§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.47 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
I am quite sure hon. Members in all parts of the House will recognise the unique military, economic and international importance of this subject, and that those very unique conditions require very exceptional legislation. We have really no exact precedents to guide us in this matter. The military significance of the discovery and the application of atomic energy was demonstrated at Hiroshima and at Nagasaki. It was followed by world-wide concern as to the harmful possibilities of this development, and also by the realisation that there were possibilities of great good to the human race in the discovery of this new source of power if it could be ensured that it would be used for peaceful purposes only. The House will remember that in November, 1945, accompanied by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) I went across to discuss with President Truman and with Mr. Mackenzie King this problem of the atom bomb and other new methods of destructive warfare. It was as a consequence of that visit that the United Nations organisation has now set up the Atomic Energy Commission to endeavour to work out some form of international control to free the world from the possibility of atomic war, while encouraging the industrial and commercial application of this invention.
The full economic significance of atomic energy is not yet known. I think there has been in some quarters a good deal of over-optimism, both as to what could be accomplished and as to the time within which we could see vast changes in our daily life. I do not think anyone has any doubt that there is here a possibility of revolutionary changes. Therefore, I think hon. Members of all parties will agree that development in this country is a prime responsibility of the Government; that the Government must have the powers to foster development, to guide it along the most fruitful lines, and to ensure that the 44 results are used in the best way for the peace and prosperity of this country and of the world. Today, we are not concerned primarily with the question of international control. That is a matter which is being worked out in the Commission set up by the United Nations organisation, and we all hope that that Commission will find an effective solution to remove the fears for the safety of mankind which have been aroused. I do not think there is sufficient awareness, perhaps, of the dangers in this country. I am quite sure that that awareness is not quite so acute as it is on the other side of the Atlantic. But we have been watching with anxious care the deliberations of the Commission, and it is the firm intention of His Majesty's Government to do their utmost to get an agreed scheme, and to cooperate fully in that scheme when it has been agreed; and this Bill before the House, in one of its aspects, is an earnest of the Government's determination that the United Kingdom shall be ready to play its part, its full part, in any international scheme.
The military applications are, of course, largely affected by international considerations; but, whether the United Nations organisation succeeds or not in getting a solution, we believe that the military applications must be the subject of the closest Government control. We hope that we may secure its prohibition for military use. If that were not so, or even if it were so, we should still need to have powers in this country; and it is important, in this regard, to remember that one cannot separate off exactly the plants that may produce power for civil use and the plants that may be used for military use. Power that produces for peaceful use may also produce an explosive element in the atomic bomb. The knowledge of the possibilities of this invention, and of how far it can be applied to economic and industrial exploitation, is not sufficient yet to produce a detailed scheme or a permanent scheme.
This Bill has no background of political bearing. It is forced upon us by the very nature of this new invention. We are not introducing a sudden Bill for nationalisation. We are taking the steps which any Government must take in dealing with an invention of such immense potential destruction; and whether there are private activities or public activities they must be subject to close governmental supervision. 45 In fact, the task of development could not really be undertaken except by Government. There is, first of all, the very large expenditure in money and materials. It is really a major productive effort. There is uncertainty as to the results; and there is, of course, a thing we must watch ail the time—the danger of disastrous accident if there were uncontrolled experiment.
As the House knows, the Government have already set up a large research establishment, and we are arranging for the production of fissile material for that establishment, and for other purposes; and the responsibility has been placed with the Minister of Supply; and this Bill will give him the necessary powers to discharge that responsibility. I cannot tell the House exactly what will be the future cost. The programme of work already approved will cost something like £30 million, but the programme is being kept constantly under review, and it may well be that expenditure on a far greater scale may be necessary if we are to play our proper part. The Bill has been very carefully considered by our experts and by the Committee presided over by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities, who has such a great knowledge of this subject. But, of course, the Government take full responsibility for it. Therefore, I claim that this Bill is necessary, both to fulfil our international obligations, and for the protection of our people at home.
I should now like to turn to the Clauses. Clause I is a general Clause which designates the Minister of Supply as the appropriate Minister responsible for controlling the development and use of atomic energy and for exercising control. In Clauses 2 and 3 the Minister is invested with statutory powers to produce and use atomic energy, to carry out research, and give financial assistance to other persons engaged in this work. It is very important that the work here should be coordinated with work being done at the universities, and we are giving assistance to the universities. In Clauses 4 and 5 there is power to call for information and to inspect premises, and there is, particularly, the power of entry and inspection under Clause 5, which, I think, if we were dealing with some other subject, might appear very drastic. It is unusual: we are dealing 46 with an unusual subject. I think it essential the Government must be able to inform themselves fully of unauthorised activities, not, as I said before, only in the interests of this country, but in view of the fact that we are working to try to get international control in which we must play our full part.
Clause 6 empowers the Minister to search for the sources of minerals and to compensate for damage done; and Clause 7 contains provision for the compulsory acquisition of rights to work those minerals. We put those Clauses in for better security. I am bound to say that, as far as my information goes, it seems unlikely we shall find in these islands any great stores of minerals, either of uranium or anything of the kind, in order to produce fissile material; but, obviously, the Bill would be incomplete if it did not contain provision of this sort. The power may, as I say, never be used, but we do not know what developments may come. Therefore, we have only proposed the general powers for compensation to be exercised in individual cases under Statutory Orders. In Clauses 8 and 9 we have powers of compulsory acquisition of all sources of materials, minerals containing them, plants and contracts, with, again, provision for compensation. Clause 10 provides licensing arrangements to control the activities by private concerns, and I call attention particularly to Subsection (2), which places on the Minister the duty of securing, as far as practicable, by licence, that the necessary minerals, substances and plants are available for scientific and ordinary commercial purposes. We are anxious that research should be encouraged—not merely not impeded, but encouraged—and research is being undertaken by universities and by commercial firms under contracts placed and financed by the Government.
I draw special attention to Clause 11, which places restrictions on the disclosure of information. The production of atomic energy involves very complicated processes. It is really a major industrial effort, and until we can get international control, what is sometimes called the industrial "know-how" must be kept under control. When I was in America the declaration made by the President of the United States, the Prime Minister of Canada and myself laid down this policy: until we can get the introduction of effective and forcible safeguards, and we all 47 hope that international arrangements will make strict secrecy unnecessary, while we can meanwhile encourage the dissemination of basic scientific information, there must be power to prevent the dissemination of information as to what is called the "know-how."
We are presented with a rather difficult drafting problem as to where exactly to draw the line, where to get the security we need without impeding scientific research, and the conclusion we reached was that we should define in the Bill the information which should not be communicated concerning the energy plants, what they do and how they work, with provision for excluding information about plant in use for purposes other than atomic energy provided that the connection with atomic energy is not disclosed. Our Amendment is on the Paper, and will be moved by the Minister in Committee, directing the Minister not to withhold consent to disclosure where he is satisfied that the information proposed to be communicated is not of importance for purposes of defence. That will enable us to delete Subsection (4). Our desire has been to make the thing watertight by giving the Minister full powers, including power to authorise a relaxation in particular cases. Also we desire to take away the onus which, as the Bill is drafted, rested on persons requiring them to give information without knowing quite whether the information was right. As the Clause will be amended in Committee, that onus will be on the Minister. We also provide that where information has once been made available to the general public, if it is not in contravention of the Bill, it is freed from further control. We expect that in course of time there will gradually emerge classes of information which may be published, and then exemption orders can be made under Subsection (2). As a matter of fact today the great bulk of the technical information is necessarily in Government hands. It has been the result of work in Government establishments or under Government control, and there is there, therefore, the additional safeguard of the Official Secrets Act. If hon. Members will examine this Clause I think they will find that it hits the mean between not giving away information that will endanger our security and, at the same time, not being unduly restrictive of scientific research.
§ Mr. Blackburn (Birmingham, King's Norton)
Would the Prime Minister deal with the point that, instead of accepting the distinction which he pointed out earlier between fundamental research on the one hand and industrial "know-how" on the other, the Clause is now so drafted as to cover the whole field, both fundamental research and industrial "know-how" as well?
§ The Prime Minister
I do not think so, but perhaps the hon. Member will take it up later.
Clause 12 deals with inventions and patents, and gives power to control and restrict the publication of information about atomic energy patent applications, pending notification of the Minister of Supply, who can inspect documents and decide whether the subject matter is of military importance. If it is, the prohibition on publication will stand; if not, the inventor will be free to exploit his invention and the inventor, if there is a ban, can still offer his invention to the Government. Subsection (4) deals with the application outside the United Kingdom, and Subsection (7) enables the Government to use for the purposes of the Crown any atomic energy invention or patent on terms to be agreed or arbitrated. That is in line with existing legislation on other inventions. Since the Bill was introduced and printed, consideration has been given to the question of whether some compensation should be paid to inventors who develop inventions which the Crown finds it necessary to suppress, but does not itself use, and an Amendment will be moved in Committee empowering the Minister to pay such measure of compensation as will ensure that the inventor is not out of pocket.
I think the remaining Clauses are of a general and formal nature. Since the Bill was published we have had the benefit of a good deal of informed criticism. It has been very carefully considered, and this is reflected in Amendments which are mostly of a very minor character, apart from those to which I have referred, and the Government will propose those at the proper stage. I do not think there is need for me to say more on this Bill except to commend it to the House. The House is in the presence of an invention, a discovery, of most far-reaching possibilities, and in those circumstances it is quite clear 49 that its development must be guided in the national interest. The Government must have adequate powers of control, they must not hinder the freedom of scientists, indeed they must facilitate it. It is on those broad lines, of ensuring safety for this country and at the same time not unduly hampering research, that this Bill has been drafted.
§ 4.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Law (Kensington, South)
The Prime Minister, in the very brief speech with which he has favoured us, said that this Bill was not dictated by any doctrinal considerations. I do not know if those were his exact words, but that was, I take it, his meaning. Of course we are perfectly willing to accept that assurance, but at the same time it is very remarkable how closely this Bill, in its general form, does resemble the general mass of legislation which has been put before this Parliament in recent months by His Majesty's Government, and I think the House is entitled to some explanation as to why, on this occasion, we on this side of the House propose to support the Bill instead of opposing it.
This Atomic Energy Bill resembles with extraordinary fidelity the general run of Socialist legislation. Whether it is legislation for taking over the mines, for housing, for health, or whatever it may be, the fidelity to the pattern is really quite remarkable. In this Bill, as in all other Bills, the Government establish a monopoly. In this Bill, as in those other Bills, the Government endow a supposedly all-wise Minister with absolute and final authority. Here, as in other Bills, vistas are opened up of forms to be filled in, declarations to be made, inspectors to be placated, and so on, and compensation, not very clearly defined, is to be paid for those whose rights or property is wrested from them by the State. It is very much on the old model. Nevertheless, we on this side of the House propose to give our support to this Bill, even though it does resemble so very closely some other horses which have come out of the same stable and have not been conspicuously successful at recent race meetings.
