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Geneva Conference On Nuclear Tests

Volume 639: debated on Wednesday 3 May 1961

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asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a further statement on the negotiations for a ban on nuclear explosions.


asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement about the latest developments in the Geneva nuclear tests talks.


asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he will make a further statement on the progress achieved at the Geneva Conference on the cessation of nuclar tests.

On 18th April the United States and United Kingdom delegations jointly tabled in the Conference a complete draft treaty which they would be prepared to sign immediately. This text embodied the proposals put forward by the Western delegations on 21st March, as well as treaty language already agreed with the Russians. It was, however, made clear to the Russians that we were prepared to discuss this draft patiently and in detail.

I am sorry to say that we are still waiting for constructive Soviet replies to the proposals we put forward on 21st March.

Is the Under-Secretary aware that the Opposition welcome the many improvements in the Western proposals which were submitted by the Western delegations and regret the fact that the Soviet Government have so far failed even, I think, to refer to them? Will the hon. Gentleman say to what extent the Western delegations have considered Mr. Khrushchev's proposal for introducing a triple veto into all organs of inspection and control? Does he not agree that to introduce a veto into the organs of inspection in that way would be a very retrograde step?

Yes, I entirely agree with the hon. Member about that. This proposal for a triumvirate in the administration would be very damaging and we have made it clear to the Russians that we could not possibly accept such a proposal.

Would the hon. Gentleman consider publishing a White Paper containing the full text of the proposed draft treaty and other relevant information which would enable the public to have a proper appreciation of what is taking place at the Conference?

I should like to think about that and to consult my right hon. Friend. There might be some merit in it, for this is a very complicated and difficult matter for the public to follow.

Could not the British spokesman bridge the alarming gulf between America and Russia by proposing that within the suggested tripartite control commission there should be a two-thirds majority to decide, as that would help to give the neutral bloc great influence?

I do not know that I can follow the hon. Member in that. I would not say that the British in this case could seek to bridge the gap between the Americans and Russians, because we have worked very closely with the Americans and any proposals which have been put forward by us or the Americans have been joint proposals. We are working very closely with the Americans in this sphere.

Does not my hon. Friend agree that anti-nuclear demonstrations, in so far as they are an attempt to misrepresent public opinion here, are likely to hinder rather than help these neogtiations?

Yes, I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that there is a definite danger that there will be misunderstanding if too much importance is attached to what is a fringe reaction of people in this country and which certainly does not represent the view of the great mass of British people.

Can my hon. Friend confirm that there have now been more than 300 meetings of the nuclear test conference, during which time the United Kingdom delegate has done everything to obtain agreement while a final solution has always been thwarted by Russian intransigence?

Yes, there has been a large number of these meetings and we are very disappointed that we have not made more progress, especially in the last few weeks when real efforts have been made by the Western side. We still hope that the Russians will come forward with some positive reactions to these proposals, which have been a genuine attempt to bring this matter to a conclusion, which is wanted by all people in this country.

Will the hon. Gentleman seriously consider the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) for a two-thirds majority in the control commission? Will he recognise that this is a principle which would be of very useful general application in the whole field of disarmament and that the Russians have agreed to the idea of a two-thirds majority in the control commission for general disarmament, so that this is something which might prove acceptable to them and a way of finding a solution in terms of political realities in the world as it is today?

The question of the constitution of the control commission has been investigated very thoroughly. We have made proposals which we think should lead to a solution and the proposals which we have put forward go quite as far as one could hope to do to meet the Russian point of view.