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Orders Of The Day

Volume 524: debated on Monday 1 March 1954

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Atomic Energy Authority Bill

Order for Second Reading read.

3.44 p.m.

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

Although short, the Bill raises a very big question and it seems right that, on behalf of my noble Friend the Lord President of the Council, I should acquaint the House in some detail with the reasons for wishing to set up an Authority outside the Government service and also with the policy which will guide that Authority if the House gives us the Bill.

Of all the discoveries made by man, splitting the atom is much the most powerful, much the most dangerous, and now, we hope, much the most promising. So much, I think, is accepted; but the general public has still to realise that the new science is also much the most expensive. If we look across the Atlantic we see that the Atomic Energy Commission of the United States has already spent 7,500 million dollars and has appropriated another 2,500 million.

We in this country, according to our resources, are also spending large sums. In the first six years, 1946–51, over £100 million were spent. Hon. Members can see from the Vote on Account that expenditure is now running at over £50 million a year, and that is by no means all. These figures are going to rise. They show how fast the programme has been expanded in the last two years. I ought to make it clear that that is very largely the result of decisions taken by the previous Government.

For all the money spent we could, if it were not for the top secrets involved, present a most impressive list of results. The White Paper on Defence states that atomic weapons are in production and deliveries are now being made to the Services. At the same time, great progress is being made on the civilian side, especially in the early stages of power reactors.

I ask the House to appreciate that it is these striking successes which have been achieved under the care of the Ministry of Supply which are themselves the argument for the reorganisation of the control and management of the British atomic energy establishments which are already worth scores of millions of pounds. If the project had stood still there would be no need for this reorganisation. At present, the whole of our programme is governed by two Acts of Parliament—the Atomic Energy Act, 1946, and the Radioactive Substances Act, 1948. Last December, Parliament agreed to the transfer of Ministerial responsibility for atomic energy from the Minister of Supply to the Lord President of the Council.

Under the Bill it is proposed to take the next step. The powers in those two Acts which relate to research, development and disposal of radioactive substances are transferred from the Lord President to the Atomic Energy Authority. The remainder of the Acts, which may be described as the essentially Ministerial powers, remain in force under the charge of the Lord President. By adopting that method the duties of the Minister on the one hand and of the Authority on the other are clearly defined. Policy remains firmly in the hands of the Government while the Authority is given sufficient freedom to operate that policy with efficiency and in a far-seeing manner.

The most important decisions of policy today are how much we ought to spend on atomic energy taking the programme as a whole, and then, within that total, how much ought to go on military uses and how much on the civilian uses of fissile material. Those are responsibilities which only the Government could discharge. Accordingly in Clause 3 (1) we find that the Lord President is given the specific duty
"… of securing that, in the conduct of the affairs of the Authority, the proper degrees of importance are attached to the various applications of atomic energy."
That is a general statement which the Government have put into the Bill to mark the fact that it lies at the heart of the present stage of the atomic energy project. As I explained before Christmas, this is the essential reason for choosing as the responsible Minister a senior member of the Cabinet who has no departmental interest in the use of atomic energy. Clause 3 contains a number of other provisions which relate to the Lord President's powers to which I shall return later.

I want, first, to state the reasons why we wish to set up an Authority outside the Government service. The present position is that we have extracted a section of the Ministry of Supply and turned it temporarily into an independent Department of State under the Lord President; and we might stop there. The arguments for doing that and no more are variations on the theme that atomic energy is in its prodigious infancy, still very dangerous, very costly to the taxpayers, and still unready to leave the nursery of the Civil Service. The Government believe that those arguments were valid, but that we have now passed the stage when they apply.

We are looking ahead beyond the race to pile up atomic weapons. Of course, at the moment the production of weapons must remain the major task of the programme, but such progress has been made on the civilian side, here and abroad— and no one wants Britain to fall behind— that no time should now be lost in preparing for the day when the civilian uses of atomic energy are as important to our economy as the weapons now are to our defence.

Already, the British investment is changing its character. The programme is becoming less like a laboratory and more like an industry. Research still goes on, naturally, and research is vital, but the tens of millions of pounds invested are bearing fruit. Research has led to development, and development to production.

Up till now most of this work has been carried on in deadly secret, and rightly so, because weapons were nine-tenths of the total. This secrecy has protected the Government administrators. They have had a good defence against Parliamentary Questions. Hon. Members, for their part, have had no chance at all to find out how much money was being spent on the programme. I think that that situation was accepted simply because the programme was essentially one of secret weapons. Now a change is taking place, and there is no need to develop the peaceful uses of fissile material in the dark. Parliament and industry ought now to know what is going on.

But once we begin to treat part of the atomic programme on all fours with any other major industry, a Government Department is not the best form of organisation. The Civil Service has a strong tradition of brilliant research and development work in the armament industry, owing, I believe, a great deal to the fact that such work is carried on in secrecy. On the other hand, Government Departments have no such tradition in the civilian field. This fact must have been in the minds of right hon. Gentlemen opposite when they brought forward their nationalisation proposals. In every case, they rejected an organisation inside a Government Department in favour of a board or a corporation. Without going into the merits of nationalisation, I am sure they were right.

These general considerations apply with particular force to the industrial uses of atomic energy. Really, there could hardly be a worse subject to be meticulously administered according to past decisions. The wonder is that so much has been achieved within the bosom of successive Governments, and tribute is due to Ministers of Supply and also to my noble Friend Lord Cherwell.

The Ministry of Works deserves praise for the job which it, the contractors and their men have done in building these atomic establishments to the very peculiar and restless requirements of the scientists. Above all, the country has been fortunate in the group of highly gifted scientists and engineers who have pushed Britain's exploration so far and so fast in these uncharted regions.

I must, however, say this about these distinguished gentlemen: the greater the scale on which they are operating, the greater the danger that we may be spending too much in one direction and not enough in another. In the realm of nuclear physics, there are so many fascinating paths which may be worth following, and, after all, these men are explorers, and explorers are usually enthusiasts.

The top scientists and engineers agree with the Government that there is now a strong case for bringing them together round the board room table where they can examine the programme as a whole and make joint recommendations which will be the responsibility of all the members of the Authority. It seems to me that the fact that these men favour the kind of organisation that we shall get under the Bill is a very strong argument for the principle of the Bill itself.

If we left atomic energy inside the Government service, we might, if we concentrated on weapons regardless of cost, get the weapons, but we should have a very poor organisation for carrying the industrial side beyond the development stage. For this reason, the Government took the decision in principle to set up an Authority. It was then necessary to look for a form of organisation which combined the advantages of Parliamentary control with those of independent management.

The Government asked Lord Waverley, Sir Wallace Akers and Sir John Henry Woods to advise them on how it should be done. As we expected, Lord Waverley's committee gave us excellent advice. The main recommendations of its report were laid before Parliament in Command Paper No. 8986. The Bill follows the White Paper. It has, however, been thought desirable that the Authority shall consist of a chairman and not fewer than six and not more than 10 members. Some of the members will be part-time.

We have been very fortunate to secure Sir Edwin Plowden as the director of the programme. If the Bill is passed, my noble Friend intends to appoint him as the first chairman of the Authority. Sir Edwin is one of those exceptions which prove the rule. He is celebrated as a planner—indeed, he is the chief of all planners—but—here is where the exception occurs—hon. Gentlemen who know Sir Edwin will also know that his feet never left the ground. We wish him success in what must be one of the most responsible and romantic posts open to a British subject.

The selection of the other members of the Authority will require the greatest care. The Lord President proposes to invite Sir John Cockcroft, Sir Christopher Hinton and Sir William Penney to be founder-members. These gentlemen have executive duties in distinct sections of the Authority's work, and they will continue to be the heads of their respective services, as well as members of the Authority. But, of course, it does not follow that all members of the Authority will have executive duties.

There are many other delicate problems of organisation to be solved. Perhaps the most difficult is how to combine central direction with the efficient management of the rapidly growing number of individual units. I could, perhaps, illustrate the nature and size of the new industry by saying that for every 200 men employed throughout the project, that is, from the most senior man to the most junior, there are already £1 million invested in plant, equipment and buildings. Sir Edwin Plowden and his colleagues are at work on these problems of organisation, and much depends on their successful solution.

I now turn to Clause 3 of the Bill, which was one of the most difficult to draft. It defines the Lord President's powers in relation to the Authority. The problem here is how to get the best of both worlds, how to get effective Ministerial control over policy and freedom for the Authority to operate according to the best university standards in relation to research, and according to the best industrial standards in relation to production.

We realise that in this part of the Bill we are trying to do something quite new. It is no good looking to the nationalised industries for a ready-made pattern in all its details, because the atomic project differs from coal, gas or electricity. We are dealing here with the manufacture of secret weapons, with a subject which arouses acute international issues, and with a budget almost entirely supported by public funds. We do not think that these considerations justify us denying to the country the advantages of independent management on the industrial side, but we think it follows that the Minister responsible to Parliament should have a closer control than has, say, the Minister of Fuel and Power in relation to the National Coal Board.

Will the Minister clarify one point? I recall that in a speech on 10th December—I think that was the date—he justified this change on the ground that it would free the development of the civil side from any responsibility for the development of weapons. He has now said that this Authority will be dealing with the secret weapons. Will he please clarify that a little?

I did not say that the two sides could be separated. The great difficulty of the organisation is that if we were to concentrate on weapons we should damage the industrial side, and that if we were to concentrate on the industrial side we should damage the weapon side. Therefore, we have to do something quite new, which is to get the best of both worlds. Perhaps if I may carry on with my description of Clause 3 the hon. Gentleman will see how we have tried to combine what he very rightly suggests to the House are two difficult subjects to combine.

Clause 3 (2) provides that the Lord President can give the Authority a direction about anything, that is, a direction in general or a direction in particular, but subsection (3) says that he need not do so unless he considers that there is an overriding national interest. In practice, the issue of those directions will be, as they always are, a matter of judgment and common sense. The House, I know, appreciates the difficulties that we are up against here. That was shown in the debate on the Report of the Select Committee on the Nationalised Industries.

In the case of the atomic Authority, the Minister has the power to intervene whenever he likes, but he will not so intervene, and the House would not expect him to do so, unless the subject is of overriding national importance. It is perfectly clear that we have here one of those British compromises which look so untidy on paper and which so enrage the foreigner, but which, in fact, work exceedingly well in practice.

The Minister of Supply will also have a statutory relation to the Authority, which is defined in the first proviso to Clause 2 (2). It will be seen that the Authority may carry out experimental work which may lead to improved types of warheads. Beyond this, all the work which the Authority does on weapons will be to the requirements and specifications of my right hon. Friend who will be fully responsible for providing the Services with complete atomic weapons.

That provision, taken in conjunction with the Lord President's powers in Clause 3, makes certain that the Government will be in complete control of the total amount of resources to be devoted to weapons, and of the types and quantities of weapons to be produced. It will also be appreciated that an Authority which produces secret and highly dangerous weapons has to be given the right to employ special constables, a power which is possessed by few bodies outside the Crown. It is necessary to safeguard these very important products and to see that unauthorised persons do not go where they should not go.

These and various other provisions contained in the Third Schedule will no doubt be fully discussed in Committee, but the short point is that we must ask for these powers if we are to have the essential advantages of management by an Authority outside the Civil Service.

I turn now to a subject which I know is of great interest to the House—the general policy of the Authority and its relations with the universities and with industry. My noble Friend has no intention of allowing this reorganisation to reduce in any way the fundamental and other research programmes which are the basis of all advance in the nuclear sciences. The Authority has excellent relations with the universities at the present time, and it will continue to have the very closest relations both with the scientific departments of universities and with the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.

The Authority will place research contracts with universities and with industry. It will consider the education of outside scientists and engineers to be a very important part of its task. Clause 2 (2, f) makes provision for this. We are not here embarking on something new, but eagerly looking forward to an extension of an existing arrangement.

Another interesting development which is in hand is the setting up of a school of reactor technology, where engineers from industry can learn about the fundamental principles of reactor design and be brought up against the many technical problems which designers have to solve.

British scientists have in a very short time wrested from the atom an amazing store of knowledge, and they are constantly making fresh discoveries. The Government believe that there is plenty of room for international collaboration on the peaceful development of atomic energy. Here is the seed of great things to come. A generation from now, we may hope, there will be power stations all over the world operated by men trained in Britain.

Some of the Commonwealth countries have sent their scientists to Harwell since the start, and we very much hope that they will send more. These Commonwealth scientists have made great contributions to the British project. The atomic energy projects in their own countries are certain to grow, and there seems little doubt that the rate of growth will depend on the number of nuclear scientists and engineers available. Thus the training in this country is of extreme importance.

I now pass to the Authority's relations with British industry. In the field of reactors the Authority will be concerned with research and development and, beyond that with the pioneering work necessary before a civil application of atomic energy reaches the commercial stage. But, when that stage has been reached industry will take over, whether the industry be private or nationalised. We believe that this is far the best way to secure for the nation the full benefit of the enormous sums which have been laid out on research and development.

It looks as though the most important use will be for the generation of electricity, and the House may wish to know how we see the electricity programme taking shape. At present, we are building the first atomic power station in this country at Calder Hall, in Cumberland. When this prototype has demonstrated the soundness of the design, the electricity authorities—the B.E.A. and the Scottish electricity boards—will be free to place orders for other reactors of this or improved types.

The electricity authorities will buy their atomic fuel from the atomic Authority, but apart from the fuel they will contract with industry to their own specifications—just as they do now for coal-fired power stations—for the construction and equipment of atomic power plants. They will operate such plants as part of their system of electricity supply. It is in this line of development—that is the Calder Hall "family" of reactors—that we see the earliest prospect of producing economic results.

But I now have to tell the House that our people are ready to go ahead with a far more powerful and dramatic project. It has been decided to build a big, fast reactor of the "breeder" type, to which the Minister of Supply referred in the House on 26th January and 16th November of last year. This plant will be constructed at Dounreay, in Caithness. An enterprise of this kind requires a very large site—at least some hundreds of acres—in open country, but it must be within reach of a labour supply and the amenities of community life. It must be on the coast, both for the discharge of the effluent and to provide sea water for cooling. It also requires a very large supply of fresh water.

