HC Deb 04 May 1960 vol 622 cc1093-135

3.52 p.m.

Mr. Roy Mason (Barnsley)

I beg to move, in page 3, line 22, at the end to insert: and in cases in which for reasons of national security it is in the Minister's opinion necessary that knowledge of the registration should be restricted, the Minister shall instead of furnishing such person with such a certificate as aforesaid furnish him with a certificate containing only such limited particulars and information as the Minister deems compatible with the public interest ". This Amendment has been placed on the Notice Paper to discourage too much information being hidden behind the cloak of national security. I recognise that the Minister may be able to argue, and perhaps even to argue reasonably, that the type of radioactive material, or its degree of radioactivity, or even the type of waste being deposited might be traceable to certain bodies or organisations and to the type of operation from which the radioactivity or waste emanates. For instance, in the nuclear weapons field, people in the scientific world might be able to assess the type of operation taking place, having identified the kind of waste deposited.

Against that, I would ask the Minister to consider what might be a dangerous tendency, namely, that we might allow operations dealing with radioactive materials or we might allow accumulations of waste that are not being registered at all. They would be unknown to local authorities; they might be unknown even to local medical officers of health and to such bodies as water undertakings. If this national security excuse is used it might easily defeat the object which we have in mind. We think that the Bill could be riddled with a number of escape clauses if this were allowed, and we therefore ask that all operations and all accumulations and deposits of radioactive waste be registered.

We have tabled this Amendment in loose terms so that the Minister must first ensure that these matters are registered, and so that local bodies and particularly local authorities should be aware that certain matters could be withheld to ensure that national security is not infringed.

Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)

I hope that the Minister will accept this Amendment During the Committee stage, when we had quite a lot of help from the Minister, I believe I am right in saying that there was ground for hoping that there might be a sensible amendment of this Clause, and we on these benches have drafted this Amendment to give the Minister an opportunity to meet our wishes.

If we bow to this so-called need for national security, which is continuous and growing, local authorities may have areas under their jurisdiction in which radioactive isotopes are used and where all kinds of major changes and accidents may take place, and there might arise an emergency about which the local authorities would know nothing. It is well known—in fact, it has been brought out in a book on accidents and ill-health at work, written by John Williams and published quite recently—that in this field of radioactive isotopes and atomic energy and the development of nuclear power new and serious problems have arisen for both sides of industry, and it is imperative that the impact of these problems upon the existing accident prevention system should be recognised.

If information were hidden from responsible persons in public authorities, it could happen that in an area where radioactive isotopes and other radioactive substances were being used, the fire brigade and other persons might enter the area knowing nothing about the fact. We were almost promised in Committee that something would be done to deal with this point. Let us remember that scientists and Governments are fallible. I remember when we had the news about Zeta, some years ago. One great national newspaper devoted almost a whole edition to describe to the British public and to the world the achievements of Zeta. But the scientists were a little too eager and too early, and I say that with no intention to denigrate scientists.

The connection between what I have just said and what I wish to develop is this. Sometimes Governments may ask for information to be hidden in the interests of national security, when, in reality, there is no need for that information to be hidden. In fact, in the entire field of nuclear fusion and fission and of atomic energy the amount of "know-how" spreading through the world is such that I doubt whether any Government has much of a start over any other of the advanced Governments. At Geneva, a group of people are now meeting in private to discuss the effects on health of the growing radiation in the world. How can a local medical officer of health judge what effects radiation may have in certain areas if he does not know that radioactive substances are being used there?

Only last week we had an Answer from the Minister of Health of which the public seemed to take no notice. We were told that the amount of radioactivity in surface drinking water this year is double what it was at the same period last year. A Blue Book has just been published on nuclear-propelled ships. Radioactive isotopes are to be spread around in private and public industry. We are building atomic energy stations, and already radioactive fall-out has affected sugar beet, turnips, meat, live animals and milk. This being so, it is essential that local authorities, health officers, fire brigades and other protective bodies should have this information if isotopes are used in their areas.

4.0 p.m.

I beg the Minister to find a formula by means of which, in an emergency, he will be forced to give a mass of so-called secret information to the local authorities. It is done at present. Why are we so coy in this matter, when there is a growing amount of radiation in the world? I see that a body called the British Safety Council has recently produced a pamphlet on safety conditions for isotopes. This is a completely new range of uses of radioactive materials in which there would have to be a complete reorientation of the ideas of employers and of trade unionists on the use of these materials, and an organisation like the British Safety Council, in producing a pamphlet for laymen, is doing a great service to the community.

I ask the Minister to consider the Amendment in the spirit in which it has been drafted. If its wording does not suit him, I am sure that he could find other means by which the local authorities should have at their fingertips all the information that is necessary to protect the ratepayers in their areas.

Mrs. Joyce Butler (Wood Green)

I do not think that I need add very much to what my hon. Friends have said, but I should like to ask the Minister, before he replies, to consider the importance of this Amendment.

We have accepted what he said to us before about the impossibility of full certificates being given to local authorities and other bodies, but it is important for the working of the Bill that there should be full co-operation between the local authorities and the Ministry if the Bill is to work effectively. There cannot be that co-operation, and there cannot be proper local authority knowledge, unless the local authorities do know who the users are. That is all that we are asking. They should know who and where the users are, and if, in a particular area, radioactive materials are being used, the local authorities should know by whom these materials are being used. It is a very simple thing. Indeed. I should not have thought that there would be any difficulty about the Minister doing that.

The Minister did say, in discussing the matter in Committee, that there was a danger that the knowledge might alert people of ill-will. I do not quite know why he should have that idea, because representatives of local authorities who are to have this information are extremely responsible people, and I cannot think that he would have thought that they might be people who would have ill-will. The Minister is very severely restricting the people who will see the certificates held by the local authorities, and he should not restrict them for water undertakings and bodies of that kind, because, here again, they are responsible people.

It is important that in certain areas the local medical officer, in particular, should know that radioactive materials are being used in the vicinity. That is the whole substance of the Amendment. I would, therefore, urge the Minister to see whether, if he cannot accept the Amendment—and I do not know whether he will or not—he cannot make sure that this information is given to the local authorities, who are responsible for the health of their areas and cannot function effectively unless they have this knowledge.

Mr. Frederick Peart (Workington)

I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary, when he replies, will be sympathetic in the sense that he will accept the Amendment, and that, if he cannot accept the actual wording, he will accept it in principle.

As both the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister himself know, we had a wide debate on this matter during the Committee stage proceedings on 31st March, when we discussed this very same principle on an Amendment which was moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Butler). Then, the Minister gave a promise that if we put down a more flexible Amendment, he would give it sympathetic consideration. My hon. Friend has acted in that spirit, and the Amendment which is in her name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) is more flexible, and should meet the wishes of the Minister.

We are anxious that the reservations under subsection (6) of this Clause should not be restrictive, and that the Minister will not be able to use the argument about secrecy. In Committee, the Minister was asked what was meant by national security. There is a danger that we can use this phrase to frustrate the working of local authorities, which, in the operation and administration of this important Measure, are key concerns and key people. We are only anxious that the Bill shall help the local authorities to have more knowledge as to who will be the users of these materials, who will be granted certificates, and also those who will be authorised to dispose of waste. We are anxious that the local authorities shall be helped, and that, even if there are in certain circumstances grounds for the Minister withholding information, skeleton certificates can be given to the local authorities.

In Committee, and in another place, the Government have always used the argument that there is an important question of trade secrets. I think that that argument on a previous occasion was adequately refuted by my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green, who argued that, after all, the Minister has full powers in Clause 13 (3) to deal with any giving away of trade secrets of any firms or persons who are covered by this Measure.

I hope that the Minister, in reply, will not use again this argument about national security, but that he will give us a favourable reply. In view of the promise which he made in the Standing Committee, and of the fact that my hon. Friend withdrew her Amendment then, I therefore hope that we shall have today a favourable reply.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Sir Keith Joseph)

It is quite true that my right hon. Friend undertook to look at this matter again. We have done the very best we can, but I fear that we cannot move in the way that hon. Members opposite ask us to do.

I accept entirely the point made by the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) about the fallibility of all of us. Indeed, my right hon. Friend has himself said that the Bill may, in due course, have to be amended as more knowledge becomes available. We are not dogmatic about that at all. I also accept entirely the good will of hon. Members opposite in their attempt to meet our legitimate anxiety in this matter by the way in which they have drawn the Amendment.

