HL Deb 07 April 1982 vol 429 cc264-82

1.59 p.m.

Lord Gladwyn rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what practical steps they are proposing to take in order to persuade the Polish Government to honour its obligations under the Helsinki Declaration and restore to the Polish people their human rights.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Question I am putting to the Government this afternoon deals specifically, as you will have seen, with the additional measures, if any, which we—and by "we" I mean the whole Western Alliance—should now take in order to induce the Polish Government in some way to make amends for the blow to East-West good relations, or détente as the vogue word has it, resulting from their brutal repression of Solidarity and their imposition of martial law.

Of course, my Lords, that also inevitably raises indirectly the whole question of East-West relations in a world still unfortunately overshadowed by the nuclear arms race and the spectre of a possible world war three. For this reason I believe it would have been preferable if we had been able to have a full-dress debate on this question, but, since it is not possible, the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, has very kindly withdrawn his Motion and instead is taking part in discussion on my own Unstarred Question.

I must say also that, though recent events have obviously lessened immediate interest in this discussion, they have not diminished its potential importance. The last time a considerable British force was deployed in anger in order to achieve a political objective was, to the best of my belief, in 1956, and we all know how that ended. This time, it is true that our force has not been fitted out in secret and, above all, it has not been despatched in defiance of the views of the United States of America—rather the contrary. But it is as true in 1982 as it was 26 years ago, that American goodwill is essential for the success of the whole enterprise.

There is, however, another possible—though, as we all hope, not actual—comparison to be made with Suez. Then the Soviet Union chose a moment when the West was distracted and divided to crush the anti-Soviet revolt in Hungary. We can only pray that something similar does not occur when most of our Navy has been taken away from NATO defence, and is engaged in what may well prove to be a war in the South Atlantic. Frankly, I am thinking not only of Poland, but of other countries on the Soviet perimeter.

To return to the specific Question today, I shall not inflict on your Lordships what everybody knows about Poland and why her future is of particular concern to us here in the West. I assume we all agree that what we can do we should do, to help that distressful European and Catholic country—since 1945 an enforced satellite of the great power in the East; originally orthodox and Byzantine; now totalitarian; always oriental, always despotic. Of course, since disappearing behind the Iron Curtain in 1945, the Polish people have, to some extent, kept their end up against an alien system which they never applied in a strictly communist sense—at least, so I think. Indeed, it may possibly have been because of the inherent danger of Poland's becoming a liability to the whole Soviet bloc that the Russians, during the less tense '60s and early '70s apparently permitted some relaxation from strict communist orthodoxy under Gomulka and under Gierekwhose evident corruption, however, and that of his associates, eventually brought things to a head.

It was, anyhow, during this period that the Poles were encouraged to develop industrially in a way, perhaps, more in harmony with their natural inclinations; namely, by seeking large-scale loans on favourable terms from Western society, whose banks saw in such proceedings, no doubt optimistically, a satisfactory and profitable way of easing East/West tensions, and thus hastening the day when tension would be reduced and would even entirely disappear. The other name for this policy was Ostpolitik.

Two things prevented such a happy outcome, if indeed it was ever realisable. First, the Polish communist leaders had not the expertise, even if they had the will, to make the new system work satisfactorily. Secondly, the icy blast of the world recession after 1974–75—more especially, the enormous increase in the world price of oil—upset the original calculations and, eventually, by restricting Polish exports, endangered the repayment of the loans. In any case, the ensuing gradual breakdown of the system resulted in vast discontent, the workers—more especially in Gdansk and in the Katowice region—not unnaturally attributing it solely to the inefficiency of their communist masters.

We all know how this resulted in the slow emergence of the free trade union movement known as Solidarity, under the leadership of a devout and sincere man, named Lech Walesa, and we all know how it ended. For over a year, the Soviet Government, convinced that, unless checked, Solidarity would, in effect, take over the government and, if possible, transform Poland from a directed state into a Western-type social democracy, hesitated about whether or not to intervene and, eventually, as well all know, succeeded in getting the Poles to do the job for them by forceful means.

There is, of course, practically no doubt that that was the only way of saving the Polish communist regime and of preventing Poland from slipping right out of the Soviet system. The tragedy is that, by that time, the general economic situation was so desperate that it could hardly have been rectified by other than dictatorial means. Solidarity's programme of a 36-hour week, longer holidays, greater social benefits and so on was no doubt admirable, but, with a fall of 15 per cent. in industrial production in one year and a fearful balance of payments problem, it was hardly practical politics. It is quite arguable that, even in the West, such a situation might not be compatible with the continuance of any free society.

In any case, the clock has now been firmly put back and the Polish Government will have their work cut out to see that even a minimum standard of living is maintained, and that the whole industrial machine functions somehow, in order to avoid a complete economic breakdown, which would ultimately result in anarchy and confusion. The bleak fact is that matters are now so grave that, short of some vast new injection of foreign capital under an entirely new regime, a considerable measure of compulsion would seem to be inevitable, if only for the time being.

Faced, then, with this deplorable situation, what should the West now do? There seem, in the sole respect of Poland, to be two alternative policies; namely, the hard and the soft. The first, or hard, policy would imply the imposition of measures designed to oblige the Polish Government to lift martial law, to liberate all political prisoners, to restore Solidarity to its former position and, in effect, to change over from a totalitarian to something more approaching a "free" society based on some kind of power-sharing between the democratically elected workers, the administration and the Church. The measure might include a calling in of the loans and a declaration of Polish bankruptcy (though I read this morning in the newspapers that a considerable amount of the loans has now, happily, been rescheduled) severe trade restrictions, even on imports of food, and possibly even a rupture of diplomatic relations. This policy appeals—and appeals strongly, I know—to all the victims of Polish repression and their sympathisers abroad. However, I cannot myself see how such measures, whatever their moral justification, would have the intended result. It is just not conceivable that, supported as they would be by the whole power of the Soviet Union, the Polish Government would yield to such demands. Economically, the situation in Poland would become much more grim and this would simply be at the expense of the unfortunate Polish people.

