HC Deb 08 July 1968 vol 768 cc36-8

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:

60. Mr. MURRAY

TO ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to what extent the United Kingdom's decision to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty took account of commitments to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation; and if he will make a statement.

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

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I would like now to reply to Question No. 60.

Her Majesty's Government are aware that the confidence of members of the North Atlantic Alliance in the collective security arrangements of the alliance is an essential factor in considering their accession to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

I therefore welcome the oportunity to reaffirm Her Majesty's Government's continuing and wholehearted commitment to the collective security arrangements of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

I also wish to make clear our interpretations of the basic Articles I and II of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

These Articles would not prohibit North Atlantic Treaty Organisation nuclear consultation and planning or the permanent committee established for this purpose.

They would not disturb existing bilateral arrangements for deployment of nuclear weapons within allied territory, as these arrangements do not involve any transfer of warheads or control over them up to the point where a decision to go to war is made. The Non-Proliferation Treaty would not be relevant to such a decision and would not be operative once it were made.

These Articles do not deal with the transfer of nuclear delivery vehicles, provided that there was no transfer of nuclear weapons or control over them.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

May I remind the House that we have a mass of business before we get to Orders of the Day? Brief questions will help.

Mr. Murray

While thanking my right hon. Friend for making the position of N.A.T.O clear, can he say what effect, if any, this Treaty will have on the development of political union in Europe?

Mr. Mulley

I am much obliged to my hon. Friend. A federated State would not be barred from succeeding to the former nuclear status of one of its components. A federated State would have to control all of its external security functions, including defence and all foreign policy matters relating to external security.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

Can the Minister say which of the N.A.T.O. Powers have not accepted the Treaty?

Mr. Mulley

A number of countries belonging to N.A.T.O. have not yet signed, but the only N.A.T.O. country which has indicated that it is unlikely to sign is France.

Mr. Heffer

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that it is a matter of regret that the Government should be so definite at this time in their support for the continuation of N.A.T.O.? Is it not clear that the time for looking again at N.A.T.O. and the Warsaw Pact has come? Would he not reconsider the Government's point of view in relation to this matter?

Mr. Mulley

My statement today is concerned with the interpretation of the Treaty which has been agreed within N.A.T.O. On the broader question, my hon. Friend will know that mutual force reductions are under study within N.A.T.O. and that we hope to make further progress in this regional European disarmament area, as well as in the broader categories.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Since this Question has obviously been put down to allow the Foreign Office to make the situation clear on this very important Treaty, would it not have been much wiser to make a statement to the House and allow a debate to take place, so that hon. Members could appreciate the enormous importance of this, and the great complexity of the Treaty, which has not yet been debated?

Mr. Mulley

Matters of debate are not for me. I would welcome the prospect of debate. I think that my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal has said that he is hoping to arrange a foreign affairs debate before the end of the Recess, when I hope that this will be one of the matters to which attention will be turned.

Mr. J. T. Price

While we all strongly support the action taken by the Government in signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and all efforts to bring about general disarmament, will my right hon. Friend make it clear to the House that unilateral disarmament is not the policy of this Government, this party or this House?

Mr. Mulley

I am very happy to make it clear that we do not stand for unilateral disarmament. We could not make progress towards real disarmament if we tried to follow a thesis of that kind.

Perhaps I could correct a previous remark, when I said that there would be a debate before the end of the Recess. I meant before the beginning.

Mr. Marten

What effect can this statement have upon the re-equipment of the British Army of the Rhine with tactical nuclear weapons?

Mr. Mulley

This has no direct bearing because, as the hon. Gentleman will appreciate, when he studies my reply, this means, in effect, that the N.A.T.O. policy, as at present pursued, is not affected by Articles I and II of the Treaty.

Forward to