HC Deb 07 April 1959 vol 603 cc19-21
37. Mr. Moss

asked the Prime Minister, in view of the fact that the rate of accumulation of strontium 90 is twice as rapid as was previously supposed, and that the residence half-life of radioactive material in the stratosphere is shorter than was previously believed, if he will give an estimate of the consequences these facts have for the health and welfare of individuals and of the general population of the country.

45. Mr. Grimond

asked the Prime Minister if he has now had an opportunity to study the latest information on the fall of strontium 90 and other radioactive products; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister

The latest American theories about the rate of fallout are being studied, and I am not yet in a position to make a statement. We have, of course, a comprehensive monitoring programme in this country. The Medical Research Council has recommended that immediate consideration would be required if the concentration of strontium 90 in human bones showed signs of rising greatly beyond ten strontium units. The latest measurements do not indicate that we are approaching anywhere near this level.

Mr. Moss

While thanking the Prime Minister for that reply, may 1 ask whether he is aware that there is growing public anxiety on this matter? Is he able now to say how long it will be before he is able to make a statement on the American report which is now being studied?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I cannot tell quite when my advisers will have completed their researches, but, of course, this is a matter which makes us all the more anxious to bring the present negotiations going on at Geneva to a satisfactory conclusion.

Mr. Grimond

Do not the variations in these estimates show that very little is known about the effects of this fall-out? When the Prime Minister has more definite information, will he see that it is published in a simple form so that the public can understand what the dangers may be?

The Prime Minister

I will try to have it published in a form in which I can understand it, and then, I hope, everyone else will.

Dr. Summerskill

In view of the concern which is felt over the recent revelations concerning the inadequacy of the reports from America and also the concern in this country regarding the danger of radioactive material, will the Prime Minister now consider whether he will appoint one of the existing Ministers, with a qualified staff, to be responsible for the collation and distribution of information in this country?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I am responsible for this and with every regard for the quality of my colleagues, I propose to remain responsible for it.

Mr. Mason

In view of the fact that the Russian dirty tests and the American high-level tests took place many months ago, and as it has been admitted that we already have a good tracking system, is it not a fact that the Atomic Energy Authority's recordings have already confirmed the American statements that strontium 90 has more than doubled in the atmosphere and is gradually falling in this belt?

The Prime Minister

Undoubtedly, it has increased, but it is nowhere near the danger level yet. Nevertheless, it makes it all the more important to try to bring these negotiations to a satisfactory conclusion.