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United States Of America (Prime Minister's Visit)

Volume 828: debated on Tuesday 21 December 1971

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asked the Prime Minister what plans he now has to seek to pay an official visit to the United States of America.

I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. Friend has at present no plans to do so; although, as the House will be aware, he is currently engaged in talks with the President of the United States in Bermuda.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that whether or not the Prime Minister makes an early visit to the United States, the British Government should make it clear at the earliest opportunity that the so-called historic monetary settlement announced this week will not be regarded by us as being in any way complete until it contains a provision for continuous review and control?

I am not certain what the hon. Gentleman has in mind, but I think that the agreement reached in the last few days has indeed been of historic importance. It will be of great benefit to all nations in their trading activities.

There is one point arising out of this Question on which I would like the view of the Home Secretary in view of his great experience in these matters. The outcome of the monetary agreement is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, having negotiated to keep our competitive position at almost all costs, has, as far as I can see, accepted an upward revaluation of sterling against the dollar at least as high as, and possibly higher than, anything previously envisaged. What, then, were the negotiations about from our point of view?

The right hon. Gentleman is well aware that the negotiations were about a new pattern of rates and a degree of flexibility of rates. Comparing the movements of the dollar and of the yen in particular and of the deutschemark, I believe that the bargain struck was very favourable from Britain's point of view.

Although it would not be reasonable to suggest that the Prime Minister should pay an immediate visit to the United States in view of the current talks, and accepting that this country has probably more influence in the matter than the United States owing to the policy of neutrality which was rightly accepted by Her Majesty's Government in the recent war between Pakistan and India, may we be assured that, as a result of the present talks, both countries will use all the influence at their command to persuade the Indian Government, who have accepted the obligations of the Geneva Convention, to do everything in their power to prevent the appalling atrocities which are currently taking place in East Pakistan and Bangladesh and about which we read every day in our newspapers?

While the present discussions that are going on between my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the President of the United States are within Her Majesty's Dominions, is it not about time that the President received an invitation to pay a State visit to this country, having regard to the visits paid by our Head of State to America?