HC Deb 27 June 1961 vol 643 cc199-202
42. Mr. Donnelly

asked the Prime Minister if he is aware of public anxiety at the new decision of Her Majesty's Government, as communicated to President Kennedy since the London talks, to modify the British commitments in Berlin; and if he will now state current British policy in this matter.

The Prime Minister

There has been no such decision, as my noble Friend the Foreign Secretary made clear on 20th June.

Her Majesty's Government, in concert with their allies, have over the years made a number of comprehensive proposals for the just and equitable solution of the problem of Germany and Berlin, culminating in the Western Peace Plan presented at the Geneva Foreign Minister's Conference in 1959. All these proposals have been rejected by the Soviet Government, who prefer instead to manufacture an artificial crisis for the purpose of gaining their own ends. We and our allies have certain obligations in Germany, and we do not intend to abandon them. Among these obligations is the preservation of the freedom of the people of West Berlin. The Soviet Government must come to realise that we intend to defend this, and that we cannot countenance proposals inconsistent with it. If they wish to discuss the issue with us, we are prepared to do so, but they must understand that it can only be on the basis I have described. The House will appreciate from what I have said that there is no question whatever of any modification of British commitments in Berlin.

Mr. Donnelly

I warmly welcome the firmness of that statement about Berlin, but will the Prime Minister say how he expects us to be certain that the British Government are taking this issue seriously, having regard to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement that we are at the moment thinking about cutting down our commitments in Germany? What would the Prime Minister say if Mr. Khrushchev's statement about Berlin were accompanied by a statement from the Soviet Minister responsible for planning in the economy that the Russians could not maintain their forces in Eastern Germany?

The Prime Minister

I welcome in the first part of that supplementary question what I have not heard for a very long time—a friendly gesture from the hon. Gentleman. When he held more extreme views he was more friendly than he is now when he has become so Right-wing in his opinions. I do not understand why.

I think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was discussing the question of the costs and transfers across the exchanges, which is a problem which we have many times raised and which must be solved.

Mr. Warbey

Is the Prime Minister aware that, contrary to what he has said, Dr. Adenauer has obstructed every reasonable proposal for a settlement of the German problem and that, so long as Dr. Adenauer refuses to renounce nuclear weapons for Germany and the right of a united Germany to be a member of N.A.T.O. and the right of Germany to claim the so-called lost Eastern territories—so long as that attitude continues, it is morally impossible for the Western Powers to support the people of Berlin?

The Prime Minister

We are getting back to form now. The hon. Gentleman never changes.

Mr. Dodds

Nor does the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister

I am all right. One plan which I venture to suggest the hon. Gentleman might propose to some of his friends is that the people of Berlin might be allowed themselves to vote in both East and West Berlin as to what régime they want to live under.

Mr. A. Henderson

May we take it from the Prime Minister's first reply that, while standing firm on the freedom of West Berlin and free rights of access, Her Majesty's Government would be ready to enter into negotiations with the Soviet Union on the major problem of Germany and the question of Central European security?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. I was very sorry when the conference of Foreign Ministers broke down. I think that it did quite good work and made what seemed to be some advance. All that has been called off. I should like us to get back to the position of two years ago when there did seem to be a chance of friendly negotiation with the Soviet Government over these problems. But it must be negotiation, not asking us to submit to blackmail.

Mr. Healey

Is the Prime Minister aware that the very broad unity which exists in the House on what the British attitude towards this problem should be can be jeopardised if he treats remarks about it with the sort of personal frivolity he showed just now? Does the Prime Minister propose to raise again the question of control of arms and forces in Central Europe which he agreed to with Mr. Khrushchev two years ago, since this might serve to reduce the danger of a conflict by miscalculation over the Berlin issue?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. With regard to the first part of that supplementary question, I must stand rebuked. The hon. Gentleman has never had a sense of humour and I shall never be able to give him one. I think I answered the question in the second part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question the other day. That was part of the allied plan which was put forward in 1959 and is still part of it.

Sir J. Duncan

In view of what Russian leaders have been reported as saying recently, will my right hon. Friend confirm that we are in Berlin by right?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. Those rights exist as a result of the treaties and the situation created after the war.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Will the Prime Minister consider giving an assurance to the people of Berlin that the Western Powers will never under any circumstances bomb Berlin again and that in any future developments Berlin will be regarded as an open city, as Paris and Rome were in the last war?

The Prime Minister

I do not think that arises out of this Question. What we are hoping, and of course what all the world hopes, is that this matter can be resolved. We have not raised it. The Russians have raised it. If they had any reasonable negotiation, I am sure that our allies and we will enter into it. But we have to consider the conditions under which it is raised and we will have to work together in the closest harmony in order to set up a strong front against being treated as it appears that the Russian Government now wish to treat us. With those provisions, of course, we all hope that wisdom may prevail and that a reasonable settlement can be arrived at.