Soviet Union (Prime Minister's Visit)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th January 1968.

Alert me about debates like this

The following Questions stood upon the Order Paper:

Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds

To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his visit to the Soviet Union.

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his consultations in the Soviet Union.

Photo of Sir Knox Cunningham Sir Knox Cunningham , South Antrim

To ask the Prime Minister whether he will state the points of agreement reached with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics with regard to the Middle East; and if he will make a statement about his visit to Russia.

Photo of Sir Knox Cunningham Sir Knox Cunningham , South Antrim

To ask the Prime Minister if he made inquiries about the lighting equipment used in Moscow; what representations he made to Mr. Kosygin on this subject; and what results he achieved from such representation.

Photo of Mr Frank Hooley Mr Frank Hooley , Sheffield, Heeley

To ask the Prime Minister whether he obtained further information about the health and wellbeing of Mr. Gerald Brooke during his visit to Moscow, or any assurance of improvement of consular access to Mr. Brooke.

Photo of Mr Edward Leadbitter Mr Edward Leadbitter , Hartlepools, The

To ask the Prime Minister whether he discussed the question of improving East-West trade with the Prime Minister of Russia during his recent visit to Moscow; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

With permission, I will now answer Questions Nos. Q15, Q17, Q19, Q20, Q22 and Q23 together.

During my visit to the Soviet Union I discussed a wide range of matters at length with the President, Mr. Podgorny, the Prime Minister, Mr. Kosygin, and with the Secretary General of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Mr. Brezhnev, as well as other Ministers and senior officials.

Our talks, in formal session and privately, over many hours, were searching and covered many subjects. While both sides expressed their views forcibly and frankly, the talks were friendly throughout and the interest of the Soviet Government in the development fo AngloSoviet relations was very apparent.

As to the Question of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley), I would only add that in the course of the exchanges there were lengthy discussions about Mr. Gerald Brooke, in which I pressed upon the Soviet authorities the position of Her Majesty's Government.

A communiqué was issued after my visit which many hon. Members will have seen but, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, I would also propose to circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds

Is the Prime Minister aware that the whole House supported his efforts in Moscow and sympathises with his inability to get anything more than a very uninformative communiqué out of his visit. Will he say what impressions he formed about Soviet reaction to the incident off North Korea concerning the American ship "Creole"? Will he give a little more information about Mr. Brooke—[Interruption.]

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

Order. The hon. Gentleman must be brief.

Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds

I did not hear what you said, Mr. Speaker.

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

I was informing the hon. Member that questions must be reasonably brief.

Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds

With great respect to you, Sir, I was intending to be brief, but I had to repeat what I was saying at the beginning because of interruptions—[Interruption]

Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds

My questions were simply these—[Interruption.]

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

Order. The hon. Gentleman must be allowed to put his question.

Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds

What impression did the Prime Minister form about Soviet reaction to the incident concerning the "Creole" and what further progress did he make on the question of Mr. Brooke?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

The first part of the question related to the communiqué. The hon. Gentleman is experienced enough in these matters not to judge the success of a visit by what is put in a communiqué. Anglo-Soviet relations, I do not need to tell the House, are a serious matter. We were discussing some serious issues of world peace, discussions which were extremely useful and may well be for the future.

Concerning the incident of the "Pueblo", I think it is, this was not raised with me by the Soviet Government and I did not raise it with them. Up to the time I left I had had only the most indirect reports about it and it did not seem appropriate for me to raise it with them, nor had I been asked to do so.

I indicated what I am sure is the view of every hon. Member about the case of Mr. Gerald Brooke. He may have been an extremely silly young man, used by an extremely discreditable and reactionary organisation in such a way that he broke their laws, but he has been adequately punished and it would be right now to release him.

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

The Prime Minister will recall that when he met Mr. Kosygin a year ago they agreed in principle on the conclusion of a treaty of friendship and peaceful co-operation between our two countries. For some reason there seems to be no mention of this topic in yesterday's communiqué. Can the Prime Minister say what progress was made?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

Yes, Sir. As the House will know, last April Her Majesty's Government gave the Soviet Government our views on the form that it should take, and we have been waiting for a considerable time to receive their reactions. During this visit we received their own proposals in the form of a draft, and these we are studying.

Photo of Sir Knox Cunningham Sir Knox Cunningham , South Antrim

Did the Prime Minister get any information about future Russian action in the Gulf? Are they going to create a base in Aden?—[Interruption.]—and, with reference to Question Q20, perhaps he will say a word about his efforts as a travelling salesman.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

No, Sir, they did not give any forecast about what was likely to happen in the Gulf or in any other areas.

