HC Deb 06 March 1957 vol 566 cc351-2
32. Mr. J. Hynd

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to what extent the Arms Control Agency established under the nine-Power Agreement of October, 1954, to which Her Majesty's Government is a party, is now functioning; how many test checks and visits of inspection is has conducted; and in which countries.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

The Western European Union Arms Control Agency completed its first control year on 31st December, 1956. This was an experimental period during which much useful practical experience was gained. Nineteen depots and seven factories of member countries in Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy were visited by Agency officials during the year.

Mr. Hynd

Is the Minister aware that many people in this and other countries regard this Agency as a very remarkable experiment with great possibilities, but that there is a great deal of doubt as to its efficiency up to date in Europe? Can he clear the air about this matter, because we consider it to be most important that confidence in this Agency should be restored?

Mr. Lloyd

I am grateful to the hon. Member, and I entirely agree with him. I think far too little public attention and importance has been paid to this most valuable experiment. The Government certainly will welcome anything that hon. Members can do to arouse interest in its activities.

Sir J. Hutchison

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the Arms Control Agency has run into certain legal difficulties in connection with the inspection of private plants in some countries, and that the removal of those legal difficulties, the need for which is urgent, will require legislation? Will he do what he can to press on with such legislation in order completely to free the hands of the Agency?

Mr. Lloyd

I will certainly consider what my hon. Friend has said. In fact, the Agency ran into legal difficulties almost from the very beginning. Some of these matters have been resolved, but I will again look into what my hon. Friend has said.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

Is the Agency to conduct any inspections in this country?

Mr. Lloyd

No, Sir. The Agency inspects only depots or factories on the mainland of Europe, but included in the installations which it has inspected is one British one.