Oral Answers to Questions — Western European Union0 (Ministerial Meeting)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th July 1964.

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Photo of Mr John Stonehouse Mr John Stonehouse , Wednesbury 12:00 am, 27th July 1964

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what discussions took place at the Western European Union ministerial meeting on the mixed-manned force.

Photo of Mr Stephen Swingler Mr Stephen Swingler , Newcastle-under-Lyme

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what statement he made at the Western European Union of the terms on which Her Majesty's Government are at present prepared to participate in either the proposed multilateral, or the mixed-manned force, or both.

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

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.

Photo of Mr John Stonehouse Mr John Stonehouse , Wednesbury

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?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

Yes, Sir. Naturally, it is a matter for great consideration, on which Her Majesty's Government have not made a final decision.

Photo of Mr Stephen Swingler Mr Stephen Swingler , Newcastle-under-Lyme

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?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

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.

Photo of Commander Anthony Courtney Commander Anthony Courtney , Harrow East

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?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

All these matters are taken into consideration, and they will be taken into consideration before any decision is reached.

Photo of Sir Peter Emery Sir Peter Emery , Reading

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?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

It is precisely to see what the answer to this sort of question is that we are engaged in discussions in Paris and Washington.