HC Deb 11 February 1971 vol 811 cc761-2
1. Mr. Deakins

asked the Minister of State for Defence whether it is the policy of Her Majesty's Government to work for a distinct European defence capability within the framework of the Atlantic Alliance.

The Minister of State for Defence (Lord Balniel)

We aim to foster European defence collaboration within N.A.T.O. so as to improve the military capability of the Alliance as a whole.

Mr. Deakins

Will the Minister of State confirm that this will ultimately involve sharing control of nuclear weapons with other countries of the Western Alliance.

Lord Balniel

That takes the matter much wider than the original Question. Our object is to improve the defence capability of N.A.T.O. as a whole, and, in so far as European defence can be strengthened, that is a contribution to that wider objective.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Would not my hon. Friend agree that, with the excessive cost of modern weaponry now, we must have greater integration and co-operation with our European allies within N.A.T.O. for the production of weapons, each country, perhaps, taking on a specific task for the future development of sophisticated weapons of this type?

Lord Balniel

I entirely agree. I am sure that such an objective, if achieved, would be of value to all members of the N.A.T.O. alliance. It is difficult to achieve, and there is substantial room for improvement, but we shall play what part we can in achieving it.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Will the Minister of State assure the House that we shall not share our nuclear knowledge with France, as this would be a breach of the Non-Proliferation Treaty whether France was inside N.A.T.O. or outside?

Lord Balniel

Discussions between France and ourselves about nuclear collaboration must depend upon a better understanding between us on the broad strategic objectives at which we must aim.

Mr. John Morris

As the M.R.C.A. is the most important single item in the practical development of a European defence capability, may we be told what is the reaction of our European partners to the Rolls-Royce situation? Does it affect contractual arrangements? As the Minister's last statement on the matter was on 22nd July, when does he intend to bring the House up to date on progress, development and costs?

Lord Balniel

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will put down a Question on that specific point, or seek to catch Mr. Speaker's eye during the debate this afternoon.

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