HL Deb 11 May 1965 vol 266 cc1-4

2.35 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what proposals will be made to the Disarmament Commission of the United Nations to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons, for the discontinuance of test explosions, and the disengagement of areas of the world from nuclear weapons as an initiative towards disarmament and nonalignment]


My Lords, the United Nations Disarmament Commission is still in session and, of course, we do not yet know what proposals may be made by other Governments. In my own speech to the Commission on April 28, I explained the directions in which we believe that progress in disarmament matters ought to, and can, be made. As my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said in another place on May 3, our objectives include an agreement on the non-dissemination of nuclear weapons—that is to say, an agreement to prevent the further spread of nuclear weapons—and an agreement on the extension of the partial Test Ban Treaty to include underground tests.

As for the creation of areas free of nuclear weapons—nuclear-free zones—I would remind my noble friend of the opinion I gave in the Defence debate in your Lordships' House on April 8, when I said that it is unrealistic to talk of these nuclear-free zones in isolation from the settlement of the political problems in the areas concerned. In answer to the final part of the Question, in which my noble friend refers to non-alignment, I would emphasise that we are, of course, firmly committed to play our full part in the defence of the Free World.


My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord for that very full Answer? Is he aware that many of us read the speech which he delivered to the Commission with a good deal of appreciation? May I ask him whether it is the intention of the Government to put forward independent plans for disarmament, as was previously indicated. Could they not include disengagement in certain parts of the world which are not areas of political conflict—such as, for example, the greater part of the Continent of Africa; and is there a proposal to revert to phased progress towards total disarmament?


My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his kind comment on my speech made in New York. So far as the first part of his supplementary question is concerned, we hope indeed to put forward British plans for arms control and disarmament. The 18-Nation Disarmament Conference, which we hope will soon be reconvened in Geneva, will be the proper place to put forward any suggestions; and I would emphasise that we shall, of course, be putting these forward in full consultation with our Allies.

So far as my noble friend's question about disengagement is concerned, this, I think, is relevant to my answer about nuclear-free zones, as he specially mentions the Continent of Africa. Of course, we shall consider all these possibilities, including the establishment of nuclear-free zones all over the world and all the various possibilities for disengagement, both in Europe and elsewhere in the world. All these matters will be taken fully into consideration when we get back to Geneva as I hope we soon shall. So far as my noble friend's question about phased programmes for general and complete disarmament is concerned, yes, of course we shall hope, when we get down to hard, detailed negotiations again, to look once more at the plans that lie on the table now, on behalf of the West and the Soviet Union, for general and complete disarmament. I might add that I hope Her Majesty's Government will have some new and constructive ideas to contribute to this particular discussion.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl the Leader of the House, in view of the discussion we had on procedure the other day, whether he will consider having yet another word with his colleagues about the length of Answers which are given in this House? I think that all your Lordships appreciate the fact very much if a Minister troubles to come down and give a full Answer, but I sometimes wonder whether Answers are not getting rather longer than is necessary, and whether some of the Questions asked might not be more usefully asked as Unstarred Questions rather than as Starred Questions.


My Lords, I will gladly consider anything that comes from the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, but I hope he will extend the same close scrutiny to questions which come from his own side of the House.


It was not the questions I was worrying about; it was the Answers which the Government give. I do not know whether there is any significance in it, but long Answers always seem to be given to the noble Lord, Lord Brockway.


I only hope that the noble Lord will do as I say. He will realise that a lot of his noble friends ask a great many questions—I, of course, am completely impartial in this capacity—which seem to some of us here remarkably redundant.


My Lords, as disarmament is the most important question that faces the world to-day, will my noble friend remember that some of us hang on every word which comes from the lips of my noble friend Lord Chalfont?

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