The alternative, or soft, line would therefore seem to be the only practicable one. This would certainly involve all kinds of, and constant, expressions of disapproval of the repressive measures of the Polish Government, coupled, we should hope, with indications of the help, even the generous help, which the West might afford, supposing—always supposing—that these measures were gradually lifted. As the world recession slowly recedes, so might the way thus be prepared for a new and a mutually beneficial turn in the West's relations with a still officially communist Poland. At least that would he the hope. I do not mean that we should have friendly relations with General Jaruzelski—only that we should treat him no less favourably than the dictators of other countries with whom we are in official diplomatic relations, much though we may disapprove of their policies.

But what should we do if martial law is still not lifted and if what amounts to civil war results—predicted, as we know, by some? T myself believe that this is not at all likely. If, however, it did happen, then there is no doubt that the Russians would intervene in an endeavour, and probably a successful endeavour, to rescue the authorities and to proclaim eventually, as the Russians often did in the past, in what was then the official language, "L'ordre règne à Varsovie!" It has recently been alleged by correspondents while travelling round the country that, in the opinion of many Poles, we—that is to say, the Americans and ourselves—would in those circumstances somehow come to their physical assistance. But surely that is a pathetic illusion? How could such intervention be possible except in the context of world war three? Soviet intervention would certainly imply the official demise of détente and a final rupture at Madrid. But détente has always been something of an illusion, and its disappearance might actually put East-West relations on a more realistic basis.

The point is that Poland, under whatever régime, is likely during the coming years to be a weak spot, a weak link, in the whole Soviet international system which is likely to run the Politburo in for a great deal of money and scarce resources. Nor is there any reason why, Poland or no Poland, the West should go out of its way to support the great power of the East in its support of its own satellite. Of course not. Recent economic disasters, including three bad harvests, have, as we know, forced the Russians to sell large quantities of gold and diamonds. It may be, therefore, that, if things go on like this, they will be obliged—I hope that they will—to cut down on their military expenditure. It is true that this process might he furthered by really far-reaching sanctions, such as the denial of grain or the cancellation of the contracts for building the gas pipeline from Siberia. But the one would probably hurt the American and the second the European Governments as much as the Russians. Surely both, therefore, have to be ruled out. Nor would the gas pipeline really place Europe at Russia's mercy, for the gas would represent only a small proportion of Western Europe's energy needs, and its denial would not greatly affect the West's defence effort in the appalling event of war.

But there are other things which could depress the Soviet economy yet further, including, of course, a common credits policy. Some of these measures might well be taken irrespective of Russian intentions in respect of Poland. But whether this point is reached or not, negotiations must go on for the limitation and control of armaments, especially nuclear armaments. As I see it, it is still upon the achievement of a lasting balance between the two great super-powers that the peace and even the existence of this wicked world essentially depend. I must say that it might be tempting providence pretty hard if we applied maximum pressure on the Soviet Union before considerably strengthening our present "conventional" defences.

My Lords, you will see what is my general conclusion, and I hope that I have not gone on for too long. It will be dangerous for the West to give the impression that it is going at all costs to save the Polish people from an alien tyranny, when, short of war (and no doubt a nuclear war), we have no real means of doing anything of the kind. What the West should do, more profitably, I suggest, is to agree, first, upon measures to help the Polish economy which might be taken bit by bit as the Polish Government relax their military hold on the economy; next on measures designed to increase Soviet internal difficulties, always supposing that the Soviet Union does intervene in a military way; and, lastly, to recognise that, while détente as pursued in Madrid is probably an illusion, or a will o' the wisp, agreement on arms limitation must be pursued more intensively than ever.

I realise very well that it may not be easy for European members of the alliance to get agreement with the Americans on some such lines as these, but I still believe that it will be the main task of the European Economic Community in the coming months to move in this general direction. The chances of success will probably depend on the belief of the Americans that their European allies are prepared to make additional sacrifices to defend themselves—more especially in the field of conventional armaments. The supreme need, after all, is to stabilise the existing international situation and to stop the apparent drift to World War Three. The European Economic Community, if it can speak with one voice, has a vital role to play in the great game of the giants.

2.18 p.m.

Lord Weidenfeld

My Lords, I feel we are indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, for initiating a debate on a crisis which not only represents the most flagrant violation of the spirit and letter of the Helsinki Agreement to date, but goes beyond it. Maybe it is a kind of watershed for both East-West relations within the Atlantic alliance, and it is a crisis which must not be allowed to slip from our attention as a result of last week's tragic events in the South Atlantic.

I would like to beg the noble Lord's forgiveness for taking issue at the very outset with the formulation of his Question, which addresses itself, as it were only to the Polish Government, without being coupled in all formality to that of the USSR. I submit that the long-term solution to the Polish problem—the road to Warsaw—is circuitous and leads through Moscow. I submit that all that is happening in the area between the Baltic and the Black Sea, where the writ of the Brezhnev doctrine of military control and ideological immobilism holds sway, can and must be attributed directly to the policies and actions of the Soviet leadership. Failure to realise this is dangerous for several reasons.

First, it distorts the historical realities of the communist world. Secondly, given the narrow scope for independent manoeuvre and action allowed to Eastern European Governments, the failure to implicate the Soviets may encourage them even more to have the work of the Red Army and the KGB done by surrogates and proxies. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, unless we see events such as the Polish crisis in the proper context, we may continue to act or react on impulse. Instead, we should realise that what lies at the core of the East-West relationship calls for a core strategy.

