|Previous Section||Home Page|
Column 36611.9 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
Column 367shall 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
Column 368Delors 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 communiqu e 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 Assemble e Nationale and the Bundestag, that nation states will remain the central feature of the Community of Europe. The nation state is
Column 369the 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
Column 370being 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
Column 371Czechoslovakia, 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.
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
Column 372personally 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. 11.40 am
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.
Column 373I 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
Column 374opportunities 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
Column 375only 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."
Column 376Fortunately 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 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.
Column 377If 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.
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
Column 378Valley (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?"
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.
Column 379It 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",
"my 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
Column 380and 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 in two 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