HC Deb 12 February 1963 vol 671 cc1112-5
Q3. Mr. Mayhew

asked the Prime Minister if he is aware that General de Gaulle has stated that proposals for Franco-British co-operation in nuclear weapons were put forward at the Rambouillet meeting in December; and if he will explain these proposals in greater detail.

Q4. Mr. A. Lewis

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that the French President has disclosed details of the conservations held with him last December, respecting the British Government's attitude towards the French nuclear strike force; and whether, in view of this, he will now publish an account of those discussions.

Q5. Mr. Rankin

asked the Prime Minister whether he will issue as a White Paper the conversations he had at Rambouillet with President de Gaulle, in view of recent statements by the French President.

Q7. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the statement by President de Gaulle that Her Majesty's Government supported the creation of an independent European nuclear force in his conversations at Rambouillet in December, he will now publish the substance of those conversations in detail.

Q.12. Mr. P. Noel-Baker

asked the Prime Minister whether, following the statement made by President de Gaulle, he will make a statement clarifying what he said in his recent conversation with the President about the retention by Her Majesty's Government of an independent nuclear force.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. After my discussions with President de Gaulle at Rambouillet a joint agreed communiqué was issued.

Mr. Mayhew

Is the Prime Minister aware that statements have been attributed to the French President, and not denied by him, that at Rambouillet proposals for a joint Franco-British deterrent independent of the United States were discussed? In the right hon. Gentleman's own interests, in justice to him because he has been unfairly treated by President de Gaulle, will he not deny that such a discussion took place?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I made my position perfectly clear in the defence debate.

Mr. Rankin

Is it not the case that in the communiqué issued after the Rambouillet talks there was no indication of any disagreement between the right hon. Gentleman and the President? Is it not also the case that it was only when the right hon. Gentleman went to Nassau and made a defence agreement which included France without her consent that political differences arose? Is it not also the case that it was to those political differences that the Lord Privy Seal referred when he said that the Common Market negotiations had crashed for political reasons?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. That is not the case. This was one of many conflicting reasons but it was not so. In my discussion with President de Gaulle I made quite clear my views, both upon what we call the interdependent concept and upon independence.

Mr. Rankin

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for the Prime Minister to reply with a comprehensive answer to three points, one of which, dealing with the communiqué after Rambouillet, is contradicted by his answer?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman may find it convenient to test the matter by considering whether or no I have any power to compel the Prime Minister to answer in any way.

Mr. Henderson

Has the attention of the Government been drawn to the widely reported statement alleged to have been made by President de Gaulle to the effect that the Prime Minister had indicated that he was in favour of an independent European deterrent? Will the right hon. Gentleman take this opportunity, in any event, of reaffirming that this country's policy is to support an interdependent relationship on the basis of equal partnership within N.A.T.O.?

The Prime Minister

President de Gaulle has himself called attention to a warning about so-called statements of his private conversations. Perhaps that was to correct some statement that had been made. I made clear to him exactly the same position which I tried to explain in the defence debate in this House the other day.

This was that the British Government's view of the nuclear deterrent was that it should be interdependent in the sense that it was, for broad purposes, part of the alliance but with the right reserved to every sovereign State for its ultimate use in the necessities of national need. I thought that that position was perfectly clear. These principles were carried out in the Nassau Agreement.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Is it not now impossible to regard this conversation between the President of France and the Prime Minister as private, in view of the statements made by French deputies reporting the President, an official statement by the French Prime Minister, and statements by official spokesmen in this country? In view of the great importance of what passed between him and the President for our defence policy, our disarmament policy and for the non-dissemination of nuclear weapons, will the right hon. Gentleman issue a White Paper stating exactly what he and the President said?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I think that would be quite improper. I dealt with the matter as necessary in the defence debate in addition to the communiqué, and President de Gaulle himself has issued a warning against regarding as authoritative statements attributed to him.