HC Deb 17 December 1959 vol 615 cc1712-24

Question again proposed, That this House do now adjourn.

2.54 p.m.

Mr. H. Hynd

When that slight interruption took place, I was referring to the hon. and gallant Gentleman's remarks about the difficulty of defining defence forces and of even defining military forces.

Not long ago, I was going along the border between East and West Germany. On looking through the barbed wire, I saw some well-armed men who, I remarked, were probably members of the East German Army. I was assured that they were not; they were police. The line between armed police and soldiers must be very thin indeed. I think that that illustrates the kind of difficulty which any organisation has in working out a Treaty of this kind. Nevertheless, this Treaty is fairly definite in its wording, and if, in the course of experience, weaknesses have been revealed, now is the opportunity to call attention to them.

I was particularly interested in the hon. and gallant Gentleman's suggestion that if the exemption from inspection which Britain enjoys is an obstacle in the way of getting general agreement and acceptance, there is no reason why we should not waive that exemption, because I suggest that we in this country have nothing to hide. I believe that it is correct to say that we recently opened Gibraltar to inspection under this Treaty.

That is an example of the way in which this country is willing to cooperate, and I think that if the Minister can reassure us on the points raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman it will help considerably in getting an efficient system of inspection in Western Europe and may well lead to an efficient system of inspection for disarmament generally.

2.57 p.m.

Mr. Gilbert Longden (Hertfordshire, South-West)

I, too, would like to congratulate my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) on having raised this debate in the House. He is, as I think the House knows, and if I may say so with respect, doing an excellent job as the rapporteur of the Defence Committee of the Western European Union. No one is better qualified to raise this matter than my hon. and gallant Friend, and I have two reasons why I am glad he has done so.

First, as my hon. and gallant Friend said towards the end of his remarks, if seven friends cannot maintain an effective system of control of armaments and inspection there is very little hope for anything that may emerge from a Summit Conference. Secondly, as my hon. arid gallant Friend also said, there are suspicions of Germany being re-aroused by hon. Members opposite and in the country.

Now, as to that, I should like to recall to the House an extract from a recommendation which was passed by the Assembly of Western European Union, in March, 1957. It reads as follows: That all Western forces he equipped on equal terms with tactical atomic weapons and those guided missiles which improve technical warfare. That was part of a recommendation attached to Colonel Fens's great report of that year which was passed—I was a member at the time—by 39 votes in favour and 7 against with 19 abstentions.

It is important, I think, to realise that we cannot have first-class and second-class troops in any alliance and that what we are armed with, therefore, Germany must in time be armed with, too. If that is accepted, it becomes all the more necessary that this Agency, which was set up in Protocol IV to the Brussels Treaty, should be effective. My hon. and gallant Friend said that hon. Members are aware of what that Agency is supposed to do, but I think it important that those outside the House should also be aware of it.

Briefly, it has two tasks. It has to satisfy itself that the undertakings in Protocol III not to manufacture certain types of armaments are observed and, secondly, in Annexe 4 to Protocol III, it has to control the level of stocks of armaments held by each member on the mainland of the Continent in accordance with a majority vote of the Council of Western European Union and ensure that they are not exceeded. The hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd) referred to loopholes in the agreement. But I do not think that it is so much a question of loopholes as of its not being properly observed. However, we shall hear from my hon. Friend later about that. It is rather disturbing to realise that some of its terms have not yet been ratified. I hope that we shall hear something about that.

To deal with the suggestion made by my hon. and gallant Friend that we should add to our commitments to persuade our friends to honour theirs, I would only say that I do not think that the time has come for that. I am not at all sure that, in principle, it would be a good thing to do. We have sufficient commitments of our own which, so far as I am aware, we are honouring, but we shall hear from my hon. Friend about that.

Lastly, there is this idea in the air. outside the House, at any rate, and perhaps inside it, to conclude that the Federal Republic of Germany has now got nuclear armaments. My own impression is that the Federal Republic has not got such armaments under her own control at the moment. I would ask my hon. Friend to make this position abundantly cleat.

3.1 p.m.

Mr. William Warbey (Ashfield)

The hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett), in raising this subject, referred to the fact that many people, including, unfortunately, some of my hon. Friends, were persuaded four or five years ago to accept German rearmament by the argument that it would be kept within bounds by the Brussels Treaty and the Armaments Control Agency. Unfortunately, those safeguards are proving to be illusory, the fears of many of us are proving to be justified, and that has been borne out to some extent by the two speeches which have been made from the other side of the House.

