Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

HC Stmnt: [Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (New Delhi)]

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [49/989-1000]
Editorial comments: 1530-.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 6159
Themes: Civil liberties, Commonwealth (general), Commonwealth (South Africa), Conservative Party (history), Defence (arms control), Economic policy - theory and process, Higher & further education, General Elections, Monetary policy, Trade, Foreign policy - theory and process, Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (Americas excluding USA), Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (development, aid, etc), Foreign policy (International organizations), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Northern Ireland, Race, immigration, nationality, Sport, Terrorism
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The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

I will, with permission, Mr. Speaker, make a statement on the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting which I attended in New Delhi and Goa from 23 to 29 November. My right hon. and learned Friend Sir Geoffrey Howethe Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs also attended for the first three days. I have arranged for the communiqué to be placed in the Library of the House.

Two specific matters—Grenada and Cyprus—were considered early in the proceedings. On Grenada there was a long and detailed debate. Heads of Government decided to concentrate on the future, not the past—on reconstruction, not recrimination. They welcomed the establishment of an interim civilian administration, looked forward to free and fair elections, and confirmed their willingness on certain conditions to consider sympathetically Grenadian requests for assistance.

There was also a more general discussion of the practical need to give greater security to small states, many of them islands, not only in the Caribbean but elsewhere in the Commonwealth. Sir S. RamphalThe Secretary-General was asked to undertake a study of the problem. As the House knows, this is a matter to which Her Majesty's Government are also giving thought. Regional groups may have a special role to play.

With regard to Cyprus, Commonwealth leaders fully endorsed United Nations Security Council resolution 541 which deplored the Turkish Cypriot declaration of secession as legally invalid, requested the United Nations Secretary-General to pursue his mission of good offices, and called upon the parties to co-operate fully. But it was also felt that the Commonwealth should itself try to help bring about a solution, and an action group was established to assist in implementation of the Security Council resolution. Britain is not a member of that group as we already have a particular role as a guarantor power.

Among the other specific subjects, Southern Africa was discussed at length. We considered the implementation of the United Nations plan for Namibian independence and the present obstacles to its achievement. The concept of a conditional link between the independence of Namibia and the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola was rejected, but clearly the fact that other nations have made the linkage is material to how and when the problem will be resolved.

On more general matters, the meeting issued two declarations. The main theme of the Goa declaration on international security is that at a time of heightened tension in the world the first objective must be to re-establish a constructive dialogue between East and West, by increasing contacts and by rebuilding a climate of confidence. We support that objective.

The statement on economic action deals with current international economic problems, notes that all countries have a responsibility for pursuing prudent domestic economic policies and recognise the need for the Bretton Woods institutions to be adapted and better equipped to deal with the problems of the international economy. It was decided to establish a consultative group, on which the United Kingdom will be represented, for the purpose of [column 990]promoting wider agreement on the issues that we discussed. The group will report to Commonwealth Finance Ministers before their 1984 meeting in Toronto.

Mr. Neil Kinnock (Islwyn)

I thank the right hon. Lady for her statement. We are all glad to see her on her safe return.

Will the right hon. Lady assure the House that she will be more active in fulfilling the purposes of the New Delhi communiqué than she was in pursuing the purposes listed in the Melbourne communiqué which was issued after the last conference of Heads of Government? In Melbourne the Prime Minister urged all Governments to

“desist forthwith from any collaboration with South Africa which undermined the implementation of the arms embargo” .

However, her own Government has since then acted in precisely the opposite direction, permitting serious military collaboration with South Africa, including military radar sales.

We nevertheless welcome the Government's support for United Nations resolution 539 and the commitment in the Heads of Government communiqué to the adoption of appropriate measures under the United Nations charter should South Africa continue to obstruct the implementation of the independence plan.

There is a somewhat cryptic sentence in the statement that refers to the fact that

“other nations have made the linkage”

and that that

“is material to how and when the problem will be resolved.”

