MR. Kosygin (Visit)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th February 1967.

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Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton 12:00 am, 13th February 1967

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a statement.

I am sure that hon. Members in all parts of the House will join in feeling that Mr. Kosygin's visit to this country has been a great success. And that this success is due both to his spontaneous and friendly warmth of manner everywhere he went and equally to the evident desire of the Soviet Government for the best possible relations between our two countries, a desire we have made clear we share.

Hon. Members will have seen the joint statement issued this morning and will have noted the impressive list of subjects on which we have reached agreement in the field of Anglo-Soviet affairs. It is this clearly demonstrated evidence of our will to agree and this strengthening of the practical day-to-day links between the two countries which provided a firm and, I am sure, continuing foundation for our joint consideration of the greater problems of world affairs.

On trade, we are driving for substantially increased shipments between us and a better balance. The Trade Ministers will meet shortly to review the working of the existing agreement and to see what can be done to put more life into it. In this connection I was very glad when Mr. Kosygin told me that the Soviet Union intended to purchase a substantial amount of additional consumer goods in Britain this year.

But we are both agreed that the industries of both countries need to be able to plan on a longer-term basis, and we are therefore going to work for the conclusion as soon as possible of a long-term agreement enabling the two countries to develop their productive capacities for the purposes of expanding trade. As soon as the long-term agreement can be worked out it will supplement and, we hope, supersede the existing agreement.

Hon. Members will have seen the importance attached in our statement to the further development of the technological and scientific ties between the two countries. We have made provision for stepping up the level and number of contacts in this field and the Ministers concerned are to meet in the near future to work out any improvement in formal machinery that may be needed for this purpose.

The House will also welcome the other practical measures which have been taken to remove obstacles in the way of free exchanges between our two countries—including, among other matters, the arrangements for an early review of the possibility of expanding the air services of the two countries; the intention to conclude a Navigation Agreement in the near future; and the proposal to establish an Anglo-Soviet Consultative Committee to enlarge existing contacts in culture, science, sport and other fields. And I am sure that hon. Members will give a particular welcome to the final settlement of mutual financial and property claims and counter-claims which was agreed during the week. This settlement brings to an end an issue which has been a matter of contention between this country and the Soviet Union for over twenty years; and perhaps more than any other single product of the week's work it symbolises the wish of both Governments to turn their backs on these past differences and to look forward to a future of greater cooperation and friendliness.

Last week hon. Members heard Mr. Kosygin propose that we should now proceed towards a Treaty of friendship and peaceful co-operation between our two countries We have accepted this proposal and we look forward to negotiations leading to the conclusion of a Treaty which can provide the framework within which all the kinds of bilateral contact I have mentioned can be developed.

It has always been our position, and the Soviet Government fully understand this, that we remain loyal to all our alliances and obligations as they do to theirs But at the same time our past historical ties with the Soviet Union and the mutual interests of the two countries make it possible for us to hold out a hand of friendship to them in this way without any derogation from our existing international commitments and loyalties.

It is on the success of our discussions of our bilateral interests that we were able to build in approaching the wider international problems. For many hours, during formal working sessions and indeed long into the night, we discussed with the utmost frankness some of the outstanding problems—and dangers—the world is facing.

The House will have seen that we recorded our satisfaction with recent progress towards the conclusion of a non-proliferation agreement, and we emphasised the paramount urgency of bringing this to a speedy completion.

Hon. Members will have noted also what we have said about our desire to reach an understanding in the wider field of disarmament—nuclear and conventional—leading to a world agreement on general and complete disarmament.