Dounreay meets all these requirements better than any other site. It has the further advantage that development there should make a very big contribution to the revival of the Highlands. When it is in full operation the project is expected to provide employment for some 600 men, of whom about half will be recruited locally. My hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson), who has been so persistent in his advocacy of bringing industry to the robust part of the Kingdom which he represents will, I am sure, be glad that his efforts have been rewarded with so great a prize.

I must say a word about the plant at Dounreay. For safety's sake it will be housed in a large, spherical steel shell. But even when it is in that "Dome of Discovery"—and it really will be a dome of discovery—there is a very remote possibility of a slight leakage of radio activity should there be a failure in certain parts of the plant. The local authorities have been consulted and with their help arrangements will be made as to what should be done in this most unlikely event. And I must emphasise that it is a most unlikely event.

In an enterprise of this kind it is never quite certain what problems will be encountered. I think that it is true to say that, in the past problems have been solved as the construction has gone along, and may be that that will be the case here. We have every hope that this fast reactor will show the way to remarkable economies in the consumption of uranium, and will become a world-famous pioneer among the plants which provide electricity in the next generation.

To summarise this part of my remarks, the Authority will continue—

Could the right hon. Gentleman say when this work is likely to start, and whether the ground and other necessities are ready?

The survey work has gone on already. The construction work will start just as soon as the Ministry of Works can get under way to the requirements of the Lord President's people who are temporarily in charge. We shall have to build up a very considerable labour force when undertaking the building operations that will go on there; but "the sooner the better," is our thought.

The Authority will continue to design and build prototype plants. It will not compete with the electricity authorities in the supply of electricity to the public. Once these reactors are proved, the electricity authorities will take over. That being our policy, the House will see how necessary it is to start now to train the men who will design, construct and operate power-reactors for the supply of electricity to the public. And not only to the public in this country. British engineering firms must be ready to take the lead in the markets of the world, and we cannot doubt that just over the horizon there are immense orders waiting for all kinds of atomic plant.

I hope that this expansion on the industrial side of atomic energy will appear a conclusive argument for an Authority outside the Civil Service. For, clearly, many of the staff will have to speak the language of industry. Some of them should come from, and some should go back to industry, and that is act very easy in Government Departments. Further, since atomic experts are in demand in many other countries, the Authority must, when necessary be free to engage staff on terms in relation to what they could earn in industry here or abroad. That is not very easy inside the Government service.

At the same time, we must take care to avoid general standards which are very different from those of the Civil Service. I think that the House will be with me when I say that solutions have to be found to these problems of pay and conditions which will enable us to retain and, recruit top class men for the atomic energy programme.

This seems to be the place to say something about the interests of the staff and employees. Both the Lord President and the Prime Minister have given general assurances of fair treatment at the time of transfer to all those who are at present working on the atomic energy programme. The House may wonder why there is no need to put in the Bill any specific provisions safeguarding the rights of the staff. The answer is because no one will be compulsorily transferred. Perhaps I may go into this point in some little detail.

Today, all the staff are civil servants. If an Authority is set up, the work must go on without interruption. Some of the staff may choose to stay in the Civil Service; others may only wish to transfer if the terms and conditions are sufficiently attractive. These terms cannot be fully worked out until the Authority is in being and has had time to consider a whole range of questions. To bridge the gap, all those working in atomic energy will be seconded to the Authority for a period up to two years. This means that while on secondment a man will still be a civil servant. He will still enjoy his Civil Service salary, his leave, sick leave and pension conditions.

If and when the Authority makes him an offer to join its staff he can consider it. He can accept it, or he can elect to remain a civil servant. No one will be transferred compulsorily. No one will be worse off. I can give an assurance that the arrangements will be as fair and as clear as we can make them, and that the Authority's terms will not be less favourable than those enjoyed by the staff in the Civil Service.

I know that some of the staff are now anxious about houses, and that the present number of houses do not meet all requirements. I can say that my noble Friend has this point well in mind, and intends that the Authority should push forward to fulfil the hopes of those who are anxious.

Is anyone skilled in labour relations to serve on the board of the new Authority?

The Government's view is that it will be better not to have people representing particular interests, apart from the three great atomic experts. We are still considering the membership of the Board. This is a very big business, where a small board is probably the best thing to have. If we started to admit a user of atomic energy or someone else with different functions we might get the kind of board which, in this rarified and complex business, would not be the best. But we have this question under consideration.

If I were one of those seconded to the Authority, and the Authority made me an offer, I should look very closely at its terms, but I should be just as much interested in the future of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority and, therefore, of my own prospects as a member of its staff. Those prospects are good. The programme is expanding. Industry will need more men trained by the Authority; so will the Commonwealth. The number of jobs must increase as time goes on. The Government have every confidence that almost all the staff will transfer and help to bring fresh triumphs to an enterprise which, as I shall explain in a moment, is of very great importance to the nation.

I must say a word on the awkward question of security. There is a strict security system throughout all our atomic energy establishments. I would not go as far as Hecate, in "Macbeth," and say:
"… you all know, security
Is mortals' chiefest enemy,"
but it is an unpleasant subject. One wishes that the measures in force could be relaxed, but this obviously cannot be done. The very highest military secrets are involved and must be guarded by all possible means. We know that the stockpiles of atomic weapons, of which the American is by far the greatest, are rapidly growing. This is a comfort, for these weapons are the world's best guarantee that any aggressor will think twice before inviting retaliation on such a scale.

One cannot doubt that the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation would be strengthened if those of its members who make atomic weapons felt able to share their knowledge and practice, but we can hardly expect this exchange to take place unless there is mutual confidence in the security systems which guard information of such value to a potential enemy. Whether or not the Americans come to see the advantage of a full exchange with us, as we hope they will, we must be capable of keeping our own secrets. The Russians know how to make a bomb, but, presumably, there are good bombs and bad bombs. We certainly know that there are cheap bombs and expensive bombs. This presumption about a bomb will apply even more to the newer, non-conventional modern weapons.

The pity is that for us it is so hard to disentangle the innocent from the dangerous, and the civil from the military information. This is not surprising. It is the direct result of concentrating our efforts on the bomb. We were not able, as the Americans have been at Brook-haven, to set up separate establishments almost entirely concerned with non-classified material, so it is normally the case that in our plants and laboratories, although a man may be doing something about which there is no need to make a mystery, he is certain to be in close touch with someone else who is working on top secrets. Thus, we are bound to investigate the harmless man's background and to take precautions about him, as though he were working on the weapons programme.

That is why, in the Third Schedule, the Official Secrets Act is applied to all the staff of the Authority as if they were Crown servants, and why the screening of individuals must continue. But my noble Friend does intend that, while guarding vital secrets, the Authority shall have more liberty to let the outside world know what it is doing. The Lord Privy Seal, who is particularly interested in all questions of health, will deal with the medical applications of radio-active substances when he replies.

I must say a word about Clause 4, which deals with finance. The reorganisation which we are proposing to carry forward with this Bill will have at least one excellent result. Parliament will find it easier to follow the finances of atomic energy. Up till now, hon. Members might have searched all through the Subheads of the Ministry of Supply's Vote in an attempt to find out just how much was being spent. They would have searched in vain, and they were meant to search in vain. But, in future, all these items will have to be collected and presented as moneys to be voted to the Lord President. So, for the first time, it will be possible to see the size of the expenditure on atomic energy.

Clause 3 (5) provides that, for the first time, there will be laid before Parliament an annual report. The Lord President in- tends this report to be as informative as possible, and, taking it together with my noble Friend's estimate, it should greatly help the House if it desires to have an annual debate on the progress of the Authority. The finance of atomic energy is bound to be a trifle unruly. Unexpected things are always happening in this very odd world, where it is particularly difficult to estimate in advance how much a new development will cost in any one financial year.

I think that we can draw the consolation, however, that it should be easier to make and hold to a budget when all the sections of the Authority have been drawn together in one place. None the less, I expect that our estimates will sometimes go wrong, and then we shall have to throw ourselves upon the mercy of the House. We must see how we go along, but the point of substance is that hon. Members will have a better opportunity in the future than they had in the past to follow the finances of this great undertaking.

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us on what he bases the assumption that the Authority will have no revenue whatsoever?

It is not strictly accurate to say it will have none whatsoever, and if I conveyed that impression I apologise. The Authority, spending many millions of pounds, receives some £200,000 from the sale of isotopes, and no doubt later some arrangement will have to be made—we hope it will be made— with the British Electricity Authority and the Scottish electricity boards. For the time being, however, the Authority has little revenue by comparison with its enormous expenditure.

In conclusion, nobody knows where the discovery of nuclear fission may lead. Two quite small atom bombs stopped the war with Japan. Now there are stored away, ready for use, many times those two bombs, both in number and in power, and there are many new devices for delivering them. These reserves of atomic weapons could do for mankind what poison gas failed to do—make the next war too terrifying to start. That is the military object of the American and British atomic programmes. Under the Bill we shall continue to take our full share in providing the deterrent to war.

Last Thursday the Prime Minister said he saw no contradiction between continuing rearmament and continuing the efforts to reach peace. I think that what we are doing under the Bill will strengthen the hand of the Foreign Secretary in all the efforts which he is making.

Nevertheless, I suppose the day will come when, if atomic weapons have not been outlawed, the great Powers will have piled up so many that it will not be worth while making any more. These things do not deteriorate. Then the civilian uses of fissile material will remain and will offer enormous benefits to all of us.

In the coming years, what can we expect on the civilian side? All is guesswork here, but we may hope that within 10 years nuclear reactors will be paying their way. The House will see what success here means to our standard of life. The new source of power will come only just in time. On any calculation, however optimistic, our indigenous sources of power will fall further and further behind the demands of our factories and our homes. Industry's requirements are already hard up against the supply of conventional fuel. Life for the British family would be warmer, easier and cleaner if electricity were cheap and more abundant.

Where, then, shall be turn? Britain's resources of coal are limited. We have very little water power and almost no oil. Of all countries, Britain must invest boldly and heavily in atomic energy, because here is the key to expanding prosperity for our own people and for our friends overseas. Everyone in the House desires to press on with Commonwealth development. It may well be found that the greatest contribution which this country can make to Commonwealth development in this century is in atomic power.

Very often one hears of a deposit of valuable minerals which cannot be worked because the cost of bringing power to operate the mine would be too great; or one is shown on the map fertile land where much food could be grown if there were water. If there is cheap atomic power, then those minerals can be worked and that land can be irrigated. If the land happens to be along a sea- shore, plant can be operated to convert salt water into fresh water.

Once the nuclear reactor is proved a commercial proposition, the isolated treasures of nature can be worked to the benefit of mankind. Success in this field will do more than make us richer. It will, like the conquest of Mount Everest, add to our reputation and strengthen our confidence in our own future.

There is only one conclusion to all this: we must give to our scientists and engineers what they need fully to develop the new source of power. Money and materials are not everything. Organisation is vital. Good organisation, as efficient as we can make it, is the best guarantee that the huge sums which Parliament will be called upon to vote will be well spent. We must be willing to experiment and to run some risks to keep Britain in the lead of the development of the sane use of atomic energy. That is the object of the Bill which I now commend to the House.

4.36 p.m.

I beg to move, to leave out "now." and, at the end of the Question, to add "upon this day six months."

We on this side of the House fully agree with what the Minister of Works said in his concluding remarks. Atomic power is all-important, particularly to this country, and everything which can be done, within reason, should be done to develop it quickly and efficiently. There is, however, a great difference of opinion between us as to how it can best be developed and whether the proposal put forward by and, at upon the Government and embodied in the Bill is the most effective way of achieving the objective which the right hon. Gentleman, and I think the whole House, has in mind.

We had a debate on this subject, on the White Paper, last December. Since then my colleagues and I have given further and objective study to the Government's proposals to set up an Atomic Energy Authority, and that study and a close scrutiny of the Bill has strengthened us in our conviction that the whole concept is unwise and, in practice, will have just the opposite effect from that which the Government intend.

In our view, it is more likely to retard than advance the development of atomic energy in this country, and I propose to tell the House why that is our view. Before considering the arguments against the establishment of the Authority I want to examine with the House those arguments in favour of it which the Government have put forward—and there are a number.

The Minister of Works today suggested that this step was logical because if we on this side of the House, when we nationalise a private industry, put it under a corporation—as the best way of getting effective control over it—so it follows that if there is some semi-industrial organisation already in a Government Department, then we should set up a corporation for that too. But that would be quite an illogical conclusion to reach. Far more has to be proved before one can accept it.

Then there was the argument advanced by the Minister at some length in the debate on the White Paper. A remarkable point about that argument was that it had nothing whatever to do with the arguments in the White Paper itself. It was entirely different, but in our view equally fallacious. I think it would be fair to summarise it in this way: the Ministry of Supply, he said, as an armaments Department, requires fissile material for its own use but, as there are other Departments who also require it, the neutral Lord President of the Council, in charge of an Atomic Energy Authority, should be the arbiter of the destination of the material.

I admit straight away that if the assumption underlying that argument were true the case would be a formidable one, but, in fact, it is untrue. That the right hon. Gentleman advanced it is, indeed, alarming, because it shows that he really does not appreciate at all how the atomic energy set-up under the Ministry of Supply operates today. The fact is that the Ministry of Supply has ordinary industrial peace-time responsibility as well as military responsibility.

For example, I was generally responsible, for the nationalised steel industry, for allocating steel and other materials when they were scarce, and it was not the Board of Trade but the Ministry of Supply which was responsible for increas- ing the exports of engineering goods, such as oars, electrical equipment and many other things, at a time when that policy was, in fact, in conflict with the armaments policy of Her Majesty's Government.

