HC Deb 13 April 1964 vol 693 cc11-3
10. Mr. Shinwell

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the changed arrangements for the provision of travel visas for citizens from East Germany who wish to travel to the United Kingdom.

15. Mr. Oram

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what decision was recently reached by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Council about travel facilities for East Germans to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries; and when it will take effect.

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Robert Mathew)

I would refer the right hon. and hon. Members to my right hon. Friend's reply to the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Owen) on 9th April. The adjustments to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation policy came into effect on 2nd April.

Mr. Shinwell

The answer which my hon. Friend had the other day requires further definition. Will the hon. Gentleman say whether the invitation from the Durham Miners' Association to East German miners to attend the miners' gala on 18th July will now be acceptable to the Travel Bureau in West Berlin, and can he say as a matter of definition what is meant by "non-political"? Does it mean that nobody can come to this country from East Germany unless he has divested himself of all political ideas?

Mr. Mathew

On the question of the particular case to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, each application will be treated by the Allied Travel Office in West Berlin on its merits and I cannot, of course, anticipate what decision will be taken. I do not know whether the miners concerned are trade unionists, but the right hon. Gentleman will be aware that Communist trade unions are highly political bodies. The right hon. Gentleman also asked what "political" means in this sense. It is a general description. I should say that purporting to represent the Soviet zone as a sovereign or national entity would be considered by the Travel Office as undesirable, and so would public propaganda on behalf of the zonal régime.

Mr. Shinwell

But is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Durham miners' gala has had representatives from the Soviet Union, from Hungary and from various satellite countries—from Yugoslavia, for example—on many occasions? What is the difficulty about a few miners coming to attend the Durham miners' gala? Does the hon. Gentleman imagine that it will start a revolution in this country?

Mr. Mathew

As I have said, this is a matter which will be decided by the Allied Travel Office.

Hon. Members


Mr. Oram

Will the hon. Gentleman clear up the question about groups as against individuals? There was a reference to permission being granted only to individuals. The hon. Gentleman will recall that when I raised this matter on the Adjournment some weeks ago I had particularly in mind the question of a children's choir. May we take it that such a group is now likely to meet with no difficulty? What about football teams? Does it mean that each player must make an individual application? If this is so, is a right-winger likely to have better consideration than a left-winger?

Mr. Mathew

It can, of course, include groups if they can satisfy the Allied Travel Office that the intention in sending the group is not an intention by the so-called D.D.R. to make political propaganda. As regards East German sporting teams, national teams, I apprehend, will not, on the whole, get permission whereas local teams will, and so will individual sportsmen and groups from East Germany who are participating in an all-German team.

Mr. Gordon Walker

Have not the Government got into an awful mess by these attempts to make very fine and unreal distinctions? If it is decided that it is right to move in this direction, why do not the Government move to a rather more logical position?

Mr. Mathew

This is the result of a decision in N.A.T.O. after very long and very full discussion and consultation. The right hon. Gentleman ought to bear in mind that we are making it easier, not harder, for East Germans to travel out of East Germany. It is the East German authorities who refuse six out of seven applications by giving no exit permits; they are imprisoning the mass of their population.