HC Deb 24 July 1956 vol 557 cc207-9
45. Mr. Swingler

asked the Prime Minister if his attention has been drawn to the official announcement that the Soviet Government is prepared to stop hydrogen bomb tests either by agreement in the United Nations or by agreement between the nuclear Powers or by separate undertakings by each of the three Powers; and if he will now communicate with heads of States for the purpose of swiftly concluding an international agreement on this subject.

46. Mr. V. Yates

asked the Prime Minister if he has considered the official announcement of Soviet policy declaring that the banning of nuclear tests should be undertaken as a first step towards a comprehensive agreement and suggesting three possible methods of procedure; and if he will now take the initiative in calling a meeting of the appropriate powers to consider the suggestions made.

49. Mr. Allaun

asked the Prime Minister if he will consider the possibility of accepting one of the three alternative proposals for banning hydrogen bomb tests made in the recent Soviet official announcement.

The Prime Minister (Sir Anthony Eden)

I dealt with the question of limiting and controlling test explosions in my speech yesterday. I would not wish at present to go beyond what I said then.

Mr. Swingler

In view of the Prime Minister's very welcome statement yesterday, that Her Majesty's Government—I quote from HANSARD— … are quite ready now to discuss that matter separately from the disarmament convention."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd July, 1956; Vol. 557, c. 47.] —are Her Majesty's Government prepared to initiate such separate discussions? When does the Prime Minister think it would be appropriate that such separate discussions should be initiated?

The Prime Minister

My statement yesterday was quite clear, and I do not want to elaborate it now. It may be discussed in the course of today's debate, and if so, that would be useful. I certainly do not preclude our taking the initiative in this matter, but it is a complicated matter which we must work out carefully for ourselves.

Mr. Yates

While expressing appreciation of the Prime Minister's statement yesterday, may I ask whether he will consider not hedging around this discussion with complicated methods of control? I should have thought that it was possible to reach limitation or even abolition, without necessarily going into a long-drawn-out discussion of control.

The Prime Minister

I am in agreement with the hon. Member in the sense that that is why we chose limitation. I hope that it may be possible. It is not the easiest question in the world, and I can say only that we will sincerely see what we can do to work out a reasonable scheme.

Mr. Allaun

Is the Prime Minister aware that Professor Haldane believes that tests already completed have cost 100,000 lives among our children's children? Since the scientists are clearly working in the dark, would not the Prime Minister agree that the only safe way to limit and control the tests is to ban them altogether?

The Prime Minister

I really do not think that the hon. Member's statement is at all borne out by the findings of either the Medical Research Council, or the similar body in the United States which presented a report. I hope that we shall not debate the matter now. There will be opportunities to do that shortly.

Mr. Gaitskell

The Prime Minister will recall that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) last night put a number of questions particularly on procedure. May I ask whether the Foreign Secretary will make some reply to that in the course of his speech?

The Prime Minister

I think that my right hon. and learned Friend will deal with that topic in the course of the debate.

Mr. Robens

In considering the question of banning all nuclear tests and the offer of the Russians to consider the matter now, will the Prime Minister consider whether he and the Government are prepared not to test the British bomb in favour of international agreement, or does he take the view that the British bomb should be tested before any talks take place?

The Prime Minister

I do not think that it presents itself like that. The question is whether we can agree on international limitation of these tests, and I agree with hon. Members below the Gangway that that is the right way to try to do it. If we can get limitation, which will depend on a certain amount of international confidence—one can do it no other way—perhaps we can move forward to other matters. Yesterday, I rightly spoke only of limitation.