HC Deb 27 November 1968 vol 774 cc501-5
The Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Frederick Malley)

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I wish to make a statement on the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

As the House knows, Her Majesty's Government consider it vitally important to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons by bringing the Non-Proliferation Treaty into force at an early date.

As foreshadowed in the Queen's Speech, and in order to give renewed impetus to the Treaty, we are today depositing our instruments of ratification. We hope that other States will follow our example as soon as possible.

Mr. Wood

Does this take us very much further beyond the point that we had reached before the Recess? Second, as he has taken this further step, could the right hon. Gentleman say anything further about the security arrangements for non-nuclear Powers? Third, can he, with his right hon. Friend, give an assurance that before there are any developments this House will have the chance of a debate, which, I think, was pressed on him on the last occasion from both sides?

Mr. Mulley

On the last point, we debated this after the signature of the Treaty in July and, of course, it was mentioned in the Queen's Speech, so it was open to any hon. Member during that considerable debate to raise matters affecting our ratification of the Treaty.

As to whether it takes us further, we must ratify before the Treaty can come into force. A lead is needed at present, and I am happy that the Government are giving a lead in disarmament.

As to the security assurances, these were, as I reported, welcomed by the Security Council and the resolution was adopted.

Mr. Pavitt

While congratulating my right hon. Friend on his success in this venture of pressing for the further implementation, may I ask whether he has been able to make any further progress with the Labour Party's policy of a nuclear-free zone?

Mr. Mulley

The nuclear-free zone in Europe really falls under general N.A.T.O.-Warsaw Pact considerations and would be outside the detailed provisions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, although, of course, if all the European countries sign, it will have the same effect as a nuclear-free zone.

Mr. James Davidson

Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that, perhaps, one of the useful by-products of the recent financial crisis is that France, although not a signatory of the Treaty, will have to curtail her nuclear programme, nevertheless? Have any steps been taken through normal diplomatic channels to get both Communist China and India to sign the Treaty, since if one does not sign the other obviously will not?

Mr. Mulley

It is unlikely that France will sign the Treaty, but she made clear in a number of public statements that she would behave as if she had. China, in view of the harsh terms in which she has described the Treaty, is unlikely to change her mind. We hope that India will one day adhere to the Treaty, although present indications are that she is unwilling to adhere to it in its present form.

Mr. Brooks

Would my right hon. Friend agree that some non-nuclear Powers may be reluctant to sign the Treaty as long as the present nuclear Powers are able to continue underground testing? Is he aware of recent evidence that it is now possible to distinguish such tests from earthquakes and other physical phenomena?

Mr. Mulley

I am obliged. One of the important aspects of the Treaty is the firm commitment to further measures of nuclear disarmament. There is general agreement, I think, that a comprehensive test ban should be one of the early measures. My hon. Friend will know that I made an initiative in this regard in July at Geneva. I hope that we can make progress shortly when those discussions resume in the new year.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Since four members of the United Nations voted against the Treaty and 22 abstained, and the President-Elect of the United States has grave doubts over signing it while Soviet troops are in Czechoslovakia, how soon does the right hon. Gentleman expect that it will take effect? In view of the fact that, on the very day of that invasion, the United States and the Soviet Union were about to go further in talks on offensive ballistic missiles, and this was stopped by the events in Czechoslovakia, does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that Mr. Nixon has good cause for caution?

Mr. Speaker

Order. Questions must be reasonably brief.

Mr. Mulley

It is not for me at this stage to give advice to the President-Elect of the United States, but I am confident that the United States will ratify the Treaty before too long. As the hon. Gentleman knows, to bring the Treaty into force requires the three depositary Powers, of whom we are one, together with 40 other members. It is impossible to speculate about the exact date in those circumstances.

Mr. Orme

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that pessimism in this matter will get us nowhere, and that those of us on this side welcome the steps which the Government have taken in laying these articles? What reaction does my right hon. Friend think West Germany will have towards this Treaty? Does he think that she will sign it?

Mr. Mulley

I would expect that West Germany will adhere to the Treaty in due course. It is true that West Germany is already bound by treaty not to manufacture nuclear weapons.

Mr. Marten

What is holding up the renegotiation of the Nassau Agreement within the context of this statement? Could the right hon. Gentleman suggest to the Prime Minister that he might get all the ambassadors from the Nassau Agreement countries together, after midnight some time?

Mr. Mulley

I do not see that any questions relating to the Nassau Agreement arise in the context of this Treaty.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Does not my right hon. Friend think that it is a good thing that General de Gaulle has cut down France's expenditure on nuclear testing? Is that not an example which this country might follow in reducing its wholesale spending on nuclear weapons and their development?

Mr. Mulley

We have no plans to expend money on further nuclear testing.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how many of our N.A.T.O. allies can be expected to follow suit, and when?

Mr. Mulley

I would expect in due course that all the members of N.A.T.O., with the exception of France, will adhere to the Treaty. I would like to take the opportunity to reaffirm our continued and wholehearted commitment to the collective security arrangements of N.A.T.O., as I did on 8th July. I also made clear then that the Treaty would not prohibit N.A.T.O. nuclear consultation and planning and the bilateral arrangements for the deployment of nuclear weapons within allied territory or the succession of a federated State to the former nuclear status of one of its components. We have made this clear and for these reasons I do not expect any difficulties with our N.A.T.O. allies.

Mr. Dalyell

have my night hon. Friend's excellent initiatives in chemical and biological warfare met with any progress?

Mr. Mulley

We have a resolution before the United Nations General Assembly, which, I hope, will be endorsed, to set up a study on both chemical and microbiological weapons of warfare, and I would also hope to pursue it further when the Geneva 18-Nation Committee reconvenes in the new year.

Mr. Ridley

What consultation did the Minister have with the West German Government before ratifying the Treaty? Was it one of the subjects which the Prime Minister discussed with the German Ambassador at 2 o'clock in the morning the ocher day?

Mr. Mulley

I was not present on that occasion, but I think that I can assure the hon. Member that this was not one of the subjects under discussion.

Mr. Michael Foot

Does my right hon. Fiend think that those diplomatic exchanges would be assisted if Her Majesty's Opposition ceased to display their patriotism by becoming the sychophantic apologists for the West German Government?

Mr. Mulley

I have been asked to advise the President-Elect of the United States and the President of France and I have declined to do so. It is not for me to advise Her Majesty's Opposition how to conduct themselves. I do not think that we have many complaints at the moment. We seem to be doing very well in debates in the House.