HC Deb 14 June 1961 vol 642 cc412-3
17. Mr. C. Pannell

asked the Minister of Defence in view of the fact that the major threat to peace in Europe lies in the risk of limited conflict in Central Europe, what steps he is taking to strengthen those types of forces to deal with such a situation.

Mr. Watkinson

I do not accept the premises on which the hon. Gentleman's Question is based. But I must make it clear that the Government will continue to ensure that the British forces assigned to N.A.T.O. are supplied with, and trained in the use of, the most modern weapons and equipment.

Mr. Pannell

Is the Minister aware that the recent statement seems to be moving against American policy and most modern policy that has progressed since the time when the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations was in his office? Most of us consider that his present attitude is rather retrograde in this matter. Are we having a reversal of Government policy in so far as we are moving again towards the massive deterrent?

Mr. Watkinson

I should advise the hon. Gentleman to read the speech, part of which I quoted, by Mr. Gilpatric of the Defence Department in America, which, as I say, accords with British and American policy.

Mr. Mayhew

How many, if any, of our brigade groups in Germany are capable of operating independently of nuclear weapons?

Mr. Watkinson

The hon. Gentleman knows very well that it is not in the public interest to give that sort of information, and I have no intention of doing so.