We spent a great deal of time on the question of peace and security in Europe. We made wholly clear to Mr. Kosygin the policy on which we are working with our allies as regards nuclear consultation within N.A.T.O. At the same time, we emphasised the intention of our N.A.T.O. partners and ourselves to develop positive contacts for easing tensions within Europe as a whole. And in this context the British and Soviet Governments agreed on the need for closer bilateral relationships between individual Western and Eastern European countries. Our joint statement helps to point the way.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I explained to Mr. Kosygin the purpose of the visits which we are paying to the capitals of the six member countries of the European Economic Community. We emphasised the economic importance of the discussions we are holding there, and particularly the contribution that Britain could make to the greater technological effectiveness of Europe. We also stressed to him that we have in mind political as well as economic objectives. And we explained that one of the main purposes of our approach was not only to strengthen European unity and thereby to help to reduce European tension and work towards a wider, fuller unity in Europe as a whole, but also to enable Europe to exert a more powerful influence in world affairs.

We discussed with Mr. Kosygin the proposal to call a conference on European security. We agreed that this could be valuable. But we told him that it was essential that it should be adequately prepared and nothing should be done to detract from the importance of the bilateral method of solving problems and easing tension. Mr. Kosygin also is fully aware of our concern to see that all countries which have a stake in European security must be enabled to play their full part in such a conference.

Finally, Sir, I must tell the House that we devoted the major part of our discussion to the problem of Vietnam, and we did so with a great sense of urgency and of the dangers the world faces if there is not a speedy and honourable solution.

The House will understand I must not go into details at this moment of time. But I would like to make clear the view which I have reached after these very detailed and searching discussions—and to make it clear as well that here I am recording my own view and that of the British Government. I believe that despite the deeply held differences in the attitudes of the major participants, the gap is not unbridgeable, given a realistic appreciation of the political and military factors involved and, above all, given a belief on each side that the other desires a negotiated settlement.

I believe that a solution could now be reached. But if the present opportunity is missed, we must not give up hope. The road to a solution remains open. And one reason for hope is that the Soviet Government and ourselves, as the House will have seen, "will continue to make a close study of the situation and will make every possible effort with a view to achieving a settlement of the Vietnam problem, and will maintain contact to this end."

I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that when hon. Members have read and studied the statement issued today by the two Governments, they will agree with me that in terms of our bilateral relations this is a landmark in Anglo-Soviet history, and that in terms of our wider discussion of world affairs and the continued contact that we have agreed to maintain, we have made a constructive contribution to international understanding.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

We on this side of the House, of course, welcome the better understanding which has been brought about during the past week by Mr. Kosygin's visit to this country, a better understanding not only of the matters in which we are in agreement, but also of the differences which exist between us; an understanding which was begun by Mr. Macmillan and continued by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home), my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Quintin Hogg) and others up to 1964.

We also welcome the further contacts which have been arranged in so many different spheres, but, of course, particularly in that of trade and of technology, although I know that the practical arrangements still have to be made to carry out these contacts.

Regarding the Treaty of peaceful cooperation and friendship, we welcome the fact that the Government will take this up in place of the Treaty that was abrogated by the Soviet Union itself in 1955. May I ask the Prime Minister to clarify one point in the communiqué? Is it his intention that negotiations should begin straight away on this, or do they depend, first, on the further bilateral negotiations such as trade, culture, education and the other contacts?

Finally, a Treaty of this kind does not in itself solve any of the actual problems of external affairs, welcome though it is. Regarding the one to which most time, thought and energy was given, that of Vietnam, does the Prime Minister now see any possibility, as a result of his late night and early morning talks with Mr. Kosygin, of reactivating the Joint Chairmanship? If not, how otherwise does he think that he can bring about, what he has pointed out to be necessary, a better realisation on each side of the other side wanting a genuinely negotiated settlement?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I should like to thank the right hon. Gentleman for what he said at the beginning, and for his general comments, not only on trade but also on the wider aspects. On the two specific questions which he has put about the Treaty of friendship, it is intended that we should start to negotiate on this right away without waiting for the other contacts that have been developed in the cultural, scientific and other fields.

With regard to Vietnam, I said that it is difficult to say very much at this stage. We naturally considered very fully the position of the Joint Chairmen, and I am now satisfied, for various reasons which I would not want to enter into, that this is not the right immediate way to try to bring the parties together and to get immediate agreement to start negotiations. If it were, we would press it. There are other ways.

