HC Deb 29 June 1950 vol 476 cc2442-3
45. Mr. Peter Smithers

asked the Prime Minister if he will make it a rule that the Foreign Office should always be consulted before any foreign commercial contracts are entered into, which are likely to have adverse political repercussions in foreign countries, such as have arisen as a result of the visit to the Dominican Republic of the Soviet vessel "Dmitri Dorskoy" which was on charter to the Ministry of Food.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)

The Foreign Office is normally consulted by other Departments of His Majesty's Government in matters involving relations with foreign countries. In view of the very large number of commercial transactions which are entered into with foreign interests it must be left to the Department primarily concerned to decide whether and at what stage consultation with the Foreign Office is necessary.

As regards the specific instance quoted by the hon. Member, I would refer him to replies given to his Questions of 22nd May and 19th June by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food and my hon. Friend the Foreign Under-Secretary. I would also refer him to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food on 15th May to a Question by the hon. Member for Toxteth (Mr. Bevins).

Mr. Smithers

Is the Prime Minister aware that a point of real substance arises here? Is he aware that, on the one hand, the Foreign Office were saying that they are not interested because this transaction was entered into in London, while, on the other hand, the Ministry of Food said that they are not concerned with political considerations in chartering ships? For all they care this might be a North Korean vessel. Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that this is a matter which should receive attention?

The Prime Minister

Obviously, it would not be a North Korean vessel.

Mr. Sydney Silverman

Does the Prime Minister accept the implication that there were, in fact, adverse political repercussions?

The Prime Minister

I have not noticed any.