§ Mr. Speaker
Before I call the Foreign Secretary, I must announce that a great many right hon. and hon. Members wish to participate in the debate. There is to be another debate next Friday on Eastern Europe. May I suggest that right hon. and hon. Members who want to direct their remarks specifically to eastern Europe might reserve their speeches until next week. I shall find it difficult to call the same hon. Members in both debates.
Today, I propose to put a limit of 10 minutes on speeches made between 11.30 am and 1 pm, but I hope that hon. Members who are called before and after those times—including Privy Councillors—will bear that in mind.
§ Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We heard your remarks, and some of us watched a little of an interview you gave on television, in which you said that, in some cases, an intervention by a Back Bencher is equivalent to a 10-minute speech. Members of the Government are clearly identified and do not live in a state of suspended animation, flitting between the Front and Back Benches, making speeches from each. The same is not true of this side of the House. How will you identify genuine Opposition Back Benchers to ensure that we are not crowded out by so-called Front Benchers speaking from the Back Benches?
§ Mr. Speaker
I do not recall saying that in this context. Although I do not recollect saying that in the context of a debate, I may have said that a well-directed intervention can be more effective than a rather long speech. I hope that there will not be too many interventions today, because it is a timed debate.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Douglas Hurd)
Two days ago, the brutal assassination of the new, legitimately elected president of Lebanon shocked the world. We condemn this murder, which has caused a bitter setback to the process of reconciliation in Lebanon. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has sent our condolences to the Lebanese Prime 346 Minister. In Lebanon, hope has suffered a severe blow, but in eastern Europe it rules the scene, for there, a peaceful and profound revolution is under way.
In the west of Europe, the steady strengthening of the European Community continues. Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, we wrestle with a network of complicated problems. Of course, other important issues confront us—in the middle east, South Africa, Cambodia and elsewhere. We are meeting them with our allies and partners in NATO, the Community and the Commonwealth. The House will have opportunities to discuss those issues. Right hon. and hon. Members will, of course, want to speak about some of them in this debate, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence will try to reply to as many of the issues that are raised as he can when he winds up the debate, but I hope that the House will understand if I concentrate on the three areas I have mentioned, as they are of central interest.
In 1989, we have experienced upheavals on our continent which have been unparalleled in peace time since 1848, which also was a year of revolutions driven by a desire for political liberty and national self-expression. For the most part, however, the revolutions of 1848 ended in violence and disappointment. In 1989, as this astonishing pace of change continues, we have begun to hope that it may prove to be lasting. There may, of course, be halts and reverses, but it would be hard now to re-create the iron curtain.
Europe has had 40 years of stability east and west of the iron curtain, but stability has been assured in very different ways. In the West we have achieved and held stability after the most destructive convulsion in our history through free political institutions. Internally, we have relied on democracy; externally, we have built up international institutions freely entered into to draw our democracies closer together. I refer to NATO for our defence, the European Community to strengthen our prosperity, based on free enterprise, and the Council of Europe to bind us in willing affirmation of these shared values of democracy.
The East has also had stability, but based on enforced uniformity and regimes imposed from the outside. It has been stability based on denying freedom and on one party having a monopoly of power. In the last resort, as we witnessed in the bloodshed of 1953, 1956 and 1968, that stability was based on the readiness of the Soviet Union to employ ruthless force to maintain its nominees in power. The tanks fired in those three years, and the people were forced back into the shadows.
Those systems of coercion are now crumbling fast. It is not hard to understand why. They lacked the basic foundation of consent by the governed. Metternich, who in 1848 symbolised the old regime, understood the appeal of freedom. He once said:It is useless to close the gates against ideas. They overleap them.For gates, iron curtains and Berlin walls, that is what is happening. In 1989, the idea of freedom is leaping over them all.
I am sure that the whole House welcomes those changes, and we salute the courage and wisdom of those who are using peaceful protest to break down the barriers which separated them from freedom. But it is only the beginning of a long and difficult transformation for the countries concerned.
What should our response be? We, by which I mean the Government, our partners and our allies, are working out 347 and have expressed a careful and clear response. It was worked out in close consultation with our partners at the EC summit last weekend in Paris which I attended with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. To those of us who believe in the European Community, it was heartening to find the heads of state and Government, not to mention the Foreign Ministers, so clearly united on a response to these events.
We reached the following conclusions. First, we must do everything we can to encourage the process of political and economic reform in eastern Europe. We discussed the practical forms which such support should take in three main areas. We agreed that aid to Poland and Hungary should be stepped up and that the West should be ready to make a further generous response once the International Monetary Fund agreements now being negotiated are in place. The House knows that Britain has already established know-how funds for Poland and Hungary to help provide the skills needed to run a democratic system and a market-based economy. We have contributed to Community food aid to Poland worth £70 million and project aid to Poland and Hungary now worth three times as much.
In trade, we agreed that we should aim to build on the wide-ranging trade and co-operation agreements that we already have with Poland and Hungary. Quota arrangements for those countries are already under review and we shall go through that again at the Foreign Affairs Council next Monday. We also agreed to consider the scope for the best way to work out new forms of association between the Community and those reforming countries, suited to the needs of each. There will have to be further detailed work on that in the Community in the coming weeks.
Economic assistance and co-operation can help to ease the strains of transition to more market-based economies hut, with our partners, we believe that a third way to encourage reform is to invite the reformers into the Council of Europe, which at present unites 23 western European countries in a common commitment to democracy and human rights. In principle, membership of the Council of Europe is open, as many hon. Members know, to any democratic European country ready to ratify the European convention on human rights. We believe that the Council should be and is ready to accept east European countries as members once they are able to meet those conditions.
The second main conclusion that we reached in Paris concerned the importance of keeping stability and security in Europe. We all recognise that a time of change is also a time of uncertainty. Neither West nor East should feel that its fundamental security interests are threatened by peaceful change. That is why it has been agreed that it is important to send a clear message of reassurance to the Soviet Union that the West does not intend to seek to use recent events to prejudice Soviet security. For our part, we shall continue to look to NATO as a strong and reliable defence.
§ Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)
Given the undertaking that was the result of the summit last weekend, will Her Majesty's Government now abandon the idea of replacing the Lance missile with another nuclear missile with twice the range, especially as both Lord Carrington and Mr. Genscher, the Foreign Minister of West Germany, have said that it is inconceivable and laughable?
§ Mr. Hurd
The right hon. Gentleman, who follows these matters with intimate care, knows that the answer to his question was worked out by the allies earlier this year. Modernisation is not being pressed at present, because it has been agreed that the first priority should be to reach agreement at the negotiations on conventional armed forces in Europe—the CFE talks—at Vienna, and after that to consider how negotiations with the Soviet Union on short-range nuclear missiles should be conducted. Only after that, and in consideration of the circumstances at that stage, would the Alliance consider whether modernisation was necessary. That is the comprehensive concept that was worked out earlier in the year, and it seems to be entirely the present position.
To a large extent, it is Mr. Gorbachev's policies in the Soviet Union that have made possible the changes in eastern Europe. He has had the courage and clarity of vision to see the writing on the iron curtain, and to accept and even to encourage change. It is emphatically in the western interest that Soviet policies, which have contributed so much to improved East-West relations and to reform in eastern Europe, should be sustained. That is also in the long-term interests of the Soviet people. We shall therefore continue to give Mr. Gorbachev support and encouragement.
I believe that it has emerged already that the Community approach that I have summarised coincides with that of the United States. The forthcoming United States-Soviet summit provides a timely opportunity for President Bush to convey western views to President Gorbachev, and to explore the prospects for East-West relations as a whole. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is today meeting President Bush to discuss these and other matters.
On 4 December, President Bush will brief NATO leaders in Brussels on the results of his talks with President Gorbachev. We hope that the summit will provide additional impetus towards further measures of arms control, and especially to the successful conclusion of the Vienna CFE talks next year. There is reason to hope that this goal of agreement next year—it will be a substantial agreement—can be reached. We are playing a full and constructive part in the negotiations. An agreement at Vienna will mean the elimination of the massive conventional superiority and offensive capacity of Warsaw Pact forces in Europe. Numbers of tanks and artillery in Europe will be cut by half if the agreement is reached. Parity in United States and Soviet manpower stationed in Europe at 275,000 a side will mean a cut of over 50 per cent. in Soviet forces. Reductions of this size will transform the military security situation in Europe arid bring greater stability when it will be most needed, at a time of great change.
I have spoken of the ways in which the European Community intends to encourage peaceful change in eastern Europe. There is no doubt, as has been said frequently in recent days, that the Community is a strong magnet for our eastern neighbours. Of course the Community has its arguments; it has always proceeded in that way. Despite the arguments, however, it remains an outstanding example—perhaps this is because of the arguments to some extent—of the way in which free nations working together can co-operate to bring about a different sort of revolution. The Government believe that opening the Community to the East is entirely consistent with continuing to strengthen the ties between Community 349 partners. As the House debated progress in this area last week, I do not want to go over the ground in more detail again. As there is a great swirl of discussion and debate on these matters, I shall state a few clear facts—facts which will remain when the headlines of yesterday are waste paper.
First, the European Community lies at the heart of our foreign policy, of our trading policy and of our concept of our place in Europe and beyond. The meeting in Paris last week showed again that the Community is far more than a free trade area. It provides a framework and meeting place for the member states to reach quickly and naturally, as happened in Paris, a common view on the course for Europe. Depite all the arguments, the habit of working together is now firmly established.
Secondly, the Community cannot be static. It is strong precisely because it has continued steadily to evolve. Thirdly, it is in the Community's own interest to move forward in an orderly way. Nothing is gained by forcing the pace. For example, we do not believe that in the near future the Community is likely to receive new full members. We are not attracted by the notion that we should in some way dilute the strength of the Community by enlarging it. There is a heavy work load for the existing members. There is a great deal to do, and we want to concentrate on that.
We wish success for the negotiations that are going on for a new relationship between our Community and EFTA. To be precise, the negotiations are being prepared. We expect that the formal negotiations will begin next year. The EC-EFTA negotiations are important in their own right, and we shall do our best for their success. They have nothing to do with the United Kingdom's position firmly in the Community.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)
Does the Foreign Secretary agree that, whatever the direction of the EEC may be—there may be differences of opinion about that—its inherent characteristics would not allow some of the eastern European nations, which we hope will emerge as democracies, to associate themselves with policies which were applied by Mr. Attlee as he then was, during 1945–50? Those policies were pursued when Britain was an emerging democracy and economy after the war. It would not be possible now for the United Kingdom or for the countries of eastern Europe to take such a course. Is there not a danger that this will create between the EEC and eastern European countries a difference of economic and political philosophies that will not be good for the future peace and tranquillity of Europe?
§ Mr. Hurd
It is perfectly true, as the hon. Gentleman knows, that the treaty of Rome and the characteristics of the Community rule out, for example, import restrictions, massive state aids to industry and some of the other excitements practised in Britain during the period to which the hon. Gentleman referred. These actions are excluded. That is one reason for my thinking that, for the forseeable future, Poland, Hungary and other eastern European states, as they move towards democracy, will not be able to become, or to aim at being, full members of the Community. That is why we should work out tailormade 350 and specific European agreements that gradually increase in content, perhaps, with such countries as they join, as it were, the European democratic ranks.
It is agreed by all member states that our first and foremost priority is to complete the single market. Everyone believes within the Community that that is an indispensable stage in Europe's development. There is progress, but we believe that it is too slow.
The Spanish presidency saw approval of a record number of measures removing barriers to trade in the Community. At the Madrid summit, which took place in the summer, Community leaders agreed new single market priorities, including financial services, technical standards, transport and public purchasing. Progress with some of these has so far been sluggish. There remains plenty to be done, and Britain will continue to urge that the pace that the Community has set in building Europe in this respect should be maintained and accelerated. We are in the fast track, urging others on.
Britain remains committed to the progressive realisation of economic and monetary union in the Community. We are strong supporters of the first phase as set out in stage one of the Delors plan. That envisages action by all member states to free their financial markets and to abolish exchange controls, as Britain has already done. As part of stage one, we have undertaken to join the exchange rate mechanism—about which we hear from time to time—and we have reaffirmed that undertaking more than once. The conditions that we have said must first be fulfilled are realistic, prudent and sustainable.
I noticed on Tuesday that the Leader of the Opposition got into a terribly sticky mess when he tried to define his conditions. I listened carefully through the gathering noise as he tried to find his way out of that sticky mess, but the more that he tried to explain, the more it appeared that his conditions—shorn of the rhetoric—were remarkably similar to the Government's.
§ Mr. Paul Boateng (Brent, South)
Listening to the Foreign Secretary, one wishes that the Prime Minister went away rather more often, because the right hon. Gentleman appears to have found a new and welcome boldness. When he talks about eastern Europe and the Common Market, will he reflect on the fact that it is now the established practice in eastern Europe for senior members of a ruling party in difficulty, when faced with an aging and intransigent ruler, to go to that ruler and persuade him, in the interests of the party and the country, to resign? Does the right hon. Gentleman favour that practice, and why does he not emulate it?
§ Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)
If we are indeed in the fast track in Europe, does the right hon. Gentleman support the contention that there should be a rapid move towards a two-tier system in Europe, and what is his intention for such a new treaty of Europe?
§ Mr. Hurd
The hon. Lady has obviously been preparing her intervention rather than listening to my speech. I have moved beyond that point. Perhaps the hon. Lady is referring to Mr. Andriessen's remarks yesterday, which came out of discussions with the EFTA countries, but they have nothing to do with Britain's full membership of the Community. I shall return to the general point in a moment. I have been sketching what has been agreed 351 within the Community and the background that has created the position in which Britain is actually among the leaders in carrying out what has been agreed. That is a crucial point.
We are working to complete the single market. There is always a temptation for Community enthusiasts to flit from one flower to another in the rich meadows of Brussels—[Interruption.] I am not sure that the hon. Lady has shared that temptation. Nevertheless, there has always been a temptation to propose a new charter, a new conference, a new treaty amendment and so on. All that can be intoxicating stuff. The Government prefer a more sober approach. It makes sense to move forward in stages, founding each move on the practical impact of the last move on the actual life and work in the Community. That is why we are setting the pace in pressing for new measures, which have already been agreed, to be implemented. We are in the fast track in performing what we have promised.
Of the 68 single market measures now supposed to be in operation across the Community, Britain has three still to implement. That compares with nine in France—the next best performer—through to Italy, with 33 measures not implemented. Last year, the European Court of Justice did not record a single case against Britain for alleged breach of the treaty, but that was not the case for our major partners. Our state aids to industry are among the lowest in the Community, while some of our partners still lag quite badly behind us in tackling protectionism and liberalising markets.
In all those areas, Britain, the so-called reluctant European, is the Commission's ally in speeding up the pace. Let us by all means accelerate the Community's development and intensify our co-operation, but the test of that is performance—actions, not declarations. I do not think that our eastern neighbours or our own citizens would be much impressed by a Community of communiqués. Most of our partners, and certainly the Commission—
§ Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)
What about a Community of press briefings by Mr. Ingham? Would that be better?
§ Mr. Hurd
Most of our—[Interruption] Despite the occasional trivialities tossed from the Opposition Benches, I am trying to pursue a considered sequence of arguments.
Most of our partners, and certainly the Commission—perhaps even the Opposition, if they took the time to listen to and think about these matters—would accept what I have said so far. Our partners and the Commission suggest that, in addition to implementing what has already been agreed, the Community should look further ahead. By all means let us do so, provided that we concentrate on implementing what we have already agreed. Let there be a full discussion of the steps beyond that. We are not afraid of such discussions, but let us not prejudice them before they begin.
Stages 2 and 3 of the Delors plan on economic and monetary union prescribe solutions that we do not regard as the best way to achieve agreed Community objectives. Those stages include centralising and bureaucratic tendencies. The questions about political accountability and institutional change are matters of concern not only for the Government, but for the whole House. That was evident from the thrust of our debate on 2 November, when it clearly emerged that no substantial group— 352 certainly not on the Opposition Benches and not the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen}—believed that stages 2 and 3 are the right way ahead for the Community. Those reservations have been echoed by others, especially the president of the Bundesbank. The Delors plan offers one way forward. We have suggested a practical, evolutionary alternative that would work with the grain of a free economic system.
We are innocent of the charge of being half-hearted Europeans, but we plead guilty to the charge of working for a liberal and open Europe. That is not a crime; it is a necessity. We look forward to a full discussion of the options, including at the Strasbourg Council next month. The presidency has suggested that the Council should consider the content and timing of a possible intergovernmental conference, primarily to address economic and monetary union. The Madrid summit concluded that any such conference would need full and adequate preparation, and that remains our strong view.
The differences within the Community are often over-dramatised. The Community is robust enough to survive such disagreements. After all, it has always thrived on argument. Each member state has important interests at stake. Everything we agree must be implemented, at home and in every other Community country. Our responsibility to this House and to the country as a whole requires us to subject every proposal to rigorous scrutiny, just as we do for purely domestic measures.
The history of the Community is one of agreement reached after often prolonged and lively discussion. The Community is often described as being in crisis, but when the smoke clears from each argument, the Community has not only survived, but has moved forward. The pessimists have invariably under-estimated the Community's resilience, the determination of its members to work together and the ability to find answers that each national Parliament can endorse.
Britain is the country pushing forward the single market programme, which is the most tangible expression of Community ideals. We are scrupulous in implementing what has been agreed. We are urging the Community to think carefully about the form of its future development. We are playing in the centre of the field, and we intend to hold that position.
§ Sir Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
I agree that the Community must be the centrepiece of our defence and foreign policies, but as my right hon. Friend looks to a broader constellation in Europe that reaches towards the East, will he make it clear that it is no part of Britain's interest that it should be a single European home that reaches to the Urals but excludes the United States?
§ Mr. Hurd
My hon. Friend goes a little further than I did, because I did not state that the Community is the core of our defence policy, precisely for the reason that he mentioned at the end of his intervention. Our defence policy and the existence of the North Atlantic Alliance is based on partnerships with the United States. The American presence in Europe will, as the American President said in his Thanksgiving day address, remain as an essential element in our own stability.
I turn to China and to Hong Kong. I shall not add to what has been said already in this House about the events in Tiananmen square last June, except to say that I felt great personal sadness at what happened. As a young 353 diplomat, for two happy years I lived a few hundred yards from the Gate of Heavenly Peace, and ever since I have felt strongly the fascination of China and of its people. At the same time—some 35 years ago—I came to know Hong Kong. I fully realise that it has transformed itself several times since then, but I know of no other place in the world that has the same mixture of glitter, hard work and adaptability.
There is no doubt that confidence in Hong Kong suffered a heavy blow in June, and we look to the Chinese authorities to co-operate fully with us in restoring it. We are doing what we can to provide the people of Hong Kong with the reassurance that they seek, and I shall give the details in a moment. Alongside their concerns for the future, the people of Hong Kong face an urgent and growing problem in the present. Here, too, they look to Britain for assistance and support. I refer to the presence in Hong Kong of almost 57,000 Vietnamese boat people, which is placing an unacceptable strain on Hong Kong's patience and resources.
Some argue that all those who arrive in Hong Kong by boat must by that fact alone be refugees entitled to settlement in the West, but that argument ignores the reality of the situation. The nature of the outflow from Vietnam has changed in recent years. Most of those now arriving in Hong Kong by boat are farmers and fishermen from North Vietnam in search of a better life. They have no connection with the former South Vietnamese regime or with the United States, and in most cases have no particular reason to fear political persecution. They are not refugees by the criteria established in the 1951 United Nations convention, and western countries have for that reason shown increasing reluctance to accept them for resettlement.
