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Volume 722: debated on Tuesday 14 December 1965

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asked the Prime Minister, in view of the need to ensure that measures for strengthening collective defence must not only not make disarmament measures more difficult but should contribute to making disarmament agreements easier, if he is satisfied that British defence policy satisfies this condition; and if he will raise these issues in his forthcoming discussions with President Johnson on Western defence policy.

The answer to both parts of the Question is, "Yes, Sir".

Is not the Prime Minister convinced by now that any form of association of Western Germany with any kind of international nuclear force would constitute an insuperable obstacle to reaching agreement with the Soviet Union, as he himself told the House would be the case on 3rd July, 1963? In those circumstances, will not he represent to President Johnson the need for abandoning his scheme?

I referred in July, 1963, to the idea of a German finger on the trigger. I also criticised the then current scheme for an M.L.F., which we have opposed. This has been fully discussed at Question Time. I hope that there will be an opportunity for discussing all these questions more fully in the foreign affairs debate.

Will the Prime Minister now give an assurance confirming what he has said on previous occasions, that the measures necessary for the nuclear defence of the West will take priority over other political measures, such as the obtaining of a non-proliferation agreement?

I think that we have dealt with this matter in the past. We are certainly not giving an absolute priority to the kind of scheme that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned in Der Spiegel, about associating Germany with nuclear weapons, if that means that there is no hope of stopping the spread of nuclear weapons, which is of vital importance. We hope within the Alliance to work out methods which do not stand in the way of a non-dissemination agreement.

I mentioned no scheme in Der Spiegel. Perhaps the Prime Minister did not read it in the original German. Surely the Prime Minister himself will not argue that such a scheme as has been put up by Mr. McNamara, or his own A.N.F., is not perfectly compatible with a non-proliferation agreement.

I read the translation. We have expressed support for Mr. McNamara's scheme. It involves no dissemination of nuclear weapons; on the contrary, there is a guarantee against the dissemination of nuclear weapons. But if, as I understand, the right hon. Gentleman wants to give priority to nuclear sharing over nuclear non-dissemination, I cannot give an assurance to that effect.