HC Deb 18 November 1959 vol 613 cc1134-7
31. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why the British representative at the United Nations voted against a motion requesting France to refrain from carrying out nuclear test explosions.

34. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in view of the condemnation by the United Nations Political Committee of the prospective test of nuclear weapons in the Sahara desert, what action our representative took in the matter.

40. Mr. Swingler

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how the United Kingdom delegate voted on the resolution before the United Nations urging France to refrain from nuclear tests; which nations voted for the resolution; which against; and which abstained.

42. Mr. W. Griffiths

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs for what reason the United Kingdom representative on the Political Commission of the United Nations General Assembly voted against the resolution demanding the abandonment of the French nuclear tests programme in the Sahara; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

The United Kingdom voted against the draft resolution put forward by certain Afro-Asian countries because it was based on the assumption—which we consider to be incorrect—that the proposed French tests would endanger health in other countries, and because we considered that our draft resolution was more realistic and constructive. There were 46 votes in favour of the Afro-Asian resolution, 26 against, and 10 abstentions. I will, with permission, circulate the details in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Allaun

Was not this throwing away the chance of stopping the spread of nuclear weapons to more and more nations? If the Government wish France to join an agreement banning tests, why on earth did they encourage France to proceed with them?

Mr. Lloyd

The Afro-Asian resolution contained a preamble which we believed to be incorrect. It was based on the false assumption that there was danger to health from the tests. To explain our positive attitude, I remind the hon. Member of the operative part of our resolution: expresses the hope that the French Government will associate themselves with the arrangements which may be worked out in order to achieve the suspension of nuclear weapons tests under effective international control; and secondly: requests France to take full account of the views expressed in this debate. I maintain that that was perfectly straightforward and a constructive position to take up.

Mr. W. Griffiths

Is not the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that all scientists in all countries agree that letting off these devices is not for the benefit of most people—it certainly does not do us any good—and that if Britain had not cast its vote with the minority, that would have looked more consistent with the Government's avowed intention of working at Geneva for the banning of these tests? Did not our action look rather like hypocrisy?

Mr. Lloyd

I cannot understand why hon. Gentlemen should be so ready to describe our action in that way. We put forward a resolution which received a wide measure of support and which contained a constructive approach to this matter—I believe, the only constructive approach. Why hon. Members should be so anxious to denigrate the position of the Government I do not understand.

Mr. Sorensen

May we take it that the right hon. and learned Gentleman's Answer endorses the French action and is an indication that he welcomes this extra test? If not, cannot he give some indication of his regret that this experiment should take place?

Mr. Lloyd

We have said that we do not think that this test will do any physical damage to anybody. That is our position. I remind hon. Gentlemen that the Moroccan delegate, when introducing this resolution, said that he did not mind the French having nuclear tests, but objected to the tests being in Africa. Our position is that we do not think that the test will do any damage. Our constructive policy towards the suspension of tests is contained in our resolution.

Mr. Swingler

We are not asking the Foreign Secretary whether he thinks that the French tests will do damage or not. The question is whether Her Majesty's Government are in favour of any more nuclear tests, including the French test. Why was not the answer to that question made clear at the United Nations? Will the Foreign Secretary answer this question: are the Government in favour of or against any more nuclear tests, including the French test?

Mr. Lloyd

That kind of supplementary question makes me wonder whether the hon. Gentleman is trying to make mischief, [interruption.] We want to secure the suspension of all nuclear tests. We are trying to get agreement to that effect. When we get agreement to that effect among the three nuclear Powers, we hope that other Powers will join. That is a perfectly straightforward statement, as hon. Members will agree, I think.

Mr. Healey

Can the Foreign Secretary explain why he thought it proper to authorise the introduction of this resolution to the United Nations Political Committee last Tuesday, and yet when be was in France on Wednesday and Thursday, according to the answers to the questions I asked him on Monday, he did not think it proper even to discuss with any representative of the French Government the adherence of the French Government to a future test ban treaty?

Mr. Lloyd

The hon. Gentleman must get his facts right. If he looks at my Answer, he will see that I said that I did discuss this matter with M. Couve de Murville.

Following are the details: The voting on the resolution tabled by certain Afro-Asian delegations was as follows: In favour: United Arab Republic, Venezuela, Yemen, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Burma, Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, Cambodia, Canada, Ceylon, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Ethiopia, Federation of Malaya, Finland, Ghana, Guinea, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Japan, Jordan, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Morocco, Nepal, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Roumania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Sweden, Tunisia, Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Against: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America, Uruguay, Argentina, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Spain, Union of South Africa. Abstaining: Australia, China, Costa Rica, Denmark, Greece, Laos. Mexico, Paraguay, Thailand, Turkey.
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