HC Deb 31 October 1957 vol 575 cc393-5
48 and 49. Mr. Wade

asked the Prime Minister (1) what are the most recent available figures of the level of strontium 90 and other allied radioactive substances in various parts of Great Britain; and to what date these figures refer;

(2) what steps he proposes to take to ensure that the figures of the level of strontium 90 and other allied radioactive substances in various parts of Great Britain are ascertained at frequent intervals and are made public.

57. Mr. Allaun

asked the Prime Minister if he will state the increase in strontium 90 found in the bones of animals in Great Britain and in other effects of nuclear test explosions since the Government's statements in June and July.

The Prime Minister

Measurements of the extent to which soil, herbage, farm animals, and milk and other foodstuffs, have been contaminated by radioactive fall-out are made regularly at a number of localities in Great Britain. The figures are made available from time to time and the latest are contained in a further report by the Atomic Energy Research Establishment, Harwell, entitled "Radio-strontium in Soil, Grass, Milk and Bone in the United Kingdom". A copy has been placed in the Library. This report relates to the year 1956 but contains some provisional figures for 1957.

To ensure that the fullest possible precautions are taken, some reorganisation of the machinery for monitoring fall-out, and of the responsibility for its operation, was introduced last summer. The Agricultural Research Council has accepted responsibility for monitoring soil, herbage, farm animals, and milk and other foodstuffs, while the Atomic Energy Research Establishment will remain responsible for monitoring air and rainwater and for analysing the radioactivity present in samples of human bone.

The Joint Committee of the Agricultural and Medical Research Councils and the Development Commission on Biological (Non-Medical) Problems of Nuclear Physics, of which Lord Rothschild is Chairman, has been charged with the responsibility for the oversight of this monitoring. To assist it in this task, the Joint Committee has set up a special subcommittee under the chairmanship of Dr. Loutit, Director of the Medical Research Council Radiobiological Research Unit.

Mr. Wade

Does not the Prime Minister agree that this is a subject upon which information as up to date and accurate as possible should be available to the public? Does not he agree that information collected in 1955 and 1956 might not be accurate today in view of the continuing hydrogen bomb tests and continuing fall-out? Would it be practicable for figures to be published from time to time and, if so, would they be accompanied by comment from the Medical Research Council?

The Prime Minister

If the hon. Gentleman will examine the report, I think that he will see that it is comprehensive. In reply to his question about the amount of up-to-date figures, of course a great deal of analysis by experts has to be made to see that they are correctly interpreted when made available to the public, but I will certainly bear in mind what the hon. Gentleman has said.

Mr. Allaun

Since strontium 90 from earlier explosions will be accumulating for years hence, is the Prime Minister completely satisfied about proceeding with further explosions at Christmas Island and thus subjecting this and future generations to unknown but growing risks of irreparable injury?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. It is, of course, my duty to try to balance the advantages and the disadvantages, but I am quite certain that what we have decided to do is to the general advantage of the nation.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

The Prime Minister said that a report was being placed in the Library. Can he say whether it is being made available to the Press?

The Prime Minister

I will look into that. I assume that if it is in the Library, it is very widely available, but I will take note of that point.

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