HC Deb 12 December 1949 vol 470 cc2337-8
9. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Minister of Supply whether this country is now able to manufacture the atomic bomb.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

It would not be in the public interest for me to answer this Question.

Mr. Hughes

Could the Minister tell us whether this information was revealed to the Leader of the Opposition in the recent conversation, or is the Leader of the Opposition being left in ignorance, too, for security reasons?

Mr. Strauss

That question should be addressed to the Prime Minister.

Mr. Beswick

Can my right hon. Friend tell us exactly in what way the public interest is served by withholding this information?

Mr. Strauss

The development on any defence project is always withheld from public information, I should have thought for obvious reasons.

Mr. Platts-Mills

Is it a fact that the Americans have told us quite positively that we are not to use the knowledge we have, and are not to be allowed to make the bomb?

Mr. Strauss

The hon. Gentleman seems to be better informed than I am.

Mr. Blackburn

May I ask my right hon. Friend, with great respect, whether he will review this secrecy provision in relation to atomic energy, because it is the generally-held view among American scientists that to get rid of secrecy would enable us to get on more rapidly with the project?

Mr. Strauss

There is no secrecy regarding technical information on basic atomic research. I know that every effort is made to see that that is not secret.

Mr. Sydney Silverman

Since it is known that the United States of America can make it, and since it is also known that the Soviet Union can make it, and since neither country thinks it inconsistent with its public interest to have those facts known, why should it be against the public interest to know whether we can make it or not?