HL Deb 18 February 1948 vol 153 cc1178-213

3.13 p.m.

The Lord Archbishop of YORK rose to call attention to the continued peril caused by the lack of international control of the preparation and production of atomic bombs; and to move for Papers. The most reverend Primate said: My Lords, about ten months ago, I brought before the House the question of international control of the atomic bomb. The noble Viscount the Leader of the House said in his reply that the Atomic Energy Commission—the technical Commission—had agreed on four possible aims. It is possible, he said, to exchange scientific information on atomic energy for peaceful aims; it is possible to control atomic energy so that it is used only for peaceful purposes; it is possible to ensure the elimination from international armaments of atomic weapons; and it is possible to provide safeguards by way of inspection against violations and evasions. These four aims were agreed upon unanimously by the Commission, which included among its members a large number of extremely capable experts. But while there was agreement on the ends at which they should aim, there was great difference of opinion about the methods which should be used. Because of that the matter was referred back again to the Commission, and the noble Viscount who replied to me said that he hoped that the Commission might soon make further and practical suggestions. I am now anxious to know what has happened since that reply was made.

I have done my best to follow statements which have been made not only in this country but also in the United States, and I am bound to say that I am in a considerable amount of uncertainty as to what is the present position. It is almost impossible to exaggerate its gravity. Through this invention mankind has been brought nearer to an unprecedented and appalling disaster than it has ever been in the whole of its history; and although at this moment the bomb is in the possession of the United States alone, it is known that several nations are doing their utmost to possess it. In a report to the President of the United States a short time ago it was stated that by 1952, in all probability, other nations would have a quantity of these bombs, and that it was quite possible that before that date they might have a number of small bombs. That being so, it means that within a very few years—in the lifetime of most of us living—the whole world may be facing the most grievous crisis it has ever had to face. The danger is not only the destruction of our nation—this island would be in an impossible position if atomic warfare broke out—it confronts the whole of our civilisation.

When I speak to people about the danger I generally find that there are three replies. There are some optimists who tell me that I am stressing unduly the dangers which come from this discovery, and that the discovery is going to bring a number of benefits to the world: we shall have more heating, we shall have more petrol (or we shall be able to do without petrol), we shall have all sorts of material advantages. I have not the slightest doubt that that will be the case in the distant future. But meantime the atomic bomb is ready, and it may be used before those benefits come into full play. Others say "Well, after all, you exaggerate the thing. When gunpowder or dynamite was first discovered, it was thought that catastrophe was about to fall on the human race. Even when aerial warfare first started, many thought that the results would be even worse than they have been." And there are a number of other people who comfort themselves by believing that even if it is used, the atomic bomb will not really be so bad as many think.

I notice that considerable use was made of quotations from part of a statement made by Sir Charles Darwin last September. He said that it was doubtful whether the atomic bomb would actually win a war. And he went on to say that probably death through the atomic bomb would not cause more suffering than death through gas or through other weapons of war. But, having said all that, he went on—and here I think it is important to quote at some little length— When we turned from the use of atomic bombs during the course of a war to their use in peace, or at the start of a war, the position was quite different. The sudden atomic bombardment of all our leading towns at the start of the war almost certainly would have won it for the Germans, though there was a doubt whether even that use would be very profitable, for before the inevitable defeat there would be some retaliation. … The really deadly method would be different. The bombs could be planted secretly, with time fuses, in the principal cities of a country during the time of apparent peace. Not only would the country be ruined, but it would not be certain who had ruined it, so retaliation would not be possible.

Then he went on to say: The danger in that use depended on the enormous effect of the single unit of the atomic bomb. Where the ordinary bomb killed five men, the atomic bomb killed 50,000, so that, loosely speaking, it reduced the population units of the world by a factor of 10,000; it made the whole world a small place as far as concerned atomic warfare.

There are other people who are inclined to answer any talk about the danger by saying that it is most unlikely that this appalling weapon will ever again be used in war, since retaliation would be so terrible. In support of that argument they point out that gas was not used in the last war. It seems to me, however, that the position is entirely different. If gas were used, no doubt there would be very great suffering; but the use of gas would not knock out a whole nation. There would be time for recovery. With the unexpected, treacherous use of the atomic bomb, a war might be won or lost within a few minutes. The use of such a bomb on a country like our own, on our great centres of population, on our harbours and on our means of transport, would within a few minutes bring untold suffering, ruin and catastrophe. Nothing that has been said on the other side seems to me to reduce by one iota the grim possibilities in front of us. The only possibility of safety at the moment seems to be to place these bombs and the application of atomic energy under an international agency. That was a proposal which was made by Mr. Baruch, and that is the proposal which has been supported—with two exceptions—by all the members of the Commission inquiring into this matter.

Their proposal is that there shall be an established international agency having exclusive control of atomic energy to the extent necessary to ensure its use only for peaceful purposes; that such an agency should have power of inspection in every country to see that there was no secret preparation of atomic weapons, and that it should have the power to enforce its regulations and to punish any violations of them. Mr. Baruch said that if such an international agency were set up by international agreement, with effective powers of inspection, then the United States would cease the manufacture of these bombs and would agree to their disposal. I am not sure if, until recently, I quite appreciated the magnitude of this offer which was made by the United States. It is a very great offer. They have spent a vast amount of money in producing the bombs, and are carrying on a large number of experiments connected with them. We were told in the Press the other day that they are perfecting the bombs. It means that that nation at this moment has supremacy in armaments over any other nation in the world. And yet, for the sake of international peace, they are prepared to give up that supremacy. It is a very great offer made by a great people.

Apparently there are difficulties in the way, and they are to be found in the opposition to these proposals by Russia and by Poland. Mr. Gromyko, speaking for Russia, has objected on two grounds. First, he urges that the bombs should be destroyed before an international agreement is reached. That is really much more than a question of procedure. It is an invitation to the United States to destroy their bombs and then, if no agreement were reached, all the nations could start level in a race to create the bombs afresh. That is some slight exaggeration, but it comes very near to that. Secondly, he expresses great difficulties about inspection. It is not fair to say that he has rejected entirely all forms of inspection. He recognizes that some inspection is necessary, but it is hard to find out to what extent Russia would agree to that inspection being carried out.

I thought that one of the speeches made by Mr. Gromyko in the middle of last year was rather more hopeful. Then the British put to him a number of questions. I cannot quite understand all the answers given, for there was a certain amount of ambiguity about them. Unless inspection is agreed to, it is impossible to go forward with a comprehensive international agreement. Inspection is essential to the success of the whole scheme—inspection not only of those buildings which are labelled "atomic bomb production buildings," but also of buildings which might be harbouring machinery which is going to be used, or could very easily be used, for the production of the bombs. There must be thorough and effective inspection if this international agreement is really to be of any great value. I notice that Sir Henry Dale, speaking in relation to this matter, in one of the papers published by Chatham House, said: The preservation of national sovereignty must come to mean the retention by every nation of an unquestioned right to prepare in secret for the annihilation of others.

It is quite true that international inspection would mean some interference with the sovereign rights of a nation, but only through such interference is it possible to gain any safety in this matter. I hope that the noble Lord who will reply will explain this point to me, but I understand that the position is that no satisfactory agreement has yet been obtained with Russia on this question.

