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Arms Control: Verification

Volume 474: debated on Thursday 1 May 1986

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asked Her Majesty's Government:What steps they have taken to follow up Mr. Gorbachev's recent remarks about the Soviet Government's willingness to accept on site

verification procedures within the Soviet Union in relation to (

a) a nuclear test ban, and ( b) a ban on chemical weapons; whether in particular they have discussed the establishment within the Soviet Union of a seismic detector of the type currently established in Norway; whether they have asked the Soviet Union to provide material about seismic conditions throughout the Soviet Union; and if so what responses they have received.

We have made clear to the Soviet Union that we welcome the apparent recognition of Western concerns over verification contained in Mr. Gorbachev's 15th January proposals. We have equally made clear that adequate verification is an essential element in any arms control agreement and that we would want to have clarification of some aspects of recent Soviet statements—for example, the implications of proposals to have on-site inspection only "where necessary". These general considerations apply equally to other areas of arms control where verification is crucial. In some (for example, MBFR) the Soviet response to recent Western proposals has been disappointing.The Soviet Union has provided some limited information about seismic conditions there to the group of scientific experts at the Conference on Disarmament (CD). Other nuclear test ban questions of the type mentioned in the noble Lord's question are the sort of issues which could be discussed in further work at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) of the type which we and other Western countries have proposed but which the Soviet Union has not agreed.As for Chemical Weapons (CW) recent Soviet moves on verification represent a small though useful step. But the Soviet Union remains silent on the details of other crucial verification issues such as non-production of CW in the Civil Chemical Industry and inspection on challenge. These remain the subject of negotiation at the Conference on Disarmament.