HC Deb 26 July 1956 vol 557 cc633-4
47. Mr. Snow

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the virtual indestructibility of certain sinister products, including strontium 90, following thermonuclear tests, and the consequential build-up of deposits, he will expedite discussions with the United States of America and give urgent consideration to the offer of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to stop further tests.

The Prime Minister

I have dealt with this subject during the last few days, and I would refer the hon. Gentleman to the statements which I have made.

Mr. Snow

I think the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the Question was tabled before he made his speech on Monday. Nevertheless, is he satisfied that public opinion has been sufficiently aroused and alerted regarding the cumulative effects of these tests?

The Prime Minister

As I said in my speech, I feel that the matter—we must be careful to strike a balance—is not immediately urgent in that sense. On the other hand, it is a matter with which, in my judgment, nations must deal before it becomes urgent. That is why we have thought it necessary to prepare ourselves for whatever consultations are required to try to bring the matter forward.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

In all his answers and in his speech on Monday, the Prime Minister has spoken of "limitation of tests." Has he considered the plea by eminent American atomic scientists that the total prohibition of thermo-nuclear tests would prevent the development of hydrogen warheads for guided missiles? Does he consider that a guided missile with a hydrogen warhead would be a mortal danger to this country, and, therefore, that the stopping of the tests is a major British defence interest?

The Prime Minister

First, perhaps I might say how glad we all are to see the right hon. Gentleman back in his place. What he says is true; I have carefully chosen "limitation". I think—with his experience, the right hon. Gentleman may agree with me—it is wise to start with this method. I do not, if I might use such a phrase, necessarily limit myself to "limitation," but I believe that the best chance of getting agreement in this very difficult matter is by starting with limitation.

Mr. A. Henderson

Is it the intention of the Government to reply to the proposals made by Mr. Shepilov last week after having completed the study of the proposal to which the right hon. Gentleman referred in a reply to me?

The Prime Minister

Perhaps the right hon. and learned Gentleman would be good enough to table a Question to the Foreign Office about that matter. I am not sure what the plans are.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Will my right hon. Friend note the zeal with which the Opposition desire to limit the manufacture and testing of a weapon which they themselves admit is a decisive factor in the maintenance of peace?