HC Deb 23 May 1966 vol 729 cc17-8
20. Mr. Peyton

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what arrangements he has made for the visit of 20 Russian teachers to this country; and if, in particular, he will cancel that part of the visit which involves the Holborn College of Law, Language and Commerce, where Mr. Gerald Brooke formerly lectured.

Mr. George Thomson

The teachers have come to Holborn College under the Anglo-Soviet Cultural Agreement. Arrangements were made a year ago in consultation with the Department of Education and Science. In view of Mr. Brooke's connection with the college, the college authorities were consulted before the arrival of the teachers. They agreed that the course should be held as previously planned.

Mr. Peyton

Does not the right hon. Gentleman really think this is an example of rather tactless rubbing of salt into wounds, and, in any event, whether he agrees with that or not, will he and his right hon. Friend now make representations to the Russians that their point has been fully made, and that, really, an act of clemency would do more to contribute to cultural relations than anything else?

Mr. Thomson

There are other Questions on the matter raised by the hon Gentleman in the second half of his supplementary question. Of course, we are continually pressing this matter on the Russians. On the point we feel that by far the best way to bring home to ordinary Russians the feelings of repugnance of the ordinary citizens of Britain about this is to allow them to rub shoulders with them in a British college.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

While not disagreeing with what the right hon. Gentleman has said, may I ask whether he does not think that this will be regarded abroad as an extraordinary example of national masochism? Did not the Foreign Office give any advice at all on this matter?

Mr. Thomson

I do not agree with the hon. Member and his generous first clause seems utterly to contradict the second half of his question.