HC Deb 17 February 1960 vol 617 cc1267-70
18. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, following the recent proposals of the United States Government at the Geneva Conference on Tests, he will make a further statement on the conference.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

As I informed the House last week, the United States Delegation as the Geneva Nuclear Tests Conference put forward on 11th February a new proposal for the suspension of tests on the surface of the earth, in the oceans, and up to the greatest height at which effective controls could be agreed. The United States proposal would also ban those underground tests at present capable of being detected and identified, and proposes joint research to extend this ban. The United Kingdom Delegation have given general support to this proposal. Yesterday the Soviet Delegate rejected the United States proposal, but he put forward on behalf of the Soviet Union new proposals on criteria for initiating inspections of suspected underground tests. These are very technical and will require careful study.

Mr. Henderson

Is it not a fact that the main outstanding difference is the problem of the uncontrollable lower-range underground tests and that there is broad agreement on the need to ban all other tests? If this is so, why should not Her Majesty's Government propose that there should be a ban on all tests other than small underground tests, that there should be a declaration by the three Governments not to resume any small underground tests, and that there should be the appointment of scientists by the three Governments to investigate the possibility of achieving an effective control system for dealing with small underground tests?

Mr. Lloyd

As to the first part of the supplementary question, that already is our position. The United States Government and we have stated that we are willing to make such an agreement forthwith. What we are now trying to do is, by negotiating with the Soviet Union, to find out whether an acceptable control system can be set up to deal with the remaining range of underground tests which, on present information, are difficult or impossible to control. We must continue to examine very carefully the Soviet proposals which, I think, are designed for the same purpose, because it is much better, if we can, to get a comprehensive agreement straight away.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

Can the Foreign Secretary say down to what level of explosive power in kilotons the American proposal would forbid tests?

Mr. Lloyd

No, Sir. The magnitude was put in another measurement. If the right hon. Gentleman gives me notice, I can give the actual measurements which the United States have given.

21. Mr. Warbey

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has now given further consideration to the possibility of monitoring suspected underground nuclear tests with a small number of unmanned seismic instruments; and what conclusions he has reached.

27. Mr. Zilliacus

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in view of the fact that the addition of small, unmanned, auxiliary seismic stations along the periphery of known seismic areas to the control system, already substantially agreed upon as capable of detecting all major nuclear explosions, would make it also 98 per cent. efficient in distinguishing minor underground explosions down to one kiloton from earthquakes, whether he will urge the adoption of this method of control at Geneva in preference to a resumption of nuclear tests.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

Her Majesty's Government have been studying this idea for some time and it is still being examined by our experts. The results of this work when complete will have to be carefully considered before we can decide whether to propose the incorporation of such stations in an inspection system. It is still too early to say whether we can satisfactorily solve the practical difficulties of designing such stations, ensuring communications from them to control posts, and guaranteeing them against tampering.

Mr. Warbey

May I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for giving a rather more forthcoming reply today than he gave last week on this point, and for recognising the value of the Berkner Commission's Report in making a contribution to a solution of this question? Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman appreciate the importance of ensuring that we achieve an agreement covering all forms of tests and that it is hopeless and impossible to get one if one country is allowed to continue any form of tests, even underground?

Mr. Lloyd

I do not disagree with what the hon. Member has said. The difficulty about this proposed new mechanism is that nobody has yet designed it. It is not at all certain whether one could have communication from it to the control post, or that one could prevent its being tampered with by some unauthorised person. Although I think there is a useful germ of an idea in this business of unmanned posts, we would have to go a little further on the practical issue before we could support it.

Mr. Zilliacus

While appreciating the difficulties which the Foreign Secretary has mentioned, may I ask whether he is aware that this Berkner Commission's recommendation was recently put forward at an East-West unofficial conference here by an American Congressman and a nuclear physicist and was strongly supported by two members of the Supreme Soviet Foreign Affairs Commission? In view of the consequent likelihood that a proposal on these lines would be accepted and of the dangers of a resumption of tests as compared with an imperfect control system, would not the right hon. and learned Gentleman press for very serious consideration of this proposal?

Mr. Lloyd

I have said that our experts are examining this very seriously, because there may be some value in some unmanned apparatus of this sort.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman give a report by British scientists on the Berkner Report proposal?

Mr. Lloyd

These are British scientists who are now examining it.