HC Deb 26 June 1962 vol 661 cc950-2
Q2. Mr. Driberg

asked the Prime Minister what steps he took, in accordance with his undertaking, to obtain facilities for Sir Bernard Lovell and other British astronomers to discuss the holding of high-altitude tests with the United States scientists responsible for these tests; and what recent information on these tests he has received from the President of the United States of America.

The Prime Minister

Sir Bernard Lovell sent me a memorandum last month, in response to a request which I made to him, setting out his views on the high altitude nuclear tests. I arranged for his views to be communicated to the appropriate authorities in the United States.

As regards the second part of the Question, I am kept informed of the progress of the current series of tests but I cannot at this stage add to the information which has already been published.

Mr. Driberg

While thanking the Prime Minister for the action he has taken in the matter, may I ask if he is aware that another eminent scientist, Sir Robert Watson-Watt, has more recently said that these particular tests are a breach of the ethical responsibility of scientists, since their consequences are beyond reasonable forecast and might prove irreversible? Would the Prime Minister be good enough to bring that opinion to the notice of the President?

The Prime Minister

If the hon. Member will send any information to me I am, of course, always ready to forward it. I carried out what I undertook to do and wrote to Sir Bernard Lovell and asked for his views which I communicated to the American authorities.

Mr. Gaitskell

While it is useful that Sir Bernard Lovell's views should be communicated in this way, is the Prime Minister aware of a proposal made, I think, by the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) that Sir Bernard Lovell should be brought together with the United States scientists concerned with this matter so that they could, as it were, argue the thing out together? Is that a possibility? Could the Prime Minister consider that?

The Prime Minister

There are a great number of scientists who consider these matters. I thought I had done what I undertook to do. The memorandum sent by Sir Bernard Lovell set out his views in great detail and they have been communicated to the American authorities. This is not part of the Christmas Island tests. It is a matter entirely for the administration of the United States Government.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

In view of the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition, will the Prime Minister accept from me that Sir Bernard Lovell, in correspondence with me, indicated that he was very well satisfied with the Prime Minister's invitation?

Mr. A. Henderson

Will the Prime Minister consider proposing to President Kennedy and Mr. Khrushchev a further meeting of scientists from the three countries in view of the advance that has been made in the possibility of verifying nuclear tests of all kinds since they last met four years ago, in 1958?

The Prime Minister

Of course, that was dealing with another aspect of this question. As the right hon. and learned Member knows, this is a question of a particular type of high nuclear tests. The particular question of how we are to make a new effort to bring all this to an end is a separate matter on which I have answered Questions and on which. I am sure, we must at the appropriate moment make a further effort.

Mr. M. Foot

Presumably the right hon. Gentleman also submitted Sir Bernard Lovell's memorandum on this subject to the British scientists who previously advised him that high-altitude tests were not dangerous. Would the right hon. Gentleman agree to publish the memorandum by Sir Bernard Lovell and the comments of the British scientists on the matter?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I do not think that would be the right thing to do. Sir Bernard Lovell's communication was sent through our British scientists.