HL Deb 30 November 1966 vol 278 cc723-94

2.55 p.m.

LORD HARLECH rose to draw attention to the commitments of the United Kingdom to the defence of Western Europe; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, my purpose in introducing this debate is threefold. First, I want to recall the very precise undertakings that this country has given to its Allies about the level of forces in Europe and our undertakings to our European Allies in particular; secondly, I want to try to elicit from the Government some indication of their present attitude to these undertakings, and, thirdly, I want to warn them of the grave dangers of treating this whole question as purely, or even principally, a financial one.

To recapitulate the history of this matter, I hope quite briefly, your Lordships will remember that after the failure of France to ratify the European Defence Community Treaty in August 1954, Britain, through her Foreign Secretary—Sir Anthony Eden as he then was—took the initiative in working out a new approach which would enable Western Germany to make her contribution to the defence of the North Atlantic Alliance. The Brussels Treaty was revised and Western European Union established, consisting of Britain plus the six countries who now comprise the membership of the European Economic Community. The exact wording of our commitment to our Allies is as follows, and I think it is important that I should quote it in full: Britain will continue to maintain on the mainland of Europe, including Germany, the effective strength of the United Kingdom forces which are now assigned to the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, that is to say four divisions and the Second Tactical Air Force, or such other forces as the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, regards as having equivalent fighting capacity She undertakes"— that is, Her Majesty undertakes— not to withdraw these forces against the wishes of the majority of the High Contracting Parties who should take their decision in the knowledge of the views of the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. This undertaking shall not, however, bind her in the event of an acute overseas emergency. If the maintenance of the United Kingdom forces on the mainland of Europe throws at any time too great a strain on the external finances of the United Kingdom, she will, through her Government…the invite the North Atlantic Councill to review the financial conditions on which the United Kingdom formations are maintained. It will be seen that, except in the case of an acute overseas emergency, which does not at present exist, we have no right whatever to make a unilateral decision about the level of our forces on the Continent. If we wish to reduce our commitment, the procedure is for us to make a formal application to the W.E.U. Council. This application will then be referred to SACEUR for his views, and finally the Council, not we alone, will make their decision in the light of these views. This procedure was, of course, used in the 1957–58 period to reduce our commitment of land forces to the present figure of 55,000. That is our commitment, although as I understand it the actual figure of forces in Europe at the present time is 51,000. Then in 1961 we also availed ourselves of the second proviso with regard to the strain on the external finances of the United Kingdom. The whole matter was referred to NATO and, as a result, a succession of off-set agreements were negotiated with the Federal Republic of Germany, the current off-set agreement being due to expire, I think, on March 31, 1967. I hope I have set out the position fairly accurately and reasonably briefly.

In the light of these facts, it is little short of incredible that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should say, on August 9 this year: It is the policy of Her Majesty' s Government, in so far as it is not possible to offset the total cost of these troops, that they should be brought home. Put quite bluntly, neither the Chancellor of the Exchequer nor Her Majesty's Government have the final say in this matter unless they intend deliberately to wreck the W.E.U. and break the most solemn undertakings to friendly Powers, as they did when they imposed the surcharge in November, 1964. Naturally, the effect in Europe of the Chancellor's declaration was deplorable. It was bound to seem to our friends and Allies that Britain was taking a quite irresponsible attitude to our defence commitments, for they could only assume that the Government were paying little or no attention to the military and political effects such an action would have on their Allies and on the stability of Europe. There was no mention of the defence considerations nor of the necessity of seeking the views of the Supreme Allied Commander before a decision was taken, no mention of a reference to NATO, and clearly no regard was paid to the inevitable reaction which we could expect in those countries which are members of E.E.C., to whom we are now looking to ease our way into Europe.

It is true that since that day in August the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence have been trying to pick up the pieces. The time limit to the ultimatum to the Federal Republic was progressively extended, and I am not sure whether a time limit any longer exists. Perhaps the Government will be able to tell us to-day. Then, under the ægis of NATO, tripartite discussions between ourselves, the United States and Germany have been taking place. I am sure that we shall be interested to hear how they have been going. But, so far as I know, there has not yet been any withdrawal of the threat that if all our foreign exchange costs are not covered, we intend to start bringing troops home. I hope that this afternoon we shall hear an unequivocal withdrawal of that threat. Naturally, we are all anxious to see the maximum amount of these costs offset, but with the best will in the world it may not be possible for the Federal Republic to meet our demands in their entirety.

I hope that Her Majesty' s Government will consider most carefully just how wise such threats are at a time when France has withdrawn from NATO, and when we are witnessing a resurgence of nationalism in Germany. They might also consider what the attitude of the British public would be if our roles were exactly reversed and the Germans demanded 100 per cent. compensation. For the plain fact is that British troops are stationed on the Continent not just for the defence of West Germany, but because successive British Governments have been convinced that they contribute effectively to our own defence and that of the whole Alliance.

My Lords, I want to turn for a few moments to discuss some of the military considerations. As your Lordships will know, I have no passion for keeping troops on the Continent when they are not wanted there. Indeed, in the debate in your Lordships' House on the future of NATO, which took place during the course of this summer, I ventured to suggest that NATO should now pursue policies which could reduce substantially the need for the deployment of British and American forces in Germany. Indeed, I deplored the lack of any vigorous initiative in this direction. Naturally the figure of 55,000 men is not magical or immutable. Conditions change, and it might be sensible to vary it downwards or possibly, at some date in the future, even upwards. We hope not. But there is clearly a right way and a wrong way of achieving the desired result of reducing the burden now represented by our forces in Germany. The wrong way is to start by saying that we cannot afford to maintain them, and that therefore we intend to bring them home; then to scratch around for political and military arguments to support our case. To put it mildly, in such circumstances these arguments will tend to lack conviction. Our motives will be mistrusted. And that is exactly what has happened.

But the situation has an even more curious side to it, because for years past the Labour Party have resolutely taken the line that Britain has been making an inadequate contribution to the conventional defences of Europe. Thus, in the Labour Party Manifesto for 1964, we read: Our stress will be on the strengthening of our conventional regular forces so that we can contribute our share to NATO defence. This theme was developed in numerous speeches, which suggested that unless we actually increased our forces in Germany we might have to escalate rapidly and resort to the use of tactical nuclear weapons in the face of a conventional threat. Year after year this was the consistent theme of Labour Party spokesmen. Perhaps a few quotations will make my point clear.

I first quote Mr. Gordon Walker, speaking in a debate in another place on March 5, 1962, on the Conservative Government's Defence White Paper. He said (col. 64–65 of the Commons OFFICIAL REPORT): We are against this part of the White Paper, because we totally disagree with the Government's policy towards NATO. We demand that there shall not be further withdrawal…we demand that we should at least keep our seven brigade groups there. And again (col. 61): We can press this balance of payments argument with some hope of success only if we carry conviction that we intend to carry out our pledge to keep men there… In the same debate, the present Prime Minister, Mr. Wilson, said this—and I quote from col. 227 of the OFFICIAL REPORT for March 6, 1962: Our conception on this side of the House is that a situation should be created, by the strengthening of our conventional forces, so that there need never be any question of NATO using tactical weapons first. Of course, here he was referring to tactical nuclear weapons. In the same debate, Mr. George Brown said (col. 323): I listened to the Minister of Aviation say that the Government were straining every nerve …to take us into Europe in order to avoid political and military divisions. I wondered why he was bringing us out of Europe militarily at the time at which he was trying to take us into Europe politically and where that could possibly lead us. The consequence of this policy is military weakness in Europe and the absoluate impossibility of maintaining the forward strategy that is so often referred to as holding the line that we are supposed to be going to hold. A year later, on January 31, 1963, Mr. Wilson said: The main problem is …our failure to meet our commitments to NATO… We use not making anything like our full contribution to NATO." (Col. 1242.)

How can one possibly reconcile these statements with the Government's present attitude to the selfsame matter? It is not as though there has been any significant change in the strength of the Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces deployed in Eastern Europe—rather the reverse. There has been no progress towards an East-West agreement about European security; nor any new agreement over access to West Berlin; our commitment to the defence of which the Foreign Secretary reiterated in ringing terms only this month.

Only two weeks ago, during the NATO Parliamentarians' Conference in Paris, first the Supreme Allied Commander, General Lemnitzer, and then the Secretary General, Signor Brosio, warned us of the dangers to the stability and security of Europe which might well result from the premature withdrawal of British and American conventional forces from Europe. I do not think that any noble Lords who know him could possibly suggest that Signor Brosio was a hawk in these matters. At the moment we feel that the military position in Europe is reasonably stable; but can we be sure that it will remain so if the West unilaterally weakens its defences and creates a situation in which German forces are overwhelmingly preponderant on this side of the Atlantic?

This leads me on to some consideration of the political consequences of Her Majesty's Government's present attitude. It is surely inevitable that the six members of the European Economic Community must entertain serious doubts about a change of heart in favour of Europe, when they see Britain behaving so irresponsibly on such a vital matter as the defence of Western Europe. Is not the Government' s attitude precisely calculated to prejudice our chances of gaining membership of the Common Market, the objective on which the Prime Minister has at last set his sights? Is this the moment, at a critical period in the history of the Federal German Republic, to say to them: "Either you pay the additional foreign exchange costs or our troops will be withdrawn"? If others followed our bad example, we might even see growing demands for increased German forces to close the gap that we had created. I am sure that this is not what Her Majesty' s Government want.

Can we really say that all these other important political and military considerations are to be sacrificed to finance? Can we possibly maintain such a proposition, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer is declaring week after week that we shall be in substantial surplus on our balance of payments next year? I do not think so. I hope that the Government will take this opportunity of reassuring this country, and reassuring our Allies, about our whole attitude to Britain's military commitment in Europe. I hope that they will withdraw their threats, which could be carried out only by our once again breaking our promises. The Six are watching to see how genuine is the Labour Government's conversion to a European policy. Here is one way in which they can demonstrate it. I beg to move for Papers.

3.12 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, for raising this question at this particular moment in time, and in the few remarks I propose to make from these Benches I should like to support strongly the three main points which the noble Lord has made. As I think the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, hinted, the whole Western Alliance is at the moment in disarray owing to the withdrawal of the French Government from NATO. It is also in disarray, to some extent, clue to the internal situation in Germany, which largely, I am afraid I must say, owing to the policy pursued by the French Government, is increasingly uneasy; and it is in disarray, perhaps mainly, owing to the fact that the relationship of this country to the European Economic Community has not yet been finally determined.

In these dangerous circumstances—because, my Lords, they are dangerous—it seems to us here that there is one guiding principle which we must hang on to, come what may, and that is our willingness and our ability to contribute to the general defence of Western Europe in accordance with our undoubted legal obligations under the revised Treaty of Brussels of 1954. The noble Lord, Lord Harlech, quoted the relevant clauses from that Treaty, which, after all, are binding on us: and I must say that it would need a much more astute lawyer than I can claim to be to maintain that, in these circumstances, we could, for purely financial reasons, further reduce our forces in Germany without the consent of at any rate a majority of our Brussels Treaty partners. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, entirely agrees with that.

Besides, as a result of long negotiations, which are still continuing, it has become increasingly clear that what is actually separating us from the Germans in the matter of off-set costs (here I speak subject to correction by the Government) is something in the nature of £30 to £40 million a year. Although that is a considerable sum, given our balance-of payment difficulties, surely we could, if we had to, make an economy of something like this magnitude either East of Suez or, more rationally perhaps, in relation to the tremendous bill which we shall now have to incur, in dollars for the most part, for the purchase of aeroplanes, the role of which, to say the least, seems to me to be rather dubious, always supposing that we decide, as I think we undoubtedly shall decide in the fairly near future, to replace some of our existing commitments in the Indian Ocean area. We might also, I suppose, even at the cost of some inconvenience, or grave inconvenience, to those concerned, further reduce the local expenditure across the exchanges on our forces in Germany. I trust that the Government may make some allusion to that possibility in their reply to-day.

But the main point, perhaps, is that, whatever the reasons, the present state of Germany is potentially explosive. Anything, therefore, that we can do to show that we are not running out on our obligations, even to a limited extent, would be of the greatest value and importance at the present time. It is true that the Americans may have in mind some reduction of their forces in Germany over the coming years. But at least, as we all know, they have the technical possibility of reinforcing those forces by air in a very short period: and I do not think we can maintain—perhaps I am wrong about this—that we have any similar facilities. Moreover—and here I think I echo something which was said by the noble Lord, Lord Harlech—if indeed it is our object, as the general phrase has it, to "go into Europe", it would be unfortunate, to say the least, if we led people to imagine that we were still not, as it were, primarily European in our general outlook.

But, as I see it, the whole situation is now dominated by the success or failure of the new and praiseworthy effort which the Government are making to enter the European Economic Community. Your Lordships will, I am afraid, be tired of hearing me assert, year after year, that from the political point of view our entry into the Community is the one sure means both of preserving the Western Alliance and of producing a genuine détente in the relations between East and West. Nevertheless, this truth is becoming increasingly clear, and I believe it is hardly disputed in any competent circles except by some Frenchmen, who believe that in the absence of Britain it might be possible to organise some kind of French hegemony in Western Europe based on French nuclear power, and by those in this country who are basically suspicious of foreigners and who have not as yet thought the problem through.

Why are the Germans, in particular, now persuaded that we must come in? Let me try in a few words, as best I can, to describe their present dilemma. This is basically that if they remain divided, the ensuing frustration may well, in the long run, wreck a European Economic Community consisting solely or simply of the present Six under the presumed sole political leadership of France. If, on the other hand, Germany is united its economic power will undoubtedly enable it to dominate the present European Economic Community; again that is only limited to the Six and does not contain the "balancing wheel" of the United Kingdom. So the conclusion obviously is that if you want to get German energies peacefully harnessed to the West, the only way to do so is to arrange for Britain, somehow or other, to join the E.E.C.