What does that sentence mean? Can the Prime Minister allay our fears that she may already be relinquishing the position that she took up at the United Nations on 28 October and at the New Delhi conference this week? Which measures may she consider to be appropriate if South Africa continues to impede progress on Namibia?

Bearing in mind how far other Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth Governments have gone in implementing the principles of the Gleneagles agreement, and recognising the fact that by far the largest number of sporting visitors to South Africa are from this country, can the right hon. Lady tell the House how she intends to give greater effect to her renewal in New Delhi of the commitment to the Gleneagles agreement?

Given the Prime Minister's support for the section of the communiqué which reaffirms support for the principles of independence and non-intervention in the affairs of other states, sovereignty and territorial integrity, may I—in a spirit of reconstruction and not recrimination—ask the Prime Minister what measure she intends to take to ensure that other countries, including the United States, accept similar commitments on independence and non-intervention?

Why was the Prime Minister so obdurate in her opposition to the widely supported initiative of Mr. Robert Muldoon for a new international conference to consider the reform of the world trade and financial institutions set up at Bretton Woods 39 years ago? Why, even when a compromise was reached on that proposal, did the right hon. Lady let it be known that she did not consider that Britain is bound by the decision of Commonwealth Heads of Government to seek an international conference with universal participation simply to review international monetary and trade problems?

Does the Prime Minister still take the same simplistic view of economic affairs that she did at the start of the New [column 991]Delhi conference? Is she still lecturing people without shoes on how to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps?

The Prime Minister

This country has fully honoured the military arms embargo on South Africa. Certain equipment is suitable for both civilian and military use. Sale of that equipment did not offend the mandatory arms embargo.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about linkage. As I have said, we do not recognise a direct linkage between the presence of Cuban troops in Angola and the independence of Namibia, as my right hon. Friend Sir Geoffrey Howethe Foreign Secretary has made perfectly clear. Other people do, and denouncing by rhetoric will not wish away the linkage. We must continue to try to persuade. The meeting of the contact group of Ministers will take place again in London in December.

We have upheld the Gleneagles agreement. It is one in which the Government cannot coerce people, even if the right hon. Gentleman would wish them to do so.

We have given our views on Grenada. This does not seem the time to go over the past, but to try to help constructively with the future. Other countries must reach their own decisions about how they honour non-intervention in the affairs of other states and of not crossing other borders.

With regard to economic affairs, the Commonwealth Finance Ministers conference was exactly in accord with my view that a contact group should be set up to consider whether any steps need to be taken to improve the existing institutions. If it reached certain conclusions, that might eventually lead to an international conference. We see no need for one at the moment. The rest of the Commonwealth agreed with me and not the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. David Steel (Tweedale, Ettrick and Lauderdale)

Will the Prime Minister confirm that she disagreed with the New Zealand Prime Minister on that last point, as she disagreed with the Canadian Prime Minister on the need for a nuclear power summit and with the majority of the conference condemning the South African constitutional referendum as fraudulent on the grounds that it did not involve the majority of the population? Did she find that everyone except her was out of step?

The Prime Minister

If the right hon. Gentleman reads the economic communiqué, he will see that it fully expresses my view, and that it was agreed to by the conference as a whole. He has it wrong. After discussion, the conference accepted my view. As there are many international debt problems still to be solved, it is not surprising that many members took the view that it was far better to strengthen the authority, and adapt and extend the scope of the existing institutions, than to undermine them. That view is included in the communiqué.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

That is what the Liberal News said.

The Prime Minister

That was the view that I took at the outset. The right hon. Gentleman's other question was about South Africa. He used the word “fraudulent” about the differences in the franchise which have recently been put in a referendum to the white population. I did not [column 992]dissent from that part of the communiqué, but I would not have used the word “fraudulent” . It would help matters in South Africa to go in the way in which we would like—steadily to abolish apartheid—if we were to encourage those many people in South Africa who are working precisely for that.

Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, pavilion)

I appreciate that there is no automatic linkage between the withdrawal of South Africa from Namibia and the Cubans from Angola, but does my right hon. Friend agree that a higher priority should be given to the withdrawal of Cubans, who are non-African, and Soviet stooges from Angola than to get the South Africans, who are Africans, out of Namibia? Did she make representations to Mr. Mugabe about the detention without trial of our friend Bishop Abel Muzorewa?

The Prime Minister

With regard to Angola and Namibia, again, one would have preferred an injunction about the withdrawal of all foreign troops, which would seem to be fair. We were not able to achieve that because certain people within the Commonwealth took a very different view. In drafting these communiqués, one has to reach a view which can be represented in them. As my right hon. Friend knows, I should have preferred the withdrawal of all foreign troops, including the Cubans, and any South Africans who may be in Angola.

I did not raise the subject of Bishop Abel Muzorewa with Mr. Mugabe. That seems to be to an internal matter for Mr. Mugabe.

Mr. Jack Ashley (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

Did the Prime Minister have a guilty conscience at the conference about the fact that British overseas aid has been cut to .44 per cent. of the GDP—one of the lowest in western Europe—or did she lecture it on the need for efficiency savings?

The Prime Minister

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, our aid programme this year is about £1.1 billion. I must point out to him, although he may not like it, that the Commonwealth thanked me for once again making efforts to get the IDA round 6 moving. Without our efforts it would not have been fully replenished. The Commonwealth asked me to do the same on IDA 7.

Mr. Ian Lloyd (Havant)

As there is little sign of what would be a welcome retreat as a result of his statements or actions from what is certainly the studied arrogance of the Marxist or the paranoid suspicion of the successful terrorist, what evidence can my right hon. Friend give the House of a single action to justify her saying to Mr. Mugabe, or Mr. Mugabe saying to her, that British citizens have been involved in the subversion of that sad and sorry state which has succeeded Rhodesia? If there is such evidence, and if Mr. Mugabe can make it available, will he enable us to see and study it so that we can judge its accuracy, because we have the gravest doubts about most of the disinformation which proceeds from the so-called front line states?

The Prime Minister

I am not certain which person my hon. Friend is getting at. I have said that the subject of the air force officers arose, what happened, and how it would be resolved. We must consider how best to secure the release of those people. I believe that their cases will go before the tribunal. I hope that my hon. Friend will accept that the judicial process in Zimbabwe was impeccable.

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Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West)

Was the Prime Minister impressed by the strong feelings that apparently existed about the proliferation of nuclear weapons? If she was, what support, if any, did she give to Mr. Pierre Trudeau 's initiative?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman will find a reference to nuclear proliferation in the communiqué. It is rather elliptical, because some of the non-aligned states strongly took the view that they would not sign that non-proliferation agreement. They were prepared to include a sentence in the communiqué which sought to decrease the number of nuclear weapons and to prevent their further spread. We could not go beyond that.

Mr. Mark Robinson (Newport, West)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her contribution to what, by all accounts, was a highly constructive and successful Commonwealth meeting. Did she make any specific suggestions about the restoration of democracy in Grenada in the context of how the British Government might be able to give assistance?

The Prime Minister

We should give assistance, if asked, in two ways. The first is by providing police or making arrangements for training the police. We have helped with the supervision of elections in Zimbabwe and Uganda, and the Commonwealth has helped in other places. We could help with internal, non-military security and the arrangement of the elections. We have to be asked. There is an advisory council advising the governor-general and he knows that we shall be sympathetic to any claim made upon us. As my hon. Friend knows, we have just announced £750,000 of aid to Grenada to help initially.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn(Islington, North)

What was the reaction of other Commonwealth Heads of Government to the continued cut in British aid to Grenada between 1979 and 1983 and the decision to increase aid to that country following the American invasion? Does she agree that it is the business of the people of Grenada to decide their future, and when and if they should hold elections rather than President Reagan and herself?

