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Commonwealth (Atlantic Pact)

Volume 487: debated on Wednesday 25 April 1951

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asked the Minister of Defence what arrangements he has made for consultations with Commonwealth Governments on matters of defence arising under the Atlantic Pact.

Close contact is constantly maintained with Commonwealth Governments on all matters of defence. No special arrangements have been made for matters arising from the North Atlantic Treaty.

Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to say that he agreed to the appointment of an American as Supreme Commander of the Atlantic without consulting Australia or New Zealand? Is he aware that the fact that he has failed in this respect may well be partly responsible for our exclusion from the Pacific Pact?

The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. He has things all mixed up. I am sorry to say that to him, but I am telling him the truth. The fact is that the Commonwealth countries, apart from Canada, are not included in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. I am asked a Question as to whether the Commonwealth Governments are consulted in all matters of defence. They are, in so far as matters relating to defence are their concern, and ours.

Is the Minister aware that all matters concerning defence in the North Atlantic affect the Southern Dominions as well, and vitally?

Of course. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is quite right, but that is another point. That is not the Question. The Commonwealth countries are not unaware of what is going on.

Forgetting the past, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman for this assurance for the future in relation to all major appointments which take place under the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation: that he will consult at least the Governments of Australia and New Zealand, and other Commonwealth Governments, and try to get their agreement before he comes to any important decisions?

I am not quite sure whether the hon. Member asks me to forget my past or his, but I think the best thing to say is that I can leave this very important matter—I recognise the importance of it—in the very able hands of the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations.

Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that it is of the utmost importance that we should carry all the Commonwealth countries with us in any appointments made in the Atlantic, just as we should wish to be consulted by them in any appointments made in respect of the Pacific?

I would not go as far as that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] For reasons which I cannot explain by this means of question and answer. But I certainly agree that they ought to be made aware of what is going on, and they are made aware.

Has there been the slightest indication from any of the Commonwealth countries that they are at all displeased at not being consulted over this appointment?

They have made no complaints about what is going on. I ought to make it quite plain that there never can have been a time when the Commonwealth countries outside the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation were so well aware of what is going on in relation to matters of defence as they are now.

In view of the very great importance of this subject I beg to give notice that I shall raise it again at the earliest possible opportunity on the Adjournment.