HC Deb 06 November 1962 vol 666 cc797-9
Q4. Mrs. Hart

asked the Prime Minister what arrangements have been made for him to be consulted on the use of offensive weapons from United States bases in this country in the event of hostilities between the United States and another Power.

Q6. Mr. Warbey

asked the Prime Minister whether it remains his general understanding with the American President that, except in an emergency situation created by a massive attack, American nuclear weapons will not be used anywhere except after consultation with the Prime Minister of Great Britain.

The Prime Minister

The arrangements under which certain bases in this country are made available to the United States forces provide that the use of the bases in an emergency would be a matter for joint decision by the two Governments in the light of the situation prevailing at the time. I have also a general understanding with President Kennedy that we would consult one another before using nuclear weapons in any part of the world.

Mrs. Hart

Can the Prime Minister say whether this means that during the recent dangerous Cuban crisis, it would have been possible for permission to use the bases here to be refused to America despite the fact that we were, apparently, not being consulted on American action in the Cuban crisis?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. The pledges given to Lord Attlee in October, 1951, to Sir Winston Churchill in January, 1952, and by President Eisenhower's Administration in 1958 and now reaffirmed by President Kennedy last year, of course held, and they cover any use of bases in this country by the American Administration.

Mr. Warbey

How can the House and the country have any confidence in these arrangements when it is obvious that they broke down completely during the recent Cuban crisis? Is it not a fact, which the Prime Minister virtually admitted last week, that at what he called the climax of the crisis he handed over to President Kennedy the sole power to determine Whether the people of this country should live or die in a nuclear war? Did he do that voluntarily or because he had to?

The Prime Minister

If the hon. Member reads carefully what I said on Tuesday last, he will see that he has completely misrepresented the facts. No question of nuclear weapons arose, fortunately.

Mr. Rankin

In view of the fact that the Prime Minister has reminded us of a pledge governing the use of nuclear weapons which was made at the time of Lord Attlee's Administration, why is it that on 25th October last the right hon. Gentleman was able to tell the House only that he had been informed about the action of the President of the United States, which involved the use of nuclear weapons, and could not tell us that he had been consulted?

The Prime Minister

It did not involve the use of nuclear weapons.