HC Deb 26 April 1961 vol 639 cc401-3
16. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Lord Privy Seal if the strategy of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to provide front-line units with tactical nuclear weapons has been altered following the recent meeting between the Prime Minister and the President of the United States of America.

20. Mr. M. Foot

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, on his recent visit to the United States of America, made or received any new proposals from the United States Government about the future supply of tactical nuclear weapons to the West German armed forces.

Mr. Heath

As I reminded the House on 27th March, it is already accepted North Atlantic Treaty Organisation strategy that the shield forces should be equipped with nuclear weapons for tactical use. No new proposals in this field were made during the recent Washington talks. Moreover, any alteration to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation policy is a matter for the North Atlantic Council as a whole, not for the United Kingdom or the United States in isolation.

Mr. Allaun

Has not President Kennedy recently and publicly expressed his desire to keep N.A.T.O. forces to non-nuclear weapons? On this occasion, as opposed to several others, is not the President absolutely right, in view of the increased danger of war by accident if numerous front-line commanders have their fingers on the trigger?

Mr. Heath

As I understand it, that is not the view expressed by President Kennedy. He has stated his desire that the strength of the conventional forces of N.A.T.O. should be increased, but he has not asked or expressed a wish that nuclear weapons should be either reduced or removed.

Mr. Foot

Is the Lord Privy Seal aware that, before the Federal German Chancellor paid his recent visit to Washington, it was widely suggested that he would ask, or demand, a great or considerable increase in the supply of these tactical nuclear weapons to German forces? May we take it from the right hon. Gentleman's reply that these proposals by Dr. Adenauer were not even discussed in Washington with the Foreign Secretary, or that the German Chancellor's proposals have been turned down flat?

Mr. Heath

I am dealing with discussions which took place between the President and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

Mr. Healey

Why is the right hon. Gentleman being so coy about this? It is being widely publicised in the United States that the American Government have persuaded the West German Government to accept Pershing missiles instead of Mace missiles, which have a much longer range. Is this not at least a step, even though a small one, in the right direction? Will not Her Majesty's Government support more steps like it?

Mr. Heath

In answer to the Question on the Order Paper, I was dealing with the talks between the Prime Minister and President Kennedy.

Mr. S. Silverman

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the term "tactical nuclear weapons" is a euphemistic expression, because they include weapons several times more destructive than those used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Is that right?

Mr. Heath

I understand that that is so. We have discussed before in this House the whole question of the use of weapons for tactical and strategic purposes.

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