HC Deb 29 May 1963 vol 678 cc1314-7
34. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he will make a statement about the Ottawa meeting of the North Atlantic Council, with particular reference to the United States proposal for a multilateral or mixed-manned Polaris surface fleet.

35. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement about the North Atlantic Council meeting at Ottawa.

37. Mr. Rankin

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the decisions reached at the Ottawa meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Mr. Heath

The main result of the Meeting was that the Council approved the steps taken to organise the nuclear forces of the Alliance, on the lines foreshadowed in paragraph 6 of the Nassau communiqué. This means in practice the creation of an inter-allied nuclear force, to include the British V-bomber force, whose formal assignment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was notified during the meeting, and three United States Polaris submarines as well as other nuclear delivery units already assigned to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe.

The arrangements approved by the Council will increase the effectiveness of the nuclear striking power directly available to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and will give member Governments a greater part in the day-to-day management of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation nuclear forces in decisions on nuclear defence policy.

The Council also reviewed the political situation facing the Alliance. I will, with permission, circulate the text of the communiqué in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Biggs Davison

Was it at this conference that a general welcome was accorded to the proposed multilateral surface force? Would it not be franker and better for Anglo-American relations if Her Majesty's Government now withdrew this general welcome to something which we cannot afford, which cannot work, and which is detrimental to Her Majesty's Government's own policy with regard to the independent nuclear deterrent? Further, was any proposal of this kind ever envisaged at the Bahamas Conference?

Mr. Heath

The subject discussed at the N.A.T.O. meeting in Ottawa was the inter-allied nuclear force. There was no full discussion of the multilateral force, because that was not the purpose of the meeting, it still being under examination by the various countries concerned. I hope that my hon. Friend, too, will be prepared to form his judgment when the examinations have been completed.

Mr. Allaun

Will the Government undertake to publish the details in a White Paper? Is it not true that Bonn has offered to contribute 40 per cent. of the cost and of crews of this fleet? Does not this eagerness spread from the belief in West Germany that this will be a major step towards its becoming a nuclear Power?

Mr. Heath

I am not sure for what details the hon. Gentleman is asking. The details which were agreed on at Ottawa have already been published in the N.A.T.O. communiqué. As regards the multilateral force, I understand that the German Government have indicated their general support, but any question of the total of their contribution is a matter to be negotiated.

Mr. Rankin

In the report, the Ministers welcomed the measures taken at Ottawa to increase the effectiveness of nuclear capability. Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the United States already has an over-kill capacity which absolutely baffles human imagination? Does not he think that, if the Ministers were to reconsider that paragraph, they could also think of the point they might be expected to reach when they could say that they were thinking in terms of a reduction instead of a further increase?

Mr. Heath

I should have thought that our efforts at Geneva to reach an agreement on disarmament were sufficient proof of our interest in the desirability of a reduction in armaments.

Commander Courtney

Would not it have been much wiser if the British Government had voiced the obvious technical objection to this proposal before it went to Ottawa and so avoided putting us in a position where a N.A.T.O. decision has been made and we have to make our own separate decision afterwards?

Mr. Heath

I do not think my hon. and gallant Friend has quite understood the position. No decision was taken at Ottawa about the multilateral force. The decision taken was about the inter-allied force, which was the result of paragraph 6 of the Nassau Agreement. General agreement was reached between the members of the alliance on this point. There was no decision—and it was not a major item of the discussion—about the multilateral or mixed-manned force. That is still being investigated by those countries which are interested.

Mr. Grimond

In their thinking about the multilateral force, are the Government considering this as an alternative or as an addition to the British independent nuclear deterrent? Also, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Government are considering whether it could be controlled by anyone else except the Americans ultimately?

Mr. Heath

It is being considered as an addition to the existing nuclear arrangements. The matters of control still remain to be discussed both with the American Administration and with the other Governments which are interested.

Dame Irene Ward

Will my right hon. Friend convey to the Prime Minister the warning from this side of the House that he should not go too quickly in this matter?

Mr. Heath

If I understand my hon. Friend aright, as I have sometimes tried to do in the past, she means that we should give it most careful consideration and a full examination. I assure her that we will do that, but I have sometimes noted in the past that her emphasis is rather more on haste than on delay.

Following is the communiqué: The North Atlantic Council met in Ministerial session in Ottawa from 22nd to 24th May, 1963. 2. In their review of the international situation, Ministers emphasised that in the world of today peace is indivisible. The enduring character of the North Atlantic Alliance, founded on the principles of inter-dependence and common defence, constitutes a basic guarantee for the maintenance of peace. 3. The Council noted with regret that the Soviet Union had so far shown little interest in seeking equitable solutions for outstanding problems. 4. With regard to Germany and Berlin, the threat has not disappeared. Thanks to the firm attitude maintained by the West, however, developments detrimental to the interests of Berlin and the Alliance have been effectively discouraged. In this connection, the Alliance abides by the terms of its Declaration of 16th December, 1958, on Berlin. 5. Outside the treaty area too, tensions and difficulties continue to exist which have profound effect on the Alliance, Soviet military personnel remain in Cuba—and the situation there, with its repercussions in the region generally, still gives cause for concern. Ministers also expressed their disquiet over recent events in Laos, and stressed the importance of sustained efforts to secure respect for the Geneva Agreements. 6. Ministers reaffirmed the importance, in building a peaceful world, or progress towards general and complete disarmament by stages and under effective international control. In this connection, they noted that agreement in principle had been reached between the United States arid the U.S.S.R. on measures to improve communications designed to reduce the risk of war by accident or miscalculation. They expressed the hope that the Soviet Union's attitude would evolve sufficiently to permit genuine progress to be made on key disarmament questions. 7. The growing scope and complexity of the problems facing the Alliance make it imperative for the Council to ensure that its political consultations arc as prompt and effective as they can be made. Ministers noted the progress already achieved in this direction and expressed their determination to secure still further improvements. 8. Ministers discussed N.A.T.O. defence policy and approved the steps taken to organise the nuclear forces assigned or to be assigned to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR). These include notably:
  1. (a) assignment of the United Kingdom V-Bomber force and three United States Polaris submarines to SACEUR;
  2. (b) establishment by SACEUR on his staff of a deputy responsible to him for nuclear affairs;
  3. (c) arrangements for broader participation by officers of N.A.T.O. member countries in nuclear activities in Allied Command Europe and in co-ordination of operational planning at Omaha;
  4. (d) fuller information to national authorities both political and military.
Ministers welcomed these measures to increase the effectiveness of the nuclear capability at the disposal of the Alliance and to improve co-ordination and control of its nuclear deterrent forces. 9. Ministers recognised the need to achieve a satisfactory balance between nuclear and conventional arms. They directed the Council in permanent session to undertake, with the advice of the N.A.T.O. military authorities, further studies of the inter-related questions of strategy. force requirements and the resources available to meet them. 10. The Council noted progress made in the implementation of earlier resolutions concerning the defence problems of Greece and reaffirmed its interest in the effective application of these resolutions. 11. The North Atlantic Alliance seeks peace. It deplores the diversion into the military field of resources which might be used for the betterment of mankind, and in particular for increased efforts to raise living standards in developing countries. But the free world remains faced with a continuing threat that members of the North Atlantic Alliance have both the right and the duty to protect their freedom and independence. 12. The next Ministerial meeting will be held in Paris in December, 1963.
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