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Brussels Treaty (Revisions)

Volume 641: debated on Friday 5 May 1961

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asked the Lord Privy Seal on how many occasions Western European Union has agreed to alterations in the Brussels Treaty in order to remove the limitations on German rearmament: and what was the latest date on which such an alteration was agreed.


asked the Lord Privy Seal to what extent Her Majesty's Government have consented to modifications of the limits on German rearmament as laid down originally in the Brussels Treaty.

I would refer the hon. Gentleman to my Written Reply of 31st May to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey).

Is it not the case that one of the main purposes of the Brussels Treaty was to impose limitations on any rearmament of Germany? Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that on each occasion when such an important change is proposed of lifting the limitation he should come to the House and get approval for it?

As I have stated previously, provision was made in the revised Brussels Treaty for the revision of the limitations. The procedure has been followed. That procedure does not require ratification by the House of Commons or Parliament.

Even if it is not a question of ratification, does not the right hon. Gentleman think that in questions affecting the rearmament of Germany, particularly those concerned with a Treaty which was deliberately instituted in the first place in order to limit German rearmament, it would be courteous to the House for the Government to seek the approval of the House before they go before Western European Union to advocate the raising of those limitations?

Hon. Members will recall that this matter has been under discussion in Western European Union for a considerable time. While it was going on, I explained to the House and particularly to the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) that the discussions were confidential. I gave the information about the decision as soon as it was reached. It was reached during the Recess and I gave the information to the House directly afterwards. If hon. Members wish to debate this, it is a matter for them and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House.

If I remember rightly, in his previous answers the Lord Privy Seal did not state the number of occasions on which the limits had been raised, the dates of them and whether they had been accepted by the Government. May we have definite information of the occasions and the dates since the time the Brussels Treaty was passed on which these limits have been raised and the Government's attitude towards them? Is it now the Government's attitude that these limitations do not matter? Since the House of Commons was persuaded to agree to the whole thing on the basis that there would be these safeguards, may we have an opportunity to discuss whether there should be limits?

If the hon. Member refers to the answer which I mentioned in my main Answer, he will see that I gave full details of the three previous occasions on which amendments were made, and the date and the nature of the amendments.

Yes. On all occasions they were supported by the Government, If the hon. Member refers to that answer, he will find the full information given to him. Answering the last part of his question, I should have thought that the time taken and the opportunity for obviously thorough discussion which has gone on in Western European Union about the proposed amendment illustrate that, far from thinking that these things do not matter, the Government and the other Governments of Western European Union attach immense importance to them.

Do we understand from what the right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon and on previous occasions that Western European Union have the authority to revise the Brussels Treaty to enable the Federal German Government to manufacture nuclear weapons?

No, Sir. I never mentioned nuclear weapons in this at all. I said that under the terms of Article 2 of Protocol 3 of the revised Brussels Treaty a procedure is laid down for revising the restrictions on the manufacture of armaments except for those relating to atomic, biological or chemical weapons.

I emphasise that it does not include revisions or amendments in respect of atomic, biological or chemical weapons.

There is another slant to this important point. Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the Soviet Government are very sensitive to the obvious rearmament of Western Germany, remembering what their country suffered at the hands of the Germans in the last war. Before any further serious steps are taken to rearm Germany, will my right hon. Friend bear that in mind?

I realise the Soviet Government's attitude to this. There is a Question later on the Order Paper in reply to which I refer to the note which was sent to us recently about this matter by the Soviet Government. I point out that Germany is integrated into the Western Alliance, that as such a member she must be treated as a normal full member, and that this arrangement is the best guarantee for the security of Europe.

In view of the alarmingly unsatisfactory nature of the answers which the Lord Privy Seal has just given, may I give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at some convenient date?