HC Deb 22 November 1960 vol 630 cc972-4
42. Mr. Healey

asked the Prime Minister whether he will seek another meeting with Mr. Khruschev to discuss implementing their agreement to study the possibility of controlling arms and weapons in an agreed area in Europe.

Mr. R. A. Butler

I have been asked to reply.

No, Sir. In the communiqué issued after my right hon. Friend's visit to Moscow last year, this question was linked with that of a political settlement for Germany. It should, in our view, be included among the questions that would fall to be discussed between the Four Powers at a Summit Conference rather than bilaterally.

Mr. Healey

In view of the very disturbing speech made yesterday in Paris by the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is much more desirable for the Western Powers to seek some agreement with the Soviet Union to limit and reduce arms and forces in Central Europe than it is unilaterally to seek to increase them?

Mr. Butler

I cannot add to the terms of the communiqué, which, as the hon. Gentleman will know, definitely linked this matter with wider political considerations, to which the Prime Minister drew attention as late as in December last. Under the circumstances, I do not think that we can pursue this matter bilaterally.

Mr. S. Silverman

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that Sir Anthony Eden several years ago supported this general idea of an area of disengagement in Central Europe, and would not the right hon. Gentleman at any rate say sufficient to show that Her Majesty's Government have not deserted that idea?

Mr. Butler

The idea is mentioned specifically in the communiqué, which I have with me here, and it was mentioned by the Prime Minister on 17th December, so that it is quite clear that the idea as such is not abandoned, but it has been linked with other political considerations and with a political settlement for Germany.

Mr. Gaitskell

Will the question therefore be on the agenda of the N.A.T.O. Ministers' conference to discuss in December? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this is a project which many of us feel offers the most helpful possibility for agreement with the Soviet Union?

Mr. Butler

I could not either prejudge or give a definite opinion whether is will be included at the N.A.T.O. conference, but I will undertake to put it to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on his return from Italy.

Mr. Healey

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Her Majesty's Government have the same right as any other member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to submit questions for discussion at the meetings of the North Atlantic Council, and that it is not really a question of prejudging at all? Her Majesty's Government have the right and the ability to raise the question, and in view of the fact that the former Chief of the Air Staff gave strong support in a recent article in the Daily Telegraph to this conception, will not Her Majesty's Government return to the views expressed eighteen months ago?

Mr. Butler

I think the hon. Gentleman is going a little too far. I said in reply to the Leader of the Opposition that I would discuss this with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. I think we had better leave matters like that.