HC Deb 02 July 1957 vol 572 cc886-90
46 and 48. Mr. Zilliacus

asked the Prime Minister (1) whether, in view of the readiness announced by the Soviet Government to accept inspection posts on its territory as part of an agreement to abolish hydrogen bomb tests, he will reconsider the Government's refusal to negotiate an agreement abolishing such tests, independently and in advance of a general disarmament convention;

(2) whether, in view of the terms of his reply to Prime Minister Bulganin, he now accepts in principle the Soviet proposal to negotiate a convention ending all hydrogen bomb tests for at least two or three years, provided agreement can be reached on a system of inspection posts equipped with adequate means of detection and established in the territories of the States concerned as well as the north Pacific area.

47. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Prime Minister if, following the completion of the explosions at Christmas Island, Her Majesty's Government will announce that it is prepared immediately to discontinue carrying out hydrogen bomb explosions so long as they are stopped by others.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Lord Privy Seal (Mr. R. A. Butler)

I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs will be introducing a joint statement in the Disarmament Sub-Committee later this afternoon, in which Her Majesty's Government and the Governments of Canada, France and the United States will announce their position with respect to the Soviet proposal of 14th June for a suspension of nuclear tests. Hon. Members will understand that the contents of this statement cannot be disclosed before it is presented in the Sub-Committee, but it will be available to hon. Members very soon.

The Government's future policy on nuclear tests will depend on the outcome of the discussions in the Sub-Committee on this subject.

Mr. Allaun

Since the prospects of the disarmament talks are far poorer than the general public have been led to believe—[HON. MEMBERS: "How do you know?"]—would not limited unilateral action cut the vicious circle, reduce suspicion and achieve what disarmament conferences ever since 1927 have failed to achieve?

Mr. Butler

I think it would be wrong for the House to prejudge the likely success of these discussions in the disarmament conference. I am sorry that we cannot tell the House any more. If it is possible to do so, we will do so tomorrow, but for the moment, under the rules of the Sub-Committee, we are not in a position to announce anything further.

Mr. J. Griffiths

I gather that the right hon. Gentleman has promised to make a statement to the House tomorrow. Will he present a statement to the House as a White Paper for consideration by the House? Does he propose, as Leader of the House, to arrange for Government time to be given very shortly to provide an opportunity to consider the statement?

Mr. Butler

I have considered this matter of a full statement with my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. We cannot undertake to publish a White Paper or a full statement at present. All I can do is to say that if possible the House will be given more information upon the basis of the answer which I have given this afternoon—that is, on the basis of the information being given in the form of a joint statement of the Governments concerned to the Sub-Committee. I could not go further than that at present. We must take one stage at a time.

Mr. Griffiths

If the Foreign Secretary is to make a statement, why cannot the full statement which he makes this afternoon be published as a White Paper?

Mr. Butler

We have to take into account not only our own position as a Government but the position of other Governments with whom we are submitting this as a joint statement. We also have to take into account the general rules and procedure of the Sub-Committee. Subject to that, we shall do our best to keep the House informed.

Mr. Zilliacus

Would not the Government go at least as far as President Eisenhowers' initial statement the other day, in which he said publicly that he agreed in principle with a plan for abolishing tests, together with inspection posts to control that abolition and to see that it was effective? Would not the Government make a statement that they accept this kind of agreement in principle, as President Eisenhower did the other day?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. It would not be possible for me to go further than I have gone in my statement this afternoon. I also added, as the hon. Member will recall, that our future policy on nuclear tests must depend on the outcome of the discussion which is to take place.

Mr. Paget

Why is that so? Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us why, independently of the Disarmament Commission, we should not simply say that we will not test bombs any further unless somebody else tests them? Obviously we do not want these tests to go on indefinitely. It is to our advantage that they should stop. We are the last people to have had a test. Why, in heaven's name, do not we say that we shall not have another test if others do not?

Mr. Butler

Because we wish to take our part in the discussions of the Sub-Committee and we hope that fruitful results will arise from them.

Mr. Paget

Why not strengthen our position there?

49. Sir J. Hutchison

asked the Prime Minister what contact is maintained between this country and the United States of America on the possible effect on health of nuclear tests.

Mr. R. A. Butler

I have been asked to reply.

Discussions are held from time to time between the technical staffs of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority and the United States Atomic Energy Commission on many aspects of the effect of ionising radiations including health aspects and on the methods and results of fall-out measurement. Any relevant information is passed to the Medical Research Council. There is also a considerable measure of direct contact between the expert advisers of the Medical Research Council and corresponding experts in the United States of America.

Sir J. Hutchison

Will these contacts, which are very welcome, allow of an explanation, for example, of the very curious and alarming series of illnesses reported from Twin Springs, Nevada, in The Times and other newspapers? Will these contacts allow us to get medical advice and information about that sort of thing?

Mr. Butler

I know that samples have already been exchanged to check the accuracy of the measurement of fall-out and that sort of thing. If we can satisfy my hon. Friend and the House by further information obtained through these channels, we will certainly do so.

Dr. Summerskill

In view of the fact that it is nearly two years since the medical report which the right hon. Gentleman quoted was written, would he ask the doctors who wrote that original report to report afresh to him?

Mr. Butler

I think an answer was given on this matter on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister only a day or two ago, and all we can do is to make available the latest information coming into our possession. I will certainly draw the right hon. Lady's question to the attention of the authorities concerned.

Mr. Healey

In view of the fact that the Americans have recently announced that they have discovered how to make a so-called clean hydrogen bomb, will the Government ask the American Government to give this information to them and to the Soviet Government in order that the whole of humanity may benefit from this discovery?

Mr. Butler

I cannot answer on behalf of the United States Government, but I can undertake that attention will be paid to the hon. Member's question.