Oral Answers to Questions — Forces, West Germany (Nuclear Weapons)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th April 1959.

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Photo of Mr William Warbey Mr William Warbey , Ashfield 12:00 am, 9th April 1959

asked the Prime Minister why he informed Dr. Adenauer that Her Majesty's Government are not opposed to the arming of West German forces with nuclear weapons.

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

Her Majesty's Government's policy was fully set out in the reply given by my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) on 2nd December. I have nothing to add to that reply.

Photo of Mr William Warbey Mr William Warbey , Ashfield

In any further communications which the Prime Minister has with Dr. Adenauer, will he inform him that British public opinion is strongly opposed to the arming of Germany with nuclear weapons and, further, that if the Federal Chancellor wishes to stop the impairment of Anglo-German relations he would be wise to adopt a less intransigent attitude towards the proposals for a negotiated settlement of European problems?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

In reply to this point, I can do no better than to quote from a statement made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary on 4th December, when he said: … we believe that as part of a European settlement, including the reunification of Germany, it should be possible, in spite of all the difficulties about regional reductions of armaments, to have, in an area as large as possible, a system of agreed numbers and agreed levels of armaments My right hon. and learned Friend went on to say: We do not consider —this is a fundamental viewpoint —that in an alliance it is wise or, indeed, feasible to discriminate against soldiers according to nationality." — [OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th December, 1958; Vol. 596, c. 1375–6.]

Photo of Mr Hugh Gaitskell Mr Hugh Gaitskell , Leeds South

'Is not discrimination justified by the facts of geography and of history? May I ask the Prime Minister whether the question of the arming of West German forces with nuclear weapons was raised by Mr. Khrushchev in his discussions in Moscow and whether there is not a good deal to be said for deferring any further progress in this matter until after the Foreign Ministers' and Summit Conferences have taken place?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

No, I do not think such a thing would be right. With regard to alliances in general, and we as a country have long experience of alliances, I do not think that soldiers could tolerate a position in which there is discrimination in the character of the weapons given according to the nationality of the troops employed.

Photo of Mr Hugh Gaitskell Mr Hugh Gaitskell , Leeds South

Is it not clear that such discrimination already exists in so far as United Kingdom forces, presumably, will be able in such an eventuality to make use of their own nuclear weapons whereas Continental members of the alliance will not be able to do so?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

That is discrimination based on the actual possession and the power to make certain weapons by certain countries. With regard to the deployment and operation of troops and the stationing of them, I do not think we can operate on a discriminatory basis.

Photo of Mr Hugh Gaitskell Mr Hugh Gaitskell , Leeds South

Is not the overriding consideration the desirability of reaching a settlement of the problem of European security? Would not it be very much better to withhold any further action on this matter —holding it back as a possible point that would enter into the negotiations eventually after these discussions have taken place?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

I am working hard on these negotiations and I hope that they will be successful. While I should always be willing to take into consideration anything that might help, I do not honestly think that such decisions at this time would ease the problem with which we are faced. We will do our best to enter into negotiations with our Allies sincerely. We have done a lot of preliminary work towards them and I can only hope that they will be successful.

Photo of Mr Frederick Bellenger Mr Frederick Bellenger , Bassetlaw

In his consideration of this matter will the right hon. Gentleman also bear in mind the position of Eastern Germany where there is reason to believe there are nuclear weapons even though they are under the control of the Russians, as nuclear weapons in Western Germany are under the control of the Americans —and that they constitute as grave a danger as the possession of nuclear weapons in the West?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

Yes, Sir. I think that a very relevant point. I feel sure that what we ought to try to do is to get, if we can, some limited inspection and control of armaments in certain areas, but not discriminating against particular people.