§ 11.10 a.m.
§ Sir James Hutchison (Glasgow, Scotstoun)
I am greatly indebted for this chance, even in the expiring hours of what has been a rather gruelling Session, to raise the question of Western European Union Assembly, the only body which is an international forum for debating questions of defence. I know that hon. Members' minds are turning towards lighter things now, but perhaps those present will be able to call up that little extra stamina which will allow them to follow the rather complicated problems that Western European Union has been presenting.
The most satisfactory way of presenting the problems of Western European Union at this time would be to draw the attention of the House to a series of Recommendations which came forth from Western European Union the last time it met. They have been sent through to all the Governments concerned and I believe that debates of this kind on these recommendations will be taking place, or have taken place, in the Parliaments of the other signatory Powers to Western European Union.
If I may, for a moment, briefly sketch the Recommendations 8 to 12, and give the House an impression only of what they contain, I think that it would be the simplest way of showing the problems with which we are concerned at present. Recommendation 8, which is popularly known as the Fens Report, is a most far-reaching document. It calls, among other things, for no reduction of the 30 divisions, which was the target N.A.T.O. set for the Western forces; for a strategic striking force; for no further reduction of ground forces, which are already considered too weak for that task; for the need to have tactical atomic weapons in the hands of all the component nations' troops; for the standardisation of equipment; for more mobile divisions than we have had in the past; and that there should be a minimum period agreed for compulsory military service in those countries which have compulsory military service. That is strong meat, and perhaps further comment will be made on these points later in the debate.
1663 Only this morning I received a series of replies from the Council of Ministers, which is, of course, our channel with the Governments concerned on these Recommendations. It is understandable, because it contains very complicated questions, that so far the Council has not replied to Recommendation 8. Recommendation 9 calls for information on defence matters supplied in any of the Parliaments of the constituent members to be collated by the Council of Ministers and supplied to the Assembly and to the Assembly's Defence Committee. I am glad to say that among the replies there is what appears to be at first examination a satisfactory answer to this recommendation.
Recommendation 10 calls for joint production and research on guided missiles, the very theme to which we have just been listening in questions and answers this morning. If guided missiles become the subject of a disarmament agreement and are either controlled or abolished, all this Recommendation, of course, falls to the ground, but we are some way off being able to do without them. I propose to return in greater detail to the question of guided missiles later.
Recommendation 11 deals with the future rôle of Western European Union, especially in co-ordinating policy in the political field, and makes comments on recommendations in future on economic, cultural, legal and social matters. Recommendation 12 deals with the question of liaison between Western European Union and the new economic assembly which it is proposed to set up when the Common Market comes into force. Therefore, that is a very wide area. No one could expect that all these matters could possibly be treated in the course of an Adjournment debate, but some of them should be ventilated.
First, there is the question of the general treatment of the Assembly and its Recommendations. Ministers and Governments should realise, and, I think, are increasingly starting to realise, that these Recommendations are not put forward light-heartedly. They are the product of considerable thought and should be treated as such. It should be remembered that Western European Assembly is the watchdog on the general 1664 question of the defence of the West. It has been universally agreed that in the democratic conception of things the value of public opinion is very great.
Public opinion is able to learn, or is best able to learn, of what is going on in these matters only if there is a public forum, a Parliament in which these questions can be discussed and can be publicised and to which the public can go and listen. Therefore, Western European Assembly fulfils an important rôle, recognised by Governments as being important and laid down in the Treaty in that way.
I wonder, particularly, whether the Fens Report has ever been sent on to N.A.T.O. Until recently it had not. N.A.T.O. is, of course, closely and intimately concerned in the sort of questions raised and Recommendations set forth in that document. It shows a flippancy if this document, prepared with great thought and the expenditure of a great deal of time by the Governments concerned, through the Council of Ministers, has been merely allowed to lie on the table and has not been sent to the organisation which, quite clearly, had a close interest in what it contains and of which the document is in places quite critical. I hope that such a waste of time as that represents is not taking place and that these Recommendations will be given their proper value.
If, as I dare say is the case, some of the things said in these Recommendations may be inaccurate in part, I can only retort that such inaccuracies as there are are almost certainly the product of lack of information. We in the Assembly have been striving, through the usual channels, to get information and, by going into the highways and byways, to bring ourselves up-to-date. N.A.T.O. is brimming with information on defence and military questions, but we have no direct contact with N.A.T.O. In anything that we wish to obtain, we have to move through the Council of Ministers, which, in turn, claims that it is not responsible to us but to its own Governments.
Lack of information can have serious effects. First, it sets up a sense of frustration and a waste of time among those seeking to do a good job. It can do more. Because we have a public opinion that listens to us occasionally, it may give rise to misleading and even damaging 1665 reports. Therefore, in the interests of all the Governments concerned, it is of the greatest importance that until the Assembly is muzzled and abandoned it should have information to arrive at accurate conclusions.
I am bound to say that, hitherto, we have had something of the impression of being a collection of children playing a game before their tolerant elders. That situation is not only derogatory and frustrating, but it is contrary to the treaties. It cannot continue and I believe, to do them justice, that the Government do not want it to continue and realise the situation that has arisen. So, either a change must take place in the method of supplying information, or else the Western European Assembly ought to be disbanded.
I will now turn for a moment to the details of Recommendation 10, on the question of guided missiles. This question is linked closely with that of standardisation of armaments, of engines of war and of supplies of war. Unless we get, as we hope we will, some control of the use of guided missiles, or their abandonment, we must recognise that the guided missile looks like being an important weapon of the future, whether long range or short range, and that it will probably displace fighter aircraft and may displace bomber aircraft.
The standardisation of weapons of this kind so as to avoid waste of scientific brain power and of money is of immense importance. I have already told the House of the example which Western European Union Defence Committee encountered when visiting a French establishment. There, the Committee saw a guided missile which seemed to be extremely close to, if not identical with, the guided missile which I had seen being produced in this country three and a half years before. When asked what it had cost the French establishment to develop this missile, they said the equivalent of £10 million. When asked if there had been any consultation on whether another airline was producing the same weapon, they said that there had been no consultation. That example underlines once again the waste of effort and money that is going on, and is a clear advocacy of the need for standardisation.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence, speaking in this House after his 1666 return from a visit to the United States of America, used the following words:I should like to emphasise that the acceptance of the American offer does not mean that Britain is going out of the rocket business.Of course, rocket and guided missiles are in the same family.It will, however, enable us to concentrate work in collaboration with the Americans, on, the development of more advanced types."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th April, 1957; Vol. 568, c. 1765.]That is not only sensible and efficient, but it is being forced on us. There cannot be any nation, I believe, not even the United States of America, which will be able to face the cost of the needs of scientific manpower for developing all the guided missiles at present under contemplation.
I ask my hon. Friend who is to reply to this debate the following question, which I have asked at Strasbourg. What did the American offer include? I do not suppose that he is able to give us security details, and I ant not asking for them. But what I want to know is whether it is contemplated that this joint effort should go further. Did we parcel out with the United States of America the area of investigation as between them and ourselves? Or was it the intention that whatever area was left to us to develop, if the agreement moved in that direction, it should be shared with other European nations or that we should bear our own cost of the burden of research and development?
As I have said, standardisation is linked with the guided missile question, and standardisation is of immense importance. It is desirable wherever it can be achieved, on existing plant and future plant equally. The House has only to think for a moment to realise the economy in manufacturing costs if one starts to standardise. There is the advantage of interchangeability between the forces of one nation and those of another whose supply line may be knocked out and that nation deprived of some part of its weapons of war, guns or tanks.
