HC Deb 15 November 1965 vol 720 cc677-9
39. Mr. G. Campbell

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what proposals he has put forward for nuclear-free zones in Africa, Latin America or Central Europe.

The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. George Thomson)

As a general principle we would welcome the creation of nuclear-free zones in certain areas and provided the appropriate conditions are fulfilled.

We are therefore watching with interest the efforts being made by African and Latin American states in this direction, but this is a matter primarily for the states concerned. Before a nuclear-free zone could be established in central Europe, a number of preconditions would have to be met. These include progress towards a political settlement in the area and in particular of the German question.

Mr. Campbell

The answer, therefore, appears to be "No". Have the Government taken any action on this proposal, which appeared on page 21 of the Labour Party's manifesto?

Mr. Thomson

I have stated our general welcome in principle for the idea of nuclear-free zones. We are following closely the efforts being made by a number of States in this direction. In particular, our Ambassador in Mexico City attended as an observer the last meeting of Latin American States to consider this.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

Would the Minister of State recommend to his right hon. Friend that he should lay a White Paper before the House on this important matter, on which many proposals have been made by Ministers in Governments of both parties over the last ten years?

Mr. Thomson

I will consult my right hon. Friend about my right hon. Friend's suggestion.

Lord Balniel

As the Labour Party manifesto states that the Labour Government will put forward constructive proposals for establishing nuclear-free zones in Africa, Central Europe and Latin America, and as in the many speeches he has made the British Minister at the Disarmament Conference has never once referred to this matter, are we to assume that it has been given a very low priority?

Mr. Thomson

I have just told the House that we welcome in principle the idea of nuclear-free zones and I have explained the kind of conditions in which we think this idea can be advanced. We think that nuclear-free zones could make a very useful contribution to bringing about non-proliferation, to which we attach the highest importance.