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Tuesday, 9 September 1958


Mr Ward d asked the acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -

1.   Is it a fact that, at a conference held recently at Geneva to discuss methods of detecting nuclear bomb tests as a preliminary measure to securing an international agreement on the banning of these tests, Russian scientists revealed some of their atomic detection secrets?

2.   Did a Dr. Hans Bethe, of the United States of America, subsequently declare that the information disclosed was beyond data previously known?

3.   Would full knowledge of the development of the methods of detection enable proper consideration to be given to the practicability of effectively policing an international agreement to ban nuclear bomb tests?

4.   Is he able to state whether the representatives of what are commonly referred to as the Western Powers reciprocated in this exchange of information with a view to the encouragement of the frankest discussions on this aspect of a world problem of vital importance?


Sir Philip McBride - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows: -

1.   Following agreement reached through an exchange of letters between President Eisenhower and Premier Khrushchev, a closed conference of Western and Soviet bloc technical experts began on 1st July to " study the possibility of detecting violations of a possible agreement on suspension of nuclear tests ". The conference finished its work on the 21st August and although the full report of its conclusions is not yet available, the reaction of the United Kingdom and United States Governments suggests that a very full measure of agreement was reached. It is to be hoped that an equal measure of agreement will be reached in negotiations to install a control system.

2.   Dr. HansBethe is a Professor of Physics at Cornell University and a member of the United States President's Science Advisory Committee. He was also one of the American experts at the Geneva Conference. The text of the statement referred to is not available. It is assumed, however, that any official comment on behalf of the Western team would be made by its leader Dr. J. B. Fisk.

3.   Yes. The question sums up the reasoning of the Western Powers in asking for this conference. The possible suspension of nuclear tests, of course, is only one part of the disarmament question for by itself a suspension of tests will not bring about disarmament.

4.   The Western Powers have constantly emphasized the necessity of having an adequate detection system in any arrangement tostop or suspend nuclear bomb tests and only obtained Russian agreement to participate in the conference after persistent efforts. There is good reason for believing that the Western scientists continued their cooperation and at least equalled the Soviet team in the presentation of information to encourage frank discussions.







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