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Volume 654: debated on Wednesday 21 February 1962

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asked the Lord Privy Seal what is the present position in the negotiations with the Soviet Union on Berlin.


asked the Lord Privy Seal what new initiative he now proposes to take to solve the Berlin problem.

Talks are proceeding between the United States Ambassador in Moscow and Mr. Gromyko to try to establish whether a basis for negotiations on Berlin exists or not. We are keeping in close touch with the United States Government about the progress of these talks, and have full confidence in the manner in which they are handling them.

Have not the Government been dragging their feet over this important issue? Has not Mr. Khrushchev frequently expressed a desire to reopen negotiations? Are we to understand that we are being subordinate to opinions expressed by Dr. Adenaeur and his friends?

No the Government have not been dragging their feet and are in no way subordinate to other opinions. These talks have been going on between the ambassadors, and Mr. Gromyko has been taking his part in them. It is accepted that this method of negotiation should continue.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that it is most deplorable that when the Russians remove the deadline for their agreement with East Germany—they have lifted it—there seems to occur a great lack of urgency in dealing with the Berlin problem? Does not he think it a dangerous incitement to the Russians to re-establish the deadline?

Although it is right that the deadline has been removed, talks of this kind between the Ambassador and the Foreign Minister in Moscow should continue. While exploration is possible, it is absolutely right it should go on.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that this problem is urgent and that he should get it settled as quickly as possible and get negotiations going? Does he have to wait till there is another critical situation?

The whole basis of the talks which have been carried on by the three Powers in these last few months has been an exploratory one—first of all, between the American Secretary of State and the Soviet Foreign Minister, and then between my noble Friend the Foreign Secretary and the Soviet Foreign Minister, and continued by the American Ambassador and the Soviet Foreign Minister in Moscow—to explore the circumstances of the present situation to see what the possibilities are for entering negotiations.

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that if the proposed meeting of the three Foreign Ministers takes place in connection with disarmament—as we hope, and with a Summit talk after—steps will be taken to try to make real progress on this Berlin issue, which has obviously been dragging somewhat slowly in the diplomatic talks in Moscow?

Of course, the main purpose of the three Foreign Secretaries would be to discuss the very important issues of disarmament before the conference which is going to follow, but, naturally, when Foreign Ministers are together in a particular place other subjects may be discussed.


asked the Lord Privy Seal what representations have been made by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the restricted use of the air corridors to Berlin; and what has been the nature of Her Majesty's Government's reply.

No representations have been received from the Soviet Government. However, in response to our aide mémoire of 15th February, the Soviet Government addressed a note to Her Majesty's Government on 17th February. This note makes no attempt to justify recent Soviet activities, and makes unwarranted claims about Soviet rights in the air corridors. Her Majesty's Government do not accept any restrictions on their right to fly in the corridors, and will continue to assert their rights. They earnestly hope that the Soviet Government will desist from activities which carry a serious risk of incident.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are very many hon. Members on this side of the House Who would entirely agree with the Government's assertion of Western rights in this respect, but does he not also agree that the facility with which the Soviet Union can whip up a crisis in this regard underlines the urgency of the need to get down to negotiations about the whole question of Berlin?

I should like to thank the hon. Gentleman for the view which he has expressed, which I think is the view of a great number of hon. Members on both sides of the House. We have always wanted particularly to reach an arrangement about access with the Soviet Union. I agree with the hon. Member that what has happened emphasises the need for this. Fortunately, the access has not, in fact, been interrupted, and so far there has been no incident. I hope very much that the Soviet Union will cease provocations of this kind.