Then, take the German role in the Western Alliance. If Germany is not to be the most important ally of America and, indeed, one provided with nuclear weapons—which would be quite intolerable, at any rate from the point of view of this country and, presumably, of France, and would, of course, have an unknown but certainly disastrous effect on East-West relations—then it can only exercise the influence which is certainly its due as a part of a whole, in other words, as a member equal with France and Britain of some European political community which in itself would be a partner of the United States. Hence the whole future of our Alliance—and I assure your Lordships this is true—also revolves around the possible entry into the E.E.C. of this country. Finally, take the chances of German reunification, or more properly, perhaps, the chances of some reunification of the Germans. All, including most Germans, admit that reunification cannot take place for so long as the Soviet Union and the Soviet satellite States fear the political results of the emergence in Central Europe of an armed nation State of over 80 million people in close association with the United States. This fear might well be removed, of course, if the American troops in Germany went home to America; but obviously if it were removed by such means as that, and in the absence of the creation of some kind of European political community, Germany would in practice become a sort of neutralist victim of the Soviet Union, or rather more probably two neutralist Germanies might come together under some form of Russian domination. This, I assure your Lordships, is quite a real possibility.

Here again, the only possible conclusion is that only the entry of Great Britain into some European political community and the gradual building up of Western European strength, both politically and economically, would enable a situation eventually to be reached in which the Americans could go home to America and, indeed, the Russians to Russia, and increasingly friendly relations be established between some enlarged European Economic Community, the D.D.R., and the Communist States of Eastern Europe.

The general conclusion which I suggest we may legitimately draw, and which has emerged increasingly over the last few years, is that in any renewed British application to join the E.E.C. the political aspect is really paramount. Of course, we can say, if we will—and up to now I believe the Government have said this—that there is nothing about political union in the Treaty of Rome, which is true. Also, we can try to make out for tactical purposes, if we will, that it is only a question of calculating the advantages or the disadvantages of our own economy if we decide to sign the Treaty on certain conditions. I will not go into this matter here, because I hope we shall be able to discuss this fairly soon in relation to our position of joining the E.E.C.

The only real question now is to determine whether such a common will exists or whether it does not. There is no great reason to worry at this stage whether a political union, if it ever comes about, will be a federation or a confederation. In my view, both these terms are entirely out of date, and there are new ways of arriving at a common foreign policy, and, indeed, a common defence policy, which were not available in the days of George Washington or even Napoleon I, to say nothing of the days of Hitler. But provided we have the intention of signing the Treaty subject only to certain rock-bottom considerations which we can debate later, and provided we have the intention to work within the framework of the Western Alliance—and this is entirely relevant to the present discussion—towards the formation of a political Europe in which a democratic Germany can be an equal partner with ourselves and France, I firmly believe that there is quite unlikely to be a second veto on the part of the French Government. For the effects of such a veto in such circumstances as these would be so disastrous, not only to ourselves, but also to the E.E.C. and indeed to France herself, that one can hardly imagine such an eventuality.

I may well have strayed a little from the specific subject of this debate, though I have been brief. I hope in any case that I have not transgressed unduly on your Lordships' time. But I feel myself that everything I have said is relevant to what I fear may be an early and, I must say, an extraordinarily rash decision, on the part of Britain to withdraw a substantial part of her forces in Germany. I suggest that the small amount—or relatively small amount—of foreign exchange which might thereby be saved will be absolutely nothing compared to the loss which we should sustain if such a withdrawal were to result either in some calamitous change in present German foreign policy—which, I can assure your Lordships, is not out of the question—or perhaps in giving an excuse for some further French veto on any second application we may make to join the E.E.C. In other words, here, as in many other cases, it is probable that if what is no doubt the Foreign Office as opposed to the Treasury view prevails, it may result in immeasurable future economies for the nation.

3.28 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, opened the debate with a short, pungent and, I thought, not entirely fair speech. In replying to him, I hope the House will permit me to set out, I fear in some detail, what the policy of Her Majesty' s Government is with regard to Europe, and in particular in regard to the defence of Western Europe. Tempted though I would be to follow the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, into these other realms in regard to which, as he knows, I have considerable sympathy, I think I shall have enough to say on the subject of the defence of Western Europe. In order to put the picture as clearly as I can, I think it might be of interest to your Lordships if I give something of a progress report with regard to the situation in NATO.

It was less than five months ago that we debated the issues arising from the situation in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. I remember that the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, made a notable contribution. To-day we are considering the commitments of the United Kingdom to the defence of Western Europe. These matters are obviously interrelated. It is in our interest that there should be an effective North Atlantic Treaty Alliance, and this requires not only that we should offer a proper contribution to the joint forces of the Alliance, but also that we should make a responsible contribution in the counsels of Europe.

The position of Her Majesty's Government has been made clear on a number of occasions. Summarised it is this. It is a major long-term aim of British policy to enable the United Nations to assume effective responsibility for keeping the peace.

There must also be a halt to the arms race. My noble friend Lord Chalfont has been actively and energetically and painstakingly engaged in what is clearly a tedious but tremendously important task, and this aim can be achieved only when there is effective international agreement to control both the production and the supply of armaments. In particular—and this is a most urgent and immediate problem—the further spread of nuclear weapons must be stopped.

But we cannot safely base our defence policy for the 1970s on the assumption that all these objectives will be met in full. We must accept that we shall continue to live in a world in which the United Nations is not able, alone, to keep the peace and in which the arms race has not been halted. The first purpose of our Armed Forces will be to maintain the security of these islands, primarily by preventing war in Europe. For this reason, continuation of the North Atlantic Alliance is vital to our survival. An effective defence of Western Europe is a most important part of our policy, and I must make this clear so that there can be no misunderstanding. This is not to say that we consider the Alliance as it is to-day to be a perfect instrument; no Alliance could ever be such. The problem as we see it is one of overcoming the present inadequacies of its organisation by modification and improvement of what exists: it is not a problem which calls for radical change.

Let me put the problem in perspective and devote a few moments to recalling the achievements of the Alliance since it started. The basic aim of NATO was to deter aggression and maintain peace in Europe. This aim has been achieved and, in the process, not one square foot of territory has been occupied or subverted since the Treaty was signed. As a result, the whole of the Atlantic community is both safer and more prosperous than it was seventeen years ago, and North America and Western Europe have become more firmly bound together in combination for their own and each other' s benefit. Indeed it might be claimed that many of NATO's present difficulties are, in large part, the byproducts of its success.

It is difficult enough to maintain a defensive alliance of independent nations together under pressure of war. To succeed in doing so, as NATO has done, in peace time, when inevitably there are conflicting national pressures and when there is less unity of purpose, is a considerable achievement which says much for the political and military maturity of its member States. We in Europe and in the United States of America have come a long way in recent years in this matter.

There are those who would claim that the French withdrawal this year from NATO's integrated military organisation shows a disintegration of the Alliance. But I would point out the united and effective way in which the other fourteen Allies reacted to the French action. This action could have been a serious blow not so much to the military strength of NATO as to its political solidarity. It posed substantial problems, among which are the question of future co-operation with French forces in an emergency, the move of major headquarters and installations from France, and the financial difficulties which flowed from these and other consequences of the French withdrawal. But not only has the storm been weathered—the opportunity has also been taken to make necessary and overdue reforms.

Your Lordships will remember that we discussed the crucial meeting in Brussels last June, when the NATO Ministers took a number of important decisions about reorganisation, and I touched on this when I spoke about our aim of co-location in our debate in July on a motion by the noble Earl, Lord Avon, in which the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, took part. The programme of action then approved was ambitious, and those who doubted NATO'S ability to reach rapid agreement on important issues were sceptical of its being implemented in time. I think it is a matter for congratulation that these doubts have been confounded and progress—I almost used the words "enormous progress"—has been made.

First, the North Atlantic Council decided, on September 14, to accept the Belgian Government's offer of a site for SHAPE at Casteau, near Mons; construction of the new headquarters is proceeding urgently and we hope that SHAPE will be in its new location by April 1, 1967. Second, the Dutch Government's offer of a site for AFCENT near Maastricht was accepted on October 12, and its headquarters too will be in operation in its new site by April 1, 1967. Third, the NATO Defence College is moving to Rome. Fourth, the Standing Group has been abolished and an interim International Staff set up to serve the Military Committee until the integrated International Military Staff is established. Finally, it was decided, on October 26, to move the North Atlantic Council from Paris to Brussels, and to bring the Military Committee from Washington to Brussels so that the aim of co-location can be achieved. This is a really striking series of difficult decisions and I think all of us were doubtful whether it would be possible to get this measure of decisive agreement as quickly as has been achieved.

Furthermore, moving the military headquarters (SHAPE and AFCENT) from France provides the opportunity for some organisational streamlining. Already it has been agreed to abolish one tier in the command complex of AFCENT—noble Lords, of whom possibly the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, was one, suggested that there were economies to be made. The result is a single integrated headquarters and the saving of 1,200 posts. It is the hope that there will also be major reductions—in the interest not only of economy but also of efficiency—in SHAPE itself when this command is re-established in Belgium.

Substantial progress is being made in other important fields in spite of the French withdrawal. The hitherto apparently intractable problem of nuclear- sharing within the Alliance seems now to be close to at least partial resolution. My noble friend Lord Chalfont will deal with this at greater length in the debate, and noble Lords know this has been one of the most difficult and critical areas of controversy. Suffice it to say that the progress made by the Special Committee of Defence Ministers has been one of the most encouraging developments in NATO during the past year. We hope that the North Atlantic Council will adopt the recommendations of the Special Committee at its Ministerial meeting in Paris two weeks hence.

There is another important field—and this is even more directly relevant to some of the points with which the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, was dealing—and that is the field of force planning and the need to inject reality into the process. Whatever any of us may have hoped in the past, we all know that the Alliance has never had enough conventional strength to hold an all-out Soviet attack for very long. But, although the member Governments have consistently failed to provide forces which match the force goals stated by NATO'S major military commanders as necessary to fulfil the missions NATO has given them, disaster has not followed. In fact the combined deterrent effect of NATO'S available conventional forces, of its battlefield nuclear weapons, and of the ultimate deterrent, the strategic nuclear forces on which it could call, has been effective, and I think we can say that the risk of war has declined. Indeed, I think the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, said as much himself in the debate in July. He would, I am sure, agree—this was the burden of his remarks—that this encouraging situation can continue only so long as the Alliance demonstrates its collective will to resist aggression. In such circumstances the danger of war in Europe will, we believe, continue to be remote.

It is now generally accepted with the Alliance that we should plan to make the best use of the forces that are likely to he available, rather than continue to pay lip service to force goals which are out of reach, which never have been reached and which never look like being reached. It is also recognised that the missions given to NATO's Commanders and the strategy from which these missions are derived require revision in the light of present day circumstances. The official NATO strategy dates from 1957 and envisages that if deterrence fails NATO will have to fight a protracted war in Europe to a successful conclusion. That is the 1957 NATO strategy. With the Russians' achievement of a nuclear strength comparable to that of the Americans this concept becomes out of date. Each side is now able to devastate the other. The emphasis, whether we like it or not, must be placed more firmly on deterrence. NATO cannot expect to match a major Russian attack by conventional means alone.

In the event of a major aggression, once the major aggression has been identified—and this is important, and this is why it is so vital that there should be adequate land forces in the initial stages—then I fear it is unlikely that the Alliance will be able to avoid recourse to tactical nuclear weapons. There is this ladder of deterrence, and we are here dangerously embarking into this field where so many analysts enjoy theorising. Unless the aggressor then withdrew, the conflict would be bound to escalate quickly to a major exchange, and after this military operations of the conventional kind would become unimportant if not impossible. The aim, therefore, must be to ensure credibility of the deterrent and not to tie up manpower and money in providing for the unlikely contingency of a prolonged conventional war.

Matters of strategy and of force levels cannot be isolated from the question of the amounts of money and of resources which the Allies can afford to make available for their mutual defence. In coming to the question of money, I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, prefers and approves the way in which I have approached this subject, from the standpoint of strategy and force goals rather than putting money first; but clearly these are interrelated matters. We have our own particular problem, essentially that of reducing foreign exchange expenditure. I shall not, tempted though I may be, follow the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, into a discussion as to whether savings can he made East of Suez. That is a relevant subject, but we have debated it several times before.

By the terms of the Revised Brussels Treaty the United Kingdom is committed to maintaining ground forces of 55,000 men and a tactical air force on the mainland of Europe. Here I am substantially repeating and confirming what the noble Lord said; there is no dispute about the commitment. The cost of British forces in Germany is running at £192 million a year, of which £94 million is expenditure in Deutsch marks. Under the current Anglo-German Offset Agreement some£55 million of this foreign exchange expenditure is expected to be offset by the Federal Government in the year ending April 1, 1967, when the Agreement comes to an end.

On July 20 the Prime Minister reaffirmed that it was our intention to negotiate a settlement aimed at eliminating the foreign exchange cost of our troops in Germany. He said that discussions would begin at once in the Anglo-German Mixed Commission, and in the light of these Her Majesty's Government would have to consider what, if any, further action was called for, including the question whether this would mean proposing substantial cuts in our forces in Germany sufficient to bring the foreign exchange costs down to the level covered by offset and other payments. It was at this point I thought the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, was less than fair, because this original statement made absolutely clear that this would be done through the prescribed NATO and W.E.U. procedures. I agree with him in attaching importance to this.

On August 19 our representatives informed the NATO and W.E.U. Councils that Her Majesty's Government proposed to take immediate steps to ease the strain on our balance of payments by putting into effect administrative measures to reduce personal spending in Deutsch-marks by members of the forces and United Kingdom based civilians employed on defence duties in Germany. At the same time, and pending the outcome of the Anglo-German Mixed Commission, we asked our Allies to give us their views on how further measures to bridge the foreign exchange gap might be carried out to the least detriment of the NATO defence effort, if such measures proved necessary.