The Ministry of Supply, therefore, is not just an armaments Department and it does not, as the Minister of Works stated on that occasion, require any fissile material itself. It is the Service Departments that require the fissile material and its allocation between them and the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Board of Trade must, in any case, be settled by a ministerial committee composed of the Ministers concerned and not by the Minister of Supply or the Lord President of the Council.

So the whole of that argument, which was set forth at considerable length, falls to the ground. We are not, in fact, concerned here with the problem of the allocation of fissile material. The question we have to decide is whether the research, development and production in respect of that material can better be done by a Department which is peculiarly well-equipped for this work, and which has proved itself brilliantly successful in doing so, or whether it can be better done by a semi-independent—I think a mongrel body—which has neither the freedom of commercial enterprise nor the resources of a State Department behind it.

But the other and the main argument advanced by the Government in the White Paper, by the Minister of Works today, and very vehemently by Lord Cherwell when he was discussing the matter in the House of Lords, in 1951, is this. They say now that the atomic energy project is past its teething stages, it is desirable to take it away from the Civil Service influence where nothing of this sort can properly be dealt with, and it should be put under the auspices of a semi-industrial organisation where there will be, and I quote the words in the White Paper:
"Imagination and drive …"
and greater scope for
"flexibility and rapidity of decision."
I say—and I am sure that the Minister of Supply, who sits opposite me, will not deny it—that the atomic energy department of the Ministry of Supply which, by the way, is to a large extent an autono- mous body has been characterised throughout its existence by these very qualities of drive and flexibility which the Government now say they ought to have, but does not at present possess. Indeed, we have irrefutable evidence that this is so; evidence which the Government, in any case, cannot refute; because On one of their own publications they have paid tribute to the speed, efficiency and general competence with which the present atomic energy set-up carries out its task.

I will quote to the House—and hon. Members opposite may like me to quote the whole passage—what is said in that most admirable booklet, issued recently by the Government, called "Britain's Atomic Factories." On page 10, there is the following paragraph:
"So much for the origin of the Production Division, its broad commitments, and the major obstacles it encountered in its work. The obstacles were overcome—we shall see how as the narrative proceeds—and the commitments fulfilled. The first bulk output of plutonium was produced on the date specified, In less than five years the Division built a new industry worth some scores of millions of pounds; every factory came into operation within a month of the estimated date, every plant cost within a small percentage of the estimated sum. It is an achievement that will stand comparison with any other in the history of British industry."
That was all done by an organisation which the Government now tell us they think is inadequate to carry on atomic energy development in the future.

Surely the passage which the right hon. Gentleman has just read, and which we heard on this side of the House with great interest, refers specifically to the efforts made for the production of fissile material, whereas we shall be concerned in the future with the application of fissile material to industrial and other matters.

I do not think the Minister would agree with that. He is generally concerned with the production of it and there is no reason why the application of fissile material can be better done by an organisation outside the Government than inside it—at least, I can think of no reason. I suggest to the House that in view of this tribute paid by the Government to the present atomic energy organisation which I have quoted their whole case falls to the ground.

One cannot build up a vast new industry worth some scores of millions of pounds within the original estimate of time and money without possessing to the full the qualities of "imagination, drive and flexibility" which the Government suggest that the present setup lacks and on account of which they propose transferring it to another organisation. So much for the Government's case, and I think that I have stated it fairly.

I should now like to submit to the House the serious disadvantages which, in our view, will follow the establishment of this Authority, divorced from the Ministry of Supply. Those responsible for future progress in atomic energy matters will be deprived of that vast store of experience, large-scale research, development and production which has been built up by the Ministry of Supply organisation. That organisation possesses invaluable technical resources which have enabled it to develop in close association with industry projects such as aircraft, aircraft engines, radar and electronic devices, in all of which this country leads the world. The hiving off of part of these resources will weaken both the part that is hived off and the part that remains.

Further, the Government's development facilities, research and production stations and the skilled scientist and engineers who man them are deployed at present in those directions that are best suited to satisfy the nation's varying and changing needs.

For example, if necessary, a part of a research station and part of its staff can be switched to deal with a particular guided missile or atomic energy problem. This flexibility, which, over and over again, has proved itself invaluable, will now cease; and, obviously, no similar coordination with the scientific organisations under the Lord President's control, the D.S.I.R. or the Medical Research Council will (be of any comparable use.

What advantage can come to the Authority to offset this loss? It is suggested, greater commercial freedom. I do not believe that for one moment, and I challenge whoever is to reply to the debate—and it appears to be significant that it will be the Leader of the House and not the Minister of Supply himself— to tell us how this new Authority will be freer than it is under the present set-up of the Ministry of Supply or what form of transaction it will be able to do which cannot be done at the moment.

If it is suggested that the Authority will in some undefined, unspecified way be more industrial-minded, or, as the Minister of Works stated in his speech, that its people will be able to talk the language of industry better than those now concerned with the atomic energy set-up, the right hon. Gentleman just does not know what he is talking about.

The Ministry of Supply, is largely an industrial organisation and its knowledge of and contact with industry is maintained not only at its headquarters but through its regional organisations. Its knowledge of British engineering is unsurpassed. I remind the House that during the last year the Ministry of Supply made contracts with 10,000 engineering firms to the value of £630 million. I see nothing whatever that will be gained in this direction, but a great deal of knowledge and expertise will be lost.

Another disadvantage of the proposed set-up, as it appears to us is that it will create divided Ministerial responsibility. This division will be a ridiculous one. The Lord President of the Council will be generally responsible to the Authority but, as we were told today by the Minister of Works, the Minister of Supply will be responsible for delivering the atomic weapons to the Services and will also be wholly responsible for development for all those features of the atomic weapon, which are many and complex, other than the fissile material.

Here is a pretty situation, which is bound to lead to difficulty and conflict. Who will the Services look to for the fulfilment of their requirements—the Minister of Supply, the Lord President of the Council or the Authority? If the Ministry of Supply places contracts with the Authority, he will have to take a large measure of responsibility for the fulfilment of those contracts, as he always does when, for example, he orders military aircraft. Who will be responsible to Parliament if anything goes wrong? The whole business is exceedingly confused. One can foresee a vast field for disagreement and conflict which will follow from making this organisational separation between the Authority and the Ministry of Supply in regard to the various aspects of atomic energy development.

There are a number of political disadvantages which, we believe, will follow. A minor one, but one which should be mentioned again, is that the Lord President of the Council will, for the first time, have a headquarters administrative and technical staff. Constitutionally, I certainly think that that is a bad thing. He should have no Departmental responsibilities. But, far more important, is the weakening of Parliamentary control of atomic energy development, a development which, all agree, will play an increasingly important part in the life of the nation.

All atomic energy matters will in future be at one remove from the control of Parliament: the Authority will come between us. But the worst aspect is that the Minister in authority over the new organisation will sit in the other House, and the Minister who will have to answer to the elected representatives of the people in this House will have no association whatever with the Authority and must get all his knowledge at second hand. He will, in fact, be nothing more than a messenger boy between the Authority and this House. We take the strongest exception to that.

One of the other matters which concerns us deeply on this side of the House is the one to which the right hon. Gentleman referred: that is, the position of the Ministry of Supply staff who may be taken over by the Authority. We understand that various bodies representing the civil servants discussed the matter with the Lord President's Department some time ago. But I understand that nothing much of importance or final has happened. Various safeguards are suggested in the White Paper, but there are thousands of civil servants whose future will be much affected by the transfer to the Authority, and they have a right to the protection of this House.

Indeed, it would be a scandal if the Bill became an Act before the House was fully satisfied that these public servants will have all their rights of employment and negotiating arrangements, which they at present enjoy, fully protected in the new set-up. We want something more, and I am quite certain that people affected want something more, than a general assurance. They want something more specific than that, either in the conclusion of the negotiations with the Lord President's Department or by amendment of the Bill.

We will do our best to ensure that before the Bill passes through the House, these people will be in every way fully safeguarded about their future position. All sorts of problems arise, particularly in regard to the unestablished temporary civil servants. Their future seems particularly uncertain. Of course, this anxiety which we have about the staff concerns the industrial staff just as much as the technical and administrative staff. All these detailed matters will be thrashed out in Committee, but, meanwhile, there are one or two broad matters of principle concerning the staff to which we attach great importance.

In every corporation or public board which has been set up so far, the Act has specified that someone with experience in the administration or organisation of workers should be a member of the corporation or board. This Bill does nothing of the sort. The Minister of Works told us this afternoon that the Lord President is against this but that the matter might be considered further. We will press very strongly indeed that in this set-up, which differs little from the other corporations which have been set up to deal with industrial organisations, such a representative should sit with the Authority. We feel that this should be so on both political and social grounds and in order to satisfy the workers in the industry that someone with intimate knowledge of their problems and their outlook is participating in the highest policy-making body in the Authority.

It is, I understand, proposed that put of the seven members of the Authority, there should be someone from the employers' side of industry. If so, all the stronger is the case, not that there should be a representative of workers directly on the Authority, but that there should be someone present with the backing and confidence of the working people employed in this organisation.

The right hon. Gentleman spoke about security, but he did not deal with this other important point. The White Paper states, in paragraph 19, that security will be primarily the responsi- bility of the Authority. Does this mean that the Government's security arrangements now in operation will be wholly or partly set aside? Does it mean that an employee can be dismissed without the protection of the existing quasi-judicial tribunal, where the employee is given every opportunity to state his case? Does it mean that no Minister will, in future, be answerable to Parliament for dismissal on security grounds?

These are very important questions, and they arise in one's mind not only because of the vague wording—it may be dangerously vague—of the White Paper, but because of an expression of opinion on this subject given to the other House by Lord Cherwell, when considering this matter, in the speech which he made on 5th July, 1951. He said that under the organisation which he then envisaged, which is very similar to the one we are discussing today,
"It would be possible to get rid of them "—
that is, any worker in the new organisation—
"without any stated reason on payment of six months 'or a years' salary."
He prefaced that by saying:
"People would be given contracts with a 'break' clause."
Is it proposed that that should take effect under this new organisation, that someone can be sacked on six months' notice without the right of stating his case? If someone is sacked in such a way it is clear that his chances of getting other employment of a similar nature will be severely prejudiced. It would be outrageous in our view that that should be allowed to happen without the man being in a position to defend himself.

Before passing from the Second Reading I think it is important that the House should be fully aware of the reasons which moved Lord Cherwell, who was the Prime Minister's adviser on atomic energy matters, and who was unquestionably the father and progenitor of this proposal, to advocate the changes we are discussing today. Lord Cherwell told us clearly what his views were in the speech to which I have already referred, a speech in which he expressed his views vehemently, one might almost say passionately.

He said on that occasion, July, 1951, that the atomic energy project must be taken out of the hands of the Civil Service, and he suggested that it had to be done before the end of the summer, otherwise the whole project would—and I use his own words—" decline," "decay" and "disintegrate." He also said:
"… the Civil Service is quite unfitted to cope with this sort of undertaking."
What, in fact, happened? The present Government were so little impressed— and quite rightly—with the right hon. Gentleman's state of alarm, almost hysteria, that instead of doing anything for three months they waited for three years before tackling the subject. The only thing that happened meanwhile was a series of statements by various Ministers, including the Prime Minister and the Minister of Works, which referred to the admirable progress atomic energy has been making, of course, under this tittered Civil Service who, according to Lord Cherwell, could not deal with the matter at all.

I suggest that in view of the statement which I have already read to the House, which is the Government's own view of the progress which has been made by the Civil Service, where they said:
"It is an achievement that will stand comparison with any other in the history of British industry,"
the whole of the case which was in the right hon. Gentleman's mind at the time falls. It falls on the evidence advanced by the Government, because they flatly refute the allegation of incompetence and inability on the part of the Civil Service to deal with a problem of this sort.

The right hon. Gentleman want on to say, in that speech:
"Only men used to tackling large industrial developments can successfully handle operations of this nature."
What is proposed here? It is to set up an organisation consisting wholly and exactly of these civil servants, whom the right hon. Gentleman said had mishandled the whole business up to now. For it is these same people who, from top to bottom, are to be on the new organisation. There may be one or two industrialists brought in at the top, but, otherwise, it is the wholly unfitted civil servants who cannot cope with such problems, who, under the provisions of this Bill, are to do so.

This Measure has no relevance at all either to the case which Lord Cherwell had in mind or to the real facts of the situation. We say, therefore, that the Bill before us is founded on a fallacy. It seems to us to be a victory of prejudice over experience, or, to put it another way, of Lord Cherwell over common sense. We believe, moreover, that the Bill is not only unnecessary, but that, if enacted, it will hinder the development of this great national enterprise, whose potentialities will deeply influence and, we hope, greatly benefit the course of British history.

5.6 p.m.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) will forgive me if I do not follow his line of argument. I can safely leave him to my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal and to other of my hon. Friends on this side of the House. I rise to deal with a constituency aspect of this matter, which is of importance, and I make no apology for concentrating on my own constituency in this matter. [An HON. MEMBER: "What has it to do with the Bill?"] It has a good deal to do with the Bill.

The people who live in the north of Scotland will learn tonight with pleasure that Dounreay has been selected as the site of the first industrial plant for the production of atomic energy. They will realise that perhaps a new era is beginning, and that the old one, which depopulated the Highlands, is ending. I believe it heralds the second industrial revolution. The first one passed us by because of our lack of coal, but happily our vast water-power resources are being harnessed and used for the production of electricity by the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board, which has done a magnificent job.

Tell that to the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro).

He knows it; I told him.

The generation of electricity will be greatly increased when this massive plant comes into being. I feel obliged to draw the attention of my colleagues on both sides of the House to the outstanding work which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply has done in bringing about this project. It is entirely due to the response which my right hon. Friend made to my appeal which brought the Highland area within the survey, and thanks are due to him and the very competent officials, some of whom have been named today as directors of the new organisation.

