HC Deb 07 November 1973 vol 863 cc969-71
3. Mr. R. C. Mitchell

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will seek an urgent meeting with his counterpart in the United States to discuss future policy relating to United States nuclear bases in Great Britain.

17. Mr. Driberg

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs at what time on Thursday 25th October 1973 he was officially informed of the United States forces' alert; and if he will seek to ensure that, in any comparable future situation, there will be full prior consultation between the United States administration and Her Majesty's Government.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Sir Alec Douglas-Home)

I was informed of the United States' alert early on the morning of 25th October. The United States' alert embraced only precautionary measures. British interests in an emergency are safeguarded by the agreed arrangements for consultation, and that no further discussions on this matter are required.

Mr. Mitchell

In view of the humiliation suffered by the British Government a few weeks ago, will the right hon. Gentleman give a firm undertaking to the House that he will inform the American Government that in no circumstances in future are American forces in Britain to be placed on nuclear alert without their first having received the British Government's permission?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

If the bases were to be used for any purpose, there would be consultation. But the Ameri- cans must be allowed to alert their forces the world over, just as we might in certain circumstances.

Mr. Driberg

Since the right hon. Gentleman has now said that he was informed early in the morning of 25th October, will he say why he said, after his statement after Question time on 25th October, that he had no information at that moment? Does that mean that Dr. Kissinger had refused him information, or that Dr. Kissinger had said that the right hon. Gentleman should not tell Parliament anything about it?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I said not that I had no information, but that I had not sufficient information. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will read what I said.

Mr. Driberg

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The right hon. Gentleman asked me if I would read out a quotation from HANSARD. He said: I do not have the information at this moment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th October 1973; Vol. 861, c. 1481.]

Mr. Speaker


Sir Alec Douglas-Home

At that particular moment, Dr. Kissinger was going to announce within half an hour exactly what the alert implied. I really thought that the Americans must announce their own alert, not I.

Mr. Wilkinson

As this matter concerns other NATO allies, including the West Germans, will my right hon. Friend seek clarification within the alliance over the matter of the readiness procedures for United States forces for possible deployment in operations outside the NATO theatre?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

These matters can be discussed with Dr. Kissinger when I see him again, which is the best way.

Mr. Fell

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. After the Foreign Secretary has suggested to an hon. Member asking a question that he should quote a short passage from HANSARD, is it not unsatisfactory that the hon. Member should not be allowed to do so?

Mr. Speaker

I do not think that that is a matter of order.

Mr. Richard

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the real reason for concern is the fact that, with the placing of the American forces on stage 3 alert, the clear possibility of their being used in a nuclear conflict came that much nearer? Is it not also clear that it was done without consultation with the British Government? Is the right hon. Gentleman further aware that Mr. Brandt has received a letter from President Nixon promising fuller consultation in future in this type of situation? Have we asked the Americans for fuller consultation? If so, what answer did we get?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

This matter was discussed in the NATO meetings yesterday and Dr. Luns afterwards said that the consultations gave satisfaction. I think I had better leave this where it is now. All I can say now is that the rule has operated for a long time that if our bases are to be used there is consultation. I think that that is sufficient protection for this country.