HC Deb 20 May 1968 vol 765 cc24-5
28. Mr. Biffen

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what plans he has to visit Prague, Belgrade, Budapest and Bucharest.

Mr. M. Stewart

As I told the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) on 1st April, I shall, at the invitation of the Governments concerned, be visiting Belgrade in June and Budapest, Sofia and Bucharest in September. I have no plans at present to visit Prague.—[Vol. 762, c. 12–13.]

Mr. Biffen

Do not recent events show how much more beneficial it would be for the Western world if this country rather than France were responding to the welcome and exciting initiatives being undertaken politically and economically in Eastern Europe? Will he bear in mind that he will have very wide goodwill going with him on the visits he proposes to undertake in Eastern Europe?

Mr. Stewart

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. It has been our policy for some time to have Ministerial exchanges with the countries of Eastern Europe. I visited Czechoslovakia and Poland in 1965, and can now undertake this further group of visits.

Mr. Alan Lee Williams

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be absolutely essential to respond very quickly if Czechoslovakia were to ask for financial assistance? Would he agree to consult other European countries to see whether a loan could be floated if it is requested?

Mr. Stewart

That is going very wide of the Question.

Mr. Marten

When the Foreign Secretary visits these countries, could he particularly discuss with them the proposal which he has just rejected of the Atlantic Free Trade Area, which is open-ended and which these countries could join, when they could never join the Common Market for political reasons? We want unity in Europe, not half unity in Europe.

Mr. Stewart

We discussed on our visits to these countries the possibility of closer links between Eastern and Western Europe. It is only that I am doubtful of the particular channel the hon. Gentleman proposes.

Mr. Heffer

Will the idea of a European security conference be discussed during the visit?

Mr. Stewart

My hon. Friend knows that these exchanges are usually confidential, but I think that one could say that it would be quite likely that that subject would be discussed.