HC Deb 06 February 1990 vol 166 cc757-8
Q3. Mr. Latham

To ask the Prime Minister whether she will pay an official visit to East Germany.

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to do so. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs made a successful visit to East Berlin and to the German Democratic Republic on 22 to 24 January.

Mr. Latham

Since a free and reunified Germany seems not only inevitable but imminent, will my right hon. Friend confirm that that will have immense implications for western defence policy? Will it not require detailed, radical and possibly uncomfortable consideration by the NATO leaders?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend that the German people are likely to vote for unification. I agree with him, too, that it is a matter not only for the German people but for other countries which will be seriously affected by it. Germany has also entered into obligations under the NATO Alliance—we must consider its effect on that—the Helsinki accord which 35 nations signed, and the four-power agreement on Berlin. We must agree these things. It seems that a lengthy transition period is needed so that they can all be properly worked out and so that the unification of Germany gives rise not to more worries but to greater security.

We must keep up the level of our defence, both conventional and nuclear, and not make changes until they are agreed with NATO or through the CFE talks.

Mr. Harry Ewing

Will the Prime Minister give an absolute guarantee that if the two Germanys want to unite she will not use the veto available to her under the 1954 convention signed by the United Kingdom, France and America, but will allow the will of the German people to prevail over her prejudice?

The Prime Minister

If the hon. Gentleman had been able to listen to what I said, he would have found his question answered. It is also answered by the agreement in the Strasbourg communiqué from the European Twelve, after we had agreed that unification must come about in accordance with the other obligations that Germany has entered into—the NATO agreement and the Helsinki agreement, under which 35 nations agreed not to change boundaries except by peaceful accord—and in consideration of the four-power arrangement in Berlin. I do not think that there will be any difficulty with Chancellor Kohl in trying to meet these obligations. That is why he has formally proposed a considerable transition period, so that they can all be met.

Sir Alan Glyn

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, whatever happens in East Germany, the future of Europe is so uncertain and the Soviet Union is still building up such an enormous defence that, until matters have settled down, it is essential to retain the nuclear deterrent?

The Prime Minister

It is essential to keep—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I ask the House to settle down and listen to the questions and the answers that are given.

The Prime Minister

It is essential to keep a strong and assured defence of the United Kingdom, both within NATO and outside it. That means effective conventional forces and reductions only in accordance with the negotiations taking place in Vienna and in agreed numbers between us. It also means maintaining a strong nuclear deterrent.

Mr. Cohen

Will the Prime Minister meet the people of East Germany and explain to them why she wants a whole new assortment of short-range nuclear weapons to blow them to smithereens at a time when they are struggling for democracy?

The Prime Minister

The changes and negotiations that are taking place will require some differences in the weapons that we need, but those can be brought about only by agreement with our NATO partners. That is absolutely vital to the future of Europe, and I was glad to see President Bush's assurance that American forces and American nuclear weapons will remain in Europe; it is a recipe which has ensured the security and peace of Europe for many a long year, and we should not discard it lightly.

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