§ 21. Mr. S. Silverman
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs which of our Allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has as yet not signed or ratified the Geneva Conventions on Chemical and Biological Warfare; and, having regard to the embarrassments, with possible legal complications, of joint armed forces, some of whom are bound by these conventions and some not, what representations he will make in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Council to secure that all North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries renounce the use of these weapons.
§ Mr. Profumo
All our North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Allies are parties to the Convention except Iceland and the United States. President Eisenhower has recently made it clear that he is not contemplating any change in the traditional United States policy of not being the first to use chemical or biological weapons.
With regard to the second part of the Question, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Supreme Commanders act under the political direction of the North Atlantic Council. There can therefore be no question of such weapons being used without the approval of member Governments. No representations are, I think, necessary.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that Answer. May I pursue it in this way? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the difference between a declaration by President Eisenhower and the signing and ratifying of the Convention is that, whereas a declaration by President Eisenhower binds his administration, it does not bind his country, and a formal act ratifying the Geneva Convention would be binding? Is it not also the case that under the Geneva Convention any nation which signed it would be released from its obligations if it was first attacked by these weapons? Therefore, if President Eisenhower's declara- 388 tion is intended to bind the United States, would not the simplest thing be for that country to do what the rest of us have done—sign the Convention and ratify it and put the whole matter beyond controversy and adverse propaganda? Is not the world subject to sufficient weapons of terror without retaining doubt whether these should be added to them?
§ Mr. Profumo
I very much doubt whether anything which could be done would place any of these matters beyond controversy or adverse propaganda. The hon. Member will appreciate that I cannot be responsible for any action the United States Government may or may not take, whether it is this Government or the next Government. What I have tried to do in my Answer—I hope that I have succeeded—is to set the hon. Member's mind at rest that the situation is not one which will lead to any great danger.
Mr. Gresham Cooke
On a point of order. Would you take note, Mr. Speaker, that in nearly forty minutes we have got through only twenty Questions, an average of two minutes on each Question? Ought not hon. Members to stop making speeches in the form of supplementary questions?
§ Mr. Silverman
Is it not also the case that, if Ministers would answer shortly and simply the Questions asked of them instead of going off into rambling attempts to cloud the whole matter in humbug and doubt, we should get on a lot faster?
§ Mr. Speaker
I doubt whether these exchanges assist progress. I want the help of the whole House, both of those who ask the Questions and of those who answer them, in this matter.