HC Deb 09 July 1956 vol 556 cc29-31
43. Mr. Hunter

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will give details of progress made at the talks now taking place in the United Nations Disarmament Commission.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

The meetings of the Disarmament Commission began on 3rd July in New York. They are held in public. There were no meetings on 4th July because it was a national holiday. Further meetings were held on 5th July, and we expect them to go on for some days.

On the first day, my right honourable Friend the Minister of State tabled a draft resolution in the names of Canada, France, the United States of America and the United Kingdom. This suggested that the Commission should ask the Disarmament Sub-Committee to pursue its search for an agreement on the basis of the declaration of principles tabled in the sub-Committee on 4th May by these same four Powers. The declaration is reproduced as Annex 10 to the Report on the proceedings of the Sub-Committee, Command 9770.

Mr. Hunter

While thanking the Foreign Secretary for that reply, may I ask him if he realises that, in view of the far better international situation in the world today and of the action of the Soviet Union in reducing her armed forces by 1¼ million men, this is the time to achieve general agreement on disarmament, and will he, in the interests of humanity, report progress to the House as soon as possible?

Mr. Lloyd

Her Majesty's Government will certainly do everything they can, as they have tried to do in the past, towards getting a comprehensive international agreement. I quite agree with the hon. Member that the present time does not seem an inopportune time to press forward.

46. Mr. Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will instruct the British representative at the United Nations Disarmament Commission to press for a substantial arms reduction without waiting for further improvement in international relations.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

The Anglo-French Disarmament Plan of 19th March does provide for a significant reduction of armed forces and conventional armaments without waiting for any further improvement in international relations. The first stage of this plan is designed to be carried out in the world as it is today. Her Majesty's Government stand by that plan which my right hon. Friend the Minister of State has been expounding in the Disarmament Commission.

Mr. Allaun

Does not the Minister feel that an arms cut itself will further relax world tension, as the British spokesman himself argued last year when the Russians appeared to seek a prior political settlement? Does he not also think that the British Government's attitude is creating the feeling that they do not really want to get on with disarmament?

Mr. Lloyd

I do not think that anything like enough credit has been given to Her Majesty's Government for the action taken. In the five years from March, 1953, to March, 1958, it is planned to reduce our forces by over 170,000, which, having regard to the totals involved, is a very considerable gesture.

Mr. Beswick

But is not the Foreign Secretary aware that he is now playing with words; that what he described as a substantial reduction a short time ago is precisely the figure which the Soviet Union has since put forward, and which has been rejected by Her Majesty's Government until such time as there is a political settlement.

Mr. Lloyd

No, I think that the hon. Member is wrong. I think that the figure put forward by the United States with the support of the United Kingdom is some 400,000 at least below the present figure, even if the cuts are carried out by the Soviet Union.

Mr. Warbey

Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say by exactly how much the British forces will be reduced under this first stage of the new disarmament plan?

Mr. Lloyd

If the hon. Member will put down a Question, I will consider it.

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