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British Military Contribution

Volume 526: debated on Monday 12 April 1954

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to which foreign Governments Her Majesty's Government's proposed military contribution to the European Defence Community has so far been communicated.

Her Majesty's Government have communicated their proposals for political and military association with the European Defence Community to the six European Defence Community Governments. The United States Government have been kept closely informed.

In that case, would the hon. Gentleman say when the House will have an opportunity of examining these proposals in full? Is he aware that there are many rumours in the European capitals, particularly Paris, about what the proposals contain, and that the effect of the combination of a little information and rumour is, as I have already said, having the tragic effect of splitting our allied front in two?

As my colleagues and I have repeatedly informed the House, a full statement will be made to the House directly the negotiations have been concluded. They have not been concluded so far, but I hope very much that they will be and that a statement will be made before Easter.

Is it reasonable to expect hon. Members to agree that, while all foreign Governments who are interested in this problem should be informed of Her Majesty's intended contribution, this House should not be so informed?

I really think the right hon. Gentleman should study this matter, and ought to have listened to the answer, a little more carefully. I said that the six E.D.C. Governments have been informed and that the United States Government have been kept closely informed. It will not, perhaps, escape the right hon. Gentleman's attention, though it appears to have done so, that the six Governments informed have been the six E.D.C. Governments with whom we have been negotiating and that it would have been a little difficult not to have informed them.

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that this position is most unsatisfactory, because there is great division of opinion in France and it is extremely unlikely that E.D.C. will be ratified by the French unless this country gives full and specific military commitments to France which, so far as I know, this country is not prepared to give? Ought we not now to know what these proposals are before a final decision is taken?

Of course the House is entitled to know, and it will be informed directly negotiations are concluded. I do not think that the House will have very much longer to wait. I hope very much that a statement will be made before the Easter Recess.