§ 3.40 p.m.
§ Dr. Edith Summerskill (Fulham, West)
I beg to move,That this House urges upon the Government the need to give further consideration to the long-term and remote effects of continuing nuclear explosions by the Governments of the United States of America, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United Kingdom, and expresses its fears as to the dangers facing humanity as a result of continuing radioactive contamination of the world's atmosphere, particularly to future generations; and asks that the suggestion of the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition be carried out and a conference of scientists from the United States of America, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom and France, be held to advise on the danger facing mankind.I am informed that this will be the first occasion in this House on which a woman Member has opened a debate and another woman Member will wind up for the Opposition—
§ Miss Irene Ward (Tynemouth)
Will the right hon. Lady allow me to correct her, as she is in error? We had an all-women debate, in which she took part, in the days of the Coalition Government, so she is out-of-date.
§ Dr. Summerskill
I am very pleased to accept the correction. I certainly recall that debate, but even the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Miss Ward) will agree that this occasion is unprecedented because never have women—and, I anticipate, so many women—spoken on such an important matter.
The question of women speaking is of minor importance in terms of history compared with the subject matter of the Motion I am moving. In my opinion, this problem transcends party, creed, or nation. It is, in fact, a question which involves the whole human race. I very much regret that the Government have not thought fit to accept this Motion fully and generously, instead of putting down an Amendment which can only be described as evasive.
1882 I shall try this afternoon not to use any complicated terminology which still the most erudite cannot understand. There are those who say that man should have left science alone and the world would have been a better and happier place. I believe that that is a completely defeatist attitude which might well led to the decay of human intelligence, which almost came to pass in the Middle Ages. The rational and moral approach to scientific discovery is to control its evil effects and direct it into constructive channels. Unfortunately, today the world seems hypnotised by the possibilities of the prostitution of this new force of nuclear energy rather than absorbed by its tremendous potentialities for good. The tragedy today is that man knows how to control the atom bomb, but does not know how to control himself. Perhaps Freud was right after all—there is a death wish in the heart of our civilisation; mankind is prepared to work destruction in the world and destroy himself in the process.
Today, we are concerned with discussing the most modern war weapon, a topic which women generally are only too ready to cede to men. I do not say this to provoke hon. Gentlemen opposite, but war has been a male pastime since the dawn of time and women, against their strongest instinct—that of procreation—have always been drawn into the undertow. They have acquiesced reluctantly because they have always been assured that the things they hold dearest in life, their homes and their families, were at stake. Now man has invented a lethal weapon the properties of which offer a threat to women's creative powers.
If this is proved conclusively—and the evidence so far advanced fills us with the gravest misgivings—that instinctive aversion to fighting which prompts every normal woman may find world-wide expression. Scientific investigation in this field must necessarily be limited owing to lack of human material. In this case, we must be very thankful that the number of people who have been exposed to radioactive emanations from these bombs is limited.
While that, fortunately, is the case, we cannot afford to disregard the findings and conclusions of many eminent scientists. I anticipate that perhaps some hon. Members opposite will try to counter the statements of scientists which I propose 1883 to quote, but I would remind those who are prepared to dismiss, as having no validity, the reports which have already been made, that the atomic age is so very new and the approach to this matter is of such a tentative character that only the most irresponsible will ignore certain recent scientific announcements.
At this stage it is as well to keep in mind other scientific discoveries which have failed to gain immediate acceptance. Only very recently Sir Alexander Fleming died. It will be recalled that the discovery of penicillin resulted from the accidental growth of a mould on a culture left by an open window. Theories which he deduced from that fact were not readily accepted and it took many years for the world to accept Sir Alexander's proposition. It will also be recalled that the writings of Pasteur on bacteriology were ridiculed and that Jenner's experiments in vaccination were scoffed at.
I have no intention of making sensational statements about the genetic effects of experiments with the hydrogen bomb. I simply want to convince the House and the Government that there is a prima facie case for an examination of the whole problem by scientists of the highest repute. Recently, when the Prime Minister was questioned in the House on the atmospheric effects of the hydrogen bomb, he repeated a statement of Mr. Strauss, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission of the United States, that the amount of radiation is no greater than that to which a patient having an X-ray of the chest is exposed.
But the Prime Minister overlooked one very important scientific fact. The effect of radiation in the atmosphere is cumulative. It is wrong to talk of "permissible levels of radioactivity" because uranium and radium are found all over the earth and any addition to the already existing store of radiation may be responsible for an increase in the incidence of some disease. Indeed, some scientists are of the opinion that here may be the key to the development of cancerous growth, a malignant disease which, so far, has baffled research workers.
When the first atom bomb was dropped it was estimated that a permanent change in the level of the earth's radioactivity would be detectable after a hundred or so similar explosions. Later, it was esti- 1884 mated that several thousands would be necessary, but the number now needed is very much smaller. To date, there have been 65 nuclear explosions—50 by the Americans, 12 by the Russians and three by the British. Scientists are now expressing the opinion that explosions of nuclear weapons cannot continue without the danger of serious damage to health. If the House will be patient with me, I will quote the statements of scientists who command the highest respect not only in their own countries but throughout the world.
The Professor of Biophysics in the Medical School of Osaka University, in Japan, has reported, after examining people exposed to the Bikini test explosion of March, 1954, that in the most seriously injured fishermen the number of leucocytes—those are the white blood corpuscles—marrow cells and blood platelets, fell to one-tenth of the normal number, and that their blood forming function was seriously impaired. Those men had to be given frequent blood transfusions to save their lives. One died a few months later.
Besides the very serious injury to the blood forming organs, the reproductive organs were seriously affected. The professor himself examined those fishermen, and he found that in some of them the number of sperms per cubic milimetre was from 100to 700 against a normal number of from 50,000 to 100,000. Not only was there a decrease in the number, but various abnormal types of sperms were seen. Some of these fishermen, therefore, may have been rendered sterile for life. The professor says that, even if the number of sperms should recover, there is a danger that abnormal children may be born subsequently. Evidence goes to show—and this is not disputed—that a pregnant woman who is exposed to only a moderate dose of radiation runs the risk of aborting or giving birth to a still-born child.
The Federation of American Scientists has now suggested that the United Nations should appoint a commission to explore the dangers that lie in continued nuclear explosions. The Federation, which was formed at the end of the war to study the relations of science to public affairs, is composed of 2,000 scientists and engineers, many of whom have worked on both atomic and hydrogen bombs.
1885 In 1945, when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, we were shocked by the stories of the blast and the powerful gamma rays and momentarily fierce heat, but we were told little about the fall-out, that is, the settling of radioactive particles which have been blown thousands of miles. The reason for that was that the single explosion could be dismissed, but the danger which lurks in the accumulation of those particles is very serious, for they may remain active for years—indeed, it has been said, for decades.
Mr. Strauss, who, the House will recall, is the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission of the United States, says in his report that the fall-out from the hydrogen bomb can contaminate an area of 7,000 square miles with lethally radioactive material. But there is still more to come. Dr. Edward Teller, who was the genius of the hydrogen bomb, tells us that the so-called "super super bomb," with a power more than 20,000 times the power of the first atomic bomb, will not be the end.
I ask the House to forgive me while I mention something which is rather technical, but of great importance. It is said that the radiostrontiums from hydrogen explosions can fall out at great distances and later can be eaten, through being in vegetables, and so on, by humans, and by grazing animals which, in turn, provide food for humans. Bone has a special attraction for radiostrontiums, and the human foetus is highly sensitive to radiation. It is argued, therefore, that the foetus may be destroyed through milk obtained from cattle which have grazed on infected grass. Mr. Strauss, in his report, seeks to be reassuring, but he cannot prophesy what would happen in a hydrogen bomb war, when abortion and stillbirths might become almost universal.
Hon. Members who have listened to me so attentively may say, "Yes, but what do English scientists say about this?" They may feel, perhaps, that foreign scientists are a little suspect. They may feel, perhaps, that foreign scientists have a political slant to their pronouncements and writings. Whom can I quote? Who commands greater respect than Dr. Edgar Adrian, of the Order of Merit, the Nobel Prize winner, one of Britain's finest and most famous scientists? Dr. Adrian says that a hydrogen bomb war may 1886lead to a degree of radioactivity which no one can tolerate or escape and thus end the human race.In the light of that, nothing I have said previously can be regarded as an overstatement. Those are very strong words.
I quote two more scientists. There is Dr. Sturtevant, of the California Institute of Technology, who has been Professor of Genetics since 1928. He warns that any high energy radiation causes mutations in germ cells, and he says that the effects are permanent. They are passed on in genes to the descendants of those exposed to radiation. These may include both physical deformities and mental aberrations.
Dr. Stern, of the same university, a zoologist, would not admit the risks to be so great, and in his utterances takes a middle course, but he admits that:The production of a number of detrimental or fatal disease incidents may be expected …to follow a thermonuclear test explosion—not a thermonuclear war, but a thermonuclear test explosion. By now, he estimates, everyone in the world harbours in his or her body small amounts of radioactivity from past hydrogen bomb tests.
Can we afford to ignore this volume of evidence, only a small part of which I have quoted, and the inherent dangers of atomic radiation to the human race? I urge the Government to give this matter priority and to accept the Motion. Most of us in this House have already lived a fair share of our expectation of life, and the manner of our dying is of no more than academic interest, but it is the moral duty of all older people to seek to ensure for the young a world at least as pleasant as the one we have known.
§ 3.59 p.m.
§ The Minister of Health (Mr. Iain Macleod)
This is a strange and difficult subject to debate. Although I may find some points to take up in the speech of the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill), and although on some of them I shall disagree with her, I think the House will be grateful to her for the way she has approached this matter. There is no question but that this problem and all the related problems offer a personal challenge to us all, a challenge we cannot 1887 shuffle off on to our leaders, or on to our leader writers, or on to the scientists.
My task is to give as clear a picture as I can to the House of Commons and the country, after taking the best possible advice that is available to me. Perhaps I can say on that question of advice that the Medical Research Council have had committees considering this subject for eight or ten years. They are not Government committees. Represented on them are leading authorities from the universities, from the M.R.C. research staff, and from the Atomic Energy Authorities.
What I say from this Bòx is, of course, the responsibility of the Government. That is always so, but I can also say that I am confident that what I say this afternoon, particularly about the effects of the test explosions on this country, is not in conflict with their views. I hope, too, that what I have to say and, for that matter, what the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West had to say will be read as a whole and not in isolated sentences which, on a subject of this nature, might sometimes give an incomplete impression.
The right hon. Lady emphasised the long-term nature of this problem. It is one that, in the nature of things, will not be finally resolved for generations and perhaps for centuries. Research is a matter to which I should like to return. I propose, at the end of my speech, to move the Government Amendment which is on the Order Paper. Frankly, it has not been placed there in an attempt to be evasive in the least. It has been placed there, for reasons which I will explain, because it indicates what we generally believe is the best approach to the problem. I am not too much concerned to argue about the different weights to be attached to Motions and Amendments on the Order Paper. We are all deeply concerned in this matter and it is wholly right that we should debate it. In view of what I have said about the necessary discussions that have taken place and the advice that I wish to give to the House, perhaps right hon. and hon. Members will forgive me if, from time to time in what I have to say, I follow my notes more closely than I usually do.
1888 How is it that this anxiety, to which expression is given in the Motion, has arisen on the long-term and remote effects of continuing nuclear explosions? That concern that increased radioactivity of the atmosphere can have a long-term effect on mankind's hereditary constitution comes from the fact thtat radioactivity of all kinds causes an increase in the mutation rate in all animals and plants in which it has been tested. Without attempting to put the matter into over-scientific terms, we are concerned here with the structure of genes which fix the characteristics that are transmitted from parents to offspring. Particular genes, for example, may determine the colour of a child's eyes and hair or, in some cases, produce a physical or mental defect. Now, these genes have the property of mutating, that is, changing in such a way as to produce a new characteristic, and all such mutations, as the right hon. Lady correctly said, are permanent, that is to say, are carried on through subsequent generations.
The effect of exposing animals to radiation is to increase the rate at which these mutations occur. Sometimes what are called recessive genes may not show a harmful effect until mating takes place, it may be many generations later, between two people each of whom carries the same recessive mutated genes. The belief that such exposure causes genetic damage to human beings is, of course, based on evidence that it does so in other forms of life. Observations have been made on plants, insects and mice and a very large, though by no means sufficient, body of knowledge is being built up. It seems probable that mutations are produced with a frequency that is proportional to the dose of radiation but, also, that there is no threshold level below which genetic changes do not take place. This was the subject of a Question recently by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross).
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent Central)
Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that in the majority of cases any changes that occur are for the worse for mankind and only rarely for the better?
§ Mr. Macleod
That is so. Most mutations are certainly harmful. There is nothing new whatever in human beings being exposed to radio- 1889 activity. We and our ancestors and all our evolutionary predecessors have for millions of years been exposed to radioactivity which comes to us perhaps from outerspace. I am told that each of us absorbs natural radiation which is thought to be about 0.1 roentgen each year. I am sure that the House knows that roentgen is the unit of dose of X-ray and gamma rays. A dose of 0.1 roentgen is what, quite apart from any explosions, we would any way normally absorb. Other countries may have slightly different levels of radiation. Indeed, the levels are different in cities as the result of the burning of coal and the use of building materials, and so on.
