HC Deb 14 May 1948 vol 450 cc2444-73

12.31 p.m.

Mr. Blackburn (Birmingham, King's Norton)

In raising today the question of the control of atomic energy it is necessary to deal with the wider sphere of the whole subject of the relations between Britain, America and the Soviet Union. Before doing so it is desirable to recapitulate the present position. Today it is the sad fact that a deadlock has been reached in the deliberations of the Atomic Energy Commission and that the Commission finds itself no longer able to proceed usefully with the discussions which have taken place upon this subject. The main responsibility for this deadlock rests, in the opinion of almost all independent observers, upon the Shoulders of the Soviet Union. Every conceivable attempt has been made over a long period of time to try to get the support of the Soviet Union for a system of international inspection.

The first point which must be made is that it was established by a technical commission, on which there was a Soviet representative who signed the report of the commission, that it would be possible for U.N.O. to control atomic energy. That had been said previously by Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer and by the Acheson-Lilienthal Committee. After exhaustive examination it was agreed that in general it would be possible, provided the nations of the world were prepared to accept the necessary sacrifice of their national sovereignty, to work out a system of international inspection. That turned very largely upon aerial inspection. As I think I suggested two and a half years ago, it is possible to place an instrument like a Geiger-Muller counter in an aircraft. That instrument would be able to detect any piles now in existence for the purpose of producing atomic energy on a large scale. It is true that by a most complicated and difficult process, such as recirculating helium, it would be possible for a factory to be built for the production of atomic energy on a large scale which would not release material into the air which could be picked up; but that would be a most difficult task. It was significant that it was very largely on this question of aerial inspection that the work of the commission broke down.

I am bound to say that it seems extraordinary that the Soviet Union, of all countries, should take this stand on national sovereignty; that at the very time when they were being responsible for the judicial murder of Petkov in Bulgaria they were saying at Lake Success, "We cannot accept any infringement of our national sovereignty." It is extraordinary that, when country after country throughout Europe is losing its national sovereignty to the Soviet Union, the Soviet Union takes its stand by this principle of national sovereignty. I do not believe that that is the true reason for which the Soviet Union has rejected so far the proposals for the control of atomic energy. I consider that the true reasons fall into two categories. The first is that in accordance with every principle of Marxism and Leninism the Soviet Union, to use a colloquialism, wish to keep the pot boiling in the world. They want to have civil war and insecurity, because civil war, such as there is in Greece, and the insecurity caused by the fear of atomic weapons and other weapons, constitute the breeding ground of Communism. That is one line of argument put to me over 18 months ago by Professor Dunn, of the Yale Institute of International Studies, and it seems to have some truth in it.

The second point, which is more widely held, is that it is almost inconceivable that the Soviet Union would be prepared to accept inspectors on their national territory. Over a long period of time they have fostered xenophobia, the fear of foreigners, and they maintain their domestic position very largely by saying that other countries in the world wish to attack them simply because they are making Communism work. However that may be, it remains the position that despite all that has been done to try to conciliate her, the Soviet Union is opposed to international control of atomic energy at the moment. The main problem before the whole world is that, before atomic weapons are possessed by many nations, we must, one way or another, persuade the Soviet Union to accept international control. If we do not, I believe that it is probable that modern industrial civilisation will be destroyed.

As to the development of weapons of mass destruction, throughout the world today individual nation States are going as fast ahead as they can with the development of these weapons and I cannot doubt that if another war comes those weapons will be used. Man has been on the world for perhaps 50,000 years. He has always engaged in wars and he has always used the most effective weapons at his disposal. The only reason why gas was not used in the last war was that gas is a most ineffective offensive weapon. This weapon of atomic energy was used twice without any specific warning by America and Britain despite the fact that we are, or pride ourselves upon being, the most peace loving and democratic of nation. If we and America have used the atomic bomb, it seems the height of simplicity for people to say that other Powers will refrain from using it on humanitarian grounds.

I wish next to deal with the time factor. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) said at the start of this Parliament that we have three or four years. Fortunately, that estimate has proved incorrect. The time factor is still considerable. I illustrate that by dealing first with the position of Britain. It is bound to be at least three years before we in this country are able to develop atomic bombs. That is bound to be so: one is not giving away any secret information. I note that a rather serious matter occurred in the "Daily Express" yesterday and I propose to comment adversely upon it. A number of Members of Parliament visited Didcot upon terms which made it perfectly clear that we were not to see anything secret. Yet, despite that, a front page story appeared in the "Daily Express" yesterday entitled, "Communist M.P. sees atom secrets." The "Daily Express" telephoned the Ministry of Supply the day before, and I am assured by the Ministry that the "Daily Express" correspondent was specifically told that no secrets would be made available. In spite of that, this piece of sensation-mongering was produced on the front page of that paper yesterday. The only consequence of that can be to embitter relations between America and Britain. Lord Beaverbrook had a sufficiently shameful record of appeasing Fascism before the last war: it is about time he realised not only that he should stop trying to appease Communism, but also that embittering relations between America and Britain is not a happy way of dealing with affairs today.

Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, West)

Between Russia and Britain.

Mr. Blackburn

I will deal with that in a minute. I assure the hon. Member he will be satisfied before I have finished.

We have the time factor that in Britain it will take us another three years at least to produce atomic bombs. It should be remembered that our scientists have worked hand-in-hand with the Americans. For instance, we have had the assistance of Dr. Fuchs, who worked at the Los Amalos laboratories where the atomic bomb was produced. We have many scientists in this country who had access to practically all the information and "know how" in America. Despite that, it will take us here in Britain at least another three years before we are in a position to produce atomic bombs. If that is so, that is one reason—and there are very many others—for the almost universally held scientific belief that it will be perhaps five years before Russia is able to produce atomic bombs and perhaps more years than that before other Powers which I need not mention are themselves able to produce atomic bombs. It will certainly be very much longer than five years at the present rate of French progress before France will be able to produce atomic bombs. To some extent, all this is comforting. If one felt that atomic bombs were now being developed all over the world, one would believe the situation to be almost entirely hopeless.