The Prime Minister

On independence, a sum of £2 million was allocated for capital developments in Grenada. At the time of the trouble there, about £88,000 of that amount was still outstanding. We have tried to help Grenada by making another injection of aid of about £750,000. It is, of course, a matter for the governor-general, as advised by the advisory council, to determine when elections shall be held. Naturally, having had a Marxist Government since 1979, elections are a new thing there, and it will be necessary to compile all the registers effectively and reform the political parties.

Mr. Cranley Onslow (Working)

Although it is good news that the discussions at Delhi seem to have led to a wider all-round understanding of the problems of the eastern Caribbean generally and of the need to provide effective protection for the small states there against the many threats they face, will my right hon. Friend say whether she would be willing, in principle, for this country to make a significant contribution to a regional security pact? Does she accept that the British garrison in Belize makes an important contribution to the integrity of that [column 994]country, and that there can be no question of withdrawing it unless and until a similar regional security pact prevails there?

The Prime Minister

As I said in my statement, the Commonwealth is now carrying out a study of these important matters. We have created a number of very small independent states all over the world, which are incapable of defending their sovereignty. We now have to consider, following the events in Grenada, whether through a series of regional pacts we can do something to help them together to defend their sovereignty, but there are some places where that would be difficult.

I am very much aware of the enormous contribution made by the presence of British forces in Belize, both soldiers and a Harrier force. In fact, Belize is an oasis of democracy in a troubled central America, and it may be possible that that could play a part in a regional pact. It is better for us to spend some time, as I am sure my hon. Friend would agree, in fully considering the matter before reaching any premature conclusions.

Mr. J. D. Concannon (Mansfield)

Now that our country's relations with Mr. Mugabe and Zimbabwe seem to be improving, may I point out to some Conservative right hon. and hon. Members who criticise the judiciary of another country, that it is not many years since the right hon. Lady was a member of a Conservative Government under whom people were declared innocent in a part of the United Kingdom, re-arrested on the steps of the court, and interned?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is referring to Northern Ireland. I am very much aware of the steps that were taken at that time.

Sir John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest)

While I share and applaud my right hon. Friend's concern for the white air force officers imprisoned in Zimbabwe, may I ask her whether she shares the concern of many of us for the fate of Bishop Abel Muzorewa, who was freely elected as Prime Minister of that state in elections which were internationally observed and recognised as fair, and who now lies in imprisonment and is probably in great danger?

The Prime Minister

Yes, of course. One does not distinguish between the citizens of a country in demonstrating one's concern. I hope that that is perfectly clear.

Mr. Allan Roberts (Bootle)

The Prime Minister glossed over the conflicts at the Commonwealth conference about the invasion of Grenada. Is she aware that one of the parties to that invasion, Prime Minister Seaga, is at present in the process of setting up a one-party state in Jamaica because of the method by which he has prematurely called a general election? Will the right hon. Lady undertake to ensure that if Britain participates in any Commonwealth peacekeeping force, having talked about political parties being allowed to regroup, the new dual movement will be allowed to put forward candidates in any election that takes place in Grenada?

The Prime Minister

I guess that there are many countries that would love to have a general election on their hands now, and who have never had or known what a general election means. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.” ] I am certain that if we had one here today the result would be even more in our favour as a result of the Labour party's performance recently. [column 995]

In answer to what the hon. Gentleman said about Jamaica, may I say that it is perfectly open to Mr. Seaga to call a general election. What is wrong with that?

Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)

While there is a great advantage in a meeting of 48 nations and their Prime Ministers considering problems particularly concerning themselves and the Commonwealth, is there not here an element of a lost opportunity when 48 powerful and influential nations do not issue a declaration from Delhi on the situation in the middle east, so guiding the Western world on how to solve that vital problem?

