Since President Kennedy has been in office we have had six meetings. Three of these have been on British soil and three have been in the United States. We have thus met about two or three times a year. This pattern has followed that set during General Eisenhower's Presidency. We have found this arrangement convenient and have been able to fix up meetings at very short notice when we felt it convenient. No arrangements have been made for another meeting, but I have no doubt that we shall continue what I think has been a good practice.
Has not the right hon. Gentleman made a recent approach to President Kennedy for a meeting in view of his intention to visit the Republic of Ireland? If his communications are not strictly confidential, is it not possible to inform the country of what is happening? Is the right hon. Gentleman in his approach to a meeting with President Kennedy cooking up something in preparation for the next General Election?
No, Sir. I think there is some confusion. At the request of the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, since we are responsible for the foreign relations of Northern Ireland, I transmitted an invitation from the Prime Minister to a ceremony at the Giant's Causeway, but the President regretted that he could not fit that into his programme.
What is the purpose of the meeting to take place at the Giant's Causeway? Was the contemplated conversation of such secrecy that it was necessary to engage the Giant's Causeway for this purpose?
This was not a meeting I would attend, but an invitation from the Government of Northern Ireland who thought it might interest the President when he was in the Republic of Ireland to attend what I understand is to be a ceremony of some importance, and indeed of an historic character, but he said in his reply that he much regretted he was not able to do so.
Can the Prime Minister say whether he is just acting as a postman for the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland? Does he not realise that President Kennedy is going to Ireland so that he may have a couple of days' rest in a decent, intelligent, civilised country which has no missiles and no independent deterrent? Does he think that President Kennedy would want to go to Ulster to take part in an Orange Walk?
I think the President will have a nice time of rest, although when I saw something of the preliminary programme I thought it would be very difficult to get a full rest. I think it very proper, since the Government of Northern Ireland rely upon us for foreign relations, that I should transmit this request, which I did.
Has not the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to reports from Washington in our newspapers—for instance, the Guardian of 24th April and The Times of 13th May —to the effect that the President's unwillingness to hold a conference of this kind at this moment is due to the suspicion in administrative circles that this is not unconnected with the approach of a General Election? What steps will the Prime Minister take to remove these unfortunate impressions in administrative circles due to a chronological coincidence which occurred also in 1954 and 1959?
Is not the Prime Minister very anxious to meet President Kennedy in the near future? Is it not very important that he should be able to tell President Kennedy at this moment that this country is unalterably opposed to any proposals which would involve West Germany in having any share, direct or indirect, in the use of nuclear weapons?