The military coup of the 13th December was premeditated and carefully planned, down to the grey and green forms of by-laws and regulations of the state of seige produced and printed in the Soviet Union. It was planned right down to the cacophonous concert of jamming stations—all of which have so far been indentified within Soviet territory; at Tashkent, Pesna, Smolensk and Kaliningrad. In parenthesis, it needs to be said that, despite this jamming, the BBC's Polish transmissions, with well over 6 million listeners, have played an important part; and this is one more reason for the Government to refrain from stunting the growth of the BBC External Services.

The idea that there is somehow a great distinction between a military coup conducted by the Poles themselves and an actual Soviet invasion is somewhat unsound. The upper reaches of the Polish High Command are tighly controlled by their Russian peers. Many of them are the Janissaries of the Frunze Military academy and of the KGB External Cadres Schools, and were hand-picked during the formative 1950s when the Polish-born Soviet Marshal Rokosovsky was the first Minister of Defence of Russia's largest client state. Quite clearly, the final decision of the Polish military to act as they did in December was of such political and military significance that it could never have been taken without the express approval and indeed orders of the Soviet Government.

As one of the leading Solidarity intellectuals, Adam Michnik, in a moving message from his interment camp, puts it, That raid on hundreds, indeed thousands, of private homes was the first victorious battle ever fought by a General of the Polish Communist Army". On that night the Soviet Union violated at least eight of the 10 principles embodied in the Final Act of the Helsinki Declaration, and none more flagrantly than No. 7, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief.

Of course we know that there are many nuances within the communist world. Indeed, we in the West have constructed a whole complex political, economic and diplomatic edifice around them, encouraging libertarian tendencies through liberal inducements of material help, but this edifice is in very real danger of collapse and we do not know how to prop it up. We know that in each communist country there are party reformers and hardliners. But the vested interest of the bureaucracy is so powerful, their links and loyalties to Russia so deep, that the hardliners almost always seem to prevail. Even in that great and moving Polish film, The Man of Iron, by Vajda, which was first shown at the height of the euphoria of Solidarity's apparent triumph, the last word, spoken in the last scene, comes prophetically from the petty party bureaucrat, who hisses at the victorious Solidarity rebel, "You wait, we will be back".

If we in the West differentiate too much between direct and oblique intervention, between the Afghan and the Polish model, we only help the Soviet Union to fill their order book with brand new Trojan horses and dazzling scenarios for indirect aggression and sub- version. So far Cubans, East Germans have been on the march; Czechs, Bulgarians in lesser numbers. Now the levies might easily be extended, and according to the puppet premier of Afghanistan his troops will soon be available for operations outside the country.

I think, my Lords, by far the most important reason for viewing the Polish crisis in the context of Soviet global policies is that it must not deflect us from closing our ranks. The process of erosion in the Western alliance must be halted by conducting the necessary frank dialogue between Europe and the United States in a spirit of real understanding and friendship, and by confronting with reason and firmness those forces within our midst who are weakening our self-confidence, who are sowing discord and intellectual confusion, either wilfully or unwittingly, under such guises as neutralism, pacifism, unilateralism, anti-Americanism.

A new core strategy of East-West relations, encompassing Helsinki and thus the case of Poland, must rest on three firm pillars: morale, security and trade. The morale factor is of decisive importance. It is the will to preserve our free society, it is the cohesion of the Western alliance that are in the balance. Erosion of this will and allied disunity are conversely among the gravest dangers.

The fact that the year of Poland was also the year of the great global defence debate, the year of the Central American disaster, the year of trouble in Turkey, has not only led to genuine soul-searching, anxiety and uncertainty about our moral case, but has been God's gift to demagogues and obscurantists, who have been helping themselves freely from the toolshed of Goebbels and Radek.

A sound sense of perspective is the first target for demagogic propaganda. Thus America, wishing to defend Europe with weapons that are still on the drawing-board, is accused of belligerence, while Russia, who has deployed and is deploying week by week a host of ultra-deadly weapons fixing each major European city within their target range, is rated as being equally obnoxious or even more conciliatory than America.

In our ghoulish and untimely embroilment with Argentina and potentially with a large part of Latin American opinion, the key role of the United States as friend and possible mediator is obvious. We may have to ask a great deal from the United States that is delicate and agonising for them to contemplate and to undertake. All the more reason for taking their susceptibilities to heart. And one more reason to remind ourselves that we have not always been helpful to them in their darker hours. It was the Government of Edward Heath who denied the United States of America the use of British bases and air space in October 1973 and ignored calls for common action in the OPEC crisis.

I sincerely hope that, when allied exchanges take place at the highest level—the summit meeting next June—the discordant views on the diagnosis and the remedies of the Polish crisis will be largely harmonised, and mutual rebuffs and reservations replaced by common thought and action. Is it too much to hope that some common standards of behaviour might also extend to those neutrals who have so far always adhered to certain norms of international morality? What comes to mind is the fact that on the very day the United States decided to penalise Colonel Gaddafi through an oil embargo, for having been taskmaster and treasurer of worldwide terrorism, an Austrian Chancellor, renowned for his pro-Western views, unlocked the gates of civilised Europe for the terrible simplifier of Tripoli.

As for defence, the coupling of strategic disarmament talks, the linkage of arms limitation with the performance of the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc in the realm of human rights, must loom large in any new core strategy of the Western powers. I hold that, undeterred by pressure and uninfluenced by propaganda, we in Europe should seize every means and opportunity to hold arms limitation talks at all levels. But we must do so in an atmosphere of mutual trust with the United States. Their negotiators in Geneva must feel that they have the support of their European allies. They must not be harried and hustled or undercut by leakages and misrepresentations.

