HC Deb 29 June 1960 vol 625 cc1354-8
2 and 3. Mr. P. Noel-Baker

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) what is the estimated cost of printing as a White Paper the verbatim records of the Committee of Ten Nations on Disarmament for the period 15th March to 29th April;

(2) whether he will publish as a White Paper the verbatim records of the Ten-Nation Committee on Disarmament which met in Geneva from 15th March to 29th April, 1960.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

The cost to the Stationery Office of printing these records as a White Paper would be about £1,512. That sum would have to be increased if the records up to yesterday are also published. In the circumstances, however, I think it would be the wish of the House that the verbatim records of the whole conference to date should be published as a White Paper. I will arrange for this to be done as quickly as possible.

Mr. Noel-Baker

May I express my gratitude to the Foreign Secretary for that Answer and, lest he or any hon. Member should think that this is somewhat inappropriate, may I remind him that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury informed me the other day that we spend £4,000 a week printing the records of this House? I think this expenditure, in view of the gravity of the issues, would be well justified.

11. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a further statement on the progress made at the Ten-Power Disarmament Conference.

30. Mr. Healey

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the breakdown of the Ten-Nation talks in Geneva on disarmament.

32. Mr. Warbey

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress of the Ten-Nation Disarmament Conference.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister informed the House yesterday, we very much deplore the action of the Soviet and other Eastern delegations in walking out of the Geneva Conference and refusing to participate any longer in these discussions. This was particularly regrettable when, as the Soviet delegate knew, important new proposals were about to be presented. The House will remember that on 7th June the Soviet Government had presented new proposals completely different from the plan of September, 1959. These new proposals had to be discussed carefully in detail between the five Western Governments immediately concerned.

The new United States proposals were designed to come some way to meet some of the Soviet objections to the previous Western plan and to take account of the new Soviet plan. They had been communicated to the five Western Governments on 24th June. We welcomed them and had hoped that, after further consultations with our allies, they would have been tabled this week as joint Western proposals.

I repeat, Mr. Zorin had been told of the existence of these proposals. In the circumstances, owing to the precipitate action of the Soviet representative in breaking up the Conference, the United States representative tabled them on Monday as United States proposals.

We and our allies are, of course, considering how to get discussions going again in some form or another, and I hope before long to be able to make a statement to the House.

Mr. Healey

Will the Foreign Secretary tell the House whether he will consider asking for the convocation of an emergency session of the United Nations General Assembly in order to get the disarmament discussions started again, perhaps in a forum better suited in composition and procedure than the Ten-Nation Committee? Secondly, can he assure us that he will use the Government's utmost influence to prevent any acceleration in the arms race, and particularly that he will oppose any resumption of atomic tests by any Western country and any further distribution of atomic missiles?

Mr. Lloyd

With regard to the first part of that supplementary question, there are a number of possibilities—the Security Council, the possibility of an emergency session of the Assembly, and the possibility of the Disarmament Commission, which consists of the full membership of the United Nations. There is also the possibility of a resumption at Geneva. All these possibilities are being considered.

With regard to the second part of the supplementary question, on the matter of nuclear tests, we very much hope that what happened at Geneva on Monday is not going to be a precedent in regard to nuclear tests. I think there that we are far nearer agreement, and I very much hope that both sides will persevere in order to get the agreement which I think can be obtained.

Mr. A. Henderson

While the latest American proposals are not fundamentally much different from the proposals put forward on 7th June by the Soviet Government, may we have an assurance from the Secretary of State that the Government are not committed to the American proposals for on-site inspection of nuclear delivery systems, without any reduction in their numbers? Have not the Soviet Government constantly made it clear that they will never accept control without a measure of disarmament?

Mr. Lloyd

I think that in the new American proposals there is a considerable advance in the field of disarmament. For example, as regards force levels, the figure has come down to 2.1 million in the first stage and to 1.7 million in the second stage. In fact that is the same figure as in the second stage of the latest Soviet proposals. So I think there is a measure of disarmament which is now being reached in the first stage, which we welcome. I quite agree that it is improbable that full control would be accepted by the Soviet Government in advance of real disarmament, and what we all want to try to do is to get the two things going pari passu.

Mr. Warbey

While regretting the manner and timing of the Russian walkout, may I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether the Russians have not made a great advance by accepting in substance the proposals put forward by M. Moch on behalf of the French Government, which, I understand, have been accepted in principle by the right hon. and learned Gentleman? The Americans then went away and came back with a plan which was really very little different from their old plan, if we can judge by a report in The Times, which substantially, in the first stage, still has inspection and control without any effective disarmament.

Mr. Lloyd

I am glad that the hon. Member asked that question about M. Moch's proposals, because M. Moch stated categorically that it was totally inexact to assert that the Soviet plan embodied the French ideas on means of delivery. I am glad to be able to make that perfectly clear. M. Moch could not have been firmer about it. In fact, they do not embody the French plan. The French proposals with regard to means of delivery go through certain stages—study, control, reduction and elimination. No one can say that the Russian plan goes through those stages, because within a year they propose to abolish and destroy everything, which I do not think is practical politics. I do not think anyone believes that it is practical politics to do that in one year.

Mr. Rankin

How does the right hon. and learned Gentleman hope to reach any worth-while conclusions on disarmament if he excludes China from his exchanges and talks?

Mr. Lloyd

I thought I made it very clear in my speech in the debate on 30th May that I believe that before we get a realistic disarmament conference, China has got to come in. That is one respect, in which, I think, the American plan goes some way to meet that point of view.

Mr. Healey

Will the Foreign Secretary clarify one point in his statement? I was not quite clear about the proposals put forward by the United States Government on their own behalf on Monday. Have these proposals, which have appeared substantially in the Press, already been agreed by the British and French Governments as a common Western position, or is some negotiation still possible on this issue?

Mr. Lloyd

I am glad that the hon. Member asked that question. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister answered a Question yesterday, and possibly there was some misunderstanding both about the hon. Member's question, which dealt with some reply to the Soviet proposals, and also about this matter of agreement. What happened was that on Friday, 24th June, the American proposals were circulated to the four Western allies. I examined them on Sunday afternoon when I came back from Austria and authorised the Minister of State to say that we welcomed them and would support them, but that there was, of course, a need for discussion of the details and it might well be that there would be some alterations or improvements. There was also a meeting in Geneva the same day at which I think the proposals generally received a welcome from the four Western countries. They would then have been further examined on the Monday. No doubt the N.A.T.O. Council would have been consulted. We hoped that in the course of this week it would be possible to put forward an agreed Western plan. Unfortunately, the action of the Soviet Union on Monday morning made the whole of that process impossible, but I think that there will certainly be further discussion of the actual details.

Mr. Healey

The Prime Minister, then, was incorrect in saying yesterday that these were agreed Western proposals? May I take it that the Government and the other four Western Powers are not yet tied to every detail in them?

Mr. Lloyd

That is so. He asked me to make it clear that when he said that they were agreed, that was not correct.