There is an awful lot of talk nowadays to the effect that people are saying that war is inevitable. I have never heard any one say that war is inevitable. All this denunciation seems to be a lot of characteristically hysterical rubbish. Nobody says that war is inevitable. What people are saying is that we must take steps now, Otherwise eventually we will get into a situation in which war is extremely likely. If another war comes, we know what the consequences will be. Let me emphasise one small point in that connection. The official White Paper on this subject stated that an atomic bomb if dropped on a major city in Britain would kill 50,000 people and render 400,000 more homeless.

But that is not all. The ghost of the atomic bomb is far more deadly than the atomic bomb itself. Having dropped the atomic bomb in such as way as to distribute the radioactivity, the position is that for months one cannot go anywhere near the place where the radioactivity has been left. If anybody wanted to attack this country they would have only to drop sufficient atomic bombs on our seaports and airports in such a way as to distribute radioactivity, and this country would be finished and starving. It could be done overnight. My friend Professor Oliphant said—and I do not think it has been disputed—that something like 50 atomic bombs effectively dropped on this country would have that effect.

Moreover—I am giving the black side of the picture as one is obliged to do—there are other weapons. There are bacteriological weapons and such things as radioactive dust. I would remind hon. Friends on this side of the House that the chief of the German bacteriological staff, Major-General Schmidt, was flown from Moscow to attend the Nuremberg trials. I am not quarrelling with the Soviet Union on that ground. He is being used in the Soviet Union for the purpose of going ahead with their bacteriological warfare effort. I agree that we use German scientists ourselves, and I am not making this point against the Soviet Union, I am simply stating a fact. All over the world today, weapons of mass destruction are being developed as rapidly as possible. Unless we can get some system of international control that will lead us to the state in which some country which perfects these weapons may be liable to use them.

I have now to embark on more controversial grounds. One has to consider the question of what is to be done. It is difficult to make practical proposals as to what is to be done, but I have a major proposal to make at the end of my speech, namely a proposal for a conference on the highest possible level. I do not suggest that this is the right time for it, because that is a matter on which I am not competent to express an opinion. Only those in charge of affairs can know the appropriate time. I want in the meantime to deal with the deplorable events of this week. The first principle, so far as we are concerned, is that America and Britain must be strong and united. They must he strong in that they must be free from the taint of Communism, and Fascism or of support for either. It is a ridiculous suggestion that we could make friends with Franco. I heard the Junior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Wilson Harris), in the Foreign Affairs Debate, advocating military co-operation with Franco, and a new approach to the Soviet Union in the same breath. We must have nothing to do with Fascism in any form. The action which we have taken over Greece has been greatly misunderstood, but I, of course, support the Government in that matter. They have tried to indicate that we do not think it is a good thing to kill people four years after the crime with which they are charged.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, Southern)

Does the hon. Gentleman put Communism and Fascism very far apart?

Mr. Blackburn

I am not putting them very far apart. I was saying that we must be consistent. We cannot denounce the Bulgarian Government and, on the other hand, enter into a military alliance with Franco. I say that we must oppose totalitarianism in any form and be absolutely consistent in the way that we do it.

Sir Henry Morris-Jones (Denbigh)

Does the hon. Member agree with the policy which we have taken at the behest of Russia to have no diplomatic representation in Spain?

Mr. Blackburn

Personally, I suggested that our Ambassador should be withdrawn from Spain a long time ago, and I have not seen reason to change my view. I was talking the other day in the train to a Pole, who told the usual story that free Poles tell about Poland. He had also been in Spain, where he had been detained for a year. He left me under no illusion as to the character of the Spanish régime.

I want to get down to the guts of this problem, and I venture to utter a few words of really sharp criticism about the conduct of certain people in America and of certain people in Britain. I will deal first with America. It must be accepted from now on that no major diplomatic approach should be made to the Soviet Union by Britain without the consent of America or by America without the consent of Britain. What has happened? Apparently General Bedell Smith has made an approach to Mr. Molotov in Moscow. It was a fairly serious approach, of the kind that no Ambassador could take without first consulting his Government. I am sure that they did not mean any deliberate injury, but they did not tell the Foreign Secretary of Britain. That has put us in an impossible position, and they could not have done anything more to comfort Mr. Henry Wallace and the people who think like him in this country than they have done by acting in this way. I will give an illustration later from one of the most disgusting articles that I have seen anywhere in my life, namely, an article in today's issue of the "New Statesman and Nation," entitled, "Slamming the Door."

I feel that it is most unfortunate that General Bedell Smith and the Americans should have handled this matter in such a way that the Russians have been able to score a diplomatic victory. They have, of course, done it in an unfair way by making, a premature revelation of confidential conversations. Nevertheless, there is something to be said for regarding this as a Russian diplomatic victory. There is a second point which, I think, raises something which is even more dangerous. I am afraid that I shall have to quote what I have suggested on another matter to be an unreliable authority, namely, the "Daily Express." Mr. Paul Hoffman was asked yesterday by Senator Henry Dworshak, how British nationalisation would square with Marshall Aid.

Mr. Hoffman said that they did not want to interfere politically with foreign Governments—'my goals are economic.' If Britain asked for dollars to modernise the steel industry, and it announced steel nationalisntion, we would have to decide whether or not this would promote recovery. My guess is that it would not. You don't get results in a transitional period. I am very pro-American and have consistently supported the United States. It would be wrong for America even indirectly to interfere with our political affairs. If they want to make the working class of this country passionately determined on steel nationalisation the way to do it is by American diplomatic action to prevent it. Let us settle steel nationalisation for ourselves and have no intervention from the U.S.A. In this process of trying to unite Britain and America and trying to make them strong we are also to blame. I cannot understand why the Communist and Fascist, purge has been held up, and why it did not take place long before. We have a well known scientist, Professor Nunn May, who gave, in August, 1945, to the Russian Ambassador a sample of Uranium 235, the very material from which the Hiroshima atomic bomb was made.