Has the fate of Solidarity not shaken those unilateralists who pointed so proudly to what appeared to them to be the victory of unarmed reformers ringed by armoured might, now that Walesá and his men are behind lock and key? What will ultimately convince them that there is no substitute for a balance of power and "linkage" in the real and cruel world?

Just because the West is impotent in geopolitical terms to influence events by military means in areas contiguous to the Soviet heartland, it is the global equilibrium of strength which is most likely to protect endangered peoples such as the Poles from aggression. We need a global strategy rather than local reflex actions, moral admonishments, sentimental serenades or impulsive and unenforceable economic sanctions. Indeed, nowhere is the need for a major strategy more urgent, the need for common action more immediate than in the economic sphere. Throughout the worldwide economic malaise of the last decade, the absence of a working system that could update and replace the world of Bretton Woods is nowhere more glaring than in the case study of Poland's economic plight.

I am sure that your Lordships are familiar with these figures: 80 billion dollars have been invested in Eastern Europe by the free world, most of it in Poland, a sum which is 70 per cent. higher in today's real money terms than the total cost of the Marshall Plan, which with its 46 billion dollars not only put the whole of Western Europe on its feet again but made it possible in turn to start up world trade and so benefit the Eastern economies as well.

The West has no united policy on how to deal with Poland's economic future beyond a vague desire to use continued economic aid as a currency for reward and punishment. Of the three broad schools of thought and argument vying for acclaim at this moment, which one should we embrace? Should we cut off credits and drastically reduce trade? Should sanctions range from pin-pricks of temporary inconvenience to genuine hardship for Comecon, or should we continue on more or less the same scale of East-West trade, having, of course, first duly registered our protest and concern?

Today's news about the rescheduling of the Polish debt is, of course, only a temporary reprieve and will not get us anywhere in the very long term. While we in Europe tend to favour the school of leniency and com promise, Wall Street and Washington are still locked in a soul-searching debate and one which runs radically across party lines. The official, or near-official, view is that the military Government in Poland and, therefore, the Soviet Union, must be punished by starving them of hard currency.

Incidentally, as to America's deeply ingrained reluctance to prop up the Soviet economy, I came across an interesting observation made by a young member of the British Foreign Office and dated 16th October 1945. He is now a Member of your Lordships' House—the noble Lord, Lord Brimelow. He said then: Large-scale American economic help to Russia would achieve nothing since it would only attract contempt and ingratitude from the Soviet rulers. If the USA sent help to Russia they will have been represented as doing so out of purely selfish motives to avoid their own economic difficulties. If they deny help their decision will have been due to the influence of insidious reactionaries". A common strategy may be drastic or elastic, but it must be sensible. To cut off credits and trade is self-defeating. To let one country go by default might cause terrible chain reactions and hit the most unexpected victims. It might prove contagious and ruin countries in the developing world, and, in the last resort, the lenders themselves. He who sets such a dangerous economic course in motion might, in the process, turn into that well-intentioned Sorcerer's Apprentice who unleashes dark and sinister forces which he is no longer able to restrain.

In conclusion, only a core strategy to deal with the problems of, as it were, those three concentric rings together—Poland, Helsinki, East-West peace—can lead us back to a path of sanity. It is an axiom that strength and unity alone will yield us progress and ultimate success at the negotiating table. But it should also be an axiom of our strategy that, when the Soviets show genuine signs of relenting, they must, in turn, be given due recognition and reward. Nothing would be a more poignant and convincing signal of Russia's willingness to reopen genuine and not merely dialectical exchanges than the decision of the Polish Government to release and re-enfranchise the elected workers and leaders of Poland, the men and women of Solidarity.

We must make it clear to the Soviets that, by honouring their obligations under the Helsinki Agreement, they would help the cause of peace, help the Poles and above all help themselves. They have to decide if détente is to live up to its role as the policy of mutual concession or to live down to the cynical definition of being a, continuation of the cold war by other means".

2.34 p.m.

Lord Saint Oswald

My Lords, it is a great personal satisfaction to me to be able to follow the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, in this debate, a noble Lord with whom I have shared so many views in the past, across the international field and across the Floor of this House, including practically the whole of what he said today. It seems to me particularly appropriate, right and necessary, that he should spell out and emphasise the janissary characteristic of General Jaruzelski and of the action which he carried out within his own country on foreign orders. The pretence has happily been dropped, though no sooner than it should have been in the West, that this was an entirely Polish affair; as the noble Lord has said, it never was.

Although I had the apparent and most reluctant discourtesy of entering the Chamber just after the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, opened the debate, I know that he explained his purpose in keeping this Unstarred Question on the Order Paper despite the world circumstances of the day. I agree with one half of his reasoning but doubt the validity of the other half which I heard him introduce in the course of his speech. It is, without argument, important, right and essential to keep the sufferings of Poland in the public and parliamentary eye at this time, perhaps especially at this time when other anxieties relating to another hemisphere tend to eclipse the existing, continuing travail of people in central and eastern Europe, especially in Poland.

Even without the crisis and crime of the invasion of British territory in the South Atlantic, the inevitable price of courage being paid by Poles, as suppression and resistance both persevere, becomes less vivid and real to the people in the more comfortable West. Poles in Britain, in greater or milder moods of despair, have complained to me in the last several weeks that Poland has been forgotten. That was never true, and has never been, in fact, a fair verdict on British conscience.

