HC Deb 12 April 1948 vol 449 cc597-8
15. Mr. Blackburn

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what action he is taking in view of the rejection by the Soviet authorities of the British request for a quadripartite commission of investigation into the Gatow air crash.

Mr. Mayhew

As a matter of accuracy, what the Military Governor suggested in his letter of 6th April, the text of which has been published, was that he and Marshal Sokolovsky should jointly appoint a Commission of Inquiry, and should invite the Americans and French each to appoint one representative. As my hon. Friend will have seen in the Press, the Military Governor has, with the authority of my right hon. Friend, proposed a joint technical investigation by experts appointed by himself and Marshal Sokolovsky. The Soviet authorities have accepted this proposal, and I hope that the report will be available soon. In the meantime, I do not wish to prejudge the issue.

Mr. Blackburn

Is my hon. Friend aware that the most unfortunate impression of weakness has been created since last month, and will he give an assurance that it remains the intention of His Majesty's Government to maintain our position both in Berlin and in Vienna?

Mr. Mayhew

I think that no one, if he is wise, will mistake my right hon. Friend's patience for weakness.

Mr. Wilson Harris

Is it not fairly reasonable, when there has been a collision between a British machine and a Russian machine, that investigation should be carried out by British and Russian officers?

Mr. Mayhew

It is the democratic and the British method to find out the facts first and make up one's mind afterwards.

Mr. R. A. Butler

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that the impression created has been as described by the hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn)? I trust that in future a rather stronger impression will be given.

Mr. Molson

In view of the fact that the Under-Secretary has stated that his right hon. Friend does not wish to prejudge this issue, what is his view of the appointment of General Alexandrov as Russian representative, who has already written an article expressing the view that the blame for this accident rested upon the British pilot?

Mr. Mayhew

I certainly deeply regret that the Soviet authorities should have decided to issue this version which is, in any case, at variance with the information at the moment at our disposal.

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