HC Deb 17 July 1990 vol 176 cc848-50
5. Ms. Quin

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent discussions he has had about the future defence role of Germany.

Mr. Tom King

In recent months I have had discussions on defence aspects of German unification with Dr. Stoltenberg, with other Defence Ministers in NATO, and with Marshal Yazov. The British Government have consistently supported the right of a united Germany to be a full member of the NATO alliance, and we are delighted that Chancellor Kohl and President Gorbachev have now reached agreement on this crucial point.

Ms. Quin

Which Tory view is likely to prevail in future consideration of these matters? Will it be the views of the former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and, presumably, the Prime Minister, or will it be wiser and more moderate counsels? Since the Soviet Union, despite its historic experience, has been able to change its stance towards the defence role of Germany, is not there a danger that only the United Kingdom will be negative and backward-looking?

Mr. King

The Foreign Secretary has made it clear that friendship and partnership are at the heart of British foreign policy and I can tell the House that friendship and partnership with Germany are also at the heart of our defence policy. That could never have been more obvious than during the past more than 40 years when 60,000 to 70,000 British troops and their families have been stationed in Germany. I am deeply grateful for the friendship and warmth of reception that they have had in Germany and for the close collaboration that has existed between us. That has perhaps never been more true than now when, under the vicious terrorist threat that they face, the outstanding co-operation of the German police and security forces has been beyond praise.

Mrs. Currie

Does my right hon. Friend agree that in this extraordinary week, in which President Gorbachev has withdrawn his objections to a united Germany joining NATO, the truth of the matter is that they could not beat us and therefore they are joining us? Does not it follow, therefore, that a united Germany should not be a weak member of NATO, but a strong one capable of playing a full part in the future?

Mr. King

There is absolutely no question but that my hon. Friend is right. Germany is an essential member of NATO. The Soviet Union has properly recognised, as we hoped that it would, that in the final analysis it is a matter for the democratic decision of the German people which alliance they join. Hon. Members will have noticed the phrase used by Chancellor Kohl and President Gorbachev, that their agreement yesterday recognised the full and unrestricted sovereignty of a united Germany. That has to be right.

Mr. O'Neill

Does the Secretary of State agree that yesterday's momentous decision, which we all welcome, has come about because of the persistence and patience of the Federal Republic of Germany and its allies in seeking to do deals with the Soviet Union? The outcome of the negotiations would not have been possible without the long-standing co-operation to which the Secretary of State alluded in respect of Britain and the federal republic. In those circumstances, is not it the more surprising that one of the right hon. Gentleman's colleagues tried to upset the apple cart with his ill-tempered outburst last week? Will the right hon. Gentleman reassure the House that there is now no one in the Tory Cabinet prepared to talk in terms of German revanchism in the way that his former colleague was prepared to do?

Hon. Members

What about the Prime Minister?

Mr. King

There is not much point in covering ground that has already been covered. I have made absolutely clear the importance of our alliance with Germany. The hon. Gentleman will know that I have consistently made clear, on behalf of the Government, the belief that a united Germany should be in NATO and the hope that the people of a united Germany would so choose. It is Chancellor Kohl's clear belief that that is what they will choose after the German elections.