If it could draw on the supplies of the adjoining nation, which it cannot do now in most cases, this would make for a tremendous increase in efficiency. It would also make for increased efficiency in what are known as logistics, supply lines, which at present each nation must 1667 have separately, because each is supplied with different foods, medical stores, engines of war, and so on. To have these parallel lines of supply, when they could be correlated and reduced, is inefficient.
On the guided missiles themselves and the vexed and complicated question of standardisation, let us see how big an area we are trying to tackle. The Standing Armaments Committee set up under Western European Union, and concerned primarily with the question of standardisation, has realised that little progress is likely on weapons and supplies already in the hands of nations. They are obviously unwilling to abandon what they have already developed and spent money on, and consequently it is concentrating its efforts upon future engines of war. The most obvious future engine of war is the guided missile, so let us look at that for a moment.
First, there are various types of guided missiles—ground to ground, ground to air, sea to air and air to air. So we start with four completely different families with completely different characteristics. As regards propulsion there is a choice between solid fuel, liquid fuel, gas turbine and ram jet. So, once again, we are widening the area. In the matter of control of the missile once launched, there are no less than 12 major systems to choose from. Finally, in the range of the missile, there is a difference of anything between 20 miles and 5,000 miles. If hon. Members care to work out the permutations and combinations that this represents, they will at once see that it opens an immense area.
I have started by presuming that all these weapons are designed to carry nuclear warheads if so required and if not banned by a disarmament treaty. This underlines once again the importance of some testing, because it is no use having a weapon with a range and characteristic which one thinks will work out but which one has never been able to test. It will be seen at once how easy is overlapping of effort in so vast an area.
I think that the Government are taking steps in the direction of trying to parcel out areas of research and production as between ourselves and other Western European nations. Indeed, this is shown by the replies I have had to some of our 1668 Recommendations. What we must realise, however, is that if we are to make any progress there we shall need to be much more frank in our disclosure of scientific progress than we have been up to now.
We have spent three times as much money on the development of guided missiles as has France, and much more still than has any of the other European nations. I think it is fair that we should claim in this attempt to pool our efforts that we should get some reward. We should in some way recover what we have been spending over so many years. That recovery might be in comparable research supplied by another nation, it might be a payment in cash, or it might be under a licensing system for another nation to manufacture the products that we have designed.
Whichever of these recompenses for our years of study is decided upon, and they would be different in different cases, we must be prepared to disclose within the limits of security much more than we have ever been prepared to do in the past. My impression is that all the Services over-insure in the matter of security. It is understandable enough. They do not want to be criticised and rapped over the knuckles because something has leaked out, for they get no benefit from the disclosure, and, indeed, it makes their position rather more difficult.
But where the enemy has information, or where it is obvious that it could easily have it, the attitude which has been adopted about security in the Services, that one should nevertheless not make disclosures because one should never make it easy for the enemy to collect his information, is carrying it too far. It is a theory which could be crippling to all this endeavour to co-ordinate with our allies.
This attitude of mind must be changed, and I believe that it is being changed. I think it is becoming realised that we shall never be able to get co-ordinated effort unless we are prepared to disclose a great deal of what we have discovered. Surely that is logical enough. After all, are we not at present relying not so much on fighting and winning a war as deterring a war? The whole of our policy is built up on the policy of a deterrent. A deterrent is not a deterrent unless its power to deter is disclosed. It is no good 1669 saying to the enemy, "I have something up my sleeve which will knock you sideways if you start any nonsense." We have to pull up our sleeves and show the enemy what we have, and we must be able to show that it can work. Hence, once again, the importance of tests.
It is curious how in times of peace things do not progress in exactly the same way as they do in war. There develops a sort of simultaneity of discovery. Although one tries to hide oneself behind a curtain of secrecy, one finds that other nations are doing much the same work as one is doing and arriving almost at the same speed at very nearly the same results. The House will remember how we thought, just after the war, that we should have a very much bigger lead and advantage with the atom bomb than we turned out to have. We thought the Russians would not discover how to work the hydrogen bomb until much later than they did. I know we were surprised by the efficiency of their MIGs when they appeared in the Korean War and later.
So we must put some of our weapons in the shop window. It is consonant with the policy of deterring and it is the reasonable way to make available to our allies the progress which we have been able to achieve. We must put these weapons in the shop window and offer them for sale. Until that happens, we cannot really evolve a proper system for allocation of production and research.
I am glad to hear that progress is again being made along these lines, and that at Farnborough some of these more recent discoveries of ours will be on show and that they are now available for sale to our allies. They include the Fire-flash and the Firestreak, air-to-air guided missiles with homing devices on to the enemy aircraft, and the Bloodhound and Thunderbird, which are surface-to-air guided missiles with intricate radar tracking devices. That is a step forward.
I hope that our allies will take advantage of them and that they will be able to purchase these engines of war for which they have been asking for a long time. I think it will interest the House to know that these are all produced by private firms in this country which are financed by the Ministry of Supply up to the prototype stage and then all the conducting of negotiations and the sales pro- 1670 gramme is carried out by the private firms.
Perhaps my hon. Friend will let us know what the area left to Britain as compared with the United States is to be. Is it the case that the inter-continental ballistic missile, the missile with a range of about 5,000 miles, will not be developed by us at all, and that it will be developed only in the United States? I hope that is so, because it seems a reasonable allocation of responsibility.
What area is to be left to France and Germany? I understand that a bilateral steering committee has been set up between ourselves and France, and that is certainly a step forward. I believe that a bilateral steering committee with Germany will also function. I should like to know whether the steering committees will try to discover and set aside an area of research as between those three nations—Western Germany, France and ourselves. They are, I believe, to tackle the question project by project, and I think that is very wise. It is too difficult to try to discover a whole area, such as ground to air, and say to France, "You will look after ground to air, and we will look after ground to ground."
There is one thing that we must realise. If we are to rely on each other for a weapon or a family of weapons, it means that we are taking some risk. An ally might not be getting on with the work, or one might think that the other was not functioning property. Therefore, it must lead to some form of international inspection and control.
I realise that once one has abandoned research on some weapon or family of weapons, it is very hard to restart it. Once one has handed it away and finds that an ally is not carrying out the task properly, it may take one many years to restart the research. However, I maintain that that risk is inevitable, for no one country can face the appalling cost which would be represented by its trying to keep pace with others in that immense range of weapons of the greatest importance to the defence of the West which guided missiles represent. Thus, until we obtain a disarmament agreement on guided missiles or a general disarmament agreement, I believe we must take that risk.
§ 11.39 a.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Younger (Grimsby)
The House should be grateful to the hon. Member for Scotstoun (Sir J. Hutchison)for raising the topic of Western European Union, which is not much discussed in our Parliament, or I believe, in most other Parliaments of the countries which are members of it. There are increasing numbers of Members of this House and of Parliaments in Europe who are spending increasing numbers of days per year at Western European Union and other European bodies. However, I am bound to say that the impact of what has been done by them at Strasbourg and elsewhere is not very great outside. One gets the impression of a small European club of Parliamentarians who have attended these meetings and who are interested in the subject, while those who have not been there regard the whole matter with the greatest possible scepticism.
