HC Deb 20 June 1963 vol 679 cc650-4
The Minister of Aviation (Mr. Julian Amery)

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I should like to make a statement about the visit of the aviation delegation which I recently led to the Soviet Union.

The visit was made at the invitation, issued on behalf of the Soviet Government, of Mr. Dementiev, the Chairman of the Soviet State Committee of the Aviation Industry. I was accompanied by Sir Arnold Hall, managing director of the Hawker Siddeley Group, Sir Denning Pearson, chief executive of Rolls-Royce, Mr. Russell, technical director of the British Aircraft Corporation; by the Deputy Chief of the Air Staff; and by senior members of my own Ministry.

In the course of the tour we visited factories making civil aircraft, engines, and equipment. We were also shown a number of civil aircraft and helicopters now in service or in a late stage of development. These included the Iliushin 18, Iliushin 62, Tupolov 104, Tupolov 114, Tupolov 124, Antonov 24, MIL.2, MIL.6, V.8. We flew in some of them. We also visitedTsAGI, the Russian equivalent of the Royal Aircraft Establishment.

The visit provided opportunity for useful exchanges with the Soviet authorities. I paid a courtesy call on Mr. Khrushchev. We were received by Mr. Rudinev, a Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers and the Chairman State Committee of the Co-ordination of Scientific Research. We had a number of talks with Mr. Dementiev, his senior staff, the leading chiefs of the Russian design bureaux, and some of those in charge of production. [Laughter.] It may seem amusing to hon. Gentlemen opposite, but these things have not happened for some years.

In these talks we examined many questions of mutual interest and explored the possibilities of co-operation in some of them. We identified a number of technical fields in which it may be desirable and possible to co-operate. These include civil airline traffic rights, the environment in which supersonic transports will operate and problems that will be common to all countries engaged upon the establishment of space telecommunications.

No proposals were made by either side and no agreements were sought. I hope, however, that our talks will ultimately prove fruitful. I look forward to welcoming Mr. Dementiev in this country for further exchanges.

Mr. Lee

While we are all very pleased that the right hon. Gentleman went along with his delegation, we are not quite clear about the purpose of his statement. However, may I ask him whether he is aware that we are a little disappointed that no specific proposals were made on either side, and more especially when we see that men like Sir Denning Pearson, of Rolls-Royce, were present? We all know that that great firm, whose engines power so many planes all over the world, is now in some trouble. May I ask whether there is any possibility of Rolls-Royce obtaining contracts with the Soviet people, as we should welcome such a departure?

Can the right hon. Gentleman go any further on the point about space telecommunications? Some of us would like to see a widening of interest in this respect rather than the narrow interest which we have at the moment. Can he say whether in the near future there is likely to be a development between ourselves and the Soviet Union on that point?

Mr. Amery

I am rather surprised that the hon. Gentleman is at a loss to under- stand the purpose of my statement. Its purpose is to give some information to the House on a form of contact with the Soviet Union which has been in abeyance since 1957 and is a report to the House of what our delegation did.

With regard to the work of Rolls-Royce, I can say that Sir Denning Pearson had some very useful discussions with Soviet engineers, both design chiefs and production chiefs. But, as I made plain in the statement, there is no question of our making proposals or contracts being sought. I believe, however, that discussions on these matters could lead to useful spheres of co-operation between the Soviet Union and ourselves.

Mr. Lee

The right hon. Gentleman says that he paid a courtesy visit to Mr. Khrushchev. We were hoping that we should learn the reason for his discussions with Mr. Khrushchev, whether, in fact, he was taking any message from the Prime Minister and whether we should hear the result of the discussion.

Mr. Callaghan

The right hon. Gentleman was asking about Ivanov.

Mr. Amery

I thought I made clear that it was a courtesy call. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, I think, paid a rather longer call than mine in which, no doubt, he discussed many matters of substance, including how he would divide up the skin of the lion if he could shoot it.

Sir C. Osborne

May I, first, congratulate my right hon. Friend? I saw him in Moscow at the time. Right hon. and hon. Members who now turn up their noses at his going have been pleading that British Members of Parliament, including Ministers, should go there more often. I should have thought they would have congratulated my right hon. Friend. I should like to congratulate him on at least creating a better atmosphere between the two Governments.

Was my right hon. Friend able to see some of the latest Soviet factories which are producing high-precision engineering instruments for use in the Soviet space efforts? What practical result has he brought back from his trip?

Mr. Amery

We did not see any factories connected with space though we were given a presentation of some space equipment. I think that the most valuable result of the visit was the identification of certain spheres of air communications, and, possibly, space communications, in which it might be useful for us to co-operate.

I join with my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) in being a little surprised at the reaction of the party opposite to what I think was a useful and constructive effort to extend international co-operation in a sphere particularly well suited to it, namely, that of communications.

Mr. H. Wilson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the only reason we are at all disturbed is that the other reason for his visit, which was widely publicised, does not seem to have come off? Will he agree, as we were both visitors to Russia at the same time—I say this in all sincerity—that the delegation from both sides of the House headed by the hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) did a very great deal of good and was widely appreciated everywhere the hon. Members went in the Soviet Union?

Mr. Amery

There were, I remember, three delegations in the Soviet Union at the same time. I think that my hon. Friend's did a great deal of good. I hope that mine may have made some contribution for good, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman's was not altogether harmful.

Dame Irene Ward

Some of my hon. Friends would like to know whether my right hon. Friend the Minister met the space girl. I should like him to have met her.

Mr. Amery

I did not have the advantage of the acquaintance.

Mr. MacDermot

While welcoming the visit, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman would not agree that if con- gratulationss are to be bestowed they should primarily be bestowed on the Russian Government, who at least broke the ice in this matter by extending the invitation to the right hon. Gentleman? Is it the intention of Her Majesty's Government to seek an early opportunity to reciprocate the courtesy by inviting a Russian delegation to this country?

Mr. Amery

I should be the first to pay tribute to the hospitality of my Soviet hosts. If the hon. and learned Member had listened to what I said in my statement he would know that I look forward to welcoming Mr. Dementiev in this country. I believe that he may be paying a visit this year.