Mr. Solley (Thurrock)

The trial at the Old Bailey which preceded the conviction and sentencing of Dr. May was held in camera. No statement in public was ever made of the case made out against Dr. May. I would like to know where the hon. Gentleman got his information and does he consider if that information is correct that he is infringing the Official Secrets Act or not in making it public in this House?

Mr. Blackburn

The hon. Gentleman is well-known for his interventions. I should have thought that, in order to take the line which he persistently does, he might at least take the trouble to read the published facts. They will all be found in the Canadian spy case and in the Blue Book published in this country, which the Prime Minister said he would see was more fully published. The details of Professor Alan Nunn May's giving uranium 235 to the Russian Embassy are given at length in the Canadian spy case report.

Mr. Solley

It is incorrect.

Mr. Blackburn

It is not incorrect. If the hon. Member takes the trouble to study the report he will find out.

We should be exceedingly careful about this. It would appear also that the gentleman who is responsible for holding this up is none other than the gentleman on the editorial board of the "Daily Worker," Mr. L. C. White. This matter is not being handled with a sufficient sense of urgency and importance. I think it is most important that we should satisfy the U.S.A. that if they co-operate with us on atomic energy we shall not repeat the mistake we made in August, 1945.

Here is the article entitled, "Slamming the Door," to which I referred earlier and which is presumably written either by the editor of the "New Statesman and Nation" or by its assistant editor, the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman). This is the sentence in which they try to sum up events: The conclusions drawn by ordinary people everywhere will be that those who are preparing for war in America have defeated sanity. That is farcical. Here is the "New Statesman," which has been asking my hon. Friend and his right hon. Friend to allay Russian suspicions, denouncing America as warmongers. I have never heard anything more fantastic or malicious in all my life and I hope that the insipid and frustrated gentleman who edits this newspaper will think again and either withdraw from the editorship or start to produce a line which will be in keeping with the traditions of this country.

I cannot for the life of me understand the situation of the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Zilliacus), who gave an undertaking but who produced on Monday an article in the "Daily Worker" in which he said that his hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury (Mr. Platts-Mills) had been butchered by the National Executive to make a Tory holiday. Does anybody seriously imagine it will benefit the Tory Party for us to exclude the totalitarian element in the Labour Party? Nothing could make the success of the Labour Party more certain at the next General Election than a surgical operation to excise from the Labour Party the totalitarian element.

Mr. Solley

The hon. Member for Kings Norton—

Mr. Blackburn

I give this as an illustration of the general principle that one must be exceedingly careful, both in Britain and America; that our policy in future must fall into line and that we must present a united front. The purpose of Soviet policy, in this respect at any rate, is to divide America from Britain. If we allow them to do so, we shall be contributing to the probability of another war.

I wish to dismiss the idea which has gained currency of an Atomic Union in Western Europe. At the moment that is more or less impossible. There is cooperation between Britain and America, but it is not really possible for us to have co-operation with other countries. One reason so far as France is concerned is that the high commissioner of atomic energy in France is a Communist, although a fine man of great distinction, Professor Joliot Curie, who has been to Moscow and is on friendly terms with Molotov. So long as countries of Western Europe are not prepared to take effective steps to see that the people in charge of their atomic energy programmes are to be trusted, we cannot go on with atomic unity.

An immense responsibility rests upon the shoulders of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary. However much we in this country may hate the regimes established by the Soviet Union in countries like Bulgaria and Roumania, we nevertheless face the situation that it will be intolerable for us to live in a world in which many nation states have developed weapons of mass destruction. We must have a final settlement with the Soviet Union before the nations of the world develop these weapons otherwise an atomic war is inevitable. I believe—and this is a purely personal opinion—that Stalin is an isolated man and, as so often occurs, the victim of his own reign of terror. I believe that he does not get accurate reports about feeling in Britain and in the U.S.A. No Soviet Ambassador in Britain who told the truth about this country would keep his job for more than about a fortnight. He would immediately come under suspicion of having been got at by the capitalists. The history of the Fascist experiment shows that very much the same kind of thing happened there also.

There is still a chance that we might be able to recapture some of the spirit of wartime co-operation, but only by talks on the highest level. Talks at a lower or medium level are ineffective. Mr. Gromyko had no authority whatever at Lake Success. All these matters are decided by the men of the Politbureau, of whom the key member is Stalin. Therefore, a final approach should be made at some time to Stalin himself. I believe that policy is supported by a wide range of public opinion. It was supported in principle in January by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). It was supported recently in the House of Lords by almost every speaker, including Lord Hankey. Before we accept this situation of the nations developing weapons of mass destruction, we must make a final attempt at the highest level and at a conference with Stalin. We must exhaust every possibility of peace, and, as I said 18 months ago, we must realise that if we do not take risks for peace we shall face the certainty of war. That is why I suggest this conference. This time, it should be the most solemn conference of all.

We should not allow Stalin to assume that the people whom he meets may be removed at the next elections, either in America or in Britain. Those attending this conference should comprise, for America, Truman, Marshall and Vandenberg, who is the Foreign Affairs Leader of the Republican Party; and, for Britain, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, and the Leader of the Opposition, who still has an immense name in Europe and who might be able to help the Prime Minister and the President of the U.S.A. to recapture that spirit of wartime co-operation which, if recaptured, might have so great an effect. I do not pretend that I am very hopeful about this proposal. I am not advocating another Munich—unless one calls it a Munich of the nonMunicheers—although Neville Chamberlain must now be smiling, in whatever part of the universe he exists. We are in very much the same position as he was in. Never let us forget, whatever may be said against it—and quite enough has been said in the "Daily Telegraph"—that Munich succeeded in uniting the British peoples behind the foreign policy of Neville Chamberlain. A final conference of this nature would succeed also in uniting the whole of the British people behind the foreign policy of the Government.

