HC Deb 04 December 1957 vol 579 cc371-3
28. Mr. Healey

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what representations he has received from the United States Administration regarding a revision of the conditions under which United States forces may use atomic weapons from British bases.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

None, Sir.

Mr. Healey

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that The Times reported the American Secretary of State, Mr. Dulles, as saying on 19th November: There could be no question…of a veto on the use of nuclear weapons being exercised by other countries…No Government could legally cast a veto against a decision of another Government taken for its own defence. Does not he agree that this statement amounts to a unilateral rejection of the Anglo-American agreement on the use of American nuclear weapons?

Mr. Lloyd

The position is, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister stated, that we regard the United States Government as being bound by the undertaking that there should be a joint decision, and that is the view of the United States Government.

Mr. J. Hynd

On a point of order. Might I draw your attention to the fact that Question No. 97, in my name, deals with this specific point? As the Foreign Secretary has made a partial answer to it, might I be permitted to put a supplementary question to him? Otherwise there will be no point in my Question being dealt with later?

Mr. Speaker

I do not know whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman's reply was intended to answer Question 97 as well as Question 28. However, I will allow the hon. Member to ask a supplementary question.

Mr. Hynd

Has the Foreign Secretary noted the terms of Question 97, in which I paraphrase the statement made by Mr. Dulles in his Press statement nearly a fortnight ago? As that statement was made officially by Mr. Dulles on the same day as the Minister of Defence in this House gave an opposite assurance, as we have had repetitions from the Prime Minister ever since of the statement made by the Minister of Defence, which is in direct contradiction of what Mr. Dulles said, and as no agreement can be operative unless both parties agree with its terms, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell us precisely what the Prime Minister meant in repeating an assurance which amounts to a denunciation of the statement by Mr. Dulles?

Mr. Lloyd

I have not with me the actual words used by Mr. Dulles. I should expect them to refer to the United States bombers based in the United States. I do not think the hon. Gentleman heard what I said. I said that the position is as the Prime Minister has stated. That is the view of Her Majesty's Government, and that is also the view of the United States Government.

Mr. Bevan

How precise is that? If a hydrogen bomb is dropped on a nation from a base where consent has been given for it to be used, will the hydrogen bomb be marked with the brand of the nation of issue? This is a very serious matter, and we should like to have it clarified. Suppose, for example, a hydrogen bomb is loosed off on Russian territory from a base other than a British one. As there are British bases with hydrogen bombs, how would the Russians know from what source the bomb had come? Would not it be desirable that the agreement should be extended to cover the use of a hydrogen bomb in any circumstances whatever—that there should be collective agreement before its use? Would not that be the only guarantee of any value at all?

Mr. Lloyd

That is a completely different question from the Question on the Order Paper. It is a much wider one, and one which I should have thought it better not to deal with in question and answer. The Question addressed to me was: …what representations he has received from the United States Administration regarding a revision of the conditions under which United States forces may use atomic weapons from British bases. That Question I have answered, and there is no misunderstanding about that matter between the United States Government and the Government of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Bevan

Might I follow that up? There is very great anxiety in the country at the present time about the circumstances in which this patrol duty is carried out and the circumstances under which hydrogen bombs may be used. It is left in a very vague condition at the present time. Ought not the Government to produce for the House a White Paper on the matter stating the actual facts, because no one now knows whether hydrogen bombs are being carried in planes above us, whether they can be let off at any moment, and how they can be detonated? Nothing of that sort is known. Letters which are coming in in very great numbers at the present time show the anxiety of the British people on this subject.

Mr. Lloyd

I will certainly consider the question of having a further statement or a White Paper. However, I think it is wrong for one to seek to deal with these very difficult matters, which are a source of genuine anxiety, in an answer to a supplementary question.