HC Deb 26 January 1959 vol 598 cc701-3
66. Mr. Beswick

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement about the progress made at the Geneva conference on the suspension of nuclear weapon tests.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Robert Allan)

Since my right hon. and gallant Friend's statement of 15th December, a further Article of a draft treaty has been agreed, making four in all. The United Kingdom and United States delegates have also notified the Soviet Government of their decision to drop the condition that the treaty to stop nuclear tests should be subject to satisfactory progress towards measures of real disarmament. Despite this major concession on our part, the Soviet delegate at Geneva has continued to insist on proposals which would amount to self-inspection rather than effective international control.

Mr. Beswick

First, will the Minister give an assurance that the new evidence which the United States delegate has submitted to the conference about the scientific possibilities of detecting tests will not lead to the reopening of the first two clauses? Secondly, may we now have a statement about what precisely is at issue with regard to the enforcement procedure?

Mr. Allan

I will certainly draw try right hon. and learned Friend's attention to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, but I should think that it is unlikely that any of the articles which have already been agreed would be reconsidered. As regards the second part, what is at issue is the whole negotiation for the setting up and establishment of a control system.

Sir G. Nicholson

I hope that my hon. Friend will agree that this decision to dissociate the limitation of conventional armaments from negotiations connected with nuclear armaments is fundamental and of the utmost significance. Will he assure the House that it has been taken after due consultation with all our allies?

Mr. Allan

Yes, I can give that assurance. Of course, a step in the direction which we are now seeking to achieve—which we hope we will attain by the limitation of tests—would be, in fact, a very big step towards real disarmament, which is, of course, our ultimate aim.

Mr. Beswick

Will the hon. Gentleman look again at the Answer he has given, when he said that the Russians are asking for a system of self-enforcement? Will he not, on reflection, agree that that is a quite misleading statement about what it is that the Russians want? The argument is as between the proportion of nationals of any State and the inspectors from other countries from overseas. Can we have a more detailed statement as to what the respective positions are of the different nations at Geneva so that the country can make up its mind about which country is responsible for any delay in reaching agreement?

Mr. Allan

I said that it would amount to self-inspection; I did not say that it would definitely be self-inspection. As these negotiations are continuing—and we hope they will be successful—I do not think that it would be wise for me to clarify the position at this moment.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

Would it not be desirable that we should understand clearly what it is that the Russians are proposing and what it is that we ourselves have proposed?

Mr. Allan

The question of publishing how these negotiations are going has been discussed in the House already. We have agreed, I think, that as these negotiations are meant to be held in private it is better that they should remain so.