The pronouncement on the effect of test explosions which has caused a good deal of comment and some controversy is that of the United States Atomic Energy Commission. I should like to quote in full paragraph 40 of its Report, which states:In general, the total amount of radiation received by residents of the United States from all nuclear detonations to date, including the Russian and British tests and all of our own tests in the United States and the Pacific, has been about one-tenth if one roentgen. This is only about one-hundredth of the average radiation exposure inevitably received from natural causes by a person during his or her reproductive lifetime. It is about the same as the exposure received from one chest X-ray.That last sentence has already given rise to a good deal of controversy but, whatever its merits, it has no relevance at all to the case which I am putting here, because I pass on straight away to tell the House what, so I am informed, is the effect on the people of this country.
Our calculations—and we derive these calculations and our information in this matter from the monitoring measurements taken by the Atomic Energy Authority—show that here the figure would be about one-third of the American figure, and this includes all the future radiation results of all the explosions that have taken place so far. Even this figure of .03 roentgen is artificially high for two reasons which, as far as I can see, have not come at all into discussions in the Press but which, obviously, are of importance.
I am told that this figure is calculated on the assumption that a man stands outside in the open for 24 hours a day for about 50 years, and that, of course, is improbable. I am also told that to the extent that he is indoors or under cover 1890 the figure, again, will be greatly reduced. It also assumes that none of the activity weathers away from the surface of the ground, which, of course, would happen. Therefore, I am advised that the effective average dose that would have been received by somebody in this country from all the bombs that have been exploded so far is a very great deal less than .03 roentgen.
§ Mr. John Baird (Wolverhampton, North-East)
Is it not a fact that these figures are based purely on assumptions and have no scientific basis? Is it not the case that in America radiation is at a higher level in some places than in others? Therefore, is it not ridiculous to take a figure for America as a whole?
§ Mr. Macleod
The hon. Member has perhaps missed the point. I am discussing only the British figures. There may well be great variants in the American figures. I have not had any discussions with American scientists to enable me to make any comment on that.
At the present levels of irradiation it seems improbable that we have anything more than an interesting basic scientific problem, and a situation which must be watched very carefully indeed. That is the best advice that I can give to the House.
The real question, of course, which I will try to answer is this: what level is permissible? What is the threshold of radioactivity, which, if we are not there now, we may reach in the future, beyond which man's genetic constitution might stand at risk? That is the main worry. The dose of radiation which has been agreed by an international commission as a maximum permissible level for workers on radioisotopes or for radiologists is 0.3 roentgen per week or, taking working hours and holidays into account, about 15 roentgen a year.
That is enormously greater, of course, than any of the figures that we have been discussing, but it is also fair to point out that where very large numbers of the community have to be considered the number of genes at risk is enormously increased, and, therefore, the number of matings that might conceivably be harmful is also very considerably increased.
I have tried to find a figure, which I could give to the House, above the level 1891 of natural activity at which danger would begin. I found that the more I went into the subject the more the scientists disagreed. Estimates of the dose of radiation over a generation that is likely to double the spontaneous mutation rate have varied from three roentgen to 300 roentgen. None of us can adjudicate on these matters, and it is not for me to try to do so, but I am told that a figure of 50 roentgen over 25 years is as good a guess as we can make.
The increase in the United States of America has been only a tiny fraction of this, and in this country it has been very much smaller. Perhaps this will bring a little comfort to us and a sense of balance as we study these problems. Indeed, on the lighter side, I might mention that this morning, when discussing some of these matters with a professor of international standing in this field, he told me that personally he was a good deal more worried about crossing the road than about the present levels of irradiation.
I should now like to turn to the question of research, about which some Questions were asked and replied to yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. Research is going on all over the world. Most of it is concerned with plants and lower animals and even with single cells. The great difficulty here, as the right hon. Lady knows, is that we can only carry out experiments on species with a shorter life span and a much more rapid development than man.
The United States Atomic Casualty Commission has been studying the population in the vicinity of atomic explosions during the last war. There is evidence that some conditions have a higher incidence among these populations, but no evidence of genetic damage which is statistically significant has so far been observed. There again—and I am sorry to have to make so many qualifications, but we have to study these things for years and perhaps generations before we can be really confident in any of the pronouncements that we can make—there have also been studies of individuals who are exposed to increased amounts of radiation. These are people such as radiologists and patients who, for therapeutic reasons, have had to have considerable doses of radia- 1892 tion as treatment. Here again, and making the same proviso, the studies of these groups have not to date shown any evidence of genetic damage.
In this country, the work is almost entirely under the auspices of the Medical Research Council.
§ Dr. Stross
Has not the right hon. Gentleman been advised of the work done to discover the effect on women in America where such doses have been given in the treatment of menorrhagia and the result on children born later? There has been a very considerable increase in the incidence of children born with congenital heart disease, congenital dislocation of the hip and club foot.
§ Mr. Macleod
All I can say is that what I have said is on very strict advice, and I think that some of thereferences which the hon. Member is making are perhaps to those who were in the vicinity of a bomb explosion.
§ Mr. Macleod
That is a very different matter from the whole population problem which I am discussing. If the hon. Member is referring to the question of the whole population, I have no evidence that such is the case.
§ Dr. Stross
I was referring to the treatment given therapeutically to cases of men and women in the United States in order to combat menorrhagia, without harming their fecundity power. I was describing what happened to children later born from such women.
§ Mr. Macleod
I have no particular knowledge of the matters which the hon. Member has put before me.
On the question of research, a great deal of research goes on in the Medical Research Council's research unit at Harwell and there are other institutions for research at Hammersmith Hospital and Leeds. The work is also being supported in many university departments. It is not possible to extract precisely the amount that is spent on genetic studies from that spent on other work because all studies on radiation could give a lead to an answer on all allied genetic problems. The Council's expenditure for the support of work in its own establishments in all aspects of the effects of radiation is in the provisional Estimates for 1955–56—£208,000.
1893 I am also authorised to say, on behalf of the Government, that if the Medical Research Council, after examining its research programme in the light of this new commitment, report that an increase in its total expenditure is essential, this will have the Chancellor's favourable consideration. Perhaps I may put two or three conclusions to the House in the form of a summary.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the question of research, would he say whether any medical or other research is being conducted as to the possibility of counteracting the harmful genetic effects of radioactivity?
§ Mr. Macleod
That is a matter of which I have no particular knowledge. I will write to the hon. Member or, if he will put a Question on the Order Paper, I will give him the best information that I can get.
These are the conclusions which I should now like to put to the House. First, radiation produces genetic effects and the radioactivity of the planet has slightly increased as a result of nuclear bomb explosions. Secondly, I am afraid that our present knowledge is insufficient to fix at all precisely the level of radioactivity above which genetic damage would significantly affect the well-being of populations. Thirdly, research in genetic changes is inevitably slow. Finally, and most important of all, it is most unlikely that the increase of radioactivity which has occurred up to the present will have any appreciable genetic effect.
I turn now to the Motion and the Amendment. We can argue about the words, but at least we know we are not arguing about what we want to do. We seek peace now, for our time, for our children's time and for ever. But the question is how best we can achieve it. We seek a world free from fear.
Before I recommend the Government's Amendment to the House as the one for which we should like to invite support, I think I should examine two proposals. First of all, there is the suggestion by the Leader of the Opposition for a scientific conference; and, secondly, the suggestion, which has been ventilated in another place on a number of occasions, that we should seek to widen the agenda of the international conference which is 1894 to be held in Geneva in August. Let me make it quite clear that we rule out no proposal, whatever its nature may be, if we believe that it will lead us towards peace. All that I would do is indicate some of my doubts about these suggestions.
The Government have very carefully considered the suggestion made by the Leader of the Oppxosition, which is included in the Motion now before the House, but even after very careful study I am not quite clear what he had in mind. On 14th March he askedWould it not be worth while having an authoritative statement made by scientists drawn from both sides of the Iron Curtain?Then he said:… I think it would be an enormous advantage to the world if we could have an agree statement made by scientists. …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th March, 1955; Vol. 538, c. 956–7.]We would all welcome such a statement if it came from genuinely independent scientists, but I find it difficult to accept that the right hon. Gentleman really believes that scientists from behind the Iron Curtain would come to such a conference without their briefs, without their set speeches and in a truly independent state of mind. [Hon. Members: "Oh."] I should like to believe it. [Hon. Members: "Try it."] It is a very irresponsible thing to say "Try it," but if it is tried, and then the scientists come with their set speeches for propaganda purposes, infinitely more harm than good is done.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
Even on the basis of the two speeches we have heard this afternoon, it is obvious that we are confronted with a terrifying challenge to mankind. In view of that, is there any justification in refusing to organise a conference which would bring out that knowledge?
§ Mr. Macleod
As I said earlier, I will rule out nothing provided it is practical, but I do not believe that this is the best of approaches.
Then there is the international conference of scientists to be held at Geneva in August. The proposal for this came from the United States in April, 1954, when Admiral Strauss said he hoped it would be devotedto the exploration of the benign and peaceful uses of atomic energy.1895 I am sure that it will be a most useful conference. The agenda has been agreed. It includes papers on the biological and medical aspects of radiation as regards injury protection and genetic effects, but papers under this head will deal with the broad problem of radiation hazards, whatever the source of radiation may be. Frankly, it does not seem wise that we should seek to widen the agenda of this conference to include specifically the study of genetic effects of radiation from nuclear explosions—
§ Mr. Macleod
—because to do so would be bound to detract in some degree from the all important question of its devotion to the peaceful uses of atomic power.
Therefore, I tell the House that, on the whole, we do not agree with the specific proposals which I have mentioned; with that of the Leader of the Opposition, because we do not think it is the right approach and we simply do not believe it would work; or with that of additions to the Geneva conference, because these would largely alter its whole character.
It must be common ground between us that there is only one final answer to this problem, and that is a comprehensive scheme of disarmament. Reference was made to this yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, when he talked about reachingagreement upon a balanced and comprehensive disarmament programme which would include the abolition of all nuclear weapons and thus eliminate such test explosions."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st March, 1955; Vol. 538, c. 1737.]We believe that, in the end, that is the best hope of peace and for the future of mankind. That is why we think it right to put it in the forefront of the Amendment we are commending to the House, and to proclaim again that it remains our first objective.
§ Mr. John Strachey (Dundee, West)
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would explain to us just what the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs meant yesterday when he said that the first steps towards international agreement on the termination of further test explosions was undesirable because it would create a feeling of false security in this country? That puzzled all of us very much indeed.
§ Mr. Macleod
I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman will expect me to interpret what another Minister was saying yesterday, but, having read Hansard very carefully, I do not find it anything like as obscure as the right hon. Gentleman would suggest.
§ Mr. Macleod
For one reason at any rate, that if we achieve agreement—I do not want to be drawn into this, because this is outside my field, but I am putting one point of view—on the abolition of tests without, at the same time, securing effective disarmament, all that would happen would be that a country could go on manufacturing weapons of existing design or developing them without trial explosions, and that, clearly, seems to be undesirable.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
May I put this point to the right hon. Gentleman? The Foreign Secretary said the other day that it is clear that tests can now take place without there being any bang and, therefore, without any knowledge of the matter being given to the outside world. In view of that, how are we to find out?
§ Mr. Macleod
I am sorry, but I do not quite follow the right hon. Gentleman's point. As a matter of fact, it was not said as he has put it, and that matter was cleared up in the defence debate in the House of Lords recently and in this House at Question Time yesterday.
I should like to invite the House to support Her Majesty's Government in seeking the extension of the methods of collaboration which already exist. In medical knowledge and information, these contacts are already reasonably full and satisfying and we hope to see them go forward as well in other spheres. In the particular matter which we have been discussing today our contacts at present are with the United States of America and Canada.
We have been discussing today, as the right hon. Lady said, one of the gravest subjects that can possibly be brought before the House. Neither of us has made any attempt to bring party points into it, although we may have disagreed about some of the interpretations that were put 1897 before us, I think sometimes that nuclear power is a modern version of the story in the second chapter of Genesisof the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,because there has never been a power which, at the same time, held such possibilities of doom and such bright possibilities of hope. They talk foolishness who say that we can unlearn the dread knowledge that has come to mankind. We cannot put this particular genie back into the bottle and drop it into the depths of the sea again. For good or evil this knowledge is with us and it may be that, as in the Biblical story, in spite of the dread warnings, mankind will go on andBe fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth …There is one thing I should like to point to in this very strange paradox about which I have talked, and which comes all the time into one's discussion on nuclear power. Let me give one example from my own particular work. In the speech of the Leader of the Opposition on 14th March, to which I have already referred, he mentioned the power of cobalt. Here, this afternoon, we are discussing the dangers of radiation on healthy tissues which may take place a hundred years hence, yet only a few miles from here, at this very moment, men are using powers of radiation infinitely more powerful than any we have known before, derived from cobalt but this time harnessed to attack and destroy diseased tissues. These invisible fingers of the cobalt ray go searching into the body of the patient to seek out, to treat and to destroy cancers that were utterly beyond our reach until a short time ago.