The hon. Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Butler) asked me what I could possibly mean by associating the concept of ill-will with the undoubtedly honourable members of local authorities and their staffs. She will understand that in terms of national security we have to assume that there is some—a very small amount of—knowledge that, without any regard to the character of the public at large, must be kept to as small and limited a circle a possible. It is that very small residuum of knowledge that we are dealing with here, and this is the difficulty which my right hon. Friend is in. Registration, which we are discussing, is really the process of control, and, as we have frequently discussed in Committee, it is not registration in vacuo; it is registration of user for a certain amount and type of radioactive material in specified premises, using a specified method.

It is quite true that the Opposition have tried to help us to retain the control quality of the registration certificate by avoiding disclosing in the very rare cases information that might endanger national security, but to emasculate this control document in order to free what I shall argue is an extremely tiny minority of registration certificates for copying to the local authorities would be entirely disproportionate and, in fact, would do positive harm.

Let us suppose that the form of emasculation is to falsify the certificate, innocently and with good object, of course, but to falsify it to the extent of not putting in the detail, the exact and correct description of either the user or the premises—of course, if either of those were falsified, it would not meet the purpose in hon. Members' minds—or the quantity or type of radioactive material involved. This would be actively misleading and would, I suggest, do more harm than good.

What, I think, hon. Members may have in mind is the dummy certificate, which we discussed in Committee. As I tried to explain then, and as I must reaffirm now, if a dummy certificate is issued it draws attention to the very facts that we all want to avoid disclosing, namely, that the particular registration involves a specific use, premises, user or type or quantity of radioactive material about which there is something desperately secret.

If the Amendment were conceivably directed to dealing with any substantial quantity of radioactive material or uses, then, perhaps, it might be justified to press it further, although I cannot see how we could possibly meet it. But, surely, hon. Member must realise that there cannot conceivably be large quantities involved here. The largest user, the Atomic Energy Authority, is not itself subject to registration. The purpose of registration in its case is achieved by administrative means.

In regard to the disposal or accumulation of radioactive material, my right hon. Friends, in the case of the Atomic Energy Authority or licensed sites, are, of course, obliged to consult the local authorities and other public bodies before authorisations are given. That deals automatically with the largest quantities.

I can give an absolute assurance that the number of cases in which this particular discretion in my right hon. Friends will be exercised will be very, very, very small—I use the word "very" three times —tiny minority of cases and, so far as we can see at the moment—there is always opportunity to come back to the House if circumstances change—the position of local authorities and public bodies cannot conceivably in any way be falsified as a result of their being misled.

I accept entirely the good will of hon. Members opposite in putting down the Amendment and pursuing it, but I hope very much that, after the explanation I have given, they will seek leave to withdraw it.

Mr. Peart

The Minister has tried to give us a reasonable reply and has—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member cannot speak again except by leave of the House. I thought that he was rising to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Mr. Peart

By leave of the House, Mr. Speaker, I should like to say, before I commit myself to what I may ask leave to do, that the Minister has given a reply which we cannot regard as satisfactory. He spoke about emasculation and stressed that our Amendment referred only to a small minority of users. Surely, in any locality, if persons were using radioactive materials and, for reasons of national security, the processes were not to be revealed, every responsible local government officer connected with safety precautions would know that they were there and would know the location. I have in mind our own experience in Cumberland.

I cannot see why a dummy certificate or a skeleton certificate could not be issued. We do not suggest that there should be falsification of details. We suggest merely that, in certain cases, only the name, perhaps, and the location should be given without the actual details of what processes are conducted in the premises. That is not falsification. We were thinking, rather, in terms of presenting information which would be brief and in no way give away secrets which, for reasons of national security or otherwise, people should not have.

I am sorry that the Minister has not been forthcoming. We shall not press the matter to a Division. He has said that we can always look at it again.

Mr. Harold Davies

Will my hon. Friend tell me when we can look at it again? Before this millenium of happiness which atomic energy is to give to the world, we shall all be dead from leukaemia or the consequences of radioactive fall-out. It is no good hon. Members shaking their heads at that. The Geneva scientists have been studying the subject, and, in the view of some of us, it is a very important matter.

Mr. Speaker

It may be, but it does not entitle the hon. Member, by virtue of urgency, to make a second speech.

Mr. Davies

I agree, Mr. Speaker. Will my hon. Friend say when we shall have this opportunity?

Mr. Peart

There are other Amendments on the Notice Paper which are more substantial in principle, I think, and I hope that my hon. Friend will give his eloquent support to those. If the Government fail in their administration, we shall certainly question and cross-examine the Minister vigorously about his administration of the Bill when it becomes an Act.

Amendment negatived.

4.15 p.m.

Mr. Peart

I beg to move, in page 3, line 22, at the end to insert: (7) Notwithstanding anything hereinbefore in this section and in sections two, three, four, five and (in so far as applicable) section eleven contained, the Minister if and to the extent that he deems it expedient so to do, may delegate any of the functions vested in him by those sections, to be exercised on his behalf, to a Committee (hereinafter referred to as "the Radioactive Substances Control Authority") which shall consist of not less than seven nor more than ten persons to be appointed by the Minister from lime to time as and when necessary on terms which he considers appropriate, and to include among their number persons appearing to the Minister to have wide experience in the following subjects, that is to say; problems associated with the disposal of radioactive waste, in the organisation of workers, in local government, in the control of water undertakings or rivers boards, and in problems related to the medical effects of radiation

Mr. Speaker

I think that it will be for the convenience of the House to discuss with this Amendment the Amendment in Clause 11, page 13, line 4, at the end to insert: (5) Notwithstanding anything hereinbefore or sections six, seven, eight, nine, ten and (in so far as applicable) this section contained the Minister or Ministers concerned if and to the extent that he or they (as the case may be) deem it expedient so to do may delegate any of the functions vested in him or them by the said sections to be exercised on his or their behalf to the Radioactive Substances Control Authority. and the Amendment in Clause 15, page 18, line 34, at the end to insert: (6) It shall be the duty of the Radioactive Substances Control Authority as and when required by him so to do to advise the Minister as to the exercise by him of his functions under this section, and in so far as necessary for that purpose, from time to time and in such form as they deem appropriate or the Minister directs to prepare and submit to the Minister reports in writing as to matters which in their opinion or the Minister's it is necessary or expedient that the Minister should consider for the purpose of the exercise by him of his said functions. Those Amendments appear to go together.

Mr. Peart

Yes, Mr. Speaker. I am much obliged.

The Amendment raises a matter of great principle. We have discussed in great detail the working of the Bill, provisions for consultation, the setting-up of an inspectorate, powers and rights of entry, and so forth, and, throughout, my hon. Friends and I have felt more and more that the whole control of disposal of radioactive substances should be taken out of the hands of the Minister. We should not, for this purpose, have an organisation tucked away in the Ministry of Housing and Local Government.

We propose in this Amendment and the subsequent consequential Amendments that the Minister should delegate to another body the functions vested in him by the various Clauses with which we are here concerned covering registration, authorisation and disposal. We suggest that there should be a body, which we have named the Radioactive Substances Control Authority in which those powers and functions should be vested.

We deal with the composition of this proposed authority. I will not dwell on the detail now. We suggest that the authority should consist of not less than seven and not more than ten persons and that they should have wide experience in the disposal of radioactive wastes and in the organisation of workers connected with the nuclear energy industry, or any other activities connected with radioactive materials. Also, since the local authorities will play a major part in the working of the Bill—indeed, they will be responsible for the disposal of a large amount of radioactive material —there should be on the authority persons with local government experience.

Further, we suggest those connected with water undertakings, river boards and other interests related to the industry itself, embracing the nuclear energy industry and industries using radioactive materials, should have representation upon the authority.

This is an important principle, because the use of radioactive materials in this country is increasing. Since the war, the nuclear energy industry has grown enormously and we are living in a nuclear age. The disposal of radioactive materials has become a major problem, and the danger is that the machinery created for disposal will be tucked away in the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is involved, also, because he has powers of authorisation. We fear that these two Ministers may not devote to the problem the full attention which it requires.

I would refer hon. Members opposite to the White Paper. After all, the Bill was inspired by the White Paper. The Minister has said so. It has been inspired by the work of a Committee which the Minister set up, the Radioactive Substances Advisory Committee. It made an excellent Report. Its chairman was Dr. Key, Senior Chemical Inspector of the Minister's Department. Moreover, the secretary and assistant secretary were high executive officers in the Minister's Department. What did these eminent people recommend?