Regarding the Joint Chairmanship, we are both conscious of our responsibility here and we believe that this is a card which could be played, which should be played, and which will have a vital role to play at the right moment.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Thorpe Mr Jeremy Thorpe , North Devon

Is the Prime Minister aware that there will be overwhelming welcome for the improvement in Anglo-Soviet relations and particularly for the facilities for increased exchanges in the future? Was he able to deduce from Mr. Kosygin what would be the likely reaction of the North Vietnamese Government to the cessation of American bombing? Secondly, was the question of the Jewish community in Soviet Russia discussed and, if so, with what results? Thirdly, can he say what was Mr. Kosygin's reaction to our exploratory talks with a view to joining the Common Market?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

Answering the question about the reaction of Hanoi, the phrase has been used, and it is even truer now, that this is a very delicate moment, and I prefer not to answer that question. I have been put very much in the picture on this matter. I do not think that we ought to say more. What was the second question?

Photo of Mr Jeremy Thorpe Mr Jeremy Thorpe , North Devon

The Jewish community.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

This was not part of our discussions. On previous occasions I have raised this matter, indeed after very substantial discussions with those who are most concerned in this country and elsewhere. I have raised these matters with the Soviet Premier and with his predecessor. But on this occasion we did not press the matter further. What was the third question?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I apologise for having to ask. That is the trouble about being up until 4 a.m. on three mornings running. We made it clear what the position was about going into the Common Market, and I stressed, as on our visits to the European capitals, our political desire to help create a wider European unity. As for Mr. Kosygin's views on this, I think that I had better rely on what he said on television the other evening, when he said that he thought this was a matter for Britain and the Six to decide.

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby South

May I congratulate the Prime Minister on having brought Mr. Kosygin to this country and on his conduct of the discussions, and on the wise and far-sighted language of his statement this afternoon?

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

Is the Prime Minister aware that Mr. Kosygin's visit to Scotland was very successful and that we are very grateful to the Prime Minister and to the Foreign Office for the arrangements which were made? Is he aware that this is not only appreciation of a very notable international statesman, but a real wish that this should be the beginning of the end of the arms race and the cold war?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I think that my hon. Friend will be glad to know that Mr. Kosygin expressed himself on the subject of the Scottish visit in even more glowing terms than did my hon. Friend.

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

How far did the Prime Minister discuss with Mr. Kosygin the question of Mr. Gerald Brooke? Does he not agree that the release of Mr. Brooke would be one of the best possible steps which could be taken in the interests of Anglo-Soviet relations? If that is not now possible, did he press on Mr. Kosygin to improve the conditions under which Mr. Brooke is being held and, in particular, the arrangements for access to him by the British Consul?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

Of course, we pressed this matter extremely hard, as did my right hon. Friend in November, and as I did earlier last year. The second part of the question was a suggestion that action of this kind could make a notable contribution. I entirely agree with what the hon. Member said in his question. The matter has been pressed. I prefer to leave it where it is for the moment to see what happens.

Photo of Mrs Renée Short Mrs Renée Short , Wolverhampton North East

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the whole nation is delighted at the success of Mr. Kosygin's visit and that we appreciated very much the time which he gave to our distinguished visitor and the cordiality of the farewell speech this morning? Is my right hon. Friend aware that all of us want to see progress with a non-proliferation treaty, with an assurance that the West German Government will not have access to nuclear weapons, and with a recognition of the post-war frontiers and a recognition of the G.D.R.? On all these aspects of policy, the Labour Party have made their position quite clear.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

All this might have taken a little longer. The two questions of non-proliferation and of nuclear arrangements within Europe have always been closely linked in the minds of the Soviet Government. They have felt strongly about these matters. My right hon. Friend will have noted from the terms of the communiqué that we have welcomed the progress made on a nonproliferation agreement and that we feel that it is now within reach of negotiation and signature. This, I think, speaks for itself on both those questions which my hon. Friend raised.