The Prime Minister

There is a section in the communiqué on the middle east. Clearly, with the situation as it is, we could not possibly have met without discussing it. We included a section on it in the communiqué, and in particular on the Lebanon, in which we called for a withdrawal of all foreign forces, except those which are there at the request of the Lebanese Government, those being, of course, the United Nations force and the multinational force, and hoped that Lebanon would again become a fully sovereign and independent country.

Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)

Will the Prime Minister tell us about her discussion with the Commonwealth Prime Ministers about the possible linking of the START talks with the INF talks, and also matters affecting the common heritage of mankind? How did she explain to the Commonwealth Prime Ministers her Government's failure to sign the third United Nations convention on the law of the sea and her Government's attitude to the development of the Antartica treaty?

The Prime Minister

In answer to the hon. Gentleman's question about the START talks and the INF talks, we did not discuss any possible merging of the two. I was sorry that the Soviet Union chose to walk out of the INF talks when it did.

We have made our views perfectly clear on the law of the sea. The arrangements for the mining of the seabed are not sufficient for us to sign them, and the convention could act very adversely to our interests. We have taken a correct view on Antartica. There is another conference on it.

Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton and Wallington)

Although I share my right hon. Friend's preference for strengthening and adapting the international economic institutions of the Bretton Woods era, was there any discussion in Delhi, or do the Government intend to press forward with proposals to give the IMF a more advanced role to help developing countries, and also to give GATT a more thorough-going role in dealing with the problem of non-tariff barriers?

The Prime Minister

The IMF has adapted extremely well and played a foremost role in solving the great debt problems. While my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Geoffrey Howethe Foreign Secretary was chairman of the interim committee, the funds available to the IMF were greatly extended. I think that the IMF is to be congratulated on the way it has tackled the problem. Without it we should never have had a resolution of the debt problems of many countries, nor the aid of some commercial banks which has been made available because of the disciplined conditions rightly demanded by the IMF as a condition of loans. After all, [column 996]one gives extra loans to a country that is in debt, not for it to carry on in the way that got it into debt, but to enable it to get out of debt and carry on by way of prudent housekeeping. So I think that has been well done.

With regard to GATT, we had a long discussion on protectionism, but it is not enough to pay lip service to protectionism. As my hon. Friend knows, the world is riddled with protectionism and the danger is that some people may try to reduce the barriers while others leave them up. Therefore, it is absolutely vital that we move together both on the tariff barriers and the non-tariff barriers.

Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, Central and Royton)

In the section of the right hon. Lady's statement dealing with East-West relations she mentioned the necessity of increasing co-operation and dialogue. Can she tell us whether anyone at the Commonwealth conference asked her to explain why she defeated the object of the Geneva talks by allowing the cruise missiles to be deployed in Britain and thus increase the danger and tension not only to Europe but the whole world, including the Commonwealth?

The Prime Minister

I think that the hon. Gentleman is talking nonsense. He knows full well that during those talks, while we were trying to negotiate disarmament on intermediate weapons with the Soviet Union, the Soviet Union continued to deploy one SS20 a week——

Mr. Lamond


The Prime Minister

—while we were trying to negotiate their reduction. It was utterly wrong for Russia to walk out of those talks while we were just beginning to deploy cruise and Pershing. Had she agreed to dismantle her SS20s totally no cruise or Pershing need have been deployed.

Mr. K. Harvey Proctor (Billericay)

What representations did my right hon. Friend receive from other Heads of Commonwealth Governments for my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary concerning the Prevention of Terrorism Bill and in particular clause 12 of it dealing with international terrorists? I realise this is a detailed question. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will write to me if she is not in a position to reply now.

The Prime Minister

There were no representations, but if my hon. Friend will let me know the point he has in mind I will, of course, reply to him.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

By what means were the hopes, fears and aspirations of the people of Grenada made available to the Commonwealth conference? Is it not a fact that the general feeling was that the sooner a Commonwealth security force replaces that of the United States in Grenada, the better? Was this view transmitted to President Reagan, and on what factors does its implementation depend from the Prime Minister's point of view?