I think there are two main reasons why the House should give a Second Reading to this Bill. No layman can say with absolute finality and dogmatism that there will never be any physical, mechanical answer to the atomic bomb. It is con- 50 ceivable, I suppose, that the same ingenuity which produced the bomb may, in time, produce its antidote. No one can say that there will never be an antidote. What we can say, and must say now, is that it seems unlikely in the physical field that there will ever be, as far as we can see, a complete antidote to this weapon. We are therefore left to look for a solution for defence—because we must have a defence—not in the physical field but in the political field. The only final defence I can see in the political field is some valid international agreement for the establishment of an international authority for the control of this new weapon. That is really the only ultimate defence. It is clear that it is going to be impossible to establish international control unless first we have established national control. This Bill is therefore the essential prerequisite of the final solution, if ever in fact we do reach a final solution. That is one reason why I suggest that the House, irrespective of party, must support the Bill this afternoon.
The second reason is this. We are at present in a kind of interim position. We have not yet achieved a valid international agreement, no international authority has been set up, and with the limited information at my disposal I cannot see that there is any immediate prospect of such an authority being set up. And so we are left in this position. From every point of view, from the point of view of the economic, medical or scientific development of this invention, as much as from the point of view of defence, we must ensure as far as we humanly can that we in this country, our scientists and our industry, are abreast of anything that is being done in any other country. That for the moment is the only solution which is left open to us during this interim period pending the establishment of an international authority. There is no other solution which I can see.
It is true that to be left to one's own resources in this way, to try to develop as best we can our own resources, is an unsatisfactory solution of this terribly grave problem. It is a solution which is fraught with immense possibilities of danger in the future, but nevertheless it is the only solution that is to our hand at the present time. Therefore we must devote ourselves with as much energy as we can command to putting ourselves and keeping ourselves right in the forefront 51 in this field of development of atomic energy. If we are to do that, if we are to avail ourselves even of this temporary solution, it is clear that the Government of the day must assume final and absolute responsibility for the defence of the citizens of this country against the atomic bomb. There is no getting away from that. At the same time it is clear that the whole resources of the Government must be behind the research and industrial development of this new invention.
It is very easy to say that what I have been saying is, in a sense, an incitement to a new armaments race. I ask the House to believe that the idea of an armaments race, especially in this field, is absolutely abhorrent to me, and I am sure that it must be abhorrent to the whole House, but if there is one prospect more alarming than the prospect of an armaments race, it is the prospect of an armaments race in which we come in last. We have had some experience of that in recent years. It was extremely disagreeable and inconvenient in 1940, and I think it would be even more disagreeable and even more inconvenient in 1950, or 1960, if we found ourselves in the same position. For that reason I say that we must strain every nerve to see that we are abreast and more than abreast of everything that is being done in this field anywhere else in the world.
I think we are agreed that a Bill of this kind is justified and necessary. I think the Prime Minister has made out his case, but to what extent does this Bill give the Government the powers which they must have if they are to fulfil their elementary duty to the people of this country? I must confess, on looking through it for the first time, that it seemed to me to be a Bill peculiarly negative and restrictive in its general intentions. There are endless injunctions and prohibitions, endless lists of what cannot be done, and comparatively little said of what can be done and of what must be done. Taking Clauses 10 and 11, which I suppose in a sense are the crux of the whole Bill, we find a reference in Clause 10 to research which seems to be somewhat perfunctory—there are other references to research in Clauses 2 and 3, and so on. In Clause 10 we find what the Minister can do in the way of prohibition, and in Clause 11 we find a list of all those things which cannot be com- 52 municated without the consent of the Minister. At a first glance it seems to be not unduly restrictive but to have an entirely negative atmosphere about it.
I think that in a case of this kind first impressions are apt to be misleading, and I can see that it is easier to define some things by exclusion rather than by inclusion. It is easier to make a list of the things the Minister must prohibit than to make a list of the things he must encourage. It is easier to make a list of the things about which information must not be disclosed than to make a catalogue of the things about which it would be wise and prudent to disclose information. I am prepared to believe that the Bill, as it stands, is nothing like as negative and restrictive as it appeared to me to be when I picked it up for the first time.
On this question of the control of information, we have to recognise that the Washington Declaration of the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister of Canada and the President of the United States which, as I understand, still governs the basis of Government policy in this matter, has introduced a certain conflict. The idea that you shall disclose basic scientific information and, at the same time, withhold the disclosure of information relating to technical and industrial application of atomic energy involves us in a certain conflict and the question is: How has this conflict been resolved in the Bill? Most of as would agree that if we are to make progress in this field in this country, it is essential that we should have as free an exchange of basic scientific information as possible. The scientist is not a man who works and lives in a vacuum. He makes headway by consulting with his fellow scientists, picking their brains and letting them pick his. One has only to look at the list of the distinguished scientists in this country, the United States, Germany, Italy, Russia, Denmark and in almost every other country to see how necessary this exchange of information is for development in this field. If any of us believes that we can safeguard our own position by putting an absolute damper on all exchange of information he will find himself sadly mistaken. There is no doubt that one most important element in scientific development is this kind of free interchange of ideas, a kind of chain reaction in the intellectual sphere, as distinct from the physical sphere. I do not think that anyone would deny that. At the same 53 time, it is absolutely essential, until the general international atmosphere is far clearer than it is today, that we should maintain any advantage that we may have in the sphere of technical application, and that there should be no disclosure of that side of the picture at all. But there is this conflict between those two ideas, and I must say that on reading the Bill again it seems to me that the conflict has been resolved as well as it can be resolved by the Measure which is now before us.
There is one other point which seems of enormous importance when we are discussing scientists and the way they behave. I am quite certain that scientists cannot be treated as civil servants, and if this Bill is operated and administered in such a way as to attempt to dragoon our scientists into the atmosphere of a Government Department I am quite sure that the result will be absolutely disastrous. I hope that the Minister will be able to assure us that there is no such intention, and that scientists will be able to have as much freedom for research as if this Bill did not exist. With regard to research, as I said there is comparatively little reference to it in the Bill although, after all, one cannot expect much positive enthusiasm from a Parliamentary draftsman. He has too much of it to do. There are sufficient powers for the Minister to encourage research if he is prepared to do so. Our powers in this House are limited. We can give the Minister powers, but we cannot compel him to use them. We have no means of doing that. We can take the horse to the water but we have no means of compelling him to drink. And whether the Bill is effective for its purposes depends far less on what is in it, than on the judgment, energy, and good sense with which it is administered by the Minister and his Department, and the Government as a whole.
This Bill, by itself, will not provide us with protection against the atom bomb. It will not ensure that we are in the forefront of scientific and industrial development. That depends entirely upon the Government. Of course, that applies to the whole range of matters with which this Administration is concerning itself. When the Government assume powers of legislation over the whole range of national life, the important thing is not so much what is in the Bill as to how 54 the Government will administer it. That applies to houses, coal, or health, or whatever it may be; but there is this difference here, and it is a vital difference If the Minister of Fuel and Power, for instance, through his ineptitude or irresponsibility, brings ruin to the coalmining industry, that will cause great distress in countless homes in this country; it will lower the standard of life of our people; it will lessen the influence of this country in the world. But the disaster will not be absolutely irretrievable. In time, the spirit of our people will reassert itself, and things will be better. We shall climb the hill again. But if the Government are negligent in their duty in this field, then the disaster, if it comes, will be final, absolute and irretrievable. Therefore, I say that everything depends on the energy which is shown by the Government in that matter.
I think we should be wise, then, to ask ourselves what the evidence is that the Government are pursuing this matter with the necessary determination and drive. There must be a lot of things happening —at least I hope so—which cannot be disclosed, but on the evidence we have today, have we reason to suppose that the Government are really aware of the urgency of this problem, that they understand that this problem of controlling atomic energy is far more important than anything else with which they are dealing, that everything, including housing and social security, depends on a solution being found? Are the Government pushing this thing with all the determination in their power? I wish I could, for my own part, give a completely reassuring answer to these questions. I must say that I am not satisfied that, in the general field, the Government are using the energy and the decision which are necessary.
What is our position today, so far as we know it—our interim position? Our interim position is that we, the United States and Canada have a certain advantage. We do not know how big that advantage is. In terms of years, it can be measured only by a few years—a very few years. One of these years has already passed—it is 15 months or so, since the bomb dropped, and it has taken 15 months for the Government to produce this Bill. I agree, of course, that this Bill is not a final solution. It is only a start; but it is, I think, some months since the MacMahon 55 Act passed through the Congress of the United States. It is months since a Bill of this kind came before Parliament in Canada. I find it very difficult to understand why it has taken so long to produce this Bill and to bring it to the House of Commons for Second Reading. [HON. MEMBERS: "On 1st May."] The Bill was produced on 1st May, but I find it difficult to understand why it has taken so long to bring it here for Second Reading.
I would like to say something about the form of the Bill itself. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not think me discourteous or in any way offensive to him, but it seems to be a little bit odd that this field, which is so tremendously important, should be entrusted to a Minister of comparatively junior rank, a Minister who, I understand, is not a member of the Cabinet. I find it very difficult to understand, if the Government really accept the overwhelming importance of this subject, why it has not been entrusted to some Minister, whose powers may not be greater, but whose position and authority are greater than the position and authority of a Minister of Supply, who is not in the Cabinet, in a peacetime Government. One has only to contrast the position with that which existed under the last Government. Then, this matter was put in the charge of my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson), who was, first, Lord President, and then Chancellor of the Exchequer. That seemed to give it the kind of priority which is required, but I think—and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not think me offensive because I am not being offensive to him personally —that it is a strange thing that this whole field should be handed over—
§ The Prime Minister
I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman quite understands. I have always kept the general supervision of the broad matter in my own hands as Prime Minister. It is the development side that naturally goes to the Minister of Supply. The right hon. Gentleman must not think that this has been handed over to a junior Minister. It is a major consideration of the Government, but some Minister has to be entrusted with the actual physical working which is going on, and that, naturally, comes under the Department of the Minister of Supply.
§ Mr. Law
I thank the Prime Minister for his intervention, which does something to ease my mind on this matter. I am very glad indeed to hear that this is regarded as a subject which is so important that it must be within the more or less constant purview, as I understand it, of the Prime Minister himself.
The Financial Memorandum of the Bill says—and the Prime Minister repeated it —that while the expenditure cannot be foreseen, the present figure, so far as it can be foreseen, is in the neighbourhood of £30 million. I do not know whether that figure is adequate or not, but what I have been given to understand is that in the United States, something like £200 million has already been spent. It would be unfair and unreasonable to make a contrast between those two figures, because a great deal of the £200 million must have been spent in the actual production of the bomb for war purposes.
§ Mr. Blackburn
Surely the right hon. Gentleman has read the documents which show that 2,000 million dollars were spent, all upon the production of bombs. Is he referring to what has occurred since the war in mentioning this figure of £200 million?
§ Mr. Law
I was explaining that it would be unfair to contrast the two figures without qualification, because, as I said, and as the hon. Member has just stressed, the great bulk of that expenditure must have been in connection with the war. I would very much doubt whether, looking at the magnitude of the problem and the urgency of it, the figure of £30 million to be spent in the foreseeable future is adequate.
§ The Prime Minister
I said that that was the amount proposed to be spent at present. There is more coming on. The proposals are put at that expenditure by our advisers, and up to the present it is £30 million; but as I said at the time, I am afraid that we shall have to spend a great deal more than that.
