HC Deb 08 April 1965 vol 710 cc667-8
Mr. Maudling (by Private Notice)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement about incidents caused by Russian jet fighters in Berlin.

The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. George Thomson)

On several occasions this week, notably on 7th April, Soviet aircraft have flown at extremely low altitudes over Berlin. Some of these aircraft have infringed the control zones of the three airports in West Berlin and have endangered the safety of normal traffic and the lives of their passengers. Other aircraft have caused sonic booms and fired machine guns over the Western sectors of the city.

Such flights are dangerous and unjustified in themselves and a deplorable attempt to intimidate the civilian population of the city. The Western allies in Berlin have on several occasions lodged protests with the Soviet authorities in the Berlin Air Safety Centre about these activities, particularly those on 7th April. The Western Ambassadors in Bonn have lodged a strong protest with the Soviet Ambassador in East Berlin and have requested him to put a stop to these activities.

I shall be making the views of Her Majesty's Government clear to the Soviet Ambassador when he calls on me, at my request, later this afternoon.

Mr. Maudling

Will the hon. Gentleman make clear what reactions he received to these highly justified protests? Should not this remind us that despite great preoccupations with South-East Asia, there are still dangers nearer home than that?

Mr. Thomson

Yes, Sir. We are aware of the dangers inherent in this situation. We and our allies have tried deliberately to keep the temperature down in this situation over recent days, and we regard the kind of action taken yesterday as quite unjustifiably creating unnecessary dangers. I shall be glad to keep the right hon. Gentleman informed of any reply.

Mr. John Hynd

Will my hon. Friend assure the House that, although our agreements with the Russian authorities to date clearly lay it down that Berlin is an open city, controlled by the four Powers, while protesting against these actions we have no intention of copying such dangerous and irresponsible tactics when the East German Government, or so-called Government, is meeting in Berlin?

Mr. Thomson

Yes, Sir. The meeting of the Bundestag in Berlin does not conflict in any way with the quadripartite status of the city. Meetings of the Bundestag have been held on a number of occasions over recent years without causing tension. The present meeting of the Bundestag was in no way provocative in either intention or character. I must confess that for the life of me I cannot see why a meeting of a free and democratic assembly should be considered a provocative action.

Mr. Maxwell

In view of the considerable danger in the air corridors of Berlin, will not my hon. Friend agree that the proper thing to do would be to invite Her Majesty the Queen to cancel her trip to Berlin?

Mr. Thomson

That is another question.