negotiations fails, I hope that we shall go back to the original and only way of resolving the crisis—the Americans can do this more than anyone else—which is to ensure that all—I repeat all—foreign forces leave the Lebanon and that all forms of persuasion are used to get the Israelis, Syrians and anyone else to get out of that country and leave it to try to resolve its problems. Finally, one cannot leave on one side the problem that if the Palestinians are made to go—that may well be a necessary part of the solution to the problem —they will have to go somewhere. There is only one place where I think that they should be allowed to go, and that is where they came from and where they were driven from—their homes on the West Bank.
§ Dame Judith Hart (Clydesdale)
I shall try to be brief. I want to concentrate mainly on the events in the Caribbean and the perspective that stretches ahead now.
I begin with a couple of minor footnotes. The hon. Member for Torbay (Sir F. Bennett) cast doubts on whether the airport in Grenada was for tourist purposes. He revived the American canard that it was a military airport which therefore could constitute a threat to the Americans in Washington. That was one of the underlying 1058 currents that seemed to be a motivation for the American invasion of Grenada. Of course, there are the Plessey comments, but when I was going through some of my papers this morning — in case hon. Members are interested, I shall put the document in the Library for a while—I came across a record of the proceedings of an aid donors meeting held in Brussels at the ACP House on 14 and 15 April 1981. It is about the international airport project in Grenada. It consists of a detailed analysis of the tourist potential, the economics of the tourist increase that was likely to result from the airport, tables about hotel occupancy, tax revenues, and so on, plus a brief account and comment by a French consultant who had been engaged by the European development fund as part of the exercise. It is of some interest in dispelling any view that the airport had been intended as a military airport. However, that is merely a footnote.
The House may recall that around 1977–78, when President Carter was at the White Houe, he and his wife became extremely interested in Latin American countries and countries in central America and the Caribbean. Mrs. Rosalynn Carter paid two well publicised visits—one to Brazil and one to Jamaica—and there was a general Carter Administration enthusiasm for doing something about the area.
That enthusiasm resulted in a proposal which emanated from the World Bank, but had been prompted by Washington, for a conference of all the major donors to countries and states in that part of the world, ranging from large ones such as Trinidad and Guyana on the one hand to the eastern Caribbean small states on the other, with European Community representatives, Canada, Japan, United States, ourselves, Venezuela, and so on. The conference was to examine how there might be a coordinated approach so as to assist some of the development problems in the Caribbean basin, and in that sense give greater political stability to the states and islands.
I mention that, because little was known about that conference in this country. It was hardly reported. It was one of those international conferences that pass without comment. In fact, it was an extremely successful conference. The American enthusiasm had waned. I remember that Mr. Andy Young was the main American representative, and the American keenness to put a lot of money into the enterprise had cooled.
However, there were those of us, and I admit that I was one, who insisted that the conference should be a success. Those of us who shared my view — countries like Barbados, Jamaica and Venezuela were among those who were ready to twist the arm of the World Bank and the Americans—said that we must make a success of the conference. It was agreed that a target would be set. I have not looked up my figures, but from memory I think that the target figure was about $150 million. Studies were to be made of the precise needs of the various countries that need assistance. That led to a further conference, which took place shortly before the general election. At that time we had not hit the targets, but we had done very well. I think that about $120 million had come from the various donor countries.
However, it was interesting that the whole political ethos of that conference began to develop because it became so evident that it was feasible, possible and would be good for the member states of the Caribbean, and particularly the eastern Caribbean, to look at the countries of central and northern Latin America rather than directly 1059 towards Washington or even Canada. The Caribbean countries could then see themselves in stable company with countries such as Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico and so on.
The initiative was building up. Venezuela was considering putting considerable finance into transport for the eastern Caribbean states, which they desperately needed to get their produce to the markets, Venezuela and Mexico were to introduce concessionary oil prices together with low interest loans because most of the islands were oil-dependent. Something rather special was beginning to develop which could only have been good as it was a move away from the American back yard idea.
Washington does not need to regard as hostile every country that is not completely identified with every aspect of its foreign policy. Washington should be and can be content with countries that are non-aligned and independent in their approach to foreign policy. It might be more comfortable for Washington if it could always count on the votes of these countries in the General Assembly, but that will not desperately concern Washington. If Washington had a group of countries that were not far from the United States, were non-aligned and were working together, that would be preferable to the risks of intervention that go along with regarding a whole area of the world as one's backyard. That is the dangerous principle.
I am happy that in this debate most of the hon. Members who have spoken have reinforced the view that came so clearly from the Prime Minister on Sunday in her radio broadcast, that the invasion of Grenada is opposed to international law and not something of which we would ever approve. I am glad that that, in general, has been supported in the House today, with only one or two exceptions.
We are now bound to ask, as everybody is asking— what will be the future of Nicaragua? Is the principle of invasion and intervention because a country is in another country's back yard to be carried through there? Were that to happen, what would be the consequences? The greatest significance and danger of what Washington has done on this occasion in flouting and raping this principle, which has been well established and respected, is greatly to increase the risks of a conflagration that could escalate into something serious.
The hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) was a Minister in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and he talked about the need to organise some defence for the states in the Caribbean. I remind the House that when we talk of the Caribbean states that were so much in support of the American intervention we are talking only of very small states of the size of Grenada, which are relatively non-viable. We all know that Seaga is very much in Washington's pocket—he is another Reagan. We know also that the substantial Commonwealth states of the Caribbean were opposed to what happened in Grenada. Trinidad and Tobago, Belize, the Bahamas and Guyana, the substantial and historically more well-established states have been clear in their opposition. Therefore, we cannot talk of the countries of the Caribbean supporting the invasion.
It is no good to quote Jamaica, because, such is their relationship, for Seaga read Reagan. Reagan gave great assistance to Seaga in getting rid of Michael Manley— as did the International Monetary Fund. If one reads what Seaga said before, during and after the election in Jamaica, 1060 one sees that he was most welcoming to President Reagan's proposals for private investment, less public investment and so on. That is why Jamaica took the point of view that it did. It would not have taken that view if Mr. Seaga had not been Prime Minister.
The House will know of my experience next door to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and it is interesting to examine the trend of thinking in it. There is no doubt that if we were to ask what its priorities are it would say first, the Atlantic Alliance, secondly Europe and the EEC and thirdly, if it happened to think of it, the Commonwealth. For most of the officials that would certainly be the order of priorities.
The circumstances in the Caribbean offer a tremendous opportunity for us as equal members of the Commonwealth, with our historical responsibility and relationship with the Caribbean countries, to offer a chance to those states to come out of America's back yard and do something of their own—stand on their own feet along with the COMACORA states of central America and northern Latin America. There is an opportunity for a new alliance there.
There is no need to build up defence forces. After all, the only need for defence forces would be to keep an American invasion out. There is no need to keep out an invasion by anybody else, and, if something happens inside those countries, the general, established international law is that one does not intervene. Thus, there is an opportunity in the Caribbean that involves a complete turn-round in the attitude towards aid and the amount we spend on aid in those countries. In the Caribbean politics, development is the name of the game — politics is development and development is politics.
In a written answer I received some figures on aid to Grenada. In 1982, we spent one quarter of the amount that we had spent there in 1978. Is it any wonder that Grenada needed to look elsewhere? If a country is desperate for development it will have to have aid from somebody. The same thing happened in Mozambique. I was repeatedly attacked by the Conservative party when my Government were providing aid to Mozambique. I am happy to say that the President of that country visited London the other day. A poor underdeveloped country that needs help will go somewhere else if that money is not provided by the West.
There is an opportunity, which I hope will be considered and taken, to take this area out of America's back yard, build it up and give it the support it will need within the Commonwealth in association and alliance with Venezuela, Mexico and Colombia. That is the other option, and I believe that it is the one that the Caribbean states would most prefer.
§ Mr. Peter Shore (Bethnal Green and Stepney)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I first apologise to the House for interrupting this important debate, but there has been a serious power failure in the Palace of Westminster and it would be for the convenience of the House if we could have a statement about it from the Leader of the House.
§ The Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Biffen)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I understand from the resident engineer that a cable failure occurred, but I am assured that the present level of lighting can be maintained. Only one Committee is still sitting, and that has adjourned until 9.30 1061 pm. I am also assured that the existing level of lighting can be maintained for that Committee for as long as it wishes to sit. I understand that catering facilities are available.
§ Mr. Shore
I am sure that the House would wish to thank the Leader of the House for that statement. It is a matter of some importance when we have a power failure of this nature in the House of Commons. Proceedings were interrupted in the Chamber at around 6 pm and in many other parts of the building where Committees were meeting and where people were assembling for various purposes.
