HC Deb 25 January 1955 vol 536 cc29-31
50. Mr. Harold Davies

asked the Prime Minister whether he is now prepared to recommend four-Power talks on the basis of the Soviet Note of 16th January, 1955, offering general elections in East and West Germany with international inspection; and in what respects these latest Soviet proposals differ from those of the Western Powers at the 1954 Berlin Conference.

54. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of official proposals recently made by the Soviet Government in respect of steps that could be taken towards German unification and free elections, he will propose discussions on the matter with the Soviet Government.

The Prime Minister

I presume that the hon. Members are referring to a statement broadcast by Moscow Radio on 15th January. I have nothing to add to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Lewis) on 16th December, which I will now for convenience repeat: The policy of Her Majesty's Government is to seek a four-Power Conference at a time when it seems likely to yield genuine results. We do not believe that this end would be served by holding such a Conference before the ratification of the London and Paris Agreements. The basic conditions were set out in Her Majesty's Government's Note to the Soviet Government of 29th November. I have nothing to add at the present to what is the declared policy of the Government."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th December, 1954; Vol. 535, c. 178.]

Mr. Davies

I have listened with some regret to that answer. May I ask the Prime Minister if he does not realise that a stubborn insistence on the Paris Agreements at the moment when there has been an offer for elections—[Interruption.] The second part of my Question has not been answered. This House and the nation want to know in what way the Prime Minister considers that the offer of these elections differs from what we requested at the Berlin Conference in 1954.

The Prime Minister

I am sure I should not be well advised to embark upon a detailed discussion of that character here at Question Time, not even if I incur the disapproval of hon. Members.

Mr. Bevan

Is not the Prime Minister aware that the answer he has given this afternoon will produce a most unfortunate impression in Germany itself? It will convey the impression to large numbers of Germans that this country is entirely indifferent to the peaceful unification of Germany. Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that very large elements of public opinion in Germany, of great importance, have already expressed a desire to meet the Russians on these proposals before the Paris Agreements are ratified?

The Prime Minister

The view that has been expressed by the West German Government is that ratification should take place first.

Mr. Sorensen

Will the Prime Minister agree that it seems as if the Soviet authorities have shifted their ground somewhat? Under those circumstances, is there any reason why discussion should not take place on what appears to be a more fruitful offer without precluding the conclusion of the Paris Agreements?

The Prime Minister

We have considered this matter almost ceaselessly and in conjunction with our Allies, and we have come to the conclusion that it is better to proceed to the ratification of the London and Paris Agreements. Then the road will be clear for any further discussion which may be considered to be of advantage.

At the end of Questions