HC Deb 07 December 1955 vol 547 cc352-4
2. Mr. Lewis

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will now make a statement on the recent Geneva Conference; and what further action the Government propose to improve international relations.

The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

The hon. Member will now have seen the White Paper on the Geneva Conference, which contains a full record of what passed there.

As regards the second part of the Question, Her Majesty's Government will, of course, continue to seize every opportunity which presents itself to improve international relations.

Mr. Lewis

On the latter point, may we take it that the right hon. Gentleman will, without committing himself in detail, discuss with the Prime Minister, on their trip to America, some of the major points now causing difficulty in international affairs?

Mr. Macmillan

Yes, Sir. I shall be very willing to do so.

22. Mr. Beswick

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will state in detail in what respects the disarmament proposals submitted by the Soviet representative at the recent talks at Geneva differed from the Anglo-French proposals put to the United Nations Disarmament Sub-Committee.

Mr. Turton

Since the Answer is long, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Beswick

Would not the Joint Under-Secretary agree that the concessions made by the Soviet Union representative to the proposals already put by the Anglo-French delegation at Lancaster House went so far to meet our position that it is really a great pity that the conversations at Geneva were not carried further on this point?

Mr. Turton

I think that, if the hon. Gentleman studies my reply, which is a very long one—the differences are grouped under five heads, and also it deals with two additional provisions put forward by the Soviet Government—he will see that there is no justification for his comment.

Following is the Answer:

The disarmament proposals made by the Soviet Government at the recent meeting of Foreign Ministers at Geneva adopted a number of Anglo-French proposals which had been put forward in the United Nations Sub-Committee on Disarmament in 1954 and 1955. The main differences between the Soviet proposals and the Anglo-French proposals related to the following aspects of this subject:

(1) Levels of forces of major Powers

Both sets of proposals suggested that the levels of the armed forces of the United States of America, the Soviet Union and China should be established at from 1 to 1.5 million men each; and the levels of the United Kingdom and France at 650,000 men each. The Soviet proposals differed from the Anglo-French proposals, however, in that they did not make these levels of forces dependent on agreement on a comprehensive scheme of general disarmament providing for control at every stage, reached in a world in which political tension had been relaxed as a result of a settlement of outstanding differences.

(2) Levels of forces of other countries

Both sets of proposals suggested that the levels of the armed forces of other States should be agreed at an international conference. The Soviet proposals differed from the Anglo-French proposals in suggesting an upper limit of from 150,000 to 200,000 men for other States; the Anglo-French proposals did not presume to fix an upper limit for the forces of other countries in advance of the conference and without consulting the countries concerned.

(3) Elimination of nuclear weapons

Both sets of proposals provided that after reduction of armed forces and conventional armaments had been completed to the extent of 75 per cent. of the agreed reductions, prohibition and elimination of atomic and hydrogen weapons should come into effect. The Soviet proposals differed from the Anglo-French proposals in that the latter were conditional on agreement being reached on an effective system of inspection and control.

(4) Prohibition of use of nuclear weapons

In the Anglo-French plan of 11th June, 1954, Her Majesty's Government acknowledged themselves to be prohibited, in accordance with the terms of the Charter of the United Nations, from the use of nuclear weapons except in defence against aggression. The Soviet proposals called for a pledge by the four Powers represented at Geneva not to use nuclear weapons except in defence against aggression, but differed from the Anglo-French position by adding the condition that the decision to use nuclear weapons, even in defence against aggression, should be taken by the Security Council.

(5) Control

The Anglo-French plan provided that the control organ would have to be established and ready to operate before disarmament began, so as to supervise each successive stage in advance. The Soviet proposals, while acknowledging in general terms that effective international control should be established over the implementation of measures for the reduction of armaments and nuclear weapons, did not suggest how control should he effected, Mr. Molotov did not respond to specific questions designed to clarify the Russian attitude on this point.

(6) Further Soviet proposals

The Soviet proposals contained two additional provisions:

  1. (a) that those Powers possessing atomic and hydrogen weapons should discontinue tests of these weapons;
  2. (b) that the Soviet Union, the United States of America, the United Kingdom and France should assume an obligation not to be the first to use such weapons against any country.