HC Deb 13 December 1955 vol 547 cc1001-3
48 and 55. Mr. Mason

asked the Prime Minister (1) if he is yet in a position to say when Britain's first hydrogen bomb will be tested;

(2) in view of our small and limited testing grounds at Maralinga and the Monte Bello islands, where the first British hydrogen bomb is to be tested.

54. Mr. Chetwynd

asked the Prime Minister where the British hydrogen bomb will be tested.

The Prime Minister

I regret that I am not prepared to give the information asked for in these Questions.

Mr. Mason

Is the date dependent on where the hydrogen bomb is to be tested? Can I assume that negotiations are now taking place between this country and America on that point? Secondly, can the Prime Minister give the House and indeed the nation an assurance that in spite of the fact that we are about to detonate a hydrogen bomb, he will not go to the forthcoming meetings with President Eisenhower and Marshal Bulganin with any degree of hesitancy in pressing for a cessation of these thermonuclear tests?

The Prime Minister

I have answered the Questions on the Order Paper, and I have nothing to add to the reply that I have given.

Mr. Chetwynd

Is there not a world of difference between the Prime Minister's approach to the subject of the atomic bomb and his approach to this one, and is not this a question of this world and the next? Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether he intends to hold these tests at all, in view of the knowledge that the tests are so dangerous?

The Prime Minister

There is another Question about that on the Order Paper.

49. Mr. Robens

asked the Prime Minister if he will undertake not to authorise the testing of the British hydrogen bomb by explosion until his meeting with the President of the United States and subsequently Marshal Bulganin and Mr. Khruschev, at which the whole question of the banning of hydrogen bomb tests could be informally discussed.

52. Mr. Strachey

asked the Prime Minister whether, in spite of the admitted necessity in present circumstances of developing and testing a British hydrogen bomb, and in view of the deterioration in the international situation, widened by recent official speeches by the Soviet leaders, he will now reconsider his refusal to undertake a British initiative designed to secure a long term, self-policing, international agreement to prevent an increasing number of hydrogen bomb tests, carried out by several Governments.

The Prime Minister

As I said in reply to a supplementary question by the hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) last week, I must ask that any initiative in this matter by Her Majesty's Government be left to our timing. I cannot go further than that.

Mr. Robens

Does not the Prime Minister realise the tremendous concern that exists in this country and throughout the world about the testing of hydrogen bombs? Would it not, therefore, be useful for him to use the opportunity on meeting these Heads of State to see whether or not there could not he an agreement about banning of the testing of these bombs? Should not the initiative come from us rather than that we should wait on other people?

The Prime Minister

All I said was that I have asked the House, and I think that it is not an unreasonable request, that in these conversations the initiative should be left to Her Majesty's Government's representatives as to when and what they do. I am just as concerned as anybody else in the House about the extent of this problem, and perhaps in some ways I know almost as much about it as anybody else. I assure the House that if there are opportunities I shall not hesitate to take them, but I think that we must be allowed to play our hand in our own way.

Mr. Robens

May we take it from that answer that the Prime Minister will raise the question with the Heads of State?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman must take it—and this is perfectly reasonable and has been followed many times in international discussions of this character—that as the representative of this country I must be left to handle this matter as I think best. But the concern of hon. and right hon. Members is certainly shared by me and, I am sure, by a large number of people in all the free countries of the world.

Mr. Strachey

Does the Prime Minister not appreciate that the growing concern is at the increasing number of these tests by different Governments; and that while we appreciate that in present circumstances we have to develop and test such a weapon, we believe that that ought not to be a bar to this country taking the initiative now in what will necessarily be lone, negotiations to stop a competitive race in these tests?

The Prime Minister

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. No, I did not say that it necessarily would be a bar. All that I asked was that in these discussions the initiative should be left to Her Majesty's Government to use as they think fit.