HC Deb 21 April 1952 vol 499 cc21-30
41. Mr. E. Fletcher

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what conditions will be attached to the guarantee being offered by Her Majesty's Government to Western Germany.

42. Mr. Fitzroy Maclean

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a further statement on the guarantee by Her Majesty's Government to the six Western European Governments forming the European Defence Community in the event of an armed attack on any one of them.

Mr. Eden

Since the reply is inevitably rather long, I think it would be for the convenience of the House if, with your permission, Sir, I were to give it at the end of Questions.

At the end of Questions

Mr. Eden

The House will have seen the White Paper published last Wednesday on the relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Defence Community. Her Majesty's Government have on several occasions indicated their special interest in the E.D.C. and their intention to associate the United Kingdom as closely as possible with it in all stages of its political and military development.

On 5th February, I told the House of our wish to maintain close consultation on problems of common interest with the Community and of the ways in which our forces on the Continent could be linked with the E.D.C forces. The Minister of Defence will shortly be discussing these matters with his French colleague, M. Pleven. I also spoke of our resolve to maintain Armed Forces on the Continent of Europe as long as is necessary.

On 28th February, I told the House of the arrangement agreed at Lisbon for linking the E.D.C. with N.A.T.O., that the members of both organisations should be reciprocally bound by the obligations laid down in the North Atlantic Treaty and that there should be joint meetings of the two Councils. On 24th March I described to the House our proposals for the future of the Council of Europe. The arrangements we propose would enable those members of the Council of Europe who so desire to keep in continuous contact with the political organs of the E.D.C. during its development. We shall of course make full use of that opportunity. In these various ways it seemed to us that provision had been made for very close relations between the United Kingdom and the E.D.C.

On 14th March, however, the E.D.C. Conference invited Her Majesty's Government to enter into a formal treaty relationship with the Community. In particular they asked that such an agreement should include a reciprocal undertaking to render military assistance in the event of attack on the lines of the provisions of Article IV of the Brussels Treaty. Her Majesty's Government gave careful thought to this request and came to the conclusion that they could enter into such a relationship. I therefore sent the Conference a draft of the substantive clauses for an agreement. This draft is set out in the White Paper.

The effect of the proposal is that our commitment to provide assistance, including military assistance, in the event of attack, to France, Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg is now extended to all the members of the E.D.C. and to the European Defence Forces.

In return, if we are attacked, we will receive automatic military assistance from all members of the E.D.C. and its Forces. The commitments on both sides last as long as we are members of the North Atlantic Treaty.

This proposal is, of course, in no way in conflict with our obligations under the North Atlantic Treaty. The defence system in Europe will continue to be based upon that Treaty. Germany, though not a member of N.A.T.O., will participate in Western defence through her membership of the E.D.C., which will be linked with N.A.T.O. in the manner agreed at Lisbon.

This new proposal of ours weaves naturally into this pattern. The members of the E.D.C. wished to have a clear expression of our position. We have met their request and agreed to state clearly and unequivocally that if they are attacked in Europe, we shall afford them all the military and other aid and assistance in our power.

In return we receive a reciprocal undertaking from them. Thus, if we are attacked, we are assured of automatic assistance not only from our Brussels partners but from the other E.D.C. members as well and from the European Defence Forces as a whole.

The House will note that we thus obtain an undertaking from the Federal Republic of Germany. At present we have an obligation under the Tripartite Security Guarantee of September, 1950, to treat an attack upon the Federal Republic or Berlin as an attack upon us, but the Federal Republic has no reciprocal obligation.

The British proposal has been enthusiastically received by the countries concerned. This is demonstrated by the statement issued by the E.D.C. Governments on 16th April, in which the proposal was "welcomed with great satisfaction." We have here established a formal and special relationship between the United Kingdom and the E.D.C. This clearly shows that, although we cannot actually join that Community, we are linked with its fortune and stand at its side.

Mr. Attlee

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman two questions? Is this agreement, which seems to be generally in line with the obligations we have undertaken under N.A.T.O., E.D.C. and our occupation, going to be made into a formal treaty, and will it be submitted to the House for ratification? I should also like to ask him whether the United States of America is taking any action at all on parallel lines in support of the E.D.C.?

Mr. Eden

I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for those two questions. This offer—it is an offer of an undertaking, and we have submitted our own draft—does not, of course, come into force until after the general agreements on the E.D.C. and on the German contractural obligations are signed and ratified, and, of course, the House will have an opportunity for discussion before that occurs. Regarding the second point about the United States, the right hon. Gentleman may remember that, in our declaration at Lisbon last February, the American Government said that they would consult with us and with the French Government in order to find appropriate means of giving the Community co-operation and support, and consultation between the U.S. Government and ourselves to give effect to the Lisbon communiqué is now proceeding.