Having been a professional newspaperman myself I am professionally aware that everything in journalism is relative, and public interest, which sells papers, is relative also to the evaluation of events. Under these conditions I have been impressed and moved by the continuity of attention given by the British press, television and radio to Polish affairs, and with the high order of reporting skill and judgment. Reputations have been worthily made, and many of us will have in mind, as I have, the example of Mr. Tim Sebastian who found himself, fairly suddenly, with a responsibility to chronicle and transmit the tragic and historic events with the world watching. He and many of his colleagues rose to the demand, under restrictive conditions, and still sustained an interpretation of their duty at a high level.

There are now, I am told, 10,000-upwards men and women incarcerated in prisons and concentration camps in Poland. The message which still reaches Britain from the oppressed people concentrates on a plea that economic measures should be taken, that Polish trade and Soviet goods and trade in general, incoming and outgoing, and Eastern bloc trade in general, should be blacked at ports of the Western countries. Those making the plea appreciate that a consequence of this would be still greater deprivation for the Polish people but they are staunch to spiritual values and prepared for more suffering in terms of material values.

It is my view that we should respond to such a valiant offering of increased hardship, respond to those who undergo the hardship. Unfortunately, their physical readiness is not matched by economic readiness on our part. Western nations watch each other suspiciously to see if embargoes on Polish and Soviet trade by one will give advantage to the other. This is an irony which can hardly be forgiven by history, as it is being written today and in our time.

In passing, within a suitably short speech in a suitably short debate, I have to say that Lord Gladwyn's claim that the Argentine's invasion of the Falkland Islands corresponds with the simultaneous British action at Suez and the Soviet invasion of Hungary does not seem to me a realistic parallel. It seems to imply that the Russians might not have invaded Hungary if Britain had not been engaged at the far end of the Mediterranean, and that on such a theoretical basis the despatch of British warships to the Southern Hemisphere now might encourage another military adventure by Soviet Russia in the near future.

It strikes me as mistaken to link the described events either past or future in this way. The outrage being perpetrated on the Falkland Islands is of a kind where redress and rescue may be possible, and where Britain can, and should, act. It will not interfere with the other kind of aid we can offer to Poland, not could it in any way encourage the Communists to expand their outrage still further in Europe. There is only one sense in which this could be so; if we were to turn our attention away from their misdeeds in Europe. Their misdeeds are unrelenting still.

There is a small but not insignificant matter I feel bound to raise within the Polish context. On 25th February, my noble friend Lord Trefgarne inadvertently and unintentionally misinformed me when asnwering a Parliamentary Question. I had asked about access to British subjects in Poland being refused or prevented by the authorities to officials of the British Embassy when such request for access had been made. He said, among other things: "In no case has access been refused". That was not the case and it remains inexact. Since the declaration of martial law, Mr. Marek Jarzembowski, a British subject temporarily a student in Poland, has been cut off from contact with the British Embassy, and remains so. My understanding is that the embassy made repeated requests to see him, and those requests are to this day still ignored or refused. His father, who lives and works in London, confirmed to me this morning that he is still hoping that the British diplomatic effort will succeed, but he has been given no assurance or prediction of success.

If that were one case of which the Minister was unaware, there may be others, possibly many others. I should be grateful to be told—later, not today—that further efforts to overcome this deficiency will be made, efforts which should be well within the legal obligatioas of Her Majesty's Government. I am sharply aware of the unfairness to my noble friend Lord Belstead in repeating the question, with a certain hint of criticism of his new department, based on immediate experience of the first instance, so soon after he has taken up his new post at this difficult and dramatic time. He and I have worked closely together in the past and I know how conscientious he is, as much where personal matters are involved as with those of public policy. I pass the question back confidently through him.

It is a fine thing that noble Lords of prestige, experience and influence should have set down their names for this debate at this time. To know the Poles is to know and admire their national character. That, in turn, is to understand how, through history, they have been able and determined to defend, and so often recover, the values and liberties inherently integral to their character. It is fortifying to see ever new evidence that this character and determination are undiminished, accepting scarifice as part of self-respect and national respect. This is our issue as much as theirs, the issue of civilised people menaced by barbarism. This debate will have done something—and we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn—to remind our people of that fact and to remind the Poles that their defence of our values is recognised and justly admired.

2.43 p.m.

The Duke of Portland

My Lords, I venture to address the House as I have twice lived in Poland. The first occasion was as secterary to the British Legation in Warsaw from 1919 to 1922; the second as Ambassador from June 1945 until February 1947. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, has asked what practical steps Her Majesty's Government are proposing to take to persuade the Polish Government to honour their obligations under the Helsinki Declaration and restore to the Polish people their human rights.

I fear that I must disagree with my noble friend Lord Saint Oswald because I would strongly deprecate wholesale economic and financial sanctions. Those would increase the hardships suffered by the civilian population of Poland and have little effect on General Jaruzelski, his colleagues, troops and police. Sanctions should be selective and directed to preventing the Polish Government from obtaining weapons, the means to manufacture arms and all technology connected therewith. Special care should he exercised to ensure that the Soviet Union does not obtain machinery and technology through Poland; any breach of that, even by other countries, should not only form the subject of discreet diplomatic protests but should be made known to the whole world through the press and not swept under the carpet.

Any loans granted to Poland should not be granted to the Government, but to responsible bodies engaged in alleviating the hardships suffered by the civilian population. We should persistently and ceaselessly continue to publicise the manner in which the Poles are denied their human rights, and show to the Poles that Poland is not forgotten.

Since 1945 I have noticed that when a country is taken over by the Russians or their stooges, a great fuss is made, but little by little the affair is buried in deadly silence—as appears to be the case with Afghanistan. Finally, I hope that Her Majesty's Government will keep in touch with the Roman Catholic hierarchy, who are better able than anyone else to judge what is best for the Polish people.

2.46 p.m.