If hon. Members will look at the conclusions in the White Paper, they will see in paragraph 152, on page 45, that the first recommendation was that there should be A central authority to be charged with the duty of ensuring that radioactive wastes are disposed of safely, for example, as defined in paragraph 117 (paragraphs 134 and 143). Paragraph 143, on page 42, dealing with control, states: We would, however, make the following general comments. We would presume that the authority would be a central government body and we can envisage two possible ways in which its responsibilities could be discharged. The last sentence of that paragraph reads: We feel that central government control over radioactive wastes should be co-ordinated by one authority in order to ensure that effective control is exercised and that waste of scientific manpower is avoided. In other words, it is advocated that there should be one authority. At present, under the Bill, there is not one authority. The matter comes under the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

We therefore argue that the Minister should accept our proposal in principle. He may say that at present it is not practical, but I hope that at a later stage he will feel that, with the building up of an inspectorate, it will be necessary to create one central authority which will be responsible for registration, authorisation and, above all, the control of members of the inspectorate who are the key people in this matter. The Minister has an inspectorate, the Alkali Inspectorate. There have been criticisms of it by one of my hon. Friends. The Minister refuted his criticisms. Nevertheless, here we are proposing the creation of another inspectorate which will come under the control and purview of the Minister.

In view of the growing importance of nuclear energy in industry—there are over 1,000 users of radioactive materials today—the developing use of radio isotopes, the statement on 2nd May by the Minister of Health, who has laid down codes of practice for the transportation of radioactive material by rail, sea and air, and the promise that the Minister of Transport is to consider a code of practice for the transportation of radioactive materials by road, it is right that a central authority should be created.

Only this weekend we had the Veale Report, which was mentioned by the Minister in Committee. That Report recommends the creation of a central authority. One of its recommendations is the creation of a national radiological service. This is the sort of thing which could be combined with a new central authority, designed to control the disposal of radioactive materials. There should be an authority, responsible to the Minister in the House, because there must be Parliamentary accountability, above the Ministry and even above the Atomic Energy Authority to supervise even the work of the Authority and Government Departments concerned with the use of radioactive material.

I have come to the conclusion that a central authority is needed. This has been recommended in the Government's own White Paper. It was recommended not by politicians, but by civil servants who are connected with the scientific side of life. There are great experts who are dealing day by day with the problems of radioactive material. They have expressed themselves in favour of a national authority and they have also recommended the setting up of a national disposal service. I believe that such an authority will be able to supervise better the members of the inspectorate, who will be the key people.

In Committee, the Minister argued that he had two inspectors in his Department. We regard this number as inadequate.

Sir K. Joseph indicated dissent.

Mr. Peart

If the Parliamentary Secretary looks up the record, he will see that "two" was quoted in Committee.

Sir K. Joseph

At the moment—before the Bill was introduced.

Mr. Peart

The Parliamentary Secretary agrees that at the moment there are only two inspectors in the Department. If we are to do our job properly, we must rapidly increase the inspectorate. We must speed up the machinery. I am certain that the only way that we can do these things is to take the matter out of the hands of an orthodox Government Department and create an authority which will be responsible to the House.

The Atomic Energy Authority has done a wonderful job in another sphere. It has led the way in safety and research. A new authority responsible to the Minister in the House so that we could have Parliamentary accountability should be set up. We did not argue this matter in Committee, but it emerged more and more from our discussions that we must treat it much more seriously. Here is an opportunity to make a step forward, and, if the machinery which I propose can be created, I am certain that this step forward will have been made.

Mr. Mason

As my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) said, we feel strongly about this matter. We are seeking to get away from the Minister's Department and set up a national Radioactive Substances Control Authority. We are asking that there should be a national committee of experts who are knowledgeable and experienced and specialise in their own limited field-first, in the uses of radio isotopes and radioactive substances, secondly, in the disposal of radioactive waste, and, thirdly, in the effect upon health of the uses of large quantities of radioactive materials. Fourthly, we say that people who have to work with radio isotopes should be consulted.

In considering whether a national authority should be set up, we ought, first, to recognise how the atomic energy industry is growing. To begin with, it was shrouded in secrecy. Originally, it was concerned with atomic weapon development under the Ministry of Supply. Later, we had the Atomic Energy Authority, responsible for all State research into peaceful uses. When the horizon had been broadened and the chances were there for nuclear to be harnessed and brought into industry, we saw the emergence of the industrial consortia. Obviously, they were visualising the large profits to be made from the terrific amount of public money poured into the Atomic Energy Authority by all the research that had been done. First, it was done under the cloak of secrecy and then, immediately private industries banded together—engineering companies and aircraft firms—to form the consortium, they sapped the nation dry of all our technological and engineering personnel.

4.30 p.m.

We now see that the use of radioactive substances, materials, isotopes, and so on, is rapidly spreading in agriculture, medicine and industry. There is increased research in scientific and in industrial laboratories, too. A number of fears are emerging that their use is spreading so rapidly that they are getting out of hand. Because of that, the Government are introducing a Bill to control completely the deposits and accumulation of waste following from their use.

There is a second fear. Medical officers of health are noticing the increased use of these materials in their areas, in factories and in hospitals, and the dumping of this waste in their areas. Many of these people have done a great deal of independent work in checking the degree of danger from their use.

Water undertakers, too, have their fear. Because of it, allied with the medical officers of health, they have been watching and checking the discharges of effluents and waste into sewers, tidal estuaries, and so on. They have also been perturbed by the amount of radioactive waste dumped inland, particularly where it has been buried in a chalk strata. They fear that in due course it will be released and affect the water supplies nearby. They have developed a particular knowledge of the matter from their experience.

Fourthly, in many of our industries— the Minister said that there were 1,000 users, and there are at least 400 factories using isotopes—the workers, and particularly their trade union representatives, are worried. They have fears about the extent of their use and the effects of their use on the health of the workers. Agricultural workers and their representatives have been perturbed because of the amount of radioactive sludge placed on the land.

River boards, too, are concerned, because they have been watching not only the discharges into our inland waterways and tidal estuaries, but a washing down from the hills of strontium which has fallen as a result of tests. Consequently, we have the cumulative effect of these two discharges into the rivers, and the river boards have been analysing them.

The Minister really cannot ignore any of the representations from these bodies. While not directly associated with the atomic energy industry itself, they have gained from experience a working knowledge of such an intimate nature that it would be foolish for the Minister or any Department to shun their advice. Because of this we should like the Minister to supplement his overall knowledge which can only have been gained from his small inspectorate and the inspectorate which works under the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The Minister may, of course, receive some information from the Atomic Energy Authority, but we do not know to what extent the Ministry is working with it. We only know that the right hon. Gentleman has a small inspectorate, as has the Minister of Housing and Local Government.

We would have liked the Government to have used to a greater extent the leading members of the organisations I have mentioned. Therefore, we ask that there should be set up a Radioactive Substances Control Authority, a top committee, with experts drawn from those fields. The Minister cannot ignore the White Paper which was prepared as a forerunner to this Bill, Cmnd. 884, entitled, The Control of Radioactive Wastes. I would point out to the Minister that this White Paper was presented in March, 1958, but that the House was not aware of its existence until November, 1959. That was a shocking lapse of time. Therefore, we are dealing with a White Paper which is two years out of date. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the recommendation contained in it, that there should be a national authority. I do not apologise to the House for going through the White Paper in detail, because it emphasises our point.

The Minister decided to draw upon the experience of an expert body, to the members of which we have paid due respect on many occasions in Committee. The strongest points made by the Radioactive Substances Advisory Committee were regarding this national authority. Paragraph 133, which is entitled "Suggested Methods and Powers of Control", states: Because of the nature of the hazard, therefore, we consider that positive authorisations are needed in all significant cases before any disposal of radioactive waste is effected. The Committee wants to make sure that the national security phraseology is widened. On a previous Amendment, the Minister doubted our concern about that. The Committee points out that it wants all significant cases registered. In paragraph 134, it goes on to say: We believe that the following facts and arguments lead inevitably to the conclusion that the control should be exercised at national level. The Committee gives various reasons. In sub-paragraph (a) the Committee says: We believe that this can be achieved only by a central body in close touch with other departments and governments and with knowledge of the genetic contribution from other sources. From the point of view of the nation's future, it would as much the concern of London as of Manchester if the inhabitants of either were exposed to radiation from radioactive wastes. Each case must, therefore, be considered as an aspect of a national problem. Point after point is made in the White Paper, from that paragraph onwards, to the effect that the Minister must recognise a national authority. In paragraph 134 (b) the Committee goes on to say: In these circumstances we consider that a more economical use of available manpower would be involved if such matters were dealt with nationally rather than locally. We have pointed out time and time again in Standing Committee and my hon. Friend repeated it once more today, that one of the greatest difficulties is to get sufficient experienced manpower to do the job. We are suggesting that from these four organisations in the country which have experience in this field, because they have been working in it for a number of years, should be drawn people to serve on this national authority. In paragraph 134 (c), the Committee states: We should not, however, preclude the possibility that the work of the bigger local authorities might be integrated into the scheme of control organised by the central authority. That is the point that I was trying to make. Because of their specialised knowledge at regional or local level, the Minister could draw from these bodies a field service and use it throughout this central authority.

