HC Deb 25 July 1963 vol 681 cc1952-60

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Ian Fraser.]

11.1 p.m.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

With permission, I wish to make a statement.

As the House knows, the text of a Treaty to ban nuclear weapon tests in the atmosphere, in outer space, and underwater was initialled in Moscow this afternoon by representatives of the United States, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom. I will arrange for the text of the Treaty to be circulated in the Official Report.

The communiqué following the initialling has by agreement been published in Moscow at 10 p.m., in the United Kingdom at 8 p.m. and in the United States at 3 p.m. I regret that owing to the character of the business of the House today it was not possible for me to make this statement at 8 p.m. I thought, however, that it was proper courtesy to the House to make this statement at the earliest possible moment and before it appears in the newspapers tomorrow, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. Bidgood) for making this possible by giving up his Adjournment debate.

The following is the text of the communiqué. It is rather long, but I think the House would wish me to read it.

The special representatives of the President of the United States of America and of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, W. A. Harriman, Under-Secretary of State for political affairs of the United States, and Lord Hailsham, Lord President of the Council and Minister for Science for the United Kingdom, visited Moscow together with their advisers on July 14. Mr. Harriman and Lord Hailsham were received by the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the U.S.S.R., N. S. Khrushchev, who presided on July 15 at the first of a series of meetings to discuss questions relating to the discontinuance of nuclear tests, and other questions of mutual interest. Discussions were continued from July 16 to July 25 with A. A. Gromyko, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the U.S.S.R. During these discussions each principal was assisted by his advisers. The discussions took place in a businesslike and cordial atmosphere. Agreement was reached on the text of a Treaty banning nuclear weapons tests in the atmosphere, in outer space and underwater. This text is being published separately and simultaneously with this communique. It was initialled on July 25 by A. A. Gromyko, Mr. Harriman and Lord Hailsham. Mr. Harriman and Lord Hailsham, together with their advisers, will leave Moscow shortly to report and bring back the initialled texts to their respective Governments. Signature of the Treaty is expected to take place in the near future in Moscow. The heads of the three delegations agreed that the Test Ban Treaty constituted an important first step towards the reduction of international tension and the strengthening of peace, and they look forward to further progress in this direction. The heads of the three delegations discussed the Soviet proposal relating to a pact of non-aggression between the participants in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the participants in the Warsaw Treaty. The three Governments have agreed fully to inform their respective allies in the two organisations concerning these talks and to consult with them about continuing discussions on this question with the purpose of achieving agreement satisfactory to all participants. A brief exchange of views also took place with regard to other measures, directed at a relaxation of tension.

That is the end of the communiqué.

The spirit in which the negotiations have been conducted and the intentions of the three Governments concerned are well set out in the preamble to the Treaty, from which I should like to read a passage to the House. The preamble begins with these words:

"The Governments of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America, "Proclaiming as their principal aim the speediest possible achievement of an agreement on general and complete disarmament under strict international control in accordance with the objectives of the United Nations which would put an end to the armaments' race and eliminate the incentive to the pro- duction and testing of all kinds of weapons, including nuclear weapons, "Seeking to achieve the discontinuance of all test explosions of nuclear weapons for all time, determined to continue negotiations to this end and desiring to put an end to the contamination of man's environment by radio-active substances, Have agreed as follows:…………"

Then follows the text of the Treaty.

The communiqué which I have read to the House states that signature of the Treaty is expected to take place in the near future in Moscow. This seemed to us an appropriate plan since the final negotiations took place in Moscow, The House will wish to know that the United States Secretary of State and my noble Friend the Foreign Secretary intend to go to Moscow to sign at the earliest moment which proves to be mutually convenient to the three Governments concerned.

Throughout the final talks in Moscow we have kept in close touch with our North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies, and since France is in a special position in this matter President Kennedy and I today sent personal messages to President de Gaulle about the negotiations.

I should like to take this opportunity of paying a tribute both to my noble Friend the Lord President of the Council—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—and to Mr. Harriman for the skill and resourcefulness with which they have carried on these negotiations. It would also be right to acknowledge the spirit in which President Kennedy and, indeed, his predecessor, General Eisenhower, have approached this problem in discussions with us over the years. The United States, from its power, carries the heavier responsibility. This makes their contribution to the cause of peace all the more impressive.

