HC Deb 24 May 1966 vol 729 cc275-7
Q1. Mr. Marten

asked the Prime Minister what progress has been made on the proposal that India should be given a nuclear guarantee.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

This and related matters are still under consideration by the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Committee at Geneva, Sir.

Mr. Marten

As the Prime Minister seems to be obsessed with the idea of putting our nuclear deterrent into an Atlantic Nuclear Force, will he give an assurance that he will retain independence over a substantial part of Britain's nuclear deterrent so that, when the time does come to give India a collectivised nuclear guarantee, Britain will be able to play a substantial part in that?

The Prime Minister

We hope that there will be a collectivised guarantee possible, not only for India but for other non-nuclear Powers. I am glad to see that the hon. Gentleman is now beginning to accept the principle of collectivised nuclear policies rather than the so-called independent ones which he used to support.

Mr. Rankin

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it would seem, on the surface at least, that a guarantee to India of nuclear protection does involve a breach of my right hon. Friend's own policy of not spreading nuclear weapons?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. It is an essential part towards it, because at the Geneva conference Mr. Kosygin proposed a useful initiative, namely, that nuclear Powers would give an undertaking not to use their nuclear weapons against non-nuclear States. In Moscow recently we pressed Mr. Kosygin to agree that this should be extended to the point where there could be guarantees by nuclear Powers to non-nuclear countries in case they were attacked by some nuclear countries.

Mr. Heath

Does the right hon. Gentleman mean by "collectivised" that this would be an international agreement but that the nuclear deterrent would remain under national command?

The Prime Minister

We would have to work out the details for the Pacific, but, as I have said before, it would mean that we would have a collectivised nuclear guarantee and, from the point of view of this country, we intend to collectivise our nuclear position, whether in the Atlantic, Pacific or anywhere else.

Mr. Heath

I am afraid that that answer does not have the Prime Minister's usual clarity. Three times he has used the word "collectivised". I ask him to explain what "collectivised" means.

The Prime Minister

I thought that it was clear. I will make it clear. We have made it plain in Europe, and this applies everywhere else, that we do not intend to preserve the myth of the independent deterrent, and that it would be part of a collective security agreement with no pretence at independent national status. I hope that it is now clear. If it is not, I will try to explain it again.