HC Deb 24 June 1958 vol 590 cc235-7
45. Mr. Watkins

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the strong representations from Wales concerning the periodic tests for radioactive fall-out, he will give instructions that reports are to be written in a non-technical form easily understandable to the public; and whether, to reassure the population in the upland areas of Wales, he will publish in simple non-technical terms the incidence of fall-out and the level of strontium 90 in these areas, and give in non-scientific terms information which will help lay persons in assessing the danger from strontium 90 fall-out.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

We are considering whether we can improve the presentation of the results of measurements of fall-out. I would point out, however, that the assessment of the significance of these results is a complicated and technical matter. The forthcoming Report of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation will, I understand, contain an up-to-date assessment of the health hazards due to radiation.

Mr. Watkins

Will the Prime Minister look at this matter again, because in Wales people are getting alarmed and, from the Western Mail of today, we understand that water in Wales is to be tested for strontium? All the people would like to know in simple language what it really means to them and whether they can carry on earning their livelihood at sheep farming, particularly in the Welsh hills.

The Prime Minister

In simple language, I am advised that the levels do not constitute any danger to the human population, but I am sure the hon. Member would understand that there is always rather a difficulty in trying to express these highly technical results in too simple a form because one might then be accused of not keeping precisely the balance. In simple language, I have tried to answer this supplementary question, but for the more technical language I would rather await the reports of the experts.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Will the Prime Minister bear in mind that there are continuous references made to this matter in the Press and that widespread concern is created? While appreciating the difficulties, may I ask him if, when he has had this Report, he will consider whether people can be reassured—that is what they want—that the dangers so often spoken about are not very real?

The Prime Minister

I have tried my best today to give that assurance, and I say there is no evidence to suggest that these levels constitute a danger to the human population. While keeping a balance and not being accused of misrepresenting the facts but trying to state them in rather more understandable forms, I should say that the levels will not constitute a danger to the human population.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

Will the Prime Minister make the United Nations Report of which he spoke available as a White Paper for the House and the country to see and, if necessary, can it be accompanied by an explanatory memorandum?

The Prime Minister

I will certainly consider the form of this publication and whether it should be re-published in the form of a White Paper. I will also consider the question of an explanatory memorandum, but I have to be very careful in doing so not to be accused of in any way trying to re-write the Report or making my own gloss upon it. I should have thought it would be better to leave the Report as it is, but I will consider the suggestion.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

I am obliged to the Prime Minister, but will he bear in mind the great difficulty in obtaining United Nations documents and the importance of having the full text of these Reports?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I will see to that.

Mr. Grimond

Will the Prime Minister tell us the date of the latest report of the Medical Research Council on this matter?

The Prime Minister

There is to be a further report covering the 1957 figures to be issued in the next few days.