The hon. Baronet holds an eminent position as President of the Assembly of Western European Union and is "an old hand". In the opening of his remarks, he expressed a good deal of the sense of frustration which is prevalent in Western European Union. I come to this subject entirely new. I went to the Assembly for the first time this spring, and I have attended a couple of committee meetings since. My fresh view, without any past background, reinforces what the hon. Baronet has said, and perhaps my impression of frustration may be even sharper than his, since he has become somewhat accustomed to it.
The first thing I want to get from the Joint Under-Secretary, if he can give it, is some statement about Her Majesty's Government attitude in general to this organisation. We all recollect that it came into existence for what I might call ad hoc reasons. It was, in fact, an emergency creation when E.D.C. failed and some arrangement had to be made for regulating the position of Germany in relation to N.A.T.O. Although it had that immediate and, perhaps, temporary purpose, the form of the Treaty made it look rather permanent and much was said to indicate to Europeans and others that it was regarded as an important body. In politics, as in other matters, there is considerable danger in pretending to be what one is not.
1672 Since the creation of W.E.U., there has been a great deal of pretence about what W.E.U. really is. It started with a legacy from the Brussels Treaty, perhaps especially in economic, social and cultural matters. The Brussels Treaty was fairly active in some of those things. It is important that those activities should continue, but I shall not talk about them in detail now. I will say only that I doubt whether W.E.U. is the right heir to that sort of activity of the Brussels Treaty. The six countries of what is commonly known as "Little Europe," plus the United Kingdom, seem a rather inadequate membership for dealing with those topics. Nevertheless, the activities themselves certainly ought to continue in some framework or other.
The W.E.U. came into existence, as did the Brussels Treaty, primarily for defence reasons, and it is about defence that I intend to talk. I suppose that the main difficulty is the obvious one, that whereas the Brussels Treaty ante-dated N.A.T.O. and was, at the time of its creation, the only joint military body for planning Western European Defence, W.E.U. came into existence long after N.A.T.O. and there was inevitably a good deal of overlapping. Where there is overlapping, it is natural that Governments should choose to give N.A.T.O. priority.
Whatever rôle may be allotted to W.E.U., so long as it devotes itself to that rôle, and so long as people are invited to meet all over Europe and discuss these matters, it is important that it should be given a chance to play its rôle, however modest, in a proper and efficient way. There are perhaps two special features of W.E.U. which single it out from other bodies in Europe. The first is that it is the only defence body in Europe which has yet had a formal Parliamentary side to it. I know that in N.A.T.O. there is a body of Parliamentarians, but that is very much an embryo organisation, feeling its way in a modest and wisely modest manner. Today we have the Assembly of Western European Union, constituted soon after Western European Union came into existence, meeting frequently and regularly, with formal committees and so on. Secondly, this is the only European body which includes the Six plus the U.K. without also including members from across the Atlantic.
1673 Those are the two main things which single it out from other bodies. In passing, I should mention a third feature which was much publicised at the time of the Treaty, namely, that it would set up a body for the international control of armaments. In some of our discussions, for instance with the Soviet Union, it was pointed out that it was possibly a valuable pilot scheme from which we could learn what could be done in the way of international control.
If I do not talk about that today, it is only because in my short association with the body I have not had much opportunity to learn about that side of the work, but so far as I have learned anything about it, the activities of arms control seem to me to be somewhat vague and somewhat half-hearted. Nobody can take them very seriously as a pilot scheme for wider disarmament.
Looking at Europe as a whole and the numerous organisations there, one can say that only the organisations involving the Six are becoming really effective, starting with the Coal and Steel Community. If the Common Market and Euratom come into operation, its importance will be greatly increased. Those organisations in their own way are effective and are exercising an increasing influence upon the minds of the people of Europe. At the other end of the scale, we have two much wider organisations which can claim a measure of effectiveness, N.A.T.O. and O.E.E.C. The W.E.U. is placed in between them.
The questions we have to ask is whether there is a defence rôle for a body consisting of the six Western European countries plus the United Kingdom, but without the Transatlantic partners, and, secondly, whether there is a rôle for Parliaments in Western European defence. There is very little evidence that any of the Governments involved believe that there is an important rôle in either of those respects, either a rôle for this body of seven Powers, or a rôle for Parliaments. There are one or two fairly clear signs of that and I can give two from my own experience.
I shall quote the Fens Report to which the hon. Baronet referred. Paragraph 27 of that Report mentions that when the very important question of cuts in British forces came up there was no contact of 1674 any kind with the Parliamentary side of W.E.U. The Defence Committee, which according to some Parliamentary systems, although not to ours here, would expect to be consulted on such matters, was not consulted. So far as I know, it was not consulted on the proposals for changing the length of service in Belgium, or on any other national proposals for modifying defence programmes. The Committee was made to think that Governments did not have a rôle for it.
I have a recent and personal experience which adds to that. I attended a meeting of the Defence Committee in London only two or three weeks ago. It had been arranged that the Committee should meet representatives of the Council of Ministers to discuss questions which had arisen in the Assembly a few weeks before. On the first day here, the Committee met by itself and spent all day formulating the questions which it was to put to the representatives of the Council of Ministers the following day. We spent the whole of the second day being told by the representatives of the Council of Ministers either that the questions were wrongly addressed to them and were matters entirely for N.A.T.O., or that they had no mandate to deal with them and that in any case they had had no time to consider any of the questions which we were putting.
That was true in the sense that they had only just seen the precise questions, but it was not true in the sense that they had not had time to consider matters under discussion at the Assembly. A number of weeks had passed and a number of documents had been transmitted. The net result of the day's meeting was precisely zero, unless one counts the considerable frustration among members of the Committee. I am prepared to admit that not all the faults were on one side. There had been a lack of preparation. I do not think it was sensible to meet on Monday and formulate questions and then fire them straight off at representatives of the Council of Ministers on Tuesday. It would have been much better if we had had some kind of steering committee to transmit in advance to the representatives of the Council of Ministers the things about which we wanted to ask.
There may have been a certain lack of realism in some of the questions, but 1675 even so, it was partly because of the great uncertainty, in which each of these bodies finds itself, about what its true rôle is. They are not entirely to blame. The Council was represented by a number of eminent ambassadors and representatives of our Foreign Office. It was clear that they, too, were quite clueless about what their function would be on arrival.
They were really very relieved to find that we had framed our questions in such an incompetent manner and at such short notice that they were able to ride off on the procedural issue and get away without saying anything at all. Deep sighs of relief were heaved on that side of the table. This was disappointing to the Committee, because I understand that at a previous meeting, held before I became a member, the representative of the German Government had attended and given a great deal of extremely valuable information which seemed to the Committee to be extremely relevant to what they thought were their functions, and they hoped that something of a similar character was to occur on this occasion—but they were deeply disappointed.
The initiative of putting this right lies largely with Governments. We have heard much of the "grand design" for rationalising the whole European structure. I agree that it is necessary for this to be done, even if I do not agree with the way in which it was launched. It may take a considerable period before full rationalisation is achieved, and it is important not to let the whole thing slide and cause growing frustration and ill-feeling in the meantime. If Ministers took more interest in the Assembly of Western European Union they could give a certain form to its debates by attending and making their own contributions, with Governmental authority. They could ensure that Governments themselves were better informed and, perhaps, that fewer damaging things were said.
On the last occasion—the only occasion upon which I have attended—an opening statement was made by M. Spaak, which was very valuable, but I got the impression that we were given that statement only because of exceptional circumstances, namely, that he, one of the most eminent members, was about to leave for an entirely different post and was making his swansong. This was a valedictory 1676 occasion and not a precedent for the future.
