HC Deb 05 April 1965 vol 710 cc8-10
5. Mr. Ridsdale

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a further statement on the future of the Atlantic Nuclear Force.

32. Mr. Chataway

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what modifications he has made to his proposals for an Atlantic Nuclear Force.

45. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will now make a statement on the future of the Atlantic Nuclear Force.

Mr. Healey

Consideration of our proposals has so far been exploratory and on a bilateral basis. As a result of the Prime Minister's visit to Bonn we are a stage nearer multilateral discussions. Our proposals remain as outlined in the defence debate on 16th and 17th December.

Mr. Ridsdale

In view of the fact that so little progress seems to have been made in Bonn and Paris in the negotiations over the A.N.F., would not the Secretary of State agree that the difference between the Conservative and Labour Government's nuclear policy is one Polaris submarine or 1,000 less employed in the shipbuilding industry?

Mr. Healey

I certainly would not agree with that. If the hon. Member really has that view, I cannot understand why he has voted on so many occasions against Her Majesty's Government's proposals.

Mr. Soames

Surely the right hon. Gentleman will by now agree that the proposal for the A.N.F. is seen internationally for what it is, namely, a means of getting the right hon. Gentleman and his friends off a domestic political hook and nothing else? Has he not, in the bilateral negotiations which have already taken place, reached the conclusion that there is no Western European country which takes this seriously, and no Western European country which considers that this would be a valuable addition in any way to the arrangements of N.A.T.O. Western defence?

Mr. Healey

When the right hon. Member has a little more experience of his new rôle, he will not make such silly remarks.

Mrs. Short

In view of the improved cordiality arising from the Prime Minister's visit to Paris this weekend and the improvement in Anglo-French relations—which I am sure we all welcome—would my right hon. Friend, on the forthcoming visit to Paris which I understand he will make shortly, undertake to discuss with General de Gaulle a decent burial both for the A.N.F. and the M.L.F., and to discuss the real solution of our problems, namely, a Europe without nuclear weapons?

Mr. Healey

It is not in my power to ensure that when I go to Paris to talk with my opposite number, the French Minister of Defence, I will have any opportunity to talk to President de Gaulle.

Mr. Soames

Would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that I do not think that it is necessary to have been concerned particularly with defence for very long in order to realise that the A.N.F. as a proposal has no friends in Europe? Would he be so gracious as to answer the question whether he has already, in the bilateral discussions which he has had, had any form of support for the conception of an A.N.F. and whether any country has led him to believe that they consider this to be a valuable addition to the Western defence organisation?

Mr. Healey

Yes, Sir. As I have told the House, we discussed these proposals in detail with the United States Government last December, and, as a result, they became the main basis for discussion of nuclear sharing in the Alliance as a whole. They were discussed with the German Government when the Prime Minister was in Bonn. If the right hon. Gentleman read the communiqué published after that, he will know that the West German Government agreed to discuss these proposals on a multilateral basis in the Paris Working Group. I cannot understand why—if, as he claims, he has familiarised himself with what has happened in the last few months—he should make such absurd remarks about the position.