HC Deb 10 November 1953 vol 520 cc774-7
46. Mr. T. Reid

asked the Prime Minister if he will try to secure collaboration in invention of atomic weapons between the United States of America, Britain, Canada and Australia.

The Prime Minister

Her Majesty's Government have made it clear that they would welcome collaboration on atomic weapons with the Government of the United States of America provided it took place on a reciprocal basis, but the matter is governed by legislation in the United States. There is a free exchange of information between the United Kingdom and the Canadian atomic energy projects in the fields in which the latter is interested, but the Canadian organisation has no weapons programme. The Australian Government have also no atomic weapons project, but Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom have received very great assistance from the Government of Australia in the provision of test facilities for atomic weapons.

Mr. Reid

In view of the fact that Western civilisation is in danger, will the right hon. Gentleman at the Bermuda Conference try to induce the United States to abolish the present absurd system by which the great Powers are not collaborating in this most important undertaking?

The Prime Minister

I think I had better not get involved in the agenda of the future conference.

Mr. S. Silverman

In view of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman in his speech last week that in his opinion one guarantee of world peace is the possession of this dreadful weapon by both sides, will he not consider whether the time has come for ending the system of international secrecy in matters of scientific development and advance?

The Prime Minister

I do not wish to add to the answer which I have given to the Question on the Order Paper.

47. Mr. Edelman

asked the Prime Minister what was the purpose of Lord Cherwell's recent visit to Australia and the United States of America; how far his mission was successful; to what extent, following his visit, Her Majesty's Government can rely on future supplies of Australian and other Commonwealth uranium for the production of industrial power from atomic energy; and how progress in the industrial atomic field compares with the estimated progress in the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

The Prime Minister

Lord Cherwell went to Australia at Mr. Menzies' suggestion. He saw for himself the arrangements made for obtaining scientific data from the atomic weapons tests. He also obtained first hand information about uranium deposits and production in Australia and had discussions with Australian Ministers and with the South Australian Premier on Commonwealth and State programmes for exploration and subsequent development. On his return journey through the United States he had discussions, in so far as this was possible within the American law, about atomic energy matters of common interest.

The military and industrial uses of atomic energy are so closely linked that it would not be in the public interest to answer the third part of the Question. As to the last part, Her Majesty's Government's information about progress in the U.S.A. is insufficient to permit any comparison of relative progress in the industrial atomic field. Her Majesty's Government have no information about the programme of the U.S.S.R.

Mr. Edelman

Following the valuable experience of Lord Cherwell's tour, would the Prime Minister now consider treating the development of atomic energy for industrial purposes as a Commonwealth matter rather than primarily as a domestic matter, particularly in respect of the procurement of materials and exchange of information? Would he consider setting up a formal Commonwealth organisation for that purpose?

The Prime Minister

I will have the supplementary question which the hon. Gentleman has put studied in the Departments.

48. Mr. Edelman

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware of public anxiety in this country and in the United States of America about the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic's officially announced explosion of a hydrogen bomb on 12th August; what progress has been made towards the interchange of atomic information among the Allies; and what communication he has had with Mr. Malenkov and President Eisenhower about the danger of an atomic arms race and method of controlling the production and use of atomic weapons.

The Prime Minister

We can none of us be unconcerned about the announcement to which the hon. Member refers, and as I have stated in answer to Question No. 46, Her Majesty's Government would welcome any exchange of information on atomic matters with the United States, provided it takes place on a fully reciprocal basis.

As to the last part of the Question, the need for international control of atomic energy is, as the House knows, one of the most important questions before the United Nations. Her Majesty's Government are second to none in wishing to eliminate weapons of mass destruction. This cannot however be achieved, without endangering security except as part of a comprehensive and effective system of international control. We hope that the Soviet Union will be prepared to give serious study to the constructive proposals made by the Western Powers or else to put forward realistic proposals of its own.

Mr. Edelman

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for that reply, may I ask whether Her Majesty's Government still adhere to the proposals put forward by the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission in 1948? If so, in view of the change of regime in the Soviet Union, will he consider reviving them as a basis for discussion on the international control of weapons of mass destruction?

The Prime Minister

I think it would be an advantage if the hon. Member would put down that carefully thought out question so that it may be done full justice to in any answer that may be given.

Mr. Speaker

As the time is now half-past three o'clock, I should explain that the Prime Minister asked leave to answer his remaining Questions in view of their public interest.

The Prime Minister

I thank the House very much.