HC Deb 25 October 1960 vol 627 cc2145-7
40. Mr. Warbey

asked the Prime Minister whether he will now make a statement about the revised agreement on the use of the United States bases in the United Kingdom.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

As I told the House last summer, discussions were undertaken at the official level to review the arrangements relating to the use by United States forces of bases in this country. I took the opportunity of my visit to the United States to review these arrangements personally with President Eisenhower. I am satisfied that the position agreed is satisfactory from our point of view.

Mr. Warbey

Is the Prime Minister aware that this position is entirely unsatisfactory for the people of this country, who are gravely concerned about the use of American bases here? Is he further aware that what the Opposition asked for last July—[HON. MEMBERS: "Which one?"]—was that the agreement should be revised so as to ensure that there should be British political control over any possible use of these bases for provocative purposes, and that this revised agreement should be published? Will the Prime Minister undertake to do this?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir.

Mr. Swingler

Is not the Prime Minister going to publish anything about the terms of the new agreement—if it is a new agreement—which results from these conversations? Does he not recall that in statements which he and the Home Secretary made in the House last summer it was indicated that something would be published about the results of the conversations in Washington? Will not he fulfil this undertaking to the people?

The Prime Minister

It would not be suitable to publish the details of these working arrangements, but we have been carefully through them and I am quite sure that they are satisfactory and give us all that is proper and right.

Mr. Healey

Is the Prime Minister aware that when the House discussed these matters in the summer great concern was shown on both sides at the fact that it had been proved that it was possible for military persons—and foreign military persons at that—to take actions of great political importance from bases in this country without reference to those who carry political responsibility in Britain? Can he at least give the House some general principles governing the agreement, and assure the House that this is no longer possible, as it was in the summer? In particular, can he assure the House, in terms, that he is now in a position to take direct responsibility for all flights of foreign military aircraft from bases in this country?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I am satisfied that under the arrangements, as we have been through them, everything that takes place will be fully known to the responsible political heads of both countries.

Mr. Shinwell

Does not the Prime Minister agree that there is some room for flexibility in this matter, particularly in view of the development of Polaris and the nuclear submarine? Is not he aware that there are grave doubts in the United States and in other quarters about the vulnerability of the static sites? In those circumstances, may I beg him not to close his mind to a possible revision of this matter?

The Prime Minister

That is a different question. What we have been discussing are the flights, and not the question of Polaris.

Mr. Grimond

Can the Prime Minister tell us whether Her Majesty's Government are informed of all reconnaissance flights from this country before they take place, and whether they have any right of veto over such flights?

The Prime Minister

I think it would be quite wrong to publish the details of the arrangements we have made, but I think I can say that we are fully informed on both sides of everything that is proposed to be done.