HC Deb 26 May 1966 vol 729 cc715-20
Mr. Blaker

Is the Prime Minister aware that his noble Friend the Minister of State responsible for disarmament has recently been taking the line in public statements that in the interests of getting an agreement to ban the spread of nuclear weapons it would be better if the problem of nuclear sharing in the Western Alliance was solved by means of consultative arrangements rather than a collective nuclear force? Did the Prime Minister put this point of view to Dr. Erhard and, if so, what was the result?

The Prime Minister

I have already dealt with the speech of my noble Friend. So far as my discussions with the German Chancellor were concerned, we did not raise these issues of nuclear sharing, although they were discussed between my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and the German Foreign Secretary.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Now that the Prime Minister has talked to the German Chancellor and apparently come away without any agreement at all on support costs, will he have the generosity to with draw some of the very unfair remarks which he made about my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) in the last Parliament? May I ask him whether we may anticipate that when there is a support cost agreement with the Germans it will be more favourable than he lately was able to make with the United States?

The Prime Minister

I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman of all people should talk about support costs. The criticisms I made of the agreement negotiated under his Government, which provided for no firm figures at all, were met by the fact that last year my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary negotiated a much more satisfactory agreement, providing for far better figures than those which the right hon. Gentleman had got. Now we want to improve still further on them, although in view of his attitude it is a little difficult to do so. Further talks are now going to be held leading to agreement, we trust, by 18th September.

Mr. Michael Foot

While dealing with support costs has the Prime Minister had the opportunity of reading the memoirs of Lord Moran, where it is stated that when the original agreement to keep four divisions in Germany, which are responsible for those costs we have to bear, was made by the Foreign Secretary in the then Government, it was repudiated by the Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, the following day, who said, according to the memoirs, that the commitment did not mean anything? Would the Prime Minister comment on the situation?

The Prime Minister

I am afraid that I am a bit behind in my reading and I have not fully caught up on the Suez reading which my hon. Friend has recently recommended me to undertake. I do riot think that that particular issue arises on this Question and certainly not out of the talks with Chancellor Erhard. All I can say is that there was no effective agreement on support costs when we came into office. Now there is and we want to extend it.

Mr. Heath

May I ask the Prime Minister whether, in the present circumstances, one of the most important things is that we should find the best possible accommodation between the integrated N.A.T.O. forces and the French forces after 1st July? This was no doubt discussed with the German Chancellor. Will the British Government now be much more flexible in trying to find this accommodation than they have been so far?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is right to stress that this was one of the most important questions we discussed. By far the greater part of our discussion was on this question. There is complete agreement between the two Governments on the questions raised by the French decisions, although, of course, the problem of the French forces in Germany is mainly for the German Government themselves. They have to decide what conditions they can agree on. We had discussions with them. We were not trying to reach agreement on it. We understand their position. On the attitude taken within N.A.T.O., there is complete agreement between the German Government, ourselves, and, indeed, the United States Government.

Following is the Joint Communiqué issued on 25th May, 1966, after the visit to London of the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (Professor Erhard) and the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs (Dr. Gerhard Schroeder):

At the invitation of the Prime Minister, Mr. Harold Wilson, the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Professor Erhard, visited London from 23rd-25th May, The visit was in return for that paid by the Prime Minister to Bonn in March, 1965. Professor Erhard was accompanied by the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Gerhard Schroeder.

Her Majesty The Queen received the Federal Chancellor in audience on the 24th May.

Chancellor Erhard had comprehensive discussions with the Prime Minister on a wide range of questions of common concern to the two Governments. The German Foreign Minister, Dr. Schroeder, and the British Foreign Secretary, Mr. Stewart, took part in the talks. The First Secretary of State, Mr. Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Callaghan, the Defence Secretary, Mr. Healey, the President of the Board of Trade, Mr. Jay and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Mr. Thomson, were also present for part of the talks. In addition, the German Chancellor had separate discussions with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and there were separate talks between Dr. Schroeder and Mr. Stewart.

