HC Deb 23 February 1961 vol 635 cc785-6
42. Mr. G. M. Thomson

asked the Prime Minister if he will seek support at the forthcoming Commonwealth Premiers' Conference for a joint Commonwealth plan for disarmament to be laid before the United Nations.

The Prime Minister

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave on 21st February to the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse).

Mr. Thomson

Will the Prime Minister recall that in 'that reply he indicated that it was not the usual practice for Commonwealth Prime Ministers at the Conference to try to arrive at a common course of action? However, does he not feel that, in view of the urgency of disarmament, it is likely that Commonwealth countries would be prepared to make an exception in this case? Will not he consider the advantages of himself going personally to the United Nations with a Commonwealth disarmament plan in some detail, which would allow him to start off with twelve Commonwealth votes behind him, representing 600 million people of all colours and races and from all parts of the world?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I do not think that we can hope to get agreement on a precise plan, but it will be valuable, as the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations has already said, if the Commonwealth Prime Ministers can evolve some common approach to this problem. What we hope to do is to get closer understanding of each other's point of view and see whether we can get general agreement, which would be helpful for the very reasons the hon. Member has given.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

Have not the negotiations of the last few years shown that what is urgently required is a detailed disarmament plan? May I ask the Prime Minister a question of which I have given him notice—will he appoint a committee of British experts to prepare a detailed plan to be laid before the Commonwealth Prime Ministers?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman says that he has given me notice of that question. If he does, I will try to answer it. What we should try to do—and we have a good deal of business to do in a fairly short time —is to see whether we can get agreement on a general approach among our colleagues in the Commonwealth. If we do that, it will be a very great help, but the preparation of detailed plans is another matter. Discussions on disarmament are going forward with our friends and allies, and I hope that we shall be able to make progress.