On October 13 the Anglo-German Mixed Commission met at Ministerial level. German Ministers stated that the Federal Government could not at this stage undertake to provide more than £31.5 million in the coming financial year towards offsetting the foreign exchange costs of our forces, and this is even less than the offset in the current year. They added, however, that they hoped a substantial increase in this sum would be possible as a result of the forthcoming Anglo-U.S.-German tripartite talks which it had been agreed would be held between the three Governments to discuss problems arising from the stationing in Germany of British and United States forces. I should like to know what other course the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, would have proposed. He has criticised the Government for pursuing policies which I believe any Government in present circumstances would have been bound to follow. If he says that this is a failure of presentation, then I can only say that he has added to the failure of the presentation in the way he himself set out the statement of Her Majesty' s Government.


My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to intervene for one moment? Originally the Government stated that this new agreement had to be reached within seven days. Then they put off the ultimatum until September. All the kind of procedures the noble Lord has been indicating to the House take much more than one week, much more than one month, and he is now indicating that the Government are on the right course. That does not detract from the fact that after the Chancellor's statement there was considerable concern in Europe about the determination of the Government to take unilateral action in this matter.


My Lords, I think it was a time for some blunt speaking, and I do not think that anyone could complain if this country, which has more than frequently been criticised for the difficulties we get into on our balance of payments, spoke out with a firm voice. But we have always made it clear that we would in fact operate through the prescribed procedures, and I must say that I think the noble Lord, perhaps inadvertently, has not been as fair as he might have been.

I think that we could pursue this at greater length, but these tripartite dis- cussions opened in Bonn on October 20, and they are continuing. Their immediate object is to find an equitable and lasting solution to the foreign exchange problem. No one reckons that this is an easy problem, or one which we shall find easy of solution; but it is fundamental to this to know the level of forces for which financial arrangements are to be agreed. I think the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, and I are at one on this. But force levels cannot be determined by financial criteria alone; they must be related to the existing strategic situation. For that reason the tripartite talks must also cover the wider issues of NATO strategy and force postures.

These are issues of vital concern to the Alliance as a whole. The tripartite talks do not imply any attempt to pre-empt decisions on NATO strategy and force levels, which we fully recognise are for the Alliance as a whole to take. Even less is there any idea of setting up a tripartite directorate in NATO. Our aim is to see the talks linked as closely as possible with the work on force planning which is already in hand in NATO. For this reason, the Secretary-General of NATO or his representative are attending the tripartite talks and in this way maintaining a link with the North Atlantic Council. We intend that a full report on the progress of the talks will he prepared for consideration by the Council at its Ministerial meeting in December.

I hope it will be clear from the account which I have given that there is no question of our acting precipitately or in disregard of our NATO and W.E.U. commitments in this matter. We have proceeded at all stages in complete accordance with our obligations under the North Atlantic Treaty and the Revised Brussels Treaty, and will continue to do so. I am sure that no one needs reminding that the strength of an Alliance rests not only on the capabilities of its military forces but also on the political solidarity of its member nations.

So far I have dealt mainly with military matters, but just before I close I should like to make reference to the action being taken by NATO in the field of East-West relations. In June, NATO Ministers meeting in Brussels directed their Permanent Representatives to examine closely the prospects of healthy developments in East-West relations, and to prepare a full report for their consideration. The Council have been carrying out extensive studies of this question, and their report will be presented and considered at the coming NATO Ministerial meeting. What I find so impressive in all this is the speed with which these NATO bodies move. One particularly important aspect is the question of balanced force reductions—again, a matter to which the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, interestingly referred; I will not quote his speech, but he emphasised this point—which will be dealt with by my noble friend Lord Chalfont.

I should just like to touch briefly on one matter, the approach to Europe. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, is not at the moment here, while I touch on the one thing he really likes to talk about, the approach to Europe on which we are now embarked. I have only a short reference to make to it, so it is not worth asking him to come back to the Chamber to hear it. This approach to Europe does not of itself imply a change in our attitude to NATO. As noble Lords know, the Treaty of Rome does not involve any defence commitment, but this does not mean that defence matters will not be of importance in the individual talks we shall be having with each of the six countries. As the Prime Minister said on November 17, our view is that Europe must play its full part within the collective Alliance of the West without hiving itself off into a separate defence community.

My Lords, I fear that on some of the problems of NATO I have spoken at length. I believe I have illustrated that the Alliance has itself shown how well it is capable of meeting the demands of the future. The United Kingdom, which has its own problems which bear on the contribution it can make unaided to the Alliance' s forces, has to face those problems, but we do not intend to proceed in a manner which will either reduce our standing in the Alliance or make the Alliance itself less effective. Let me say, in conclusion, that whereas 1966 started off rather badly for the Alliance with the French action to withdraw from NATO' S integrated military organisation, the other members of the Alliance, including Britain, have shown great flexibility and solidarity in dealing with the situation. I believe this is encouraging, as also is the progress being made in regard to nuclear-sharing and force planning, and in adapting NATO to current needs. The omens are hopeful. There are real signs of a possible East-West détente and of progress in reaching some form of nonproliferation agreement, and this could lead to a mutual reduction of the forces of both NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries.

I should like to make it clear that no dialogue between East and West has a chance of success unless the Western Allies remain united and keep up their military guard. At the moment it is difficult to foresee any pattern of agreement with the Soviet bloc on force reductions in Europe which does not increase the premium on the military unity of the North Atlantic Powers as their only final guarantee. NATO will continue to be essential to the security of Western Europe and therefore, by definition, of the United Kingdom. Over the next decades the political and military unity of the Alliance is likely to remain the prime condition for achieving a better framework for the security of Europe and the best assurance that the new framework will be lasting.

3.57 p.m.


My Lords, having had the honour of commanding the British Army of the Rhine in 1951–52, I have a special interest in the problems that surround our commitments in Western Europe in relation to defence, and in the discussion which is taking place in your Lordships' House this afternoon. What is more, I have vivid recollections and unpleasant memories of the semi-naked condition, in the military sense, in which we found ourselves in 1914 and 1939, when it was only by the narrowest of margins—by a miracle, some people believe—and at heavy cost that total defeat was averted and military occupation of this country in those critical and anxious times was prevented. I believe it to be most important that the younger generation of to-day. and future generations, should understand what a near run thing it was on both those occasions, and that they should be persuaded that, so long as any risk remains, the only effective insurance lies in the presence in Western Europe of strong and fully integrated NATO military forces in a high state of readiness.

No matter what precise interpretation should be placed on recent internal political developments in Western Germany, I submit that they provide yet another reason why we should continue to maintain fully effective military forces in Western Europe and honour our defence commitments to NATO. The improvement which has taken place in East-West relations and in the political stability of Germany must, I believe, progress considerably further before we can afford to leave the primary responsibility for the defence of Western Europe in the hands of Germany and reduce our own contribution to token size or withdraw altogether. I submit that the same applies to the Americans.

General de Gaulle is a law unto himself, but if we are to have an effective voice in the making of strategic policies and military plans for the defence of Western Europe, and hence, as the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, has clearly pointed out, for the defence of this country, it is imperative that our contribution to the NATO forces in Europe should be of sufficient size to form a significant part of the whole and that it should be of the highest quality. Counting heads is a bad yardstick for assessing military strength, and quality counts for far more than quantity. I am not sufficiently up to date in weapon development and tactics to suggest what improvements are required to be made in the organisation, equipment and logistic support for our forces in Western Europe, but I have complete confidence in the competence of our Chiefs of Staff to advise Her Majesty' s Government on that score. If I have understood the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, correctly and Her Majesty' s Government accept the vital importance of maintaining effective military forces in Western Europe, then there are certain points which I should like to emphasise in connection with those forces.

The first is that our forces in Western Europe must comprise an integrated and powerful land-air contingent of a size, as I have already said, sufficient to form a significant part of the whole of the NATO forces in Western Europe. Secondly, they should be a properly balanced force as a whole, and each component, land and air, should be properly balanced within itself. And thirdly, they should be up to date in their equipment and other sinews of war, they should be logistically self-contained, and manned on a full scale. In other words, they should be, in fact as well as in appearance, equal to anything else of their kind in the world. If the Government of the day meet their responsibilities in these respects, I am fully confident that the troops themselves and their commanders will see to it that they are not only the equal of but better than anything of their kind in the world. Those are the main points which I think require the attention of Her Majesty' s Government in regard to the composition, the strength, the equipment, the manning and the logistics support of our forces in Western Europe.

There is another point of lesser importance but of some importance which I wish to make. It is to point out to your Lordships that our forces in Western Europe are, so to speak, the shop window of British military equipment, and it is there that such equipment as British industry is still allowed to make is seen and viewed and judged not only by our Allies but by people all over the world. I maintain that this has a very important bearing on our ability to sell our military equipment overseas. Finally, I implore Her Majesty's Government to hasten their decision on what is to happen over the strength of the forces in Germany, because the present state of uncertainty is not only most unsettling to our Allies but also very unsettling to all ranks in our own forces.

4.6 p.m.


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Harlech, in opening the debate, was at some pains to point out the dangers, especially at this particular time, of falling short of the commitments which we had accepted in Western Europe. As I understood him, he was indicating a shortfall in precisely those requirements which my noble and gallant friend Lord Harding of Petherton has just pinpointed in his speech. I felt sorry, when listening to the speeches of my noble friend Lord Harlech and the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, that I was so little able to relate the one speech to the other, because I think everyone would go all the way with Lord Shackleton in his description of the achievements of NATO during a number of very difficult years. Nobody would question that.

Equally, I think nobody would question what is now really a matter of history: that during that period we in this country have taken a certain number of risks in falling short of our commitments to NATO but, so far, have got by with them. Whether that has been due to extreme foresight or good luck, I should not like to say. But whichever it is, I do not think it bears on the point my noble friend has made in his speech; namely, that we have reached a moment in this history of Western European defence where, however much we may have taken risks in the past, we cannot now feel safe in taking risks of that sort, knowing that we must suffer the consequences.

My noble friend, and also the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, touched for a moment on the change in conditions in Germany. Although the noble Earl, Lord Longford, is not in the Chamber at the moment, I should like to go back to a conversation I had with him some twenty years ago in the Prince' s Chamber, when your Lordships' House was sitting in the Robing Room. The noble Earl asked me whether I thought the time had come when the Germans should be rearmed. I did not answer him immediately, because I thought that before doing so I ought to talk to my noble friend Lord Salisbury. But when I thought it over it occurred to me that the problem was in two parts.

First of all, it was a military necessity to take credit for the manpower and territory which Germany could provide for the defence of Western Europe: no worthwhile plan of defence could be made without the Germans, whatever contribution the other NATO nations needed to make. But the other half of the problem was a political act of faith; namely, that we were calculating that there was little or no risk of the German nation' s reverting to Nazi habits. At that time it was a risk which I think we all felt we could take. Nothing seemed to be further from the German mind of those days than a reversion to Nazi practice. In fact, it was proving very difficult, so it appeared, to get recruits for the German Regular Army which was in process of formation. Now, however, it looks as if the situation is beginning to alter. I mention this point, because I believe that this is the very last moment when we, or any other member of NATO, should fall short of our commitments and take any risk which would give more power to the German contribution than it was intended they should have.

Equally one's mind goes back to the 'thirties, and one remembers how quickly in a place like Germany the whole political scene can change in the night. That is why I was horrified—and I use that word deliberately—to see in one of the Sunday papers, the Sunday before last, an article in which we were told and asked to believe that prominent Germans were anxious that we should minimise and not make too much of this Nazi resurgence. I could not myself, with great respect, take a more opposite view. I know that it is not our business in this House to tell the Germans, or anyone else, how to govern themselves; but I feel that we are entitled to say what our reactions would be if certain courses of action were taken. I suggest that we ought to give the greatest possible support to the present German Government to nip in the bud any tendency of this sort and, equally, to deprecate most strongly any tendency to let movements of this sort run underground.

I should like to stress what my noble friend Lord Harding of Petherton said just now, because there is no doubt in my mind—certainly my doubts were not allayed by anything that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said; and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, will be able to allay them a bit more when he comes to reply—that in the last year finance has been the deciding factor: not the operational need, not the need really to match our commitments in the field, on the ground, as distinct from on paper. Nothing that has been said so far has allayed my fears on that matter, though the debate is not finished and I hope that there may yet be a chance. This has been going on for a very long time, and we all know that the condition of the Rhine Army did not originate when the present Government came into power. But two wrongs do not make a right; and they make it even more wrong, as I have said, in the political condition of Western Europe at the present time.

I want now to say one word about a related problem (I hope that I shall not be too far out of order), and that is the problem of home defence in this country. After all, home defence is closely related to this problem of the defence of Western Europe, since it is one of the really important bases for any defensive effort. We have been waiting far too long to be told by the present Government what is required of us in the matter of home defence. We asked this question over a year ago, when the proposals were made for the reformation of the Territorial Army. We were not told. We are now being invited in our counties to take part in publicity for recruiting campaigns. I know that the role of A.V.R. II is perfectly clear; it is that of a reinforcement for the Regular Army. But the role of A.V.R. III is not clear, and cannot become clear; nor can the present-day role of civil defence, until we are told how the conception of home defence is to be explained and planned; and, indeed, how that fits into Western European defence as a whole.

