§ 6. Mr. Greville Janner
asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he will seek to pay an official visit to Moscow.
§ Mr. Janner
When the Minister next meets the Soviet authorities in Moscow 1210 or elsewhere, will he suggest that, instead of requiring children to leave Moscow for the Olympic Games, they should permit their citizens to leave Moscow or anywhere else in the Soviet Union now if they wish to do so? Will he suggest, in particular, that they should release from prison and from exile people like Vladimir Slepak and Ida Nudel, who find themselves in that situation only because they want to leave the country? The authorities should stop the recent alarming trend of refusing visas to Jews and persecuting Jewish people in the Ukraine and elsewhere, who advocate the issue of such visas.
§ Mr. Blaker
On a number of occasions recently we have made strong representations to the Soviet authorities precisely on the point raised by the hon. and learned Gentleman. It is regrettably true that the number of refusals to, for example, Jewish people who wish to leave the Soviet Union has increased. However, it is a welcome development that the number of applications that have been granted has also increased. We shall continue to maintain pressure on that issue.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston
If and when the Minister meets Mr. Brezhnev, will he indicate the Government's willingness to respond positively to the detente proposals made in East Berlin? Will he also ask him directly, if he is serious, why it is that, despite the USSR's massive military predominance and economic problems, that country continues to spend 13 per cent, of its gross national product on arms?
§ Mr. Blaker
The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point on the percentage of GNP that the Soviet Union spends on arms, and that must be a cause for concern. Mr. Brezhnev's recent announcement that the Soviet Union would withdraw a number of troops and tanks from Eastern Europe was a welcome development. I hope that it will be followed by Soviet moves to get agreement at the MBFR conference. Mr. Brezhnev's offer to reduce long-term tactical forces in Europe is also welcome, but we must recognise that his statistics conceal the fact that there has been a great deal of modernisation of Soviet tactical nuclear forces in Europe. That is why the British Government propose to proceed with 1211 Western plans to modernise our tactical nuclear forces.
§ Mr. Blaker
Any attempt by the Soviet authorities to dictate to us in that regard would, I believe, be out of order under the charter of the International Olympic Committee. It is for the IOC to decide whether countries meet the requirements of that charter.
§ The following question stood upon the Order Paper:
§ 7. Mr. John Biggs-Davison
to ask the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement about relations with Zimbabwe-Rhodesia.
§ Mr. Speaker
As the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Biggs-Davison) is not present, I may have misled the House when I said that questions on Rhodesia would come up a little later. I therefore propose to exercise my discretion and allow further supplementary questions to question No. 9.