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Prime Minister (Visit To United States)

Volume 722: debated on Tuesday 21 December 1965

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Q1.

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his visit to the United States of America.

Q2.

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his recent discussions with leading members of the United States administration.

Q4.

asked the Prime Minister what discussions he had with the President of the United States of America and other members of the United States administration, during his recent visit to Washington, regarding plans for the sharing of control over nuclear weapons within the Western Alliance.

Q9.

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his meeting will the President of the United States of America.

Q16.

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement about his recent discussions in Washington on the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's nuclear rôle.

Q17.

asked the Prime Minister what discussions he had with President Johnson about the existence of the British independent nuclear deterrent.

Q18.

asked the Prime Minister what discussions he had with President Johnson about the co-ordination of British and United States nuclear strategy in the areas East of Suez.

Q20.

asked the Prime Minister what discussions he had with President Johnson on the Government's policy towards giving up the independent British nuclear deterrent, on a continued nuclear rôle for the Royal Air Force and on the purchase of F.111 aircraft from the United States of America and their possible use with nuclear bombs.

Q21.

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his recent discussions with United Nations representatives at the United Nations Organisation.

I would ask hon. Members to await the account I hope to give later today during the course of the debate on foreign affairs, if I catch your eye, Mr. Speaker.

Can the Prime Minister now or later in his speech in the debate say whether he made any progress in composing the differences between the United States and this coun- try on a treaty for the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons?

I shall be dealing with that question. I think perhaps it had better wait until speak later.

Regarding Question No. 20, if the British Government are to have nuclear weapons, which many of us oppose, can the Prime Minister say in what circumstances those weapons would be used?

I shall have something to say about that as well. I have made it clear that we intend to internationalise the British nuclear deterrent. It was never independent. But certainly I can tell my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) that at no point did I discuss weapons or weapons systems with the President of the United States during my visit.

Can the Prime Minister say whether British responsibility in the Indian Ocean was discussed and whether agreement was reached about joint island staging and tracking posts?

We had a general review of the defence position, with an exchange of views on it, but we did not get into details about island bases.

In the light of the Prime Minister's statement to the United Nations that we are in favour of the creation of nuclear-free zones in Asia and other parts of the world, may I ask whether he could give an assurance that it is not part of our policy or American policy to initiate or promote the dissemination of nuclear weapons in the Far East?

It is certainly not part of our policy to initiate or promote nuclear weapons in the Far East, or indeed anywhere else, and my right hon. Friend and my noble Friend are hard at work trying to get world agreement to a non-dissemination treaty.

Could the Prime Minister tell us whether he made it clear to the President that, as we were assured by the Minister of Defence the other day, the Government will have no truck with the suggestion that we might sell or resell the Polaris fleet to the United States?

I think that my right hon. Friend's words have been noted in Washington, and the proposition was not put to me. If it had been, it would have had the same answer that my right hon. Friend gave.

As all the efforts to get rid of British nuclear weapons by internationalisation have not yet met with success, may I ask whether my right hon. Friend would agree that the best way would be to give them back to the United States—especially the Polaris submarine, which is specifically mentioned?

Having refused to sell them, we are certainly not going to give them. Our position is to internationalise them on the most effective basis possible, as we said in our election manifesto.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his brilliant address to the United Nations. Did he follow up his discussions on the question of nuclear weapons when he met President Johnson, and if in future he meets Prime Minister Kosygin, will he follow up the initiative there so that we can get a treaty to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons?

That was one of the important questions discussed, and I agree that it will be important to follow up in Moscow the very constructive discussions that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary had with Mr. Kosygin and Mr. Gromyko on the question.

The Prime Minister has referred more than once to internationalising the British nuclear deterrent. Does this refer to the position east of Suez?

I have said many times that there must be some solution to the anxiety of non-nuclear nations in Asia who are now fearful because of the detonation of the Chinese nuclear device. They need reassurance, and I think it is important to us and to the world that these countries do not feel impelled to become nuclear Powers themselves.

With regard to Polaris, will the Prime Minister say whether he told any of the American leaders that the Government would be prepared at a later stage to discuss with their allies the joint ownership of Britain's Polaris submarines?

On this question we did not go beyond in any sense what has been discussed in our proposals for an Atlantic Nuclear Force, which are now before N.A.T.O.