HC Deb 17 April 1957 vol 568 cc1904-7
14. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on the progress of the United Nations Disarmament Sub-Committee discussions.

21. Mr. Swingler

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is now in a position to make a statement on the progress of the disarmament talks at Lancaster House, with particular reference to Her Majesty's Government's attitude to proposals to stop nuclear tests and to specify maximum levels for the size of armed forces.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

Not today, Sir, but in the meantime I know that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister intends to deal generally with some of the matters which have been discussed in the course of his speech this evening.

Mr. Henderson

Can the Foreign Secretary indicate whether one of the matters with which the Prime Minister intends to deal tonight is the recent proposal of the United States Government that all nuclear tests and nuclear war production should cease from March next year without waiting for a general disarmament treaty? If not, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman inform us whether Her Majesty's Government accept that proposal?

Mr. Lloyd

That, I believe, is one of the matters with which my right hon. Friend will deal.

Mr. Swingler

Can the Foreign Secretary say whether the Prime Minister will reveal tonight what proposals have been put forward by Her Majesty's Government? As other Governments have now made public the proposals which they have put forward, would the right hon. and learned Gentleman now tell the House what proposals have been put forward in the name of the British Government, especially in regard to the stopping of nuclear tests and the fixing of maximum levels of armed forces?

Mr. Lloyd

I do not think that would help the work of the Sub-Committee. What has been happening in the Sub-Committee is that it has taken a certain agenda item by item, and has been having a general discussion on each item. When that is concluded, which I think will be within the course of a few days, then will come the time when specific proposals will be discussed and considered. I really think that this is an occasion when we can all be not without hope about the work of that Sub-Committee, and I think that it is better to leave it to get on with its work by itself.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

Since all the delegations, including our own, have now adopted the practice of telling the Press what they say, would it not be advantageous if we could have the verbatim record at the end of each week, instead of at the end of three months, so that we can judge more intelligently what is going on?

Mr. Lloyd

I must say that I regret, with the right hon. Gentleman, that there should be these leaks about confidential discussions. It would be better if the nature of the discussions were kept private, and I think that the point which the right hon. Gentleman has made is one to be borne in mind.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Since, in fact,. it has happened regularly that what is being said by delegations has become known, but that we get a rather unsatisfactory version of it, would it not be better to face the fact, and to publish the minutes at short intervals instead of thousands of pages at a time at the end of three months?

Mr. Lloyd

I think there is something in the point which the right hon. Gentleman makes. The idea of setting up the Sub-Committee was that it could meet privately, in which I think there is considerable advantage, and of course at least half of the discussions are in private. The informal discussions help very much, but I do not think it is a very satisfactory position in which there are calculated leaks.

20. Mr. Zilliacus

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the announced intention of the Defence White Paper to reduce the armed forces to 375,000 by 1962, he will instruct Her Majesty's Government's representative on the Disarmament Sub-Committee of the United Nations to propose lowering the maxima for France and Great Britain in the draft agreements under discussion, from 750,000 to 400,000, with proportionate downward revision of the maximum figures for the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and for all other countries.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

No, Sir.

Mr. Zilliacus

Is it not to our advantage, since we are reducing our own forces, to press for a general reduction all round? What have we to lose by making such a proposal? Have we not got everything to gain and nothing to lose?

Mr. Lloyd

Of course the year mentioned is 1962 and obviously the manpower ceilings at later stages will have to be negotiated.

30. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the policy of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the proposals on nuclear disarmament presented to the United Nations Sub-Committee on Disarmament.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

The policy of Her Majesty's Government with regard to nuclear tests was described by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 1st April. So far as other proposals are concerned, I would refer the hon. Member to the Answer which I have already given to the right hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson).

Mr. Sorensen

Is the Foreign Secretary satisfied with his own Answer? Is it not highly desirable that we should have more specific information given to us by Her Majesty's Government of specific proposals put before this Sub-Committee?

Mr. Lloyd

It all depends on whether the House regards this Sub-Committee as an opportunity for negotiation. I regard it as an opportunity for negotiating with the other people primarily interested, in which case it is not desirable publicly to state at every stage of the proceedings exactly what the position is.