That is why, at the Geneva conference in June, the international community decided that all new arrivals in Hong Kong should go through a screening process, to determine whether or not they are refugees. There were commitments to resettle all those found to be refugees, including the 13,500 with refugee status already in Hong Kong, within three years. Two thousand new places were offered in the United Kingdom. It was made clear also, and accepted by all the countries represented at the conference, that those who are not refugees should return to Vietnam.
The screening procedures are being followed thoroughly and fairly with the full involvement of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Hong Kong has no interest in keeping down the number who qualify as refugees. However, on the basis of the results so far, it is probable that around 40,000 of the 57,000 now in Hong Kong will not qualify. They will not be resettled, and it surely cannot be humane or possible to leave them indefinitely in camps in Hong Kong. The reality is that their only future home is in Vietnam.
It would, of course, be better if people who are not deemed to be refugees returned to Vietnam voluntarily, and we are doing everything to encourage them to accept that it is in their own interest to do so. However, Hong Kong now has more than one year's experience of screening and it is evident that voluntary repatriation alone cannot match the scale of the problem.
354 In common with my two predecessors as Foreign Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe), I have looked long and hard at the problem in the hope of finding an easier answer. We are continuing closely to consult Vietnam and the authorities in Hong Kong, and all that I can add today is that we have been forced to reach the conclusion that we cannot responsibly avoid the difficult question of involuntary repatriation. In practice, we are increasingly left with little choice.
§ Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby)
Has the Foreign Secretary considered the option of developing with our international partners a development package for Vietnam itself? What is wrong with training the Vietnamese who have gone to Hong Kong seeking a better life and then allowing them to work in Hong Kong as contract labour, in the way that British subjects work under contract in the Gulf states? Would that not be more humane than forcibly repatriating people by a means that would not be considered for one moment by the West German Government in respect of East Germans from Leipzig and Dresden?
§ Mr. Hurd
The people who are returning to Vietnam now under the voluntary arrangement are receiving help with resettlement. That is a perfectly sensible principle and one that could be extended. I am not excluding that principle when I say that we are in touch with the Vietnam Government. However, I prefer not to go into further detail at this time.
I return to the future of Hong Kong itself. We continue to regard the joint declaration—an achievement in which my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East played a primary role—as the best available foundation for our policy in Hong Kong. China also remains committed to the joint declaration. No alternative has been offered that would be capable of safeguarding Hong Kong's stability and present life. I ask the critics of this or that aspect of our policy in Hong Kong whether they accept that the joint declaration is the best foundation and, with it, the consequences of the way in which we handle ourselves in respect of particular matters. Or do our critics have some other foundation for the future of Hong Kong that would enable us to indulge in popular gestures as if China did not exist or as if 1997 is of no importance? If so, perhaps they will tell us what that other foundation is. It is no use saying, as some do, "If I were you, I wouldn't start from here." We must start from the geographical and historical facts.
If the joint declaration provides, as we believe it does, a valid and viable basis for Hong Kong's future, Britain has a crucial responsibility in working to implement it successfully. That will be hard and trying work. There is no question of our sitting back and saying, "It is all up to the Chinese Government. There is nothing that we British can do or say."
We are working to strengthen confidence in three main ways. We are preparing, as the House knows, a scheme of assurances to give key people in the public and private sectors the confidence to remain in Hong Kong. We shall fulfil our responsibilities for the administration of the territory, taking full account of the wishes of the people of Hong Kong. We are reviewing the pace of democratisation in Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong Government will soon 355 publish a Bill of Rights. Finally, we are seeking the support of our friends and partners for Hong Kong's future stability and prosperity. Hong Kong's confidence in itself will be strengthened by assurances that its trading partners have a continuing interest in its future.
§ Mr. David Howell (Guildford)
Will my hon. Friend confirm that the Chinese Basic Law drafting committee is to hold its final session before Christmas in about three weeks' time, and that that session will include its final views on the pace of democratisation in Hong Kong after 1997? Will he confirm that, if we wished to choose a different pace or to depart in any way from the committee's decision, we should have to take such steps in the next three weeks?
§ Mr. Hurd
We have a responsibility to decide on the arrangements for 1997, of course that is related to whatever appears in the basic law concerning arrangements following that date. The timing of our decision is therefore related to the timing of the basic law. When we have reached a conclusion, we shall of course inform the House and the people of Hong Kong. I want to visit Hong Kong in the new year, and I should prefer to do so after decisions on these matters have been made and announced.
We will maintain our efforts on behalf of Hong Kong and its people. We will work patiently, intensively and honourably to rebuild their confidence in a secure and prosperous future.
§ Mr. David Young (Bolton, South-East)
Have discussions touched on the right of the Chinese to station the People's Liberation Army—the principal instrument of suppression—in Hong Kong? Does the Foreign Secretary accept that their ability to do so is one of the causes of the lack of confidence that now exists in Hong Kong?
§ Mr. Hurd
I am aware of the importance and sensitivity of that issue. I would rather not give an answer off the cuff about what has occurred in the past, as I have not been personally involved, but I shall write to the hon. Gentleman about what is clearly a legitimate question.
I feel strongly that it is a notable privilege to stand here as Foreign Secretary at the Dispatch Box. That would be true at any time, but it is particularly true in this autumn of 1989. I hope that Europe's response to events whose drama we all feel has shown that we are not afraid of change. Certainly we want stability, and feel that change must be orderly, but that does not mean clinging to old assumptions. We are ready to modify our policies in the light of events, as we have done throughout the period in which Mr. Gorbachev has directed the affairs of the Soviet Union. Our democratic institutions—NATO and the European Community—are strong enough to accommodate and adapt to change: orderly change is our ally.
New opportunities are opening up in Europe as a result of the peaceful changes in the East, and we are well placed to take those opportunities. We are confident in our policies, in our relationships with our allies and partners and in the values on which all else depends.
§ Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)
I welcome the Foreign Secretary to his new post. He and I have faced each other across this table before, and I know that his greatest wish has been to reach the Foreign Office: I congratulate him on achieving his ambition.
The right hon. Gentleman takes office at a time of great challenge, and of many hopes and opportunities—if those opportunities can only be grasped. Elsewhere, sadly, grievous problems remain intractable. The right hon. Gentleman has mentioned one this morning—the problem of the boat people in Hong Kong.
Having visited the boat people earlier this year, I recognise the sad and degrading circumstances in which they live; I recognise, too, that Hong Kong—being a territory of limited area—finds it difficult to keep such large numbers for long. I have to say, however, that a policy of what the right hon. Gentleman has called involuntary repatriation, but what must more brutally be acknowledged as forcible repatriation, is not the right way in which to deal with the problem.
The right hon. Gentleman said that one reason why he believed that it might be necessary to resort to involuntary—or forcible—repatriation was that the people had no individual reason to fear political persecution. That is a comment on the nature of the Government in Vietnam, and is in direct contradistinction to the Government's attitude to Vietnam so far. Their policy on Cambodia has been to say that that Government are unacceptable because Vietnam put them in power. If people have no logical reason to be political refugees from Vietnam, a different approach to Vietnam is required—along with, I feel, a different approach to economic aid to that country.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to individual aid for Vietnamese boat people who return. Surely, however, he and his right hon. Friends should consider that if economic aid were provided in a sensible way for Vietnam, standards would be raised and the tendency for people to leave would be somewhat reduced. We need a phased and structured policy on the issue, rather than simply deciding that the only way in which to deal with the difficulties arid embarrassment caused by the boat people in Hong Kong—which I acknowledge—is to bundle them back to Vietnam.
In his opening remarks, the right hon. Gentleman referred to the assassination of the new President of Lebanon: that was the latest savage episode in the bloody history of that tormented country. Opposition Members regret the failure of the latest attempt by the Arab League to achieve a settlement. It confirms my fear that no solution to the travails of Lebanon—including the necessary withdrawal of all foreign troops—can be achieved without an overall middle east settlement. The first step towards such a settlement could be tantalisingly close: my own talks with principal players in the drama, including a meeting with President Mubarak in Cairo last month, have convinced me that there is now a broad consensus on the need for talks to solve the Palestine problem—a necessary precursor to a general middle east conference.
The Labour Ministers in the Israeli cabinet—whose courage I applaud—the Palestine Liberation Organisation, the Egyptians and the Americans are all moving towards acceptance of a common agenda. Only the Likud section of the Israeli Government are blocking 357 progress. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will use all the methods available to him to put pressure on Mr. Shamir, and will urge the Americans to do the same.
Another part of the world in which we should use our good offices to hasten a belated settlement is Central America. More than two years after the Guatemala accord, progress there is still far too slow. Nicaragua has done more than any other signatory to fulfil the terms of the accord, although there have been setbacks and mistakes. Events in El Salvador, however, continue to be deeply depressing: I am sure that every hon. Member is horrified by the murder of David Blundy. The taking of American hostages might have led to serious consequences, and we welcome the fact that those men have now been released. We must ask, however, what American special forces were doing there in the first place.
Although they have burned their fingers many times, the CIA and other American special agencies seem unable to resist the temptation to dabble in Central American politics and military affairs. The United States spends $1 million a day in fomenting strife in El Salvador. I hope that the Government will do what they can to urge acceptance of the FMLN proposal for a ceasefire as a prelude to talks between both sides at the highest level. It was sad that the ARENA Government instantly rejected the call for a ceasefire, which could at least end the dreadful bloodshed.
§ Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham)
Why does the right hon. Gentleman support the Nicaraguan Government's action in breaking the ceasefire to attack the opposition forces in that country? What great differences are there between the Nicaraguan Government doing that and the El Salvador Government reacting to revolutionary activities in their country?
§ Mr. Kaufman
The Nicaraguan Government maintained a ceasefire for a long time and I applauded them for doing so. I was sorry that they felt obliged to end the ceasefire in view of the Contra offensives. I hope that a ceasefire can be reinstated. I have urged the Nicaraguan Government always to take the most ameliorative measures to respond to the international desire for progress in their country and in Central America as a whole. The problem is that in El Salvador there is no such response. Death squads are rampant there. That would worry Conservative Members if they sought to view events in Central America in a balanced way. A ceasefire in Nicaragua could be monitored by the United Nations which, for the first time, is playing an active part in the region.
In southern Africa, the portents are mixed. In Namibia elections were conducted fairly, despite the wrecking tactics of South African Koevoet and the sinister role of Louis Pienaar, the South African Administrator General. I had the opportunity to meet that gentleman in his castle in the hill in Windhoek. It is essential that Namibia moves smoothly to independence. I hope, and I hope that the Government share my hope, that Namibia will become a member of the Commonwealth. Mr. Pienaar told me, almost with relish, that he had left Namibia almost bankrupt. Aid from the West is essential if this experiment in independence and democracy is not to fail, as the South African Government would clearly like.
358 Cosmetic change in South Africa is not to be scorned, but it is to be suspected and does not begin to suffice. There must be a repeal of the group areas Act which is the cornerstone of apartheid. There must be an end to arrests, detentions, banning, imprisonment and executions. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will add his voice to those who call for the reprieve and release of the Upington 16, yet another group of people wrongly held on death row because of the abominable South African doctrine of common purpose.
As I saw for myself earlier this year in South Africa, that country is in the most literal sense of the term a police state. The apparatus of repression and terror is present in South Africa for one purpose only—to maintain the economic supremacy of the whites, which has been attained by exploitation and suppression of the majority of the population. Apartheid exists for white economic supremacy and that is why economic methods should be used against it. There is no doubt that even the limited sanctions now in operation have been effective in forcing change in South Africa, however limited. When I was in South Africa I heard ministerial speeches which made that perfectly clear. I heard laments about the effect of sanctions from the Finance Minister, the Law and Order Minister and even the Sports Minister, who complained about the impact of sanctions on his area of responsibility. Nothing would demonstrate more clearly that the Foreign Secretary is his own man than the conversion of the Government to a policy which is advocated by the whole of the Commonwealth except one member—the United Kingdom. He will have the support of the Opposition in all the positive actions that he takes.
§ Mr. Tim Rathbone (Lewes)
As many of my hon. Friends know, I share the hon. Gentleman's beliefs about South Africa. However, I do not share his advocacy of sanctions. He does a disservice to the Government's great contribution to the slow—much too slow—movement towards change in South Africa, which they have encouraged by maintaining their present stance.
§ Mr. Kaufman
The hon. Gentleman has his opinion, but I believe that it is misguided, even though he states that he shares the objectives of hon. Members on this side of the House.
I discussed sanctions at great length with church people and others in South Africa. I was particularly impressed by a representative of the Transvaal women's movement, a black woman, who told me of the dreadful problems that her community faces. Advocating sanctions, indeed begging for them, she said:We would rather share with each other what little we have than see our children dying of state violence in the streets".Choices have to be made. The hon. Gentleman, I am sure for the best of motives, has made his but we share the choices of the mass democratic movement in South Africa.
§ Mr. Kaufman
No, I wish to move on. The hon. Gentleman has parti pris on this matter.
In particular, the Foreign Secretary will have our support in fulfilling the commitment that he made in an interview soon after taking office when he said: 359I think a Foreign Secretary needs to have ideas of his own and to run his own department. I think that is very important … My relationship with the Prime Minister will go on being loyal and co-operative but clearly not subservient.Those were good words spoken in an interview with Devon radio. Maggie, art thou sleeping there below?
The Foreign Secretary's most testing task was set for him in a leading article in the Daily Telegraph on Wednesday. It stated:In any reconciliation between Mrs. Thatcher and our European partners, the Foreign Secretary has a critical broker's role to play.In other words, the Foreign Secretary has the unenviable assignment of standing as an intermediary between the Prime Minister and reality not only in our relationship with the European Community but in most of Britain's other international relationships. The bizarre antics of the Prime Minister pose a problem for the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. That problem was plainly beyond the present Leader of the House, and the present Chancellor of the Exchequer was happily relieved of it after his painful experience at Kuala Lumpur. The new Foreign Secretary showed himself fully aware of the problem in an interview on "Newsnight" on 2 November. Declaring flatly that he would not have used the language employed by the Prime Minister in her Bruges speech, the speech that lost 13 European seats, the right hon. Gentleman confessed:The tone is very important. And, I am very keen that our tone should show that we are in the centre of moving Europe and not on the margin throwing stones at it.The problem is that we are on the margins of the European Community, NATO and the Commonwealth.
The right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, Lord Carrington, warned against the danger in a television interview this week when he said:We have got to be involved and appear to want to get Europe going and not perhaps be marginalised by saying 'No' before we start talking about it.The Foreign Secretary experienced the problem for himself a couple of weeks ago at a meeting of European Foreign Ministers, a report of which in the Daily Telegraph was headed, "Lone Battle by Hurd".
This morning the Foreign Secretary said,We are on the fast track",but the press verdict on the Government's international performance is so adverse that if this was a play by Sir Ronald Millar, rather than a series of Prime Ministerial pronouncements partly written by Sir Ronald Millar, the show would have closed by now. The Daily Mail stated, "Outnumbered 11–1." The Times stated, "Mrs. Thatcher's Lone Opposition." The Sundary Telegraph stated:Britain More Isolated … Than Ever."The Times stated:Britain Drifted Further Into Isolation."The Financial Times stated, "UK Isolated." The Daily Mail stated, "Britain Stands Alone." The Independent stated, "Britain Isolated." The Sunday Telegraph stated:Britain Is Resisting Mounting Pressure From Most Of Its EEC Partners".That was written of the environment, which is the Prime Minister's latest toy and soon, I fear, to be left discarded and battered on the nursery floor like other former playthings, such as football hooliganism and litter disposal. The Daily Telegraph stated:Britain's Lone Battle Against Workers Rights."The Independent stated:Washington: President Bush is growing worried about Mrs. Thatcher, seen here as becoming increasingly isolated.
§ The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Mr. Alan Clark)
Why does not the right hon. Gentleman write his own speeches instead of pinching it all from journalists?
§ Mr. Kaufman
The Minister of State for Defence Procurement pays little attention to the international press, but others, including, I suspect, the Foreign Office care about what our international partners think about us.
The Financial Times stated:Mrs. Thatcher and Britain have appeared to be reluctant and increasingly isolated.The official bulletin of the Commission of the European Communities of 2 November stated, "UK Isolated." The right hon. Member for Ayr (Sir G. Younger), who left his post as Secretary of State for Defence while the going was good, said when he still held that position:I hope never to see Britain in a minority of one at Nato." —[Official Report, 9 May 1989; Vol. 152 c. 718.]Yet at the latest NATO summit the Danish Prime Minister said:Except for Mrs. Thatcher everyone around this table here is in agreement.The Prime Minister has become the Ceausescu of NATO. She is as out of tune with developments in our Alliance as the Romanian dictator is in his. It is significant that both Ceausescu and the Prime Minister have announced that, given the chance, they intend to stay in office permanently. The only question is who will he toppled first. I do not know whether there is an equivalent to the hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer) in the Romanian Parliament. That is a dreadful reputation for any Prime Minister to have merited, for any Foreign Secretary to have to shoulder and for any country to be forced to endure, especially the United Kingdom. Although we are no longer a world power and do not aspire to be a superpower, we are a country which, under successive Governments, has earned a great reputation that should not be frittered away. We are the only country to be a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, and a member of NATO, the European Community, the Commonwealth and of the seven major economic powers. Those intersections give us a unique opportunity for influence, if we care to exercise it. Most unfortunately, at present we do not. We are widely seen as negative and obstructive. The United Kingdom's performance last month at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting at Kuala Lumpur was disgraceful. While other countries wished to discuss a whole spectrum of important issues, of which development and debt are the most crucial to the economic future of the world, the Prime Minister once again bogged down the conference on the issue of South Africa, allowing her then Foreign Secretary to draft an agreement, only an hour later to repudiate it in a manner which alienated all our Commonwealth partners. What is more, she glorified in it. Not for her, an Englishman's word is his bond. The Prime Minister prefers the reputation of perfidious Albion. That phrase originated in French and it is in the European Community that, as we approach the Strasbourg summit, British isolation is seen at its starkest. No wonder Commissioner Andriessen has been hinting this week that Britain might consider accepting membership of a lower, semi-detached tier of the Community. It is about time that the United Kingdom Government made up their mind about their role within the Community. The Prime Minister tries to imply that the 361 choice is between Britain going it alone and hindering every development or Britain merging its identity and abandoning its history in a processed-cheese Community. Pretending that they are the alternatives and that she must adopt the first to prevent the second, the Prime Minister, in a series of manic tantrums, blocks everything that she can lay her hands on from health labelling of cigarette packets to pensioners' rights and the social charter. If the Prime Minister did not like the Single European Act, she could have refused to enact it in the House, but she forced it through on a guillotine and she must accept the consequences.
§ Mr. Spearing
Does my right hon. Friend recall that at the Milan summit the Prime Minister said that she did not want a treaty? Does not her forcing through that treaty show that even a strong Government such as hers had to take the best terms that they could negotiate and force them through an unwilling House?
§ Mr. Kaufman
The Prime Minister certainly forced the treaty through an unwilling House. We were in a predicament partly because the Prime Minister, instead of using our place in the Community, has consistently isolated herself within the Community and cannot win any genuine concessions.
§ Mr. Hurd
I am trying to follow the right hon. Gentleman's argument. He seems to have moved rapidly from complaining that the Prime Minister accepts nothing and obstructs everything in Europe to complaining that she accepted the Single European Act and thrust it down his throat. I do not quite see the logic of his argument, but of course it comes from the right hon. Gentleman, who is a distinguished representative of a party that has spent most of the recent decade not only throwing stones at the European Community, but seeking to extricate Britain from it.
