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Ministry Of Defence

Volume 645: debated on Wednesday 26 July 1961

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Sea Cadets, Dewsbury (Equipment)


asked the Minister of Defence why his Department and the Service Departments concerned were unable to meet the request of the Dewsbury Sea Cadets for the loan of one small marquee, two small tents and some cooking equipment for their summer camp.

I have already written to the hon. Member on this subject. We always want to help Cadet units as far as we can; it is patently in our interests to do so. Nevertheless the demand for this kind of equipment during the summer months, when service training is at its height, is very great and some units must inevitably be disappointed. I am sorry that we could not meet this particular request.

But is the Minister aware that this is an extremely bad piece of public relations by his Department and the Service Departments generally? Is he aware that my constituents were willing to fetch and transport the tentage if it were made available? Is he further aware that the Departments cannot really have it both ways; either they will not make the tentage available as a matter of principle, or, which I cannot believe, the tentage is simply not there? Finally, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, despite his lack of co-operation, the camp will go on anyway?

I am very glad to hear that the camp will go on, because I spent a great deal of time on this matter personally, as the hon. Gentleman knows, and I am very sorry that we could not meet the request.

United States Secretary For Defence (Discussions)

25 and 31.

asked the Minister of Defence (1) if he will make a statement on his conversations with Mr. McNamara, the United States Defence Secretary;

(2) what representations he has received from the United States Government to increase expenditure on the United Kingdom Armed Forces.


asked the Minister of Defence if he will make a statement on his recent discussions with the United States Defence Secretary concerning military planning in preparation for a crisis over Berlin.


asked the Minister of Defence whether, in his talks with the United States Secretary of Defence, an increase in the number of troops and other forces at the disposal of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was under consideration; and if he will make a statement.

My meeting with the United States Secretary for Defence was one in a series of informal meetings between N.A.T.O. Defence Ministers for exchanging views on mutual defence problems. We discussed interdependence and N.A.T.O. long-term planning and Mr. McNamara took the opportunity which I welcomed of giving me the views of the United States Government on the military aspects of the Berlin situation.

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether Mr. McNamara made certain proposals which would greatly increase the defence expenditure of this country and whether he told Mr. McNamara that we are facing a financial crisis and that he did not want the same percentage of unemployed as America has?

Mr. McNamara and I found ourselves in general agreement about the military measures which might become desirable, but only when Foreign Secretaries have met and decided the general policy.

While I do not ask the right hon. Gentleman to confide details in us, for that would be asking too much, might I ask whether we can have his assurance that he is not going to yield to the United States—to Mr. McNamara, President Kennedy, or anybody else—and increase our defence commitments, which we cannot afford?

The right hon. Gentleman can have my assurance—he knows this already—that I hope that I shall behave to the United States as a good ally of very long standing and recognise that it is in our mutual interest to strengthen N.A.T.O. at this time against the possibility of difficulties over Berlin.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that The Times today reports Mr. McNamara as saying when he got back to Washington that he could find no feeling of opposition in Britain against dramatic moves over Berlin? Does he confirm that that is a correct statement?

I am not responsible for what appears in The Times, but Mr. McNamara and I discussed no dramatic moves over Berlin so far as I am aware.

While I am not a consistent advocate of excessive deference to the United States, might I ask my right hon. Friend, with reference to the question asked by the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), whether our defence commitments ought not really to be determined by what is necessary for the safety of the Realm?

That seems to me to be a very good yardstick and I agree with my hon. Friend.

Is there any significance in the fact that in his original reply the Minister listed some questions which he and Mr. McNamara had discussed and that be then said that Mr. McNamara took the opportunity, to quote the Minister, "which I welcomed, to give me the American Government's views about Berlin"? Does that phraseology mean that our Minister of Defence did not take the opportunity which, no doubt, Mr. McNamara would have welcomed, to give the United States Defence Secretary the British Government's views about Berlin?

No, Sir. I certainly gave Mr. McNamara my views about Berlin and the general situation with which we are faced, and we found the mutual interchange of great value.



asked the Minister of Defence whether he will make a statement upon the formations and dispositions of British troops now remaining in Kuwait; what is the total cost to date to British public funds of the Kuwaiti expedition; whether a supplementary service estimate is to be called for; what part of the cost of the expedition is to be contributed by the Sheik of Kuwait or United States oil interests; or whether the entire cost of the expedition is to fall on the United Kingdom.


asked the Minister of Defence what has been the estimated weekly cost of operations in Kuwait; and by whom such costs will be borne.

I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT details of the main units which have been withdrawn from Kuwait; it would not be in the public interest to identify those remaining or their dispositions. As I said yesterday in reply to the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), the extra cost of operations in Kuwait up to the end of July is likely to be of the order of £1 million. I have no statement to make at present on how the costs will be borne.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday referred in his statement to negotiations within the framework of N.A.T.O. as to our defence costs in Western Europe? Would it not be wholly incompatible with national economic policy that we should allow the whole cost of the Kuwaiti expedition to fall on our shoulders when the Sheik, a very friendly Sheik, has £300 million or more lying here in London while we have defended as to 50 per cent. American oil interests? Surely there should be some equity in a matter of this kind.

Following is the information:

  • 2 Companies Coldstream Guards.
  • 1 Squadron Hunter aircraft.
  • 1 Parachute Battalion and Light Battery.
  • 2 Royal Marine Commandos.
  • H.M.S. "Bulwark".

United States Navy (Facilities)


asked the Minister of Defence if he will make a statement about additional facilities for the United States Navy in the United Kingdom.

Agreement has been reached with the United States Government to provide certain facilities in the United Kingdom in connection with the Distant Early Warning Line. A small communications station will be established by the United States Navy near Thurso to supplement the facilities already available at the United States station at Londonderry. In addition certain radar picket escort vessels will make use of existing naval facilities at Rosyth and commercial facilities on the Clyde.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what this involves us in by way of provision facilities and financial obligations?

The financial obligations will be borne entirely by the Americans except for the provision of one small area of land. The other provisions which we shall make are largely docking and repair facilities and so on, for which, again, the United States will pay. This is actually, as I think the right hon. Gentleman knows, a radar warning system. It is against conventional aircraft, but it serves a useful purpose and fills a gap in the chain.

German Troops, United Kingdom


asked the Minister of Defence what steps he is taking to ensure that former Nazis and neo-Nazis are not included amongst those Germans who will be coming to this country for military training.

Surely the right hon Gentleman is not saying that anybody, whether he has a Nazi background, happens to have been of high ranking order in the Nazi set-up, or is a neo-Nazi, will be allowed into this country in order to spread that sort of vicious doctrine? Is not something going to be done about it? Will the right hon. Gentleman consult the Home Office or the Foreign Secretary about what is to be done?

The hon. Gentleman might take note of two things, first, the extreme care with which the Federal German Republic acted when its forces carried out similar training in France, entirely without any incident or objection, and, secondly, that ever since the new German forces were raised by the Democratic Government immense care has been taken to screen not only the forces but all servants of the Government against Nazi backgrounds.

But surely in a case of this description the right hon. Gentleman will make it known to those who are going to send troops here that we do not and will not tolerate the spreading of that kind of doctrine in this country?

That goes without saying, and it is just as clearly known to the German Government as to the hon. Gentleman.

Has the Minister any information to show that the Federal Government have checked on Heusinger and his association with the Nazi Party?

That is quite another matter. I think that the gentleman whom the hon. Gentleman mentions was involved in the plot against Hitler.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I propose to raise this matter again at an early opportunity.