§ Mr. Law
I am very glad indeed to hear what the Prime Minister has just stated. I would like to make this point: The proposals are put up for expenditure in the normal course under Government machinery, with effective Treasury control, and it sometimes takes a long time for such expenditure to be sanctioned. I 57 hone that in this case, if there is to be any expenditure which looks like being useful and profitable in this field, there will be the minimum of red tape and Treasury restriction upon that expenditure. By and large, I cannot see, looking over the past 15 months, that the Government have given this subject the priority which it deserves. It seems to me that, for reasons which I have tried to give to the House, this field of atomic energy and the exploitation of atomic energy just has to take its turn through the mill with other things—with housing, coal, bread-rationing, the Liverpool Cotton Exchange, or whatever it may be. If so, I say that that is not good enough, because this thing, as I said a moment or two ago, is far more important than anything else in the Government's programme. Unless we can find a means of protecting ourselves from this force, of controlling this enormous, this incalculable force which we have released, there will be no security either social or otherwise and there will not be any houses, even those we have got, let alone the dream houses that exist in the election literature of hon. Members opposite. I ask the Government to remember that. This matter ought to have a priority far above anything else. I cannot see much evidence—although of course I have very little information—that it has been given that priority today.
The Prime Minister, a few moments ago, said that he thought that there was not as much realisation in this country of the dangers of this weapon or of its possibilities as there was in the United States. I think that is true. It seems to me that, looking back over the past 15 months, a very decided change has come over the public mood in relation to the whole problem of atomic energy. When the atomic bomb exploded over Hiroshima, there was a sudden shock, a sudden feeling of enlightenment. I think we all realised that we were faced with a revolution of a kind which is absolutely unsurpassed in recorded human history. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Fuel and Power rather fancies himself, I imagine, as a kind of amateur revolutionary, but by the side of men like Rutherford, Chadwick, Dempster, Millikan and Frisch, the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Fuel and Power does not even get through the qualifying round. This is a revolution, and we all recognised it as a revolution 15 58 months ago. In that mood every kind of solution was propounded, many of them, even most of them, wildly impracticable. The people of this country understood that we were at the cross roads, that we had a choice to make. We were perhaps unduly afraid of the bomb. But that mood has passed. The tragedy is that nothing seems to have taken its place. We seem in a sense to have dropped the bomb into that abyss of nihlism which is one of the most bitter consequences of the war, which is perhaps the inevitable consequence of a civilisation like our own, which is devoted to grossly material ends and very little else. We seem to have accepted the position with a kind of weary fatalism. I think that is extremely dangerous.
We cannot accept this position fatalistically. We have got to deal with it. The only mistake we made 15 months ago was in giving way to panic, because fear has never solved any problem. Fear has never been a constructive force in human affairs. We try to forget about the bomb, but we cannot forget about it. We try to push it to the back of our minds, but it is always there, and it always will be there until we find some solution. This Bill is the first step towards that solution. It is only a diminutive step. It is hardly a step at all. It is only like the tape being released for the runners to start. But it is the first step. We have taken that first step. Whether it leads to anything or not will depend, in my judgment, entirely upon whether the Government implement this Bill with their full energy, whether they give to this problem an absolute and first priority. If they do not do that, then neither this Bill nor anything else will avail us very much.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke)
The Prime Minister, in introducing this Bill, said that he did not think there was sufficient awareness in this country of the destructive possibility of atomic power. I was glad to hear him say that, and I hope this Bill is the beginning of a change in that respect. The Bill raises big issues, for the future of humanity is at stake. I welcome this opportunity of making a few observations. In my view, the Government should have taken this step. I desire to place on record our appreciation of the work of that small number of Englishmen who worked so hard and so long at Trafford Park, Manchester, and 59 at Rugby. I refer, in particular, to Professors Rutherford, Chadwick, Cockcroft and Blackett, Drs. Allibone, Craggs, Milne and Wilkinson, and Messrs. Elce, Smethurst, Haine and Starling. I am sorry I do not know their Christian names, for we who belong to the ordinary people, when we respect people and desire to place on record our appreciation of their service in life, always refer to them by their Christian names, in contrast to what takes place in the House and other places. I thought that, in view of the claims now being made in periodicals in the United States of America, in particular, I—and I hope others will associate themselves in this—ought to place on record what we owe to those men.
The utilisation of nuclear energy and the perfecting of the atomic bomb were the result of collective research and collective engineering. I agree wholly with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Kensington (Mr. Law) in his remarks about the importance of scientists having an opportunity of meeting one another and collaborating with one another. Where the right hon. Gentleman made a mistake was in limiting that need to scientists, for we have now reached a period in man's development where it is essential that men should cooperate throughout the world. Only collective action will now save the world from an atomic arms race. Relatively, the people in our time have made the greatest sacrifices in history in order to defeat Fascism, and now they find themselves in a world situation in which, because of atomic energy, they feel they are in the grip of forces that, for the time being, they are unable to control. They are in a mood of frustration and anxious urgency, and the British Labour Government, with its huge majority, was not elected to acquiesce in this situation. In view of what is at stake, the Government should have complete control of research, development, and production. I ask the Minister to be good enough to reply to this question: Is it a fact that the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research have made, and are still making, large grants? If so, what do those grants amount to, and where does the expenditure of public money end and private start? Seeing that there is a large amount of development being carried on by private enterprise, are those grants being used for the 60 purpose of increasing the profits of those who are carrying out research, development and production? I have before me a letter from the Association of Scientific Workers. They make several proposals. I do not wish to delay the House by mentioning those proposals, but I hope the Minister and the House will give consideration to those proposals before we reach the Committee stage on Friday.
I read in the "Manchester Guardian" on 9th September that there is widespread interest in America in the news that atomic energy for industrial use is now available at a cost only 25 per cent. higher than anything produced by coal, and the technicians say that this cost is certain to be materially lowered soon. In view of our serious fuel position, are we as advanced as the Americans in regard to the probability of using atomic energy for other purposes than those for which it has been used up to now? In my view, we should have been told more to-day about the vast potentialities there are for man's benefit as a result of the perfecting of nuclear energy.
Unfortunately up to now this country in particular and the world in general have paid too much attention to the destructive possibilities and too little to the enormous possibilities for man's benefit. Already—and this needs to be stressed in our Debate today—enormous progress has been made in our country in the harnessing of atomic power for human welfare. The finest X-ray equipment was used at St. Bartholomew's hospital; the rays of this equipment were obtained from a million volt X-ray tube. Progress has been made in Manchester with a new betatron which steps up the voltage to 20 million, and at the present time a 200 million volt betatron is being built in Trafford Park.
Thanks to nuclear physics the scientists, the engineers, and the medical men are collaborating and cooperating—unlike some politicians who are strutting about and thinking they know it all. Man has arrived at a period when he must make progress by cooperation, and the men who are responsible day by day, for making centuries of headway, as we have done during the recent war, no longer take up that attitude. They are humble and far seeing men, who realise that we are living in the days of great scientific development. Thanks to these men we are now 61 in sight of this development being used to deal with diseases and the saving of life. I have some photographs in my pocket which show how this development has taken place, and I hope the Minister will embark upon an educational campaign in order to let the world see that this country was in the forefront of this development before the war and that we made an enormous contribution during the war. We should not be leaving it to the United States to claim all the credit for this development.
I want to ask the Minister—and I hope he will reply—whether ample resources are at the disposal of our scientists, medical men, and engineers to enable them to keep in the forefront. That is the great danger I see now. Millions and millions are being expended on research by several of the greatest Powers of the world. Are we placing the same resources at the disposal of our great men —and they need to be described as great men—serving in a humble way, as they are doing day by day, in engineering, in the universities, and in other research centres? Are we proceeding as fast as we should to enable this energy to be used to save life? Within the past two years I have had certain personal experiences which make me realise what we owe to the medical men and the scientists and I want those resources to be placed at the disposal of our medical men, so that they can save thousands of humble lives in this country, rather than that such means should be lost as they have been for far too long.
I do not accept altogether what I am now going to quote but there is a great deal in it. H. G. Wells said:The fate of the world depends upon a race between education and catastrophe. In view of the atomic bomb catastrophe is winning, since science and technology are developing more rapidly than man's ability to control them.At the last General Election the people of our country elected a Government that should carry out a policy of complete national control and it is time we were seeing more results in this respect. I read in the "New York Herald Tribune" of 16th August that constant research is being carried out in atomic energy in the United States. The United States Army are testing German V-2 rockets, and their Air Force are testing rocket powered projectiles 10 feet long. Atomic energy as 62 a means of propulsion will be a reality in five years, they say. Their naval experts envisage new types of ships—long, thin, pencil-like vessels, with knife-edged bows and sterns—propelled by atomic energy at great speed.
I am still only relatively young but I have been involved in two world wars. The first war, we were told, was a war to end war. During the last war we were promised a new world. Now the ordinary people are asking, "Where are we going now?" I supported our war effort one hundred per cent. and I am confident that that was the right policy, but I now stand here a little disillusioned after reading the American publication, "Dinner at the White House." The "Manchester Guardian" of 9th September said that General Eisenhower was to have conferences with the Imperial General Staff when he visited England. It was understood that close Anglo-American cooperation in the development of guided missiles was being sought. We heard a great deal last week about General Eisenhower's visit, but nothing about the report to which I have referred. I would ask the Minister whether that report was correct.
I recently read an American publication entitled "The Scientific Monthly" which stated that progress in science in Russia during the war was greater than we expected, and that, in some fields, the Russians are leading the world. In the past I would have said, "Reactionaries beware," but in the atomic age we shall all be involved, for with atomic and other forms of warfare the devastation will result in the annihilation of millions. On 16th November last year President Truman and the Prime Minister said that the only complete protection for the civilised world from the destructive use of scientific knowledge lies in the prevention of war. That was a relatively long time ago now, and I think that more should have been said by spokesmen of the Government in this respect during the ensuing ten months. The indictment upon which the Nazis were sentenced has created a new international code, and I want to ask the Government whether they accept this new code: "Sentenced for crimes against humanity." All politicians who are supporting policies that may lead to war might consider their position in relation to this new international code. 63 Do the Big Four accept it? Then why all this expenditure on armaments?
The people are hoping that the international Atomic Commission will reach agreement upon atomic control. If they do, then the Big Four should meet to consider what they can do about this enormous expenditure of the people's wealth and energy that is taking place on armaments, and I am hoping that, after the speech made by the Prime Minister today, he is going to speak out more upon this question. How much longer are we to leave the initiative in international affairs to other countries? How much longer are we to leave the field of international politics to General Smuts and to the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill)? How much longer are we to be dragged at the heels of the United States of America in international politics? During the recent war, the British people made an enormous contribution to the saving of mankind. It entitles us to speak out in international affairs. I welcomed the speech made today by the Prime Minister. I welcomed in particular the phrase he used to the effect that there was not sufficient awareness in this country of the destructive possibilities of this enormous energy. I hope that this is the beginning of the Government's initiative in international affairs, in order that the people of this country, and mankind in general, may use this new nuclear energy for the purpose of saving life. I hope we shall not drift into an arms race in atomic energy, in which more of the energy of the people themselves will be used than has ever been the case before. I, therefore, welcome the introduction of the Bill, and hope that it will be the beginning of a great step in this country in the progress of man.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ Commander Noble (Chelsea)
Having just had the privilege of representing this House as one of the Government observers at the Bikini atomic bomb tests, I am glad of the opportunity of saying a few words in this Debate. On our mission to the Pacific it was necessary for the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick) and I to share a cabin in an American warship for some two months. When we were asked by our United Nations colleagues how we managed to do this without any apparent disagreement we used 64 to reply, rather aptly we thought, that we considered that atomic energy and the atomic bomb were above party. I hope that any criticism that may creep into my remarks may be accepted in that spirit. I realise the vital importance of this subject to this country in particular.