What is to be done? Are we in effect to go on discussing, while the years pass by, what practical steps can be taken? I notice that two suggestions have been made. I am rather inclined to think that one was made on the last occasion by the noble Earl, Lord Russell. One suggestion was that a direct approach might be made by the President of the United States and our Prime Minister to Marshal Stalin, explaining to him the utmost gravity of the whole position. Whether such an approach is ever made in that way in diplomacy I do not know. It might be an unprecedented step to take, but we live in unprecedented days. One reason that would justify such an approach would be if Marshal Stalin were not fully acquainted with the whole position. There is a widespread suspicion in the United States that he is not fully aware of what is actually happening and what might happen.

I think it was last November that one of the United States representatives on the Atomic Energy Commission stated that the Russian scientist assigned to the Commission would ask for the floor, and, after making sure that a stenographer was taking a record of the proceedings, would then "launch into the most extraordinary attack on the honesty, fairness and legality of the procedure." Mr. Osborne then goes on to ask: What was the extraordinary performance about? These records are not made public; they are released only to the delegates for the use of their Governments; these speeches went to the Kremlin, and apparently constituted the only recorded comments by a Soviet and therefore trusted observer of what went on in the Committee. Is this the type of information on which the Kremlin is basing its political decisions?

It sounds highly improbable that that is so, but, if there is any possibility of there being a misunderstanding of the position by Marshal Stalin, it is worth almost anything to bring the full facts of the situation before him.

But supposing that is tried and is found to be useless, what then is to be done? The only other suggestion is that those nations who are ready to enter into a pact should enter into it. Of course, such an agency without Russia would be gravely limited in many ways. I know that objections can rightly be urged against the formation of an agency if some great Powers stand outside it. It means that those who have entered into the pact will have tied their hands, whilst outside there are nations who are free to act whenever they wish to. On the other hand, it would mean that those who entered into the pact would possess overwhelming forces, which they could use if necessary as a deterrent against any nation who proposed to use or had used the bombs. I do not know whether it is possible to take action on those lines. I am not sure if the noble Lord who is to reply will be able to give us an answer. But, whether he is able to give us an answer on that matter or not I urge the Government to tell us what they are proposing to do, and what instructions they are giving to their representatives.

It is now two and a half years ago since the bomb was first used, and Mr. Churchill, speaking about it then and of the dangers with which it threatened the human race, said: There is not an hour to lose.

Two and a half years have gone. We are drawing nearer and nearer to catastrophe, and an ever-darkening threat is spreading over mankind. This bomb affects everyone in every nation. Never has the world been confronted with such appalling possibilities. I am quite certain that the Government would find behind them the full support of the whole nation in any attempts they may make to secure some international agreement which might, at any rate, reduce the terrible dangers which are now pressing. I beg to move for Papers.

3.32 p.m.


My Lords, the most reverend Primate has had this Motion on the Order Paper for a very long time past and I am glad that at last he has been able to submit it to your Lordships. I should like, if I may, very respectfully, to congratulate him on this just reward for his pertinacity and patience. This subject is of the highest importance. Probably all people who live in this country are very unhappy about the grave economic situation in which we find ourselves, but the problem of the international control of atomic energy transcends all troubles of any one particular country or group of countries. It naturally affects the future of civilization and of mankind as a whole. It is therefore extremely useful that it should be discussed in public from time to time, and I earnestly trust that the Government spokesman, when he comes to reply, will be able to tell us what is the existing position in the Atomic Energy Commission of the United Nations, and how the Government view both it and the future. Such a statement would clearly be of high value because, owing to the lack of newsprint in this country, the national papers are able to publish little about the proceedings of the Atomic Energy Commission. Further, I think this debate may lead to some fresh considerations, such as those suggested by the most reverend Primate, being put forward. They can then receive consideration by the Government and be thrown into the common pool.

By a happy coincidence a Chatham House study group, to which the most reverend Primate referred, has just published a discussion on atomic energy and its international implications. The membership of the group was remarkable both on its scientific side and on what I may term its lay side. The Chairman was Sir Henry Dale. I think it would be invidious to pick out specific names from the list of eminent personalities who composed the group, but I would like to observe that your Lordships' House was represented by Lord Hankey who, I am glad to see, is going to take part in this debate. As I said, that publication must be of the highest value to anyone who is interested in this essential question. It sets out clearly all the problems connected with the production of atomic energy, the plans for international control already put forward, the difficulties encountered and the future possibilities, with one or two chapters on scientific matters which, though I assume they were supposed to be written for the unscientific mind, I and probably people like myself have not been able to assimilate at all adequately. There is a brilliant and completely impartial introductory chapter by Sir Henry Dale, in which he explains—and I should like to quote his words in that connexion—the gravity of the matter. He writes: It may be held, indeed, to be the most important of all the problems which face mankind at the present time; for success in finding an effective and permanent solution for it, or, alternatively, failure to do so, may well be decisive for the future of our existing civilization. Those, my Lords, are grave words coming from such a high authority.

The most reverend Primate has pointed out that there seems to-day to be a complete deadlock in the Atomic Energy Commission owing to the diametrically opposed points of view of the United States and the Soviet Governments. I am going to develop very shortly what the most reverend Primate said on that point, because I think it is of great importance. The United States insist that a system of international control and inspection over the production of atomic energy shall be accepted before they transfer to an international authority the plant material and knowledge, which they alone possess, required for the production of atomic energy. I should like to reinforce what the most reverend Primate said on this point with regard to the offer which the United States has made. It is of extraordinary generosity and also, to my mind, is a great act of faith in the future of the United Nations. The Soviet Government, on the other hand, as I understand the position, maintain that they cannot agree even to discuss any measures of international control and inspection until arrangements have been made and carried out for the destruction of all existing atomic weapons. They agree, however, that international agreement should be concluded to outlaw the use and production—and I want to underline the word "production"—of atomic weapons. To put it rather shortly and bluntly, the Soviet Government desire to deprive the United States of their existing advantages before discussing any scheme of international control. The United States' reply is that until they are assured of adequate international control they do not feel able to surrender their existing advantage. I do not think that I need ask your Lordships which of the two theses you think to be right and which you would support.

Now, if I may, I will turn for one moment to another aspect. There are some—and among them there is one distinguished member of your Lordship' House—who hold that in view of the vital results for the human race as a whole, the problem of atomic energy, and in particular of its use in war, can only be solved by the constitution of a World Government. They go so far as to add that if any nation refuses to enter into a plan of this kind it should be forced to do so by the threat of using atomic energy against it. We all look forward, I presume, to the formation some day of some form of world government, and we hope that its beginnings may have been set up in the constitution of the United Nations organization. But it would be an illusion to suppose that to-day the world is ripe for any such development. The use of atomic energy to compel a reluctant Power to take part in a World Government is, I think, strongly repugnant to the moral sense. Quite apart from that consideration, surely, to force a country by threats to enter into a world arrangement would mean that that country would take every opportunity of sabotaging the world authority; and if it saw any favourable possibility it would certainly endeavour to overthrow it. I rather feel that the advocates of schemes of this kind have not fully thought out the logical results of their proposals, quite apart from the moral considerations to which I have referred. I think your Lordships will agree that however much we desire world government, it can come only by consent.

