HC Deb 01 May 1956 vol 552 cc202-6
45. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on the recent visit of Mr. Bulganin and Mr. Khrushchev.

47. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Prime Minister, in view of the importance of saving humanity from the threat of nuclear warfare, what proposals he has made to the leaders of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics during their recent visit, with a view to discontinuing further nuclear explosions.

The Prime Minister (Sir Anthony Eden)

A full statement was published at the conclusion of the talks. I do not think it would be helpful for me to add to this at the present time.

A wide range of topics of common concern or of concern to one or other party was raised and discussed. We had long and searching discussions from which we all want to see the most valuable results develop. I am convinced that any attempt to deal in detail and in public with the topics which were dealt with would not lead to the results we all desire.

Mr. Henderson

Is the Prime Minister aware that hon. Members on this side of the House share his belief that the visit of the Russian leaders will result in better understanding and closer co-operation—[Laughter.]—between the two countries in the interests of world peace, in spite of the levity expressed by hon. Members opposite? May I ask him one question with regard to the reference by Mr. Bulganin to the Disarmament Sub-Committee discussions, when he said that the problem of disarmament was in a bad state? Is that the view of Her Majesty's Government?

The Prime Minister

I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman that we all hope that the beginning of an understanding—which we think we have made possible in these talks—will grow in strength and importance for the peace of the world. That is the whole object which we have had in mind since the beginning of this business. As regards the second question, about disarmament, I do not know that I would go quite so far as Mr. Bulganin's statement about the Disarmament Sub-Committee, but I admit that its discussions are in a certain tangled state, and there are many difficulties still to be overcome. I suggest to the House that this is just the kind of question which we all have to consider and examine in the light of the discussions which we have had, and we should be wise to do that for the purpose of getting results rather than for any other purpose.

Mr. Hughes

Will not the Prime Minister tell us whether there was any discussion about future nuclear experiments? Does not he think that if these were ended it would be a sign that the beginning of the beginning had actually begun? Does not he also think that it would be an appropriate moment for him to line himself up alongside Mr. Nehru and Mr. Adlai Stevenson in saying that these experiments should be discontinued?

The Prime Minister

I should have to give a little more consideration to the question of exactly what it is that I have to line myself up with. In view of the exceptional character of these quite remarkable discussions—the longest international discussions between two Powers in which I, personally, have ever taken part—and their pretty full documentation at the end, I doubt whether I should be serving the cause of peace or understanding between the two countries if I were to pick out individual items and say that this, that or the other was discussed. If one does that one gets an inevitable reaction from the other side—"But we raised this and that." If I were to catalogue everything discussed I should be keeping the House a long time and doing no good to anybody.

Mr. Robens

Do I gather from the right hon. Gentleman's original Answer that he felt it would not be quite proper to have a debate on the White Paper which has been issued? He will probably recollect that in response to a Question he said there might be a White Paper, and he added that it might be useful to have a debate, or words to that effect. Does the Prime Minister now not take that view, in view of the negotiations?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir, I have had no request for a debate. I have no personal view. If a request were made, and if the House thought it desirable to have a debate, we could do so. I should not wish to put ourselves in the position of saying "No" in the matter. I think that a debate could take place having regard to what I said, but I do not want to debate individual items of the discussion. I do not want to be asked "Did you raise this and did you raise that, and what was the result of your raising them?" I have a feeling that that procedure would not be wise, as I think the right hon. Gentleman would agree.

Mr. Nicholson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that he has indeed earned the gratitude of the whole world for the way in which he has conducted these discussions?

Mr. Beswick

On disarmament, the Prime Minister will be aware that we have had the advantage of the verbatim record of the discussions at Lancaster House of the United Nations Sub-Committee meetings. Some of us have tried to follow these matters. Would it not be advantageous to have more information on the exchanges which took place on these subjects during the recent negotiations?

The Prime Minister

The Foreign Secretary made a statement a short time ago. I think that the position of the Governments concerned is well known. The discussions were limited to the position of two Powers of a five-Power conference, and the position of the others is very relevant. What we have to do now is, knowing more clearly, as I think we do, each other's points of view as two Powers, to take the opportunity to talk over the position with the others who were not in the two-Power discussions, and see whether any fresh approach is possible.

Mr. Gaitskell

While I appreciate that this arises only incidentally out of the talks, would the Prime Minister make clear one thing: has the Sub-Committee on disarmament now finished its labours for the time being? Is it reporting back or are there to be further discussions in the Sub-Committee? If not, would the Prime Minister, from the point of view of enlightening public opinion on the matter, consider publishing a White Paper setting out the different views of the different parties?

The Prime Minister

I will gladly consider the point in the last part of that supplementary question. There is the Anglo-French plan, the Soviet plan and the American plan. I understand that the Disarmament Sub-Committee is continuing with its deliberations. I very much hope that it will do so. Then we shall see whether we can make progress, perhaps from slightly different angles of approach.

Mr. H. Morrison

In the White Paper there are references to specific matters being discussed during the visit. Would it be so terrible if the Prime Minister said whether the question of bringing the experimental explosions to an end by international agreement was discussed and give some indication whether agreement was reached or whether that was not possible, because there is great worldwide interest.

The Prime Minister

I do not think that matter would be at all terrible. If there were a debate I could consider it, and see whether something could be done, but I want the House to face up to the fact that that was only one of a very wide range of topics discussed, and that others might think other topics more important. If I talked about them now I would not be helping a solution. There have been discussions, and the right hon. Gentleman has had the experience to know that, if over a period one has confidential discussions, if one gives any indication of what one has said one will be liable to prevent the solution one wants from emerging.

Mr. Robens

From what the Prime Minister has said—I see his point—he will find it rather difficult to deal in detail with individual matters. He said that one person might pick out one topic and another another. On matters such as European security, where the White Paper indicates there was agreement on principle although disagreement on ends, is that not a matter that he could discuss? Would the Prime Minister feel it difficult or embarrassing to have a debate on such a matter?

The Prime Minister

I do not want there to be misunderstanding. I am perfectly ready to have a debate on the published document at any time, and I do not want to depart from it, if it is the desire of the House. I am at the disposal of the House, but I hope that the House will not ask me to go into detail on matters which are not raised in the White Paper. We all have certain considerations in mind about which we want results to be achieved but I am perfectly certain that that would not be the way to do it.