HC Deb 27 July 1964 vol 699 cc981-2
13. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on the progress achieved at the Geneva Disarmament Conference.

Mr. P. Thomas

The Conference reconvened on 9th June, after a recess. During its Tuesday meetings on general and complete disarmament, it has continued to discuss the reduction of nuclear delivery vehicles with particular attention to the possibility of forming a Working Group for technical consideration of this subject. The Thursday meetings have been devoted to collateral and partial measures. The agenda now agreed between the United States and Soviet Co-Chairmen provides for alternate discussion of items proposed by the two sides.

Mr. Henderson

How long does the hon. Gentleman expect the discussions to go on? They have been going on for about 12 years. Is there any possibility of narrowing the discussions on general disarmament with a view to securing a next-step agreement covering more limited objectives, such as the non-dissemination of nuclear weapons, the bonfire of bombers to which President Johnson attaches so much importance, and the freeze of nuclear strategic vehicles to which the Minister has referred?

Mr. Thomas

I do not think that it would be right to expect quick successes at Geneva. One must look for serious and detailed work rather than spectacular results. As to the collateral measures which the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned, we discuss these at one meeting every week and we certainly hope that we shall be able to reach an agreement on one of them. There is a general feeling, I believe, in Geneva at the moment that the prospects are good.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

The Minister said that we must not expect rapid results. Does he reflect that hundreds of millions of pounds are being spent every year on military research which improves the weapons and makes them more dangerous and disarmament more difficult? Has any progress been made in this matter of the freeze? What has been the Government's attitude towards it?

Mr. Thomas

The United States representative at Geneva has given the conference further explanations of this very complicated subject, the freeze, and he has received Her Majesty's Government's support throughout.