HC Deb 02 April 1957 vol 568 cc230-4
47. Mr. Swingler

asked the Prime Minister if he will now initiate high-level talks for the purpose of limiting and eventually abolishing hydrogen bomb tests.

60 and 61. Mr. G. Thomas

asked the Prime Minister (1) whether he will now abandon the proposal to proceed with the Christmas Island hydrogen bomb test in view of the official Soviet proposal for an immediate ban on atomic and hydrogen bomb tests without waiting for general agreement on disarmament; and whether he will make a statement;

(2) to what extent the Bermuda Agreement prohibits the United Kingdom from abandoning future nuclear tests; and whether he will make a statement.

65. Mr. Zilliacus

asked the Prime Minister whether Her Majesty's Government are still prepared to make a partial agreement covering hydrogen bomb tests as a preliminary to a comprehensive disarmament agreement.

66. Mr. V. Yates

asked the Prime Minister if his attention has been drawn to a further official proposal regarding the cessation of nuclear tests made by Mr. Illychev, in Moscow; and whether the suggestion will be fully considered by Her Majesty's Government before further tests are carried out.

69. Mr. Beswick

asked the Prime Minister if he will state the new information on which he bases the new policy of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the further testing of hydrogen bombs.

The Prime Minister

I have nothing to add to what was said in the debate yesterday.

Mr. Swingler

Will the Prime Minister say whether this means that Her Majesty's Government have totally abandoned any idea of an independent initiative to limit hydrogen bomb tests? That is the question I want to ask him.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir, I do not think that that deduction can be justified at all from yesterday's debate. I tried to show, in what I am afraid was the rather lengthy speech which I inflicted on the House, and the Foreign Secretary in winding up also made it quite clear, what it was we were going to do.

Mr. Thomas

In view of the fact that the Prime Minister's statement yesterday seemed to indicate that he would be prepared to acknowledge any initiative from somebody else, but that he was not prepared to take steps to do this himself— [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am making my own interpretation, not the hon. Gentlemen's. In view of the fact that the Prime Minister seemed not to indicate that he was prepared to take the initiative to call a meeting of Powers which are making the hydrogen bomb, and neither was he prepared to hold up the tests for a period while such negotiations could go on, what hope does he hold out for enlightened opinion all over the world which is protesting about the action of Great Britain?

The Prime Minister

I do not know why enlightened opinion over the whole world should protest particularly against the action of Great Britain, because these tests have been carried out by two great Powers for some time before Great Britain came into the field. Indeed. I think I tried to make it clear, first, and I think with the support, so far as I could understand it, of the Leader of the Opposition, that we were going to go on with these tests, and I certainly tried to make clear, and I think the Foreign Secretary took it a stage further, that we were prepared and ready, and indeed are making certain proposals in the Disarmament Commission which is now sitting.

Mr. Gaitskell

Will the Prime Minister consider making a full statement to the House on what proposals are precisely to be put forward in the Disarmament Commission? All we had from the Foreign Secretary was a series of questions which he said were being put to the Russians. Can we not have a full statement on exactly what the Government are proposing in that field?

The Prime Minister

I will consider that, but, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, the proceedings in this Commission are supposed to be private. There is the understanding between all members that they shall not divulge to the Press what takes place in the Commission, and, therefore, I must within that difficulty consider whether there is anything further that I can say beyond what the Foreign Secretary said yesterday. If I think that I can honourably do so, having regard to our commitments to that Commission, I shall certainly be ready to do so.

Mr. Beswick

Reverting to Question No. 69, in which I asked what new scientific information is available to the Prime Minister since Sir Anthony Eden first made his statement about the proposal to limit nuclear tests, may I ask whether it is not the fact that there is no new scientific information at all which was not available to Sir Anthony Eden when he declared that it was the policy of Her Majesty's Government to limit these tests separately from any general disarmament convention?

The Prime Minister

I tried to explain to the House yesterday to the best of my ability the advice given me by the very distinguished scientists who serve the Government in this matter, and I tried to explain it as objectively as possible on the basis of the advice given to me. I am afraid that I am not an expert, and I think I made it clear that the advice given to me was of a certain character, and that certain developments have taken place since the basis upon which Sir Anthony Eden made that statement.

Mr. Gaitskell

The advice which the Prime Minister, and indeed the House generally, receives on these matters is from the Medical Research Council's Report. In principle, that was what the Prime Minister was basing his case on yesterday. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If it is not so, perhaps the Prime Minister will correct me. I should like to make this suggestion to the Prime Minister. The important new point brought out yesterday by the Prime Minister was the suggestion that certain of these tests could not be detected. Would the Prime Minister consider again referring to the Medical Research Council the whole question of the effects of tests, whether detectable or undetectable, upon public health generally?

The Prime Minister

If I may say so, I hope without impertinence, I think that the right hon. Gentleman is confusing two quite separate questions. The Medical Research Council gives advice to the Government as to the effect of these tests upon health and so forth. That is a medical problem. The scientific advisers that we have were dealing with the point, which I think was raised in Question No. 69, about methods of detection and the character of these tests. This has nothing whatever to do with the Medical Research Council, which would not really be an appropriate body to advise upon it, because it has nothing to do with it. It deals with the medical results, if any, of the fall-out. In respect of Question No. 69, which the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick) asked me, our scientific advisers are dealing with the making of tests and with methods, if any, of detecting them.

Mr. V. Yates

As the Prime Minister made no reference whatever yesterday to the latest proposal made by Russia and contained in my Question No. 66, will he now say whether he will consider that proposal before a further test takes place?

The Prime Minister

I am sorry if I am under any discourtesy to the hon. Gentleman, but I do observe that that particular question was dealt with by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in a Written Answer yesterday.