HC Deb 18 February 1969 vol 778 cc207-14
Q6. Mr. Marten

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his visit to Germany.

The Prime Minister

The House will realise that my talks with the Federal German Chancellor were confidential. But I can say that we had a very practical and constructive discussion of the main issues confronting us including particularly European problems. I would refer hon. Members to the Joint Declaration issued at the end of the talks in Bonn which I will, with permission, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Marten

Is not the decision to hold the Presidential election in Berlin liable to create a certain amount of tension with the Russians at the very time when we should be trying to get together with them? What advantage do the British people get out of following the Prime Minister's policy of supporting the Germans in this?

The Prime Minister

This decision is not a matter for the British Government or any Government other than the German. In the case of the Germans, it is not a Government decision but a decision of their Parliament. That decision having been taken, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would agree that any tension that has followed it arises not from German actions but the quite unnecessary reaction to the decision.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Should not Britain's aim be to obtain a reduction of tension throughout Europe? If so, would not my right hon. Friend be better advised to tell both the East and West Germans to stop playing silly beggars instead of doing what he is doing, which is to encourage the provocative holding of elections in Berlin instead of the capital, which is Bonn?

The Prime Minister

I had no opportunity of discussions with the East German authorities, and therefore did not have the opportunity of using either my hon. Friend's phrase or any other diplomatic language. But I certainly disagree with him that the line we took on the matter was designed to increase or heighten tension. Indeed, the purpose of the whole of our talks, as was clear from the very brief but effective declaration we issued, was to create a situation in which there can be a reduction in tension between the East and West, which was a declared purpose of N.A.T.O. last summer before events were set back by the invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

I congratulate the Prime Minister on his remarks about European unity in Bonn, but does not he agree that an ounce of concrete action is worth a ton of affirmations? How does he advise those of us who go on British delegations to W.E.U. and the Council of Europe to meet German criticism that, while we talk European, when it comes to action over E.L.D.O., C.E.R.N. or the airbus we are a good deal less European than we sound?

The Prime Minister

I think that the best thing the hon. Gentleman might say to them is that a good test of the good European is not to be ready to waste money on projects whose economic value has not been proved. He might further tell them that in the case of E.L.D.O. it was his Government which refused to have any limit if the costs escalated, and he can apologise suitably for that. He might point out that the airbus they tried to get us to agree to last year they have now dropped as being the wrong project. That is why we advocate more caution in evaluating economic as well as technical aspects of what is now proposed.

Mr. William Hamilton

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that it is the intention of the German Government to sign long-term agreements to offset the British foreign exchange losses of B.A.O.R., and will those long-term agreements cover all the losses?

The Prime Minister

If my hon. Friend's question means, as I think it does, that he is asking whether there was any discussion of a long-term offset agreement rather than a short-term one the answer is "No". There was virtually no discussion at this time of the offset agreement. It was agreed by both of us that this is a matter for discussion at the appropriate time by our nominated representatives. I should like to see, as we have proposed in the past, a long-term solution of this problem, but I would not have said that the hopes of this are very immediate.

Mr. Lubbock

Did the Prime Minister discuss with the West German Government the need that will emerge in the 1970s for European supplies of enriched uranium in relation to the proposed centrifuge agreement? Notwithstanding what he said about the German signature to treaties which would bind them not to produce nuclear weapons, does not he think that it would be a great help in furthering this project in public opinion if the Germans now agreed to sign the non-proliferation treaty?

The Prime Minister

Obviously, the signature of the treaty is relevant to this question. Her Majesty's Government's views on the signature not only by West Germany but by all countries are well known, and do not need to be repeated. But I do not think that any anxiety is felt by my colleagues and myself that this valuable centrifuge project would in any event lead to any proliferation danger.

Mr. Shinwell

Would my right hon. Friend care to define the Potsdam Agreement in this connection? Is it not the case that Berlin has a special rôle, and is not this the reason why it is occupied by forces, including our own? Would it not be possible for the West German Government to hold this ceremony in Bonn, which is the capital of West Germany?

The Prime Minister

Under the Potsdam Agreement, Berlin has a separate and special status, although, of course, it would take a long recital of post-Potsdam history to set out all that has happened in the way of disappointments leading to the necessity to create two separate city administrations there. The Presidential election has on two or three occasions in the past been held in Berlin, so there is nothing new in what is happening there now.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

While welcoming the Prime Minister's firm stand on Berlin and the rebuilding of the bridges between the United Kingdom and Germany—which, it is fair to point out, the right hon. Gentleman did something to singe—may I ask what practical step has been taken in regard to the development of the proposed Anglo-German fighter aircraft?

The Prime Minister

I reject the hon. Gentleman's suggestion about singeing. There is a legend, which he has helped a little to foster but which was satisfactorily knocked on the head in Bonn itself, to the effect that the West German Ambassador sleeps in his dinner jacket—an allegation that the Ambassador himself has denied. The question of the multi-rôle combat aircraft was fully discussed not only between myself and the Federal Chancellor but between other Ministers concerned. Both Governments are very anxious that it should make progress, although there are still problems of project definition, because not only Britain and West Germany but other countries have slightly different concepts of the rôles which should be included for this all-purpose plane. We hope to make progress with it.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Did my right hon. Friend make it clear in Bonn and Berlin that the people of this country will never want to go to war over Berlin? Was not his presence in Berlin rather a futile gesture?