I conclude on this final note. I agree with the remark made yesterday by Sir Edward Appleton, that there is unlikely to be any final solution to this atomic problem merely along technical lines. I do not believe that this problem will be solved without a religious revival which will concentrate the minds and hearts of men upon loftier ideals than the materialistic ends with which we are so often confronted. I hope that my hon. Friend will consider the proposal that has been made and, without in any way asking him to accept the view that this is the appropriate time for the conference, I hope that the proposal will be considered by the Foreign Office.

1.0 p.m.

Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, West)

I should like to say—and I did not expect to be able to say this—that I warmly approve the proposal which my hon. Friend made at the conclusion of his speech. I think it is unfortunate that he led up to it by so much that was said at the expense of Russia, which would add to the many difficulties already existing for the discussion of the whole question of atomic energy and preparations for war at the highest possible level. I do not want to say very much about the matter today, but just to voice the view that we have a very special responsibility regarding the present anxiety in the world about atomic bombs, because of our part in releasing atomic bombs in the first case. It was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) who came down here and confessed that he took it on his conscience, as the President of the United States also took it on his, to release on two Japanese towns the thing that now bedevils the whole of the world situation.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, Southern)

May I interrupt the hon. Member? We must have this absolutely correct. The present Prime Minister of this country was Prime Minister at the time the bomb was dropped. If it is a question whether it was right or wrong to drop the bomb, then let us realise that the present Prime Minister was primarily responsible, and that he had several weeks to decide. I cannot accept the hon. Gentleman's statement, though I agree that my right hon. Friend gave his general support to the plan.

Mr. Hudson

I am quoting what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford said in this House—that he took it on his conscience—not on the present Prime Minister's conscience, though my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister may have grave responsibilities in other ways— for working out, with the President of the United States, the dropping of these two bombs—[Interruption]. I am a careful student of these matters, and I think I was the first back bencher to raise this issue in the House. I want to refer to this point that, at the time these bombs were dropped, as is now clear beyond any shadow of doubt, the Japanese Government, untrustworthy as it may have been in itself, was seeking a way out of the war, and had been seeking a way out of the war for at least four months. If anything like wise diplomacy had been exercised at that time, the war would still have come to an end, and the world might have been saved the first experiment in this frightful method of destruction which we have to face today. I wish to be true to my own conscience. It is on my conscience, as a citizen of this country, that this thing did happen—on our responsibility. It makes me feel all' the time that we have a very special responsibility for advocating that new efforts should now be made to contact the Russians on this matter.

It is as clear as noonday, particularly to the Russians, from all the uncertainties, restrictions and discussions that have taken place particularly in America, that Russia is looked on as the nation most to be feared, because Russia may, somehow or other, be working out her own atomic plans. It is this issue of the atomic bomb in relation to Russia that is the main political issue the world has to face, and it was for that reason, I think, that my hon. Friend was right in his concluding proposal that, bad as things are now, hopeless as the Foreign Secretary himself sounded the other day when he spoke of the way in which negotiations had broken down and of the difficulty of restarting them, despite all these difficulties, a new effort must be made by our own Prime Minister to reach Stalin on this point.

I want to go a step further, and I am trying to help in this situation, as I believe my hon. Friend was trying to help with his proposal. I think that Stalin could do a great deal himself if he would say quite frankly, apart from all the tricks that have been played in the U.N.O. conferences, what he would like to have done with this atomic menace. I do not ask for any detailed proposals, or even, at the early stages, that he should make public what he wants, but, if he would make clear to our own Foreign Office, through his Embassy here in London, what sort of proposals he would be willing to have discussed on this issue, I think he would be fulfilling a part of his responsibility with regard to the great terror that today faces the world.

I hope, therefore, that some statement can be made today without throwing out any suspicious references to Russia, that, if there came from that side even the most simple proposal regarding atomic bombs, we would talk it over with them, add proposals of our own, and be willing—and I think one ought to say this again—not only to put our cards on the table, as the Foreign Secretary has said, but be willing to forego any advantage which we have in the joint possession of this secret which we hold today under a definite understanding with America. I think we have to say that, and to go on saying it, and we should never rest content, nor should the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary rest content, until we have found the means of bridging this abyss of suspicion between the Russians and ourselves in regard to what we really mean to do with the atomic bomb.

If I were a Russian and I had that held over my head, as we know it has been held over their heads, that the atomic bomb was being prepared against me and against my country, I should react in the same sort of stupid, foolish and wrong way which the Russians have done. [Interruption.] Yes, I should; I am not making myself out to be an angel. I say that we should try to see ourselves as others see us. I do not think I can say anything more useful at the moment than that simple plea, which I hope every hon. Member in the House will support, that a new effort should be made, despite the wrongs and mistakes for which Russia has been responsible. I am not letting her off. We are faced with a situation regarding the atomic bomb which is so terrible that it overshadows every other issue we have to discuss. We know perfectly well that all that we have striven to do through our own programme of accomplishment at home and the rebuilding of the lives of our people will be of no avail if the atomic bomb is to be released in another war. If we can only make some approach to the Russians by which this matter could be discussed now, I believe that this Government will have done, in that direction, more to deserve well of the people than in all the other good things they have already done.

1.10 p.m.

Sir Henry Morris-Jones (Denbigh)

am sure we are indebted to the hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn) for bringing this matter before the House. No one likes talking on unpleasant subjects. There are some aspects of this matter which are not pleasant, but we should make no secret of this question because of that; I think it was Shakespeare who said that the person who brought in bad news was never very popular but it is a wrong attitude to say that we should no: discuss this matter which demands the attention of the whole world. The how Member for West Ealing (Mr. J. Hudson) told us that the idea of atom bomb has been like a miasma over the thoughts and minds of the whole civilised world for the last two years. There was a Debate on this question in another place some time ago, when it was pointed out that the time would come when the British Government would have to make their position clear, and that we could not go on indefinitely with the present situation. Every avenue has been explored and every attempt has been made by the Atomic Energy Commission to bring about agreement on this question, but they have so far failed.