So, once again, we have this paradox of good and evil, of healing and destruction, and it is the faith of us all that we will choose wisely in this matter. So far as we are concerned, we accept an absolute responsibility on the part of the Government to tell the House and the country all the facts that can properly be disclosed to them. We have done that in the White Paper, and we have done that in the defence debates, and with all the uncertainties there are—and I have not avoided them—I have tried to do that this afternoon. I believe that the Amendment I am putting before the House is the right way forward, and I therefore beg to move, to leave out from 1898House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:pending a satisfactory result of the intensive efforts which are being made to achieve a comprehensive scheme of disarmament, welcomes Her Majesty's Government's decision to continue and expand research in this country on the medical and biological aspects of nuclear energy, and to collaborate by every practical means with those countries with whom arrangements already exist and with such others as can usefully be brought into consultation.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ Mrs. Harriet Slater (Stoke-on-Trent, North)
While the right hon. Gentleman was speaking, I could not help thinking that he was putting the case for the Motion of the Opposition. The Minister said that we were confronted with an interesting scientific problem which must be watched carefully, and it is just because of this that the Opposition put down their Motion asking that the scientists of the world be called together to watch the problem and to give of their present knowledge.
I regretted that while the Minister was speaking in such a way he should have had to revert to the old fear that we must not do anything with which the Russians were concerned. Why should we be afraid to bring in all the scientists, whether they are behind the Iron Curtain or not? This problem affects mankind so desperately that we cannot afford to leave anyone out of any of the consultations which must take place. The Minister also claimed that the Government put the question of disarmament in the forefront of their Amendment. It is because we feel that disarmament is so important that we seek to give the evidence which will show that disarmament must take place in the immediate future.
About a fortnight ago some of us went to listen to Professor Hadow giving a simple but nevertheless comprehensive statement of what the biologists are considering in relation to nuclear explosions. As we came away from that meeting, my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mrs. Cullen) and I both said that it was time someone did something about this question. Because of that, I want to speak this afternoon on behalf of the women not only of this country but of the world.
I am convinced from meetings which I have attended during the last few weeks that the threat of the hydrogen bomb, 1899 the threat from present experiments, has stirred the men and women of this country much more than anything else has done within the last few years. We in this House have been made aware through our debates, through research and through the reports we have read, of the evil consequences resulting from the experiments and explosions which have taken place and which will probably take place in the future. And do not let us ignore the fact that even yesterday we were told that we must try out our own hydrogen bomb.
It is easy to talk and express the hope that commonsense will prevail. It is also easy to hope that the nations will join in some common agreement for the control of such deadly weapons, but what the men and women in the street are asking today is, "What are you in the House of Commons going to do about it?" They are tired of talk. They want to see us, as responsible people, taking definite action.
I do not pretend to have scientific knowledge of this subject, although I have read the available material and have listened to talks on the subject. However, I do pretend to have an understanding of the sanctity of human life, because I have spent my life either in a school or working amongst womenfolk in this country. I know that the ordinary working-class woman wants to bear healthy children, wants to give to this nation the best that is possible for future generations. The fear which the biologists and the scientists have expressed during the last few months has gradually seeped through until our people have the same fears about the future of the world.
What are the reasons which make it necessary for practical action to be taken now? Menfolk usually think that women are not practical, but they are. It is our job to think in terms of organising and of doing practical work. The very life of a woman makes her seek practical action, and makes it natural for her to be concerned about the life which she may bring into the world. Mothers give their energy and often their lives and their health in bringing children into the world, and it is urgent that we in this House should be able to say that we are doing everything possible to prevent the waste 1900 of that life and energy which they are ready to give.
We know the immediate effects of blast and burns. When we read that 80,000 people were killed by the atom bomb in Japan, we were shocked and dismayed. We all know also that the present hydrogen bomb is 750,000 times more powerful than anything dropped on Germany in the last war. In face of the danger even from blast and burns, how can we be complacent about the killing of people on such a mass scale? Yet even the knowledge available at present shows it to be more tolerable to be killed by such explosions and warfare than to suffer the after-effects.
Not only is the ordinary man and woman perturbed, but the scientists and the biologists and the doctors are also seriously concerned. They have been strengthened in their views by the results of the experiments made in March last year. As my right hon. Friend said, they have told us that radioactive particles can be as widespread as 160 miles, and that contamination over an area 140 miles long and 20 miles wide will be such as to affect seriously the lives of all the people within that area.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) has produced a very telling pamphlet on the effects of those radioactive particles. Radiation sickness is seen five or six years after the atom bomb was dropped on Japan. I watched a child, who was a very good friend of mine, die from the results of leukemia, and I cannot tolerate seeing masses of people having to suffer and possibly die as a result of radiation sickness.
But it is perhaps the genetic effects of these experiments which cause us most concern. The biologists, the chemists and the doctors already know, through experiments which have taken place, the effects on the human race. We are told that they may not be immediate. Last night I listened to Japanese doctors who spoke to a small group of us and told us that the effects may be experienced as far ahead as 50, 100 or even 1,000 years. What we do in the world today is determining almost the kind of children who may be born 50, 100 or 1,000 years hence. How can we sit still and do nothing about it? The Japanese doctors told us last night that fishermen had been examined after the 1901 last experiment and that in seven cases it was well established that the genes were nil and that the positive danger to them had been of a colossal character.
We have a proud record over the last few years in this country of how much we have done in public health work. I remember that in the pre-war days we were all rightly indignant when we heard the large figures of infantile mortality in our cities, and everywhere we pushed on with our ante-natal and post-natal work. We stepped up the medical services in our schools, and all of us today boast about the standard of the health of our children. When we visit schools we like to see that the children are bigger and bonnier and healthier and more able to meet the things which they have to face in life. Yet if we take no action now we may be undoing almost at once all the work which we have done over the past 50 or 75 years.
All mothers hope to bear healthy children. It is true that when a handicapped child is born a mother lavishes on it much more love and care and attention than she would lavish on a normal, healthy child. But those who have seen and met mothers who have children in institutions know that at the back of their minds is the constant, nagging question, "What will happen to him when I have gone?" All the time the mother is afraid that some day she will no longer be there and that others may not care for her child.
Are we to say to the mothers of today and the mothers of the future that they must face the prospect of bearing mutilated, handicapped children? It is no solution to say that these effects may be no more dangerous than chest X-rays, for doctors who spend their time doing X-ray work, particularly in connection with industrial chest diseases, will tell us that they do not expose their patients unnecessarily to too much X-ray because of the damage which they know may result.
We are faced with the fact that an H-bomb may kill 100,000 people and that the genetic effects resulting from it may be spread over a thousand years. I ask all hon. Members whether we can go to the next election, whenever it may be—and we all try to get the women voters on our side—and be happy when facing the women if we are unable to tell them that an attempt has been made to gather together the information which is avail- 1902 able and which may save them from the possibility of bearing handicapped children.
We may be accused of being fear-mongers, but let me remind hon. Members that it was the knowledge and the fear of disease in the early 19th Century which started our public health departments. It was as a result of the dangers and of large-scale fever that we began to do something about sanitation in this country and that we introduced our first Public Health Act. The Minister of Health is here because fear plus knowledge in the beginning has made it possible for the Ministry of Health to be doing the valuable work which it does today.
Therefore, do not let us dismiss this as fear-mongering. Let us face what has happened in the past and what may happen in the future. Politics are always more difficult to resolve than science, perhaps, and that is why the Opposition have put down this Motion asking for a conference of scientists of the great Powers. We did that because, in the first place, we know that the great scientists, the biologists, the chemists and the doctors will, if they are given the opportunity, co-ordinate the knowledge which is already available, no matter in which country they may live, and we know that they will be able to assimilate that knowledge and present it to the Governments of the world.
Like all great artists, the scientists and the doctors do not look upon such problems as this as national problems. They look upon this as an international problem; their first loyalty is to mankind as a whole and not to any country. From such a conference we should hope to get the detailed knowledge which results from research and experiments.
We feel that the knowledge which is already available is so overwhelming as to make it an urgent necessity to act now, to urge Governments to formulate a policy and to do something about stopping further nuclear explosions, even those for experimental purposes. Men of the stature of the great scientists of the world step outside the narrow boundaries of their countries and feel that they must not only receive from what is already known but must give to the world as a whole the knowledge which they have acquired.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Lady, but I should like to put a question to her. These are desperate and important issues. She made a statement about scientists stepping outside the boundaries of their countries, but we have had ample evidence in the last two years of Soviet scientists framing a special biological theory to suit the whims of the political rulers of their country. We have had ample evidence of it. What evidence has the hon. Lady for suggesting that these scientists could come to such a conference unattached in any way?
§ Mrs. Slater
My evidence is that already the Russians have agreed to be one of the 84 nations to send scientists to Geneva in August to discuss problems about which the Minister spoke. We need no other evidence. What we do need is a greater amount of trust in human nature and a greater amount of faith than we apparently have at present.
I feel that if such a conference were called we should enable the scientists of the world not only to bring to politics the information and the knowledge which may save mankind in the future, but to lay the foundations of a new political and ethical approach to the problems confronting the world today. That, too, is important, and we cannot with a shrug dismiss it as idealism. It is something which we cannot afford to ignore. All of us benefit from technical advances, no matter whether in the home or the factory. We have now reached a stage in this age when in social and political problems we must of necessity take note of what science has done for us and also must have a scientific approach.
In this matter Britain has a special responsibility. After all, we are already linked with large numbers of people through our Colonies and Dominions so that we have a responsibility not only to ourselves as a nation, but to the people who form part of our great Commonwealth. We have had many debates about trying to abolish squalor, ignorance, disease and poverty from the underdeveloped countries of the world. What use is it for us to do that if we miss the chance now to do something which will enable these people to live in the future and to produce the children who will be able to benefit from any efforts which we 1904 are now making in their under-developed countries?
The people of our country are still looked upon as humanitarians. We are still considered to be forward-looking people. We urge the Government to look at this problem again during the debate tonight so that Britain may show the initiative in calling together the scientists who may make it possible to give a lead to our statesmen.
I said at the beginning of my speech that I did not pretend to be able to make a scientific and clever speech, but I said that I spoke for the women of the world. The day of platitudes on this topic has gone. I very respectfully suggest that the Government's Amendment is another form of platitude and that it does not do anything of a definite character right now. We cannot afford indefinitely to continue talking platitudes. We cannot afford to wait until there is a gradual change of heart by the peoples and statesmen and nations.
On these benches we were proud of our leader when he suggested that such a conference should be called, and we submit this Motion to the Government so that this country may again be the leader in giving to the future not only safety from the H-bomb, but safety from the experiments which are taking place; so that we can safeguard mankind and give a chance to our women and to our children of taking the best and the fullest opportunity which a new life might give to them.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
The House this afternoon is attempting to act as a Council of State, I think with considerable success. The medical problems which have been raised are, of course, very great indeed. I would not have ventured to intervene in the debate, in which the feminine aspect has been so strongly stressed, were it not for the fact that I am a certified midwife. I have a certain acquaintance with some aspects of this problem both from the medical and scientific viewpoints, and I will make such contribution as I can this afternoon from those angles.
It appears that we are discussing two problems which, to some extent, are becoming a little mixed. We are discussing the horror and peril of atomic warfare and we are discussing the danger of 1905 experimenting. The horror and danger of atomic warfare cannot be exaggerated. The half has not been said even this afternoon. To double, redouble and surredouble the horrors that have been mentioned would bring one nowhere within striking distance of the result of atomic warfare. We have talked, for instance, of the human race; but atomic warfare envisages the obliteration of animal life, not to say plant life. It is not just humanity with which we will finish. We would finish with a world swept clean of life. None of us need have any hesitation in seeking with all our might to avert an end such as that, to our planet with all its beauty, and the wonderful forms of life which have been evolved upon it.
Several speeches have been directed towards the danger of atomic warfare. That danger is conceded and admitted by all. There is only one way in which one can deal with dangers from atomic warfare and that is by making moves against warfare; and that is the practical step proposed by Her Majesty's Government in the first line of their Amendment. Further suggestions which have been urged upon the Government are ways of making these dangers widely known. I could not agree more. I am sure that everything that is done to make these dangers more widely known will be of the greatest possible advantage. But the way in which they can be made known is by taking steps such as we are taking this afternoon, by widely publishing the knowledge which we and other countries have, and by ascertaining more knowledge. All these things Her Majesty's Government propose to do. I do not call that sitting idly by. I call that being practical. That is practical; not merely calling a number of others into a circle to emphasise what is already known.
Our knowledge will in no way be reinforced by the knowledge that the Russian scientists confirm it. The Russian scientists' knowledge will in no way be strengthened by confirmation from us. These things are known. They are scientific truths. They are not a matter of argument. What we have to do is to go ahead on the basis of the knowledge which we already have. There may be something to be said for a pronouncement by a powerful neutral. I think that 1906 the suggestion of Bertrand Russell was a good one. He made it on the radio and modified it in discussion. I call his suggestion to the attention of the House and particularly to the attention of the hon. Lady the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater).
