HC Deb 10 March 1955 vol 538 cc614-6
49. Mr. Parkin

asked the Prime Minister what consideration he has given to the declaration of the Supreme Soviet of 9th February, afterwards transmitted by diplomatic note, that the establishment of direct contact between parliaments and addresses by parliamentary delegations of one country in the parliament of another, would be in accordance with the peoples' desire to develop friendly relations and co-operation; and whether he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister

I have read the suggestion contained in a statement which was transmitted to Her Majesty's Embassy and other Missions in Moscow. Her Majesty's Government have always favoured interchanges between Members of the British Parliament and those of institutions of foreign countries which are of a similar status. In the reply given to the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Lewis) on 25th October last, my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said that he hoped we might in due course have an opportunity of welcoming a delegation from the Supreme Soviet to this country. This is quite a different question from inviting members of a visiting delegation to participate in the deliberations of the House of Commons, and we should certainly rely upon Mr. Speaker to ward off any such incursion into our debates.

Mr. Parkin

Has the Prime Minister given sufficient consideration to the fact that this appears to be an invitation to other Parliaments to send delegations to the Soviet Union? Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that it refers to parliamentarians and not executives and heads of Governments who are not always Members of Parliament?

Would he bear in mind that his own record as a parliamentarian would fully entitle him to consideration of his inclusion in the delegation? When the right hon. Gentleman goes away on holiday and enjoys himself, as we all hope that he will, will he look at Mount Etna and reflect that a little eruption from himself in Moscow and a little fall-out of cigar ash would be a much more harmless experiment than some which we have been discussing recently?

The Prime Minister

Before anybody can take part in our debates in this House, they have to be British subjects and also have to be elected by a constituency under conditions which are thought to be proper and correct in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Alport

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he considers that one of the obstacles to the successful conclusion of this proposal may be the fact that no parliamentary institution in the proper sense of the word exists in the Soviet Union?

Mr. Rankin

While the Prime Minister might not be, and evidently is not, sympathetic to any foreign delegation meeting within this Chamber, would he be prepared to follow the precedent established already of meeting in the Royal Gallery?

Mr. Warbey

Will the Prime Minister look at this matter with an open mind? Might it not be of very great advantage to delegates of other countries, including the Soviet Union, in being compelled to take part in the knock-about of British Parliamentary debate?

The Prime Minister

As far as this House is concerned, I have considered the matter with an open mind and have come to the conclusion that the solution is the closed door.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that if there is to be the knock-about sort of idea which the hon. Member for Broxstowe (Mr. Warbey) suggests, it pre-supposes a sense of humour which is entirely absent in Russia?

The Prime Minister

I would not be prepared to go so far as that general assertion, but I feel that we are an organisation, a society of our own, and we should keep our talk among ourselves, I think—and I trust.

Mr. Rankin

What about the Royal Gallery?

The Prime Minister

There are lots of places in the Palace of Westminster in which people may often meet and have often met to talk about all sorts of things—in the most friendly way.