HL Deb 20 May 1965 vol 266 cc558-9

3.20 p.m.


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

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assistance, if any, they have been able to give to the Preparatory Commission for the De-nuclearisation of Latin America, which met recently in Mexico City and has a continuing office there.]


My Lords, the members of the Preparatory Commission, which is at present composed only of representatives of Latin American countries, have not yet sought assistance from other countries. If they do, we shall, of course, be pleased to give very careful consideration to whatever requests they may make.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his Answer. Would it not be possible, and even desirable, to offer assistance at this stage, given that this country is the only nuclear Power to have colonial dependencies on the continent in question—namely, South America?


My Lords, I do not think it would be appropriate to offer assistance at this stage. However, I think that there is an opportunity here, because the Preparatory Commission agreed in March to admit observers from any member State of the United Nations which requested permission to send them, and we are now considering this.


My Lords, would it be possible for the Government to indicate their support for this proposal and for other proposals for the de-nuclearisation of other areas of the earth?


My Lords, in the past Her Majesty's Government have indicated that, as a general principle, we would welcome nuclear-free zones in certain areas as useful and valuable measures towards general and complete disarmament. But, as we have said before, there are certain reservations, among these being the requirement that there should be adequate arrangements for effective international verification and, above all, in establishing these zones, that the overall military balance should not be disturbed.


My Lords, is the word "denuclearisation" United Nations English? If so, may the noble Lord try to persuade the United Nations to use his own expression, "nuclear-free zone" which, from the point of view of English, seems vastly better?


My Lords, I sympathise with the implication of that question. "De-nuclearisation" is indeed an ugly word. However, I am afraid that it has passed into the jargon of international negotiations and we can hardly pretend that we do not understand it. I agree that "nuclear-free zone" is a better expression. However, there are shades of difference of meaning between the two. "De-nuclearisation" means the removal of nuclear weapons or capabilities from an area, whereas "nuclear-free zone" means simply a zone which has no nuclear weapons in it, which is to be kept in that state. So there are shades of meaning involved.


My Lords as this body apparently sits in Mexico, could the noble Lord give the Spanish translation of this word?