The House will be pleased to know that, despite the power failure, our major business has been able to continue in the Chamber and in the Committee. Will the Leader of the House throw a little more light on the position and tell us when the lighting system will be fully restored? We have further proceedings tomorrow. Will he do his best to ensure that in future those responsible for the Palace of Westminster take adequate safeguards to avoid such interruptions in our proceedings?
§ Mr. Biffen
I am sure that those concerned will be very much disposed to ensure that the supply is made available as early as possible and on as dependable a basis as possible. I can give no specific undertakings about when the full supply will be resumed, but I very much hope that the business of the House tomorrow will not be unduly impeded.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Paul Dean)
After that interlude, may I remind the House that many hon. Members on both sides of the House hope to speak in this important debate. It will help us all if speeches are brief.
§ 8.2 pm
§ Sir Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
I agree with the right hon. Member for Clydesdale (Dame Judith Hart) that development and aid are important, particularly in the Caribbean, as my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) said. There can be no proper economic development if there is no security. In the past 20 years successive Governments—Conservative and Labour— have given full independence to nearly 20 mini-states, some with a population of fewer than 100,000, which could not make adequate provision for their own defence. Indeed, it is probably not desirable that they should attempt to make proper and adequate provision for their defence. They do not have the resources at hand and there are better uses for those resources.
The absence of adequate defence resources means that these mini-states are almost as vulnerable as airliners to the risk of hijacking. I am delighted that earlier in the debate my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary picked up a phrase that I had used. In some cases independent states have been hijacked by tiny bands of armed men, not much larger than the gang that carried out the great train robbery.
I note that my noble Friend Lord Home, in a speech two days ago, referred to his positive response to a request for military help after a mutiny in Tanganyika within days of that country becoming independent. He did not remind us that almost at the same time the neighbouring island of Zanzibar was seized by a force later estimated to be of platoon strength. We did not intervene there and some 1062 hundreds of Indians and Arabs were subsequently butchered. I note that at that time the Krays and the Richardsons, two gangster overlords who have some family connection with my constituency, could deploy on the streets of London more armed men than were needed for the takeover of Zanzibar.
Within the past six years we have seen the Governments in Grenada and the Seychelles overthrown by armed bands also not much larger than a Regular Army platoon. In Gambia, two and a half years ago, a semi-mutiny, semi-coup by the paramilitary police was checked by the fortuitous presence of a couple of SAS men, followed by the massive intervention of the Senegalese army. I do not recall that there was much agonised discussion between the Senegalese Prime Minister and Downing street before or after the Senegalese army invaded an independent Commonwealth country to restore order. The Prime Minister of Gambia then was safe and sound in London, attending the royal wedding. If the Zambian Prime Minister had been at home and been killed in the first uprising, I wonder whether we would have objected very much to that intervention. I doubt it.
The largest single group of defenceless mini-states that we have created lies in the Caribbean. The first coup in Grenada in 1979 obviously caused ripples of alarm even though there was little respect or affection for Sir Eric Gairy, the deposed leader of Grenada. As we now know, the second coup, followed by the murder of Maurice Bishop and so many of his colleagues in the Grenadian Government, brought requests for action from the leaders of Antigua, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Kitts Nevis — a country to which we had given full independence a few days before—Montserrat and St. Vincent; and it is now plain that their request was supported by the Governor-General of Grenada. His voice was not heard very plainly, but is that surprising? It was obviously difficult for him to leave Grenada, and if the leaders of the military coup had known that he was asking for intervention—however oblique that request might have been — he would obviously have been killed on the spot.
The leaders of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States asked for intervention because they feared that the bloody coup in Grenada would encourage and enbolden potential revolutionaries in their own countries; and each country does have potential revolutionaries. But why did the eastern Caribbean leaders get in touch with America rather than us, and why did the Americans not bother to consult us more fully? The answer to both questions is, I suspect, the same. Both the Caribbean leaders and the Americans knew very well that, again under successive Governments, our Caribbean policy, in so far as we have had one at all, consisted of a desire to minimise commitments and not to get involved.
In the 1950s and the early 1960s the British Government had encouraged, indeed imposed, the federation of the West Indies upon the islands. The federation was meant to provide an answer to the sort of security problem that has now arisen, but the federation foundered in the face of local apathy. Since then our main endeavours have been directed to diminishing those residual commitments that remain. Some see the granting of full independence to Grenada in 1974, under the emotional and erratic Sir Eric Gairy, as a cynical abdication of responsibility for the welfare of the inhabitants of that island.
1063 During the Prime Minister's recent visit to Washington she made it plain to her American hosts—according to well-informed press reports—that we intended to scale down our commitment to the security of Belize as quickly as possible. The Caribbean leaders and the Americans had thus been fully warned within the past month that we were anxious to shed our last major military commitment in that area. Under those circumstances, it is hardly surprising that the Americans and the Caribbean leaders did not think that we would wish to play an active role—or, indeed, any role at all.
What should happen now? This afternoon my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary laid down some sensible conditions for our participation in a Commonwealth team that may be needed in Grenada until free democratic elections can be held. I hope that those conditions can be met. Not to participate fully would be regarded as a continuation of the policy of querulousness that has sadly marked our response to the crisis so far.
I was glad to see my right hon. and learned Friend this afternoon taking a much more robust stand than he has hitherto. When elections have been held in Grenada, the problems of the other mini-state will still be with us. The prompt arrival of the Americans and the multinational force may have checked the enthusiasm of revolutionaries in other mini-states, but the problem remains.
The French generally sought to make limited defence agreements with their former colonies as they reached independence. Those agreements, at times, helped to prevent chaos. Are we now prepared to discuss limited security agreements with the Caribbean mini-states that are our partners in the Commonwealth? I was delighted to hear my right hon. and learned Friend say that he immediately intended to follow up that point with our friends in the Commonwealth. It need not be a large commitment. Obviously it should be an SAS-type of commitment, perhaps backed by a company of the Parachute Regiment, whose tie I am delighted to be wearing tonight.
I am talking not about repelling a massive Cuban invasion, but about a mini-commitment to meet a mini-threat to a mini-state. Of course there are political problems. We do not want to find ourselves committed to the defence of leaders who themselves become harsh, repressive or just plain bonkers. But there could be a de facto understanding that any use of external security forces would be followed in a matter of weeks or months by a free election.
Of course there are problems and difficulties, but if we do not learn the lessons of Grenada we will be faced with another outburst of violence in another part of the Caribbean. If we are not prepared to undertake that commitment, it is plain that many of our Caribbean Commonwealth partners will try to reach a similar agreement with the United States of America.
I happen to think that we can handle problems with greater skill and finesse than the Americans provided that we turn our minds to them. But the mishandled events of the past fortnight must surely have taught us that we can no longer muddle along and that we need a Caribbean policy that can be understood by our Commonwealth partners, by our enemies, by our allies and, not least, by the Foreign Secretary's friends and supporters in the House.
§ Mr. David Young (Bolton, South-East)
America's intervention in Grenada has been described as the action of a fireman. A better description would be the action of a ubiquitous instantaneous arsonist. Politicians who argue the right of a nation, because of its size and power, to intervene in the internal and private policies of another nation support not the propagation of freedom, but the insanity of megalomania.
America's actions have been justified on the ground that they were welcomed in Grenada. When Germany invaded the Sudeten it was "flowers, flowers all the way". Some of us were in Dominica during the Falklands war. We spoke to people in the Caribbean who told us that they saw that war not as a conflict between Argentina and Britain, but as the invasion of a small island by a large power. They would be equally opposed to any invasion whether the aggressor was Venezuela, Cuba or the United States. They want the basic right and freedom to decide their own destiny.
It is of great concern that an alien state, posing as an ally, has invaded an independent state within the Commonwealth without reference to this country. the head of the Commonwealth. What reliance can be placed on the assurances from the United States that they will consult us in future? That country has struck a blow against the independence of another country.
It is a dangerous principle for anyone, under the guise of arguing for the freedom of man, to claim that that gives him a right to enslave other men. The criticisms that we make of Russia must apply equally to the United States. As a British Member of Parliament, I should not wish to live in the USSR—but nor would I wish to live in the United States. I am proud to live in Britain. I do not want Britain to be a satellite of either of those countries.
The Government talk to the United States on behalf of the British people. We will be stationing nuclear weapons in Britain for the defence of America. But when a British Minister says that the women of Greenham common may be shot on behalf of the Americans, I do not think that we have much ground on which to criticise other nations. I ask the Government to stand up against their allies for Britain's interests and not simply to excuse and bolster up actions that are a clear and utter breach of international law.
