HC Deb 11 February 1964 vol 689 cc212-3
Q2. Mr. Zilliacus

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the Soviet delegate's statement at the Disarmament Commission that the setting up of a multilateral nuclear fleet would be an insuperable obstacle to an agreement on disarmament, he will propose to President Johnson at their meeting that this project should be abandoned.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

I have been asked to reply.

No, Sir.

Mr. Zilliacus

In view of the fact that the Prime Minister took the line that, whereas the military merits of the matter were still open to consideration and argument, the real reasons for the multilateral fleet were political, does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman take the view that it is more important to reach a disarmament agreement than to have a multilateral fleet at the cost of wrecking the chance of an agreement on disarmament? Or do the Government put disarmament last and war preparations first?

Mr. Lloyd

I am not sure that I follow the hon. Member's supplementary question. His Question was based on a suggested statement by the Soviet delegate to the Disarmament Conference that the setting up of a multilateral nuclear fleet would be an insuperable obstacle to an agreement on disarmament. There has been considerable doubt about whether he said anything of the sort. If one is to go by Tass, it quotes Mr. Tsarapkin as having declared to the Press on 24th January: I have never said that there can be no discussion of the question of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons until the United States gives up its plan for creating a multilateral nuclear force". The Question is based on a misapprehension.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

Nevertheless, does the Leader of the House recognise that the multilateral force has been an element of great difficulty in the discussions of the Committee of Eighteen?

Mr. Lloyd

I come back to the Question on the Order Paper. I think that it has now been clearly stated, if Tass is to be believed, that this suggestion is not an obstacle to the consideration of any plan for preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. Obviously, the factor to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred is a matter to be taken into account.