HC Deb 24 October 1956 vol 558 cc613-4
3. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on the progress of the discussions on the limitation of hydrogen bomb tests.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

I stated on 24th July that we were working on possible ways in which a limitation of nuclear tests might be achieved. This study of complex technical questions is continuing.

While Her Majesty's Government would prefer to treat this subject in the context of a disarmament convention, they remain ready to discuss it separately if that meets with the approval of the other Powers concerned and appears to offer better prospects of agreement.

Mr. Henderson

While realising that the limitation of these tests may be a step in the right direction, may I ask the Foreign Secretary if he would give an assurance that the Government would participate with the Governments of the United States and the Soviet Union in any agreement which might be reached on the total ban of hydrogen tests even though a comprehensive disarmament agreement has not been achieved?

Mr. Lloyd

Of course, the question of a total ban is quite different from that of limitation. I do not see how a total ban could be accepted unless one were satisfied that there were adequate means of enforcing such a ban. That is the difficulty over that.

Mr. Stokes

Does the Foreign Secretary realise that, while at the moment, so far as I know, there are only three nations who are concerned, in a very few years' time there will be five or six other nations in Europe capable of making these beastly things? Does that not make it all the more urgent that some agreement should be arrived at?

Mr. Lloyd

I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Warbey

Do the Government's technical researches confirm the view expressed by Marshal Bulganin that the banning of tests of atomic weapons would be self-policing in that any explosions could be detected in any part of the world?

Mr. Lloyd

The answer to that is quite simply "No".

Mr. Younger

Are we to understand from what the Foreign Secretary has said that, although this matter is under study, no international initiative of any kind has been taken for any further international discussions on this subject since our last discussion of the matter? If that is true, can he tell us whether he hopes to take such initiative in the near future?

Mr. Lloyd

It is quite true that no open, public initiative has been taken in regard to this matter, because there are certain technical matters which have to be cleared up, and also, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman realises, there are certain other hurdles.