HC Deb 12 April 1956 vol 551 cc387-91
46. Mr. Daines

asked the Prime Minister whether, in the forthcoming visit of Messrs. Bulganin and Khrushchev, he will approach them for a return visit, equal in status and facilities to that afforded to them.

The Prime Minister

It is perhaps a little early to start discussing a return visit before our guests have arrived.

Mr. Shinwell

Should the right hon. Gentleman at any time be playing the Russians on their own ground, would he mind taking with him some of the players from the back benches?

The Prime Minister

I have been to Russia previously in all sorts of company. I should be honoured to do so.

47. Mr. Wade

asked the Prime Minister, in view of the public interest in the Press conference which is to take place during the visit of Marshal Bulganin and Mr. Khrushchev, the wide range of subjects on which representatives of the Press may wish to ask questions and the desirability of allowing representatives of the Press a reasonable opportunity of asking questions, whether he will make arrangements for a second Press conference to be held before Marshal Bulganin and Mr. Khrushchev leave this country.

48. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Prime Minister to what extent it is the policy of Her Majesty's Government for Marshal Bulganin and Mr. Khrushchev during their forthcoming visit to be afforded every opportunity, within the agreed programme, to come into contact with the British people and the British way of life.

49. Mr. Peyton

asked the Prime Minister what representations have been received from the Soviet Government on the subject of the arrangements for the forthcoming visit of Marshal Bulganin and Mr. Khrushchev; and how far those arrangements have been modified.

The Prime Minister

As I have previously stated, and as the Soviet leaders have agreed, the principal purpose of this visit is to discuss the many issues which today divide the world. Within the agreed programme the Soviet leaders will have many opportunities of coming in contact with the British people and the British way of life.

I understand that the Soviet leaders are still considering the suggestion for a Press conference. The question of a second one therefore hardly arises.

I am not prepared to reveal the nature of the exchanges which have led to this agreed programme.

Perhaps I should add, in reply to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson), that I am very much in favour of visiting Ministers coming into contact with our people and our way of life. I think this does nothing but good, but I think it would be even better if the people of our two countries could come into contact with each other and see each other's way of life, and I am hopeful that this may be one of the results of the discussions shortly to be opened.

Mr. Wade

Does the Prime Minister agree that a Press conference at which questions could be freely asked and, I hope, frankly answered, might serve a more useful purpose than smiles and handshakes? Is he satisfied that if such a conference takes place there will be adequate time for those who wish to attend and ask questions to do so?

The Prime Minister

I really do not think I can answer that, but, as I say, we have suggested a Press conference.

Mr. Henderson

As the announced programme will afford ample opportunities, as the Prime Minister has indicated, for the Russian leaders to come into contact with large numbers of unofficial persons, may I ask him whether the unauthorised publication of the times of the programme will necessitate any substantial amendment of the published programme?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir; none. We have had the security question in mind, as the House will understand. The matter has been considered afresh in the light of what has happened, but no change is contemplated.

Mr. Peyton

Will my right hon. Friend use his best endeavours to bring the Russian visitors face to face with the serious and dangerous world problems, many of which are of their own creation? Will he also do what he can to stop the visit from becoming a Communist propaganda campaign? Further, before taking part in certain of the functions which have been arranged, will he provide himself with a very long spoon?

The Prime Minister

With all respect to my hon. Friend, this will not be my first international negotiation. As to where the meetings should be held, there is always the choice of one of the other capitals of the countries concerned or perhaps a neutral capital. I thought it was in accord with the tone and temper of our country's wishes that this time the meeting should be in London.

Mr. Gaitskell

While most, if not all, of us would attach far more importance to talks with the Soviet Ministers on subjects such as the Middle East, Indo-China and other danger areas, regarding them as much more important than any number of banquets or visits, and while we may regret the form taken by the protest of the Soviet Ministers about the arrangements for the visit, some of us are puzzled by the fact that the Government appear to have refused the request of the Soviet visitors that they should be allowed to see a least one English factory? Would the Prime Minister care to make a statement about that?

The Prime Minister

I said that I could not discuss the detailed arrangements for the visit. With regard to a visit to a factory, we have made two arrangements which I thought would be agreeable to the Russian visitors. One is a visit to Harwell. Whether or not one can call it a factory, it is certainly a place where very important things are being made. The other is a visit to Calder Hall, which is actually in process of being constructed. I was asked whether it was our intention that those employed at Calder Hall should continue their work while the Russian visitors were there so that the visitors could see them engaged on the construction work and talk to them, and I said that that was exactly our desire. For the rest, I can only repeat, in reply to the right hon. Gentleman, that it would be an extraordinary process to discuss the details of the programme either with one's guests or in any other circumstances in public.

Mr. Gaitskell

The Prime Minister is, of course, aware that the Soviet Government have issued a statement on this matter. Does he not agree that there is a serious danger of misunderstanding if in fact the Soviet Ministers have asked to be allowed to go round a factory and the British Government have refused? In that case, how does the Prime Minister reconcile the attitude of the Government with his statement to my right hon. and learned Friend that he was anxious that they should have an opportunity of seeing the British people?

The Prime Minister

I have said that the programme has been agreed and it has been accepted on both sides. I announced it to the House some time ago and the House thought it a reasonable programme. I still think it so, and in the circumstances we should leave it at that. It is quite true that the Soviet Government issued a statement. Personally, I regret that, because it is rather unusual to do one's business in that sort of way.