HC Deb 01 December 1955 vol 546 cc2508-10

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:


To ask, the Prime Minister whether he will propose to President Eisenhower and Marshal Bulganin a cessation of all nuclear explosions pending the Report of the United Nations Commission established to study the effects of radiation.

Mr. Warbey

On a point of order. On Monday, I tabled a Question to the Prime Minister identical in purport with the Question now being asked by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson). The Prime Minister transferred the Question to the Foreign Secretary, and it now appears on the Order Paper as Question No. 122.

Mr. Stokes

Bad luck.

Mr. Warbey

Could you tell me, Mr. Speaker, what form of protection there is for hon. Members against this rather arbitrary kind of transfer?

Mr. Speaker

I have already informed the House that I have nothing to do with transfers. It is entirely outside my responsibility. Mr. Arthur Henderson.

Mr. A. Henderson

Question No. 47, to the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister

I would refer the right hon. and learned Gentleman to the reply I gave yesterday to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Henderson

Is the Prime Minister not aware that my Question does not relate to the Question that was raised yesterday? The Question that was put to the Prime Minister related to a statement made over the Moscow Radio. What I am, in this Question, asking the Prime Minister to do is not to make a statement of policy but whether he will take the lead to secure an international meeting, in which he said yesterday he was prepared to participate, at an early date to discuss the temporary suspension of hydrogen tests pending the outcome of this conference?

The Prime Minister

That is not what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has asked. His Question asks for a ban on all nuclear explosions. As I explained yesterday, a ban on all nuclear explosions, which includes atomic explosions, raises the most intricate problems of supervision and control. So far, they have not been agreed upon internationally. I wish very much that they could be agreed upon, but until they can be it does not seem to me that there is any individual action that can be taken.

Mr. Henderson

I am not asking the Prime Minister to declare that Her Majesty's Government are prepared to ban nuclear tests. I am asking him to take the lead in proposing such a conference for the purpose of discussing this very serious problem.

The Prime Minister

These things have been—and in fact are now—before the Assembly of the United Nations. During the very last meeting at Geneva, a number of questions were put by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to the Soviet Government on this very suggestion, to which we have not yet had a reply. It is a question of whether it is possible to control the explosion both of hydrogen and of atomic weapons, and it is not by any means an easy one, as everybody—including the Russians themselves—admits. If we can make further progress in some other way, I am perfectly ready to consider it.

Mr. Younger

Yesterday, the Prime Minister indicated that he had proposals and would be willing to table them—that, I think, was his expression—if the House so desired. Is he aware that there is a very strong desire that there should be some British Government initiative in this matter; and that if the proposals require to be tabled in order to be fully discussed, I think it would be the wish of the House that that should be done?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is quite right: these have been discussed several times in various forms in the Disarmament Sub-Committee. They were also discussed at Geneva, when certain proposals were made, as I have said. I am quite ready to consider what the right hon. Gentleman has said, whether any further initiative is possible, but I want the House to understand that this is not a matter of emotion but a technical problem of the very greatest difficulty with which, so far, we have been unable to make any headway.

Mr. Pargiter

Is the Prime Minister aware that the people of this country are very much alarmed at this attitude, "I have a bigger and better bomb than you," on the part of both the U.S.S.R. and America? I wonder whether he would arrange to give time to debate this matter, so that the views of the House may be thoroughly known? I would draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to a Motion on the Notice Paper on the subject in my name and the names of other hon. Members:

[That this House deeply regrets the continued testing of atomic and hydrogen bombs by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States of America; believes that the deterrent effect of these weapons is disproportionate to the risks involved and further that the tests may be in themselves a danger to the human race; and requests Her Majesty's Government, therefore, to undertake not to proceed with these tests and to ask the Governments of the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to act in a like manner.]

The Prime Minister

That is a matter for the Leader of the House, but I think that we have no more time available before Christmas to debate that Motion.