I and other hon. Members recently visited Cyprus and we were concerned that British troops had apparently been put there without a clear knowledge of their responsibilities and were in physical danger as a result of the position in which they were put. For right or wrong, many who have gone there as part of an allegedly peacekeeping force have appeared to be aligning with one side rather than remainng impartial. The duty of a peacekeeping force is to maintain peace, not to impose unilateral settlements. If at any time it were thought that the British forces might be in danger, I hope that we shall be told at the Dispatch Box whether a decision to provide air support which could escalate the conflict will be made at ministerial level or designated to local commanders on the spot as it has been in the past. To put in 97 men and then abrogate our responsibility by leaving the possible escalation of the conflict to local commanders is no way for the House to safeguard British lives. I hope that we shall not long be 1065 denied a debate on the involvement of our forces in any further cases and I hope that such a debate will take place before and not after our forces become involved.
§ Mr. Peter Temple-Morris (Leominster)
Much as I like and admire the hon. Member for Bolton, South-East (Mr. Young), in a debate such as this it does no one any good to spread alarm that has already been established as unnecessary about what may or may not happen in extreme events at Greenham common. I was somewhat surprised to hear the hon. Gentleman say in such adamant terms that he would not live in the United States. He is not without experience of the world. I should have no hesitation in living in the United States, although I should prefer to live here. If one were to contemplate odd aspects of our own history and take the hon. Gentleman's line we would walk out of this Chamber and out of Britain and I am sure that hon. Members have no intention of doing that.
We have heard tonight two different but, in their own way, equally outstanding and impressive maiden speeches. My hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Mr. Robinson) made an excellent speech. He has now left the Chamber for much needed succour and relief but I hope that he will soon be back at his place and I should like him to see my comments on the record, as I would my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Terlezki). I was an unsuccessful candidate for Newport when I fought there at a tender age in 1964 and 1966 without the aid of the boundary commissioners. Hon. Members with knowledge of the area will know what I am talking about. I like to think that I fell along the wayside, gallantly holding my party's flag high, in order that my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West should come here and make such a splendid speech. I am sure that the late Sir Ronald Bell, who, briefly in 1945, was the last Conservative Member for Newport, would have been proud to see my hon. Friend in his place.
Cardiff happens, coincidentally, to be my home town, which my father represented in this House. It is with great pride that I see my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West here. He is a colourful tribute to his city—if I may put it like that—and I am sure that he will be an equally colourful tribute to the House.
The assessments that have been made of my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary's handling of the Grenada issue have not shown a fair consideration of the hindsight factor. There might not have been a witch hunt in the press but it has certainly treated him unkindly. This is not the only case where such attacks concentrate upon what happens in the House, the way we perform, and so on. We all know that the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) has had a field day over the past week. As long as hon. Members are not on the receiving end, it is fair to say that such attacks are received with a certain enjoyment. However, we should not forget that political life goes a little beyond performance in the House. The decision was reached in extremely difficult circumstances but was right and my right hon. and learned Friend and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister deserve a few complimentary words from hon. Members in addition to the sort of press that my right hon. and learned Friend has been receiving.
1066 Undue credit has been given to the fact that the invasion of Grenada was sudden. While we are all familiar with contingency plans here and there, that decision was taken suddenly by the President of the United States. I do not know exactly when it was taken. Some suggest that it was taken on Sunday evening, American time. However, it was probably taken within 24 hours of the Beirut bomb blast. That decision was about the invasion of a sovereign state and had I been invited to make the decision at the time—far from it that I would have been—I should have reached the same conclusion. In principle, it was wrong, but I appreciate that there were complicated reasons for it.
The decision was taken after limited consultation. I underline the fact that as a House we must maintain a realistic approach. Some people seem to feel that, in view of our so-called special relationship, the United States should tell us every single thing on the basis of complete equality. I wish it would. However, hon. Members on both sides of the House are surely sufficient realists to know that that cannot happen. However, we would expect it if we were in a war together. Obviously, we would expect it. However, if the United States is alone as the primary power involved in Grenada or if we are alone, as we were in the Falklands, we know that the primary objective is our own interests, afterwards considering our allies and friends. When decisive, speedy action has to be taken, that is not the best background for consultation.
If one is in the shoes of the United States Government, or our Government, one has to consider security. There are too many leaks. Some are inspired but too many occur in Washington, London and other Western capitals. However, if one is in such a situation, one has to act speedily. It is a tragic fact that one has to act without certain courtesies which otherwise, in an ideal world, one would like.
The Government also had to decide whether to leap in and cause an undoubted split in the Commonwealth, which was already visible at the time. It would have become worse. Harm would have been done to unity. One also has to consider genuine political doubts. We shall see what balance of advantage emerges from the events, but it is at least arguable that the Soviet Union, which, admittedly, could not lose, could in the longer term have an advantage from the invasion. It has been partly let off the hook of Afghanistan, from which it has suffered in international gatherings since it invaded in late 1979. Those who attend international gatherings will know that that is one of the few matters on which, nearly always, we have managed to unite the Third world against the Soviet Union, in spite of other allegiances at such conferences.
Against that background, there is the question whether the threat to United States security was sufficient. I say in the nicest possible way that it is unproven, in spite of the factors that have emerged. Therefore, the decision was taken in difficult circumstances. We should give more credit to that than we have done and not get carried away with the enjoyable goings on in the Chamber.
I reiterate what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Sir P. Goodhart). He will now go down in history, because of what he said about hijacking in the context of islands rather than planes. Grenada is appropriate and is an all-too-prevalent example. The matter must be examined. It is fraught with difficulties because of the doctrine of the sovereign state. Not least because of the urgings of my hon. Friend and others, I am 1067 grateful that my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary examined the matter constructively and will be considering the matter. The Commonwealth aspect is important. A Commonwealth contribution could be made. The Caribbean is a prime example. As another, there are an incredible number of islands in the Pacific. They have caused little trouble up to now but could do so if we do not take action. We are in the realm of security treaties, spheres of influence, aid and, not least, intelligence. Many of us, whichever side we were on in the argument over the past 10 days, felt that intelligence could have been better.
Therefore, we must follow through in a positive way. There is a Commonwealth role of presiding in the best way over the restoration of democracy in Grenada. I welcomed the statement by my right hon. and learned Friend that he would respond positively to requests for help. One appreciates that in using the phrase "respond positively" one is dealing, if I may put it like that, with a governmental buzz word, which could mean little more than responding. I hope that they do a little more than just respond, and will explore every avenue.
I believe that this suggestion could benefit the Western Alliance. Britain needs to take a lead, especially as the Commonwealth is already divided about what to do in the future. If we fail to take positive action we may be embarrassed suddenly to find some worthy Commonwealth country such as Canada or some worthy person connected with the Commonwealth such as Sir Sonny Ramphal taking the lead while we as head of the Commonwealth tamely follow.
The task needs to be undertaken and we have the experience. One has only to think of the conduct of the recent elections in Zimbabwe when splendid town clerks and county executives were wandering around in tropical trousers as though they were born to the job, although it was in fact their forebears who originally undertook it, and they did it very well.
Ministers and Foreign Office officials may be worried at the prospect of taking on further commitments when we are already extended in Northern Ireland and the Falklands, but we cannot entirely escape historical obligation. We should therefore not fail to take measures that we ought to take because, unfortunately, we have been obliged to undertake other commitments already.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Paul Dean)
It may assist hon. Members if I tell the House that the winding-up speeches are expected to begin at about 9.20 pm, so brevity will win golden opinions all round.
§ Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)
In recent months Conservative Foreign Secretaries have experienced a high mortality rate. The present Foreign Secretary, who appears to be continuing in the same mould, is becoming the political equivalent of a football manager trying to run an unsuccessful team. As Britain slips further and further down the international league, the chairman sacks the manager. It is not possible to describe British foreign policy as anything more than a total shambles, but it is now more of a shambles than usual. It is not fair to say that the shambles is the fault entirely of the Foreign Secretary. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has had a difficult and uncomfortable time in the House in the past week and he has deserved it, but the Prime Minister must take her share of the blame—and her share is by far the greatest.
1068 During the debate on the invasion of Grenada my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) referred correctly to Britain's doormat diplomacy. The Prime Minister has turned Britain into a doormat for the United States, and doormats should not complain when feet are wiped upon them. Unfortunately for Britain, President Reagan had some pretty nasty stuff on his feet when he invaded Grenada, most of which is now sticking to the Prime Minister and her doormat Government. I do not believe that Britain has any discernible foreign policy other than that put forward by the United States. Such a development is not new. We can trace that state of affairs back to the time of Suez. Britain has become a satellite of the United States. We are in effect an occupied country.
The Foreign Secretary said that Britian had a respected place in the world. That might have been true in the past, but I challenge the accuracy of that statement now. Everything that we say or do throughout the world is judged in terms of our client status to the United States. No one respects subservience, least of all those who receive it. For Britain to have become, in effect, the lackey of Ronald Reagan is the most contemptible position in which we can find ourselves. We have effectively given up our independence.
