HC Deb 30 March 1976 vol 908 cc1098-100
Q2. Mr. McCrindle

asked the Prime Minister if he will seek to pay an official visit to Switzerland.

The Prime Minister

I have no plans to do so, Sir.

Mr. McCrindle

Will the Prime Minister seek an early opportunity to go to Switzerland and there discuss with Mr. Alexander Solzhenitsyn his views on the state of Britain in 1976? In the meantime, will he comment on Mr. Solzenitsyn's view that during the period when he has been Prime Minister the standing of this country has descended to that of Romania, or even Uganda?

The Prime Minister

As one who, with certain other Members of this House and other people, played a big part in trying to aid the release of Mr. Solzhenitsyn, I respect his right to say whatever he pleases. That is a right that he enjoys now but that he did not enjoy previously. I respect his right to say whatever he wishes, but I do not agree with it.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

It is based on experience.

The Prime Minister

It is based on experience in the Soviet Union. He has no experience of this country. He is entitled to say it, but I totally reject what he says about this country, and so, I think, do the vast majority of our fellow citizens. If Conservative Members think they have any gain to secure out of following what he says and exploiting it, they will be proved very badly wrong.

Mr. Faulds

As the Prime Minister will be spending a great deal more time in the House, and as I have always been 150 per cent. a Harold man, will he, instead of retreating to the traditional position below the Gangway, come and join us up here on the Back Benches, where we have a wee place for him and where, although the view may be deplorable, the company is very congenial?

The Prime Minister

The company is certain congenial, and I welcome my hon. Friend's remarks. If he has always been a 150 per cent. Harold Wilson man, for the first time I am beginning to understand what inflation means. As one who has tried to help my hon. Friend in various capacities, I hope to be able to continue to do so wherever I am sitting.

Mr. Pardoe

If the Prime Minister will return to Switzerland for a moment, will he say where, in the Western world, there is a better managed economy than the Swiss economy, and whether he believes that this has any connection with two vital ingredients of the Swiss system of government, namely, a greater degree of decentralisation to the regions than any other country in Europe and, secondly, a greater degree of power sharing by all parties in government?

The Prime Minister

I am not quite sure whether the hon. Gentleman would support all that they have done in the past about the equal rights of women, but I note what he says. Also, of course, the Swiss do not carry any of the burden, that we have cheerfully shouldered, of the North Atlantic Alliance and NATO. That is one thing. Switzerland, of course, is a powerful financial centre, as we all recognise—a haven for many things. However, I am so friendly to the Swiss at this and all other times that I shall refrain from quoting, as the hon. Gentleman did not do so, the immortal words of Harry Lime, in "Third Man", about their principal contribution to history.

Mr. Anderson

Why bother to go abroad? Is my right hon. Friend aware that if he were to pay an unofficial visit to Wales, after his redeployment, he would receive a very warm welcome?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Prime Minister may well have a welcome there, but Switzerland and Wales are not connected.