HC Deb 19 November 1964 vol 702 cc618-21
Q6. Brigadier Clarke

asked the Prime Minister why he recommended the appointment of a Minister of Disarmament.

The Prime Minister

The appointment of the Minister of State in the Foreign Office expressly to deal with disarmament is the practical expression of the importance we attach to the subject and of our recognition of a need for a new initiative by this country.

Brigadier Clarke

Will the Prime Minister say how he reconciles this appointment with the statement that he made at Chatham and Devonport regarding a bigger conventional Navy? Or was he merely electioneering in Service towns?

The Prime Minister

What I said at Chatham and Devonport is exactly what I have said in this House in successive defence and foreign affairs debates. I hope that in approaching this question the hon. and gallant Gentleman will not be expressing disagreement with the views forcibly put forward from all parts of the House in the late Parliament, and I am sure in this one, in favour of the need for an early comprehensive multilateral nuclear disarmament agreement?

Mr. Grimond

Can the Prime Minister say why this Minister of State is in the Foreign Office rather than in the Ministry of Defence, and what his relationship will be with the Ministry of Defence?

The Prime Minister

This was a problem which took some deciding. He is in the Foreign Office because all our international negotiations, as right hon. Gentlemen opposite know from experience, take place either under Foreign Office auspices directly with other countries, or under the ægis of the United Nations under the Geneva Committee of 18, and therefore it was thought appropriate that his work should be properly fitted in with any other initiatives the Foreign Office might be taking. I agree about the importance of my right hon. Friend having the very closest link with the Ministry of Defence. This is being done. He is having the fullest consultation with my right hon. Friend, and of course the defence staff, in preparation for any work that he undertakes, and it has been announced that he will have advising him the scientific adviser to the Ministry of Defence, Sir Solly Zuckerman, who was very fully used for this purpose by right hon. Gentlemen opposite, even if some of them do not seem to realise it.

Mr. R. A. Butler

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman who will answer for this Minister in the House of Commons? Secondly, how soon can we expect a comprehensive statement on Socialist policy for disarmament, as opposed to the original ideas of the Prime Minister himself?

The Prime Minister

Answers in this House will be the responsibility of Foreign Office Ministers. As regards Socialist policy for disarmament, a very full and detailed list of proposals was sent to the right hon. Gentleman as Foreign Secretary, I think on 10th January last, but we never had any reactions to them, or action taken on them.

Mr. Butler

The right hon. Gentleman must be aware that a full statement was made by me at Geneva when I was Foreign Secretary on the positive proposals for disarmament put forward by the late Government. We studied with interest the proposals made by the party opposite when it was in Opposition. What we want now is to hear what their constructive proposals are, and the sooner the better.

The Prime Minister

The comparison of the statement which we sent in and the rather miserable package which emerged in the Geneva statement was, I think, a very notable contrast. We intend to start from the statement which was sent to him, to improve on it, and to take any opportunities which present themselves to us to produce new initiatives in this field.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

What the Prime Minister calls a miserable package was a programme of disarmament agreed with the United States and put forward jointly at Geneva. I hope he will not describe it in that way when he has studied the disarmament situation. I am just renewing my request for a foreign affairs debate, in which, no doubt, this issue will feature, between now and Christmas.

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is right to relate this to the general foreign affairs situation, and indeed to the general defence situation. As he knows, we welcome the suggestion that after our return from Washington and before Christmas there should be a debate to go into these questions.