HC Deb 08 March 1960 vol 619 cc240-1
41. Mr. Warbey

asked the Prime Minister whether he will appoint a committee to inquire into the economic aspects of disarmament.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. Any plan for comprehensive disarmament would have to come into effect by carefully phased stages spread over a number of years. The economy would thus have time to adjust itself.

Mr. Warbey

If, as we all hope, the forthcoming disarmament conference ends in agreement on a plan for total disarmament within a comparatively short space of years, is not this bound to give rise to serious economic problems regarding the deployment of manpower and resources? If the Government are serious about this objective, will not they go for advice to the economists, industrialists and trade unionists regarding problems of redeployment?

The Prime Minister

I should not like to embarrass the hon. Gentleman, but I would point out that some weeks ago Mr. Khrushchev observed: Hence there is no truth in the assertion that disarmament would lead to crises or economic slumps in the industrially highly-developed countries of the capitalist world.

Mr. S. Silverman

Will the right hon. Gentleman recall that at a recent unofficial conference people of status in their own countries, both East and West, said that the opinion of Mr. Khrushchev was certainly accepted as being true of both Socialist or collective economy institutions and those worked by private enterprise rules? Will he also bear in mind that, if this were to be achieved in a period of four years, it would require special planning and arrangement in both types of economy? Will not he, therefore, reconsider his answer to the suggestion made by my hon. Friend?

The Prime Minister

I will bear all those considerations in mind, but I still think that if we should be relieved of these heavy burdens there should be no difficulty in finding useful outlets for the constructive power of machinery and men which would be available.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

While we warmly welcome the last words of the Prime Minister and while we on this side of the House have always preached exactly what Mr. Khrushchev said—[Interruption.]—while we have always preached that of course there could be large-scale disarmament without any undue economic dislocation, provided proper planning was carried out, is it not a fact that there are in this country, and in other countries, many people who fear the effects of disarmament? Would not a study on the lines proposed by my hon. Friend be of great value in preparing for the disarmament for which we all hope?

The Prime Minister

I do not think a study would prepare opinion, but a study might be valuable, and I will bear in mind what has been said.