HL Deb 31 July 1958 vol 211 cc591-4

4.4 p.m.


My Lords, I am afraid that I must take your Lordships' minds off the wonderful vision of the Minister without Portfolio lying in bed, looking down roads without end, and come to one or two statements which your Lordships may wish to hear. The first is on the Middle East. I will make it in the words which the Prime Minister used in another place:

" With the leave of the House, I will make a statement regarding the arrangements for a high-level meeting to discuss the Middle East.

" The House will realise that not only do we have to consider our own decisions in these matters but we have to try to have the maximum possible consultation with our Allies and with other Commonwealth Governments. This necessarily means some delay between the receipt of a letter from Mr. Khrushchev and our reply. On this particular occasion I have had to weigh this consideration together with the natural wish of the House to be informed as to the character of our reply before they adjourn. Although, therefore, our own conclusions had in fact been reached yesterday, I have thought it right to accept the short delay inevitable in making our consultations not merely a perfunctory exercise but a reality.

" There is one other consideration which I have tried to bear in mind. I feel that it is courteous as far as is possible to keep to the rule of not publishing the reply to a letter until it has been delivered. For this reason, I have arranged that our reply should be delivered to the Russian Government at 3 o'clock this afternoon. In view, however, of the forthcoming adjournment of the House I propose, with your permission, to read my reply and thus to make it fully available to honourable Members before the adjournment.

"The following is the text of the message: 'I have received your letter of July 28. 'I will not reply to its many accusations against allied policy in the Middle East. None of these has any foundation in fact. 'In my letter of July 22 I proposed a special meeting of the Security Council to be attended by Heads of Governments. On July 26 I elaborated this proposal. I said that I was glad that it was acceptable to you and I suggested that the necessary arrangements should at once be made through the Permanent Representatives of Members of the Security Council. I hope that on reflection you will agree that this is the best course; I am encouraged in this hope by the passage in your last letter where you call for a return to my original proposal. From this proposal I have never departed. 'In addition to meetings of the whole Council under Article 28, it would of course be possible to arrange less formal meetings of Heads of Government on the questions which the Security Council is considering. The procedure would thus be flexible and should promote the chances of making progress. 'As I said in my message of July 22, it would not be our intention that any resolutions should be put forward at this special meeting of the Security Council unless they arose out of previous agreement. 'Of course, this meeting would not preclude the holding of the Summit meeting for which we have been working for some time. 'I am now instructing the United Kingdom Permanent Representative at the United Nations to propose to the President of the Security Council a special meeting to take place under Article 28 on August 12. Meanwhile the Permanent Representatives should discuss arrangements for the special meeting, and decide where it will take place. If this meeting is agreed I shall be there on August 12; I hope you will be there too. So far as I am concerned New York, Geneva or any other place generally agreeable will do.'

4.9 p.m.


My Lords, may I thank the noble Earl for giving us the statement which the Prime Minister has made in another place; and say that in general I welcome the reply which has been sent, and hope very much that it will lead to the Summit Conference on August 12. I hope that if there is any smaller question than is covered by the actual wording of the letter we shall be reasonably flexible in meeting any requests, provided that the basic principles in the letter are observed. I do not think the country wants to be associated with any further delay in getting to the Summit; and if we can rely upon Her Majesty's Government to proceed on that point of view I am sure it will be a matter of gratification for the whole nation.


My Lords, I also should like to thank the noble Earl and say that we are grateful to Her Majesty's Government for making this decision known before the House adjourns for the Recess. Like the noble Viscount, I am not going to venture on any criticism at all, but give this a fair wind and wish it well.


My Lords, it is not absolutely clear from the Note whether our Allies have been consulted and whether they approved the terms of this Note. So far as I could gather from hearing the terms of the Note, it would look as if there is nothing left except the time of the meeting and the place. We are suggesting August 12. May I take it that that is agreeable to our Allies, and may I take it also that it is agreeable that the meeting should take place at New York, Geneva, or any other place that may be agreed upon?


My Lords, I understand the noble Lord's anxieties, but this message was sent, of course, only after we were able to discuss the line of our reply with Mr. Dulles. We have been in very close consultation with Paris, and I think the reasons for Her Majesty's Government's line of approach are well understood there. So there really has been very full consultations, and we have fully in our own minds the attitudes of other Governments. I am obliged to the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition and to the noble Lord, Lord Rea. We really want to get on with this Conference now, if we possibly can.


My Lords, arising out of the statement by the noble Earl the Leader of the House, may I ask whether his attention has been called to a statement made by Soviet Russia yesterday that the United States and Britain are planning to liquidate the new Iraq Republic? And will the noble Leader of the House take this opportunity of refuting that charge, which is not calculated to reduce Middle Eastern tensions on the eve of the coming high-level Conference?


Yes, my Lords, of course: there is no truth whatever in the Russian allegation.