§ 5. Mr. Forman
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he is now in a position to make a statement about progress towards a comprehensive test ban treaty.
§ Mr. Forman
Does the Foreign Secretary agree that the main outstanding problems are those of adequate verification of these tests and the wider participation by nations such as France and 1367 China, which will eventually have to be brought into the discussions? On the Soviet offer, which the Government welcome, does the Foreign Secretary not believe that it is now seen to be a little hollow, since it is evident that the Soviet Union was not planning to hold peaceful nuclear explosions for the three-year period in any case?
§ Dr. Owen
When I was in Moscow, Mr. Gromyko put very strongly to me the Soviet wish to have PNEs, and it has been a long-standing Soviet position that they need to have such explosions. I do not, therefore, think that I can agree with the hon. Member. This was a significant step forward for the Soviet Union. On the other part of the hon. Gentleman's question, verification is one of the central problems still to be resolved, and that will obviously be the subject of negotiation. As to the participation of other nuclear weapon States, that is a matter for them, but it is desirable that the agreement covers all nuclear weapon States.
§ Mr. James Lamond
In his statement on 2nd November Mr. Brezhnev also suggested that the Soviet Union was ready to reach agreement about a simultaneous halt in the production of nuclear weapons by all States. Has my right hon. Friend any comment to make on that proposal?
§ Dr. Owen
We remain ready to enter into any negotiations on our overall objective of comprehensive disarmament, and the cessation of new weapons systems would be extremely helpful. But this is very difficult to achieve and one must adopt a piecemeal approach, starting with a comprehensive test ban treaty.