In fact, the only Minister who took the slightest interest in our Committee was the British Minister of State. I want to pay a tribute to him. He sat through a great many debates and spoke, as he had spoken in the Council of Europe only a few days before. He was, with one exception in the Council of Europe, the only Minister who took that trouble to be present. If it had not been for his presence we would not have been aware that Governments even knew that we were meeting. At a time when the bodies of the Six are undoubtedly becoming more effective, it will be very damaging if this body of the Six plus the United Kingdom, is allowed to be reduced to a farce. That is certainly what the Defence Committee was reduced to the other day. It is, perhaps, going a little too far to say that the Assembly has been reduced to that state.
I now come to the Fens Report on Western European Defence, which was debated in the Assembly and in connection with which Recommendation No. 10 was subsequently sent to Ministers. It is, in substance, a most sensational report, and I think that we must therefore ask why it caused no sensation. It may be that I have given the answer already, namely, that people are not in the habit of paying attention to anything emanating from the Assembly of W.E.U. Nevertheless, it is in substance a sensational report. On 20th May I asked a Question of the Joint Under-Secretary about it. I asked:what steps Her Majesty's Government are taking to remedy the state of affairs revealed by the Report of the Defence Committee of Western European Union, especially the failure to secure adequate standardisation of equipment, mobilisation plans or logistic systems of the various national contingents.The Joint Under-Secretary replied that this Report had been received and would shortly be considered, and that it would not be proper for him to anticipate the conclusions of those who would consider it. He went on to say:'good progress is already being made as to standardisation in the appropriate organs of the Western European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, namely the Standing Armaments Committee and the Defence Production Committee."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, 20th May, 1957; Vol. 570, c. 854.]1677 I would like the House to consider whether that seems an adequate description of what has been happening, in the light of the quotations that I am about to make from the Fens Report. I shall not elaborate them; it is a long report, and I wish to be as brief as I can, but I want to put on record in this House half a dozen sentences dealing with the more sensational points.
At an early stage, in paragraph 5, it is said:In the present situation, the C.-in-C."—that is, the Commander-in-Chief, Central Europe, with headquarters at Fontaine-bleau—stated that it would not be possible for him to give battle on the line of the Iron Curtain.That is something which is not a great surprise to all of us, but I give it as a background for what comes later. Two paragraphs later, the Report states:The lack of uniformity in size and equipment of the divisions put at the disposal of the Supreme Commander presents many disadvantages.It goes on to explain what those technical disadvantages are, emphasising the point that there has apparently been no standardisation in the size of the units and formations contributed to Western defence by the different nations. In that connection I could not help wondering, when I listened the other day to the account of the way in which our Army is to emphasise the brigade, whether that meant that the Supreme Commander in Europe was to be faced with yet another type of national unit different from the national units of the other component nations.
I now come to the most damaging quotation. Paragraph 8 says:In the field of logistics, differences limit the usefulness of the divisions available to the C.-in-C. in relation to defence requirements. Different weapons, different types of vehicles, national specialisation in supply—in a word the natural structure of the logistics system—gives the Central European army such rigidity and sluggishness that it would be difficult, for example, in the event of the enemy attack being concentrated on one particular axis, to move divisions across from one sector to another, since these divisions are tied to national lines of communication and supply routes and to the depots installed along these lines.There is a certain elaboration of that statement later on. If it is really true in what it says of the inter-national army 1678 which is defending Western Europe, and if that is true at the end of six or seven years of the active life of N.A.T.O., what value are the taxpayers of these countries getting for their money? This is not a question—as was suggested by the Joint Under-Secretary in reply to my Question the other day—of there being rather less progress than one would have wished; it is a picture of virtually no progress. It is a picture in which one feels that there might just as well still be a dozen or so different nations, each with its own defence programme—as was the case in 1938.
The subsequent points are less important, but I shall refer to them briefly. Talking about standardisation, the report says:In the field of manufacture of equipment, at the present time standardisation is limited to airfields and fuel for vehicles and aircraft.That is not a very wide field.It is, however, intended to rationalise at least the different types of telephones so that they will have the same operating characteristics.What a dazzling achievement for seven years of work in Europe!
On the subject of information, the Report says:The C.-in-C. (like the Supreme Allied Commander)does not have his own intelligence service. He is, therefore, kept informed by the national services.That may be all right.Such information is only communicated to him in a fragmentary and dilatory fashion. The result is that the Operational Commander may not be informed of developments which threaten the Central European sector.Is that really true?
The Report goes on to mention such things as the different periods of mobilisation.
§ Mr. Younger
That is a separate point. I am not going into the question of the necessary size of forces. There are a lot more points which I should like to raise, but I do not want to take up too much time. The point is that, whether that Report is correct or not, it has been allowed by Governments and the Council to stand unanswered since April. They have had it in their possession since May, and the authority for it—the source from 1679 which the Parliamentarians get all this alleged evidence—was the C.-in-C., Central Europe, at Fontainebleau.
I am not so naive as not to be aware that military people often like to paint their situation a little black in the hope of getting more appropriations and resources, but we cannot ride off on important statements like that, nor can Governments afford to leave a Report like that lying on the Table. I am surprised that this has not had more notice in the European Press. We are all aware that on many grounds there is a certain feeling of unreality about Western Defence.
There are immensely difficult problems concerning nuclear and conventional war. Much of that is inevitable, The things in the Fens Report are not dependent on there being some theoretical reappraisal. They are matters of reasonable efficiency, of staffs doing their job, or, much more likely, of Governments rather than staffs who are at fault. I think that we are entitled to a proper answer three months after this Report has been in the hands of Governments.
If it is all wrong, no one will be more pleased than I—and, I am certain, the Western European Union—to learn that that is so, but if it turns out that there is a complete answer to this and that, nevertheless, these facts have been allowed to stand unchallenged for three months, it will emphasise the points which I made at the beginning, that if Parliamentary bodies are to exist to deal with European defence and have facilities to visit headquarters and publish reports, their work must be given a reality. Otherwise, what will result will be not merely frustration to members, which is, perhaps, a matter of secondary importance, but positive harm to the morale of Europe when considering its defence.
I very much hope that we can get some assurances from the Joint Under-Secretary of State today.
§ 12 noon.
§ Mr. Gilbert Longden (Hertfordshire, South-West)
Like the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger), I too, am a newcomer to Western European Union, and like him, I would add my congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Scotstoun (Sir J. Hutchison)for having raised the subject this morning. It is all too seldom that the 1680 national Parliaments of the member States discuss these matters.
I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Grimsby for two reasons. The first is that he dealt with a matter with which I had intended to deal, and, therefore, I am able to discard practically the whole of my speech.
§ Mr. Longden
The right hon. Gentleman need not be sorry, because I can assure him quite sincerely that I could not have hoped to deal with the matter as forcefully and well as he did. It was high time that someone said these things.
The other matter with which the right hon. Gentleman dealt, and which was also included in my proposed speech, was the recent meeting of the Defence Committee in London, because that, of course, typified what he rightly described as the derisory attitude of Governments and representatives to that problem. It really was a bit thick that none of the Ministers' delegates, very distinguished and capable men though they are, had apparently heard of the Fens Report. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that our organisation was paralytic. It was perfectly ridiculous to hold three long questionnaires on one day and to expect them to be answered on the next. None the less, the attitude of Governments is such that the Ministers will continue to send representatives who are not in any way briefed or qualified to answer what they are supposed to answer.