I think we should recognise the attitude the United States are taking up. Let us suppose that Russia today possessed the secret of this atomic weapon and were manufacturing it every day, as I was told the other day the United States is manufacturing it in increasing numbers in order to keep their plant going. Does anyone think that Russia, were she in possession of this secret and had the finished article ready, would be prepared to do what the United States are now prepared to do, and that is scrap the whole of their plant?

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

Is it not a fact that Russia was the only country which went to the League of Nations and put forward, through Mr. Litvinov, proposals for the complete disarmament in the world of all weapons and armies?

Sir H. Morris-Jones

I remember that. The trouble with Russia, and one has to confess it, is that we cannot trust her word, and we have no means of checking her work. The hon. Member takes a different line on Russia, and I am not antipathetic to her, but as the Leader of the Opposition his said, she is in the hands of about half a dozen men who are responsible to no one, are working in secret and have the control of that mighty country. To come back to the point I was mentioning, I think the attitude of the United States in this matter should be commended. I was very impressed when the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission came to this House. I do not intend to repeat what he said because some of it was confidential, but I was much impressed with the idealism and the intense desire of the United States to come to some solution which would mean scrapping for all time the manufacture and development of atomic energy.

Reference has been made to the time when Soviet Russia and other Powers will be in possession of this weapon. No one can tell, outside the few secret men in Russia, when Russia will be manufacturing these articles. My information, however, does not tally with the information conveyed to the House, that it may be five years. The assurance was given six months ago, by those in a position to surmise and make a fair estimate, that Russia would be able to make these bombs two and a half years from now. The hon. Member for West Ealing said that war is not inevitable, but nothing is inevitable in the world.

I remember that in the "History of Europe" by Mr. Fisher, he expressed the view that in his reading of history he had found nothing was inevitable and that there were always big "ifs." Mr. John Burnham, in his book on the coming world struggle, conveys the impression that war is almost inevitable, in the sense that on the one side there are the dynamic Communists who mean to extend and expand, and having started cannot retreat, and on the other side, the democratic nations, with their different perspective, who may not be able to rally the democratic nations in such a way as to stop this clash which will destroy the world. Nothing is inevitable, but the United States and Great Britain may have to come to a very much closer apposition than they are in today if they are to stop this dynamic force. I would go so far as to say that we want common citizenship between the United States and the British Commonwealth of Nations, and the sooner the better. We want an alliance, with one flag, one people and one English-speaking race, to show that we mean business in this matter and that we mean to stop this dynamic clash which it is avowed is coming.

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge (Bedford)

Does not the hon. Member recognise the extreme difficulty of stopping ideas with material means? He seems to be advocating that we should try to do that in conjunction with America.

Sir H. Morris-Jones

The American and British people and the British Commonwealth of Nations come from the same race. The foundation of America was laid by us; we have the same democratic feelings, the same ideals. We are wholeheartedly opposed to the doctrine of Communist permeation, because we believe it will mean the downfall of civilisation if it is allowed to continue unchecked. If we do believe that, and we see this Communist permeation marching on, is it not better for us to take steps to make it clear that that penetration will eventually clash against something solid? We have tried to make that clear by our advocacy of Western Union, in which Members in all parts of the House have taken part. It is believed that some countries in Europe will be prepared to lose their national sovereignty to get one united body which would keep democratic ideals alive and ever before this Communist penetration.

I am not afraid of a clash if the democratic nations of the world mean business. The trouble is that the democracies are always too late; they disagree among themselves; they will not unite. They are unable to take such measures as a totalitarian Power can take. One morning we may find that it is too late. After all, His Majesty's Government represents a great deal in the world, in which we have taken the moral leadership throughout the centuries. Industrially and economically, too, we were the leaders of the world. Now we have to take a back seat behind the mighty and prosperous industrial nation of the West, but morally, at all events, we have not lost force. We have behind us 1,000 years of civilisation and the art of government. We have men in all parties, men with ideals, who can argue publicly and express the facts of the situation. I hope the Government will tell the people of these islands—I do not expect the Under-Secretary to give us a conclusive answer—that they are taking the steps which are necessary to meet the present situation. There are no people in any part of the civilised or uncivilised world whose position is more vulnerable than ours. It is the duty of the Government not only to the millions of our own people but to the world to take steps to remove fear once and for all. I am not sure that we can remove the fear of war, but we can take steps before it is too late to see that this terrible weapon of destruction will not be employed against our people and the people of the world.

1.27 p.m.

Mr. Solley (Thurrock)

Is it usual in this House for persons participating in a Debate to confess their self-interest? I have in a sense an interest in this matter since I was a research physicist before I discovered that under a capitalist system it was possible to earn more money in other activities than that for which one had been primarily trained in a university. Also for my sins, I was responsible for a small part of the research work in connection with the isolation of uranium-isotopes. This is a subject which, in its political implications, must be seen primarily from the technical point of view. For example, speakers have attempted to estimate the time which they think will elapse before the Soviet Union have a supply of atom bombs. Speaking entirely for myself, on the basis of my own estimation of the position, I am satisfied that the Soviet Union is in possession of atom bombs at the moment.—[Laughter.]—The hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn) can laugh but his knowledge is second-hand while I, at all events, was a participator in scientific research on this subject.

The assumptions which have been made about the possibility of war against the Soviet Union are based on false premises the first of which is, that the Soviet Union has not got a sufficient reservoir of scientific personnel who could, with efficiency and speed, manufacture atom bombs. I would like to assure the hon. Member for King's Norton that I have studied with some interest the scientific papers which have emanated from the Soviet Union and which, in spite of all the slanders about the so-called iron curtain, are available for study by scientists all over the world. I have the highest respect for the scientists of the Soviet Union. Second, the hon. Member and his friends are assuming that the only possible way to isolate Uranium 235, which is one of the fundamental explosives in connection with the atom bomb, is by the extraordinarily complex, expensive and highly inefficient methods which were developed in the United States during the war.

