HC Deb 13 June 1956 vol 554 cc553-5
6. Mr. Healey

asked the Minister of Defence whether he will request the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Council to terminate the appointment of Field Marshal Lord Montgomery as Deputy Supreme Allied Commander on the grounds that his public statements are not compatible with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's policy.

Sir W. Monckton

I know of no grounds on which to make a request of the kind suggested by the hon. Member.

Mr. Healey

Is the Minister aware that the Field Marshal was widely reported as saying in Canada on 1st June that if anyone anywhere in the world started an aggression we should give them the works from the word go with atom bombs, hydrogen bombs, with the biggest thing we've got and with everything we've got "?

Hon. Members

Speech.

Mr. Healey

He added that he did not mind the consequences but would drop a bomb on anyone committing an aggression▀× Drop the biggest bomb you can and finish them off. He added that his political superiors probably would not agree. [HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."] In view of this would the Minister not agree▀×

Mr. Speaker

Order. This question is too long.

Mr. Healey

Would the Minister not agree that if the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander is to be allowed to get away with boasts of insubordination—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—and exhibitions of homicidal mania—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—the prestige of N.A.T.O. all over the world will be severely damaged?

Mr. Speaker

I draw the hon. Member's attention to the fact that this is Question Time, which we all share together, and that if speeches are made under the guise of supplementary questions other hon. Members will have their rights taken away from them.

Mr. Healey

On a point of order. The speech was made by Field Marshal Montgomery, not by me. I think that the House would feel it very unfair that I should make such serious charges without adducing some evidence in justification of them.

Hon. Members

No.

Mr. Speaker

I think myself that if the hon. Member will consider the point, he will find that the House will take a different view.

Mr. S. Silverman

Further to that point of order. May I ask your guidance, Mr. Speaker, about this quotation of speeches? My hon. Friend asked a question about what he alleged was a difference between statements made by the Field Marshal and the policy of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. The Minister's Answer was that he knew of no such difference. How else could my hon. Friend have pointed out the difference, without quoting the speech?

Mr. Speaker

To follow the course which the hon. Member followed was to indulge in debate at Question Time, and these are two different things. If the hon. Member wishes to pursue the matter he should seize an opportunity in debate, and not take away the time for Questions.

Mr. Rankin

Further to that point of order. Is it not quite usual to make a quotation when advancing a supplementary question?

Mr. Speaker

Not at such length.

Mr. Shinwell

May I ask the Minister —to take a quite opposite point of view from that expressed by my hon. Friend —whether he is aware that the declaration to use "everything we have got," meaning by that the use of nuclear weapons, in the event of wholesale aggression against the West, is not only the declared policy of the Government, but has been accepted in principle by the Labour Party? Is it not time, leaving aside the merits of some of the speeches made by the Field Marshal, that we stopped attacking one who is a fine soldier and an honourable man?

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Stokes

Before the Minister gives an answer to that question, may I ask him whether he will take the trouble to embody in it an answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) at the same time?

Sir W. Monckton

I am seizing the first opportunity of doing so. I had not seen the full text of the Field Marshal's remarks. They seem to have been made impromptu, if they are correctly reported, at a Press conference, but from the Press reports it seems quite clear that he was merely emphasising the supreme importance of the nuclear deterrent. As I said myself in the recent defence debate, we shall never be the aggressors, but others must be deterred from risking aggression against us by the sure knowledge of the overwhelming retaliation which they will receive in return. [HON.MEMBERS: "Speech."] It has been made abundantly clear by N.A.T.O.—and the Field Marshal himself specifically referred to this—that the decision to use nuclear weapons rests with the political authorities, and so it does.