HC Deb 16 April 1929 vol 227 cc99-101
Dr. VERNON DAVIES (by Private Notice)

asked the Prime Minister whether he is now in a position to state what action the Government propose to take on the Report of the Sub-Committee of the Committee of Civil Research on Radium?


I have been asked to answer this question on behalf of the Prime Minister. In view of the importance of the matter and the public interest attracted by it, the Government arranged for the immediate publication of the Report, and it will be available in the Vote Office this afternoon. It will be seen that the Report deals with the national requirements for radium in medical treatment, in the Fighting Services, and for the purposes of physical research, and with the possibilities of developing new sources of supply. Further, in a full statement as to the use of radium in medical treatment, the Sub-Committee indicate that a great volume of avoidable distress and suffering persists simply because the radium required for the treatment of cancer is not available; and that the acquisition of further supplies should encourage the wider development of the highest skill in its use, and the allocation of more hospital beds to the treatment of suitable cases.

The Sub-Committee express the opinion that in order to meet the requirements of England and Wales, and of Scotland, 20 grammes of radium, in addition to the stocks already available, or likely to be available shortly, for general medical use, should be acquired within a specified period, namely, before the end of 1930. The Sub-Committee recommend that the necessary sum, estimated at £200,000, should be raised by a public appeal to which the Government should contribute pound for pound within that maximum sum. The Sub-Committee also propose the setting up of an organisation consisting, first, of a body to hold the funds and purchase and hold the radium, and secondly, of a body to distribute the radium and secure its full use in the manner best adapted to further the advancement of knowledge and the treatment of the sick.

As regards the recommendations of the Sub-Committee on the subject of the organisation, these have been accepted in principle by the Government, but the precise form of the organisation will remain open to further discussion. The Government have accepted the financial recommendation of the Sub-Committee, and they will be prepared to contribute from public funds, up to a maximum of £100,000, to the extent of £1 for every £1 of private subscription for the purchase of additional radium. The Government confidently expect that there will be no difficulty in raising, in a very short space of time, the funds necessary to provide this invaluable addition to the national resources for dealing with one of the most formidable maladies known to us.


May I ask whether the Government have considered the effect of this announcement on the price of radium, and whether they propose to take any steps to safeguard themselves in the matter?


I understand that all that is dealt with in the Committee's Report. The House is entitled to the Report and therefore publicity is unavoidable. I do not apprehend that there will be any serious consequence.

Commander BELLAIRS

Does the Report deal with the international aspect of radium; and does it make any recommendation to bring the matter before the League of Nations, especially in regard with the Belgian monopoly in the Congo?


I must frankly con fess that, like my hon. and gallant Friend, I am looking forward to studying the Report.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that every time the Government have gone into the market to purchase radium the price has been raised; and will he really consider the suggestion of the hon. and gallant Member for Maidstone (Commander Bellairs) and advise the Foreign Office to examine the matter of international action?


I understand, though I do not speak from first hand knowledge, that this matter is fully discussed in the Report, and perhaps it would be better that we should all read the Report before further questions are asked.


Can the Chancellor of the Exchequer say whether the House will have an opportunity of discussing the Report after it is published?


That question should be asked later. It does not seem to me that the House is going to have much opportunity of discussing very much more.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Report deals with the potential supplies of radium in Australia?


I am afraid that question is covered by the statement I have already made; that I have not yet studied the Report.


Will it not be necessary for the Government to present a Supplementary Estimate?


I have often said that whatever is right and necessary will be done.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say what is the approximate price of an ounce of radium?


I am sorry the hon. Member has asked that question, because I do not happen to have it in my mind.


Is he aware that it is about £400,000 per ounce.