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Disarmament Conference Geneva

Volume 656: debated on Tuesday 27 March 1962

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asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on the future course of the disarmament negotiations in Geneva in view of his expressed concern with the strategy of the negotiations.


asked the Prime Minister whether he will now make a further statement regarding his plans for meeting Mr. Khrushchev and Mr. Kennedy at Geneva.

As for the future course of the disarmament negotiations, I stand by the policy announced in the joint message which President Kennedy and I sent to Mr. Khrushchev on 7th February. The conference has agreed to procedure and a programme of work based on the Russian and American plans.

As for a meeting between President Kennedy, Mr. Khrushchev and myself, I cannot at present add to what I told the House on 13th March—that I am ready to go to Geneva at any stage when it appears that such action can be of positive value.

The Prime Minister in his letter to Mr. Khrushchev dated 13th February proposed that the progress of the conference should be the subject of more frequent communications between himself, President Kennedy and Mr. Khrushchev. May I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the deadlock on a nuclear test ban. he is in communication with Mr. Khrushchev, or is he contemplating making any communication to Mr. Khrushchev on the progress of the conference?

The Foreign Secretary has been back twice to see me, last Saturday and Sunday. I would ask to be excused from making any further statement today, because I do not regard the disarmament negotiations, or even the nuclear test ban, as having yet reached what could be called complete deadlock. We are in very close touch about this and I would rather leave it as it is for today.

Is the Prime Minister aware that there is a serious danger that the idea that an unprepared Summit is the panacea for all ills could easily lead to a much more serious situation? In these circumstances, has he given any consideration to the idea of continuing these negotiations at official level, if they break down now, and perhaps resuming them at the Foreign Ministers' Conference at a later date?

All these questions have to be most carefully considered, the object being not just to have a conference, but to produce some results.

Has my right hon. Friend anything favourable or cheering to report about the Russian attitude towards the Berlin air corridor?

The actual situation in the corridor is now easier. On the whole problem, discussions are going on and I should not like to say anything at the moment about it

The Prime Minister has asked us not to press him on the matter at the moment. We will take note of that. However, can he give us some idea when he is likely to be in a position to give us rather fuller information on the prospect of a Summit Conference?

I do not know about the prospect of a Summit Conference, but I should certainly hope to make a statement shortly about the general state of the negotiations.

Will the Prime Minister bear in mind the importance, before there is a real breakdown in the nuclear test negotiations, of trying to prevent that by a Summit Conference? Is he aware that many of us regard this as of great importance before the implementation of President Kennedy's decision to conduct nuclear tests?

All these matters are very much in our minds, and, as the right hon, Gentleman knows, cause us deep and constant anxiety. We are making a great effort to reach a good conclusion. Again I will take note of these suggestions, which I am sure are meant to be helpful.

First, has the Prime Minister anything to say about a possible agreement concerning outer space between the Americans and the Russians? Secondly, will he confirm that his earlier statement means that there is still a chance that the American series of tests will be postponed, if not cancelled?

I should like notice of the technicalities, if I am to make a statement about outer space. With regard to to the second part of the right hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, we cannot hide from ourselves the fact that the negotiations so far have broken or been held up on the single point of the Russians' unwillingness to accept verification in any form or under any conditions. I had hoped that there might have been certain movements which the West could have made which would have overcome that, but that has not happened so far. However, I have not abandoned hope and I should like to leave it there for the moment.