HL Deb 28 June 1978 vol 394 cc303-5

2.47 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government which promises in the field of human rights made by Romania in the 1947 Peace Treaty and in the Helsinki Final Act President Ceausescu has undertaken to carry out in return for the large increase proposed in the provision of British technology; and whether they will give an assurance that the latter is consistent in every respect with our COCOM obligations.


My Lords, Romania's undertakings in the 1947 Peace Treaty and in the Final Act have not been directly linked with agreements on the transfer of technology. These agreements will be subject to full observance of our COCOM obligations.


My Lords, does the noble Lord recollect that on 24th May I urged Her Majesty's Government to recognise the link that ought to exist between the provision of modern British technology, sometimes based on cheap credits, and the Soviet Union's attitude to human rights? However, I was told in reply that my views were misconceived and oversimplified. Your Lordships were reminded that the Soviet Union is one of the two great States of the world. I should very much like to ask why it is that Her Majesty's Government seem clearly to recognise the link between British trade and sometimes aid and a régime's attitude to human rights where that regime is not a Communist one; whereas if it is a Communist one, as the Soviet Union and the Soviet satellites in Europe are, this link is not recognised at all. Does not that leave the Government open to charges of making false distinctions and of adopting double standards?


My Lords, the question was rightly addressed to the recent agreements with the Romanian authorities. I can assure the noble Lord that negotiations with Romania were based throughout on normal commercial considerations. Standard ECGD cover will be available for the contract and there is no question of a Government subsidy. These negotiations must necessarily be dealt with one by one, according to the circumstances of each case. I have no doubt that in regard to the negotiations with Romania a few weeks ago, which were headed by their President, this country and Romania will, indeed, derive very considerable economic and, it may be, political advantage from the agreement that we have so far concluded.


My Lords, if reports are correct, what sort of commercial sense does it make to license the Romanian Government to manufacture 80 BAC 1–11s and 225 Rolls-Royce Spey engines—an amount far in excess of their own requirements which will simply enable them to export about half those numbers?


My Lords, the commercial and economic sense of this is partly for Government and partly, I should imagine, for Aerospace to decide. I would say to the noble Lord that the total value to the United Kingdom of the Aerospace deal is likely to exceed £300 million in the next 15 years; and even allowing for some offset, which is almost inescapable in most of these negotiations, as he and I know, there is a substantial gain to our balance of payments.

Indeed, British Aerospace are to receive an immediate down payment of £1 million as proof of earnestness, and this deal will contribute considerably to employment in the aerospace and related industries. It is not at the moment possible to quantify the amount of the employment that will be generated but it will, I am assured, be considerable. I referred in my first Answer to the possible political as well as economic advantages of this kind of negotiation. I am myself as cautious as the noble Lord about this type of negotiation, but I am absolutely convinced that nothing but progress in the political as well as the economic field will result from these negotiations.