HC Deb 12 February 1962 vol 653 cc917-8
Mr. H. Wilson

(by Private Notice) asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he will make a statement about the reply received from the Soviet Government to the proposal made last Wednesday for Foreign Ministers to open the disarmament talks.

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Edward Heath)

A joint reply by Mr. Khrushchev to their letter of 7th February has been given to the President and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in identical terms. Mr. Khrushchev suggests a different procedure from the one that we have envisaged and he has also communicated this to the other Governments represented at the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Conference.

Mr. Khrushchev's reply is being considered in consultation with our allies.

Mr. Wilson

The right hon. Gentleman is aware that we on this side of the House, as I am sure does the Minister, welcome the fact that Mr. Khrushchev recognises the need for high-level talks before, perhaps, final and very grave decisions are taken on the question of disarmament. While it is obviously necessary to consider this proposal as against the Foreign Minis- tern' meeting, and while they are connected, the two are not necessarily incompatible. Would the right hon. Gentleman give a clear assurance to the House—as we asked him last week—that there will be no resumption of tests, either by Britain or by the United States of America, until a real effort has been made at Geneva to agree on a multilateral tests ban agreement?

Mr. Heath

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it is to be welcomed that Mr. Khrushchev should have responded to the initiative of the President and the Prime Minister, and I accept, as the right hon. Gentleman says, that there should be a beginning at a high level. We are, of course, giving close consideration to the particular proposal that Mr. Khrushchev has made.

The last part of the right hon. Gentleman's supplementary question is a different matter and, in any case, there is a Question down about that to my right lion. Friend the Prime Minister tomorrow.

Mr. P. Williams

Would not Mr. Khrushchev's reply imply that he is not as worried about the tests as is the Opposition, and that, therefore, it is important that Her Majesty's Government should leave their hands free on this matter? Furthermore, does not this show the likelihood of being able to get conversations started at the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Conference, which is a welcome reply to the Prime Minister's initiative last week?

Mr. Heath

Yes, Sir. I have already said that we welcome this reply to that initiative.

Mr. Rankin

Will the right hon. Gentleman say exactly what is meant by the phrase "the West"? Is it now condensed to mean Britain and America? What is the rôle of Britain in relation to America when decisions are taken?

Mr. Heath

I do not see the point of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question. I am not discussing the West.

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