HC Deb 15 November 1954 vol 533 cc35-7
Mr. Attlee

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State whether he has any statement to make on the latest Soviet Note.

The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir Anthony Eden)

Yes, Sir. The Soviet Note has only just been received and is being studied. Our first duty is to consult our allies and other interested Powers.

Subject to such consultation, my preliminary reading of the Soviet Note is that it contains no proposals which have not been put forward before, except the proposal of the date of 29th November for a general European conference.

The Soviet Note is openly and explicitly directed against the ratification of the Paris Agreements. As the House knows, it is Her Majesty's Government's view that our first task is to ratify these Agreements and to put them into force. We must not let ourselves be deflected.

As I said in this House on 25th October: If we can bring about stability and a common purpose in the West, we shall have established the essential basis on which we can seek an understanding with the East."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th Oct., 1954; Vol. 531, c. 1606.]

Mr. Attlee

While agreeing with the right hon. Gentleman that ratification should go forward, I take it that the right hon. Gentleman would then be in favour, pari passu, of going ahead with full talks on the broad questions raised in the Soviet Note.

Sir A. Eden

I know the right hon. Gentleman would agree that we must move in these matters in close consultation with our allies. I have made it plain from the quotation that I gave that the first stage is ratification by all the countries concerned, so that our plans may be brought to fruition. From that moment a new situation opens up, and Her Majesty's Government would not exclude the possibility of further discussion.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Would the Foreign Secretary put it to the Russian Government that if they help us more over disarmament inspection and control we may be able to consider security questions in a new light?

Sir A. Eden

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, but that would not be the only area in which I should like a little help. I would like some help, for example, in securing an Austrian treaty, which should have been concluded long ago.

Mr. Wyatt

Will the Foreign Secretary, in his reply, make it clear that he does not think the idea of a European collective security pact is necessarily inconsistent with the ratification of the Berlin and Paris Agreements? Would he not also agree that it would be similar to his own idea of a Locarno Pact applied to Europe? If that satisfied the Soviet Union, might we not as well give it to them?

Sir A. Eden

I would not follow the hon. Gentleman in the argument he has been using about Mr. Molotov's idea of a pact. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman and Mr. Molotov are as close as perhaps he thinks they are. All I would add on this matter is that I have not given the considered views of Her Majesty's Government. I could not. But I thought it was right to give the House our preliminary reaction. Of course, considered views can only follow consultation with our allies.

Mr. Chetwynd

Does the right hon. Gentleman rule out simultaneous moves towards ratification and negotiation?

Sir A. Eden

We have made it clear that ratification must now proceed and that that is a step that must be completed before anything else can be completed.

Mr. Harold Davies

Does the right hon. Gentleman mean by that that no approach by the U.S.S.R. will be considered by Her Majesty's Government or by her allies until well into the spring when ratification will take place'? May I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to agree, when the Government have had time seriously to consider this Note, with Lord Samuel, who said in another place that this may not be a trap but a genuine effort to get world peace?

Sir A. Eden

Any proposal made to us by a foreign Government will be considered. We have never closed the door and we are in no circumstances closing it now. This Soviet Note is clearly directed against the ratification of these Agreements, and it is the Government's policy to ratify them as soon as possible. We cannot be diverted from that task, and I am sure the House will not wish us to be diverted.

Several Hon. Members rose——

Mr. Speaker

We cannot debate this further as we are to have two days' discussion on it this week.