HC Deb 29 October 1957 vol 575 cc37-45
The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I will make a statement about the discussions which I and my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary held last week in Washington and in Ottawa.

Much has happened since the meetings in Bermuda last March. It seemed to the President and to me that it would be well if we could meet once more in order to review the international scene.

Hon. Members will, no doubt, have read in the newspapers the text of the Declaration of Common Purpose which the President and I issued at the end of our talks, but for the convenience of the House I will circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

The main purpose of the Declaration is to establish the principle of interdependence of the countries of the free world. This principle will guide the policies of the Governments of the United Kingdom and the United States. We shall seek to secure the participation of all our allies, and the support of other free nations, in a common partnership. Thereby the resources of the free world can most effectively be used in the maintenance of the interests of all.

Our two countries will pursue this purpose in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, as well as with our other allies and with the nations of the free world in the most appropriate way. The House will have read in the Declaration that we will urge at N.A.T.O. an increase of scientific research and development in support of greater collective security, and that the President of the United States will request Congress to amend the Atomic Energy Act as may be necessary and desirable. In conformity with the same principles, we have declared that in their possession of nuclear weapons both our Governments regard themselves as trustees for the defence of the free world.

In Canada, the Foreign Secretary and I had an opportunity of reporting on these discussions to the Canadian Government both in private talks with Mr. Diefenbaker and certain of his colleagues and at a meeting of the Canadian Cabinet which we were privileged to attend. The Canadian Government expressed themselves, for their part, most ready to subscribe to the principle of interdependence and to join in the common effort necessary to make it effective.

I do not propose to say more about the discussions which we had in Washington and Ottawa at this time. No doubt there are some differences of opinion. sometimes from curiously diverging sources, about these discussions, but they will be more easily dealt with in debate.

Mr. Gaitskell

It seems clear that the valuable part of these talks related to the exchange of scientific information and the provision for much closer collaboration in that field. I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether he can say a little more on that subject. We appreciate that until Congress is ready to amend the Atomic Energy Act there may be difficulties in the way, but I understood from a statement in Washington that two committees had been set up. Could the Prime Minister say whether it is his hope that the outcome of these talks will be not merely the making available of weapons to this country, but also genuine working together in the scientific field in both research and development? That is the first question.

The second question is about the phrase in his statement: …the principle of interdependence of the countries of the free world. May we take it from that that in future neither the American nor the British Government will pursue an independent policy in, for instance, the Middle East?

The Prime Minister

There is, of course, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, full interchange of information between us and the United States on the peaceful uses of atomic energy, but I think that the signing of this Declaration and the processes which will be set about will extend that and make it more fruitful and also, I hope, find the right method of bringing into full partnership our friends and allies in the various organisations, especially at N.A.T.O.

With regard to the second part of the right hon. Gentleman's question, I hope that he will feel that it is an advantage for the general maintenance of peace in the world that the policies of Great Britain and the United States should be brought closer together in full consultation with one another.

Sir R. Boothby

Can the Prime Minister tell us whether it is his intention and that of the President of the United States to attend the next meeting of the N.A.T.O. Council in Paris?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend will have observed that the communiqué stated that we had at a certain period of our talks the advantage of the presence of M. Spaak, who happened at the time to be in Washington. While I cannot make an official statement today, if the suggestion is made, as I hope it will be made, that the next meeting should be attended by heads of Government, I would welcome it, and so, I think, would heads of other Governments.

Mr. Shinwell

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, in the course of the discussions at Washington between himself and President Eisenhower, any reference was made to the apparent breakdown of the Sub-Committee on Disarmament, and whether any positive suggestions were made for promoting disarmament?

The Prime Minister

Yes, of course this whole question was discussed, because it is a very important part of world affairs. We regarded with great sorrow the breakdown of the meeting of the Sub-Committee and the unwillingness of the Soviet Government to meet us at all. However, that matter has now been referred to the United Nations, and will be discussed there, and I hope that our two countries will be able to present a common policy towards this problem.

Mr. G. Brown

Does not the Prime Minister think that the very heavy cut we made following the White Paper on Defence earlier this year in our own expenditure on scientific research and development, in support of greater collective security, will make the urging of our allies in N.A.T.O. to do more sound a little bit weak? Does it now mean that the right hon. Gentleman will revise that part of the White Paper which we attacked so strongly?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. Curiously enough, I think it strengthened the argument, because the United States, with their great wealth, found it necessary to make cuts, and, therefore, the idea that, if we did this together it would be better for us all, was easier to argue.

Mr. Patrick Maitland

Can the Prime Minister say whether, in addition to Turkey, there was any discussion about Cyprus and other Middle Eastern problems?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir, not in detail. But in general, of course, the whole Middle East area was discussed.

