HC Deb 03 February 1959 vol 599 cc201-2
45. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Prime Minister if he will consider transferring the duties of the Minister of Supply, in respect of micro-biological research, to the Minister of Health.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

No, Sir. This research is undertaken for defence purposes. It therefore seems appropriate that it should continue with the Ministry of Supply. Any discoveries which have a bearing on general medicine are, however, made available to the medical profession, usually by publication in a suitable technical journal.

Mr. Hughes

Is the Prime Minister aware that there is widespread disquiet following the statement by an eminent and responsible civil servant and scientist that this Department at Porton is manufacturing germs for plague, cholera, polio and other dread diseases? If it is purely to defend the people's health, should not it be taken over by the Ministry of Health?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. The only work done at Porton is to produce these bacteria in such quantities as to assess the threat which their use in war might represent and to aid research in providing defence against them. The material which may result from this work is made available through the various technical journals and I think this system works satisfactorily.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

Is the Prime Minister aware that the Minister of Supply last week succeeded in conveying the impression that the danger from bacteriological weapons was grossly exaggerated and that they were only conventional weapons, like many others? Is he aware that many experts regards them as at least as dangerous as nuclear weapons? Will he instruct the Minister to make a serious study of measures required for an international agreement on bacteriological disarmament?

The Prime Minister

I do not think the right hon. Member has given a fair account of what my right hon. Friend said. I shall, however, study, as I naturally do, anything the right hon. Member has said; or, if he wished to see me on the matter, I should be very ready to consult with him.