Britain has no discernible independent foreign policy, but the United States has and it is one of opposition to regimes which do not believe wholly in capitalism. To people like Ronald Reagan, freedom equals capitalism and capitalism equals freedom. Many Members on the Government Benches share that view. The theory is simple, stark, dangerous and exceedingly shortsighted because it leads this country and the Americans to give support to some of the nastiest regimes in the world merely because they are anti-Communist or anti-Cuban.
Reference has been made many times in the House in the past two weeks to the invasion of Grenada being carried out by President Reagan, to use his words, to restore order and democracy. That is hypocritical. If that really was the truth, then why did he not invade Chile, Honduras, Haiti, El Salvador, even South Africa, Bangladesh or Guatemala because all these regimes are repressive and abuse human rights? Yet all of them are supported by the United Stales Government. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Clydesdale (Dame Judith Hart) said, United States foreign policy is effectively causing developing countries to turn to Moscow or Havana for help which is being denied them by the West. What we see in American foreign policy, echoed and mirrored by the British Government, is an obsessive, all-consuming hatred for any political system other than capitalism. That is no way to bring stability 10 a dangerous world.
American foreign policy has four self-fufilling and circular processes. It starts off supporting corrupt regimes simply because they are anti-Communist or anti-Cuban. Of course, the people of those states then turn, not surprisingly, either to revolution or, if they have the opportunity, to the ballot box, as was done in Chile, to overthrow the regime. Other examples are Nicaragua, Cuba and Iran. The second stage of United States policy is to oppose the new regimes both economically and politically. As I said, they turn to Russia or Cuba for assistance. That brings us to the third stage of this circular foreign policy. It allows the United States to claim that there is a Russian conspiracy around the world. The fourth stage of that circular policy is that the United States Government move to de-stabilise or to try to destroy the 1069 new regime and redouble their efforts to support other corrupt, anti-Communist Governments. Then we are back to where we started.
Britain is effectively tied into this self-destructive and self-defeating foreign policy. It is morally indefensible and economically and politically disadvantageous to the British. It is morally indefensible because, as several hon. Members have said, no country has the right to determine the form of government of another country or, indeed, to support repression wherever it takes place, East or West. It is economically and politically disadvantagous to this country because it is short term in its view. It leads us to support regimes that will eventually fall. When that happens, we lose political credibility and economic advantage.
If the arguments of morality do not appeal to hon. Members on the Government Benches I would have thought that the economic arguments might have done. The classic example is South Africa. This country is the main sustainer of apartheid, which everyone will agree is immoral. The British Government find themselves in that immoral position because that is a regime where racism is enshrined in the constitution. In the long-term it represents poor economic judgment because the racist regime in South Africa will be overthrown. In the meantime we as a country are destroying what little credibility we have left in the world, the credibility that the Foreign Secretary was proclaiming so proudly from the Dispatch Box.
To be so closely identified and linked with the United States foreign policy is dangerous for Britain. It makes us look as a country hypocritical when we rightly condemn the Soviet Union for the invasion of Afghanistan. Our views as a Government and a nation are dismissed as mere United States propaganda.
This may come as a surprise to hon. Members on the Government Benches, but I am not anti-American merely because I criticise the policies of President Reagan any more than I am anti-British because I deplore and criticise the policies of this Administration. Britain should pursue an independent morally based foreign policy which enables us to criticise East or West when we see that the concepts of freedom and of human rights are under threat. There is no chance of the Government following such a moral policy. So we must look to the next Labour Government. The events of the past few weeks have brought that prospect more closely into view. I want the next Labour Government to support all ordinary people in their struggle for freedom. I want the next Labour Government to support the liberation movements in central and south America, South Africa and the middle east morally and materially.
President Reagan has become the greatest single threat to world peace because he is so unpredictable and is likely to react with emotion and to be inspired by feelings that do not allow for cool, rational thought. It could prove fatal for Britain and for the rest of the world if we allow a second-rate actor turned third-rate politician who is advised by a bunch of religious fanatics to dictate Britain's foreign policy.
§ Sir Julian Ridsdale (Harwich)
When I hear Opposition Members criticise the United States and consider the contribution that that country has made to 1070 European peace since the second world war as the leader of NATO, I cannot help thinking that some Opposition Members should think much more deeply about what they say.
I have just completed a tour of all of the north Atlantic bases on behalf of the North Atlantic Assembly. My overriding impression is that we are dangerously under strength as we face a build-up of conventional naval forces by the Soviet Union.
In the 1930s, Winston Churchill warned eloquently of the danger then posed by Germany. If he were here now he would warn us just as eloquently of the danger to NATO and the free world that the Soviet build-up poses. The Russians now have 360 submarines as compared with the 46 that Germany had in 1939.
Bearing in mind the security problems associated with the present naval imbalance, I am sure that the Americans were right to act as they did in Grenada. I do not want to suggest that there was any connection between Mr. Bishop and what happened in the Lebanon, but the Russians are good chess players and the bishop's gambit has created alarming divisions between Britain and the United States. I hope that we shall do everything possible to repair the damage which has been done to Anglo-American relations as the balance of power depends substantially on those relations and it is clear that the Soviet Union has built up substantially its nuclear and conventional forces.
§ Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)
I welcome what the hon. Member for Harwich (Sir J. Ridsdale) has just said. One of the things to which I took exception in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) on Monday was his suggestion that it was difficult for the Soviet fleet to gain access to the oceans of the world. He is an erudite man and has much knowledge of defence and international matters, but that was a great lapse in his judgment.
Rather than discuss Grenada or the Lebanon I shall consider my view of the division between the Soviet Union and the United States. If I had to live in either the United States or the Soviet Union, I would undoubtedly choose the United States. However, I like living in Auchtermuchty, which is near my constituency, and unlike John Junor I not only write about it but live there. British people want to live in the United Kingdom and, while maintaining friendships with all countries, we want to be able to criticise them and not be in their pockets.
It is easy to pay attention to matters of immediate import when discussing foreign affairs, but I shall consider the law of the sea, which is an international affair, and especially the United Kingdom's posture at the third United Nations conference and convention on the law of the sea. On 2 December 1982, the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind), said:I am not aware of any public statements that they have made in the United States, in Europe or elsewhere in which they have called for the proposals of the law of the sea convention to be accepted by nation States. If they have great enthusiasm for the proposals, they have not given that indication." — [Official Report; 2 December 1982, Vol. 33, c. 414.]The document is vital and it took nearly 20 years to arrange negotiations on it. As I understand it, the United States has taken exception to only one of the 17 parts of the convention — that on deep-sea mining. The United Kingdom's initial view is disastrous and shameful.
1071 However, if we wish to know American opinion against its own Government we need only turn to the views of the deputy negotiator of the United States team, Leigh S. Ratimer, who wrote this summer:My prediction is that eventually a future United States President will sign it, and its content will be worse than if we had compromised a little on principle to gain additional benefits".Elliot Richardson, with whom I spent some time in Washington this summer and who led the United States team, said in a lecture given in Britain:The real importance of the Law of the Sea Convention cannot be found either in the sum of its parts or in its extraordinarily comprehensive whole. It lies rather in its demonstration of the capacity of 160 sovereign States to work out rational accommodations among vital competing interests. This is an achievement whose significance will loom ever larger as the world increasingly finds itself forced to come to grips with its own inseparability.The United States especially has much to gain from the strengthening of the rule of law. Through a long succession of Presidents, Secretaries of State and Defences, Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Law of the Sea Delegation heads, it held fast to the awareness that the Law of the Sea Convention could make important contributions to this objective.We are lining up with the United States on this matter purely to accommodate commercial interests. The House passed the Deep Sea Mining (Temporary Provisions) Act 1981, but can the Minister name a company or consortium which has made use of those provisions? Other nations are using the convention and are moving on to exploit the ocean deep. Neither our legislative provisions nor those of the United States can protect companies which wish to embark on deep ocean mining.
Another matter that has not been mentioned in the debate is the Antarctic treaty. I understand that it is under discussion at present, and that there will be a review in 1991. Britain's attitude to the treaty is to support the international view of mineral rights, which is extremely damaging to our role in trying to uphold the international rule of law. Time does not permit me to discuss the entire history of the Antarctic treaty. I concede that it has worked fairly well, but it has become a North-South issue and Malaysia has put it on the agenda for the next session of the United Nations. What will the Government's position be, since we submitted earlier in the year that it was extremely urgent to have a minerals regime in Antarctica? If we take the view, both on the law of the sea and in relation to Antarctica, that if a country has the technological resources it can reap the benefits of mineral rights and disregard the views of other nations, it will damage our international standing.
