HC Deb 19 July 1960 vol 627 cc252-3

Her Majesty's Ambassador in Moscow delivered our reply this morning. The text was as follows:

Her Britannic Majesty's Embassy present their compliments to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and, on the instructions of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, have the honour to refer to the Ministry's Note of the 11th of July in which it is alleged that, on the 1st of July, a United States aircraft, based on the territory of the United Kingdom, violated the State frontier of the Soviet Union and was shot down over Soviet territorial waters.

The United States Government's Note to the Soviet Government of the 12th of July states clearly that the United States aircraft in question was never less than about 30 miles from Soviet land territory. In these circumstances, it appears that the allegations contained in the Ministry's Note under reference were based on false premises and that the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics has no ground for protesting about events which took place on the 1st of July.

On the contrary, the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics bears a heavy responsibility for the action of the Soviet pilot who shot down the United States aircraft in international airspace. Her Majesty's Government view with the utmost seriousness this unprovoked attack, which illustrates the danger implicit in the present instructions to the Soviet armed forces.

Her Majesty's Government cannot agree that the use of United Kingdom territory by the United States Air Force for legitimate operations in international airspace can in any way be regarded as aggressive action, and accordingly cannot accept the allegations contained in the Ministry's Note.

This Note set out Her Majesty's Government's formal position and I thought it right that we should make a definite reply to the charges made by the Soviet Government. At the same time, I did not feel that we could leave matters there. The trend of events since the failure of the Summit Meeting has been disturbing and I felt that I should make an effort to represent to Mr. Khrushchev what the British Government, and, I believe, the whole British people, feel about the situation.