The people in the north of Scotland will rejoice at the opportunity being given for the young people born in that part of Scotland to find work and wages. In parts of my constituency up to 19 children out of every 20 had no chance of staying in the place in which they were born. I hope many more will have an opportunity to do so in the future if they so desire. If they want to go elsewhere we shall be glad to help them.

I hope that the area will become self-supporting and that we shall not require to depend on the generosity of the taxpayer and the ratepayer in the South, as we have done up to date, through block grants and other assistance. At one time we carried one-third of the people of Scotland; now we carry less than one-twentieth. But we believe we are on the way back. We have been going downhill, but this project will enable us to go uphill. That will benefit the people in the constituency which I have the honour to represent, and I hope it will benefit the whole of the Highlands.

I thank the Government for their courage and vision in selecting this allegedly remote place in the north of Scotland. Nothing is remote in Great Britain, because we have to remember that the whole of the United Kingdom six times over could be put inside the State of Texas and there would still be room left. Texas is only one of the 48 States of the United States.

I am confident that the new Corporation will bear in mind, when the new contracts are placed, the importance of stipulating that Highland labour should have preference. It is good labour. It has worked well the world over and it will work even better at home. I do not think that the Government will have any regrets at having taken the chance of siting this plant in the place that has been chosen.

I hope that one of the great civil engineering firms will be chosen to build this plant. Scotland's record of skilled craftsmanship entitles her to it. I have read in "The Times" in recent months adver- tisements from contractors who have built atomic plants, eminent firms, but they were rather inclined to give one the impression that they have the monopoly of this work. I know that is not true.

The Minister of Works made a reference to my persistent efforts for the Highlands. Some of my hon. and right hon. Friends may think that I have been too persistent. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Some may think that I have perhaps been a little aggressive. One Minister, a few nights ago, after a discussion, referred to me as a Member who was fanatical in matters regarding his constituency. A Member for the Highlands of Scotland has to be fanatical, so I did not take that remark as a rebuke, but as a compliment. I was Member for some time for a London constituency, where a boy or girl leaving school could find a thousand jobs in a thousand different vocations. That position was very different from the position in my present constituency. For all these reasons, I desired to give expression to these feelings.

5.12 p.m.

The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) has rightly drawn attention to the developments planned by the Ministry of Supply for his constituency but, of course, what he had to say had nothing to do with the Bill. He pointed out how easy it was for him to get into touch with the Minister of Supply and make representations to him. If there are difficulties about the new project in Caithness—I sincerely hope there will not be—I assure the hon. Member that he will have far more difficulty in getting hold of the people in the proposed Authority to speak to them. The present Minister of Supply is very easy to get hold of, but if the hon. Member tries the people in the proposed Authority he will find them far more difficult to reach.

From our point of view, the House has seldom heard so patronising a speech as we had from the Minister of Works this afternoon, or a more—and I use the word technically—ignorant speech, about the set-up of atomic energy and the development of atomic energy in this country. It was like calling in the office boy to be the spokesman of the firm to the shareholders. It was patronising especially to the Minister of Supply, who is compelled to sit here in dumb silence and see the activities that have been so well conducted by his Department taken away from him. When the Minister talked so patronisingly about teaching the members of the Commonwealth about the developments in atomic energy, he might have remembered Lord Rutherford, who was the father of it all.

The attitude adopted by the Minister of Works bodes very ill for the conduct of Parliamentary discussion on atomic energy in the future. Most of the right hon. Gentleman's speech had nothing to do with the Bill. He talked about the developments that are going on, and thanked and praised the Ministry of Supply for what had been done; but all this work would still go on if the Bill were dropped. It has nothing to do with the Bill. In our view, all these developments would go on much better if the Bill were dropped.

We are not opposing the Bill for doctrinaire reasons. In fact, the proposal for bringing public and private enterprise together under a public authority is something that we would suggest ourselves—at least, I should—for a number of industries in this country. We are opposing the Bill in this case for purely practical reasons. We think that the proposals in the Bill are impracticable and unnecessary. The Bill creates a clumsy machine to do a job that has been better done, and will be better done, by a Government Department, the Ministry of Supply.

I am very disturbed by the proposal to separate the military and civil aspects of atomic energy development because it will lead to a great deal of duplication of effort and to waste of effort. Instead of working together on the same project, people will be working in different departments and probably competing with each other for the engagement of scientists. That will multiply the cost of operations and the cost of administration.

Everybody is agreed that the Ministry of Supply atomic energy division, which, as my right hon. Friend has said, is very largely autonomous, has done an excellent job. The plan of organisation upon which it has been worked—the research station at Harwell, the building up of the central developments at Risley, the manufacturing developments at Springfields, Windscale and Capenhurst—is known and generally considered to be a very good plan, not only by the people of this country but overseas as well.

There has been a proper association between the civil and the military sides of this development. Out of this organisation we have the nucleus of a greatly expanding industry, and I see no reason why we should alter it. My right hon. Friend the former Minister of Supply has suggested that the reasons for alteration spring from the views of a person who is very closely associated with the Prime Minister. Perhaps I might paraphrase a popular radio signature tune of a few years ago that we all used to enjoy, and say of the present plan, that it is
"Lord Cherwell's pride and joy; it's Mrs. Lindemarm's boy,
It's that man again."
His influence upon the Prime Minister, not only in this field but in many other fields is, in the view of many people, very harmful to this country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It was harmful during the war. This foisting of a personal idea upon the Government of the country is something to be deprecated. Very few people apart from the Prime Minister accept Lord Cherwell as the ultimate authority on atomic energy and development. I certainly would not accept him as an authority upon industrial organisation, of which I should think he knows very little; but he has the ear of the Prime Minister, who in this field listens to very few other people.

The Minister of Works has said that the proposals have been accepted or approved—I forget his actual words, but this is the sense of it—by Sir John Cockroft, Sir William Penney, and Sir Christopher Hinton, three of the leading scientists in this field. I should like the Government to be honest and to tell us how the questions were put to these three gentlemen. Were they asked whether they thought that the new authority would be a good idea; or whether there was anything in the present Ministry of Supply set-up that they thought was wrong; or whether the whole Ministry of Supply set-up ought to be scrapped and something else put into its place? Unless we have a clear idea of the sort of question put to those gentlemen, I shall be very loth indeed to accept the statement made by the Minister that leading scientists are in favour of scrapping the Ministry of Supply set-up and of working under this new arrangement.

I notice with some alarm the silence of the Minister of Supply. He was ostentatiously absent when the first announcement about accepting the Authority in principle was made by the Prime Minister. He does not speak in this debate, and yet it is his Department that is involved. One can only draw the conclusion that the Minister of Supply, with the approval of his leading advisers, is opposed to the Bill, but Government authority being what it is, he has to put his name to it. I should think he was hesitant about putting his name to this Bill before it was drafted. But the Minister of Supply has a sense of humour, and I think he is not quite so unhappy about supporting the Bill, as it has emerged such a slipshod, ill-considered and badly-drafted Bill.

I intervened to ask one question about the financial side of the Bill. It seems utterly idiotic to me that at the beginning of tremendous developments in atomic energy, in which the Authority is supposed to work with industry and to set up power stations and do all kinds of things that will have a tremendous impact on our industrial set-up, no provision is made for the Authority to receive any revenue. It looks as though the taxpayers will pay for everything and have no return at all.

I do not want to go into the details of these matters because they are Committee points, but if any hon. Member, having read Clause 2, which is supposed to deal with the
"Principal powers and duties of the Authority"
will tell me what, if any, duty is laid upon the Authority, I shall be very interested to know what he thinks it is. The Clause has a lot to do with powers but nothing to do with duties. It will be seen in Committee, even if it is not now, that the Bill is very badly drafted and cannot reach the Statute Book in this form.

We note that the main parts of the Bill dealing with powers and so on have been lifted straight from the Atomic Energy Act, 1946, and the Radioactive Substances Act, 1948. We all know that the Labour Government did a magnificent job between 1945 and 1950, but even we on these benches should be reluctant to suggest that that Government accomplished their work so perfectly that no alterations in it will ever be necessary. We should be especially reluctant to do so in this matter, in which, I think, the Labour Government started on the right lines although certainly in the dark, without knowing just how these great inventions and discoveries would work out.

The present Government can find nothing in the legislative work of the Labour Government to improve upon or to alter by this Bill. We are glad to have that tribute by the Ministers opposite to the excellent work of the Labour Government. I hope that the Leader of the House, when he replies to the debate, will retract his allegations about finding skeletons in the cupboards. There are certainly no skeletons in this cupboard.

We are concerned about how the Bill will work. So far as I can see, this job will not be the main job of the Lord President of the Council, who has many other duties. I should have thought that atomic energy and its developments would have been the responsibility of a Minister who could have devoted the whole of his time to it, or of a Minister whose other work was related to it. Such a Minister is the Minister of Supply. From our point of view, the Lord President, sitting in the House of Lords, is not the right person to be responsible for this work.

We are concerned that the spokesman in this House about this work should be the Minister of Works and not the Minister of Supply, who could well be the spokesman, even though he himself had no responsibility for these activities. I, too, should like to quote from "Britain's Atomic Factories" just to show the part played in the past by the Minister of Works and the Minister of Supply. The Introduction says:
"Risley (the central Department of the Ministry of Supply) is the design authority for the factories, that is, it is responsible for the design and specification of every factory, every building in the factories, and every piece of plant in the buildings. It is also the construction authority for the factories although here it operates through the Ministry of Works, who act as its agents and consulting architects and make ararngements with contractors to do the actual constructional work on the site… Then Risley is responsible for the purchase of every piece of equipment and of all raw materials used in the manufacturing processes. Finally it operates the factories after they are built."
To hand over this job to the Minister of Works is like I.C.I, setting up a new plant for the development of terylene and handing over the running of it to the contractor who builds it. I.C.I, would never do that sort of thing, and nor would any other industrial concern. Here, however, the body responsible for the planning and the research hands the whole works over to the building contractor, to take over the job and to be responsible for answering Questions, responsible for the expression of policy, and so on. We think that the proposed set-up is rather stupid.

I am disturbed on two other counts. The only reason we are pleading for the retention of this work inside the Ministry of Supply is that its work has been successful and shows signs of continuing to be successful in (he future. We are wondering whether the new set-up will work. Military developments still remain with the Ministry of Supply and the Service Departments, yet we have this new organisation working in this peculiar and diffuse way under these devolved arrangements. It seems to me that we shall bring atomic energy into the same situation into which we have brought fuel and power.

For fuel and power we have three governing bodies, one each for coal, gas and electricity, each in its own way doing very well, making grand progress. Still there is no fuel and power policy in this country. Each of these governing bodies goes its own way, no common policy emerging. We shall have the same setup here. Instead of having one authority to do the job in the national interest and in a streamlined, efficient manner, we are to have two kinds of departments competing each with the other, and we shall have no national policy.

The hon. Gentleman attacks the set-up under the Ministry of Fuel and Power. Rightly or wrongly—I am not questioning that at the moment—that was the set-up decided upon by the Labour Gov- ernment. It was the set-up under nationalisation. How can the hon. Gentleman now criticise the set-up under this Bill?

As I said earlier, very few of us on this side of the House would say that everything done by the Labour Government was perfect and that no alteration would be needed in the course of time. I have said before, as the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) knows, that what this country needs is a strong fuel and power policy, and we shall not get that until the fuel and power industry set-up has been altered. Equally we want a strong atomic energy policy, and one authority to carry it out.

The Ministry of Supply, in the part it plays in the handling of aircraft production, provides an example of what is required. The Minister of Supply, answering a Question this afternoon, showed that the Ministry of Supply can adapt itself to changing circumstances and go ahead with the job. Here we have the right sort of association between a Government Department and private industry. We have a national policy carried through clearly, cheaply in regard to administrative cost, and without any difficulty. We can deal with questions of policy and we know where we are. The aircraft industry in this country is leading the world in development. Nobody can question that. It works.

I suggest that the association we want between the Government and all these atomic energy activities is something similar to that in the Ministry of Supply for the development of aircraft. That arrangement has worked very well up to now, and we on these benches can see no reason for a change.

5.32 p.m.

Several hon. Members opposite have taken full advantage of the Lord President of the Council being in another place to draw what seems to me to be a big red herring across the real fundamental of this Bill.

The hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. G. Darling) and the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) referred to their dislike of having the responsible Minister, the Lord President of the Council, in another place because he would not, therefore. be questioned by us. But the Lord President of the Council is not by any manner of means always in the other place. Indeed, during the war the Lord President of the Council looked after atomic energy development very successfully in this House, and I see no reason why, as time goes on and changes occur, we should not have the Lord President in this House.

As the hon. Member for Hillsborough said, the subject of our discussion is essentially a practical one. We find the two sides of the House agreed in their aims, and the difference of opinion is about how best to achieve those aims. It seemed to me, as I listened to the right hon. Member for Vauxhall and the hon. Member for Hillsborough, that, while they drew so heavily on the past, they have not analysed why the past was so successful and how circumstances have changed notably.

As my right hon. Friend has pointed out, we have now reached a time when the emphasis in the whole of this development is changing markedly. It was originally an intense drive in a narrow field— that of producing enough fissionable material to make some bombs.

In doing that, we used what was originally a war-time development, the Ministry of Supply, and all through the description of the work of the Ministry of Supply as given in "Britain's Atomic Factories" and in the earlier publication on Harwell, the fact stands out that those who were responsible for the work originally received their training before the war either in academic circles in the universities or in industrial companies.

What we now have to ask ourselves is this: if we continue the present set-up under the Civil Service, are we likely to continue to attract the sort of people who made the tremendous success with this development since 1944? As time goes on, and as we look into the future at the tremendous development which thrills and warms everybody who studies this matter, we must ask ourselves whether the Civil Service atmosphere is likely to achieve what has undoubtedly been achieved in the past. I think there are two reasons for believing that it will not.

First, there is the question of salaries. In the debate towards the end of last year, the right hon. Member for Vauxhall pointed out the difficulties of increasing salaries. But unless we do pay salaries comparable to the very best in industry, I find it difficult to think that we shall continue to attract to the development of this discovery those of the calibre and standing that that work must have if it is to proceed.