§ Mr. Kaufman
Ever since he worked for the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath)—a past which he has lived down adequately—the Foreign Secretary has taken a clear, firm position on the Community. It is unacceptable for the Prime Minister—if the words were permitted in the House I would say hypocritical—first to force through a measure on a guillotine and then to make a speech at Bruges repudiating what she forced through the House. [Interruption.] Oh, yes, I have read the speech. I have a framed copy of it in my office. It is interesting to note that when he was given the opportunity on television the Foreign Secretary repudiated parts of the Bruges speech and said that he would not have made it in the way the Prime Minister made it.
The Labour party says that the Single European Act is now British law. Since that is the law and the context within which we must work, we want to do so as willing, active, co-operative partners. We want to use British initiative instead of being an isolated, semi-detached member of the Community which other Community members shrink from dealing with because of ill temper and destructive negativism.
The Labour party believes in a community of sovereign states working together in the interests of each and in the interests of all. We believe in co-operating together to 362 work with non-Community countries in Europe and in the wider world. Such a role means not simply waiting to react negatively to what others propose but playing a positive role, with intiatives of our own.
If the Foreign Secretary really means what he said on Devon radio about having ideas of his own, he must stop the Prime Minister rampaging from meeting to meeting, wrecking positive developments and making the United Kingdom the pariah of the Community. Never was a positive role for the Community more essential than its response to the dramatic developments in eastern Europe. While I was watching television the other day I thought that I detected that feeling in the Foreign Secretary as he sat quizzically sucking his spectacles while the Prime Minister raved on in yet another of her increasingly vain attempts to Inghamise the world's press.
Both the Foreign Secretary and I have visited the Berlin wall in recent days. I am sure that for him, as for me, the experience of being at the Brandenburg gate was unforgettable and uplifting. The right hon. Gentleman must have wriggled with discomfort as the Prime Minister sought to make narrow domestic political capital out of a human drama that will take its place in 20th century history.
In his recent "Panorama" interview, the Foreign Secretary very sensibly said:Do you think in the streets of Leipzig, do you think in the streets of Prague they're thinking about the exchange rate mechanism. Of course they're not.I wish that after making that balanced remark he could have stopped the Prime Minister pursuing precisely that absolute train of thought when, in her Guildhall speech, she tried to use the marvellous developments in eastern Europe as an argument against going into the exchange rate mechanism.
The Prime Minister has had to admit that Thatcherism has been rejected throughout democratic Europe—she told Brian Walden that she could consider entering the exchange rate mechanism only when the rest of the Community had adopted Thatcherite policies, and it was lamentably clear, from her point of view, that none of them had. But she has somehow got it into her head that eastern Europe is crying out for the poll tax, water privatisation, higher mortgages and the destruction of social services. At the Conservative party conference she—or perhaps it was Ronald Millar ghosting for her—proclaimed with lunatic conviction:the torch we lit in Britain, which transformed our country—the torch of freedom that is now the symbol of our Party—became a beacon that has shed its light across the Iron Curtain into the East.I must break the news to the Prime Minister that they are not knocking down the Berlin wall just to please her.
I was given this piece of the wall, Madam Deputy Speaker, in Berlin.
§ Mr. Kaufman
I have two pieces. This piece of the Berlin wall is a symbol of the rejection by the people of East Germany and all eastern Europe of every kind of soulless extremism, of oppressive Communist statism and of its mirror image: the heartless and uncaring society which is Thatcherism. That demolished wall is a symbol that the people of eastern Europe—Poland, Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria and now Czechoslovakia—are demanding freedom of choice in a caring society.
363 I can provide evidence for that conclusion. Next week Lech Walesa, the leader of Solidarity, will visit London. He will be here as a guest of the Trades Union Congress, that same organisation whose constituent members the Queen's Speech promises to shackle even further. The Foreign Secretary will be giving a lunch for Mr. Walesa. To prevent him from dropping any bricks, I recommend that he should study the reports of my meeting with Mr. Walesa in Gdansk last month. A full record is available to the Foreign Secretary, since I invited to my meeting a British embassy official.
Far from being anamoured of Thatcherism, Mr. Walesa spoke to me of what he called the other "Mrs. Thatcher"—the "Mrs. Hyde Thatcher" who is so well known to us here. Mr. Walesa told me:We cannot transfer your system here. We don't like human and legal aspects of your system.He told me that he preferred what he called the "very positive" ideals of western Socialism, such as welfare and social justice. It was those ideals that Mr. Walesa addressed when he spoke to both houses of Congress in Washington last week. He rightly called for economic aid to the emerging democracies of Eastern Europe and continued:We believe that assistance extended to democracy and freedom in Poland and all of Eastern Europe is the best investment in the future and in peace, better than tanks, warships and warplanes.How right Mr. Walesa was, but unfortunately the Prime Minister does not see matters that way at all. She seems to have some inkling of what the developments in eastern Europe mean for the citizens of east European countries, though somewhere in her thinking there seems to be the conviction that Hungarians are planning to buy shares in Magyar Telecom so that they, too, can dial the time sponsored by Accurist.
What the Prime Minister clearly fails completely to understand is the significance of the developments in eastern Europe for us in Britain, in the West and in NATO. This morning the Foreign Secretary has shown that he understands the significance of those developments. He said that it would be hard now to recreate the iron curtain.
Mr. Cheney, the United States Secretary of Defence, understands that well enough, too. This week he rightly said:It is clear that the likelihood of all-out conflict between NATO and the Warsaw Pact is lower now than at any time since the end of the second world war.Mr. Cheney is following the logic of that assessment by recommending what he calls "significant cuts" in United States defence spending. He said:If you've got a situation in which Eastern Europe is now governed by democratically elected, non-Communist regimes, even though they are still in the Warsaw Pact, the Warsaw Pact is a very different animal … It doesn't make a lot of sense to spend a lot of time worrying about the Polish army or the East German army actively participating in an attack against Western Europe.Mr. Cheney talks about a CFE-2—a follow-on to the current Vienna arms reduction talks. Hans-Dietrich Genscher, the West German Foreign Minister, clearly understands the implications of what is happening. Earlier this week he was in Washington meeting President Bush. It is a telling indicator of Britain's reduced standing in NATO that these days the West German Foreign Minister gets to see the President of the United States earlier than the British Prime Minister. Officials travelling with Mr. 364 Genscher gave on-the-record briefings to the press on their attitude towards modernisation of short-range nuclear weapons. They said—it has been recorded in The Times, The Independent, The Guardian and elsewhere—
§ Mr. Kaufman
I spend a great deal of time speaking for myself. However, when I can draw upon wisdom shat agrees with me, I am always ready to do so.
One of Mr. Genscher's senior officials told the press:The idea of the missiles being modernised 'makes us laugh' … I don't think there is any possibility of it being implemented … What do we need these missiles for—to bomb Lech Walesa? … We don't even want a formal funeral for the issue.
§ Mr. Kaufman
No, not to the hon. Gentleman.
Lord Carrington, a former Secretary of State for Defence, Foreign Secretary and until recently the Secretary General of NATO, said the same thing in a television interview this week. I hope that the hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh) will not wish to repudiate the words of someone who served with such distinction in Conservative Governments for so many years. Lord Carrington said:I would have thought there is no conceivable situation now in which short-range nuclear weapons which land on East German soil would be acceptable. That chapter is I think over.Every sane and sensible person now takes that view. Unfortunately, such a definition excludes the Prime Minister.
Mr. Genscher's officials told the press that they believed that all West Germany's European NATO partners except Britain now shared that view. That isolation has persisted for many months. At the time of the NATO summit, the Danish Prime Minister said:Except for Mrs. Thatcher everyone around this table here is in agreement that at some time there will have to be negotiations with the Warsaw Pact about short-range nuclear weapons.Earlier this year, on the issue of modernisation, the Prime Minister said in an interview on TV-am that she wouldput the argument to him"—Chancellor Kohl—again and again in favour of modernisation of short-range nuclear missiles.
Will the Foreign Secretary go on putting the argument to the West Germans in favour of modernisation of short-range nuclear weapons? [Interruption.] When the Foreign Secretary was responding to my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) he spoke about dealing with the negotiations at Vienna on short-range nuclear weapons. That is a matter for negotiation in the CFE talks. However, this is a different issue and not a matter for negotiation. It is to be decided by NATO and it is an issue on which the right hon. Gentleman, as Foreign Secretary, must have a view. I am referring to the modernisation of short-range nuclear weapons. What is the right hon. Gentleman's attitude now towards the modernisation of short-range nuclear weapons? Will he tell us? If he will, I will gladly give way so that he can explain.
§ Mr. Hurd
The right hon. Gentleman is mistaken. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) asked me 365 precisely about modernisation. I replied by rehearsing something about which the right hon. Member for Leeds, East knows but evidently not the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman). I spoke about the comprehensive concept worked out by all the NATO allies earlier this year. In rehearsing that I said that I thought it was apt for the present occasion.
§ Mr. Kaufman
The right hon. Gentleman will not give a reply. He resorts to a six-month-old formula which, as Mr. Genscher, Mr. Cheney and Lord Carrington acknowledge, has been superseded by the developments in eastern Europe. The Foreign Secretary can tell Devon radio that he is his own man, but he dare not say what he thinks on this issue because he is afraid that the Prime Minister will think something different. He is chained to the reactionary, irrelevant and isolated opinions of an outdated and obsolete Prime Minister.
We in the Labour party agree with the other European members of NATO that modernisation should not go ahead. We agree that there should be negotiations to remove short-range nuclear weapons from Europe—the third zero. We welcome what unmistakably follows from what is stated by Mr. Genscher and Lord Carrington—no to modernisation and yes to negotiation. That would mean a Europe cleared, by negotiation, of land-based nuclear weapons with the Soviets giving up 14 times as many of those weapons as NATO.
The Labour party accepts the implication of that development—the end of the flexible response strategy—which NATO adopted at a time of heavy Warsaw pact preponderance of conventional weapons. If flexible response ever had any validity, it is now made obsolete by the prospects of success at the Vienna talks of which both the United States and Soviet Governments are confident. In Washington this week Mr. Genscher said:Arms control (in Europe) needs a new dynamism so it does not lag behind political developments.That is the positive and sensible voice of the new era in Europe. It says that we should proceed rationally to negotiate disarmament—nuclear and conventional—between NATO and the Warsaw pact, as the United States and the Soviet Union are now doing so commendably and hopefully.
Britain must be properly defended. That means armed forces sufficient to our needs and responsibilities. It also means taking advantage of the new climate in world affairs to advance the best defence of all—the negotiated and asymmetrical reduction of arms levels between NATO and the Warsaw pact. All of us in the West and East can use our resources more fruitfully than piling up arms to destroy each other. We can use those resources to increase standards of social provision at home, to assist the emerging democracies of eastern Europe and to help the starving nations of the Third world.
The rest of NATO seems ready for that new and optimistic perspective. Only Thatcherite Britain lags behind and seeks to block progress. A Labour Government will join the rest of our allies in working for collective defence, collective arms control and collective disarmament. It is time for Britain to join step once again with the rest of our Alliance and with a Europe on the move. A general election and a Labour Government will ensure that Britain counts again in the world.
§ 11.9 am
§ Mr. David Howell (Guildford)
I hope that the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) will forgive me if I do not follow closely his scissors-and-paste selection of newspapers cuttings to which he seems to have paid great attention. The only advice that I can give him as one occasional journalist to another is not to believe everything you write in the newspapers. Instead, I should like to follow one of two points raised by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in his opening speech.
I shall start with Hong Kong. We have to take some critical decisions rather soon. My right hon. Friend and his colleagues are preparing a package of provisions for passports and for a system to encourage people to stay in Hong Kong. I realise the difficulties in putting that package together, but it has to be done as soon as possible. I understand that we look forward to it by the end of this year. But that is not all. In a few weeks' time the Chinese will have their final session of Basic Law drafting in which they will decide the pattern of democracy that they want in Hong Kong after 1997. Immediately, we shall have to decide whether we wish to converge with that date in 1997 or diverge from it. Should we seek a pace of democratic development somewhat faster than that proposed in the earlier draft of the Basic Law, or should we support the Chinese inclinations?
The Legislative Council of Hong Kong has made known its views that by 1991 one third of the legislative council should be elected—that is, 20 seats out of 60. When the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs reported in the summer it proposed an even faster rate. So what should we do now? The House has to face a delicate and difficult issue, borne on the broad shoulders of my right hon. Friend. It is an agonising point of decision.
If I may offer a thought on the matter—this may be our last chance to do so in the House before the decisions are taken—we have to steer an immensely sensitive path. We do not wish to be seen to kowtow to the sullen and boorish mood prevailing in Peking since the events in Tiananmen square in the summer, which is regrettable, and which I hope will pass. Nor do we want to display an attitude of bravado and deliberate provocation, to undo the facts of life in Hong Kong which are that it is deeply involved with China, it is next to China and its entire future is bound up with China. We have to move with great delicacy and care. In deciding the pace of democratic development in Hong Kong between now and 1997 we should primarily stick to our instincts and do what is best for Hong Kong. As my right hon. Friend said, we should proceed on a basis of what is good for and wanted by the Hong Kong community, which brings us back to the old problem of translating and identifying that.
In its latest pronouncements, the Legislative Council has done a thorough job—perhaps as thorough as possible—in establishing what Hong Kong wants, which is not to move so fast as some members of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs recommended, but a little faster than some of the foot-dragging suggestions in the drafts of the Basic Law. I suggest to my right hon. Friend that so long as we keep our eye on that and do what is right for Hong Kong, although we may run into some flare-up remarks from Peking, as my right hon. and hon. Friends have already discovered when they stated perfectly reasonable principles in Kuala Lumpur, and although there may be a short-term objection from Peking, in the long term we 367 shall be doing the right thing for Hong Kong, for the principles in which we believe and for Peking and the People's Republic of China when its present dark phase has passed.
That is all that I have to say about Hong Kong, but I repeat that this may be the last chance for the House to utter views which will be taken into account in very difficult decisions governing the shape and future of that territory as it moves through a difficult period in the months ahead.
The second issue touched on by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and by the right hon. Member for Gorton is Strasbourg and the meeting on 9 December, which will be enormously important in shaping the future of western Europe and our relations with eastern Europe. The right hon. Gentleman made great play of Britain standing alone, one against 11, and so on. I do not understand why he is so appalled at the idea of Britain standing alone. I make no apology for that. From time to time Britain has stood alone and been right. It is more important that we be true to our principles. The question as to whether we are alone should come second to the question as to whether we are right. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to take the view that we should give in to mounting pressures. Is it his approach to foreign policy that every time there are mounting pressures we should give in to them? Instead, he should be asking what is the true position for which we are standing and whether it is correct. If it is correct, whether we are one against 11, two against 10 or three against nine, we should fight and argue for it in a constructive, sensible and positive way.
§ Mr. Frank Cook (Stockton, North)
Is the right hon. Gentleman seriously suggesting that we should continue our membership of various alliances such as the North Atlantic Alliance, the European Economic Community, the United Nations or the Commonwealth and still insist on consistently standing aside? The only ally with which we seem to have no dispute on any issue is the United States. When shall we stand alone from the United States?
§ Mr. Howell
I was not suggesting anything of the kind. I was merely reminding the House—heaven knows, the House ought to know—that just because one stands alone that does not mean one is wrong on every occasion. I see no difficulty about standing alone if we are true to our principles and put forward our arguments clearly. However, to take up a phrase used by the hon. Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook), I see difficulties not in standing alone but in standing aside from the great debate about Europe and the development of the European Community. I am not happy about the idea put forward by Mr. Andriessen yesterday that we should be placed back in the European Free Trade Association. It would be a catastrophe for Britain and for Europe if one of the three great leading nations of Europe—the German Federal Republic, France and Britain—were to be marginalised in that way. That would be totally wrong. We must remain at the centre of those debates and arguments. Although we may stand alone on certain issues, we need to seek allies, as we have done in the past. We have to consider the viewpoints expressed by other Governments and their supporters to gain common ground on some of the issues in which we believe.
I have to report that France and the Federal Republic of Germany are utterly determined to go ahead with 368 Delors stages 2 and 3, the reform of the treaties, European monetary union, a single central bank and a variety of other issues, including the social charter. I know that some may draw comfort from signs that the governor of the Bundesbank is unhappy about his independent status being submerged in a much larger European bank, but his view will not prevail—Chancellor Kohl and President Mitterrand will take hands and move forward on all those issues and take some extremely radical decisions.
During the past week members of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs had an opportunity in Paris to discuss with a whole range of senior officials what is now proposed. We were told quite clearly that athough the changes required for Delors stages 2 and 3 mean a total revision of the position of the Banque de France and the entire French system—the same would be involved for the Bank of England—they were already preparing proposals to bring that about. They were prepared to embark on this revolution—that was the word used—to pursue the policy with West Germanty.
§ Mrs. Dunwoody
What would be the right hon. Gentleman's attitude if a third treaty were brought forward? The House would have to take a fundamental decision at that point. If we were still standing alone, what would be the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman and his party to that decision?
§ Mr. Howell
My attitude is that we must be constructively involved in discussions at every point. Whether we take an individual view or whether we go along with others would emerge from debate, but we must be involved because it is possible that new treaties will shortly be before us.We must take a constructive approach, we must be involved, we must have ideas—not only those set out in the Madrid communiqúe on stage 1—and we must participate in, even if to resist and point out some of its more muddled aspects, the discussions on stages 2 and 3. I also believe that, whether we join in stages 2 and 3 or whether we join fully in stage 1 and participate in the exchange rate mechanism, for our own sakes we need an independent central monetary authority. I realise that that is another issue, but one has only to consider what has been happening to our monetary aggregates over the past year to see that our monetary discipline lacks the proper mechanisms to keep it in place. The essential point was made by my right hon. Friend—that we must be centrally involved and that we cannot be pushed aside into EFTA or any other arrangements.
There is room for honest and full debate about the direction of the European community. We have agreed on the single market although, as my right hon. Friend rightly said, there are still many provisions to be fulfilled by other countries before that colossal work is done. We must look beyond what is happening in eastern Europe, Japan, the United States and elsewhere, because there is a need to define our alternative vision of how the Community should develop after 1993. I find no difficulty, as some others seem to, in analysing or agonising about whether it will be a Community of nation states or a collectivist mush—an enormous European cake that will submerge the nation states—because I know perfectly well, as do hon. Members and members of the Assembleé Nationale and the Bundestag, that nation states will remain the central feature of the Community of Europe. The nation state is 369 the fundamental unit. If there were no nation states and we were one great federated super-state, nation states would have to be reinvented to adminster and govern the varieties and differences of Europe of the 1990s and of the next millennium.
I foresee no need for us to lose too much sleep in establishing that certain things will be done usefully and most efficiently collectively in the European Community, and that they may include supervision of aspects of economic or monetary policy. The nation states will remain powerful, proud and highly effective instruments of administration and givers of law in the Europe of 10, 20 or 30 years ahead.
I make no apology for talking about a vision of Europe that is a great confederation of free states bound in permanent union, as other great confederations have been in the past, which does not lose or undermine the vital national identity on which our freedoms are based and in which they are rooted.
A word is bandied about to describe the guiding principle that should ensure that we keep our integrity as nation states—whether it be Britain or France—but nevertheless work collectively where we can most effectively do so. It is an ugly word that is not even English—subsidiarity. As Anglo-Saxons, we need to translate it to English and apply it with vigour to ensure that our version of its meaning—that things should only be done collectively which cannot be done better and more efficiently at nation state level—is used. If we do not apply our version, it will tend to be a potentially elastic concept used by Commission officials, empire builders, collectivists and federal accumulators of functions in Brussels to mean nothing very much. Let us establish what we mean by subsidiarity and state our vision of Europe as a great confederation of free states and the only conceivable way in which Europe will work in the future. Let us not be cowed by federalist claptrap, generalist talk of European super-states or the inclination of some of our American friends who arrive on our doorstep and ask why we do not have a United States of Europe. That is an old-fashioned idea which belongs to the 1960s. In the 1990s and in the next century, a confederation of nation states will prevail.