The Prime Minister

I am sorry that my hon. Friend should have felt that. It was not the view of the elected leaders of the Social Democratic movement in the Berlin local authority when we spoke together, nor of the people of Berlin, nor of the delegates at the Berlin Conference of the Free Trade Unions, whose triennial meeting I addressed. Perhaps my hon. Friend has misunderstood the position.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

The Prime Minister has said that similar events to these have happened before in Berlin. Does he not, therefore, agree that there is no reason whatever for any Soviet action which might disturb the peace in relation to this action of the West German Government?

Secondly, while one can understand and sympathise with the Foreign Secretary's attitude in W.E.U., will the Prime Minister recognise how vital the W.E.U. Treaty is for the future cohesion of Europe—for example, that it is under the Treaty that the automatic reaction of each ally to attack is secured and that, under the W.E.U. arrangement, the nuclear disarmament of Germany is achieved?

The Prime Minister

When the right hon. Gentleman refers to Soviet action arising from the Berlin decision, he will no doubt wish to include in that the East German action, since it is from East Germany that the threat has so far come.

The right hon. Gentleman, from his great knowledge of these matters, is perfectly right about W.E.U. It was the W.E.U. Treaty which put the necessary restrictions and limitations on the decision to have German rearmament many years ago—which was a controversial matter in this House—and laid down for all time the non-nuclear status of Germany. To respond to my right hon. Friend's initiative by throwing W.E.U. itself in doubt would surely be potentially dangerous, because it would throw doubt on everything that W.E.U. was set up to promote.

Mr. Gordon Walker

Since there is widespread support for my right hon. Friend's reaffirmation of the integrity of West Germany, would it not do some good if it were realised that, in this House, there is also a widespread feeling that it is a mistake of the West German Government to hold the Presidential elections in West Berlin?

The Prime Minister

I am aware of that feeling, but the decision was taken by the German authorities responsible. The decision having been taken, I think that we should start from that position, as we have done, and make it clear that there is no justification for stirring up tension as a result of it.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Is the Prime Minister aware that, to some people, his long-term policy is not entirely clear? How exactly does this manoeuvring of the Five against France serve the cause of the unity and security of Europe and the removal of the French veto which he desires?

The Prime Minister

One reason why the hon. Gentleman cannot get a clear answer is that the question itself is so far removed from the facts. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary yesterday explained exactly what had happened in W.E.U., which was fully within the spirit of W.E.U. To describe it as "manoeuvring" to set the Five against France is a completely wrong understanding of what my right hon. Friend was trying to do and what W.E.U. has agreed as a whole that it was right should be done.

Mr. Henig

Was there any specific discussion of the German memorandum to their E.E.C. partners about relations between the E.E.C. and applicant countries, and, in particular, of the proposal that there should be short-term commercial agreements, under Article 113 of the Treaty of Rome, between the United Kingdom and the E.E.C?

The Prime Minister

The Federal German Government fully understand, as this House does, the position of Her Majesty's Government about the proposals for an interim trading arrangement. We have said that, when the Six as a whole and not five countries have something to put to us, we are prepared to consider it. I think that the Federal Government are equally clear that we should not be over-enthusiastic about proposals which would involve our going a long way towards paying the inevitable price of joining the Common Market if we did not get the benefits we would get from joining, including, in particular, the steps towards political unity which such a move would have in mind.

Mr. Doughty

In support of the West German Government in their wholly proper action, which has precedents, in holding the Presidential election in West Berlin, the Prime Minister has the support of the vast majority of the people of this country and of Members of this House. Does not he agree that to abandon our allies at this time would be an underhanded action which only our opponents might take advantage of?

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

While, if the world remains in its present condition, there must be a long-term danger that West Germany will obtain nuclear weapons, is it not a matter for congratulation that the Social Democratic Foreign Minister of Germany stands firmly for a policy of reconciliation between East and West and for general international disarmament?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. But I must add that I neither saw nor heard any difference in the views expressed both by the Federal Chancellor and the Foreign Minister on this question.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. We must move on.

Following is the Anglo/German Joint Declaration: Convinced that our countries are bound together by common interests and common aims, above all the unity and security of Europe, we affirm our determination to go forward in partnership. The security and prosperity of Europe demands unity and only in unity can Europe exert her rightful and beneficial influence in the World. 2. For both our countries a united Europe is inconceivable without Britain. The British Government maintain their application to join the European Communities. Both Governments pledge themselves to further this aim. They both agree to work out together with other European Governments the means by which a new impetus can be given to the political unity of Europe. 3. The two governments reaffirm that their security depends on the continuation and strengthening of the Atlantic Alliance. They believe that this Alliance is the only sure foundation for the détènte to which they aspire and the establishment of a peaceful system in Europe.