Lord Stewart of Fulham

My Lords, since the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, is to reply to this debate, I think that I may be allowed to do what I did not have the opportunity to do earlier; namely, to congratulate him on the new and, if I may say so, terrifying appointment for which he has been preferred. We wish him success, though we are well aware of the anxieties and difficulties which an appointment of that kind carries with it.

For the past generation or more we have had to reconcile ourselves to the fact that there is in Eastern Europe what Mr. Brezhnev once called a socialist commonwealth, and which could more accurately be described as the Russian Empire, and that the Warsaw Pact countries are the core of that empire. But there are of course other countries either more or less intimately brought within the Soviet orbit. There are varying degrees of subjection to the Soviet Union in this empire. It stretches from the absolute domination freshly imposed by military power, as in Afghanistan, to degrees of surveillance, as in some of the Eastern European countries. But there it is all the time, and I suppose that the central fact of world politics today is the existence of that bloc and its relationship to the free world, whose centre, likewise, is an alliance, the Atlantic Alliance.

One could trace the varying fortunes of the countries within this Russian Empire. They have passed through periods when life has been tolerable, periods when the tyranny has been clamped down on them very hard indeed. Not long ago the Poles found that life for them was becoming harder and harder as a result of the incompetence, corruption, and greed of their own communist ruling party. They managed to make increasingly successful protests against that, and the more successful were the protests, the more firmly were the eyes of the Soviet Government turned towards them. Now of course the advances towards liberty that they had seemed to be making have been swept aside, and the Russian power has been clamped down on them.

That is the situation that we face. We are trying to answer the question, what in these circumstances ought a British Government to do? Well, I think that we would all be agreed that there is one thing (not large, in view of the size of the problem) that a Biritish Government should try to do—to assist in any way open to them the flow of actual, material charitable help to those in need in Poland. As the noble Duke, the Duke of Portland, suggested, the Government have ways of seeing that help of that kind goes into the right hands, to those who need it, and is not the subject of malversation by the Polish Government. We hope that the British Government will do everything possible in that line.

Next, there is the question of the economic difficulties of Poland and whether it ought to be the policy of the West to deal with them harshly as a kind of punishment for being part of the Russian Empire, or to have what the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, called a soft approach. I must say that in general I would express my agreement with his description of what he called a soft approach, and, as the noble Duke, the Duke of Portland, suggested, anything in the nature of sanctions should be relevant to the needs of the time, and should be in a form which we can have some hope of enforcing. To take steps with our allies to prevent any action which will increase the military strength of the Soviet Union and its empire is one thing: to engage in a general kind of gesture which we hope will in some way punish the unfortunate Poles for being the victims of calamity will get us nowhere at all.

But I believe the most important lesson we have to learn when we ask the question is simply this. We must look to our defences and remember and restate our principles. We have to face the harsh fact that we cannot rescue one member of the Warsaw Pact from its so-called ally and in reality its master. We cannot ourselves deliver the Polish people. To the liberation of the peoples of Eastern Europe and others who have now fallen under Russian domination there is no immediate or easy answer. I believe that if we look a long way ahead we may find events so developing that, gradually, Soviet dominion relaxes and liberty returns; but it is impossible to prophesy how or when that shall happen. What we have to do is to keep the door open so that one day it could happen.

We do that by making sure that our own defences are fully in order and that we continue, not only to maintain our defences but, as I have said, to maintain our principles, to remind the world of what the Atlantic Alliance is for. It is not merely one military bloc against another: it is an organisation dedicated to the maintenance of freedom in our part of the world. We ought always, in our conduct of international affairs, to remember that we have high standards to set. That was one reason, of course, why Suez was such an appalling disaster. Our whole justification for a military alliance was that we were the champions of freedom and the champions of the rule of law. We have now learned better; and, as I say, we must look both to our defences and to our principles.

This part of the matter was, if I may say so, very impressively developed by the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld. While agreeing with very much of what he said, I do not want to add to a position that I think he has already very fully described. But I share with him and with other speakers a little puzzlement at the wording of the Question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn. He speaks of our persuading the Polish Government to honour its obligations under the Helsinki Declaration". We know why the Polish Government cannot honour its obligations under the Helsinki Declaration. It is not being allowed to, and that is the heart of the matter.

I do not think that many people regard General Jaruzelski with a great deal of admiration at the present time. But it seems to me that we in this country should think many times before we indulge in any considerable condemnation of him. We should be thankful that we ourselves are not placed in that dreadful position of being ordered by the Russian Government to tyrannise our own people, with the alternative of having the job done for us directly and possibly more harshly. That is his position; that is the position of what can be called a Government in Poland.

It is worth while reminding some of those who advocate unilateral nuclear disarmament of this. I have recently read speeches by prominent advocates of unilateral nuclear disarmament who have produced this argument. They have said: "How absurd it is, what rubbish it is, to pretend that we are in any danger of having our liberties taken away by the Soviet Union. Look at the Soviet Union—it cannot even keep the Poles and the Afghans in order. What have we to fear from them?"

Do not let us deceive ourselves. The conquest of Poland and Afghanistan—for that is what has happened—has been, from the Russian point of view, an untidy, messy business, more expensive than they had planned for; but do not let us deceive ourselves into thinking that it has not been successful. Those two countries have been subjugated. They can be used more and more for the purposes of increasing the whole power of the Soviet empire. That is what Russian expansionism means. We cannot kid ourselves that because of Russia's difficulties, such as they are, she does not remain a formidable menace to freedom everywhere. The one thing which stands against that and which prevents that dread from becoming a reality is the strength and unity of the Atlantic Alliance. That is the largest lesson that we must learn from this situation.

