HC Deb 07 May 1952 vol 500 cc377-80
31. Mr. Bence

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has considered the Order of the Day, approved by the French National Assembly of 19th February, 1952, and referred to in Command Paper No. 8492, which declares that the French contingents available in Europe, and put at the disposal of the European Defence Community, should at all times be at least equal to those of any other member of the Defence Community, and should not exceed France's financial or manpower capacity; and what instructions have been given to Her Majesty's representatives taking part in the joint negotiations on the implementation of these conditions.

Mr. Eden

I am aware of the recommendation of the French National Assembly to which the hon. Member refers. The size and scope of the German armed contribution to the European Defence Community in relation to contributions by other countries who will be members of the Community is being discussed in the Paris Conference at which Her Majesty's Government are represented by an observer. The question of sending instructions to Her Majesty's Government's representative does not, therefore, arise.

Mr. Bence

Will the right hon. Gentleman give us an assurance that the Government will support the French National Assembly in its request that the French armed forces shall be superior to the German armed forces?

Mr. Eden

That is primarily a point for the French Government. According to my present information, the proposals of the Paris Conference will effectively meet what the French Government desire.

48. Mr. I. Mikardo

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will instruct the British representative at the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to urge upon the United States Government the desirability of equipping the six French divisions, which have no arms, before arming any German forces.

Mr. Eden

No, Sir. The supply of American equipment to French forces is a matter for agreement between the French and United States Governments.

Mr. Dalton

Does not the right hon. Gentleman accept the principle that the re-armament of France should precede the re-armament of Germany?

Mr. Eden

Yes, Sir. I do accept it, but I think that it is a matter that the French Government can be left to handle with the American Government themselves.

Mr. Mikardo

Surely it is important to Her Majesty's Government as well, because if the Germans are re-armed before the French no one in the world will believe the story that the E.D.C. is anything but a facade and a cover for German re-armament?

Mr. Eden

The hon. Gentleman must be aware that there can be no German re-armament at all until the E.D.C. negotiations are concluded, in which the French are the principal participating party, so I do not think that his supplementary has any foundation in fact at all.

Mr. Shinwell

While the right hon. Gentleman is quite right in stating that this is a matter between the French Government and the United States Government, will he not agree that it is exceedingly important that the French divisions should be equipped as speedily as possible?

Mr. Eden

Yes, Sir; indeed I agree. There is, of course, a bilateral arrangement in existence between the French and United States Governments, and we naturally wish it to take place at the most rapid pace possible. However, I must maintain that it is the responsibility of the British Foreign Secretary to reply for British foreign policy and not for that of our Allies, however intimate they may be.

Mr. F. M. Bennett

In view of the basic divergence of opinion on every single aspect of foreign policy among the Opposition which has been revealed today, will my right hon. Friend consider lending them a co-ordinating Minister?