HC Deb 29 January 1962 vol 652 cc674-6
1. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will now state the course and result of the negotiations between Her Majesty's Government and the Soviet Government which were resumed on 28th November, 1961, for the purpose of agreeing on a treaty banning nuclear weapon tests under effective international control; upon what points agreement has been reached; what points remain outstanding; and what steps are now being taken or planned to resolve the differences still outstanding.

28. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Lord Privy Seal what progress has been made in studying the Soviet plan for the banning of nuclear tests; and if he will make a statement.

40. Mr. P. Noel-Baker

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he will make a statement concerning the proposals made recently by Her Majesty's Government's representative to the Nuclear Tests Conference in Geneva.

The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. J. B. Godber)

It has proved impossible to make any headway with these resumed negotiations in view of the Soviet repudiation of those treaty articles already agreed and their refusal to discuss any alternative to their proposals tabled on 28th November. These, as has been made clear at the Conference, are unacceptable to Her Majesty's Government and the United States Government, since they make no provision for any form of international verification and control.

In view of the Soviet attitude, we made a fresh move to avoid deadlock. We proposed that the question of an appropriately controlled nuclear tests ban should be taken up at a very early stage by the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Committee.

The Soviet Union have now rejected this proposal without themselves making any constructive counter-proposals. The United States and United Kingdom are therefore today suggesting that the Conference should recess until the three Governments are able to establish a common basis for further negotiations.

Mr. Hughes

While thanking the Minister for that reply, may I ask whether he realises that the most powerful nations on earth, including the United States, Russia and Great Britain, all possessing nuclear power, have expressed themselves unequivocally in favour of the doctrine of peaceful co-existence? Can the hon. Gentleman state in detail why that doctrine cannot be translated into agreement by the great nations of the world?

Mr. Godber

I wish I could state it in detail here. We shall, of course, be starting, or we hope to be starting, disarmament discussions over the whole front in March, and I hope very much that we shall make progress then. This is undoubtedly a disappointment.

Mr. Allaun

While agreeing with the Anglo-American statement that the nuclear test ban should be given priority in the March talks, may I ask whether the hon. Gentleman will urge the American Government to withhold tests until that date, otherwise the conference will be doomed? If he made such a proposal, would it not then be possible to avoid the serious decision which apparently he has just announced?

Mr. Godber

We have to bear in mind that the tests were resumed not by the United States but by the Russians. The Russians unilaterally abrogated the suspension, which had been going on and by which we and the Americans had loyally abided, with this massive series of tests. In the light of that, I cannot add anything to what has been said previously on the subject.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

Will the hon. Gentleman ensure that the deadlock in the Nuclear Tests Conference is not simply transferred to the Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee? Will he also ensure that disarmament is discussed and not postponed until after the tests question has been settled?

Mr. Godber

It is our intention that the tests discussions shall go on at once. We suggested the transfer because we understood up to now that the Russians were prepared to consider international verification within the context of general disarmament, whereas they had refused to do it in the case of nuclear tests. Because we wanted to get over that hurdle we made this proposition. It was not our intention to delay things. We wanted to see progress.

Mr. Hughes

Would not these conferences have a better chance of success if they were held in public in order to bring the force of world opinion to bear upon them?

Mr. Godber

That is a rather doubtful proposition. Sometimes when they are held in public we find people speaking for the record rather than trying to get agreement.