I shall detain the House for only a very few more minutes in order to raise one other subject, to look upon Western European Union from one other angle—the angle of a European settlement. A week last Monday we had what has come to be called the "Berlin Declaration." It contained nothing which had not been said many times before. I do not think it was any the worse for that, because I believe that one cannot say these things too often; but it was a demonstration of unity among the West on this issue.
The two main things about that Declaration are, I think, these. The first is that N.A.T.O. is not negotiable and that Western European Union is an essential part of N.A.T.O. The second is that there shall be no prior condition which will force a reunited, rearmed, independent, sovereign Germany either to 1681 disarm and become neutralised or to join N.A.T.O. There never has been a prior condition to that effect since Mr. Anthony Eden first made the suggestion three years ago.
If, on the other hand, a reunited Germany, after free elections, decides to join N.A.T.O., then the Western Powers are, I think, quite right to offer the most secure guarantees that can be devised to the Soviet Union and to all the satellite States because, goodness knows, we all have plenty of cause to distrust Germany. What could be a better guarantee—I cannot myself think of a better one—than that Germany should voluntarily and of her own free will decide to join N.A.T.O. and, therefore, Western European Union. It must be remembered that the Paris Treaties bind Germany, (1), not to try to reunite by force—that, of course, would apply to territories east of the Oder-Neisse line, which probably would not first come into a reunited Germany, and, (2), not to make what are called the A, D and C weapons. Thirdly, they confine her armies to a topmost limit of 12 divisions and a tactical air force.
I do not think that in the history of the world there has ever been an occasion when countries have not agreed in such treaties to maintain a ceiling to their armed forces. That is why I am so distressed at the attitude of Governments towards Western European Union. I feel that Western European Union still has a very important and vital rôle to play.
In conclusion, I again thank my hon. Friend the Member for Scotstoun for having raised the issue.
§ 12.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland)
I also wish to thank the hon. Member for Scotstoun (Sir J. Hutchison), not only for initiating the debate, but also for the effective way in which he has presided over the deliberations of the Assembly at Strasbourg. I intervene in the debate with reluctance and hesitation, because we have been dealing only with defence matters. On defence, it seems to me that the over-riding matter which we have to consider is the effectiveness of N.A.T.O. We should consider the position of Western European union really as part of N.A.T.O. The primary concern is to see 1682 that N.A.T.O. is made more effective both in an executive and Parliamentary sense.
The right hon. Lady the Member for Moss Side (Dame Florence Horsbrugh)and I have for some considerable time now been discussing the future rôle of Western European Union in the political sense, and it has been a very gratifying experience. However, we have reached the view that we must get away from generalities and deal with practical issues as they arise. In this regard, I pay tribute to the United Kingdom Government for going to Western European Union with the vexed question of the export of livestock. I think it was an excellent thing that the Government did this. We cleared a very difficult problem, and it is going to be easier to take more effective and broader steps in the Council of Europe. I welcome this excellent initiative on the part of the Minister of Agriculture.
When we consider the general political activities of Western European Union we should not be afraid to consider such practical matters as this, because it seems to me that Western European Union has two advantages in the competition which exists between the different European assemblies and organisations. It has the advantage, in spite of what my right hon. Friend said with some justification, of having the more effective Council. I think that the Council of Ministers of Western European Union is certainly more effective than that of the Council of Europe. Indeed, the Governments ought to look to what is happening to the Council of Europe. It seems to me in that case the Council of Ministers is becoming no more than a letter box, posting matters to other organisations. That cannot be said of the Council of Western European Union, which can be, has been, and will be on occasion an effective body.
The other advantage which Western European Union possesses is that it is a fairly intimate forum of very like-minded nations. I think that, very often, matters can be resolved there even if they affect European matters broadly, more expeditiously than in the larger Assembly, and provided that we keep in mind the whole time the desirability of greater European agreement, I do not think we shall do much harm, and also provided that we are not too ambitious.
1683 In this limited sense, I think we can make, and I hope the Government will endeavour to make, more effective use of Western European Union, and I hope that the right hon. Lady and I will be able at any rate to see that we get general agreement from our colleagues that we should concentrate on considering matters in a practical context. We can do two things. We can get a closer association with the Six, which is the fundamental problem before us now. I do not expect that the Under-Secretary of State will be able to say anything very dramatic today about the relation of the United Kingdom to Europe, but I think there has been a considerable deterioration over the past eighteen months.
Eighteen months ago, there were high hopes of the United Kingdom, but these high hopes and great expectations do not seem to be so high now. We are faced with the fairly rapid development of the Six, and we know that individually the member States of the Six look very much to the United Kingdom. We have to tackle this problem, and I hope that the good offices of the Western European Union can be used.
Secondly, it seems to me that we need to make greater use of W.E.U. for resolving practical political difficulties when they arise. However, unless we succeed, and we all hope that we do succeed, in getting a broad European Free Trade Area association with the Common Market, I believe that we will have to make use of the W.E.U. Assembly and Organisation to ensure that we establish the closest possible association of the six with the United Kingdom within a developing Europe.
§ 12.12 p.m.
§ Dame Florence Horsbrugh (Manchester, Moss Side)
I should like to say how much I agree with all that has just been said by the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey). He and I, in the General Affairs Committee of Western European Union, have had a good deal of consultation, and I think that on the whole we have had some success.
I think we agree, as he stated, that what we must have in mind are certain specific considerations, and that we should see that action is taken. In most international conferences, whether it be 1684 Western European Union, the United Nations or anything else, we are apt—and I have said this myself at a meeting of U.N.E.S.C.O.—to choose too many subjects, pass too many resolutions, make too many recommendations and then be disappointed and frustrated, quite naturally, because they cannot all be put into effect. I believe that it would be a good thing if we selected our recommendations very carefully, discussed them fully and then kept an eye on them and followed them through, so to speak, in order to see that we did get some results.
My hon. Friend the Member for Scotstoun (Sir J. Hutchison)mentioned Recommendation 11. I should like to say something about it, because I believe that we have to remind ourselves at intervals that, in the meantime, W.E.U. is only a union for considering defence policies in addition to what already exists. What did exist was the Brussels Treaty Organisation, and various other work that was going on. Very good work it was, and I pay my tribute to that work on the cultural, social and economic side.
I am not here to suggest that we should begin our reorganisation of European assemblies by any patchwork method. I think that would be disastrous. It may be said, and it can well be said, that there is repetition and overlapping in some of the work performed by the W.E.U. and the Council of Europe, but I myself feel strongly that until we can, within the bigger framework, integrate and bring this work together, it will be disastrous. As has been said in previous speeches, a lot of this work has been run down and allowed to be swallowed up by another organisation.
Recommendation 11 refers to the political side, and economic, cultural, social and legal associations. On the political side, there is the problem of whether there is sufficient consultation in Europe between European Governments in their work and the United Nations. I am not here suggesting that there ought to be purely formal meetings, simply because the agenda has already been seen. As far as I remember, an agenda is what we might call a generality, but I think that people want more and more to feel that, when the actual 1685 work of the Assembly is taking place, there should be consultation and discussion. European Powers and Governments would not necessarily agree to everything, and I think it ought to be made clear at any rate that they know what the respective Governments are going to do.
In regard to economic affairs, the hon. Member for Sunderland, North has already spoken about the future of the Free Trade Area, and the point is brought out in this recommendation that there is the real desire for the United Kingdom to come more into the affairs of N.A.T.O. That is one of the advantages of this peculiar set-up, whereby we have a community of six, and W.E.U., consisting of seven countries with the United Kingdom. There is, at any rate, a bridge between the Six and one other country. I am sorry to find that in this Recommendation the only thing that is said about the cultural side is that more money is required. That can always be said, and I should like more attention to be paid to the good work being done, especially with the universities.
