HL Deb 26 July 1963 vol 252 cc913-5

11.10 a.m.


My Lords, I know that your Lordships recognise that, because of the need to co-ordinate timing between Washington, Moscow and London, I was unable yesterday to make any statement to your Lordships about the signature of the nuclear test ban Treaty. Your Lordships will now have seen the communiqué and the text of the Treaty.

Under the Treaty, which will be open to all States, each party undertakes to prohibit, to prevent and not to carry out any nuclear weapon test explosion, or any other nuclear explosion at any place under its jurisdiction or control in

  1. (a) in the atmosphere; beyond its limits, including outer space; or under water, including territorial waters or High Seas; or
  2. (b) in any other environment if such explosion causes radioactive debris to be present outside the territorial limits of the State under whose jurisdictional control such explosion is conducted."
This means in effect that the nuclear test ban is what we anticipated it would be, a ban in the atmosphere, in outer space and under the sea, and that underground weapon tests are authorised.

The Treaty lays down that it shall enter into force after its ratification by the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States and it shall be registered with the United Nations. The Treaty will be of unlimited duration, but each party may give three months' notice of withdrawal if it decides that extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of this Treaty, have jeopardised the supreme interests of its country.

With this, we have a limited test ban in three environments. This, in my view, is a good thing in itself not only, first, because it reduces the danger of pollution of the atmosphere, but, secondly, because it makes the first agreement of substance which we have been able to make with the Russians for a very long time. I hope, therefore, that its real importance will be that it will lead on to a continuing dialogue between East and West which will result in further agreements.

I am sure that your Lordships will wish to join me in offering to the Leader of the House our congratulations on his achievement in bringing the present negotiation to a successful conclusion. And I think, too, that we should remember those at Geneva who played such a very large part in this matter over the years, including the Secretary of State for War and Sir Michael Wright, who over the last few years, at any rate, has played a very great part in making this agreement possible.


My Lords, we are obliged to the Foreign Secretary for giving to this House a statement on the lines of that made by the Prime Minister last night. We have had a chance to look at the reports in the Press and give them consideration. I associate myself with the last sentence or two with regard to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House. I think we can congratulate all three of the Governments concerned on having made some advance in what is a very difficult matter to debate or arrive at conclusions on at any time, as has been proved by these outstandingly long negotiations. But for the maintenance by this country and the United States of those prolonged negotiations we could not have arrived at the stage we have arrived at today. I associate myself with the hope expressed by the noble Earl the Foreign Secretary. This agreement, obviously limited in some respects from what so many people desire to see achieved, is nevertheless an important step forward, and I hope very much that upon this beginning may be based a building of real substance in the direction of permanent peace.


My Lords, I should like to associate myself wholly with what the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition said and in thanking the Foreign Secretary for his statement. It really is a most impressive step forward, and it seems to all of us, I think, to open the door to more fields. I speak not only for the Liberals on these Benches but, I am sure, for Liberals throughout the whole country, and although I do not speak for others I am sure that everybody in the country will welcome from the bottom of his heart the fact that this matter has gone through in the way it has done. I also endorse what has been said about the Leader of the House. I am told there are some who think he is peculiarly fitted for certain appointments and some who think he is peculiarly unfitted for others. But I do not hide from the House that from the moment he was appointed for this particular assignment I thought the choice quite excellent and he was the very man to do it. We are delighted he has succeeded so well.


My Lords, I am very much obliged to the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition and to the noble Lord, Lord Rea, and I will convey their congratulations to my noble friend.