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Nato Strategy

Volume 648: debated on Wednesday 8 November 1961

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asked the Minister of Defence to what extent paragraph 12 of the White Paper on Defence, 1958, remains the basis of Her Majesty's Government's defence policy.

The paragraph to which the hon. Member refers accurately describes N.A.T.O. strategy at the time the White Paper was written. Since then N.A.T.O. strategy has been under review but so far no changes have been agreed.

Does the Minister say that this is still the policy, or is it not? As I understand the statements of the President of the United States and of leading N.A.T.O. statesmen and generals, they cannot square the present N.A.T.O. policy and never could square it with the terms of this paragraph.

That is quite a different matter. What I have said is that there has been, of course, a long and detailed discussion of N.A.T.O. policy to seek to bring it up to date with current strategic and technical considerations. We joined in that and I said in the House the other day that, as I understand General Norstad's new plans which are not yet approved, they are very close to current British thinking.

The right hon. Gentleman has made a serious statement which must be interpreted as meaning that the old ultra-nuclear strategy is still in force. There has been discussion on it but no revision of it whatsoever. Surely this is the gravest possible statement. Cannot the right hon. Gentlemen tell us that the British Government are now pressing very hard indeed for a revision of this? Is he not aware that the strategy of paragraph 12 of the 1958 White Paper does not square at all with all the statements of President Kennedy and Ministers here and many other public statements? Surely it is high time that there was a revision of this strategy.

I quite agree that discussions in N.A.T.O. ought to be concluded as quickly as possible, and we are certainly not holding them up.

Does the right hon. Gentleman thus confirm that the present strategy of N.A.T.O. is that in certain circumstances we should use the H-bomb first? Does he really mean to say that this is also one of the subjects which perhaps he did not discuss with Mr. Gilpatric when he was in this country? Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that the Government should do something about it instead of committing themselves to this absurd proposition?

The Government have made plain on many occasions that we will never be the aggressors. That is perfectly clear to everybody. The Government have also made it perfectly plain, and I must make it so now, that the degree of retaliation to aggression is a matter which must be settled in the circumstances of the time, and we are not going to announce beforehand any particular degree of retaliation.