The purpose of the Geneva Nuclear Tests Conference is to negotiate a treaty for the world-wide discontinuance of nuclear weapons tests under effective international controls. Therefore, all three Governments represented at this Conference have recognised the desirability and the need for other Governments to accede and we confidently expect that they will do so. Meanwhile, the first thing is to get an agreement between the three Powers on a treaty to which other Governments can accede.
This is a most disappointing and worrying reply. We have always been given to understand that the three existing nuclear Powers were planning a treaty by which they themselves would stop tests. Am I to understand that if any other country starts testing, as now France has announced she intends to do, any agreement on stopping tests by Britain, America and Russia will automatically become null and void?
In the report of last year's Geneva Conference of Experts it was stated that the control system recommended for the detection of nuclear tests did not include specific means to detect and identify nuclear explosions at high altitudes, that is to say at over 30 to 50 kilometres above the earth. The purpose of the recent technical group set up by the present Geneva Conference on Nuclear Tests was to try to fill this gap. The Group started their work on 22nd June and submitted an agreed report to the Conference on 10th July. A copy of this report is available in the Library of the House. The report recommends a ground-based system, as well as the use of earth satellites, as a means of detecting and identifying nuclear tests at high altitudes. It now remains to incorporate, on the basis of this report, suitable provisions in the treaty which is being drafted by the Conference.
While thanking the Minister of State for that reply, may I ask whether the Government would consider now giving the "go-ahead"? How long would it take to launch these satellites? Since the East-West experts agree on the feasibility of spotting these explosions, would not this be the ideal way of starting co-operation between the Governments and of avoiding the making of competing satellites for warlike purposes, as has been proposed by General James Gavin and others?
Of course, if we could get agreement and it resulted in the joint launching and operation of earth satellites, that would be very much in the interests of world peace, but I am bound to point out to the hon. Member that this report is extremely complicated. It is not necessarily decided that earth satellites should immediately be launched. The ground stations themselves would have quite considerable capability of detecting tests and it might be better to start off with the ground stations only.
I presume the hon. Member is referring to the meeting between the Western Foreign Ministers which took place at Geneva on 12th July, French nuclear tests were not discussed at that meeting.
Will the Government now ask the French to stop their proposed tests? In view of the nine months impasse at Geneva, will the Government end our tests unilaterally and permanently? How can we ask the French to forgo their tests if we insist on going on with our own?
I do not accept that Washington is trying to manufacture arguments against an agreement for the suspension of tests. But, certainly, these experiments are of considerable interest and we are in touch with the United States.