HC Deb 29 April 1958 vol 587 cc187-8
45. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the recent protest of the Soviet Government on the carrying of hydrogen bombs by Western aircraft, he will agree to the meeting of technical experts proposed in his recent letter to Mr. Kruschev working out the kind of arrangement necessary to provide safeguards against surprise attacks of aircraft carrying nuclear weapons.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

Her Majesty's Government proposed last July, and on a number of subsequent occasions, that there should be an early meeting of experts to discuss the practical details of safeguards against surprise attack. I repeated this proposal in my letter of 16th January to Mr. Bulganin, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary confirmed it in the House on 20th February last. The offer still stands.

The United States Government have now suggested an international inspection zone in the Arctic. This is an area from which the Soviet Government have professed to fear attack. I hope, therefore, that they will make a positive contribution to today's Security Council discussions and agree to collaborate with the other countries concerned in working out the details of an inspection system.

Mr. Henderson

Will not the Prime Minister agree that the establishment of an international system of aerial inspection would greatly reduce the anxieties which appear to exist both in the Soviet Union and in the United States as to the possibility of surprise attack by bombers carrying nuclear weapons? Further, would the proposal put forward yesterday by President Eisenhower, which the right hon. Gentleman also has himself proposed, for the appointment of a technical committee to consider this problem, delay the proposed Summit Conference?

The Prime Minister

With regard to the first part of that supplementary question, certainly the system of international aerial inspection would reduce anxieties, but it is, of course, by itself, only of limited use. It cannot, for example, show whether an aircraft is armed or not. That is why our proposals of last August stipulate that in all cases aerial inspection with ground observation posts would be necessary. Regarding the second part of the supplementary question, certainly if the Russians participated in these technical talks that would not hold up, but would rather be a happy augury for, a summit meeting.