To return for a moment to the present dilemma: I frankly see little possibility of reconciling the theses of the United States and Soviet Governments at the present time. In my view, the underlying factors are not so much technical as psychological. If suspicions and fear could be removed, a compromise might be found; but, from what I read, the Soviet Government are becoming more and more obdurate. What then, as the most reverend Primate has asked, is to be done, or can be done? He has put forward two suggestions. The first is what is known as the high level approach, in which Marshal Stalin, President Truman and our Prime Minister, would be concerned. Of course, if that suggestion would be effective, we ought not to hesitate to act on it because of any difficulties of technical or diplomatic procedure. I very much doubt, however, whether Marshal Stalin does not know what is happening and, therefore, although it might be tried, I do not believe that that step would really be effective. The second suggestion was for a convention between such Powers as are ready to accept inspection and controls. That is a suggestion which seems to be worthy of great consideration. I myself was going to put it forward in a slightly different form, and I should like to develop it later. I do not think that it ought to be done at once, because I fear that it would mean a possibility of war breaking out at an early date.

For a moment I would refer once more to the Chatham House study group. In Chapter VII of their published discussions Sir Charles Webster, Sir Arthur Salter, and Sir Oliver Franks state: One thing, however, is certain. If the situation is allowed to drift, experience teaches us that disaster is bound to follow. The mere existence of this new force, if it is left uncontrolled, will produce terrifying political, and psychological effects. Later they say: If risks have to be run the greatest risk is to do nothing. But, in the last chapter, which he has contributed, the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, states his conclusion, that: In the circumstances, the wisest course would be to suspend the work on atomic bomb control for a time in order to relieve the United Nations of this intractable question and give them time to build up solidarity and to establish confidence among the nations. He adds that, in the meantime, as a token of good intention, there should be a ban on the use of atomic weapons in war. I confess that I disagree very profoundly with some of the premises on which the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, based his conclusions, and particularly with his view about the League of Nations and the reasons which he gives for its failure. However, this is not the time or place to enter into controversy with my old friend on the subject, and I shall certainly refrain from doing so. Yet I think it is fair to point out that, as your Lordships will have noticed from the quotations which I have given, there is a very distinct divergence of view between the members of the group to which I have referred.

Some seem to hold that delay would be fatal, others that it is essential. I think that perhaps the best course to-day lies between the two views which have been expressed. We probably have at least two or three years respite, and I would like to put forward for the consideration of His Majesty's Government the following proposals: (1) That the Atomic Energy Commission of the United Nations should continue their efforts towards finding a solution of the present difficulties; and (2) That a convention should be drawn up as soon as possible, open to general signature, to ban the use of atomic weapons in war. The second of these proposals is supported by Lord Hankey. I do not know, of course, whether the Soviet Government would be prepared to sign such a convention, since the agreement, as I see it, would outlaw only the use and not the production of atomic weapons. If, however, the Soviet Government were prepared to sign, then real progress would have been made towards that general agreement which I am sure we all desire. If they refuse to do so, the convention should still be concluded between such Powers as are willing to accept its terms.

Now I approach very closely what the most reverend Primate said. If within, say, a year it becomes clear that no general agreement about the control of the production of atomic energy is practicable and that the positions of the United States and the Soviet Governments remain unchanged—that is, there is no diminution of the existing fears and suspicions—then the nations that are ready to accept control and inspection should get together and conclude a separate convention, by which they would pledge themselves collectively and separately that, if atomic weapons were used against any one of them, the others would retaliate by all the means which lay in their power, by the use of atomic weapons or otherwise.

Such a convention should be open to the adherence of all other nations. It would not be in any way an offensive agreement; it would be solely defensive; but it would ensure that if a would-be aggressor utilized atomic energy, retaliation would take place immediately, and not only by one nation and from one quarter, but by many nations and from many regions. I think if that happened we could then hope—and here I believe the analogy of the non-employment of gas in the last war can be applied—that any desire to use the far more terrible and destructive weapon of atomic energy would be frustrated. I realize that even the course which I have indicated is by no means ideal and it is one about which I am not altogether happy, but in the present state of world conditions, in which perhaps a solution may be only tempor- ary, the course I have indicated may be the best that is possible.

3.53 p.m.


My Lords, this is the third time I have heard the most reverend Primate speak on this subject, and each time he has impressed me more than the time before. If I remember aright, the first occasion was when we heard that the atomic bomb had been dropped. Speaking, I feel sure, without much warning, he said he was deeply concerned at what had happened. I felt very much in agreement. The second time, the most reverend Primate outlined the dangers to which the world would be exposed if the bomb were not controlled. I heard him with sympathy, but I did not speak that day, because I was engaged in the Chatham House Working Party, to which reference has already been made. The third occasion was to-day, when the most reverend Primate crossed the t's and dotted the i's of what he had said before.

The peril of the bomb has been sufficiently emphasized and I cannot add much to what has been said. I should have preferred that instead of "bomb," the words "atomic energy" had been used, because I have an uncomfortable feeling that other methods as diabolical as the bomb will be introduced in due course. I propose to go straight to the question of international control, which has been the subject of the Chatham House inquiry. On that subject I have been engaged for about eighteen months as a member of the study group, which included many of our leading scientists, and I have read a most portentous documentation, including a great many of the proceedings of the United States Atomic. Energy Commission. I cannot say I have read them all, because I have been away for a couple of months in Egypt and I did not receive the documents until I came home. Therefore I have not had time to read them all, so I am not quite up to date. So far our group has not attempted to formulate agreed conclusions, but last summer we felt that an interim report would be useful. Owing to delays in publication, which is a problem nowadays, it was not published until January 21. I will admit to your Lordships that I was very uncomfortable at having to produce my own contribution, which I wrote on May 20, so long before publication. That is a very long time ago, at the rate at which events take place nowadays, but I can say this: that if I wrote that chapter to-day, I would not change a word. "Gloomy" is how I described the position.

The truth is that the Atomic Energy Commission have had an impossible task. To begin with, the international organization of peace, of which this subject forms a part, is probably the hardest problem the world has ever had to face. It has baffled mankind throughout the ages. In modern times the hardest part of that peace problem is disarmament, and, according to my experience, the toughest aspect of disarmament is the control of atomic energy. The subject is extremely difficult. It involves both inspection, which killed disarmament at Geneva, and sanctions, which killed the League. I know my noble friend, the Earl of Perth, does not agree, but that is an old controversy between us. It goes back to 1915, when Colonel House came over and made the first proposals of the League of Nations and included disarmament—that will be found in Colonel House's memoirs and the memoirs of Lord Grey. I then put on paper my views and, roughly speaking, those were my two propositions. I have never varied from the view that sanctions killed the League, and I maintain that I was right.


The noble Lord will forgive me if I equally maintain he is wrong.


