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Nuclear Tests

Volume 654: debated on Wednesday 21 February 1962

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asked the Lord Privy Seal what consultations he had with the Government of the United States of America regarding the use of sites other than Christmas Island, with particular reference to the Marshall Islands, for the testing of nuclear bombs.

Her Majesty's Government and the United States Government agreed that only Christmas Island would be suitable for a new series of tests.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that that Answer avoids the main part of the Question? Is it not the case that the United States wanted them away from the Marshall Islands because she had been criticised all over the world for the way in which she had abused the mandate for these territories which the United Nations gave her in 1946? If she wants to conduct tests, ought she not to have considered other American Pacifiic territories, such as Johnston Island?

We were, of course, in the closest consultation with the United States Government throughout consideration of this matter. President Kennedy himself has publicly stated that the United States Government were anxious to maintain the spirit as well as the letter of the trusteeship agreement over the Marshall Islands.


asked the Lord Privy Seal to what extent he has informed the Government of Japan about the decision to agree to nuclear tests on Christmas Island; and what reply has been sent by the Japanese Government.

The Japanese Ambassador was given a full explanation of Her Majesty's Government's decision to agree to preparations for tests on Christmas Island on 9th February.

Does not the Lord Privy Seal feel thoroughly ashamed of himself that he had to tell the Japanese Ambassador that a Christian nation was contemplating this barbarous, uncivilised act? Is he aware that the Japanese agree with the hon. Member who questioned the Prime Minister saying that after this they should change the name of Christmas Island and the name of the Pacific Ocean as well? However, will the right hon. Gentleman also tell us how many square miles of water Japanese fishermen will be deprived of during the tests?

If the hon. Member would like to put down a detailed Question I will give him a detailed Answer.


asked the Lord Privy Seal what was the nature of the consultations which took place with the United Kingdom's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies before the decision was taken on the resumption of nuclear tests.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the private enterprise shown by Her Majesty's Government in this respect may tend to encourage other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to acquire such weapons, and does he regard that as desirable?

We keep in touch with our N.A.T.O. allies as closely as possible, but we are not always able to have close consultation about such matters as this.

Can the right hon. Gentleman, without disclosing the details of such discussions, say whether discussions did, in fact, take place before the decision was taken?

I cannot say anything about the confidential nature of the N.A.T.O. discussions.


asked the Lord Privy Seal what is now the policy of Her Majesty's Government in regard to a test-ban treaty on the basis of the national monitoring of atmospheric and underground tests.

To be acceptable, any treaty on this subject must provide the essential element of impartial and effective international control.

As it is now possible to monitor nationally all atmospheric tests and most underground tests, what is the objection to adhering to a nuclear test ban treaty on this basis accompanied by a limited number of on-site inspections?

I would not accept that it is possible to monitor even all atmospheric tests, and certainly not all underground tests. There is always an element of doubt. Even if we were to accept some arrangement of this kind, there would have to be a basis for on-site inspection. This is one of the points on which we have failed to get any agreement at all. It is a matter on which we have to continue to seek every possible means of finding an accommodation when we renew the talks, as I hope we shall, in March.

Will the hon. Gentleman give us a White Paper or some other statement about the technological advances which have been made in regard to the detection of both atmospheric and underground tests?

I should certainly like to look into that and see whether it is possible to do so.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that it is absolutely vital to remove any impression at all that the West are a little more determined to go on with their tests than they are to get a really valuable agreement on the stopping of tests? Will he look very carefully into this matter in order to ascertain whether over the past few months monitoring has improved to such an extent that the Lord Privy Seal can now put forward new proposals and then make it clear that there will be no tests by the West or the East thereafter?

Yes, certainly, Sir. I am glad to have the opportunity to make it clear that there is no question whatever about our dragging our feet in this matter. We are most anxious to go ahead and get an agreement. But it is very difficult to get an agreement on any basis we can find which gives us any element of assurance at all. We shall continue to seek this in our talks in Geneva in March. We hope that we shall get further discussions in regard to nuclear testing brought up within the ambit of the general disarmament negotiations, and I hope that this will enable us to solve some question of inspection there.

Since the hon. Gentleman says that he is not dragging his feet in this matter, may I ask whether the British delegates are going to Geneva clearly to state that if some agreement can be reached about nuclear tests, there is no question whatever about going on with the Christmas Island tests?

Certainly, if we can reach an effective agreement about a system of international verification and control, there will obviously be no need to carry on with the tests.