I would refer the hon. Members to the reply which I gave on 20th July to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) about this meeting. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Multilateral Force was not on the agenda, and I made no statement of our attitude towards it.
Is it not extraordinary that this very important subject to Western defence was not on the agenda? Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that if the allies go ahead with this plan and allow the Germans to have a finger or fingers on the nuclear button, it will be extremely provocative? Would he, therefore, give the matter the most careful consideration?
Would the right hon. Gentleman clarify that Answer a little further? Is he aware that because of British participation in the experimental voyage the view is bound to spread that Her Majesty's Government are in the process of becoming committed in some way to a multilateral or mixed-manned force? Would he make it clear if the Government are categorically opposed to any measure which will spread the ownership, manufacture or control of nuclear weapons, because it would make the situation more difficult?
Yes, Sir; I can give a definite assurance. We are against any dissemination of nuclear weapons. We do not regard the multilateral force in itself as being disseminatory.
Will my right hon. Friend convey to our allies the very interesting point brought out in a letter to The Times today, that if we proceed with this multilateral nuclear force in its present form it will undoubtedly result in a proliferation of Soviet merchant ships all round the world equipped with similar weapons?
As the whole of the defence of the Western European alliance rests on credibility, would not my right hon. Friend consider that if we could overcome all the difficulties in the alliance in setting up a mixed-manned force this would make the whole defence alliance of Europe appear much more credible in that we are able to overcome these difficulties in our own defence arrangements?