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North Atlantic Council (Lisbon Meeting)

Volume 496: debated on Thursday 28 February 1952

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The House will, I think, wish to have some account of the meeting of the North Atlantic Council which took place in Lisbon between 20th and 26th February, and of the talks on Germany in London and Lisbon before and during the Council's session.

We were faced with the need to find solutions to a number of important problems, all closely related one with the other. These included the establishment of contractual relations with Germany, Germany's contribution to defence through the European Defence Community, and the relationship of the European Defence Community to N.A.T.O. They also included the coordination of defence plans, the future of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the promotion of closer co-operation among member countries in fields other than defence.

Two sets of critical negotiations regarding Germany's future have been proceeding concurrently. First, talks in Paris designed to set up a European Defence Community in which Germany could contribute her share to Western defence; secondly, negotiations in Germany to establish a new relationship between the three Western Occupying Powers and the German Federal Republic, which will then be making its contribution to Western defence as an equal member of the European Defence Community. A fortnight ago, although work both in Paris and in Germany was well advanced, the outcome of these related discussions was in jeopardy. The debates in Bonn and Paris suggested that the whole prospect of a German contribution might be endangered in France and in Germany.

Neither we, nor the United States Government, are direct participants in the European Defence Community Conference, but I invited Mr. Acheson and M. Schuman to meet us in London to see how far we could improve matters. Our purpose was to eliminate difficulties which had arisen in the negotiations in Bonn and in Paris. After we had met amongst ourselves, we invited Dr. Adenauer to join us. As the London communiqué showed, we were all agreed that these London talks had succeeded beyond our expectations and should greatly assist our work in Lisbon.

When Mr. Acheson, M. Schuman and I reached Lisbon, in accordance with our normal practice, we first told the Benelux Foreign Ministers of the progress we had made in London. I then reported on behalf of the three Powers to the North Atlantic Council on the contractual negotiations, that is, the negotiations with Germany. Our N.A.T.O. colleagues unanimously welcomed the remarkable improvement in the situation that had taken place. The European atmosphere, heavily charged a fortnight ago, had been lightened, and the way was clear for concrete agreements.

On two major questions—the German financial contribution to defence and security safeguards—on those two agreement was still lacking. After long months of negotiation, we knew how intractable both these issues were and how hard it was to devise solutions which met the essential requirements of the three Western Allies and of the German Federal Republic. However, M. Schuman, Mr. Acheson and I were able in Lisbon to make progress far beyond our hopes.

We were in constant touch with the Federal Government at Bonn through the Allied High Commission in Germany and we learned on Tuesday afternoon that the German Federal Government had agreed that it would base its defence contribution, in the N.A.T.O. year ending in June, 1953, on the figure of 11.25 milliard Deutschemarks recommended by the Executive Bureau of the Temporary Council Committee. This will mean a monthly German payment of 850 million Deutschemarks, which will cover the local costs of allied troops stationed in Germany as well as Germany's initial contribution to the European Defence Community.

In addition, Germany will have to meet certain N.A.T.O.-type expenditure, including defence costs in Berlin, totalling about one milliard Deutschemarks. It was also agreed that in future years the total German defence contribution will be determined under the same principles as apply to all countries participating in the European Defence Community.

I need hardly remind the House at this time that finance is the key to most of our problems, and I regard the agreement on Germany's financial contribution to defence which was reached in these intensive talks in London, in Lisbon and in Bonn in the past fortnight, as a major step not only in the strengthening of Western defence but also in the establishment of a new Europe.

We had important talks also in London and Lisbon on the other unresolved problem I referred to—the question of security safeguards. Here, too, we reached agreement among ourselves which will, we hope, prove to be an acceptable basis for a very early solution of this difficult issue. Until final settlement has been reached in the negotiations in Bonn and also in the European Defence Community in Paris, I am sure the House will understand that I am not in a positon to give details.

But I can say that the broad conception of the scheme is that the six Powers who are in the European Defence Community will themselves jointly agree where orders for all military material shall be placed and where they shall not be placed. And here a decisive consideration will be whether a particular European Defence Community country is in an exposed area from the strategic and geographical point of view. I would only add that arrangements will be made to ensure that all these safeguards within the European Defence Community will also cover the interests of this country and of the United States of America.

