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Ministry Of Defence

Volume 641: debated on Sunday 7 May 1961

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German Troops (Training, Pembrokeshire)


asked the Minister of Defence whether he will make a statement on the agreement reached by the British and German Governments regarding the training of German troops in Castlemartin, Pembrokeshire.

I have been asked to reply.

I have nothing to add at present to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) on 30th May.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, as my constituency is involved, so far as I can tell there is no local feeling about this? Nevertheless, may I ask him for some explanation? Will he explain why it is essential for these Germans to come here instead of having training facilities in Germany? Secondly, will he say what is actually involved, the numbers, and so on? Thirdly, will he say whether these German troops will be under the general command of the tank range commander?

As regards the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, I think that the answer is because the present demand for training areas is so great that it would otherwise be impossible for the Germans to fulfil their N.A.T.O. commitments. The second part of the supplementary question was, I think, about the extent to which this proposal runs. It is still, of course, only a proposal, but the proposal is for one battalion in the first instance. The hon. Gentleman is right in the assumption in the last part of his supplementary question. It will, of course, be under the range authorities.

As there seems to have been some misunderstanding about this, can the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether there is anything new about German soldiers serving and training in England? For how many years has it been going on?

There is something new in this proposition, to the extent that we are considering according German armoured units some facilities for training at Castlemartin, but I do not think that there is any difference in principle. The principle is the same as allowing our American allies to have facilities in the Hebrides.

Commonwealth Defence Installations, Kenya


asked the Minister of Defence what sums have been spent on Commonwealth defence installations in Kenya during the past five years; and what sums are necessary to complete these projects.

I have been asked to reply.

Three million pounds and about £7 million respectively. These figures do not include installations for local defence.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that this place is of great importance to the whole Commonwealth, and will he therefore give consideration to transforming it into a Commonwealth as opposed to a purely British base? Also, does he agree that it is particularly important to these East African territories which may soon become independent and which are unlikely to be able to afford adequate defence installations of their own?

I think that the arrangements we have for the present are adequate for what I might call Common wealth purposes. We are constantly in touch with Commonwealth members to see what is required as circumstances change, and I agree with the last part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question.

West German Defence Minister (Visit)


asked the Minister of Defence whether he will make a statement as to his negotiations with the Defence Minister of the West German Republic.

I have been asked to reply.

I have nothing to add to the Answer given by my right hon. Friend to the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) on 31st May.

Could the right hon. Gentleman give us any indication when something could be added to it? We have been led to believe that negotiations took place as to the co-ordination from both a financial and an arms point of view of the N.A.T.O. forces, particularly in respect of Germany and the balance of payments problem there. We have been told that there were some orders, including 200 guns. Surely at some convenient point we should have a better statement than that.

If the hon. Member is not wholly satisfied with the statement made at the time, perhaps it would help him and other hon. Members if I give an undertaking that I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT the official Press communiqué which was released after the talks. That might make it easier for hon. Members to see the matter in perspective.

Following is the communiqué.



At the invitation of Mr. Harold Watkinson, the British Minister of Defence, Herr Franz Josef Strauss, the Minister of Defence of the German Federal Republic, paid a brief visit to this country this week and had discussions with Mr. Watkinson in the Ministry of Defence. The Minister of Aviation also took part in the discussions.

This was one of the regular series of meetings between the N.A.T.O. Ministers of Defence. On this occasion one of the main reasons for the meeting was to examine progress made in co-operation between Great Britain and the Federal Republic in the development and production of military equipment and German procurement of conventional weapons from British production.

The meeting also took account of the recent Anglo-German staff talks which it was agreed served a useful purpose for Anglo-German co-operation.

Herr Strauss confirmed the firm intention to take the British 105 mm tank gun for the German standard tank. An order for the first 200 guns and ammunition would be signed very shortly; another 300 guns would be contracted for later and would probably be followed by a further two thousand to match Germany's eventual need for tanks. Herr Strauss also confirmed that the contract for 50 Seacat missiles was about to be completed and that it was the intention of his Government to buy two prototypes of the British mortar spotting radar Green Archer. Direct orders for the Orpheus engine are being increased and substantial orders for Rolls Royce "Tyne" engines are in prospect for the "Transall" transport aircraft which is under joint Franco-German development.

