HC Deb 04 May 1959 vol 605 cc23-4
40. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will state the nature of the official communications between Her Majesty's Government and the United States Government about flights by United States aeroplanes more than 10,000 feet over the West German corridor.

41. Mr. Rankin

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what consultations the United States Government have had with him on the advisability of continuing high-altitude flights in the Berlin air corridor.

Mr. Profumo

I would refer the hon. Gentlemen to the reply my right hon. and learned Friend gave to the hon. Members for Aston (Mr. J. Silverman) and Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) on 20th April.

Mr. Allaun

Is the Minister of State aware that the view widely held in this country is that these flights are highly, if not deliberately, provocative and the worst possible prelude to peace talks? Will the Government change their view and speak to the American Government about this matter, instead of whispering, if they have done even that?

Mr. Profumo

Her Majesty's Government and that of the United States are, in this as in all matters, in very close contact.

Mr. Rankin

I noticed that in the reply to which the hon. Gentleman referred it was stated that the British Government's views were quite well known in the United States. Can I take it from that that our Government made it clear to the United States that they thought that these flights were inadvisable at this time?

Mr. Profumo

No, Sir. I think it would be a dangerous thing for the hon. Gentleman to take for granted. We have always held that this is a matter for individual Governments to decide, and I will take the opportunity of saying that we do not believe that this was a directly provocative action.

Mr. Bevan

The hon. Gentleman says that this is a matter for individual Governments to decide, but is it not perfectly obvious that, if an incident occurred in the corridor between West and East Germany and there was armed attack, we might be immediately involved? Surely, it is not a matter for unilateral action. Is it not the fact that the view of Her Majesty's Government is that, while they do not accept that there are any legal limitations on the altitude at which these aeroplanes can fly, it is obviously undesirable to make use of the extent of our legal limits immediately before conferring with the Russians?

Mr. Profumo

All I was saying was that there may be various reasons for aircraft having to fly higher than 10,000 ft. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, weather conditions or the performance of the aircraft itself can affect this. I was just saying that the exercise of this right at any particular time is a matter for judgment by the Governments concerned.