Bertrand Russell began with the idea of a conference of scientists. That was what he put out over the radio. In further discussion he departed from that, because of the difficulties and delays and the crosscurrents which would arise. That was still Bertrand Russell. He came down finally on the suggestion which Mr. Nehru has today referred to, that Sweden and India should speak. He even came to the suggestion, which, again, I think very practical, that India alone might speak, on the very ground that a conference would delay matters. That is an argument against the Motion. Bertrand Russell, starting from the conception of a conference, has moved away to the responsibility of individual nations. Should not that weigh very seriously with us this afternoon? I think it should.
This morning I read with some dismay the statement of Pandit Nehru that he thought the time inopportune for India to engage on such an examination. I still think that it would be of advantage. I think that the nationals of a single Power could make such an examination with much less danger of conflict between each other than the nationals of many Powers. India's refusal is not for lack of knowledge; for Pandit Nehru went on to the tremendous and significant statement that by the end of next year India would have two atomic reactors in operation. India has geneticists, physicists, and biologists of high standing whom I should have thought capable of pronouncing on this matter equally as well as the scientists of any country in the world.
I come back to the thesis which I am presenting, that it is better for the scientific nationals of a single country to have a conference upon this question than the nationals of many countries.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
The motives behind the Motion are similar to those advanced at a meeting which the right hon. Gentleman and I attended. Since that meeting there have been important pronouncements which have encouraged us. There is also complete unanimity about the 1907 forthcoming conference at Geneva. Surely we should be encouraged by that unanimity to make proposals of the kind made by my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Elliot
Were that so, I think it would have appealed to the powerful and impartial mind of Bertrand Russell. But the effect on his mind was otherwise. I think the hon. Member will confirm me in that. The mind of Bertrand Russell moved away from the idea of a conference towards the responsibility of single nations making national pronouncements.
§ Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
I think it would be true to say that Bertrand Russell was dealing with the effect of hydrogen bomb warfare. The Motion deals with experiments. Would the right hon. Gentleman distinguish between the two? My right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill) quoted one of Britain's foremost scientists as saying what could emanate from experiments. That is what we have to face now, and not the results of an actual hydrogen bomb conflict.
§ Mr. Elliot
If I may, I will come to that point. I hope that I have not been misleading the House, for I started by saying that I thought there were two arguments being advanced in parallel, the argument about warfare and the argument about experiments, and that there was a danger of getting the two mixed up. Is hall do my best not to mix them up myself, but one tends to stray over the dividing line. I think that the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) has been misled. His right hon. Friend quoted Edgar Adrian, who said that this may well end the human race. It was not of experiments that he was speaking. It was of nuclear warfare.
But I must not take up too much time, for though I am speaking as an "honorary woman," I must remember that I am only an "honorary woman." The danger of atomic warfare cannot be over-emphasised, but I think that the danger of experiments can; and especially the problem of one particular aspect of experiments. I think that the genetic danger of experiments has undoubtedly been exaggerated. The genetic danger, this particular aspect, seizing popular attention to the exclusion of other aspects, 1908 is a real danger and we must preserve a sense of proportion.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Health devoted himself closely and narrowly to this point regarding the effects of test explosions and whether they were, in fact, likely to have a seriously injurious effect upon the health of the world's inhabitants in general. He came to the conclusion that, in the face of present available knowledge, this was not so. That is his contribution and, as near as I can make out, it is the contribution of the scientists of this country to this particular aspect of the problem.
I think that a White Paper on the subject might well be brought out, embodying, and perhaps extending, the facts which the Minister gave this afternoon. Obviously, a speech by a Minister, important and authoritative as it is, is not so easily examined as a White Paper and, as the right hon. Gentleman said himself, can only be a quotation from scientists, instead of their ipsissima verba. It might well be a good thing to have the position set out categorically, including the facts and figures as he gave them. One fact, for example, which I had not realised before was that these figures relate to the absorption of atomic radiation over a long period; not merely a week or a day, but possibly a period of years. I think that very important.
The effects—mentioned by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross)—of heavy radiation upon women suffering from menorrhagia and the subsequent evil effects on children were the result of a concentration and direction of radiation towards not merely the general system, but the genital organs, such as would certainly find no parallel in anything except a close proximity to an atomic explosion itself, which brings me back to the point about warfare.
We need not bother too much about the effect of general atomic war on the genes of the human race a thousand years hence; because anyone close to an atomic explosion would be suffering from something much more important and decisive. The immediate cells most likely to suffer in any case are the important blood forming cells. The damage will be much more immediate to the bone marrow and its blood forming cells than the late effect of radiation on the reproductive cells.
1909 I think that the responsibility of each nation is very great to make known in its own territory, and as far outside as possible, the evidence on which it has formed conclusions about the results of atomic war and from atomic tests so far made. All the more so because I consider that the real peril before us has not been mentioned in any debate. It is the peril resulting from the enormous diffusion of this knowledge which is about to take place, for what is called the peaceful uses of atomic energy. There is where the danger lies.
I have said this before and I say it again, that this discovery is comparable with the discovery of fire. We cannot talk about the peaceful or the warlike power of fire, nor can we so discuss atomic energy. The application of it lies in man's brain and not in a machine or equipment. We cannot construct machines or equipment which will be available only for the peaceful use of atomic energy. Nuclear reactors produce plutonium, one of the sources of this enormous modern power, useful for war as well as for peace. They can be diverted or converted to warlike as well as to peaceful ends. And this knowledge is going to be spread all over the world.
The White Paper entitled "A Programme of Nuclear Power" terrifies me. In page 9 of that White Paper it is stated:The Government … have agreed to make available to the Agency"—the International Atomic Energy Agency—20 kilograms of fissile material.Twenty kilograms of fissile material are to be handed out to Powers widespread about the world. Imagine the dangers involved. There cannot be anything more important than that.
§ Mr. Elliot
The White Paper continues:Other countries will also be helped to build experimental and development reactors which are an essential preliminary to the building of commercial reactors. We are already helping in this way a number of Commonwealth and European countries.That seems to me to be the real, vast problem, from which a concentration on the narrow subject brought forward specifically in this Motion might divert 1910 attention. These are the subjects which will have to receive our main attention in the future. Pandit Nehru is making use of this new power, but is refusing to take part in the suggested discussion on its consequences.
Many countries will take part in the use of this energy. We are already using it and other nations are soon going to take part—small nations and irresponsible nations as well. This will require not only a programme of disarmament, but, I think, a programme of police. There will need to be some strong authority if the world is to have handed out to it the tremendous power envisaged in this White Paper.
I believe that the responsibility for the control of strength will, as always, lie with the strong, and that this will not be done by resolutions. This is the sort of problem to which the House and the country will require to devote attention in the future. There will have to be organised some controlling force for these tremendous powers which are being let loose, and which are to be pressed upon the nations of the world for commercial uses.
Therefore, I think that it would be a mistake to pass the Motion which is before the House. I believe that the Amendment put forward by the Government deals not in an abstract, but in a practical, way with the problem of the genetic difficulties of test explosions which, I think, is a minute fraction of the problem before us. But the great problem, as has been said tonight, is the knowledge of good and evil which has been put into our hands—the genie has got out of the bottle. How we are to control that will call for the close and continuous attention of this Parliament, and of many Parliaments to come.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Mrs. Alice Cullen (Glasgow, Gorbals)
Great concern is felt in Glasgow as to what might happen to its people in the event of atomic warfare. Three years ago, Professor Oliphant, the atomic scientist, told us:If an atom bomb was dropped on Glasgow, it would kill 50,000 people and seriously in-pure another 100,000, and completely destroy three square miles of the city.Since then, the Prime Minister has told us that the hydrogen bomb is 1,000 times more powerful. Speaking to civil defence 1911 workers recently, the Assistant Chief Constable of Glasgow said:If an atom bomb burst over Glasgow it would be Scotland's bomb. With all its resources, Glasgow could not handle it.In the Clyde area is concentrated one-third of the population of Scotland. One hydrogen bomb dropped over Glasgow would turn the West of Scotland into a radioactive wilderness. The people of Glasgow have recently been reading a series of articles on the H-bomb written by "A Science Correspondent." I will give some quotations from those articles. The say:The explosion of a hydrogen bomb over a large city will produce such prompt and widespread devastation as to make organised activity of any kind virtually impossible. Simple arithmetical calculations make it plain that the fire, rescue and hospital services will be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the holocaust, and it seems likely that Civil Defence will become largely an individual responsibility.The correspondent goes on to tell us:A … hydrogen bomb"—that is, one with a destructiveness equal to 20 million tons of T.N.T.—will, one way or another, kill almost everyone within a radius of five miles who is not in a deep shelter.We have no deep shelters in Glasgow.Outside this area there will be heavy damage up to a distance of at least 10 miles.One of the articles was illustrated by a map showing the towns outside Glasgow which would be heavily damaged. They included Paisley, Renfrew, Clydebank, Coatbridge, Airdrie, Rutherglen, Hamilton, Barrhead, Johnstone and the new town of East Kilbride. We are also told that radioactive dust would even affect towns as far off as Aberdeen. Finally, we are told:The hydrogen bomb is capable of producing serious damage or injury at distances up to 100 miles, and it will not be safe to rely on much organised help in this area.The Science Correspondent of the "Glasgow Herald" is alarmed at the genetic possibilities of radioactivity unloosed by the hydrogen bomb. He says:The damage will have been done and the evolutionary progress of mankind irrevocably altered. There is no way of halting the degenerative process when once it has begun.I think I am safe in saying that, speaking first as a mother and as a grandmother, I speak for the women of Scotland when I say that I hope that 1912 tonight the Government will accept the Opposition Motion.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ Viscountess Davidson (Hemel Hempstead)
I am sure the whole House welcomes the opportunity given by the Motion standing in the name of the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill) and some of her colleagues to discuss the effects of nuclear explosions, because not only is it a matter of vital importance to this country, but to the whole of mankind, and certainly one which concerns equally men and women.
We are, of course, in agreement with much of what has just been said by the hon. Lady the Member for Gorbals (Mrs. Cullen). But if it is true that no two economists agree with each other, it would appear to be equally true of scientists. So many contradictory opinions exist on this subject that it is absolutely necessary that we should keep a very balanced judgment and not allow ourselves to jump to conclusions or to panic before the results of the research which is being undertaken at the present in practically every country are more definitely known.
There is nothing more dangerous, or, indeed, more wrong than to play on the natural fears and anxieties which exist in the public mind today, particularly among women. Having listened to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, I think that we can all feel a little comforted, because he has told us something about the extent of the research work that is now being carried out.
The House cannot have been left in any doubt that there is no complacency on the part of the Government. We are pursuing investigations into these problems with the utmost energy. As he said, it is the responsibility of the Government to keep the House and the country up to date with information. They did so in the recent Defence White Paper, which told us of the part that could be played by nuclear power. The Minister has now told us something of the possibilities of the peaceful uses of nuclear power. If the world is to survive, those peaceful uses transcend all others.
Radioactivity has existed since the beginning of the world. The extraction of radium from pitchblende, and its concentration, became both a blessing and an 1913 immense danger to mankind. Used in short applications upon what had hitherto been incurable diseases, it is a specific cure, but while not in use it has to be kept under control, and if it is used by inexperienced persons, left about or lost, it might prove fatal to the individual, and the very disease which it could cure could be created.
The problems emphasised in the Motion are not new; they are merely much greater in degree and wider in their application. My criticism of the Motion is that—perhaps intentionally—it gives the impression that nothing is being done. This has been repudiated very definitely by the Minister of Health today. The other weakness of the Motion is the omission of any mention of disarmament. The link between the two is essential. By all means let us pursue relentlessly our research upon the general effects of nuclear explosions, but let us as urgently pursue the goal of disarmament, which alone can make certain that the hydrogen and all other forms of nuclear bomb will no longer be manufactured, and that nuclear energy will become a blessing to mankind.
The suggestion contained in the Motion for bringing together scientists from various countries, including Russia, sounds so simple. If Soviet Russia would give just one practical token of good faith in any of the problems to which she has devoted so much talk in the past ten years I should feel more confident of the value of seeking any real contribution from her in this new aspect of nuclear development. I support the Amendment because, far from being evasive, it covers a much wider field and is much more realistic in its approach to this problem than is the Motion.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Winterbottom (Nottingham, Central)
I hope that the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson) will forgive me if I do not directly follow her remarks. I am very glad that my right hon. and hon. Friends have put down this Motion, because the one thing that the public requires most urgently is a clear and authoritative statement of the implications of thermonuclear experiments, the building of atomic power stations and the full implications of thermonuclear warfare.
The weakness of the Government's Amendment upon this subject lies in the fact that it contains no suggestion for 1914 telling the people what it is all about. It says, "Let us carry on with the research." That is absolutely right, but we want more than research; we also want information. Our people will face very great dangers provided they know what to expect and are certain that the information that they receive is not tainted.
One point upon which I disagree with my right hon. and hon. Friends concerns the method of carrying out this research and presenting it to the people. I agree with the right hon. Member for Kelvin-grove (Mr. Elliot) that this type of job is far better done by national groups than international groups—and, as far as our people are concerned, by British scientists and laymen. The hard fact is that the implications of thermo-nuclear warfare and the whole new era into which we are entering—in which, among other duties, we shall have to dispose of large quantities of radioactive waste from power stations—are sufficiently serious in themselves, but many people are trying to make them worse, for their own ends.