There is also another unilateralist approach which sometimes finds popular expression in the words, "Better Red than dead!"—that if you have to choose between being killed in a war against Russia and submitting to them, it would be better to submit. The fallacy in that argument, as Poles and Afghans are now finding out, is that if you submit or are subjected you do not even get peace as a result. What happens is that you are knitted into a war machine. That would be the fate of this country if our liberties were taken away. Noble Lords may feel that I am overstating the case. In a sense, I hope that I am. I hope that these dangers never become realities, and I do not think that they will. What I am saying is that what prevents them is the strength and unity of the Alliance. I wish very much that, whatever the immediate and direct help we may give to the Poles, we can render them and the whole record of Poland this service. They have a reputation of being most valiant fighters for liberty both for their own liberties and, side by side with other people, for the liberties of mankind. One service at least we can render them: to make it quite clear that we are not deserting the struggle for human liberty.

2.57 p.m.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, speaking as a former Foreign Secretary, for his kind words to me and I am sure your Lordships will want me to express appreciation for the noble Lord's general remarks during the latter part of his speech about the need for vigilance and preparedness in the free world. I also welcome the determination of your Lordships not to allow the House to rise for the Recess without drawing attention again to the plight of Poland.

May I briefly recall why events in Poland over the past four months have aroused the concern and condemnation of Governments and public opinion throughout the free world. The development over nearly 18 months of the movement for renewal and reform in Poland, supported by the overwhelming mass of the Polish people, was watched with sympathy and admiration in the West. Solidarity's collective assertion of the Polish workers' aspirations for freedom of expression and organisation offered inspiration not only to the Polish people but also to other peoples of Eastern Europe.

Western Governments sympathised with the expressions of freedom and hope. We provided significant economic assistance in order to help the Polish Government tackle their difficult economic and political problems and we tried to help pave the way through dialogue for the evolution of a system more responsive to the wishes and needs of the Polish people. As your Lordships know, these hopes were dashed with the imposition of martial law in Poland on 13th December 1981. Military law was not imposed without force; and, again, all this is very familiar to noble Lords who have taken part in debate this afternoon. So that we have the situation where the military rulers, with the full endorsement of the Soviet Union, have shrouded Poland in a blanket of secrecy and uncertainty—and the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, made the point valuably that this could not have been done without the complicity and authority of the Soviet Union.

The freedom of expression which had characterised Poland for more than a year was replaced overnight by silence, and the clamp-down to which so many of your Lordships have referred was total and unyielding. Then, four months later, despite the assurances of the military authorities that they would return to the path of renewal and reform, we find Poland remaining in the grip of wide-scale repression. Many Poles are still deprived of their liberty. Solidarity, despite underground activity, is officially silenced and parliament is subdued. Such a policy leads to a dead end. Not only will popular resistance to dictatorship in Poland never die, but only through a genuine dialogue can Poland hope to achieve lasting political and economic stability.

The reaction of Western Governments to developments in Poland was swift and unanimous and was reflected in the Statements of 15th December and 4th January of the Foreign Ministers of the Ten. In these we condemned the situation in Poland and called for the lifting of martial law, the release of those in detention and the resumption of a dialogue with the Church and Solidarity. This call was reaffirmed by the Foreign Ministers of the North Atlantic Alliance in their declaration of 11th January, following which NATO countries considered specific actions in respect of Poland and the Soviet Union to demonstrate the West's concern and our refusal to accept as permanent the repression in Poland. As a result of these consultations, Her Majesty's Government and a number of our western partners have announced specific measures towards Poland and the Soviet Union.

Details of the measures taken by the Government were given to your Lordships by my noble friend Lord Trefgarne in his reply on 8th February to my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing. These included the imposition of restrictions upon the travel of Polish diplomats and other official representatives; the increase by five hours a week in broadcasts of the BBC's Polish service—a matter to which the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfield, referred specifically—and the decision to ensure that our relations with the military régime in Poland reflected the abnormal nature of the present situation. On the economic front, we have placed in abeyance existing officially guaranteed credits to Poland. Subject to safeguarding the interests of British firms having legal binding contractual obligations, we decided that no new credits would be made available at the present time. We also undertook, in agreement with the other 15 major official creditors, that negotiations on the re-scheduling of Poland's official debt repayments in 1982 should not be resumed for the time being.

That remains the position today. I believe that the re-sheduling agreement to which the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, referred is one between Poland and the private banks concerning their debts for 1981. In addition to the withholding of financial assistance to the Polish Government, the European Community Foreign Ministers agreed on 26th January that further sales of food to Poland at special prices should be discontinued in the present circumstances, and funds earmarked for that purpose diverted to the provision of humanitarian aid.

But we have not taken measures in respect of Poland alone. The Government have drawn attention to a sustained campaign of pressures—economic, political and even military—which the Soviet Union have brought to bear over many months on Poland with the object of surpressing the popular movement for reform and the free trade union, Solidarity. Such pressure was surely wholly at odds with the Soviet Union's commitment freely undertaken at Helsinki and constitutes gross interference in Poland's internal affairs.

In recognition of this, the Government and their allies have taken a number of measures against the Soviet Union. These have included the imposition of additional restrictions on the travel of Soviet officials based in the United Kingdom, a reduction in the level of bilateral technical co-operation, the introduction of a licensing system covering Soviet factory ships transhipping fish caught in United Kingdom waters, and a proposed renegotiation of the Anglo-Soviet treaty on merchant navigation. Apart from these bilateral measures, the European Community has decided to reduce Community imports of certain manufactured and luxury goods from the Soviet Union and has proposed the reclassification of the Soviet Union within the OECD export credit consensus: and discussions are now taking place on this. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, suggested that the possibility of modifying Western credit policy towards the Soviet Union should be considered. This is a matter to which we and our partners are certainly giving careful consideration.