It is not only at the top levels where that is true. I am told that the difficulty occurs much lower down the salary scale, and I believe that this is true in other parts of the Ministry of Supply. For example, I have been told that one difficulty in getting enough draughtsmen in the atomic energy department and in other parts of the Ministry of Supply is that the Civil Service scales for draughtsmen are somewhat below those of the Association of Shipbuilding and Engineering Draughtsmen. I am open to correction, but I have been told that that is so.

If we are to get sufficient draughtsmen of the necessary quality we must be prepared to pay what they are getting in industry. If that is not possible under Civil Service regulations, that is an argument for removing the whole of this development from Civil Service control.

There are also conditions of work to consider. One knows from talking to those who work in the organisation that there is sometimes a feeling almost of frustration about enforcing on people of imagination, drive and initiative the strict minutiae of the Civil Service organisation in such matters as expenses and even office accommodation. Although, no doubt, the Authority, like other large industrial organisations, will have regulations covering these matters, it will find it much easier to be able to draw from the experience of industry instead of being tied to the strict minutiae of Civil Service regulations.

I was surprised to hear the hon. Member for Hillsborough laying so much emphasis on the military side which, albeit it is important, is now only equal with the industrial side. As we now change over to the industrial side, we run into two great difficulties. Industry has not heretofore had the knowledge necessary to be able to see how this new form of energy from the nucleus of the atom can best be applied. I was delighted, therefore, to hear that a School of Reactor Design had been set up to disseminate that knowledge throughout the range of responsible heavy industry.

The other point is the question of the heavy expenditure. Mr. Gordon Dean, in his interesting account of the American Atomic Energy Corporation, drew a parallel, which all of us might well have in mind, with the diesel engine. He pointed out that the first development of the diesel engine was in submarines, but that once its teething troubles were over, and the oil industry had some knowledge of the types of oil required for successful diesel operation, other industries began to draw on the developing knowledge about diesel engines. As it drew on that knowledge, and the production of diesel engines expanded, and as they developed, so the costs came down, and over the last 40 or 50 years we have seen a great development of the industry.

I think we shall see the same development with atomic energy. At present, the expenditure is beyond even the richest corporation, but as industry arid the Authority work together I believe we shall see the costs coming down and more rapid industrial development. Therefore, I was disappointed when the Bill was published to see that the Authority could never become self-supporting or even have the right to borrow money. Perhaps my right hon. Friend, in replying, would discuss the reasons for the Government not giving the Authority the right to borrow money.

Finally, I want to touch upon what is happening abroad. I am sure that we are on the right lines, not only because of the arguments I have put before the House, but also because several Dominions are following the same line as ourselves. The Canadians have made remarkable developments in the work at Chalk River as well as in mining and refining uranium ore. They have set up an organisation, Atomic Energy of Canada, Limited, to take over from the Canadian Government the plant at Chalk River and to carry on work in much the same way as the Authority will do under this Bill. Also, early this year the Australian Government set up an Atomic Energy Commission with similar powers to the Authority which we are setting up in this country.

I believe that what we are doing, and what the Canadians and Australians have done, will make it much easier for us and for them to respond to the appeal made by President Eisenhower. He not only spoke to the United Nations about sharing atomic energy information throughout the world, but also sent a message at the beginning of this year to Congress asking them to amend their 1945 Act, to allow, among other things, two important actions.

One was for Americans to be able to exchange information with other countries —in his own words, to greatly widen the definition of restricted information; the other was to allow foreign countries to buy fissionable material in the States—in other words, to ease up the whole relationship between the United States and other countries. In addition, he asked for much the same thing with regard to the relations between American Atomic Energy Corporation and American private industry.

If Congress follows the proposals of President Eisenhower, I believe that it will be much easier to work out satisfactorily the consequential arrangements between our two countries if we have an organisation which is not a Government Department, as the Atomic Energy Authority will not be, instead of having to deal with a Government Department and the extraordinary inhibitions which that often produces in American minds.

I hope that we shall give this Bill a Second Reading tonight. For both internal and external reasons it will be a real step forward. We shall not be causing a revolution—that is not the English way—but we shall be making a worthwhile change in a field which all of us feel offers the greatest possible promise.

5.47 p.m.

The hon. Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Fort) used one argument in his advocacy of this Bill which was rather fanciful. If I understood him correctly, the hon. Gentleman said that the Bill would enable the Authority to pay larger salaries throughout the entire organisation than could the Civil Service. He spoke not only of the so-called top-level people, but also mentioned draughtsmen. If the hon. Gentleman had read the White Paper, from which we visualise the future arrangements if this Bill becomes an Act, he will read in paragraph 18 on page 7:

"Special arrangements will be required in respect of salaries and conditions of service to enable the Corporation to compete with industry for men for all its top level posts;"—
So far, so good, but let him read on—
"below the top however all reasonable steps must be taken to avoid standards widely divergent from those in the Civil Service."
It is quite obvious that draughtsmen would come under the second part of that paragraph and not under the first part.

I hope the Civil Service so not pay draughtsmen salaries so much below those in industry that they will not fall within the benefit of the Authority as being too widely divergent.

I am all in favour of paying the highest possible salaries to draughtsmen as well as to the top-level people, but I am suggesting that the hon. Gentleman is extremely optimistic if he supposes that this change will bring that about, and the White Paper bears out my contention.

In the pleasant way we have of denying any doctrinaire or dogmatic approach to anything, we all seem to be agreed that this is a subject on which it is as well to have an open mind. I claim that my mind is as open as the minds of most people in this House, and it is certainly open to new ideas. I can conceive of an argument that an organisation which was perfectly suitable for immediate post-war and the early stages of the development of atomic energy is no longer sufficient. I can see the point of such an argument, especially if it can be proved that the existing organisation is cumbersome or inefficient. But our difficulty in the House is that nobody has brought any charge of that kind against the existing organisation. In fact, almost fulsome tributes have been paid by one right hon. Gentleman to another.

The difficulty is, and it is not fair to the House, that we have had very little hard evidence submitted to us at any time. All we have had is a White Paper based upon a report prepared by three gentlemen so eminent that one hardly likes to talk about them. They are Lord Waverley, Sir Wallace Akers and Sir John Woods. Their report, of course, has not been submitted in any sort of detail to the House. All we have had is a very short summary of it in the White Paper. We have had no detail of the data on which the recommendations were made. I appreciate the difficulty and I know that security considerations enter tremend- ously into the matter but, in the absence of evidence, it is not too easy for us to discover the strength of the Government's case.

This Committee of distinguished gentlemen was in fact given its marching orders at the very start. It was told that the Government had made up their mind to end the Ministry of Supply system and that its job was to find an alternative method. I should have thought that if the Government suspected that there was need for a change, the procedure should have been to have an expert, open, impartial check on the working of the Ministry of Supply system. I am not particularly wedded to a Government Department system. My mind is flexible about it.

We might all agree that every step taken to remove atomic energy further away from direct military application is a step to the good. If atomic energy had been discovered a hundred years ago, no doubt private capital would have been mainly employed in its development. I do not think it is possible for private capital to be found for that purpose and on that scale today, and I doubt whether the country could afford such a wasteful method. If atomic energy had been discovered 100 years ago, a somewhat fanciful speculation, its peaceful development would have gone hand-in-hand with the development of electricity, because the two are very much bound up with one another. Today electricity is controlled by great public undertakings with a revenue separate from that of the Treasury and raising capital from a public which knows that these undertakings operate a vital service.

It may be an argument with which all my hon. Friends may not wish to be associated, but one which I should think should have been considered, that in the absence of any expert impartial opinions to the contrary the obvious course for the development of atomic power stations would be for them to go direct to the British Electricity Authority. I should have thought that to be quite possible. Then we should have needed at the same time an enlargement of the powers of the Minister of Fuel and Power. He could have taken into the wide span of his Ministry not only coal, electricity and gas, but also, in the matter of fuel, atomic energy as well. I should not have thought that to be difficult. Indeed, the Minister of Works said this afternoon that arrangements would be made fairly soon, as I gathered, for the British Electricity Authority to operate a number of atomic power stations, but it was to be done through the new United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority. Is is really necessary to have that kind of intermediary if we have reached a stage when the British Electricity Authority can begin to operate atomic power stations?

Surely that interpretation is not correct. Surely the correct interpretation is that the British Electricity Authority, like anybody else, can buy fissionable material from the Authority to produce electricity but that there is no inhibition on its designing and putting into operation any breeder reactor of any kind that it may desire.

I appreciate that, but my point is that the British Electricity Authority might as well do that direct through the Ministry of Supply rather than have to go to an unnecessary new organisation. I claim that would place atomic energy more firmly on the rails of normal industrial development.

I am sure that the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) will be interested in my next point, which is that I believe that if this function were given direct to the British Electricity Authority much of the taxpayers' money would probably be saved because of the avoidance of unremunerative and wasteful expense. Under the obligations placed upon it by this House, the British Electricity Authority would be bound to erect atomic energy stations related by capital investment considerations to capital investment authorised for the conventional thermal type of station. It would balance one financial consideration against another. Further, it would be raising capital for that purpose on the market or through its own savings and, in addition, would receive revenue from the sale of the output of both types of power station. I should have thought that that would mean a tremendous saving to the taxpayer. If it is argued that that would not mean development in a great hurry, I would quote from Sir John Cockroft. I am sure that hon. Members will have read his interesting and valuable article, containing so much information in a small space, that appeared in a special supplement of "The Times" recently. Sir John said:
"It seems to be fairly certain now that large-scale nuclear power stations of the natural uranium type can be built and that they will work with reasonable efficiency and produce power at a cost not much greater than that for existing power stations."
If that be the case, I feel that this job could go in a very short time straight from the Ministry of Supply to the British Electricity Authority.

Sir John Cockroft states in the same article that the cost of uranium fuel for a 50 megawatt power station—there are technical difficulties about giving an exact figure—is between £150,000 and £450,000 per annum. He gives the corresponding coal cost for a 50 megawatt station for a year as £730,000. Obviously there would be a much heavier capital cost in the case of an atomic energy station, but practical experience, particularly by practical men working within the conditions of the electricity industry, is likely to bring down that first cost soon.

I submit that that is the right basic approach and that that approach could be extended as each technique in turn reached ripeness. It could be extended to the medical and biological applications of nuclear energy. I rejoice as a Socialist that in the main development would still be under the umbrella of public ownership, but since we accept on both sides of the House the broad present principle of a mixed economy, I would not be against private industry participating. If private or public industry can now be used as an agent for future developments in atomic energy, well and good. But why should it be done through this proposed big new authority? Why not continue to operate under the Ministry of Supply? That seems to me to be common sense, because in the end it would leave the Ministry of Supply with atomic military supplies only.

Unfortunately, as the House knows after hearing the somewhat unhappy speech of the Minister of Works, common sense is not to prevail. The right hon. Gentleman was a great culprit in this matter. I remember him well in the previous Parliament of 1945–1950, in which I had the honour of sitting. He was always denouncing Government corporations. Now, after years of opposi- tion to them, he and other Government supporters bring forward the worst possible kind of public corporation. It is to be a public corporation with responsibility to a Ministry with no previous experience of this kind. It is to spend public money—not its own money—and this is the proposal which comes from the party of economists. We are told that we shall have accounts, but I wonder how deeply those accounts will go. We are to have an expert board, but what kind of expert board? It is to be a functional expert board. I should have thought that all the leading authorities on corporations would say that the functional board was definitely out of fashion. A board should make policy; employees should carry it out.

This Authority is to employ a large staff of scientific and technological employees, and many other grades of employees, manual workers and so on. But there is to be no expert in labour relations serving on the Authority. It is true that this afternoon the right hon. Gentleman gave an assurance that that point will be looked at again. I am glad of that; my hon. Friends and I will press that very hard in Committee, especially as the Bill states that there is to be an expert to deal with administrative and financial matters. I do not see any argument at all for omitting provision for a similar expert in labour relations.

For reasons which I have stated, I am against this Bill. If the House were using the normal human methods of logic and common reason rather than the method of the party Whip, I should have hoped that the Bill would be defeated. I am against the Bill because no detailed evidence has been given of the need for change. I am against it because we are to have a new arrangement which will confine development in a further organisational compartment without assisting genuine non-military development by public and privately-owned industry. I am against it because I think the Authority proposed is extremely unsatisfactory in structure. For all these reasons, I believe the House would do well to reject the Bill.

6.4 p.m.

I do not think anyone should imagine that hon. Members opposite are the only persons interested in the question of the staff side of this matter. I hope that the hon. Member for Cleveland (Mr. Palmer) will forgive me in not following him in his point about the British Electricity Authority as I dare say that other hon. Members, much more competent than I, can answer him on that point.

Particularly as the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) devoted quite a large part of his speech to questions of staff, I wish to follow him on such points. One reason is that Harwell is in my constituency and, in consequence, I should like to say something about the present state of affairs of the staff there under the Ministry of Supply, as it has been in the last few years, and what it might be in the future. I wish to seek certain assurances with regard to the staff side. I am glad to hear that consideration will be given to some of the matters which are worrying the staff side a little at present. I am quite sure that they can be put right and that the assurances of the Minister will give satisfaction.

We have reached a stage in the history of atomic power at which we can take stock of the achievement of our scientists. Before going into detailed matters with regard to the staff mentioned in the Clauses of the Bill, I am sure the House will agree that the present progress in the development of atomic power would have been quite impossible without the Very great work on basic research at Harwell. It is the duty of the Lord President of the Council, under this Measure, to see that
"the proper degrees of importance are attached to the various applications of atomic energy."
That slightly difficult and vague terminology appears in Clause 3. I venture to express the hope that it means that the Lord President will see that the best possible facilities the nation can afford are given to those engaged on research.

