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Congress, Sheffield (Admission Of Foreigners)

Volume 480: debated on Thursday 9 November 1950

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7.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what applications he has received to visit the United Kingdom in respect of Russian citizens wishing to attend the Second World Peace Congress, either as organisers, delegates or otherwise; and what decisions he has made.

Eighty-eight applications have been received for visas to enable citizens of the U.S.S.R. to attend the Congress at Sheffield. Final decisions have not yet been reached.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the statement of the Prime Minister, that we are not willing to throw wide our doors to those who seek to come here to subvert our institutions? Will he also bear in mind that it is hardly conceivable that any Russian delegates would have any other motive but that?

No, Sir. I think a general indictment is always liable to be a gross overstatement.

23.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in considering the request from the Soviet Government for visas for Russians to attend the World Peace Congress at Sheffield, he will have regard to the refusal of the Soviet Government and other governments belonging to the Cominform, to grant visas to British Members of Parliament, and others, desiring to study conditions in countries behind the Iron Curtain.

Applications from Soviet delegates, like those from other foreign delegates, will be dealt with on their individual merits and I do not think that the precedent set by Cominform governments in refusing to allow persons from the United Kingdom to visit their countries to study conditions there is one which we should necessarily imitate.

Will not the right hon. Gentleman consider introducing the principle of reciprocity in these matters? Are we really to stand by and see the Bishop of Gibraltar refused permission to go to Bulgaria and Roumania and Members of this House refused permission to go to these countries and yet, at the same time, admit 88 Russian nationals to the Sheffield conference?

There is no intention of admitting 88 Russian nationals to this country, but I ask the House to remember that we still have some prestige in the world because we have remained a country of freedom and are not afraid of people seeing how we are living.

Is the Home Secretary aware of the statement that Picasso, the painter, has been refused permission to enter this country? Would it not be a good thing if Picasso were to go to Sheffield and paint the place red?

How can the right hon. Gentleman possibly assess the individual merits of various Soviet delegates when he knows nothing about them before they come to this country?

The hon. Gentleman would be surprised to learn how much I know about them and about other people of alien origin.

Will my right hon. Friend refute the suggestion which has been made that we should apply the lowest common denominator in international affairs and affirm that we have great traditions which we ought to try to maintain so far as national safety permits?

Are we to gather that the Home Secretary has the fullest possible information about people who come here for a short time, but that he could not care less about people who are coming to live here?

No, Sir. The hon. Gentleman should not draw that conclusion from what I have said. I do care a very great deal about people who want to stay here for a long time.

45.

asked the Prime Minister what decisions he has made with regard to the Communist delegates attending the Peace Congress at Sheffield on 13th November.

The so-called British Peace Committee were informed some weeks ago that applications from foreigners to attend the proposed Peace Congress would be dealt with on their merits and that His Majesty's Government reserved the right to refuse admission to any foreigner whose presence is considered undesirable. This applies whether he is Communist or non-Communist.

When the Conference is over will those who are allowed to come be definitely checked, so that they will depart as soon as their purpose is finished?