Britain should use its experience in Antarctica to devise a solution for that ecological range which relates the Falkland Islands and their dependencies to an international regime. I know that will be difficult, but it is about time that we moved away quickly from the attitude that the Prime Minister has adopted—that we see no way of discussing the future of the Falkland Islands. I have been to the Falkland Islands: I know of our commitment to them; and I know how that commitment is distorting not only our aid expenditure but our contribution to NATO. The Foreign Office must examine the relationship between Antarctica and the ecology of the Falkland Islands and dependencies, through which we might find a solution to our difficulties in the area.
§ Mr. Jim Spicer (Dorset, West)
I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. 1072 Callaghan) is not in the Chamber now, because I shall refer to his speech this afternoon. He cuts a fine figure in the House, he stands up straight and we all admire the way in which he supported the Government during the Falklands affair, but the way in which he attacked the Foreign Secretary, talked about his laid-back style, and asked the Government to pursue a more vigorous foreign policy comes ill from the right hon. Gentleman. Those of us who can go back some way in the House might remember the events of June 1974, when, as Britain was a guarantor power for Cyprus, he, as Foreign Secretary, was invited to take action in concert with Turkey and the other guarantor powers. Had we done that we would not have a divided island in Cyprus now, because the intervention could have come from our sovereign bases there, where we had the necessary troops and aircraft. Had we done so, that wicked and evil man Nicos Sampson would not have lasted for more than two or three days. I am glad that the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) agrees with me about that.
It is in the nature of this debate that we should have concentrated on Grenada and the Lebanon. As the weeks go by and Grenada falls into the background, people will once more look at the middle east. The cauldron of the middle east contains the war between Iran and Iraq, of which we have not seen the end by a long chalk, the difficulties in the Lebanon and the continuing problems, ever boiling to the surface, between the Arabs and the Israelis.
It is natural to concentrate upon the trouble spots, but the Republic of Turkey, which is one of the more stable areas in the middle east, now needs support and encouragement. I know that that idea will not find universal favour, but on Sunday the Turkish people will have their election, which comes just three years after the military takeover. Before 12 September 1980 some people might have called the country democratic, but for the ordinary Turkish people it was not. Each day armed gangs of the Left and Right slaughtered between 30 and 35 people. Determined efforts were being made to stockpile arms, especially along the Soviet border, and some elements in Turkey were determined to use those arms to overthrow democracy.
I am not certain whether most hon. Members understand the Turkish constitution. Under that constitution, the armed forces of Turkey have a duty to intervene if democracy is at risk. Before 12 September. the armed forces gave that warning three times both to the Socialists under Mr. Ecevit and to Mr. Demirel, the Prime Minister. None of the politicians heeded the warning. They allowed the decline to continue, and on 12 September the armed forces took control of the country. They took over because the alternative was total anarchy, and the Turkish people gave them their support in that action.
When that intervention took place, it was regarded as yet another military takeover by a military junta which would remain for all time. On Sunday, however, elections will take place, and the lie will then be given to that assumption. After those elections have taken place, I hope that our Government will take a lead in welcoming Turkey back to its rightful place as a strong and faithful ally of the West. Nothing has happened within NATO to upset Turkey's place, and Turkey remains the linchpin of the Alliance in the south. It is vital that in the next few weeks and months those Britons—especially the Conservatives 1073 —who serve not only in the Council of Europe but in the European Parliament should welcome the Turks back on board and re-establish all links.
The election will not be all that we would wish it to be, but it is a step along the right road. There is within Turkey a desire to remain part of the Western alliance, but if Turkey is not accepted it may well adopt a neutralist attitude. Throughout the past three years people have been trying to destabilise Turkey. They will continue to do so after the election by insisting that the election did not count. Turkey is the one stable factor in the middle east. Unless our Government are prepared to support Turkey in the weeks and months ahead, it will be a bad day for the West.
Perhaps rightly, we handed over to the United Nations our responsibilities for the unhappy island of Cyprus. However, as a guarantor power, with a residual responsibility, we ought at least to take some initiatives, perhaps towards reopening Nicosia airport or funding more scholarships which would enable Turkish and Greek Cypriots to meet. After 10 years, generations of Greeks and Turks are growing up in Cyprus who have never had any contact with each other. That is a recipe for a disaster in Cyprus which could spill over into the middle east as a whole.
§ 9.5 pm
§ Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby)
I am glad to be able to take part in this important debate. The speech of the hon. Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Spicer) offered a fine example of the sort of double-think that many hon. Members object to. The debate has been largely dominated by recent events in Grenada. I believe that they should be examined against the background of policies since the second world war.
I know that there are some Conservative Members who would justify the cold war attitude that also exists in the Pentagon by referring to the Russian invasions of Afghanistan and Hungary, and to the putting down of the Hungarian revolution in 1956. However, I speak as someone who was fortunate enough to visit Czechoslovakia during that marvellous Prague spring, and to drink up the atmosphere of liberation that was associated with the Government of Alexander Dubcek. The people of Czechoslovakia fought, and were suppressed by the Russians, not because they wanted to restore capitalism but because they wanted to establish a working-class socialist democracy in which working people were fully emancipated and had full rights. They did not want to restore capitalism. That Prague spring has, of course, had parallels in other parts of eastern Europe.
My objection is not that people should be opposed to Stalinist tyranny or to the statist bureaucracy in eastern Europe, but that the Prime Minister should demonstrate her cogenital anti-Sovietism in every answer that she gives on foreign affairs. The hon. Member for Harwich (Sir J. Ridsdale) mentioned Sir Winston Churchill and what he would have said if he were in the House now. He was right to refer to the efforts that the Americans made to fight for freedom in Europe. When we remember our fallen in two 1074 world wars a week on Sunday, I hope that we shall also remember the Americans who lost their lives in those two world wars. However, I hope that we shall also remember the 20 million Soviet dead who fought in the great world struggle against Fascism and who were our allies during those vital years. I can tell the hon. Member for Harwich what Winston Churchill said during those years of struggle against Fascism. He said that it was the Red Army that ripped the guts out of the Nazi war machine.
It was not a Socialist, far less a Communist, who got up at a public meeting in Britain in those days and said that we should always remember the debt that we owed the Red Army and the bravery of the Russian people in their struggle. To remember that does not mean that we are Communists. However, if we remember it, we shall have some idea of what informs Soviet foreign policy. It would be wrong to imagine that by reading the "Communist Manifesto" or "Das Kapital" one can understand what motivates the Kremlin's foreign policy. However, it should be borne in mind that Soviet foreign policy is informed by fear of overthrow of the statist regimes in eastern Europe and by fear of another invasion by the West. Hon. Members should remember that Russia has been invaded twice this century and that that invasion came from western Europe and from the very capitalist countries that the Russians even now see as a threat. As the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) said during the debate on Grenada last week, malice and bigotry are not good counsellors when it comes to moulding a foreign policy.
Let us examine not NATO's history in Europe, but its powers during the past 34 years. Hon. Members are looking at their watches. I have been looking at the clock now for five hours, and, if anyone is to stop me, it will not be Conservative Members.
Has NATO been an Alliance for peace and freedom? In fact, some members of that Alliance have been among the foullest dictatorships in Europe. For a long time, Portugal, which was a founder member of NATO, was not using NATO forces to oppose freedom in Portugal—the dictator Salazar ordered all the flags in Portugal to be flown at half mast when Hitler died—but against people who were fighting for freedom in Angola and Mozambique.
No one took action against the foul seven-year regime of the colonels in Greece. NATO was quiet about this matter; even the Council of Europe was more active. For a long period, France used NATO forces to attempt to impose oppressive colonial regimes in Vietnam and Algeria. At present, Turkey reveals one of the worst features of a dictatorship. Not one of the political parties that have been banned by the junta during the past couple of years is permitted to take part in the election on Sunday. What type of democracy is Turkey? The Prime Minister is being hypocritical when she makes speeches about the subjection of Solidarity—of course, it is right to oppose oppression in Poland—but do nothing. The Foreign Secretary is also a doormat in this matter.
For generations, people in Latin America have been oppressed. In 1954, we experienced the Eisenhower doctrine. I remind those Conservative Members who believe that only in Russia is there the Brezhnev doctrine of limited sovereignty of what one former Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs said: 1075Communism is so blatantly an international and not an internal affairs, its suppression, even by force, in an American country by one or more of the republics would not constitute an intervention in the internal affairs of the former.That is the Brezhnev doctrine long before Brezhnev.
If we are to stand for moral leadership in the world, which the Foreign Secretary thinks we do, it is high time that we opposed all oppressors and did not engage in double-think. It is not moral leadership to be associated with crooked dictators in Chile and Turkey or the Pinochet thugs who sort out democratic forces in their country every day and night. It is not moral leadership to sell arms to Indonesia which is involved in a war of genocide in East Timor where, out of a population of about 650,000, 200,000 have already been annihilated. We sell Hawks and frigates to Indonesia. The East Timorese have suffered abominably. Yet the Foreign Secretary is an ally not of freedom but of oppression. The greatest danger to democracy in this country does not come from the Soviet Union, but from the Government's efforts to suppress trade unionism and local democracy which for generations have been the hallmarks of liberty in this country.