As is only natural upon returning from such a mission I find that practically everybody I meet asks me, "What did you think of the atomic bomb?" What is really surprising is the fact that few of those people—and here I emphasise what the Prime Minister has said—have already arranged in their minds, and are already certain of, what I am going to say. Some people are prepared to hear me belittle the bomb. Others are prepared for what I am really going to say, which is, what devastating weapons atomic bombs are. I fully, realise the need for this Bill. We are trying to take our place at Lake Success on the Atomic Commission of the United Nations, and it is only right that we should put our own house in order first.
However, I would emphasise what has been said by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Kensington (Mr. Law), that it seems a great pity that the Bill should have been so much delayed. It was read a First time on 1st May, when an announcement was made that it would be read a Second time on 6th May. Here we are, some five months later, reading it a Second time, and with all the stages of the Bill having to be hurried through the House in a few days. I hope that this remark will not be looked upon as unfair, but it prompts me to say that I only hope that this does not indicate the degree of importance that the Government will attach to this subject. It was very reassuring to hear the wise counsel given by the Prime Minister when introducing the Bill. I was also very glad to hear what the Prime Minister said about research. When I read the Bill I was encouraged to read in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum that the objects of the Bill were:to empower the Minister of Supply to promote the development of atomic energy and to confer upon him powers of control,et cetera, but when one turned to the text of the Bill, to find some encouragement to private research and some planned Government research, one found only a repetition of the words which I have just quoted.
65 It is a very great pity that more was not put in 10 the Bill on the lines already indicated from the Government Front Bench in this Debate. There is no mention of private research, although perhaps it is implied in Clause 3 (1), which gives the Minister power to grant certain loans, and perhaps also in Clause 10 (2). As has been stated by my right hon. Friend, the rest of the Bill is purely negative, and consists of powers of inspection, compulsory acquisition, control of production, restrictions upon disclosure of information, and penalties. Controls and regulations of that sort are necessary, but there appears to be no balance on the other side in the form of encouragement. I feel that much encouragement could have been given to research. The Minister might have mentioned that he had a plan for private research and a plan for Government-conducted research.
I make these points for two reasons. First of all, let us remember that it was not luck that enabled German scientists to make a discovery in 1938 which led the world to know very soon that atomic bombs were possible; that it was not luck that enabled Allied scientists, supported by foresight and vision at the top, to use the first atomic bomb in New Mexico on 15th July, 1945. It was not luck, but years of research and hard work. We have played our part in that work and we must go on playing our part in order that we may keep pace with, and I hope overtake, the research of other countries. We must go on also for what I think is a very important point, in order that we may take an adequate place upon the United Nations Atomic Convention when, as we all hope it will be, it is finally set up. We must not be a sleeping partner in any such Convention. We can maintain our position in that Convention only by having the requisite scientific background.
These remarks lead up to a request that, in the new set-up, Government and private research will not be hampered by red tape. I do not speak for any particular scientist or group of scientists, but I feel that scientists do not want to be civil servants. They do not want to have to clock-in and they do not want to clock-out. They want to work in an academic atmosphere and, as far as possible, to run their own show. I was lucky enough recently to visit the University of California. I was much impressed by the 66 atmosphere there. It is a magnificent university and, in that academic atmosphere and those delightful surroundings, great work is being done, with Government backing, with a 184-inch cyclotron.
It must be remembered that some scientists are good administrators and that some are not. There are scientists who specialise in theory, there are others who specialise in the more material side. It is Marconi's name that is always associated with radio, but I think I am right in saying that it was Maxwell who was the first expounder of the theory that Marconi put into practice. There are scientists whose work is inspired, and dedicated to science, and there are also those who quite naturally expect some adequate financial reward. There are also those, I am glad to say, who combine both these qualities. To take an analogy of State research which gives some idea of the delicacy of the problem, suppose the Government instructed all the leading musicians in the country to compose, produce and play a symphony, and told them that on no account were they ever to exhibit it privately for their own advantage and that all results, financial and otherwise, belonged to His Majesty's Government. We can but conjecture on the result, but I am very doubtful whether it would be harmony, and I do not think that scientists are any less temperamental than musicians.
To sum up these points, let us hope that our new institution at Harwell and other institutions that grow up will have the atmosphere of encouragement in which scientists want to work. With regard again to private research, I hope there will be every encouragement, the pooling of as much information as possible, as few regulations as possible, financial help, and what is very important these days, help in obtaining the necessary equipment. I did not quite hear what the Prime Minister said about the committee of experts to advise the Minister and perhaps the Minister will explain that a little more clearly when he sums up. We all know that the committee which has been going for some time under the chairmanship of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) is still in existence, but I am not quite sure how that committee now stands Is it the committee to which the Prime Minister referred, or is the Minister of 67 Supply to have some other committee of scientists to advise him? As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Kensington said, we all have great respect for the great knowledge of the Minister of Supply in the many roles he has to play, even perhaps in the iron and steel industry, but in a great subject like this there should be a named advisory committee. Also, is there to be any standing military advisory committee, using the word "military" to embrace all three Services? Atomic weapons, and the atomic bomb in particular, will have a great effect on decisions made in the future by the three Services, and I hope there will be a fully organised co-operation and agreement between the Ministry and the Services. No doubt the new Minister of Defence will play a large part in this new set-up.
May I say a word or two about the international side? I was very glad that the hon Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn) was able to raise this subject on the Adjournment of the House for the Summer Recess but I was surprised to read a statement made in that Debate by the then Minister of State. When referring to the American and Russian plans for the control of atomic energy, he said:His Majesty's Government for their part accept both these plans. They believe that they need to be fused."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd August, 1946; Vol. 426, c. 1391.]That statement caused considerable surprise on the other side of the Atlantic. H.M. Government may well see both sides of the picture and hope that they may be brought together, but it is a little difficult to "accept" two plans that have a fundamental difference in timing. I hope that representatives of H.M. Government at Lake Success are making every effort to fuse these two plans and will take some practical steps, especially as since then the Scientific and Technical Committee of the Commission have unanimously agreed that they do not find any basis in the available scientific facts for supposing that effective control is not technologically feasible.
Atomic energy in peace can bring great benefits, but there is no doubt in my mind that if ever there is another war it will be a war with atomic weapons; and having at Bikini seen the destruction wrought by two bombs in the very infancy of the atomic age. I have some 68 idea of what that would mean. This may sound a platitude, but it is most important for this country to realise the implications. This has been emphasised by several speakers in this Debate, including the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith), and we should do all we can in the international field to try to make war impossible, and also to control atomic power, and at home to make quite certain that we take the lead in research in all the fields of atomic power. It may take some time. We have to build— buildings, equipment and indeed personnel—but I am quite certain that we shall succeed. Mr. Baruch said the other day in rather a different context that when a man learns to say "A" he can if he wishes learn the rest of the alphabet. On this occasion we might say that "A" stands for "Atom" and "B" stands for "Bomb." What the rest of the alphabet contains we do not know, but let us make quite certain that we make every effort to find out.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Ranger (Ilford, South)
I have served an apprenticeship of a full 12 months in this House before attempting to address it for the first time but I find the need for the indulgence usually extended by the House to an hon. Member undergoing that ordeal—at least, some measure of the usual indulgence, not the full measure, because some of my remarks are on the verge of being controversial. I welcome this Bill as an essential step towards the acceptance of international control of released atomic energy. It is only in full control of this new and revolutionary power that we can find any satisfaction. I will not take the time of the House in outlining the arguments in favour of a national control of released atomic energy as outlined in the Bill. We have heard that it is generally accepted, and I will not repeat arguments for a point which already has general acceptance in this House. I therefore propose to use the full time at my disposal for points of the Bill against which I wish to make a humble protest.
There are points in the Bill which seem to me to be entirely at variance with the declared objective of the Bill. The Prime Minister said that the Bill was to cover the period between now and the setting up of an international authority, and to 69 enable us to take our part and to accept the authority of the international control board. It seems to me that in Clauses 11 and 13 we are going back to the old national rivalry in armaments, upon a destructive weapon still in its infancy, but still of such known destructive power as to frighten the whole world. The power of released atomic energy has been expressed in an official publication in the United States as a revolutionary weapon of war, especially when used as a weapon of strategic bombardment aimed at the destruction of enemy cities and the eradication of their populations. That seems to me to be not so much a description of a weapon of war as a statement of mass murder, and I believe that we, as a nation, have already declared our acceptance of the idea that this weapon of mass destruction of human life and property should be outlawed.
The Bill, in Clauses 11 and 13, proposes to retain secrets—not, I take it, of the peaceful development of this new power, but to make official secrets of the development and production that we are to operate in this country in relation to the use of the atomic bomb, as a weapon of destruction. This is a denial of the Prime Minister's own declaration—in accord with that made by the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Canada—that the information concerning the use of released atomic energy should be spread among the nations of the world. It is in defiance of the fact that it is now generally agreed among the nations that this new destructive weapon shall be outlawed. Therefore, the use of an atomic bomb is an illegal act under the law of nations, the law of civilisation, the law of international peace, and if the bomb, as a finished product, is to be illegal, then surely steps for the manufacture of that illegal weapon of war are also illegal, and if our secrecy Clauses are intended to cover the operation of illegal manufacture of illegal weapons, it is better that those Clauses should never appear, and that the Government should never have that power.
Furthermore, in the sphere of international conferences, in the struggle to achieve peace agreements between the nations, we are suffering from an overdose of international suspicion. It is dogging every conference, hindering every agreement that is attempted, and 70 here we are being asked to legislate Clauses in an important and essential Bill, which will add to that suspicion and which are themselves, founded upon suspicion of the intentions of other nations and the possibility of espionage by other nations. There is no need for secrecy in the development of atomic energy as a peaceful weapon; there is every need for it—and that is why the power is taken —if we are to use this new development as a weapon of warfare, if there is a possibility of using it as a weapon for the destruction of enemy cities and the eradication of their populations. If we take control of the use of atomic energy and if, at the same time, we declare, by publicly announcing it in this House and by withdrawing the secrecy Clauses from this Bill, that we have no intention in this country of adopting the release of atomic energy as a weapon of war and, therefore, will have no secrets to hide from other nations, we shall adopt the full possibilities of this new development for peaceful means. We can then be confident that there will be in international assemblies and international conferences a reinstatement of that commonsense which will make the statesmen of the world convinced that there must be no more war, that there must be no possibility of a war in which the weapons will be atomic bombs or further and bigger developments of these drastic methods of mass destruction.
