HC Deb 06 February 1969 vol 777 cc580-2
Q4. Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

asked the Prime Minister whether unilateral disarmament is the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. We seek multilateral disarmament by international agreement, and all our policies have been directed to this end.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Have not the Government cancelled the R.A.F.'s strike aircraft and announced the end of Fleet Air Arm and a number of major Army units? Is not this disarmament and is it not unilateral?

The Prime Minister

It is relating the defence policy of this country to our defence requirements and to what we can afford. I understand that the policy of the party opposite is unilateral rearmament which, of course, would make it totally impossible for them even to begin to fulfil any of their promises about cutting Government expenditure.

Mr. Brian Parkyn

Would my right hon. Friend initiate a serious analytical study to decide whether unilateral nuclear disarmament might, perhaps, now be the best form of defence for this country?

The Prime Minister

If I were to do that, I think that I would reach the same conclusion as has been reached on a number of occasions; that it is not the right answer. My hon. Friend will be well aware of the part played by Her Majesty's Government in getting the non-proliferation treaty, which I now see has been officially endorsed by the President of the United States. He will also know of the initiative taken by my hon. Friend the Minister of State at the Foreign Office in proposing to the Geneva Disarmament Conference not only further steps on the banning of nuclear tests but also his forward-looking proposals for an international convention on chemical and biological warfare preparations.

Mr. Peyton

Does not the right hon. Gentleman feel that there is some need to reconcile his original Answer with the speech made recently by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence about the weakness of N.A.T.O.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I do not think that there is any such difficulty. My right hon. Friend's speech was fully in accordance with the policy of Her Majesty's Government. We have a duty—this was said by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, and, indeed, by hon. Members in all parts of the House in the debate on Czechoslovakia—to maintain the utmost vigilance and strength in N.A.T.O.

Mr. Crawshaw

Would the Prime Minister agree that, if the Secretary of State's statement is correct, there seems to be little point in keeping the conventional forces in Europe that we have there now and that it would be more credible and much more economical to defend Europe with a thin string with the avowed intent of using the nuclear deterrent?

The Prime Minister

Despite my hon. Friend's great authority in this matter, I do not think the conclusions he reaches from a study of my right hon. Friend's speech would command universal acceptance. Throughout his membership of N.A.T.O. military committees, my right hon. Friend has been emphasising the need to bring N.A.T.O.'s preparations into line with the requirements and realities, and this is what he has been succeeding in doing.