HC Deb 25 January 1973 vol 849 cc625-7
9. Mr. Spearing

asked the Minister of State for Defence if he has received an invitation for any personnel for whom he is responsible to observe the forthcoming French nuclear tests in the Pacific Ocean.

Mr. Ian Gilmour

No, Sir.

Mr. Spearing

Is that not strange in view of the Foreign Secretary's pronouncements about the rôle of the European outlook in world affairs? Can the hon. Gentleman tell us whether the Government will be represented in any way at these tests in view of what I have pointed out?

Mr. Gilmour

The French Government have not yet confirmed that there will be a test series this year. If nuclear tests are carried out we shall, as in the past, take all appropriate steps to look after the health and safety of the inhabitants of our dependent territories in the area.

Mr. Marten

In view of the feelings of Australia and New Zealand about these tests, may I ask whether the Government have made any recent attempt to persuade the French Government to sign the test ban treaty?

Mr. Gilmour

As my hon. Friend is aware, the French Government know full well our views on this. We hope that in due course they will sign the test ban treaty. As my hon. Friend probably also knows, we voted for a resolution sponsored by Australia and New Zealand asking for an end to nuclear tests in the atmosphere.

Mr. Peart

Would it not be helpful if the Government made a forthright declaration and said that they specifically supported the New Zealand Government in their attitude? Is he aware that many people feel that the Government have been rather quiet and that they have allowed President Pompidou and Mr. Debre, the Minister of Defence, to get away with things? Is it not time to speak up for the British people?

Mr. Gilmour

The fundamental difference between the two sides of the House is that we do not believe that a strategy of indscriminate denunciations and declarations is ever very effective.

Sir G. Nabarro

Is my hon. Friend aware that only yesterday I received a letter from Pitcairn Islands saying that the flora and fauna have suffered the most devastating damage as a result of nuclear fall-out and that the British authorities responsible for this area are entirely oblivious to the fate of the islanders? Will my hon. Friend make inquiries to help the population of this distant outpost of the former British Empire?

Mr. Gilmour

I was not aware of my hon. Friend's recent correspondence. He is quite wrong in saying that we are oblivious to what goes on in Pitcairn Island. Our radiological surveys have not indicated any damage to health in the area round the island as a result of the French tests.

Mr. Loughlin

Is not a serious principle involved here? Is it not time for the Government to support New Zealand and Australia in their contest against what is, in effect, a serious crime against humanity since all nuclear tests are likely to damage not only the people now living on earth but future generations?

Mr. Gilmour

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's alarmist language. The French Government are well aware of our views and we supported the Australian and New Zealand resolution in the United Nations.