There will then remain the detailed task of completing the drafting of these contractual arrangements, which will be a very bulky series of documents. We hope to do this in a few weeks, during which the European Defence Community in Paris will also be putting the finishing touches to its treaty. Both these vital documents will then be signed together and we shall, I trust, be on the threshold of a new and more hopeful period in Europe.

I should like to conclude this part of my statement by saying how much I, as the most recent participant in these varied and difficult negotiations, have been grateful for the helpful and constructive approach to our common problems of Mr. Acheson and M. Schuman and of the German Federal Chancellor, Dr. Adenauer. I should also like to record our debt—which, as my predecessor will agree, is one that goes back over several years—to the indefatigable endeavours of the three Allied High Commissioners in Germany.

To turn for a moment to the Paris talks on the E.D.C., the House will be aware that discussions on this topic have been taking place for a year between the six continental Powers concerned, including Germany. These Powers were able to send to Lisbon, to the North Atlantic Council, a report which shows that they are now agreed on the main principles that will govern the European Defence Community.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation examined this report in Lisbon and we concluded that the Paris plan would provide an acceptable method, both from the military and the political point of view, by which Germany can contribute to the defence of the West. In the light of this conclusion the Council were able to go on to consider the next step —that is, how to establish the necessary relations between the E.D.C. on the one hand and N.A.T.O. on the other.

As I have already indicated to the House on a previous occasion, the difficulty here springs from this fact that, while both organisations are designed to strengthen the defence of the North Atlantic area, five of the prospective members of the E.D.C. are members of N.A.T.O. as well, but the sixth—Germany—is not.

The Council decided that it was essential that all members of the E.D.C. and N.A.T.O. should be reciprocally bound by the obligations laid down in the North Atlantic Treaty. They therefore agreed to extend these obligations to cover the European Defence Community by the addition of a Protocol to the North Atlantic Treaty. This Protocol will be signed when the E.D.C. Treaty itself is signed, with clauses providing for similar obligations on the part of the E.D.C. towards the N.A.T.O. Powers.

It was further agreed at Lisbon that there should be consultation between these two—the North Atlantic Council and the Council of the European Defence Community—whenever either considered this desirable. We also agreed that there should be an obligation to consult whenever any one of the countries concerned considered that its territorial integrity, political independence or security was threatened. Other arrangements have been made to ensure that there is close liaison at all levels between the two bodies. This seems to me a sensible and practical solution of what a few weeks ago appeared to be a highly controversial issue, which might wreck all hopes of agreement.

Whilst in Lisbon, M. Schuman, Mr. Acheson and I also discussed the situation created by the Soviet Government's continued frustration of the Austrian people's hopes for a State Treaty with the Four Powers which would end the present occupation of their country. The Soviet Government, as the House will remember, have insisted that entirely irrelevant issues, such as Trieste, should first be discussed and, latterly, they refused even to attend a meeting of the Deputies which we endeavoured to arrange for 21st January.

Mr. Acheson, M. Schuman and I therefore decided to issue today a joint declaration, which I shall not read to the House because of its length, but which I am making available. From this declaration the House will see that we are urgently examining new proposals whereby the Four Powers may be enabled to fulfil at an early date their pledge made in the Moscow Declaration as long ago as 1943 to restore to Austria her full freedom and independence.

Sir, the meeting of the North Atlantic Council enabled me to exchange views with my colleagues, outside as well as in the Council chamber, on problems of foreign policy of mutual interest. As I have previously told the House. I value these exchanges and hope that through them we can develop the sense of an "Atlantic" approach to international problems.

When the session opened, the Council welcomed two new members to the Organisation, the Kingdom of Greece and the Republic of Turkey. The Council decided that the Greek and Turkish land and air forces assigned to N.A.T.O. will operate under the command of the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, through Admiral Carney, Commander-in-Chief, Southern Europe. The naval forces of the two countries will remain for the present under their national Chiefs of Staff, operating in close co-ordination with other naval forces in the Mediterranean, pending the solution of the wider problem of command in that sea.

The Council considered the Report of its Temporary Committee, which was set up at Ottawa last September. This Committee had the unprecedented peace-time task of developing a plan of action reconciling the military requirements put forward by the Chiefs of Staff of the countries in the North Atlantic Alliance with the economic and political capabilities of the member countries.