Although we were advised to wait until next week to debate eastern Europe, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary commented on it, and obviously what is happening there is central to our affairs. I must apologise to the House because I understand that the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs report on eastern Europe will be taken in next Friday's debate. As its chairman, it is my duty to be present. I must ask for the House's indulgence, because I shall have been meeting a committee of the Bundestag in Bonn and therefore will not be present. I shall therefore detain the House with a couple of comments on eastern Europe now.
After all the talk of the wonderful and splendid things happening in eastern Europe and of the emotion, which undoubtedly is great, we must realise that all the eastern European countries will now go through the most hideous valley of tears. They are all in great economic difficulties, and to get out of them they will have to pass through far greater privation than they have experienced so far. That applies to the Poles and the Hungarians, and certainly to the East Germans. The East German economy is currently 370 being destroyed by the West Germans, the deutschmark and West German purchasing power buying up all the basic goods at their ridiculously subsidised prices. Shortly, the East Germans may again have to close the border if their economy is to survive even over the next few weeks. To talk splendidly about the associations of the future with Eastern Europe is to live in a world of fantasy, while the reality is an extremely ugly and cold winter closing in on these new little democracies, where they are democracies, and possibly suffocating many of them. I have a grave fear that in Czechoslovakia we shall see the first example of this wonderful process going tragically and disastrously wrong in the short term. Let us be realists, because it will not be beer and skittles and the arrival of liberalism and democracy. There are many difficulties immediately ahead.
What can we do about those difficulties? Do we stand aside while those countries go forward or backward into tyranny again? We must do certain things, recognising that democracy and freedom are not only about politics and Governments but about civic activity, literature, the arts, publishing and all kinds of cultural contacts. We can build and develop those things with enormous vigour through our know-how, funds and a variety of contacts outside the normal official Government machine. That is where we in Britain can and should help.
Above all, we should settle our quarrels in western Europe, settle on the clear vision of the future in western Europe, which is the only realistic one, and prepare our links at every humble level—the level of the private citizen, non-governmental organisations and, indeed, the level of enterprise, business and commerce with the eastern European economies to help them through the dark times through which they must still pass before they become free and prosperous democracies.
§ Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)
I have read so many obituaries of myself in the past few days that I sometimes feel that I am already dead. Yet I have never in my life felt quite so alive as I felt just over a week ago when I stood in the Potsdamer platz in East Berlin and watched East and West Germans together, laughing and weeping with happiness at the coming down of the wall. The speed of change in eastern Europe is now so great that it is difficult to see clearly how things will go. It is still too soon to be sure whether there has been a repetition of 1848, which ran into the sand, or of 1789, which developed into a new dictatorship, or, as I would hope, of 1688.
Having said that, I believe that certain conclusions can already be drawn. The changes in eastern Europe are bound to have fundamental implications, both for the European Community and for NATO. I shall risk some predictions about the impact on the European Community. First, I doubt very much whether the 1992 process will go very much further. I do not foresee the members of the Community agreeing on tax harmonisation, on the removal of all subsidies or on adopting the same policy for all Government procurement.
In some ways, the most important impact of 1992 has already been felt. There has been massive investment inside the Community, from which we in Britain have greatly benefited, by countries outside—in particular, the United States and Japan. I think that in future those countries will increasingly tend to invest in eastern Europe—particularly in eastern Germany and perhaps in 371 Czechoslovakia, if a similar revolution takes place there. That will also happen increasingly with members of the Community. The United States has already bought a major electrical company in Hungary, and Volkswagen and several other German firms are already buying up property in eastern Germany. Lech Walesa suggested to Congress the other day that American capital might well buy up 80 per cent. of Polish industry. Whatever Governments may decide, the two halves of Europe will be growing together economically.
The second conclusion it is possible now to draw is that the European Community will not develop into a defence community—there is no chance of the West German Government or, in my view, the French or British Governments, agreeing to that. If the Community does not develop into a defence community, it cannot develop into a political federation.
§ Mr. Healey
No, with respect. I have very little time and I must proceed.
There is no need for the Prime Minister—and some of my hon. Friends—to fear that the Community will develop into a federation. The Prime Minister can now cease behaving—as Leon Brittan, now a European Commissioner, described it—like a superannuated sumo wrestler. I suspect that he was also thinking of her antagonist, the previous Conservative Prime Minister, when he used that phrase.
The third point about the Community is that it is ridiculous to suggest, as the French President suggests, that it is possible to develop the Community into a tighter organisation that will be capable of controlling a united Germany. The plain fact is that West Germany alone already dominates the Community economically. The European monetary system is a deutschmark zone. The best demonstration of that reality came a few weeks ago, when the British Chancellor was compelled to raise interest rates by 1 per cent. within 60 minutes of the Bundesbank raising interest rates, although he had spent $3,000 million of our reserves trying to hold off an interest rate increase until after the Conservative party conference.
On the other hand, it is a mistake to believe that what has happened will lead to the early reunification of Germany. Like other hon. Members who have visited Berlin in the past 10 days, I have been struck by the fact that most east Berliners with whom one talked or of whom one heard through friends in west Berlin are no more attracted by the idea of joining West Germany than we in Britain were attracted to joining the United States of America in 1945, even though we knew that living standards in the United States were much higher. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) that eastern Germany, Poland and Hungary hope to create a new form of democratic Socialism rather than abandon all chances of moving in that direction by joining western Germany now.
It strikes me that emerging from recent events is the possibility of creating a pan-European framework that could safely contain a reunited Germany, but that framework would mean extending the Community to include eastern neighbours such as Poland and Hungary, probably by the end of the century the Baltic states, and possibly even Russia, the Ukraine and Georgia. I 372 personally believe that the Russian empire will break up in the next 10 years, just as all the other international empires of the 19th century have broken up over the past 40 years. We face exciting new possibilities. For the Government and the Foreign Secretary to refuse to consider enlarging the Community until some impossible development has taken place is to miss opportunities that are enormously more exciting than those presented by the Community in its present form.
What are the implications for NATO? Unlike many people, I believe that NATO and the Warsaw pact will still play a vital role, but in creating a new security system based on deep cuts in existing forces and the restructuring of the forces that remain so that they become incapable of aggression. It will be essential to have a framework for military stability in a period of great political turbulence. NATO has already made it impossible for Greece and Turkey to fight each other over the eastern Aegean, as they certainly would have done without NATO. The Warsaw pact has made it impossible for Hungary and Romania to fight each other, as they certainly would have done by now, were it not for the Warsaw pact.
The joint existence of NATO and the Warsaw pact has made it impossible for Turkey and Bulgaria to fight, as they might well be contemplating were it not for the existence of the alliances. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Gorton about the need for Britain to participate in deep cuts in defence spending such as those to which the United States and the Soviet Union have already committed themselves unilaterally.
In this changing world, only one thing seems incapable of change, and that is the British Prime Minister. Her resolute refusal to recognise reality is to the dismay and despair of her Government. As a result, Britain is as isolated in the Community and in NATO, as it was recently isolated in the Commonwealth. Now we hear that the Prime Minister intends to stay on for ever "by popular acclaim," so any hope that the chairman of the Conservative party had of playing Egon Krenz to her Honecker, or that the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) had of playing Modrow to the Egon Krenz of the chairman of the Conservative party has gone. As my right hon. Friend said, it is clear that the Prime Minister intends to be the Ceausescu of the West, and the main function of the chairman of the Tory party at the next conference will be to arrange 69 standing ovations for her, as Ceausescu was able to enjoy at his recent meeting.
I appeal to the Prime Minister's colleagues on the Government Front Bench and in the Cabinet now to sink their personal rivalries and ambitions and to unite in compelling the Prime Minister not necessarily to resign, but at least to recognise reality. They may well discover that if they succeed in persuading her to recognise reality, they will succeed in persuading her to resign as well.
§ Mr. Michael Marshall (Arundel)
Leaving aside the skilful piece of mischief-making with which the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) enjoyed himself towards the end of his speech, it is a privilege to follow him. Many of us are conscious that we shall miss that privilege in the future; and I am glad that my remarks will touch also on some of his personal activities.
373 I know that the House will understand if I refer to the international situation within the context of Inter-Parliamentary Union activities. The events in eastern Europe and the references to them in the Queen's Speech relate strongly to work that has now gone on for many years and has involved hon. Members of all parties, and it is timely for us now to take stock of that. I respond directly to what my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) said when he asked what could be done outside Government to carry forward the process of understanding and of giving assistance to the Parliaments of eastern Europe. I echo the cautionary note that he sounded, because I do not think that it is time for euphoria. However, as one who like many others has observed the scene for many years, I cannot but feel a deep sense of emotion when considering the events in, for example, eastern Germany.
In 1967 I went to the Leipzig Trade Fair—I was not a Member of the House then—and I was billeted, as one was in those days, with an East German family. I vividly recall a sense of wonder at the fact that they were receiving West German television although it was banned and despite the interference that was deliberately introduced to try to prevent that message coming through. Nevertheless, they received that message because they were prepared to take all kinds of risks. I remember wondering what the effect of that might be over the years—I think that we have seen some of the answer to that recently.
I am glad that there may shortly be an opportunity for officers of the IPU to visit East Germany. We have responded to a long-standing invitation. I emphasise, when doing so, it is right that we as British parliamentarians should carry West German parliamentarians with us because it is part of our thinking that we should consult them, given their obvious and direct involvement in that whole process.
Coming back to the question of how we can help with relations between East and West, I recall the year 1984, when Mr. Gorbachev, before he was leader of the Soviet Union, arrived as leader of the IPU delegation. The contacts then made, his own statements on perestroika and the value that he has put on parliamentary links as part of what he describes as international democracy, have in so many ways, helped to drive forward the process of establishing personal links between this Parliament and others in Eastern Europe.
Together with my noble Friend Viscount Whitelaw, the right hon. member for Leeds, East led a delegation to the Soviet Union in 1986, which took that process further. The right hon. Gentleman knows that we are expecting the inward visit of another Soviet delegation shortly. That is a mark of the way in which the Soviet leadership and parliamentarians have continued to maintain this momentum and drive, and despite the many frustrations, such as the fact that their planning process and ours do not always match, and we are currently in some confusion about confirming arrangements, I know that they will continue. I believe that they are of ever-increasing importance.
Similarly, in our links with Hungary, and because of the changing events in Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria, there are 374 opportunities for us as parliamentarians to build on the links we have established and to carry them forward into the future.
However, it is not just a question of what we in this Parliament are doing. I recognise, of course, the work of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, and I was glad that my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford spoke as he did. I concur very much with his analysis of the way ahead in eastern Europe. However, bodies outside the House are also involved in this, such as the Hansard Society for Parliamentary Government. In our own Houses of Parliament, through the Association of Secretaries-General of Parliament, our Clerks are going out to provide detailed advice and comment in response to requests for information and are giving help to others who are looking at changing their parliamentary structures. All these things have significance.
In the brief time available to me, I should now like to turn to one or two aspects of how I believe the process might be taken further. After all, through organisations such as the IPU, we have a chance to involve a very large number of parliamentarians. Above all, it is our opportunity to bring Back Benchers into the process, and that is why it is worth taking time to outline some of our thoughts and plans for the future. In the development of bilateral relationships within eastern Europe, perhaps we could move gradually towards the sort of structure we envisage with our Irish colleagues. The proposed British-Irish parliamentary body, which will involve 35 parliamentarians on each side and meet twice a year, is intended to give continuity in this process of exchange. Even with the best will in the world, the Select Committee, the IPU and any other organisation meeting from time to time must inevitably switch its attention in various directions. More permanent links that would give us the opportunity to carry forward the process of developing representative institutions, which is one of the key objectives of the IPU, should be seriously considered.
I have stressed the role of Back Benchers. From time to time, we are able to co-opt those such as the right hon. Member for Leeds, East. We also draw on the experience of the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) who sits on our executive. We are seeking to carry with us a broad spectrum of opinion in this House. However, it is perhaps in Back-Bench activity that we can best meet the point raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford about helping many other parliamentarians who are going through periods of extreme difficulty and change by establishing human contact and understanding. We do not want to put over the view, "We have the Westminster model and it is a superior version," because, from the approaches we have had and which you, Madam Deputy Chairman, have received from women parliamentarians, it is clear that there is ever-increasing interest in drawing on our experience of our democracy over many centuries. We would be foolish, not to say churlish, if we did not respond.
I should now like to outline a couple of proposals that I hope may take some of these activities yet further forward. Within the offices of the IPU, we are currently putting together some preliminary studies about how we might formalise the discussions and dialogue that we have with east European countries. We are mindful of the work done by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in its seminars. While there is no direct parallel with that, we have great areas of expertise within our Parliament, not 375 only among parliamentarians but as I have already said, through our Clerks. Perhaps we could bring together a number of the disparate strands of those links and try to provide a natural forum. We are looking at a model that might allow us to explore such a process to see whether it might take us on to other activities, which might range over a number of east European countries, either together or individually, but we shall see as we develop that process.
If we look beyond the opportunities that we now have, we should also reflect on the fact that we shall inevitably still receive many demands to exchange visits and to meet in IPU conferences. In doing that, we should try not just to exchange courtesies—the usual round of activities, the cultural exchanges and so on—but increasingly to build on a body of knowledge and experience. That is why I stress continuity. Otherwise there is a tendency to take a subject up and then to put it down again.
In this context, it is reasonable to remind the House that this is the centenary of the IPU. One has to look at the broad historical sweep of those enlightened founding parliamentarians who saw that both the peaceful resolution of conflict and the development of representative institutions have key objectives, for ourselves and those that we seek to serve. In praising Randal Cremer, and the Asquith-Balfour coalition committee which greeted the first Russian delegation in 1910, I remind the House that we have an opportunity, to carry on that great tradition.
§ Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West)
As we approach the end of the decade, it is useful to look back to its start, and in particular to a debate on East-West relations held in this Chamber on 28 January 1980. It is worth reflecting on the aspirations, hopes and assertions made by right hon. and hon. Members in that debate, and on whether those aspirations, hopes and assertions had any basis in fact, as we near the end of the decade. Equally, it is useful for those of us who are making positive assertions today on how the next decade is likely to turn out to reflect on some of the mistakes made by those who spoke in that debate.
If we are to play a role in the next decade, we have to make up our minds now about what type of world it is and how we can shape it. In Britain in 1980, we had a gung-ho Prime Minister who, by her determination to mirror almost every action taken by the United States, was already helping to stoke up the cold war. By arms spending decisions and her rhetoric, she was inexorably leading the country towards the Falklands conflict and all the pain, suffering and loss of life borne not by politicians but by ordinary families in Britain and the Argentine. Often those British families had to suffer as a consequence of other decisions made by the same politicians.
It is also interesting to look at some of the editorials of that time. On 29 January 1980, The Times was talking about another leader. It was taking President Carter to task for his naive belief—naive in the eyes of The Times—when he first took office, that there should be deep cuts in American spending. But The Times felt that its readers could sleep peacefully in their beds that night because the military industrial complex quickly got a grip on the nuclear physicist who was then president, and bamboozled him into increasing arms spending by 3.8 per cent. per annum. The Times reassured its readers by saying:Mr. Carter's response seems not excessive but merely adequate.376 Fortunately for Africa and the homeless in America, once out of office Mr. Carter regained his sanity and committed himself to building low-cost housing for the homeless in America and courageously and assiduosly, to bringing the peoples of Ethiopia and Sudan, through dialogue and confidence-building, to peace. He rejected the comment in the same editorial in The Times that he should be increasing America's ability to deploy its forces throughout the world, wherever and whenever it was best for the interests of the western world.
In that debate in 1980, and in The Times editorial of 30 January 1980, we referred to another president who was hitting the headlines. In this case, the editorial was far more foresighted, and got it right, tragically, for both President Anwar Sadat and the Palestinian people. Speaking of his determination to bring peace to the middle east and to extract from the Israeli Government concessions for the Palestinian people, the editorial said:He was right to do so but he is now dangerously isolated, and the unity of the Arab world is more badly needed than ever. He still has to prove that he was right. The only way he can do so is to reach an agreement which satisfies the Palestinians. The only lever left to him is the normalization process. To let this move on without parallel progress towards an agreement on Palestinian autonomy would be suicidal. Ultimately, too, it would be contrary to Israeli interests because it would set back the whole process of reaching a settlement in the Middle East.At the moment the gap between Israel and Egypt on the Palestinian issue is still dangerously wide. Last week Egypt rejected an Israeli scheme which offered severely limited autonomy. This week Israel has said it will reject the latest Egyptian plan, which would grant the Palestinians wider powers of self rule.Fortunately for the Palestinian people and the middle east peace process, another Egyptian president has brought his country back fairly and squarely into political leadership of the Arab world. The magnificent efforts for the resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli problem made by President Hosni Mubarak are being frustrated by International Monetary Fund financial restrictions forced on an Egyptian economy that is struggling to maintain and sustain 52 million people on 3 per cent. of the land—97 per cent. of the land is desert—and that is losing 2 billion cubic ft of water because of the conflict in southern Sudan. Those financial restrictions can only exacerbate food shortages and lead to further gains by l Islamic fundamentalism in Egypt and to further problems for President Mubarak. They could severely restrict his ability to continue his work to bring peace and stability to the middle east. Egypt requires recognition of the need to proceed slowly and carefully towards economic and social change.
It is useful to reflect on another part of the world about which many of us spoke in 1980—south-east Asia. Only a couple of weeks ago, we had a debate on the problems of the sad country of Cambodia. During that debate Opposition Members, starting with my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), tried to give the views and express the opinions and concerns of many ordinary people over the failure of Her Majesty's Government to deal properly with the re-emergence of the Khmer Rouge into the political process and military warfare in Cambodia. All that came from the Government side in response were accusations that we were being anti-American—having a kick at the United States and enjoying the masotistic pleasure that they seem to think we gain from doing so.
377 If the Government and Conservative Members are not prepared to listen to us, perhaps they would like to hear about the editorial in the International Herald Tribune of 21 November, which quoted from the New York Times. It talked about the way in which Cambodia was being abused, and asked:Why won't the world, even now, recognise reality in Cambodia?It considered the Khmer Rouge and the Hun Sen regime, and continued:Yet does the world, including the Bush administration, respond? With policies conceived years ago that are worse than stagnant; they are repugnant. The cynical idea was to co-operate tacitly with the Khmer Rouge in order to expel the Vietnamese. Now the Vietnamese are gone. Only Hun Sen's army stands between the Khmer Rouge and their former killing fields.The editorial makes the point that the Hun Sen Government still lack legitimacy, but are clearly preferable to another round of Khmer Rouge killings. It then referred to the decisions taken by the United Nations, and the fact that the Bush Administration still did not recognise what was required—supervised, free elections. It still did not recognise the tragedy that would emerge if the Khmer Rouge were allowed to re-enter that country.
I apologise to right hon. and hon. Members. I have to leave because I have a surgery in my constituency tonight, so I will not be able to stay for the winding-up speeches.
§ 12.2 pm
§ Mr. Cecil Franks (Barrow and Furness)
I warmly welcome the Gracious Speech and particularly that part which gives a firm commitment to maintaining adequate and effective nuclear and conventional forces.
I must put it on record that only a Conservative Government could give that commitment and fulfil it. Defence is a matter of national concern and concerns all right hon. and hon. Members. However, my constituency is the home of the Trident submarine, and I have therefore the greatest interest in the effect of defence expenditure on employment. It is pertinent to remind the House about the Opposition's defence policy in the 1980s.
