HL Deb 16 April 1970 vol 309 c560

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 whether they will propose to the Geneva Conference on Disarmament that a limit should be placed on the approach of military aircraft or sub-marines to the air space or territorial waters of other nations.]


No, my Lords. There would be immense problems in devising effective arrangements of this kind which would not give un-acceptable advantage to one nation or another. It would furthermore be extremely difficult to ensure that the pro-visions of any agreement on this matter were in fact observed.


My Lords, I thank my noble friend. I recognise the difficulties, and also the fact that this limitation may become irrelevant with modern missiles. Nevertheless, will my noble friend consider this matter from two points of view: first, whether it would not reduce the threat of escalation and of planes directly dropping bombs; and, secondly, whether it might not reduce rivalry in the Mediterranean and Asian Seas in the competition between the forces of the cold war?


My Lords, if I may say so I think there are more urgent matters of arms control than this to be dealt with in the Disarmament Committee. Even if we were to attack this problem, I think it would prove to be an intractable one. The fact is that the width of territorial sea and air space, for example, over which countries claim jurisdiction ranges from 3 nautical miles, in the case of some countries, to 200 nautical miles in the case of others. So the areas that would be banned and the number of aircraft involved would be enormous. Quite frankly, I cannot see the utility of this kind of agreement, nor can I really see any good case for taking up the time of the Disarmament Committee in discussing it.