HC Deb 15 May 1969 vol 783 cc1641-3
Q6. Sir C. Osborne

asked the Prime Minister what action he has taken to prepare a conference on European Secu- rity as proposed in the joint communication published at the end of his Moscow visit in January, 1968, and after Mr. Kosygin's visit to London in February, 1967; and why the proposed conference has not so far been held.

The Prime Minister

I would refer the hon. Gentleman to what my right hon. Friend the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said in reply to Questions by my hon. Friends the Members for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) and Newport (Mr. Roy Hughes) on 28th April.—[Vol. 782, c. 929–31.]

Sir C. Osborne

It is now more than two years since the Prime Minister himself issued this statement in London promising that such a conference would be called. Has he made any attempt to call such a conference? If so, why has he failed? When is he to make a statement on this important issue?

The Prime Minister

I have answered questions on this subject on a number of occasions. Following the communiqué in 1967, when we said that we were ready to hold such a conference if properly prepared and if agreement could be reached about what countries would be there, I have had further discussions with Mr. Kosygin about it, and the hon. Member will be aware of the initiative taken by N.A.T.O. in Iceland last year. Since then—and he cannot have forgotten this—there has been Czechoslovakia, which considerably set back the prospect of a meeting of this kind.

Mr. Heffer

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that, despite the difficult situation which has arisen as a result of Czechoslovakia, it is important that the British Government should make every effort to try to reach a better relationship with the East leading to the security conference which is still essential to peace in Europe?

The Prime Minister

This is our policy. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology is now in Moscow. Yesterday he had a meeting with Mr. Kosygin, the first meeting of this kind, I think, since Czechoslovakia, where we are trying to pick up some of the important contacts in technology, for example. My hon. Friend will also have seen the declaration, made by the N.A.T.O. conference at its 20th anniversary celebrations, of its desire in a suitable way, bilaterally and in other ways, to ease tension between East and West. However, there is no doubt that Czechoslovakia was a severe shock to the process which was going on.