§ Mr. Dennis Walters (Westbury)
I have to be brief, so I shall not follow the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) in his rather emotive language.
Whatever view one may take of the merits of the United States intervention in Grenada, it is beyond question that the United States Government treated their allies in a cavalier fashion. That is particularly true of the United Kingdom, as Grenada is part of the Commonwealth, and the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary were correct in saying what they did.
I hope that the United States Administration are beginning to realise that this is no way to behave towards one's principal friends and allies, although with people like Mrs. Kirkpatrick around, one cannot be altogether sure.
In any event, on the assumption that the Americans wish to rebuild bridges and are in the mood to listen, this might be an opportune moment for us to call for a serious United States diplomatic initiative in the middle east an area infinitely more strategically important to the West than Grenada and where the dangers to world peace are much greater.
The potentially explosive situation in the middle east should not be allowed to continue in its present state of drift and at the same time the inadequacy and irrelevancy of short-term measures should be exposed. For it would be foolish of the Americans to persuade themselves that they could seriously improve or change matters by means of a military presence in the Lebanon. It would be even more foolish and much more dangerous if they allowed themselves to be sucked into a conflict with Syria.
There is only one way to proceed in trying to solve the several highly complicated problems in the area, and that is to hold negotiations aimed at achieving a comprehensive settlement. If these are to have any chance of success, they cannot exclude the Soviet Union and must plainly include Syria and the Palestinians as well as Israel and the United States.
There have been many middle east peace plans over the years, but the Venice declaration of 13 June 1980 perhaps came closest to setting out terms which could be the basis for a lasting settlement. Its central theme was the right of 1076 Israel to security and of the Palestinians to self-determination. The Israelis, however, who have always been much more interested in territorial aggrandisement than security, rejected the plan out of hand and the United States Administration were entirely negative in their response.
Since the declaration, the situation in the whole area has steadily deteriorated. The Iraq-Iran war started in September 1980 and still lingers on, carrying with it grave economic and human consequences as well as the threat to destabilise the whole of the Gulf.
The savage Israeli invasion of the Lebanon in 1982 caused thousands of dead, untold misery and suffering and is the main cause of the present breakdown of the Lebanese state.
Then came the mildly encouraging Reagan proposals, which gave some hope that a serious diplomatic initiative was about to be launched. However, the Reagan plan never got off the ground because the United States failed lamentably to show that it had any intention of ensuring its eventual implementation. That lack of muscle exposed the plan as being half-baked and put King Hussein of Jordan in an impossible position. Since then, the outlook has worsened further and internal stresses have weakened the moderate leadership of the PLO. In the past few weeks there has been the ghastly carnage of the United States' and French Marines in Beirut.
The talks being held in Geneva between the conflicting Lebanese factions are the only positive development, but they cannot achieve anything in isolation.
Incidentally, there was a highly disquieting report in The Times on Wednesday which referred to the Israeli threat to close all the bridges across the Awali river and seal off southern Lebanon, effectively partitioning the country, if the talks did riot follow Israel's wishes. The Awali river is even deeper into Lebanese territory than the Litani line, which figured prominently in the original Zionist expansionist map of the area. So much for United Nations resolutions calling for total Israeli withdrawal from Lebanese territory.
Europe should now revive the Venice declaration and spell out again in the clearest manner possible the principles that it enshrines. At the same time, a major diplomatic offensive should be mounted to persuade the United States to go along with the revived declaration and, more positively, to sponsor a conference of the relevant parties aimed at achieving art overall settlement.
If, as a result of such a European initiative, the United States agreed to do so—and accepted that at long last the time had come to put some serious pressure on Israel, the bankrupt economy of which is propped up by the Americans and the armed forces of which depend almost entirely on American military aid — we should have taken a major step towards reaching a settlement.
It does not make sense to exclude the Soviet Union from negotiations. In any event, the Soviet Union has it within its power to render unworkable any settlement reached without its participation. The Soviet Union should therefore be asked to join in the talks. In this connection, it would be a highly imaginative gesture by the Prime Minister if she were to visit Moscow in the near future to discuss this and other matters.
No one could conceivably accuse my right hon. Friend of lacking robustness in her attitude towards the Soviet Union or of failing to be a loyal friend of the United States and President Reagan. But if she could persuade the 1077 United States and the Soviet Union to join in talks about a comprehensive middle east peace settlement based on proposals submitted by Europe, she would have made not only an historic contribution towards achieving a settlement in the middle east, but an invaluable contribution to the maintenance of world peace.
§ Mr. George Robertson (Hamilton)
I congratulate the two maiden speakers. The hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Robinson) showed authority, eloquence and great prescience in choosing this debate in which to make his maiden speech. His background and experience will obviously lead him to make many more such contributions.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Terlezki) spoke with conviction and vigour and with experience which few in this House can match. Although many of us will not agree with his analysis of foreign affairs, he has every right to make such an analysis in this House.
We had yet another maiden speech today. That was the maiden speech in the rest of the Foreign Secretary's life. I understand that his contribution was part of a great rescue effort for the right hon. and learned Gentleman's reputation, a form of political mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. I suppose we should have known that the cavalry were being called in, because, first, the lights in the Chamber went out and, secondly, his speech was ordinarily dreary, and not controversially dreary, as were his remarks all last week.
One aspect of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech was to some extent controversial, and that was his apparent inability to answer my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), who asked whether the Government would be sending troops, or anybody else, to Grenada for the multinational force that is being talked about. The right hon. and learned Gentleman appeared to give an indication of an agreement in principle to the force being formed, but went on to avoid the issue as to whether Britain would be sending a component to the force.
The House deserves to know tonight why the Government are being so cagey on the issue. Will we be sending people to Grenada to participate in the force and, if so, what uniform will they wear. Is it to be a security force, or is it to be a peacekeeping force? Why will the Government not say whether they are sending anyone? I hope that the Minister will answer that important question.
This valuable foreign affairs debate has ranged over a wide variety of subjects. Hon. Members have chosen to raise a number of issues that are important to them. However, at the end of the debate we still have little real knowledge of the Government's foreign policy. It is not a mystery just to the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow), who has had the experience of being in the Foreign Office and asked for — and presumably was refused—the sheet of paper on which the foreign policy was written. The question is one which the House, too, must ask.
§ Mr. Onslow
The hon. Gentleman should not misunderstand me. The fact that I asked the question does not mean that I did not get a satisfactory answer. There was a much more coherent statement after some time, and in my opinion that was greatly to the advantage of all concerned.
§ Mr. Robertson
The hon. Gentleman is being his usual modest self. I am willing to accept from him that he asked for the sheet of paper, and got it. However, the probability is that he did not read it after that. As only he and I know, having spent many long evenings here on obscure orders, the evidence is clearly there for him.
Is the Government's foreign policy to be encompassed by a belief in human rights? Or is it to be based on a genuine respect for international law — not just international law in relation to invasions, but the form of international law that is being developed on the law of the sea, on which the Government have turned their back? That subject was rightly aired by my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) this evening. Is the policy to be based solely on the protection of this nation's interests abroad? Or is it just to encompass the protection of the United States foreign policy and its perception of its interests, however arbitrary and uncertain that may be? Or is Britain's role now to be a new form of Europeanism—perhaps pioneered, not too successfully, by the Venice declaration?
The Foreign Secretary's contribution to the debate on the European Community this evening seemed sterile compared with the great ideals of the European Community. If all that the Community is to be, as the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) said, is a place for permanent discussion over Britain's budget contribution, there is little likelihood that Britain's foreign policy can be based on that. So we can search in vain in the Foreign Secretary's speech today, or indeed in any of his speeches, for a glimmer of enlightenment on any of these questions.
This week, of all weeks, is an interesting illustration of the vast pattern of issues into which a British foreign policy should fit. That framework does not have to be the seamless web of principle which the Foreign Secretary seemed to suggest he was being asked for earlier. This week has been dominated by the events in Grenada and the Caribbean as a whole, but there was also an election last weekend in Argentina. That election brought to power a civilian Government, with a moderate President who has convincing support. That must raise hopes for a long-term solution for the security of the Falkland Islanders.
Next Sunday there is to be an election—the hon. Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Spicer) referred to it— or what is called an election, in Turkey. That will end three years of military rule, but will put in its place only a counterfeit democracy.
§ Mr. Robertson
The hon. Gentleman did not give way to anyone when he was speaking.
