§ 13. Mrs. Renée Short
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what proposals he has put forward to enable talks between the Warsaw Pact and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation powers to take place in order to reach agreement on security problems; to whom these proposals were made, and what response they met; and what proposals he has made for the agenda of such talks.
§ Mr. George Thomson
A number of important East-West exchanges on matters relating to security in Europe are already in progress. N.A.T.O. has 14 identified other possible issues for East-West talks including proposals for mutual force reductions. At the British suggestion, the Alliance is now also considering the question of the best methods of negotiation to make constructive progress.
§ Mrs. Short
May I assume that what the Foreign Secretary said in the debate on 9th December, reported in column 265 of HANSARD, is the case, and that his Department is not allowing the erection of any barriers between the two sides to prevent them getting together to reach agreement on these important matters which the whole world wants to see resolved?
§ Mr. Thomson
The speech of my right hon. Friend to which my hon. Friend refers made it clear that Her Majesty's Government were certainly not dragging their feet in any way in their search for a means of East-West détente. Whether it can best be done by a general conference, as the Soviet Union proposes, by a series of conferences, or, perhaps, in other ways, has to be looked at, and this is what, on our initiative, N.A.T.O. is actively investigating.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that there might be some advantage in having some of the unaligned countries present if there is to be such a survey of the European scene, and might not the identification of certain practical questions, such as the thinning out of arms between N.A.T.O. and the Warsaw Pact countries, help in this process?
§ Mr. Thomson
Yes, Sir; this has always been our view. Naturally, the main approaches to this question of East-West détente involve the two main alliances, but I do not think there has ever been any doubt that if one is to make constructive progress one must bring in those European nations which are not members of either alliance.