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Nato (Conventional Forces)

Volume 641: debated on Sunday 7 May 1961

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asked the Minister of Defence if he will set out in tabular form an analysis of the conventional Armed Forces which Her Majesty's Government contribute to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and of the proposed contribution of the Federal German Government to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, to which he has consented.

I have been asked to reply.

No, Sir. Information about the force levels of our allies in N.A.T.O. is derived from N.A.T.O. classified material which is passed on to us on the understanding it is not divulged.

As quite a lot of information is divulged, may I ask this question: in view of the fact that the Foreign Office automatically agrees to every recommendation by Western European Union to raise the limits on German rearmament, is it the policy of the Ministry of Defence that any limits on the German armed forces should be maintained, or are we to regard that as a dead letter? Is it part of the Government's set policy to make Western Germany the dominant military Power in Europe?

It is part of the Government's policy to see that the Federal Republic plays a full part in N.A.T.O. That is all that is happening, and it is happening only with the agreement of the authorities concerned.

That does not answer the question. Is it the Government's policy, in the light of what the right hon. Gentleman has just said, to agree to Western Germany becoming the dominant military Power in Europe?

If the hon. Member looks at what I have said, he will see that I have answered that. [HON. MEMBERS: "No".] I certainly have, and I shall go no further than that answer. It is the Government's policy to see that Western Germany plays her full part as a full partner in the N.A.T.O. alliance. I have said nothing about a dominant part. We are all partners in this, and we all play the part which we are required to play by N.A.T.O.

Is it not true that neither we nor the French are fulfilling our obligations to N.A.T.O. and that, therefore, we are in no position to do anything except to slay "Thank you kindly" to one who is?

No. I entirely repudiate that. We are all playing the part which we are asked to play. The forces contributed by the Federal Republic are in accordance with the force requirements approved by the N.A.T.O. Council.


asked the Minister of Defence if he is satisfied that the conventional forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation are adequate to en sure that an accidental or minor incursion would not lead to full-scale nuclear war.

I have been asked to reply.

Yes, Sir. The purpose of the current review by N.A.T.O. of its strategy is to ensure, among other things, that they remain so in changing circumstances.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the increased emphasis which his right hon. Friend placed on conventional weapons is very welcome but that it arouses great questionings in many minds as to where these conventional weapons are? For instance, will he confirm or deny that most exercises down to brigade level in Germany presuppose the use of atomic arms? Has there been any improvement in the N.A.T.O. forces, other than the Germans now serving on German soil?

I answered a similar question in another connection the other day and perhaps I should paraphrase it. All the exercises for which we are responsible which are carried out in Germany are carried out in accordance with the directive of SACEUR. They all presuppose some nuclear attack because in our view it would be wrong to overlook this. In that view I am very much borne out by what the United States Deputy Minister of Defence said in Washington yesterday. Our allies agree. But if we have an exercise which is set for that purpose, we also start by assuming conventional warfare, and we are therefore constantly training in both roles. The present N.A.T.O. reappraisal is designed to see whether we are right. For the time being my right hon. Friend and I are sure that we are on the right lines.