HC Deb 26 February 1963 vol 672 cc1079-81
Q3. Mr. Rankin

asked the Prime Minister what discussions are proposed between the President of France, Presi- dent Kennedy and himself to decide who should be responsible within the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation for the use of nuclear weapons if the need arises.

The Prime Minister

These questions are for decision by the North Atlantic Council as a whole.

Mr. Rankin

But surely the right hon. Gentleman can tell us something about what is going on. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Why not? Is it not the case that the American Government are suggesting that each of the N.A.T.O. countries should have the right of veto in the event on the use of the nuclear weapon? Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that in the long run that means that America will control the use of the weapon in Europe and in America? Would not that be more of an advantage than the right hon. Gentleman's proposal of a majority decision which would increase the number of fingers on the trigger instead of keeping the number as at present?

The Prime Minister

There are, as the House knows, proposals which will be discussed at the next meeting of the N.A.T.O. Council and I think that I would rather leave the matter there.

Mr. H. Wilson

Before the right hon. Gentleman does that, and quite apart from future discussions which he may have with the President, may I ask whether he could answer a question which I have previously put to him? It is whether this question of consultation about the use of the nuclear deterrent came up in the discussions in the Bahamas. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is still a great deal of anxiety about this question of consultation during the Cuba period? Would he say whether, either in N.A.T.O. or in bilateral discussions, any thought is being given to the proposal of the American Minister, Mr. Finletter, that there should be a consensus of opinion agreed in advance on the sort of circumstances in which the West might have to consider using the nuclear deterrent?

The Prime Minister

As far as I know, there are no proposals under consideration in N.A.T.O. for placing nuclear warheads under the independent control of a non-nuclear Power. But there are to be discussions as to how N.A.T.O. as a whole could be more closely associated with the major policies.

Mr. Wilson

Since the right hon. Gentleman has read the wrong supplementary answer to the supplementary question, could I remind him what the question was? Did he discuss this matter at the Bahama Conference with the President? His answer had no bearing on that. Secondly, is there any discussion going on on Mr. Finletter's proposal about settling the consensus?

The Prime Minister

On the first part, what I discussed with the President is included in the communiqué, and I have nothing to add to it. As to the second question, there are broad discussions going on as to various plans but they are all at the moment very much in embryo.

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