HC Deb 19 May 1952 vol 501 cc31-3
47. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Prime Minister whether Her Majesty's Government intend to continue the Anglo-American bases in East Anglia, in view of the fact that their presence renders this country specially liable for the counter attention of the other side.

The Prime Minister

As I stated in the House on 21st November, 1951, certain bases and facilities in the United Kingdom were made available by the late Government to the United States Air Force for the common defence of the United Kingdom and the other countries who are parties to the North Atlantic Treaty. This arrangement will continue so long as it is needed in the general interest of world peace and security.

Mr. Henderson

In view of the Prime Minister's reply, can he say why he persistently reiterates that the responsibility for establishing these bases rests upon the late Government, while, in the same context, drawing attention to the additional dangers involved in the retention of these air bases? Is the Prime Minister not aware of the risk of increasing alarm and despondency in order to score a cheap party point off the Opposition?

The Prime Minister

I have repeatedly said that we supported the late Government in the decision which they took, and we shall certainly stand by our share of the risks. It is only when the Opposition appear to show signs of total irresponsibility in regard to these matters that it is sometimes necessary to remind them of the serious position of the country.

Mr. J. Paton

Is the Prime Minister aware that the people of East Anglia would be very glad to see the last of these arrangements?

The Prime Minister

That is a view which is held by an important section of the Opposition below the Gangway, but it is not the policy which the Labour Government pursued in office nor, I believe, is it the policy which its responsible Members will pursue even though they are now in opposition.

Mr. Noel-Baker

In other words, may we assume that the Prime Minister fully supports the policy of the late Government in building up collective security by the exchange of defence requirements as the basic method of preventing war and thereby ensuring the safety of all peoples?

The Prime Minister

That is all very nicely put, and I do not dissent from anything in it. At the same time, I think people should face facts, and that is all I have assisted them to do.

Major Legge-Bourke

Will the Prime Minister bear in mind that the right hon. and learned Gentleman who put down the Question himself went to one of these aerodromes and welcomed the bombers?

Mr. A. Henderson

Is not the Prime Minister fully aware that I did not put down the Question because I have changed my view, but because I thought he has unnecessarily reproached the late Government for doing something of which he approved?

The Prime Minister

I assure the right hon. and learned Gentleman that I did not mean to reproach. I meant to inculculate upon the Opposition the feeling that they also have a continuing responsibility.