HC Deb 22 January 1968 vol 757 cc2-5
2. Mr. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will give consideration to the question of withdrawing from the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation; and if Her Majesty's Government would give notice of denunciation in April, 1969, under Article 13 of the Treaty so that the United Kingdom could withdraw from the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation by 1970.

The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Frederick Mulley)

No, Sir.

Mr. Roberts

Would the Minister not agree that, now that we have abandoned our dreams of a world military rôle, we should come to terms with ourselves by getting out of N.A.T.O. and out of Germany? Will he not accept that we shall be forced to do it in a few years, and we might as well act now, thus saving some prestige and a great deal of unnecessary sacrifice for the British people?

Mr. Mulley

I cannot accept that premise. I want to make it clear that we remain firmly committed to the Atlantic Alliance as the basis of our security, as my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made clear in his speech in the debate last Thursday. We believe that progress in improving relations with the countries of Eastern Europe can best be made in close consultation with our allies, and N.A.T.O. has an important role to play in this.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Is the Minister aware that his Answer is very acceptable to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House? If, in particular, the Foreign Secretary is concentrating British policies more and more on Europe, as seems to be the case, surely he should find ways and means of increasing our help to N.A.T.O. rather than decreasing it.

Mr. Mulley

I am grateful for the support of the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Rankin

Do not our obligations in N.A.T.O. lead us at times into difficulties with friendly Powers in South East Asia like Cambodia and Laos when the United States violates their neutrality?

Mr. Mulley

I cannot see the connection between the events of which my hon. Friend speaks and the existence of the N.A.T.O. Alliance, the geographical limits of which are very precisely drawn.

Mr. Longden

Is the Minister aware that many of his hon. Friends, who do not care tuppence for the future of this country if they can get their prescriptions for nothing, are peculiarly susceptible to Soviet propaganda, which will increase this year, that we should withdraw from N.A.T.O.? May I reinforce what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home)? The right hon. Gentleman's reply has been welcomed on these benches.

Mr. Winnick

Silly little man.

Mr. Mulley

While the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Longden) may not be susceptible to Soviet propaganda, obviously he is susceptible to propaganda from other quarters. I repudiate his very insulting remarks about hon. Members on this side of the House. In facing up to the economic circumstances in which the country is now, we not only are doing the right thing but have the support of the nation.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

Will the Minister point out to his hon. Friends that the Warsaw Pact is stronger than ever and that, until there is some sign of a reduction of forces in Central Europe, we should maintain the shield of N.A.T.O. as strong as it is now?

Mr. Mulley

I do not think that there is evidence suggesting that my hon. hon. Friends need any education in this subject. The admirable speech of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary last Thursday was, I thought, loudly applauded in all quarters.

33. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if, in view of the Government's policy to plan on the basis that there is no likelihood of a Russian attack in Europe, he will put forward at the forthcoming discussions of the future of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation proposals for a reducation in its armed forces.

Mr. Mulley

At their meeting in December at Brussels, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Ministers agreed that one of the future tasks of the Alliance would be to intensify studies of disarmament and practical arms control measures, including the possibility of balanced force reductions.

Mr. Allaun

If America and France can unilaterally withdraw their troops, why cannot we? Is a reduction of one brigade anywhere near good enough?

Mr. Mulley

I do not think that unilateral reductions in forces would be appropriate in view of the considerable forces which the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact Powers maintain in Europe. We welcome and do what we can, as do our allies, to seek mutual reductions in forces, and I very much hope that we can go forward in that direction.

Mr. Goodhew

Would the Minister give a categorical assurance to the House that no plans are being made in the Ministry of Defence to withdraw half our forces from Germany?

Mr. Mulley

The hon. Member asked me about plans in the Ministry of Defence. He must address that question to the Minister in charge of that Department.

Mr. Mayhew

Is the Minister aware that if limited fighting broke out in Europe there are good reasons for believing that it is more likely to be at sea than on land? When the Royal Navy is withdrawn from Singapore and the Persian Gulf, will he consider making a substantial naval contribution to N.A.T.O., especially in the Mediterranean?

Mr. Mulley

As a former Minister in the Department my hon. Friend realises that strategic questions of that sort are best addressed to the Minister of Defence.

Sir T. Beamish

Does the Minister accept the flat statement in the Question that there is no likelihood of a Russian attack in Europe? If not, why did he not dispute it?

Mr. Mulley

If we took upon ourselves the task of rewriting all the Questions put down as well as giving the Answers, that would be a rather long task. I accept that the danger of Soviet attack is very much less than it was some years ago, but equally I think that the role of N.A.T.O. has not been unimportant in that happy development.