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Strategic Arms Limitation Talks

Volume 889: debated on Wednesday 9 April 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on whether Her Majesty's Government consider Great Britain bound by the ceilings on strategic arms negotiated by the United States Government at the recent Strategic Arms Limitation Talks.

These are bilateral agreements between the United States and the Soviet Union. We welcome them, but since they concern only United States and Soviet strategic arms they are not applicable to the United Kingdom.

Will my right hon. Friend comment on the known Russian view that the ceilings agreed for the American side include the strategic weapons possessed by Britain? If we are not a party to and are in no way bound by the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, may I ask what my right hon. Friend proposes to say when he goes to Geneva next month for the review conference on the non-proliferation treaty, when he will be asked what Britain has done to carry out its obligations under Article 6 to proceed towards nuclear disarmament?

It is true that the Soviet Union claims that there should be a general ceiling and that the United States has repudiated that view. Certainly, if my opinion were sought I should support the United States on this matter. There cannot be an asymmetrical arrangements of that kind, especially when we are not consulted.

Regarding the discussions in Geneva to which my right hon. Friend the Minister of State will be going, I do not accept that we are in breach of our obligations under Article 6 of the nonproliferation treaty. We participate in a number of international bodies of that kind. I am sure that my hon. Friend has noted that in a special declaration during the Moscow visit we reached agreement with the Soviet Union to hold consultations on the problems of arms limitation and disarmament. We intend to carry that out.

If we were to be bound by these talks, would not that be an infringement of parliamentary sovereignty?

It is astonishing how the Common Market crops up in the most innocent of conversations. Yes, I suppose it would be an infringement of parliamentary sovereignty, but if right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite will kindly listen they will probably hear me define what I think sovereignty is at about half-past nine tonight.