HC Deb 19 February 1947 vol 433 cc1349-52

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £,25,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1947, for a grant in aid of the Government Hospitality Fund.

Mr. Osborne

I apologise for keeping the Committee, but I would like to know the type of hospitality which the Govern- ment propose to provide The Estimate states that further provision is required to meet expenditure in connection with the forthcoming visit of members of the Supreme Soviet. I want to know how many will be in the delegation that is to come to this country. How long will they be likely to be in this country, and how much per head per week will it cost us? I do not ask this in any spirit of opposition, because I think it is one of the best things the Government have done so far. If there is to be any peace, we have somehow got to be able to get on with the Russians better in the future than we have done in the past, especially since we have had a Socialist Foreign Secretary. I want to know whether the Socialist Government are going to give to our distinguished guests any of what I should call working-class hospitality, or is it all to be the Savoy type of hospitality? Will the Government see that they get as wide an experience as possible of English life during their short stay, and finally, is there any hope of a similar English party being entertained in Moscow as a result of this visit?

The Minister of Works (Mr. Key)

I cannot give the number of people who will be involved in this visit, but they will include quite a number of people who have to assist by being interpreters, and so on, and therefore, I cannot give the definite number who will be included in the visit, which will last for just over a month. The places which the delegation will visit will cover the whole of the country, and I can assure the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) that they will be entertained by all types of organisations and people in various parts of the country. I feel quite certain that the benefit of this visit will be such that the amount of money here involved will be regarded as having been well spent.

Mr. Tiffany

May I express my pleasure that this money is to be spent for this purpose? I am glad to see present the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) and at least ten Tory Members. I sincerely hope that this sum of money will allow us to give hospitality to our Allies in a manner befitting the people who fought so gallantly alongside us in the defeat of Fascism. I also hope that this hospitality will help to smooth away some of the suspicions that have, unfortunately, been felt between our two countries, and will assist in fostering better trade relations between our two countries for the benefit of us both. I hope that these friendly relations will be better cemented as a result of this visit than they have been before.

12.45 a.m.

Colonel Wigg (Dudley)

I want to congratulate the Government on putting down this Vote, and asking the Committee to approve it tonight. It is a deplorable fact that it has taken 28 years before a Government of this country has taken such a step as this. The Government are to be further congratulated on making their preparations in the light of day. Everybody knows we are going to entertain our former Ally. Before the war the Conservative Party would not have done anything like this. They would have entertained, but not, of course, in an open manner. They would have been meeting Hitler's friends in somebody's private house, either in this country or, as happened a few days before the war broke out, in a villa in Jutland to see how they could bring about a super-Munich. Therefore, I hope the Committee will approve this Vote, and if it is not enough, the Government should come back and ask for more.

I join with the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne)—although I doubt my reasoning when I find myself in agreement with him—in hoping that they will not be entertained at the Savoy, because at the Savoy they would not meet the kind of Briton that our Russian Allies ought to meet. They will not meet there people who made the major contribution to the winning of the war. They would be much more likely to meet the war profiteer, the black marketeer, the idle rich and so forth.

Mr. Osborne

And Hannan Swaffer?

Colonel Wigg

I do not know, I do not go there myself. I hope our Russian Allies will visit the British Restaurants and civic restaurants where, as a result of a recent very wise decision, they will be able to drink vodka. I hope that entertainment for our Russian friends will appear in the Estimates year after year, and thus be able to cement the friendship we all want to see with our gallant Russian friends.

Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)

I want to associate myself with the remarks of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dudley (Colonel Wigg). I would emphasise the fact that this is the first time that the Government have given notice to the public beforehand, that we wish to entertain our gallant Allies. I hope that facilities will be given for our Russian Allies to see the whole gamut of our nation's life. Both sides of the Committee are in accord with this Vote tonight. I hope that we shall get that freer relationship with our Russian Allies which will encourage their people to see the British way of life, side by side with their own. Would it be possible, out of this allocation of £25,000, for the Inter-Parliamentary Union to have a bigger grant than it is getting at the present time, to give hospitality to members of democratic assemblies in other parts of the world?

The Chairman

The hon. Gentleman cannot discuss the Inter-Parliamentary Union on this Vote.

Colonel Wigg

I noticed that hon. Gentlemen opposite were shaking their heads when my hon. Friend was speaking—

Hon. Members

Was that out of Order?

Colonel Wigg

I am not suggesting it was out of Order, but I do suggest that under the skin, it is the same old wolf—they much prefer their Fascist friends to the Soviet Union.

Resolved: That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £25,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1947, for a grant in aid of the Government Hospitality Fund.

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