There is no doubt that part of the Communist strategy is to frighten the West into an attitude of neutralism. We have only to remember General Zhukov's words to realise that. Some hon. Members may have seen that beautiful French film "La Vie Commence Demain" whose only purpose was to frighten the French people into neutrality.
§ Mr. Winterbottom
Yes, my hon. Friend is quite right.
It is rather interesting to note that this type of propaganda is being put out so successfully by the Communist world that the Communists are frightening their own people. M. Thorez issued a warning to an over-zealous comrade that he was absolutely right in his interpretation of the party line, but he must not "lay it on too thick," because, whereas the capitalist world would be destroyed by thermonuclear warfare, the Communist world would survive. One of the charges levelled against Mr. Malenkov is that he is a little too pessimistic when looking into the future.
We must not, therefore, forget this clouded purpose behind many of the pro- 1915 nouncements which are put out by the Communists. That is why I question the wisdom of collaborating with U.S.S.R. scientists upon this issue at the present time. There is a difference between the type of study proposed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill) and the study which will take place in Geneva this August. That will be a world study of the peaceful uses of atomic energy, but what we are trying to do is to find out the full implications of this new world into which we are moving, with all its dangers and potentialities, so that we can give a clear lead to our people.
The fundamental assumption behind the idea of an international conference of scientists is that all scientists are impartial; that their pursuit of truth is unclouded, and is part of the very nature of scientific research. That, unfortunately, is not true. Scientists are as partial as any other men—and for some reason nuclear physicists tend to be rather more partial in their search for truth than many other types of scientist. We must not forget that in the U.S.S.R. and Communist China all scientific policy is subordinated to State policy. Some of us may remember the sordid squabble which occurred in the field of genetic theory between Mr. Lysenko and Mr. N. I. Vavilov, which ended in Mr. Vavilov being sent to a prison camp, where he died, simply because he disagreed with Mr. Lysenko. Comrade Lysenko has now been ditched, but he has done the damage.
None of us will forget the fake science which was dished up by Chinese scientists when it suited their ends—the house flies that would have been frozen stiff in the snow, and bacteria which had nothing to do with the plague. That was a perfect example of the type of misuse of science which, I fear, might occur in the kind of international conference proposed by my right hon. Friend. The trouble is that in measuring roentgen units Communist scientists would record any figure that the State told them to, and that in a general debate they would purposely confuse the issue so that the minds of people in this country and in other countries would also be confused.
An inquiry should be made and should be published, but it should be done for the people of Britain by British scientists. The work going on in the laboratories is 1916 giving us a great deal of information; it should be brought together and put before our own people. It is no good asking the Americans to help us. Hon. Members may have seen the statement made by Dr. LeRoy, who has been looking into the damage done to Marshall Islanders and to Japanese. He has a great deal of information, but because of the shackling effect of American security legislation he cannot present it.
We have a body of knowledge and freedom from artificial shackles. We therefore have an opportunity of putting forward a dispassionate study, which would be accepted by our people. This would enable us to face the real perils which are before us. I am not like the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove. I must distinguish between two kinds of danger, the peaceful and experimental use, and the effect in war. Those are two separate problems. Both have dangers, both cause unquiet and both should be studied and the results given to our people.
We should not leave this job to the scientists alone. Good people as they are, they have a narrow vision. When we are setting up a Royal Commission we usually appoint a lawyer or a judge as chairman of the Commission. Similarly, in work of this sort, the scientists should be assisted by lay assessors. I am all for getting at the truth of this matter, but I want the truth and nothing but the truth, and I feel that the way I have described is the only way of getting it.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Airey Neave (Abingdon)
I do not propose to follow at great length what has been said by the hon. Member for Nottingham, Central (Mr. Ian Winter-bottom). I agree that we should take care that British scientists have a great part in inquiring into the implications of this terrifying problem.
But the hon. Member put his finger on the main weakness of the Opposition Motion. With all respect to those who moved it, I think it is fair to say that an international conference of scientists, with all the differences of opinion that might occur on the question of the genetic effects of the hydrogen bomb, is not so practical a suggestion as final disarmament. The question of future test 1917 explosions surely comes within the sphere of the disarmament conference. That is the main reason why I support the Government Amendment. There is confusion between the question of research, which is of vital importance, and the question of what we should do in future to make progress with general disarmament.
One or two matters arise out of the speech of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health. Much radiobiological research is carried out at Harwell, in my own constituency. My right hon. Friend said that the Government would give attention to the expansion of research. Everybody who has listened to the debate will regard that statement as of very great moment. My right hon. Friend was asked whether investigation had been made into some kind of antidote to the effects of radiation. He may be aware that those concerned with this type of research are developing a preparation of spleen and bone-marrow cells as an antidote. That is the kind of information to which the hon. Member for Nottingham, Central said publicity ought to be given.
All scientists who have given information on this difficult matter have said that the experiments may take years to complete. The need for trained scientists in this sphere is very great. It goes with the Government's proposals that support should be given to this field of research, and I was very glad to hear what my right hon. Friend said about it. It is not known how much damage is caused by a given dose of radiation, and the whole question of mutation in human beings is not yet fully understood. For that reason the proper way to look at the matter is not to suggest a general, international conference of scientists but to get the maximum support for British scientists and for those who are cooperating with them.
As much progress as possible should be made in reaching agreement with the Soviet Union and other Powers with a view to final disarmament, and that is the policy of Her Majesty's Government. Nevertheless, confusion of thought has been shown between the need for research and the need for disarmament. The Government Amendment is, therefore, of much more practical value in this very difficult problem.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn, East)
It is clear from all the speeches from the benches opposite that the Government have totally failed, once again, to grasp the urgency of the international situation and the scientific implications of the hydrogen bomb arms race. They have been trying to find respectable reasons for doing nothing whatsoever about it.
The speeches have been all of a piece with the Government's diplomacy of do nothing, of failure to initiate high-level talks, of refusal to take the lead in banning hydrogen bomb tests, of refusal even to have an international scientific inquiry into the consequences of those tests. All sorts of reasons have been advanced this afternoon why the simple request in our Motion should be turned down. The reasons overlook the one simple, dominant fact, that our Motion is based on the demand of scientists themselves, both in this country and in America, and probably, if we could get at them, of scientists in Russia itself.
Let me remind the House that the Motion was inspired by a plea from the Federation of American Scientists. These are the men who know, and who are doing the research. These are the men who turn to the politicians, and says "We are playing with dynamite. We warn you of the consequences of the forces that we are helping to let loose on the world and that may be disastrous to all of us. We are doing our scientific job; now you do your political job and help to use this knowledge to bring the nations of the world together who are faced with a common danger."
That is the plea to which the Government have given an evasive and cowardly answer. The trouble is that the Government are so busy waging the cold war that they will not even look for opportunities for peace. The right hon. Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot) told us that the knowledge that we have in this country of the effects of thermonuclear explosions would be in no way reinforced by an international commission. He is overlooking the words and the statements of the very men in this country who have been doing the scientific research into the problem to which the Minister of Health, referred.
1919 Let me call attention to a letter in "The Times" of 10th March from Professor Waddington, of the Institute of Animal Genetics, in Edinburgh—a man who in this matter knows what he is talking about if anyone does. In his opening paragraph he says that the plea of the Federation of American Scientists for a United Nations Commission ought to be supported.
If he were here, Professor Waddington could dispose of the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove, because in that letter, while he notes and welcomes the fact that the Government are now belatedly to expand and accelerate research in this field, he goes on:Even so, it seems doubtful if this country alone can devote to the problem resources commensurate with its importance, which is a matter not for any single country or period of time but for mankind as a whole throughout its future.That is the reason for this Motion.
The Motion is based on two profound beliefs. First of all, there is the belief that this is a field of scientific inquiry of such international interest that international resources must be brought to bear upon it. Professor Waddington pleads for massive experiments. Anyone hearing us talk tonight would think that we had limitless resources in this country and all the brains in the world and could go on working in a national compartment, doing a limited job, and could then say to the people, "We are doing all we can." There can be nothing but advantage in extending the field of international co-operation—nothing but scientific advantage, but, above all, nothing but political advantage.
The second reason for the Motion is that we believe that the world is faced with a common enemy and we hope that we may sober mankind by the shock of truth if we can only get that truth across. We believe that the best way to get it across is to start to co-operate in this immediate and, heaven knows, innocent enough, field. If we are not to co-operate here, in what are we to co-operate—and when?
We are always told that the Government have peace and disarmament at heart. Where do we start—and when—on this task of breaking down tension and uniting the nations of the world? Here is a threat from outside, transcend- 1920 ing national and ideological frontiers, as we used to imagine an invasion from Mars would do. This is the situation which is upon us. What does the Minister of Health give us in reply to that picture? Does he seize this opportunity?
The Government tell us they are straining at the leash to take the initiative for peace, yet, when it comes to tying them down, when it comes to action, we find that they always evade it, just as the Prime Minister spoke of high-level talks and then, when M. Malenkov agreed to talk with him, ran away from them on 26th July last year. When we now show that there is a fruitful field for inquiry, and the possibility of banning hydrogen bomb tests, what do the Government say? All they will tell us, in the words of the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs on 21st March, is that it would be very dangerous to ban hydrogen bomb tests because our people might fall into a false sense of security. It is the Government who are creating the false sense of security tonight.
We have never suggested a unilateral banning of tests, but have said that we should try to get the scientists of the world together to gather the information which is the warning to us all of what may befall the human species if we do not stop this mad thermonuclear arms race and the explosions which are part and parcel of it. We believe that if that knowledge could be pooled and brought, as it could be brought, to all the peoples of the world, we might begin to get the mental climate which might enable us to talk about disarmament.
With the Government it is all talk and no action. They always fight on distant battlefields and never on the one under their noses. We are told that there cannot be an international commission of inquiry because the Russian scientists would not be free. I greatly regret that my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, Central (Mr. Ian Winterbottom) lent his support to the thesis that Russian scientists would come along gagged. How free are some of our own scientists and some of the American scientists? I ask that because all scientists working on security matters are gagged. That is why a lot of them are walking out of security work and returning to the civilian field so that they can tell the truth because they are alarmed.
§ Mrs. Castle
What about the case reported only last week, of the two scientists of the University of Colorado who warned the world that radioactive fall-out in recent United States tests had reached a point in Colorado "where it could no longer be ignored by those concerned with public safety?" They were men with a great sense of public responsibility. What was their reward? The Governor of Colorado dismissed their report as "phoney" and said that they should be arrested.
§ Mrs. Castle
That is exactly the attitude. The Governor said, "It will only alarm people."
Let us remember that one of the men who belongs to the Federation of American Scientists, which is supporting this plea for an international inquiry, is Dr. Oppenheimer, a man concerned with the development work of atomic physics in the United States from the very beginning. He helped in the development of the atomic bomb and further atomic weapons and went on to the threshold of the development of the hydrogen bomb. Now, because he had a conscience and hesitated in his advice to the United States Government, wondering whether any nation ought to launch such an instrument on the world, he is branded as a poor security risk. Let us, therefore, have less talk about the gagging being all on one side.
Surely nothing but good can come from getting the scientists together. Let us do a little brain-washing of Russian scientists and send them back with some fear in their souls—that would be worth while even if it is to be only that sort of one-way traffic. But surely there are more hopeful possibilities than that.
If the Government will not even do that, what else are they prepared to do? For days they have talked about their concern over this problem. The Foreign Secretary hinted the other day that perhaps this conference which is to take place at Geneva in June could be widened in its terms of reference. He promised to inquire into it. At least the Government have had the honesty today to admit that that idea has been abandoned. We knew 1922 that it had, in any case, but they admit it. Now that they are not even prepared to do that, we ask, "What about taking the lead in trying to secure the banning of the hydrogen bomb tests?"
The warnings that are given to us about these tests come not from disreputable sources, as the Minister of Health suggested, but from sources like Professor Waddington, of the Institute of Animal Genetics, in Edinburgh. Let me remind hon. Members of what he said in his letter to "The Times" about the dangers that face us:Our present knowledge makes it almost certain that such tests will tend to produce long-term genetical effects of a harmful kind.There is plenty of evidence from the most reputable and cautious sources that biologists, physicists and scientists generally are deeply concerned. The "Practitioner" produced a very interesting edition in December, 1950, on the medical effects of atomic warfare. The biological dangers of such warfare were clearly outlined in that volume and we were given a picture of the human race walking on a genetical tightrope, and if we shake that rope even a little we may precipitate disaster. What we are doing in these tests is to shake the rope.
Scientists believe that we are increasing the background radiation in the world to the point of danger. But will the Government listen and take action? We had from the Minister of Health nothing but sneers and the suggestion that we had no reputable evidence to support our claim. We are told that the Amendment is more practical than the Motion and gets us further. It offers merelyto collaborate … with those countries with whom arrangements already exist"—we have not been told who they are—and with such others as can usefully be brought into consultation.Does that include the United States of America? Perhaps we can have an answer to that question.
Are we pooling information with the United States of America? When my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mr. Baird) asked the Minister of Health about the fall-out from the Bikini test on the United States and suggested that it had not been evenly distributed, the Minister replied that he knew nothing about the effects of the Bikini tests on the United States.