Finally, I think that it would be right to express our thanks to the Chairman of the Soviet Council of Ministers, Mr. Khrushchev, for his readiness to accept the only practicable way in which a step forward could be made in this field.

The House will, I know, understand my own feelings at seeing at last the result of efforts made over many years and of hopes long deferred. I am deeply grateful that it has fallen to me to report this agreement to the House, not only becuase of the value which it has in itself but also because of the hope which it offers of further progress in the future.

Mr. Harold Wilson (Huyton)

The House, and I think people all over the world, will be thankful at the conclusion of this agreement. I hope that the House will permit me, on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, to offer congratulations to all the three Governments concerned.

If the Prime Minister will allow me to say this, I think the United States and ourselves showed great wisdom in dropping at the right moment insistence on a fully inspected agreement covering underground tests as well—which all of us would have liked—and concentrating on the more limited, but still important and useful, agreement covering tests in space, in the atmosphere and, of course, under water. The Prime Minister will recall that after our own talks in Moscow we reported to him and his colleagues that there was more hope in this direction, I think, than in going the whole way.

I think that the speed with which this has been reached, because it is a very important field of discussion, has shown great realism on the part of all three negotiators.

I should like to ask the Prime Minister two or three questions. Of course, we may have the answers to these when we have the text of the Agreement. I have seen newspaper reports that the Soviet negotiators have shown some willingness to consider proposals for the creation of non-nuclear zones—I think that Africa, in particular, was mentioned, and there may be others. Would the right hon. Gentleman say, first, whether there have been any discussions on this and whether the further negotiations now hoped for will enable speedy progress to be made in the creation of nuclear-free zones? If Africa could become guaranteed by all the major Powers to be completely free from nuclear experiments and the stationing of nuclear weapons, I am sure that the House would agree that that would be a big step forward.

Secondly, can the right hon. Gentleman say at this stage, without having had a full oral report from the Lord President of the Council, how far there has been discussion or preliminary discussion on the possibility of a complete anti-pro- liferation agreement to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to Powers which at present are non-nuclear? Something from the right hon. Gentleman on that aspect would be of great interest tonight.

Finally, in view of suggestions in the Press this morning that there was an escape clause which could be invoked by any party if explosions, experiments, were conducted by France, China or any other Power—which, to some extent, would be a disappointment to us all—could the Prime Minister tell us, without waiting for the publication of all the details, whether such an escape clause exists?

The Prime Minister

To take the right hon. Gentleman's last question first, there is a withdrawal clause. However, I would prefer to study that in the Treaty and the text, which is carefully drawn up.

On the other two questions, the communiqué makes reference to discussions on methods of reducing tension. I think that it would be wiser for me to leave it at that tonight. We have to consult with our allies and we have to prepare very carefully the next stage. If this has been successful, it is because very careful preparations were made.

I hoped that the House would not press meto say anything further, except this: that I am very anxious that we should regard this not as something in itself but as a step. It is something very valuable in itself. There is an old saying that it is the first step that counts. This is the first step for many years, and I believe that it will count.

Mr. Donald Wade (Huddersfield, West)

May I join with other hon. Members in welcoming wholeheartedly the agreement which has been reached in Moscow and express the wish that this will indeed be a step towards general disarmament? I do not want to press the Prime Minister, in view of what he said, on the withdrawal clause, but may I ask him this? I am sure that we all hope that General de Gaulle will not now proceed with independent tests. May we take it that the agreement which has been reached is not dependent upon the action of other members of N.A.T.O., including France?

The Prime Minister

I think that when he reads the Treaty the hon. Member will be satisfied that it is the most comprehensive that it was possible to make in present circumstances. With regard to the future, I can only repeat what I have said: it is our hope that, in spite of the many difficulties which we foresee, we shall be able to exploit this first advance to make greater progress.

Mr. A. Henderson

As one who has frequently pressed the Prime Minister on these matters, may I be allowed to say how warmly I welcome his announcement, which may well turn out to be a turning point in East-West relations. Would he now take the view that the road has been cleared for a meeting of the three Heads of Government, and any other Heads of Government, with, a view to bringing about a settlement of some of the outstanding international problems which have been dividing East and West in recent years?

