HC Deb 20 March 1973 vol 853 cc217-8
11. Mr. Barnes

asked the Minister of State for Defence if he will seek to arrange a meeting with the French Defence Minister.

Mr. Ian Gilmour

My right hon. and noble Friend hopes to continue his regular programme of meetings with his French counterpart.

Mr. Barnes

Did not M. Debré make it clear recently that if Britain is to spend hundreds of millions of pounds acquiring the American Poseidon missiles this will rule out Anglo-French nuclear co-operation? Now that Britain is in the Community, may I ask whether the Minister agrees that the wisdom of extending further our special nuclear relationship with America ought seriously to be questioned?

Mr. Gilmour

My right hon. and noble Friend has several times said that any discussions with the French Government about nuclear co-operation have so far been to agree that such co-operation is in the long term. The hon. Gentleman has asked the second part of his question before. I can only reply that this Government, like the Labour Government, have every intention of maintaining the nuclear deterrent.

Mr. Peart

I hope that the Minister will resist the blandishments of my hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. Barnes). I hope he will not mind my saying this. We would reject the concept of an Anglo-French nuclear deterrent. We argued that this would be bad for relations in Europe and Western Germany. We also recognise the importance of the United States in this matter, and we want friendly allies.

Mr. Gilmour

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. I shall certainly resist the blandishments of his hon. Friend. However, I am not sure that I shall resist the blandishments to which he referred.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Has not the French deterrent reached a point where it is permissible under United States law for American information to go to the French? Therefore, has not at least one obstacle to an Anglo-French shared deterrent been removed? Would not this to some extent answer some of the objections to proliferation which we hear from the Opposition?

Mr. Gilmour

I do not think that the proliferation arguments apply. Whether the Americans decide to release nuclear information to the French is entirely a matter for them, not for us.