HC Deb 27 February 1967 vol 742 cc66-8
3. Mr. Dodds-Parker

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what new action has been taken by the Minister for Disarmament about a non-proliferation treaty.

6. Mr. Sandys

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement about the progress of negotiations for a nuclear non-proliferation treaty; and what reports he has received about the policy of the French and German Governments towards the draft now under discussion between the United States and Soviet Governments.

12. Mr. Winnick

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what progress has now been made in having a nuclear non-proliferation treaty signed; and what reply he has received from the West German Government to the proposals which he has put to them.

The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. George Brown)

Proposals for a non-proliferation treaty have been discussed with the Soviet Union and our North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies. Discussions are continuing in Geneva at the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Conference. My noble Friend the Minister of State with special responsibility for disarmament has played a full part in this consultation and is at present in Geneva. Good progress has been made but considerable problems remain.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

May I welcome the Foreign Secretary back, but regret that he had to leave the important talks which are going on at The Hague? Can he say how many non-nuclear Powers he reckons are likely to sign this non-proliferation treaty, particularly potential nuclear Powers which represent the key to this difficult problem?

Mr. Brown

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for the remarks at the beginning of his supplementary question. In a situation in which either course had difficulties, I tried to consult the convenience of the House first.

To answer the second part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, I think that it would not be useful for me to speculate, except to say that we hope that this treaty will be signed as quickly as possible and that everybody will adhere to it.

Mr. Sandys

While warmly welcoming the progress that has been made in reconciling the American and Russian points of view, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to say what steps are being taken to ascertain from the non-nuclear Powers what safeguards they would require in order to induce them to sign away their right to acquire nuclear weapons?

Mr. Brown

We are, of course, very well aware of the fact that the non-nuclear Powers may well be very concerned about the situation for them unless guarantees or some other assurances are given. The right hon. Gentleman may take it from me that we are in close touch with a number of them about this matter and are sympathetic to their problems and requirements. However, I believe that the great thing is to press on with getting the treaty discussions further forward, and I very much regret that last Monday it was not tabled at the beginning of the 18-nation meeting in Geneva. If we can get it tabled and secure discussions on the clauses which are agreed, we can then discuss the other problems, too.

Mr. Winnick

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the concern that has been expressed in many quarters about the attitude and hesitation towards this treaty on the part of the West Germans? Would my right hon. Friend also say whether he believes that this treaty will allow the nuclear Powers to go a stage further towards nuclear disarmament?

Mr. Brown

It would be wrong, at this very critical moment, to get this treaty, which is tremendously valuable in itself, linked up with the wider issues of disarmament. The position of West Germany is the same as that applying to many other Powers which are not nuclear weapon Powers; they are wondering whether this treaty would, in fact, discriminate against them or disadvantage them in terms of civil nuclear use. We believe that there is no point in this argument, but we are, of course, willing, and are at the moment engaged in discussing, this matter with them.

Mr. Bellenger

In view of what my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Winnick) said about Germany, may I ask whether my right hon. Friend is aware that it is more likely that France, which has some reason to call itself an elementary nuclear Power, will certainly not agree to the treaty? Does it follow that if our N.A.T.O. allies do not agree, then there is no agreement?

Mr. Brown

I think that my right hon. Friend is taking much too pessimistic a view. On this particular day it would be wrong for me to start discriminating between one European Power and another.

Mr. James Davidson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, for example, India is very unlikely to sign such a treaty so long as Communist China is also not a signatory?

Mr. Brown

I do not know how much an authority the hon. Gentleman is on the Indian Government's attitude and intentions. I can only say for myself that I hope that all Powers will sign this very necessary treaty.