§ Mr. Elliot
The Minister did not wish to dogmatise about something of such great importance across the Floor of the House. He was asked whether the figures given by the United States were average figures covering the whole country or whether they took into account the greater concentration in one area than in another. Naturally, the Minister would not wish to dogmatise about a thing like that across the Floor of the House.
§ Mrs. Castle
The Minister gave us a speech on carefully prepared scientific brief. Scientists know that one of the factors we have to take into account when assessing the increase in background radiation from these explosions, is that the radioactive effect does not spread evenly and that there may be concentrations in certain areas. It is not correct to give a picture which shows a nice, even spreading out of the effects. Therefore, for the Minister of Health to say that he did not know anything about the matter means that we are in ignorance of the effects in the United States, and that we are all talking in general terms about something about which it is urgently necessary for us to be specific without any loss of time.
I was interested to note that the Government have beaten a further retreat this afternoon. Previously, when we have asked Questions about the genetic consequences of hydrogen bomb explosions, the Government have called in aid the Report of the Atomic Energy Commission of the United States. We have had quoted to us the fact that there is no danger yet because the Atomic Energy Commission Report declares that the increase in radiation from all explosions in all countries concerned to date has not exceeded one-tenth of a roentgen. This is supposed to make us feel secure.
I find that the Minister of Health is now backing out of this calculation, which has been the Government's main defence so far. He is trying to make out that the picture is less bad than the Atomic Energy Commission Report implied. As a matter of fact, it is far worse, because the Report is totally misleading when it suggests that the increased dose of radiation from hydrogen bomb explosions so far is merely an unimportant fraction of the radiation which we are getting from natural causes. The excellent survey on atomic energy of the 1924 Atomic Scientists' Association last year, a fascinating survey compiled by men like Sir John Cockcroft and other eminent scientists, estimated that the natural background radiation that we are, in fact, getting each year is one-tenth of a roentgen. In other words, on the estimate of the Atomic Energy Commission's Report itself, we have already doubled the background radiation in the world per year. We are already at the danger point. Scientists believe that, and that is the cry that we are bringing before the House.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill) so admirably pointed out in her opening speech, it is nonsense to dismiss this as a dose equivalent of one chest X-ray. A whole body dose is a very different matter from a chest X-ray dose. Moreover, I suggest that the danger is far more immediate than any of us have yet appreciated. We are being given the impression that such increase in natural radiation as has already taken place has been the consequence of all the explosions in all countries since these explosions started. But we are getting a little more information these days about the hydrogen bomb, its physics and its construction.
We are now told, as was revealed in the "Daily Telegraph" last week, that the hydrogen bomb is not, as we used to assume, a fission-fusion bomb, but a threefold bomb—a fission-fusion-fission bomb with an outer coat of uranium, a highly fissile material, which means that the radioactivity of the hydrogen bomb is anything from 100 to 1,000 times greater than that of the ordinary atomic bomb.
These are the facts which the Government are not bringing forward for consideration. If that is true, if, in the last twelve months, we, or, rather the Americans, and perhaps the Russians as well, have produced a bomb with this vast increase in radioactive effect, it means that the stepping-up of the natural radiation in the world which has already been measured has taken place not in the last ten years but mainly in the last twelve months. This is the urgency of the problem before us. It is in the face of these facts that the Government want us to give them a mandate to do nothing, not even to have an internationalinquiry or 1925 to ascertain whether the world will agree to abolish the tests.
Some of us opposed the manufacture of the hydrogen bomb by this country because we believe that these continued explosions can mean genetic death to mankind, unless we awaken to the dangers involved. The Government try to ride away from those dangers by saying that the genetic consequences are so long-term, and can only be estimated in thousands of years, that they can be laughed off. A wit once said that a politician is a man who thinks of the next election, and a statesman is one who thinks of the next generation. We have to be super-statesmen. We have to think of hundreds of generations ahead if we are to measure up to the demands of this hour.
I do not believe that this matter can be left to Governments working in secrecy, hiding facts from one another, and behaving as though national frontiers mattered in the face of this menace. This is a matter in which the scientists of the world must be encouraged to give a lead, sponsored and encouraged by Governments, but not gagged by them. I believe that scientists would respond to that great opportunity and make mankind realise the overwhelming and appalling dangers which face the world today.
I am sorry that the Minister of Health has given us such a lame and lamentable answer to this challenge. The pooling of our knowledge could bring the nations of the world together as nothing else could. If we will only realise it, this is an external threat which is politically neutral, which should overcome national and ideological barriers and unite the planet earth in face of a common danger.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Miss Irene Ward (Tynemouth)
In the opening and admirable speech for the Government, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health said that he hoped his speech would be read in conjunction with that of the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill), and I think that all who have listened to the debate will hope that the report will also be read in full by all those who are interested in this very important subject.
I do not intend to follow the arguments of the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn, East (Mrs. Castle). I can only hope that the enemies of this country will 1926 read what she said, because it will perhaps be of some interest to them. Certainly it will not be of an interest to the friends of peace and the friends of the Western world. I want to link her speech with a comment which was made, I think, by my right hon. Friend, on how unwise it would be to place any reliance on an international conference of scientists which included scientists from behind the Iron Curtain.
The hon. Member for Nottingham, Central (Mr. Ian Winterbottom) referred to bacteriological warfare and the claims which were made by the Communist Chinese at the time the controversy on bacteriological warfare was raging. When listening to the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn, East, I could not help remembering that there was a time when Mrs. Monica Felton was a member of the Labour Party, and I should like to draw a very close analogy between Dr. Felton and the hon. Lady.
§ Mrs. Castle rose—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)
I do not think hon. ladies should call each other names across the Floor.
§ Miss Ward
I have no intention of calling the hon. Lady names. Her speech speaks for itself, and it is just as well that it has been put on the record.
I want to return to the subject of the debate and to comment on the statement that nothing has been done in examining the problems which arise out of nuclear power. My right hon. Friend quite rightly made his speech entirely on the medical side, but I want to draw attention to the fact that the Service Departments are also playing their part in trying to obtain all the information they can from hydrogen bomb explosions. As has been seen in the Press, within quite recent times the Air Force has had experimental planes flying very high in order to ascertain what they could about the radioactive clouds which have been observed floating over parts of the earth.
1927 It is quite untrue to say that the Government have paid no attention to facts which ought to be examined. Indeed, a great deal is going on in this matter, and I hope that when my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works winds up the debate he will give us all the information he can outside what I would call the medical sphere.
In the short time left at my disposal, I want to refer to the conference which, is to take place at Geneva. Before the war I had the great honour to represent His Majesty's Government, at that time, on two occasions. The Social Questions Committee concerned itself with health questions as well as social questions, and we found that it was relatively easy to get effective co-operation on that Committee. In some ways it is a tragedy, and in some ways not, that the League of Nations is remembered today only for the effective work of the Committee on Social Questions.
I therefore hope that, when the conference takes place at Geneva, the scientists who will be present from all over the world, removed from political controversy, I hope, will be able to concern themselves with the experiments, the progress and the security which is necessary in connection with the use of nuclear power.
A great many of us are members of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, which ranges widely over affairs, and from time to time most interesting information is brought to our notice. The other day I accepted an invitation to go to the Royal Marsden cancer hospital and to hear the results of some of the experiments which were taking place there in the medical use of nuclear power. May I say this to the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West: I cannot help commenting that in a number of most interesting visits which the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee has made over a wide field, I do not remember having seen any of the hon. Ladies opposite or the right hon. Lady present.
I am glad to see that the women Members of the Opposition have combined in this matter. As I pointed out to the right hon. Lady, we started that idea of co-operation during the war under the Coalition Government, and I am delighted that she has profited by my tuition, 1928 because she was then under my chairmanship and I found her a very good co-operator. I am delighted that she has profited by the precedent which we set in the days of the Coalition Government of having debates on womens' affairs from time to time, although I agree with my noble Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson) that this is not in fact a women's question but a matter for the nation as a whole.
I suggest to right hon. and hon. Members opposite who are interested in this subject that, if they are not already members of it, they should take a more active part in the Parliamentary and Scientifics Committee. They would then realise how much knowledge is available, what experiments are going on and the active and all-embracing work which is being carried out with the blessing of the Government. It is in the interest of all nations that we should tell the world that we have our eyes on all aspects of this matter and are taking active steps to try to help in this very difficult and complicated new discovery.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Miss Elaine Burton (Coventry, South)
In winding up this debate for the Opposition, I should like first to refer to the speech of the Minister of Health. I think he was perfectly fair and made no attempt to be party-minded. I did not agree with his attitude, and I propose to say why, but I do think he was fair.
First, the right hon. Gentleman told us that the Medical Research Council has been conducting research into this matter for eight or ten years. We never said it had not. Our Motion does not say that research is not being conducted. So far as I know that certainly has not been raised by hon. Members on these benches. I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman make the point that he considered that the comparison with X-rays of the chest was not relevant to what he was saying. I hope to say something about that later, because I do not think it is at all related to the subject of the Motion.
I do not wish to call the right hon. Gentleman inhuman, because I do not think he is, but he really made a most inhuman statement when he said that he felt this was "an interesting, basic, scientific problem." My quarrel and, I think, the quarrel of my hon. and right 1929 hon. Friends with the Government tonight is that, perhaps with all the sincerity in the world, the Government are looking on this matter as an interesting, basic, scientific problem, and we are not. The right hon. Gentleman said that workers in atomic factories—I am not going into technical terms—were allowed to receive 0.3 roentgen of these rays and went on to say that it might well be disastrous if the population as a whole were exposed to doses like that. He also said that if the Medical Research Council asked for more money for research Her Majesty's Government would be prepared to provide that money.
After that, the right hon. Gentleman took exactly the same line as the Lord President of the Council took in another place. That line was that it really was not any use considering having at a conference scientists who came from beyond the Iron Curtain as they were not impartial. That seems to us to be begging the issue. I do not think for one moment that we are entitled to say who is and who is not impartial. On these benches we would dispute the suggestion of the Government that we are never to have an international conference on anything because some people who come to it may not be impartial. That seems to be the absolute negation of doing anything.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the conference to be held in Geneva in August. If I heard him rightly, he gave the answer which the Lord President of the Council in another place was not prepared to give. I think the Minister of Health said that the Government did not consider that it would be possible to widen the terms of reference of that conference to be held in Geneva to include the subject of this Motion.
§ Mr. Iain Macleod
I did not say that it would not be possible. I said I thought it would be unwise to do that because it might detract attention from the devotion of that conference to the peaceful uses of atomic power.
§ Miss Burton
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman and I am sorry that I misquoted him.
The next point the right hon. Gentleman made is one with which I think most of us on this side of the House very strongly disagree; I certainly do. I think the Government are putting the cart 1930 before the horse. I am not going to be deflected from the very narrow terms of what we are asking by this Motion. We are asking for a conference of scientists. I cannot see that we have to have disarmament in the world before we can have a conference of scientists. I hope that the Minister of Works will make that point clear. I listened to the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot) and could not sort out the suggestion at all. We on these benches are of opinion that a conference of scientists might help eventually to bring about disarmament. But, if any person tells the country that we must have disarmament before a conference of scientists can be held, the country will not agree.
I regretted a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, Central (Mr. Ian Winterbottom), for whom I have great respect and regard. Probably he knows considerably more about these matters than I do, but I was very shattered to hear him say that he did not think it would be a good idea to have an international conference because the Russians would not be impartial. He went on to plunge us still further into gloom by saying that it would not be possible to have the Americans either because of the shackling effect of their security regulations. If we are to go on like that we had better put women in power in order to get something done.
I think it would be true to say that most of us who have supported this Motion believe that explosion is not the worst feature of the hydrogen bomb. It would be fair to say that we believe radioactivity in its various and almost unlimited forms is the worst danger. My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason), in the debate of 14th March, wonderedhow much thought has been applied to the simple theory that whole sections of a country can be rendered useless. …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14thMarch, 1955; Vol. 538, c. 975.]simply because of a menace which we cannot see, the menace of atmospheric radiation. He felt that was the worst danger of all. On 10th March the Prime Minister told us, and I quote him because I wish it to be on the record: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 1931 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th March, 1955; Vol. 538, c. 613.]It is no use giving that sort of information to the public.
I am no medical expert, but I think I am correct in saying that X-ray photographs of the chest are taken fairly infrequently, and anyway we are not discussing that in the context of tonight's debate. It is quite misleading to make any comparison with chest X-rays because chest X-rays do not affect the reproductive organs, which are in the pelvis. An hon. Friend says, "Not necessarily." In the early months of pregnancy it is only in the case of the greatest necessity that a woman's abdomen is X-rayed. This House should realise that fact. It is one of the points behind the Motion we are discussing. The answer given by the Prime Minister did not satisfy my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. On 14th March my right hon. Friend declared:… I really do not think we know enough about this.He went on to make the categorical statement:Further experiments, quite unrelated to the total amount of radiation in the world, are being carried out on both sides of the Iron Curtain both in the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R.Our Motion is based on the comments of the Leader of the Opposition in that debate. I think, perhaps, it would be as well if we remembered exactly what those comments were. My right hon. Friend said:We really do not know enough about all the effects of these experiments that are going on in the world. …We are faced, however, with the fact that these various scientific experiments are apparently making possibilities of wide change in the whole composition of the world in which we live. I think it is time that there was a very full investigation into this … I think it would be an enormous advantage to the world if we could have an agreed statement made by scientists drawn from as wide an area as possible with the purpose of convincing people in all countries of the danger the world stands in, not merely of atomic warfare"—which is what some hon. Members seem to think we are discussing— 1932but of the continued experimentation in these dangerous practices."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th March, 1955; Vol. 538, cc. 956–7.]Probably many Members of the House have studied a pamphlet which was published by the Stationery Office in 1946. This was a report of the British Mission to Japan, and was entitled "The Effects of the Atomic Bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki." I wish to quote from that pamphlet one paragraph, paragraph 77:The effects of gamma rays on human reproduction necessarily form a long-term study, which will continue for some years. Of the effects already detected, the most striking are those on pregnancies at all stages from two months onwards. …Certainly the women Members of the House say—I should have thought all Members of the House would have said—that these matters merit immediate action.