Mr. E. Shinwell

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman how it is proposed to implement such an agreement without a guarantee from the United States that they would render assistance in the event of an attack? Does the right hon. Gentleman really believe that, in the foreseeable future, the E.D.C. could resist an attack from any quarter without assistance from the United States?

Mr. Eden

Surely, the right hon. Gentleman should know, if anybody does, that these E.D.C. obligations are all linked to the obligations under N.A.T.O., and that the two work closely together.

Mr. Shinwell

But this is something quite distinct, is it not, from the N.A.T.O. understanding that, in the event of an attack on any of the member States associated with N.A.T.O., the whole of the N.A.T.O. Forces, including the United States and Canada, would render assistance? This is something quite different. It is confined, is it not, to the six countries associated with the E.D.C., none of which is capable of resisting an attack from any quarter in the present situation or in the foreseeable future? I ask the right hon. Gentleman how does he propose that this agreement should be actually and practically implemented without assistance from the United States?

Mr. Eden

The right hon. Gentleman knows full well, of course, that the obligations under N.A.T.O. are shared by the United States and Canada and the N.A.T.O. Powers.

Mr. Shinwell

That has nothing to do with the E.D.C.

Mr. Eden

It has everything to do with it, and the right hon. Gentleman, having been Minister of Defence, should know that. Both the Defence Community and the N.A.T.O. arrangements are most closely linked through half-a-dozen different arrangements.

Mr. E. Fletcher

May I ask the Foreign Secretary if he will clarify two points on this very remarkable commitment? First of all, with regard to the United States, would the Foreign Secretary make it clear whether or not this new commitment is dependent upon the United States being bound by a similar commitment, or is it independent of what the position of the United States may be? Secondly, may I ask him whether this new commitment is in any way dependent upon what may be the future position of Western Germany? Is it dependent upon the creation or size of any particular Western German Army, or upon the future complexion of the Western German State?

Mr. Eden

Of course, the whole of these arrangements are entirely dependent, as I have already explained, in response to the Leader of the Opposition, on agreements being reached between the E.D.C. countries and ourselves about the German contribution and about German contractual obligations, and the whole of these things go together. What these European countries asked for from us was this particular undertaking, which seemed to us reasonable and not greatly to extend our commitments as they stand under N.A.T.O.

Mr. Clement Davies

With regard to the position of the United States, may I ask the Foreign Secretary whether the members of the Commonwealth have been fully informed on this matter?

Mr. Eden

That is so, at every stage of these discussions.

Mr. Woodrow Wyatt

Could the right hon. Gentleman say what is now the position of Berlin, because Berlin is not a part of the German Federal Republic, and the people there are very alarmed because they think our previous obligation to defend Berlin if attacked is now removed by a lesser obligation under the E.D.C., which is only to defend the West German Republic?

Mr. Eden

The hon. Gentleman is quite right. Berlin is in a special position because the French troops in Berlin do not form part of their proposed E.D.C. forces, but our undertaking to Berlin, as given in 1950, still stands in its entirety.

Mr. Patrick Maitland

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether it is not the case that these new commitments stem directly from those undertaken under the Brussels Treaty, and that we could not possibly avoid doing anything other than this?

Mr. Eden

I think they underline the position more clearly, and that is a gain to everybody concerned.

Mr. S. Silverman

The right hon. Gentleman, when he read his carefully prepared statement, used the word Germany without qualification. May I ask him whether or not he intended to refer, as we all no doubt imagined, to Western Germany, and whether, in that case, this whole statement is not based on the presumption that there can be no unification of Germany within the immediate or foreseeable future?

Mr. Eden

No, Sir. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will consider the importance of the broader grounds of the question he has just raised. We hope there will be a unified Germany within a free Western Europe, and we do not hold that a unified Germany must be tied to Communism and the East.

Mr. Silverman

That is a silly reply.

Mr. Eden

Then the hon. Gentleman should clarify his question.

Mr. Aneurin Bevan

It has been extremely difficult to follow the right hon. Gentleman, because, whenever he has been asked whether the United States is involved in this new commitment, he has said that the United States is involved in N.A.T.O. and that N.A.T.O. is the larger, embracing the lesser, in which case it is very difficult to understand what additional commitment has been made, except that—and this is the main point of my question—if we are to have a reciprocal guarantee between ourselves and Western Germany, it would appear to be logical that we should at once proceed to re-arm Western Germany, because the significance of the new commitment is that it is an obvious device to make the re-armament of Western Germany more logical?