Earl of Dalkeith:

Would the Prime Minister be a little more explicit about what he means by "co-operation" in the Treaty of friendship and co-operation? Will he assure the House that he will resist any pressure from his hon. Friends to encourage him to sign some form of Treaty of Moscow as an alternative to the Treaty of Rome?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I do not think that we look at this in terms of capitals. A Treaty of friendship, think, would be very valuable, and I indicated what purposes, among others, it might have. I hope that this will be a continuing and developing relationship under this Treaty. Certainly there is nothing incompatible between such a Treaty of friendship and membership of the European Economic Community, about which I have already answered a question.

Photo of Mr Norman Atkinson Mr Norman Atkinson , Tottenham

With regard to European security and a lessening of tension in Europe, could the Prime Minister say whether the East German Government will be included in any negotiations which take place? If not, will the East German Government be asked to be co-signatories to any non-proliferation agreement?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

That raises a very much wider question which we have not discussed. As for the proposed conference on security, we have emphasised the importance of proper preparation for this in a preparatory commission or something of that kind. All those problems must be sorted out by a preparatory commission before the security conference is held.

Photo of Lord  Balniel Lord Balniel , Hertford

Did the Prime Minister make the point in the discussions that the new Coalition Government in Germany have made new and friendly approaches towards Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union? Did he emphasise to Mr. Kosygin the importance of a conciliatory response to these approaches, because only in this way can one break up the patterns of the cold war and give a sense of security both to the East and to the West?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

When the noble Lord refers to the new Coalition Government in Germany, he will understand that we did not discuss the internal political affairs of individual countries. With regard to the recent statements and actions of the German Government, I think that the noble Lord could assume—while I am not giving anything away—that this has been discussed and that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, who dealt extensively with these matters, naturally made all the points which it was necessary to make on the recent statements made by the German Government.

Photo of Mr Frank Judd Mr Frank Judd , Portsmouth West

In view of the Government's primary commitment to the United Nations, can my right hon. Friend tell the House what discussions he had with the Russian leaders about the role of the United Nations in Vietnam and its role of peace-keeping in the international community? What talks did he have on the financial problems facing the United Nations?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I do not think that it would help to say very much about the Vietnamese situation at the moment. I think that everyone taking a realistic approach to the problem would agree with what has been said on a number of occasions, long before last week—that for reasons which we all understand, and regrettably, it is not possible for the United Nations to play the part in these matters which we would normally have wished—for reasons that we all understand.

Photo of Mr Ian Orr-Ewing Mr Ian Orr-Ewing , Hendon North

In the present atmosphere of good will, will the Prime Minister ask his right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to follow up the question of the 3 million Jewish people in the U.S.S.R. and the hardship which they are suffering? Many hon. Members of all parties—no fewer than 300 hon. Members have signed a Motion—feel very strongly on this issue.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

Yes, Sir. This is a matter which has been taken up many times. While it was necessary that some individual questions had to be taken up separately during the talks and not during the main plenary part of the discussions, the hon. Member can be assured that this question was raised in that way, as it has been raised, I think, every time that my right hon. Friend and his predecessor have met the Soviet Government. We do feel very strongly about this. But the hon. Member knows that the Soviet Government do not admit some of the statements which we have made on this issue and regard it as an internal matter.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , West Lothian

We welcome the regular basis on which the Anglo-Soviet technology talks are to take place. Will the Prime Minister advance to the Soviets the idea that if the trade fair, coming to London in 1968, is to take place, it could also, on the basis of the success of Mr. Kosygin's Scottish visit, go to Glasgow, and for that matter to Manchester or Liverpool?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I would certainly consider that question. Mr. Kosygin was certainly impressed with his Scottish visit and would like to develop other relations, not only nationally, with Britain as a whole, but between particular areas of Britain, for example, between Scotland and Wales, and particular areas of the Soviet Union. We should like to see that develop. Manchester is twinned with Leningrad, his own city. I will consider whether we should press this proposal.