HC Deb 01 April 1957 vol 568 cc20-1
12. Mr. Hastings

asked the Minister of Health, as representing the Lord President of the Council, whether he will inquire of the Medical Research Council to what extent the thermo-nuclear bombs so far exploded have resulted in a tendency to increase mutations and, in consequence, the number of deformities in the human race during the next 1.000 years.

Mr. Vosper

I am advised that, while all radiation does affect human mutation rates, our present knowledge of the subject shows that compared with the radiation to which man is already exposed from all other sources, the additional amount which has been produced by the thermo-nuclear bombs so far exploded is so small that the genetic effects would be insignificant.

Mr. Hastings

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that scientific opinion is changing very rapidly in this direction? Has his attention been called to a Report on the Genetic Effects of Radiation by the World Health Organisation, from the Press release of which I quote as follows: …all man-made radiation must be regarded as harmful to man from the genetic point of view. Whilst the harm may not be very great, at any rate as we see it at present, is it not perfectly clear that harm is bound to follow?

Mr. Vosper

The hon. Member asked me to inquire of the Medical Research Council, and he will know that the Committee, in its Report last year, referred to the fact that an increase of only 1 per cent. of that from normal sources could be expected. From my further inquiries, I understand that that estimate is still reasonably accurate.

Dr. Summerskill

Is the right hon. Gentleman quite satisfied in always quoting from the Report of June, 1956, in view of the fact that this committee was convened in 1955 and Professor Haddow himself has been making public statements, which were repeated on the radio on Saturday, that there has now been a shift in emphasis since June, 1956?

Mr. Vosper

I thought I had made that clear. I have made inquiries of the Council as to its present attitude, and it confirms that the Report still holds good.