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World Disarmament Conference Proposal

Volume 374: debated on Wednesday 29 September 1976

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2.36 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they endorse the draft report prepared by the United Nations special committee on a world disarmament conference for submission to the forthcoming sessions of the General Assembly, and what view was expressed by the United Kingdom in the working document on the attitudes of Member States.

My Lords, as a Permanent Member of the Security Council, we were not a member of the Ad Hoc Committee but of course we co-operated fully with it. On the 14th July we welcomed the balanced and comprehensive nature of the Committee's latest report. Our view, expressed in the working documents, remains that such a conference might well give fresh impetus to the negotiation of disarmament if attended by all militarily significant States and certainly all nuclear Powers.

My Lords, I welcome that Answer, but is it not the case that the great majority of the 100 Governments consulted, including our own Government, have endorsed the proposal for a world disarmament conference, after due preparation? In view of this, would it not be possible to have, if necessary, a special Assembly of the United Nations to try to further this project?

My Lords, as no consensus exists among militarily significant States, the report of the Ad Hoc Committee concludes that efforts to create more favourable conditions for a World conference should continue. On the question of whether a United Nations Special Assembly for this purpose might be useful, my noble friend is aware that the "Non-allying" Summit in Colombo last August called for such a Special Session to be held in New York not later than 1978. We shall certainly examine any such proposal very carefully and I think very hopefully.

My Lords, is it not the case that the real difficulty is that the one nuclear power, China, is making this proposal rather difficult? Through our influence in the Security Council, is it possible, in co-operation with the United States of America, to try to resolve this problem of the Chinese objection?

Yes, indeed, my Lords; we and our American friends are constantly trying to do this. Regrettably it is a fact that the People's Republic of China have certain reservations about the possibility of such a conference; and such reservations, coming as they do from a nuclear Power, prevent a consensus from being formed. That is precisely what the Ad Hoc Committee was enjoined upon to try to secure.