HC Deb 05 December 1967 vol 755 cc1134-6
Q7. Dr. David Owen

asked the Prime Minister what specific Anglo-American agreement prevents Great Britain sharing with other European countries the technology of partially enriched uranium.

The Prime Minister

None, Sir.

Dr. Owen

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the United States Atomic Energy Commission has already started to negotiate with private industry for the sharing of technology, which implies that it does not take a secret agreement very seriously? Can he press the Americans to try to ensure that we can share this technology with our European partners?

The Prime Minister

In my first Answer, I explained that there is no such, as my hon. Friend put it, "specific" Anglo-American agreement preventing a sharing with European countries of this technology. There are difficult questions about our national and commercial interests if we made this available except as part of something extremely valuable to ourselves. This is why I stressed the importance of co-operation in my speech at Guildhall. We must be dominated in this matter by considerations of national interest but there is no such agreement as envisaged by my hon. Friend.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

Will the right hon. Gentleman seriously consider taking some active steps to bring about a decision from Euratom first of all to continue financing the Dragon project at Winfrith?

The Prime Minister

That is a specific question and I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would put it down on the Order Paper. With regard to general relations with Europe, we are only too anxious to enter into bilateral or multilateral nuclear agreements, whether for the provision of reactors or, as in the Question, for the provision on a European and not on an American basis of enriched fuel.

Mr. Hogg

Has not the difficulty always been the extraordinary reluctance of European Powers with atomic inclinations to make use of our vastly superior technology? Will the right hon. Gentleman make clear both the advantages of their doing so to them and the reluctance of the Government to do so except on a mutual basis of advantage?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. I entirely agree. The difficulty outlined by the right hon. and learned Gentleman has been the difficulty all along and it still is. Indeed, in Versailles in June, I dis- cussed this question with President de Gaulle and it is a fact that, despite their great advantage in water power, we are fully competitive, without those advantages in our production of enriched Uranium 235. Of course we shall be glad, on a mutually advantageous basis, and only on such a basis, to work with our French friends or anyone else in making Europe less dependent on outside supplies, both of reactors and fuel.

Mr. Lubbock

Has the Prime Minister noted the view of the Select Committee on Science and Technology that internationalisation of our fuel enrichment capability offers an excellent opportunity for collaboration between us and the E.E.C.? Does not this concept fit in well with the ideas he has expressed so enthusiastically for a European technological community?

The Prime Minister

I have noted that important recommendation by the Select Committee and I fully agree with it. Indeed, this view is the basis of what I said at Guildhall and in recent talks with the Belgian Prime Minister and of all our approaches on the atomic side of technological co-operation with our partners in Europe.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

In view of yesterday's statement about non-proliferation, with its European implications, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman will give an assurance that nothing will be done under the cloak of international security to deprive Britain of her lead in the civil uses of atomic energy?

The Prime Minister

I am not quite sure to which statement the hon. Gentleman is referring, but in the matter of civil use of atomic energy we are absolutely free. We intend to use that freedom to work with our partners in Europe and more widely in the promotion of our national interest and in the promotion of exports.