I want to refer to the fact that, although the Armaments Control Agency is empowered to satisfy itself that the German Federal Republic is carrying out its obligation in regard to nuclear weapons, that obligation is limited to the obligation—I am quoting from Article I of Protocol III:— …not to manufacture in its territory atomic, biological and chemical weapons. There is, therefore, nothing whatsoever within the terms of the amended Brussels Treaty to prevent Germany from entering into joint production agreements for the manufacture of nuclear weapons with, say, France and for them to be manufactured on French territory and to be imported into Germany, and, in fact, there are good reasons to believe that such arrangements are already in progress. Furthermore, there is nothing whatsoever to prevent Germany from obtaining, by purchase or otherwise, such weapons from abroad, and, in fact, the Germans are engaged in doing so.

The Times today carries a report of information made available by the West German Defence Ministry, in Bonn, in which a list is given of the missiles of nuclear capacity which are being supplied to the Bundeswehr. They include the Nike-Ajax, the Nike-Hercules, the Hawk, the Sidewinder—which are antiaircraft missiles—the Honest John, the Matador and the Mace-which are ground-to-ground missiles—and others, and it is pointed out that Of these, the Nike-Hercules, Honest John, Matador, and Mace are capable of carrying nuclear warheads. The extraordinary statement is made—I should like to hear what the Joint Under-Secretary has to say about this—that … the Hawk will eventually he fitted with a nuclear warhead. In other words, there is no question of there being any separation between the missile and its warhead in that particular case.

The Mace missile, for the purchase of which£40 million has been allotted by the Federal German Defence Committee, is said to have a range of 950 miles. That is no longer even a tactical nuclear weapon. It is a strategic nuclear weapon which is capable of carrying nuclear warheads, if not to Moscow, to places like Leningrad and Kiev—provided, of course, that the missiles, if they are ever fired, are fired in an eastward direction.

If it were to happen, as happened in the last war, that the supposition of hon. Members opposite, that German weapons, if used, would be used against the East, were not to be realised, and if those weapons were ever to be used in a westward direction, those missiles would be able to blast every city in the British Isles, not only London, but Bristol, Nottingham, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow and even Aberdeen and Belfast.

Many of us on this side of the House cannot feel assured that what happened between the wars and the process which was started by the Anglo-German Naval Treaty and which ended with V-bombs dropping on London will not happen again. We are therefore justifiably anxious about all these tendencies.

Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett

Does the hon. Gentleman seriously suggest that German rearmament before the Second World War was started by the Anglo-German Naval Treaty?

Mr. Warbey

It was not started, but it was encouraged by the Anglo-German Naval Treaty, which was the first official breach of the Versailles system.

It was very much like some of the arrangements made today and was intended to be restrictive, but in reality it opened the first breach. We are now seeing the opening of the breaches in the system which was supposed to have been set up by the Paris Agreement and the Brussels Treaty four or five years ago, breaches which may well involve this country in considerable danger in future.

Even if they do not, these breaches at least create an extremely unfavourable atmosphere in which to prepare for a Summit Conference, at which it is hoped to bring about a relaxation of international tension through mutual concessions by both sides. I suggest that we should recognise how illusory the safeguards which were drawn up four or five years ago have proved to be, and that we should concentrate our attention on using all our political ability to resist the dangerous developments which are taking place in the direction of the encouragement of a revival of German militarism and intransigence which may well again be a danger to the peace of Europe and the world.

3.8 p.m.

Mr. Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)

I must for a moment challenge the historical recollections of the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey). To say that the Anglo-German Treaty of 1935 was the first breach of the Treaty of Versailles is so wildly contrary to the facts that me compares the hon. Member with the clock which strikes thirteen times. One begins to doubt whether anything else which he said could possibly have been true.

In point of fact, the first open breach of German disarmament was the occupation of the Rhineland. As with some oilier breaches, one now realises that in those days Germany conducted her rearmament on the safe soil of Russia, far from the prying eyes of the Western democracies, and that her rearmament was already far gone before anyone knew anything about it in public, except the Russians.

Nevertheless, the hon. Member has voiced the suspicions which exist among hon. Members opposite and, to some extent, in the country about German rearmament. I therefore urge the importance of the debate which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) has initiated. If we and the seven nations of Western European Union can get the Armament Control Agency working as it is designed to work according to Treaty, many of those suspicions can be dispelled. If it is true—as I do not accept —that the Federal Republic of Germany is arming itself with atomic weapons, the Agency provides a method by which the degree to which Germany rearms itself with these weapons can be controlled, just as well as can the other members of Western European Union.

Therefore, it is very much in the interest of all the nations comprising Western European Union to see that this Agency works very much better in the future than it has done in the past. There is very hide reason why it should not. If it is not possible for these seven nations, all contiguous and all of a similar type—industrialised Westernised nations—to iron out their difficulties, if it is not possible for them to agree to some measure of armaments control and inspection among themselves, what chance is there that these arrangements can be made between nations hostile to each other?