A referendum was held yesterday on a new constitution for South Africa, and my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) mentioned this. The referendum has split the country, uniting black opposition with outspoken opposition from the anti-Government Right wing as well. The outcome may be decisive in electoral terms, but the ultimate outcome will be more difficult to predict. This week, we have seen a continuation of the secret, and sometimes not so secret, negotiations on the future of the Crown colony of Hong Kong, with each bout of megaphone diplomacy bringing the Hong Kong economy nearer and nearer to nervous breakdown.
1079 Even taking those issues alone, impinging as they do on vital British interests, whether they be the legacy of colonial power or based on our chances of influencing in the future, we must seek to put them in some context. They all focus on the fact that British Conservative foreign policy is riddled with the inconsistencies and indecisions that we saw so graphically illustrated on the Government Benches last week. Even without the Grenada invasion, and the contemptuous American dismissal of our view, and even discounting our own submission to the United States' view of peacekeeping in Beirut, we should still find it difficult to find out the values and standards of this Government's foreign policy.
I return to the Turkish elections to be held this Sunday. In August, only weeks before the Prime Minister was to barnstorm her way round America, out-Reaganing Reagan in the championing of crusades for freedom, the Turkish Foreign Minister could quote in Turkey that Britain endorsed the "return to democracy" and say thatBritain is pleased with the developments in Turkey and has agreed that democracy in Turkey should be developed in keeping with the dictates of the stability the country needs.It is small wonder that he was able to show his appreciation of theconsistent support and understanding Britain has given Turkey for the past three years.Even the Prime Minister would find it difficult to describe as democratic an election in this country which banned the leaders and organisations of the Conservative, Liberal, Labour, SDP and any other parties, and substituted a sanitised, militarily approved substitute. That is what will happen on Sunday in Turkey. A fellow member of NATO, and still an ally of Britain, is receiving a disproportionate amount of our development aid. This charade in Turkey is little more than a civilian cloak—
§ Mr. Robertson
It is little more than a civilian cloak, and the British Government devalue their proper condemnation of human rights violations in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union with their continuing support for the charade of democracy that will be conducted in Turkey on Sunday. Will the Government, with the same enthusiasm as they expressed over these fake elections, campaign to liberate those political prisoners still incarcerated in Turkey's gaols simply for indulging in political behaviour that would be regarded as normal here?
It would be difficult to avoid dealing with the subject of yesterday's referendum in South Africa. That referendum has implications not only for South Africa, because of the dangers that will arise from united black opposition to the referendum results, as well as the Right-wing breach among the white voters, but for Namibia and its future. As Great Britain is a member of the contact group of nations trying to find a solution to the Namibian problem, perhaps the Minister will report on progress in the contact group and enlighten the House on why there has been complete silence from the group since August when Senor Perez de Cuellar's report was made after his visit to Namibia.
The Namibian conflict could easily develop into one that will engulf the whole of South Africa and the 1080 surrogates for the West and the East who are playing their parts there. It is incumbent on the Government, as they play a part in that upheaval, to give their view. If there is one beneficiary of the South African referendum it may well be Namibia because the triumph of Mr. P. W. Botha in the referendum will perhaps give him the courage and the guts to come to some agreement on Namibia.
That will be small consolation for a result that ratifies a constitution which The Economist recently described asDevoid of legitimacy and practicability … simply the churning chemistry of white tribal survival at work.This new constitution, which manages the feat of uniting all black opinion with the opposition of the people whom the new constitution was to benefit as well as the hard Right of racist South African politics, will bring South Africa to the brink of yet a new crisis. It would be interesting, in the light of the strong remarks on apartheid by the Prime Minister in her recent open letter to the hon. Member for Havant (Mr. Lloyd) on the issue of sport, to hear the Government's view on how they will treat this new travesty of a constitution in South Africa.
I should like now to deal with the issue of Hong Kong, that "residual problem of empire" as Sir Nicholas Henderson described it in his open letter to the Foreign Secretary, which was published in The Sunday Times. I do not know how we stand in the world this week after the Granada invasion, but that invasion and its repercussions may well have an effect on the negotiations from Hong Kong. It is strange that, amid the total secrecy of the talks on Hong Kong, the vast amount of words that are being uttered about the positions, possibilities, costs, risks and eventualities, everyone seems to be having a say on that great issue except the British Parliament.
I concede that the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley) initiated an Adjournment debate on Hong Kong on Monday of this week, but anyone reading it would recognise that so little was said that it added nothing to the debate that should be taking place on this issue. The ultimate decision on Hong Kong will have to be taken here in this Parliament by hon. Members, and if the history of the Falklands episode showed anything under the searchlight of the Franks report, it was that such decisions cannot be taken for granted.
That is why discussions on Hong Kong and on the various crucial issues involved need not necessarily be stifled simply to allow the desirable confidentiality of the negotiations to continue. The last thing we need at the conclusion of the negotiations is what the hon. Member for Christchurch described on Monday as "surprises".
The hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden), who is a new Member and writes at length in The Times, said recently:Above all do not let us behead the messenger because we do not like the message. The Franks report shows where that can lead.That is too true, and that is why I believe it is an opportune occasion to remind the Government that, following Franks, too much will not be taken on trust by Parliament and that perhaps, despite the recognised need for secrecy and confidentiality, some of the issues must be rehearsed — and not just in response to provocative statements from the Chinese, or on World Service talk-ins, but in this Parliament where responsibility for the ultimate decision lies.
The House is agreed on the objective of a settlement which does the best for the people of Hong Kong, but that 1081 must be achieved without the post-imperial hang-ups which too often overshadow debates on subjects of this nature.
The past two weeks have changed the face of Western postures in the international context. The American invasion of Grenada, breaching as it did the United Nations charter and international law, has not only affected the important relationship between the United States and the rest of the Atlantic Alliance, but has challenged the moral authority of the West as a whole. By apparently embracing the Brezhnev doctrine of taking on the right to decide who governs the nations inside one's sphere of influence, the underpinning has weakened seriously the West's stance on Afghanistan, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Even with Kampuchea, the West's condemnation of the Vietnamese invasion was so bitter we continue to recognise the mass-murdering regime of Pol Pot. In a host of other areas, intervention by force is the rule rather than the exception.
The saddest part of the United States action is that, whatever the eventual outcome in Grenada, and no matter how many Cubans are discovered as advisers and not as labourers on airfields, if the simplistic morality of might is right is to prevail in the West as well as in the East, the multiplication of potential crisis points threatens us all.
It should give no one in the House comfort that the United States, with all its great democratic strength, has been brought so low by its present temporary Administration. So much of what has been said today, in the wide-ranging debate across every issue of foreign policy, needs to be related to a clearer view of what British interests should be about, what values they need to mirror and what Britain's role must be in the world.
The tragedy of the Government is that the moral position of the West in international affairs has been so damaged recently that they cannot offer a clear alternative. The last election showed that foreign policy will always be a domestic political issue. The lesson for the Opposition was that people wanted foreign policy objectives clearly spelt out. We have learned that lesson, albeit expensively. As we watch the Government disarray on the Benches reach almost to the political assassination of yet another Foreign Secretary, it is clear that the Government have learned little from their temporary electoral success to help them next time around.
§ The Minister for Overseas Development (Mr. Timothy Raison)
I shall not follow all the points raised by the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson), but he at least had the honesty to recognise that the electorate decisively rejected the Labour party's foreign policy at the general election, and equally decisively supported that of the Conservative party.
The debate has been notable in several ways. We suddenly found the House plunged into darkness—not once, but several times. There were moments when we began to wonder whether there was not a Grenada-style coup, perhaps organised by a group devoted to preventing the televising of Parliament. But we soon heard the reassuring and familiar voice of Mr. Deputy Speaker saying, "This is your Deputy Speaker", which brought us back to sanity.
1082 The House heard two excellent maiden speeches— from my hon. Friends the Members for Newport, West (Mr. Robinson) and for Cardiff, West (Mr. Terlezki). My hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West began by speaking about the Severn bridge. I had the alarming feeling that he was aware that I have responsibility for aid, and was about to make an application. He told us a little about his experience with the United Nations and the Commonwealth secretariat. He made some important points about Grenada. He said that it was a sad day when a Government was changed by outside intervention, but he also said—this has been the lesson of the debate—that that does not mean a fundamental change in the relationship between Britain and the United States. My hon. Friend also said that there is now an opportunity for a touch of healing in the Caribbean. I confess that for a moment I thought he said "a touch of Healey", and I began to worry.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West told us that he spoke with an Anglo-Ukrainian-Welsh accent. He spoke proudly of the model relationship between the different groups in Cardiff, and said that both he and they were proud to be British. He succeeded the noble Lord Tonypandy—George Thomas—whom we all know so well, and he said, rightly, that he was a great man. We are in full agreement with that. We were all deeply moved by what my hon. Friend had to say about freedom. He has cause to know what he is talking about.
