Oral Answers to Questions — Nuclear Tests

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd May 1966.

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Photo of Mr Eric Lubbock Mr Eric Lubbock , Orpington 12:00 am, 3rd May 1966

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement about Her Majesty's Government's present policy with regard to on-site inspection of seismic events of suspected nuclear origin, in relation to the extension of the nuclear test ban treaty to include underground nuclear explosions.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

As the Answer is necessarily somewhat long, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Photo of Mr Eric Lubbock Mr Eric Lubbock , Orpington

Can the Prime Minister at least say whether there has been any change in the Government's attitude in view of the vastly improved methods of detection which now exist and have been developed over the last few years?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

The hon. Gentleman will see that that matter is dealt with in the Answer which I propose to circulate. When I was in Moscow, and my noble Friend was in Moscow shortly afterwards, we pressed on the Russians the idea of scientific exchanges to test some pilot explosions to see who was right about this. I am afraid that so far they have not agreed to joint policing tests of this kind.

Photo of Sir Knox Cunningham Sir Knox Cunningham , South Antrim

Can the Prime Minister say whether it is now possible to identify a nuclear explosion from outside the country of origin?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

If the hon. Member is referring to a relatively small underground explosion, although it is possible to identify a great number of them because of the improvement in seismic detection, it is not possible finally to say that a particular explosion is of a nuclear character or may be due to natural causes. That is our view. The Soviet Government take a different view. That is why I should like the scientists to get together to argue it out.

Photo of Mr William Robson-Brown Mr William Robson-Brown , Esher

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I draw the attention of the ventilation engineers to the extremely chilly atmosphere that is prevailing throughout the Chamber at this particular time?

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

I think that the ventilation engineers will note what the hon. Member has said and the undertones behind it.

Following is the information:The major obstacle to a comprehensive test ban treaty is that although we can detect by seismic means all underground events of importance we cannot be sure in every case whether they are earthquakes or not. Although there have been recent improvements in seismic detection capability, we cannot foresee any scientific progress that will ever enable us to close this gap.In recent years the Soviet Government have resolutely refused to agree to on-site inspections as a means of identifying suspected nuclear tests. We are seeking with our allies ways of overcoming this difficulty, and the non-aligned nations at the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Committee have made suggestions which we are examining. We are particularly studying the Swedish suggestion for verification by challenge, and in the proposal for a ban on only those tests above a certain seismic magnitude.