HC Deb 08 December 1949 vol 470 cc2074-6
37. Mr. Gallacher

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department under what conditions a group of Soviet miners was recently admitted into this country.

Mr. Ede

On 10th October I authorised the grant of visas to the members of a Soviet miners' delegation who had been invited by the Scottish Section of the National Union of Mineworkers to visit the United Kingdom for three weeks in return for a visit paid by Scottish miners to the Soviet Union. They were given leave to land on 15th October for a stay of three weeks and at their request I agreed to extend their stay till 9th November, when they left.

Mr. Gallacher

In view of the statements which are so often made that it is desirable that peoples should get to know each other, can the Minister say who was responsible for the descent of the Iron Curtain when these miners visited this country and why the B.B.C., instead of putting on these foreign miners, put on four professional slanderers to talk about the Russian people?

Mr. Ede

All those matters appear to be outside the scope of my Department. These people asked for permission to come. It was at once granted. Having got here, they liked the place so much that they asked for an extension. That was immediately granted. Had they asked for a longer extension they would have had it.

Mr. Marlowe

Was it one of the conditions of this visit that during their time here these Soviet miners should be precluded from attending any theatrical performance at which anybody poked fun at the Coal Board?

Mr. Awbery

Will my right hon. Friend do all he possibly can to encourage workers, not only from the Soviet Union, but from other countries, to visit this country, and vice versa?

Mr. Ede

If an application is made to me by the nationals of any country in similar circumstances to these, the application will be granted.

Mr. Nally

Is my right hon. Friend aware that one of the great difficulties of providing private hospitality and the welcome we would like to provide for Soviet visitors is due to the fact that any organised party of Soviet visitors arrives here with the clearest instructions not on any account to accept any private invitations, not to have interviews with British Press representatives and in fact are specially instructed not to have private relations with the British people?

Mrs. Manning

May I be allowed to ask my right hon. Friend if he is aware that the last statement made is completely untrue and that the seven women from the Soviet Union, who came here with the help of the Foreign Office and had all the help that could be given, had private hospitality during nearly the whole of their stay and met whoever they wished to meet?

Mr. Ede

None of those things is my responsibility.

Mr. Gallacher

Is the Minister aware that when this delegation came to this country I asked many hon. Members of this House, but I have never discovered a Member of this House who knew there was a delegation of Soviet miners in this country? Were any instructions given to the Press not to mention the delegation?

Mr. Ede

No instructions were given by me to anyone in the matter at all, except to the person responsible for granting the visas that the visas were to be granted and, when an extension was asked for, that it should be granted.