In 1951 a book was published called "We of Nagasaki," and the sub-title was "The story of the survivors in an atomic world." The man who was responsible for putting together those stories was a Dr. Nagai. He was a survivor of the Nagasaki bomb and a bedridden victim of radiation from 1945 until he died in 1951. He spent the last six years of his life studying the effects of the atom bomb and of the treatment on himself and others. It is said today that his analysis of radiation sickness may save the lives of future victims in any atomic war, but we who are supporting this Motion today are asking ourselves whether his work will be necessary to save lives, not in any atomic war, but in the peace-time experiments which are being carried on today.
That is the reason for our anxiety. That is why this Motion is being debated. That is why the Leader of the Opposition asked for an agreed statement on this problem by scientists drawn from as wide an area as possible. That is why the Leader of the Liberal Party on 14th March supported that proposal and asked the Government if they would put it forward to Russia and ask whether Russia would be prepared to take part. That is why my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker), in that same debate, repeated the warning which had been given by the eminent scientist, Professor Haddow, to the effect that perhaps 100 hydrogen bomb explosions would do irreparable genetic damage to the human race.
1933 While most hon. Members who have spoken in the debate today—I believe all of us but two—are not scientists or medical experts we on this side of the House have been very fortunate in having our Motion moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill), who is an expert in medicine, and I should like to pay tribute also to the very moving speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater), whose initiative was responsible in the first place for the putting down of the Motion. We enjoyed very much listening to her today. However, one need not be either a scientist or a medical expert to say with respect that the Prime Minister did not help either the House or the country on 15th March, when he was replying to Questions about the risks of radiation from nuclear weapon tests. He said:I think I should make a mistake if I tried to give a resume' of the position up to date every day at Question time."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th March, 1955; Vol. 538, c. 1129.]That is not good enough on a matter which so affects the well-being of every man, woman and child in the world.
In the debate on the day before, on 14th March, the Foreign Secretary did not get us much farther with the matter we are discussing. In winding up the debate that night he replied to the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, that the tests should be stopped by agreement with Russia and America, by saying that there was now a fundamental difficulty, and that that was that the experiments were now possible… without a bang."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th March, 1955; Vol. 538, c. 1078.]In view of what has been said today as to the exact words which were used, I have checked them up, and it is quite true that the right hon. Gentleman did say that. If the Minister of Works cares to look the words up in Hansard, he will find that I am correct. Anyway, all of us would say that if tests with a bang or without a bang spread harmful radiation, the arguments for stopping them are as strong as ever. We do not mind whether they have a bang or have no bang. We are concerned with the effects of radiation.
I quote from the leader of the "Manchester Guardian" on 16th March:The great fear about these tests is that the radiation from them may do irreparable 1934 damage. Most of the radiation, of course, is confined to the test areas. Some—perhaps most—of the radioactive effects beyond the test areas decrease quickly with the time and distance travelled. But some are lasting. The amount of radiation in the atmosphere right round the world is affected by the tests in Siberia, Australia, the Pacific, and Nevada. This radiation … can influence human reproduction. Its damage may hurt not us or our children but our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The damage may not be evident in this generation or the next but only when it is beyond repair. Nobody knows for certain, but the risk seems real.Most Members will have read the report, which has been several times referred to in the debate, of the Atomic Energy Commission. The Federation of American Scientists having read it—and the Minister of Works will agree that the members of that body have knowledge of these problems—said that tests may reach a level which can be shown to be a serious genetic threat to peoples all over the world.
We ask the Government, if other Governments are now proposing to make further tests, whether we ought not to take action at the earliest possible moment. There was a debate in another place on 17th March in which the Lord President of the Council on behalf of the Government said that it would not be wise to pin too high hopes on the proposal put forward by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, and he went on to say that the salient facts with regard to radiation were, after all, already known. But we are not convinced that they are already known, and we are quite sure they are not known to the peoples of the world.
Reference has been made to the conference on the peaceful uses of atomic energy to be held at Geneva in August. A suggestion was made in another place that its terms of reference should be extended to include the subjects we are discussing in this debate. The Minister of Health has said, without ruling that that cannot be done, that in his opinion that would not be a good idea. Anyway, whether it is a good idea or not, we want action long before August. We are now in March, and we are asking in the terms of our Motion for this conference to be held as soon as possible.
The Government's Amendment contains the words,pending a satisfactory result of the intensive efforts which are being made to achieve a comprehensive scheme of disarmament, …1935 "Pending a satisfactory result"—we on this side of the House feel that there is no urgency about this problem on the benches opposite. We do not dispute that hon. Members opposite would like to have the problem dealt with. The whole human race wants it dealt with, but we are trying to infuse a little energy into hon. Members opposite. When does one get anything done by speaking of "pending a satisfactory result"? It means just waiting and waiting. No one is more anxious than the Opposition for a comprehensive scheme of disarmament, and no one has advocated it more strongly than my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition.
Our Motion does not ask the Government to take any decision about disarmament and we on this side of the House feel that the Motion is being "ridden off," as it were, on this theme of disarmament. We are not asking the Government for disarmament here and now. It should be underlined that we are asking for a very narrow point. We are asking for the holding of a conference of scientists from the United States, the U.S.S.R., the United Kingdom and France to advise on the danger facing mankind.
Here are two of the dangers. Last night the "Oxford Mail" published an article which had been prepared in consultation with a number of scientists concerned with the biological effects of atomic radiation. I do not know whether the Minister of Works has seen it. If he has not, it would be quite useful if he were to read it.
Two main points were stressed in the article. It said:It is yet too early for the full effects to be seen. …If the amount received is not sufficient to kill, the greatest danger is that the radiation will stimulate cancer formation. This may take a long time to become apparent, but in Hiroshima, the incidence of the cancer of the blood-forming organs has already increased as much as 50 times in some groups of people exposed to the explosion of the atom bomb in 1945The article went on to say that another known effect of radiation is its power to upset reproduction.
At Question Time yesterday the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs seemed to differ from the scientists. He said:… my scientific advice at the moment is that there is no danger to human life or to 1936 the reproduction of the human animal from any explosions which have so far taken place."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st March, 1955; Vol. 538, c. 1738.]If we on this side of the House have to choose between the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman and the opinion of the scientists who are responsible for articles in the "Manchester Guardian" of 16th March, and the "Oxford Mail," I think that hon. Members opposite will not be surprised if we choose the scientists.
As so often happens, science has given us a choice. This fact has been stressed by several speakers today. On the one hand, she has disclosed a rich, untapped source of the power needed to sustain modern civilisation. On the other, she has given men a weapon capable of destroying that civilisation finally. The promise of abundant power to drive machines does not directly pose any moral problems such as we are discussing tonight, but the destructive potentiality of nuclear fission most certainly does.
None of us can see into the future, but it may well be that we are coming to a period when coal and oil will be in short supply in all but a few favoured countries, if only because modern men will refuse to spend all their lives working underground. Even so, if we are not coming to a period of shortage for some countries, atomic energy is the only obvious way in which the world's supply of power can be greatly increased, as it would have to be if it were desired to bring the standards of living of the people in the East and in the tropics up to American or Western European standards. We must all face that.
Ever since the splitting of the "indivisible" atom, mankind has stood on the threshold of a future that no one could foresee. The scientists have given us a new world in which there will be order or chaos: as we will choose. It rests with us. The nuclear physicists have given us the atomic age, and with it they have imposed on every thinking human being, not just upon the politicians, the vital necessity of making adjustments in thinking, in laws, in ways of life, and in human relationships, that will prevent chaos and give mankind, instead, a future golden and peaceful. Our Motion makes no grandiose claims. We do not say that it will give mankind a future golden and peaceful, but we do say, from the bottom of our hearts, that it may save generations 1937 yet unborn, and we hope that the House will accept it.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ The Minister of Works (Mr. Nigel Birch)
Perhaps the hon. Lady the Member for Coventry, South (Miss Burton) will allow me to congratulate her on her speech. I thought that she had mastered her matter extraordinarily well and that with her final sentiments everybody in the House would agree.
Throughout the debate the standard of speaking has been very high. The House has risen to the level of the theme which we are discussing. Party politics have hardly come into the debate, and I do not except the speech of the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn, East (Mrs. Castle), whose invective was very mild compared with what it is normally. I think that we must all agree with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health that the hydrogen bomb is the logical result of our first parents eating the forbidden fruit and that what we are now worried about are the consequences of that event.
It is important, first, to define what the debate is about. As I understand it, the debate is about the possible dangers of radioactivity which may be caused by events short of war. Some hon. Members have been talking about the effects of war and some about the effects of events short of war. When the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill), in her very admirable speech, quoted Lord Adrian he was talking about a hydrogen bomb war. It is agreed that the results of such a war would be inconceivably terrible. Compared with them, the minor matters which we are discussing today are almost beside the point.
The Minister of Health, in a very lucid and comprehensive speech, gave the House all the facts that are known to the scientists. I stress the word "scientists." British scientists, in collaboration with American and Canadian scientists, have been able to furnish my right hon. Friend with information. I do not want to go through all those facts and figures again. We can sum up what my right hon. Friend said as follows—first, that there is no immediate danger, and, secondly, that we can probably go a good deal further without danger, but that ultimately there are very great potential dangers. I think 1938 that that is a fair summing up of what my right hon. Friend said.
I turn aside to answer a point made yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), who is not now in his place. He raised the question of the danger of radioactivity from the use of atomic power for civil purposes. I am advised that there is no such danger at all. The danger will not be increased when we have atomic power stations. Such radioactive materials as are emitted are very weak and their effect is not cumulative. Their radioactivity ceases almost at once. I want to dispose of any suggestion that the use of atomic energy for civil purposes raises any danger.
As my right hon. Friend said, this is basically not a party question. I do not think that there is any great difference between the two sides of the House on these matters. We do not exclude any possibility which we think will give us a chance of making progress. But there is a certain difference of approach. We were frequently ask
ed, notably by the hon. Lady the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater), in an admirable speech, "What are we doing about all this?" Our belief is that the only real way of dealing with this situation is by making a success of our policy on disarmament. We are straining every nerve to make it a success, and that is the only realistic thing that we can do.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, when speaking in the last debate on a Motion of censure, gave some account of the Anglo-French proposals now being discussed at Lancaster House, and expressed our determination in this respect. I think the House will have read with pleasure that President Eisenhower has appointed one of his most trusted advisers, Mr. Stassen, to take a special post in order to deal with this question; both the Americans and ourselves look upon this as a matter of desperate importance and our main hope. We do not want to talk too much about what happens if it fails. If it fails, which pray God it may not, there will have to be fresh consultations between the nations, and we shall have to see what we can do.
Meanwhile, I must say something about the question of test explosions, which has been raised by many hon. Members. I believe it to be unrealistic to suppose that 1939 in a world armed with atomic weapons we can ever stop everybody from making experiments with prototypes. It may be a desirable thing to do, but I do not think it is realistic. There is, however, one factor which I should like to put before the House because I think it gives a certain amount of hope. Which nations have, in fact, conducted most of the nuclear explosions that have taken place?
The right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West gave the answer. They are the United States of. America and Russia. The United States has conducted them in her own country and in the Pacific, and Russia has conducted them in her own country. Both these nations are fully aware of the dangers. Much has been published about these matters, and there is no secret about them at all. Yet they are carrying out these experiments in their own countries. They are the people who will suffer first from these experiments.
§ Mr. Birch
May it not be, therefore, that they will not do things which will put their own people and the future of their nations in jeopardy? That is a thought which can give us some hope for the future. They run the greater risk because, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health pointed out, the radiation caused by bombs is already rather over three times as high in America as it is in this country. They are very sensitive indeed about these matters, and I think we can rely on both these nations not doing things which, in the first instance, would ruin their own countries and might, at a later date, ruin every other country.
§ Mr. F. Beswick (Uxbridge)
There is some vital information which the Minister of Health did not give us. He suggested that the degree of radioactivity now present in the atmosphere is .03 of a roentgen as a result of 65 nuclear explosions. What proportion of that radioactivity is the result of the five hydrogen bomb explosions? Has the rate increased in proportion to the increase in the energy generated by this new form of nuclear activity?
§ Mr. Beswick
Is the rate of contamination increasing equally with the rate of power output of this new form of nuclear activity?
§ Mr. Birch
I am sorry that I cannot answer that. If the hon. Member will put a Question on the Order Paper, we will see whether we can answer it.