If the Government will allow my memoirs to be published, I think I could settle that point. I have been right through these matters. I had the greatest sympathy with the League of Nations, but I was certain from the first that it could not stand sanctions, and I could easily make the case that sanctions killed it. The Commission, then, have had to tackle one of the most intractable problems that exist. But that is not all. They have had to tackle that problem in the most unfavourable circumstances that could obtain; that is to say, amidst the din of incessant wrang-lings at the Peace Conferences and in the United Nations, while the rift was ever widening between East and West, and while Russia was remorselessly pursuing over half the world the ideologies of Lenin as expounded in Stalin's Problems of Leninism. An approach to Stalin was mentioned. I am all in favour of it; I am in favour of anything that might reduce this danger. But if one studies the 600 odd pages of the Problems of Leninism, the English edition of which was published in Moscow only in 1945, one sees how very serious this business is. It stipulates as a fundamental doctrine "victory of the revolution in all countries pursued through an entire historical epoch"; and that historical epoch is described as "replete with civil war and external conflicts." According to Karl Marx, as quoted by Stalin, that period is to consist of "fifteen, twenty, fifty years of war and international conflicts." It has already lasted for thirty years, and there is no particular reason why it should stop.

That, my Lords, is all going on before our very eyes. We have seen the Russian advances all over Eastern Europe. I am not going into 600 pages of the Problems of Leninism, but the external part of it shows that they are in the programme. We are still anxiously watching the ebb and flow of the conflicts in Greece and nearer home, in one form or another, to say nothing of the perennial struggle with Communism in China. By whatever name we call it—whether we call it propaganda, for there is propaganda; civil war, because they have promoted civil wars; or the cold war, although in some places it is rather a hot war—that struggle creates an atmosphere in which sober discussion of the control of the atomic bomb, must be well-nigh impossible. How can we entrust our security—because that is what it comes to—to a body that must include a nation whose openly declared policy, which it is carrying on before our very eyes, means the destruction of everything that you and I hold dear? There cannot be the trust or confidence, such as is necessary in dealing with such a difficult subject, when all that exists.

For example, how can the representatives of the Western Powers avoid asking themselves: Can we possibly abandon the use of atomic warfare? Can we possibly destroy our stocks of atomic bombs, as the other side is insisting? Can we contemplate surrendering our "know-how" to the other side—or for that matter to any nation—at a time when this propaganda is going on universally, when we never know in which nation it will turn up next? No doubt the other side are also saying: "Well, if these fellows cannot agree to abandon the bomb and destroy their stocks it is clear that they do not mean business. They may all the time be working out new uses of atomic energy for the purposes of war." I am sure that is what they must be saying. With that great rift between the nations the differences are really irreconcilable.

We must not make the mistake that we made over disarmament. After the war of 1914-18 the Disarmament Conferences (there were more than one; there was a Preparatory Commission, and the work then went on, I think, for about twelve years) were allowed to work on long after all prospects of success had vanished, until they became a danger to peace, and were even one of the causes of the late war. I do not know whether I need develop that matter; it has been so often developed in this House before. I am quite prepared to do so, but as I have a certain amount still to say I will let it go to-day. Some of the same sort of arguments are now being put forward for prolonging the agony in the case of the atomic bomb as were used between the two wars to keep the Disarmament Conference going. We are told now, as we were told then, that the next war will destroy civilization. We were told it them very seriously. I see the noble Lord opposite—


It very nearly did.


It seems to me that there is quite a bit of it still left.


I am not sure yet that it has not.


Now we are being told the same thing. We are told that we must make tremendous sacrifices of sovereignty and independence in order to obtain what I shall show in a minute will be a very fictitious security. It is no use continuing this inquiry unless, and until by some miracle, East and West become reconciled. Indeed, the Commission are actually doing harm by increasing friction and irritation, and by lowering the prestige—already none too high—of the United Nations. I submit, then, that the Commission ought to be suspended. Against that, I think my noble friend the Earl of Perth put the consideration of urgency. My case is that unless the international situation improves, that argument goes, because the Commission will not be able to reach agreement. It is no good the Commission continuing wrangling, and then not getting complete agreement.

To suspend gives only a breathing space, and the big question behind the Motion of the most reverend Primate is whether effective control is feasible. That problem still remains, and I should like to examine it a little. Effective it must be, for nations will not give up research and production of atomic bombs, and other war uses of atomic energy, unless they are satisfied that an absolutely reliable scheme of control is available. An unreliable scheme is worse than no scheme, because it gives all the advantages to the aggressor.

I am afraid that the schemes upon which the Atomic Energy Commission have worked do not inspire much confidence in that respect. It is easy to draw up a paper scheme on the assumption that all the nations will sign and ratify the Treaty; that all will play the game; that there will be no running out when they have got the "know-how"; and that the whole of their territories will be thrown open. At present a great many territories, including the whole of Russia, are not thrown open. Nations must be willing to throw open the Government offices where there are documents, plans and suspected agreements with other countries, or their own plans for making the bombs secretly. They have to throw open the arsenals, magazines, dockyards, and anywhere where they could hide either the raw material or atomic energy in any form. It is also easy to draw up schemes on the; assumption that there will be no espionage, no bribery, no corruption, no attempt to conceal or mislead that none; of the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of persons engaged in the inspection and control will put the interests of his own country before those of the United Nations; and that none will be open to those tendentious influences which we saw in the case of the Canadian Royal Commission, influences by which men and women of apparently high standing, selected for responsible positions and entrusted with national secrets, were gradually "drawn into the net".—the phrase which is constantly used. If we make all those assumptions., we may assume that war itself can be abolished; and I am not at all sure that it is not easier—or at least any more difficult—to abolish war than it is to find a really reliable control which the nations can trust.

Let us pause for a moment to consider the personnel who will be employed and the conditions in which they will carry out the work. They will come from many countries—a fact which always weakens loyalty and team work—for every nation will want to have a finger in the pie. They will also want to get the "know how" of atomic energy, especially in the early days when the scheme is still on probation and the secret not yet divulged. Is it not certain that some countries will plant the organization with agents, whose business it will be to discover all the secrets in order to forward the interests of their own countries rather than those of the United Nations? Then let us consider the inspectors of this varied personnel, planted out all over the world in different countries, for years at a time, in dull places, with the hateful task of ferreting out the evasion of the rules, whether it be in mine, laboratory, or factory, or on the communications between the two. Will they really be able to carry out their task? Will they be allowed to see more than their hosts want them to see? Some nations are past masters in gulling people. I suggest that the inspectors will often be gulled or lulled into inactivity and into keeping their eyes shut.

In the vast spaces of America, Asia or Africa—to look very far ahead—how are these inspectors to discover what is going on? Will these territories be open to them? Why, nobody is even allowed to fly over some of them! What chance or hope is there of agreement until we get over that kind of difficulty? After the Battle of Yena, the Germans completely re-armed under the very noses of the French Army of Occupation. After the war of 1914-18 the Germans prepared the way for future rearmament—I will not say they re-armed—under the noses of the Inter-Allied Disarmament Commission, and after the Commission had gone they re-armed quite openly; and no one could, or would, stop them. In Palestine, with our large forces, we could not stop both sides arming themselves. However ingenious a scheme is, if a nation want to break it I am afraid they would be able to do so. There will be no means for enforcing control upon a strong recalcitrant nation, or group of nations, except by a world war, and it would be very difficult to get anyone to face that. I think we knew that the Germans were breaking the Naval Treaty, but there was not much that we could do about it. If a major war breaks out, and the whole matter of agreement is washed out, then within a year or two, I am afraid, all the nations will have the bomb. It seems to me that any nation would be mad to entrust its security to any scheme which has been produced up to the present time.