In 1983, the Labour party campaigned on a programme to scrap all nuclear weapons and to scrap the Trident programme; and the nation gave its verdict. In 1987, the Labour party campaigned on a policy of decommissioning the Polaris fleet and scrapping Trident. In 1989, the Opposition's policy is to scrap the fourth Trident submarine. That would have devastating consequences for my constituents.
Once again, I pose a question that I have consistently posed during the past six and half years, and to which I have not had yet an answer. If there is a general election on a Thursday, a Labour Government on a Friday and a Labour Cabinet meeting on a Saturday morning cancelling Trident, what will the 14,000 people in the shipyards of Barrow do on Monday morning? Will they register as unemployed? I hope that sooner or later—perhaps today—I shall get an answer to that question.
Who is the authentic voice of the Labour party today? Is it the hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill), who sits on the Front Bench, rejected by his parliamentary colleagues when they elected a Shadow Cabinet? Or is it represented by the charms of the hon. Member for Cynon 378 Valley (Mrs. Clwyd), who is a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament? She enjoys the support of her parliamentary colleagues and now sits on the Front Bench.
The right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) referred to democratic Socialism. What an incredible state of affairs it is when Socialism needs to be qualified. Socialism is the antithesis of freedom—it subjugates individual will and choice to the perceived wisdom of the state. Have hon. Members forgotten so quickly one of the most infamous events of 20th century history? The Ribbentrop-Molotov pact, which extinguished the flame of freedom in Poland for the past 50 years. Has the right hon. Member for Gorton forgotten the two principal authors of that pact—two self-declared Socialists, Stalin and Hitler? Have we forgotten that the word Nazi is an abbreviation for National Socialist? Have we forgotten 1953, when the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics sent its tanks into the streets of East Berlin, once again to extinguish the torch of freedom? Have we forgotten 1956 and Hungary? Have we forgotten 1968 and the Prague spring? Have we forgotten the 1970s, and Pol Pot and his murderous regime? Are we unmindful of the boat people fleeing from the tyrannies of Socialism in south-east Asia? Have we forgotten so quickly the lessons of Tiananmen square, where Socialist tanks were turned on their own people whose only crime was to seek to be free?
There can be very few people who have not been moved deeply by the storming of the modern Bastille—the Berlin wall—by the young people of East Germany and East Berlin. There can be few who did not shed tears of their own on seeing the tears of joy of those who made the perilous journey from East Germany to the freedom of the West. A whole generation of young people who have known nothing but the tyranny of Socialism have sought the hope and inspiration that they can find in the West.
Are we to relax our vigilance in the 1990s because the first faltering steps on the road of freedom have been taken? Are we to be so unmindful of the fact that the Berlin wall was built in a matter of days and that it can just as easily and quickly be rebuilt in a matter of days?
Freedom is such a fragile thing. Man has known so little of it in his entire history. It is never more than a generation away from extinction. It is not something that we can pass on in the bloodstream. It is not our inheritance. Each generation has to fight for freedom. Each generation has to protect it, defend it, nurture it, cherish it and then pass it on to the next.
If we lose this way of ours—our way of freedom—history will record with the greatest astonishment that those who had so much to lose with the loss of freedom did so little to defend it. Are we to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was like when men were free? What will our answer be when they ask, "Where were you when freedom was lost? What was it that you found that was more precious?"
§ 12.8 pm
§ Mr. Frank Cook (Stockton, North)
I resent having to devote part of my 10 minutes to comment on the speech made by the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Franks), but I feel compelled to do so because he displayed the same tired intellect groping for the same tired old logic when trying to express in the same tired old phrases what he had previously said in the same tired old presentation. 379 It is pathetic that a speech about the Queen's Speech, which is supposed to lay out the Government's programme, should bring out such hack comments. As for Socialism being qualified, I hope that the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness will note that Britain experienced the best kind of Socialism in the years 1939–45 when people were prepared to share their strengths with the weak, when those who had were prepared to share possessions with those who had not, and when the strong were prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder with those who had difficulty standing up for themselves. That is the sort of Socialism for which my right hon. and hon. Friends and I stand, and that is the sort of Socialism that the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness should bear in mind when he tries to slag off an honourable principle. But enough of that trash—[Interruption.] I refer, of course, to the speech of the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness.
Any Member who spent part of his youth apple-snagging or scrumping, as we called in in the north, will appreciate the dilemma which faces Opposition Members. The apples to be plucked from the orchard are so ripe and so choice that it is difficult to decide which to go for next we have ambulance provision, food safety, privatisation, top-up loans for students, human fertilisation and embryology, trade union and industrial relations, the plight of pensioners, impoverishment and the prospects for the mentally handicappd. We could go to town on any of those, especially as the custodians of the orchard are in such disarray. They are even attacking one of their own for having the temerity to do what the Prime Minister did 14 years ago. Apparently, it was right for her to take that step then but wrong for anyone else to follow her example.
I shall concentrate on one feature of the Queen's Speech. The two relevant passages state:My Government will maintain their fight against international terrorism",andmy Government will maintain its support for the enforcement of the law and the defeat of terrorism".It is necessary to question the veracity of those claims. The House will know that I am a member of the North Atlantic Assembly and serve on two of its committees. I am obliged to attend plenary sessions and meet people from other member states. I shall read to the House a note that I received from an officer in the Canadian reserve, who works in the policy group of the policy co-ordination division of the directorate of public policy in the national defence headquarters at Ottawa. That officer attended the plenary session in Rome with me and voiced a concern which I asked her to convey to me in writing. She wrote:I would appreciate you bringing the following to the attention of someone who can review security practice at the Guards barracks near Buckingham Palace. As Canadian Guards officers frequently visit the barracks, I would not want to make security so strong that access was impossible.On 25 September, an English lady and I identified ourselves as wives of Canadian guards officers at the main entrance to the Guards barracks off Birdcage Walk. We wanted to go to the kit shop to purchase ties. We were dressed casually, and both caried large shoulder bags. Our names were not asked, our bags were not searched, no identification was requested. A guardsman took us up to the kit shop, which was closed as it was lunch time. He told us to return the next day and ask for a specific sergeant. As we returned across the compound, Mrs. Thatcher arrived in her helicopter, returning from viewing the bomb damage at the barracks in Deal.The next morning (26 September) I returned also to the same entrance to the barracks. Again, I was dressed casually 380 and carried a large shoulder bag. No identification was requested and I was allowed to go to and return from the kit shop alone.The NATO standard scenario for counter-terrorism envisages a determined force of 10 or more committed individuals trained in and equipped with high explosives, chemicals and incendiaries. Are the precautions outlined in that letter adequate to counter that sort of threat?
I am pleased that the Secretary of State for Defence is present on the Government Front Bench because I wish to return to a question that I asked during the reply to the Defence Estimates debate. I want my points to be reasoned and my presentation to be reasonable, as they were then, and I seek a reasonable response.
Bearing in mind the standard NATO scenario of 10 people equipped as I have described, after the slaughter at Wildenrath—when we not only deplored the assassination of the airman and his child, but counted it as some relief that his wife was not so close as to be killed as well—we set about conducting an aggressive survey of service men's wives, canvassing their willingness to act as security guards at defence establishments in West Germany. Are we really serious about that? I do not make the point in any party political sense. I served as a regular, as my son now does, and if I thought that the Government were trying to recruit his wife I should make a lot more of this matter than I am doing today. I want an assurance from the Secretary of State that that sort of canvassing will be put to death immediately and forever.
If we are to make our defence establishments as secure as they should be—God knows, they need to be secure—we should introduce security measures different from those that the serving Canadian reserve officer encountered next to Buckingham palace. We need to put to death the idea that the wives of acting service men, who already risk injury while out shopping, and so on, should be put in the front line where they may be called upon to face the onslaught of the standard NATO scenario. I expect the Secretary of State to deal with those two questions when he replies, and I shall be in the Chamber listening.
§ Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)
I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on putting the record straight on Europe. He made it clear that we regard ourselves as a main partner in the European Community. He outlined the contribution that we have already made and that we hope to continue making. We have no intention of being sidelined or marginalised.
In any democratic community there will, of course, be controversial issues, and monetary union is the main one today. We can expect the principal actors to indulge in a good deal of posturing. President Mitterrand is a dab hand at that, and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is no slouch either. That is quite natural because, in a democracy, and with our already extensive open government, the pursuit of national interest must be matched by consideration for the electorate and the vote.
The issue of monetary union will come to a head intwo or three weeks, but I do not fully share the anxieties of my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) that we shall be faced with an intransigent Franco-German alliance. The timetable leads me to take a slightly less pessimistic view. The meeting at Strasbourg is to be followed, in due course, by an intergovernmental conference. That probably could not happen until the end 381 of the summer or the autumn at the earliest, and it will be a protracted procedure. It is at that point that all the pressure groups and lobbies will begin to make themselves heard. It will not be a straight issue of accepting Delors stages 2 and 3.
There are many reservations about those two stages. I was impressed to find in Brussels the other day the Commission going out of its way to explain that the Delors report is not a Commission document but an ad hoc document to which the Commission itself is not committed—although obviously Mr. Delors is committed to it to a considerable extent. We know the reservations of the Bundesbank and of its governor, who has already made it plain that he does not want to see Brussels exercising control over the budgetary and fiscal policies of member states. Nor does he see his way to accepting a long-term commitment to stage 3.
The banking authorities in Federal Germany are exceptionally powerful because of the substantial stake that they have in German industry. Therefore, I imagine that the proceedings will be lengthy. My guess is that we shall arrive at an amended stage 2 without a long-term commitment to stage 3, and probably without Brussels exercising any budgetary or fiscal powers.
President Mitterrand has stressed the urgency of pressing ahead with monetary union. We might point out to him that, if he thinks that it is that urgent, there is no reason why he could not have lifted exchange controls already. Were he to do so, we could consider joining the exchange rate mechanism sooner than we might otherwise do. In any event, that development involves highly technical problems that cannot be rushed, so we are in no danger of an immediate confrontation.
I turn to the avalanche in eastern Europe. Despite President Mitterrand's belief that our actions in the Community will have an immediate effect in eastern Europe, the time scale is not as closely connected as he suggests. We all agree on the need to provide first aid to the countries of the East, to tide them over the winter as best we can. We all agreed, also at the Elyseé dinner, that long-term, massive reconstruction for eastern Europe—a kind of Marshall plan—must wait upon reforms, as these will take time. All the countries of eastern Europe are emerging from Socialist control, but they have a long way to go before finding freedom. East Germany has not even begun that process of changing its Government, and Poland's Administration is still in the hands of members of the Communist party that was. The same is largely true of Hungary. Nevertheless, the action taken by the Community will be important in extending the Community, as is our objective and aim, not only to the EFTA countries but ultimately to the emerging democracies of eastern Europe.
We should be careful in two respects. First, we must ensure that in achieving a good measure of integration in the Community, we do not build an economic Berlin wall to keep others out. That point must be made to President Mitterrand, and no doubt it is much more in Chancellor Kohl's mind that he likes to admit. Secondly, we must be careful that a split in the Community does not send the wrong message to eastern Europe and to the EFTA 382 countries. They would like to join a whole Community, not one in which a united Germany would dominate the scene.
I salute President Mitterrand's decision to hold last Saturday's Elysée dinner, because the affairs of eastern Europe concern western Europe directly. It was right to send a message before the Malta summit that it is our primary concern not to see another Yalta.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, speaking as Head of Government, rightly said that there must be no border changes. The mention of border changes reminds one a little of the Organisation of African Unity. She knows very well, as we all do, that the most important border is on the agenda whether Governments like it or not. It have no doubt that German reunion will happen, although I do not know how it will develop. We may rejoice at it or regret it, but nothing that we or any other Government say or do will stop it.
I understand the anxieties of our French friends about the prospect of a reunited Germany. I agree with the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) that it is not possible to anchor a united Germany to a European Community for ever; it will stay there only if people want it to. The horse has not yet bolted, but it is too late to lock the stable door. Our French friends must recognise that they have a choice. They can work with us and with the Germans, in which event there will be a proper balance in the Community; or they can try to exclude us, as M. Mitterrand sometimes threatens. That would mean an economic Dunkirk for us, but an economic Vichy for France.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said that matters of defence must be left to NATO and the Warsaw pact, and that was the right thing for a Head of Government to say at this time. I submit to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, however, that the Warsaw pact is bankrupt. I do not mean that it is financially bankrupt. The great machine is there but the life has gone out of it, and eastern Europe remembers only how Warsaw pact tanks put down the cause of freedom in Berlin, Budapest and Prague.
We must make no attempt to undermine Soviet influence, or to threaten the security of the Soviet Union. It is, however, no task or business of ours to strive to keep the Warsaw pact alive.
§ Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)
It is always a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), but I do not propose to take up many of his remarks directly. Let me first return briefly to a comment made by the hon. Member for Arundel (Mr. Marshall) about the power of communication.
To an extent, the House fails to recognise that the world is now a much smaller place, and that people are strongly influenced by what they hear on radio and see on television. The United States, for instance, might have found it easier to continue in Vietnam if the American public had not seen each night on television what was happening to their forces.
The influence of western communications on those in eastern Europe is clearly known not only to us but to Mr. Gorbachev, who is, I feel, the supreme example in the modern world of a manipulator of public relations. To my mind, his most significant speech in this regard was made 383 about a year ago, to the United Nations. He made it clear then that, in his view, the socio-political force of the idea of democratisation could not be stopped. He also made clear his understanding of the power of communication when he said:It is hardly possible to preserve, as it were, closed societies.Another member of the Politburo, Alexsandr Yakovlev, put it more succinctly:Any event becomes the property of five billion people —within hours.That is what is happening, and I think the Soviets—or, at least, the more modern members of the Politburo—understand it. What we must ask is whether this is a one-man phenomenon. What would happen if suddenly there was no Gorbachev?
The buzz words used by the Prime Minister, and by the Secretary of State today, reiterate that question, as has Mr. Gorbachev. We must argue continually for stability. Western nations are anxious not only about the stability of relations between East and West but to ensure that what is happening in eastern European countries is irreversible. How can we reconcile our desire for moves towards democracy in eastern Europe with the concept of stability? If we want stability, we will keep the Berlin wall and keep the Warsaw pact and NATO inflexible. However, if we want irreversible change we must examine clearly and carefully our response to what is happening in eastern Europe.
It is in our interest to foster two aspects of the Gorbachev doctrine. First, since 1985–86, he has propounded the view that a nuclear war could not be won. That is relatively new in Soviet thinking. How should we respond to it? Secondly, he has said that a large-scale conventional war in Europe would be almost as devastating in its consequences as a nuclear war. How should we respond to that?
The power of communication in Europe is showing clearly that the threat from the Warsaw pact countries is diminishing. That has an impact, particularly on young people and, if I may have the attention of the Secretary of State for Defence, on defence spending. If relations between eastern and western Europe are loosened and the threat of war diminished, it will be difficult for western nations to maintain previous high levels of defence spending. The United States, Mr. Cheney, and West Germany have all recognised that, and I suspect that we are beginning to recognise it in the United Kingdom.
I suspect that, behind and beneath developments in the Ministry of Defence, there is a large-scale review. That suggests, not that our defence spending will be slashed dramatically—one cannot do that without huge dislocations in industry and commerce—but that particular types of weaponry will be reconsidered. The Labour party is to pay some attention to that, and we shall state how our defence policy and posture will be affected.
Is it not a fact that certain types of weaponry—for example, the European fighter aircraft—will be called into question in a review of defence spending which takes into account the diminished threat of war? Is it not a fact that the West Germans are dragging their feet? What will be the implications for the industrial and commercial base in the United Kingdom? If I may be parochial for a few moments, what will be the implications for a company such as Ferranti? Much of our industrial and commercial manpower is tied up in defence. It is not just the hon. 384 Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Franks) who can allude to that. It is not possible to transfer manpower overnight without a great deal of dislocation.
The Prime Minister has said from the Dispatch Box that Mr. Gorbachev must match his words with deeds. How many more deeds can we ask him to make before we make an adequate response? The INF treaty was asymmetrical. The Soviets gave up many more weapons than we did, whether whether for good reasons or for bad ones. The START negotiations are asymmetrical too. The view that we are asking the Soviet Union to adopt and exhibit on conventional weapons reductions is asymmetrical. Its attitute to the anti-ballistic missile treaty is much more progressive than that of the United States of America. Much more dramatic was that, when it said it would withdraw from Afghanistan, it did so. Those are deeds. We must ask ourselves what deeds of ours match those of the Soviets, particularly viewed through the eyes of our young people.
Do we want to test Mr. Gorbachev? My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) put that question to the Foreign Secretary. While the new Europe emerges, it is farcical to continue to place nuclear weapons in Europe or elsewhere. The West Germans will not tolerate short-range nuclear weapons on their soil, nor being part of an Alliance that wants to modernise and introduce these weapons into their armoury. That may be difficult for many people to accept, but we cannot applaud what is happening in eastern Europe without at the same time reciprocating on the weapons at our disposal.
These are difficult matters. If we in the Labour party are against the modernisation of short-range nuclear weapons, as we are, why in the blazes is the continuation of British strategic nuclear weapons part of our policy? It does not make sense to say that we are not in favour of placing short-range nuclear weapons in Germany targeted on Warsaw and that we need much more expensive nuclear weapons at our disposal in 1994 which can be targeted on Moscow and Leningrad. If we are to ask the Government to review their defence policy and posture, we must review our own.
As the Chinese say, it is a curse to live in interesting times, but we do. We shall not live up to our responsibilities to the British people, especially our young people, if we continue to argue for stability at the same time as arguing against development which would make the process in eastern Europe irreversible.
§ Sir Geoffrey Finsberg (Hampstead and Highgate)
I hope that the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) will forgive me if I do not take up his interesting defence analysis immediately, but I shall take up a couple of points later. I have one comment on the speech of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey). It is a pity that nine minutes of a superb speech were ruined by his wanting to be a taproom comedian. It did the rest of his remarks no good.
I have had the privilege of leading the United Kingdom delegations to the Council of Europe and the Western European Union for the past two years. Three Europes are developing: the Community, the Council of Europe—I noticed that in a 45-minute speech the right hon. Member 385 for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) could not even bring himself to mention it—and the WEU. Each has its own distinct role which, in its place, is valuable.
The Community has to implement the European Single Act, to remove trade barriers, to achieve, to use that ghastly word, commonality in foreign affairs—my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary showed how successfully that was operating—as well as aligning economic affairs sensibly and working towards Delors mark I.
I was interested to read the full account of the speech by Herr Poehl, president of the Bundesbank. Today we have already heard references to what he said. He agreed with the British view that there should be a trial period of a couple of years, after all controls on capital movements were removed, before proceeding further, and that a political framework must be established before there could be a single independent European Community central bank. Those who criticise the British attitude towards the exchange rate mechanism always omit that proviso by Mr. Poehl. We have to note it carefully, because it is a practical way of considering the question.
If the Community is to succeed, which we all want, it has to find a way of exercising democratic supervision over the Commission. Earlier this week I had a most interesting conversation over lunch with Mr. Cheysson, who has had the unique experience of being both a Commissioner and Foreign Minister of France. He has said publicly on more than one occasion that we have to find a democratic way of controlling the Commission.
Perhaps one answer might be an appointed senate, consisting of Members from national Parliaments—an idea that has been floated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine). The idea is worth considering.
I have a specific question for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence about the Western European Union. I hope that he will answer it at the end of the debate. Does he believe with me that the 1954 treaty that established the Western European Union demands that the WEU should have exclusive competence over European defence? That is a most important question. As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said, defence has no place in the workings of the Community. I hope that my right hon. Friend will confirm that statement.