I make this plea for a serious study of this problem, and I am going to suggest, with great daring, that I partly know the reason why such a study has not been made already. It is the old trouble which bedevils discussions on certain matters when a problem concerns more than one Government Department. I know perfectly well that one of the things that has delayed the announcement of a civil defence policy is a series of jungle fights between the Ministry of Defence, the Home Office and the local authorities, about who should pay for what. That sort of thing comes up at intervals, and whenever it comes up it has the worst possible effects on our affairs

It is this failure at the top to insist on co-ordination between Government Departments which in the early days be-devilled the whole of our Rhodesian problems, is still be-devilling the whole of our immigration problems, and is still be-devilling the problems connected with guided missiles and aircraft. So I put it to noble Lords opposite that this is a perfectly simple problem if it is properly gripped; and if, instead of arguing whether the rates or the taxes, the Home Office or the Ministry of Defence, shall pay for the training of A.V.R. III on civil defence, the orders go out, your Lordships will be surprised how quickly the matter can be settled. I have strayed a little way from what my noble friend Lord Harlech was saying. May I come back to his Motion and conclude by saying that I am convinced that this is a very timely debate; that this is no time to fail to tackle the problems which he has mentioned, and that I hope the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, will give us some cause for joy before the day is done.

4.17 p.m.


My Lords, after the speeches which we have already listened to, with the problem as posed by the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, and the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and in particular the response by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, it might be thought that there was little left to be said about the subject of our commitments to the defence of Western Europe. Nevertheless, I would add my support to the attitude towards those commitments which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, set out with such clarity and definiteness. If I am led to stray on from that, I would plead in defence what was written in the Defence White Paper and which will, from now on, be a temptation impossible for diplomats to resist. The Paper said: Defence must be the servant of foreign policy, not its master. I should like to begin by making one or two quite simple statements as background. The first is to pay tribute to the success of our defence policy, judged by results since the end of the war. Of course, it may be claimed that it is not a perfect score. But who has had a perfect score? Have the Russians? Have the Americans? It is our habit, and a very proper one, to complain, and Her Majesty's Government, of whatever complexion, are the obvious and first target. But in this I think we could well ask Foch's question: De quoi s' agit-il?" —what is the object of the exercise? I suppose that for us the answer must be, "peace for its own sake, and law and order in order to enable us to trade".

I think we have had a large measure of success under all heads in a revolutionary period in foreign relationships. It may be said that this is not all our own doing. That is true. Nor was it all our own doing that all Europe had been overrun by Hitler by 1940, and others should be brought into any such accounting. But the contrast between twenty years after the First World War and twenty years after the Second is striking; and on any reckoning, I think, Her Majesty's Government have played a most sensible and effective part. Secondly, and as part of our success, not only have we and our Allies in NATO avoided war but, as has been rightly said, we have reduced the threat in the vital area near our shores in Western Europe. This has needed judgment by Her Majesty' s Governments, as well as sacrifices by the taxpayers. This brings me to the nub of this debate. How do we and our Allies make sense of our commitments at this point of time, remembering that peace may be indivisible when major wars arise?

If our Alliance was properly organised, I assume that there would be a global division of labour; but, as the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, pointed out on another occasion, all Governments are selfish; the French Government is only more selfish than most; and, far from coming nearer to the point where there could be such a sensible division of labour on a world-wide basis, we are, in fact, if anything, slipping rather further away from it. This is particularly hard on us, because of our commitments East as well as West of Suez.

Having registered, in whatever language may be thought fitting, that our patience is not inexhaustible in shouldering burdens from which others in Europe as well as ourselves derive benefit, what do we do about it here and now in order to promote our own interests? May I say how glad I was that nobody (and certainly not the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn) argued that we should clear out East of Suez? As an immediate policy, regardless of commitments, that does not seem to me to be a possible starter, or in accordance with our interests. Rather, I should like to pay tribute again to our successes East of Suez since the war: the success in Malaya; the present success, as far as it has gone, over the Confrontation; our part in Korea, which enabled us to have considerable influence on the outcome; the first and second Geneva Conferences, which could hardly have met, and certainly would not have succeeded, if it had not been for the part that we played. Aden is the one place so far as to which we have announced our intention of withdrawing East of Suez, and I should have thought it would be a bold man who would say any more than that the case is non-proven as yet whether this will redound to peace and good order in the Middle East or otherwise.

My Lords, the poignancy of our dilemma is the very successes of our policy East as well as West of Suez. It would be much easier for us if, East of Suez, the Australians, the New Zealanders, the Malays, the inhabitants of Hong Kong and others were saying that the British should go home, or if, in Europe, the Germans and others were telling us to get off their grass. But it should be no surprise that in neither part of the world is anything of the kind happening.

What, then, should be the conclusion? May I say that I take it from the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, that the Government are determined, and I think rightly, to stay East as well as West of Suez in a significant way for the next period of years. Government is choice, and if these things are given priority they can and, in my judgment, should be done. Of course, East of Suez there may be economies in method, and the Government will certainly need no spur from me in trying to achieve such economy of method or of organisation if we can persuade others to join with us in this area.

Economies and easements in NATO are equally to be desired. Conceivably, I suppose, a time might arise for a total rethinking of our position in Europe if our attempt now to renegotiate our way into Europe is once again spurned. Here I think I must pay a tribute to our extraordinary restraint after the last time, when the door was slammed in our face, that the question hardly arose whether we should rethink the liabilities that we had undertaken for the Continent of Europe. Then, we also witnessed the spectacle that many of our friends who disliked the way we had been treated by the French did not find it possible to do anything radically to improve our position. So I think we showed enormous restraint at that time, and I was very glad to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, that this restraint is in fact still being exercised.

There is one point as to which I would ask whether there may be some enlightenment. The President of the United States, on October 7, talked about modernising NATO and used these words: If changing circumstances should lead to a gradual and balanced revision of force levels on both sides, the revision could… help gradually to establish an entirely new political environment. It occurs to me that several possibilities may arise here. Let me take two. Such a revision could, by proportionate reductions in the Alliance, give us the easement we want without any unilateral act on our part being necessary. I am bound to say that I think this would be the preferable course if it could be brought about. But I suppose it might be argued that for this some sort of prior agreement with the Soviet Union, even a tacit understanding, would be required.

Is there an alternative? Might it be possible for the United States alone to decide to run down their forces by, say, two divisions? This would certainly of itself relieve pressure on the German Government to buy American, which has added enormously to our own difficulties. This, in turn, might then enable the German Government to be a little more helpful to us. Such a United States decision would not be contrary to any treaty commitment and would enable us all to see whether this initiative would evoke any Russian response. It may be that it could only be such an act on the part of the United States which would now carry conviction with those Russians who claim that they are not ready any more to pay any attention to what anybody says in the United States, only to what is done. Would it be an intolerable risk without a prior Russian undertaking for a balanced withdrawal on both sides? As a civilian, this is not for me to say. But on the face of it I should have doubted that it would be an intolerable risk if account is taken of the present United States capability of flying in reinforcements at very short notice and, behind that, of course, the threat of nuclear weapons.

I do not know whether either of these possible courses are starters. It is only obvious that they would enable us to get the kind of easements, which I am sure we are right in seeking, by means of agreement rather than by being forced to take any unilateral action.

There is one other point, if I may raise it as a question—and here I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, if I am not able to stay until the end of the debate owing to another engagement this evening which I cannot decline. I am not quite clear now what sort of money we are talking about. We have had the total figures, but in terms of foreign exchange. What, in 1967, is the sort of figure in foreign exchange which we should have to face if we received no further easements from the Germans and if we acted in the sensible and restrained way that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, suggested, and withdrew only a little of our forces? What sort of figure should we then be saving? Would it be a matter, perhaps, of£30 million or £40 million which the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, mentioned? Or might it be something of the order of £10 million? I do not know the answer from the figures so far quoted; and it would be helpful if the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, would elaborate on that.

Meantime, I would only add my plea to those of others for a sense of proportion and timing; and in so doing I expect I am pushing at an open door where Her Majesty' Government are concerned. For me, it is now no more the moment to act unilaterally in NATO than to pretend that this is the only area in which we need deploy some forces for good military and political reasons as far ahead as anyone can safely prophesy. We should not be ashamed of our performance since the end of the war. On the contrary, we should have the courage to go on backing our winners, West, as well as East, of Suez.

4.31 p.m.


My Lords, two weeks ago I attended the NATO Parliamentarians' Conference in Paris. This Conference, I firmly believe, while it does not have official recognition, nevertheless performs a useful function, particularly in giving Parliamentarians of all member-nations the opportunity to meet each other and discuss their mutual problems. Inevitably it was dominated by the French decision to withdraw from the integrated NATO military command. Contrary to the belief in some quarters, and no doubt to the disappointment of the Soviet bloc, this decision did not herald the disintegration of NATO. Instead, it was greeted by the unanimous resolve of the remaining fourteen nations to overcome the inevitable difficulties resulting from this decision and, at the same time, to take this opportunity to overhaul and reorganise the general structure of the Alliance. It would be quite true to say that with the enforced geographical separation of NATO into a northern and a southern flank, and with the doubts existing over the use of French air space and infrastructure arrangements. there is bound to be some weakening of the Alliance and some anxiety on the part of the most exposed portions of those flanks—Greece, Turkey and Norway. I should like to return to this subject a little later.

As would be imagined, the tone of the speeches at the Conference was one of great regret over the French position, but generally did not go so far as to criticise directly that position. While, obviously, it is hoped that at some future date the French Government may be persuaded to reconsider their attitude—and the door is left open for such an eventuality—it seems to me that a little more could be said about that decision. Under the Articles of the Treaty, the French were naturally quite within their rights to decide to sever their connection with the military alliance, while at the same time remaining a participant in the political, economic and cultural fields of the Organisation. However, I confess that I find the logic of this difficult to follow, since, in my opinion, it is not possible to divorce the military measures from those taken in the political and economic fields. It appears to me to be a case of "Heads I win; tails you lose", since the French still wish to retain the benefits of the early-warning system and, I believe, will continue to use American tanker aircraft for their force de frappe.

Another aspect of the matter which adds interest is the apparent unhappiness over the decision expressed by many French officers at SHAPE and of the French team at the Conference. Similarly, in conversation with French friends I was told that the President' s decision did not meet with the approval of quite a large sector of the French public. Be that as it may, the point in question is: what is being done and what is to be done to repair the damage? Arrangements are in hand to move the military and administrative sides of the Organisation to Belgium; and it is hoped that these arrangements will proceed smoothly and according to plan. I am sure there is no disagreement in this House that the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is an essential and vital requirement for the continued security of Western Europe, even without the presence of the excellent French forces to help it.

The controversy which pertains at this time concerns the British threat to withdraw part of our forces from Germany, albeit for economic reasons, unless the cost of these is offset by German military purchases in this country. At the same time the Germans are being pressed by the Americans similarly to make offset arrangements with them. Clearly, this presents the Germans with a very serious problem since the total cost of the upkeep of the forces of our two countries is considerably greater than the German defence budget. In this context it is well to remember that the United States and Britain are the only two countries in the Alliance which have military commitments outside Europe and whose economies, therefore, are under much greater strain. Indeed, as is well known, Britain spends a larger proportion of its gross national product on defence than any other Western country except the United States.

Obviously, then, the decision will have to be made, sooner or later, to withdraw some of our forces from Germany. However, this eventuality ought to be viewed in the light of the position as it is now, rather than merely on the basis of the number of troops facing the Eastern bloc forces. I believe that the concept of what may take place in Europe has changed considerably. The determination of the Allies to resist the Russians at the time of the Berlin blockade in 1948, and the decision to create a Western European defence organisation, which in turn led to the formation of NATO in 1949, convinced the Russians of the West's firm intention to resist aggression and incursions of any sort. As my noble friend has stated, this firmness has shown itself in the fact that not a single yard of European territory has been lost since that time. Backing the West's determination was, of course, the unilateral nuclear capability possessed by the United States and Britain. However the position has now altered, and the Russians can now match the West in this field.

What then is the position? What the Alliance members believe will happen in the event of a conventional attack by the East is not important. I am not one of those who believe that the United States would not come to the immediate aid of any member nation which was attacked. What is important is how the Russians believe we should react in such a case. I cannot conceive that the Soviet Government dare assume that an attack with numerically superior conventional forces would not quickly be resisted by the use of small tactical nuclear weapons and, if necessary, with strategic nuclear weapons. It follows, therefore, that the need for large conventional forces in the forward areas is no longer so great and the withdrawal of some British forces from Germany would not cause any significant weakening of the strength of the West.

What is of much greater importance is that far more stress should be laid on the high mobility of our forces and the equipping of them with modern and effective weapon systems. The Americans have demonstrated recently that reinforcement by a large number of troops over a long distance in a short time is a tactical proposition, depending, of course, on the stockpiling of their heavy equipment in suitable strategic areas. It is in this context that special emphasis should be given to the Ace Mobile Force, particularly to meet the current situation and specifically as it affects those member nations to which I referred previously, Norway, Greece and Turkey.

My Lords, I believe that this is one of the most appropriate ways in which Britain can participate fully in the defence of Western Europe, and at the same time fulfil the requirement that our overseas expenditure be reduced. Unlike the United States, we have the advantage of being geographically close to the Continent of Europe. We should develop our home-based forces in conjunction with Transport Command re-equipped with efficient and reliable aircraft in the rapid-deployment techniques which would be required. To this end I would again stress the urgent need for agreement with France over the use of their air space.

I will now turn briefly to the question of nuclear strategy. Much discussion has taken place recently over the priorities to be given to a NATO nuclear force and to a non-proliferation treaty. Essential though the latter may be, I am of the opinion that if such a treaty is to be based solely on the retention of nuclear weapons by the United States, with the decision as to their use resting entirely with that country, and with a small contribution by the United Kingdom, then this is bound sooner or later to result in other European countries, particularly Germany, wishing to develop their own weapons. After all, this exclusion was exactly the reason used by the French when they decided to go ahead on their own. Ideally, the best arrangement would be for the hardware to remain in American hands and for control of it to be vested in some form of committee made up of the member nations. Should such a scheme fail, and the problems attendant upon it would be many, it would be necessary to create a NATO nuclear force. If such a force is created, and in spite of the efforts to establish a multilateral force or an Atlantic Nuclear Force neither of these concepts came to fruition, the fact that all member nations would have a say in the control of nuclear weapons placed under the direct control of the Alliance would remove the desire or necessity for them to embark on their own ruinously expensive programmes.