The most reverend Primate summed up the whole thing in a nutshell in the debate on April 27, 1947, when he said: Man has made immense advances in scientific knowledge, but he has not made corresponding advances in moral stature. I do not believe that even that statement goes far enough. I am afraid that Lord Fisher's saying is true: You can no more tame war than you can tame hell. All this, I admit, is very deplorable and very depressing; but so is the whole international outlook. I submit that it is better to face the facts fairly and squarely than to bury our heads in the sand. It is not easy for me to make this speech, but I feel it my absolute duty. If my survey is incorrect, I shall be only too glad to have that proved. But if it is more or less correct, as I believe it is, then we have to confront a new situation with courage, composure and foresight.

Before I give my own proposals—though I do not say that they are very effective—I should just like to say a word about the proposals of my noble friend, Lord Perth. He wishes the Atomic Energy Commission to continue their work. I have given my reasons against that; I want to delay or suspend it. Then he proposes a convention banning atomic warfare. I do not want to give away anything confidential, but I was not supported in making that proposal. A great many people—I am thinking of people at Chatham House—think that that is playing with the problem and is perfectly useless. Nevertheless I stand by my noble friend. We generally agree on most things and I agree with him there. But I think that the ban, following the precedent of the Gas and Bacteriological Warfare Convention, should permit national research and development; those should not be for- bidden by the ban. Then my noble friend made another proposal, which I shall be grateful if he will repeat.


If the Atomic Energy Commission fail, then there should be a kind of convention such as I indicated. The convention would be concluded by such Powers as are ready to accept inspection and control, and it would provide that if any one of them were attacked by a Power using atomic energy the other signatories to the convention would retaliate by whatever means they had in their power, including the use of atomic weapons.


On that, I should like to reserve my views about the position on inspection and control, because I have not had time to think about it. But I very much like the idea of setting up a convention. Otherwise my own proposals would be as follows:

First, to secure the suspension of the work of the Commission on the Control of Atomic Energy sine die, in order to relieve the United Nations for a time of this intractable question and to give them time to build up solidarity and to establish confidence among the nations. Second, to leave the bomb for the present to the Americans, with whom it will be safer than with the United Nations. Third, in co-operation with the Commonwealth and Empire to pursue with energy our own research and experiment on all aspects of this new source of power, including, of course, the counter measures and the protective measures, which I suspect are more considerable than they are sometimes thought to be. Fourth, if and when the time comes again to take up the subject of control internationally, it should be dealt with by statesmen of the highest calibre with the best possible expert assistance, instead of being remitted to a separate expert Commission.

Fifth, as a token of good intention there should be a ban on the use of atomic weapons in war, but, on the analogy of gas and bacteriological warfare, national research and development should not be forbidden. Sixth and last is that we should devote every possible effort to the underlying political difficulties and especially to securing the elimination throughout the world of hate, of which I always regard the atomic bomb as a symbol. As a first step trials and prosecutions of war criminals should be dropped and there should be a universal amnesty. Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord. I would like to leave it at that. It is not by fear, threats of countermeasures, and so forth, that the world can be won to decency and kindness, but by charity. Until a beginning is made in that direction we shall never get either control of the atomic bomb or a reasonably stable peace.

4.26 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, said that he had had the pleasure of listening to three speeches by the most reverend Primate. I have had the pain of delivering four speeches on this subject. As a suitable exercise for the First Sunday in Lent I read through those four speeches at the week end. I was glad to find that I had nothing whatever to retract, and that by the same token I had very little to add. In the circumstances I trust this will allow me to cut short the duration of my address to your Lordships to-day. Everybody will, of course, agree that the most reverend Primate was quite: right to raise the subject, which we must all see is one of overriding importance and urgency. I hope, though with but slight confidence, that the Government may be able to give us some reassurance about the position.

I do not think I need stress to-day all the horrors of atomic war; that has been done on many occasions by others who are more capable of doing it with the eloquence which carries conviction. We are familiar on a small scale with blast effects. In an atomic bomb it corresponds to tens of thousands of tons of T.N.T. In addition there is the radiant heat sufficient to sear and burn all within half a mile of the bomb. Your Lordships are also familiar with the Gamma Ray, which attacks the marrow of the bones, and with the radio-active poisons to which the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, ret erred. Moreover there can be little doubt that all these effects will be multiplied and increased by improvements (if that is the right word) in the bombs as time goes on. Nor can we really isolate this atomic form of warfare from others which are equally horrible to contemplate. Germ warfare, as we all know, has the extraordinary unpleasant characteristic that it spreads catalytically; a few germs in favourable circumstances may go on generating more and more. Modern poisons are excessively potent; one pound of them properly distributed would be enough to poison the whole of the inhabitants of the globe. Atomic war, of course, is the most spectacular, and many people had hoped that co-operation amongst the nations might have been induced by the mere fact that the horror of war with these weapons and the fear of retaliation would make it plain even to the most obstinate that war in these circumstances would not pay.

As has been stressed, we had the extraordinarily generous offer by the United States of the so-called Baruch Plan. The noble Lord, Lord Hankey, has stressed all the difficulties of implementing that plan, or indeed any plan, to prevent atomic weapons being constructed, produced and used by recalcitrant nations, even though they might technically have accepted the plan. I think that everybody, including Mr. Baruch, would agree that there are a great many difficult details to be hammered out before we can trust any such plan, but, at any rate, it is a beginning. It offers some possible chance of avoiding the worst results of atomic warfare. If it had been accepted and welcomed by all concerned, I think we might have had some hope for the future.

But as everybody knows, it was blocked by the obstinate Soviet insistence, in the first instance, on complete independent sovereignty. They stated that any attempt to inspect a foreign country was an infringement of sovereignty which no self-respecting nation could accept. Afterwards they took a rather different line. They said that they would not even discuss the matter until all existing bombs had been destroyed and the use of bombs had been universally banned. I was rather sorry to find that the noble Earl, Lord Perth, and the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, lent themselves to this proposal to ban the use of atomic bombs. We all want to avoid their use; but, if we just ban them, the effect is that those nations which are susceptible to moral inhibitions will not use them, whereas those nations which take a different view of moral obligations will be in a position to employ them as soon as they think fit.

So far as I know, the position now is that we are faced with Russian insistence on the independent sovereignty of all nations. I sometimes wonder what the Roumanians, the Bulgarians, the Hungarians, the Poles and even some of the Austrians think about this particular aspect of Russian policy. I trust that one day they will regain that sovereign independence of which so much has been heard in the Atomic Energy Commission. It is indeed a strange and tragic situation that the nation which produced such men as Tolstoy, Dostojewsky, Mendeljev, Vinogradoff and Tchaikowski should have taken up this attitude which, if persisted in, must split the world into two halves and almost inevitably lead to some form of war which will be infinitely more horrible than the Second World War through which we have just passed.

