§ Lord Kennet
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they will state the approximate number and average duration of visits paid to this country without visas by:
the corresponding figures for British aircrew and seamen in the Soviet Union.
- (a) Soviet aircrew between flights;
- (b) Soviet seamen while their ships are in port;
- (c) Soviet seamen arriving in Britain to join their ships; and
§ Lord Glenarthur
I understand that the Soviet airline Aeroflot have 11 flights a week to the United Kingdom. The crews, averaging about 11 persons per flight, usually stay about one to two hours, except on three days when they stay overnight for about 15 hours.
As my noble friend Lord Whitelaw said in the debate on the Defence Estimates on 26th June (H. L. Debates, cols. 799–800), 1,492 Soviet ships visited United Kingdom ports in 1984. The estimate of 35,000 visits which my noble friend then gave refers to the operational crew members of such ships, who may come ashore without visas while their ship is in port. An average duration for their stay cannot be estimated without disproportionate cost.
My noble friend has asked me to take this opportunity to correct the information he gave the House on the same occasion about Soviet seamen coming to join their ships. Such seamen are in fact required to have visas, and we are not aware of any Soviet seamen visiting the United Kindom for this purpose in recent years without a visa. I should also make clear that the figure of 18 quoted by my noble friend related to the average number of Soviet ships in our ports at any one time during May 1985.
With regard to the corresponding figures for British ships and aircraft, British Airways fly to the Soviet Union five times a week with six aircrew on each occasion, staying a matter of hours. Eighty-seven British ships visited the Soviet Union in 1983, but the figure for 1984 and other details are not immediately available. The vessel engaged in the Anglo-Soviet liner 736WA service made 28 visits to Leningrad in 1984, but, outside this, vessels engaged in trade with the USSR are employed on an underline basis and have predominantly been of Soviet or other foreign flag.
We are not aware of any British seamen travelling without a visa to the Soviet Union to join ships there.