This Treaty and the Armaments Control Agency, after a period of quiescence during which Western European Union has been rather overtaken in importance by the Council of Europe, O.E.E.C. and N.A.T.O., provide a forum where the very questions which are so energetically and anxiously discussed can be discussed with great point.

The Treaty provides a method of arms control, including the arms of Western Germany. It provides a method of settling what the level of armaments in Western Germany shall be at a time when we realise that not all nations have contributed what they said they would contribute and when the United States is extremely anxious to know what the level of European armaments will be in the future. Lastly, it provides an opportunity for the United Kingdom to meet with the six nations of the Common Market.

I know that the Western European forum does not provide for all the subjects which are of great importance. but those are three of the most important. It does not provide for an economic arrangement between the six nations, but can anyone doubt that in the immediate future the steps that must be taken to improve European collaboration will be not economic but political in character, and connected, also, with defence and disarmament?

Western European Union and this Treaty provide a first-class opportunity for these questions to be decided. I welcome very much the speech of the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in the Western European Assembly in Paris the other day, in which he suggested that there should be periodical meetings, after the meetings of the European Economic Community, between the Assembly and the Council of W.E.U. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will be able to push that suggestion forward and carry on in that way.

If this debate serves its purpose by giving publicity to these complex and very important matters it will have done a great deal to further collaboration in Europe.

3.13 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Robert Allan)

In opening the debate, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett), spoke with great authority derived from his position. When I saw that he had put down this Motion I got hold of one of his published works and read it. It is, if I may say so, very good. Partly from it and partly from what he was kind enough to tell me, I had an idea of the points which he has raised. I should like to take the opportunity both to thank my hon. and gallant Friend for and to congratulate him upon what has been doing in this very important field.

My hon. and gallant Friend—my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Longden) stressed it particularly—said that the Control Agency was really the keystone in the whole N.A.T.O. structure when Germany joined N.A.T.O. Germany was brought into N.A.T.O. because it was felt that she must make some contribution towards the defence of the West. My hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West and the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey) emphasised that at that time there was a considerable amount of anxiety among hon. Members on both sides of the House about the possibilitiy of resurgent German militarism. The Armaments Control Agency gave the peoples of the West, who had suffered from German militarism, a guarantee against its resurgence.

I have here a whole speech about the activities of the Agency, but in view of the shortness of the time available to me, and the obvious knowledge of hon. Members who have spoken, I do not intend to go into them in detail. The essence of the debate has been to stress how vital this Agency is; to make sure that is working as efficiently as it should be; and for us all to be able to feel satisfied that its functions are not being whittled away by modifications to the Brussels Treaty or by any other means.

The hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd) listed the two main functions of the Agency. First, it has to make sure that the Germans observe their undertaking not to manufacture certain weapons and, secondly, it has to control the level of stocks. The idea has crept into the debate that the Agency is not working as well as it should be, but I do not think that my hon. and gallant Friend would subscribe to that view. The Agency is working very well. There is no cause to complain of what it has been doing. During 1958, for instance, its inspections to verify the level of stocks covered 22 military depots and 11 armaments factories. The inspections in Germany, to check that the Germans were not manufacturing weapons they had undertaken not to manufacture, were concentrated this year on aircraft production. In the two previous years they were concerned with warships and guided missiles. The Agency's work in both these fields was efficiently carried out, and it was able to report confidently that there was no contravention of the Treaty.

But I do not think that the House is very worried about the inspection of conventional weapons; the anxiety expressed by my hon. and gallant Friend and other hon. Members is more concerned with the nuclear side, and to some extent the way in which the revised Brussels Treaty has been modified.

I know that there has been some disagreement as to whether or not the Agency should have a nuclear expert now. It is suggested that this expert should be appointed now, so that the preparatory work can be started. On the other hand, it is argued that there is no point in making those preparations until effective production of nuclear weapons has begun, because it is only when that stage is reached that the W.E.U. Council can decide on the appropriate level of stocks. This matter is still under discussion. We certainly would not oppose the appointment of an expert now.

My hon. and gallant Friend mentioned the use of the unanimity rule. This is a very nice legal problem. I am not sure that I altogether agree with my hon. and gallant Friend in this matter, but I shall look into it again. Despite the lack of a nuclear team at the moment, having read the Agency's report I do not feel that its work is being hamstrung now or that it is likely to be ineffective in the future.

My hon. and gallant Friend mentioned that there were reactors in Germany and indicated that enriched material might be obtained from those plants and used for military purposes. In practice there are very few commercial reactors in Germany. I think that there are four or five there. Germany cannot obtain her fissile material from any source other than the United Kingdom, the United States of America or Euratom. In all those cases there is provision for inspections to be carried out to ensure that the material is not used for military purposes.