The Ministers decided to conclude an early agreement for the joint development of a VTOL light-weight Strike fighter aircraft on the basis of the Hawker P1127 and also agreed to develop jointly, in association with France, the Rolls Royce RB162 engine.

Technical and industrial teams will meet in the very near future to carry on this work.

Armed Forces (South Africans)


asked the Minister of Defence whether arrangements will be made to enable South Africans who are presently members of Her Majesty's Forces to remain in those forces.

I have been asked to reply.

For the time being there is no difficulty and in any case authority does exist for the Services to recruit limited numbers of men who are not of British nationality. It is unlikely therefore that any special arrangements will be necessary.

Germany (Destroyers)


asked the Minister of Defence what consultations have taken place within the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as to the rôle within the organisation to be performed by the 6,000-ton destroyers that West Germany is proposing to build.

I have been asked to reply.

The force requirements, to meet which the Federal Republic has now been permitted to build eight 6,000-ton destroyers, were recommended by the Military Committee of N.A.T.O. and approved by the North Atlantic Council.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give us some indication as to what they are for? How is it imagined that surface ships could be used in the Baltic for war against the East or indeed in any German waters? If the ships are not to be used in German waters, where are they to be used? It seems an odd reply.

This was done through N.A.T.O. I understand that these ships are required for assignment to SACEUR in accordance with approved N.A.T.O. plans. The Question asked what consultation took place and in my answer I addressed myself to that. If it was not the answer which the hon. and learned Member had in mind, perhaps he will put down a more specific Question.

As these ships are twice the size of a British destroyer, should not they be classified as cruisers?

I am not sufficiently conversant with all the niceties of the Royal Navy to answer that supplementary question. I have tried to answer the Question on the Order Paper.

Nato (Conventional Forces)


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.

Nuclear Weapons


asked the Minister of Defence, in view of his speech to Western European Union on 1st June, if he will say in what circumstances Her Majesty's Government would decide to use the nuclear weapon first.

I have been asked to reply.

As my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence has made clear on a number of occasions, we do not think it in the best interests of defence to disclose to a possible aggressor the circumstances in which nuclear weapons might be used.

Did not the Minister of Defence say at Western European Union that in the event of an attack by an aggressor with superior conventional forces we should retaliate with a nuclear weapon? The Minister has mentioned the statement made by the Deputy Defence Minister of the United States. Has he not said that if conventional forces of a superior character are used against them they intend to unleash the nuclear weapon? Do I understand that that is the policy? Does it indicate a change?

I will answer the last part of the supplementary question first There is no change in the Government's policy. If the right hon. Gentleman studies my reply, I am sure that he of all people would agree with it. I am not willing to discuss hypothetical matters nor to disclose information which might be of value to a potential enemy.

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that it would be the height of folly, having possessed ourselves of a deterrent, to say that we would not use it until that event which we seek to deter had taken place?

Why does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that I am asking him to disclose information when, if the Press reports are correct—and as far as I know they have not been challenged—his right hon. Friend said categorically at Western European Union that in the event of an attack by an aggressor with superior conventional forces we should unleash the nuclear weapon?

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would read my right hon. Friend's speech.

The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) has one, I imagine. If not, I will send the right hon. Gentleman a copy. My right hon. Friend made no mention of this at all in his speech. In answer to a question after his speech, my right hon. Friend gave a reply which was purely a repetition and similar to many previous statements which he has made on this subject.

Does the right hon. Gentleman think that we could defend Berlin by conventional weapons? What would be left of Berlin if we tried to defend it with nuclear weapons?

I do not think that this was a question of defending Berlin. We are here discussing the Western European Union and the speech which my right hon. Friend made in the context of N.A.T.O. strategy. That does not affect Berlin.

According to the Press, what the right hon. Gentleman said is fairly clear. But does it matter in these days what one says, because nobody will believe what is said one way or the other? What seems to be important is the posture taken. We have forces which are being trained, disposed and organised to operate with atomic artillery, and have not adequate artillery for any other purpose, and which are quite inadequate in numbers for a conventional rôle. By that are we not saying very much more emphatically what my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) suggested was said by the Minister of Defence?

I agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman that it does not matter what one says because no one is going to believe it. But it does matter that I shall say nothing, and I am not going to say anything.