asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware of the dislocation of London traffic caused by carriage processions in connection with visits by foreign Heads of State; and if, in tendering advice on the arrangements for future visits, he will take account of this fact, and advise that these processions should when possible, like similar ceremonies, take place on Saturdays.
Yes, Sir. Ministers have for some years been aware of the problem, and it is kept under constant review. As in other countries, a State drive is an essential feature of a State visit. I do not think, however, that the purposes of a State visit would be achieved by arranging the arrival of a State visitor to London during the weekend.
Yes, Sir. I think that it is the habit in every capital of the world that a State visit begins with a State drive, and it would not be convenient for the start of a State visit to take place in the weekend which would make difficult the official contacts and other talks which have to take place. While we are much aware that some inconvenience is caused by these State drives, we have to bear in mind that a great deal of pleasure is given by them and that they fulfil an important international purpose.
Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that it took about 15 years to persuade the powers that be to have the Lord Mayor's Show and Trooping the Colour on a Saturday and that they have been very much enjoyed by millions of people in London? Why should there be this differentiation and this insistence upon having State drives on weekdays? There are still plenty of people in London at the weekend. [Interruption.]
After the arrival of the the two right hon. Gentlemen, may I say in answer to my hon. Friend that I have given the practical reasons for a weekend not being a convenient time for starting a State visit. I should point out that there used to be two State drives to a State visit and that one of these has been eliminated to help with the traffic problem.
While we all appreciate the pleasure that is felt when eminent personages pass before us, may I ask whether there would not be an opportunity for far more people to enjoy a State drive if it took place on a Saturday?