To conclude, my Lords, we should remember that while we are to-day discussing the defence of Western Europe that subject forms only a part, albeit a vital part, of the overall problem of preventing the extension of Communism throughout the world. Such strategy can and does take many forms, and it is essential that we should ever be at the ready to deal with this threat whatever form it may take.

4.42 p.m.


My Lords, I am not very good at these arguments about guns versus butter, and I have no technical knowledge whatsoever of submarines, aeroplanes or nuclear weapons, but we are speaking of defence and not attack and I think that allows me to deal with the psychological side and what is in the minds of the men who take the decisions on defence. To my mind it is very important to understand their motives, as important as to discuss hardware and arms. I think we must be spurred to a review of the situation and the various motives influencing European Governments because of the threat to NATO, the shield, as was said by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, which has stood us in very good stead and which, as we know, was constructed under the threat of the cold war and with the heavy involvement of the U.S.A. while the European countries, exhausted, were still licking their war wounds.

I think we should thank the noble Lord, Lord Caccia, for telling us to count our blessings. We so often forget to do so and for twenty years we have had quite a lot. In that time the European situation has undergone very far-reaching changes, and NATO was in any case due for revision in 1968. The cold war in Europe has become tepid. E.E.C. and EFTA have come into being, and a certain inertia and torpor has come over the Continent. Movement and anxiety has turned to the Far East, where both the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. are now involved and, curiously, seem to be being forced by China to some extent on to the same side.

With a certain feeling of safety, old strains and stresses have once more come to the fore in Europe as well as a certain political instability in some of the major countries. It is sad that Britain' s first attempt to come right into Europe was thwarted, although this would have been one of the best and most lasting guarantees of defence, as the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, said earlier. It is also, I think, grievous that France has blunted young Germany' s dreams of unity with her and turned to her own historic ally Russia, presumably as a form of reinsurance. Quite a few years ago now I had a bet with the noble Baroness, Lady Horsbrugh, whom we all hope to see back with us again before long. The bet was that that was exactly what would happen. It was only for sixpence, but I still think I shall claim it. There is much to be said for Russian friendship for all of us. We have just had a large Russian delegation here and we must hope that that will strengthen our friendly ties. After all, Russia is a European as well as an Asiatic nation.

There is a new Party in Germany about which I should like to say a few words. This has struck fear into many hearts in Europe, including the Russians, lest we are back at the beginning again. I do not think that these things should be bottled up, but that they should be said. I do not think that we are back at the beginning, but we have to take care that we form a very realistic, not an emotional, judgment and understand the politicians who are involved at the moment. Our country has much to contribute, and a great though difficult part to play. I do not think there has ever been a greater need for understanding and quiet and delicate diplomacy on our part. I hope this delicate diplomacy is there. I sometimes wonder these days whether the Foreign Office knows what has hit it, apart from foreign affairs. It may be that it will not do the Foreign Office any harm.

Our Press also carried a great responsibility in this connection, and I think their comments can do a great deal of harm or good. After reading all the papers this weekend I thought that the leader in the Sunday Telegraph was the most understanding and most informative. One regrets very much the restrictions on foreign travel and investment at this time. Both make their invisible contributions to defence, especially just at the moment when the Russian satellites are beginning to come out of their shells. I think that travel and trade are the best means of breaking down barriers.

We should congratulate the German nation on having found what I believe is the best possible solution for their present political crisis. There are elements and men in the C.D.U. Party and the S.P.D. Party that could be extremely useful to each other at this time, when a renewed effort is needed to bring Europe together. Both Herr Kiesinger and Herr Brandt know our country well and are very good friends of ours. I think we should show our friendship to them in return. We must hope that this collaboration will not be just a standstill arrangement until the next general election, though the two Parties may well separate when that election comes along, as they have recently done in Austria.

We ought to hope there will be a joint study of both Parties of the obstinate question of the division of Germany. Up to the present—and I think this is an important point which may not be generally realised—the two main Parties have not faced the realities of the division and other problems of Europe because of the fear of publicly giving an advantage at the election to their rivals. By working together, they could cause something fruitful to emerge, such as recognition of the reality of the Oder-Neisse line, perhaps in return for some relaxation in the situation in Berlin. If the new German Government can allay the fears of Russia we should be taking a step forward to disarmament.

One also hopes for a renewed rapprochement between Germany and France. I am sure it pains many of us, and also threatens the defence of Europe, that the General should have shattered the dreams of the young Germans and that he stands so much alone. It is this shattering of their dreams which has largely resulted in the resurgence of this new Party. I believe that, whatever the merits of the Nassau Agreement are or were, the trouble arises very largely from the date of this agreement. It was badly handled and it is a position which we and the General have still to retrieve. No European country can stand quite alone, and we must take into account the drain on all our resources, above all of the United States of America in the Far East.

I am sure that greater economy in Government spending would be a far better contribution to the defence of Europe than the whittling down of our commitments there. If the figures which have been mentioned to-day are accurate, it seems that this should be possible. If we whittle down our commitments, this will add to the German sense of insecurity and so to the general unease. Whatever we can do to get closer to Europe will help and must be done, and the European countries would be glad to have us by their side. This is why we must seek to understand what is hap- pening in Germany and not condemn. This is why we must hold to our commitments just now—just now, when I believe that a new chapter is starting in Europe.

4.51 p.m.


My Lords, the House ought to be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, for introducing the debate this afternoon on British commitments to the defence of Western Europe. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, assured us that NATO is in complete disarray. He may be technically right, but the fact remains that from the defence point of view things in Europe could not be quieter at the present time, and so at least we can discuss the factors in Western European defence dispassionately and in good time. I was greatly reassured by the remark of my noble friend Lord Shackleton, right at the end of his speech, when he said that British reductions cannot be decided on financial grounds alone but must also be related to strategy. I am one of those who entirely agree with this, and I think many noble Lords have taken that view this afternoon.

The first matter I want to discuss is the threat. It is a great mistake, to my mind, to look at Europe alone. After all, it is only one sector of a long front. We used to call it the cold war front. It is not that any longer, but it is still a front, with Europe at one end. There are also Asia, the Far East and the Middle East. If we look at the shooting that has been going on in the last fifteen years, we see that it has all been outside Europe. In fact, not a shot has been fired in anger where the super-Powers, the Soviet Union and the United States, face each other in Europe. I have said this many times, but perhaps it bears repeating. The reason for this is that the two super-Powers confront each other in Europe, and in other parts of the world, where the stakes are not nearly so high, greater risks are taken by second-rate and third-rate Powers. Although we in Europe have had this wonderfully quiet period so far as defence is concerned for twenty-odd years, we must remember that it is due not to the matching of conventional forces, division by division—because they have 26 divisions, so must we have 26—but to the fact that awful nuclear weapons face each other, and since 1953, when Russia blew the hydrogen bomb successfully and showed that it could reach America, the risks have been absolutely clear.

This brings me to the nuclear aspect of defence, which was touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Kenwood. Since 1953, we have been living under a balance of terror. That is a popular expression which, unfortunately, means what it says. As I have said, not in your Lordships' House, but elsewhere, I have been quite happy to live under this balance of terror because it has been so stable, but I doubt whether we can count on stability for very much longer, for various reasons. First of all, although nuclear weapons are a deterrent, they have not deterred conventional war in Asia; they have only successfully deterred the nuclear holocaust. We have had wars in Korea, Indo-China, Vietnam, even war between India and Pakistan and war in Arabia—plenty of wars. In fact, the British Army has never stopped shooting for the last twenty years. So, although the balance of terror has been effective so far as nuclear war is concerned, it has not been so far as conventional war is concerned. Perhaps some noble Lords will not agree, but, as I see it, the defensive quiet in Europe has been produced by the direct confrontation of two super-Powers which have this awful hydrogen fission bomb.

What is going to happen in Asia when China not only fires the bomb but also has weapons to deliver it? We may wait ten or fifteen years, but what is going to happen? Are we going to sit back and say that Asia will be quiet for that reason? I will not pursue this argument further, but at present Asia is not quiet; in fact it can hardly get much worse.

Nuclear weapons are deterrents and not defensive weapons. This is the error into which the French have fallen. They are building up painfully and at great cost terrific nuclear weapons, on the ground that they can defend themselves thereby. Of course, this is not true.

Lastly, there is hanging over us the proliferation of nuclear weapons. My noble friend Lord Chalfont has made great efforts all over the world and in Geneva particularly to achieve a proliferation treaty. I will not go into the details, because no doubt there will be other opportunities for debate, except to say this: that there are about ten or a dozen other countries using civil nuclear power which are quite capable of making nuclear weapons, and in about ten or fifteen years' time they can have the vehicles to carry them. The risks of an outbreak of nuclear war rise arithmetically with the number of such countries, so it is extremely important to stop this proliferation. Another risk is the risk of escalation contained in the fact that two second-rate atomic Powers could start a relatively small atomic war on their own and find it difficult to stop it from spreading. We British may live to regret the opportunity we missed in 1956 and 1957 to give up our atomic weapons. The argument was all the other way at that time, and France used exactly the same argument when they started to build their atomic weapons.

My next point is about the French withdrawal. We all know the aspirations which led the General to withdraw his forces from NATO. I have referred to the underlying basic falsity of the military arguments. It is impossible, in my view, to set up Western Europe as a third force between the Soviet and America. It is impossible for geographical, technological and other reasons. It is geographically hopeless for France to think that they can build atomic weapons which will match those of the Soviet and America. They may modernise them at great expense and put them underground and in submarines. It will take them another ten years to do it. It will be a great expense, and they still will not be able to do more than perhaps deter. They certainly will not be able to defend their country.

There is another aspect on a lower grade about the French withdrawal which I think is apt to be forgotten. In the French Government aide-memoire of March, 1966, there was this statement: In particular, France is equipping herself with atomic weapons, the very nature of which precludes her integration. The results of the French withdrawal on the land are perhaps not quite so serious. They can be borne. The French Army is very badly equipped and not particularly mobile. The French Navy was withdrawn many years ago from the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. But it is only with this latest declaration that the French Air Force and the missiles are being withdrawn.

Again, it is a false argument. The German General, General Steinhoff—who was, I think, the Air Chief of Staff at Fontainebleau—recently wrote an article in which he commented on this. He said: Nuclear operations in the tactical sphere are only possible within a single integrated operational framework. That is the direct answer, and the answer of all the other fourteen Allies to the French withdrawal. It is a serious diminution of power. Of course, they could do this only at a time when NATO is not being threatened, and the French may wonder sometimes why they are being defended free of charge by fourteen other Allies. The day has passed—"integration" is the word now; and "dovetailing" is another good word—when a nation could be a member of an Alliance and say: "I will fight with you on the day. I will send X divisions or X aeroplanes." That day has passed; the French have gone backwards instead of forwards.

In these circumstances, what is the best course for us British? I have argued in your Lordships' House that our aptitude, the threats, our tasks, are greater East of Suez than they are in Europe, and that we could well afford to reduce B.A.O.R. by a considerable amount. In this I was agreeing with the noble and gallant Field Marshal Lord Montgomery of Alamein. But that was at a time when we could have withdrawn safely from NATO without rocking the boat. It is doubtful whether we could do that now. We could have saved not only men, but a lot of foreign exchange. I pointed out in July that we could have saved £50 million of foreign exchange straight off by reducing a division in Germany. But now it is too late. General de Gaulle has made that impossible at the present time.

The four outstanding features of the situation at the moment seem to be these. First, NATO is definitely weaker. Therefore, the threat may return. This is sometimes forgotten. German politics, as we have heard from other noble Lords, are extremely unsteady. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, used the words "potential explosion"—rather nasty! The anti-proliferation treaty, in spite of great efforts, is not yet in sight. We wish it were. Lastly, British economies are pressing. They are extremely embarrassing, though we hope this situation is only temporary.

I therefore come to two conclusions, which are these. Do not weaken NATO at the present moment. Only reduce it in return for an exchange from the other side. Other noble Lords have mentioned the easing of tension and perhaps a reciprocal reduction in forces by each side. Well, the Russians withdrew two divisions not long ago to the other side of the Urals, because there is a lot of wide open space on the China frontier, and there are now only 20 Russian divisions in Germany, instead of 22. That is the sort of occasion when it would be possible to conceive of an exchange. "You take away two divisions"—we have often done it—"and we will take away two divisions." We have never used that argument, but I am not sure that we should not start doing so now.

So far as nuclear reductions are concerned, it seems to me hopeless to think that there can be a reduction in nuclear strength until the anti-proliferation treaty becomes a fact. At that point, both the super-Powers, to my mind, could afford to reduce some of their overkill capabilities. Lastly, so far as the British reductions are concerned I come roughly to the same conclusion as did the noble Lord. Lord Shackleton, speaking for the Government. Please ensure that any reductions in B.A.O.R. are made for military or political reasons agreed by the Allies, and not for economic and financial reasons.

5.0 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that the whole House has listened with great interest to the remarkable speech of the noble Lord, Lord Bourne. If I do not follow him in his highly technical and very experienced views on the military side of the debate, I hope he will not think that I have not listened with great interest to what he had to say. But, like the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Kenwood, I am one of those who a fortnight ago was in Paris as a delegate to the Twelfth Conference of the NATO Parliamentarians, and this is my reason for intervening in the debate. This Conference, which was attended by delegates from the Government side and from the Opposition side, came, I think, at an apposite moment.

The impression that I had there was, first of all, of the great disappointment and regret of the NATO countries represented there (and they were all represented) at the action of the French nation. The Secretary-General of NATO, Signor Brosio, made a remarkable opening speech. He pointed out that, while they knew that the French were contemplating some major change in their attitude towards their contribution to NATO, they had hoped that they might be given an opportunity to discuss such a change. But this did not happen. They were handed a quite definite series of decisions made by the French with no reference to anyone else, and they were told, as we all were, to withdraw from French soil.

