HC Deb 08 February 1961 vol 634 cc375-7
8. Mr. Swingler

asked the Minister of Defence if, in the forthcoming White Paper on Defence, he will state whether it is still Her Majesty's Government's policy to initiate the use of nuclear weapons in certain circumstances.

16. Mr. Warbey

asked the Minister of Defence whether, in the forthcoming White Paper on Defence, he will include an estimate of the proportion of total defence expenditure which is accounted for by nuclear weapons and their means of delivery, including expenditure on research and development.

Mr. Watkinson

It is not customary to disclose in advance the contents of the White Paper on Defence and I must. therefore, ask the hon. Members to wait until it is published.

Mr. Swingler

As the right hon. Gentleman still has some time to give very serious consideration to this in view of the further development of rockets and nuclear weapons since this doctrine was first enunciated, and in view of the utterly suicidal nature of this doctrine for this country now, will he consider inserting something in the White Paper to show that he has returned to sanity and abandoned his policy?

Mr. Watkinson

The hon. Member had better await the White Paper.

Mr. Warbey

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that if we were to eliminate the nuclear element from our strategy the savings realised would be sufficient to pay for the necessary expansion of scientific and industrial research and of our health, education and welfare services without imposing a single penny of extra burden on the taxpayer, the insured contributor, the patient and the consumer?

Mr. Watkinson

No, Sir; I would not. The hon. Gentleman will see that for himself if he bothers to look at the figures.

Mr. S. Silverman

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the statement recently made by the President of the United States of America that in no circumstances would they fight first? Does he not appreciate that the British Government's intention, as set forth in a former Defence White Paper, that in some circumstances they would strike first creates a fundamental division between the defence policy of the Government and that of their principal ally in N.A.T.O.?

Mr. Watkinson

There will probably always be varying views about what has been written in the past, but over a whole series of White Papers it has been clearly said time and time again that this country would never be an aggressor.

11. Mr. Mayhew

asked the Minister of Defence what steps he is taking to ensure that the British Army of the Rhine is fully organised, equipped, trained and deployed to meet threats to peace in Europe without recourse to nuclear weapons.

Mr. Watkinson

In dealing with aggression, N.A.T.O. forces would not necessarily have recourse to nuclear weapons. B.A.O.R., as the United Kingdom's land force contribution to N.A.T.O., is organised, equipped, trained and deployed to meet the N.A.T.O. military authorities' defence plans, which call for both nuclear and conventional capacity.

Mr. Mayhew

But is it not rather a disturbing fact that the B.A.O.R. as at present organised and trained is virtually incapable of operating in any conventional rô le? Is it not a fact that all the B.A.O.R. exercises last year were held on the assumption of the use of nuclear weapons? Is not this contrary to General Norstad's own policy?

Mr. Watkinson

The B.A.O.R. exercises last year were, as they will be this year, in exact accordance with the Supreme Commander's doctrine, and that is that we must be prepared to use either nuclear or conventional weapons as circumstances dictate.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

Will the Minister consider circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT public statements made by British officers with the B.A.O.R. about the use of nuclear weapons?

Mr. Watkinson

I think that there is a Question down to my right hon. Friend on that subject. What I must make plain on the broad policy issue is that there is no change and that we work as loyal members of N.A.T.O. to the directives, both political and military, laid down by the Alliance, and we have not departed or budged from that.