Lastly, there is the social side. I believe that a great deal could be done in W.E.U. if it were decided by the Council of Ministers that on the question of these recommendations the Ministers of Social Affairs should meet. We have not got a Minister of Social Affairs in this country, but we have got our Minister of Health and schemes of social insurance and pensions. I believe that there could be a great deal more integration of these social security schemes between Europe and this country which would benefit us all. We all know that the various schemes are different, but if we can obtain the advantages of our Health Service scheme both for people coming to this country and for our people going to Europe, it will mean a great deal of integration with Europe, and more and more a feeling of European unity. This is one of the things which I believe can be done by consultation through W.E.U., consisting of six countries fairly well knit together in the development of their social security schemes, and the United Kingdom.
I am grateful for the opportunity of taking part in this debate and I would stress the necessity of asking the 1686 Government, and possibly inducing other Governments, to take a more realistic view of the recommendations from W.E.U., because if they show a greater responsibility towards these recommendations, they are well founded and can be defended.
§ 12.20 p.m.
§ Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)
I hesitate to take part in this debate, which appears to be a replica of the Assembly of Western European Union. I happen to be the only ex-member of that "club" present this morning. There are two reasons, however, why I wish to spend a few minutes on this subject. I should like to associate myself with the congratulations extended to the hon. Baronet the Member for Scotstoun (Sir J. Hutchison)on his elevation to the presidency of W.E.U. For more than a year I had the privilege of sitting under his chairmanship when he was Chairman of the Standing Armaments Committee and I know what a good Chairman he proved. I can visualise what a good job he will do as President of the Assembly of Western European Union, if he can get co-operation from the Council of Ministers.
It is not without significance that this is the second time during an Adjournment debate in this Chamber that reference has been made to the frustration felt by members of the Assembly of Western European Union; and I think it high time the Government decided whether they propose to make an effective instrument of W.E.U., or proceed immediately with the "grand design" and bring W.E.U. to an end. I cannot think of anything more likely to damage European relations than to continue this sense of frustration.
I do not deny what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey), or by the right hon. Member for Moss Side (Dame Florence Horsbrugh), about the cultural and social progress made by W.E.U. But I think it should be remembered that the social, cultural and economic affairs of Europe can be conducted by the larger body. If it is argued that it is impossible to get agreement with sixteen countries, or rather, that it is easier to get agreement with seven than with sixteen, I would remind the advocates of that argument that within the 1687 terms of the Statute of the Council of Europe it is possible to get partial agreement.
There is no reason why the six countries of the European economic community, or the seven countries forming W.E.U.—all members of the Council of Europe—should not get partial agreement within the Council in anticipation of agreement in due course with the other eleven countries—or ten as the case may be—who are members of the Council. The danger is that if we proceed much further with new developments on the social, economic and cultural side in W.E.U. we may lead the other ten member countries of the Council of Europe to feel that they are the poor relations and that the six or seven are the selected countries within the larger organisation.
It may be argued that it would be better for the six or seven, but if in the process of securing that agreement we damage the relationship with the other ten, we shall retard progress in Europe. One of the purposes of bringing W.E.U. into existence was to have an organisation to bring Germany into N.A.T.O., but primarily it was created for the purpose of standardising arms and equipment in Europe and to provide a Parliamentary assembly to act, as was said by the hon. Baronet, as a watchdog over these developments. It was anticipated that this would take some time. A year ago we had a debate on precisely the same lines as this debate is taking, with the same kind of complaints and the same hon. Member opening the debate; and hon. Members who took part made exactly the same complaints about the Council of Ministers.
This frustration is felt because when Ministers, individually or collectively, are faced with this issue they hide behind the fact that they are part of N.A.T.O. and that the six or seven members of W.E.U. should not have information which was not available to the other members of N.A.T.O. If we believe in this desire to improve relationships in Europe between the sixteen countries of the Council of Europe, we should make up our minds what we are proposing to do about W.E.U.
I was interested to read the Press comments on the speech of the Minister of State about the "grand design". I have 1688 one or two reservations to make about it, but at least I think it was a start. If the rationalisation of these organisations in Europe is to be undertaken, the process should not be delayed for too long. The Governments concerned should make up their minds quickly whether they are going ahead with the scheme. If they are not proposing to do so for some time to come, they should make W.E.U. an effective organisation or else abandon it altogether.
§ 12.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Kirk (Gravesend)
I admit that I find myself closer to the position taken by the hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones)than that taken by his hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey)and by my right hon. Friend the Member for Moss Side (Dame Florence Horsbrugh). I do not think that there is any basic conflict between us, but there are shades of opinion about this question. Surely the difficulty is that nobody knows exactly where we are going. I think that that is clear from Recommendation 11, which covers a very wide field and displays a confusion of thought which possibly lessens its effectiveness.
I speak as a member of the Budgeting and Staffing Committee of W.E.U. Assembly and one has to consider that if everything in Recommendation 11 is to be carried out a much larger staff will be needed. Anyone dealing with staffing would desire to know how much of the Recommendation is to be carried out, how much we must budget for in the next year. We do not know that. We do not know whether, at the next meeting of the Assembly, in October, the position will be the same. We do not know whether Her Majesty's Government or any of the six Governments involved will produce new proposals which may make nonsense of a lot of what we were discussing in April.
We desire to know from my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State exactly what is the "state of play". What is the position regarding the "grand design". Last December, we put forward proposals and I understand that the Italian Government came forward with proposals which were basically different, providing, so far as I can see, not for rationalisation but the creation of another assembly overlooking all the existing assemblies. If I 1689 understand aright, the French Government also have proposals of their own.
How far are these three sets of proposals—there may be more, I understand that Belgium has something in mind—to work together? What is the position? Is the whole thing to be dropped because so many different points of view have emerged that the Government are beginning to wonder whether it is worth while?
As I understand, the strongest argument against maintaining the old Brussels Treaty Organisation—I agree with my right hon. Friend about the immensely good work done, by the Organisation—and the strongest argument for keeping in W.E.U. is what is sometimes called the laboratory argument—"trying it on the dog"—that is to say, if it works with the seven countries it is more likely to work with sixteen, but that, if it does not work with the seven, there is no hope of it working with the sixteen.
That argument appeals to me because it is a practical one, but it is not being carried out at the moment. At present, the same work is being done by both organisations. If we are to work on that basis, not only must there be closer cooperation, but also some planning of the work it is proposed to do.
I consider that this has been a most useful debate, and it may prove even more useful if we can get an indication from my hon. Friend of what is now the position regarding the three existing plans and the possibility of another being produced. If my hon. Friend can tell us anything about that—I realise that he has not sufficient time to go into details—he will have done a great service.
§ 12.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
When Edmund Burke was standing as a Parliamentary candidate for a two-Member constituency with a somewhat inarticulate colleague—whose voice I take today—he made a speech which has become historic. The inarticulate colleague said, "I say ditto to Mr. Burke." I will limit myself definitely to 120 seconds in what I have to say. I am grateful to the hon. Baronet the Member for Scotstoun (Sir J. Hutchison)for raising this matter and putting it in the way he did. He knows that I do not wholly share his views on defence, but there is no inconsistency in one who 1690 believes in unarmed resistance saying that while we have arms they shall be usefully organised. It is at least axiomatic to say that one thing that no one can defend is to have an unarmed army. It is not worth while having troops unless they are reasonably well equipped.
