HC Deb 08 February 1956 vol 548 cc1666-8
45. Mr. Patrick Maitland

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he will make inquiries about the possible places in the Commonwealth and Empire where a plant for making heavy water could be established at reasonable cost; and whether he will consult with other Empire and Commonwealth Governments about the possibility of establishing such plants as would enable the Commonwealth to be independent of foreign sources of supply.

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. R. A. Butler)

This is a matter for the Atomic Energy Authority, who inform me that the location of a plant for the production of heavy water depends to a large extent on the nature of the process to be employed, and that it would not be profitable to inquire about possible sites within the Commonwealth independently of this factor. The possibility of locating such a plant within the Commonwealth will, however, be examined at the appropriate time in connection with any scheme which may be developed for establishing a new source of supply.

Mr. Maitland

Can my right hon. Friend say whether it is true that the New Zealand scheme has been abandoned? Does he agree in principle that it is desirable that the Commonwealth should be independent of foreign sources of supply?

Mr. Butler

I can only refer to the outlook for the United Kingdom, and for the time being our requirements are covered, and that, at any rate, gives us sufficient time to look around. The New Zealand plant was found to be uneconomic owing to a very considerable increase in the estimate of plant costs.

Mr. Hobson

In view of the urgency of this problem as far as advance requirements are concerned, and in view of certain recent developments in scientific experiments in regard to heavy water, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether he has approached the Canadian Government about this matter?

Mr. Butler

We are in touch with all Governments primarily concerned, but I should like notice of a question about a particular approach.

46. Mr. Patrick Maitland

asked the Lord Privy Seal to what extent, in obtaining heavy water supplies from the United States of America, Her Majesty's Government are required to furnish data about the use to which it will be put.

Mr. R. A. Butler

Supplies of heavy water from the United States are obtained under the U.K.-U.S. Agreement for Cooperation on the Civil Uses of Atomic Energy, and Her Majesty's Government are accordingly required to furnish sufficient information to satisfy the United States Authorities that the material will be used for developing the civil applications of atomic energy to which the Agreement relates.

Mr. Maitland

Can my right hon. Friend say whether it is possible to give such information without to some extent disclosing military secrets?

Mr. Butler

We attempt to carry out the terms of the Agreement. I cannot say more than that.

Mr. S. Silverman

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether in his opinion the Prime Minister is not already making as much heavy weather in the United States as necessary?

Mr. Nabarro

A very poor joke.