During these discussions I pointed out at the Council that the capacity of the United Kingdom to carry out the Temporary Committee's recommendations depends on a number of economic factors which are not wholly or even largely within our control. This fact, indeed, is specifically mentioned in the Committee's Report.

The Council also reached agreement on steps to carry out a further large instalment of so-called infrastructure—which hideous word, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, refers to airfields, communications and headquarters in Western Europe—and they decided, which was much more difficult, how to share the costs between member States.

The progress of the work of N.A.T.O. from the stage of planning to fulfilment requires some adjustment of the structure of our organisation, so that swift decisions can be obtained from member governments. The Council accordingly agreed that it would, in future, not only hold meetings of Ministers from time to time but that the Deputies, as they have been called, would be replaced by Representatives who would constitute the Council in permanent session, and to ensure that its decisions are quickly fulfilled, the Council decided to appoint a Secretary-General with wide powers. Unfortunately, Sir Oliver Franks, whom the Council decided unanimously to invite to take this position, could not see his way to accept the invitation.

We had also to discuss the question of where the headquarters of the Organisation should be. N.A.T.O. has been hampered in its work for a long time by the dispersion of its civilian agencies over more than one capital. This has made it difficult to co-ordinate the work of these agencies and to maintain the necessary contact with other international organisations. The Council ultimately decided that the only solution was to concentrate the civilian activities of the Organisation in the vicinity of Paris where the other principal international agencies concerned are already situated.

The House will have gathered from this statement—I am sorry it has been so long—that the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is entering a new phase of its work, and I thought it appropriate, therefore, to propose that the opportunity should be taken to reaffirm publicly the aims of the Organisation and to stress once more that the partnership of the members exists not only for defence but also for continuing effort in every sphere and for an enduring association between them. This suggestion met with the approval of the Council and the House will have seen, perhaps, the declaration which the Council issued from Lisbon in this sense at the end of its meeting.

I am sure that the House will share my satisfaction that we were able to reach agreement in London and in Lisbon on the solution of so many difficult and sometimes seemingly intractable problems. These meetings established a good basis for future progress towards our objectives, which have been and remain, an adequate defence of the North Atlantic area, the inclusion of a democratic Germany on a basis of equality in a European community, and the development of the wider Atlantic association.

I was also deeply impressed by the readiness of the statesmen of France and Germany to come together and seek solutions of age-long problems. This ought to encourage us all for the future. It is one of the many elements in a continually developing European solution which encourages me to believe that peace can be maintained.

I should like, finally, to pay tribute to our Portuguese friends and allies, who were our hosts in Lisbon. The arrangements they made for the Conference were beyond praise, and on all sides I found evidence of an enduring friendship based on our ancient alliance.

We are grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving us such a comprehensive statement. It raises a number of points which I think cannot be dealt with by question and answer, and we shall desire a debate. We are all vitally interested in the strengthening of the forces of the West, and we welcome every sign of their getting together.

I find it a little difficult in this statement to see what is exactly the present position about any military contribution by the Germans to the defence of the West. It is rather left out of the statement, but it is really the key to the whole question, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, before a debate, we can have a White Paper setting out more fully what is the present position of the negotiations, particularly the attitude of the peoples of Germany and France on this matter, because, while we have a very interesting agreement on a number of points, that one point seems still to be wrapped in obscurity.

I am obliged to the Prime Minister—[Laughter.] I do not think the point is really wrapped in obscurity, but the position is that Germany's contribution cannot come into effect until the contractual arrangements with Germany and the European defence community's arrangement are both finally signed. As I indicated in my statement, it is impossible to estimate the time for that, but the main difficulties in this situation have now been overcome. Of course, the documents have to be put into form and signed, and so on.

As to the part which Germany will play, it may be that what the Prime Minister has in mind—[Laughter.] I am sorry; I am a little bit tired; I have had a pretty hard 10 days—is the part which Germany will play within the European Defence Community.

In the main, of course, that is a matter of arrangement, and has been arranged, between the six European Powers, of whom we are not one. They have negotiated this together. One thing is perfectly clear; it is that all endeavour and all industrial production—all military production—in this new E.D.C. arrangement will be dependent on a joint decision of the six Powers together. The right hon. Gentleman will see that that is a pretty important decision in the light of some of the things which happened between the wars.

