HC Deb 21 March 1963 vol 674 cc569-70
Q2. Mr. G. M. Thomson

asked the Prime Minister if he will take steps to set up a Department of Disarmament with a senior Minister in charge of it.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. Disarmament is closely linked with the fundamental responsibilities of the Foreign Secretary and the Minister of Defence. My hon. Friend the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs already has special responsibility, under the Foreign Secretary, for disarmament and devotes a very large part of his time to it.

Mr. Thomson

Is the Prime Minister aware that, arising from the recent exchanges on this subject, there is a great deal of feeling among independent observers at Geneva that the British Government are failing to take an adequate lead in bringing the two sides together? Would it not help towards this end to change the governmental arrangements here and to treat disarmament as a separate subject and give it a powerful voice of its own inside the Cabinet?

The Prime Minister

I do not think it is a question of a voice inside the Cabinet. The problem which I have to try to solve is how best to get an agreement, whether on a test ban or on disarmament. That depends, as we know, on getting a move which is acceptable to the two greatest of the nuclear Powers, and, in my view, that depends largely on the personal decision made by the Chairman of the Soviet Union.