So much for that gleam of hope. I should like to make a comment on the speech of the hon. Member for Nottingham, Central (Mr. Ian Winterbottom). I thought for a moment that he must have got hold of my own notes. He made a number of points which I think are very important. First, we must not forget what we are up against, or that there is a threat to the free world. If we watch the present Communist technique and propaganda, we see that they are doing everything to spread panic abroad about the effects of nuclear tests and nuclear explosions, but they do nothing of the sort at home.
The hon. Member for Nottingham, Central quoted something which I do not think he attributed to Mr. Molotov, but which was, in fact, said by Mr. Molotov:The use of the hydrogen bomb in war would not mean the destruction of civilisation, but only of the capitalist Powers.We do not want to doubt that danger, and we must look it in the face. This is something about which both parties are basically agreed. If we are not agreed about that danger, what other reasons can there be for the great rearmament programme launched by hon. Members opposite? What was their reason for making the atom bomb, and what is their reason for approving of the manufacture of the hydrogen bomb?
I think that in all these matters they have shown very great courage. It was simply that they believed that the danger to the free world was very great, and something had to be done about it. We need, I believe, to look our dangers in the face. We do not want to run away because tiresome, dangerous and bestial things may happen.
I come now to the question of conferences. Conferences can be very 1941 valuable when they are held at the right time and in the right place. [An HON. MEMBER: "And by the right men."] The hon. Member will remember that there were a great many conferences held by hon. Members opposite when they were in power; I would not like to say whether they were held by the right men or not, but they were invariably unsuccessful. I think that after the bitter experience of hon. Members opposite they ought to be careful about continually suggesting that everything can be solved by conferences. If hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite really believe that conferences at the highest level solve everything it is strange that the leader of the Opposition, when he was in power, never proposed one. But I do not want to insist upon that.
§ Mr. Ivor Owen Thomas (The Wrekin)
The right hon. Gentleman has developed the theme of the non-free world against the free world and the necessity for co-operation as a premise for the existence and development of the strength of the free world. Can he say what measure of co-operation is already in existence especially between America and this country in regard to atomic research and the utilisation of atomic power?
§ Mr. Birch
I am coming to the question of research in a moment.
I want to say something about the main bone of contention, whether or not it would be a good thing to have a conference of scientists. This was answered by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot) and by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Nottingham, Central. The difficulty is to get a genuine scientific discussion. Soviet scientists have invariably shown themselves to be State servants first and scientists afterwards.
The hon. Member for Nottingham, Central mentioned Lysenko who, I understand, is still president of the U.S.S.R. Agricultural Academy, though not so powerful as he once was. As the hon. Gentleman pointed out, he started up again the old doctrine of the inheritance of acquired characteristics, which is not accepted by scientists in general, but because he advocated it, and it was Government policy, it had to be accepted de fide by scientists. The hon. Gentle- 1942 man also pointed out that, in addition, there were the deplorable events about germ warfare in Korea. The danger we foresee in such a conference is that on the side of the free world there would be scientists simply talking science, while on the side of the Communist Powers there would be scientists talking as politicians.
§ Mrs. Castle rose—
§ Mr. Birch
No, I cannot give way.
As I have said, if the disarmament conference fails we shall have to think again. What we feel is that any conference should be between Governments, advised, of course, by scientists, but a conference between Governments.
On the subject of research, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health gave a fairly full picture. Our co-operation with America and Canada is very good indeed and, although this is a subject where security does impinge to a certain extent, I think that in the matters we are talking about in this debate all the relevant research is published or will be published. The great thing about medical research is that it is published. We are working together as hard as we can. The Americans, the Canadians and ourselves probably have the greatest knowledge and the greatest experience in these matters and it seems to me there is no solid reason to suppose we should get anything very new out of the Russians if they came in.
Several hon. Gentlemen have raised the question whether we should not publish the matter in my right hon. Friend's speech as a White Paper, possibly in the form of an independent report by scientists. That will be favourably considered. I think there is a great deal to be said for it.
We now come to the end of this debate. We have been talking about a subject which has caused us all the gravest anxiety and misery. But, as the Prime Minister said, in the very horror of the possibilities may lie our hope for the future. We shall have no hope unless we keep our nerve, and unless we see this matter steadily and see it whole. We believe that our policy on disarmament is right. We believe our foreign policy is the only one which can ensure the peace of the world and the preserva- 1943 tion of the free world. We intend to pursue those policies with all the vigour in our power, and we pray God to give us strength to succeed.
§ Mr. Frederick Peart (Workington)
The Minister sat down rather quickly without answering the point about the meeting of scientists. The British Government have already helped scientists to meet their counterparts from behind the
§ Iron Curtain. It seems a strange argument that because of different ideologies no scientists should ever meet when the British Government have already sent scientists to Moscow to discuss agricultural problems.
§ Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 250, Noes 290.1947
|Division No. 47.]||AYES||[6.58 p.m|
|Albu, A. H.||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||King, Dr. H. M.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Lawson, G. M.|
|Allen, Soholefield (Crewe)||Fernyhough, E.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Fienburgh, W.||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannook)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Finch, H. J.||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Lewis, Arthur|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Follick, M.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.|
|Baird, J.||Foot, M. M.||Logan, D. G.|
|Balfour, A.||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||McInnes, J.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Freeman, John (Watford)||McKay, John (Wallsend)|
|Bence, C. R.||Freeman, Peter (Newport)||McLeavy, F.|
|Benn, Hon. Wedgwood||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.|
|Benson, G.||Gibson, C. W.||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)|
|Beswick, F.||Gooch, E. G.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Mann, Mrs. Jean|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Greenwood, Anthony||Manuel, A. C.|
|Blackburn, F.||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Grey, C. F.||Mason, Roy|
|Blyton, W. R.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mayhew, C. P.|
|Boardman, H.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Mellish, R. J.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Grimond, J.||Messer, Sir F.|
|Bowden, H. W.||Hale, Leslie||Mitchlson, G. R.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Monslow, W.|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)||Moody, A. S.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Hamilton, W. W.||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W.|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Hannan, W.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Hardy, E. A.||Morrison, Rt.Hn.Herbert(Lewis'm,S.)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Hargreaves, A.||Moyle, A.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)||Mulley, F. W.|
|Burke, W. A.||Hastings, S.||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Hayman, F. H.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)||O'Brien, T.|
|Oldfield, W. H.|
|Carmichael, J.||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Herbison, Miss M.||Orbach, M.|
|Champion, A. J.||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Oswald, T.|
|Chapman, W. D.||Hobson, C. R.||Owen, W. J.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Holman, P.||Padley, W. E.|
|Clunie, J.||Holmes, Horace||Paget, R. T.|
|Coldrick, W.||Holt, A. F.||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)|
|Collick, P. H.||Houghton, Douglas||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Collins, V. J.||Hoy, J. H.||Pannell, Charles|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Hubbard, T. F.||Parker, J.|
|Cove, W. G.||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Pearson, A.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Peart, T. F.|
|Crosland, C. A. R.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Popplewell, E.|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Porter, G.|
|Daines, P.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Probert, A. R.|
|Davies,Rt.Hn.Clement(Montgomery)||Janner, B.||Proctor, W. T.|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Pryde, D. J.|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Jeger, George (Goole)||Rankin, John|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Jeger, Mrs. Lena||Reeves, J.|
|Deer, G.||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)|
|Delargy, H. J.||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech||Reid, William (Camlachie)|
|Donnelly, D. L.||Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Rhodes, H.|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmch)||Jones, James (Wrexham)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Keenan, W.||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Kenyon, C||Ross, William|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Shackleton, E. A. A.|
|Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley||Sylvester, G. O.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Short, E. W.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)||Wigg, George|
|Shurmer, P. L. E.||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Silverman, Julius (Erdington)||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Thornton, E.||Willey, Frederick|
|Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)||Tomney, F.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Skeffington, A. M.||Turner-Samuels, M.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)|
|Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)||Usborne, H. C.||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Viant, S. P.||Willis, E. G.|
|Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)||Wade, D. W.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Sorensen, R. W.||Warbey, W. N.||Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)|
|Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||Watkins, T. E.||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Sparks, J. A.||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Steel, T.||Weitzman, D.||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)||Wells, Percy (Faversham)||Yates, V. F.|
|Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.||Wells, William (Walsall)||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Stross, Dr. Barnett||West, D. G.|
|Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.||Wheeldon, W. E.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Swingler, S. T.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)||Mr. James Johnson and|
|Aitken, W. T.||Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Davidson, Viscountess||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)|
|Alport, C. J. M.||De la Bère, Sir Rupert||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Digby, S. Wingfield||Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Donner, Sir P. W.||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Doughty, C. J. A.||Hulbert, Wing Cmdr. N. J.|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Drayson, G. B.||Hurd, A. R.|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir. T. (Richmond)||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh.W.)|
|Assheton, Rt. Hn. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Duthie, W. S.||Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir D. M.||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (Wrwk & Lgtn)||Jennings, Sir Roland|
|Banks, Col. C.||Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Barber, Anthony||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Errington, Sir Eric||Jones, A. (Hall Green)|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Erroll, F. J.||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Fell, A.||Kaberry, D.|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Finlay, Graeme||Kerby, Capt. H. B.|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Fisher, Nigel||Kerr, H. W.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||Lambert, Hon. G.|
|Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Lambton, Viscount|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Ford, Mrs. Patricia||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Bennett, Sir William (Woodside)||Fort, R.||Langford-Holt, J. A.|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Foster, John||Leather, E. H. C.|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Fraser, Sir Ian (M'ombe & Lonsdale)||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)|
|Black, C. W.||Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollock)||Lindsay, Martin|
|Boothby, Sir Robert||Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)||Linstead, Sir H. N.|
|Bossom, Sir A. C.||Garner-Evans, E. H.||Llewellyn, D. T.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Glover, D.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton)|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Godber, J. B.||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)|
|Braine, B. R.||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Gough, C. F. H.||Lloyd-George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G.|
|Braithwaite, Sir Gurney||Gower, H. R.||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Graham, Sir Fergus||Longden, Gilbert|
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Gresham Cooke, R.||Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W.|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)|
|Browne, Jack (Govan)||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)|
|Bullard, D. G.||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)||McAdden, S. J.|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Harris, Reader (Heston)||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Macdonald, Sir Peter|
|Butler,Rt.Hn.R.A.(Saffron Walden)||Hay, John||McKibbin, A. J.|
|Campbell, Sir David||Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Mackie, J. H. (Calloway)|
|Carr, Robert||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Heath, Edward||Mcclean, Fitzroy (Lancaster)|
|Channon, H.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||McLean, Neil (Inverness)|
|Clarke, Col. Sir Ralph (E. Grinstead)||Higgs, J. M. C.||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)|
|Cole, Norman||Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)|
|Colegate, Sir Arthur||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold(Bromley)|
|Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)|
|Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Hirst, Geoffrey||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hn. H. F. C.||Hollis, M. C.||Marlowe, A. A. H.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Hope, Lord John||Marples, A. E.|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Horobin, Sir Ian||Maude, Angus|
|Maudling, R.||Raikes, Sir Victor||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Ramsden, J, E.||Summers, G. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Medlicott, Sir Frank||Rayner, Brig. R.||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.||Redmayne, M.||Sutcliffe, Sir Harold|
|Molson, A. H. E.||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Remnant, Hon. P.||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Moore, Sir Thomas||Renton, D. L. M.||Teeling, W.|
|Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Ridsdale, J. E.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Nabarro, G. D. N.||Robertson, Sir David||Thompson, Lt-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Neave, Airey||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. P. (M'nm'th)|
|Nicholls, Harmar||Robson-Brown, W.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Roper, Sir Harold||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Nield, Basil (Chester)||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Turton, R. H.|
|Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Russell, R. S.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Nugent, G. R. H.||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Nutting, Rt. Hon. Anthony||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.||Vosper, D. F.|
|Oakshott, H. D.||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Odey, G. W.||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'le'bne)|
|O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Scott, Sir Donald||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.||Wall, Major Patrick|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Sharples, Maj. R. C.||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Shepherd, William||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-S-Mare)||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbr'gh, W.)||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Osborne, C.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)||Webbe, Sir H. (L'nd'n & Westm'r)|
|Page, R. G.||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)||Wellwood, W.|
|Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Soames, Capt. C.||Williams, Rt. Hn. Charles (Torquay)|
|Perkins, Sir Robert||Spearman, A. C. M.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Speir, R. M.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Peyton, J. W. W.||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (K'ns'gt'n, S.)||Wills, G.|
|Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Pitman, I. J.||Stevens, Geoffrey||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Pitt, Miss E. M.||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)||Woollam, John Victor|
|Powell, J. Enoch||Steward, William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Stewart, Henderson, (Fife, E.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.||Sir Cedric Drewe and|
|Profumo, J. D.||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)||Major Studholme.|
Main Question put and agreed to.
§ Proposed words there added.
That this House, pending a satisfactory result of the intensive efforts which are being
made to achieve a comprehensive scheme of disarmament, welcomes Her Majesty's Government's decision to continue and expand research in this country on the medical and biological aspects of nuclear energy, and to collaborate by every practical means with those countries with whom arrangements already exist and with such others as can usefully be brought into consultation.