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Moscow

Volume 889: debated on Wednesday 9 April 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will pay an official visit to Moscow.

My right hon. Friend recently paid an official visit to the Soviet Union with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. At present he has no plans to return.

If my right hon. Friend or any other Minister has the opportunity to visit Moscow, will he please inform Mr. Shelepin that his allegation to the effect that those who demonstrated against his visit were professional agitators, paid £5 a day, was a disgusting lie? Will he also inform his host that many hon. Members on both sides of the House care deeply about the KGB's current persecution of dissident minorities of all kinds, not least the two trade unionists sentenced to five years' exile, Professor Mark Azbel, who is not allowed back to Moscow, and the Slepak family, which went on hunger strike on Sunday after waiting five years for an exit visa?

My hon. and learned Friend has made his point. It will be reflected in Moscow before any of my right hon. Friends visits the USSR.

Even though the right hon. Gentleman has no plans to visit Moscow, will he none the less send a message to the Soviet authorities calling their attention to the increasingly alarming and growing reports of atrocities perpetrated by the North Vietnamese forces in their invasion of additional territory in the southern Republic, with a view to persuading the Soviet authorities and other countries, including our allies, to work in a concerted fashion, to check the reports, and, if they are true, to try to put an end to the situation forthwith?

That is another question. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to ask it, he must put it down.

If my right hon. Friend visits Moscow, or if he is able to convey a message, will he make it clear that although some Government supporters are concerned about the problem of political prisoners in the Soviet Union they are also genuinely concerned about political prisoners on our own doorstep —namely, the Shrewsbury Two—and many other people charged and brought to trial in this country because they do not agree with the present political philosophy and suffer as a result of it?

My hon. Friend knows that he and I disagree about the Shrewsbury Two, as he calls them. However, I welcome his initial comments, in which he referred to the unacceptability, to him and to other Social Democrats, of the existence of political prisoners in the Soviet Union. It is important that all sections of the Labour Party should make that point as often as possible.

Reverting to the question asked by the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner), will the Minister ask his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to summon the Soviet Ambassador and make it plain that we deplore the Communist-sponsored aggression in South Vietnam, and that the United Kingdom stands four-square by the moral obligations of the Paris agreement and expects other nations to do the same?

We attach a great deal of importance to the Paris agreement. However, I think that is a different matter from summoning the Soviet Ambassador. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to ask about Government initiatives, he must put down a Question.