HC Deb 01 July 1958 vol 590 cc1073-5
45. Mr. Brockway

asked the Prime Minister if, in view of the report of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the effects of atomic radiation, he will give instructions that British tests of atomic and hydrogen bombs cease forthwith and take immediate action to secure international agreement to stop such tests by any and every Government.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

The report of the United Nations Scientific Committee has not yet been published.

The general position of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the suspension of tests and disarmament was explained to the House by my right hon. Friends in the course of the debate on 10th June.

Mr. Brockway

Is the Prime Minister aware that it was announced that the report was to be published today? Is he further aware that references have been made to it in the proceedings of the United Nations, and that, after two years' discussion with thirty Governments, these references show that there is already evidence of a very serious increase in the number of cases of leukaemia; that it is estimated that this number may rise to 30,000 yearly and that 120,000 major genetic defects may result yearly from these tests? In view of these facts—[HON. MEMBERS: "Facts?"]—these statements by this authoritative committee, will the Prime Minister stop this inhuman practice?

The Prime Minister

The publication of the report is a matter for the United Nations. I understand that the report will not be published for some weeks. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] I was so informed; it is not in my hands. I am told that it is 600 pages long, with a very large number of appendices. It is entirely a matter for the United Nations, which is the responsible authority. With regard to policy, I can only add that that was fully discussed and I have nothing to add to it. Meanwhile, I think that it would be right to welcome the announcement by the leader of the Soviet delegation to the Geneva talks of scientists, as reported in the Press, that they are prepared to take part in the talks, which I believe begin either tomorrow or the next day.

Mr. Gaitskell

Can the Prime Minister tell us how he envisages the talks developing, following the Geneva Conference? Is the report of the scientists gathered there to be submitted to the two or four Governments concerned? How does the Prime Minister envisage the matter being followed up? Is it to be taken only at the Summit Conference, or beforehand?

The Prime Minister

We had better see how the report goes, and then we will try, by diplomatic means, to see how we can proceed further. I think that I had better be fairly careful about saying anything. A unilateral statement of mine might tend to hinder rather than forward these negotiations.