Then the secrecy Clauses are to be condemned not only because they would have the natural effect of obstructing the full development of the utilisation of released atomic energy, but because there will be an atmosphere of doubt, an atmosphere of timidity, in all discussions between scientists. The atomic bomb itself is not the outcome of work and study by a single scientist; it is not the work of a small team of associated scientists; it is the work of a team of scientists, and the foundation of their work has been not national, not between two or three nations, but founded on the work of international science, of the scientists of many generations in many countries of the world. Therefore, our scientists owe to the scientists of other nations a tremendous part of the knowledge they possess, and of what they have managed to develop upon the basis of that knowledge. They have an international inheritance of tremendous value. Because they have an 71 international inheritance, they have international responsibilities, they have international duties, they have international loyalty which is, at least, as great, and probably greater, than their loyalty to the nation in which they reside.
We have seen in the development of the scientific work of the world, the work of internationalism in its finest phase. We have seen the benefits of this citizenship of the world in the sphere of science. It should be an example to the rest of us in every other department of man's activity. If, now, we are to clamp the narrow confines of an Official Secrets Act upon the work of many scientists in this country—for many branches of science are involved in this new development and its range; if the scope is to be narrowed, and if there are to be muzzles upon the scientists of this country—muzzles which the best scientists can never willingly accept—it will obstruct their efficiency, and the attainment of the greatest possible benefit in this country of the use of atomic energy. We need to apply the best scientific knowledge this country possesses to this new discovery, which is as revolutionary for health and welfare as it is revolutionary for the destruction of life and property. If we allow these secrecy Clauses to remain in the Bill, there is grave danger that peaceful possibilities will be stunted and smothered. While the activity which is being operated may now be safe from the point of view of the Official Secrets Act—as this thing is in its infancy—it may be that later on that safe activity will be discovered by some new process to be essentially an official secret. There will be at all times the possibility of over-caution, the possibility of throwing the blanket too widely over the scope of study and experiment which will bring these people under a grave disadvantage, in face of a discovery which might help us to produce, by its cheap and widespread power, a condition of health and prosperity such as this country has never known.
I appeal to the Front Bench to withdraw these secrecy Clauses, or at least substantially to amend them, so that they are not nearly as wide in their scope as at present. This withdrawal would be a bold decision, a dramatic decision, which might be noticed all the more by the 72 world because it would be a withdrawal of the Clauses made after their introduction as part of the Bill. By withdrawal we would be declaring to the world at large Britain's determination that international control of atomic energy must succeed, that international authority shall be established and that we are staking all on the fact that control is the only way in which the people of this land can have security from the fear of war—fear of a war more deadly than ever war has been in the past. There is no security in an international arms race in atomic bombs. Security must be world-wide, or there is no security at all. Security has to be obtained by international cooperation, or it cannot be obtained at all. This small island of cities with mass populations, is a glorious target from the point of view of the aimer of an atomic bomb. The fact that we had developed, under an Official Secrets Act, weapons of retaliation of tremendous power, would be little consolation for the effect of a surprise attack by atomic bombs which might disrupt the whole of our development of means of retaliation. Even if it were not so, it would be of no consolation to the hundreds of thousands of dead. Our salvation lies not in building up a national control of this new power, but in putting everything we have, all our time and energies and enthusiasm, into the idea of international control and the outlawing of atomic warfare. I ask for the withdrawal of these Clauses as an indication of that intention, as an indication of that determination, and as having a psychological effect which will help the Foreign Secretary in international conferences and in his work of trying to disperse suspicion, now hampering and obstructing work that is essential to our welfare and very existence.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon)
I am sure the House will envy me my pleasant task of congratulating the hon. Member for South Ilford (Mr. Ranger) on a very interesting and original speech. It is rare nowadays for any hon. Member on any side of the House to be able to say that he has shown such self-restraint that he has not addressed the House for a period of 12 months. I think hon. Members will feel that they have missed a great deal in that he has not seen fit to take part in our Debates earlier. At the same time, as 73 a very old Member, I congratulate him on carrying out what used to be a tradition of this House that new Members should be seen more than heard. But the speed of legislation now is such that we all have to take part. I believe the hon. Member has shown by his speech today that he has been thinking of this matter, and I only wish I could go the whole way with him. I certainly agree entirely with what he said at the end of his speech.
As I interpreted the speech of the Prime Minister earlier today, there is nothing in this Bill—quite the contrary—which conflicts with the idea of international control. It is perfectly obvious that international control of a force of this kind is the only control which can be effective. Another matter which I think ought to be mentioned is that the internal combustion engine, invented half a century or more ago, was looked upon as rather interesting but the fact that it revolutionised war and the conduct of war was not appreciated at the time when it was invented. As scientists go forward, so will their inventions become more complicated, more formidable and more devastating, if wrongly applied. I agree with the hon. Member for South Ilford that we cannot restrict scientific thought and intercourse. It must be world wide. It is only by the contact of scientists with each other that scientific advance is possible throughout the world.
The hon. Member for South Ilford put forward views which I have very often heard expressed by eminent scientists, to the effect that they will not be bound by this, that or the other; that they feel their first duty to be to the world of science, not to the laws of their country. I cannot agree with that, because a man, be he scientist or not, must make a contribution and recognise his duty and obligations as a citizen of his country. When the time comes, through the United Nations Security Council, or in some other way, if there is to be a greater interchange of view and widening of scope and, to use the hon. Member's expression, an extension of the blanket a little further, let there be more discussion, on a wider range. Let us hope, before very long the emphasis will be not on destruction, but on evolution of power. But we cannot divide one from the other.
There are one or two matters about which I hope the Minister of Supply will 74 be able to give us some further information. I should have thought it very important to know whether the general form of this Bill is, more or less, the form of similar Bills that either have been, or will be, introduced into the Parliaments of the British Commonwealth. It seems to me one of those matters where it is all important that there should be some general common form, because in that case it would be possible for consultations to take place between the scientists of different parts of the British Empire, and to do so properly and in due form, and thereby get the benefit of their researches.
All through this Debate we have been talking about the scientists. I want to emphasise that in the development of anything like atomic energy, the engineer has to play a large part, and I hope that the apprentices in the engineering industry will be encouraged to play their part in this terrific development. It is rather appalling to realise that atomic energy is something which will completely change everything we have been able to calculate upon both in the forces of destruction and in the power of reconstruction and development. It is of such immense importance that we should do everything we can, whilst retaining certain restrictions for the time being, to conduct its development in such a way that we shall not only be equal to the lead of other countries, but that, in accordance with our previous practice, we shall go ahead of other countries, by what we believe to be the genius of our race and our tradition.
There is also the matter mentioned by my right hon. Friend earlier about the Government not considering this a matter of priority. I think I can refute that because Harwell happens to be in my constituency, and so great has been the Government priority that I have had to try to get two bricklayers taken away from Harwell to build houses for my constituents. I have not been very successful, and I do not regret it because I think that a drive must be made to get the research station ready, and that we cannot afford to waste a single day or week. The more people realise the relative importance of that work compared even with other important things, the easier it will be for them to understand the position. Certain things are causing everyone difficulty—the provision of the necessary equipment and machinery. It 75 is almost impossible to get equipment ready in the way in which it is wanted, unless the manufacturing industries in this country which are concerned in this task, are able to impart to the workers the real urgency of this matter. I do not pretend to know any more than any other hon. Member of this House, but we have to provide complicated equipment, and there are bottlenecks, as there always are in establishing machinery of this kind. I am convinced that we shall have to make a special drive and see that in every workshop in this country and in every factory which is in any way connected with this great task, everyone down to the last joined apprentice is made to realise the part he is playing in getting these research stations established.
In addition to that—I think I mentioned this in a previous Debate—great inventors are usually young. When one gets to my age, one does not invent anything It is when one is young that one invents things; one's brain is young and keen. I think it is true to say that no one over 25 has really invented anything yet; he may have followed someone else's idea, but the great inventions of history have been the work of very young men.
§ Sir R. Glyn
I think it is younger than that. My impression is that one cannot start too young. When a new idea of this sort comes along we should do something in the schools and universities to offer a career to young scientists and engineers, and we are not, as far as I know, doing that. It is difficult to know why. It is partly due to this business of secrecy and of being afraid to say too much. I am sure that there is something about this development which will attract young men and women. There is a great shortage just now of people going into the walks of life concerned with this matter. We know that there is a great shortage of draughtsmen and draughtswomen, a great shortage of people going into apprentice jobs, a shortage in the glass industry and elsewhere. It is from the types of people, who handle things in their daily task, that the ideas come. We shall, I hope, be able to provide from industry, for this set-up, those people who can make a great contribution.
76 The Prime Minister told us today that the Minister of Supply is to carry out the administrative work and the details, but that the subject will remain in his hands as Prime Minister and will be watched very closely by the Cabinet as a whole. That is essential but although the present Minister of Supply is most competent I dread the amount of weight that is being put on his shoulders. He seems to me to be engaged in the disposal of certain stores, varying from large things to tiny things; he has already got the whole of the research work of the three Services on his back, and now he has this vast job as well. While I do not at the moment see any signs of cracking as a result of the straws that are being put on his back, I trust that the Prime Minister will consider having a special Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry who will devote the whole of his time to assisting in this matter. That goes also for the Lord President of the Council. By tradition, the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research has always been under the charge of the Lord President, and it is the Lord President's office to supervise scientific and educational matters of that kind. All the research establishments, in the old days, were under the care of the Lord President. There is now established, under the most able direction of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson), a special committee. I am not quite sure how that committee fits in with the work of the Minister of Supply and the Lord President of the Council. It is quite clear that there are ties in both directions, but we are now reaching a stage of scientific research and development when it seems to me that there is scope for some focal point as between the Lord President's work and that of the Minister of Supply in connection with both research for the Services and with the terrific responsibility which rests on the right hon. Gentleman to see that atomic energy is handled in the correct way.
Finally, I believe that those professors and scientists who have been concerned with the original development of atomic energy at Cambridge and elsewhere, and more recently in the United States, and who are now engaged in the United States, in cooperation with American and Canadian scientists, have made a most tremendous contribution. The British name stands very high. After all, the work done 77 at Cambridge was the basis of all this, and it is only man's folly which is making this development a possible means of the destruction of the human race. No material consideration will cure that; there is nothing that can be done by putting secrecy Clauses in a Bill, and and I do not care whether they are in or not. The only way to save civilisation is by something totally different—by a realisation of certain moral forces and certain rights and wrongs which are, I think, in the character and in the spirit of nations. I am very sad, because if one travels about in Europe now one inevitably hears of and sees the divisions that are taking place; one knows that the mentality of the Germans is dedicated to destruction, and that after every war in every country, every scientist is being asked by his Government to devote all his energies to means of the destruction of human life so long as it is not their own. After every war we have this terrific concentration of scientific thought devoted to destruction. When we come to change from war to peace, we have this hangover from war. The tragedy is that somehow or other we are not able to rise above the appalling condition of seeing human beings playing with fire and being unable to stop them blowing themselves to pieces. Literally, that is true. It is like watching a lot of children playing in a dangerous explosive store. Until some force, which I believe can only come from above, converts people to something else, we shall never get that position put right.