That is a completely wrong conception of the position. The methods of isolating Uranium 235 were developed in the United States during the war, when the essence of the whole business was not efficiency but certainty of production. I t was well known to theoretical physicists that a number of methods were available for isolating isotopes—for instance, by the diffusion of gases through certain substances which would permit of the partial separation of gases, or by the centrifugal separation of gases of different masses. It was known that these methods could be guaranteed to be successful, but that they were inefficient in the highest degree. The hon. Member for King's Norton thinks that the Soviet Union, or any country interested in the atom bomb, will necessarily adopt the inefficient but essential methods of wartime during the present epoch. I should not be at all surprised if a method based on electrolysis, a continuous method of deposition on electrodes, had not been developed, the result of which would be that it would be possible to obtain Uranium 235 within the confines of, not necessarily a small room but a small factory.

Another matter I should like to bring to the attention of the warmongers is that it is quite possible, for any physicist to calculate with a reasonable degree of accuracy the number of atomic bombs which are available in the world at this moment. We know the percentage of Uranium 235 which, in practice, can be obtained per ton of uranium ore, and the uranium it takes to make an atomic bomb. I would say to the warmongers that the scientists of the Soviet Union are as much aware as the scientists of the United States of the num- ber of bombs now available for the next war.

Finally, I do not believe that it is possible, in practice, completely to safeguard any nation from attack by another nation with atomic bombs. The only safeguard can be the complete unity between all the big Powers of today. It is primarily, therefore, a political question, of unity between us and the United States on the one hand, and the Soviet Union on the other. We are not faced with the line up of the so-called anti-democracies on the one hand and the so-called democracies on the other. It is a line up of, on the one hand the warmongers who are substantially the capitalists, and on the other hand the non-warmongers who are substantially the anti-capitalists. Let us join the anti-capitalists, and we shall win peace for the peoples of the world.

1.32 p.m.

Mrs. Ganley (Battersea, South)

I wish to add my plea to the request made by hon. Members, that an approach should be made once more to those people now holding in their hands the future peace of the world. We are discussing scientific development, and we know perfectly well that scientific development is bound to go on, in every corner of the world, wherever scientists have available their thoughts, and the materials in which to express those thoughts. That is bound to happen, and we have no desire to stop the processes of scientific development. What we must have poignantly in mind is an endeavour to stop the misuse, for the purpose of destruction, of the scientific developments which are now being made available for the whole world. Let us remember that the whole of scientific development so far is available for the consideration of and further research by those people who are prepared to bend their energies and lend their brains to that development.

The question today is not whether warmongers are capitalists' and anti-warmongers are not capitalists. The question today is the use of the power of those who possess against the people who do not possess. Surely, the people who do not possess are those who are being urged by this Government to help to make this country secure. All hon. Members today go out into the country and urge the people who are pro- ducing coal, food, cotton and steel to increase their efforts in order that we may pay our way. It is such a simple thing. That is what we have been urging those people to do—to give of their utmost capacity, energy and intelligence in the service of their country. Now we see that the production of coal is rising; and everywhere we look we see that the people 'have responded to the appeals which have been made in the last two and a half to three years. What are we now to say to those people? Are we to say, "We want you to go on producing more and serving the country. The only thing we are hedging about is real security."

Wonderful measures of security, in the National Insurance and Health Schemes, have been introduced for our people in order to raise their standard of life. We want to be able to say to the rest of the world, "This is what this British Government means to do in serving its own people, and through serving its own people to serve the world." That is the conception of life that the people of this country have at present. I urge that we should go on with this development, holding the conception of the establishment of a more secure life for the majority of the people on earth, for in that way we shall be able to say that we have not on our conscience the fact that we refrained from endeavouring once more to make the world secure for all peoples.

I urge that the plea made by my hon. Friend the Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn), and very strongly made by my hon. Friend the Member for West Ealing (Mr. J. Hudson), be implemented, if that is at all possible. I ask our own Foreign Secretary—who has done so much work for the people of this and other countries—to reconsider, together with the Cabinet, whether it is not possible to face the future saying, "Yes, we have all these achievements behind us, but the future is much more important. The future life of the people must be our main consideration. Securing their future life is the service we can render to mankind." If we can only take our courage in our hands, we may once more be able to push the door to security wide open. Let us once more push at that shut door to see whether, even with all the difficulties we are facing and with all the complexities with which we are beset, we cannot open it sufficiently to secure the peace of the world. If we do that, then once more Britain will have made her contribution to the saving of world peace.

1.38 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Mayhew)

The Debate has shown a considerable measure of agreement among those hon. Members who have spoken, and between them and the Government. There is a general consensus of opinion about the vital importance and urgency of this question, and about the necessity for the Government to do everything they conceivably can to get out of the existing deadlock. I may also say that there has been agreement about the difficulty of doing so, and the difficulty of putting forward concrete constructive proposals. As all are agreed, one thing the Debate has illustrated is that the subject of controlling atomic energy cannot be considered in isolation.

The Debate has ranged widely over a large number of aspects of the foreign situation. That, I think, is inevitable. In the last two years it has become clearer and clearer from the work of the Atomic Energy Commission that it is just not possible to consider and solve this question in isolation from other important political questions. I do not mean that before making a substantial contribution to the subject of atomic energy control it is necessary to range as widely as did the hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn). If my hon. Friend will forgive me, I do not propose to follow him on the subjects of steel nationalisation, religion, Spain, Greece, the so-called Communist purge, or this week's "New Statesman and Nation." However, I will' try as best I can to answer one or two of the points that he and other hon. Members raised on the subject of atomic energy control.

I was asked about the possibility of direct approach at the highest level in the solution of this problem. Hon. Members will recall the statement made in the House on Wednesday by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. I am not quite clear—it was not precisely stated by any hon. Member—exactly what the proposal is, but if it is a general proposal for talks at the highest level for the settlement of these questions, I can say, as has been said before, that His Majesty's Government are anxious, and always have been anxious, to reach a general worldwide solution of our problems.

