HC Deb 06 February 1969 vol 777 cc582-6
Q7. Mr. Dodds-Parker

asked the Prime Minister what steps have been taken to resolve the differences which occurred in November between Her Majesty's Government and the Federal German Republic; and whether he will make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's policy on Anglo-German relations, before his visit to Bonn in mid-February.

Q11. Mr. Eldon Griffiths

asked the Prime Minister if he will state the purpose of his forthcoming visit to Germany.

The Prime Minister

On what took place last November, I would refer to my replies to supplementary questions by the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) and the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Sir J. Rodgers) on 26th November.—[Vol. 774, c. 299–301.]

I am looking forward to my talks in Bonn next week with the Federal German Chancellor, which will cover a broad range of topics of mutual interest.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

Will the Prime Minister reassure our German allies that the support of N.A.T.O. is as important to this country as it is to the other members of the Alliance?

The Prime Minister

If they need that assurance, that assurance they will certainly have. It has been made clear again this week by the Foreign Secretary when he met the German Foreign Minister. Our position on this matter is quite clear. Certainly all our talks next week will be based on that particular fact.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Would the right hon. Gentleman say what he hopes to achieve in Bonn on the subject of Anglo-German aircraft collaboration and nuclear collaboration with both Germany and Holland? Would he give a pledge that there will be no further reduction in the British Army of the Rhine?

The Prime Minister

On the question of Anglo-German aircraft co-operation, we hope to put forward the existing degree of co-operation in this matter. The hon. Gentleman will be aware of our interest and also the German interest in the multi-rôle combat aircraft on which a great deal of work is taking place.

On the question of nuclear co-operation for peaceful purposes—the centrifuge proposal—I refer him to an Answer which was given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology on, I think, 22nd November.

To answer his question about the British Army of the Rhine, our position on this matter is as it was recently stated to N.A.T.O. by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. The hon. Gentleman will know of, and will no doubt welcome, the measures which we are taking to strengthen our co-operation in the matter of forces assigned to N.A.T.O.

Mr. Mendelson

In connection with my right hon. Friend's visit to Bonn, would he give his opinion on the recent statement made by the Foreign Secretary to the effect that it is now Her Majesty's Government's policy—as they cannot seek entry on economic grounds into the Common Market—to start negotiations, if others are willing, to have a joint foreign and defence policy? Is he aware that this flies in the face of the view of this House and of the stated view of Her Majesty's Government in the last Common Market debate, when they stated that they had no such intention in the immediate future?

The Prime Minister

Perhaps my hon. Friend has misunderstood the position. Nothing said by my right hon. Friend flies in the face of the categorical statements made from this Dispatch Box in the Common Market debates. I stressed, for example, at considerable length the fact that we felt that the arguments on economic grounds were strong, although arguable, but that the arguments on political grounds were very great indeed and were, in our view, unarguable. I made it clear that we did not and do not support any federal or supranational structure for our relations with Europe. What my right hon. Friend said exactly expressed the position of Her Majesty's Government.

Mr. Corfield

Will the Prime Minister bear in mind when he goes to Germany that the Government's approach to E.L.D.O. and the way in which they have been trying to wriggle out of their obligations under the airbus consortium has seriously undermined the confidence of the German Government and German industrialists in the desirability of this country as a partner in matters of advanced technology? Will he endeavour to be a little more straightforward than has been his habit in the past?

The Prime Minister

I will certainly bear that in mind, but I do not take very well, coming from the hon. Gentleman, his remarks about wriggling out of, for example, our E.L.D.O. obligations because I remember, having looked at all the discussions which took place at the time, that when those concerned got together to create E.L.D.O. and when the Continental partners said that there must be a facility to cancel the project if the cost escalated, it was the representative of Her Majesty's Government, on the instructions of the Conservative Party, who were then the Government, who said, "No. Whatever the cost, there can be no escape."That was, I should have thought, totally inconsistent with the views of a party which talks about restraining Government expenditure.

Mr. Ronald Atkins

Would my right hon. Friend advise the German Government that just as we are prepared to share our nuclear knowledge with them, so they should be willing to share the cost of the British Army of the Rhine with us?

The Prime Minister

The question of offset arrangements is of a somewhat seasonal character which attracts the attention of hon. Members and the Government at this time of year, and my hon. Friend may be sure that I have it in mind.

I could not accept the earlier part of his supplementary question if it could possibly be construed as meaning that there would be any sharing, pooling or deals of any kind about the military use of nuclear energy. The centrifuge project is specifically related to civil use and the German Government have always made it clear that they have no interest in the military use.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Regarding what he has just said about the sharing of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, is the Prime Minister so confident that it will be confined to that? Is it not likely that any extension of German nuclear knowledge and production would increase the danger of Germany getting her finger on the nuclear trigger?

The Prime Minister

There is nothing in the existing arrangement to prevent Germany or any country from manufacturing enriched uranium by one means or another which can be used for civil or military purposes. The fact that we are proposing a nuclear-sharing agreement does not make German nuclear rearmament more likely. Germany is fully committed under every relevant international treaty against any form of nuclear weapons by acquisition or by production and nothing in the centrifuge process will in any way change that.

Mr. Heath

What is the Government's position now on participation in the European airbus project?

The Prime Minister

Exactly as already announced by my right hon. Friend. The original airbus project has now been dropped because of the decision of the manufacturers concerned to do it on a different design and with a different engine—indeed, an engine with which we ourselves have been concerned. We have said that when this particular project has been worked out, costed, and its commercial potentialities estimated, we shall consider exactly how far we should participate in it. We are not signing blind a heavy commitment running into tens or perhaps hundred of millions for projects which have not been costed or estimated in advance.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Is not the best answer to these misgivings about the Germans having a military finger on a nuclear trigger a binding agreement between Great Britain and France for the sharing of our nuclear capacity as part of a European defence entity? If the Government's policy is a European defence entity, is not that what the Secretary of State for Defence is trying now to achieve?

The Prime Minister

I do not share the anxieties which the hon. Member is trying to remove by his proposal. I do not agree with his proposal, even if I shared his anxiety. My right hon. Friend was talking about discussion among the European members of N.A.T.O. about N.A.T.O. policy and defence policy in general. This certainly does not suggest—and is opposed to—the hon. Gentleman's proposal for nuclear sharing between ourselves and other European Powers.