HC Deb 27 November 1952 vol 508 cc614-6
45 and 46. Mr. Ellis Smith

asked the Prime Minister (1) if he will now have published in full, in a White Paper, the history of Britain's contribution that led to the liberation of atomic energy, giving dates, names of the physicists, engineers and concerns; the results obtained at different stages; on what date and stage of development the group of physicists left for the United States of America; the understandings made; and the financial arrangements;

(2) if he will make a full statement on the visits, transactions and arrangements made when Mr. H. G. Urey of the United States of America and others interchanged ideas on the results obtained on the production of heavy water; what was the nature of Professor J. D. Cockcroft's letter, dated 28th December, 1940, to Mr. R. H. Fowler; what contributions were made in the experimentation with heavy water by Mr. Chadwick, Professor M. E. Oliphant and Dr. Allibone; what companies or persons composed the British group upon which their work was reported to the United States of America concerns by Mr. R. H. Fowler; what was the nature of the correspondence that passed between the principal people of Britain and the United States of America on heavy water; and what financial arrangements were made for the United States of America to be provided with British knowledge and experimentation results.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Winston Churchill)

A White Paper was issued by the late Government in 1945. I might have a lot to say on these matters and I dare say that some day another White Paper will be published giving a fuller account of what happened in 1945 and earlier. But I do not think that the time has come yet.

Mr. Smith

Will the Prime Minister bear in mind that it is my desire to put on record credit where it is due, particularly to those men who worked so long and so hard, like Professors Rutherford, Chatwick and Cockcroft and Dr. Allibone? In some parts of the world that credit does not seem to be given to these men. Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind, when preparing his statement, that, if I remember rightly, the last White Paper was published before the termination of hostilities and could not contain the information for which I am asking? Will the Prime Minister remember this, so that the whole facts can be placed before the public and the world can see, as the years go by, what they owe to British engineers?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. No one would be more content than myself to see the whole story unfolded. I pressed this matter several times since the war, during the period when previous Governments were in power. But I do not think at this particular moment I could add anything to what I have said in my answer.

Mr. Bellenger

Is the House to understand from the right hon. Gentleman's original answer that he does not think the time is opportune to give anything more than the meagre information that so far has been disclosed about our efforts in furthering atomic energy? Will he say whether this matter is a closed subject because of military security?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. A great deal of it belongs to history, but I think that in publishing history or historical facts consideration should always be given to the views and wishes of those with whom we are working in close friendship.

Sir E. Boyle

Will the Prime Minister bear in mind that there are very many men and women who played a large part in winning the war whose work, for security reasons, cannot at the moment be estimated at its true value?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir, I think that is perfectly true, and some day the full history of the British contribution to those formidable and terrible events, which is a great one, will be made public. It is quite true we could not make the bomb over here during the war because we were under bombardment, but we made a great contribution and I do not think full consideration has been given to that.