The Russians have always been suspicious, of course, but they have really allowed suspicion to proliferate until it has grown into national obsessional neurosis. If it is allowed to go on like this—for I see no way of checking it since no news or information is allowed to percolate to the Russian nation—it will definitely endanger the whole future of civilization. It is curious that they should have taken this line for, after all, they pride themselves on their realism. Anyone would have imagined that they had everything to gain and nothing to lose by accepting the Baruch Plan and trying to work it. It is strange that they did not accept it. They cannot hope, for very many decades at any rate, to outstrip the United States in research and development, and surely they ought to be aware of that. If they are not, then their vaunted Intelligence Service, which the Report of the Royal Canadian Commission certainly shows to be pretty effective, must have failed utterly.

If it is agreed that there is no prospect of a change of heart, what do we do next? The noble Lord, Lord Hankey, if I understood him aright, said that we should dissolve or adjourn—




—disband the Atomic Energy Commission. I must say there is a great deal to be said for that. As long as it goes on, it acts as a sort of sleeping draught; we get bogged down in interminable discussions. Action is inhibited, meanwhile, others can proceed with their researches. Should we be a party to this? There I must say that only the Government, with all the infor- mation in their possession, can judge. Personally, I must say that I am much inclined to agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, said about it, but without the fuller information and all details of the discussions that have gone on being available, I do not think anybody outside Government circles can really express a final opinion.

If the Government did take this line, and if the Atomic Energy Commission were dissolved, what next? It is easy to say: "Let those nations"—I hesitate to say "the peace-loving nations" because that is a phrase which is often used by others in the wrong context—"who are prepared to accept the Baruch Plan get together and co-operate on the basis of that Plan." Quite apart from the general objections mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Perth, this is a very difficult line to adopt. Above all, I am thinking about questions of security. There are Communists in the Governments of many countries that might be prepared to co-operate in this course of action. If there are not Communists there now, there is no certainty that there will not be Communists in some future Parliament. Again, quite apart from the Communists in the Government, there are many Communists in scientific and engineering circles, abroad as in this country, and it would be difficult in many cases to make sure that they did not obtain all the information and knowledge which was being developed in the Internationa] Research Institution.

The possibility of continuing to live under a democratic regime presupposes that everybody, or at any rate the vast majority, accept the same fundamentals and that the minority will agree to accept the verdict of the polls and will obey Government laws and regulations, even if they dislike them. In a democracy anyone who fails to do this is a criminal. It is very difficult to deal with a body which claims all democratic privileges but refuses democratic duties. International co-operation would be impossible if we were concerned with countries which contained notable groups whose first loyalty was, say, to the Cominform or to a Fascist International—if there were one—and yet who claimed posts under the Government dealing with the most secret matters. If any plan such as has been adumbrated from various sides (that these nations should go ahead together and accept the Baruch Plan) is agreed to by the Government, these preliminary problems will have to be faced and dealt with. I do not know whether the Government have considered these things at all, and I scarcely hope:: or any detailed reply to-day.

So far as I can make out, the Government have taken the right line on this topic. It is a great pleasure to me—for, as the noble Lord opposite knows, I am always most reluctant to criticize the Government—to be able to say for once that 1 have nothing to complain about in their handling of this matter. On the whole, of course, the outlook is definitely gloomy. We have never yet had any long period of peace over a large area, unless that peace has been imposed by conquest. As I said on a previous occasion, the only instance in European history was that of the Roman Empire which imposed peace on the whole Mediterranean basin for three or four hundred years. It is quite true that slow integration has been enforced as weapons have improved. The robber barons in their castles gradually had to give up their means of livelihood, and accept a more or less ordered Government, when gunpowder became available to destroy their strongholds.

It was hoped at one time, as Lord Hankey said, that air power might compel national States to fall into line in some sort of federation or similar unit, which would prevent them fighting one another. But this is a slow and a painful process, and I very much fear that if it is on its way we, who are in the middle of it, will not live to see the end. Frankly, I do not see any alternative to, or any way out of, these lamentable conditions so long as a large part of the world attaches importance only to material values. We must hope against hope that perhaps one day by a miracle, as the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, said, this Satanic doctrine may be overthrown and that possibly the civilized world may return to that older view, to which at any rate for a thousand years or so, they all paid lip service—namely, that eternal moral values transcend mere material gain. If this outlook should spread about the globe then our troubles would be solved, but, unless and until it does, it seems to me that that hope is very slender.

4.45 p.m.


My Lords, no words of mine are necessary to underline the gravity of the subject which once again has been discussed in your Lordships' House with such tremendous authority of various kinds—logical authority, diplomatic authority, administrative authority and scientific authority. I feel that the same note has been struck throughout, beginning with the words of the most reverend Primate and ending with the moving peroration of the noble Lord who has just sat down. I think we all feel—and I do not pretend that the story I have to tell will cast any ray of optimism over the dark scene—that, until there is a change of heart throughout the world, many of these labours and studies and discussions will be in vain. At the same time, we obviously have a bounden duty (particularly those of us in the Government or serving in an official capacity) to try and see if out of even the present apparent impasse we cannot produce a measure of advance.

The most reverend Primate, I am sure, will not regard it as a mere form of words if I say that this House and the whole country are in his debt for raising the subject in the way he has done this afternoon. I think that he and the other speakers who have come forward and suggested clear proposals will not expect—and, in fact, they have generously made it plain in advance that they do not expect—a detailed commentary on what they have said, or a closely reasoned reply to the particular steps that they have advocated. I think they will realize that a great part of the value of this debate is obtained when it is over, and when proposals put forward by noble Lords of great eminence are considered in the Foreign Office and other Government Departments. If noble Lords feel that there is some danger of the reply not being forthcoming for some little time, I would remind them that we are to have a general debate on foreign affairs in about a fortnight's time, so it will be possible to raise the broader aspects again.

Meanwhile, I am sure that the House will expect me to carry on the story from where it was left last year by the noble Viscount who leads the House, at the time when he wound up the debate on April 30, 1947. After the noble Viscount, Lord Addison, had spoken last year, the most reverend Primate concluded by saying that four points had been brought out very clearly. He said: First, we are all of us convinced of the gravity of the position; secondly, we realize that some progress has been made, and that there are possibilities on which this Commission agreed; thirdly, those possibilities cannot be carried out unless there is some restriction of national sovereignty; and fourthly, whatever we are doing must be done quickly. That was how he interpreted the spirit of the House and, indeed, the spirit of the Government, last year.

I would say, myself, that that remains the spirit of all concerned to-day. But, in reiterating the points made by the most reverend Primate at the end of the debate last year, I would express reservation about the phrase that progress has been made, if we are thinking of the period that has intervened between last year's debate and to-day. It will be remembered that in March, 1947, shortly before last year's debate in this House, the Security Council decided to refer back to the Atomic Energy Commission the Report on atomic energy, with instructions to continue the study of the problem. I am sure the House will wish me to describe to them what has happened as a result of that instruction to the Atomic Energy Commission to continue its studies.

