HC Deb 01 April 1957 vol 568 cc30-3
47. Mrs. Castle

asked the Prime Minister what reply he has sent to the latest Soviet offer of an immediate and, if necessary, temporary ban on nuclear tests pending the conclusion of a general disarmament agreement.

49 and 50. Mr. Healey

asked the Prime Minister (1) if he will give an assurance that the forthcoming tests of British hydrogen bombs will be carried out so as to produce no long-range evidence of the explosions;

(2) if he can give an assurance that the forthcoming tests of British hydrogen bombs will be carried out so as to produce no perceptible radiation effects outside the area of the explosion.

52. Mr. Allaun

asked the Prime Minister what discussions he had at Bermuda, on the proposal to postpone the Christmas Island explosions for six months, in order to permit the securing of international agreement to ban further hydrogen bomb tests.

53. Mr. Hunter

asked the Prime Minister how far at the Bermuda conferences proposals were discussed for a twelve months cessation of hydrogen bomb tests.

54 and 55. Mr. Mason

asked the Prime Minister (1) what is Her Majesty's Government's present policy on thermonuclear tests, their limitation and eventual abolition;

(2) whether adequate apparatus has been developed under the auspices of Her Majesty's Government for the purpose of detecting the fact that a test has been conducted of a nuclear or thermonuclear device elsewhere in the world.

The Prime Minister

These are matters which will be dealt with in the course of debate today.

Mrs. Castle

Is the Prime Minister aware that on 24th October last the Foreign Secretary, who is still his Foreign Secretary—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] —told the House of Commons in regard to negotiating an agreement on H-bomb tests that Her Majesty's Government … are ready to discuss it separately if that meets with the approval of the other Powers concerned and appears to offer better prospects of agreement." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th October. 1956; Vol. 558, c. 613.] In view of the fact that the Soviet Union makes it clear that it meets with its approval and offers better prospects of agreement, why cannot we have a more positive response?

The Prime Minister

I will try to explain this matter, if the House has patience with me, at some length in a detailed account of all the negotiations and problems that surround this question. I hope that the hon. Lady will acquit me of any discourtesy, since this is a major part of what I have to say to the House today, if I prefer to say it in a coherent method as part of a whole statement rather than try to answer seven Questions which all deal with different aspects of it.

Mr. Healey

May I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that the Prime Minister's reply contained in its first part two misstatements of fact? In the first place, I did not give the right hon. Gentleman permission to answer my Question with the others, and in the second place, he did not answer it. Since it is the case that the danger to public health involved in H-bomb explosions is caused by the same factors as produce evidence of the explosion, would the Prime Minister not at least agree to seek an agreement to ban explosions which are capable of being detected?

The Prime Minister

With regard to the first part of the question. I think that the hon. Member is unaware of what is the common practice of the House, which Mr. Speaker explained to us again I think only two or three days ago. As to the second part, I would still ask the hon. Member if he would allow me to develop this in part of the speech which I have to make, which concerns this matter.

Mr. Hunter

Is the Prime Minister aware that there is great feeling in the country against all testing of H-bombs, judging by the large number of letters which Members of Parliament receive? In the interests of humanity, will not the right hon. Gentleman reconsider his previous decision to hold these H-bomb tests?

The Prime Minister

I am, of course, well aware of the feeling which is held, and it is one with which I shall try to deal in the speech that I have to make. Once more I hope that the hon. Member will be patient with me and allow me to do so in my own way, because this is a very important question.

Mr. Speaker rose

Mr. Mason

On a point of order. I had a Question on the Order Paper to which the Prime Minister replied en bloc with many others. You have not given me an opportunity of asking a supplementary question, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

There have been several supplementary questions and the Prime Minister on each occasion has said that he would deal with them in the course of his speech. I thought it in the interests of the House and of other hon. Members to go on with Questions.

Mr. Allaun

On a point of order. Since I had to raise exactly the same question with you, Mr. Speaker, on Thursday, should I not at least be given a reasonable opportunity of asking a supplementary question?

Mr. Speaker

I had forgotten the hon. Member's previous misfortune. I am sorry, but I have gone on now to call Question No. 48.

48. Mr. H. Hynd

asked the Prime Minister what foreign observers are being invited to our forthcoming nuclear tests.

The Prime Minister

The United States Government have been invited to send a small number of officials to observe these tests. Similar invitations have been issued to the Governments of Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Mr. Hynd

If foreign observers are going to attend, will not an opportunity be given to the Press, so that the public of this country will also be informed of what is happening there?

The Prime Minister

I will consider that.

Mr. Lipton

The observers dealt with in the Question apparently include representatives of certain Commonwealth Governments. I do not know why or how that is, but can the Prime Minister say whether Service Chiefs in this country will be treated not less favourably than the representatives of Commonwealth Governments who are to be invited?

The Prime Minister

That, of course, is another question. But it is really the chief duty of the Service Chiefs to make use of the results of these tests and I am not sure how far they would actually wish to be present at them.

57. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Prime Minister if he will arrange that a Parliamentary delegation shall attend the forthcoming atomic explosions in the Pacific Ocean.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir.

Mr. Hughes

Is the Prime Minister aware that there is a precedent for an all-party delegation going to witness the tests in that Members from both sides of the House were present at the tests at Bikini, and does he not think that, if the tests at Bikini could be witnessed by Members of Parliament, these tests should also be witnessed by them?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I see the argument, but I think that on the whole it would be undesirable to have this arrangement.

Hon. Members: Why?