HC Deb 28 October 1952 vol 505 cc1738-41
49. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Prime Minister, in view of the fact that well over £100,000,000 has been disbursed on atomic research without Parliament being made aware of it, what steps he is taking to ensure that there will be a greater measure of public control and Parliamentary discussion of such expenditure.

The Prime Minister

For the present I am content to be guided by the precedent created by the previous Government on this matter.

Mr. Hughes

Is the Prime Minister aware that the country will not be content with this in view of the right hon. Gentleman's criticisms of the last Government? Is he aware that his statement has roused widespread interest, and will he not give an assurance that we will have a full opportunity of discussing the whole implications of this very alarming report?

The Prime Minister

A new Session is shortly to begin, in which the entire parade of Parliamentary facilities will be presented to all Members of the House.

Sir H. Williams

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the Estimates of the Ministry of Supply for the current year, the sum of precisely £100 million is provided and that this could have been easily ascertained by any hon. Member?

Mr. Norman Smith

Is the Prime Minister aware that this expenditure and the method of presenting it in the Estimates were both in the public interest?

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Arthur Henderson.

The Prime Minister

It is a very long story to go to the beginning of what happened after the war about our rights in regard to the atomic bomb and information with the United States. One would find it very difficult to say that everything that was done was done in the public interest, but I am very glad that what was done in the later phases, to which our attention is now directed, can in fact foe attributed to the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues, or some of them, at any rate. [HON. MEMBERS: "All."] I believe, all of them.

Mr. Bellenger

On a point of order. You called Question No. 50, Mr. Speaker, but the Prime Minister is now making a long statement on a supplementary question which you did not allow to be put.

Mr. Speaker

I was waiting to see whether it was in answer to the Question which I called. Mr. Henderson.

50. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Prime Minister whether he will consult with President Truman with a view to arrangements being made which would permit of atomic knowledge and resources being pooled between the United Kingdom and United States Governments in the interests of common defence and economic security.

The Prime Minister

I discussed these matters with President Truman in Washington in January last. He is aware that Her Majesty's Government would be very happy to consider with the United States Government arrangements for a resumption of the full co-operation in this field which obtained between our two countries during the war. Such arrangements are not possible at the present time, however, because the American position is governed by the provisions of the McMahon Act of 1946, which, although amended in October, 1951, still prevents the United States Government from engaging in full technical co-operation with other countries in this field.

Mr. Henderson

Will the Prime Minister bear in mind that, in the North Atlantic Treaty, provision was made for the fullest possible co-operation and the fullest possible exchange of information on all matters of joint defence interest, but that that has not applied in the atomic field, resulting in an unnecessary expenditure of many millions of pounds, both in this country and in the United States? Does he not agree that the time has now come when both countries should seek to avoid this wasteful duplication of effort in research on these matters?

The Prime Minister

I have no fault to find with any of those sentiments.

Mr. Attlee

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, when the Presidential elections are over, a new approach might be made on these matters? I think that, very often, the Administration, while quite willing to co-operate, has a certain difficulty with the Legislature, particularly in the passing of the McMahon Act, which I believe has hampered co-operation. May I ask the Prime Minister if, after the election, full representations in the light of present circumstances will be made?

The Prime Minister

Certainly. As the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned the McMahon Act, I should like to express my regret at the sudden and unexpected death of Senator McMahon, who was, I believe, animated by a sincere desire to be a faithful interpreter of all the relations between the two countries on this difficult question.

Mr. Attlee

May I add that I agree with that sentiment?

Mr. Speaker

The Prime Minister—statement.

Mr. S. Silverman

On a point of order. I was on my feet a little while ago to ask a supplementary question about this, and you, Sir, were about to call me when my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition got up.

Mr. Speaker

I had not finished articulating the name of the hon. Member when the Leader of the Opposition rose, and I had, of course, to call him, as is customary and in accordance with precedent. Now it is after the hour for Questions, and I must call the Prime Minister to proceed with the Statement which he announced that he was going to make in answer to Question No. 46.