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Eighteen-Power Disarmament Conference

Volume 655: debated on Thursday 15 March 1962

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asked the Prime Minister, in view of the recent statement of policy by the Soviet Government, whether he will consult President Kennedy with a view to making joint proposals at the Geneva Conference for the prevention of the further spreading of nuclear weapons to non-nuclear countries, and for the banning of the use of nuclear weapons as part of a general disarmament treaty.

The proposals which President Kennedy, with the full support of the British Government, put to the United Nations in September, 1961, and which we hope will now be seriously discussed at the Eighteen-Power Disarmament Conference, contain a specific provision to prevent the emergence of any further independent nuclear Powers, and are generally designed to rule out the use of force on a national basis to settle international disputes. Under this plan all States would ultimately retain only those forces, non-nuclear armaments and establishments required to maintain internal order. Consultation between our two Governments on these matters as well as on all other aspects of disarmament is continuous.

Could not both these proposals be considered as constituting initial measures of disarmament to be put into effect without delay, as suggested by the Prime Minister in his 13th February letter to Mr. Khrushchev, conditional, of course, upon the subsequent achievement of the programme of general disarmament?

All this is just opening out. I do not think it would be helpful for me to add anything at this time.

While none of us wish to do anything to make things more difficult in Geneva, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman has studied the emphasis which some of us placed on the questions of a non-nuclear club and a nuclear-free zone in the recent debate? Will the right hon. Gentleman at any rate make plain that Her Majesty's Government will give full support to any measure designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to countries which are at present without nuclear weapons?

The answer to the second part of the question is in what I said. The actual provision is:

"that States owning nuclear weapons shall not relinquish control of such weapons to any nation not owning them and shall not transmit to any such nation information or material necessary for their manufacture."
If the whole plan, of which this is part, came into effect that would be effective. With regard to the second part of the question, there are specific Questions to be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal tomorrow which I should not wish to anticipate.

Yes, but is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Soviet Government have published their answer—which obviously is of some propagandist value apart from other values—to the letter from the Secretary-General on this question? Will not the Prime Minister make his answer clear about the two resolutions on the Irish and Swedish initiative at United Nations?

This is coming up at the Conference itself, when we shall make our statement.

The Prime Minister has said nothing effective about the Swedish resolution on the formation of a non-nuclear club passed by 58 votes to 10 in the General Assembly. In view of the fact that the Soviet Union has indicated its readiness to support this, if Britain, France and the United States will do the same, does not that give a possibility of making an enormous advance towards a state of affairs in which nuclear weapons would be confined to ourselves, to the United States and to the Soviet Union?

As I have already said, that is part of the United States proposal which we support. As the debate is just opening, it would be a mistake for me to try to deal with detailed points until the opening speeches have been made by the Foreign Secretary, Mr. Gromyko and Mr. Rusk.

Can the Prime Minister tell us whether his attention has been drawn to the statement on nuclear weapons by the Bow Group of Conservatives and what is his opinion of them?

I always read all statements on these matters with interest, and I think it of great value for them to give these various points of view.