Oral Answers to Questions — Moscow (Prime Minister's Visit)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st March 1966.

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Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South 12:00 am, 1st March 1966

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his recent discussions with Soviet leaders.

Photo of Mr Neil Marten Mr Neil Marten , Banbury

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his visit to Moscow.

Photo of Mr William Hamling Mr William Hamling , Woolwich West

asked the Prime Minister what discussions he had with Soviet leaders during his Moscow visit on expanding Anglo-Soviet trade.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

asked the Prime Minister what decisions were made during his Moscow visit on the purchase by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics of additional consumer goods from the United Kingdom.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey De Freitas Mr Geoffrey De Freitas , Kettering

asked the Prime Minister whether, during his visit to Moscow, he discussed the possibility of increasing exports of consumer goods from the United Kingdom to the Soviet Union; and whether he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I would refer hon. Members to the Communique issued after my visit which, with permission, I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

Was the Prime Minister absolutely frank with Mr. Kosygin? Did he tell him that he had already asked the Queen for a Dissolution and, therefore, might not be able to speak for Britain—[Interruption.]

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. This is not the hustings.

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

Did the Prime Minister tell Mr. Kosygin that he had already asked the Queen for a Dissolution and, therefore, might not be able to speak for Britain for more than a few weeks?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I would have considered it quite improper to have told Mr. Kosygin or anyone else in the Soviet Union what requests had been made of Her Majesty the Queen. I do not think that there was much doubt in Mr. Kosygin's mind about my ability to speak for this country, although I found one or two Russian officials rather interested in the smallness of our majority.

Photo of Mr Neil Marten Mr Neil Marten , Banbury

Can the Prime Minister explain the rather curious omission of the Foreign Secretary from his party? Might not the negotiations have been more successful if he had been there? Secondly, can he say whether the question of the limitation of arms in the Middle East and the question of a nuclear guarantee to India were raised during the talks?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

The hon. Gentleman may have missed the fact that my right hon. Friend had a very extended visit to the Soviet Union just before Christmas. It was during that visit that my own visit was arranged. As for the other part of the supplementary question, although I do not wish to go into detail, I can confirm that both questions were raised by me.

Photo of Mr William Hamling Mr William Hamling , Woolwich West

Can my right hon. Friend tell the House what progress has been made in reversing the adverse balance of trade that we have with the Soviet Union?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I went into this question at some length with Mr. Kosygin, and it was also discussed with other Ministers whom members of my party and I met. There is to be a meeting in May of trade representatives of both sides to—in the words of the communiqué—"discuss how we can widen and deepen the exchange of goods."

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

Can my right hon. Friend say whether—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speak up"] That is an unusual request. Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that he is optimistic about the outcome of these talks in May?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

Yes, I am hopeful of this. But this has been a continuing problem. I remember arguing on exactly the same problem and the same sort of gap as long ago as 1947. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite have taken this matter up on many occasions. We know what answer the Soviet authorities give. But I think that there is a willingness to do something about redressing the balance.

Photo of Commander Anthony Courtney Commander Anthony Courtney , Harrow East

Will the Prime Minister find time to mention to his Russian hosts that the vast majority of the civilised nations do not find it necessary, as does the Soviet Union, to demand an extraordinary degree of diplomatic immunity for their representatives in London?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I did not discuss anything on that subject—or anything to do with the hon. and gallant Gentleman.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

The Prime Minister will be aware that in May, 1964, Mr. Patolichev signed a firm undertaking to the effect that Anglo-Soviet trade would be maintained in balance. Why is it that the Government, in their period in power, have done nothing to ensure that this undertaking was adhered to?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

Nothing was done by the previous Government, although a similar undertaking was given, I think, by Mr. Kabanov in 1957. Of course, the answer which is always given—I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will recall this—is that many of the things which they would like to buy are at the wrong price or the wrong date of delivery. We do not accept that any more than his party did and we are seeking to widen the basis of the goods they buy.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

This was the first time that a written agreement had been signed by the Soviet Union to this effect and all the weapons are at hand to see that it is enforced, because of the quota system for operating Soviet trade. Why have the Government not taken action before this?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

Because we have preferred to deal with this on an expanding basis. It would be possible—if this is what the right hon. Gentleman has in mind—for example, to impose sharp quotas on Soviet soft wood to this country. We decided to have one more go at expanding our exports to them rather than taking the restrictive attitude which the right hon. Gentleman wants.