The visit took place in an atmosphere of mutual confidence and friendly co-operation which reflected the very satisfactory state of Anglo-German relations. Both sides recalled with satisfaction the impetus which had been given to the growth of understanding and the establishment of a close and friendly relationship between the two countries by the visit to Germany in 1965 of Her Majesty The Queen.

The Chancellor and the Prime Minister gave particular attention to the present situation in the Western Alliance. They found themselves in full agreement on the need to maintain and improve the effectiveness of the integrated N.A.T.O. defence system and on the principles on which this should be done. They share the conviction that, at the N.A.T.O. Ministerial meeting at Brussels in June, decisions should he taken which will both enable this reorganisation to go forward and agreements to be reached with France on her continuing place in the alliance. They were also agreed on the importance of continuing the studies of the nuclear organisation of the alliance.

The Chancellor and the Prime Minister agreed that the greater cohesion and strength of the Alliance which they hope will be achieved should at the same time serve to improve the prospects of progress towards a peaceful settlement of the outstanding problems of East-West relations. It was agreed that both governments should continue their efforts to improve relations with the Soviet Union and the countries of Eastern Europe. The Prime Minister welcomed the recent initiative of the Federal Government embodied in their Note of the 25th of March, 1966 in the field of disarmament and European security and expressed the hope that this would contribute to achieving an atmosphere of greater mutual confidence in Europe in which a start could be made towards a just and lasting political settlement in the interests. of all concerned.

In this connection the Chancellor and the Prime Minister reaffirmed their view that an essential element in any lasting settlement must be the reunification of Germany on the basis of the principle of self-determination. The Chancellor and the Prime Minister recognised the importance of the role of the U.S. Government as well as that of their other Allies in arriving at such a settlement. They noted their Government's continued readiness to agree to any measure likely to reduce tension in Europe without changing the balance of military forces to the disadvantage of the West.

The Prime Minister reaffirmed the determination of H.M.G. to continue to play their full part in defending the freedom of the people of Berlin.

The Prime Minister and the Chancellor also discussed recent developments within the European Economic Community, and relations between the Community and the United Kingdom. They reaffirmed their belief in a wider European unity in which all the Countries of Europe who so wished might play their full part. The Prime Minister reaffirmed the willingness of Britain to join the European Economic Community, together with the other members of E.F.T.A. who wished to do so, provided that ways could be found to safeguard essential British and Commonwealth interests. The Chancellor emphasised anew that the German Government had always supported British accession to the European Economic Community and that it would continue to do so. The Heads of Government expressed the hope that further progress along this road could soon be made in co-operation with all partner countries concerned.

The present state of the Kennedy Round negotiations were also reviewed and both sides reaffirmed their intention of doing their utmost to bring the negotiations to a successful conclusion. The questions of Vietnam and Rhodesia were also discussed. The Prime Minister informed the Chancellor of the latest developments in the Rhodesian situation and explained the British Government's thinking. He thanked the Chancellor for the support and co-operation of the Federal Government on this issue and stressed the continuing importance of maintaining effective sanctions against the illegal régime in Rhodesia.

The Prime Minister and the Chancellor reviewed the problem of financing the foreign exchange costs of British troops in Germany. The Prime Minister reaffirmed the statement in the British Defence Review of February, 1966 that the British Government think it right to maintain their ground forces in Germany at about their existing level until satisfactory arms control arrangements have been agreed in Europe, provided, however, that some means is found for meeting the foreign exchange cost of these forces. The Federal Chancellor in reply explained the German position and referred to the existing contractual agreement.

It was agreed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the German Minister of Finance should meet shortly in order to arrange for a mixed Commission to examine all the various methods by which the problem might be satisfactorily resolved. This Commission should report to the two Governments by 15th September, 1966.

The Federal Chancellor and the Prime Minister had a short exchange of views on the question of international liquidity. Chancellor Erhard invited the Chancellor of the Exchequer to Bonn for further discussions on this subject.

The Chancellor and the Prime Minister also reviewed the progress of Anglo-German consultations. They agreed that these were developing well and affirmed their determination to maintain and develop the closest cooperation between the two Governments.

The Chancellor and the Prime Minister agreed to hold a further exchange of views in Bonn in due course.