HC Deb 18 July 1966 vol 732 cc25-7
28. Mr. Eldon Griffiths

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, if he will make a statement on the proposals which Her Majesty's Government are making on the reorganisation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in preparation for the meeting of Foreign Ministers in October.

Mr. George Thomson

We are discussing changes in the organisation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation with our allies, with the aim of reaching agreed decisions as soon as possible.

Mr. Griffiths

Will the hon. Gentleman give a badly needed assurance that any widely advertised cuts that may be made in our N.A.T.O. commitments and in particular to the Rhine Army will reflect a balanced reappraisal of the military situation, and not simply a panicky desire to compensate for the mismanagement of our national finances by the present Government?

Mr. Thomson

That is a different question from the one on the Order Paper. With regard to the present reorganisation of N.A.T.O., discussions are going on in the North Atlantic Council, and the best way is to see how these come out. We are seeking a general agreement amongst all members of N.A.T.O.

Mr. Walters

Is the Prime Minister discussing in Moscow any proposals which the Soviet Union Government may have for the reorganisation of the Warsaw Pact? Obviously, any thinning-out in Europe must be dependent on that.

Mr. Thomson

There is another Question on the Order Paper on the subject which I ought not to anticipate. Neither should I anticipate my right hon. Friend's statement to the House when he returns.

Lord Balniel

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether any new initiative is being taken by N.A.T.O. to secure a balanced and observed thinning-out of troops along the Warsaw Pact and N.A.T.O. frontier areas?

Mr. Thomson

The position is that at the last Ministerial meeting of N.A.T.O. it was agreed that the N.A.T.O. Permanent Council should take up actively the various methods of improving East-West relations. We have made our own proposals in this matter and there are now a series of studies being undertaken within the Permanent Council of N.A.T.O.

Mr. Zilliacus

Will my hon. Friend give an assurance that in approaching these questions the Government will bear in mind the principle that defence must be the servant and not the master of foreign policy, and that accordingly failure to reach agreement on how to make peace with the Soviet Union will entail the ending of our N.A.T.O. commitment to go to war in case of unprovoked aggression?

Mr. Thomson

Yes, Sir, we agree absolutely on my hon. Friend's initial proposition, and it is for this reason that we feel that progress with a political settlement in Europe has to be obtained before one can make progress with effective disarmament.

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