At Harwell, amid the beauty of the Berkshire Downs, the Atomic Energy Research Establishment was founded in 1946. It is the centre from which the mental stimulus to the whole question of atomic power has come. I wish to pay tribute to those who have worked there under the imperturbable direction of Sir John Cockroft and, in particular, to pay tribute to his masterly ordering of the different fields of research.

He has been aided by three principal architects, as it were, of the early days— Mr. A. B. Jones, in administration, Dr. Spence in the chemical field, and Mr. W. H. Tongue in engineering. With a large number of technicians and scientists to assist them, they have done very good work and the nation owes them security in their task and, as many hon. Members on both sides of the House have put it, the rate for the job.

I very much hope that, when he referred to the question of security in their jobs, the right hon. Member for Vauxhall was not seeking to create any apprehension in the minds of atomic workers, because I feel that if those assurances are given by the Government and certain problems are ironed out in consultation with the staff associations there will be a very large measure of support among them for the proposals in this Bill.

I want to refer to a point which is of great importance to those in my constituency engaged in work at Harwell and in other establishments, particularly in isolated parts of the country. The right hon. Member for Vauxhall spoke of the question of housing. That, of course, is very important. The Minister did make certain statements in that respect. I should like to enlarge on the matter because hon. Members will be aware that the Ministry of Supply has been providing a considerable number of houses for atomic workers in and around atomic research and production establishments. Although I have no exact figures, I think the Ministry provided several hundred houses in the neighbourhood of Harwell, some on their own and some in collaboration with local authorities.

It would be a good thing if, in reply to the debate, the Government would state that the provision of those houses will continue as part of the powers of the Authority set up under the Bill. As I understand, the Authority has power to build houses, I should also like to be assured that the tenancy and occupation of those houses is guaranteed. I should like my right hon. Friend to cover that specific point, although I am sure the Government have it in mind and that it is their intention to continue that policy. Certain Clauses of the Bill make it clear that the Authority is to be exempt from certain byelaws in respect of Scotland and in the United Kingdom which will enable it to continue with the provision of houses.

There is another point about one administrative headache which is almost certain to arise during the transition period referred to, when atomic staff now in the Civil Service are seconded in the way described by the Minister. Transfers from one establishment to another are likely to take place and it would be of value to the staff, who are only top anxious and willing to carry on with their valuable work on behalf of the nation, to know the terms of transfer from one atomic establishment to another and that they would be no less favourable under the Authority than they have been under the Ministry of Supply. Such assurances would be welcomed, and I feel sure the Government will be in a position to give them.

The only Clause that really covers the staff as such is Clause 7. In particular, subsection (1) is of great interest to the staff side in considering their future under the new Authority. It will be seen that
"it shall be the duty of the Authority to seek consultation with any organisation appearing to them to be appropriate…"
I think it desirable to know precisely what that means, and I would ask the Government for some information about it when they are in a position to give it.

There is a feeling among members of the staff side that at present there is no definite assurance regarding the recognition of the existing associations and unions responsible for the welfare and industrial problems of atomic workers. Therefore, it would be important to know on their behalf what the future may be with regard to the recognition of those bodies.

The Waverley Report makes certain recommendations that such bodies should be recognised, but the Government have not yet expressed their intention about that matter. Perhaps my right hon. Friend may be able to deal with it at a later stage. It is true that at the moment there is some Whitley machinery which acts on behalf of atomic workers and it may be possible that this well-established machinery could continue to operate, particularly for the non-industrial staff, that it may be carried on by the Authority under the provisions of this Bill. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman might care to deal with that point also.

The reference to arbitration in Clause 7 (1, a) is of interest to the staff side. It is important—because, clearly, the industry has special features which may well be important to the workers in it—that some kind of special arbitration tribunal should exist to consider any difficulties that may arise once the Authority has been set up and once the two-year period referred to has come to a close. I do not now propose to suggest what form that should take. It may be common sense to bear in mind that such matters may have to be considered regarding those who work in this highly specialised industry.

Another matter mentioned by the right hon. Member for Vauxhall is of great significance. I do not say that in criticism of anything at present in the Bill, but to support the right hon. Gentleman in his point about the Official Secrets Act. It is very important that some type of machinery—I speak as a lawyer—should exist whereby the right of appeal should be given to atomic staff who may be suspected of some kind of security offence.

I have no details, but I understand that some such machinery does exist in the Civil Service. Could not that be carried on under this Authority? That would seem a wise and humane suggestion and I support it because I know there is a feeling about the matter on the staff side. It would enable the staff associations to make representations on behalf of such people, if such a thing were to occur.

I do not desire to go into the other broader matters which have been raised. I feel that at this stage of the development of our knowledge of atomic power we cannot leave things just as they are. It is necessary to go forward with new ideas in this matter. This is not a very sensational or revolutionary change. If hon. Members opposite will examine the Bill and existing Acts relating to atomic energy and radioactive substances, they will find them very similar indeed.

It will be said by them, "Nothing we did was perfect." But the fact is that we have now reached a stage where we can make a slight change in the process by which we mean to apply the knowledge which has been acquired by those at Harwell and other places under the previous Acts and under the Ministry of Supply during the past few years. For that reason I support the Bill. I believe that if assurances are given to the staff such as I have suggested and with the sensible suggestions about their future made by hon. Members on both sides of the House, the new scheme for atomic energy will deserve the support of atomic workers.

6.17 p.m.

It must warm the hearts of most of us here who sit and long for a respectable opportunity to roll a log on behalf of our constituencies, that two hon. Members opposite have, on such a technical Bill as this, been perfectly justified in bringing in their constituencies—the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) and the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson).

No doubt the hon. Member for Abingdon has not yet had an opportunity to do so, but if he will study the standard provisions which appear in almost all the Labour Government's nationalisation Acts, he will find that most of his points about the well-being of workers in the industry are already safeguarded in those Acts, and Sections from them could perfectly well be incorporated into this Bill in some form or other.

The hon. Member raised a very important point about security and the measures which could be taken to safeguard the rights of workers who might be suspected of being in some way unacceptable as a security risk. I am astonished that when my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) raised this point the Government let it pass without giving an immediate reply. Surely they have considered it. Surely the two right hon. Gentlemen on the Government Front Bench know the answer. Is the procedure of what is usually called the "Three Wise Men" tribunal to apply to employees of the new Authority? I am not trying to score a debating point, but I suggest that, if we could be told now, it would help the course of the debate. I will gladly give way if the Minister will tell us.

Procedure of that kind will be employed, but I cannot say whether it will be the same "Three Wise Men" procedure.

I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will follow me one stage further. It is a fact that employees of private firms, not direct employees of the Government, engaged in work of a secret character for the Gvernment, are not at present covered by the "Three Wise Men" procedure. So we are on a relevant point. I hope that I am correct in interpreting what the right hon. Gentleman has just said as meaning that, despite the practice existing at present with the employees of private industry, nevertheless employees of this Authority will be safeguarded by some practice similar at any rate to that tribunal which at present examines such cases in the Civil Service.

That is our intention. We have got a little time, because it will be some months before the appointed day. In that time we shall try to get a satisfactory procedure. I am sorry that I cannot go any further than that. The matter is still being discussed.

This issue is of fundamental importance. We look round the world and on one side and on the other we see liberty being taken away. It was my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall, when I was his assistant, who had, of necessity, to introduce these loathsome procedures; but it is of the utmost importance that we should make certain that this encroachment on liberty is not extended one inch further than it need be. While it is perfectly reasonable to leave it that the Government are examining the point and do not want to commit themselves now in detail, they can blame only themselves if likely employees of the Authority are a little bit anxious. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman's assurance will be taken at its face value and that it will ease that anxiety.

When I was considering the background to this debate, I looked up the debate last December on the White Paper, because I was not present when it took place. That was the occasion when the Minister of Works made his first incursion into the affairs of atomic energy. It is notable that the whole of the argument that he developed then—the astonishing one that the Ministry of Supply was not really capable of holding the scales fairly between different types of user—has been completely dropped today. I am not surprised. If it had been developed again today, I do not think that the Minister of Supply could have sat silent on the Front Bench listening to it. It was an argument which is clearly disproved by the facts.

Today the right hon. Gentleman commended the Authority on quite different grounds. I think that it is being fair to him to say that his argument boiled down to three advantages which he claimed the Authority would bring in its trail. First, that Parliament and the nation ought now to know what is going on. He said that we ought to have a much clearer knowledge of what money is being spent and what it is being spent on. Secondly, he said that the industrial side of atomic energy development is wholly unsuited to the methods of a Government Department. Thirdly, he said that the top men in the present atomic energy set-up favour the kind of organisation laid down in the Bill.

Those are very flimsy arguments on which to rest the case. I have no knowledge, and it may well be true that Parliament and the nation ought now to know more, about how the money is spent and how much money is spent. If so, it is within the power of the Government to give us that information. Of course if we look at the Ministry of Supply Votes, as they are normally published, the information does not come put very easily. As the Minister said, it is not intended to; it is deliberately wrapped up as a piece of security. The essential factor behind that is the degree of security which, at this moment, is necessary. If we can ease up on security, then the Government can give us more information—without setting up a new organisation. If the security is still necessary, then do not let the right hon. Gentleman pretend to the House that an "independent" Authority set up by Act of Parliament will be allowed to break the necessary rules of security.

I was not much impressed, and I do not think that my hon. Friends were, by the argument that in some way the industrial side of this great enterprise is unsuited to the methods of a Government Department. The Minister of Works did not win many new supporters to his cause by the sort of arguments he used. It really is not a cheap sneer at him to say that he must be totally ignorant of the usual work which the Minister of Supply does at present, and has done ever since the war, if he advances that kind of argument.

The figures quoted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall about the number of contracts the Ministry of Supply negotiates with industry is sufficient testimony to that. The very fact that the Minister himself is taking the existing chiefs of this enterprise and making them chiefs of the new Authority is proof that the argument is, at best, very flimsy.

As far as I understand the hon. Member's argument, he is trying to say that what has been done up to now has been sound and should continue and that the contracting arrangements of the Ministry of Supply are the same as those of a production Department. When he talks about contracting and prices, he must relate his remarks to whether it is a contracting or a production Department. Will he follow that argument?

That is a perfectly fair interruption, and I apologise if I appeared discourteous, but I do not propose to follow it. The point I am trying to make is perfectly simple and narrow. If one looks at the broad scope of the work of the Ministry of Supply as it exists at the moment, it is absurd to say that it is incapable of dealing with industry. The right hon. Gentleman put it forward in one breath that those who run this enterprise should be able to speak the language of industry. In the next breath he told us that they will have to deal extensively in foreign countries. I thought that he was about to tell us that they would have to speak French as well. That argument really does not hold much water.

Let us look at the objections to this new procedure. If hon. Members look at this matter objectively, it will be felt, perhaps on both sides, that the Minister of Works has not made a very strong case so far in support of the Bill. Let us see then if there is anything against it. There are three points against it which are of substantial importance. First, it introduces yet another example of remote control in the running of a vital industrial enterprise. The Government are made up of the people who when in opposition used to taunt us with being bureaucratic and with proliferating controls and all the rest of it, yet, almost every time they touch an industry, they succeed in setting up some new and ghastly piece of administrative muddle. This seems to me another case in point. They are setting up another monumental piece of bureaucracy.

The second point, which I think will commend itself to all hon. Members who have experience of the Ministry of Supply, is that there is a great danger that we shall waste the Ministry of Supply expertise. We have heard quite a lot about the semi-independent atomic energy department which works inside the Ministry at present. It used to live inside a wire cage at the top of Shell Mex House. I do not know whether it is there today or not; but in any case it is not the whole of the atomic energy effort.

That effort is being carried on inside all sorts of other establishments, in universities, industrial establishments and other sections of the Ministry of Supply. The further we separate it from the direct administration of the Ministry, the more likely we may make it that some of the technique which has been built up will be wasted. Following very closely on that point, I would submit to the House that we are in grave danger with this sort of set up of making more difficult the planning which has to be done.

The hon. Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Fort), in what was a most thoughtful speech, gave away quite a lot of the case he was trying to make when he talked about salaries and the employment of scientists. I would say to my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland (Mr. Palmer) that the question is wider than merely what the White Paper says about there not being too great a divergence between salaries paid by the Authority and salaries paid by the Civil Service.

It is a rather more difficult problem than that. It is essentially that, in the case of many kinds of scientific employees, the new Authority cannot be allowed to bid for scientists in such a way as to drain them off the market, to the undue detriment of other industries, other Government enterprises or the universities. There must be some planning of scientific manpower, whether we have an Authority or not. Someone must be able to say at some stage that the Authority may not take more than a certain proportion of, say, the electronic specialists who are available at a given moment. Other work of equal priority, or at any rate very nearly equal priority, has to go on at the same time and somebody must be responsible for deciding what the priorities shall be.

If the Authority is to work as the Minister of Works and one or two of his back-bench supporters have hinted, we shall immediately increase the difficulties of planning and run the risk of making it much less effective in the field of scientific manpower. The same is true when planning the work of Government establishments. The work that goes on in establishments, like that at Farnborough or the Telecommunications Research Establishment at Malvern and similar advanced scientific establishments, has to be most carefully planned and mapped out. It is a matter of great difficulty every year to decide what the priorities of research should be, and it is of vital importance that the control of all that work should be integrated as closely as possible.

I put it to the House that to separate the work at the top level from the Ministry of Supply, who have all the rest of the planning to do, is a retrograde and not a progressive step. The same sort of argument is true in respect of certain specialist raw materials or semi-manufactured materials which I should expect the atomic energy enterprise to require.

