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President Ford

Volume 888: debated on Tuesday 18 March 1975

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Q1.

asked the Prime Minister if he has any plans to invite the President of the United States of America to Great Britain.

Q7.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will invite President Ford to make an official visit to London.

Q9.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will issue an invitation to President Ford to visit Great Britain.

President Ford knows that he will always be welcome in this country but I am not aware that he has any plans at present to visit Europe.

I wonder whether my right hon. Friend would go to the United States Embassy to see the new American Ambassador, Elliot Richardson, who told the Foreign Relations Committee on 12th February that the CIA was working closely with its British colleagues. When my right hon. Friend got to the embassy he might bump into Cord Meyers, who is heading a number of CIA men operating with diplomatic immunity at the American Embassy. Will he do something positive, such as set up a commission of inquiry to investigate these appalling affairs?

If anything comes out of the official American inquiry that requires investigating in this country I shall not hesitate to set up an inquiry. My hon. Friend may have been concerned about reports of the CIA engaging in industrial espionage here. These reports have been categorically denied and I have no reason at all to think that the denial was inaccurate.

The Prime Minister will be aware that there is another visitor to our shores this year who will be much less welcome than President Ford, namely, Mr. Shelepin. We appreciate the dilemma that the Home Secretary is in when a visa is applied for in such a case, but will the Prime Minister confirm that when Mr. Shelepin comes here neither he nor any of his Ministers will meet him?

I do not think it is likely that he will be coming in the suite of President Ford, who is the subject of this Question. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary answered a question on the subject raised by the hon. Gentleman yesterday. I have never noticed from the Conservative Party the same opposition to the visit of the Fascist Caetano, whom we opposed and whom the Tory Government invited.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the disclosures of Mr. William Colby, of the CIA, to the United States committee investigating this matter, confirming the part played by the CIA in destabilising—as it said—the elected regime in Chile? Can my right hon. Friend say positively that the CIA is not playing the same part in Portugal and that the British agency is in no way responsible? Can he be absolutely certain that CIA agents would not attempt to undermine or destabilise a Labour Government in its pursuit of Socialist policy?

It would take more than them, I think. I have not had the privilege of seeing the evidence to which my hon. Friend refers. I have not been going through that evidence; I have had more important things to do. If my hon. Friend would care to send me a copy or draw my attention to any particular reference I should be glad to look into it. If anything comes out of the inquiry in the United States which suggests the need for an inquiry here, one will be held.

With reference to the last supplementary question, may I ask the Prime Minister to discuss with President Ford if he comes here the situation in Portugal? Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that an extremely disturbing situation exists there, which has grave implication for the interests of this country? Does he not further agree that it would be a great tragedy if a dictatorship of the Right were to be replaced by a dictatorship of the Left?

I share the concern which has been expressed about what has been happening in Portugal in the past few days. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs made a public speech urging upon the Portuguese the need to maintain and strengthen the democratic system in their country. I repeat that when there was a Right-wing dictatorship there, the Cabinet of the Conservative Government strongly supported the visit of Mr. Caetano and voted the Labour Party down on a motion saying that he should not be invited, in view of the Portuguese atrocities.

Does my right hon. Friend recall that in September 1971 Sir Alec Douglas-Home demanded the recall of 90 Soviet diplomats who were alleged to be engaged on intelligence-gathering activities in this country? Would the activities of CIA agents be equally inadmissible? If those agents were found in the United Kingdom would my right hon. Friend demand their recall, too?

I think that the number was 105. Certainly, if there were any evidence that CIA agents were doing what those 105 agents were alleged to have done, I would agree with what my hon. Friend said. If any evidence comes to my attention, either through the inquiry being undertaken on behalf of the United States Government or in any other way, I shall not hesitate to make all essential inquiries, not excluding an independent inquiry, into the matter.