HC Deb 04 June 1957 vol 571 cc1077-9
50. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Prime Minister if he is aware of the variety and conflict of scientific and other opinions in Great Britain as to the nature, effect and use of hydrogen bombs; and if he will recommend the appointment of a Royal Commission to take evidence upon these matters and report.

63. Mr. J. Hynd

asked the Prime Minister whether he will move for a Select Committee or recommend the appointment of a Commission to examine and report on the health and genetic effects of radioactive fall-out from nuclear bomb experiments.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir; I do not think this would be the most appropriate procedure.

Mr. Hughes

Is not the Prime Minister aware that thousands of distinguished and authoritative scientists in Britain, including Nobel Prize winners, have appealed to Governments and peoples to stop the testing? Does not he regard that as being of sufficient importance to merit my suggestion of an investigation by a Royal Commission, and will he reconsider that reply?

The Prime Minister

I still do not think that the procedure of a Royal Commission is the best method by which the best advice can be obtained.

Mr. Hynd

If the right hon. Gentleman does not agree with the idea of a Royal Commission, will he consider the use of a Select Committee, as suggested in Question No. 63? As there is so much difference of opinion amongst scientists, and as we have recently heard from Dr. Linus Pauling of the California Institute of Technology that no fewer than 1 million people will die of leukaemia or cancer as a result of tests held so far, that no fewer than 1,000 fatal cases of leukaemia will result from the British tests at Christmas Island, and that 100.000 mentally backward children will be born as the result of tests, does he not consider that it is high time that we had an independent body to consider all the evidence and experience so that the country and the world in general can have a proper estimate of what is happening as a result of these tests?

The Prime Minister

I quite understand the feelings of the hon. Gentleman, although I shall certainly not enter into debate on some of the statements which he has made. I was asked whether a Select Committee would be the best method of dealing with this matter, and I am afraid that I must adhere to the view that I do not think it is the best method.

Mr. Bevan

In view of the widespread anxiety and confusion of opinion in this matter, would not the Prime Minister consider what form of inquiry could properly be established so as to give us a clear view of the facts?

The Prime Minister

Until I change my opinion, I think that the Medical Research Council which has been set up by Statute is the best instrument which we have at our command.

Mr. Gaitskell

Will the right hon. Gentleman say when we may expect a further report from the Medical Research Council?

The Prime Minister

As I have said, I am considering that, but I must point out that the Council has a number of standing committees which advise it in particular parts of the field. Every item of new evidence which comes to hand is considered by the committees and by individual experts advising the Council as well as by the Council's officers, of course. I am informed that the result today of this continuous process of review is to make the Council confident that there is as yet no new evidence that would lead to a modification in any respect of the conclusions in the published report. The Medical Research Council has, however, assured me that if and when important new evidence becomes available it will make immediate arrangements for calling the whole Council and making a similar review of the situation as was made before. Whilst that is always in my mind, I must, I think, bear in mind what is the view of the Council as to the best method for its procedure.

Mr. Fort

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Council's last Report was entirely unanimous and in accordance with the information which was given, and that there is no reason to think that that unanimity has changed in the light of the information obtained last year?

Mr. Healey

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I was not clear whether the Prime Minister was going to reply, but if not, and in view of the widespread international interest and the large number of Questions on the subject, would it be in order for the Prime Minister to answer the Questions relating to the speech by the President of the Board of Trade on 27th May?

Mr. Speaker

I have not been given any notice of that. It would not be in order.