The Prime Minister

It is not for us to say now who shall go into Grenada. It is for the advisory council which advises the governor-general to express its wishes and to ask for help which it knows will be readily available; it is not for us to impose a particular force upon Grenada. Obviously the eastern Caribbean countries and the rest of the Caribbean countries are very closely in touch with Grenada and are able to transmit the views of the people.

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Mr. Bowen Wells (Hertford and Stortford)

Can my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister say whether there was any discussion at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting on the subject of subversion of constituent states of the Commonwealth? I refer particularly to the subversion of Grenada by the People's Revolutionary Army which led to the unfortunate events of the past six weeks. Did the Commonwealth Heads consider any method of preventing a recurrence?

The Prime Minister

We considered the problem. As my hon. Friend will see, the communiqué refers to both external and internal interference which is a direct reference to subversion, but it is a problem and will be considered along with the others. It is a problem that some of the small states cannot afford to ignore.

Mr. Norman Atkinson (Tottenham)

Is there not something hypocritical about a Commonwealth proclamation which calls for a resumption of intercommunal talks in support of the de Cuellar initiatives when neither of those initiatives can be proceeded with until there is a withdrawal of Turkish troops and we now know that neither the British Government nor the American Government have spoken to Ankara and called for the withdrawal of Turkish troops?

The Prime Minister

I am not quite sure from where the hon. Gentleman gets that information or, indeed, whether it is correct, but I think it would be totally wrong for the Commonwealth or anyone else to do nothing in this circumstance. It may be that by getting talks going between President Kyprianou and Mr. Denktash one might be able to help to restore the unitary state of Cyprus. One cannot do it just by leaving the situation as it is.

If the hon. Gentleman looks at the full communiqué on the United Nations Security Council Resolution he will see that it was sponsored by this country and very well voted upon. It was a very good resolution. There is one other aspect, of course. Britain is a guarantor power. Under the 1960 treaty it has the duty of calling together the three guarantor powers, Turkey, Greece and ourselves, if we can manage to get the three together. If we cannot, it is possible that—[Interruption.] The problem is that they do not all accept the invitation to sit together.

Mr. Richard Hickmet (Glanford and Scunthorpe)

First, does my right hon. Friend accept that the regime of Mr. Kyprianou is illegal under the 1960 treaty of independence? Secondly, does she accept that the root cause of the Cyprus problem has been the continuing desire of the Greeks, both on the mainland and in Cyprus, to achieve Enosis or union with Greece and the consequential persecution of the Turkish minority? Thirdly, does she accept that the Turks intervened in 1974 following the coup d'etat of Mr. Nicos Sampson, a notorious murderer, organised by the Greek junta? Fourthly, did she point out to Mr. Kyprianou that his own Foreign Minister, Mr. Rolandis, resigned following the refusal of Mr. Kyprianou to negotiate without the soundings of the Secretary-General published in September?

The Prime Minister

I cannot accept quite a lot of what my hon. Friend has said. One of the reasons why the guarantee was not invoked in 1974 was the fact that Archbishop Makarios was brought down by action by the Greeks and at that time the Turks walked in. So one of the [column 998]problems was that the two guarantor powers were involved at that time. At present it would seem that we should be able to invoke the guarantor powers in the sense that we ought to be able to get the three together. Whether we can remains to be seen.

Mr. Skinner

Is the Prime Minister aware that she should not be too hard on the Liberal party leader when he asks questions about alliances and such like because while she has been away the Liberal News has printed an article stating that the alliance is in the knacker's yard?

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is not to do with the Commonwealth conference.

Mr. Skinner

With due respect, Mr. Speaker, it is all about the fragility of the alliance and otherwise.

On the question about updating Bretton Woods and so on, did any of the poorer Commonwealth countries just put the idea into the Prime Minister's head or into other people's heads that merely propping up a few Governments or a few more banks is no answer to all those starving millions in some of the underdeveloped countries where the kids are on matchstick legs and have pot-bellies? Surely there must have been some people in the Commonwealth who felt that the answer was to make sure that if any money was available in the world it should go to them rather than to allow the bankers to make even greater profits?

