We welcome the decision to hold these talks and have been and shall continue to be in close touch with the United States and Soviet Governments about them. But the best prospect of progress in this vital field lies in the direct exchanges which these two Governments have decided to initiate.
Does not my right hon. Friend agree that it is unlikely that it will be possible to persuade the Soviet Government to forgo the construction of an anti-ballistic defence system without some corresponding assurance about the level of offensive missiles on the Western side? Does not he agree that this country has an important part to play in influencing discussions on this point?
I agree that we have a very important part to play and, like everyone else, we have a very close interest in the outcome. That is why we are in the closest touch with both Governments. Defensive and offensive missiles clearly have a relationship, and that is why I welcomed what President Johnson said on 3rd March about the means of limiting these missiles. One must recognise that the development of antiballistic missile defensive systems would give a new impetus to the nuclear race. Obviously, therefore, we have a considerable interest in trying to avoid that situation.