The Government have played a full part in ensuring that the violation of human rights and civil rights in Poland, and the Soviet complicity in this, have also been brought to the attention of governments and public opinion throughout the world and in particular at the United Nations and its specialised agencies. At the recent session of the United Nations Commission for Human Rights, the Government supported a resolution calling upon the Polish Government to restore human rights in Poland and requesting the United Nations Secretary-General to investigate the human rights situation in Poland.

Within the International Labour Organisation, we have supported the efforts of the Director-General to send a fact-finding mission to Poland: it is hardly surprising that it has not met with success. We have also firmly endorsed the recommendation of the Freedom of Association Committee, endorsed by the ILO's Governing Body on 4th March, to send such a commission to Poland in the near future. Together with a large majority of signatory states, the Government have also taken steps to draw attention to Soviet and Polish violations of the provisions of the Helsinki Final Act. At the resumed session of the CSEC review meeting in Madrid last month, my noble friend Lord Carrington deplored the failure of the Polish Government to respect human rights and fundamental free- doms in Poland, as stipulated by the Final Act. My noble friend emphasised that repression in Poland was incompatible not only with the letter of the Final Act but also with its political purpose of creating a healthier framework for the development of East/West relations.

In parallel with the measures in respect of Poland and the Soviet Union that I have sought to describe, the Government have also given priority to action designed to alleviate the material suffering of the Polish people and in particular the needy and the sick who have been hardest hit by the disastrous economic situation in Poland. To this end, we and other Western governments have contributed to the efforts of other non-governmental organisations in the West providing humanitarian aid to Poland.

As your Lordships may be aware, Foreign Ministers of the European Community decided on 23rd February to approve a Commission proposal for humanitarian aid to Poland of approximately £4.5 million. A number of British charities have been in discussion with the Commission concerning the allocation of funds under this proposal, and I understand that at least two United Kingdom agencies, the Sue Ryder Foundation and the Ockenden Venture, will be involved in the current relief programme funded by the Community. I believe the Commission may put further proposals in due course.

Within the United Kingdom, the Government have given financial and other assistance to help the coordination of efforts to those voluntary and Church agencies providing humanitarian aid to Poland, and a grant has been given to the Ockenden Venture for this purpose. We hope that those agencies in the United Kingdom wishing to be linked up in this way may now be able to provide more efficient and comprehensive relief to Poland. We are aware of the continuing interest and concern in this country for the work of the voluntary agencies, and we naturally welcome this activity.

A further problem concerns the plight of those Poles outside Poland who do not wish to return to their native country in the present circumstances. In line with our partners and allies, the Government have agreed to an extension of stay for those who have requested this, and no Pole has been returned to Poland against his will. We shall continue to keep the situation under review.

In line with other Western Governments, however, Her Majesty's Government now continue to remain opposed to any attempts by the Polish authorities to put pressure on Polish citizens to choose between leaving their native country or facing indefinite detention. Our views, and those of our European Community partners, were made clear in the statement of the Heads of Governments and States of the Ten on 30th March, and I repeat that now. We shall consider applications for asylum only from Poles who, we believe, are genuine in their wish to leave Poland. Such applications would be considered in accordance with our normal procedures.

I attach great importance to what my noble friend the Duke of Portland said about the insidious way in which Soviet cruelty and repression can, with the passage of time, become forgotten. I hope it is clear from what I have said today that the Government have taken significant action to demonstrate our continuing abhorrence of the present repression in Poland, and to persuade the Polish Government to change their policies. Some of these measures, notably the imposition by a number of Western Governments of travel restrictions on Polish official personnel in their countries, appear to have had a rapid effect, and we believe that the withholding of Western economic assistance to Poland has brought home strongly to the Polish authorities the heavy cost of persisting in the course of repression that they have chosen.

But our measures have not been intended as sanctions. Our aim, and that of our allies, has been rather to send a clear signal to the Polish and Soviet authorities, as an expression of our concern at the present situation in Poland, and as an indication of our willingness to go further in the event of any more overt Soviet intervention. In this, we believe that we have been successful. We believe that the Soviet Union understand that the West has a common view of Soviet complicity in the Polish repression, and that when they engage in this kind of behaviour there are bound to be consequences for Soviet relations with Western countries.

It is not, of course, the West which is to blame for the present uncertain and disturbed state of East-West relations—if I may just put in a very quick word on this general subject about which your Lordships have spoken, and which was mentioned in the speeches of the noble Lords, Lord Gladwyn, Lord Weidenfeld and Lord Stewart. The West has kept faith with the idea of better East-West relations. It is not the West, but the Soviet Union which has undermined the mutual trust on which a constructive relationship depends. Let us be in no doubt from which quarter efforts to improve international confidence must come. I should like to make perfectly clear in reply to this debate that we remain firmly committed to the negotiation of realistic and verifiable agreements for arms control; but it is up to the Russians to decide whether they will accept the West's offer of mutually beneficial cooperation, or whether they are going to continue to behave in ways which can only complicate or undermine the prospects for East-West relations.

Finally, I should just like to say to my noble friend Lord Saint Oswald that I will certainly take away the point which he put to me in the debate, and will come back to him later on that point. I should like to stress that the measures taken by the Government in respect of Poland are not intended to be irreversible. Since our object is to encourage the Polish Government to modify its policies, we shall seek as appropriate to respond to developments in Poland, particularly the action taken by the Polish authorities to fulfil their declared intention of returning to the path of renewal and reform. Equally, however, in face of the continuing intransigence of the military authorities, we and our partners and allies will continue to make our views known and to use all practicable means at our disposal to persuade the Polish Government to honour their undertakings.

I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, for giving us the opportunity to debate this matter, and for the Government to be able to make it clear that on this, as the recent statement of Heads of Governments and states of the Ten made clear, the West is united and uncompromising. We await the Polish response.