All this can be put quite simply in a nutshell. Over the whole field, this enterprise is working in very straightened circumstances. It is using scientists, and we have not enough scientists. It is using Government research establishments, and we have not enough Government research establishments. It is using certain special types of raw material, and we have not enough of them. We cannot absolve atomic energy from the necessary limitations of planning; if we do, it will either come to grief itself or seriously, and perhaps irreparably, damage other parallel work of equal importance which is supposed to be going on at the same time.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall suggested that this all came about as a result of Lord Cherwell. That is probably true. I think the Bill ought to be remembered as "Lord Cherwell's Folly." Whatever his motives were—they may have been of the best—there is no doubt that Lord Cherwell, while the Labour Government were in power—and no doubt accidentally, but objectively to the considerable embarrassment of that Government—suddenly discovered that atomic energy was breaking down completely and that, unless it was transferred within a matter of months to an independent corporation, there would be disaster. Three years later, this Bill is the result.

It is claimed that the Bill is supported by the "top men." I believe it is true to say—I do not think it is unfair to say it at this moment—that Lord Cherwell and others who shared his view spent a good deal of time at an earlier stage canvassing and lobbying this point of view among the scientists. I have no doubt that they have now secured a considerable following for those views. However, I suggest that some of the support which they have got may have been obtained partly on false pretences. If one goes to a scientist, no matter how distinguished, great or public-spirited he is, and says, "Look, you are now working subject to all sorts of unnecessary restrictions which a Labour Government and a bureaucratic Civil Service have imposed on you, but I can see a way of organising you which will give you greater freedom. Would you like that?", it would be tantamount to the ballot organised by the pools promoters last weekend on the publication of football pool accounts. Of course, the scientist would say "Yes."

I believe that there are many important men in the atomic energy enterprise who have given qualified support to the proposals under a misapprehension about what they really involve. They believe that the proposals really mean more freedom for them in carrying on their work because it will be organised in a different way from that which has prevailed up to the present. If anybody, whether one of the atomic knights or, going right down the list, one of the draughtsmen about whom we have heard, think that is true, he should get a copy of the Bill and look at Clause 3 (2) and (3). He will find that the powers of direction which are there given to the Lord President of the Council are greater than any powers of direction which the Labour Government ever gave to any Ministerial head of a nationalised industry.

The Lord President is allowed to interfere in particular and in detail, wherever he considers fit, in a matter of urgent national interest. Of course, anything concerned with atomic energy can, quite reasonably, be claimed as being a matter of urgent national interest. The remarks which I have been adumbrating on the general subject of the problems of planning this industry suggest to me that, when the Bill has been passed and the Authority has been set up, no Minister will be able to let it proceed without a very great deal of day-to-day interference with its running. Of course he will not.

I hope to get an answer from the Government Front Bench to a number of questions. Will there be freedom for the Authority to determine its own investment? Will there be freedom for the Authority to determine its own priorities in research? Will it have freedom to determine its own access to the Ministry of Supply scientific establishments? Will it have freedom to decide its own ceiling of employment of scientists? Of course, it cannot have any of those freedoms. It does not matter how much we dress it up and call it an "independent" Authority; the essential planning controls will have to continue. All that will happen is that they will continue by a more roundabout, clumsy and bureaucratic method, by imposing Ministerial interference on a so-called independent corporation.

The fact is that the difficulties—they are understandable; some are genuine— which have been encountered by the scientists engaged in this great enterprise are the difficulties which are inherent in securing the priorities of Government science at the present time. There cannot be any new freedom for the scientists under the proposed machine if the priorities are to be maintained at all. The danger is that the priorities will be maintained less effectively than they have been in the past and that damage will be done to other enterprises. I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply will correct me if I am wrong, but I suspect that there are at the moment in the Ministry of Supply establishments other scientific enterprises which are at least equal in importance to the atomic energy enterprise in detail and at particular points. The danger is that damage will be done to these priorities and that a new private empire, ruled by the atomic knights, will be set up.

I have great respect for the three gentlemen who have so often been named in the debate. They have given an example to the world not only of scientific genius but also of great modesty and seemliness of behaviour in the way they have faced the renown which has come upon them. But, great though they are, all scientists work best under direction, and the direction which has worked very well for the last 10 years, the direction of the Ministry of Supply, is the one which is most likely to carry this great enterprise another stage further forward.

6.40 p.m.

The foundation on which this country built its prosperity in the past was that we led the world in the development of modern forms of energy and in their application to mechanical methods of production. I believe that our level of prosperity in the future will depend to a very large degree on the extent to which we can recapture that technological lead. The development of atomic energy offers us a unique chance of achieving this objective. A great prize, in terms not only of wealth but of prestige, will go to the country which is first in atomic energy development.

This prize would be particularly valuable to this country, first, because of our general economic position, and, secondly, because it looks as though atomic energy can be particularly valuable in solving some of our special problems; for example, as was mentioned by the Minister of Works today, by the winning of raw materials in isolated and undeveloped parts of the world where traditional methods of power supply are either physically impossible or at least quite uneconomic.

Therefore, I suggest that speed in this matter is vital. It is a race in which this country is engaged with competitors abroad, and we have to move very fast if it is to be British engineers and British firms who will be going about the world in the next few years installing atomic energy plants, not only in our own Commonwealth and Empire but in other countries as well. Therefore, the central question which we ought to ask about this Bill is whether it sets up the right structure for the fastest possible development of atomic energy.

It seems to me that the case presented by the Opposition fails to address itself to this question of speed. Do the Opposition seriously contend that a Government Department is the best organisation to permit the fastest possible development of a vast industrial undertaking in this country? I find that difficult to believe. We all praise highly the work already done under the Ministry of Supply; the fact that we are now proposing to change that organisation slightly does not in any way belittle what has been done. It merely recognises that circumstances are changing.

We may be leading the world in atomic knowledge at the moment; we are certainly not behind any other country in the world. In the practical application of this knowledge to problems of industrial production, however, I am beginning to have my doubts whether we are in fact keeping pace with what is going on in the United States of America. I return to the question of speed. We are behind the United States of America in many fields of industrial production today—not in all by any means, but in many—and perhaps inevitably so. We now have an opportunity to be ahead of the United States of America in regard to atomic energy, not just in knowledge but in its practical development and application, but I fear that there are signs that with the present arrangements we may be losing that opportunity.

Therefore, the time has come for a change of emphasis and tempo in our work in this field. The present machinery under a Government Department is not suitable for the dramatic development which is necessary. The hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Darling) said he would like to see something analogous to the aircraft industry set-up, where the Ministry of Supply sponsors the production of aircraft. If that could happen, I would agree with him, but there is a fundamental difference between the two. Here it is not just a matter of placing development and production contracts and of sponsoring new designs. Here, because of security and associated factors con- cerned with atomic energy, there has to be a manufacturing intermediary between the Ministry of Supply and its normal work in relation to private industries, such as aircraft constructors.

It is this intermediary, which is necessitated by the nature of atomic energy, that we are proposing to put under an independent authority. I do not think there is any strict comparison between the production of aircraft and the development of atomic energy.

It is significant that other countries who are the chief competitors in the race of which I have spoken have taken similar steps to the one that we are proposing to take today. The United States, Canada, Australia and France have all taken the development of atomic energy out of the direct control of Government departments in their countries. It is quite out of place for hon. Gentlemen opposite to pursue some sort of vendetta against my noble Friend Lord Cherwell. It may have been his idea, but it is not peculiar to him. It is the course who has been pursued already, in advance of us, by our chief competitors in this race.

I want to give several reasons why an independent Authority will be better than the Ministry of Supply as an umbrella, under which atomic energy development can take place. In giving these reasons I want the House to consider what I think are the main requirements for the successful development of atomic energy for peace-time purposes.

One of the first requirements is that atomic energy development, being such an important and novel field of work, ought to have an organisation of its own. It ought not to be part of a vast organisation like the Ministry of Supply in which there is bound to be a large number of different activities competing in their claims upon the higher direction. Whatever priority is given within the Ministry to atomic energy development, there are bound to be channels of communication and decision at the top where great competition takes place between this and other matters which are the work of the Ministry. The development of atomic energy will benefit by being on its own, under the direction of a small, well-chosen board of men, particularly when the Authority will include not only the three atomic energy knights of whom we have spoken so often, but also a man of such great experience of industry and government, like Sir Edwin Plowden. It will have the help of other members who can be brought in because of their experience and skills. Under such a board the problems of the development of atomic energy will receive more concentrated consideration and more speedy decision than under a Government Department such as the Ministry of Supply.

Great importance will attach to the choice of the other members of this Authority. I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend say that it was not the intention of the Government that the Authority should form a functional board; that would be a great mistake. The hon. Member for Cleveland complained that the Authority was going to be functional, but that was based upon a false conception of what is in the Bill. Only four members are specified at the moment, but there can be six other members, and nothing has been said to indicate that the Authority should be functional. I was glad to hear what my right hon. Friend said, which was to the effect that the members of the Authority would not be appointed for functional reasons.

From my reading of the Bill, I take it that the other six members of the Authority can comprise part-time as well as full-time members. I would like information on this point from the Government spokesman who winds up the debate. I do not suggest that they should all be part-time but one or two part-time members could be a useful adjunct to the board.

The proposed composition of the Authority will make it possible for executives employed by the Authority to be members of that Authority. That will add strength to the Authority, but I am concerned lest we get to the position where the Authority consists wholly of executive employees. In these matters I believe it right to have a mixed Authority, some of its members being employed by the organisation, and others, who are not committed so deeply to the day-to-day policy of the Authority as employees must be, coming in from outside. The management and organisation proposed under the Authority is better fitted than the Ministry of Supply for promoting speedy and concentrated development of atomic energy.

Another requirement, if we are to get that speedy development, has been mentioned already; we must be able to get the right staff into this work. It is no good hon. Members opposite pretending that great difficulties do not exist so long as the work is the responsibility of a Government Department. As these developments proceed there will be need to bring in staff with special skills and knowledge, at short notice and at high level—and also at medium and even low level. That sort of introduction of staff at different levels is not easy under Civil Service staff procedures.

I do not say that it is impossible to achieve within the Civil Service, but it cannot be easy. Salary is important, but it is not the only matter. Civil Service methods of promotion are also a difficulty in selecting the right man for the right job at the right moment.

The hon. and learned Member says they have done pretty well so far. I agree that in the past they have, but the needs of the future will be different from the needs heretofore. It is not easy, under Civil Service procedure, to get the right man in at the different levels, at the right salary and with the right conditions.

A third and most important requirement for promoting rapid development is that we should fertilise industry with the ideas and practices of atomic work. I refer here both to private and to nationalised industries. I do not want hon. Gentlemen opposite to think that I am in any way prejudiced against the nationalised industries taking their full part in this development along with private industry. From this excellent booklet which has been referred to, and from other sources, we learn that a considerable amount has already been done to train individual people, at Harwell and other places, in the techniques that have been developed. That is excellent, as far as it goes. I also welcome the School of Reactor Technology which has been mentioned.

But, in future there will be the need for much more than the training of individual technicians. The need will be to share with industry whole projects of development, and for that many firms will have to be brought into the picture, working closely with the Atomic Energy Authority. Here, I hope that the technique of development contracts, which is well known in other industries, will be used. It will not fertilise industry to be given just small parts of work here and there. If the ideas and practices of atomic technology are to be industrially widely spread, industry must be brought in on whole projects.

Here we must note what has been done in the United States, which is undoubtedly our chief competitor in this field. It is already the American practice for individual works to be actually under the management of private companies acting as agents for their Atomic Energy Commission. We should also take careful note of the statement issued recently by President Eisenhower, in which he talks of relaxing statutory restrictions against ownership or lease of fissionable material, and of facilities which would produce fissionable material. He also speaks of furthering the private manufacture, ownership and operation of atomic materials.

If it is the intention of the United States—as it clearly is—to move on those lines, it is vital for us, if we are to keep pace, also to move on those lines. An independent Authority will be better designed to move gradually into this cooperation and the handing over of this work to ordinary commercial enterprise— nationalised and private—than a Government Department will be.

If I may, I would add a small example from my own experience as an added reason for the setting up of the Authority. I must here declare an interest—although a remote one. I have been concerned from its start with a small company set up to promote the use of isotopes in industry. It has had the blessing of the Ministry of Supply, and the warmest and fullest co-operation has been given by everyone at Harwell from top to bottom. Without that we could not have started and continued. During the three or four years that this enterprise has been going we have had to come into close contact with Harwell. We have detected certain opportunities which, in our view are being neglected or missed, because of the restrictions and the outlook essential to a Government Department.

It would not, I think, be fair to quote in public some of the examples which I have in mind. They do not reflect upon individuals, but upon the system and the framework within which the individuals are working. We have sensed that opportunities were not being pursued in the commercial and vigorous way in which they should have been, because of the structure and rules of the Government Department. We have also sensed that the people concerned have shared that view.

This Bill has a further, and a psychological advantage. The world at large has been terrified by atomic energy because it is associated in the minds of people with the atomic bomb. In this Bill we are providing for the taking of atomic energy into a new field. I believe we are taking a step to bring home to people that, although in one aspect of atomic energy there may be the terror of the atomic bomb, in the other there are hopes of tremendous new wealth and progress for the human race. Psychologically as well as economically this Bill helps to bring before this country and the whole world the peaceful potentialities of the use of atomic energy.

6.58 p.m.

I should first declare my interest, because in my Parliamentary Division there are approximately 2,000 workers, scientific and others, engaged in atomic energy work. Consequently, I feel that we have some direct interest in this great question.

As far as I can, I want to follow the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave). Paragraph 20 (g) of the White Paper states:
"An early statement should be made on security of tenure under the Corporation."
I am not quite sure that I have the correct interpretation of what is meant by the words "under the Corporation."

Yesterday I attended a private meeting of quite a number of scientists, engineers and technicians. They expressed great disappointment because the Ministries had not yet replied to the questions which had been put to them in relation to security and the terms and conditions of employment consequent upon the transfer of functions to the Authority. This is causing a great deal of unrest. Men who had obviously been thinking this matter over very carefully told me that they did not know where they would stand when these changes took place.