We know today that the Germans came very near to producing something which happily the course of the war prevented them from putting into force. If I were more satisfied that there was not collusion at the present time between German scientists bent on destruction and other scientists of other countries, I should feel much happier. I do not know whether the Prime Minister could say the same thing. I do not think it would be wise for any person in an official position to say that, though there is no harm in my saying it. The great danger is caused when we build up two blocks of scientists and engineers in conflict with each other. I am convinced this is not the time when we can take any risks or chances. After all, these things need not be dropped from the skies. It is a great mistake for people, if they are talking of destruction, to think only in the form of bombs. If develop- 78 ments take place, a small packet in the bow of every steamer going up every waterway in this island and into all the harbours, a few suitcases left in luggage waiting rooms—all could go up together without any warning with devastating results. With these nightmares passing through one's brain, I feel that the Government and the House can take no risks. Indeed, it is a terrific responsibility. I hope the House will give a unanimous Second Reading to this Bill and that we shall all work to switch atomic energy into peaceful moulds so that we can say all that we have, all that we fought for, amounts to something better than utter destruction.
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Blackburn (Birmingham, King's Norton)
I am sure there is much in the speech delivered by the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) which commanded support from these benches, particularly his concluding paragraph. I would like, if I might with humility, to express my appreciation of the fact that the Prime Minister has introduced this Bill himself today in order to mark his appreciation of the importance of this subject. In my speech I desire to deal specifically with the Clauses of the Bill, but in view of the general discussion which has proceeded, perhaps I may be allowed five or six sentences on the matters to which reference has been made. We all welcome very much the statement of the Prime Minister of what I am convinced to be a fact, that there is not perhaps as much awareness of the danger arising from atomic energy in this country as there is in the United States of America.
Two or three months ago the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson), whose absence is very much regretted, said in a most important conference of atomic scientists at Oxford, that the atomic bomb is not the only weapon of mass destruction now available and that there are other weapons of mass destruction being developed which will be available in the near future. I was a little sceptical about that when I first heard it, but it is a statement made by the chairman of the committee which advises the Government upon this and similar matters. Such investigations as I have been able to make with leading scientists in America have changed my mind and convinced 79 me, so far as one is able to be convinced from such information as is available, that there is a great basis of truth in the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman. I beg the Prime Minister to consider whether he will not be able at some stage to make a statement as to the weapons of mass destruction which may become available, or which are now becoming available, in order that the people of Britain and the world should be told the truth. I do not suggest that it is desirable to frighten them. That is far from my thoughts. I suggest, in view of the admitted danger hanging over the heads of men, that they should at least know what the danger is, because if may greatly change their whole attitude to foreign affairs. It may change their whole attitude to medium Powers because, as Field Marshal Smuts pointed out, the most important factor of all is the time factor. I do not believe myself that the Soviet Union can produce atomic bombs for five years; but can they produce radio active dust next year, which may be almost as terrible a weapon? Can they produce biological and bacteriological warfare? I mention the Soviet Union only as an illustration. I suggest we should also consider the Argentine and other countries.
I come now to the two real points which have been raised in a letter to "The Times" today sent by the Atomic Scientists Association. That letter seemed to me to convey the beliefs of almost all scientists in this sphere. It is backed up by the Association of Scientific Workers. I know, because I was invited to the National Council of the Federation of American Scientists, that it represents also the view of American scientists. I will deal with my second point first, because the Prime Minister raised it in his speech. I do not think there was anything the Prime Minister said which would not have commanded complete assent from such scientists I have been able to talk with, with the one exception of the interpretation of Clause 11, upon which I imagine that he and the Minister are open to argument. As Clause 11 and Clause 18 (1) are construed by scientists; they prevent the disclosure of any information in the nature of fundamental research in the whole field of nuclear research. Once this was upon the Statute 80 Book it would in effect mean that Professor Oliphant would be unable to talk to Professor Peierls, the theoretical physicist, advising him upon any of the matters on which the Government have allocated him £141,000. He would first have to submit to the Minister a request for permission to do so. The exact words are:Any person who … knowingly communicates any document, drawing, photograph, plan, model or other information whatsoever which describes, represents or illustrates any existing or proposed plants used or proposed to be used for the purpose of producing or using atomic energy …Atomic energy is defined—this is a really important point—in Clause 18 (1) to include the energy released in any process which involves the transformation of or the actions between atomic nuclei. I think the point has been admitted already by officials that that would cover a cyclotron, a betatron, a Cockcroft-Walton apparatus and other instruments for fundamental research. The Prime Minister made it quite clear in his speech that the intention of the Government is to see that information with respect to bombs or to the industrial "know-how" for the provision of material from which bombs are made, must be kept secret. With that, everybody is agreed.
The Prime Minister also said he was in favour of fostering basic fundamental research. He pointed out that fundamental research can exist only in an atmosphere of freedom and full cooperation between scientists in the country and outside. The point will be met if the Minister is prepared to indicate that he will accept an Amendment which will so define atomic energy that it does not include the infinitesimal amount of energy released in the course of fundamental research in the use of cyclotrons, betatrons and similar instruments. This is an absolutely vital matter, for this reason. We are at least five years behind the United States in atomic energy, and we are bound to remain five years behind. The first pile working in the United States was towards the end of 1942. There has been no secrecy, nor has there been any announcement about any pile working in the British Isles, and I think it is obvious that no pile is working at present, though one may assume that one will be very soon. That means that we start off, as I think the right hon. Gentleman opposite implied by his reference to the amount of 81 money to be spent, at a great disadvantage. We arc, in fact, five years behind the Americans, simply because we have not got the plant, the materials, the engineering work done, and it is really not a question of secrets so much as one of sheer hard facts.
I am not in any way blaming the Government, because it is almost entirely beyond their control, but this is the point. If we are to maintain our position in the world, the only method by which we can regain the lead we once possessed is by encouraging fundamental research and by allowing scientists—the really important ones we have at the moment are Prof. Oliphant and Prof. Chadwick—to discover the nature of atomic energy, which scientists do not yet know. Scientists are not at all sure what goes on inside the nuclei, and until the new apparatus is available which enables the nuclei of many atoms to be bombarded most effectively it will not be possible for scientists to discover it. I hope hon. Members opposite will forgive me for dealing with this point, but I think the views of scientists should be put before the House and that hon. Members should be told of the main hope of British recovery in this field. If that is the fact, and I do not think the Minister will challenge it— that our main hope lies in allowing our scientists to proceed with fundamental research—it is essential that Clause 11 of the Bill should not be allowed to go forward in its present terms. I hope the Minister will indicate when he winds up the Debate that he is prepared to amend the Clause so as not to cramp fundamental research, but to allow work to proceed on cyclotrons, betatrons, etc.
May I now turn to my second point, which was partly made by the hon. Member who has just spoken—that scientists desire a general advisory committee? In the United States, there are a five-man Commission, an Advisory Committee, a Military Liaison Committee and a Special Investigation Committee of Congress. Against these four checks, we here have but one. We have found the Minister most accommodating but the point has already been made sufficiently that he is in charge of many other matters, and I am sure that he would derive benefit from an advisory committee. The committee presided over by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities is not a com- 82 mittee of scientists concerned with this project. There is only one scientist on that committee with experience of the American project—Sir James Chadwick—and he spends a lot of time in America engaged in very important international matters. I suggest that the Minister would do a great deal to reassure scientists if he were prepared to accept an Amendment in favour of a committee of scientists, technicians and engineers as a general advisory committee to advise him. That is entirely in accordance with the principle for which the Labour Party stands. The Labour Party does not stand for absolute, one-man, unadvised control in any subject whatsoever. Why does it stand for it in atomic energy, when it is not prepared to accept it in its coal nationalisation proposals and accords the fullest measures for consulting the workers, the managers and others concerned?
Scientists are only endeavouring to secure that the Minister will have scientific advice. I am sure that the Minister is unable to spend his time seeing these scientists, nor, probably, would it be very helpful if he did. I did not mean to make that remark in any offensive spirit. We cannot expect a civilian Minister to be a scientific expert, and I think scientists are entitled to know if there will be a proper channel through which they can state their views and ensure that those views are understood in the proper quarters. How can any scientist have any confidence in a set-up which produces a Minister who does not know anything about atomic energy and which does not indicate who are the scientists who are to advise him? The scientists ask that they should, at least, know who the advisers are.
May I come to another point which the Minister may have had in mind? The Minister may say that, while the principle of an advisory committee is a good one, it would derogate from the Parliamentary control of the Minister. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister nods his head, and I take it that he is in agreement. Surely, these things are entirely compatible. On the one hand, he will have his advisory council, to which engineers and scientists can go, but, entirely unaffected by that is the control by Parliament of the Minister. I cannot see how it can be argued, to put it in an extreme form, that an unadvised dictator 83 is better than an advised dictator. I beg the Minister's pardon for using the word dictator, and I do not suggest that he has any of the attributes of a dictator, but, surely, this is the fundamental point? How can one properly acquire information upon which one can criticise the Minister? A moment or two ago, I tried to give some technical details, when hon. Members opposite started to titter. This is not an institution before which a Member of Parliament can easily start to argue a scientific matter, but I am sorry that there are among hon. Members opposite some who are not even prepared to be curious about the basis upon which the whole industrial future of Britain may depend.
In any event, the scientists would be precluded, under Clause 11, from giving information to a Member upon which he could come to this House and ask the Minister to give an account of his actions. Parliamentary control, in this matter of atomic energy, is almost entirely unreal. I think the Minister knows that, if I put to him facts which I could not have acquired without having been told them by a scientist, he will want to know who the scientist is and may well take action against him. I hope he will reconsider the matter. The scientists do not ask that they should appoint the advisers of the Minister. They have agreed that the Minister should appoint his advisers, and that the Minister would still be free to disregard the advice of his advisory committee if he so desired, but they do ask the Minister to let them know who is to speak for them in advising him. I think that is a simple and reasonable proposal which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept.
My final comment is this. The Bill is undoubtedly a very necessary Bill in so far as it indicates our intentions to put atomic energy under national control, but, in actual fact, I would defend the Government against the right hon. Gentleman opposite who accused them of having been dilatory in bringing this matter forward. In actual fact, the Government are now controlling atomic energy in Britain. They control all the uranium and the thorium and have the Official Secrets Act which, as the Prime Minister admits, operates in relation to the whole of the industrial "know-how." In view of that fact, I would beg the Government 84 not to rush this Bill through—assuming they do not agree with the views of almost every scientist consulted on this matter— unless they are able to give way on these points. This is not a Bill to be rushed through at a particular moment. As I have said, the Government already control atomic energy and I am sure the Prime Minister and the Minister will remember the words thatmagnanimity in politics is not seldom the truest wisdom.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ Sir Henry Morris-Jones (Denbigh)
We have all been impressed by the remarks of the hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn). I confess that I have spent a very melancholy day in this House. Although this Bill has been presented by the Prime Minister in his usual able fashion by confining himself to the strict purpose of the Bill, this could not conceal its true historical significance, and that is that it affects the future of this country and that of mankind. Although we could not expect the right hon. Gentleman to be drawn into a long argument about foreign affairs, international repercussions and so forth, I should have liked the Prime Minister to emphasise more than he did that it is for this country to do everything in its power to outlaw the very instrument which it is the purpose of this Bill to develop. I, like the hon. Member for King's Norton, would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman and the Government to disclose to this country what they know with regard to other fiendish discoveries, both potential and actual, in the realm of atomic energy. We are a very tolerant race and very easy-going. We are not easily moved by emotion or mass sentimental scenes or emotions which are not considered "British good form." But it is the duty of the Government to explain to the people, not only the potentialities of the particular instrument dealt with in this Bill, but of other cognate destructive weapons, in order that the conscience of the people may be aroused. When their conscience is aroused the people of this country can lead the world in moral progress as they have led it in other directions in the past. Not only that, but it is our supreme self-interest to do so, for we are now the most vulnerable country in the whole globe.
