HC Deb 13 April 1964 vol 693 cc7-9
6 and 7. Mr. Wingfield Digby

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) whether he will make an approach to Great Britain's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies to obtain agreement to the earmarking and training of 2,000 British troops in Germany for a possible future United Nations Organisation force, and to a contribution on a similar basis from those ships of the Royal Navy now allocated to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation;

(2) what approach he has received from the Secretary-General of the United Nations for the earmarking of British troops under the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in Germany for use at short notice as a United Nations Organisation force.

Mr. P. Thomas

We are ready to discuss with the Secretary-General of the United Nations and with our allies the idea of earmarking British units for United Nations peace-keeping purposes. Where these troops would come from would be one of the things which we would need to consider; the Secretary-General has himself made no proposals to Her Majesty's Government.

Mr. Digby

Is it not essential that before these proposals go any further there should be an absolutely clear distinction in everybody's mind between earmarking and allotting these troops? Whereas the Leader of the Opposition has given his support for the earmarking of troops from N.A.T.O., is he aware that his position with regard to the ships of the Royal Navy is still far from clear?

Mr. Speaker

The question is not intelligible. As put forward it asks Minister A whether a member of the Opposition, a person called B, is aware of something or other. It cannot be answered.

Sir J. Eden

Can my hon. Friend give any indication of what might be the attitude of our N.A.T.O. allies towards this, and whether we can expect any form of support from them—from all of them or from some of them only—in a project of this kind?

Mr. Thomas

The matter so far has not been discussed with our N.A.T.O. allies, and I should not like to anticipate what might be their reactions. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, we intend to discuss this matter with them and also with the Secretary-General.

Mr. Shinwell

Although the concept is an admirable one, is the hon. Gentleman aware that France makes a negligible contribution, if any, to N.A.T.O.? Is she likely to make any contribution to the United Nations?

Mr. Thomas

I would not like to anticipate what France's reaction might be until the question has been discussed with her.

Mr. Kershaw

Is there any particular advantage in earmarking any troops for any particular mission in the future? Would it not be better to undertake an obligation, if that is desired, and allocate troops as they are necessary at the time?

Mr. Thomas

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said when answering Questions the other day, he foresaw difficulties in earmarking particular troops in particular areas for this purpose; nevertheless, it was something that we would look into.

Mr. A. Henderson

Is it not a fact that at least three of our N.A.T.O. allies have already agreed to the ear-marking of troops for a stand-by force—Canada, Denmark and Norway? Why does the Minister of State suggest that none of our allies has yet stated its position?

Mr. Thomas

I am obliged to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I said that the matter had not been discussed with our allies in N.A.T.O. as yet. There are difficulties, because it has been considered inappropriate in the past for permanent representatives on the Security Council to earmark troops for this purpose, but, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said the other day, we shall look into this matter and discuss it with the Secretary-General.