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European Defence (British Forces)

Volume 499: debated on Wednesday 30 April 1952

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the guarantee of Her Majesty's Government to the European Defence Community involves the retention of British Defence Forces in Europe so long as the guarantee operates.

As I informed the House on 21st April, Her Majesty's Government's commitment to provide assistance in the event of attack to all members of the European Defence Community lasts as long as the United Kingdom remains a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. The disposition of defence forces under N.A.T.O. is a matter for agreement between the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and the Governments concerned.

The right hon. Gentleman will know that in the White Paper on European defence it is stated that at the Foreign Ministers' Conference both he and the American Secretary of State indicated that it was the policy of both Governments to retain their Forces in Europe. Is that common policy in any way affected by the unilateral guarantee to which the right hon. Gentleman has just referred?

No, Sir. I am much obliged to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for that question. No, it is not at all affected. What we stated then was that it was our policy to maintain Armed Forces on the Continent of Europe for as long as is necessary, and that pledge still stands.

Does that answer mean that our commitment will operate irrespective of whether American Forces remain in Europe under the present N.A.T.O. arrangements?

The hon. Gentleman will see that our commitment lasts as long as the commitment of N.A.T.O. lasts, and that the disposition of forces during that period is a matter for arrangement between the Supreme Allied Commander and the Governments concerned.