HC Deb 30 January 1958 vol 581 cc508-10
45. Mrs. Butler

asked the Prime Minister when the Medical Research Council can be expected to issue its next report on the present dangers to health of people in this country from radioactive fall-out, in view of the new and significant material which is now available.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Lord Privy Seal (Mr. R. A. Butler)

I have been asked to reply.

Since the Medical Research Council issued its report in June, 1956, the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation has made considerable progress in preparing its report to the General Assembly of the United Nations. This Committee, composed of distinguished scientists from many countries, including the United Kingdom, has been collecting and collating information on all aspects of radiation affecting man and his environment and is obliged to report not later than 1st July this year. The Medical Research Council will wish to consider this important document before reporting further itself.

Mrs. Butler

In view of the fact that the Government accept the previous warning of the Medical Research Council, that an immediate review of the hazards involved in nuclear tests would be necessary if the level of strontium exceeded ten units, and that the Libby Committee now predicts that the level may reach ten units from the strontium already generated and still being deposited by previous tests, is not this the appropriate time for the Medical Research Council to be asked to review the hazards and to report—before there is any possible danger of a further series of tests this year raising the level well beyond the danger figure of ten units?

Mr. Butler

It would be wise to await the result of the investigations of this Committee, which is of great weight, and upon which the United Kingdom is represented. I understand that that is also the view of the Medical Research Council.

Mr. Gaitskell

The acting Prime Minister said that this Committee was to report some time before 1st July, 1958. Can he tell us when it is likely to report? The timing here is rather important.

Mr. Butler

It is obliged to report not later than 1st July. I could not give an accurate description of what the date will be, but as far as we are concerned the sooner the better.

Dr. Summerskill

Will the right hon. Gentleman answer this question, which I have asked him before? Why has the Committee of the Medical Research Council—consisting of the most eminent men in this country—which reported on this matter in 1956, not been reconvened and asked to report again in the light of this further information?

Mr. Butler

For the reason I gave in my original reply, I think that it would be better to await the results of the investigations of this Committee. I could go further and say that I understand that the general trend of the evidence on the health hazards of radiation is in the general line of what the Medical Research Council found itself. I do not say that to prejudge the report, but in order to show that I do not believe that time is being wasted.