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Traffic, Berlin

Volume 465: debated on Wednesday 1 June 1949

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many goods trains have reached the Western sectors of Berlin from Western Germany since the ending of the blockade; and what steps are being taken to increase the flow of rail traffic.

As regards traffic for which the Western Allies are responsible, 140 trains had reached Berlin from the Western Zones between the lifting of the blockade on 12th May and 31st May. Of those only 20 arrived since the Berlin railway strike began on the night of 20th May. Negotiations are in progress with the Soviet authorities in Berlin to increase the rate of flow, which, even before the strike began, was subject to restrictions to which I referred in my reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Major Beamish) on 25th May. Discussions are still proceeding on a quadripartite basis, particularly with a view to making other routes available in addition to the Helmstedt-Magdeburg-Berlin line.

Is it not the fact that the Soviet Union agreed, before these conversations about Germany started, that they would put an end to the blockade, and is it not quite obvious from my hon. Friend's answer that the Soviet Union have broken their word again as usual?

On a point of Order. After the protests we have just had, is it in Order for an hon. Member to refer to a friendly Government——

I understand that there is a Treaty of friendship between this country and the Soviet Union. Is it in Order to refer to a friendly Government as having "broken their word as usual"? That is a deliberate imputation. If we are to have imputations on one side, hon. Members will get them on the other.

Is it not a fact that on many occasions the Soviet Government have broken their word?

Further to the point of Order. I ask for my own guidance. I should like to know what is in Order and what is not. What I should like you to say, Mr. Speaker, is whether it can ever be in Order with regard to a friendly Government, to say they have "as usual broken their word."

Would it be in Order to say that the Soviet Government had attached the usual importance to their pledges?

Would it not be in the interests of Members that what is and what is not in Order should not be too clearly defined?

Can the Under-Secretary of State tell us whether since the railway strike began, the airborne and waterborne traffic through Western Germany to Eastern Germany has continued quite unrestricted?

Can my hon. Friend tell us what is the number of trains that normally would run through compared with the number of trains now allowed through?

I have tried to make an estimate of the percentage that has been stopped. I think it is true to say that, if there had been no strike, then the lifting of the blockade as carried out by the Soviet authorities would have led to a volume of traffic of 70 per cent. compared with that of a year ago. The strike, however, has cut that 70 per cent. to 20 per cent.

In view of the fact that the Soviet Government have undoubtedly broken their word, on this occasion particularly about the lifting of the blockade, is it not time for us to stop trading with the Soviet Government until they allow trains through?

There are quadripartite discussions in Berlin on this whole subject. There is nothing I can usefully add to what I have said already.