HC Deb 30 July 1959 vol 610 cc676-7
45. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Prime Minister if he will give an undertaking that there will be no nuclear test explosions by Great Britain before the resumption of Parliament.

Mr. R. A. Butler

I have been asked to reply.

So long as useful discussions continue at the Conference on the discontinuance of nuclear tests, Her Majesty's Government would not propose to authorise the resumption of testing.

Mr. Allaun

While thanking the Home Secretary for that Answer, may I ask if he can give such an undertaking even if no agreement is reached? Would it not be a terrible thing for humanity and our hopes for peace if these tests were resumed because, if we cannot stop them, we have precious little chance of stopping anything else? Would it not be very wrong to resume these tests during the Recess in the absence of Members of Parliament?

Mr. Butler

In the midst of negotiations designed to achieve a major result I think it would be unwise for me to go any further than my reply. The hon. Member need not deduce from my remarks anything which would be of a dangerous or unpleasant character. I simply consider that in the middle of negotiations following on statements made by the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary we had better adhere to that Answer.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is it really necessary for the right hon. Gentleman to be quite so guarded in his replies? After all talks go on and no tests take place; then, when the talks stop, is it seriously suggested that Her Majesty's Government will make a new nuclear test explosion before we come back in the autumn? Surely the preparation for these tests alone would take far longer than between now and the date of resumption? Could he not be more categorical in his assurances?

Mr. Butler

I do not think it is usual in the middle of a negotiation to achieve a desired result—namely, the discontinuation of nuclear tests—to make statements about the future after the negotiations, when we trust the negotiations will be successful. Therefore, I cannot go further than I have today.

Mr. Gaitskell

While negotiations are continuing, the right hon. Gentleman has assured us that there will be no further tests. All we are asking is that he should go a shade further than that and say that there will be no tests before Parliament meets again. What conceivable objection can there be to giving such an assurance? How could it possibly interfere with the negotiations taking place now?

Mr. Butler

As I say, this matter has been discussed with my right hon. Friends and myself and it has frequently been stated by them that this is our policy. I am not prepared to go further than that today. Nor do I think it would be right to make any deduction such as the right hon. Member indicated as possible from the fact that I cannot go further than that today, because the Government realise fully the importance of this subject and the potential dangers.

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