Minister of Defence (Speech, Western European Union)

Oral Answers to Questions — Trade and Commerce – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th December 1962.

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Photo of Mrs Barbara Castle Mrs Barbara Castle , Blackburn 12:00 am, 13th December 1962

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech of the Minister of Defence on European defence projects to the Assembly of Western European Union on 4th December represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

Photo of Mr William Warbey Mr William Warbey , Ashfield

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech of the Minister of Defence to the Assembly of Western European Union on the subject of European defence projects on 4th December represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

Photo of Mr Konni Zilliacus Mr Konni Zilliacus , Manchester, Gorton

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech of the Minister of Defence to the Assembly of Western European Union on the subject of European defence on 4th December in Paris represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

The hon. Members will no doubt now have read my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence's speech which has been placed in the Library, and will have seen that he made no reference to policy but, rather, presented a survey and assessment of some of the problems of defence as they confront the members of the Western European Union and, indeed, N.A.T.O. as a whole.

Photo of Mrs Barbara Castle Mrs Barbara Castle , Blackburn

Would the Prime Minister tell us exactly what that speech means? Are the Government now prepared to play their part in the creation of a full-scale European deterrent? If so, is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that this move would be strongly deplored by all those who believe that the overriding need is for the creation of a nuclear-free zone in Europe by agreement with the Soviet Union? Will he concentrate all his efforts on that?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

That is a rather wider and different question. My right hon. Friend's speech is now available. In it he refers to some very important questions which must arise, but he did not declare the Government's policy. On the question of the so-called European deterrent, there are all sorts of possibilities which have been canvassed. As far as I know, there is no proposal.

Photo of Mr William Warbey Mr William Warbey , Ashfield

Is the Prime Minister aware that the Minister of Defence's speech was made at an Assembly composed of Britain and the Six just after the Assembly had passed without opposition a motion calling for the creation of a European component of a Western deterrent, and that the Minister referred to very large defence projects indeed, based on large capital resources and markets, and that everybody interpreted this as giving British support to the concept of a European nuclear deterrent?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

The very introduction of the word "market" must have made it almost certain that he did not refer to anything of the kind. I do not as yet know that the question of a European deterrent is even under discussion. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] No plan has been put forward. Certainly there could be no market for a deterrent.

Photo of Mr Hugh Gaitskell Mr Hugh Gaitskell , Leeds South

May we have clarification of what exactly is meant by a European nuclear deterrent and a N.A.T.O. nuclear deterrent, because it seems to me that judgment on this must depend on what exactly is envisaged, and nobody seems to know.

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

We have put forward no plan. All sorts of plans have been discussed, as the right hon. Gentleman knows. I think that he himself has referred to such possibilities. But there are very big questions as to manufacture and control and as to what should be the nature of the control. So far these have not been resolved, and they have hardly even begun to be seriously discussed.

Photo of Mr Konni Zilliacus Mr Konni Zilliacus , Manchester, Gorton

Would not the Prime Minister put an end to the doubts and misgivings which obviously exist by stating quite clearly that the Government are opposed to the creation of a European, N.A.T.O. or Common Market nuclear force and stand with the United States in demanding unified control of any such force?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

I am glad to see that on this matter the hon. Member ranges himself beside General de Gaulle.

Photo of Mr George Brown Mr George Brown , Belper

An important point is that much of the speech of the Minister of Defence was devoted to defending the British independent nuclear deterrent. Does not the Prime Minister think that it was a little untimely?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

The British nuclear independent deterrent exists. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where is it?"] It exists in a most powerful form, which, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, at the moment makes the major contribution in the West in the initial stages. I hope and believe that this policy of maintaining it will be satisfactorily carried on.