I am not quite clear from the right hon. Gentleman's statement whether he is suggesting that we are disinterested in the decisions whereby Germany makes its contribution. It is left purely to other people. We also have security interests in the matter.

I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman will think I am disinterested after listening to that very long statement I have made. We have been deeply concerned with the various phases of the negotiations, but the right hon. Gentleman will remember that it was a decision of his Government that we should not be a member of the European Defence Community. We negotiate with them. The information we have is the information they give us. That is not the fault of Her Majesty's present Government.

I take it that the Government will produce a White Paper furnishing the details and filling in the gaps which the right hon. Gentleman obviously could not deal with at the present time, but I have two questions to ask. The first question is this. Do I understand clearly from what the right hon. Gentleman has said that we are not yet committed to association with the European Defence Community? That is the first question.

The second question is this. He has said nothing about military commitments agreed to at Lisbon. There is not a word in his statement about actual military commitments. Has he observed a statement emanating from Lisbon about the provision of 50 divisions in the present year—a statement which has been contradicted by Mr. Lovett, the American Defence Secretary, who says that only half that number will be made available? Can the right hon. Gentleman give us any definite information on these matters?

Yes, Sir. There are three points. As regards the White Paper, I will certainly look into that, and I am sure I could produce a document of some interest to the House. The House will understand that the negotiations about the European Defence Community are not our negotiations. They are negotiations within the six Powers, and I do not know how far I may be able to get documents in relation to that matter, but, at any rate, I will furnish what information I can.

The second question was about our position in relation to the European Army. Our position is that we shall, of course, be in line alongside the European Army and that we shall have certain arrangements, which I mentioned in the last debate, and which are being worked out, for liaison and close association with it—but not a merger. It is that difference which, I think, the right hon. Gentleman has in mind.

The third question was about the number of divisions. I think that this is a matter we may well go into during the debate. Possibly the contradiction is due to the fact that of those 50 divisions mentioned, only a certain proportion are or were said to be active divisions at present in the line in Germany. A number of others are reserve divisions at various stages of notice.

Do I understand from what the right hon. Gentleman has said, that—using his own words—"we shall be in line" in the building up of the European defence organisation, apart from N.A.T.O., that we shall contribute contingents to that European defence organisation? Are we to be merged? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] The right hon. Gentleman used the term "merged." [HON. MEMBERS: "Not merged."] Not merged. Then that is clear. I understand that it is not the intention of Her Majesty's Government at this stage to be definitely associated with the European defence organisation, outside of N.A.T.O.?

There is really a difference, I think, between association and merger. What I said was that we should not be merged. Our relationship with the European Defence Community I did describe, the right hon. Gentleman will remember, at some considerable length in our last debate. There is absolutely no change in our position from that set out in that debate.

In view of the very great difficulties involved in this business, will my right hon. Friend use his influence to ensure that the treaty for the establishment of the European Defence Community will be referred to, the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe before it is submitted to the national Parliaments concerned? Otherwise it may not be ratified.

I know that my hon. Friend will realise that to whom the six Powers choose to submit their European defence arrangement is primarily a matter for their decision; and, of course, all these arrangements will have to be ratified by the respective Parliaments of those countries concerned.

While I understand the right hon. Gentleman when he says that the nature of the German contribution to the military force for the European Defence Community is being decided in Paris, I would ask him this question. There has been established in Lisbon a relation between the North Atlantic Treaty Council and the E.D.C., and, therefore, he has established some relation between it and the E.D.C. Can he say what talk there was in his Lisbon conversations about the nature of the German contribution, to assess the German contribution, and whether the provision of a German air force played a part in those discussions?

The detailed composition of this force is in the first instance—of course, we are interested in it—a matter which is being negotiated between the six Powers concerned, who are merging their forces in one common European Defence Community, which we are not doing. That is their task and their responsibility. Of course, it was our decision, as the hon. Gentleman knows, at that time not to go into those discussions. The relationship between E.D.C. and N.A.T.O. has been primarily another issue. The hon. Gentleman will remember Germany's position in respect of both those bodies. This arrangement has been worked out for what I call practical contacts between those two bodies, E.D.C. and N.A.T.O., and not in connection with the kind of military formations there will be in E.D.C.

But whether we are prepared to associate with the whole of these arrangements depends on whether Britain thinks that the security arrangements provided by E.D.C. are really satisfactory?