In paragraph 138, headed "Powers of Inspection", the Advisory Committee goes on to say: Ultimately the wastes have to be got rid of and since, as we explain below, we consider that a national disposal service is necessary… Throughout its Report, which itself led to the framing of the Bill, the Committee reiterates that the Minister cannot ignore that a national authority, separate from his own Government Department, should be set up. On the question of control, the Committee states, in paragraph 143: We would presume that the authority would be a central government body. Later in that same paragraph it states: We feel that central government control over radioactive wastes should be co-ordinated by one authority in order to ensure that effective control is exercised and that waste of scientific manpower is avoided. I am sorry to make such a lot of quotations, but what I am quoting covers the contents of the Bill. The members of the committee are the team of experts which decided that the Bill was necessary. They have advised the Minister. The point is made by the Advisory Committee that there should be a national authority and the Minister is turning it down.

Finally, in the conclusions in paragraph 152—my hon. Friend the Member for Workington mentioned this specifically—there are tabulated ten reasons why it is necessary for a central authority to be charged with the duty of disposing safely of radioactive wastes. We agree with those ideas. We particularly agree that there should be a central body drawn from the bodies which I have mentioned, a committee of experts, all with a limited but nevertheless specialised knowledge, and stretching down to the regions the Minister could have a field service consisting of representatives from local authorities, water undertakings, medical officers of health and the workers.

Having recognised that one of the greatest problems of the Ministry will be to obtain sufficiently experienced men for the inspectorate, we should like to help the Minister, and we believe that the best, easiest and safest method for all concerned would be achieved through the adoption of our Amendment.

Mr. Norman Pentland (Chester-le-Street)

I support my hon. Friends the Members for Workington (Mr. Peart) and Barnsley (Mr. Mason) in pressing upon the Minister the establishment of a central authority. My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley said that the Minister would turn down the proposal, but I trust that he was not anticipating the event, for I hope that out of the establishment of the central authority will emerge the right for workers to be consulted. I hope that the workers will have the right to appoint their own representatives to the central authority for the purposes of consultation, among other things, and I hope that this right will apply to workers in industries where radioactive substances are used.

It is very disappointing to us to find that the Minister is not giving greater consideration to the rights of workers to be consulted in this matter. When, in Standing Committee, I moved an Amendment with the object of securing this consultation, the right hon. Gentleman suggested to me that the principle I was seeking to achieve was already covered by legislation. He said that the Nuclear Installations (Licensing and Insurance) Act, 1959, covered that issue. I have since looked at that Act, and nowhere in it do I find laid down a specific obligation for consultation with workers, nor do I find such an obligation laid down in any of the other regulations covering the use of radioactive materials in industry.

4.45 p.m.

It is true that, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out to me, the Minister of Power and the Secretary of State for Scotland are obliged under the 1959 Act to attach safety conditions to a nuclear site licence. I accept that and fully recognise its importance as a safeguard, but it is far from being the same as consultation.

If the Minister would accept a statutory obligation for representatives of workers to be consulted in regard to the measures proposed in the Bill, it would not only improve the Minister's position, but add strength to the powers and duties of the inspectorate and the central authority which we seek to have established.

The Minister said in the Standing Committee: I would remind the Committee that those whose health needs to be specially watched in relation to the disposal of radioactive wastes —which is what the Bill is concerned with— are young people and children."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 12th April, 1960; c 166.] That is true, but if a worker engaged in the disposal of radioactive wastes learnt by virtue of his experience that some unknown source of danger existed, how would he be able to draw attention to it? We may be told that he would be able to contact the inspectorate; but we all know what happens in that respect.

In a case such as this it might be many months before the worker was able to contact the person responsible, or, as I said in the Standing Committee, if he were not represented in any form of consultation he might think that it was nothing to do with him and the matter would be left. There we have a situation which might be very dangerous to young people and children. It might, in the long run, be a very serious hazard.

It would be in the interests of all concerned if the Minister would tell us how he could, as a result of the Bill, provide for some form of consultation with trade unions and workers in respect of this very important matter. We ask him to accept the Amendment.

Mr. A. R. Wise (Rugby)

Perhaps my main qualification for addressing the House today is that I know as little about radioactive wastes as any hon. Member who has so far spoken.

I suggest that when we are considering an Amendment we should consider, first, what it is trying to do, and, secondly, whether it does anything towards achieving its object. As far as I can see, and according to the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Pentland), the Amendment is designed to produce quicker consultation with all interested parties and to enable quicker decisions to be made in respect of the control of radioactive wastes. I cannot see that it does anything in the way of speeding up the procedure. Whatever happens, the control of radioactive wastes will be dependent on the inspectorate, and it cannot be determined by anybody else. The inspectorate will, rightly, be run by the Ministry, and the mere existence of an outside authority will not in the least make the inspector report any quicker or any more accurately.

Mr. Pentland

It is not a question of the inspectorate making a report any quicker or any more accurately. We are trying to draw attention to the fact that there are occasions—if the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Wise) reads the White Paper he will discover what we mean—when hazards and nuisances are brought about in industry by the use of radioactive materials. The inspectorate may not be aware of this, but we believe that the workers engaged in the industry could draw attention to these hazards long before the inspector made his visit to the industry.

Mr. Wise

I see the hon. Gentleman's point, but I still do not agree. Presumably, the inspectors will be investigating all disposals of radioactive wastes, and while they are making those investigations it will, clearly, be open to anyone to express his views on the matter one way or the other.

The White Paper demands throughout that this matter should be under the control of a central authority, and one cannot have a more central authority than the Minister. The effect of the Amendment would be to produce a dichotomy of two central authorities and I do not think that that is in the least desirable. The new authority proposed in the Amendment is supposed to be composed of persons who have … wide experience in … problems associated with the disposal of radioactive waste… Well and good, but where are any such outside the Minister's employees? Where could they be found?

Mr. Peart

Water undertakings already employ chemists who are trained in dealing with radiation. Thirty of the large water undertakings have technical people who have had experience of this very problem of disposal. The hon. Member said at the beginning of his speech that he knew little about the disposal of radioactive waste. I hope that he will not prove his point.

Mr. Wise

I was under the impression that one of the main planks of hon. Members opposite was the nationalisation of water supplies and that would bring the matter back to exactly where we are now. It is perfectly true that water undertakings are appointed bodies to deal with these matters, but they do not compare in expertise with the people who are the highest-grade scientists.

Mr. Peart

Water undertakings employ top scientists. I could mention papers published by them and the names of individuals who are held in high regard by the people who are connected with this problem. I am certain that the Minister would agree with me. The hon. Member should not assume that experts on atomic energy and radiation are only those who are connected with the Atomic Energy Authority or with the Government's inspectorate. There are many people outside and inside local government service, such as medical officers of health, who have expert knowledge of radiation.

Mr. Wise

I am sorry, but even now I cannot agree with the hon. Member. It is true that many people have been thinking of radioactive waste, but the people who really know something about it are the people who are creating the waste and who have had to study it from the very beginning. The matter is very much better left in their hands.

Incidentally, I think that the purport of the Amendment was not to take the water engineers out of local government employment and put them on this high authority, but to find members of councils which operate water undertakings and put them on; and I do not believe that in that way we should find the necessary panel of experts.

The Amendment refers to people who have had wide experience … in the organisation of workers… That is all very well, but we want experts in the disposal of radioactive waste and equally people expert in local government. I have been a member of a local government authority and of a public cleansing committee dealing with the disposal of sewage and I claim to know a little about those things, but I would hesitate to put my name forward as a member of an authority which will make final decisions on this highly technical and difficult question of the disposal of radioactive waste. It would be very much better to leave matters as they are envisaged now, with the Minister being responsible.

