Oral Answers to Questions — Nuclear Tests

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 10th June 1958.

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Photo of Mr Frank Beswick Mr Frank Beswick , Uxbridge 12:00 am, 10th June 1958

asked the Prime Minister to what extent the official proposals of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics with regard to the appointment of an expert technical committee to study and recommend an inspection system for the supervision of any agreement to suspend nuclear tests are in accordance with the proposals made by Her Majesty's Government on several occasions; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Sir Elwyn Jones Sir Elwyn Jones , West Ham South

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on British policy with regard to the proposed technical discussions on controlling nuclear tests.

Photo of Mr Roy Mason Mr Roy Mason , Barnsley

asked the Prime Minister what is his policy in regard to British official participation in the proposed Geneva Conference of Scientists representing countries who are immediately concerned with nuclear tests whose aim is to produce a report showing how far secret violations of a test suspension agreement are possible; what communications he has had with Mr. Khrushchev on this matter; and who are to be the United Kingdom scientific representatives.

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

I have been asked to reply.

I think that the Soviet position and our own position are now quite close, and I hope it will be possible for experts to meet within the next few weeks. Representatives from the United Kingdom will certainly take part in any such talks, but I can as yet give no details.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has not received any communication from Mr. Khrushchev; negotiations are being conducted with the Soviet Government by the United States Government; but Her Majesty's Government are being fully consulted on all points.

As negotiations are continuing on points of detail, it would not be appropriate for me to say more at present.

Photo of Mr Frank Beswick Mr Frank Beswick , Uxbridge

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman two question? Firstly, if we come down to devising some inspection machinery for the control or suspension of tests, would Her Majesty's Government put forward as a point of principle the necessity for having directly employed United Nations inspectors as a nucleus for an eventual inspection machinery for complete nuclear disarmament? Secondly, if there is agreement on the feasibility of inspecting and controlling nuclear tests, can we take it that Her Majesty's Government will be quite happy to proceed with an agreement to suspend tests?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

That is a broader question about which there are some Questions later on the Order Paper and on which Questions have been answered before. I am answering simply Questions on these technical matters which are on the Order Paper, but in relation to the hon. Member's first point, I will certainly take note of his request in that connection.

Photo of Mr Roy Mason Mr Roy Mason , Barnsley

Would the right hon. Gentleman say that, even though Her Majesty's Government are not prepared at this stage to agree to the suspension of tests proposed by the Soviet Union, they will sympathetically consider the American Government's proposal that tests shall cease until the findings of the Scientific Committee are reported?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

I cannot go further on the general issue than the statement already made on behalf of Her Majesty's Government. I have answered the Questions on the Order Paper in relation to this matter, on which I am glad to say, as I have said already, that our own position is now quite close to that of the Soviet Union.

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Rowley Regis and Tipton

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the allegations contained in the recent Note received from the Soviet Government, that the practice of Her Majesty's Government of establishing a danger zone in the central part of the Pacific Ocean in connection with British hydrogen bomb tests was contrary to the principles of international law, Her Majesty's Government will refer the matter to the International Court of Justice; and whether Her Majesty's Government will, in the meantime, suspend all hydrogen bomb tests in the central Pacific.

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

I have been asked to reply.

The answer to the first part of the Question is "No, Sir." Her Majesty's Government do not accept the Soviet allegations. My right hon. Friend described the situation to the House on 16th April, 1957. The answer to the second part of the Question is also in the negative.

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Rowley Regis and Tipton

In view of the fact that both Governments disagree on this legal matter, would it not be a good thing if Her Majesty's Government were to indicate that, in agreement with the Soviet Government, they would be willing to refer it for the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

I have ascertained that it is not open to individual States to seek advisory opinions from the International Court.

Photo of Mr Konni Zilliacus Mr Konni Zilliacus , Manchester, Gorton

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the finding of the 15-country United Nations Committee to the effect that the nuclear test explosions that have already taken place will produce anywhere up to 120,000 cases of major genetic defects a year, he will now suspend British nuclear tests and agree to negotiate a treaty banning tests immediately, without waiting for agreement on other aspects of disarmament.

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

I have been asked to reply.

The draft report of the United Nations Scientific Committee on Radiation is still under consideration by that Committee and has not been published. I am sure that the House would be well advised not to take account of speculations on what the report may say but to await its completion.

The position of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the suspension of tests and disarmament was explained to the House by my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary on 19th May.

Photo of Mr Konni Zilliacus Mr Konni Zilliacus , Manchester, Gorton

But is it not a fact that the American Press has already published lengthy extracts from this report, including the data indicated in the Question, and will not the right hon. Gentleman say that the Government will take account of the genetic damage being done and will not adopt the position of being the last Power ready to suspend tests, showing total indifference to the genetic damage that is being caused?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

Her Majesty's Government have always given the House the information they have received on this matter and the information which they think is the best they can possibly obtain. I understand that the draft report of the United Nations Committee is likely to be completed by 1st July. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of any extracts which may be said to come from that report which is not yet complete.

Photo of Mr John Biggs-Davison Mr John Biggs-Davison , Chigwell

Will Her Majesty's Government give the fullest publicity to the number of tests carried out, respectively, by the Soviet Union, the United States and the United Kingdom?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

We have already indicated that the U.S.S.R. concluded a very large series of tests before making its recent announcement.