At the invitation of the Italian and German Ministers of Defence, I recently paid visits to Rome and Bonn for an exchange of views on defence matters of common concern. At both meetings, one of the principal topics of discussion was that of closer co-operation on research, development and production of weapons and military equipment. In each case, we reached the conclusion that the time had come to bring together the various bi-lateral and tri-lateral arrangements which have grown up during the past year between various European countries, and to put them on to a multi-lateral basis, within the framework of the Western European Union. It was agreed that the opportunity of the forthcoming meeting of N.A.T.O. Defence Ministers in Paris should be taken to put this proposal to the other member states of the Western European Union.
Whilst thanking my right hon. Friend for that information, may I ask him whether he is satisfied that the fullest use is being made of Western European Union, because it would seem that this organisation is becoming of increasing importance to the security of Britain and of Europe as the range of missiles increases and disengagement becomes a possibility?
I agree with my hon. Friend. We should try to make Western European Union more of a reality. I feel that the proposals I have just announced, if they are approved by the other member States, will increase the effectiveness and usefulness of the Western European Union organisation.
Would the right hon. Gentleman impress on the French and other Governments the desirability of some economic co-operation, since we cannot very well have military cooperation without economic co-operation, which seems to be in jeopardy just now?
I cannot go into the question of Free Trade Areas and things of that kind in answer to this Question. As regards the military aspect, closer co-operation, joint planning and allocation of tasks within the sphere of research, development and especially production will, of course, mean closer economic co-operation.
Although that is not outside the scope of the Question, I think I have made it clear that that was not one of the subjects on the agenda for our meeting, although it would have been impossible to have a two days' meeting with the German Minister without touching on that topic. This question is now before the N.A.T.O. Council in Paris, and we think that is where it should be handled.
There is no desire to commit suicide anywhere. One of the most striking things in going to Berlin by air is the extent of the devastation which still exists on the Eastern side and the extent of the reconstruction on the Western side.
When the Minister was in Germany, was he made aware of the great strength of public feeling in Germany against the use of nuclear tactical weapons? Did he by any chance attend the big demonstration at Frankfurt where there was displayed a banner, "Better active than radioactive"? Does he not think that that is representative of the feeling of modern Germany?