Italy and Germany (Minister's Visit)

Oral Answers to Questions — Ministry of Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2nd April 1958.

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Photo of Mr John Biggs-Davison Mr John Biggs-Davison , Chigwell 12:00 am, 2nd April 1958

asked the Minister of Defence whether he will make a statement about his recent visit to certain Western European capitals.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

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.

Before this meeting I shall, at the invita1 ion of the French Defence Minister, be having similar discussions with him in Paris.

Photo of Mr John Biggs-Davison Mr John Biggs-Davison , Chigwell

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?

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

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.

Photo of Mr Arthur Woodburn Mr Arthur Woodburn , Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire

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?

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

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.

Photo of Mr George Chetwynd Mr George Chetwynd , Stockton-on-Tees

Did the Minister get any satisfaction from the German Government on the question of support costs for our troops in Germany?

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

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.

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

asked the Minister of Defence what was the purpose of his recent visit to Berlin.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

I went to Berlin to see some of the British units stationed there.

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

Did the Minister see the damage which is still very obvious in Berlin? Is he aware of the feeling in Berlin that, if the East and West want to commit suicide, they should commit suicide somewhere other than in Berlin?

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

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.

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

If the Minister went by air, did he not also see that there was considerable construction on the Eastern side?

An Hon. Member:

Concentration camps.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

I am glad the hon. Member is an admirer of the Stalin Allee.

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

asked the Minister of Defence to what extent he discussed the question of Germany being allowed to manufacture and use nuclear weapons in Western Germany during his recent visit to Germany; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

This subject was not discussed.

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

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?

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

As a member of Her Majesty's Government, I shall certainly not comment on public opinion in Germany about a controversial political issue. The hon. Member is as good a judge of the value of demonstrations as I am.