Following is the Communiqué:

Joint Anglo-Soviet Communiqué issued at the end of the official visit to the Soviet Union from the 21st to the 24th of February, 1966, of the Prime Minister of Great Britain.

At the invitation of the Soviet Government the Prime Minister of Great Britain, the Right Honourable Harold Wilson, paid an official visit to the Soviet Union from the 21st to the 24th of February 1966.

Mr. Wilson was accompanied by

The Right Honourable Frank Cousins, Minister of Technology.

The Right Honourable the Lord Chalfont, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and

Official advisers.

During his stay in the Soviet Union Mr. Wilson had talks with L. I. Brezhnev, A. N. Kosygin and N. V. Podgorny. Mr. Wilson also paid a visit to A. I. Mikoyan and met other leading statesmen of the Soviet Union.

The following took part in the conversations:

On the Soviet side—

the Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the U.S.S.R., V. A. Kirillin;

the Minister of Foreign Affairs, A. A. Gromyko;

the First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the U.S.S.R., V. V. Kuznetsov;

the Ambassador of the U.S.S.R. in Great Britain, M. N. Smirnovsky;

the Head of the Second European Department, A. A. Roshchin:

On the British side—

the Ambassador of Great Britain in Moscow, Sir Geoffrey Harrison;

the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Lord Chalfont;

the Secretary of the Cabinet, Sir Burke Trend and other officials.

Mr. Cousins had meetings with

the Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the U.S.S.R., V. A. Kirillin, and with Ministers N. S. Patolichev, and K. N. Rudnev.

He visited the computing centre of the Scientific Research Institute of Complex Automation and the weaving factory of the Moscow Silk Combine named after Ya. M. Sverdlov. In the course of the discussions there was a full exchange of views on international problems and also on questions of Anglo-Soviet relations. The two sides declared their desire to make every effort to reduce tension, to improve the international situation, to avert the threat of nuclear war and to develop relations between the U.S.S.R. and the United Kingdom.

The two sides set out with great frankness their respective points of view on the situation in Viet Nam.

The sides discussed the problems of European security and of a German peace settlement. It was noted that the normalisation of the situation in Europe would be served by the creation of an atmosphere of confidence and of reduced tension and by the encouragement of efforts leading to the establishment of comprehensive co-operation between all the countries of Eastern and Western Europe.

The British Government and the Government of the U.S.S.R. recognized the urgency of making arrangements to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons through the world and the necessity of achieving as quickly as possible an international agreement on this question.

The sides concurred that the conclusion of an agreement about the non-dissemination of nuclear weapons would correspond with the interests of all peoples. They recognized as important that no activities should be undertaken in any part of the world which would be inconsistent with the purposes of such an agreement.

The two sides also discussed other measures to reduce international tension and to promote general and complete disarmament. In this context they emphasised the special importance of taking steps to extend the 1963 test ban treaty to include underground tests.

They also noted the important resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations concerning the convening of a World Disarmament Conference with the participation of all countries.

In the course of an exchange of views it was noted that the Tashkent declaration was an important step towards the establishment of good neighbourly relations between India and Pakistan. In the opinion of the sides, the carrying into effect of the Tashkent declaration created real conditions for the preservation and consolidation of peace in the sub-continent. For their part, they would help towards this in every possible way.

Consideration was given to the state of relations between the U.S.S.R. and Great Britain and the prospects of their further development were discussed. The sides confirmed their intention to work for the improvement of Anglo-Soviet relations in all fields in the interests of the peoples of both countries and of the reduction of international tension.

Both sides agreed to study both short and long-term measures to widen the basis and to develop a high level of trade in both directions. They also undertook to appoint their representatives to discuss the possibility of concluding a navigation agreement between the U.S.S.R. and Great Britain.

The sides agreed to hold discussions on the possibility of expanding air traffic.

The sides noted with satisfaction the development of relations in the fields of science, technology, education and culture and recognised that the further development of these relations should be encouraged.

The Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Wilson, invited the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the U.S.S.R. to pay an official visit to Great Britain. A. N. Kosygin accepted this invitation with gratitude. The date of the visit will be agreed subsequently.

Both Governments agreed that the discussions and personal meetings which had taken place during Mr. Wilson's visit to Moscow, had been useful and constructive. They reaffirmed their desire to hold periodical meetings and consultations at all levels for the improvement of relations between the two countries, for the reduction of international tensions and for the consolidation of peace.