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Mr Khrushchev (Letters)

Volume 654: debated on Tuesday 27 February 1962

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asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on Mr. Khrushchev's reply to the British and United States letters of 14th February.


asked the Prime Minister what reply he has now received to his letter to Mr. Khrushchev of 14th February.

Hon. Members will now have seen Mr. Khrushchev's message of 21st February and my reply of 26th February. I have at present nothing to add to the latter.

May I ask the Prime Minister whether we are to take it that, in his view, a Foreign Ministers' meeting is essential to the holding of any Summit Conference? Is it also his view that at any possible Summit Conference the numbers should be restricted to much fewer than eighteen—the number of Governments represented at the Disarmament Conference?

I do not really want to add or to detract from the letter which I wrote very carefully. What I said there was that two situations might arise, in my view, in which I thought that the presence of Heads of Governments might be fruitful. The first would be if the Conference were making satisfactory and definite progress and we could make a further effort to consolidate the progress made, and get on further. The second would be if there were certain major and clear points of disagreement which had emerged and made a kind of deadlock which Heads of Governments might help to solve. I think that this approach would be more practical than all the eighteen Heads of Governments arriving at the beginning of the Conference. I would rather that first it got under way.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether in these exchanges with Mr. Khrushchev he expressed his own appreciation of what is technically desirable, or merely acquiesced in a view put forward by the United States?

If it is necessary for me to answer that question, I would say that I consult the President, as is proper, and I make a reply based on my own judgment of what is the duty of Her Majesty's Government.

I recognise the obvious objections to the proposed eighteen-Power Heads of State meetings. Would the Prime Minister bear in mind the possibility of proposing a smaller meeting, perhaps between three, or even four or five. Heads of States so that the ice might be broken before the disarmament talks begin?

That is another question, but I have made this reply which I hope that the House will feel was both clear and courteous and intended to be in a spirit not of argumentation and propaganda but of trying to arrive at a practical result. I shall now await the further reply which I hope that we may get from the Chairman of the Soviet Republic.