HC Deb 17 April 1962 vol 658 cc236-9
Q6. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Prime Minister whether he will publish a White Paper containing the relevant scientific advice relating to the detection and verification by national means of control of atmospheric and underground tests, respectively, and the extent to which international on-site verification will be necessary.

Mr. R. A. Butler

I have been asked to reply.

No, Sir.

Mr. Henderson

In view of the conflicting statements that emanate from the Soviet Government, the United States Government and Her Majesty's Government on these matters, may I ask whether it is not highly desirable that we should have the scientific facts before us? Why are the Government so hesitant to tell us the scientific facts on which they base their case in opposition to the claims of the Soviet Government?

Mr. Butler

A great deal of scientific data has already been published, beginning with the report of the Geneva experts' conference in 1958.

Mr. Henderson

Is it not a fact that the Soviet Government persist in stating that it is possible to detect and verify all tests, whether in the atmosphere or underground, and that the British and American Governments say that that is not the case? Would it not be advantageous to public opinion if the public knew in popular form the scientific reasons why Her Majesty's Government and the United States Government differ from the views of the Soviet Government?

Mr. Butler

I will certainly convey that to my right hon. Friend, but as at present informed we do not think that a White Paper is necessary.

Mr. Gaitskell

Can the right hon. Gentleman say for what reason information is being withheld from us? Does he not agree that it is very useful for us to know the latest scientific opinion on this matter? We appreciate that it may have changed since the last report was published. Is not that a reason for bringing us up to date?

Mr. Butler

What is clear is that the Soviet Union have rejected the principle of verification. Considerable publicity has been given to the arguments on both sides, but if importance is attached to having further information I will have a further look at that point.

Mr. John Hall

Is it not a fact that, following this difference of scientific opinion, the Western allies asked for scientific advice and information from Russia and none has been forthcoming?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir.

Mr. H. Wilson

Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether there is now complete identity of view? Is he aware that the question raised was whether the British and American scientists advising the two Governments were in complete agreement about the degree of verification necessary? Will the Government once again take the initiative in proposing discussions between scientists from the Soviet Union, Britain, and the United States to see how far they can reach agreement on this question of how far instruments based outside countries can detect explosions within those countries?

Mr. Butler

That question raises a scientific question and I should require notice of it.

Mr. Driberg

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the reports not so far published include reports by the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey on the monitoring of the last American underground tests, which apparently contain matters of extreme interest and significance to the present conference at Geneva? Would the right hon. Gentleman consult the United States Administration about the possibility of making those reports available?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. I will certainly investigate that.


Mr. Hector Hughes

May I briefly raise a point of order, Mr. Speaker, which I hope you will regard as a genuine point of order? You may have noticed that several Questions were answered today by the Home Secretary saying that he would convey the matter to the Prime Minister. Some of these matters—such as flag discrimination—were of the utmost importance to the nation, and I ask for your guidance as to whether it is in order for any Minister to evade real Answers to Questions by saying that he will convey the matter to the Prime Minister, who is away on an occasion when such very important Questions are on the Order Paper.

I ask for your guidance with a view to seeing that proper Answers are given to Questions of this sort when they are on the Order Paper.

Mr. Speaker

No such process as a point of guidance by way of a point of order is known to me. No such proposition exists, and I might also have said that I was unable to detect any point of order whatsoever in what the hon. and learned Member has said.