HC Deb 03 March 1966 vol 725 cc1481-3
Q1. Mr. Marten

asked the Prime Minister whether he has now proposed the re-negotiation of the Nassau Agreement; and if he will make a statement.

Q5. Mr. G. Campbell

asked the Prime Minister what arrangements he has made to start negotiations to alter the terms of the Nassau Agreement.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

I have nothing to add to the Answer I gave on 14th December, 1965, to a Question by the hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker).

Mr. Marten

Does that mean that this particular pledge, which was given at the last election in order to pacify the Left wing, is still the Labour Govern- ment's policy? Or is it, like steel nationalisation, to be dropped?

The Prime Minister

Of course it is the Government's policy, as I have explained on a number of occasions. [Interruption.] Of course it is—[HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] As soon as we are able to reach agreement with our allies on the form of the Atlantic Nuclear Force. I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will not go on pressing us to fall over ourselves to put nuclear weapons in the hands of the Germans.

Mr. G. Campbell

Is not this yet another non-event? Will the Prime Minister be speaking again at the next election at Plymouth and will he again propose there to pay for an expanded naval shipbuilding programme out of the money saved from a nuclear programme?

The Prime Minister

We have already made some saving out of the nuclear programme, as has been announced in the House.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."]—To answer the first part of that supplementary question, this will certainly be an event under the Labour Government in the next Parliament.

Mr. George Y. Mackie

Would the Prime Minister care to say what circumstances have changed and whether the dangers of proliferation are greater or less than when he took office and when he made his pledge about re-negotiating?

The Prime Minister

There is on the Order Paper a Question about an anti-proliferation agreement which I shall be answering. The operative part of the Nassau Agreement which requires changing is that part which is based on the pretence that we had an independent nuclear deterrent. That pretence was blown up 18 months ago.

Mr. Heath

Even that remark does not quite tally with the Prime Minister's statement, because is he aware that on a former occasion he argued that to try to add a Polaris submarine to a Western striking force as a result of the Nassau Agreement was like trying to add a dried pea to the top of a mountain? Is that still his view about it?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. [Interruption.] I thought that I said that it was like adding a pea to the top of a drum, but I will accept the right hon. Gentleman's quotation. It has been for a very long time understood that the nuclear striking power of the West as a whole without any British contribution would be about 95 per cent. or 96 per cent. of the total. That is at any rate the ratio of a pea to a drum, if not to a mountain. We kept the Polaris submarine programme because production was beyond the point of no return, but we said that it must be internationalised as a means—[HON. MEMBERS: When?]—it will be. We believe in negotiating adequate conditions for what we do and not rushing in without conditions, like right hon. Gentlemen opposite. We believe that it has a rôle to play in securing an Atlantic arrangement which does not provide, as many hon. Gentlemen opposite would provide, a separate nuclear striking power in Europe.

Mr. Heath

Is the Prime Minister aware that we have admired the pertinacity and guts with which he has continued to push this pea to the top of the mountain?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his compliment. He will now understand our difficulties in the light of the pressure, exerted by him and his colleagues, to sacrifice non-proliferation to the speeding up of the nuclear rearmament of Western Europe.