At the Conference it was interesting—I think the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Kenwood, will back me up in this—because there were one or two gallant French Parliamentarians who clearly did not agree with the decision that the General had made, and they said so. They spoke up against the decision; but, unfortunately, among the delegation they were lone voices, and what the General had done had the approval of the rest. The result was that the French played hardly any part in the NATO Parliamentarians' Conference this year.

I would support what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said about the effect that this has had on the other fourteen nations. There is no doubt in my mind that among the Parliamentary representatives present there was a great feeling of solidarity, a great desire to keep together, and, in fact, not to indulge in over-criticism of the French, simply because they felt, "This has been done it has happened. We must make the best of it and see what we can do to make good the results of this unfortunate action".

The noble Lord, Lord Bourne, has said that the French action has greatly weakened the strength of the NATO shield. To make it up much is going to be done, some of which we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. Also at the Conference we had some interesting military assessments given to us, and some reassuring words on the subject of the improvement in certain types of weapons, in the mobility and rapidity of action of the remaining forces and also in the great desire, according to our military advisers, of the military personnel in the remaining fourteen nations to work together as closely and harmoniously as possible.

It struck me very forcibly—and in this I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Kenwood—that any withdrawal of our forces would be a severe blow to the remaining fourteen nations, all hoping to work very closely together and all desiring to make their full contribution. If at this point we were to reduce our forces or withdraw in any way, not only would this have a very bad military effect, but psychologically and practically it would be a severe blow to the remaining fourteen nations. We discussed the question of how reductions could take place in our armaments, but I think we all agreed—and I would say here that the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, put it much better than I can—that any reduction in Central Europe on the side of the NATO forces must be matched by some reduction or withdrawal on the East German frontier and in the Eastern forces.

We cannot take any risks now, just as we could not take them in the past, and I am sure that it would be a great error on our part if there were to be any weakening in the forces to which we are committed and, indeed, in the forces which are at the disposal of the Alliance at the present time. The important fact about the NATO force is that it is a real Atlantic commitment. There are British, Belgian, Dutch, Canadian, American and German forces, and they are all working together. Never in history has there been so great a mixture of nations in a defensive alliance.

Although the action the French have taken is very much to be regretted, I am sure we should not despair, because we have this great mixed Atlantic-cum-European structure which is vital to the preservation of Western freedom. But, of course, the basis of defence falls hardest on the countries producing the most forces, and in this our debt to the Americans is very great indeed. They have for the first time in history kept a great combat force in Europe for twenty years and more, and this is really the most important fact in post-war history. It is as important in 1966 as it was in 1945 although, of course, the situation is different. Far from pressing the American forces off French soil—and the forces of all the other nations, too—we should be deeply grateful to them for their help to the NATO cause. The American forces are the real stability of the NATO forces.

Many of your Lordships will know the American soldiers better than I do. I have had the honour of meeting them as a delegate to Parliamentarian Conferences in Paris, and I am quite sure that the psychology of the American position is quite straight-forward. They will not withdraw their support because of their opponents or because of any increase in Communism or Communist forces. They will defend freedom, and the right to freedom, to the end. But there is a force which may influence them, and that is the way in which their friends behave. If we discourage them, if we put spokes in their wheels, if we appear, as I am afraid the French appear, not to be fully cognisant of the great contribution that the American forces have made, then who can blame them if some of them, away on the other side of the Atlantic, are wondering whether they can and will forever keep great forces in Europe? I believe it is the way in which their friends respond, more than the threat which may come from their enemies, which will be the danger in the Americans deciding not to remain in the European picture.

The Secretary-General, in his remarkable speech, reminded us that the Alliance was more than just a defensive military alliance. It is a political alliance intended to safeguard the freedom of our people. It is at the same time an economic alliance, intended to operate in the economic field, to develop conditions of stability and welfare, on which free institutions of Western countries are founded. The fact that there is no immediate threat to the West does not mean that we are free from such a threat for ever more. That would be the kind of fool's paradise which only fools could suppose. One of the ways of undermining the unity of the Alliance, and of the political and economic unity, too, is to cast doubts about its present usefulness simply because it is not being challenged as it was in the past. One has only to spend a few days in Europe and talk to people to realise how close they are to the past. Newspaper headlines direct us towards any disturbances in other parts of the world and in the Eastern continents. But if you live in Europe it is the unity of NATO which really counts. Of course, we must look ahead, and we did so at our Conference. We discussed many aspects of the reform of NATO and of the importance of the influence of the Parliamentarians' Conference. But this is not a debate in which we can discuss these matters, or indeed the Common Market. These are matters which I think we should discuss at some other time.

What struck me in all our committees was the vital necessity for the United Kingdom to continue to play the full part in Europe in defence, in economic affairs and in political affairs, which we have played until now. Nationalism is not the basis of NATO. As I have said, their forces are the greatest mixture of forces the world has ever known, and one of the sad effects of the nationalist policy of the French is that it is catching; it is infectious, and easily spread. While I am sure it is a fact that the great majority of Germans do not want a spread of nationalism in their country, the very small amount of it which was shown in the past election was very badly received by the Allies, which only seems to demonstrate—if demonstration is necessary—the vital importance of Parliament, of the freely elected members of Parliament and of Parliamentarians, preventing a people from taking action which is detrimental, in the way the French Parliament has taken its decision which I believe to be fundamentally detrimental to the NATO Alliance. It stresses once more the belief I have always held, that the need to persuade Parliamentarians of the importance of the NATO Alliance and of the responsibilities which they hold in it is a need we must all of us in our various Parliaments see that our people truly understand.

Whatever the present British Government may consider doing in the future, I am perfectly certain that if they wish to continue to have the greatest influence which we have had in the past, including the great part that we have played in the building up of these great NATO defence forces. now is the last moment to say that this is a subject for economy and that we should reduce our forces at the present time. I beg the Government not to take any decision at this moment which they may bitterly regret in some months' time.

5.19 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to begin by apologising very sincerely for not being here during much of this debate. I explained to my own Front Bench and to the Government Front Bench why I had to be away, and I hope I may be forgiven if I say anything which has already been said by previous speakers.

This Motion involves the whole question of NATO. That is what the United Kingdom commitment to the Western Defence of Europe really means. I would suggest that one cannot consider the British contribution to defence in Europe in isolation, since we are a NATO nation, and I should like to go back a bit in history and consider the situation when a threat from the East began to develop in Europe, and examine how the Western nations decided to deal with it, and then move forward to the present times.

In 1948, before the NATO Treaty was signed, it became clear to Western political leaders that a Russian threat was beginning to develop and that there was no political or military organisation to deal with it, so the Western Union was formed, consisting of five nations: Britain, France, Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg. I was then in the War Office as Chief of the Imperial General Staff and I was sent to head the military side of the Western Union. Our task was to build up a command and staff system and military forces to handle that threat if it should ever mature. The Russian blockade of West Berlin had begun in June, 1948. That was before the Western Union really came into operation, and it was finally defeated by the tremendous feat of the airlift.

We established our command headquarters at Fontainebleau in October. 1948, and plans were drawn up. Gradually, but very slowly, some military strength began to emerge, although not really sufficient should be threat have become really dangerous. Then the threat did become dangerous, and the NATO Treaty was signed in April, 1949. Your Lordships will know that it was born of collective insecurity, the task being to prevent Russian expansion in Europe, and in 1951 the Western Union was absorbed into NATO. General Eisenhower came to Europe and I served on as Deputy under four Supreme Commanders: Eisenhower, Ridgeway, Gruenther and Norstad. I served ten years in all in the Western Defence Organisation, from 1948 to 1958.

There is no doubt whatever in my mind that NATO did a fine job, and after many years we built up strong forces with a nuclear strike potential and we succeeded. We succeeded because the nations of Western Europe at that time were afraid. Fear was abroad, therefore they co-operated; not completely—definitely not completely because they all wanted self-sufficiency, and I used to point out to the Governments of the member countries of NATO that if every nation was self-sufficient what value would there be in the Alliance?

In those difficult days we British built up quite a sizeable army in Germany, and by the time I left it was of the order of 50,000 or so. To-day, fear has disappeared. Why has it disappeared? Because the threat has disappeared in so far as Russia is concerned. But we still keep over 50,000 soldiers in Germany, and it does not make sense to me. The threat has disappeared into the Middle East and Asia and into Africa. For that reason we cannot discuss NATO in a vacuum. It must be fitted into its right place in the global context.

When I left NATO in 1958 I was asked to address the NATO Council—that is, the political body of the organisation—and I declined. Then the Secretary-General, M. Spaak, who is a great friend of mine, urged me to go, and I said I did not want to go because they would not like what I should say. He knew what I was going to say and he agreed: he said it needed saying and nobody else would dare to say it. So I went. That was in September, 1958. I told the Council that NATO had done a terrific job and it now needed a complete overhaul, a complete reorganisation to meet the changed conditions. You will recall, my Lords, that the Suez operation had taken place two years previously, in 1956. I said that NATO must stop looking inwards at itself and must begin to look outwards. The threat having disappeared, NATO should now become less military and get political unity and a common economic policy. I then asked the Council how it was possible to have a common defence policy until the nations had first defined their political association, which had not been done; and I gave the answer. I said it was impossible. I said there was no leadership. Britain could have taken over the leadership after the war, but we declined it, and Europe had been suffering ever since. I said that if NATO was to survive, change and reorganisation was essential, and I finished by saying that if these things were not done NATO would become merely a high-class political racket.

The NATO Council listened in complete silence—and what happened? Nothing. And the result? The result is, I fear, that NATO is well on the way to becoming a political racket. Money is being chucked about like water. Every nation is trying to grab as much as it can. There are enormous military headquarters, from Norway right across Europe down to Naples. After planning for fifteen years one would have thought the plans would not be too bad. The output of paper is terrific. Nobody could possibly read more than half the paper, and the other half is not worth reading.

There is a great need to-day for nations to define clearly the object—the particular strategic and political aim—and to get that clear before arguing about how it is to be done: that is to say, the tactics. A very good example would be the Far East, where we have the United States of America embarking on a war on the mainland of Asia without first defining their political strategy in the Far East.

The basic need in NATO is to reorganise to meet the changed conditions. I do not want to be merely destructive, and I should like to conclude with a summary of the general overall situation as it appears to me to-day, in November, 1966, and to be constructive as to how the reorganisation of the NATO defence setup might be done. In view of the present state of negotiations, both in the tripartite talks and in the Military Committee of NATO, and bearing in mind the meeting of the NATO Ministers in mid-December, I would suggest to your Lordships that it is most important at this moment to avoid major complications.

I have many times said—in private conversation, not in your Lordships' House—that the real danger in Europe is Germany. Certainly the Russians believe this, and we know that they are most apprehensive lest Germany should emerge as the dominant Power in Europe. If this should happen—and I underline the word "if": not "when"—it would most certainly upset any rapprochement between East and West, and it would bring a rapid return to icy cold war. For this reason alone it follows that we certainly cannot contemplate any rapid removal of all British and all American forces from the Continent. A reduction of such forces, yes; a complete removal quickly, no. It must be a slow process. And I would also suggest that it must, within the context of East/West relations, be linked to two things; first, reciprocal withdrawals between NATO and the Warsaw Pact; and, second, a reduction in German forces in both West and East Germany.

We have to consider the cohesion of NATO. The strength of NATO is based (I know this because I spent ten years there) on confidence between all partners, and possibly above all on confidence that the Americans will use their nuclear power for the protection of Western Europe should the need ever arise. Any hasty withdrawal of all or major parts of the American forces would undermine that confidence. Similarly, a unilateral or large withdrawal of British forces would do the same.

I suggest that we should aim initially at small withdrawals, which might come under the heading of redeployment, coupled with guarantees of their return to the Continent in the event of a deterioration in the situation. A very important point is that any such redeployment must not be an excuse for the Germans to take command of the Northern Army Group. That would most certainly alarm the Russians. Next, I think, the question of British entry into the Common Market is part of this very intricate problem. German sources take-the view—and this I know, because I have heard it from them direct—that part of our entrance fee must be in the form of a subscription to Western defence, and part of this must include the stationing of British forces in Western Europe. It certainly must. But it need not be 51,000. I suggest that something like one division, plus one armoured brigade, would be adequate: one infantry division plus an armoured brigade—say 20,000 men, or something like that.

To sum up, although it is safe to say, as I did say, that the threat has disappeared, it is also true to say that it could be re-created if we were to allow Germany to become the predominant military Power in Europe. And it follows that, while we could to-day make some withdrawals from Germany of both British and American forces, we must be careful how we do it. And we must have due regard to the effect that any such withdrawals might have on Russia and on our NATO Allies. We must be careful. The Americans may not be liked in Europe by General de Gaulle, but remember what the Foreign Secretary said recently in a speech in the House of Commons. He said: Just as the defence of Europe requires the commitment of the United States, so the establishment of peace in the wider world involves close ties between Europe and the United States. I would very much agree with that statement. I apologise for exceeding my usual ten to twelve minutes, but I felt, having spent ten years in the Western Defence Organisation, that I should like to make some contribution to your Lordships' thinking.

5.35 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to support my noble cousin, Lord Harlech. I believe we must at all costs abide by our commitment under the Treaty of Brussels to maintain troops in Germany. I feel very deeply that in view of the latest alarming developments in that country we should keep our troops there and at full strength. Frankly, I see them now as a bulwark not only against the Soviet threat but against possible trouble in Germany itself. For once I find myself in agreement with my noble and gallant friend, Lord Montgomery of Alamein. I still regard, as I have always regarded, Germany, and not Russia, as our potential enemy. I do not need to underline to your Lordships the result of the recent German elections; they are there for all of us to see. It is possible to read too much into them; it is possible to read too little. Personally, I find no cause for immediate panic. I am not one of those who see in the neo-Nazi success an event as grave as, say, the reoccupation of the Rhine. Clearly, there is a very long way to go before any situation of similar seriousness could arise. But this is an early warning, and we should do well to take heed of it.

