HC Deb 12 July 1971 vol 821 cc14-5
2. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps are being taken to reduce the number of diplomatic staff in foreign embassies in Great Britain suspected of engaging primarily on espionage activities.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

When there is firm evidence that a foreign diplomat in London has engaged in espionage, the Head of the Mission concerned is normally asked to withdraw him. From time to time we have made representations to certain Governments on this subject.

Mr. Hamilton

Could the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the expulsion of British diplomats from Moscow recently was not because they were engaged in espionage but was simply a counter-measure to action which we had taken? Further, could he give any figures to indicate an increase in the number of diplomats in the embassies of particularly Eastern European countries and the Communist bloc over the last ten years?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I can give an absolute assurance that the action taken by the Soviet Union in respect of our diplomats was purely retaliatory—there was no ground for it. In the last eighteen months, there has been a noticeable increase in embassy staff. Three members of the Soviet Embassy have been removed at our request and we have had to decline to issue visas for five more. I have taken this up with the Soviet Government.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

What action is being taken to reduce the gross disparity between the number of Eastern European and Soviet diplomats, or so-called diplomats, in this country and of our diplomats in theirs?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

We have this matter under close consideration all the time. I should not like to say any more about it at the moment. These matters can best be settled in a friendly way with the Soviet Government.

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