HC Deb 25 November 1958 vol 596 cc216-8
45. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Prime Minister, in view of the recent official statement of the Soviet Prime Minister, to what extent it remains the policy of Her Majesty's Government to participate in a Summit Conference.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

The policy of Her Majesty's Government is unchanged. We wish to take part in a Summit Conference on two conditions. First, there must be adequate preparation. Secondly, the result of the preparatory work must satisfy us that a Summit Conference would provide an opportunity for serious discussion of major problems and would be an effective means of reaching agreement on significant subjects. I still await a reply to my letter of 1st July to Mr. Khrushchev, in which I urged him to respond to our proposals for overcoming the obstacles in the way of drawing up an agenda—or to make some proposals of his own.

Mr. A. Henderson

Does the responsibility for the failure to hold this Summit Conference rest upon the three Western Governments or upon the Soviet Government? Would not the Prime Minister agree that recent international developments underline the importance and urgency of a Summit Conference?

The Prime Minister

I do not think that the responsibility rests upon the Western Governments. We have done everything we can. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will remember that we were in great hopes of arranging a conference of some kind to take place this summer in New York, when Mr. Khrushchev rather unexpectedly changed his position—which we thought had been helpful to us.

Mr. Gaitskell

But the Summit Conference to which the Prime Minister has referred was to be concerned specially with Middle Eastern problems. Did the Soviet Government break off the discussions which were taking place in Moscow on a rather broader Summit Conference between the ambassadors and the Soviet Foreign Minister?

The Prime Minister

They were summarised in a letter of mine asking for some further advance, and I am still hoping for a reply.

Mr. Shinwell

As no reply has been received from Mr. Khrushchev since last July—as I understand the right hon. Gentleman to have said—would any harm be done if the right hon. Gentleman sent Mr. Khrushchev another letter asking for a reply?

The Prime Minister

The timing of this correspondence is important. Quite a lot of things are happening. I am very disappointed that we did not make greater progress, but I think that the House as a whole would agree that we did everything we possibly could.