HC Deb 20 October 1953 vol 518 cc1804-6
46 and 47. Mr. Wyatt

asked the Prime Minister (1) whether he will now renew his attempt to hold a conference between the President of the United States, the Prime Minister of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the Prime Minister of France and the Prime Minister of Great Britain;

(2) what arrangements will now be made to hold the postponed Bermuda Conference.

49. Mr. Dodds

asked the Prime Minister what action he now proposes to take in an effort to arrange a meeting of the leaders of the Four Powers.

50. Mr. Jay

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of his welcome restoration to full health, he will invite the President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister of France to resume the arrangements for the Three-Power Conference at Bermuda, which it was previously proposed to hold in July.

The Prime Minister

The plan of a Bermuda Conference arose out of the proposal of the President of the United States that a Three-Power meeting should be held in Maine. Our suggestion about a different rendezvous was accepted. I regret that owing to ill health I was unable to go and the conference was postponed. Four months have passed since then and a good many things have happened.

For instance, as a result of the Foreign Ministers' meeting in London this weekend, the Soviet Government have been invited to attend a conference of Foreign Ministers at Lugano on 9th November. We think such a meeting would be an invaluable step towards a reduction of international tension and a solution of major European problems. We hope Mr. Molotov will accept. It would not be the first time he has discussed delicate and serious questions with my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.

This involves no change in our outlook. Our view remains that friendly, informal, personal talks between the leading figures in the countries mainly involved might do good and could not easily do much harm. Her Majesty's Government have in no way given up this thought. But, as the Leader of the Opposition wisely said at Margate: In all international matters it is as well to remember that there is a limit to what can be done by one Government.

Mr. Wyatt

Can the Prime Minister confirm or deny the story which appeared in the "Daily Express" this morning to the effect that if President Eisenhower is unwilling to meet Mr. Malenkov and himself, the right hon. Gentleman himself is prepared to meet Mr. Malenkov?

The Prime Minister

I should be opening very wide doors if I undertook to confirm or deny everything that appeared in the Press.

Mr. Jay

Does the Prime Minister recall that when the Bermuda Conference was deferred President Eisenhower, in a message to the right hon. Gentleman, said that he regarded it as only a temporary postponement. In view of that, cannot the Prime Minister invite the President to resume the arrangements?

The Prime Minister

Things have moved on, and decisions have to be taken in the light of circumstances prevailing at any one moment.

Mr. Dodds

While appreciating the effort that the Prime Minister made earlier in the year, may I ask why he does not state that the opposition to that plan is so great that it is now as dead as the dodo? [HON. MEMBERS: "The Doddo."] Will not the right hon. Gentleman once again get the initiative, and fulfil the promise to millions of people, by making a declaration that he will be prepared to meet Mr. Malenkov as soon as possible?

The Prime Minister

I do not think this would be a particularly suitable occasion for the House of Commons to discuss that topic.

Mr. Foot

Is it not a fact that during the Recess a statement was issued from 10, Downing Street saying that the Prime Minister's proposal of 11th May for high level talks had been rejected owing to the opposition of the United States and French Governments? Is it not a fact also that the French Government have repudiated that statement? And indeed it has been stated by "The Times" correspondent in Paris that proposals made at the Washington Conference by the acting Foreign Secretary were not for high-level talks with Mr. Malenkov at an early date but only that those talks should take place after the ratification of the E.D.C. treaty. Is it not time that the House of Commons was told the truth?

The Prime Minister

There is no Question on the Order Paper about that, but I must say when the hon. Gentleman talks about telling the House of Commons the truth he should remember that other statements are made, other than in the House of Commons, some of them in weekly newspapers.

Mr. H. Morrison

When the Prime Minister says that things have moved forward since his declaration of 11th May, does he not really mean that things have moved backwards?

The Prime Minister

I hope that the evil things have moved backwards and that the hopeful and fortunate things for the world have moved forward. It is a hope only.