On the question of Anglo-Soviet trade we followed up, at considerable length, some of the work that began last year. It is well known that trade with the Soviet Union has been expanding rapidly over the last three or four years and is now rising very rapidly. We discussed a lot of new arrangements for providing new orders for British goods in Moscow, especially capital goods and factories in two to three years' time.

Photo of Mr Frank Hooley Mr Frank Hooley , Sheffield, Heeley

I thank my right hon. Friend for his persistent personal efforts on behalf of Mr. Brooke. Will he make it clear to the Soviet authorities that those, like myself, who are concerned about this case in no way call in question the legal proceedings in the Soviet Union, but are only concerned that we shall have access to Mr. Brooke in accordance with ordinary international usage?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

Yes; not only that there should be access, which I raised, but that he should be released. This organisation, called N.T.S.—I think the "U" is silent—has spent a great deal of time hiring unsuspecting, innocent, and rather stupid people to do work which involves breaking the laws of other countries. I do not believe that Mr. Brooke, silly though he was, is more guilty than that, though he was certainly found guilty of breaking the law over there.

None of us holds any responsibility for N.T.S., which operates on only a minor scale in this country, nor for anyone who may be providing finances for them. It is right that the Soviet Government should know this and, taking account of it, should now feel that he has been punished enough for his offence.

Photo of Mr Edward Leadbitter Mr Edward Leadbitter , Hartlepools, The

Although trade has been increasing these past two or three years, there is still much more to do. Does the Prime Minister not agree that perhaps a British initiative to call a East-West trading conference to discuss such questions as tariffs, Communist countries' currency convertibility, and the differing practices in commerce and usage might help to break down the barriers which up to now have not produced the increase in trade we require?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

This was not discussed, and it not the view of the Soviet Government that this would necessarily be the best way of helping trade between us and the Soviet Union and with other East European countries. Most of them prefer to deal on a bilateral basis. We have many bilateral agreements and a great number of orders have been sought and won by individual British exporters. What is more relevant is our decision last year, which is now being carried out, on talks between the planning department in the Soviet Union and the appropriate economic departments here looking ahead a few years to see what requirements are likely to be and whether we can establish capacity to meet the needs of those requirements. I was encouraged by what has been said in the last few days on that matter.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Thorpe Mr Jeremy Thorpe , North Devon

May I ask the Prime Minister, first, whether as a result of his visit he has hopes of any new initiative with regard to Vietnam and any prospect of a settlement of that dispute?

Secondly, concerning the "Pueblo", since he said that he had only indirect information, is he now aware that the Foreign Secretary put out an immediate statement accepting the American contention that the ship was outside territorial waters? May we take it that that information was not within his knowledge at the time and, therefore, did not form any part of the discussions in Moscow?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

On Vietnam, I do not think I should add to what my right hon. Friend said in the House on Monday. The whole House knows that exploration contacts are going on. The House knows the position and the possibility of moving towards peace due to the San Antonio speech of President Johnson and the statement of Foreign Minister Trinh, of North Vietnam. Those matters were fully discussed for many hours in Moscow and I do not think that I would help if I were to go into greater detail about it.

On the second point about the "Pueblo", as I said the matter was not raised by the other side. The information given by the Foreign Office related to the question of territorial waters, and not to any other question. Had I been asked to raise the matter with the Soviet Union, obviously the matter would have to go a great deal deeper than that.

Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone

My right hon. Friend has been reported from Moscow as referring to the desirability of building more bridges towards the solution of the conflict in Vietnam. While reserve must be exercised, and we must not press my right hon. Friend too hard, surely there should be no general prohibition in the House on asking whether my right hon. Friend has been able to move closer to the position of the Soviet Union on the cessation of bombing as an essential prerequisite to the start of negotiations?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

There has been no prohibition. The only inhibition about answering is the one that I have imposed on myself, based on what I think will be most helpful.

The question of the bombing was referred to in Mr. Trinh's statement, which many people regard as a step forward, as was the San Antonio statement, and the State of the Union message. I think that the bridge, which is a narrow one, relates to these two questions. My hon. Friend will have seen that this year, unlike last year, in the communiqué there was a clear statement by both Governments about their intentions to take, singly or jointly, action within their power to achieve the settlement that is needed. This goes further than the Soviet Union was able to go a year ago.

Photo of Mr John Peyton Mr John Peyton , Yeovil

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, in default of being able to say something more substantial than he has yet said, the general impression will be that his journey was not really necessary?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

The hon. Gentleman may feel that, but I think that that somewhat sour and even perhaps, political approach—I do not know whether it is political or not—will not be shared by those who recognise the importance of our two countries meeting regularly, and frequently, and, even when nothing specific is signed or delivered at a particular meeting, will agree that it is important to understand one another's position on other things that may be helpful in the future. That is what we did last year when the hon. Gentleman had the same view about it.

