HC Deb 11 April 1951 vol 486 cc1020-1
50. Commander Noble

asked the Minister of Defence what organisation exists to enable Commonwealth and Atlantic Pact countries to decide the relative contributions to their mutual defence effort in different areas throughout the world.

Mr. Shinwell

There is no formal organisation covering the whole field described in the hon. and gallant Member's Question. Naturally, however, these matters are the subject of consultations both among the North Atlantic Treaty countries and within the Commonwealth.

Commander Noble

Does not the Minister consider it would be better if there were some organisation like this similar to the Combined Chiefs of Staff in the last war, which could decide what effort those countries should be prepared to make in various parts of the world?

Mr. Shinwell

So far as the North Atlantic Treaty area is concerned, there is, of course, adequate machinery for the purpose in the Standing Group and the Military Committee which consists of Chiefs of Staff. But as regards the wider consideration implied in the Question, it is considered that the time is not ripe for such a development. At the same time, there is nothing to preclude either the United Kingdom Government or any of the other governments concerned with the North Atlantic Treaty organisation from promoting conversations with other countries outside the North Atlantic Treaty area.

Brigadier Head

Does not the Minister think that, in view of the present situation in the Middle East and the Far East, and of the necessity for protecting Western Europe, the conflict between those two requirements can never be properly resolved unless some such organisation is created?

Mr. Shinwell

I beg the hon. and gallant Member not to assume that there are no conversations on the subject of Middle East defence between ourselves and other countries; nor must he assume that, although the North Atlantic Treaty organisation appears, for the time being, to be a closed shop, we are precluded from having conversations affecting the Middle East.

Mr. P. Smithers

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that conversations on these matters are not enough? Will he investigate the possibility of setting up proper standing machinery to make sure that at least the Commonwealth and the United States are able to maintain a common viewpoint and policy?

Mr. Shinwell

Obviously, these considerations are present in our minds. As the hon. Member will agree, it is desirable to have conversations preceding the promotion of an organisation.