HC Deb 05 November 1958 vol 594 cc916-7
2. Mr. de Freitas

asked the Secretary of State for Air how many high power tropospheric forward scatter stations are to be set up in the United Kingdom; and what information as to the effects of radiation from these stations had been given to the appropriate local authorities.

16. Mr. Zilliacus

asked the Secretary of State for Air to what extent the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation radar stations being installed on the East Coast can be used to give warning against rockets; and what steps his Department has taken to protect the population against the effects of radioactivity from these stations.

17. Mr. Mason

asked the Secretary of State for Air, in view of the concern aroused by the Government's intention to build five high-powered tropospheric forward scatter stations as a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation defence requirement in this country, what consultation he has had with the United States Government to ascertain what area of no-man's-land would be required around each station; to what extent the radio frequency radiation would be harmful; and what estimate has been made of the necessary evacuations required in the operative zones.

Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing

Plans for constructing a small number of stations of this type are still being examined. They are for radio communications and not radar warning. The plans are being developed in full consultation with the appropriate N.A.T.O. authorities. Local interests will be consulted wherever this is required by the agreed planning procedure. The stations will be so designed and located that no radiation hazards will arise to the general public nor will any houses have to be evacuated.

Mr. de Freitas

Whilst I certainly accept that there is very little possibility of any danger, may I ask whether it is a fact that the Air Ministry, with unnecessary secrecy, has not taken the local authorities into its confidence and that this unnecessary secrecy has caused unnecessary anxiety? Can the hon. Gentleman give the House the scientific basis for saying that there is no radiation hazard?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

Local authorities have been taken into consultation on this matter. As regards the scientific basis for my statement, the conclusion has been arrived at after mature consideration and consultation with the Medical Research Council, which is satisfied that radiation at the relevant wavelength has a thermal effect only and that there is no biological effect. There is, of course, no nuclear radiation whatsoever.

Mr. Zilliacus

Can the hon. Gentleman tell us whether these stations can be used to give warning of rocket attacks; if not, are not they in danger of being out of date in a very short time?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

There is some misunderstanding on this point. These stations are purely for communication purposes—forward scatter stations for communication purposes. There are two types, ionospheric forward scatter and tropospheric forward scatter, but no radar comes into it at all.

Mir. Mason

Whilst realising that this new technique may be an absolute necessity for the extension of our defence requirements, may I say that the hon. Gentleman must make it absolutely clear that there will be no danger whatsoever from the radiation emanating from the stations? Secondly, has any thought been given to the fact that this type of technique could be used for breaking up conversations between oncoming aircraft, or even upsetting the missile mechanisms that may be used?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I hope my statement has set anxiety about the dangers at rest. The hon. Gentleman referred to its military application. I have no doubt that in due course there will be a civil application of this advanced form of communication, but it will not he a question for my Department to answer. On the question of interference, there is, of course, careful co-ordination of frequency planning by the appropriate authority to make sure that there is no interference with normal communications and safety measures for aircraft.