HC Deb 12 July 1962 vol 662 cc1517-9
Q5. Mr. Shinwell

asked the Prime Minister what information he has received from the United States Government on recent research in the detection of atomic testing.

Q9. Mr. P. Noel-Baker

asked the Prime Minister whether he has yet received the official report on the detection of the nuclear tests recently carried out by the United States Government; and whether he will publish this Report as a Command Paper.

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentlemen are no doubt referring to the interesting statement released by the American Department of Defence on 7th July. As the statement made clear, the new data which have emerged from Project Vela must be reviewed and fully evaluated. We all hope that these developments, which on the face of it are encouraging, will make it possible for us to achieve some advance in this complicated and highly technical field. I am confident that the experimental data will be made available to us through our normal exchanges of information with the United States authorities. As the House knows, there are regular informal meetings between British and American scientists. It so happens that one of these meetings is taking place this week and these matters will no doubt be included in the topics for discussion.

The Press statement issued by the Defence Department is widely available and I do not think that there is any need for it to be published as a Command Paper. I will certainly consider, when we have made the evaluation of this new information, whether a Command Paper would be useful, but of course these are American experiments and the publication of the findings is primarily a matter for them.

Mr. Shinwell

Would not the Prime Minister agree that as these researches seem to indicate the possibility of detection of atomic explosions without reference to inspection on the spot, it is very desirable that the Government should come to a speedy conclusion on this matter in order to avoid further testing, and the United States authorities should be advised accordingly?

The Prime Minister

I do not know that it necessarily deals with the question of verification, but if these experiments have gone further on the lines which we had some hope of, they certainly make a very important addition to the whole problem and a great advance.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

As it seems clear from what the United States Government have published that underground nuclear explosions can be detected with much greater certainty and at much greater distances than was previously believed, will the Prime Minister allow the House to have the actual text of the statement which the United States released?

The Prime Minister

That has been fully published, but I would certainly consider a Command Paper if I thought it would be useful.

Mr. H. Wilson

Will the Prime Minister agree to place the text in the Library, because it is better to have official texts than to rely on newspaper reports? Secondly, will he make a statement in the House following what he calls a routine meeting—but what on this occasion is more important than that—of the scientists of the two countries? Is he aware that this is vitally important to the resumed Geneva negotiations, and the whole House will want to know the outcome of these new American discoveries, if that is what they are.

The Prime Minister

Of course it is of great importance. I shall see whether the text can be got. I have only the newspaper reports of the text, but I will put it in the Library. With regard to progress, I should make a statement if I thought it necessary, or answer a Question.

Mrs. Castle

Will the Prime Minister say whether Professor Don Leet has been invited to take part in these current discussions?

The Prime Minister

I am afraid that I do not know. That would be the American side.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Does not the Prime Minister agree that, whatever the risk of Russia or America carrying out small underground tests without detection, the alternative risk, which is that both sides will continue to hold series of large atmospheric tests, is far greater; and if the "Big Two" cannot get out of their clinch, could not Britain accept the neutrals' proposal that we should stop tests now, with existing means of detection?

The Prime Minister

I think that we are much more likely to make progress to the end we want if we and our American partners try to concert a joint policy.