Mr. Grimond

May we take it from the statement of the Prime Minister that his intention is that there shall be a completely free exchange of scientific information throughout the free countries, not only for nuclear or defence purposes but for industrial and other purposes as well?

The Prime Minister

I think the hon. Gentleman knows that we have an arrangement for the interchange of information on the peaceful uses. That exists already. That was negotiated because it was not barred by the McMahon Act of the United States. There is now the hope of promoting that in N.A.T.O. There is a committee now sitting on the other. It does depend, of course, upon the willingness of Congress to meet the President's wishes, and, while I hope very much that will happen, we must await that, and I hope we shall not find it necessary, in our arguments, to put forward any position which would make it more difficult.

Mr. S. Silverman

Has the attention of the right hon. Gentleman been called to a remarkable statement made twice by the Minister of Defence, the first time at Canberra and the second time at the Conservative Conference at Brighton, to the effect that, having regard to the latest scientific discoveries and achievements, national defence based on national sovereignties and frontiers no longer—I am quoting the right hon. Gentleman—makes very much sense? Having regard to that statement, if it represents the policy of the Government, will the Prime Minister now take steps to extend this pooling of information and resources so that all countries shall share them for the general good of mankind?

The Prime Minister

I think that what my right hon. Friend said was merely an elaboration of what had already been put into the White Paper and discussed fully in our defence debates. I think there was a general view that the only real, effective defence against attack of this kind is to ensure that it shall not take place.

Mr. Healey

Can the Prime Minister say whether his reference, and the reference in the official communiqué, to Anglo-American trusteeship in the field of atomic weapons means that Her Majesty's Government and the American Government do not wish to see the possession of nuclear weapons extended to other members of the alliance?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir, not necessarily. It does mean, however, that both our Governments regard the fact that we have in varying degrees this tremendous power should make us think of it not as something which we ought to use for our own interest and benefit, but as something which we can only justify to ourselves if we regard it as held in trust for the benefit of the free world.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Can my right hon. Friend say how these principles of interdependence and trusteeship are likely to affect our relationship with our Commonwealth partners and with our European neighbours?

The Prime Minister

I have been in close touch throughout with the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth in telling them what has been happening, and I am happy to say that I think they regard it as a good arrangement. With the Prime Minister of Canada I had one day's discussion, because I was able to go the next day, and I feel that the Canadian Government very much welcomed this Declaration. Just for the record, with regard to our allies, that is the purpose of a heads of Government meeting at the next N.A.T.O. conference, if we can organise it.

Mr. Beswick

Is the Prime Minister aware of one doubt which many people hold when it comes to the sharing of research and development, namely, that in the past the research and initial development has been done by this country and the later development and production has been done by the United States of America? What steps does the Prime Minister propose to take so as not to dissipate our resources, but to ensure that useful production is done in that country and not here?

The Prime Minister

As I have said, all this already exists in regard to the peaceful uses. In this matter we are discussing the defence uses. I do not want to go back over the whole story of the circumstances which led to the McMahon Act. What the President and I hope is that we can turn a new page and make a new start in co-operation together.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Could the Prime Minister tell us whether he discussed the question of pooling information about Civil Defence? Is he aware that the Government's plans include spreading 12 million people over the country, and that during the Recess we were told that four-fifths of the industrial population were to be transferred somewhere? Did he discuss with the President of the United States the possibility of transferring these 12 million people to the safer regions of the United States?

Following is the Declaration of Common Purpose:

We have met together as trusted friends of many years who have come to head the Governments of our respective countries. These two countries have close and historic ties, just as each has intimate and unbreakable ties with other free countries.

Recognising that only in the establishment of a just peace can the deepest aspirations of free peoples be realised, the guiding purpose of our deliberations has been the determination of how best to utilise the moral, intellectual and material strength of our two nations in the performance of our full share of those tasks that will more surely and promptly bring about conditions in which peace can prosper. One of these tasks is to provide adequate security for the free world.

The free nations possess vast assets, both material and moral. These in the aggregate are far greater than those of the Communist world. We do not ignore the fact that the Soviet rulers can achieve formidable material accomplishments by concentrating upon selected developments and scientific applications, and by yoking their people to this effort Despotisms have often been able to produce spectacular monuments. But the price has been heavy. For all peoples yearn for intellectual and economic freedom, the more so if from their bondage they see others manifest the glory of freedom. Even despots are forced to permit freedom to grow by an evolutionary process, or in time there will be violent revolution. This principle is inexorable in its operation Already it has begun to be noticeable even within the Soviet orbit. If the free nations are steadfast, and if they utilise their resources in harmonious co-operation, the totalitarian menace that now confronts them will in good time recede.