The Prime Minister

The poorest countries obviously need aid and it is part of the relief that priority should be given to the poorest countries. That is not always so because many people prefer to go not for them but for intermediate ones. We had a discussion about the problem the hon. Gentleman has raised. It is, of course, closely connected with population control.

Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on resisting the attempts by other Commonwealth leaders to stiffen the Gleneagles agreement and, indeed, upholding the rights of British sportsmen to play wherever they like and against whom they like. When future tours are proposed such as the English rugby tour to South Africa next year, while she will be expected to discourage the tour, would she in the same spirit give the House the categoric assurance that no undue pressure will be put upon them or individuals to prevent them from going?

The Prime Minister

The Gleneagles agreement was affirmed and it is voluntary, but I must make it clear that we genuinely discourage the rugby tour of South Africa.

Mr. Alfred Dubs (Battersea)

Can the Prime Minister say whether the Commonwealth countries were agreed on policies towards Cyprus or whether some of them favour recognising the illegal regime in the north? Furthermore, does she accept that the criticism of her is not that the British Government have been doing too much but that they have been doing too little as a guarantor power? Is there not a real need—and was this need not voiced by other Commonwealth countries to her—to bring pressure to bear on the regime in Ankara without which Mr. Denktash cannot survive?

The Prime Minister

I was in touch with the President of Turkey and I indicated our views. The Government were in touch with Turkey well before the declaration because we were anxious that the declaration should not [column 999]be made. We did everything to prevent that from happening. Turkey is the only country which has recognised the illegal regime. None of the Commonwealth countries has recognised it and nor, as far as I am aware, has any other country. The duty under the treaty is to get the three guarantor countries together to consult together. We have twice tried to do that but so far have not been successful. The two other countries have each put conditions upon their attendance that are incompatible with each other.

Mr. Eric Deakins (Walthamstow)

Does the Prime Minister agree that the Commonwealth has a useful role to play in revitalising the north-south dialogue between rich and poor countries? If so, what from does she think that that might best take?

The Prime Minister

It was obvious from the debates that one of the most valued things is Commonwealth technical co-operation. It is especially valued by the smaller states. The Commonwealth is an organisation through which one can provide that sort of help. We discussed wider issues, including IDA replenishment. The current offer of $9 billion is clearly not enough, but I believe that the 416 billion that is desired is unobtainable.

Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)

Did the Prime Minister get the chance in New Delhi to raise the issue of the readmission of Pakistan to the Commonwealth? Was she able to raise with the Indian Prime Minister the holding of a long overdue plebiscite in Kashmir? Was she able to discuss the declining number of Commonwealth students coming to our universities and colleges as a result of the introduction of full-cost fees for overseas students?

The Prime Minister

The question of the readmission of Pakistan was not raised at the conference. If Pakistan were to wish to come into the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth wished that to happen, we would, of course, support it, It is a matter for the whole [column 1000]Commonwealth and not for one country. I did not talk with Mrs. Gandhi about a plebiscite in Kashmir. I said that £46 million had been made available over three years to assist students from the Commonwealth countries to come to Britain.

Mr. Ioan Evans (Cyon Valley)

The Commonwealth conference has given a clear lead on a number of issues, although it had to reach a consensus on the nuclear arms race, Grenada, Namibia, South Africa and the north-south dialogue. What action do the Government propose to take to implement the recommendations, especially the recommendation contained in the Goa declaration about improving East-West relations? Will the right hon. Lady undertake to return to the House to report on what the Government are doing?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that I have made three speeches on lines similar to the Goa declaration. I have announced that I shall be going to Hungary in the new year. I hope that there will be far more contacts than we have had recently, both at official level and political level, and that we shall see them gradually work up in that way.