HC Deb 14 April 1959 vol 603 cc812-6
49. Mr. Healey

asked the Prime Minister if he will publish the text of letters recently exchanged between himself and the Chancellor of the German Federal Republic.

Mr. R. A. Butler

I have been asked to reply.

No, Sir. The letters were private and confidential and I cannot reveal their contents.

Mr. Healey

While agreeing with the right hon. Gentleman that perhaps some exchanges of correspondence are better left unpublished, may I ask him whether he will request that when the Prime Minister next writes to Dr. Adenauerno doubt to express the happiness we all feel about his decision to stand for election as President of the Federal German Republic—he will explain to him the relationship between a free Press and a Government in a democractic State and point out that nothing will do more to increase criticism of Dr. Adenauer and the German people in general than the arrogant and dictatorial tone of his broadcast on this subject last week?

Mr Butler

It is not for me to make comments either about the head of a Government or the head of a State. If in a free Parliament the hon. Member wishes to make comments, I can only leave it to him and to the discretion of his hon. Friends to see that they are received in the spirit in which they are made.

50. Mr. Bellenger

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of representations made to him by the German Chancellor on the occasion of the recent discussions in Bonn, he will now make a statement on Anglo-German relations.

52. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Prime Minister how far, in view of the recent official communication of the German Chancellor. it remains the policy of Her Majesty's Government to work for the reunification in freedom of the German people, the development of friendship and understanding between the British and German peoples, and the inclusion of a united Germany as an equal member of the United Nations.

53 and 54. Mr. J. Hynd

asked the Prime Minister (1) whether he will state in detail what evidence was produced to him by Dr. Adenauer concerning an organised instigation and encouragement of anti-German feeling amongst the British people;

(2) what reply he made to Dr. Adenauer's allegations to him of a widespread and growing anti-German attitude in the United Kingdom.

Mr R. A. Butler

I have been asked to reply.

There has been no change in the policy of Her Majesty's Government towards Germany. Her Majesty's Government and the Federal Government remain closely linked within our common alliance. Some of the recent reports about differences between us have been greatly exaggerated. There are, of course, points on which we do not always agree. It would be surprising if there were not. But these are differences on matters of emphasis or tactics rather than on substance. On the essential issues which we both have to face over the coming months there is full agreement.

Mr. Bellenger

I feel sure that the House welcomes the reply of the right hon. Gentleman that our relations with Germany are friendly, but he must have heard that the German Chancellor thinks that they are not quite so friendly in certain quarters. Does he not, therefore, think it necessary to make some reply to the German Chancellor, who is obviously misinformed, and at the same time tell him that there is great disappointment in this country that the German Chancellor himself played such a prominent part in the discriminatory nature of the Rome Agreement which was entered into by the Common Market Powers?

Mr. Butler

I do not think that I can usefully add to this discussion. It is clear that there are exchanges between Governments, and in those exchanges through the normal channels we have certainly expressed to the German Chancellor our belief that some of the anticipation and doubt which he had in mind were exaggerated. I believe that to be the case.

Mr. Henderson

Was not the broadcast to which reference has been made somewhat extraordinary in view of the fact that the British Government and the British people are not antagonistic towards the best interests of the German people? Is it not a fact that the representatives of the Federal German Republic are participating in the discussions now taking place with a view to securing agreement among the Western Governments before the Foreign Ministers' conference on the basis of full equality?

Mr. Butler

The right hon. Gentleman's latter statement is absolutely correct. In answer to the former point, perhaps his own observation will be taken by the quarters to which he has addressed it as expressing the view that there is not the need for the anxiety that the German Chancellor felt.

Mr. H. Morrison

Could the right hon. Gentleman find some way of reassuring the German Chancellor about the feeling of British public opinion? Is it not the case that public opinion in our country is anxious to obtain friends among the maximum number of countries of the world and that we do not sympathise with the efforts to make mischief between us and other democratic countries, whichever they may be?

Mr. Butler

I am sure that Her Majesty's Government will be very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention, and I will certainly see that his views and those of his friends are conveyed to the source which he desires.

Mr. Hynd

The Leader of the House has not replied to Question No. 53, in which I asked for specific information about the allegations made by Dr. Adenauer and about what answers were given. As the right hon. Gentleman, in answer to an earlier Question, referred to the fact that there has been diplomatic correspondence in the matter, will he recognise that this is no longer private, because it has been announced in public by the head of the German State? Therefore, the people of this country are entitled to know what the allegations were and what replies were made to them. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the undesirability of making criticisms of the heads of foreign States, but is it not equally undesirable that heads of foreign States should make criticisms of a friendly State without giving the details of any of the allegations?

Mr. Healey

On a point of order. Is not it a fact that Dr. Adenauer is not head of a foreign State yet?

Mr. Speaker

He is a very prominent person.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is not the point in all this the distinction between a disagreement between the present British Government and the present German Government which may well exist in this highly controversial field and any evidence of general anti-German feeling in this country? Would it not be the general view of the House that we should make it clear that there is no such general anti-German feeling? Finally, will the right hon. Gentleman say, nevertheless, and despite what has taken place, that the Prime Minister will persevere in his attempts to try to bring about some measure of disengagement, if only in the form of an agreed zone of controlled disarmament?

Mr. Butler

In general, I think that the right hon. Gentleman's intervention was a very valuable one, and I hope that it will be noted by the German Government and by the German Chancellor. I am sure that that represents the feeling in the country.

As regards his second point about the possibility of differences of opinion on policy, I do not think that there are any fundamental differences of opinion on policy, but there are differences of emphasis, notably on the question of a zone of limitation of armaments on either side of a particular line—as I prefer to express it rather than in the word " disengagement ". It is the same point. On that we are in discussion with the German Government, and I do not doubt that some understanding of our point of view is being reached by the German Government. I do not think that our differences are very great.

On the third point, I think that there was a feeling in the mind of the German Chancellor that there had been criticism of Germany in certain sections of the Press. In my view, this was exaggerated, but, in answer to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd), I cannot give the exact details of the Press statements which were in the mind of the German Chancellor.

Mr. Bevan

Will the right hon. Gentleman ask his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to convey to Dr. Adenauer that, on a recent occasion when President Heuss visited Great Britain, there was a considerable discussion in the Press about the reception he should be accorded, and some of us, as a matter of fact, wrote to the Press at the time hoping that the British people would give a welcome to President Heuss? There has been no suggestion at all of antagonism between the German people and the British people. But it ought to be possible for us to ventilate any differences on policy without exacerbating international feeling.

Mr. Butler

On the occasion of the visit of President Heuss, I think that it was true that the President took any minor indications of what he might have thought at the time was displeasure in very good part and in such good temper that it positively improved Anglo-German relations instead of harming them. I hope that the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) will be fully understood.