Present-day techniques prevent the concealment or camouflage of equipment for the production of nuclear weapons. This was mentioned by the hon. Member for Ashfield. Enormous installations, vast electrical power, and huge security precautions are required before nuclear weapons are manufactured. As far as I can see, Germany cannot produce atomic weapons in any clandestine way.

Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett

I should not like my speech to be misunderstood. I had not only Germany in mind when I mentioned the production of nuclear weapons. I am convinced that the present German Government are adhering loyally to their undertaking not to make them, and that they have no intention of making them.

Mr. Allan

I did not wish to misrepresent my hon. and gallant Friend. I think he will agree that the remarks that I made apply equally to all the W.E.U. countries concerned. That is particulary so because there are inspectors—albeit non-expert inspectors—who can go into any part of these countries and demand to see any installation.

Mr. Warbey

I was not referring to clandestine production in Germany. I said that there was nothing to prevent Germany from entering into joint production arrangements with, shall we say, France, or purchasing such weapons from abroad.

Mr. Allan

That would be impossible if the Agency was working on the control of the level of armaments. The Armaments Control Agency could find out the level, and if the French were manufacturing more than they were permitted to, whatever they were doing with their products, the Agency could get on to them.

A number of other points have been raised. My hon. and gallant Friend read the Article of the Treaty which said that the internal defence and police forces of the member states of W.E.U. on the mainland of Europe should be fixed by agreement within the organisation of Western European Union having regard to their proper function and to their existing level. Such an agreement has been made, and the United Kingdom has ratified it. The Council regularly urges other member countries to expedite their ratification. My hon. and gallant Friend mentioned that we had already attempted to ratify the Convention establishing a tribunal. Had it not been for a drafting error in the Order in Council we would have been in a position to ratify the Convention, which is the only remaining item that needs ratification by the United Kingdom. Our record on that is fairly good.

I should like to turn for a moment to another issue that has been raised. It has been said that by allowing modifications to the Treaty we are destroying the guarantee against German military power which the creation of the Arms Control Agency sought to give. The Treaty has been modified three times. The first modification permitted the Germans to manufacture guided antitank missiles. The second permitted them to build one training ship of between 4,800 and 5,000 tons. The third permitted them to manufacture proximity fuses and various other anti-aircraft missiles. These are for defence purposes only and, even when they are manufactured, the number of them is still subject to control by the Agency.

I want to say a word about the other weapons which Germany now possesses or is about to possess, which were referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West and spoken of in more detail by the hon. Member for Ashfield. It cannot be said too often that Germany possesses no nuclear weapons. The Germans are now being provided with certain missiles, but without the warheads to go with them where those warheads have any nuclear capa- bility. The hon. Gentleman read from The Times— I happened to see it this morning—a list of the weapons which Germany is to have, not which she has. The Hawk, which he mentioned, is a missile with a conventional warhead. There is no question of Germany having nuclear warheads to Mace at all. The range of Mace, about which the hon. Gentleman made great play, has been reported in The Times as, I think, nearly 1,000 miles, but I would not confirm that because it is really not my province to do so.

The point really is that, even if these missiles would carry warheads which had any nuclear capability, the warheads are not and never can be under German control. The warheads are held under the personal control of the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, and in no circumstances could they be made available to any German unit other than on the Supreme Allied Commander's direct order.

I emphasise, also, that these missiles, not weapons, are being supplied to Germany. Germany is not manufacturing them at all. The Germans are not permitted to manufacture any atomic or nuclear weapons, and it is specifically laid down in the Treaty that it cannot be modified to permit Germany to manufacture such weapons. That in itself is the assurance for which my hon. and gallant Friend asks in that very matter.

Mr. Warbey rose

Mr. Allan

For the sake of those to come, I think that we ought to draw this discussion to a close.

I am glad that we have had this debate. If it has done nothing else, it will have assured those who work so devotedly in the Control Agency of the interest we take in their work and the support we are prepared to give them. The support has come from both sides of the House. In particular, I echo the tribute paid by my hon. and gallant Friend to Admiral Ferreri, the director of the Agency. It is largely as a result of his strenuous and thoughtful efforts that the Agency has been so successful in fulfilling its function, and I know that I speak for all Governments of Western European Union in expressing our appreciation not only of his work but of the tact and consideration he has shown in doing it.

My hon. and gallant Friend and others of my hon. Friends said that this Agency could well be the prototype for the wider control system which we seek. I hope that that is so. Certainly, if any such agency were established, we would hope that its staff would work with the zeal and efficiency shown by that of the Armaments Control Agency.