HC Deb 17 December 1974 vol 883 cc1349-51
Q2. Mr. Michael Latham

asked the Prime Minister whether he is now in a position to announce the date of a meeting, either in the United Kingdom or the USSR, between himself and Mr. Leonid Brezhnev.

The Prime Minister

I expect to be able to announce dates for my visit to the Soviet Union shortly. It will take place early in 1975.

Mr. Latham

Will the Prime Minister take the opportunity to express to Mr. Brezhnev our total revulsion at recent horrific reports of trials of Soviet Jews on trumped-up charges?

The Prime Minister

The view of the Government and myself over a period of nearly 20 years has been that such matters are best dealt with in private. I have never publicly said anything about cases where some of us have tried—[Interruption.] This is a serious matter. The hon. Gentleman put a serious question, and I am treating it with the seriousness that it deserves. Many of us on both sides of the House—I, myself, over 20 years— have raised many such cases, often with success. It is far better for those of us who are in a position to influence such matters not to become involved in public comment and demonstrations. I would rather be judged by results.

Mr. Dalyell

How about talking to the Russians about a nuclear-free zone in the Indian Ocean? Could not my right hon. Friend agree with Mr. Brezhnev that the administration of atolls such as Diego Garcia is best left to the giant tortoise of the Indian Ocean?

The Prime Minister

Remembering my hon. Friend's anxieties about tortoises in Aldabra, the first question I asked on returning to office, when the matter of Diego Garcia came up, was whether there were any giant turtles there. I was informed that there were not.

We have stated in relation to Diego Garcia that the United States Government and we are prepared to enter into meaningful discussions with other countries concerned with the Indian Ocean about following up the idea of a neutralisation of that zone, as proposed by the Indian Government some time ago.

Mr. Thorpe

Will the Prime Minister consider taking an initiative with the Russians on the question of the control of arms supplies to the Middle East? Is he aware that one of the ironies of postwar history is that in their time all major countries have willingly sold arms to both Arabs and Israelis, and have then thrown up their hands in horror and shock when the arms have been used?

The Prime Minister

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. It is inconceivable that we shall not be discussing all aspects of the Middle East question when I meet Mr. Brezhnev.