HC Deb 10 March 1955 vol 538 cc610-3
45. Mr. Henderson

asked the Prime Minister whether he will take the initiative in proposing the establishment of a United Nations Commission to study and assess the potential dangers to human beings from nuclear tests throughout the world.

47. Mr. Reeves

asked the Prime Minister whether he will instruct the British representative at the United Nations to propose that the United Nations should set up an international monitoring service to detect atomic and thermo-nuclear test explosions and that the United Nations should seek to limit the number of experiments, in view of the fact that continued tests may lead to long-term damage to the human race through a general world-wide contamination of the atmosphere.

48. Mr. Palmer

asked the Prime Minister if Her Majesty's Government will support the establishment of a United Nations Commission to assess the long-term effects and dangers of nuclear bomb tests throughout the world.

The Prime Minister (Sir Winston Churchill)

According to paragraph 40 of the official report issued by the United States Atomic Energy Commission on 15th February, the atomic and nuclear tests so far carried out have only released enough radioactive material into the atmosphere to cause an individual living in the United States to receive the same quantity of radiation that he would have received in having his chest X-rayed at a hospital. The experts whose advice is at the disposal of Her Majesty's Government see, I am informed, no reason to dissent from this opinion. All aspects of the nuclear problem and their bearing on international relations must, of course, continue to hold a prime place in our attention.

So far as the genetic effects of exposure to varying levels of radiation are concerned, I understand that an extensive programme of research is already in progress both in this country and the United States of America. In addition, I am informed that the Federation of American Scientists have proposed an immediate United Nations study of the protential genetic risks of nuclear weapons tests. It seems, however, that they are envisaging dangers from a number of tests greatly in excess of those likely to be carried out in the foreseeable future.

Mr. Henderson

In view of the many statements which have been made as to the effects of nuclear tests, and in view of the reply which the Prime Minister has just given, does he not consider that it would be very much to the public advantage if an international body could collect all the available evidence and issue it through a report so as to relieve, so far as it can, the mind of world public, which has been disturbed as a result of the many statements, some of them rather exaggerated, that are being made today? Will he not express the willingness of the Government to cooperate with the American and Russian Governments in securing an international investigation through the United Nations?

The Prime Minister

We are, as I have said in my answer, following this with the closest attention. I do not wish to add to that at the present time.

Mr. Reeves

Surely the right hon. Gentleman does see, as his answer would suggest, the seriousness of this problem? Nuclear scientists all over the world are making pronouncements which are most alarming. This information should be gathered together so that humanity may know what is involved in it all, and so that the whole thing can come under public management.

Mr. Palmer

Is there, in anything that has been said by the Prime Minister, an objection to a United Nations commission investigating the matter?

The Prime Minister

I have said that all these matters are under consideration.

Mr. Strachey

Will not the right hon. Gentleman apply his mind to the fact that, quite apart from whatever may be the danger level of these tests, this is by far the most promising way of beginning a process of international control, because of the supreme advantage that it is self-policing, because any new test can be detected no matter in what part of the world it takes place?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I am certainly aware of that.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Will the right hon. Gentleman recall also that the Federation of American Scientists, having considered the report of the Atomic Energy Commission, has said that the tests may reach a level which can be shown to be a serious genetic threat to peoples all over the world? Since other Governments are considering further programmes of tests, ought we not to take action at the earliest possible moment?

The Prime Minister

As I say, all this must be considered not only by ourselves but in consultation with our allies.