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Non-Nuclear Countries

Volume 656: debated on Monday 26 March 1962

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asked the Lord Privy Seal what reply he has given to the official request of U Thant for information on the policy of the British Government towards the General Assembly resolution of 4th December, 1961, calling upon the non-nuclear countries to agree not to produce, acquire or station nuclear weapons on their territories.


asked the Lord Privy Seal what reply has been sent by Her Majesty's Government to the letters from the Secretary-General of the United Nations asking Her Majesty's Government to state their response to the Swedish resolution, passed by the United Nations on 4th December, 1961, proposing that non-nuclear countries should not manufacture nuclear weapons or acquire them from the nuclear powers.

I am placing copies of the Secretary-General's letter and of Her Majesty's Government's reply to it in the Library.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this resolution for a non-nuclear club was passed by 58 votes to 10 with the support of four N.A.T.O. members, including Canada? Since the Soviet Union has indicated its readiness to sign a treaty preventing it from passing on nuclear weapons and nuclear "know-how" to its allies, including China, will the British Government seize the magnificent opportunity which this presents to prevent a further spread of nuclear weapons?

I have already explained Her Majesty's Government's attitude on this matter in reply to previous Questions. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman studies the reply, which he will find in the Library.

Does not Her Majesty's Government's insistence on retaining the British independent nuclear deterrent act as a serious obstacle to the creation of a non-nuclear club? Is it not clear that the United States Government are increasingly opposed to Her Majesty's defence policy, as was made clear recently in an article in the semi-official magazine "N.A.T.O.'s Fifteen Nations"?

Whatever is the American Government's attitude to this resolution and whatever is our reply to it, Britain's possession of the nuclear deterrent plays no part in it because it is related to countries which are not at present nuclear Powers. Therefore, I do not think that the question is relevant.

Why was the reply placed in the Library in the first place? Should not it have been published in HANSARD or as a White Paper so that the whole country could see what attitude the Government take? Is not this another case of the kind to which I referred a few minutes ago? If there are grave difficulties about reaching agreement on the major issues, we should do all we can to stop the spread of nuclear weapons to fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh countries. Has the hon. Gentleman and the United States' Government considered what would be involved if countries such as Egypt, Israel, China or even Cuba get nuclear weapons?

First, I should have thought that the way in which we have circulated the reply was adequate. Secondly, Her Majesty's Government supported the Irish resolution, which was opposed to the dissemination of nuclear weapons to additional Powers. That seems to me to meet the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman. This is a matter to which my noble Friend the Foreign Secretary referred in his speech at Geneva only last week as one which we fully support.