HC Deb 20 May 1957 vol 570 cc848-9
28. Mr. Younger

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs 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.

Mr. Ian Harvey

The recommendation and Report of the Defence Committee have been received by the Western European Union Council today. They will be considered by the Permanent Representatives shortly.

It would not be proper for me to anticipate their conclusions.

Standardisation of equipment is not a field in which spectacular results can be quickly achieved, but I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that 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.

Mr. Younger

While welcoming that statement from the Joint Under-Secretary, may I ask him whether he is aware that what is alleged in this Report is not a failure to make spectacular progress but virtually an allegation of a failure to make any progress at all? As this is spelled out in black and white and has been before a Parliamentary Assembly in Europe, with no answer of any kind being given by any Minister of the member States, it had a very damaging effect. Is not it extremely important, if these things are true, that they should be put right and that, if they are not true, they should be denied?

Mr. Harvey

One readily accepts the views of the right hon. Gentleman on the second part of his Question, but I think, at the same time, that possibly the picture he has painted is rather more black than it actually is. As I have stated, this is being considered, and it would be improper at this stage to anticipate any conclusion.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

Will the Government give us a White Paper on the result of this discussion, so that we can see where we are?

Mr. Harvey

I do not think it is necessary to call for a White Paper, but certainly a statement will be issued in due course and when the proper proceedings have taken place.

Mr. Robens

Will the hon. Gentleman say how it is possible to have something more black than black?

Mr. Nicholson

Can my hon. Friend say whether his right hon. and learned Friend has read this Report, because it is so shocking that, if it is true, it is plain that the defence of Western Europe is nothing more or less than a mockery? It is a very serious Report which deeply shocked all members of the Western European Union Assembly.

Mr. Harvey

I admit that the Report does contain some very disturbing details. My right hon. and learned Friend has, of course, read it; but it is being considered at the moment and it would be premature for any statement to be made.