HC Deb 06 March 1958 vol 583 cc1334-6
47. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the recent official statement by President Eisenhower that some North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries would not support a first stage disarmament agreement providing for a temporary cessation of nuclear tests, he will make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's policy with regard to participation in such an agreement.

The Prime Minister

The policy of Her Majesty's Government remains as stated in the proposals for partial disarmament put forward by the United Kingdom, Canada, France and the United States on 29th August last year. Under these proposals, a temporary cessation of nuclear tests would form part of a first-stage disarmament agreement.

Mr. Henderson

While many of us take the view that disarmament should cover both nuclear and conventional weapons of mass destruction, we also consider that an agreement to suspend nuclear tests might well facilitate the breaking of the present disarmament deadlock. Can we be assured by the Prime Minister that when he goes to the Summit Conference he will not be opposed to such a first-step agreement?

The Prime Minister

If, as I hope, the Summit Conference meets, and if, as I hope—because I believe it to be one of the most helpful subjects—some form of disarmament is arranged, it would be very inadvisable for me to go to the Conference having declared beforehand the precise position our country would take.

Mr. Bevan

Why does the right hon. Gentleman think that in this respect his position should be rather different from that of the U.S.S.R.? He says that the suspension of nuclear tests should form part of the first stage of disarmament, whereas the Russians have said that it should be the first stage of a disarmament agreement. In view of the importance of this matter, would it not be desirable for us to declare our readiness to suspend H-bomb tests and to meet the Russian point of view in the hope that when that is done a more favourable climate would be created for further agreement?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. That would be bad diplomacy and bad psychology.

Mr. Bevan

In view of the position taken up by the Russians and their recent diplomatic success, they appear to be very much more successful than the right hon. Gentleman.

48. Mr. Rankin

asked the Prime Minister what reply he proposes to make to the petition for nuclear disarmament which has been sent to him by 204 teachers and research workers of London University.

49. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Prime Minister what is the nature of his reply to the letter sent to him by 204 teachers and research workers of London University urging that, pending international negotiations on nuclear disarmament, Great Britain should suspend nuclear patrol flights, stop hydrogen bomb tests and not establish missile bases.

The Prime Minister

I have acknowledged the letter and taken note of the views expressed. The position of Her Majesty's Government on the matters raised has been made clear in this House and in the country.

Mr. Rankin

Can the Prime Minister say why it is that in relation to the missile and its use we always seem to be taking our cue from the American State Department? Is it not the case that when we first got the hydrogen bomb the right hon. Gentleman promised that we would have greater freedom of action in foreign policy? Why has that promise not materialised?

The Prime Minister

The Question I am asked is whether I have received a letter and what reply I have made, and I think it would be more courteous to allow my reply to reach the communicants before I state its nature. We have debated the general question over and over again. Of course, we shall soon have the advantage of the formal views of the Labour Party on the matter.

Mr. Hughes

Does not the Prime Minister think there is some significance in so many eminent scientists being critical of his hydrogen bomb policy? How does he explain that?

The Prime Minister

I receive a very large number of communications in the opposite direction.

Mr. Callaghan

I wonder.

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