The Hague platform, the most recent WEU declaration, was signed by Governments of all political persuasions, both Right-wing and Left-wing. Spain and Portugal are the most recent members of the WEU, and they have very different political systems. However, all WEU members agree that we need to retain the nuclear deterrent for a long time. There have, so far, been no eastern European developments that would make me wish to see any change in the Hague platform. There must be results during the conventional forces in Europe talks before we can begin to relax.
I remind those who are going hell for leather for the social charter that Mr. Delors appears to want that there is already a very good Council of Europe social charter, to which reference was made at the Rhodes summit by all the Community leaders. Why does Mr. Delors want to go 386 further than that and create his own empire? A sensible social charter is already in place to which the Community should adhere.
We are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Council of Europe and the European convention on human rights. One of the rules governing accession to the Council of Europe is acceptance of the convention. The Council of Europe has developed into a bridge between east, central and western Europe. All 23 countries of western Europe are members of the Council of Europe. We have recently admitted Poland, Hungary, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union as guest members. That is the way to achieve the Europe that Winston Churchill wanted: the old Europe reunited and re-created.
I take issue with my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley who, according to a report in The Guardian, wants to create a new body, consisting of the 23 nations of the Council of Europe and the countries of east and central Europe. However, I have already said that the Council of Europe has taken four nations into guest membership. I was the chairman of the committee that drew up the rules that allowed them in. They have a full right to speak in committees and in the Assembly. There is no need to create yet another body. I had the privilege of being present only a few days ago when Hungary signed the cultural convention of the Council of Europe. Many other conventions are available for signature. The sooner they are signed, the better it will be for everybody.
We have to exercise caution. I had the opportunity of talking and listening to the four guest delegations at the Council of Europe. We saw the Poles, the Hungarians, the Yugoslays and the Soviets all speak and answer questions. Every time the Soviet delegation was asked a question, it went into a huddle with a gentleman sitting at the end of the delegation. I was in the chair at that meeting and asked whether the members of the delegation could be introduced. Everyone who was there plus two who were not there were introduced but there was no mention of the chap at the end. In my usual quiet way I asked whether we could be told who the gentleman at the end in the red tie was. I was told, "He is our adviser". Alas, of the four delegations, only the Soviets had an adviser.
In contrast, I sat next to one member of the Soviet delegation at lunch. He said, "We are exercising great democratic rights in our Parliament. We have rejected six Ministers proposed by our Prime Minister." Speaking as a former Minister, I am glad that that does not happen here. That is the contrast. The Soviets are still unwilling and unable to answer questions freely, and unhappy about doing so, but they are rejecting Ministers proposed by their Prime Minister. [Interruption.]
Between that and the cacophony of sound from those who have not been here for the past three hours, it becomes possible to see where we proceed in the movement towards the bridge that we are bringing forward. That bridge is providing hope for Europe and for the tens of millions who have not enjoyed human rights for four decades. The Council of Europe provides the way forward, and I am glad that the Government are supporting it.
§ Mr. David Young (Bolton, South East)
As an officer of the all-party British-Lebanese group, on behalf of both sides of the House I wish to express my concern at the tragic events in the Lebanon.
387 I wish to discuss the insertion in the Loyal Address of mention of Hong Kong and the restoration of confidence to Hong Kong. The name of the game is how that confidence can be restored. It must be done by pushing ahead with democratic institutions and by a legislative assembly elected by full adult suffrage being in place as soon a possible. Not only must it be in place: it must be seen to be utilising its powers effectively. Equally, we must see democratic elections of the Chief Executive.
Many of us watched last summer the events in Tiananmen square. We saw a young man in front of the tanks who was waving only a handkerchief in response to the armed might of the People's Liberation Army. Yet under the agreement, that same People's Liberation Army which only a few months ago was the instrument of suppression, execution and crushing democratic expression, can he stationed in Hong Kong.
Not only myself but the people of Hong Kong feel that, if some agreement is not reached over that matter, confidence will not be restored. Because of such events, they require a fail-safe mechanism. Because they must have one, the Hong Kong people ask for British passports with the right of abode. Morally, they are equally entitled and justified in that course, as were the people in the Falklands and in Gibraltar. Of course, the counter-argument relates to numbers, not principles, but how can we argue about numbers, when nearly 1 million people in South Africa, which is not the most liberal regime in the world, can come to Britain using passports with the right of entry to and abode in Britain? The Hong Kong people are asking for passports not because they wish to reside here, but as a safety net should the provisions made by the Government prove ineffective.
Let me add one word of caution. Categories are not a solution. I do not want a system whereby the people who can get out of Hong Kong are those who can buy their way out or use influence or position to get out. In all such conflicts, it is not the rich but the poor who are penalised. However the interests of Hong Kong are also important because, if Hong Kong is to survive in its present form it will survive only as a community.
Finally, I consider that the people of Hong Kong have a justified case in asking for that concession. They ask for passports from Britain and from other countries as security, and Britain is the medium through which that should be arranged. It was rather tragic that the people of Hong Kong did not realise that what is happening to the boat people today could happen to them tomorrow. If the problem of the boat people is managed through forcible repatriation, the people of Hong Kong cannot look forward to a helpful solution should the Government's proposals not work out. They could be the stateless refugees of tomorrow.
We cannot continue saying, as the Government have done, that people should come to the West for freedom and for economic advantage, and then turn our backs on them. Imagine what would have happened had the West Germans stood by the river in Berlin all those years ago when those people swam across to freedom, and told them, "You do not really check out as a genuine refugee: swim back." Yet that is the attitude we are adopting to people who wish to come here mainly because we have suggested to them that to come to the West is the answer to their problems.
Therefore, we must see what we can do positively to help Vietnam, as we will be judged not by our words or by 388 statements in Hansard, but by our actions. We shall be judged not only on how we deal with the people of Hong Kong, but on how we deal with those who have come to us at our bidding for succour and for help. If Britain can make any claim to stand for the values to which we adhere as Members of Parliament, our duty is not to the privileged but to the disadvantaged, not only in Britain but throughout the world.
§ Mr. Cyril D. Townsend (Bexleyheath)
Today's debate is not about eastern Europe, but of course all hon. Members are mindful of the extraordinary and dramatic events that have taken place there recently. All those years ago, on a Sunday, I stood at the Brandenburg Gate as a young Army officer on the morning that the wall started to be built. Of course I remember vividly the events that followed. We watched as young men climbed the wall, threw themselves into the canal, were wounded and were left to die.
As much as any hon. Member, I rejoice that the cruel and callous regime in East Berlin has fallen. We should remember that its secret service was probably one of the most efficient and evil in the world—one only has to recall its record in Angola.
We heard an extremely poised and well-judged speech from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. He well explained to the country why we must react cautiously to the speed of change and keep our guard up. To produce one argument in support of that, if we decide to scrap a weapons system, it may take 10 years to re-create it, and, to follow the hon. Member for Bolton, South-East (Mr. Young), we saw how the moves for reform were so dramatically and cruelly stamped out in Tiananmen square.
I wish to make two observations on defence, neither of which will get the Secretary of State leaping up and down with joy, but perhaps it is not the job of Back Benchers to feed Ministers chocolates as though they were springer spaniels. The first is the need for a defence review. The last one was under Sir John Nott, and all hon. Members, whatever their views on defence, will agree that the situation that the Government faced at that time was entirely different. I seriously ask that consideration be given to a proper review of Britain's defence needs, against the background of the changes about which I have spoken, so that we can use our always limited resources in the best possible way.
Secondly—this point was mentioned earlier in the debate—I urge the Government to reconsider the question of short-range nuclear missiles in central Europe. Until three months ago, I thought that the defence arguments were convincing and overwhelming, but I regret that the issue was not handled with the political sensitivity that it demanded. We did not take sufficient note of German feeling. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence will know only too well that many defence experts outside the House—I am thinking particularly of the noble Lord Carrington, whose views are highly respected by Conservative Members—believe that it is not the moment to modernise those weapons. At a time of all these changes, we are thinking of introducing modernised weapons targeted on East Germany.
My brief theme is that, over the past decade, we have tilted our foreign policy to much towards the United States 389 and not enough towards West Germany and the European Community. The Prime Minister is on a visit to the United States, and I hope that it will be a great success. Some time ago she said that our relationship with America is paramount or supreme. I challenge that, because it is an out-of-date point of view. Let me make it perfectly clear that I am staunchly pro-American. I visit the United States regularly, have many American friends, and understand only too well its importance to the NATO Alliance. It supplies us with nuclear weapons, and intelligence that cannot be matched in western Europe. Yet when I consider the performance of the Reagan Administration over the past few years, I am uneasy that we were quite so close to the United States.
The concept of walking tall jarred with many of our constituents and people in Europe. I have not time to go into detail, but I had an American research assistant working for me when Grenada was invaded. When I gave her some papers, she was appalled by the gulf between the public position of the United States and the reality of what was happening. I was totally opposed to the bombing of Libya. It was a gross mistake that led to the IRA receiving its largest supply of arms ever. We learned afterwards that the White House had produced disinformation about the terrorist potential of Libya, and Britain went along with that.
The moment has come to tilt our policies towards western Europe. At Bruges, the trumpet gave an uncertain sound. There were two voices: one pro-Europe and one anti-Europe. At home and abroad it was the anti-European voice—the Little Englander voice—that was heard and the view that carried the most weight.
Our supreme task is not to kow-tow to the Bush Administration. As Mr. Charles Bremner wrote in The Times on 28 October 1989:The idea of Europe as a strong political pole is so central to the emerging Bush strategy that many would prefer Britain to exercise its transatlantic sympathies from within the new Europe, where it can counter pressure from France and others for a structure more dirigiste than London or Washington wishes. 'Thatcher should be inside the tent, fighting to marry the good points rather than standing outside pouring scorn on everyone else.The United States as a special friend—conscious of the special relationship—says, "Get in there. Fight your corner, because it is also our corner." We are foolish if we cannot grasp that basic point.
The trumpet call must be clear. Britain cannot advance its cause by narrow nationalism—by denying, thwarting and frustrating and by continuing to act like a founder member of the awkward squad. Rather, we must participate and co-operate, while fighting our corner like the French, the Germans, the Belgians and all the rest. It is through the co-operation and the co-ordination of our activities in the European Community that we shall fulfil our historic role.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)
The winding-up speeches are expected to begin at 1.50 pm, so time is very short. Many hon. Members on both sides of the House wish to speak. I therefore appeal for the continuation of short speeches.
§ 1.2 pm
§ Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)
Co-operation in the Community may be an admirable concept, but it will not be achieved if, through a combination of blind panic and blackmail, it is suggested that we can create a regime of concentric circles with Britain in the outer circle. I had hoped to hear from the Foreign Secretary some indication of the attitude that the Government propose to take at the Strasbourg summit. I am afraid that it is not at all clear at what point they will decide that they are no longer prepared to accept the diktats of those who seem increasingly to believe that the Delors plan solves all problems for the future. It is much more important that we should consider what is happening in eastern Europe and how we can help those countries to move towards democratic status in the hope that they will be prepared to enter a liaison with Europe in the future. That is important if we are not to exclude the Scandinavian countries and Austria from associate status to produce a stable political situation in middle Europe.
The House seems occasionally to underestimate the importance of the volatile situation in the middle east, which remains a significant political flashpoint. I am concerned that neither the Government nor any other international agency have put forward any proposals to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict which take account of the fact that Israel, which is a democratic country, has the problem of persuading its voters and people to move towards a peace process and that it will do so only with encouragement from those who believe firmly in democracy and who understand the complications and complexities of the situation in the middle east.
Resolution of the Palestinian question will not enhance stability in the Arab-Israeli context unless it is supported by a comprehensive peace process. Those who tell us that the Palestine Liberation Organisation is moving rapidly towards a position where it will recognise the need for the existence of the state of Israel tend to misinterpret the signs that we have received from the PLO when it has met in conference. It was clear, even from Fatah, when it met in Tunis in August, that its main political message was that it intended… to intensify and escalate armed action and all forms of struggle to liquidate the Israel-Zionist occupation of our occupied Palestinian land and guaranteeing our people's right to freedom and independence.In Israel, both the Labour party and Mapai have made it clear that in differing ways they wish to see a movement towards an election process and the opening of political dialogue with the Palestinians and the PLO. However, they will not do so unless that process is taken one stage at a time. So that they can move towards dialogue it must involve people whom they can recognise and accept as being at least responsible politicians. It is clear that the Israeli people themselves are almost equally divided between those who do not wish to see a meeting that would give recognition to the Palestine Liberation Organisation and those who would be prepared to accept representatives who, although perhaps not directly elected, could at least demonstrate that they had the backing of the people whom they purport to represent.
The need for acceptance of an election plan is general throughout Israel. It is interpreted in different ways by different groups, but the need to find some machinery that will enable talks to begin is something that this House should support. Occasionally, we do not give sufficient 391 weight to the problems of the area in that we always highlight the abuses, which the Israelis themselves are prepared not only to investigate but to take action on. I do not defend those who commit any form of abuse against human rights, whoever they may be, and I am frequently dismayed at the fact that the real abuses in Syria, Iran and Iraq are not condemned with the vigour and clarity of expression with which Israel's problems are condemned in this House.
I continue to believe that it is vital that we give our support to those who want to see a way forward to a negotiated peace and a political settlement that will last. Israel's commitment to democracy can never be underestimated. Its people understand the need for an open expression of political views. They have a right to be untrusting of those with whom they have to talk and who are, after all, people who have carried on a violent war of terrorism against Israel for many years. If the Israeli people are wary of the movement towards talks, that is only too understandable.
If we in Britain give as much encouragement as we can to the Israelis by making it clear that we understand their reservations and the reasons behind those reservations, I believe that the Israeli people can be persuaded to move towards opening talks for elections and to find Palestinians with whom they can negotiate a proper peace for the future. I hope that very soon we shall begin to see that process opening up. As a democratic state which offers support in eastern Europe to those whom we see moving towards an elective system, and one that we support, I hope that we can also understand the problems that Israel faces in the middle east and give it the same kind of unequivocal support. As a democracy, it is seeking a solution to the problems of the middle east.
§ 1.9 pm
§ Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton and Wallington)
I welcome the paragraph in the Queen's Speech on the European Community, and the excellent speech of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary this morning. He was right to say that this is a critical time in the development of the European Community and Europe as a whole. In those circumstances, it is crucial that Britain should be a full and positive participant in these developments.
The secret of success in the European Community, history tells us, is to adopt a constructive approach that combines British and Community interests, and it is possible to do this. For example, it is in British and Community interests to make further progress with European integration based on social market principles. This is a basis on which Left and Right in the Community can unite and, increasingly, a basis on which East and West in Europe as a whole can unite. It will mean pressing ahead with the action programme for the single market by the end of 1992. It will mean Britain joining the exchange rate mechanism as soon as that is sensible and there is a basis for it that is likely to be sustainable. It will mean accepting the principle of a social Europe to complement the economic Europe that is already so well advanced.
In this context, I was naturally glad to hear my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister say earlier this week in the debate on the Loyal Address that Her Majesty's Government are firmly in favour of parts of the social 392 charter. By implication, she was saying that if the present draft were improved in a liberal market direction, we need have no difficulty with it.
Further progress in European integration will mean that we should also promote cultural unity of the European home and use it in our schools. The national curriculum and our media. We should help to build what my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) called a more robust European civil society. It means that we should not feel frightened by the further developments of a political Europe. Some of my right hon. and hon. Friends seem unduly alarmed by this. They have no real need to be, and in current and future circumstances, Britain cannot afford to stand aside. Our approach should be based on reality rather than myth and on a clear-eyed appreciation of British national interests. For example, in today's interdependent world, with the rapid globalisation of markets, money and media, the old idea of national autonomy or—to adapt a phrase from another context—of conservatism in one country, is simply unattainable. There is no alternative to pooling our national sovereignties within the European Community to create a larger and more effective capacity to act at Community level. Equally, it is pointless to spend time and energy railing against the Community method, since it is clear that ad hoc alliances within the Community and even qualified majority voting can and has benefited our national interest on many occasions.
To dub everyone who favours further progress in this direction as a Euro-federalist is absurd. The Community consists of proud and distinctive nations, some of them even at the sub-national level. It is likely to develop not as a carbon copy of the United States or some other federation, but as a new political hybrid that will he suigeneris. The principle of subsidiarity will be vital in that some functions will be best exercised at national level, some at sub-national level and some at supra-national level. In removing the fears and misconceptions that cloud our European future, political leadership has a vital role.
One piece of evidence for this is the recent poll in The Independent, in which the most interesting comparison was not that between Britain, France and Germany, but that between Britain and Spain. Nearly all the British answers to the poll demonstrated the impact of our sometimes negative attitude towards some of the more adventurous Community initiatives. Nearly all the Spanish answers demonstrated precisely the reverse.
What should be our approach from now on? We should approach Community challenges in a self-confident, positive spirit. Membership is to be exploited for our legitimate national interests. We should get into the habit of helping to write the Community agenda for the future, as the French and Germans have done for years. We should explain to the British people that an effective policy in so many different sectors of European Community activity can be based only on a realistic appraisal of our national interests within the Community and how best to promote them.
We must not make mythical assumptions about our alleged national autonomy, or the supposed constitutional supremacy of this House when the reality and substance of power is flying elsewhere every day. We should come down to earth and eschew both Euro-theology and. Euro-demonology.
393 If our partners get things wrong, as they do from time to time, we should put constructive counter proposals, as the Chancellor did so ably with his evolutionary approach to European monetary union a while ago.
If we do not approach membership of the European Community in a constructive way, our partners may lose patience and go ahead without us being in the first rank beside them. That is borne out by what we know of continental public opinion and it was illustrated by answers to the recent poll in The Independent. If that happened it would be a tragic replay of too much of our post-war history, notably the events of 1950 and 1956.
I remind the House that, more than 30 years ago in May 1953, Sir Winston Churchill made a memorable speech in which he said of Britain's relationship with Europe—then it was the Six:We are with them, but not of them".That may have been an appropriate description of our relationship with the six at that time, but it would be an entirely inappropriate and damaging description of the relationship now and in the future.
I hope that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will go to the European Council in Strasbourg in a few weeks' time with a positive attitude and an agenda of positive points to serve British and Community interests. I hope that they will take the advice of the Daily Express leader today, which I do not have time to quote.
Splendid isolation, or a semi-detached attitude, is no longer a sensible option for Britain, nor is it a sensible definition of leadership. We should combine with our partners to construct a more prosperous and peaceful Community. That will do more than anything else to safeguard the future of the country—and the future of the Conservative party, too—in the 1990s and beyond. It will provide a political anchor for Germany and act as a powerful magnet to eastern European countries on their path to pluralism and democracy, and as a model of freedom and responsibility it can be a beacon of light to the world.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)
I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Carlshalton and Wallington (Mr. Forman), because I could hardly disagree more. If he thinks that power will go from this place, let him fly to Strasbourg and declare himself a whole-hearted European unionist, and let him tell that to the electorate, because that is the logic of his arguments.
I celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Council of Europe. Some 40 years ago, I stayed with a German family in Hamburg as a schoolboy and I became friendly with their son. Recently he asked me why I was against the Community. I told him that, 40 years ago, we had avoided killing each other by two or three years, and that I did not want my son to put his son out of work.
The Community is not, at heart, a democratic community. It is not primarily concerned with partnership between nations or peoples. Primarily it serves the financiers and bankers. It is an economy fit for transnational companies to work in. That is why the European unionist party is well represented by Conservative Members, whether they declare it or not.
394 The European Community is more about competition than co-operation. It is more about coercion than conciliation, about profits rather than people. I challenge the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington about having it national where possible and having it international where that is better. The word "subsidiarity" does not permit that. The treaty of Rome does not permit it. It is expressly designed to create a political and economic union.
