HC Deb 15 June 1964 vol 696 cc931-2
32. Commander Courtney

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what action he has taken regarding the application of Article 3 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations to the recently publicised activities of the British Air Attaché in Moscow.

Mr. P. Thomas

Article Three of the Vienna Convention states a generally accepted principle, namely, that one of the functions of a diplomatic mission is to ascertain by all lawful means conditions and developments in the country where it is situated. The activities of our Service Attachés in Moscow are strictly in accordance with this principle. Soviet statements that the Air Attaché has behaved improperly are entirely without foundation and the restrictions placed upon his movements are, as we have informed the Soviet authorities, in gross violation of normal diplomatic practice. In addition to a vigorous protest, we felt obliged to impose a corresponding restriction on the movements of the Soviet Air Attaché in London.

Commander Courtney

Can my right hon. Friend say whether this activity of our Air Attaché was in any way unlawful within the terms of Soviet law, as has been quoted widely in the Soviet Press? If not, as appears to be the case from my right hon. Friend's Answer, does it not appear that we are once more suffering from a double standard of interpretation of these words within an international agreement?

Mr. Thomas

The main complaint was that, when he was on a tour with two American colleagues, our Air Attaché entered a prohibited zone of military importance. As far as we can ascertain, this was not in contravention of Soviet law. We do not accept the accusation and I agree with the last part of my hon. and gallant Friend's supplementary question.