We are aware of the keenest hopes of ordinary people on this problem, so admirably expressed by the hon. Lady the Member for South Battersea (Mrs. Ganley), and we also agree that the problem of the control of atomic energy cannot be solved in isolation from other political problems. However, as the hon. Member for King's Norton said, and as he will agree with me, the question of the timing, the preparation and the judiciousness of this approach is one on which the Government's view is clearly a unique one. I did not find in the speech of the hon. Member any criticism of the Government on this score. I would, therefore, refer hon. Members to the statement made by my right. hon. Friend on Wednesday in the House in which he stressed the importance of clearing the ground, the essential need for careful thought and careful preparation and the unwisdom of courting new failures and increasing our disappointments and discouraging ourselves. In the rest of my speech, I will deal more precisely with this matter in so far as atomic energy is concerned.

Mr. Blackburn

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will report to the Foreign Secretary that from many different point, of view there was virtual unanimity that at some stage, an approach at the very highest level, to Stalin himself, would be advisable.

Mr. Mayhew

I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend will study this Debate —he always studies Debates on Foreign Affairs—and will appreciate that. At the same time, perhaps I may be forgiven if I do not add to what has been said—

Mr. Emrys Hughes rose

Mr. Mayhew

Perhaps the hon. Member will forgive me if I do not give way, because I have a great deal to get through. We have now reached a definite stage in the discouraging history of the negotiations on the subject of the control of atomic energy, and perhaps the House will forgive me if I refer very briefly to the outstanding factors in the history of the work of the Atomic Energy Commission. After 22 months it has reached the stage where the French Government have put forward a recommendation supported on behalf of the United Kingdom Government and the United States Government, that the present discussions of the Atomic Energy Commission should be suspended, since it is not possible in the existing state of international confidence for the Commission to make further progress.

That calls to mind the history of the Atomic Energy Commission. Since time is short, I will refer hon. Members to a statement of this history made recently in another place by the Chancellor of the Duchy instead of going through that familiar history now. The first report of the Atomic Energy Commission, to go back to the beginning of last year, was in line with the original United States proposals put forward by Mr. Baruch, that an international control authority should be set up having far-reaching powers, including the exclusive right of research into atomic energy for dangerous uses. It recommended that the manufacture, possession and use of atomic weapons should be prohibited, that international control was technically feasible, and that, since a risk of a diversion to dangerous uses was present at every stage of atomic processes, international control should be exercised at all stages. In March last year, the Security Council began its debate on this report, and after great procedural difficulties which the United Kingdom delegation was largely responsible for solving, it was referred back to the Atomic Energy Commission for further study.

The principal work since then of the Atomic Energy Commission has been done by its sub-committees, particularly sub-committee No. 2. The work has fallen into two parts, first, a study of the alternative Russian proposals, and, second, the elaboration of the majority proposals embodied in the first report of the Commission. The Russian proposals fell into two parts. The first was for an international convention for the prohibition of the production of atomic weapons and for the destruction of existing stocks. The second was for the establishment of two committees, one to exchange basic scientific information and another to elaborate recommendations for the prevention of the use of atomic energy to the detriment of mankind. In June last year supplementary Russian proposals were tabled stating that a convention prohibiting the use of atomic weapons must be concluded and carried out before any agency for the control of atomic energy, even such an agency as the Russians themselves put forward, could be concluded. They also stated that control must be by periodic inspection only plus special investigations in special circumstances. The United Kingdom delegation asked for clarification of those proposals, and it emerged that there were fundamental differences of view between the attitudes of the Soviet Government and the majority of the members of the Commission.

The powers of the international control commission proposed by the Soviet delegate were confined to periodical inspection and special investigation in certain circumstances, and these were felt by the majority of the Commission to be an insufficient guarantee against the diversion of dangerous materials, not to provide the means of detecting secret activities, and to fall far short of the minimum inspection and security requirements needed to give the feeling of security on which the whole international system must needs be based.

It was also felt that the second great difference of opinion was that the international control commission proposed by the Soviet Union would have had no powers, except by recommendation of the Security Council, to enforce either its own decisions or those of any convention. The third difference was that the Soviet Government insisted on a system of control only after a convention for the prohibition of atomic weapons and the destruction of existing stocks had not merely been signed and ratified but also put into effect. On 15th August last year, a recommendation was passed by the Atomic Energy Commission by nine votes to four, with three abstentions, that these proposals of the Soviet Government were not adequate for an effective system of international control and could not form a satisfactory basis for further study. It was also stressed that they were not in line with the technical considerations which had been carefully studied by the Commission.

The Commission's second task was the elaboration of the original proposals in the first report. Although they are well known, I will inform the House of the basic principles on which the majority of the Atomic Energy Commission reached agreement. These basic principles are a considerable achievement, and the British Government regard them as a starting-off point for the further consideration of this problem. The principles are as follows. First, that decisions concerning the production and use of atomic energy should not be left in the hands of nations, that is, of individual nations. Second, policies concerning the production and use of atomic energy which substantially affect world security should be governed by principles established in the treaty or convention which the agency would be obliged to carry out. Third, that nations must undertake in the treaty or convention to grant to the agency rights of inspection of any part of their territory, subject to appropriate procedural requirements and limitations.

In implementing these proposals, further basic measures are provided. The first is that production quotas should be based on the principles and policies specified in the treaty or convention. Secondly, ownership by the agency of nuclear fuel and source material. Thirdly, ownership, management and operation by the agency of dangerous facilities. Fourthly, licensing by the agency of non-dangerous facilities at present operated by nations. Fifthly, inspection by the agency to prevent or detect clandestine activities.

These basic principles were adopted after thorough debate and examination by ten votes for, the Soviet Union's vote against, and abstraction of the Polish vote. The British Government welcomed the report and accepted the work done as indicative of the powers and functions which any international authority must have to deal effectively with this problem. Our representative referred to certain points where we had some reserves until further consideration could have been given to the full report. This second report was submitted too late for discussion at the Assembly in the Autumn, and has now been submitted to the Security Council, which has not yet discussed it.

