HC Deb 15 April 1959 vol 603 cc1032-3
45. Mr. Lipton

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on his official discussions with Lord Montgomery on Wednesday last.

The Secretary of State to the Home Department and Lord Privy Seal (Mr. R. A. Butler)

I have been asked to reply.

The term "official discussions" is not applicable to the private talk which my right hon. Friend had with Lord Montgomery. On this I have no statement to make.

Mr. Lipton

Will the right hon. Gentleman please explain why a private, personal, unofficial visit by Lord Montgomery to Russia should require a forty-five minute conference at No.10 Downing Street with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary? Who was advising whom? Is it not rather naïve to expect Mr. Khrushchev, Dr. Adenauer and General de Gaulle still to regard this visit as a completely private, independent visit?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. Not when the full facts are known. [HON. MEMBERS: "When will that be?"] Field Marshal Montgomery mentioned to the Prime Minister his wish to go to Moscow, and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that as a private person Lord Montgomery was entitled to go wherever he liked. Before going to Moscow, the Field Marshal had the courtesy to suggest that he might have a conversation with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, which he did, and the Prime Minister was able to give him some very valuable advice upon his forthcoming visit to Moscow.

Mr. Bevan

Are we, therefore, to understand that the Prime Minister is convinced that Lord Montgomery is going to Russia as a private citizen, and is Lord Montgomery equally convinced?

Mr. Butler

I can only answer in this House for my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Nabarro

Has my right hon. Friend observed that Mr. Jimmy Edwards has gone to Moscow? Can my right hon. Friend say whether the Prime Minister had a private conversation to brief Mr. Jimmy Edwards before he departed?

Mr. Butler

I am not aware whether my right hon. Friend had a conversation with Mr. Jimmy Edwards or not. No doubt if Mr. Jimmy Edwards had sought advice we should have been glad to give it to him.

Mr. H. Morrison

In view of the very large and varied number of people who are going to Moscow with the hope of having conversations with Mr. Khrushchev, is not there a real danger that Mr. Khrushchev will get utterly confused?

Mr. Butler

From my personal acquaintanceship with Mr. Khrushchev, I think he is quite capable of looking after himself.