HC Deb 10 April 1962 vol 657 cc1130-2
Q1. Mr. Driberg

asked the Prime Minister whether an estimate of the approximate number of new cases of leukaemia, bone cancer, and genetic damage likely to be caused by the impending atmospheric nuclear tests over Christmas Island formed part of the scientific basis for the decision to resume testing taken by the President of the United States of America in consultation with Her Majesty's Government; and if he will publish this estimate in HANSARD.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

The danger to health which might result from any atmospheric nuclear tests was taken carefully into account when the possibility of resuming tests was considered. As to the extent of the danger, President Kennedy has said that it is estimated that the exposure due to radioactivity from these tests will be less than one-fiftieth of the difference which can be experienced, due to variations in natural radioactivity, simply by living in different locations in the United States.

Mr. Driberg

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for his courtesy in answering this Question himself, may I ask him if he will translate into ordinary terms the phrase about one-fiftieth? What does that actually mean in terms of damage, the approximate number of cases, and so on?

The Prime Minister

I think that his point was that owing to the different heights, the different compositions of the soil, and various other reasons, there was this great variation in different parts of the world anyway between the amount of radioactivity to which people might be subject, and the effect of these tests would be minimal in comparison with that.

With regard to the more precise information which the hon. Gentleman would like, he has no doubt read the United Nations Scientific Committee's first report, and the Medical Research Council's comments on it. They are very difficult to summarise, and perhaps I could call the hon. Gentleman's attention to them again. We are now expecting a second report from the United Nations Committee.

Mr. Jeger

Has the right hon. Gentleman been able to get any estimate from the Russian Government of the incidence of these horrible diseases caused by their last series of tests?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir.