HC Deb 26 November 1941 vol 376 cc728-9
12. Mr. Wedgwood

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why there was no representation of the Teheran Legation to see Mr. Litvinov on a British aeroplane; whether disciplinary action has been taken against the Foreign Office officials on the aeroplane for not resigning their seats to Mr. and Mrs. Litvinov; whether there was satisfactory co-operation with the Soviet officials on the part of the British Embassy in Teheran in connection with the occupation of that city; and what he proposes to do to remedy the state of affairs?

Mr. Eden

The Counsellor of His Majesty's Legation at Teheran was present at the aerodrome at the time of the departure of the British Overseas Airways Corporation aeroplane by which M. Litvinov and his party were due to travel and on which he himself had a seat. Owing, however, to an unfortunate misunderstanding, he was informed that M. Litvinov had left by an R.A.F. machine on the previous day, as had originally been arranged. The British Overseas Airways Corporation plane, with its full complement of passengers, left a little ahead of schedule, and M. Litvinov did not arrive at the aerodrome until after its departure. The question. of resigning seats did not therefore arise. Any suggestion that M. Litvinov was refused a place on the plane or that he was in any way discourteously treated by any official either of the Legation or of the British Overseas Airways Corporation is quite devoid of foundation. I have expressed to M. Litvinov my own deep personal regrets for the misunderstanding, for which I accept full responsibility. With regard to the third part of the hon. Member's Question, the co-operation between the Soviet officials and His Majesty's Legation in connection with the occupation of Teheran—as indeed in every other respect —was and is most satisfactory, and His Majesty's Minister is in close consultation with the Soviet Ambassador on all matters concerning Allied policy in Persia.

Mr. Wedgwood

Mr. Litvinov did not refuse to accept a British plane in anger or anything of that sort?

Mr. Eden

No, Sir. I think this has been a most unhappy misunderstanding throughout, and I hope no one will see offence where none was meant.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Would it not have been possible to make this explanation public rather sooner?

Mr. Eden

I did not know what the explanation was.

Mr. Sorensen

Why have so many stories appeared in the Press, and why was the story given us this morning so divergent?

Mr. Cocks

If the right hon. Gentleman is in such close communication with the Soviet Ambassador, why does he not declare war, as requested by the Soviet Union, on Finland, Hungary and Rumania, and is he aware that Ministers who oppose such declaration ought to be forced to resign?

Mr. Eden

It does not lie with our Minister in Teheran to decide whether or not to declare war.