HC Deb 19 June 1958 vol 589 cc1310-1
48. Mr. Swingler

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the letter about the proposed Summit Conference which he received from Mr. Khrushchev on 13th June; and what reply he intends to make.

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir.

We had hoped that the preparatory discussions in Moscow would continue on a confidental and businesslike basis. By reverting to the earlier practice of addressing long letters to the Heads of Government of the Western Powers and then publishing them Mr. Khrushchev has, I am afraid, made progress more difficult.

His letter seems to be designed to publicise once again the positions taken by the Soviet Union and to create the false impression that the Western Powers are impeding progress.

In addition, the Soviet Government has unilaterally published all the communications which have been made so far during the preliminary discussions. It had earlier agreed that these discussions should be confidental.

As far as my reply is concerned, that is something which we are discussing with our Allies. As the House knows, Mr. Khrushchev has sent similar letters to President Eisenhower and General de Gaulle.

Mr. Swingler

These exchanges have now been going on for more than six months. Is the Prime Minister aware that, in view of the tragic deterioration in the international situation in several respects, the time has now come for a supreme initiative to try to bring the leaders of the Great Powers together for effective discussions before there is a general reversion to the worst crimes of the cold war?

The Prime Minister

When we suggested in a short Note—which I am happy to see the Soviet Government accepted—in the spring that we should start with these discussions between ambassadors and try to fix the preliminary talks leading to the Foreign Ministers' meeting, I was very hopeful. What I feel is rather distressing is that this procedure has been made very much more difficult. I am still not without hope, but I do not intend that we should relax our efforts.

Mr. J. Eden

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the recent murder of Hungarian patriots gives one little cause for confidence or trust in the Russian word?

The Prime Minister

I agree that a most tragic position has developed. Nevertheless, I think we must try to do our best to do anything which will maintain peace. The whole House, the whole country and the whole civilised world have been shocked by this latest development. Nevertheless, we have to try to keep a balance and do our duty, but all this makes us even more cautious in the steps that we have to take.