HC Deb 01 July 1959 vol 608 cc465-6
46. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Prime Minister if he will consider issuing a White Paper giving the estimates of possible loss of life in Great Britain in the event of nuclear war similar to the estimates of loss of life in the United States of America, just published by a sub-committee of the United States Congress, a copy of which has been sent to him.

Mr. R. A. Butler

I have been asked to reply.

No, Sir. The number of people likely to be killed and injured would depend upon so many variable factors, such as the scale of the attack, the length of tactical warning received, the numbers able to take cover, and the weather and wind conditions, that no useful purpose would be served by publishing such estimates.

Mr. Hughes

If the Americans can publish an estimate in spite of all those different facts, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman has read the report to the American Congress that an attack would kill 49 million people and injure another 20 million? Is it not necessary that the people of this country should know the truth about the dangers of atomic war in order to get rid of these H-bomb weapons, whatever right hon. Gentlemen, on either side of the House, think about it?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. We are all equally clear on the desirability of getting rid of atomic weapons if we can. I must say, however, that the American report, which the hon. Member sent to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, covered by a very courteous letter to the Prime Minister, which I have read, was based, I gather, on a number of hypothetical conditions and assumptions which we cannot necessarily take as being accurate. I would not like to publish a similar estimate for this country in view of the considerations I have put forward.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

Will the Home Secretary consider publishing for the public in a cheap edition the manuals on nuclear, biological and chemical weapons which his Department has prepared for civil defence workers?

Mr. Butler

If the right hon. Gentleman would indicate to me those he has in mind, I will certainly look at them. We have made one or two publication' which, I think, have brought home to the public the undoubted danger of nuclear war. If the right hon. Gentleman cares to specify any other material that he would like to discuss, I will discuss it with him.

Mr. Hughes

In view of the highly unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I give notice that I will attempt to raise the matter on the Adjournment.