I think that if the hon. Gentleman reads my statement he will find that the assurances or arrangements —I have to choose my words rather carefully on this—the arrangements which have been made by the six Powers are all to be repeated to the United States and ourselves, although we are not in the six Powers. In that sense we shall be as completely covered as are the six Powers.

I wonder whether my right hon. Friend will make clear this point. If I understood him aright, he said that in future years Germany's total defence contribution will be determined on the same principle as that of other members of the European Defence Community. Does that mean that in those future years there will be no German contribution to the occupation forces?

No, it means that as happens with the other Powers at the moment—we were all assessed by what are called the "Three Wise Men," who laid down that general principle; and this is an important point, and I am obliged to my hon. Friend for raising it—Germany will accept some comparable arrangement for assessing her own contribution in future years.

I am sure that the majority of the House will welcome this evidence of at least a further step towards Anglo-French association. However, this is not the time to debate that. There are two questions which I should like to submit. The first is in supplementation of the one asked by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis). The right hon. Gentleman stated, I believe, that the total German contribution has been assessed at 11.25 milliard Deutschemarks, which will include 850 million Deutschemarks in respect of occupation costs.

Then he went on to say that the same principles will govern Germany's contribution as govern that of other countries in E.D.C. Do we take it that that means that the actual German contribution to collective defence will be the difference between that part which covers occupation costs and the 11.25 milliard Deutschemarks? Is it yet decided where armaments orders are to be placed? Does it mean that the placing of armaments orders in German factories will be decided by the E.D.C. countries without consultation with Great Britain?

That is an arrangement for the six Powers, and they will decide whether these arrangements shall be made. There are certain assurances which are a protection to us and the United States. I cannot go further than that until the matter is finally signed. As regards finance, the position is that it is 850 million Deutschemarks a month which, if my arithmetic is right, adds up to about 10.2 milliard—that is to say, with about a milliard for the costs in Berlin, and certain other charges that have to be added, we get 11.25 milliard.

May I ask a question relevant to the preparation of the White Paper? The last Government arranged for observers to attend meetings of the six Powers discussing military arrangements in the formation of a European Army. Has the Foreign Secretary not got a full and detailed report of these meetings from his observers, and could he not include in the White Paper the latest information as to the state of these negotiations and the form which it is at present envisaged this Army should take?

We have an observer, but the hon. Gentleman will realise that these are confidential discussions, which have not yet been made public, between the six Governments who are conducting them. The only reserve I have to make about the White Paper is that I cannot promise to lay documents, even if I have got the information, when those Governments are concluding extremely critical negotiations; they might regard me even as trying to wreck the conclusion of their negotiations. That is my difficulty.

Of course, we understand that while these negotiations are going on, until the six Governments publish a text of the undertakings they plan to be given among themselves we cannot expect to have a text here. But in view of the new Protocol of the North Atlantic Treaty it is of great interest, and we should like to have a text as soon as possible. In any case, we should like to have a text of the new Protocol itself.

The new Protocol does not add anything to our engagements, but I will certainly do all I can.

On a point of order. May I draw your attention to a matter on which I would seek your guidance, Mr. Speaker, for the future assistance of hon. Members? The Foreign Secretary has just made a very important statement, and without any Question being before the House you have allowed a discussion to go on for well over 15 minutes. Yesterday there was also an important statement made by the Prime Minister in regard to the appointment of Lord Waverley to the chairmanship of the Royal Commission on Taxation, but you then cut short the discussion after about one minute on the ground that the matter was so big and important that it was not proper to discuss it at that time.

In view of the discrepancy between your Ruling yesterday and your Ruling today, might I ask that on some occasion you give some considered Ruling to the House on the principles upon which these discussions in the form of questions should be carried on?

That appears to be a reflection upon the Chair in disguise. It is very difficult to decide in all these cases how many questions to allow. Though I am not obliged to do so, perhaps I might tell the hon. Gentleman what was in my mind. Yesterday there was evidently such a diversity of opinion upon that important matter that I thought it was one for debate and contention which could not take place at Question time. The statement today was a long and important statement by the Foreign Secretary which did not raise these issues, but on which I thought it was proper for the House to have a few elucidatory questions. I hope that if the hon. Gentleman does criticise my conduct in these matters, he will put down a Motion in the proper way.