HC Deb 12 June 1967 vol 748 cc78-82
23. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on progress towards internationalising Great Britain's nuclear deterrent.

31. Mr. Blaker

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to what extent the Nassau Agreement of December, 1962, remains in force.

41. Sir T. Beamish

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what proportion of the United Kingdom's nuclear strike capacity is assigned to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the Central Treaty Organisation and the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation; and to what extent Her Majesty's Government retains the right claimed at the Bahamas meeting in December, 1962, to withdraw such forces should supreme national interests be at stake.

The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Frederick Mulley)

Our nuclear weapons are already internationalised to the extent that the V-bombers are assigned to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and targeted in accordance with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation requirements. Similar arrangements are envisaged for the Polaris force when it becomes operational. Certain of our aircraft with a nuclear capability are declared to the Central Treaty Organisation and to the South East Asia Treaty Organisation.

Although, as my right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary has said, we can conceive of no situation where it would make sense for this country alone to use these weapons, the right to use our strategic nuclear forces independently continues if our supreme national interests are at stake.

Mr. Marten

In other words, the situation is exactly the same as it was and has been for the last two and a half years? Is this not entirely against what the Labour Party said during the election?

Mr. Mulley

On the contrary, we shall continue to consider ways of internationalising our nuclear forces. We have already made considerable progress in this direction by joint targeting arrangements, and by the new N.A.T.O. nuclear consultative machinery which, as the House knows, has been the priority in N.A.T.O. in the last years.

Mr. Blaker

Since the Government have now made it clear that British Polaris submarines will be assigned to N.A.T.O. on terms which will permit of their being withdrawn, will it, after all, be necessary to renegotiate the Nassau Agreement and, if so why?

Mr. Mulley

As I have already said, the priority in N.A.T.O., a priority which the Government support, has been to establish collective consultative and planning machinery. When this is working properly, the other question raised by the hon. Member will no doubt be further considered.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

In view of the very dangerous crises which the arms race is continually bringing, are the Government still considering methods of abolishing all nuclear stocks?

Mr. Mulley

This has been the Government's objective and, as my right hon. Friend knows, we have put forward proposals for general and complete disarmament. I hope that the non-proliferation treaty in Geneva will come along as an important step in that direction.

Lord Balniel

Am I not right in remembering that the first priority in the defence policy of hon. Gentlemen opposite was to renegotiate the Nassau Agreement?

Mr. Mulley

I have no recollection of that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]

Mr. William Hamilton

Would my right hon. Friend say whether he conceives of any possible circumstances in which we would "go it alone" with nuclear weapons?

Mr. Mulley

I can conceive of no such circumstances and in my original Answer that was exactly what I said.

Mr. Marten

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek leave to raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.

27. Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on the progress towards a non-proliferation agreement.

37. Mr. Luard

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the difficulties that have arisen over the conclusion of a non-proliferation treaty, Her Majesty's Government will offer to open British non-military nuclear establishments to international inspection on the same basis as is proposed for non-nuclear powers.

49. Mr. A. Royle

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what progress has been made towards an agreement on a treaty banning the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Mr. Mulley

I explained on 5th June the efforts that we are making to get an agreed draft non-proliferation treaty tabled at Geneva. Recent events in the Middle East have underlined the need to negotiate the treaty as quickly as possible.—[Vol. 747, c. 100.]

Mr. Lyon

While agreeing emphatically with the final sentiments of that Answer, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he is preparing now to take a new initiative to allay the suspicions of those Powers who are concerned about conveying their secrets to an inspectorate in relation to non-military nuclear installations? What is being done about this by the British Government?

Mr. Mulley

I am sure that it is right that we ensure that civil use of nuclear power is in no way impeded by such a treaty but, until a draft treaty is tabled by the co-Chairmen of the 18-Nations Disarmament Committee, it is not possible to discuss in a wider circle the point raised by my hon. Friend. I hope that this draft treaty will be tabled very shortly.

Mr. Luard

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to answer Question No. 37, as he has not yet done so? Can he say whether the Government are prepared to make an offer of opening nuclear installations to the same kind of international inspection that the non-nuclear Governments are being asked to accept, as a means of overcoming some of the objections which have been raised by the West German and other Governments on this point?

Mr. Mulley

As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said on 17th April, we are considering what we can do regarding safeguards of our peaceful nuclear facilities. I can give my hon. Friend the assurance that we will bear in mind the point that he has made.

Mr. Lubbock

What proposals are being made by the Government regarding the sale of enriched uranium to non-nuclear Powers for civil purposes, in order to be absolutely certain that they are not subsequently used for military purposes?

Mr. Mulley

This question is one of the matters that cannot be very fruitfully pursued until we get a draft treaty tabled. This is the most urgent thing that we can do in this direction.

Mr. Frank Allaun

To overcome the objections of certain, at present non-nuclear Powers, will the Government consider, if not unconditional relinquishment of the British nuclear bomb, at least giving it up in return for these Powers signing the pact?

Mr. Mulley

It is a little premature to go as far as that before we actually have a draft treaty. In the present situation, I do not think that a unilateral act of that kind on our part would assist.

Lord Balniel

How does this draft agreement differ from the draft agreement under discussion in 1963 with the United States Government?

Mr. Mulley

The treaty which is under discussion between the American and Soviet Union Governments has not yet been published, so it is difficult to say in what respects it will differ, but it will differ on a number of important points.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Is not that strange? Did not the Prime Minister tell me that he had searched all the pigeonholes in the Foreign Office for this draft left by the last Government in 1963 and could not find it? How does he know that it differs?

Hon. Members


Mr. Mulley

We are dealing with a rather hypothetical situation until we have a draft treaty at Geneva.