HC Deb 13 March 1962 vol 655 cc1118-9
Q4. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the recently expressed misgivings of Mr. Khrushchev, he will now give an assurance that Her Majesty's Government will seek to arrange a summit conference before any resumption of atmospheric testing.

The Prime Minister

The essential need is for an agreement on the banning of nuclear tests. I hope that the negotiations now taking place in Geneva will show us the way towards such an agreement. As I said in my message to Mr. Khrushchev on 6th March, I am ready to go to Geneva at any stage when it appears that such action can be of positive value.

Mr. Henderson

Can we be assured that in the event of the Geneva negotiations proceeding satisfactorily successful results will not be jeopardised by a resumption of atmospheric tests on Christmas Island or anywhere else?

The Prime Minister

The President has said that the tests will not begin until well after the beginning of the coming meetings at Geneva, and this will provide a real opportunity to see whether the Russians are ready to negotiate seriously.

Mr. Gaitskell

Will the Prime Minister make a little clearer his views of the circumstances in which a summit conference might be valuable? Is it not the case that in addition to the idea that the summit conference would put the seal upon any agreement which was reached between the Foreign Ministers it might also be extremely important to prevent a complete breakdown in the negotiations?

The Prime Minister

That is a point to which I did refer in my letter to Mr. Khrushchev.

Mr. Allaun

Since atmospheric tests can already be detected by existing means, why could not agreement now be reached to the extent of accepting the ending of tests which are able to be detected by existing national means?

The Prime Minister

My own view is that it should be possible to reach full agreement on the whole problem. If there is serious negotiation, I am sure that both the President and I would wish to take full advantage of that.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

The Prime Minister has said that he is taking personal responsibility for our share in the disarmament committee, and we all welcome that statement. Does he think, however, that he can do that in any significant sense unless he takes part in the Committee's deliberations at an early stage and revisits it from time to time?

The Prime Minister

What I have tried to say represents the facts. The conference is just about to open, and it has been generally agreed that it should not be attended by Heads of Government at the opening stage.

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