HC Deb 22 June 1961 vol 642 cc1675-7
40. Mr. Healey

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the difficulties encountered in the Geneva negotiations, he will make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's policy concerning a ban on nuclear tests.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

I regret to say that there has been no progress in the Conference in recent weeks. Discussion has continued in the Conference on the points raised in the Soviet Aide Memoire which Mr. Khrushchev gave to President Kennedy in Vienna. The House will now have seen the United States reply which was published on 17th June. I think this reply states the Western position clearly.

We have been trying for two and a half years to play our full part in bringing this Conference to a successful conclusion and we shall continue to do so. We are deeply discouraged that the Soviet Government seem bent on creating fresh difficulties, while we were putting forward constructive new proposals to overcome the existing points of difference. We hope they will consider carefully the arguments the United States Government have now put to them, and which have our full support.

Mr. Healey

While fully sharing the regrets and hopes expressed by the Prime Minister, may I ask him, in view of the fact that world opinion rightly blames the Soviet Government for the deadlock in the Geneva talks, to which he referred, and in view of Mr. Khrushchev's threat to resume Soviet nuclear testing if any Western Power resumes testing, whether he would agree that it would be regrettable if any Western Power blurred the issue by being the first to resume tests at this time? In particular, can he give an assurance that Her Majesty's Government have no such intention?

The Prime Minister

This question looms ahead, but I am happy to say that it is our intention, and that of the United States Government, to continue the Conference and keep it in being in the hope that a better turn of affairs may come.

Mr. Gaitskell

May I ask the Prime Minister a question on the relationship of this Conference to the forthcoming discussions on general disarmament? If, as unfortunately appears to be the case, there is no likelihood in the near future of the Soviet Union agreeing to any kind of agreement which the West could accept, nevertheless, is it still the view of the Government that the question of nuclear tests should not be included in the discussions on general disarmament?

The Prime Minister

I do not honestly think that, in all the enormous problem of disarmament, on the necessarily detailed complexities, it would help to get the nuclear tests question settled rapidly if it were put, as the Russians now suggest, into the general disarmament discussions. I fear very much that it would get lost there, rather than make progress. However, that is the situation. The Conference has not been brought to an end, and we must hope that progress will in due course be made.

Mr. A. Henderson

May we take it from the reply of the Prime Minister that it is not the intention, either of Her Majesty's Government or the United States Government, to resume nuclear tests so long as the disarmament negotiations continue?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir; so long as the negotiations continue, what we may call the voluntary moratorium continues.