HC Deb 28 April 1955 vol 540 cc1063-6
46. Mr. Warbey

asked the Prime Minister on what date he proposes to meet Marshal Bulganin.

48. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Prime Minister what progress has been made in the negotiations for holding international discussions at the highest level.

The Prime Minister (Sir Anthony Eden)

It is important to bear in mind what has always been the Allied position in this matter. We have been agreed that before there could be useful talks with Soviet Russia, the Paris Agreements must be ratified and progress be made with the Austrian Treaty. This was set out in published statements and in the Allied Note of last November. Now, fortunately, there has been progress with both these matters.

This is no accident, but the logical outcome of the policy which Her Majesty's Government and their Allies have constantly pursued in building up the unity of the West.

As a result of the recent progress the way is now clear, so far as we are concerned. We are ready and anxious to explore with the Soviet Government the possibility of reaching agreement on all outstanding matters between East and West. We are hopeful that a meeting for this purpose can shortly be arranged.

As has been said before, Her Majesty's Government will be glad to take part in talks at any level, whether heads of Government or Foreign Ministers. Preliminary discussions are now being held at a meeting of the representatives of the three Western Powers and of the German Federal Republic here in London.

Mr. Warbey

Can the Prime Minister now give a plain answer to a simple question? As he is aware, Marshal Bulganin has stated recently that he is prepared to meet the Prime Minister and President Eisenhower as soon as a date can be fixed. What is stopping the Prime Minister from fixing a date? Is it the same sinister forces in the Tory Party which stopped his predecessor from meeting Mr. Malenkov?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman's account of recent history is open to some question. Apart from that, I am perfectly ready to meet Marshal Bulganin. [HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] The object of these discussions in London is to reach agreement with our Allies on a plan for proceeding with discussions with Soviet Russia. I think this is the right way to proceed; not one by one but together as friends.

Mr. Henderson

No doubt the Prime Minister will recall that more than 12 months ago this House unanimously agreed that Her Majesty's Government should take the initiative in bringing about a meeting of the heads of Governments. This has now been supported by Marshal Bulganin's statement that he is prepared to participate in such a meeting at the highest level. Will not the Prime Minister take the initiative, as suggested and requested by the House, not just to arrange a four-Power conference, but to bring about a meeting at the highest level at the earliest opportunity?

The Prime Minister

That is not excluded by the answer I have given. I have said that we are ready for a meeting at whatever level. [AN HON. MEMBER: "No."] On the contrary. Our Allies are now discussing together how to handle this matter. We have probably already put our suggestions before our Allies in London, and I have no doubt that a reasonable plan can be worked out which will allow conversations to take place.

Captain Duncan

Is the Prime Minister aware that on this side of the House we recognise that he has taken the lead?

Mr. Chetwynd

Was it not understood when this House ratified the Agreements that diplomatic approaches were to be made to the Soviet so that immediately on ratification talks could take place? Are we to understand that no such diplomatic approaches have been made?

The Prime Minister

That was not understood, so far as I was concerned. The position of Her Majesty's Government has always been quite plain, and was made plain by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) and myself. The first thing to be done was ratification of these Agreements. It is quite true that we have had, between ourselves who are parties to the agreements, discussions, and these are being carried on now. There was never any question of our having discussions through diplomatic channels with Soviet Russia until those Agreements were ratified.

Mr. Beswick

Does not the Prime Minister agree that when his predecessor made his speech on 11th May, 1953, there was not a single word said about the ratification of these Agreements or any reference to the Austrian Treaty? Nor was any reference made to these two items when we passed the Resolution unanimously in this House last year. Is there not a very deep difference between his predecessor's desire for a talk without hordes of officials and without an agenda, and these talks after some sort of agreement among the Allies, with apparently some sort of conditions in mind?

The Prime Minister

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman's apprehensions have any justification at all. It is true that when my right hon. Friend made his speech there was no question of ratification of the Paris Agreements, because there were no Paris Agreements. At that time it was hoped that E.D.C. would be ratified. Unfortunately, it was not ratified. Now, largely owing to the action of Her Majesty's Government, new Agreements have taken its place which are now happily ratified by united Western Europe. From that, we can negotiate. As to the Austrian Treaty, if the hon. Gentleman will refer to the White Paper published last autumn and to the Allied Note, he will find—and never at any time has it been disputed in this House—that progress with an Austrian Treaty was a condition of any meeting with Russia.

Mr. Henderson

Are we to understand from the Prime Minister's reference to proposals put forward that Her Majesty's Government have made a definite proposal that talks should take place at the highest level after the conclusion of the conference on the Austrian Treaty?

The Prime Minister

We are discussing the position with our Allies here in London. I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will agree, from his experience, that we must allow these discussions to proceed. As soon as we are in a position to make a statement we shall do so. I do not think that it is right to say what our views are until, as I have already said, we are all agreed on them.