HC Deb 12 March 1956 vol 550 cc29-30
49. Mr. Warbey

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps he is taking to protect the rights of British ships to free movement on the high seas, in view of the declared intention of the United States Government to create a danger area in the North Pacific Ocean extending over 375,000 square miles for a period of over four months commencing on 20th April.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

It has never been considered a violation of the freedom of the seas to use areas outside territorial waters temporarily for gunnery and bombing practice. The procedure adopted by the United States Government in warning shipping that a given area of the high seas will be dangerous over a certain period, owing to nuclear tests, is essentially the same as our own clear range procedure for firing exercises. The area is not one lying upon normal shipping routes.

Mr. Warbey

Is there any precedent for blotting out and contaminating an area so large, for a period extending over several months? Would the Government be so complacent about this matter if another Power were involved?

Mr. Dodds-Parker

I am confident that full precautions will be taken at the time of the actual test to ensure that vessels and persons within the area are not likely to be affected.

Mr. Younger

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the figures mentioned in my hon. Friend's Question are correct? If they are, does not he think that this is really an entirely new problem? Ought not some international consultation take place, because, after all, although only one or two Powers are interested in these experiments at present, in a year or two twenty or thirty might be interested in them?

Mr. Dodds-Parker

That is a hypothetical question at the moment, but I will note what the right hon. Member says.