The Minister, after all, can be attacked in the House if anything goes wrong. This board, if it is like any other board, will not be able to be attacked anywhere. If the voice of public criticism is to be really vocal the more these central authorities are left under Parliamentary control the better. I urge most strongly that things be left as they stand and that we resist the Amendment. I fully appreciate the motive behind it and we share the desire of hon. Members opposite that any possibility of danger from the disposal of these wastes should be eliminated, but we cannot help by setting up new authorities. I suggest, therefore, that the House should reject the Amendment.

Mrs. Judith Hart (Lanark)

It seems from what we have heard that there are some hon. Members in the House who believe that since the only people who know anything about radioactive waste are those who produce it there is no need to have a Bill, because all we need do is to say to the private industrialist, "You get rid of the waste. You know how to do it." That does not help at all in the argument on this Clause.

This is a crucial debate on whether or not we should have the kind of central authority envisaged in the Amendment for the administration of public health matters in relation to dangers from radioactive waste. We are attempting to put some vitality and spirit into the Bill which, without the Amendment, will be merely a paper Measure, satisfying only certain civil servants.

I remind the Minister of what was said in Committee when there was some debate about the methods by which the central register would be maintained and kept and when the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government had investigated the method by which it was being kept in the Ministry at the moment. To quote hs own words: I found this rather satisfying. The records were in crisp, neat, well-kept form. And, earlier in the same passage, he had said: …I had three complete sets of cards recording in detail all the deliveries of radioactive materials over the last three years…" —[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 5th April, 1960; c. 106.] and these were readily available in an office along the corridor.

The aim of the Bill, apparently, was to safeguard the administrative side only and not to serve the essential public purpose of safeguarding the nation's health as recommended in the White Paper on the Control of Radioactive Wastes, which has been widely and rightly quoted today because it ought to be the foundation of the Government's thinking.

It is difficult to see how a Ministry can satisfy the demands made on a central authority by those who made the recommendations in the White Paper, though I agree that the Minister's Department would be a central authority. The White Paper envisages inspection of premises, registration, the issue of authorisation certificates and the provision of facilities for the disposal of radioactive wastes.

It also states that the controlling authority should have power To sample and monitor radioactive wastes and the material contaminated when they are disposed of. Later in the White Paper there is mention of the possibility that the central authority created under the Bill might have its own laboratories and scientific staffs, in addition to the Minister's staff, who would be able to monitor and carry out whatever work was necessary.

A relevant question needs to be asked of the Minister at this stage. It is evident that the Ministry itself will not have laboratories with specialist scientific staff to carry out monitoring and sampling within the limited inspectorate proposed, which is two at the moment and likely to go up to three or four in the next year. If the Ministry is not to have the laboratories and the scientific staff, who is to carry out the monitoring, sampling, and scientific investigation envisaged in the White Paper as necessary to be carried out by a central authority?

5.0 p.m.

It has been mentioned that an alternative might be for the Ministry to hand out contracts to other organisations to do this work for it. If a central authority with its own laboratories is to be rejected, which we on this side of the House would deplore, because we believe that it would be far more satisfactory that those who have administrative control should also be carrying out the scientific work involved, how is the Minister to ensure that monitoring and sampling are done? Has he investigated this already, and what arrangement will be made when the Bill comes into operation? These are questions which we have a right to ask and to which we have the right to expect answers today.

There is one other aspect. It is envisaged in the White Paper that a central authority shall have powers to prohibit use. We had many discussions in Committee on prohibiting use. It was made quite clear, and a certain measure of agreement was reached on both sides in Committee, that in order to safeguard the public from too many discharges of radioactive waste it might on occasion in future be necessary to prohibit use. The White Paper points out that the first conclusion of the Medical Research Council's report is that adequate justification is required for the employment of any source of ionising radiation on however small a scale, the reason being the genetic risk to the population.

It seems to me that this touches the heart of the Bill. It will be necessary in the next ten years, with the tendency for technological progress, for consideration to be given on occasion to the necessity for prohibiting the use of radioactive materials in order that less radioactive waste may be accumulated in certain areas. There is the danger, already referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason), who quoted the White Paper, about events in London affecting the children of Birmingham and Manchester. I am sure that the civil servants, with their neat, tidy bundles of forms in the Minister's own Department, with two to four inspectors, will not be able adequately to assess the genetic dangers that might ensue to the public and be able to do the monitoring and sampling on a scale adequate to ensure the purposes of the Bill are being carried out.

That is why we think that our central authority, if the Minister will accept our Amendment, would give the vitality to the Bill which it lacks. We would say and I am sure that the public would agree, that it is a great pity that those newspapers, which have in the past shown some concern about the problem of radioactive waste, have neglected to inform themselves about the progress of this Bill and of the way in which it fails to fulfil the terms of the White Paper. The public at large, and I think that part of the Press which has shown concern, would not be happy to know that the Government are trying to safeguard public health on the cheap in this Measure. The Government hope by this administrative Measure that they will satisfy the conscience of the nation. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It is perfectly true. The Bill as it stands does not give anybody powers, staff or resources sufficient to do an adequate job. That is the plain fact about the Bill. We on this side of the House would urge that the Amendment should be accepted in order that something can be made of the Bill, which the Minister has been unable to make of it.

Mr. J. B. Symonds (Whitehaven)

One has to realise that year by year nuclear energy is becoming more widely used. Not only this country but other countries will be sending ships into our ports, and the radioactive waste which they will discharge will certainly become a great hazard to this country. Not only will a greater amount of supervision be required, but a greater amount of help will be demanded in various areas throughout the country.

The Minister has said that he contemplates having a sufficient staff. If he is looking at the problem as it stands today he may have sufficient staff, but we on this side of the House are trying to visualise what will be the position ten to fifteen years ahead. More nuclear energy will be used and adequate provision should be made now for that when the time comes. I feel that the central authority for which we are asking would give an added impetus to the Bill. For example, men dealing with sewers would know and understand the amount of waste that will annually be put down the sewers and would report on the position if there were a central authority to which they could report. We need on this authority men and women who understand and really know what is the meaning of atomic waste.

We feel that with the set up of a central body they will be able to assist in the disposal of radioactive waste. They will know in different parts of the country whether there is sufficient waste for the time being and be able to judge where that waste should be disposed of. As my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) said, there is no check today on where there is radioactive waste deposited. Surely we do not want that to continue. With a central authority reports could be made to it quickly and we should be doing a good job.

The Minister has been sympathetic towards our pleas on other provisions. Here is something which he should also now sympathetically consider. The setting up of a central authority will ease the Minister's burden of worry and responsibility. It will be able to guide and help him in more senses than one and if questions are asked in the House, he will have readily available all the required information about where radioactive waste is being deposited without having to wait for a report from his inspectors. I hope that he will accept our suggestion, which we believe to be in the best interests of the Bill.

Mrs. Butler

This is an excellent Amendment, despite what has been said from the other side of the House. I support all that my hon. Friends have said, because I am convinced that this is a matter which the Minister should consider very seriously. Because the number of experts in this matter is limited and because the subject is so wide and covers so many aspects of public life, we propose that the Minister should have constantly at hand the best brains available in this subject.

Many of the best brains available produced the White Paper on which the Bill is based, but there are many others, as my hon. Friends have stressed, in water undertakings and among medical officers of health, people with special qualifications who have made a special study of the subject. What we are asking is that there should be the highest common multiple, as it were, of the brains available in a central control authority.

I think the Minister is underestimating what the Bill will do. I think that he is satisfied that his Department can cope with the demands, but, as my hon. Friends have stressed, this is a problem which will grow and expand. All of us who worked on the Bill in Committee have become aware of the kind of problems which will develop as the Bill comes into operation.

This is a pilot Bill which is pioneering in this subject, but we can see that as time goes on many of the problems on which we have touched very lightly in our discussions will have to be considered more fully and carefully. We think that because in introducing the Bill the Minister has had to consult very many people—it has taken a considerable time to get the Bill—it is desirable that he should have constantly at his disposal such a body of people who could carry on the kind of advice, research and co-ordination which were necessary before the Bill was produced and which will be even more necessary when it comes into operation.

The Minister may think that he can carry the load at the moment. He has been likened to many things in the course of our discussions, but I think of him as a modern Atlas with responsibility for housing, local government, Welsh affairs and now this whole subject of radioactive protection on his shoulders, and with one hand held out to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to keep liaison with him. Very quickly he could become so overburdened that he would find it necessary to introduce such an authority.

In Committee, the Minister was good enough to tell us why he had not accepted certain pieces of advice in the White Paper. I hope that he will now be good enough to tell us why he does not accept this most important advice, for if he does not accept it now, he will have to do so sooner or later as the problem grows.