The Report that was referred back for further discussion had been presented on December 31, 1946. The substance of that Report was in line with the original Baruch proposal. May I say, on that subject, how heartily I echo the words used by the most reverend Primate, when speaking about the generosity of the whole American attitude in this matter? When all is said, it is a very remarkable thing to find a country ready to throw away such a colossal advantage provided that agreement can be arrived at regarding terms. It will be remembered that the Report which was referred back concerned certain basic ideas. It contained the idea that the international control of atomic energy is technically feasible. It contained, also, the idea that control would have to be applied at all relevant stages and that, to this end, an international control authority would have to be set up and endowed with far-reaching powers, including the exclusive right to carry on atomic research for destructive purposes. These and other ideas were the main features of the proposal which was referred back to the Atomic Energy Commission.

It will also be remembered that the Report in question was always a majority Report. The Russians at that stage—the stage which had been reached in December, 1946—had not abandoned their own counter proposals, which had been put forward in June, 1946, but were participating in an examination of the American plans. In view of the fact that the Russians were participating in discussion on the American plans it was possible for the Security Council—and I think one can say that it was possible for this House—in April last year, to adopt an attitude of qualified and guarded hopefulness. I think that the most reverend Primate will agree that that sums up the feeling at the end of the debate here. It was in that spirit also that the Commission was asked to resume its work. It was generally felt in this House, I think, especially by the most reverend Primate and the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, that what was wanted, above all, was more elucidation of the Russian attitude and that more light was required on parts of Russian thought that were still obscure. I would say that much of last year was, in fact, devoted to this task of elucidation and the throwing of light on dark places. I am bound to say, however, that elucidation, when it has come and in so far as it has come, has tended to damp down rather than to stimulate optimism. Such light as has been thrown on dark places has shown them to be even darker than was supposed. We should not be far wrong if we called it a year of discouraging clarification. That does not mean that the discouragement has been complete—or the clarification either for that matter.

Perhaps it will be for the convenience of the House if I tell briefly the procedural story and then ask the contemporary question: What separates the Russian point of view to-day from that of others?—rather than stopping at each point to describe the particular conflict which occurred at each passing moment. The work of the Atomic Energy Commission has proceeded in two Committees—Committee I and Committee II. So far as relates to the year 1947, Committee II is the only one with which we need concern ourselves, because, in fact, that was the only one in which much ground was covered. Committee II embarked on a detailed consideration of the controls necessary to provide safeguards against the misuse of atomic energy. It has done an immense amount of work, but it would be difficult to speak of progress in this connexion, except in the sense in which parallel lines progress towards infinity. The work which the Committee has clone has taken two forms—first, consideration of the proposals submitted by the Russian delegates; and second, an attempt to elaborate proposals which had been endorsed by the majority and contained in the Commission's first Report to the Security Council.

If I may, I will take first the Committee's examination of the Russian proposals, leaving until later an attempt to analyze the differences which separate us, or which appear to separate us at the moment, from the Russian point of view The House may have observed that on June 11, 1947, the Russian delegation tabled a second set of proposals developing and adding to the proposals which they had originally introduced a year earlier, in June, 1946. The chief features of the plan of June, 1947—the plan with which we are most concerned—were (1) that a convention prohibiting atomic weapons should be established before the setting up of an agency for the control of atomic energy, and (2), that control should be exercised by inspection only at periodic intervals, as opposed to continuous inspection.

As some of the features of the Russian proposals were not clear, the United Kingdom delegate to the Atomic Energy Commission was instructed to ask for clarification, and as a result he put certain questions in writing—they have been referred to earlier in the debate by the most reverend Primate. The reply to these questions and other results of clarification more recently obtained I will refer to later. The point I am making now is this: that the Russian proposals were considered by Committee II and on August 15, 1947, Committee II passed a resolution to the effect that the Russian proposals do not provide an adequate basis for the development of the specific proposals for an effective system of international control of atomic energy. In other words, the Russian proposals would not do as a basis. That was the conclusion which was reached by Committee II on August 15, 1947. This resolution was passed in the Committee by nine votes. No votes were recorded by the Polish, Syrian or Soviet representatives. There were nine votes and three abstentions. So much, therefore, for the examination of the Russian proposals in Committee II.

The second task of Committee II, which, as I have explained, was throughout the whole period the relevant Committee, was to elaborate the proposals which were supported by the great majority and had been contained in the Commission's first Report. These elaborated proposals give expression to certain basic principles, and they may be summarised as follows:

  1. (1) Decisions concerning the production and use of atomic energy should not be left in the hands of nations—that is individual nations.
  2. (2) Policies concerning the production and use of atomic energy which substantially affect world security should be governed by principles established in the treaty or convention which the Agency would be obliged to carry out.
  3. (3) Nations must undertake in the treaty or convention to grant to the Agency rights of inspection of any part of their territory, subject to appropriate procedural requirements and limitations. In implementing these proposals the further basic measures are provided (I am still quoting from the introduction of the Atomic Energy Com mission's Second Report)—
    1. (a) Production quotas based on the principles and policies specified in the treaty or convention,
    2. (b) Ownership by the Agency of nuclear fuel and source material,
    3. (c) Ownership, management and operation by the Agency of dangerous facilities,
    4. (d) Licencing by the Agency of non-dangerous facilities at present operated by nations, and
    5. (e) Inspection by the Agency to prevent or detect clandestine activities.
These are pretty far reaching proposals. They were, I repeat, the proposals agreed to by the great majority of the Atomic Energy Commission. These elaborate proposals were at first subjected to a very searching criticism by the delegates, but they eventually agreed that they represented the necessary basis. But though I have described them as "far-reaching," I should draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that the proposals cover only part of the whole field of study; there are still left for discussion important matters which have not yet been dealt with—the whole problem of sanctions, for example. These proposals were eventually adopted by the Atomic Energy Commission itself, with ten members voting in the affirmative, Russia in the negative and Poland abstaining. In welcoming the report, the United Kingdom delegate, Sir Alexander Cadogan, said that he accepted the work done by Committee II as indicative of the powers which an international agency will need. These proposals alone, he said, gave promise of effective security, in contrast with the proposals of the Soviet Union.

In addition, speaking on instructions, he referred briefly to the points regarding which His Majesty's Government were not entirely happy. He said that the United Kingdom delegation would like to see more work done on the definition of dangerous quantities of materials. Again, he reminded the Commission that in the discussion the United Kingdom delegation had called attention to the proposal which provided for the right of the Agency to develop atomic weapons. His Majesty's Government thought that this question of the Agency's right to develop atomic weapons required further study and, in particular, that more consideration should be given to the extent to which it was necessary for the Agency to conduct that type of research. These expressions of a desire for further exploration by the British delegation must not, however, be taken to detract from the strength of our general support for the proposals of the great majority of the Commission.

