HC Deb 29 April 1958 vol 587 cc190-1
51. Mr. J. Johnson

asked the Prime Minister how the radioactivity of a hydrogen bomb compares with that of an atomic bomb.

The Prime Minister

It is impossible to give a general answer to a question of this kind. It would all depend upon the design of the particular bomb.

Mr. Johnson

While accepting that, is it not a fact that the H-bomb has an atomic bomb core? Consequently, no H-bomb can be cleaner than the bomb which fell at Hiroshima. Can the Prime Minister tell the House what Dr. Teller means when he speaks of having a 96 per cent. clean bomb? Does it mean a 96 per cent. atomic bomb, or does it mean 96 per cent. of 100 atomic bombs, which, of course, means as dirty as four atomic bombs?

The Prime Minister

The matter is rather more complicated than that. The amount and behaviour of fall-out would depend on such variable factors as the design of the weapons, the height of the bursts and the weather.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

Does not the dirtiness of the hydrogen bomb primarily depend upon whether uranium 238 is used as an outer sheath? Can the Prime Minister say whether we are continuing or whether we have abandoned the practice, as the Americans have?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman has advanced the argument a little, but he has not clarified it. I would not allow myself to be drawn into ex cathedra statements on scientific matters on a supplementary question.

Dr. Summerskill

At the risk of the Prime Minister trying to slap me down, may I ask him this? Is he aware—and I think this is important for both sides of the House—that when he last told us that the tests in the Christmas Islands were going to be clean, Dr. Libby, the American expert and adviser to the United States Atomic Energy Commission, said that the British people had been deceived, and that it had been alleged in this country that the tests were clean, but the bombs were, in fact, as dirty as any of the Soviet megaton bombs?

The Prime Minister

I have no intention of slapping the right hon. Lady down. I have a Private Notice Question from the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, and I think it would be more courteous of me to leave it until that stage than to try to answer these detailed scientific matters in reply to supplementary questions on this Question.