I was sorry to hear the right hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell), for whom I have great respect, talk widely about federation and confederation, and even advocating one. It seems that hon. Members do not understand the difference between a federation, which the European Community can never be under the treaty of Rome, and confederation, still less a political union, to which the treaty of Rome almost inevitably leads by the forces of capital and economic integration.
We forget at our peril that the difference between federation and confederation, which is not much understood even in this place, was the cause of the most disastrous civil war on the continent of north America. English-speaking people fought about that very definition.
When, as on 11 November, we remember the origin of wars, we should remember that it is in the small print of constitutions that, sometimes, such conflicts arise. I do not want there to be conflict in Europe arising out of such ideas or ancient rivalries and economic competition, which, with political aspiration, we have been told, as I believe, were the origins of the 1914–18 conflict.
I believe that we now have something of a break point in Europe. The Foreign Secretary was quite right to refer to 1848. I must refer to 1918 and 1919. Does not the elimination of the Potsdam agreement and the breaking down of the wall bring us to a situation not very different from that which confronted us with the treaty of Versailles? At that time, we had a central European power with eastern European satellites, and a great power to the east, which happened then to be in revolution. There was a settlement between the victorious western powers—the United Kingdom, France and their allies—and a vanquished Germany.
I question whether the treaty of Rome, as constituted and practised, makes a viable or proper pinpoint on which the future of a co-operative Europe can be based. The French have a phrase, point d'appuie—point of leverage—which I believe President Mitterrand put forward in Strasbourg as a major plank of his policy. I ask the House whether the treaty of Rome has not within it some of the seeds of failure of the treaty of Versailles?
Politicians in a hurry rightly want to secure a peaceful future for Europe, but can one be obtained with a flawed constitution which denies national self-expression, which denies countries such as ours the power of this Parliament, and which, in respect of national taxation and the balance between public ownership and private endeavour, gives the United Kingdom a lower constitutional status than is aspired to, and will probably be gained by Estonia and Latvia?
I put it to Conservative Members, especially those who believe in a European mush—that is what many of them are advocating—that if we want peace, good will and stability in Europe, as do I, my friends and our grandchildren, we must build it on a sure foundation, and I do not see that foundation in the treaty of Rome.
§ Sir Rhodes Boyson (Brent, North)
I always try to speak on the debate on the Address because it provides an opportunity to range widely, but apart from some comments at the end of my contribution I shall confine myself to foreign policy, especially European policy.
I still think, however, that too many Bills are featured in each Session's Queen's Speech. Hon. Members on both sides of the House spend far too much time passing through the Lobbies in support of or in opposition to Bills that we have to rewrite the following year. That happens year after year. We should have more debates on major issues both here and abroad so that we get the direction right before we introduce the Bill.
I think that we are all agreed that the lid has come off middle and eastern Europe. We are confronted with a Pandora's box, or a box of honey—it will be one or the other. What Britain does and what other countries do will be decisive for the future of Europe in our own, our children's and our grandchildren's lifetime. It is vital that we have every link possible with middle and eastern Europe.
I recently returned from Hungary, where it was clear to me that the Hungarians do not regard themselves as part of eastern Europe. They see themselves as being in middle Europe. The best way to lose friends immediately in Hungary is to refer to the Hungarians as eastern Europeans. Anyone who does that might as well get straight back on the aeroplane and return to the United Kingdom. You always expect me to produce one good quote, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I have done so at the beginning of my speech.
In middle Europe generally the star is rising in the west. For a long time the middle European countries looked to the East, but they realise now that the East's economic system has not worked and they want to be back with the West. We have a chance to revitalise European civilisation. That goes beyond the Common Market.
The tragedy of this century was the first world war, when Europe destroyed so much of its culture and aspirations as a result of dividing itself. We now have a chance to bring Europe together. The economics must be sound, but basically this is not an economic issue. The countries of middle Europe want to be in Europe and to be back with us in the West.
When I was in Hungary I did not make the number of visits that the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) described when he spoke from the Opposition Front Bench this morning. It seems that he went everywhere and saw everyone. I was privileged, however, to meet the leaders of the political parties and Hungary's Foreign Minister. It is clear that they are all concerned that Hungary should return to Europe. I welcome the fact that the Hungarians have presented their culture at the Barbican centre—indeed, I attended the ballet there, as did many other hon. Members—as part of the community of Europe. The Hungarian company presented ballets from the West—it did not confine itself to middle European productions. The Prime Minister of Hungary is coming here next month. He is a Harvard graduate and he knows the West. He is young and his record within the Communist party has been that of a reformer throughout. Next year, Prince Charles and Princess Diana will visit Hungary.
396 As others have said, there should be a form of Marshall plan to help Hungary and other middle European countries economically. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) said, without that support the Hungarians may have a difficult economic time as they try to straighten their economy. The West faces a great liability, and I would bring in America to stand alongside us, with most of the English-speaking world, so that Hungary can return once more to European values.
I note that I am trapped, as it were, between my hon. Friends the Members for Bexleyheath (Mr. Townsend) and for Carshalton (Mr. Forman). I do not think that that is the result of a plot. Both are men of great integrity and I listen to their views. I am concerned about the values of European civilisation, and I do not doubt that my hon. Friends share that concern. I have respect for the individual and the Judaeo-Christian tradition. I hope that we can build upon it. I am concerned especially that there should be a free society which upholds the values of the individual and the mixed economy.
I was not a Member of this place when it was decided that the United Kingdom should be a member of the EEC, but I voted subsequently as an agnostic pro in favour of membership. I still see the EEC as a market. I disagree with those of my hon. Friends who say otherwise, and I understand that I shall probably have to go into perdition for a time for making that admission. I do not like the social market and I do not want any form of political link. I want a free economic market. I realise that I am in trouble for holding that view, but I have not worked out where it will take me.
I am not a federalist. After all, man is a tribal animal. We cannot have intellectual levitators deciding what we are to do. I would not for a moment consider my hon. Friends who sit either side of me to be intellectual levitators. They could make a fortune at a circus if they were. Indeed, they could do so in the House now that we have television cameras in the Chamber. Imagine the spectacle of political levitation shown live on the television screen! We must never forget that we are tribal animals. Russia is beginning to discover that fact as nationalism spreads, especially in such places as Estonia. It is certainly true of Europe and of bodies such as the Scottish National party and Plaid Cymru. People like to belong to small groups.
I must mention the problems of football hooliganism and the introduction of identity cards. Many football hooligans are just frustrated people with nothing to believe in. They wrap themselves in the Union Jack and disgrace it. They have lost their sense of identity. We must accept that though we are Europeans, with European civilisation, we still belong to smaller tribes. The marriage of those two will be as important politically as any other factor in our future. If we forget that fact, there is a danger that the system will break down.
I want to make three sharp comments, or perhaps I should refer to them as acute points. They relate to three matters that I wish had been included in the Queen's Speech. Every year, when the Gracious Speech states:Other measures will be laid before youI have great faith that somewhere among those will be the measures that I want. They have not materalised yet, but they must be somewhere, waiting to come out. I shall watch week by week, in the hope that they will arrive.
397 First, we need a more controlled planning law which is on the side of the residents and not the developers. That is a non-party point, so I appeal for a little assistance from the Opposition. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] The developer can appeal if he does not get his way, but the residents whose lives are about to be destroyed have no right of appeal. That is against natural justice—[Interruption.] In my constituency good houses are being knocked down and replaced by tiny flats—the dolls' house society. There are no gardens—it is also a window box society. Is that progress in this green age? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am glad to have such support. The feelings of the House are with me. We need legislation that will free the individual to protect his environment.
Secondly, I must mention the community charge, which I know is dear to many hearts, but not so dear to many others. The Government have not gone far enough on the question of low-rated houses and I regret that there was no mention of that in the Gracious Speech. The safety net should be lifted next April, not the following year. If it is not, it will be like having a cyanide pill. That is painful, as anybody who has tried it will know, because he would not be here today—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad that hon. Members are still with me.
With my third point, I may win if not universal approval—I would never desire that—at least some support. Something must be done about the London Underground. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Again, the House is with me. The way the Underground is run is neither Socialism nor privatisation. It seems to be run by people in outer space. Certainly, we can never find them. I do not really mind whether the Underground is privatised—although I should probably prefer that—or socialised, but somebody will have to run it. At present, there is nobody in charge. People in my constituency—
§ Sir Rhodes Boyson
If the hon. Gentleman sees people writing on the tube, he will know that they come from my constituency. They write to me every week. The average delay on the Metropolitan line into London is six minutes on every journey. As the delay varies from one minute to 30 minutes, my constituents have to leave home 20 or 30 minutes early in case the train is late. It has reached the stage where, because people can no longer tell when they are likely to arrive, my constituents have turned to taking sandwiches on their journeys. This week, the guards have been taken off the Bakerloo line, as though it were the safest in London. Staff shortages have already led to tramps sleeping in the Underground and people selling lavender there. It is like going back to the 19th century.
§ Sir Rhodes Boyson
No, but I will give a re-run of my speech some time.
Our capital city deserves a first-class Underground service. The £1 billion being spent on the Jubilee line is petty cash by comparison with the total investment that is required if trains are to run punctually and if the travelling public are to arrive for work on time. That investment must come either from the Underground system being privatised or from it being socialised. It cannot go on as it 398 is. [HON. MEMBERS: "Socialise it!"] Like many other right hon. and hon. Members, I maintain close contacts with Hungary, which was only the second country after our own to construct an Underground system. Although I have not yet travelled on it, I shall do so next time I visit Hungary. If it is better than ours, perhaps the Hungarians can provide us with assistance in the running of our own system, in exchange for some of the overseas aid that we give them.
§ Mr. David Steel (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale)
I have a suspicion that the Secretary of State for Defence will feel inhibited in responding to the last three points made by his right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson). I shall do so on his behalf. I wholly agree that restrictions are needed on developments in the south, but if they are to be effective there need to be regional policies for the north and for Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman was right also to condemn the poll tax. Speaking as a Scottish Member of Parliament, I can tell right hon. and hon. Members representing English and Welsh constituencies that they do not know yet what will hit them next April. I agree also with the right hon. Gentleman's plea for greater public expenditure on the London Underground. If the Minister replying were not the Secretary of State for Defence, I am sure that he would have agreed with all three propositions also.
I wish the new Foreign Secretary well in his third incarnation, in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Without wishing to repeat points effectively made in earlier speeches, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be successful in re-establishing the robust role of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and of the Cabinet in directing the nation's foreign policy.
For the first time in many years, the debate on the Loyal Address has been held against a background of new hope and fluidity in world affairs. My only complaint about the Gracious Speech is that it does not come near to capturing that spirit. Apart from the phrase "remarkable changes", one would have thought that the world was going on as before. The Gracious Speech gives the solemn assurance that the Government will maintain "adequate and effective" defence. So I should hope.
Many right hon. and hon. Members have reminisced about the Berlin wall. I remember being taken, as a young Member of Parliament, to the top of the post office tower in East Berlin and seeing from that height the ghastly concrete snake that divided the city. I shared in the general sense of excitement and relief when the wall was torn down. However, we must admit that the speed of change has taken us all somewhat aback. Only six months ago, like the right hon. Member for Brent, North, I was in Hungary having talks with the emerging democratic opposition parties with colleagues from Liberal International. At the time, we were talking of greater freedoms in the context only of Hungary and Poland, yet already we have seen East Germany, Bulgaria and now, we hope, Czechoslovakia, choosing the path of reform.
Only two months ago, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) and I made a short visit to Bulgaria to meet members of the Agrarian party. When we returned, we were not believed when we reported that in our conversations with President Zhivkov, he had said that he would probably retire in one year. No 399 one in the press seemed interested, because it seemed improbable that, after 35 years, he would be relinquishing power. He has gone faster than I expected, and probably faster than he imagined as well. Authoritarian leaders can no longer dictate their own political longevity—not even through interviews in The Times.
How should we respond to this mood of change? I believe that President Bush and the new Administration in the United States have reacted correctly—in a calm but positive way, talking sensibly about United States force reductions in Europe. It is the convinced view of Liberal Democrats in the House that NATO and the Warsaw pact should themselves be used as the instruments for balanced and carefully controlled disarmament.
I took a rather optimistic view of what the Foreign Secretary said earlier about the modernisation of short-range nuclear weapons. Reading between the lines, I understood him to say that, while that issue was certainly dead, it was not yet formally buried. I hope that that is indeed the position.
In the long run, we should be looking towards a Europe free of the presence of the super-powers, in which we can contemplate the eventual orderly replacement of those two great organisations with a united, pan-European common security agreement. That time, however, is some way off. Those who fear the might of a future united Germany should, in my view, be the first to press for it to be firmly embraced within a genuine European economic and political community. We are right to be on our guard against a revival of old European nationalisms, but we cannot be on our guard if the prevailing wind from Downing street carries siren voices of ultra-British nationalism across the Channel to our partners in Europe, who are trying to extend civil democracy to a European level.
As we shall be discussing eastern Europe next week, I do not wish to continue with this theme for too long today. Let me, however, ask the Government to be optimistic rather than pessimistic. I have been rather concerned by the misuse of the word "destabilise" in public debate over the past few weeks. For half a century, hundreds of thousands of Soviet and American troops have been in Europe, bristling with conventional and nuclear weaponry, and a concrete wall has divided one of our great European cities. That is indeed a perverted definition of stability. We must hope that the current flux leads to a more ordered and less tense Europe, leaving the super-powers with resources to devote to far better purposes in the world.
While we should certainly welcome the spread of freedom and liberal democracy throughout the world, let us ensure in our own foreign policy that our definition of freedom is not selective. Some elements of our recent foreign policy can scarcely be said to have enhanced our espousal of those virtues. There is, for instance, our extraordinary stance on Cambodia, about which the House has already expressed its deep unease. There is the cruel treatment of the Vietnamese boat people in Hong Kong, graphically described by my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) on the first day of this debate. After the murder by death squads of six Jesuit priests in El Salvador this week, I hope that the Conservative party will perhaps be rather more fastidious about whom it welcomes to its gatherings.
I hope that the global effect of the easing of East-West relations will lead to a more determined effort to solve the 400 long-standing regional conflicts in the world. In the middle east, the second assassination of a Lebanese president in recent years has again set back the tentative approach on the road to peace, and the now more conciliatory attitude of the PLO leadership has not yet met with an adequate response from Israel. I hope that our Government, together with the super-powers, will use all their efforts to secure the long-awaited peace conference on the middle east.
Let me conclude by concentrating on a specific regional problem on which I believe that the process of East-West improvement has already had a major impact. I refer to southern Africa, from which I returned last week. The Cubans are already moving out of Angola, faster than was arranged under the United Nations agreement, and under the new regime I think that the East Germans are bound to follow suit. The South African Government can no longer be obsessed by the fear of Reds under the beds and creeping Communism across Africa; indeed, by harping on over the years, they have done more than anyone else to promote Marxism among their people. In my experience, people in the townships know little about Communism except that it is declared to be on their side.
When I was in South Africa, I had the extraordinary experience of hearing on the BBC overseas service, on which I was dependent for a fortnight for news—I hope that the Foreign Secretary will resist further Treasury pressure against that excellent service—the early speeches of Mr. Egon Krenz made about three weeks ago, in which he spoke about the reforms that he intended to introduce in East Germany. One such reform was a civilian option instead of military service. It was strange to listen to that speech in South Africa, where young Jews and Christians are locked up for six years for refusing to do military service. Suddenly, the detested East German regime seemed more liberal than the South African one.
The mood of change in South Africa since the elections is substantial and genuine. Since my previous visit three years ago, I found in discussions with officials, representatives, and those voicing black opinion a fundamentally different mood. One MP of the ruling party said:We know what we have to do. It is only a question of how long it takes us to do it.That is a remarkable change from the attitudes of previous South African regimes.
I hope that the settlement in Namibia will have a good effect on South Africa. The composition of the new constituent Assembly ensures that there will be a multi-party approach to writing the constitution. Together with others, I visited Namibia during the elections. We should pay a heartfelt tribute to UNCTAD and to the many British local government election officers who participated in making the elections a success. We should also pay tribute to groups such as the Royal Corps of Signals, which provided a basic network of communication throughout the election process.
Above all, our tributes and admiration must go to the 96 per cent. of Namibian people who turned out to exercise the right to vote in the most trying conditions. I met people who had walked for miles through the night to reach the polling stations, only to stand in the blistering heat all day and be turned away because there were not enough polling stations and told to come back the next day. It is extraordinary that they have such determination to use the democratic process after 20 years of bloody strife.
401 The hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) and I attended a meeting where a pastor of the Congregational Church detailed the cruelties and iniquities inflicted on him and his black friends when they were children. He said that, at the age of 56 he would go into a polling booth for the first time and use his cross as a cross of hope, reconciliation and faith. That demonstrated a completely new spirit in the country, which I hope will spread from Namibia to South Africa.
The Foreign Office must be vigilant in two matters that affect the future of Namibia. The first is the stranglehold of debt which the South African regime maintains over the new emerging country. The second is their retention of the Walvis bay port. I hope that the Government will respond vigorously on those matters.
I also hope that they will respond to the requests from the new Government in Namibia for specific help of a type that we are uniquely placed to give. We can help in training the police and military, in developing the English language—which has been chosen as the official language even though Afrikaans and German are just as predominant in Namibia—and in training in the Civil Service, where promotion for blacks has hitherto been blocked beyond a certain point. In those three areas, we should give direct and committed help.
The climate in South Africa has been improved by the release of detainees and by the remarkable and peaceful success of that great rally in Johannesburg organised by the ANC. I visited Walter Sisulu in his house in Soweto, and I found a man remarkably lacking in bitterness after 26 years of detention. The Government should lift the ban on Ministers meeting representatives of the ANC. Now that South African Ministers and business meet them, there can be no case for maintaining that objection.
There is a mood of expectancy that Nelson Mandela will be released, possibly at Christmas. I hope that that will happen. Equally, I hope that the Prime Minister will not mistake his release for the single most important event in South Africa. Those pressing for his release made it clear to me that more important than that, as Nelson Mandela would agree, would be the lifting of the emergency, the re-creation of a free press, the release of all detainees, the permission for exiles to return, the unbanning of political organisations and the creation of normal political activity. Only then should the Prime Minister contemplate a visit. Even when all that has been done, we shall merely return to normal apartheid. The Group Areas Act and the Population Registration Act will still exist; until they are repealed, one cannot see progress to ordinary constitutional change.
We must maintain selective international pressure. It has worked, and this is not the time to back off. In her speech on the first day of the Loyal Address, the Prime Minister proudly referred to the old order before her Government being replaced by onebased on merit, ability and effort."—[Official Report, 21 November 1989; Vol. 162, c. 24.]I have never doubted those qualities in the Prime Minister, but the international order requires greater vision than that. I should like us to promote genuine freedom and greater economic and social justice, and to offer help and protection to the weak and dispossessed. When we consider the remaining regional conflicts—southern Africa, the middle east and central America—we must 402 hope that in the 1990s the shadow that has lain so long over the United Nations Organisation will be lifted and that in our future foreign policy it will be possible for that organisation to play a much more effective role in global affairs.
§ Mr. Martin J. O'Neill (Clackmannon)
Despite the sparse attendance on the Benches, we have had a good, wide-ranging debate. To paraphrase Mark Twain, the news of the retirement of my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) has been exaggerated. He will be here to give us advice and chastise us at every opportunity until the general election. Although many of us hope that that general election will be called as soon as possible, we shall be happy to hear my right hon. Friend for some time to come.
