HC Deb 05 February 1959 vol 599 cc571-3
46. Mr. Mason

asked the Prime Minister if he will now make a statement about the recently concluded negotiations on the United Kingdom-Euratom Agreement; why it has been so long delayed; and to what extent this will enable British manufacturers of atomic power stations to compete fairly with the Americans in the Euratom market.

The Prime Minister

The Agreement was signed yesterday and the text was published as a White Paper. Having regard to the nature of the questions involved. I do not think that the negotiations were unduly prolonged.

The prospects for sales of British reactors in the Euratom market will depend on commercial considerations. The established achievements of the Calder Hall prototypes, and the developments incorporated in the later commercial designs now available for export, should give British manufacturers a good prospect of success in Euratom countries.

Mr. Mason

Does not the Prime Minister realise that the Americans have already made great inroads into Euratom, in that they have poured in millions of dollars and have also imported into Euratom subsidised nuclear fuels? Is not the complacent and rather miserable attitude of the Government towards our own atomic energy industry strangling it at birth? What are the prospects within this agreement of a Ministerial Committee emerging whereby we can go from this form of co-operation to a closer association with Euratom?

The Prime Minister

In answer to the first part of the hon. Member's supplementary question, of course the position of the Americans is quite different from ours. Owing to the low cost of generating electricity in the United States from their natural resources, they are, of course, not so advanced in this matter as we are. In answer to the last part of the supplementary question, I have made it clear in my discussions, as has my right hon. Friend, that while the first stage is to consider this matter further, I am hopeful that some Ministerial investigation can be made. On the other hand, we have to consult our colleagues in the rest of the O.E.E.C. countries, and that is why we did not make a statement yesterday.

Mr. Robens

Whilst it may very well be true that we are much further forward in this sphere than the Americans, is the Prime Minister aware that not only are the Americans making great inroads, but they have, in fact, secured far more contracts for atomic power stations on the Continent of Europe than we have and that we are unlikely to secure more because the Americans are able to give the first year's fuel free of charge? Does the right hon. Gentleman regard that as fair competition, and are we able to stand up to that sort of thing?

The Prime Minister

That does make difficulties for us, but this is an expanding field. In addition to the Euratom Agreement, we have already made separate agreements with individual countries, and, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, this has emerged into an arrangement for one of the Euratom countries where a British plant is to be erected in Italy.