HC Deb 16 December 1954 vol 535 cc1973-6
46. Mr. Wyatt

asked the Prime Minister what arrangements now exist for consultation between himself and President Eisenhower on the use of atomic and nuclear weapons; and what machinery exists for instructions to be conveyed to the appropriate commanders.

The Prime Minister

As befits old friends, President Eisenhower and I feel free to consult each other on all sorts of things whenever we feel inclined. This involves no change of any kind in the ordinary procedure in vogue in the United Kingdom, nor, to the best of my knowledge, in the United States.

Mr. Wyatt

Is the Prime Minister aware that there is great anxiety, since the statements of General Gruenther and Lord Montgomery to the effect that atomic weapons will definitely be used if a war breaks out, and as they are the commanders, the public would like to know whether President Eisenhower and the Prime Minister will be giving them the instructions as to whether or not they should use these weapons, or whether they have the right to use them without consultation?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman is no doubt fixing his mind upon topics which may well be discussed at the N.A.T.O. Conference now taking place in Paris.

47. Mr. Wyatt

asked the Prime Minister whether he is now in a position to state with greater exactness the number of atomic and nuclear explosions that he is advised will make lethal the atmosphere over substantial areas of the world; and whether he has now studied the evidence submitted to him by the hon. Member for Aston.

The Prime Minister

I have, of course, studied the evidence submitted to me by the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt), consisting of a cutting from "The Times" of 2nd September which reports Dr. Adrian's inaugural address at the British Association for the Advancement of Science. This statement was made in September. This and other questions on the same subject command the attention of the scientific advisers of Her Majesty's Government. Although everything in the nuclear sphere is in continual transition, both in fact and thought, they do not consider that a new statement is required from me since the one I made in reply to the hon. Member's Question of 9th November, and I do not, therefore, propose to make one at the present time.

Mr. Wyatt

Is the Prime Minister aware that I sent him the observations of Dr. Adrian because he evidently had not seen them and I thought they might be of more interest to him than mine; and as Dr. Adrian is of the opinion that it is perfectly possible to arrive at a precise answer to my Question, could not the Prime Minister, instead of making humorous remarks on the subject, ask his advisers to give him the answer?

The Prime Minister

I am frequently in touch with my advisers, and they do not think the moment has been reached when I ought to attempt to make a definite formal appreciation to the House of Commons upon the subject.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Will the Prime Minister ask his advisers to furnish him with the many statements made by Japanese and American scientists—who have special opportunities for studying the question—to the effect that there are grave dangers inherent in atomic explosions; and when he has studied that evidence, will he reconsider the question of suspending further tests?

The Prime Minister

I was not aware of any tests that were in immediate prospect under the control of this country.

52. Mr. Strachey

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of his replies of 28th October last, he has instructed the British representatives at the present meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's Council of Ministers, to insist that nuclear weapons will not be employed by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's Command without the prior consent of Her Majesty's Government.

The Prime Minister

It would be contrary to normal practice to reveal the instructions carried by British representatives to conferences of this character. I must ask the right hon. Member to await any announcement which may be made at the end of the North Atlantic Council meeting.

Mr. Strachey

Cannot the Prime Minister at any rate reassure the House today that his former statement that there is no basis for (the assumption that the control of the atom and hydrogen bombs has been transferred from political to military control still stands and will be maintained at the Conference?

The Prime Minister

As all the representatives are over there now discussing these matters together, I think the House would be well advised to await some definite result before I answer the question, but I do not in any way withdraw from anything that I have said.

Mr. Strachey

Does not the Prime Minister realise that the House is very disturbed about the statement of Lord Montgomery, which was, apparently, in direct conflict with the Prime Minister's statement? Will not the Prime Minister, shall we say, communicate with Lord Montgomery on the subject and draw his attention to the right hon. Gentleman's previous statement to which I have referred and ask Lord Montgomery to confine his remarks to the policy which the Prime Minister has just reaffirmed?

The Prime Minister

The subject is much more complicated than appears on the surface. I think that the views which have been expressed by me on behalf of the Government have not been falsified, and I have every reason to believe that the Conference will give full consideration to that aspect.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Does not the Prime Minister think it time that we had a White Paper explaining how the policy of Her Majesty's Government differs from the pronunciamentos of Field Marshal Montgomery?

The Prime Minister

I do not know, Mr. Speaker, whether it would be in order for me to offer you my congratulations upon having so swiftly succeeded in finding the acme of ignorance.

Mr. Manuel

Shameful. Do not try to be so clever.

The Prime Minister

Perhaps the hon. Member for South Ayrshire will repeat his question.

Mr. J. Hudson

On a point of order. Now that your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, has received specific definition from the Prime Minister, who has spoken of your references as having to do with the acme of ignorance when hon. Members put questions which the Prime Minister does not like, will you agree to modify your Ruling in order to make it clear that all hon. Members will have your attention when they desire to ask questions?

The Prime Minister

Might I express my regret for having deviated into facetiousness?

Mr. Emrys Hughes rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. I myself am rising to answer the point of order which was put to me. The answer is that I need no one to interpret my Rulings to the House. I try to do my best to give every hon. Member a fair chance.

Mr. Hughes

While I regret that the Prime Minister should descend to such cheap impertinence, may I ask him now whether it is not time that Her Majesty's Government issued a clear statement showing how their policy differs from that of Field Marshal Montgomery, whose orations are taken all over the world as expressions of the opinion of Her Majesty's Government?

Mr. Rankin

Will the Prime Minister remember that the last political general was the Duke of Wellington? Will he assure the House that, in his search for a policy, he does not mean to return to that age?