It is correct to spend some time on national and western security when the Gracious Speech has that as its highest priority, although in recent weeks we have had several debates on foreign affairs, not least because of the rapid pace of change in eastern Europe. Only a few weeks ago in the middle of the defence estimates debate we heard the announcement of the retirement, or sacking, of Herr Honecker, the East German head of state. Since then we have seen many exciting changes and it is right for us to be preoccupied with their many consequences.
It would be remiss not to pay tribute to the recent victims of terrorist attacks—the murder of Corporal Islania and his six-month-old daughter on 26 October, the thankfully unsuccessful car bombing of Lieutenant-General Sir David Ramsbotham on 14 November, the dreadful murder of the three members of the Parachute regiment at Mayobridge in Northern Ireland on 18 November and, more recently, the attempted murder of Staff Sergeant Mudd and his wife at Colchester. Those incidents shocked everybody by their frequency and the ease with which security can be penetrated to take unaware people whose life work has been devoted to ensuring vigilance. The Secretary of State will not wish to comment on the example raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook), but I hope that with his usual vigour he will pursue the matter. The events at Deal have made the public far more aware of security lapses and have alerted everybody to the seriousness of the problem.
To return to the happier and exciting events in central Europe, pluralism and democracy have emerged in amazing ways within a relatively short period. The promotion of pluralism and democracy is one of the best ways to guarantee western, eastern and central European security. One could almost add Bulgaria to that list. Moreover, the popular feeling that is emerging in Czechoslovakia will, I hope, shortly enable us to include that country on the list. As soon as it is appropriate, I hope that the Foreign Secretary will provide assistance to the brave Czechs and Slovaks in their struggle for social and political reconstruction.
One of the most obvious ways to promote social and political reconstruction is to secure an orderly reduction in the forces of the Alliance and the Warsaw pact. That would reduce the burden of arms expenditure and it would also help to erode the already diminishing distrust and fear on both sides.
The Federal Republic of Germany and the United States are contributing most of the financial assistance. 403 With characteristic generosity, the West Germans have responded by providing £1.1 billion in Government loans for investment by German firms in Poland. That was reported in The Independent on 14 November. West Germany's altruism is not totally devoid of self-interest. When I was in Warsaw last week I was told that of 600 contracts that had been signed between the Polish authorities and foreign countries, about 250 were with German companies. It is little wonder that the concern expressed in Poland about the events in the German Democratic Republic was not about German revanchism but about West Germany's industrial investment being deflected to the GDR. I suspect that the Poles are over-anxious. The Federal Republic of Germany has long been actively involved in the GDR's economy. The breaking down of the wall will facilitate but will not necessarily encourage a new wave of investment in that area.
The only serious concern about German revanchism was expressed by the hard-liners in the now-dying Polish Communist party. Everybody else was relaxed and self-confident. They felt that the changes in the GDR need not necessarily affect their western boundaries. That view was expressed by members of all political parties and by members of the political establishment.
I am optimistic about the news that the United States has responded generously to Poland's request for aid, but it is depressing to find that the sums which the British Government intend to provide to Poland amount to only £25 million to be invested in a know-how fund. They have also promised that they will contribute European Community initiatives.
When I was in Poland I met an official of the House, who was giving advice to his Polish counterparts on how we conduct our affairs. I hope that he will report to the authorities and the appropriate Committee on the Polish experience in televising their proceedings. It seems to be far more extensive and exciting than our own.
It is essential that we give encouragement and sustenance to the fragile democratic party institutions in eastern Europe, but it is far more important to play our part in helping their economies out of the chaos and neglect that are the result of 40 years of Stalinism. If our economy is not sufficiently strong to make a contribution comparable with that of the Federal Republic, we should at least back West Germany in its approach to the security problems of central Europe. No one, apart from the Prime Minister, appears to believe that there is the slightest possibility of a follow-on to Lance. Anyone who supports the continued existence of short-range nuclear forces beyond the CFE process must be mad.
In Germany the old slogan used by people opposed to those forces was "The shorter the range the deader the German". The new slogan must be, "The shorter the range, the deader the shopper". It is clear that the Soviets will want to stick to the agreed timetable for the removal of those weapons. Our objective should be to march in step with them. That must not mean that the CFE talks in Vienna are seen as a barrier to further initiatives. When the comprehensive concept was agreed and the NATO summit took place, hardly any of the advances and improvements which we have been celebrating were in any way certain or properly evident. Therefore, it is essential that we are as flexible as possible in our approach to the talks on conventional forces in Europe.
404 I can understand Secretary of Defence Cheney seizing the opportunities offered by recent improvements to increase the search for cuts in his budget. As he seeks to secure those cuts, so should we. My hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) questioned the validity of the Labour party carrying on with a successor to Polaris. Before the general election he disagreed with Labour party policy on nuclear disarmament. Now that we have responded to the new challenges offered by negotiated disarmament he again disagrees. He was wrong before the election and he is wrong now.
§ Mr. Douglas
Let me put it this way. That is a terrible distortion of the position that I took in 1987. I agreed with our policy in 1987 and I continue to take that stance now. That is where I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill). He should not use his position at the Dispatch Box to perpetrate a falsehood about a colleague without first giving him notice.
§ Mr. O'Neill
For reasons which I shall not go into, I could not make a comment of that nature in the previous defence debate. As my hon. Friend repeated it this morning, I thought it appropriate for me to handle it in the correct way. I have now done so.
§ Mr. O'Neill
I do not wish to withdraw the remark as I do not think that it is necessary.
I and many other Opposition Members believe that cuts in defence expenditure are attractive. They are something that we would wish to secure in the most orderly manner possible. That was agreed on both sides of the House.
Although cuts are attractive, they do not enhance stability. Even parity at lower levels does not necessarily enhance stability. By stability, I do not mean rigidity, but the absence, or means of securing the absence, of tension. We should look to the constructive message contained in President Bush's speech last Wednesday. He said that the idea of containment was becoming sterile and increasingly irrelevant and has been replaced by the need to establish a new European security order based on the principles that were first considered by the Palme commission—the concept of common security. We can start the process of building on the exchanges taking place between NATO and Warsaw pact officers under the confidence-building measures. I welcome the visit of General Sir Richard Vincent, the vice chief of defence staff to the Soviet Union and wish him every success in his discussions.
The talks in Vienna on military doctrine are due to start early in the new year. It has been suggested that they have only academic significance, but we would be missing a tremendous opportunity if we did not talk far more seriously. Given the encouragement of President Bush's remarks this week, we should enter the talks looking for means to establish a new security order in Europe. If we reduce or thin out our forces, we call into question the concept of forward defence and force to space ratios.
The desire of the United States and the Federal Republic to proceed with a second phase of CFE will not 405 be satisfied by the intellectual and somewhat abstract challenges of qualitative changes in weapons systems. There has to be far more on the agenda.
One of the most depressing aspects of the Foreign Secretary's speech, with which I agreed in considerable part, was the absence of any groping towards a new security order in Europe. It may be in the speech of the Secretary of State for Defence, but I have heard the right hon. Gentleman speak on the matter before and he passes over it with exceeding speed. In an interview on Radio 4 last Friday lunchtime, he certainly presented no prospect of fresh thinking. Of course, it is not mentioned in the Queen's Speech, but it certainly should be included in the Secretary of State's speech today. Obviously, we want him to tell us what he is considering as a follow-on to Lance.
We know that there are prospects for talks on the removal or reduction of short-range nuclear forces in Europe as part of the CFE process. We must now consider whether the Government are still prepared to breathe oxygen into the corpse of the follow-on to Lance. If they are, it would appear that they are alone in Europe. No one in Germany or America and none of the other allies seems to be interested in that project.
The talks on defence cuts which followed the interviews given by Defence Secretary Cheney at the weekend may be somewhat confusing to hon. Members. They certainly are to me because the figures that he has suggested and the parts of the defence budget that he may cut do not necessarily have a direct impact on Europe. A number of the cuts which Mr. Gorbachev has announced in the past 12 months will take considerable time to achieve. The demobilisation of 125,000 Soviet officers will require their relocation to civvy street and finding them accommodation of a standard to which they have been accustomed during their military service. Those potentially dislocating problems will be repeated across the Warsaw pact countries, and are a very different set of military problems from those that would be encountered by a volunteer Army such as ours as a result of arms cuts.
We have to recognise that in the early stages, when we are still debating CFE, there will have to be a major change of doctrine and a major review of British commitments to the defence budget. The International Institute for Strategic Studies report on the military balance has now been accepted by everyone. There is no prospect of a surprise attack from the east. There is little prospect of such an attack succeeding through any of the countries that have been mentioned this morning. Therefore, we have to look to new, less provocative forms of deployment and equipment. To do that we need to consider questions such as force specialisation and restructuring. We also have to consider our own defence budget.
It is not the easiest task quickly to make rational cuts to the defence budget. We have had a series of defence cuts through a process of review by stealth; a layer of skin has been taken off the body each year. That cannot carry on if the health of our contribution to the Alliance is to be sustained. We must consider a process of dismemberment and restructuring, which will involve the co-operation of and consultation with several of our allies.
The Government have singularly failed to address that task. That isolation from the debate within the Alliance and from the general debate on how we can most 406 effectively take advantage of the changing circumstances in Europe, how we can work within the Alliance to create a new security order, the Prime Minister's unwillingness to consider it and the manner in which she skated over it, are perhaps the most depressing aspects of Government defence policy.
Everyone in this country is looking for fulfilment from the Secretary of State. We hope for a clear sign of the direction that defence expenditure will take at a time when we are grossly overcommitted in areas where we need no longer be, when we are isolated within the Alliance on short-range nuclear forces and when we have a Government who do not believe that changes in defence and security east of the Berlin wall will be permanent or will make a contribution to European security.
§ The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Tom King)
It is a great privilege to have the opportunity to wind up the debate, which was so wisely opened by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. The House thought that he made a most impressive first speech as Foreign Secretary. I suggested to him that next year we might have a defence and foreign affairs debate and reverse our roles, but I must accept that, whereas perhaps a little while ago arms reduction issues were driving political considerations forward, there is no question currently but that political developments are driving on developments in arms negotiations.
I shall try to reply to the considerable number of points that have been made, but I shall not be able to reply to all the points made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson). Some are for me and some are for the Whips or anyone who would care to join in, but I know that his comments on a wide range of subjects will have been noted.
The Gracious Speech emphasised the importance that the Government attach to the maintenance of defence and our membership of NATO. Pretty standard words appear in different forms in most Gracious Speeches, but this year they have true meaning. The hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) quoted the Chinese proverb that it is a curse to live in interesting times, and no one doubts that we are currently doing so.
Throughout, there has been a serious tone to the debate; not a tone of certainty from the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery)—who both remembered some of the history from which the present position is emerging, and said what some of the implications of that may be—but a sombre tone, because they recognised that, while there is excitement about and manifest hope, which we all feel, for the developments, there is a worry that things may not go as we should wish.
I was impressed by a remark made by my right hon. Friend about not only the courage but the wisdom of people in eastern Europe in so much of the way in which they are responding to change. He sensed the mood of the House in that. We had a defence debate not long ago and I have been thinking today how many things have happened since that time, when I believe Mr. Honecker was still in charge. The Berlin wall has been breached and 407 there has been a massive movement of East Germans and we now understand that Mr. Honecker is to face investigation, if not trial, by the new authorities.
At the time of that defence debate, only Hungary and Poland were on the move. Since then they have been joined by East Germany, even Bulgaria and now Czechoslovakia. Hon. Members may have seen the photographs taken last night in Wenceslas square. I could not see an inch of free ground in that amazing picture. Only last Sunday, half a million people gathered in Riga in Latvia to celebrate their national day—a further sign that that empire is under threat, as the right hon. Member for Leeds, East suggested.
We come to this foreign affairs debate mindful not only of events in eastern Europe but of the fact that the situation in many other parts of the world is not normal. The right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Steel) referred to southern Africa. Areas that have seemed immobile for so long are now dramatically on the move.
Of keen interest to the House is the situation in Hong Kong. My right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell), who explained to me that he could not be here for the winding-up speeches, rightly said that we shall shortly have our last chance, given the impending final session of the Basic Law drafting committee, to decide the position that the Government should take vis-a-vis the Chinese view of democratisation in Hong Kong. We are conscious of our responsibility to do all that we can to ensure that the provisions of the Basic Law accord fully with the terms of the joint declaration.
We are aware that, in that context, the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs has recommended the introduction of full direct elections before 1997. The Committee also recommended that it is for the people of Hong Kong to decide their system of government. We must therefore await the outcome of the current debate in Hong Kong, but it is clear that our main objective must be to ensure that the system of democratic government in Hong Kong is well established and can last through and beyond 1997.
I understand that the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) is also unable to be here. At least the right hon. Member for Leeds, East spoke his own words and did not shower us with a cascade of press cuttings such as that inflicted on us by the right hon. Member for Gorton. My right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford summed him up well: the right hon. Member for Gorton made it absolutely clear that if one is in a minority, one must just give in and immediately accept the majority view. As the Government of the country, we must do what is right; it does not matter whether we are in a minority or not. As Secretary of State for Employment, I have been a minority of one in the Council of Ministers on some of the issues that are now coming back round the circuit as we debate the social charter. I argued my case and in the end we had a majority because those who had not studied the issues but who were not in favour of Socialist proposals coming up through the Commission realised the danger. I make no apologies if on occasion we fight our corner for what we believe is right for Britain.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, East referred to his obituary. I have no doubt that we shall have quite a few valedictory addresses before he goes and that this is not the last that we shall hear of him. I shall deal a little later with his remarks about European developments.
408 My hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Sir G. Finsberg) referred to the importance of the Western European Union. The whole House knows of the leading role that my hon. Friend plays in the WEU and of the importance that the Government attach to that institution. The WEU has an essential part to play in European defence co-operation. We are cautious about developing any defence role for the European community, at least at this stage. We have more pressing priorities and we have, at the moment, a sure and reliable defence in NATO. That is where we stand on the specific point put to me.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate also referred most interestingly to the opportunities that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary held out for the enlargement of the Council of Europe and for ways in which it could spread. I believe that he referred to an association and to a cultural agreement being signed. I think that we are all conscious of what has been happening in the Barbican recently. Picking up a point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North, who referred to Hungary as a "European country", which it certainly is, we have been privileged to hear and to see Hungarian music and culture recently in London. That is a welcome addition and a reawakening of an element of European culture.
My hon. Friend the Member for Arundel (Mr. Marshall) drew attention to the important role of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. He was right to say how valuable it was that, during Mr. Gorbachev's visit in 1984, it was the IPU that provided an opportunity that might not have been so easily achieved through various other channels at the time. I am sure that all hon. Members believe in the importance of developing links between elected Members in all the countries of eastern Europe as they strive to embrace democracy and in the need for close contact with them.
The hon. Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook) made certain allegations about what, on the face of what he said, appeared extremely serious lapses in security at the Wellington barracks. I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would let me have the full details, because the Army authorities will obviously wish to investigate fully. He also raised the issue of the use of dependants as security guards at military bases. I am not aware of any such use and there are no such plans at present. However, the way in which the hon. Gentleman presented his case might give some offence to many families and dependants in West Germany who are with the Army and the services. Anybody who goes to Germany is struck at present—[Interruption.] Well, I must say this bluntly, and the hon. Gentleman will know what I mean.
People are struck by the fact that the services in West Germany face an evil threat. There have recently been murders that have shocked the House. As so often happens in such cases, one is struck by the way in which the services come together, not in fear but in shared determination. I have been hugely impressed by wives and grown-up children saying, "We want to do anything that we can to play our part." If there is a role here for, say, a neighbourhood watch, or for some other means by which people who want to play a part can do so to ensure that evil men do not succeed, and if people can provide greater security for their communities, I welcome that. However, 409 I understand what the hon. Gentleman said, and I have given him a clear answer to the specific point that he raised.
I thank the hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill) for what he said about security issues. Although we are talking about big global matters and the developments in eastern Europe, at the same time we and the services face evil and vicious security attacks. The past week has seen the tragedies to which he referred. The whole House stands together in the etermination—[Interruption.] No, we do not seek to exploit it. It is a serious situation and a lot of people face real problems and threats.
§ Mr. King
No, I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman, because he has not been present throughout the debate and I am talking on a matter about which I believe hon. Members overwhelmingly stand together with the security forces on the need to resist terrorists in that way.
The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) made a moving and eloquent plea for a just settlement in the middle east. She knows that our clear position is that we want an international conference as soon as possible. We strongly support the present efforts of the Egyptian Government in trying to bring Israeli and Palestinian representatives to see whether preliminary talks can start, so that there can be developments in that area. The tragic developments elsewhere in the middle east, in Lebanon, are a constant reminder of the urgent need to find a happier outcome and solution to the problems there.
My hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Forman) got into a discussion with the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) about their different versions of sovereignty. One argued that national autonomy is unattainable and the other that the treaty of Rome is a denial of sovereignty. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made the Government's position on Europe clear. We see the Community as a framework for ever closer co-operation between the separate nation states. If, in the Community, we combine our separate strengths without any loss of national identity, that is the best way, and it is on that basis that the Community has evolved successfully so far. The Community could not succeed should it deny national customs and traditions. My right hon. Friend spoke clearly about our approach to Europe, and his remarks received warm support.
The right hon. Member for Tweddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale spoke in particular about Namibia. We have supported the United Nations peace plan throughout. We welcome the concilatory approach of the SWAPO leaders after their success in the election and we hope that SWAPO, with the other parties, will be able to reach 410 agreement on a new constitution. We fully support the efforts of the United Nations to ensure a peaceful transition to independence.
Although there will be a later debate on the subject, today's debate has been dominated by developments in eastern Europe and their implications for NATO and the European Community. We recognise that this is a time of great hope, but it is also a time of danger. One factor has struck me and it illustrates this point. Daily, we are re-learning the names of territories in eastern Europe that some of us did not remember. I had to get out the map to find out where Moldavia and Transylvania were. We already know where Armenia is. Not many years ago, these territories were cockpits of conflict and dissent. Now, they are once again in the news.
I have to choose a careful path between two right hon. Members. My right hon. Friend the Member for Pavilion rightly said—I do not wish to enlarge upon it, but I understand why he did so—that the Warsaw pact is bankrupt. A different situation is emerging as a result of the developments in certain eastern European countries. The right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale warned that, when one sees what could happen between Hungary and Romania, Turkey and Bulgaria and Turkey and Greece, one realises that the existence of the Warsaw pact and NATO has acted as an over-control against what might otherwise be local disputes. Considering some of the names that I have just taken off the atlas, one sees the dangers of this dissolving into other local and rather vicious conflicts.
Recently, my right hon. Friend the Member for Pavilion and I were in Brussels, I was struck by the absence of the Italian Foreign Minister, who was attending in Budapest a conference with the Hungarian, Austrian and Yugoslav Foreign Ministers. That evoked the different relationships that might develop, and if developed constructively, could be to the benefit of stability.
As the Autumn Statement made clear, we stand secure in our present defences, willing to play our full part and anxious to see the success of the arms reduction talks in Vienna, the continuation of START and the successful development of the talks on chemical weapons between the United States and the Soviet Union. We affirm, more forcibly than ever before, our support for NATO and the vital need for NATO countries to stand together. It is inconceivable that successful arms negotiations and reductions can be achieved by 23 separate states. We need NATO and the Warsaw pact if negotiations on that difficult exercise are to be successfully completed. Standing firm in our defences does not mean that we seek to undermine the East, or to obstruct the encouraging developments that are taking place. That is manifestly not the case. The reality is that, while we stand firm and sure in our own defences, those developments will continue at a pace which almost defies description.
§ It being half-past Two o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed on Monday 27 November.