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Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Meeting (Statement On Disarmament)

Volume 640: debated on Tuesday 16 May 1961

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asked the Prime Minister whether he will now lay as a White Paper the declaration on disarmament adopted by the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth at their recent meeting.

The statement on disarmament was fully reported in the Press at the time. I doubt if there would be advantage in publishing it as a White Paper now.

May I ask the Prime Minister whether I have been right in regarding this as a very important declaration of policy or whether, as some people have suggested, it is only an exercise in propaganda?

No, Sir. I think that it was a very important declaration of policy in the sense that it represented the common view of all the Prime Ministers collectively. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will wait for the next Question. I did not feel that it received very wide publicity nor that it was appropriate to lay it as a White Paper then, and it is a bit late now. There are other methods by which it can be made known.

Did not the right hon. Gentleman say that disarmament was the most important question now before the world? Is it right that hon. Members and others should not be able to obtain a copy of this document without buying a back copy of the Guardian?

I will arrange for copies to be put in the Library. On the other point, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would wait for a moment, because I think that we might be able to do something to help him.


asked the Prime Minister whether he will propose to the other Commonwealth Prime Ministers that the Commonwealth Governments should send their recent declaration on disarmament to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, as a jointly sponsored document, with the request that he should circulate it to members of the United Nations.

The statement on disarmament has received wide publicity, but I will consider—and for this I must consult the Prime Ministers who are concerned—whether they would think it valuable to take steps to publish it and send it collectively to the other members of the United Nations.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that Answer. I hope that it will be done, because I am sure that he realises that the question of disarmament will play a great part in the next Assembly. Since there is a common policy, it would be of advantage to all members of the United Nations to know about it.

If the Prime Ministers at the conference agreed, I would certainly have it done.

In view of the importance of this document, will the right hon. Gentleman consider circulating it in the OFFICIAL REPORT? That would make it much more accessible to hon. Members than putting it in the Library.

Following is the statement:


Annex to Final Communiqué—March 17, 1961

Statement on Disarmament


  • 1. The aim must be to achieve total worldwide disarmament, subject to effective inspection and control.
  • 2. In view of the slaughter and destruction experienced in so-called "conventional" wars and of the difficulty of preventing a conventional war, once started, from developing into a nuclear war, our aim must be nothing less than the complete abolition of the means of waging war of any kind.
  • Principles

    3. An agreement for this purpose should be negotiated as soon as possible, on the basis of the following principles—
  • (a) All national armed forces and armaments must be reduced to the levels agreed to be necessary for internal security.
  • (b) Once started, the process of disarmament should be continued without interruption until it is completed, subject to verification at each stage that all parties are duly carrying out their undertakings.
  • (c) The elimination of nuclear and conventional armaments must be so phased that at no stage will any country or group of countries obtain a significant military advantage.
  • (d) In respect of each phase there should be established, by agreement, effective machinery of inspection, which should come into operation simultaneously with the phase of disarmament to which it relates.
  • (e) Disarmament should be carried out as rapidly as possible in progressive stages, within specified periods of time.
  • (f) At the appropriate stage, a substantial and adequately armed military force should be established, to prevent aggression and enforce observance of the disarmament agreement; and an international authority should be created, in association with the United Nations, to control this force and to ensure that it is not used for any purpose inconsistent with the Charter.
  • 4. On the basis of the above principles, it should be possible, given good will on both sides, to reconcile the present differences of approach between the different plans put forward.


    5. The principal military powers should resume direct negotiations without delay in close contact with the United Nations, which is responsible for disarmament under the Charter. Since peace is the concern of the whole world, other nations should also be associated with the disarmament negotiations, either directly or through some special machinery to be set up by the United Nations, or by both means.
    6. Side by side with the political negotiations, experts should start working out the details of the inspection systems required for the measures of disarmament applicable to each stage, in accordance with the practice adopted at the Geneva Nuclear Tests Conference.
    7. Every effort should be made to secure rapid agreement to the permanent banning of nuclear weapons tests by all nations and to arrangements for verifying the observance of the agreement. Such an agreement is urgent, since otherwise further countries may soon become nuclear powers, which would increase the danger of war and further complicate the problem of disarmament. Moreover, an agreement on nuclear tests, apart from its direct advantages, would provide a powerful psychological impetus to agreement over the wider field of disarmament.
    8. Disarmament without inspection would be as unacceptable as inspection without disarmament. Disarmament and inspection are integral parts of the same question and must be negotiated together; and both must be made as complete and effective as is humanly possible. It must, however, be recognised that no safeguards can provide one hundred per cent. protection against error or treachery. Nevertheless, the risks involved in the process of disarmament must be balanced against the risks involved in the continuance of the arms race.
    9. It is arguable whether the arms race is the cause or the result of distrust between nations. But it is clear that the problems of disarmament and international confidence are closely linked. Therefore, while striving for the abolition of armaments, all nations must actively endeavour to reduce tension by helping to remove other causes of friction and suspicion.