HC Deb 02 August 1962 vol 664 cc793-4
Q8. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Prime Minister if he will consult Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Khrushchev about installing direct telephone communication between their three countries for emergency use to lessen the dangers of accidental war.

The Prime Minister

This suggestion appears in both the United States and Soviet disarmament proposals as part of a Stage I measure to prevent war by accident. The United States, with the support of Her Majesty's Government, proposed in Geneva on 19th July that such measures could be set up in advance of a treaty on general and complete disarmament. Discussions are continuing at Geneva and in the circumstances I think it would be premature to approach Mr. Kennedy or Mr. Khrushchev direct.

Mr. Allaun

While thanking the Prime Minister for that fairly sympathetic reply, may I ask whether he does not agree, since the growth in the number of nuclear weapons makes it likely that sooner or later an accident will occur and the hydrogen bomb land on another country, perhaps by miscalculation of an individual commander, that such direct contact could prevent immediate retaliation and the wiping out of mankind in another world war?

The Prime Minister

There are two quite separate points, one, the proposals we have already made, and which, I hope, will be pursued successfully, and the other is the degree of command which is exercised by the various authorities on both sides.

Mr. A. Henderson

In view of the fact that the House is going into Recess for almost three months, may we take it that the Prime Minister will carry out his previously expressed intention of keeping in personal contact not only with President Kennedy but with Mr. Khrushchev whenever he thinks it possible that some advance might be made in these disarmament negotiations?

The Prime Minister

Yes, we will do all our best to forward the purposes about which I know the right hon. and learned Gentleman feels so deeply, and which I certainly share.

Mrs. Hart

In view of the fact that this is almost the first admission in this House of Commons by the Government that there is in fact a danger of war by accident, in spite of the fact that this has been brought to the notice of the Government during the last eighteen months, will the right hon. Gentleman, in following up the suggestion of my hon. Friend and the suggestion made by Mr. Kennedy, undertake to look at other possible causes of war by miscalculation as they are outlined in the Mershon Report of the Rand Corporation on America?

The Prime Minister

I do not know that this is the first admission. The United States Government, supported by Her Majesty's Government, have made some proposals which, I hope, the Government of the Soviet Union will accept.