Mr. Eden

I ask the House to believe that this is not a device at all. It is an attempt to contribute to a settlement of the European situation, and it is a completely logical consequence of the clear policy pursued by the right hon. Gentleman when he was a Member of the Government Front Bench. I would only add, as far as the United States is concerned, that clearly, the United States Government must speak for itself and make their own statements about their own commitments; but, as I said in reply to the Leader of the Opposition, and I hoped I had made it clear, the position of the United States and what it might be willing to say to us in respect of these arrangements with the E.D.C. countries is a matter which is now under discussion. Beyond that, I cannot go at the present time.

Mr. Shinwell

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for this latter statement. Does it not mean that the United States Government have not committed themselves, otherwise than through N.A.T.O.—not through the E.D.C. treaty—to go to the assistance of any of the six member countries of the E.D.C. and that, so far, the United States has not agreed to give any commitment?

Mr. Eden

It is true that the commitments of the United States are under N.A.T.O. and United Nations obligations, and it is also true that the question whether anything further is to be said by the United States Government is a matter for them. I have indicated that the matter has been and is under discussion, and, therefore, I cannot say more.

Mr. F. Maclean

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Government's decision to give this guarantee has already done a very great deal to restore confidence in Europe, and represents a remarkable contribution towards a peaceful solution?

Mr. Eden

I have noticed that every single Government in Europe of whatever political complexion has most warmly welcomed this proposal, and I hope that the House will also feel that it is a contribution to peace.

Mr. James H. Hoy

Arising from that last answer, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether this announcement means that these proposals supersede the Prime Minister's proposals at Strasbourg for a European Army with a European Minister of Defence?

Mr. Eden

These proposals in themselves supersede nothing. They can only come into force when the European Defence Community arrangements and contractual arrangements with Germany are finally settled, which they are not yet.

Mr. Hoy

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether the Prime Minister's original proposals still stand, and, if so, will they have the backing of the Government or not?

Mr. Eden

That question is not at all related to what I have said.

Mr. Speaker

This is becoming a foreign affairs debate.

Mr. S. Silverman

On a point of order. You may have heard, Mr. Speaker, that in response to a remark of mine, the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary invited a further clarification of the not unimportant question I asked him. In those circumstances, may I ask your indulgence, Sir, in clarifying the question which the right hon. Gentleman asked to have clarified?

Mr. Speaker

I heard some sort of disorderly exchange between the hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Gentleman. If it would clarify the matter, the hon. Member may put his question.

Mr. Silverman

Will the right hon. Gentleman not concede that there is conceivable—I do not put it in any other way than that—a united Germany neither wholly dependent on the West nor on anyone else, and that proposals to that purpose have from time to time been made? Does not the right hon. Gentleman's statement and this whole plan presuppose that such a solution of the German problem has been treated by the Government and by N.A.T.O. as either wholly unattainable or as undesirable?

Mr. Eden

No, Sir. It is neither unattainable nor undesirable in our view that there should be a united Germany, but we do not see anything inconsistent in desiring a united Germany and in seeking to work with the Federal Republic, which is free and able to act as it wishes.

Mr. A. Fenner Brockway

On a point of order. You made a remark, Mr. Speaker, that this was developing into a debate. May I ask you, Sir, what opportunity we shall have to debate the question which is now before the House?

Mr. Speaker

That is not a point of order, nor is it a point for me to decide. If the question of a foreign affairs debate is exciting the interest of the House, then it is usual for an opportunity to be arranged through the usual channels.

Mr. Bevan

On a point of order, or on a point of explanation, anyhow. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am entitled to ask Mr. Speaker for a point of explanation. Hon. Members opposite always intervene in respect of that on which Mr. Speaker guides the House quite frequently. Either the statement made today is extremely serious or it means nothing. May I, therefore, through you, Sir, suggest through the usual channels that we have an early opportunity for debating the matter in this House?

Mr. Leslie Hale

On a point of order. In the course of these questions, there has been put to the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary on five separate occasions a vital point which can involve many hundreds of thousands of British lives. Quite simply it is whether the United States is committed to this, or, if not, whether we are if the United States refuses to be. May I respectfully submit to you, therefore, Mr. Speaker, that in terminating the questions on this matter before any answer has been received to that point the House is being deprived of vital information. As I have said, the question was addressed to the right hon. Gentleman by four or five hon. Members on this side of the House, and, surely, I am entitled respectfully to submit to you, Sir, that that question ought to be allowed to be put once more by somebody who has risen many times during this discussion but who has not had the opportunity of putting it?

Mr. Speaker

In answer to that point of order, I heard the question asked and answered. Whether the answer is unsatisfactory to the hon. Gentleman has nothing to do with me.