Photo of Mr Stan Orme Mr Stan Orme , Salford West

We do not want to press my right hon. Friend unnecessarily about the Vietnam war, but would not he agree that it should be made clear that if a truce is not achieved the escalation which could follow could be disastrous? Is my right hon. Friend trying, with the Soviet Union, to bring about even a temporary cessation of the bombing so that negotiations on the basis of the two speeches to which he has referred can take place?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

The dangers of escalation were ever present in our minds during the talks, and was referred to many times by us both. This was so on past occasions. In July, 1966—another "unnecessary" journey—there was a very severe danger of escalation, for reasons which the House knows, and our discussions then helped to prevent escalation. We had this very much in mind this year, also.

Photo of Sir Arthur Harvey Sir Arthur Harvey , Macclesfield

What progress was made in bringing about a treaty of friendship with Russia, which the right hon. Gentleman said last February could be expected? Also, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether he received an order for the floodlighting of a football pitch?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

On the first point, will, with permission, send the hon. and gallant Gentleman a cutting from tomorrow's HANSARD of the answer that I gave to his hon. Friend, who put exactly the same question to me.

On the second and more humorous point, which I think has been taken deeply seriously, this little firm, with 35 employees, is trying to export its products all over the world. I said that I would do what I could if the Moscow Dynamos aid not have floodlights as good as those produced by this firm. I found to my surprise that they had, but we were able to pursue other and larger trade deals running into hundreds of millions of pounds.

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

Did Mr. Kosygin express profound and sincere sympathy with Britain having got into a financial crisis due to speculation against the £ by foreign speculators? Does the Soviet Union suffer from the fact that foreign speculators gamble against the rouble? Is it true that the rouble is much more stable than the £? Finally, can my right hon. Friend say whether he went to Russia to try to borrow some money?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

The answer to the first question is that there were no expressions of sympathy on this matter. There was no suggestion of borrowing money, though my hon. Friend will know the generous credit terms that we extend, amounting to a total registered figure of £125 million, for the export of capital goods to the Soviet Union.

On the question of speculation, it is a long-standing convention between us that we do not discuss the activities of individual banks, whether the Moscow Norodny Bank, or any other.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

Does the Prime Minister realise that he is now so distrusted——

Hon. Members:

Oh.

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

Order. I want to hear the supplementary question.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

He is so distrusted and——

Photo of Mr Andrew Faulds Mr Andrew Faulds , Smethwick

On a point of order. Is it not a fact that the right hon. Gentleman has such a corner in discredit that he is entitled to ask a question about it?

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

That is not a point of order.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

Does the Prime Minister realise that he is so distrusted—[Interruption.]

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

Order. We have a lot of serious business before us.

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

Order. I want us to get on.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

Does not the Prime Minister realise that he is so distrusted and discredited at home that he is no longer—[Interruption.]

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

Order. The House is getting a little too happy. It must be serious.

Photo of Mr Hector Hughes Mr Hector Hughes , Aberdeen North

On a point of order. Is not the right hon. Gentleman guilty of tedious repetition, and is he not obviously and deliberately wasting the time of the House?

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

The right hon. Gentleman was guilty of repetition, for causes beyond his control. Nobody in the House could have judged for the moment that it was tedious.

An Hon. Member:

I beg to move, That the Question be now put.

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

Order. I hope that we can let the right hon. Gentleman complete his question.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

I will not repeat the first part, Mr. Speaker—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] my conclusion is that the right hon. Gentleman no longer has any authority to speak for Britain abroad.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

That was not the view of those with whom I was dealing, and it does not seem to be the view of those with whom I shall be dealing in a fortnight's time. These meetings entirely disprove what we were told from the other side of the House about tickets to the top table, but the right hon. Gentleman at least will be reassured to know that, when we discussed the question of Rhodesia, as we did in Moscow——

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

But that is a British responsibility.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

—that I was not even held guilty by association through having to answer questions from the right hon. Gentleman, who has utterly discredited any pledge he ever gave as a Minister on the subject of Rhodesia.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

Would my right hon. Friend tell us precisely how far the discussions got in relation to a European security conference, as this is undoubtedly of great importance? I think that everyone who read the communiqué thought that a very welcome development. Possibly he could to some extent develop the points which were discussed and tell us how far we have got in this direction.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

Yes, Sir. I do not want to stand too much in the way of the foreign affairs debate which is to follow, but, on the security conference, we agreed again, as we did last year, that this could be useful, provided that it was properly prepared, and provided, as I said, that it was for constructive discussion and not the statement of slogans by one side or the other. One thing suggested to us—this is certainly worth considering—was that the Soviet Union and Britain should work together, at any rate informally, bilaterally, to see whether we could help forward this idea. I made it clear that if we did this it could not be on an exclusive basis—and no one has appointed us as co-chairmen—and that we would want many other bilateral arrangements on this and other questions with our friends and others concerned.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

What proposals did the right hon. Gentleman put to Mr. Kosygin about Rhodesia?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I did not put any proposals to Mr. Kosygin about Rhodesia. It was quite unnecessary——

Photo of Mr Patrick Wall Mr Patrick Wall , Haltemprice

Why discuss it, then?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

The position of Her Majesty's Government on Rhodesia is perfectly clear in this House. It is a British responsibility—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ah."] It has also become a matter of deep United Nations and international concern, and the right hon. Gentleman has encouraged that by the backing which he has given to the Rhodesian illegal régime. However, in any world-ranging discussions of all world problems, right hon. Gentlemen delude themselves if they do not consider that Rhodesia is a matter of very profound international concern—[An HON. MEMBER: "What about the Suez Canal?"] Of course, we discussed the Suez Canal as well at very considerable length. We considered all the main international areas. The right hon. Gentleman cannot censor which subjects are to be discussed abroad on occasions like this.

Following is the communiqué:

At the invitation of the Soviet Government the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the Rt. Hon. Harold Wilson, paid an official visit to the Soviet Union from 22nd to 24th January, 1968.

Mr. Wilson was received by the Secretary General of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Mr. L. I. Brezhnev, and by the President of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R.. Mr. N. V. Podgorny, and had talks with them.

Several meetings and discussions took place between Mr. Wilson and the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the U.S.S.R., Mr. A. N. Kosygin in which these also took part.

On the Soviet side, First Deputy Chairman of the U.S.S.R. Council of Ministers, Mr. D. S. Polyansky, Deputy Chairman of the U.S.S.R. Council of Ministers, Mr. V. A. Kirillin, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the U.S.S.R., Mr. A. A. Gromyko, the Minister of Foreign Trade of the U.S.S.R., Mr. N. S. Patolichey, the Ambassador of the Soviet Union to the United Kingdom, Mr. M. N. Smirnovsky, and other Officials; on the British s de, the British Ambassador, Sir Geoffrey Harrison, Mr. Harold Davies, Sir Burke Trend, Sir Solly Zuckerman, Sir Denis Greenhill and other Officals.

In the course of these discussions there was a frank exchange of views on topical questions relating to the present international situation and a detailed discussion of the state of and the prospects for the development of relations between the two countries.

The two sides exchanged views on the war in Vietnam. They set out their respective positions. Reaffirming their adherence to the principles of the agreements reached at the Geneva Conferences of 1954 and 1962, of which their representatives were co-Chairmen, they emphasised the urgent need for a political settlement of the conflict which would fully respect the exclusive and inalienable right of the peoples of the region to manage their own internal affairs. They expressed their firm intention to take singly or jointly all actions within their power to achieve that goal.

The two sides had a detailed discussion of the development of the situation in the Middle East and exchanged views on ways to achieve a political settlement of the problems of the region. They emphasised the need for the earliest possible implementation of the Security Council Resolution of 22nd November, 1967; and in this connection they declared their support for the efforts of the United Nations Secretary General's special representative, Ambassador Jarring, aimed at bringing about the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the conflict in June, 1967, and the realisation of the other provisions of that Resolution.

The British and Soviet Governments attach great importance to questions of European security. They are determined to use every effort together with other countries in order to find a solution to these problems. They confirmed that a conference on European security could be valuable subject to the necessary preparation. They also consider it important that all the countries of Europe should be among the participants at such a conference.

The two sides noted with particular satisfaction the substantial progress which had recently been made towards a Treaty for the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and recognised the important contribution made by both their Governments during the discussions leading up to this result. They look forward to the rapid conclusion of the Treaty.

Both Governments will continue their efforts together with others towards the achievement of general and complete disarmament.

In the course of a review of the state of Anglo-Soviet relations it was recognised that both sides were working for the further development of ties between the U.S.S.R. and the United Kingdom particularly in the fields of economic, scientific, technological and cultural co-operation. The two sides noted that Anglo-Soviet trade had expanded substantially in recent months and that a number of agreements of an economic nature have recently been signed and preparations are under way for the conclusion of further agreements. The two sides expressed satisfaction at the exchange of views on problems of mutual interest between the Prime Minister and leading Statesmen of the Soviet Union and agreed to remain in close and regular contact for the purpose of further developing friendly relations between the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom and promoting international peace.