HC Deb 21 October 1987 vol 120 cc714-5
10. Mr. Strang

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress made towards reaching agreement on a comprehensive test ban treaty.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. David Mellor)

We remain committed to seeking progress towards a comprehensive test ban treaty. We believe, however, that it would be premature for negotiations to begin until progress is made on outstanding problems, notably verification. We therefore welcome, as a first step, recent indications of United States and Soviet readiness to seek the improvements in verification necessary to enable the threshold test ban treaty and peaceful nuclear explosions treaty to be ratified.

Mr. Strang

Is the Minister aware that the negative stance of the Government in this matter is not only in contrast to that of the previous Conservative Government—which was a signatory to the 1963 partial test ban treaty—but in contrast to the changing attitude of the two super powers? Surely he must be aware that the statements that the Government keep making about verification are not supported by seismologists, other than those within the pay of the British Government. Furthermore, is it not time for a British initiative, bearing in mind what the Minister said about the talks between the United States and the Soviet Union, so that we can move, if not to a test ban treaty, to a lower threshold test ban treaty or to some limitation on the number of nuclear tests that are carried out each year?

Mr. Mellor

The Government's approach to these matters is essentially practical. The hon. Gentleman suggested that we are lagging behind the United States and the Soviet Union, but I must inform him that the two treaties that were signed but not ratified, which are now to be the subject of fresh discussion between the United States and the Soviet Union, impose limits on nuclear testing, within which we keep.

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