HC Deb 21 June 1965 vol 714 cc1168-71
5. Viscount Lambton

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what actions have been taken by the Minister of Disarmament towards achieving disarmament.

10. Mr. Blaker

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what new proposals Her Majesty's Government have with regard to disarmament.

18. Mr. Eldon Griffiths

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is satisfied with the progress being made in preparing for another Geneva Disarmament Conference; and if he will make a statement.

25. Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what new proposals Her Majesty's Government have laid before the United Nations Disarmament Commission for implementing the freeze of nuclear weapon delivery vehicles proposed by President Johnson.

The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Mr. Michael Stewart)

As the House is aware, Her Majesty's Government have played a full part in the discussions at the United Nations Disarmament Commission in New York, which ended its Session on 16th June. Before it closed, the Commission adopted a Resolution which called, amongst other things, for the Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Conference at Geneva to "reconvene as early as possible". It is our view that the Geneva Conference is the most experienced and business-like body for detailed consideration of disarmament questions, and the one most likely to be able to make progress towards agreement on the measures under discussion. We hope that it will prove possible to agree on an early date for a resumption of the Geneva Conference.

As regards the proposed freeze on nuclear delivery vehicles, we should like to see progress made towards agreement on President Johnson's proposal. This is a measure which we think might be combined with the destruction of some of these weapons. We hope that there will be detailed discussion of these ideas as soon as the Geneva Conference reassembles.

Viscount Lambton

With great respect, the Foreign Secretary does not seem to have answered the Question. I asked what the Minister of Disarmament does when these conferences are not taking place? Will he also say what was the purpose of the visit of the Minister of Disarmament to the Scandinavian countries? Was it his intention to disarm them?

Mr. Stewart

Perhaps the noble Lord will put down the last part of his supplementary question as a Question on the Order Paper. In general, the work of my noble Friend is to conduct a complete review of disarmament policy. There are a number of fields in which we think an advance could be made, but they require very detailed study, and on that my noble Friend is engaged.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Does the Foreign Secretary agree that the People's Republic of China, in recently exploding nuclear weapons, has not helped in any way towards the efforts now being made by this Government, and by many other Governments, for disarmament? Would he also agree that the Minister of State in another place is certainly one of the most under-employed Members of the Government?

Mr. Stewart

The answer to the first part of the supplementary question is certainly "Yes", and, to the second, equally certainly, "No".

Mr. Noel-Baker

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the Chinese nuclear explosions make the whole question of disarmament even more urgent than it was before? Has not the Minister of State helped in New York to make a strong demand for the end of the disastrous drift we have had in this matter for the last 13 years? Can the Foreign Secretary say what proposals he has for reforming the Committee of Eighteen, and ensuring that its work shall be more efficient?

Mr. Stewart

The procedure of the Committee of Eighteen is something that the Committee itself decides. We want to see it proceed rather more speedily, but our first task is to get that Committee started, because that is the best instrument we have at the moment for these discussions.

Mr. Maudling

Does the Foreign Secretary recall that last October he and his colleagues were convinced that the time was opportune for a new breakthrough in the disarmament negotiations and that they were going to take an initiative? What has happened to that initiative?

Mr. Stewart

I have explained that there are a number of fields in which we think an advance can be made, but these need careful study and preparation.

Mr. Peter Thomas

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether there is any new field other than the fields which we explored a year and more ago where he thinks that an advance can be made? If so, could he name one of those fields, because we have had a total absence of any new thinking from the Minister of State for Disarmament, particularly on the United Nations Commission? Will the Foreign Secretary say in regard to the Eighteen-Nation Conference—as it is now June—when he hopes that it will be reconvened because, if we are fortunate, it will soon be time for the General Assembly?

Mr. Stewart

I hope that the conference will be resumed as soon as possible, but, as the hon. and learned Member knows, that is a matter for the Governments of the United States and Soviet Union. The measures we are particularly concerned with are a non-dissemination treaty, the extension of the Test Ban Treaty and a freeze, combined with the destruction of some nuclear vehicles. There are then some larger questions affecting European problems and a reduction in nuclear weapons generally which, as I said, require further study.

Mr. Rankin

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that it would be of the greatest help to disarmament if President Johnson stopped unfreezing his bombs over North Vietnam?

Mr. Stewart

There are Questions on that subject to be asked a little later.