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Nato Powers (Political General Staff)

Volume 649: debated on Thursday 16 November 1961

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asked the Prime Minister whether he will now propose to the heads of governments of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Powers that there should be established a political general staff to co-ordinate the external policies of the member countries.

As I told my hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mr. Critchley) on 15th June, there are regular consultations at every level between us and our allies, and we are all the time trying to strengthen our methods of consultation. In particular, we are working to extend and develop political consultation in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation with a view to harmonising, as far as possible, the policies of its members. But it would, in my view, be a mistake to duplicate existing machinery. It is better to keep trying to improve what we have got.

Is the Prime Minister aware that that is precisely what I am pressing him to do, but that it needs something much more than the existing machinery? Can he say how he hopes that Western Governments can possibly co-ordinate their policies in the absence of a standing group of political staff able to prepare to meet eventualities as and when they occur?

The hon. Member recognises that these problems affect different countries very differently. There is the N.A.T.O. group, there are countries interested in the Middle East and those interested in the Far East. As he is probably aware, there are difficulties, inherent in any alliance of free nations, in asking them to hand over these matters to four countries.

In the event that the Prime Minister gives further consideration to my hon. Friend's proposals and creates such a political general staff, would he consider the advisability of appointing as chief of such a general staff a man with the greatest experience and qualifications, such as Lord Montgomery?

Am I not right in supposing, nevertheless, that there exists a military planning group in Washington which has solved the problem posed by the Prime Minister so far as military affairs are concerned? Is there not a good deal to be said for having a corresponding political standing group, probably also in Washington?

Yes, Sir, but this Question refers only to the N.A.T.O. Alliance, not to all the other world problems with which, I thought, the hon. Member for Pembroke was dealing.