HC Deb 28 March 1955 vol 539 cc3-4
2. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs when the Disarmament Commission is to meet; and whether he will instruct the representative of the United Kingdom Government to support the proposal of the Government of India for a stand-still agreement on nuclear tests.

The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir Anthony Eden)

The Disarmament Commission will be meeting to receive the report of its Sub-Committee. The date of the meeting has not yet been fixed, since it would clearly be undesirable for it to meet before the Sub-Committee has finished its meetings. The second half of the Question does not therefore arise at present, but I would point out that the Indian proposal suggests a moratorium on hydrogen bomb explosions only.

Mr. Henderson

In view of the great concern which is felt in many quarters in many countries because the tests should be continuing, is it not most regrettable that the Disarmament Commission has not yet met to consider a proposal made six months ago? Will not the Foreign Secretary do something to ensure that the Disarmament Commission meets as soon as possible?

Sir A. Eden

The Disarmament Commission has met and it has set up a Sub-Committee to do the work it is now doing which the Commission entrusted to it. It is, of course, the most important work of all to try to get a comprehensive agreement about the disarmament problem in general. This Sub-Committee is now working, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows, with the principal Powers concerned at present. I think we should allow that work to have the maximum chance of being accomplished.

Mr. Henderson

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when the Disarmament Commission intends to consider the proposal of the Government of India?

Sir A. Eden

No, I cannot, because it would not be for me alone to reply. I imagine it would first require to have the report of the Sub-Committee on the work it has entrusted to it.

Mr. Strachey

Would the right hon. Gentleman now explain what he meant the other day when he spoke on this subject? Did he mean any more than that it might be possible for Governments to go on with development work and with stockpiling nuclear weapons even though tests were abolished? If so, is this a good reason for refusing to favour the abolition of tests?

Sir A. Eden

I do not know whether I ought to go into all that again now. It was explained at some length in the debate. As regards the merits of this particular scheme, I am not sure how complete it would be, because not only would those countries which have already exploded hydrogen bombs be able to increase their stockpiles of thermo-nuclear weapons, but also test programmes of other nuclear weapons could proceed uninterrupted.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Is it not the explosions that cause the dangerous contamination about which scientists have expressed so much concern? Did not the Assembly agree that this Indian proposal should be referred to the Disarmament Commission? Is it to be postponed and not to receive any consideration until there is a complete draft disarmament treaty?

Sir A. Eden

There has been no question of postponing it. The Disarmament Commission is, after all, master of its own business, and it consists of a large number of nations, which decided, I think perfectly rightly, to entrust the work to a small Sub-Committee of the principal Powers concerned. It also instructed it to work in London. It is now doing that. That was the instruction given, which I personally think it was right to give. Anyhow, it was perfectly entitled to give it.