The other day, I read that Professor Oliphant had said at a public gathering 85 that if 50 atomic bombs were strategically dropped on this island, they would so destroy it that those who were unfortunate enough to survive would be completely incapable of repairing the destruction. Surely, we can accept Professor Oliphant as a great authority on this matter. That was a very serious statement to make. As the hon. Baronet the Member for Abing-don (Sir R. Glyn) said, it is very much easier to destroy us by an atomic bomb than to drop a lot of ordinary high explosives because there are many insidious ways of doing so. I should have liked to hear the Prime Minister say more in regard to the British Commonwealth concerning this matter and whether this Bill is on similar lines to those being introduced at the present time in the Parliaments of the Commonwealth. Not only must we act in concert as far as we can, but it is important from a strategic point of view, as well as from other points of view, that there should be action in common in this matter. We know that in the Commonwealth there are great sources of atomic energy, and it is vital that we should act together.
Something has been said with regard to research. For many years before I came to this House I belonged to a profession which, if it has not led the world, has at any rate taken a very prominent part in research and brought many benefits to mankind throughout the world, irrespective of language or strategic frontiers. There is the danger in this Bill that private research will be discouraged. I hope that the Prime Minister will give every encouragement for developments in this new discovery—particularly in its pacific aspects—to be brought before him, in order that no private individual may be left behind, or feel that he is not making his contribution so far as the specific and progressive development of this discovery is concerned.
I would like to endorse the words used in the maiden speech of the hon. Member for South Ilford (Mr. Ranger) on the question of secrecy. This is a very difficult matter and I know that the Government have the lesson of Canada in front of them. The Canadians are a patriotic people, but some of them were poisoned by a doctrine of a foreign character which completely divorced their minds from all idea of patriotism and allowed them to sell their country to a foreign Power. I 86 know that the Government have to protect this country against that sort of thing, but, at the same time, I hope that they will not go too far in the direction of eliminating and discouraging world wide publicity of scientific inventions. It is a line which the Government will find great difficulty in achieving, but I am sure they will do their best. This is a non-controversial Bill and is nationalisation of a kind which we can all endorse. All the same, it is a melancholy occasion and I trust that, when the Bill passes through this House, the Government will take measures to make it clear to the whole world that we in this island are absolutely determined to spare no effort in order to secure for all time that this atomic power, so potential of good, shall be eliminated from any use in war. This can and must be done.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Beswick (Uxbridge)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Kensington (Mr. Law) apparently accepted the fact that this Bill was not motivated by any doctrinal idea, but then he went on to complain that there was a certain similarity between this Bill and the other Bills that have been brought in for the nationalisation of certain industries. I think it is worth pointing out that it is not a coincidence that there is this similarity. It was Karl Marx who pointed out that the political structure of a society will depend upon the tools and the power with which that society has to work. It is because the tools and the power with which we have been building up our industrial system have reached such a level of productivity that it has been essential that we should take them over and run them on a national basis. When we deal with this power of atomic energy, it seems to me that if we accept Karl Marx's thesis we have to go one step further and say that we have come to the day when it is absolutely necessary that we should use the tools at our disposal on an international basis, if we are going to use them at all.
I am sure it is a matter of great regret to Members on this side of the House that we are considering a Bill dealing with the use of power from atomic energy for national control and not international control. Some little time ago I was in the United States of America, and I was impressed by the way in which the people 87 there had accepted a proposal which, it seemed to me, had indicated the readiness of the United States of America to make what is possibly the greatest offer of abnegation of national sovereignty which has ever been made by a responsible Government not unduly oppressed by the strain of war. I was unable to persuade myself that the people of the United States had suddenly been seized with the idealism of internationalism. I came to the conclusion that the reason why the people of the United States were prepared to accept this large measure of international control, which was inherent in the Baruch proposal, was because they were moved by great apprehension, if not fear, of the power which lay in the atomic weapon.
I confess that I am very disappointed to return to this country and to find the comparative lack of interest which exists in the whole business of atomic energy. I think that when we are discussing this matter we are discussing something which, quite literally, may change the shape of this globe. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) said in Zurich a short time ago that, maybe, within a measurable distance of time, this energy might mean the disintegration of our globe, and although we know that the right hon. Gentleman does tend on occasion to look on the darker side of things, especially when reviewing the record of our Labour Government, I do think on this occasion there was reason for the prognostication which he made. I know that the scientists of the world are rather modest about the possible next steps to be taken. But when we look back over the comparatively short period of 50 years, when the scientists of the world were convinced that the atom itself was the ultimate particle with which the elements of our world were made, when we realise the strides that have been made in the last seven years, and when we realise, too, and have the opportunity as I had in America to see the tremendous amount of research that is going on in the universities there, one must take account of the possibility that even the neutron and proton which we now believe to be the ultimate particle may not themselves be entities which may be broken up, and it may be that in a short time—in 10 or 20 88 years, or perhaps 50 years—we shall have within our control the power to disintegrate the globe as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford suggested.
The point I wish to make is this. This tremendous potentiality is being put under the control of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply. When I look around, I must say with all humility that there are not many other people, either on the Bench immediately in front of me or on the opposite Front Bench, whom I would rather have in control of atomic energy. But I do feel that it would be reassuring if my right hon. Friend had a body immediately below him who could advise him on the various matters with which he may have to deal, and I think there are some good precedents for this. It has been suggested that we should move step by step with other members of our Commonwealth of nations. In the Bill which is before the House in Australia provision is made for an advisory body of five members. In the Bill, to which reference has already been made, which has gone through the Senate, and I believe has also gone through Congress in the United States, provision is made for an advisory body of nine members. In view of the fact that, as has already been stated, the whole project in the United States is run not by one man but by a board of five, and they themselves are making provision for an advisory body of nine scientists, then I feel that there must be a case on which we should reconsider our own position.
There is another reason why I make this suggestion. In all industries how there is a desire on the part of men who are engaged in them to feel that they can have some share and some say in the general direction and organisation of the industry or service in which they are engaged. That is a feeling which we on this side of the House would wish to encourage and support. It seems to me that once we get among the personnel engaged in any industry a feeling of frustration, that things are not going right, and that they have no power to suggest the direction in which they should go, that industry is bound to be inefficient.
Today we admit that the motive power of money is not sufficient. Most of us admit that there must be an additional incentive, and that incentive can be found, I suggest, in the feeling that a 89 worker has some real part to play in a particular industry. That applies to the coal mines, it applies to civil aviation, and it applies to the other industries and services which we shall consider and discuss in the near future. However, in my view it applies much more to this particular industry in which so many of the personnel are so, shall I say, intelligent, and so much more socially conscious. They have had the opportunity of developing their minds a stage further than those in certain other industries. I beg of my right hon. Friend seriously to reconsider the suggestion that has been put to him for some kind of advisory board.
Another point to which I would like to draw attention is in Clause 11. We all know of, and much has been said about, the impossibility of allowing personnel to give information freely. It may well be that some kind of restrictions such as the Minister envisages will be necessary. At the present time there is undoubtedly a feeling that the wording or the intention of Clause 11 is unduly restrictive. I suggest to my right hon. Friend that he reads, for example, the wording in the Americans' Bill which does at least suggest that if a scientist or a worker in a particular industry is to be liable to a penalty,… he shall be a person who has intent to injure the United States, or has the intent to secure an advantage to any foreign nationI feel that if some similar wording could be put into our Bill it would at least give some guarantee to the scientists engaged on research that if by any, shall I say, mischance or lack of judgment they did communicate or consult with a colleague, probably in the same laboratory, they would not be liable to proceedings under Clause II.
There is one other point I would like to make with reference to Clause 11. Something has been said already about the necessity of ultimately getting the whole development of atomic energy under some kind of international body. The Prime Minister has said this Government would insist that we eventually get some kind of international development authority. At Nuremberg recently we have seen a big step forward in an attempt to place individual responsibility for the breaking of international law. Mr. Lippmann in the United States has written and said a good 90 deal about how easily this new system of international law could be applied within the particular field of atomic development. I wonder whether it would be possible for the Government to consider some such Clause as Clause II being embodied in an international Bill, or in international law. With suitable adaptation it would render it impossible for any scientist to engage upon the development of atomic energy for destructive purposes. In my view— and there have been other people who have given the matter careful thought— it would be feasible to place guilt fairly upon individual shoulders. If there was a, nation reluctant to allow one of its-nationals to go before an international court, there would then be immediately some evidence that that particular nation had motives contrary to its declared intention of not producing atomic weapons of destruction.
I did say in an article which I wrote recently that I disliked the phrase, "This is our last chance." I was quoting that phrase from something which was said by the Senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) in this House some time ago. I was very sorry, therefore, to see that the editor of the newspaper cut out my reference to the fact that I disliked the phrase, "This is our last chance" and applied it as the title of my article. I do not think it is the last chance of this civilisation, because I have sufficient faith in the ability of the human race to go on to a destiny beyond that which we have now reached. But I do think it likely that the focus of human development may in the future be in India or China, because it is so feasible now, with the atomic weapons we now have, to eliminate social life on our own small island. With that thought in view, I think our Government might well put an additional effort into, not only developing atomic energy in this country for peaceful purposes but into their negotiations in New York with the Atomic Energy Commission, to see if some kind of effective international agreement cannot yet be achieved.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)
I am very gratified at the knowledge that the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick) should remember my speeches better than I do. I have no recollection of having condemned talk about The Last Chance, but I am very glad to know that 91 I did. I think it is the most appalling nonsense. But whether or not this or some other technical advance does put the power to destroy the whole of this terrestrial globe into man's hands, I think that the great questions, and also the little questions, which this House has to discuss will be the same as they were before any such technological advance was made.
I regret to say that I desire to lower the tone of this discussion. The discussion has been largely upon a very high intellectual and moral level, and I would rather like to get it down to perhaps smaller considerations. I do not propose to argue, upon the basis of Karl Marx, whether men make tools or tools make men. Nor indeed do I think it desirable to detain the House very long to discuss whether the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Supply is, compared with the neighbouring supermen, the one most fitted to control this immense power. I believe I am not less conscious how immense the power is than anybody else. I do not really think that the immensity of the power alters the considerations which this House ought to bring to the subject. Nor do I think, with respect— and I am sorry the hon. Gentleman has left the Chamber now—that it is really very helpful for hon. Gentlemen to tell us what The Scientists think—that The Scientists think this and The Scientists think that. There are probably as many scientists in my constituency as there are in King's Norton; and I think, though I do not know how much more science the hon. Gentleman knows than I do—and he could not know less—I think that probably I know scientists as well as most Members of this House; and I do not think it is really possible to quote The Scientists in that sort of sense. Nor can any majority of scientists or any organisation of scientists in any kind of union or organisation speak for scientists as, for workers in many fields, it can be said that the organisation speaks for the great majority of the people in it. In scientific matters it is the quality of the head that speaks which matters very much more than the quantity of voices which utter in unison, even if we could be sure about that.
