HC Deb 08 April 1957 vol 568 cc789-91
1. Mr. Zilliacus

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, bearing in mind that a thermo-nuclear explosion in any part of the world can be detected by its atmospheric effects, what forms of control he intends to propose in the course of his discussions inside or outside the United Nations Disarmament Commission for the purpose of limiting or ending test explosions.

27. Mrs. Castle

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will publish the proposals for the limitation of hydrogen bomb tests which have been submitted to the Disarmament Sub-Committee by the United Kingdom delegate.

34. Mr. Beswick

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if, in view of the fact that other participating Governments have stated their disarmament proposals in detail, he will inform Parliament of the British proposals put forward at the United Nations Disarmament Sub-Committee meetings.

The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. David Ormsby-Gore)

As regards the detectability of tests I would refer the hon. Member for Gorton (Mr. Zilliacus) to the announcement made at the conclusion of the Bermuda Conference and to what the Prime Minister said in the House on 1st April.

I can only repeat what I said on 3rd April. I am not yet prepared to make public what has so far transpired in the Disarmament Sub-Committee. The whole purpose of the Sub-Committee meeting in private would be frustrated if its discussions were to be made public as they take place.

Mr. Zilliacus

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the contention that hydrogen bomb tests cannot be detected by some means if they are big enough to be worth detecting is very strongly contested? Will not he reconsider this question? Will he say whether it would not be just as easy to conclude an agreement abolishing hydrogen bomb tests as an agreement for limiting hydrogen bomb tests? Will the Government please try to work for an agreement to abolish tests rather than for one merely to limit them?

Mr. Ormsbyo-Gore

We do not accept what the hon. Member said about the detectability of all tests. All that my right hon. Friend said was that, if a particular Power tried, it could make a bomb test which was not detectable at a great distance. That is all he said. With regard to the question whether we would like to have the banning of all tests, as well as the limitation of tests, that was also made perfectly clear; but the banning of all tests is a much more difficult problem and would have to take place in the context of a general disarmament agreement.

Mr. Beswick

With regard to the publication of Britain's proposals, as suggested in my Question, would the Minister of State say why it is that the other countries feel able to state beforehand what their respective positions are? While accepting the fact that discussions must be in private, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he does not think that Parliament here is entitled to know what is being said in its name?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

At a certain stage it is certainly entitled to know, but we hope to achieve some results from these discussions, and we have learned from bitter experience that if we publish exactly what our proposals are and almost immediately they are repulsed, we then make no further progress. There is a great advantage in having these discussions confidential, and we think we are more likely to achieve results by that method.

Mr. McAdden

If my right hon. Friend has any difficulty in providing an argument in favour of the retention of these tests, will he consider publishing as a White Paper "Talking Points for Speakers", issued by the Labour Party recently, which sets out the arguments very cogently and clearly, and would be of benefit to hon. Members opposite if they read it?

Mrs. Castle

In view of the fact that the Government have promised to work for a limitation of tests separately from, and in advance of, a general disarmament convention, will not the right hon. Gentleman at any rate give an undertaking to the House that an interim report upon the discussion of this limited proposal will be put before the House as quickly as possible.

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

I will ask my right hon. and learned Friend to consider that.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

Can the right hon. Gentleman clear up a doubt which he seemed to raise last week? In the proposals that we are putting forward, are we suggesting any limitation at all either of the number or the power of the tests to be carried out?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

That would require my going into details of our proposals, and at this stage I am not prepared to do that.