In order, however, that freedom may be secure and show its good fruits, it is necessary first that the collective military strength of the free nations should be adequate to meet the threat against them. At the same time the aggregate of the free world's military expenditure must be kept within limits compatible with individual freedom. Otherwise we risk losing the very liberties which we seek to defend.

These ideas have been the central theme of our conversations which, in part, were participated in by M. Spaak, the Secretary-General of N.A.T.O.

In application of these ideas, and as an example which we believe can and should spread among the nations of the free world, we reached the following understanding:


1. The arrangements which the nations of the free world have made for collective defence and mutual help are based on the recognition that the concept of national self-sufficiency is now out of date. The countries of the free world are inter-dependent and only in genuine partnership, by combining their resources and sharing tasks in many fields, can progress and safety be found. For our part, we have agreed that our two countries will henceforth act in accordance with this principle.

2. Our representatives to the North Atlantic Council will urge an enlarged Atlantic effort in scientific research and development in support of greater collective security and the expansion of current activities of the Task Force working in this field in accordance with the Council's decison of last December.

3. The President of the United States will request the Congress to amend the Atomic Energy Act as may be necessary and desirable to permit of close and fruitful collaboration of scientists and engineers of Great Britain, the United States, and other friendly countries.

4. The disarmament proposals made by the Western representatives on the Disarmament Sub-Committee in London and approved by all members of N.A.T.O. are a sound and fair basis for an agreement which would reduce the threat of war and the burden of armaments. The indefinite accumulation of nuclear weapons and the indiscriminate spreading of the capacity to produce them should be prevented. Effective and reliable inspection must be an integral part of initial steps in the control and reduction of armaments.

5. In the absence of such disarmament as we are seeking, international security now depends, not merely on local defensive shields, but upon reinforcing them with the deterrent and retaliatory power of nuclear weapons. So long as the threat of international Communism persists, the free nations must be prepared to provide for their own security. Because the free-world measures are purely defensive and for security against outside threat, the period for which they must be maintained cannot be foreseen. It is not within the capacity of each nation acting alone to make itself fully secure. Only collective measures will suffice. These should preferably be found by implementing the provisions of the United Nations Charter for forces at the disposal of the Security Council. But if the Soviet Union persists in nullifying these provisions by veto, there must otherwise be developed a greater sense of community security. The framework for this exists in collective defence arrangements now participated in by nearly fifty free nations, as authorised by the Charter. All members of this community, and other free nations which so desire, should possess more knowledge of the total capabilities of security that are in being and in prospect. There should also be provided greater opportunity to assure that this power will in fact be available in case of need for their common security, and that it will not be misused by any nation for purposes other than individual and collective self-defence, as authorised by the Charter of the United Nations.

For our part we regard our possession of nuclear weapons power as a trust for the defence of the free world.

6. Our two countries plan to discuss these ideas with all of their security partners. So far as the North Atlantic Alliance is concerned the December meeting may perhaps be given a special character in this respect. This has been discussed with the Secretary-General of N.A.T.O., M. Spaak.

7. In addition to the North Atlantic Treaty, the South-East Asia Collective Defence Treaty, the Baghdad Pact and other security arrangements constitute a strong bulwark against aggression in the various treaty areas. There are also vitally important relationships of a somewhat different character. There is the Commonwealth; and in the Western hemisphere the Organisation of American States. There are individual mutual defence agreements and arrangements to which the United States is a party.

8. We recognise that our collective security efforts must be supported and reinforced by co-operative economic action. The present offers a challenging opportunity for improvement of trading conditions and the expansion of trade throughout the free world. It is encouraging that plans are developing for a European Free Trade Area in association with the European Common Market. We recognise that especially in the less developed countries there should be a steady and significant increase in standards of living and economic development.

9. We took note of specific factors in the ideological struggle in which we are engaged. In particular, we were in full agreement that:

Soviet threats directed against Turkey give solemn significance to the obligation, under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, to consider an armed attack against any member of the Alliance as an attack against all.

The reunification of Germany by free elections is essential. At the Geneva Conference of 1955 Messrs. Khrushchev and Bulganin agreed to this with us and our French allies. Continued repudiation of that agreement and continued suppression of freedom in Eastern Europe undermine international confidence and perpetuate an injustice, a folly and a danger.


The President and the Prime Minister believe that the understandings they have reached will be increasingly effective as they become more widespread between the free nations. By coordinating the strength of all free peoples, safety can be assured, the danger of Communist despotism will in due course be dissipated, and a just and lasting peace will be achieved.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Heath.]