HC Deb 19 April 1955 vol 540 cc21-4
37. Mr. Dodds

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement indicating the present position with regard to top-level talks designed to reduce international tension; and what progress has been made since 1st March last.

38. Mr. Swingler

asked the Prime Minister if he will now propose to the United States and Soviet Governments a meeting of heads of Governments to discuss the causes of international tension and the necessity of disarmament.

39. Mr. G. M. Thomson

asked the Prime Minister what progress is being made towards bringing about top-level talks with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on outstanding world problems, including Germany.

The Prime Minister (Sir Anthony Eden)

As has so often been made clear, Her Majesty's Government are anxious for negotiations with the Soviet Government as soon as possible after the ratification of the London and Paris Agreements. We are already discussing method and procedure with the Governments of France, the United States of America, the German Federal Republic and other interested countries. The House may rest assured that we shall do everything in our power to speed these consultations. I hope that it will be possible for my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to make a further announcement on this subject in the course of the next few days. As I have previously stated in this House, nothing is excluded from our minds in the way of machinery to bring about the results we all require.

It may be—indeed I devoutly hope—that we can now look forward with greater confidence to the prospect of fruitful talks with the Soviet Union. This is not due to any accident but because the unity of the West has been established by the London and Paris Agreements, and it has always been on the basis of that unity that successful negotiations could be conducted with the East.

Mr. Dodds

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that a vast number of people in this country have great hopes that top-level talks will take place, and that some good will come from them? Can the new Prime Minister make a personal declaration that he is very anxious that top-level talks should take place at the earliest possible moment, and that he will do his best to implement them?

The Prime Minister

As I have reminded the House, I said some time ago that nothing in the way of machinery is excluded from our purpose to bring about the results we want. We are, as the House knows, at present bound by an agreement which was put out in the White Paper last November, I think with the approval of the House, giving the order in which the subjects would be taken. I think the order has already been justified, because Austria was first on the list. We shall do all we can to make progress in the way I have indicated.

Mr. Swingler

Quite apart from the question of Germany and the Paris Agreements, does not the Prime Minister recall that it is now exactly 12 months since this House, without dissent, passed a Resolution calling for an immediate initiative for top-level talks upon the menace of the hydrogen bomb? It is upon the menace of the hydrogen bomb, and the general causes of international tension—which are far wider questions than the specific question of Germany—that the people of this and other countries have been waiting for the heads of Governments to act.

The Prime Minister

I should hope that the whole House would feel that if we can make progress upon subjects such as Austria, and conclude a treaty, and also make progress upon the subject of Germany, we are moving upon those issues which are causing the most acute anxiety in the world at the present time.

Mr. Thomson

Is the Prime Minister aware that since 1950 his party has already fought two General Elections upon this issue of top-level talks and has so far failed to fulfil its pledges? Is he aware that there will be strong public objection to further delays in bringing about these talks by holding a third General Election in which, no doubt, the same sort of pledges will be made?

The Prime Minister

I see no particular reason why a third General Election should retard matters. On the contrary, I should hope that it would encourage us greatly in the work which we are doing.

Mr. H. Morrison

May the House take it that besides the question of a united Germany, and so on, obviously being discussed at these talks, the general question of disarmament will not be excluded? In the meantime, will it be possible for the Government, with a view to preparing for these talks on Germany, to try to discover, through diplomatic channels, what the Soviet Union means by free and democratic elections?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman has put his finger upon the point at issue. I think that it is inconceivable that there should be international talks with Russia which did not include the question of Germany, though we hope that they would also include other matters. If the right hon. Gentleman will refer to the Command Paper of last November, which he has almost quoted, by accident—probably because he remembers it—he will see that we said that after Austria, the next matter which we wanted to discuss was the question of truly free elections in Germany, in order to see if we could reach agreement about them. I think that the answer to the right hon. Gentleman's question is, in all respects, "Yes"; but he will understand that these are matters on which we have to reach agreement with our Allies, and it depends whether they take the same view as us of the course to follow. We cannot impose our will upon our Allies. We shall try to reach agreement with them.

Mr. Shinwell

Can we be assured that the Government can undertake top-level talks now, in view of the fact that they have been deprived of the only top level which the Government have ever had?

The Prime Minister

I do not know what the right hon. Gentleman means. During the six years in which he was in office there were no top-level talks of any kind.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Shinwell

I am grateful for that applause. Now that the giant killer has gone, surely the dwarfs are quite incapable of undertaking the task.