HC Deb 07 December 1949 vol 470 cc1879-81
49. Mr. Swingler

asked the Minister of Defence if he has any statement to make on the recent meeting of the Defence Ministers of the signatory Powers of the North Atlantic Treaty.

52. Mr. Ronald Chamberlain

asked the Minister of Defence what fresh defence obligations involving further expenditure this country has accepted as a result of the recent meeting of Defence Ministers in connection with the North Atlantic Treaty; and whether he will make a statement.

53. Mr. William Wells

asked the Minister of Defence whether he will make a statement on the results of the recent Defence Ministers' Conference in Paris.

Mr. A. V. Alexander

The second meeting of the North Atlantic Defence Committee was held in Paris on Thursday last, 1st December. During the two months since the Committee first met in Washington initial meetings were held in each of the five Regional Planning Groups, and the Standing Group, acting in concert with the accredited represen- tatives in Washington of the other States concerned, prepared a draft of the overall strategic concept for the integrated defence of the North Atlantic area. The primary purposes of the Paris meeting were, therefore, to conclude the essential task of organisation and formulation of agreed objectives necessary to carry out the defence provisions of the North Atlantic Treaty. These purposes were expeditiously and successfully achieved. No fresh obligations involving further expenditure were accepted by the United Kingdom as a result of the meeting.

Full details were given in a communiqué issued immediately after the meeting, a copy of which I am sending to my hon. Friends.

Mr. Swingler

May I ask my right hon. Friend, first, what information, if any, will be given to Parliament about the nature of the commitments which are being entered into; and secondly, whether he took the opportunity of this meeting to draw attention to the fact that the United Kingdom is spending a bigger proportion of its national income on defence than any other Powers?

Mr. Alexander

With regard to the first point, of course, it is open to the House at any time to request further information, and we will give all that is possible, subject to the conditions laid down upon the members of the Conference with regard to publication. I ought also to say that I have under preparation a White Paper on the various aspects of the organisation of the North Atlantic Treaty of Defence, and no doubt when that is laid before Parliament the matter of Debate could be raised again. With regard to the second part of the supplementary question, we take every available opportunity, of course, for dealing with such questions as the hon. Member has raised, but I am not at liberty to disclose what was discussed.

Mr. Chamberlain

Was the regional set-up of the organisation considered with a view to the maximum economy?

Mr. Alexander

Certainly, Sir, in relation to the building up of an efficient defence of the whole integrated area.

Brigadier Head

May we expect the White Paper before the end of this Session?

Mr. Alexander

As the end of this Session is so near, I would rather look at that question in detail.

Mr. Scollan

Did the Minister's reply to the original Questions mean that the House could ask for information, which might be laid before it subject to certain commitments; and does that mean that there are certain clauses in the agreements which could not be put before the House?

Mr. Alexander

That was not intended. We shall give full particulars of the organisation as such. What I said was that there are certain matters arising in a general international defence body of this kind engaged in regional defence planning that we might be under obligations not to reveal.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Field-Marshal Lord Montgomery has been addressing Press conferences and giving broadcasts in the United States of America on the obligations of this country under the Pact; and will the Minister tell us whether Lord Montgomery is correctly explaining the policy of the Government, and is he aware that this means a colossal increase in national expenditure?

Mr. Alexander

I have seen no report of anything said by the Field-Marshal with regard to the particular obligations of this country. Field-Marshal Montgomery was in America on a private trip in connection with the English Speaking Union. If there is anything in particular which has struck the hon. Member as something to which exception could be taken and he will let me have it, I will look into it.

Mr. Gallacher

He has said a lot of stupid things.