HC Deb 28 June 1960 vol 625 cc1143-5
41. Mrs. Butler

asked the Prime Minister if he will set up an arms control research institute under his personal direction to investigate the problems involved in a workable disarmament programme.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. This work must be done multilaterally to be of value.

Mrs. Butler

Is it not a stumbling-block for peace that the arms race continues partly because we have never faced up to the economic and social problems involved in disarmament? Since Senator Kennedy says that he is in favour of such a body in the United States, is it not desirable that on this side of the Atlantic we should use some of our best brains in this constructive way, particularly as, at this moment, we are saddened and dispirited by the breakdown of the Disarmament Conference? It would be something effective that we ourselves could do.

The Prime Minister

Of course, all these studies are carried out ourselves by our own Departments and experts, but what we have to try to do is to reach an agreement with the Soviet Government and other Governments. I very much deplore what has happened, and I think that it is a very great setback.

I do not understand the position that the Soviet Government have taken up. It was only on 7th June that the Russian Government put forward a new plan which they rightly said took into account the last Western plan. Last Sunday, they were informed unofficially that the Western Powers intended on the following day to table a new plan taking account of the Russians' last plan. [Interruption.] The Russians set up two plans. They started with one, and we started with one. They set up another taking in some of the things we put forward, and we were about to table our reply having in mind what they had said. I think it is a very lamentable thing, and I shall do my best to see, by some means or other, that these negotiations should continue.

Mr. Healey

Can the Prime Minister tell us whether, in fact, the five Western Powers had agreed on the details of their reply to the Soviet Union, and, if so, will they publish their reply as soon as possible?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. The five Western Powers agreed, and on the Sunday night they informed Mr. Zorin unofficially of the plan that they would table on the Monday, and this is about to be published.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

In order that hon. Members may understand what has happened at Geneva, will the Prime Minister arrange that the minutes of the Committee of Ten Nations are published as a White Paper so that we may know where responsibility lies?

The Prime Minister

I understand that there is a Question to the Foreign Secretary tomorrow on that matter. I shall certainly call his attention to what the right hon. Gentleman has said, and, if it is for the convenience of the House, it may, perhaps, be useful to publish all the various stages of what will now be the four plans of different kinds which have been put forward, together with an account of the proceedings.

Mr. Gaitskell

While regretting the decision of the Russian Government to withdraw from the conference, may I ask the Prime Minister whether he will make every possible effort, perhaps through normal diplomatic channels, to try to get the conference going again?

The Prime Minister

I have received a letter from the Prime Minister of the Soviet Government to which I am just engaged in preparing a reply. I was not informed that he intended to publish his letter to me. I understand that it has been published and, in that case, I shall publish the reply, which I hope to send off today or tomorrow.