HC Deb 06 December 1965 vol 722 cc31-8
The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Michael Stewart)

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I wish to make a statement on my visit to Moscow.

I had talks with Mr. Mikoyan and Mr. Kosygin and several meetings with Mr. Gromyko, and I am arranging for the communiqué, which I issued jointly with Mr. Gromyko, to be placed in the Library of the House.

The international subject to which we paid most attention was the proposal for a non-proliferation treaty, and on the Soviet side this was linked with the question of nuclear arrangements in N.A.T.O. We all agreed that a non-proliferation treaty was necessary and that it was important to conclude one as soon as possible. Mr. Gromyko maintained the view that arrangements to associate nonnuclear members of N.A.T.O. with discussions and decisions on the use of nuclear weapons themselves constituted dissemination and, therefore, presented an obstacle to a non-dissemination treaty. I explained that any N.A.T.O. arrangements would be consistent with non-dissemination and would, indeed, contribute towards it. Despite our differences of view, we agreed that discussions on the text of a non-dissemination treaty should be pursued.

In our discussions about European security, the question of German reunification was, naturally, prominent. I regret that the Soviet approach to the question of German reunification remains widely divergent from our own.

Similarly, I cannot report that we were able to make any progress over the steps to bring peace to Vietnam, though I have no doubt that the Soviet Government are as anxious as we are that the fighting should be brought to an end there.

The communiqué records that we had some discussion of the United Nations. I urged the importance of pursuing a constructive line there and not trying to turn the organisation into a platform for disruptive propaganda.

Among the bilateral questions we discussed, I laid particular emphasis, in my talk with Mr. Kosygin, on the need for the Soviet Union to increase its purchases from this country and thus to reduce the present imbalance.

I also discussed with Mr. Kosygin the question of a meeting between him and the Prime Minister. We made progress on this, and I hope that it will be possible to give further information before very long.

We also signed a Consular Convention which will regulate the consular relations between the two countries and which provides for access by consuls to their nationals who are in trouble with the authorities.

I spoke to Mr. Kosygin and Mr. Gromyko about Mr. Brooke. Since then, our consul has been allowed to see Mr. Brooke, for the first time since August.

I did not have any illusions, when I went to Moscow, about the possibility of making quick progress on the difficult international problems. I hoped that each side would listen carefully to what the other had to say, and would then decide to go away and think it over. I think that this is what happened. The communiqué describes the talks as businesslike. This is an accurate description. The fact that both sides found the talks very useful is reflected in the final paragraph of the communiqué which registers our agreement that there should be periodical meetings.

Mr. Soames

We shall study the communiqué with interest, but I imagine, from the statement which he has made, that the Foreign Secretary must be somewhat disappointed with the lack of progress made on any of the major items discussed. Indeed, it seems from the statement that the only success which the Foreign Secretary has to report after his visit is that the consul has been permitted to see Mr. Brooke. This is a valuable but limited outcome of his visit.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say a little more about what he meant in saying that progress had been made on the question of talks between the Prime Minister and Mr. Kosygin. Does this mean that Mr. Kosygin will shortly be coming to visit this country, as has been suggested, and can the right hon. Gentleman say, following his own visit, what subjects he thinks would be likely to be fruitfully discussed were such a visit to take place?

Finally, what views did Mr. Gromyko express to the Foreign Secretary about the compatibility of the A.N.F. as proposed by the British Government and a non-proliferation treaty?

Mr. Stewart

When the right hon. Gentleman has studied my statement a little more, he will, I think, see that the degree of actual achievement is rather greater than the one item to which he referred.

I do not think that I should say anything further than I did in my statement about a meeting between Mr. Kosygin and the Prime Minister because, as I said, we hope to give further information before very long and it would be better to keep that until it is possible to make a precise statement.

On the right hon. Gentleman's third point, the problem there was a tendency on the Russian side to use general phrases like "access to nuclear weapons" rather than a willingness to examine precisely what N.A.T.O. might decide to do. I think that the problem can be stated as follows. If it were the Russian view that any arrangement whatever made within N.A.T.O. was to be treated as an obstacle to a non-proliferation treaty, that would be unreasonable, and I made this clear. Therefore, the important thing is to decide exactly what we both understand by non-proliferation. One can then judge whether anything proposed within N.A.T.O. is inconsistent with it. I do not believe that it is. That is why we thought that further discussion on the actual text of a non-proliferation treaty would help to get this point sorted out.

Mr. Grimond

Does the Foreign Secretary realise that, if the talks are to be regarded as businesslike, some business must eventually result and, therefore, the follow-up would seem to be most important? In that regard, can the right hon. Gentleman tell us how discussions for a non-dissemination treaty are to be pursued? Are they to be in the present forum or are they to be in bilateral conversations?

Second, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that they will be some disappointment over the lack of anything definite on the subject of Vietnam? Can he say, if the Russians are anxious for peace, whether any proposals are now being considered by which the two co-chairmen might take a new initiative?

Mr. Stewart

The right hon. Gentleman's first question was about the forum for further discussions. We considered this and we felt that this could be done both in Geneva or through our representatives in New York, or, indeed, through other channels. We shall now get on with that.

As regards Vietnam, I took this opportunity, as I have taken all other opportunities when I have met the Soviet Foreign Minister this year, to point out our position as co-Chairmen and the fact that, if we had his agreement, we could recall the conference. I am sorry to say that the Soviet Government are still not prepared to do that. I think that they take the view that this is now a matter entirely for the Government of North Vietnam to decide. In these circumstances, the task for the British Government is to go on making clear their own willingness to promote and take part in discussions the moment there is willingness on the other side to take part in them.

