HC Deb 23 January 1962 vol 652 cc23-7
Q2. Mrs. Butler

asked the Prime Minister what was the nature of his talks in Bermuda with President Kennedy about a resumption of British nuclear tests.

Q3 Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Prime Minister (1) if he will make a statement about his talks with President Kennedy regarding proposals for solving the German problem;

(2) if he will make a statement about his talks with President Kennedy regarding the resumption of nuclear test explosions.

Q5. Mr. Gordon Walker

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement about his recent talks with President Kennedy in Bermuda.

Q6. Mr. Reynolds

asked the Prime Minister why it was decided at his meeting with President Kennedy in Bermuda to resume atmospheric testing; and what estimate he has made of the military value of such testing.

Q11. Mr. Warbey

asked the Prime Minister what conclusions were drawn by President Kennedy and himself from their joint study at the Bermuda Conference of the Bethe report on the recent Soviet nuclear tests.

Q15. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Prime Minister to what extent during his meeting with President Kennedy he discussed the possibility of nuclear tests being resumed.

Q18. Mr. John Rankin

asked the Prime Minister what arrangement he reached in his recent talks with the President of the United States of America at Bermuda about making Christmas Island available to the United States Government for the testing of nuclear weapons.

The Prime Minister

Hon. Members will have read the joint communiqué which was issued on 22nd December by President Kennedy and myself after our meeting. Our talks were private and it would not be proper for me to enlarge further upon them.

Mrs. Butler

Does the Prime Minister realise that ordinary people in this country, who are very concerned about nuclear tests and who have entrusted him with very great power over their lives, would welcome his assurance that in no circumstances will he resume nuclear tests and that in no circumstances will he make available Christmas Island or any other British territory to the United States for a resumption of nuclear tests?

The Prime Minister

I note what the hon. Lady says, but I have nothing to add to the statement I made on 31st October.

Mr. Allaun

Since atmospheric tests can be detected by existing means, could not the West suspend these tests so long as Russia did the same?

Turning to my Question about Germany, if negotiations are further delayed, will there not be a real danger of Khrushchev being replaced by more intransigent men? In other words, is not he the best Soviet Prime Minister we have?

The Prime Minister

Those supplementary questions raise rather large issues which it is difficult to deal with by question and answer.

Mr. Reynolds

Since all the experts seem to agree that the Russians obtained no military advantage from their last series of tests, can the Prime Minister tell us exactly what it is we have got to try to catch up with, and, in view of the fact that it has been repeatedly stated by American spokesmen that the Western Powers already have a second strike force equivalent at least to anything which can be delivered from the East at the first strike, what exactly is the purpose of continuing with tests?

The Prime Minister

The evaluation of the effect of the Russian tests is still going on among the experts, and I would not accept as accurate the phrase which the hon. Member used.

Mr. Warbey

As the Bethe report, to which I refer in my Question, shows that the Soviet tests produced very little fall-out and were of very definite military value and that even the 50 megaton bomb could have a military use, and since this contradicts not only the declaration of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Reynolds) but also that of the Prime Minister himself at the time, will the right hon. Gentleman agree that these tests are all a part of the nuclear arms race and that the real answer is to get on urgently with multilateral disarmament?

The Prime Minister

Regarding the first part of that supplementary question, the hon. Gentleman will not expect me to answer questions about an unpublished report made to the United States Administration. Regarding the second part, no one is more anxious than we are, all of us, to see if we can make progress with disarmament, properly organised and properly inspected.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

In view of the horror and indignation which the Prime Minister expressed at the Russian atomic tests, will he give a definite assurance that Christmas Island will not be given to the Americans for the purpose of these tests?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir.

Mr. Rankin

Does the right hon. Gentleman regard the testing of nuclear weapons as being of military necessity? If so, does he not agree that these tests should be carried out within the boundaries of the nations that think that way, and not among peoples with whom at no time has he had any consultation as to whether or not they want the tests carried out in their territories?

The Prime Minister

I really have nothing to add on the military side to what I said on 31st October. With regard to the general question, I will make a statement at the appropriate time.

Mr. Gaitskell

Would the Prime Minister answer two questions arising out of the communiqué issued after the talks? Firstly, can he say whether the discussions about the possible resumption of nuclear tests were concerned with joint testing by the United States and the United Kingdom, or with testing by the United States alone? Secondly, can he say whether, in fact, a request was made by the United States Government for facilities on Christmas Island?

The Prime Minister

I should not like to go further than the communiqué at the present time. At the earliest possible moment I will make a further statement.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is the Prime Minister nevertheless aware that there has been a great deal of speculation in the Press? Is it not most desirable that these points—and at least the ones I have put—should be cleared up at the earliest possible moment, especially the points about whether we are involved in this and whether a formal request was made for Christmas Island? Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that no further steps will be taken either by ourselves or by the United States, so far as atmospheric tests are concerned, before further negotiations on disarmament have begun?

The Prime Minister

I hope that I will be able to make a statement shortly on this whole question, but I should prefer to wait until the terms of it are ready. [HON. MEMBERS: "When?"]