The whole nature of the Bill makes some sort of authority necessary. The Amendment is very flexible and says only that the Minister may delegate any of the functions vested in him to this authority. He may find that a problem looms very large and he has to give more attention to it than he is able to give. He might then find it desirable to have an authority to whom he could delegate functions, asking the authority to examine the problem in more detail.

The nature of the Bill demands that there should be somebody permanently available to examine all the problems which arise and to advise the Minister. It will be perfectly easy through the Minister for hon. Members to question what is being done, so that there is no question of the authority not being responsible to the House. It will be within the Minister's hands to delegate to the authority such matters as he wants and to report and be questioned in the House on the authority's behalf.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will bear all those points in mind and will tell us what he proposes to do as the work develops and he comes up against these problems on which he could have the advice of the best brains in this matter if he were to accept our Amendment, or something in the same spirit.

5.15 p.m.

Mr. Peter Emery (Reading)

I had not intended to speak on this Amendment, but I was somewhat stung into rising to my feet when it was suggested that if we did not accept the Amendment the Government would forgo the safety and the health of the public in order to save money, and that we were trying to do it on the cheap. That is going much too far.

I agree with the hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Butler) that we should have the best brains from all over the country consulting on these problems. I agree with that entirely, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend does, but I do not think that that is done in the form the Amendment suggests. I do not think that we have to set up a statutory body in order to consider these matters. That body is to consist of ten people and will probably outnumber the inspectors under its control, certainly to start with.

The hon. Lady the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) has been most attentive in Committee and must have heard my hon. Friend and my right hon. Friend give assurance after assurance that we would obtain every type of consultation and every type of advice on the working of the Bill. For her to suggest that if the Amendment is rejected it will be because we are trying to do it on the cheap is wrong, and I think that she knows that it is wrong.

Mrs. Hart

It is because I have attended the Committee and heard all the Minister's replies that I have been reluctantly driven to conclude that the reasons for rejecting so many of our Amendments are financial.

Mr. Emery

That is obviously a reason which I cannot accept. Financial interests have nothing whatever to do with the safety of the people, and never once has either my hon. Friend or my right hon. Friend suggested that. It would be wrong to say that the Amendment was rejected for financial reasons.

Mr. Peart

Surely the hon. Gentleman remembers that in Committee, when we were arguing about keeping the register, the arguments used against us was that more people would be needed to keep the register. He will find the reference in column 187 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Standing Committee.

Mr. Emery

Yes, I have the paragraph before me. I thank the hon. Gentleman. However, there is a big difference—and I am sure that he knows it—between keeping a register and having this sort of body to safeguard health.

Mr. Peart

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Emery


Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Gordon Touche)

I am sorry to have to remind hon. Gentlemen that we are on the Report stage. I have permitted a certain amount of latitude in interventions.

Mr. Emery

I could not accept the suggestion of hon. Members opposite that the Amendment might be rejected for financial reasons. That is utterly wrong, and I thought that someone from this side of the House should say how wrong it was.

Mr. Harold Davies

I am not concerned with whether the Amendment is rejected for financial or other reasons. I consider that its rejection would be an error. We will not go into party politics and their effect on health, because we all know that the party opposite voted against the National Health Scheme.

It has been said that we can leave this matter to the experts. The trouble with the world is that we are leaving it to experts and generals. We left Blue Streak to experts, and we all know what has happened to that. I do not agree with the apotheosis of the expert. Let us consider why we want this consultative body.

The point of the Bill is that there is to be an expansion in industry of the use of radioactive isotopes. The uses and applications of radioactive isotopes are as tracers in engineering in 50 or 60 different ways, in examining the structure of metals and alloys and in the efficiency of colour reproduction and tracing all types of possible faults in gear. Tracers and radioactive isotopes are also used in medicine for diagnosis. Small private firms will spring up all over the country using and distributing radioactive isotopes for private profit.

When the consultations took place at Geneva on the extension of the use of atomic energy and of radioactive isotopes, we were told that one of the dangers—and this recalls what it was like in the industrial revolution—lay in extension of hours and in forgetting health and safety precautions. This thing has not yet hit humanity to the full—but it will, because it is very serious. Because people cannot see it, feel it, smell it or touch it, they tend to shrug it off.

A man can get cancer merely by picking up what he believes is an ordinary spanner and putting it in his thigh pocket. Six weeks later he will have his leg amputated. That comes from an ordinary piece of metal emanating millions of wavelengths. We are asking that the Minister should co-ordinate all these problems through a consultative committee. We are asking for co-ordination. I like this Greek origin in the word dichotomy.

Mr. Wise

A Latin root instead of a Greek one.

Mr. Davies

We get Greek and Latin here. The hon. Member knows that quite well.

Many people using these radioactive isotopes will be untrained, or at least only partially trained. I asked the Minister during the Committee stage if he had consulted various bodies. He assured us that he had and was very pleasant to us—but we got nothing out of the Bill. The Report on the accident at Windscale in October, 1957, was called The Organisation for Control of Health and Safety in the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority. The Report stated … we have become aware during the course of our investigations that improvements to the Authority's organisation will not alone achieve all that is required. Here is the operative phrase— There is an urgent need to clarify the relations between the many Government Departments concerned with health safety in the atomic energy field and to strengthen the co-ordination between them. That includes the radioactive isotopes as well. This Amendment is not just silly party opposition, but a constructive effort on behalf of both sides to try to find an answer to this problem. I should be a pompous ass if I said that I knew all the answers.

We are asking the Minister to help us by establishing a central authority which would take some of the burden off his shoulders. He bears the burden of the housing problem and of rates of interest and is inundated with letters from local authorities. Now he will be inundated with letters from river boards and from the Ministry of Agriculture. All of this is overwhelming, and every Member opposite knows that it is beyond him. We are told that every opportunity for consultation will be taken. The Minister is a kindly gentleman. I shall not repeat what I said in Committee; it would be unfair. I can assure him that it was well meant, however. He is a kindly gentleman and hopes to take all this on his shoulders. He rescued the Government over the Rent Act, but he cannot continually rescue them on an issue like this. The time is coming when we must have the type of organisation suggested in the Amendment.

I have a pamphlet called "Safety Spotlight Isotopes ". I see that the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Wise) is not listening, but he could learn something. He knew nothing about radioactive waste or isotopes, but he is an intelligent gentleman. He should read this pamphlet, which is not turned out by a political party but by the British Safety Council. The introduction, written by the national director, says: Experience of the effects of ionizing radiation in the human body dates from the discovery of X-ray in November, 1895. Later it goes on to say: Over an eleven-year period "— I want to balance what I said and that is why I am reading this— in the American Atomic Energy Programme two people have died as a result of radiation injuries, while 184 have died of 'normal type' industrial accidents. That is only due to the fact that there have been intelligent safety measures in American atomic energy projects, as we have had here. My plea is that we are now going into another field. The use of radioactive isotopes may spread among a larger number of people who will not have the same responsibility as a national council would have. Somewhere, somehow this machinery must be built up. We may accept it if the Minister says he is prepared to do something even if he does not think that this is the right place in which to do it, but otherwise I advise my right hon. and hon. Friends that we should divide the House on this issue unless we get some kind of promise from the Minister.

Sir K. Joseph

I would be the last to criticise good thoughts simply because they happen to be second thoughts, but this is so drastic a proposal that it is odd that it was not raised on Second Reading. I shall not criticise the drafting of this Amendment—

Mr. Peart

I did raise this on Second Reading. I put a direct question to the Minister. I hope the hon. Gentleman will withdraw that accusation.

Sir K. Joseph

It certainly was not pursued in Committee.

Mr. Peart

We were out of order in Committee.

Sir K. Joseph

This is the first time this has come up. I disclaim all criticism for that reason. I shall deal with it as substantially as I can on the merits. This proposed committee or authority, it is suggested, would relieve the Minister of his responsibility in this field, and we have heard that it should be placed above the Government and above the Atomic Energy Authority. We have heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. Wise) and my hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. Emery) two very wise and short interventions, and I shall be repeating a certain amount of what they said.

5.30 p.m.

I would like to state absolutely clearly that this is not a question in which my right hon. Friend believes that he has or will have a monopoly of the best brains. I claim that the Atomic Energy Authority has a call upon the best brains in this subject, and if an authority or committee were set up as proposed it would certainly try to obtain the best brains to serve on it. But it cannot retain a monopoly of the best brains; no authority can do that. No authority can or should have all the knowledge in a highly technical field such as this.