The Prime Minister

There is a road to be cleared, and no doubt there will be obstructions and difficulties. I am very grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for what he has said—he has been most patient and sympathetic and helpful in his questions and his interest—but I think that it would be wiser for me to leave these matters tonight where they are for the further study we shall all need ourselves, and with our friends and allies.

Sir C. Osborne

As a back bencher on this side of the House, may I offer my warmest congratulations to the Prime Minister on pursuing this policy for so many years against many difficulties, and, on behalf of everyone in the House and in the country, congratulate him on this first step, and hope that it is only a first step to a complete understanding between East and West?

Mr. Wigg

Would the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to tell us whether this instrument is subject to the ratification of the United States Senate, or whether it will come into operation right away as an Act of the present Administration?

The Prime Minister

I understand that according to the Constitution of the United States, since it is a treaty, it requires ratification by the Senate.

Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

May I ask the Prime Minister whether we are to understand from the latter part of the communiqué that the Lord President of the Council will remain in Moscow to pursue the exchanges about other aspects although these will be the subject of later contacts?

The Prime Minister

I think that it is the intention of Mr. Harriman and Lord Hailsham to return on Saturday. They will, no doubt, have some discussions tomorrow and then I think that the Foreign Secretary and Mr. Rusk intend to go out, whatever the date is—quite soon—and no doubt that will be an opportunity to have further talks then. That is the programme as I understand it.

Mr. G. W. Reynolds (Islington, North)

In this very welcome Treaty, signed by three countries, is there provision for other countries to subscribe to it? If so, will the right hon. Gentleman consult the Governments which have already signed to see what action can be taken through the Commonwealth or other channels to try to make as many other countries as possible sign the Treaty?

The Prime Minister

Yes, it is an important part of the Treaty to make provision for what the hon. Gentleman has in mind. When he sees the Treaty he will see the arrangement proposed for adherence by other countries.

Sir Hendrie Oakshott (Bebington)

Following my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne), may I be permitted to say that this is a moment which a great many of us on the back benches value enormously. We recognise the work not only of those who have laboured so long to bring this thing about, the labours of the officials of all ranks, besides my right hon. Friend. Here is a chink, as it were, in the wall which has barred everything for so long, and we all congratulate my right hon. Friend on what he has been able to achieve.

The Prime Minister

I am grateful for what my hon. Friend has said. I should like, if I may, to emphasise again that with this success, for it is a success, and is, of course, deeply moving to us all, we must not be disappointed if we do not do everything we would like to do at once. It has taken a long time, and we have got to have the same patience and persistence in the years which lie ahead as we have had in the years which lie behind us.

Mr. J. J. Mendelson (Penistone)

Is the Prime Minister aware that with the general welcome to the Treaty which has been achieved there will be widespread support for the references to the proposed non-aggression agreement between the N.A.T.O. pact countries and the Warsaw pact countries, and will he do everything he can to advance this proposed agreement which will ensure much more security in Central Europe and form another hopeful basis for future agreements?

The Prime Minister

I think that the communiqué I have read covers that point.

Mr. John Cronin (Loughborough)

I should like to reiterate the gratification expressed, by my right hon. and hon. Friends, and ask whether the right hon. Gentleman can say whether any steps are being taken to associate the French Government with this Treaty?

The Prime Minister

As I have said in my statement, President Kennedy and I have sent messages to General de Gaulle on the whole situation, describing the negotiations and their outcome. We now await the result of our communications.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)

Would the Prime Minister also think it right that we should pay a tribute to the work done by the eight non-aligned nations in the Committee of Eighteen in Geneva, which made a very intensive study of this subject during the early months of this year?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. I think that all that work and all the work done by all kinds of organisations over the years has had its cumulative effect, and that all share in the gratification we feel.

Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the first simple and elementary fact that the world will welcome—and he is in a better position than anyone else to know of this—is that the poisoning of man's environment is to end? Is he further aware that this step forward to an agreement which will stop poisoning the earth is a first-class move? I do not want to press him about a non-aggression pact, because I know that he and his advisers will work for these things as much as any other party which might get into power.

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his very generous words.

Mr. Norman Cole (Bedfordshire, South)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that we may consider this step as the prelude to what I believe will be the first treaty of Moscow, thanks to his efforts and the efforts of others, and that we in this House are thankful for what we have and have faith in what is yet to come?

The Prime Minister indicated assent.

Following is the Text of the Treaty:

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