asked the Prime Minister what is the policy of Her Majesty's Government on the setting up of a nuclear committee as a means of achieving nuclear sharing within the Atlantic Alliance.
We have supported the proposal for a Special Committee of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Defence Ministers to examine and report to the North Atlantic Council on ways of improving nuclear consultation in the Alliance.
The Prime Minister will be aware that the Soviet Union recently came out very strongly against this proposal. Does he not agree that, in assessing the weight to be attached to that posi- tion, it is important to hear in mind that, in spite of recent improvements in Soviet attitudes towards the West, it is almost certainly still one of their major objectives to weaken the N.A.T.O. Alliance?
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary discussed these matters at some length a couple of weeks ago in Moscow, and they have been further pursued in Paris this week We have repeatedly stressed that any proposal of this kind does not involve what the Russians fear—one understands their fear—that there would then be a German finger on the nuclear trigger. This is a consultative committee which could be very valuable: it does not involve dissemination.
Would not many of the difficulties in the way of this proposal be removed, particularly the Russian objections, if we were to achieve parity with the Germans by abandoning our independent nuclear power? Was not this formerly my right hon. Friend's policy? Why is he not getting on with it?
I thought that I satisfied even hon. Gentleman opposite, to say nothing of my hon. and learned Friend, in the debate last. December that the claim that we had an independent nuclear power was a completely bogus claim. The proposal which we have made for the Atlantic Nuclear Force, in which we have sought and offered to internationalise this deterrent, I should have thought—[Interruption.]—this is a very serious matter—would have met the requirements of my hon. and learned Friend in the suggestion which he has just made.
Is it the policy of the Government that this committee should discuss control of the planning of hostilities in a nuclear war outside N.A.T.O. and the N.A.T.O. area?
Yes, Sir, I very much hope so. I think that one of the defects in previous discussions in N.A.T.O.—as both parties have said, from both sides of the House, before and since the election—is that discussions about the use of nuclear weapons have been too narrowly related to the area of the Alliance itself. For example, there was not sufficient freedom to discuss the use of nuclear weapons in an area which is outside N.A.T.O. but which might plunge N.A.T.O. into war.