I should like to make one other general remark, if I may. I still feel fairly convinced from what discussion I have had 92 with those who are entitled to have opinions—I do not myself feel directly entitled to an opinion—I still do feel convinced that the control of the raw material is the practical point in this problem, and that, really, everything else is comparatively an adjective matter, and that that is the substantive matter. If you can get international agreement which you really believe yourself to be an agreement—not just an agreement, because all conferences have to end with success—but agreement which is an agreement, ex animo, about raw materials, then you will have got a very long way, and then there may be some control by some supranational authority, otherwise there will be nothing effective except to go on as best we can with the old methods of negotiation and, if necessary, the old but modernised methods of conflict; what will matter most is that in that event we shall not be more frightened by this weapon, with the estimates of whose enormity I agree, than by those to which we are sadly accustomed; because if we were frightened I am sure war would come all the sooner, and we should be all the more likely to be the principal sufferers.
I come now, if I may, to smaller matters, which may seem, some of them, to be almost Committee matters; but I think that this is the proper occasion on which to mention them, because I do think they add up to something appropriate to a Second Reading of the Bill. One thing applies to what I said just now about raw materials. The Minister may search for raw materials, and it is clearly right that he should. But what are the arrangements—I can see it may not be necessary to put them in the Bill —but what are the arrangements about materials overseas? In the Dominions, no doubt, it is a matter for their Governments. In other territories under the Crown, whose is the Ministerial responsibility—presumably, it is that of the Colonial Secretary—for search in His Majesty's non-Dominion territories overseas? And what are to be the relations between that Minister and the Minister who is now in charge of this Bill?
Then there is the matter of secrecy, about which we have had several speeches, with particular reference to Clause II (1), I think it is, I think I have got it right. What I should like the Minister to tell us is this. Has he the power to say how what this Bill purports 93 to do compares with what has been done or is being done in other countries? I did myself at one time make some study of the American Bill and of the American Debates. I do not propose to detain the House with my remarks about them: I do not think they are very important. But I do think it is important to know the official—the Government's—reaction to all those Debates or at least that Bill. Are they sure that our Bill is the same, or the same with what exceptions, as the American Act, allowing for differences of draughtsman's habits, and so on? Do they think they are doing the same thing in all substantial respects? Or do they think we differ? Similarly, is it possible to make some comparison with what the Russian Government is doing? We were assured by several hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House—there may have been some on this side, too—that if fundamental research is to be as strictly tied as proposed by Clause 11, Subsection (I)—we were assured by three or four hon. Gentlemen that we were bound to get, by any such tying, a long way behind foreign countries. Therefore, they must have assumed that the principal foreign Governments are restricting publicity of fundamental research much less tightly than we in this country; and if they know that, then I think that we should have confirmation of it from the Front Government Bench. If, on the other hand, hon. Gentlemen who used that argument were incorrect in their fundamental assumption, then I think that fundamental assumption should be blown out of the water once for all. That cannot be done by an Opposition back bencher. It must be done by His Majesty's Government.
There is only one other matter to which I wish to draw the attention of the House, and that is the question—I apologise here for not having got up the matter as well as I should have, but I make bold to say almost everyone in the House, except one I see on our Front Bench, and, perhaps, one or two opposite, have not mastered this point—that is to say, what is the difference between the effect of the Statutory (Special Procedure) Act upon Clause 7 of this Bill and the normal negative procedure by Prayer which controls the other Ministerial Orders in the Bill? I fully admit that if I had taken enough trouble and sought enough advice outside the Chamber I might have been 94 quite clear in my mind about that. But I do not apologise for bringing the point to the attention of the House because I do not think it proper that the Bill should have a Second Reading until the House is quite clear in its mind what are the differences between the two sorts of control of Ministerial Orders we are going to have under this Bill—one sort by Prayer, which we all know fairly well and understand, and the other sort under the Act of 1945, which, I think, probably, most of us have rather forgotten. I daresay it is quite proper to have that distinction, and that that distinction has been made exactly as it should have been made; but I do not think we should give the Bill a Second Reading until the House has been informed on that point.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ Wing-Commander Shackleton (Preston)
I should like to return to the main subject of the Bill, but before doing so I should like to question the remarks of the hon. Gentleman the Senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) as to the suitability of consulting scientists. He may have many scientists in his constituency, but it is obvious that the men who were responsible for creating the atomic bomb should have a large hand in devising the administration and the organisation of the whole project, in view of the fact that they are scientists. I do consider that they are entitled to have their opinions considered.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I am sorry to interrupt. Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman permit me? I am sure he did not mean to misrepresent me. Nobody has a greater respect or affection for scientists in general, and, particularly, for some of those most concerned in this matter. I did not suggest they should not be consulted. I did say I think it is dangerous in Debates in this House for some of us to say, "The scientists want this or the scientists want that." They are not usefully to be treated as a bloc like that in our Debates.
§ Wing-Commander Shackleton
Quite frankly, I cannot understand what the hon. Member for Cambridge University meant by that remark—by his original remark—but I will accept his explanation. But I do think that we have not given enough consideration to the opinions of people who have been studying the whole 95 problem of the production of atomic energy. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Kensington (Mr. Law) at the beginning said—or he inferred— that the Government had not been getting on with the job of producing atomic energy in this country. The point about this Bill is this: In a very short time the right hon. Gentleman will not be in any position to find out, because it will not be possible for him to go to his scientific friends and find out in detail what is going on.
Now we are proposing to set up a new nationalised industry, but, unlike the other nationalised industries, it will not, as has been explained by other Members, particularly the hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn), be subject to the consideration and full investigation of Parliament. The Prime Minister did suggest that under Clause 11 we had achieved a satisfactory compromise. Very reluctantly, I must say that it is no compromise at all. Clause 11 is completely restrictive as it stands. I confess that I, like everybody else who has tried to think out this problem, can see no solution to the problem of retaining security and, at the same time, achieving satisfactory dissemination of scientific information, nor to the parallel problem of permitting Parliament to keep a check on the work of the new atomic energy projects in this country. I feel that this Clause is not a means, and it does not permit the scientists to work satisfactorily. That opinion is undoubtedly held by a large number of scientists who are actively concerned.
I suggest that there is a great need for considerably more thought on Clause 11. We are now setting up something which has the most tremendous implications, not only in regard to the welfare of this country and the future development of power, and therefore the improvement of the standard of living, but also from the point of view of our own democracy. I do not know how we shall keep a check on the Minister. We have all been paying the Minister compliments today, but we know perfectly well that it will not be possible for him personally to study, and keep a proper understanding of, this industry which will be his responsibility. He must depend on his advisers and we, either here in Parliament or the scientists working in the projects, shall not be in 96 a position to ensure that those advisers are really giving him the best advice. In the case of other industries we can raise the matter in Parliament, but we shall not be able to do that in regard to this one. How he is going to solve this problem I am afraid I do not know, but I think it is right that we should throw it back to him. It is not enough to say "I, as the Minister, shall be responsible." I consider that it is necessary to have some proper statutory provision to take care of these problems. Whether the provision should be a scientific committee, or whether it should be a special reformed Scientific Committee, the committee over which the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) presides, with more atomic scientists on it, or whether there should be a committee on which Members of both Houses should be represented, as the Americans have, I cannot say. I urge, however, that the matter should be considered and, when we come to the Committee stage, I hope we shall be able to thrash it out and improve this Bill in that direction.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Erroll (Altrincham and Sale)
There are a number of important aspects of this Bill which still remain to be covered, and indeed the subject is so very wide that few of us will quarrel with the necessity for governmental control over research and development in this new field of energy production. However, I anticipate that there may well come a period later on, particularly when we come to deal with the industrial applications of atomic energy, when there will be a very real temptation to extend that governmental control over the industrial use of atomic energy right down into the individual factory or plant. We are a long way yet from that stage, of course, but I do not think we want to consider solely the warlike uses of atomic energy, and in that connection particularly I am sorry to see so much stress laid solely upon the scientists, because I think we have now reached the stage when we should bring the design engineer rather more into the picture. I hope that the Minister, when he sets up his establishments, will not leave out the importance of training right from the beginning the necessary nucleus of design engineers, who are so important when translating a scientific project into the world of practical mechanics.
97 The most favourable feature, surely, of this Bill, and indeed of the whole subject of atomic energy, is in the clearly awakened social conscience which has been shown by all connected with research into this subject. I wish that those, for example, who originally explored the realms of flying or the internal combustion engine, could have displayed a similar social conscience regarding the consequences of their inventions. I think it is a very hopeful sign that all concerned, all who have touched this tremendously potent activity, are already acutely aware of its immense social consequences and implications. I fully appreciate the need for secrecy in the whole subject, but that does not prevent me from deploring it, because I feel that we may tend, particularly as the danger of war recedes, to become more sluggish in our research into the subject. We need some measure of public interest, and possibly public control of the detailed work of these establishments, and I should like to support the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick) in his plea for some form of advisory or scrutinising board, even though that board may happen to operate in conditions of secrecy during the period of its sittings.
It has been stressed that the Bill is only a national Bill, and that it would have been better if it could have been an international Bill, or if it could have been related to a truly international scheme. With that, of course, I fully agree, but I should like to hear—perhaps we may, later in the evening—to what extent our Dominions have been consulted in the preparation of this Bill, because obviously we could go a long way towards making it an international Bill if we knew that Canada was in full agreement with its principles, and India, too, particularly as we understand that important supplies of atomic minerals—if I may use the words in that sense—lie in that sub-continent.
Finally, I would like to refer to the problem of fundamental research into the nature of matter. The hon. Member for Uxbridge referred particularly to the possibility of disintegrating protons and neutrons, and getting even further than we have gone in disintegrating the atom. Whether that is scientifically possible or not I would not like to discuss at the moment, but at least we must envisage the possibility, and I fear that there is a 98 real danger that this Bill, giving so much power to impose secrecy, may in fact become a sort of iron curtain between our scientists and the true fundamental nature of matter itself. This is obviously something which must be examined by scientists and cannot be determined by a layman, but I hope some consideration can be given to this aspect of the matter, and that the necessary modifications may be made if possible.
It was particularly interesting to hear the Prime Minister, in his opening speech, say that as a result of the Bill having been public for some time a number of useful discussions had taken place with scientists and certain Amendments tabled. That only goes to show the value of discussing a Bill before it is rushed into the Second Reading, and I hope it is a precedent which will be followed in the future. Undoubtedly, through its having been available for some time, we are able to achieve a measure of agreement in this House today.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Palmer (Wimbledon)
I was glad that the hon. Member for Altrincham (Mr. Enroll) referred to the work of engineering in connection with atomic energy. I feel that the work done by the engineers in this connection has been to some extent overlooked.
§ It being Seven o'Clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of The CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS under Standing Order No. 6, further Proceeding stood postponed.