To round off this procedural history, the Second Report of the Atomic Energy Commission was submitted on September 11—that is to say, too late for the matter to be discussed either by the Security Council or by the last session of the General Assembly. The present position, therefore, is that the Second Report of the Atomic Energy Commission is on the agenda of the Security Council. Meanwhile, the Working Committee of the Atomic Energy Commission have decided informally to take up two further tasks; first, the question of organization and staffing of the future International Agency, and, second, a further and more detailed study of the Russian proposals. Work is now being carried out on both these tasks, and that is where the matter stands at present. I have run rapidly over the procedural history because, while it is interesting from the point of view of history, I think we all agree, that what matters is where are we to-day and, above all, where shall we get to in the future. I wished for the purpose of record, however, to give that brief account.

What does it all amount to? What emerges from these tangled controversies of the last two or three years? Three points, I would say, emerge clearly. (1) There is a strong desire among all the nations of the world that atomic power should be internationally controlled. I feel one can say that without making any exceptions. (2) There is every indication that control is technologically possible—and this seems to represent a certain amount of agreement. (3) It has hitherto been found totally impossible to reconcile the ideas of the Russians in regard to the; system of control with those of the great majority of other nations. May I attempt to summarize the reasons why we regard the Russian proposals as inadequate? The Russians insist that the Convention prohibiting the manufacture of atomic bombs and providing for the destruction of stocks must be signed and must come into force before the Convention setting up a control authority has been concluded. I feel that some of the speakers went a little too far in criticism of the Russians, though it does not require any great ingenuity to see points of especial weakness in the Russian case. Though many things have been said on many occasions, I do not think the Russians have ever said they will not continue the discussion regarding a Control Authority until the earlier Convention has been signed and put into force. They have said the Convention must be signed and. put into force, which means that existing stocks must be destroyed before a new Convention can be called, but it would be going too far to say—as one or two noble Lords have suggested—that Russia had refused all further discussions about the second Convention.


I took the statement, I believe, from a Times correspondent. I am glad that the noble Lord has been able to contradict it.


There is no record of any Russian statement to the effect quoted by the noble Earl, What I have said is the most accurate information open to us, and I feel sure that it is correct. In their latest statements the Russians refuse to guarantee that there would necessarily be a second Convention, even if the first were concluded and enforced. Therefore they desire 10 secure the destruction of all bombs without giving any assurance that there will be a second Convention regarding this international authority and inspectorate, That is not quite the same thing as saying that all bombs must be destroyed before they will discuss a Convention. The Russian proposals for control relate almost entirely to a system of inspection. We do not regard inspection by itself as sufficient, and we maintain that the Control Authority must have the power (a) to license all atomic plants, to manage at least those engaged in dangerous processes, and to own atomic energy raw materials and at least certain facilities connected with the production of atomic energy: and (b) to control and allocate the raw materials involved. In our view, while an inspectorate is all-important, it is not the whole organization.

The system of inspection proposed by the Russians is inadequate because it would exclude the following points which we consider essential: first, day-to-day contact between the inspectorate and the operation of plants in all countries. As I mentioned earlier, the Russian proposals provide for a "periodic" inspection only, and we cannot accept inspection unless it is continuous inspection; secondly, the Russians exclude the right of access on reasonable grounds on behalf of the Authority to any part of the world; thirdly, we insist on a clear understanding that every plant would be open to inspection by a truly representative international inspectorate. It would not be sufficient if, shall we say, British plants were inspected by British inspectors, and Russian plants were inspected by Russian inspectors. I do not want to give the impression that the Russians have insisted on the Russian plants being inspected by Russian inspectors only, but they have not been ready to clarify their attitude in this matter; and until they do so their proposals will not satisfy us. Fourthly, the Russians agreed that research by individual nations must conform to any agreement relating to the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes. They agreed to that, but they have not agreed that national research should be subject to inspection by the Control Authority. We and the Americans feel that that is essential.

There are the differences, and I have no doubt that most members of your Lordships' House, when you read what I have said in Hansard, will study them very carefully—more carefully perhaps, than is possible when one hears them expounded in speech. I do not know what the House feels about these differences. Clearly, they must not be underestimated; clearly, in their present form, unless they can be greatly reduced, they make real progress impossible. But I doubt if most members of your Lordships' House, studying these differences on paper, would conclude from them that there is a gulf between Russia and the rest of the world on this subject which cannot be bridged without the grave surrender of vital principles. I imagine that those members of your Lordships' House who have discharged great responsibilities will have known of occasions when larger differences were overcome by diplomacy and negotiation. May that, indeed, prove to be so on this occasion!

It is my duty, however, to make it plain to the House, from the inside knowledge which a Government spokesman possesses, that the prospect of reducing these differences seems definitely worse than it was a year ago. I must repeat that, because the House should be aware not only of the facts but of the atmosphere surrounding the facts. I would offer the House the opinion that if Russia were simply looking at this matter of atomic energy she would be ready to come sufficiently far in our direction to meet us. But I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, emphasized more than once in his speech, that it is not just a question of the Russian attitude to atomic energy, but of the Russian attitude to the whole situation in the world—and, indeed, to other countries; it is her appalling suspicion, which the noble Lord so rightly referred to as an obsessional neurosis. This suspicion, which we encounter in every field, is as tragic for Russia as for the rest of the world—and perhaps even more tragic. I speak with all humility, as one who prays twice a day for Russia, and I am sure the most reverend Primate would agree that there is no country in the world which so badly needs our prayers. So long as that suspicion lasts, and while the general position remains as it is, these differences which I have set out in this rather elaborate way are not likely to be overcome in any one field. Therefore, I suggest to the House that we must not raise any great hopes in our own minds, nor in the minds of other people, about agreement on atomic energy, unless and until we make progress towards reconciliation with Russia generally.

I will not anticipate what others, and perhaps I myself, will be saying in a fortnight's time, when we discuss foreign affairs. In conclusion, I will simply return to the questions that have been asked as to what we propose to do in the Atomic Energy Commission. In that respect, I am afraid that I cannot say anything to the House more definite than this. We will consider all that has been proposed. Some of the proposals conflict rather sharply with others, but that does not mean that some of them may not represent the right course. We will consider all of them. We shall continue to try and extract advantage from continued discussions. But if it proves that we get nowhere along our present lines (the Government feel that some time limit must be set to a state of affairs of this kind), and if we find that all advance is indefinitely, persistently and deliberately resisted, we shall have to reconsider our whole attitude to the problem of atomic energy. Too many millions of lives are at stake, not only in our own country, and not perhaps only in this generation, for any other course to be possible. I am sorry not to be able to say anything more definite to-day; perhaps the House hardly expected it. I certainly cannot sit down without thanking the most reverend Primate once again, and begging him as urgently as possible to keep this subject before both the country and this House.

5.16 p.m.


My Lords, I rise only to thank the noble Lord most warmly for the very fair and full statement he has made. His has been a depressing account, for he has told us quite plainly—and I am glad he has been plain about it—that there is less progress to report than there was when we discussed this subject ten months ago. The outlook at the moment is indeed gloomy and depressing. I am certain that the noble Lord has told us everything that he could tell us. I am sure that the Government will do their utmost to explore every channel which may lead to agreement, and, if agreement is impossible, will decide on the course which they must adopt. All I would say is this. We have not unlimited time; the time is running short. I agree with what was said, I think, by the noble Earl, Lord Perth, that the most dangerous course of all may be to do nothing. Once again I thank the noble Lord, and I ask leave of the House to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.