Since then the Atomic Energy Commission has not relaxed its work. It has continued to deal in sub-committee with two subjects: first, the organisation and staffing of an international agency; secondly, a further examination of the Soviet proposal. Little progress has been made since then. The first question is a subsidiary question which depends on agreement upon the basic principles. The second led merely to a reaffirmation of the previous standpoint of the majority of the Commission that the Soviet proposals were not adequate and did not provide a basis for study. And so a complete impasse was reached in the work of the Commission after hopes had steadily dwindled over the 22 months and 200 meetings of the Commission and its committees.

The Atomic Energy Commission now has before it the report presented by the French delegate on behalf of three Governments. It recommends that discussion shall be suspended in the Commission for the time being on the ground that in the present state of international confidence the Commission can make no further progress. Here I should make it clear to the hon. Member for West Ealing (Mr. J. Hudson) that this is in no sense a breaking up of discussions or a dismantling of any machinery. The Commission remains, the machinery remains; what has been recommended is that, for the time being, discussions should be suspended. It is true there are certain problems which have still not been thoroughly discussed in the Commission, and it might well be assumed that we should continue to discuss these subordinate questions on matters of detail rather than suspend discussions at this point. It is true that we could continue to discuss the organisation and the administration of the agency, we could discuss the financing of it, we could discuss other problems of a more detailed kind, but we have come to the conclusion that we must now have agreement on the basic principles first. The truth is that if those basic principles are agreed, these subordinate matters can be agreed to.

Mr. J. Hudson rose

Mr. Mayhew

I am sorry, I must finish. If we cannot get agreement on these basic principles then it is quite useless at this stage to continue further discussion of the details. We feel that to continue these discussions would encourage the misleading impression that progress is being made when it is not. If progress were possible, if there were one chance in a thousand, if there were one chance in a million, of progress being possible now along these lines, we would take that chance willingly, but at present we feel that without any hope of agreement in these discussions negotiations can sometimes be worse than useless, they can be a source of irritation, they can be a source of dangerous illusions.

We think it better that the world should know plainly that in the present circumstances no progress is possible on the Atomic Energy Commission. I would say here that the majority of nations are plainly eager for effective international control of atomic energy and 10 out of 12 of the members of the Commission are agreed on important basic principles. They have worked out sufficiently a plan which is politically acceptable to themselves, which is technically sound, and which is fully capable of being put into operation. They welcome gladly that voluntary sharing of part of their sovereignty which is involved in this plan. There will never be an effective system of international control of atomic energy without a merging voluntarily of some part of sovereignty. As I say, 10 out of 12 of the members of the Commission are prepared for that, but, of course, any scheme must also be world-wide. There cannot be a system where part of the world binds itself by the rules and regulations of a decision and part is free, and for the success of any scheme the fullest co-operation of the Soviet Union is essential. And the Soviet Union is not willing to take this great step forward, to join in with others in this voluntary merging of a part of their sovereignty.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Has not the Soviet Union offered to negotiate this week?

Mr. Mayhew

No, I cannot in the least —[An HON. MEMBER: "Could not we push at the open door?"]—I heard a reference to the open door, but I would appeal to the history of the Atomic Energy Commission to make it perfectly plain that this is a grotesque distortion of the situation. The truth is that the majority of nations are prepared for this, but the truth also is that the Soviet Union clings to her secrecy. Complete openness is essential for the success of a scheme of international control. That is the truth of it, and it is a fact that we have to face. Unfortunately, it is now plain that in the existing state of confidence further progress of the Commission along these lines is not possible. The Atomic Energy Commission could have failed perfectly well because it was not practicable for some reason, because it was not practicable to get a scheme of international control; it might well have been found that it was not technically feasible but in fact that is not the case. It has been found to be possible, a practical scheme has been worked out, and there is nothing wrong with the machinery of negotiation. Hon. Members are urging direct talks, but there is nothing wrong with the machinery of negotiation on this point.

Mr. J. Hudson

Except that it has broken down.

Mr. Mayhew

The machinery itself, through the United Nations, has not broken down. It has not been because of the machinery, the technical aspect, or that it was found impracticable, but as hon. Members know, and as has been stressed already in the Debate, the scheme was stillborn for the same reason as other great constructive schemes have been stillborn in these past years, because of the lack of confidence between the Soviet Union and other Powers. That is the truth.

The position now is that the Security Council will debate the report of the Atomic Energy Commission and it will submit the report, no doubt, to the General Assembly for recommendations as to future action. Our own view is that if a solution can be reached at all on this problem of Atomic Energy control, it can be reached through the machinery of the United Nations. His Majesty's Government have done their utmost so far. It was my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister who took the initiative in the first place in securing that this 'matter came under the aegis of the United Nations.

Mr. Blackburn

By direct approach.

Mr. Mayhew

At that time it was not possible to work through the United Nations machinery. The Attorney-General and the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations have also played leading parts in the work of the United Nations at the Assembly and in the Atomic Energy Commission. Last year, in March, we helped to resolve an important deadlock which held up the work on this matter seriously. We were responsible for the rediscussion of the Russian proposals which took place this year. However, we are facing the fact now that the outlook is extremely discouraging. We are as determined as ever we were at any time to find a solution to this problem; we are just as conscious of the importance and urgency of it, and we shall do everything possible to try to restore a state of confidence between the Soviet Union and the other Powers which is essential for the solution of this problem of atomic energy. I can gladly give an assurance that at the first sign of improved relations we shall be eager to resume discussions on this problem, and we shall give our utmost thought to reaching a solution. We are not despairing; it would not he forgivable on this subject to lose hope. To despair on this problem is to despair of peace itself and to despair of mankind itself. But two years' experience have shown that it cannot be solved in isolation. Our view is that it is best to acknowledge these discouraging facts, rather than to prolong these discussions with no hope of progress.