Mr. Ioan L. Evans

Will my right hon. Friend say what progress was made as regards the development of economic and cultural contacts? Second, with regard to a non-proliferation treaty, do the Government now intend to follow this up, in view of the urgency, in the United Nations or, possibly, by a summit conference?

Mr. Stewart

I mentioned just now that we wanted to proceed on the nonproliferation treaty. As regards cultural and personal contacts, the Consular Convention is some help there in making it easier for citizens of each country to visit the other. We have, I think, quite a good programme going of cultural contacts, particularly in the last year, and that we shall certainly be able to develop.

Mr. Blaker

In connection with nonproliferation, did the right hon. Gentleman raise with the Soviet leaders the possibility of their joining in security guarantees to India through the Security Council? If so, would he say something about their reaction?

Mr. Stewart

We discussed that, but I think the feeling was that a nonproliferation treaty would probably be the first step in this direction and that we ought to try to concentrate our efforts there first.

Mr. Park

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that a major obstacle to an Anglo-Soviet peace initiative over Vietnam is the persistence of the American Government in bombing operations and their refusal to admit the direct participation of representatives of the National Liberation Front of Vietnam in peace negotiations? Will he publicly urge the United States Government to re-examine their policies in this respect?

Mr. Stewart

There is, I am afraid, no evidence at all that that is so. There has been no sign from the other side that if the American Government made either of the changes in their policy to which my hon. Friend has referred they would then be willing to negotiate. Indeed, my hon. Friend may have noticed that the Government in Hanoi has recently repudiated the story that it made overtures for peace last year, and described this as a fabricated legend. I do not think, therefore, that we should have, apart from anything else, any ground for supposing that this is really an obstacle to negotiations.

Lord Balniel

Would the right hon. Gentleman say what was the response of the Soviet Government to his suggestion that the Soviet Government should take steps to correct the imbalance of trade with this country?

Mr. Stewart

The response was no more than undertaking to examine this and a recognition of what Mr. Patolicher had said on an earlier occasion. I made it clear that it was not a situation that we could allow to continue indefinitely.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Would not one way of stopping the proliferation of nuclear weapons and of limiting them to America and Russia be for Britain to dispose of her own, notably the Polaris submarines? Even if my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence seemed to think that this was a daft question a week ago, some of us do not think it is daft at all.

Mr. Stewart

I must none the less call the attention of my hon. Friend to what my right hon. Friend said a week ago. As my hon. Friend will be aware, however, the British Government have put forward proposals for bringing these weapons under international control.

Sir G. Nicholson

May I bring the right hon. Gentleman back to the comparatively narrow question of Mr. Brooke? I believe that the whole country considers this situation to be intolerable. Does he mean to leave it there? Cannot something be done, with all the force of Her Majesty's Government behind it, to rectify a grave injustice affecting a single individual?

Mr. Stewart

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that we cannot regard this situation as satisfactory. None the less, I believe that the securing of consular visits for Mr. Brooke was a useful advance. I think that, quite clearly, we cannot forget this question and must consider what further action might be helpful to Mr. Brooke.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Does the Foreign Secretary recollect that when the former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home), was in Moscow he said that we should not only co-exist with the Russians but co-operate with them? Does not my right hon. Friend think that there is something to be said for returning to Mr. Harold Macmillan's idea of a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union?

Mr. Stewart

That was one of the ideas that we discussed. There are certain problems about it, but I certainly would not rule that out. As to not only coexisting but co-operating, there is, of course, the one field of Vietnam where I am particularly anxious to do that and have made my willingness to do so repeatedly known.

Mr. Longden

When the right hon. Gentleman was talking about the United Nations did he raise the question of what voluntary contribution the Russians would make towards the peace-keeping arrangements, and did he ascertain whether such a contribution would be conditional on the permanent waiving of Article XIX?

Mr. Stewart

I did in our discussions on the United Nations draw attention to the fact that we for our part had made a voluntary contribution and that we would hope that the Soviet Union would do the same. I am not, I am afraid, able to tell the House what their conclusion on that may be.

Mr. Mendelson

With reference to the statement made by my right hon. Friend at his Press conference in Moscow on the future of negotiations on a non-proliferation treaty and his understanding of the dangers and difficulties that the Soviet Government see on their side, may I ask whether he would accept that there is widespread support for his patient efforts to make progress in these very difficult negotiations and not the cynicism that seems to shine from some of the questions that we have heard from Front Bench spokesmen on the other side of the House? Would he further bear in mind the recommendation of the Gilpatrick Committee to the President of the United States that while these negotiations between East and West are continuing there should be no—

Mr. A. Royle

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for the hon. Gentleman to make a speech?

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is not in order for the hon. Gentleman to make a speech. However, I hope that hon. Members will allow the Chair to indicate when an hon. Member is out of order.

Mr. Mendelson

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the recommendation not to make any nuclear sharing arrangements in N.A.T.O. which might make a wider East-West agreement more difficult?

Mr. Stewart

I am grateful for what my hon. Friend has said. I have tried to show that we are handling this complex matter properly, but I think that my hon. Friend will agree that it will require patience and understanding on both sides if we are to get it right.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am afraid that we must leave it there.