HC Deb 13 April 1960 vol 621 cc1237-41
3. Dr. A. Thompson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what proposals the British representative on the Ten-Power Disarmament Committee has made concerning force levels for States other than the United States of America and Russia in stages I and II of the Western disarmament plan.

Mr. Profumo

Stage I of the Western plan proposes that appropriate force levels should be agreed for certain States other than the United States of America and the Soviet Union. This means those other members of the Ten-Power Committee who are willing to enter into such an agreement. Stage II includes a larger Disarmament Conference to fix force levels for all other militarily significant States.

Dr. Thompson

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for that reply, may I ask whether we may have an assurance that, in view of the rundown of conventional forces in some of the countries involved, the Government are concerned that the force levels which are fixed in accordance with Cmd. Paper 981, section 1, subsection (d), will not be greater than the actual size of the military forces at the time these levels are fixed? Otherwise, the absurd situation will exist that countries, to reach the force level, will have to increase their armed forces rather than reduce them.

Mr. Profumo

I had better content myself by saying that discussions at the Geneva Conference have not yet reached a point at which it would be practicable for us to put further proposals about the force levels of other States.

6. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is now in a position to make a state- ment on the Ten-Power Disarmament Conference.

16. Mr. Swingler

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why Her Majesty's Government has refused at Geneva to accept, as a basis for discussion on disarmament, a plan for. total world disarmament.

17. Mr. S. Silverman

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether total world disarmament at the earliest practical date remains the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

Mr. Profumo

As my right hon. and learned Friend said on 30th March, the conference has been studying the Soviet and Western proposals. They have not yet discussed details. I hope that this stage will soon be reached.

The Western plan as a whole provides a sensible and realistic approach to comprehensive disarmament. In present circumstances to talk of total disarmament would be quite unrealistic.

Mr. Henderson

In view of the difficulty in getting information about the conference, could the right hon. Gentleman state to what extent common ground has already been reached? Will he publish a White Paper in the next week or two containing the points of agreement and disagreement at the conference?

Mr. Profumo

There has been a certain amount of common ground. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman will look at the two plans together he will be able to discern them for himself. He suggested the publication of a White Paper. Agreement has now been reached about verbatim proceedings being published at regular intervals, subject to ten-Power agreement on each occasion. Details will be announced before long.

Mr. Swingler

Will the right hon. Gentleman say why the idea of total disarmament is reckoned to be unrealistic by the Foreign Office? Many-people thought that it was a universally accepted principle that these discussions started with the aim of achieving total disarmament under effective international control. Have the Government retreated from that?

Mr. Profumo

No. There has been no retreat at all. The hon. Gentleman knows OUT final aim. The term "total disarmament" suggests the abolition even of such reduced forces as will remain necessary for the maintenance of internal security and the fulfilment of obligations under the United Nations Charter. That is unrealistic.

Mr. Silverman

The right hon. Gentleman's original Answer did not answer Question No. 17 at all. That Question asks whether total world disarmament at the earliest practical date remains the policy of the Government. Does not the right hon. Gentleman remember that when Mr. Khrushchev made his proposal there was a General Election going on in this country, and the Foreign Secretary made a speech on television in which he welcomed that proposal and promised cooperation in achieving it?

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that a great many votes were given for his party on that assurance—perhaps more than on any other issue? Will he make it clear, not merely here but at Geneva, that total world disarmament remains, in modern conditions, the only hope of survival by the human race?

Mr. Profumo

Our objectives are very clearly stated and set out in the Western Plan. For the sake of the hon. Gentleman and of the House, so that there shall be no misunderstanding and no aspersions cast, I shall read it: The ultimate goal is a secure, free and peaceful world in which there shall be general disarmament under effective international control and agreed procedures for the settlement of disputes in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter.

18. Mr. Warbey

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in order to break the deadlock of the Ten-Nation Disarmament conference, he will propose that the levels to which armed forces shall be reduced during the early stages of the disarmament plan shall be those proposed in the Anglo-French Plan of 1954 and accepted by the Soviet representatives in 1955.

29. Mr. Zilliacus

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in order to break the deadlock on disarmament, he will at the forthcoming Western Foreign Ministers' Conference propose the inclusion in the first stage of the Western disarmament plain of the same ceiling figures for United States, Soviet, Chinese, British, French, etc., armaments, as those fixed in the original Anglo-French proposals of 1953–54, endorsed in the Soviet proposals of 10th May, 1955; and whether he will further press for acceptance of the Soviet proposal that the powers taking part in the Summit Conference should undertake never to be the first to resort to nuclear weapons.

Mr. Profumo

I do not agree that there is a deadlock at this conference. As for the levels of forces proposed in the Western Disarmament Plan, I would refer the hon. Gentlemen to the Answer my hon. Friend gave in reply to a Question by the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler) on 4th April. As for the last pact of the Question by the hon, Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Zilliacus), the answer is "No, Sir."

Mr. Warbey

I am glad to hear that there is no deadlock at the disarmament conference, but how does the right hon. Gentleman expect world opinion to take seriously the Western Powers' claim that they desire disarmament when they put forward proposals which involve, at least in the first two stages, a great deal of control and practically no disarmament?

Mr. Profumo

I cannot accept what the hon. Gentleman says. What we are trying to do is to proceed to disarmament by stages, with control and disarmament going together at each stage.

Mr. Zilliacus

Is it not a fact that the Soviet Government have objected to the first stage of the existing plan on the ground that the level of 2.5 million is slightly above the existing levels, and therefore the plan asks for control without disarmament? Would not that objection be met by going back to the 1954 figures? Furthermore, is it really the Government's contention that we propose to reject the plan not to use nuclear weapons first, and that we still stick to the line that we will use them first even if it means suicide?

Mr. Profumo

The force levels proposed in the Western Plan are those agreed with Soviet Union in the 1957 disarmament negotiations.

24. Mr. Rankin

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what positive proposals he is advancing at Geneva to meet the difficulty as to whether disarmament or control should come first.

Mr. Profumo

I have little to add to the reply my hon. Friend gave to the hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Awbery) on 4th April, except to say that the present difficulty is not so much that described by the hon. Gentleman as the definition of what constitutes general disarmament and how it should be achieved.

Mr. Rankin

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that whatever proposals are advanced in the discussions at Geneva some risks must be taken? Would he agree that fee must either take the risk of showing some measure of confidence in the Russian proposals or run the infinitely greater risk of involving this nation in nuclear warfare? Will he assure us, for our comfort, that he will not take the second risk?

Mr. Profumo

I can best assure the hon. Member by saying that "No disarmament without control and no control without disarmament" is now common to both sides.