HC Deb 26 March 1957 vol 567 cc968-9
47. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Prime Minister whether he will give an assurance, in view of the widespread concern in Japan at the prospect of hydrogen bombs being exploded in the Pacific, that, after the first explosion, no further hydrogen bombs will be exploded pending the outcome of the present United Nations disarmament discussions.

Mr. R. A. Butler

I have been asked to reply.

I have nothing to add to what my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply told the right hon. and learned Member on 18th March.

Mr. Henderson

Why is it that the Government are now opposed as announced in the Bermuda communiqué, to any limitation on nuclear tests? Why will not one hydrogen bomb explosion give the Government the basis of parity which they desire with the United States and Russian Governments?

Mr. Butler

The Prime Minister has made it quite clear, as he did on 19th March, the day following the Answer to which I referred, that Her Majesty's Government are not prepared to abandon tests in advance of a comprehensive disarmament agreement which affords proper safeguards and effective controls.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that statement goes back on an earlier statement made by Sir Anthony Eden, who promised that the Government would be prepared to try and seek agreement on hydrogen bomb tests independently of any general disarmament agreement? Can he explain the reason for the change?

Mr. Butler

There is an Answer to be given to Question No. 50 which brings into line the agreement reached at Bermuda and which deals with the problem of world radiation and the effects of tests on that.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

Is it not more than eighteen months since the Government began to tell us that they were ready for some limitation of tests? When will they make some practical proposal to this end?

Mr. Butler

We have just had some very successful and, I think, important conversations with the leaders of the United States Government in this matter. We realise that the security of the free world must continue to depend to a marked degree upon the nuclear deterrent. To maintain this effectively, nuclear testing must continue, certainly for the present.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is the Lord Privy Seal aware that there is widespread agreement that the least satisfactory part of the Bermuda communiqué was that relating to H-bomb tests? Why do the Government continue to refrain from putting forward proposals for a conference designed to end H-bomb tests altogether?

Mr. Butler

For the reasons I have given, that there are national interests at stake which we are not prepared to abandon.