HC Deb 10 February 1964 vol 689 cc14-5
15. Mr. Driberg

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what progress towards a comprehensive test ban treaty has now been made at the Geneva Disarmament Conference.

Mr. P. Thomas

The most important progress towards a comprehensive test ban treaty I as, of course, been the signing and entry into force of the Treaty banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere in Outer Space and Under Water. Before we can ensure a complete ban, we must reach agreement on effective verification of at least some of the underground events which existing techniques can lot positively identify as earthquakes or nuclear explosions. When the Geneva Disarmament Conference resumed last month I reaffirmed Her Majesty's Government's readiness to take part in discussions of the capabilities of a system to detect and identify underground seismic events.

Mr. Driberg

Is the Minister of State aware that it is quite a time since that partial test ban agreement, which we all welcome, was signed? Can he say whether anything has happened in the last few weeks, or since the last statement was made—admittedly only a week ago? Is this matter being tackled with a real sense of urgency?

Mr. Thomas

Yes, Sir. We have undertaken to work for such a treaty, and we shall do so at the Disarmament Conference, but this means reaching agreement on the verification of underground tests.

Mr. Mayhew

Where is this item on the agenda, and what are the Government doing to bring it forward?

Mr. Thomas

As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have just had a general discussion, and agreement has not yet been reached on the agenda, but this matter was referred to in particular by myself, and by Mr. Foster for the Americans, when we said that we were prepared to have talks with the Russians on this subject. The Russians say that they wish to have a comprehensive treaty but that there is no need to have verification of underground tests.