The debate has been notable for its general quality and I apologise to the House because it is obviously not possible for me to answer every point that has been raised. There were different points of view, and some were expressed vehemently, but on the whole the tone of the debate has been thoughtful and absorbing. In that respect it followed the lead of my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary's opening speech.
We have heard a lot from the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) recently and we all know that his favourite phrase of the moment is "megaphone diplomacy". Happily, he was not in his most megaphone style today but in rather a lower key, only intermittently megaphony. However, there were several points in his speech with which I cannot agree.
First, the right hon. Gentleman asked about civilian casualties in Grenada. As yet, no definite figures are available, but a team of 12 Red Cross representatives is now working closely with the United States forces on Grenada and it may be able to provide information before long.
The right hon. Gentleman also asked about the Governor-General's role. We all now realise that he is not the agent of any foreign Government. His constitutional position has been made clear by my right hon. and learned Friend and the House understands it. He has no formal link with Her Majesty's Government and we received no request for intervention from him.
As my right hon. and learned Friend said—this has been the essence of today's debate—what really matters now is what happens next in Grenada. Arguments about the past will, perhaps, continue, but the crucial thing is to try to work out the right answer for the future. I reiterate what we have said about the United Kingdom's participation in any schemes of Commonwealth assistance. As my right hon. and learned Friend said, the Government will want to respond positively to requests for help with arrangements for ensuring that conditions for 1083 peace and security are restored to the island. We are in close touch with the Governor-General, the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth and our Commonwealth partners to see how the Commonwealth can best help. That might include assistance with the holding of free elections. That parallels the other offers of assistance made by my right hon. and learned Friend — the willingness to resume our bilateral aid relationship with Grenada.
§ Mr. Healey
The right hon. Gentleman has not made it clear whether Her Majesty's Government will provide military assistance if that is requested by the Commonwealth as a whole or by the Commonwealth secretariat.
§ Mr. Raison
We must consider the position as it evolves. We have a little time, particularly during the elections about which my right hon. and learned Friend talked. It would be ridiculous to rush in with detailed schemes before we have had time to find out exactly what is needed on the island. It will take time and there are clearly problems, but we must find the right answers and I am not prepared to go further than my right hon. and learned Friend has gone today.
We have been challenged about the Government's policy in the Caribbean. My hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Sir P. Goodhart) challenged us, as did others. I see no reason to be defensive on this point. We are not neglecting or withdrawing from the Caribbean. We have maintained a substantial aid programme of some £25 million a year and we have extensive diplomatic representation there.
We are also giving security assistance. I visited the Caribbean in September. The Minister of State, my noble Friend Baroness Young, also visited the area in September and October. There is no doubt that the Caribbean region is important to the United Kingdom. Our policy remains to maintain and promote peace and stability in that area and to help the economies of the countries of that region to develop. I cannot altogether accept the criticisms of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon), much as I respect him. It is not true that we had no representation in Grenada. We have had a resident high commission representative since 1980.
§ Mr. Rippon
I am glad to hear that. What communication did we have from our representative or what effort did we make to get in touch with him? How successful were we in doing so?
§ Mr. Raison
We have regularly maintained close communication with our representative, but my right hon. and learned Friend will acknowledge that in the arguments over the past few weeks the crucial question about whether there would be military action was not determined in Grenada. The reporting has had to come from other places. Therefore, while there are many areas in which we would have liked to have stronger representation, if resources permitted, it is not true that we have not been able to have a clear idea of the situation in Grenada in recent years.
I agree that we have substantially reduced our aid programme to Grenada, but I ask whether that is so wrong, in view of the nature of the regime. I can almost imagine my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham asking, in other circumstances, why we continue to prop it up. Perhaps I do him an injustice.
Whatever my right hon. and learned Friend's views, the fact is that the human rights record of that regime was 1084 questionable. I was in St. Kitts and Nevis a few weeks ago for the independence ceremonies, and I talked to Maurice Bishop at a party. He seemed to be wondering whether there should be more movement towards the West. Perhaps he was thinking in those terms; it is hard to say. Perhaps that is what accounts for his fate. It may be so; none of us can tell. However, we do know that, with so many competing claims on our aid programme, there were good reasons why Grenada could not have priority. It was getting substantial aid anyway from other parts of the world. We have a good aid programme in the Caribbean, but the Caribbean countries are not, by and large, among the poorest in the world. Opposition Members always tell us that we should focus the aid programme on the poorest countries. By the normal indices, that is not so with the Caribbean.
§ Dame Judith Hart
Does the Minister believe that events in Grenada would have taken the course that they did had we not reduced our aid to Grenada by three quarters?
§ Mr. Raison
It is highly likely, but none of us can be sure.
I accept, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary does, that we must find ways of helping what my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West called the micro states—the ones threatened with hijack, according to the graphic description of my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham. My right hon. and learned Friend recognised the problem of security. We already help in significant ways. For example, we help with policing. I saw the police college in Barbados a few weeks ago. We have helped with the provision of a coastguard service in the Caribbean. However, as my right hon. and learned Friend said, we shall have to consider the matter further.
The right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins), who is not present, said that he did not dissent from the line of my right hon. and learned Friend over Grenada. I believe firmly that, as the House understands what has been happening, it increasingly shares the view of the right hon. Member for Hillhead in that respect. The path that we have taken is wise. Events will justify it.
When the right hon. Member for Leeds, East dealt with the Falklands, he seemed to suggest that there was no longer any need for Britain to defend the Falklands. I think that I heard him correctly. He said that there was now no military threat. The Government do not share the right hon. Gentleman's blind confidence that all militaristic sentiment in Argentina has evaporated overnight with the prospect of Mr. Alfonsin coming to power. We must hope that the new president will herald a commitment to peace, but we cannot be sure what will happen in Argentina in the future. If a military threat does not exist or is reduced, it is because of our defence and our resolution. That must be clearly understood.
§ Mr. Raison
There is no point in the right hon. Gentleman saying "Baloney". The first step forward must be for Argentina to respond positively to the offers that we have made to normalise commercial and economic relations.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, East also referred to disarmament and the nuclear debate, as did the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan) 1085 to whom the House listened with particular care. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East referred to the inclusion of British systems in the Geneva negotiations. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary told the General Assembly on 28 October, our force is strategic. The Russians acknowledged that in the SALT negotiations. Our Polaris force represents less than 3 per cent. of the strategic forces of the Soviet Union. As things stand, it would be absurd to seek to trade reductions with a superpower.
§ Mr. Raison
As my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary said, Britain has never said never. If the Soviet and American strategic arsenals were to be substantially reduced, and if no significant changes had taken place in Soviet defensive capabilities, Britain would want to review its position and consider how best it could contribute to arms control, bearing in mind the reduced threat.
§ Mr. Healey
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the Russians are not asking for a reduction in the number of British or French forces? They are saying that, as the British forces are under the command of SACEUR and targeted against the Soviet Union by SACEUR, as the American Defence Secretary admitted, they should be counted in the negotiations as they were in SALT 1.
§ Mr. Raison
The right hon. Gentleman knows that the essential point is that we are referring to strategic arms. By any standard, they are strategic arms.
§ Mr. Raison
A further possibility was that START and the INF negotiations might be merged. I do not think that the Government would have anything against that in principle, provided that the Russians and the Americans believed that it would facilitate the search for an 1086 agreement. I doubt that such a time has arrived. The obvious risk is that a premature merger might aggravate the problems which currently face the two negotiations.
The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) referred to the Lebanon. I do not share the right hon. Gentleman's scepticism about the value of the British contingent to the multinational force in Beirut. I note that the right hon. Gentleman has joined the "troops out" movement in that respect, but I do not agree with what he says.
I am sure that I speak for many hon. Members when I say that our troops in the Lebanon are performing their role with great courage and efficiency. Among other things, our troops provide an impartial guard for the meetings of the committee which supervises the ceasefire. In other words, they have a constructive role. We are not in the Lebanon because our contingent may somehow please the Americans, but because the Lebanese Government asked for it. We responded positively because to do so served our national interests as well as increasing the chances of peace in that area. Our overriding interest in the area is to prevent war between Israel and the Arabs. I am convinced that the presence of the MNF in the past 14 months has helped to control the conflict within Lebanon and to prevent it spreading. A stable Lebanon, free from Syrians, Israelis and members of the PLO, is in the interests of the United States. That we have the same interest does not make us an American dummy any more than the French or Italians are. It is an example of co-operation between Western states for the common good and for the good of the Lebanon.
That brings me again to the essential point of the debate. I say it once more because it has to be said over and over again. Nothing matters more than the unity of the West; nothing matters more than NATO or our alliances. Nothing that Opposition Members have said today and none of the events of recent weeks in any way undermines the truth of that vital proposition.
§ Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones (Lords Commissioner to the Treasury)
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.