I agree largely with the last two speeches, particularly that of the hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Kirk), about the duplication and some waste of time. But I would say to those critics who criticise this Assembly that it is a little early to expect too much of two infants one of whom certainly was born in sin. I think that any one of us in a democratic Parliament like this must passionately believe in the utility of consultation, of exchange of view and of meetings where there are privileges of speech and I would say—although history has gone on, the situation does not now obtain, and we live in a different world—that it is a point of hope and of importance that had an organisation of this kind existed in June, 1914, a great world war would never have taken place and the world might be infinitely better for it today.
§ 12.31 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Ian Harvey)
Perhaps not the least remarkable part of this very valuable debate has been the fact that it has drawn from the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale)what must be one of the shortest speeches that he has ever made, but it was none the less valuable for that.
I am very glad to have the opportunity in this debate of saying, first, something about the Report of the Council of W.E.U. and the Recommendations which have been referred to, and of saying exactly what is the attitude of Her Majesty's Government to W.E.U. Before I do so, however, I should like to associate myself with the congratulations that have already been tendered to my hon. Friend the Member for Scotstoun (Sir J. Hutchison)on his election as President and also to thank him for the very careful way in which he deployed his arguments. I think I have been able to foreshadow, largely due to his own co-operation, what he was proposing to say in his speech, and I trust that he will find that as I proceed I shall deal with the points that he has made.
1691 I would at once confirm the point that my hon. Friend made, which has been sustained throughout the debate, that if we are to have an Assembly of this kind it must have the necessary information on which to debate, if its debates are to be useful. I trust that in some of the information which I shall be able to give today I shall indicate that Her Majesty's Government have taken that point carefully into consideration; we fully realise that this is one of the underlying problems with which W.E.U. is undoubtedly confronted.
I think that, possibly, there has been a tendency in this debate rather to underestimate the importance of the achievements of W.E.U.—there have been quite a number of achievements—and also to exaggerate the attitude of Her Majesty's Government towards W.E.U. There has never been any suggestion, so far as I know, in any of the observations or the conduct of Her Majesty's Government that we regard W.E.U. as a collection of children or that we do not regard their deliberations as extremely responsible and useful. In fact, we look upon W.E.U., in the words of President Eisenhower, as acore of unity at the heart of N.A.T.O.It is in fact, as has been stated in this debate, a special meeting place between the members of the United Kingdom and the Six.
As has been emphasised in a recent statement in the Report, the Governments represented in the Council are well satisfied with the progress made so far by W.E.U. in fulfilling the mandate that they have given it. The administrative framework has now been largely constructed. The arms control system is now in being, which is no mean task, considering that it covers ground hitherto scarcely touched by international co-operation. The Standing Armaments Committee is functioning usefully. A good deal of solid work of co-operation has already been achieved in the social and cultural sections, and the Council, for its part, is developing as a valued forum for political consultations on matters of common interest to the seven Member countries.
The right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger)was very modest in his claim to the attention of the House. He has, in fact, a profound understanding of 1692 foreign affairs, and I should like to say at once that I entirely endorse what he said about the danger of pretending to be what one is not, and his definition of the position of W.E.U., how it came into being, and how it now stands.
Perhaps the truest of the things to which he drew attention was the long process of rationalisation. In fact, the problem here is the difficulty of the length of time that any of these negotiations must take, and the great desirability at the same time of maintaining the enthusiasm and interest of those who are devoted to the cause of European co-operation. Of course, that is one of the dangers here, that if that enthusiasm were to wane, then the whole process which, as the right hon. Gentleman says, is a long one would be endangered.
I endorse his remarks on the importance of Ministers taking a closer personal interest in the function of W.E.U. That is of great importance and is something which Her Majesty's Government not only support but, I trust, will do everything to implement, although I do not think that on that particular issue we are so vulnerable as are others.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the Fens Report. That is dealt with by inference in the answers to the various recommendations, and I thought it would be useful if I were to deal with those recommendations point by point. I shall, therefore, deal with the right hon. Gentleman's remarks about the Fens Report in the course of my observations.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Mr. Kirk)asked how we stood in the matter of the "grand design," and I shall deal with that, too, in the course of my speech.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Moss Side (Dame Florence Horsbrugh)referred to Recommendation 11. This touches on cultural and social aspects. It is still under consideration, but it affects very much the future operation of W.E.U. on its non-defence side. While I could not at this moment give my right hon. Friend any particular satisfaction on her direct questions, I assure her that this matter is being considered carefully and that a statement is likely to be made before long.
On Recommendation 8, which is concerned with the level of forces in Europe, 1693 the Fens Report poses a large number of pressing problems which are common to all those who make up the N.A.T.O. organisation. Before dealing with the actual Recommendation, I should like to deal, first, with the point that has been made, and which was referred to by the right hon. Member for Grimsby, on the subject of the suggested unilateral decision of Her Majesty's Government to alter the level of our defence forces in Europe.
It is not true that this decision was made without consultation with our allies in Europe. It is. I think, a fact well known to all concerned and others that the views of S.A.C.E.U.R., which were subsequently expressed when these recommendations were made known, did affect our decisions in that direction and we have considerably adjusted the arrangements that were originally proposed. It is not, in fact, true to say that these were a unilateral decision presented as a fait accompli to our allies in W.E.U. or in N.A.T.O.
On the subject of force levels, which is dealt with very effectively in the Fens Report, it is important to remember that what matters basically with any armed forces is their capability of dealing with situations which may arise rather than the actual question of their levels. As has been emphasised by the hon. Member for Oldham, West, an unarmed Army is not particularly useful, but an Army armed with the wrong equipment is also not particularly useful. This radically affects the views of Her Majesty's Government on future defence planning.
It would not be appropriate for me to enter deeply into that subject this morning, but it is relevant to this discussion because static-mindedness in defence planning is a militarily dangerous quality. To commit oneself to levels and formations without any possibility of the adjustment of the content of those formations is not a realistic policy.
Our defence plans for the future depend on the creation of forces which are highly mobile, flexible and equipped with the most modern weapons. That demands a radical readjustment of the whole system. The forces which are at present in Europe form a considerable part of the defence structure.
§ Mr. Harvey
I think that the hon. Member is slightly misinformed on that. I shall deal with some of the other aspects in a moment if he will not deflect me from the argument I am deploying.
The whole defence mechanism must be taken as a whole. Therefore, unless we can be in a position to make certain adjustments in the nature of our forces in Europe, we cannot effectively carry out the complete adjustment of the whole of our defence contribution.
In the arguments which have been going on on the subject of defence, I think slightly too much attention has been paid to the comparison of the amount that is being spent upon nuclear weapons as against conventional weapons and too little attention has been paid to the comparison between the amount that is being spent upon effective defence and on the civil side of our national economy. That is a balance which we have to consider in numerous defence debates in this House. The consideration of that other balance is radical to the consideration of the present arrangements we are making in the field of defence which, of course, must have their bearing upon the European situation.
The right hon. Member rightly asked me about the Fens Report, about its contents and what has been done about it. That impinges on what I said earlier and what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Moss Side, which was very much to the point. The value of any report depends largely on the sources available to those who make it and the authority with which the statements are produced. Recommendation 8 and the Fens Report have been forwarded to member Governments of W.E.U. and are being closely considered here, but it would be untrue to say that all the views expressed therein can be upheld in the light of the full defence picture. It is perfectly true that this underlines the problem with which W.E.U. is faced at present.
