HC Deb 28 May 1957 vol 571 cc215-7
50. Mrs. Castle

asked the Prime Minister if he will specify in detail the evidence submitted to him that the worldwide fall-out of fission products from the first British hydrogen bomb test was negligible.

47. Mr. J. Hynd

asked the Prime Minister what assessment has now been made of the effects of fall-out from the first Christmas Island test, in particular upon health and genetic prospects.

The Prime Minister

The explosion took place as planned at a great height, and the cloud was seen to rise into the stratosphere. As I said in my statement on 21st May, I am satisfied, on the advice that I have received, that any addition that this test will make to the worldwide fall-out of fission products will be negligible. I am also satisfied that from the medical and biological point of view the radiation effects will be insignificant. The conclusion that in these circumstances any addition to the worldwide fall-out of fission products will be negligible is based on scientific assessment of the yield of the weapon and the known effects of previous nuclear explosions.

Mrs. Castle

But is it not a very far-reaching claim for the Prime Minister to make, that he is satisfied that the worldwide effects of the fall-out will be negligible? How does he know? Has he had recording stations placed strategically round the globe? Or is this just guesswork, which is not reinforced by any evidence from any countries which are receiving fall-out?

The Prime Minister

I am satisfied because I have great confidence in my advisers, and I believe this statement that I have made to be correct.

Mr. Osborne

Has my right hon. Friend read the excellent letter in The Timesof today by Lord Cherwell, and if he has seen it will he send a copy to the hon. Lady and put her fears to rest?

The Prime Minister

I shall be very happy to send a copy of The Timesto the hon. Lady, if I can find one at home.

Dr. Summerskill

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain how he can be satisfied that the genetic effects will be negligible before the by-products have been absorbed?

The Prime Minister

I have been given advice by the greatest experts that I have at my command, and for the statement that I have made I relied upon the advice which they gave me.

Mr. D. Jones

In view of what the right hon. Gentleman has now said, will he arrange for himself, the Foreign Secretary, and Lord Cherwell to be in the danger zone when the next explosion takes place?

The Prime Minister

Well, Sir, I have been in danger zones before.

54. Mr. Mason

asked the Prime Minister, having now tested the hydrogen bomb, if he will, with a view to allaying further public concern, make an announcement of future Government policy on atom and hydrogen bomb tests.

The Prime Minister

It is impossible now to determine what our future requirements will be, but it is our policy to restrict testing to the minimum.

Mr. Mason

Would it not be most heartening if, now that we have tested our hydrogen bomb, the right hon. Gentleman would say that he is prepared to step into the international arena to meet the representatives of the atomic Powers at a high level to try to get step by step an agreement on all aspects of the nuclear problem?

The Prime Minister

I think I must repeat what I said before, that a single test does not give us the full requirement that is necessary in this series. I think we should bear in mind the relatively small amount of experience that we have, compared with two other great Powers.

Captain Pilkington

Is it not very unfortunate that the Labour Opposition should deliberately and unnecessarily increase public alarm about these tests?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Woodburn

In view of that remark, may I ask the Prime Minister whether he has studied the report of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, which yesterday unanimously recommended that we should stop these hydrogen bomb tests altogether, as they will do no good to anyone?

The Prime Minister

I have not read the full report. I can only say that, while I fully respect and understand those who have their duties to perform, I also have my duty to perform, and I do not intend to abandon it.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is the Prime Minister aware that, whatever may be the precise merits of this question, there is very genuine anxiety and alarm among millions of people in this country, and it is extremely foolish, to say the least of it, for hon. Members opposite to imagine that this is a worked-up campaign? May I ask whether it is the Government's policy, before they will contemplate an international agreement on the suspension of tests, to insist that it must be part of a general disarmament agreement?

The Prime Minister

All these details we will go into again when we come to the next disarmament debate. There are signs of considerable progress being now possible. I do not feel at all pessimistic about the prospects of some forward movement. The right hon. Gentleman knows the importance, and perhaps has had experience of the difficulty, of keeping a balanced view of this problem.