As well as being systematic, diligent, conscientious and thorough, an authority has to know what it should know, and be sure that on every occasion it consults the people who know best what it needs to know. An authority must make use of the best available knowledge. I claim that my right hon. Friends, through their own experts and through their calling upon other experts, whether employed by the Government or not, have this information and certainly have the will to obtain it in order to carry out their duties satisfactorily.

It is not plain from what we have heard this afternoon how widely the suggested committee would range, but within the terms of the Bill we can discuss only its relevance to radioactive waste. We worked very well in Committee, and I must warn hon. Members that it is nearly a smear—although no doubt said with the best intent—to suggest that the powers available to my right hon. Friend, his civil servants and their expert colleagues are tucked away. I know that this suggestion was not ill-meant, but anything can be said to be tucked away. This is just a phrase There is absolutely no evidence that my right hon. Friend or his advisers have failed in any way. As for quoting the Report of the Committee upon which the Bill is based, and which was so widely and properly praised in the Second Reading debate, the quotations given are absolutely out of context.

What the Committee was discussing was the question whether the control of radioactive wastes should be exercised at a central or local level. It was not discussing how the central control should be exercised if it was finally decided to accept central control. All it was out to do was to show that not enough technical people were available, or were likely to be available, and, for various reasons, including the point made by the hon. Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) about the genetic involvement of this subject, to suggest that the control should be on a national and not a local basis. I can do no better than to take the choice of words used by my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby. He said that if this authority were to be set up, far from clarifying the situation it would create a dichotomy.

I want to deal with the various arguments that have been put forward. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Pentland) gave us a picture, which I found hard to credit, of someone working in an establishment, or on premises where radioactive waste occurred, discovering something which had an implication for the control of radioactive waste and suffering in silence—being unable to communicate to the proper authority because the proper authority was my right hon. Friend and his colleagues.

That is a preposterous idea. Quite apart from communication to his own trade union; quite apart from communication to his own management or to his own local authority, there remains to him in reserve Her Majesty's Post Office, through which to correspond with my right hon. Friend or the Ministry and, in ultimate reserve, the Press. There is no evidence of the suppression of information; we await information and will act upon it.

Mr. Pentland

Surely the hon. Member realises that what we are saying is that there is no direct obligation in the Bill for any kind of consultation with the trade union movement. We want workers to be able to draw attention to radioactive wastes which are not noticeable to the inspectors. Paragraph 113 of the Report on The Control of Radioactive Wastes says: We believe that users of radionuclides should not be allowed to produce avoidable or unnecessarily large amounts of radioactive wastes. We are not thinking here of accidental spills, which inevitably will occur from time to time, but of the use of radionuclides without adequate precaution or in a reckless manner. We know, for example, of luminising rooms badly and comprehensively contaminated because of inadequate precautions and the decontamination of which, involving extensive removal of furniture, fittings and fixtures, produced an unnecessary radioactive waste. We believe that there should be powers to stop this. We complain that there are no such powers. The Bill contains no provision for consultation.

Sir K. Joseph

But in order to secure consultation the authority is being supported by the hon. Member. The Committee which produced that quotation was set up by my right hon. Friend, and its recommendations are being imple- mented. The power of registration given to my right hon. Friend will enable any premises which might be treated in this way not to be registered. The hon. Member spoke of delays of months before the inspectorate could be contacted. That suggestion is ridiculous, in the light of all the facilities available for communication.

The hon. Member for Lanark raised some interesting questions which I should like to answer, but before I do so I would say that she drew some unwarrantable conclusions about our attitude to the finance involved. She, from no knowledge that I can imagine she possesses, drew the conclusion that we would be satisfied with four inspectors, and she asked where the chemical laboratory backing was that was needed for this inspectorate. This was a question which neither my right hon. Friend nor I had been asked, otherwise we would have explained the position.

My right hon. Friend's Department already has the use of two chemical laboratories. One is at Harwell, and the other is the Water Pollution Research Laboratory. In order to make sure that the facilities available to support the inspectorate shall be there on the appointed day—and the inspectorate will be increased as necessary—these facilities are being expanded. In addition, the Government Chemist is setting up an additional laboratory in order to carry out the work required, and we hope that that will be ready by the appointed day.

Mrs. Hart

Is it intended that these contracts to other organisations will involve the monitoring and sampling of material, as necessary, as recommended in the White Paper?

Sir K. Joseph

Contracts to other organisations are dealt with in the laboratory at Harwell, and my right hon. Friend's inspectors themselves do some sampling work. The Water Pollution Research Laboratory also works for us. The Government Chemist serves all Government Departments, but is setting up a special establishment to serve the inspectorate, and there will be carried on the sampling and other chemical inquiries involved in this work. There has been much talk of the number of inspectors. I must point out that my right hon. Friend had no statutory obligation to appoint inspectors to deal with this subject. He has had radiochemical inspectors, and he has had a specialist radio-chemist since as long ago as 1950. As we said in Committee, we shall expand the inspectorate, seeking further inspectors to deal with the whole range of radioactive use. My hon. Friend the Member for Reading is absolutely right in saying that in this field there is no question of niggardliness in dealing with the vital matter of radioactive safety. I hope that I have answered the points raised by the hon. Member for Lanark.

The hon. Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Butler), in one of her agreeable interventions, spoke of my right hon. Friend as an Atlas, and feared that he might wilt under the strain of this additional load. At the moment, this is within the capacity of the Department. If, because of the increase in the tempo of technological change it becomes necessary to review the administration, we can legislate again. The amount of legislation for nuclear control, even in the last two years, has been formidable, and it may have to go on if the tempo continues at this speed.

I know that the House will not expect me to comment in detail on the Veale Committee Report published last week, but I assure the House that this Report is being urgently studied by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Science.

The gist of this series of Amendments which we are discussing is that my right hon. Friends need an authority to carry out the responsibility and to relieve them. We have heard various arguments in favour of such a practice, and I should like to meet each of them directly. Such a proposal would not improve Parliamentary control. It is no good hon. Gentlemen saying that my right hon. Friend could answer for the authority. It is not nearly so direct if he is not immediately responsible for the authority as if he is. All our experience of authorities that are not directly under the Minister show that Parliamentary control is not improved by such a dichotomy.

We are told that such an authority would improve day-to-day working, but there is no evidence of that. We do not claim, and I certainly would not for a moment claim, that we have a monopoly of all the skill or expertise, but we are humble and diligent enough to seek the answers from experts when we do not have the experts ourselves. That is the basis of intelligent control by laymen, as Ministers must be, of highly technical matters.

We were then told that such an arrangement would improve integration. That does not stand up to examination. My right hon. Friend is already responsible for local government in this country. He is already responsible for water undertakings and river boards. He is already in the closest touch with the Ministry of Labour in connection with the organisation of workers, and the Ministry of Transport in connection with transport undertakings. He is also in touch with the Radioactive Substances Advisory Committee. Who else would be in such a position to integrate the various technical interests involved as well as calling on the Atomic Energy Authority and industry, which any authority would have to do?

We were then told that this proposal would economise in staff skill. This is a most absurd suggestion because, if my right hon. Friend were to remain responsible to Parliament, he would need experts, and the authority would set up a rival body. We would be dissipating even further what we all agree are the scarce technical resources available.

I agree that the Amendment is put forward with the best will in the world, and I am not criticising the detailed drafting, but it would do nothing to achieve what we all want, maximum safety in dealing with radioactive substances. The Amendment would harm the purpose we have in mind, and for that reason I hope that it will be withdrawn.

Mr. Peart

After hearing that reply from the Minister, I cannot possibly withdraw the Amendment. He said that we had not raised this before. He knows that I raised this on Second Reading, and he will find that to be so if he refers to column 333 of the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Sir Keith Joseph indicate assent.

Mr. Peart

I tabled an Amendment in Committee. It was not my fault that the Amendment was not called. It was my wish to have a longer debate in Standing Committee than we have had on this Amendment today. If that Amendment had been accepted, no doubt it would not have been in order today. The Parliamentary Secretary is not being fair. He knows that we raised this before, and he ought to apologise for his accusation.

Sir K. Joseph

I am willing to withdraw and say that I was wrong in thinking that the hon. Gentleman had not referred to this before.

Mr. Peart

I am grateful to the Parliamentary Secretary.

5.45 p.m.

Our main purpose is to improve and co-ordinate those people dealing with the disposal of radioactive waste. For that reason we think an authority such as we propose would lead to greater efficiency and drive. We have argued that it should not be tucked away in a special Government Department.

