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Western Defence

Volume 480: debated on Wednesday 8 November 1950

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53 and 54.

asked the Minister of Defence (1) to what extent he supported the French Government's proposals at the Washington Conference for a European army:

(2) to what extent he supported proposals at the Washington Conference for the rearmament of Germany.

As regards the French Government's proposals, I would refer my hon. Friend to the statement made in this House by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 31st October. This statement provided the basis for my discussions in Washington. As regards the participation of Germany in Western defence, my hon. Friend has no doubt seen the communiqué issued at the conclusion of the Washington meetings, in which the Ministers unanimously reaffirmed the importance, subject to adequate safeguards, of a German contribution to the building up of the defence of Europe. This reflects the view of His Majesty's Government, as already stated in this House. The form and extent of the contribution by Germany is still under consideration.

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether this contribution from Germany is to take the form of conscription? Will he assure us that he is not asking the Germans to accept conscription that they do not want?

The matter of how these forces are to be raised is still under consideration.

Is there any reason why the Germans should not be entrusted immediately with anti-aircraft defence, radar and civil defence over the whole of Western Germany?

There is one reason, and that is that the matter has yet to be discussed with the appropriate authorities.

When are further discussions on this matter to take place, and where?

Is there any proposal that the Germans should be allowed to have a tactical air force?

The matter may have been mentioned, but there is no definite conclusion.

Has the Minister taken into account the fact that the last time the Germans were permitted to rearm they used the arms in the first place to get an alliance with Russia against ourselves?

This is a very complicated subject and it is quite impossible to—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Obviously hon. Members agree that it is complicated. I deprecate dealing with the matter by way of question and answer.

Would my right hon. Friend inform the House what has happened in the interval since his recent statement, which was against the rearmament of Germany, and whether he is now making a statement of the Opposition view, against that which he put forward at that time?

I have not stated the Opposition view. I have stated the Government view.

Will the Minister undertake that when the negotiations in this matter are concluded, nothing will be done to put them into effect until this House has had an opportunity of considering them?