I have great respect for the present Foreign Secretary. I admire his forthrightness—a welcome change from the"pussy-footing" of some previous Foreign Secretaries. But I cannot go along with him when he says that the Germany of to-day is very different from the Germany of the two World Wars. Nor am I surprised, frankly, that his Czech and Polish audience remained entirely unimpressed by his words. It is possible that they know Germany just a little better than does Mr. Brown. I, too, know my Germans. I spent over two years in Germany and Austria. I studied at Vienna University. I assure your Lordships that those particular leopards do not change their spots. Sometimes I think they never will.

My knowledge of the Germans of today derives, admittedly, mostly from meeting them outside their own country, in Britain and in foreign countries. From my conversations with them—and I speak fluent German—I find that though I may be speaking to men with new ideas, the character remains the same. The arrogance is still there, the innate aggressiveness, the contempt for other races, and, I fear, the cruelty. I have never blamed the Germans for their wish to conquer, to dominate. We, too, have a history of conquest and of imperialism. It is the savagery that they take with them on their warfarings that I abominate. This savagery is particularly indigenous in the southern parts of Germany, and also, I regret to say, among the Austrians. I am not at all surprised that the spectre has raised its head in Bavaria. Not for nothing was Munich the capital of the Nazi movement; not for nothing was Hitler an Austrian.

The cruelties perpetrated upon the Jews in Vienna were ten times as bad as anything that happened in Berlin; and since then Austrian efforts at de-Nazification have been farcical. No, contrary to popular beliefs, it was with the Berliners, with the North Germans, that Goebbels had his greatest difficulties. Militarists the Prussians and Brandenburgers may be, but they have a certain decency. If the new Movement should spread, I confidently expect it to be not along the banks of the Elbe or the Spree, but along the Inn and the Danube. Indeed, I do not rule out the possibility of a second Anschluss, for I think they have much in common. But this is for the future, of course—a future which, please God! we may never see.

The immediate problem is what we should do in the light of these new bad things; first of all, politically. I believe profoundly that we should not be over hasty in seeking to reunite Germany. I believe that a reunited Germany would be a great threat to world peace. I am profoundly glad that the Russians are along the frontier. I believe that we owe them a debt for that. Some years ago I had a talk with the former Russian Ambassador, M. Soldatov. We disagreed about almost everything until we came to Germany. I spoke with anxiety about a strong united Germany. "Believe me", said His Excellency with passion,"that is something we will never allow." I deeply hope that he meant it, and that we shall never see a repetition of the infamous Russo-German Treaty of 1939, though all things are possible. Who would have believed that such a thing could happen when the Strang Mission was in Moscow? Yet it happened.

Next—and this brings me back to the whole purpose of this Motion—if we believe that the dangers of a neo-Nazi Germany are there, and these dangers are suddenly highlighted and intensified, as they have been, is this the moment, as the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, has said, to consider withdrawal of our troops from Germany? I know they cost a lot of money. But can one pay too high a price for national security? And is not a war ten times more expensive?

I am sorry to keep on about Austria, but I feel worried about that country. We can, of course, do nothing, they being officially a neutral country. But Germany is different. There, we have a right, indeed a duty, to perform. We are to-day faced with this paradoxical situation. British troops are in Germany. What for?—to spearhead resistance to a possible Communist aggression. But now, suddenly, to my way of thinking, they have a new raison d'être, a new reason for being where they are. They have, I think, a watching brief over the Germansthemselves—not more than that, but I believe it is a brief of high importance. I, for one, at any rate, am glad that they are there, and, if only for this reason, I hope that they will long remain.

6.45 p.m.


My Lords, I think your Lordships have been greatly privileged in this debate to hear views on the reorganisation and the future of NATO of several of the greatest military authorities in the world who have had a good deal to do with the origin and development of NATO itself. I should like to assure the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, that high military headquarters and field marshals are not the only people in the world who waste paper. Those of us who have had experience in Government offices know that a considerable number of other people do the same thing. I always used to find not only that the half of the papers which I did not read were not worth reading, but that practically the whole of the half that I did read were not worth reading either.

But I was particularly glad to hear the noble and gallant Field Marshal, who has sometimes caused doubts by his past expression of views about the withdrawal of British troops from Germany, say that in present circumstances he does not think this is an appropriate time to do so.


My Lords, I did not say it was an appropriate time to withdraw the whole lot.


No, of course not.

The purpose of my noble friend Lord Harlech in moving this Motion was not necessarily to argue that it would never be a good thing in itself to reduce either our forces in Germany or the forces of NATO as a whole. His purpose was to obtain from the Government an assurance that we would not do that unilaterally, without observing the terms of the Treaty of Brussels and consulting with, and obtaining the agreement of, the other members of the Western European Alliance. I think that my noble friend' s object has been achieved, and that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, in his full and admirable speech, fully gave the assurance which was asked for, that we would not unilaterally make any reduction in forces, and also that we would not do anything precipitately or without consulting the Western European Union.

The noble Lord suggested that my noble friend had been guilty of some unfairness in the way he put his case, I will not go into that. What my noble friend, and what we all wanted to know was whether the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer of August 9 meant what it said. Because, with great respect, it was not obvious from that speech that unilateral action was not going to be taken; and it created great uneasiness, not only in our own minds, but in the minds of our friends in Europe. We are all the more glad to have the noble Lord's assurance this afternoon that it is not the intention of the Government to do what we feared this speech of the Chancellor might mean.

I also thought that the noble Lord gave a most satisfactory statement on both the history of NATO and its present purpose. So far as its present purpose is concerned, he made it clear—and he was supported in this by the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Kenwood, behind him—that in the event of a conflict the ground forces in NATO would not be able to sustain action for long, and that we should soon have to rely on the nuclear deterrent. It was interesting to hear the noble Lord and his noble friend behind him use this argument, and put it so well and so convincingly: because when we were in his place we had so often done this between 1957 and 1964, and we were always told by the Party opposite, when they were in Opposition, that we were wrong to rely to this extent on the nuclear deterrent, and that we must have much larger ground forces. The noble Lord is very lucky to have an Opposition which entirely agrees with him, instead of one which takes the opposite view.

As for the history of NATO, again I think the noble Lord did well to point out what NATO has achieved. In 1950, even after the preliminary steps had been taken to form the Alliance, it seemed that Europe was at the mercy of Communist imperialism. NATO, as the noble Lord said, has succeeded in stopping that threat and has succeeded in building up a credible deterrent which, since it came into being, has prevented any further aggression in Europe, and, we hope, will continue to do so.

But I wish the noble Lord had gone on to connect the two things: what NATO had done so far with what he said about the ultimate objectives; that is to say, the eventual emergence of an effective international authority, which we hope the United Nations may one day develop into, and an international police force which would make it no longer necessary to maintain this great armed confrontation. I would say that the answer to that is that we shall begin to have some practical hope of an international authority and of disarmament just as soon as Russia is convinced that it is in her interest to agree to it. Russia will not agree to it, or will not believe that it is in her interest to agree to it, so long as there is any possibility of the disintegration or disarray of NATO. That is precisely why we are so concerned about the set-backs which NATO has had recently. In the long run, they will delay, and possibly prevent, nuclear disarmament and agreement to accept an international authority.

We are shortly to hear a speech from the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, and I always sympathise with him in the admirable, patient and assiduous work which he is doing as Minister for Disarmament—work which is none the less admirable because, so far as one can see, it is likely to be fruitless for a very long time. But that is not the noble Lord's fault. It will continue to be fruitless until Russia believes that it is in her interest to make it fruitful. I put it to your Lordships that Russia will not arrive at that state of mind until the NATO Alliance in Europe and in the world is in such a position of security and strength and permanence that there will no longer he the least shadow of doubt in the mind of Russia that there is no chance of the defence of the West breaking up and falling into disarray.

I do not intend to widen this debate, but propose to bring it to a rapid conclusion. I will only say that the noble Lord. Lord Gladwyn—

A NOBLE LORD: The noble Lord has gone.


—who since he spoke appears to have become disembodied, was right in saying that our entry into the European Economic Community is the only way of preserving the Western Alliance and bringing about an East-West understanding, an understanding between the Communist and the Western European countries. It is true that political strength, economic strength and military strength all go together, and the Free World will not have the military strength and the economic strength to achieve our object until Britain is in the Common Market.

We greatly regretted, as several of your Lordships have said to-day, the two negative actions which the present French Government have taken, first in vetoing the British application to join the Common Market, and secondly in withdrawing her forces from the NATO organisation. The apparent reason for this is that the French Government are against too much dependence upon the United States, and none of us wants or advocates that we should be satellites or provinces of the United States. But it does not make sense in the twentieth century, when one is considering either defence or economic progress, to think that America can be excluded from the affairs of Western Europe. Suppose America had taken this line ten or twelve years ago. France would almost certainly by now have been a Communist satellite, like Czechoslavakia or Hungary or Poland, if it had not been for the shield of American protection which it was given even before the formation of NATO. Now that NATO is in being, its preservation, which we believe to be essential, cannot be secured without American participation. The word "integration" is used in a great many different senses and how much actual integration is necessary I would not say, but we must at least have interdependence with the United States politically, in military affairs, in all defence matters, and I hope commercially, too.

I do not know what is the real explanation of the French objection to closer association with America and in the Common Market with ourselves. If it were the case that it was due to a selfish French obsession with their own interests against other people' s interests, it might perhaps be right to try to pursue an anti-French policy; but that is not the assessment I make of the position. It seems to me that the French have misjudged their own interests in these matters, that they are acting contrary to their own interests; because it seems to me that interdependence with America and the widening of the European Economic Community to include ourselves and EFTA are essential not only to our own interests, but also to the long-term interests of France, as of all free countries. And in many ways they are even more essential to the interests of France than to many other members of the Free World.

When you have a friend who is palpably and obstinately acting against his own interest, it does not usually do any good to attack him and abuse him with acrimony. The only effect of doing that is to increase his perversity. The best and wisest method of getting him to see reason is to help him and to be friendly with him in every way, and at the same time to reason with him intelligently—or remonstrate, if you like—patiently and without animosity. That is the attitude we should adopt towards France: because if we are right in this, if it is true that it is in the interests of France, as I firmly believe it is, to change her policy, to admit us into the Common Market, to admit some interdependence with America, then, in time, the French are bound to see it. We shall only delay that day by attacking them and abusing them. I think that our aim should be to cooperate with the French in every way: in military affairs, in commercial affairs and in industrial affairs, and that we should treat them with all friendship but, at the same time, continue patiently to tell the truth.

6.0 p.m.


My Lords, if I may be permitted to preface my remarks with a brief personal note, and if I can do so without giving offence in some of those great international conferences which I have been attending in recent months, may I say how pleasant it is to be back in the urbane calm of your Lordships' House. We have had, as usual, a most valuable and interesting debate on an extremely important subject, and I for one—and I am sure I reflect the views of your Lordships when I say this—am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, for giving us the opportunity to discuss these affairs.

My noble friend Lord Shackleton has given an account of what has been taking place in NATO since this general subject was last debated in your Lordships' House in July on the Motion of the noble Earl, Lord Avon. There have been two main themes: first, the measures taken by the Alliance as a reaction to the action of the French Government in withdrawing from the integrated military organisation of NATO, and, of course, the changes which this action has brought about in the structure of the Alliance; and, secondly, the complex of issues, both strategic and financial, connected with the stationing of British and United States forces in Germany which we are now examining urgently with our Allies.

When I spoke in the debate initiated by the noble Earl, Lord Avon, in July I considered the wider purposes of the Atlantic Alliance with its role not only in the deterrence of aggression but in the perhaps even more important field of improving relations between East and West. Of course, this aspect is no less relevant to our debate to-day. In the defence field some of the developments which have taken place since we last debated the Atlantic Alliance and Britain's place in it can have an important effect, not merely on the cohesion and efficiency of the Alliance, but also on the prospects for easing the tensions in Europe and the Atlantic area.

The emphasis of much of this debate to-day has naturally been upon the possibility that Her Majesty' s Government might withdraw some troops from Western Europe. I suggest to your Lordships that this is not a matter which can be isolated from the wider considerations of Alliance strategy, or the whole concept of deterrence; and, as I have said, there are possibilities of relaxing the tensions which exist between East and West in Europe. Perhaps I might underline what my noble friend Lord Shackleton has said about this matter of British withdrawals, so that there can be no doubt left in your Lordships' minds. There can be no doubt of our willingness to bear our fair share of the defence of the Free World, but we cannot afford to let this burden become so heavy that it damages our economic health, on which in the end our very contribution to this common defence must rest.

In particular, we must eliminate the drain of foreign exchange caused by the stationing of British forces in Germany. The noble Lord, Lord Caccia, asked for some figures in this respect. I think my noble friend Lord Shackleton gave most of the significant figures, but I suggest that the really important ones contained in his speech are these. The foreign exchange cost of keeping our forces in Germany runs at the moment at £94 million a year. The latest offer of offset contributions from the Federal Republic of Germany is £31.5 million a year. This leaves a very large gap—a much larger gap than that mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn—although it is fair to say that the Federal Republic have said that they hope to make a better offer as a result of the tripartite talks which are now going on.

