HC Deb 04 February 1958 vol 581 cc977-8

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:

51. Mr. PEYTON

To ask the Prime Minister, to what extent publication of the results of official experimental work carried out entirely in this country is subject to the prior consent of the United States Government.

Mr. Peyton

On a point of explanation. My Question does not refer to defence projects.

Mr. R. A. Butler

I have been asked to reply.

There is prior consultation about the release of information jointly classified on security grounds. I mention defence because I understood my hon. Friend wished it. I simply add this: In the defence field there is prior consultation on experimental work when the subject is one on which work is being carried out jointly.

Mr. Peyton

Would my right hon. Friend do his best to diminish delay, such as has taken place, and as happened in the case of Zeta? That delay greatly lessened the impact on public opinion both here and abroad of a very remarkable British achievement. Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a very dangerous impression gaining ground that on this occasion consultation with the American side was particularly cumbersome, to put it mildly?

Mr. Butler

I am aware of the evils of delay, and in particular that it is a great pity, when there is such a great British achievement, that it cannot be made available at the right time. On this occasion, I am satisfied that prior consultation was necessary. I will take to mind the observations of my hon. Friend about the future.