I wish to deal with this question of information available to W.E.U. which is referred to in Recommendation 9. As was clearly underlined in the debate, one of the problems of W.E.U. is that the North Atlantic Council is, and will remain so long as present arrangements apply, the proper forum in which to discuss strategic planning and defence 1695 policies. It is in no way due to any lack of good will on the part of Her Majesty's Government that any information is withheld or not made available to W.E.U.
It is simply for the very straightforward reason which has already been touched on in the debate, that although Her Majesty's Government would like to help the Assembly in the matter, W.E.U. touches only part of a bigger defence picture and it is not always possible to give it information which affects other countries which are not members of W.E.U. This problem of information on defence goes right to the roots of the whole question of the future organisation of these Assemblies. The hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones)brought that out very clearly and forcibly.
§ Mr. D. Jones
What is difficult to understand is that if, as a Member of this House, I address a Question to the Foreign Secretary I can get an Answer as a Member in this House of Commons, but when officials of W.E.U. ask for precisely the same information in a collective capacity, he declines to give it.
§ Mr. Harvey
Although that is a cogent way of putting it, I think that there are certain questions on defence matters which, if the hon. Member put them to the Minister of Defence, for security reasons he would not get answered, even in this House.
It is that type of information about which my right hon. Friend is most concerned. This involves the question which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend—the whole future, the present position and the actual intention of the Government. Reference has been made to the "grand design." I think that the right hon. Member for Grimsby agreed in principle with the "grand design" and the idea of a general reorganisation although, perhaps, he did not entirely agree with the way in which it was done.
As a result of the initiative being taken in this matter, as my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend clearly indicated, other countries have reacted and brought forward their proposals. I do not think that anyone in this House, however partisan he might be, would suggest that 1696 it is for this country alone to impose on the European scene a solution which everyone ought to accept—nor would there be much hope of them doing so. If, as a result of introducing the ideas from the "grand design," a reaction has been obtained from other countries and the recognition that the present position is not entirely satisfactory, some considerable progress has been made.
As hon. Members know, we shall be meeting before very long. We shall persevere with the ideas in line with the "grand design," which, if I may say so, have found expression in the debates today, namely, a desire for a new form of expression, the elimination of the frustrations which are at present inherent in the system, and a more comprehensive organisation of all the various assemblies which exist in Europe today.
Now I turn to Recommendation 10 and the reply to it, because, on that subject, there are things which I can, I think, usefully tell the House which indicate that Her Majesty's Government are by no means unaware of the problems which have been outlined in discussion today. As the House is well aware, the Council of W.E.U. agreed to set in train an urgent study of further steps to stimulate and extend the co-operation between various countries in research, development and production of armaments within the framework of the Standing Armaments Committee of W.E.U.
I say at once that this was an initiative to which Her Majesty's Government attach particular importance, for two reasons, first, its intrinsic merits, and, secondly, the opportunity given to cooperate closely with our allies in W.E.U. and in N.A.T.O. There is no question of limiting co-operation in this respect to two or three, or seven, countries. But it is, of course, the W.E.U. side which we are considering this morning.
Over the past year, Her Majesty's Government have, as I have already explained, been active in setting on foot various measures of co-operation within W.E.U., through the machinery of the Standing Armaments Committee. Before this initiative, the work of the Standing Armaments Committee was largely confined to the discussion of traditional weapons, though we did include some of our more advanced aircraft. Now, Her Majesty's Government have indicated 1697 their readiness to make available modern weapons of the most advanced kind. We have recently made it known in the S.A.C. that we are prepared to make available information on certain guided weapons, including both surface-to-air and air-to-air types, and their associated radars, to those W.E.U. countries which have a genuine interest in adopting them.
The interest of those countries which do not wish to make use of these weapons is not being overlooked. We have suggested, following those offers, that a working group of representatives from all the member countries should discuss the philosophy of air defence with reference to both interceptor aircraft and guided weapons. We are, naturally, willing to make a full contribution to such a discussion. My hon. Friend the Member for Scotstoun asked me to be specific, perhaps, about the various spheres of activity here, and I must ask him to excuse me on that matter at this stage, because it would not be possible for me to make a very clear statement about it now. That, no doubt, is something which will be forthcoming.
We proposed last year that the S.A.C. should be used as a clearing house for co-operation between the member countries on research and development in fields where several were willing and able to make a contribution. We and some other member countries put in the specific items of research on which we would welcome co-operation. Other member countries have shown interest in some of the items we have put forward, and we have indicated interest in some of the other items which they have put forward. Talks between experts on these items have been taking place.
As hon. Members know, Her Majesty's Government also have entered into bilateral arrangements with the West German and French Governments for co-operation in armaments research and development. These arrangements were made following talks between my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence and his French and German colleagues. Anglo-French and Anglo-German steering committees have been set up to supervise these arrangements and to select those fields in which co-operation is most likely to be fruitful. I am glad to be able to state that considerable progress is being made. I think that it will be of interest 1698 that one of the matters selected for examination by both steering committees, in which progress during meetings of experts has been very satisfactory, is that of guided weapons, about which the right hon. Member for Grimsby asked me.
The Standing Armaments Committee has been kept informed in general terms of the progress of these arrangements. We have assured the Committee that it will be informed when any specific projects for co-operation in research development or production emerge and that any other member country which is willing to co-operate and is in a position to make a contribution will be free to do so, and welcome. That is, in fact, where we stand at present.
The W.E.U. Assembly, in its Recommendation No. 10 suggested that we should draw up a plan for the pooling of research and joint production of guided missiles. The Council has carefully considered this Recommendation and has just replied, explaining what we are doing. I hope that hon. Gentlemen who are members of the Assembly will find that reply helpful, taken with the explanations given in joint committee and what I have said today. If the Council has not felt it proper to adopt an actual timetable for its plans, that is because we do not believe that the formidable difficulties of security, commercial interests, and finance involved in this particular work of co-operation can be overcome by writing blue prints and setting a time limit. However, what the Assembly intended, I feel sure, was to emphasise the urgency of the matter and the need to maintain the present initiative with all vigour. On that issue, I believe that it can be reassured. Her Majesty's Government, for their part, have put a great deal into this initiative and set store by the important contribution it can make to their co-operation with Europe.
I regard it as important that we have had this debate at this particular juncture, before the meetings which are to take place in the Autumn. I reiterate what I have said as to the importance we attach to W.E.U. At the same time, we fully realise, as we have indicated in the proposals contained in the "Grand Design" and other observations, particularly the speech of my right hon. Friend the Minister of State when he last spoke in the Assembly, that we do not 1699 regard as final the present arrangement, nor do we believe that it is by any means entirely satisfactory. But, in a very complex situation, it forms the basis for operations, a basis which needs to be examined, but which can be effectively examined only with the co-operation not only of those directly concerned but of those also whose interests are affected.
To try to rush forward with any definite plans which did not receive general support would be a disastrous course. On the other hand, I accept very fully the spirit which has prevailed throughout this debate, a spirit which indicates that there is a sense of frustration and a demand that changes should be made, but a spirit, nevertheless, which indicates the very real interest of hon. Members in W.E.U. That interest is entirely endorsed by Her Majesty's Government, and I hope that, in the few remarks which I have been able to make today, I have shown where the problems lie and the course of action which we believe ought to be taken in the future.