asked the Lord Privy Seal whether it is now the policy of Her Majesty's Government to propose the establishment of a nuclear-free zone in Central Europe and Africa, respectively, as part of an agreement on disarmament.
asked the Lord Privy Seal if Her Majesty's Government's representatives in Geneva will support proposals for nuclear-free zones in Central Europe and in Africa.
The answer to both Questions is "No, Sir".
What is the Government's objection to this proposal? Would not the creation of a nuclear-free zone in Central Europe not only ease the tension that exists there, but also provide a system of control and inspection which might well be the first step to an agreement on general and comprehensive disarmament?
No, Sir. I do not think that this is really the way to proceed. The Government do not think that it is readily feasible to eliminate any particular area from the effects of nuclear war. We believe that this can be done effectively only by eliminating these weapons altogether through general and complete disarmament, and that is what we are seeking at the moment.
Whilst we all agree with the objective of general and complete disarmament, may I ask whether it would not be useful to put forward at Geneva a pilot scheme in Central Europe and elsewhere with a view to proceeding to general disarmament later?
All sorts of proposals are being put forward at Geneva, but I do not think that this is one to be put forward for immediate discussion.
Since it is clear from the hon. Gentleman's answer that we are running into great difficulties on the nuclear test ban which raises the whole question of inspection, may I ask, without going into a general disarmament agreement, which we all want to see, whether the hon. Gentleman would not agree that at any rate the Government should encourage the development of agreement on any issues which will lead in the long run to a general disarmament agreement? Does he not feel that this question of a non-nuclear zone might be a very valuable advance while we are trying to create the confidence necessary for wider agreement?
The right hon. Gentleman has a Question on the Order Paper later on the disarmament conference generally. Perhaps replies on this point might come up more readily there. My immediate reaction on this narrow point is that it is not one of the most fruitful avenues of approach.