HC Deb 25 April 1955 vol 540 cc613-5
46. Mrs. Castle

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on the progress achieved in the organisation of high-level talks.

48. Mr. Donnelly

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is yet in a position to make a statement regarding the consultations taking place between the Western Powers regarding a collective policy to achieve German unification.

The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

On 27th April a meeting of British, American and French officials will begin in London in order to prepare plans, for consideration by Ministers, for holding a four-Power conference with the Soviet Government. West German officials will be invited to attend the meetings to discuss questions affecting Germany.

The British instruments ratifying the Paris Agreements will be deposited on 5th May. I understand that other Governments will be acting similarly at the same time so that the Agreements will enter into force on that day.

I myself shall be going to Paris on 7th May for the meeting of the North Atlantic Council which opens on 9th May. The question of a four-Power conference with the Soviet Government will then be one of the subjects for discussion. In addition, I shall hope to have separate talks during this period with the French and American Foreign Ministers and with the German Federal Chancellor.

I am confident that these consultations will lead to agreement about an early approach to the Soviet Government. As the House knows, it is the earnest desire of Her Majesty's Government that a four-Power conference should meet as soon as possible.

Her Majesty's Government will be glad to take part in talks at any level, whether Heads of Government or Foreign Ministers.

Mrs. Castle

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a growing opinion among all parties in Germany in favour of a settlement with Russia which would reunify Germany on the understanding that she remained neutral? Will he give the House an assurance, if he really wants the talks to succeed and not to be abortive, as they were in Berlin, that the Government will not close their mind to this solution and thus risk alienating the support of the German people and leading to a failure of the talks?

Mr. Macmillan

I am afraid I could not give any such undertaking. I think I should be wise in getting my advice as to the view of the German Government from the German Federal Chancellor.

Mr. Donnelly

Have any steps been taken by the British envoy in Moscow to find out what the Russians meant by free elections?

Mr. Macmillan

We of course will do all we can, but I think this programme is a pretty rapid programme considering that the condition prior to any talks has been the ratification of the London-Paris Agreements, which we are hoping will be completed by 5th May.

Mr. Donnelly

Has the right hon. Gentleman done anything about it already?

Mr. Macmillan

No, Sir, because it is quite understood that until the ratification there is no question of invitation to talks.

Mr. H. Morrison

As the right hon. Gentleman has referred to the willingness of the Government to engage in high-level or other talks, does that mean that the definite proposal of the former Prime Minister last year of high-level talks has been wholly or partially abandoned by Her Majesty's Government?

Mr. Macmillan

No, Sir. It means that it has been confirmed, as indeed it was by my right hon. Friend speaking on 28th March as Foreign Secretary and repeated by him on 19th April as Prime Minister, when he made it quite clear that we had excluded nothing in the way of machinery from our minds so long as we could bring about the results for which we all hoped.

Mr. Bellenger

The right hon. Gentleman referred in his answer to having West German officials in the conference with the Foreign Ministers—

Mr. Macmillan indicated dissent.

Mr. Bellenger

I thought that was what he said; he mentioned West German officials. How soon will it be before West German Federal Ministers are consulted in these matters and brought in fully with the Western Powers, since West Germany is supposed to be recovering sovereignty in some form or another?

Mr. Macmillan

I regret any misunderstanding. What I said—the right hon. Gentleman will see it in the OFFICIAL REPORT—was that on 27th April we are to have the first stage of the meeting of the officials, to which we are inviting the West German officials to come. Then there will be the second stage, after ratification on 5th May, when we all meet in Paris; and at that we hope to have in our consultations the benefit of Dr. Adenauer with us.