May I now refer to the inspectorate? Those employed by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government again would be employed by this authority. The Minister has power to do that. We argued that the Minister may set up his committee. The inspectorate doing the job would work for the authority who in turn would work for the Minister. We must study the Veale Report more carefully, but from what I have read I am certain that there is a need for a central authority. As I have argued earlier, the Report recommends a National Radiological Advisory Service which would work with an authority of the kind we have in mind.

Dealing with the composition of the authority, we are well aware that there are many people who will be competent to sit on the board of an authority of this kind. We are not thinking in terms of the inspectorate which must consist of highly qualified persons. It may be better to have a man of general experience on the authority. After all, Veblen once said: Experts often have a trained incapacity to think".

It is no good the Minister running away from the words in the White Paper, the main conclusion in the White Paper is a recommendation that a central authority should be created.

Sir K. Joseph

If I might intervene with the permission of the House, one of the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends agreed that the Minister is a central authority.

Mr. Peart

That may be true, but the White Paper envisages a central authority. Throughout the recommendations one gets the impression that there should be a radical approach to this problem; that something new should be created. That is what we seek to do, and this Amendment is a preliminary to making a major step forward.

I am sorry that the Minister cannot accept the Amendment. We have argued it fully. We believe in it and we press the Amendment, but in no party sense.

Question put, That those words be there inserted in the Bill: —

The House divided: Ayes 137, Noes 213.

Division No. 78.] AYES [5.48 p.m.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) da Freitas, Geoffrey Hart, Mrs. Judith
Bacon, Miss Alice Diamond, John Hayman, F. H.
Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.) Dodds, Norman Healey, Denis
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Edwards, Walter (Stepney) Herbison, Miss Margaret
Bence, Cyril (Dunbartonshire, E.) Evans, Albert Hill, J. (Midlothian)
Blackburn, F. Fernyhough, E. Hilton, A. V.
Blyton, William Finch, Harold Holman, Percy
Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S.W.) Fitch, Alan Hoy, James H.
Boyden, James Foot, Dingle Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Forman, J. C. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)
Brockway, A. Fenner Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Hunter, A. E.
Brown, Alan (Tottenham) Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh Hynd, H. (Accrington)
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Galpern, Sir Myer Irving, Sydney (Dartford)
Brown, Thomas (Ince) George, Lady Megan Lloyd Janner, Barnett
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Ginsburg, David Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Goooh, E. G. Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)
Castle, Mrs. Barbara Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech(Wakefield)
Chetwynd, George Gourlay, Harry Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Grey, Charles Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)
Crosland, Anthony Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)
Cullen, Mrs. Alice Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.
Davies, Harold (Leek) Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley) King, Dr. Horace
Davies, Ifor (Cower) Hamilton, William (West Fife) Lawson, George
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Hannan, William Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson
Mclnnes, James Pentland, Norman Summerskill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Edith
McKay, John (Wallsend) Prentice, B. E. Swingler, Stephen
Mackie, John Price, J. T. (Westhoughton) Symonds, J. B.
Mahon, Simon Proctor, W. T. Taylor, John (West Lothian)
Manuel, A. C. Randall, Harry Wainwright, Edwin
Mapp, Charles Reid, William Warbey, William
Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A. Reynolds, G. W. Weitzman, David
Mason, Roy Robens, Rt. Hon. Alfred Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Mayhew, Christopher Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.) Wheeldon, W. E.
Mellish, R. J. Ross, William White, Mrs. Eirene
Mendelson, J. J. Royle, Charles (Salford, West) Whitlock, William
Millan, Bruce Silverman, Julius (Aston) Willey, Frederick
Mitchison, G. R. Silverman, Sydney (Nelson) Williams, Rev. LI. (Abertillery)
Monslow, Walter Skeffington, Arthur Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Moody, A. S. Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke N.) Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Mort, D. L. Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield) Winterbottom, R. E.
Moyle, Arthur Small, William Woof, Robert
Oliver, G. H. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Owen, Will Spriggs, Leslie Zilliacus, K.
Padley, W. E. Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Pavitt, Laurence Stones, William TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd) Strachey, Rt. Hon. John Dr. Broughton and Mr. Redhead
Peart, Frederick Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)
Allason, James Freeth, Denzil Linstead, Sir Hugh
Arbuthnot, John Gammans, Lady Litchfield, Capt. John
Atkins, Humphrey Gardner, Edward Longden, Gilbert
Barlow, Sir John George, J. C. (Pollok) Loveys, Walter H.
Batsford, Brian Gibson-Watt, David Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S)
Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate) Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham) McAdden, Stephen
Bell, Ronald (S. Bucks.) Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.) MacArthur, Ian
Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald (Toxteth) Goodhart, Philip McLaren, Martin
Bingham, R. M. Goodhew, Victor McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Gower, Raymond McMaster, Stanley
Bishop, F. P. Green, Alan Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)
Bourne-Arton, A. Gresham Cooke, R. Maginnis, John E.
Box, Donald Grimston, Sir Robert Marlowe, Anthony
Boyle, Sir Edward Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Marshall, Douglas
Brewis, John Hall, John (Wycombe) Marten, Neil
Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) Mathew, Robert (Honiton)
Brooman-White, R. Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)
Browne, Percy (Torrington) Harris, Reader (Heston) Mawby, Ray
Bullard, Denys Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.
Butcher, Sir Herbert Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Mills, Stratton
Campbell, Sir David (Belfast, S.) Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Moore, Sir Thomas
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn) Harvie Anderson, Miss Morgan, William
Carr, Compton (Barons Court) Hay, John Morrison, John
Cary, Sir Robert Heath, Rt. Hon. Edward Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles
Channon, H. P. G. Henderson, John (Catheart) Nabarro, Gerald
Chataway, Christopher Henderson-Stewart, Sir James Nicholls, Harmar
Clarke, Brig. Terenoe (Portsmth, W.) Hendry, Forbes Noble, Michael
Cleaver, Leonard Hicks Beach, Maj, W. Nugent, Sir Richard
Cole, Norman Hiley, Joseph Oakshott, Sir Hendrie
Collard, Richard Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk) Page, A. J. (Harrow, West)
Cooke, Robert Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Page, Graham
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K Hirst, Geoffrey Panned, Norman (Kirkdale)
Cordle, John Hobson, John Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)
Corfield, F. V. Holland, Philip Peel, John
Costain, A. P. Hollingworth, John Pike, Miss Mervyn
Coulson, J. M. Holt, Arthur Pilkington, Capt. Richard
Courtney, Cdr. Anthony Hope, Rt. Hon. Lord John Pitman, I. J.
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Hopkins, Alan Pitt, Miss Edith
Critchley, Julian Hornby, R. P. Pott, Percival
Crowder, F. P. Hughes-Young, Michael Powell, J. Enoch
Cunningham, Knox Hurd, Sir Anthony Price, David (Eastleigh)
Curran, Charles Hutchison, Michael Clark Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho
Currie, G. B. H. Iremonger, T. L. Proudfoot, William
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Ramsden, James
Digby, Simon Wingfield Jackson, John Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M. James, David Ridley, Hon. Nicholas
Doughty, Charles Jennings, J. C. Ridsdale, Julian
Drayson, G. B. Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Robertson, Sir David
du Cann, Edward Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Robson Brown, Sir William
Duncan, Sir James Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Eden, John Kerans, Cdr. J. S. Scott-Hopkins, James
Elliott, R. W. Kerby, Capt. Henry Shaw, M.
Emery, Peter Kerr, Sir Hamilton Shepherd, William
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Kirk, Peter Skeet, T. H. H.
Farr, John Kitson, Timothy Smith, Dudley(Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)
Fell, Anthony Leburn, Gllmour Smithers, Peter
Finlay, Graeme Legge-Bourke, Maj. H. Spearman, Sir Alexander
Fisher, Nigel Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield) Stanley, Hon. Richard
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Stodart, J. A.
Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton) Lilley, F. J. P. Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm
Storey, Sir Samuel Van Straubenzee, W. R. Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Studholme, Sir Henry Vickers, Miss Joan Wise, A. R.
Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury) Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Sumner, Donald (Orpington) Wade, Donald Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard
Tapsell, Peter Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.) Woodhouse, C. M.
Teeling, William Wakefield, Sir Waved (St. M'lebone) Woodnutt, Mark
Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth) Woollam, John
Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.) Watts, James Worsley, Marcus
Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin Webster, David Yates, William (The Wrekin)
Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Tilney, John (Wavertree) Whitelaw, William TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Tweedsmuir, Lady Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.) Mr. Chichester-Clark and
Mr. Sharples.