HC Deb 06 April 1970 vol 799 cc29-31
38. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the latest progress towards an East-West security conference, and on the initiative Her Majesty's Government will take in that direction.

Mr. George Thomson

My right hon. Friend is looking forward to discussing questions of East-West relations and procedures for improving them in a constructive spirit with his N.A.T.O. colleagues in Rome in May.

Mr. Allaun

Would it not be wise to seize the favourable opportunity provided by the recent peaceful developments in Europe, such as Herr Brandt's talks and the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, rather than to make such slow progress, if there is any progress at all?

Mr. Thomson

I agree with my hon. Friend that this is a time when we ought to seek to make the fastest possible progress. It was on the initiative of Her Majesty's Government that the last N.A.T.O. meeting produced this declaration on East-West relations. It was substantially on our initiative that there is now an active study going on into the best procedures for negotiating a détente. The N.A.T.O. offer for mutual force reductions is still on the table, and we are awaiting a reply to it.

Mr. Longden

Does the right hon. Gentleman know whether the Federal Republic of Germany would agree to sit down at such a conference table with the German Democratic Republic?

Mr. Thomson

The important aspect on that point is the present talks going on between the Federal German Government, the East Germans and the Governments of Poland and the Soviet Union. Her Majesty's Government have given full support to the Federal Government in these approaches. If they can make progress, we might have the kind of climate in which substantial progress on real issues can be made on real European security.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Has the right hon. Gentleman been in touch with the Soviet Government about the agenda for such a conference? Has he proposed that there should be a proposal for thinning out arms on both sides of the frontier put into the agenda when the conference is called?

Mr. Thomson

We are still awaiting a response from the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact powers about mutual force reductions. On the general question of East-West relations, last week my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary had talks with the Soviet Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, who is at present in this country, and they went thoroughly over this ground.