We hope very much that these talks with the United States and the Federal German Governments will end in a satisfactory solution of this problem. But if other means cannot be found for stopping our foreign exchange losses next year, we shall have no alternative but to propose reductions of our forces in Western Germany, as my noble friend Lord Shackleton has said, through the prescribed NATO and Western European Union procedures. Of course, if we are obliged to withdraw some of our forces from Germany, then those forces or their equivalent will continue to be earmarked for assignment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Here it might be appropriate to refer to the impressive contributions of the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, and the noble Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton. First of all, may I assure them both that Her Majesty's Government will bear their points very seriously in mind. Secondly, I can assure them that, whatever the level of British forces in Europe, we shall see that they are properly equipped and that they lack nothing which we at home can give them. I was much impressed with the view of the noble and gallant Viscount—perceptive and modest as always—that our problems are global and not regional. As he has so wisely suggested, security is indivisible; and, indeed, I would suggest that for the same reason we cannot separate this matter of conventional defence from the subject of nuclear defence and of deterrence as a whole.

One area in which deterrence and the easing of tensions are closely connected is this most important matter of nuclear defence and its impact—particularly its impact on disarmament negotiations. In this field Her Majesty's Government have two complementary aims. We want to see arrangements adopted in NATO by which the non-nuclear members of the Alliance can be more closely associated with strategic policy and planning. It is clearly right that these countries should have an effective voice in arrangements for the Western nuclear deterrent, on which in the end their security depends. At the same time, we believe that one of our most urgent problems in the whole field of foreign policy is to reach international agreement on a world-wide system of non-proliferation; that is to say, an agreement to prevent the further spread of nuclear weapons.

Since July events have moved in a way which enables me to tell your Lordships that the chances of agreement with the Soviet Union on this matter are as good now as any chance of agreement has been since 1963, when the partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed in Moscow. Your Lordships will know that during the course of this year NATO's nuclear arrangements have been studied in depth in the Special Committee of NATO Defence Ministers, sometimes called the McNamara Committee. When the Committee was established a year ago it set up three working groups; first of all, to examine the exchange of intelligence and other information; secondly, to look at communications; and, thirdly—and perhaps more important—to look at nuclear planning. The working group on intelligence has already submitted a report out- lining the procedures and machinery required to improve the existing arrangements. The communications working group has made detailed studies of the communications facilities which are needed to put these arrangements into effect.

But, to come to the heart of the matter, the nuclear planning working group, which has had four meetings of Defence Ministers, has studied the problems connected with the role of strategic and tactical nuclear weapons. Even more important—in the short-term, at any rate—it has agreed recommendations, which will be put to the North Atlantic Council when it meets next month, for permanent machinery for nuclear planning and consultations inside the Alliance. The next essential step is for a decision to adopt these recommendations to be taken by the North Atlantic Council at its forthcoming Ministerial meeting.

I might mention here the speech of the noble Lord. Lord Morris of Kenwood. He made, I thought, a most perceptive contribution to the strategic debate, and at the same time gave us a most interesting account of the proceedings of the Conference of NATO Parliamentarians which he attended in Paris earlier this month. His speech was evidence, if such evidence were needed, of the devotion of this body of Parliamentarians to the cause of the Atlantic Community and of the vitality which they show in pursuing it. Perhaps I may also be allowed to say that the speech of the noble Lady, Baroness Elliot of Harwood, was typical of that vitality. The recommendations adopted by that Conference, including the important proposal for the creation of a North Atlantic Assembly, will be considered very seriously indeed by Her Majesty's Government.

All this progress made in the committees of the North Atlantic Council is a heartening example of NATO's ability to make practical progress, despite all the other difficulties with which it has been faced, in a field which is of vital importance to the Alliance. This special committee, the McNamara Committee. has had the full support of Her Majesty's Government right from the outset, and I believe we can claim with some justification that the British contribution has been an important factor in the success of its work. But the adoption of effective arrangements for nuclear consultation in NATO not only will be important for the security and the solidarity of the Alliance: it will also have a significant effect upon the prospects, which I mentioned earlier, for agreement on a Treaty to ban the spread of nuclear weapons.

My Lords, I have never made any secret of my view that agreement between East and West on this matter of nonproliferation would be unlikely while the nuclear debate in NATO remained unresolved. Throughout the negotiations in the Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee a fixed and unalterable point of the Soviet position has been that there could be no agreement on non-proliferation if NATO adopted arrangements which would be such as to make possible what the Russians call "access" to nuclear weapons by the Federal Republic of Germany.

It might perhaps be appropriate here, now that I have come to the subject of the Federal Republic of Germany, to make some comment upon the remarks of the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman. I shall not follow him all the way along the road of home defence, except perhaps to say that the inter-Departmental jungle warfare to which he referred has not intensified notably in the last two years. I should, however, like to comment upon his remarks about the National Democratic Party in Germany. Although, as he and other noble Lords have said, in the light of past history it would be dangerous to dismiss the recent successes of this Party as being of no account, I think it is equally important that we see them in their proper perspective.

The main feature of the elections in Hesse and in Bavaria has in fact been the consistency with which the overwhelming majority of the electors has continued to support the main Democratic Parties. In Bavaria alone, this support, statistically, was of the order of 89.1 per cent., and both the S.P.D. and the C.S.U., the main Democratic Parties, actually increased their vote. If one takes into account the votes previously cast for other right-wing Parties, the real increase in this extremist vote is of the order of only about 1 per cent.; and it is, I suggest, quite misleading, on the basis of these results, to talk of a neo-Nazi revival or to draw any comparison between the situation in Germany now and the situation in the 1930s.

The Nazi Party, as we all know, came to power on the basis of profound disillusionment among the lower middle and working classes with constitutional government, produced by a long period of economic collapse and widespread unemployment. To-day the economic situation in Germany is the reverse of what it was in 1933, and the merits of German Parliamentary democracy are not questioned by any significant section of German opinion. I can understand that there may be concern about recent developments, but exaggerated interpretations and comparisons with the past can really do no good; and I must really express regret, my Lords, that it has been suggested in your Lordships' House that Germany, one of our partners in the Western Alliance, is a potential enemy. Such extreme language can scarcely contribute to the cohesion of our Alliance or the sureness of our defence.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord at this point and say that almost exactly the same remarks were made in 1937, in the House of Commons?


I shall not follow the noble Earl any further along this path. Let me, instead, return to the point which I was making when I broke off to mention the question of the National Democratic Party in Germany—that is to say, the attitude of the Soviet Union towards the Federal Republic of Germany, and this question of what the Russians call "access". to nuclear weapons. It would not be too profitable to speculate on the motives of the Soviet Government in holding to this position, despite the constant assurances they have received from the Western side that there was no intention in NATO of giving any non-nuclear member of the Alliance control of nuclear weapons or the right or ability to initiate the use of these weapons. I think it is probably fair to say that among Russian motives was a belief in the minds of Russian negotiators that by holding firmly to this extreme position they might be able to affect the course of NATO'S deliberations.

Now, however, as I have indicated, there are signs of a much greater degree of flexibility in the Soviet position. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary discussed all this with Mr. Gromyko in New York last month, and again in the last few days during his visit to Moscow. As a result of these discussions, I believe, as I have said, that there may now be a real chance of agreement on a non-proliferation treaty, but the prospects are delicately balanced, and we must take care to ensure that this chance is not lost by any lack of flexibility in our own position.

May I now turn to the specific question of the possibility of reductions in conventional or ground forces? I think we must be careful not to take too narrow or too one-sided a view of this matter. One of the ways in which I think we must try to go forward—and this has been mentioned already—is to make progress towards what is sometimes called regional arms control; that is to say, the regulation of the size and the nature of the forces that face each other across the Iron Curtain. As I said in our debate in July, arms control measures can never be considered in isolation from the political background, and any real progress in arms control will be achieved in the end only if the political problems between East and West are tackled as well.

This does not mean that no progress is possible until the political problems have been solved. The two strands, the political and the military, are closely interwoven. But one possibility which is very relevant to to-day' s debate, and which is, I think, worth very careful examination, is the possibility of balanced reductions of the massive forces maintained by NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries in Europe; and the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, made a very lucid and impressive reference to this.

Obviously, it would not be realistic at this point to start talking about the dismantling of alliances. An effective system of deterrence against aggresion is still needed, but I believe that we should examine the possibility of maintaining that balance of deterrence at a much lower level. In this concept I believe we shall find a road that will avoid the trap, referred to to-day, which lies in treating our commitment in Europe as an exclusively financial or economic matter. The economic burden of deterrence is enor- mous. The House is well aware of the effects on the economy of this country of the foreign exchange burden of our contribution to the common defence of NATO; and my noble friend Lord Shackleton has described the efforts we are making, together with our Allies, to solve this problem.

I think it is obvious that a mutual reduction of the armies which face each other across the artificial dividing line in Europe would make it possible for resources now devoted to defence to be released for more productive purposes. Everybody would stand to gain from this. Most important, such a move would help to create what President Johnson (in a speech referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Caccia) recently called "a new political environment". It would pave the way to a further relaxation of the tension which, as I have said, still unhappily exists in Europe.

My Lords, how could such a process be set in train? Ideally, perhaps, by formal agreement between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. But this would raise formidable difficulties—and my experience of disarmament negotiations over the past years has taught me, at least, that the problems of inspection and verification would be likely to raise insuperable barriers to any agreement. And, of course, tied up with that is the status of East Germany. There is, I believe, another possibility. We in NATO are not only interdependent with our Allies; in a very real sense NATO and the Warsaw Pact are interdependent with each other. Any reduction of forces by one side might provide an incentive for a corresponding reduction by the other; and in time this could lead to a progressive process of force reduction by both sides by means of the process that Mr. Khrushchev used to call "mutual example".

Obviously, there would be difficulties; obviously, there would be risks, and we must be in no doubt that an essential condition of any process such as I have described would be that the overall military balance between NATO and the Warsaw Pact should be preserved at every stage in the process. For this reason, if for no other, any such moves would, of course, have to be a matter for the fullest consultation among the Allies. But something like this, I believe, may well hold out the best prospects for movement towards a more stable and more sane situation in Europe. We must not be afraid if we are creating a new climate to take steps that might appear, in the familiar context of the cold war philosophy, to be, on the surface, short-term risks.

My Lords, I have discussed some of the ways in which the security of the Atlantic area might come to be enhanced through a reduction of the tensions which have called into being this massive system of common defence and deterrence to aggression. In the long run, only a settlement of the political issues which divide East and West can give us a lasting guarantee of peace and security. Meanwhile, the need for an integrated military system for the collective defence of the NATO area remains essential. Her Majesty's Government are determined that we shall continue to contribute to that common defence to the limits of our ability.

I spoke at some length in the July debate on NATO on the question of East-West relations. The whole complex of relations between countries which the term"East-West" 'implies is not, of course, a static thing. It is developing steadily every day with increased bilateral contacts—not only with the high-level political exchanges such as the recent visit of the Foreign Secretary to Moscow but, just as important, with the steady increase in trade and in exchanges in the educational, scientific and cultural fields. It is often on such unspectacular things as trade that the spirit of co-operation and trust can slowly be built. The Warsaw Pact countries in their recent Bucharest Declaration called for increased contacts between the East and the West—they obviously want this, too. I think this is a significant illustration of the fresh thinking which is now going on all over Europe and which is beginning to turn the jaded concept of the cold war into something like a cold peace.

There is much, of course, that we cannot accept in that Bucharest Declaration. This is only to say that there are many fundamental differences between us and the countries of Eastern Europe. But there are also opportunities open to us that did not exist a year ago or two years ago. On the one hand, we must explore these opportunities imaginatively—and I have particularly in mind the possibilities of limited measures of arms control; for the countries of Eastern Europe have shown an increasing readiness recently to discuss these on practical constructive terms. On the other hand, we in the West—and that means, ultimately, NATO—must maintain our strength and cohesion without which we shall never be equipped to negotiate the vast problems that remain for settlement.

Our security is indissolubly linked with that of Western Europe. The announcement of the Government's intention to approach the members of the E.E.C. with a view to joining the Common Market shows that we wish our future to be even more closely bound up with Western Europe; but we should be on our guard against relating the Common Market question too closely with the problems of defence. For example, to say that there are advantages in becoming a member of the E.E.C. does not imply that we wish to change our relationship with the United States in the field of defence. Nor does it imply that we wish to abandon the role that we play in the world outside Europe. We believe that, just as the commitment of the United States is essential to the defence of Europe, so the establishment of peace and stability both in Europe and the world at large involves the closest ties between Europe and the United States.

Let us be clear that whatever may be our commitment to the defence of Europe—and it is a deep and lasting one—our eventual aim is the establishment of a sane and civilised world order in which military alliances no longer have any part to play. I am delighted to hear that the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, is in sympathy with this view. This country is uniquely placed to contribute to these objectives, and we shall play our full part in attaining them, however long and however frustrating the road may be.

6.29 p.m.


My Lords, I think we have had a most useful debate. Certainly we have had two most informative speeches; one from the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and one, just now, from the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, whom we welcome back to our counsels after his stay at the United Nations. In his speech he touched on certain matters which are certainly close to my heart in the field of disarmament and arms control. I think we can take some encouragement from some of the things he said. He has come back from the United Nations, where he played his part in achieving a most massive vote in favour of a notable Resolution on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. We have also had contributions from three very distinguished soldiers.

Earlier in the debate the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, accused me of being somewhat unfair in my opening speech. I would certainly accept a charge of being somewhat provocative; that was not altogether unintended. I think that in reply the noble Lord was prepared to admit that the Government, in some of their statements in July and August of this year, were perhaps somewhat blunt. At least we elicited from the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, an important statement about the present attitude of the Government to the withdrawal of British forces from Europe. He made absolutely clear that there would be no action on withdrawal which had not been previously agreed with our Allies and particularly with the other members of the Western European Union. The noble Lord also made clear that, in considering the future level of British forces in Europe, due regard would be paid to the defence and the political factors and that the matters would certainly not be judged solely on financial factors. As I say, my Lords, I think that this has been a valuable debate. I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in it, and I now beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion and Papers, by leave, withdrawn.