I notice that paragraph 21 of the Appendix to the White Paper says:
"The staff of the atomic energy undertakings should be seconded at the vesting date by the Civil Service to the Corporation for an initial period."
I understand that many of these people are unestablished civil servants. Will those be treated alike with established civil servants under the new organisation? That is another very serious question which was raised at yesterday's meeting. The men could not understand why there had been all this delay in getting a declaration from the Government as to their exact position. This is having a serious effect upon the appointment of scientific staff. The Government should this evening make some declaration as to future conditions, and how the organisation will work.

I am also surprised to learn that the Government have not yet replied to the questions put to them at a Whitley Council meeting which was held a short time ago to deal with points arising from the Bill. Many questions were put to the Ministry, and the people concerned are wondering why replies cannot be given. When the railways were amalgamated, negotiations took place between the appropriate trade union organisations and the managements. Why cannot that be done in this case? Why cannot these things be settled rather than be allowed to drag on and cause unrest and uneasiness among the different classes of people employed in atomic energy establishments? I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will at least give an undertaking as to what is going to happen when these people are transferred or seconded to the Authority staff.

I now turn to the Bill and the question of the supply of raw materials. If we do not get uranium we cannot produce atomic energy. Paragraph 9 of the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum says:
"Clause 6 (3) and the Third Schedule adapt and modify certain provisions of the Atomic Energy Act, 1946, and other Acts. The modifications of the Atomic Energy Act enable the Lord President to authorise the Authority to undertake mineral workings in the United Kingdom …"
Why is it confined to the United Kingdom? At present the raw material comes from the Belgian Congo, and some Amendment would appear to be required to enable us to be quite sure of getting it.

My next point refers to medical welfare. On page 66 of the splendid booklet, "Britain's Atomic Factories," special mention is made of the medical side of health protection. It says:
"The medical service of the Division came into being in 1947. The founders of the atomic energy industry of Great Britain, learning the lessons of older industries which had set up medical services only after hazards had taken their toll of health and life, decided to go out for preventive medicine from the beginning and to provide a comprehensive service trained to understand and deal with the special hazards arising in factories handling radiating equipment or radioactive substances."
I learned yesterday that men coming into contact with radioactive substances were formerly examined every 12 months, but, for some unknown reason, this practice has now been stopped.

The hon. Member would not make such a remark if he had any knowledge of what is going on at Windscale. Many of those present at the meeting yesterday felt that it was a huge mistake to stop those medical examinations.

Another aspect of the matter which is of very serious concern to us at Windscale and Seascale is the question of waste and the laying of pipes. Under this Bill the Authority will have power to lay pipes anywhere it likes, when it likes, and how it likes, and local authorities will have no power of appeal. We have been troubled for some time with the problem of effluents or waste products going into the sea. A recent article in the "New York Times," headed "'Hot' wastes," says:
"The day of the atomic power plant has not yet arrived, but already engineers are worrying about what they will do with radioactive by-products which are the equivalent of ashes. These 'hot' wastes cannot be turned as solutions into a river or carried to the community dump with other unwanted material. Some wastes have been encased in cement.…"
The effluent problem has caused some concern in some parts of my division, and I hope regulations will be made under the Bill which will ensure the maintenance of the necessary standards—certainly not lower than the standard adopted by the Ministry of Supply. We must remember that as this project is handed over to the new Authority an element of profit-making will be introduced. There must, therefore, be regulations laying down standard requirements for medical safety. I do not know of any provision in the Bill whereby these regulations may be made.

I turn next to the problem of housing. As the hon. Member for Abingdon said, this is a most important matter. I am concerned about the position which may arise, and in my view will arise, when civil servants have been seconded to the Authority. There are other workers who may not wish to join the Authority but who will occupy houses provided under Ministry of Supply auspices. We must remember that the Government are making the change, not these workers. Some safeguards must be provided for those who are living in the so-called tied houses to ensure that they will not be turned out if they refuse to go over to the Authority. At the very least a time-limit should be laid down; it should not be a question of a letter being received the next day saying, "You have finished your engagement with the Ministry and you are no longer entitled to occupy the house. We give you notice to quit."

I hope some consideration will be given to this position, because it is undoubtedly worrying some of these people very much. That was my experience at the meeting yesterday. It is particularly a problem in view of the fact that there are a large number of unestablished workers who feel that they may have to leave at a moment's notice with no chance of finding another house in the locality. I ask the Government to give serious consideration in Committee to the provision of regulations for the welfare and safety of the people working in these atomic energy undertakings and, in addition, very serious consideration to the housing situation which will arise in most of the localities where the atomic energy undertakings are to operate.

Many of these scientists and other workers are not allowed, while in the Civil Service, to take part in politics. What will be the position when they are transferred to the Authority? Will they be entitled to take part in political work in exactly the same way as are the officers of other authorities, such as those of the British Electricity Authority and the Coal Board? That is a very serious question. It was discussed privately at my meeting and I undertook to try to ascertain whether it is possible for those people to take part in political life in exactly the same way as other citizens throughout the country when they are transferred to such an authority.

7.16 p.m.

I am afraid I am not in a position to reply to the hon. Member for Whitehaven (Mr. F. Anderson), who made a speech with which I think we all sympathise and who asked for various assurances about the safety, well-being and security of the personnel working in this valuable field. I think his speech was an exception, for other hon. Members opposite appear to have based their case on the belief that the whole of the atomic energy programme should remain centralised under the Ministry of Supply. In fact, the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. J. Freeman), who is temporarily out of the Chamber, held the view, if I followed his argument correctly, that all research, such as that of the Telecommunications Research Establishment, the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough and every other Ministry of Supply establishment, together with atomic energy research, should remain under the same control.

But there must come a time, everyone will agree, when we have to hive off one section of a Ministry. I believe this is the time, and that is why I lend my support to the Bill. I think this is the time because, in the development of atomic energy, we have reached a stage, if I may use racing parlance, at which we have rounded Tattenham Corner, are coming up the straight and can see ahead the winning post with "Civilian Applications" written on it. When I say "Civilian Applications," I mean power supply into our grid. There must come a time when atomic energy should pay equal respect to the civilian and industrial applications, on the one hand, and to the applications to weapons on the other hand, and I do not think that can be done with sufficient enthusiasm while it is under a Ministry mainly concerned with armaments.

I should like to see even more assurances written into the Bill that we shall make greater use of industry. Like others, I take for my text the U.S.A. experience, and I commend to the House—no doubt hon. Members have spent a week-end reading it—Mr. Gordon Dean's book "Report on the Atom." He makes it very clear that at the end of the war they started out to establish a partnership between a Government establishment and industry. Perhaps 1 may quote from page 32, in which he describes the system as follows:
"A system under which virtually all of the scientific and industrial work was performed by private contractors. There were several hundred research contractors, several score important industrial contractors and several thousand suppliers, performers of special services, and sub-contractors of various sorts."
He gives a reason why this form of organisation was chosen. He says:
"This served two purposes. It made available to the Commission the management and technical skills of American industry and science and at the same time it served to spread knowledge about atomic energy through out the American economy."
It is exactly for that reason, I believe, that we have to spread knowledge of atomic technology throughout British industry.

I have not been able to obtain the exact figures of the number of people who will be employed by the Atomic Energy Authority, but "The Economist" this week said there were 15,000. If that is so, it is significant that, although our atomic energy programme is very small indeed by comparison with the American programme, our Atomic Energy Authority is already employing over twice as many people as the American authority. Whereas the Authority in this country has 15,000 people, the American authority— the Commission, as it is called—has only 7,000 people. Yet the American programme costs over £850 million, whereas our programme costs just over £50 million.

The great bulk of the work in America is done by industry and as many as 200,000 people are employed on subcontract work by the American Atomic Energy Commission. I believe this partnership is necessary, as my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. Carr; said, partly to get the maximum speed and partly because, in the end, atomic energy products will make invaluable exports from this country. I do not believe that we can found an export industry based on a Ministry or based on a ministerial organisation which itself is doing its research, its development and its production.

I was disappointed to see in Clause 2 (2) of the Bill all the paragraphs start,
the Authority shall … have power—
  • (a) to produce …
  • (b) to manufacture or otherwise produce.
  • (c) to manufacture or otherwise produce …
  • (d) to do all such things (including the erection of buildings, and the execution of works and the working of minerals) …"
  • I would prefer that the Authority should supervise but leave all these things to industry.

    In the United States gas diffusion plants are being built, organised and run by private companies. I believe that is a very healthy development which we could well follow in this country. Drilling and prospecting are being done by private companies, and even by private individuals who are being encouraged to find uranium in the backwoods. I think that this emphasises my next point.

    We ought now to encourage—and I hope that the Atomic Energy Authority will do this—the most widespread geological survey for this most important primary product for our future. I am not certain that the Department of Geological Survey is the right instrument. I should like to see surveys taking place all over our Commonwealth and Colonial Empire, because in 100 years from now, with coal and oil supplies running down and very expensive to get, we may be dependent upon the raw materials we get as a result of these surveys. I do not in any way doubt the intentions of the three knights who have been so deservedly praised this afternoon, but I should like to have seen some assurance in the Bill that we are to make positive use of industry in carrying out all these plans.

    I want to say a word or two on the question of accountability. Fifty-four million pounds is a lot of money; more than £1 million a week from the taxpayers of this country. Although I am glad to hear from the Minister that the annual report will be as thorough as it possibly can be, I have a horrible suspicion that the bogey "security" will be used to keep from this House information on which it would like to be informed.

    In the U.S.A. Atomic Energy Act it is laid down that a Congressional Committee consisting of nine senators and nine representatives shall sit on the Atomic Energy Commission in order, in the words of that Bill, "to keep this Committee fully and currently informed in respect of the Commission's activities." I am not sure that we can copy their Parliamentary procedure, but I wonder whether, on matters of supreme secrecy, although it is not possible to give the facts in the open House or in a published report, we should not be willing to imitate that all-party committee of selected people. Thus we could make more sure that the steps which are being taken are the best ones. If that is not done, we may in 50 years' time find that we have put priority on the wrong aspect of atomic energy work and find ourselves behind the rest of the world instead of ahead of it.

    There is one other point which has not been mentioned this afternoon. That is the question of transportation. We have heard about weapon development and something about the development of power reactors; but we in this country, so far as shipping is concerned, are absolutely dependent on efficient transportation. We are dependent on efficient ships to carry, not only our goods, but the goods of the rest of the world. I wonder how long we can go on neglecting the use of atomic power for the driving of big ships and submarines.

    It may be said that this is a very long-term outlook. It should be remembered, however, that the diesel engine was developed entirely for a submarine. It was a force for defence, and it was the money behind that defence effort which developed an engine which could be put in a submarine; that engine is now in economic use in everything from road vehicles to aircraft. It may be that if we could work through a submarine, with priority for defence effort of that sort, we would discover that we were able to develop a ship-driving unit which, in the long run, might be vital not only to submarines but to all ships which this nation sends round the world.

    I will summarise the four points which 1 have made. First, I should like to see— and I hope that we shall get an assurance later tonight—industry brought in very closely on the development of this very important programme; secondly, less direct labour and more indirect labour employed in the construction and other work; thirdly, perhaps an all-party committee set up to investigate and report on the working of the new Atomic Energy Authority; and, fourthly, that in the scramble for priorities sea transportation is not forgotten, since it is vital to the security and continued prosperity of this country.

    7.26 p.m.

    I have been very puzzled by this debate, because nothing that I have heard as yet from the Government benches has justified, in my opinion, this very remarkable change which the Government are proposing to introduce in the methods by which our atomic energy research and production are administered in this country.

    There are obviously certain things about which we are all agreed. The first is the overwhelming importance of atomic energy or nuclear fission, as I prefer to call it, and the supreme importance, not only to our nation but to the whole of civilisation, of the wise use to which this great scientific discovery shall be put in the next few years. It is impossible to exaggerate the extent to which the whole of human destiny may be affected by the choice which mankind makes as to the use, in the next few years, of these revolutionary changes in scientific knowledge.

    Reference has been made to the striking declaration of President Eisenhower, not long ago, inviting all the nations of the world to co-operate in pooling some, at all events, of their atomic resources for peaceful purposes. We know, perhaps not as much as we would wish, of the immense progress made in Soviet Russia in this field. We have also had evidence in recent months of the attempts being made in Soviet Russia to improve the economic conditions of their people. They, therefore, are also faced with the same kind of fundamental problem that faces us in this country, Canada and such other nations as are embarking on the production of atomic power: how much fissionable material is to be used for military, and how much for industrial, purposes?

    We had last week a debate on foreign affairs. It does not seem to me irrelevant here to say that one of the most potent prospects for peace on this planet would be co-operation between the peoples of the great nations in the field of atomic research and its exploitation for industrial and peaceful purposes. If this opportunity were rightly used, and if the present "cold" peace in the world could be preserved sufficiently long, as I hope it may be, I think there would dawn for our civilisation such possibilities of material improvement by the use of atomic energy as would in itself be a potent cause for the preservation of world peace. We are all agreed on that.

    Another matter which has emerged from our debate this evening is the immensely successful efforts that have been made to date under the aegis of the Ministry of Supply in research into and the development of atomic power plants. Tribute has been paid by the Minister of Works, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) has quoted the glowing tributes in the Government's own publication. In a sense, I regard it as a little remarkable, because I do not think anyone could have foreseen how successful this development would have been under Civil Service control.

    I am not a profound lover of bureaucracy as such. I am not sure that if, in 1945, one could have foreseen the future, one would have been right in saying, "Let us leave all this to the Ministry of Supply." I imagine that the Minister of Works, had he been faced with that problem in 1945, would have urged on us, to use his own phrase, "some kind of characteristic English compromise." We did not do that. We left all this work to a Government Department, and the result has been amazingly successful. The achievements at Harwell and elsewhere have astonished the nation by the magnitude of what has been accomplished- during the last six years, notwithstanding all the considerable difficulties involved. That is acknowledged. I have no doubt that it was largely under the impetus of a possible threat to world peace that the drive and energy were put into the developments that took place.

    The hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. Carr) referred to speed being an essential factor in this situation. I agree with the hon. Member. Speed was vital from 1945 onwards, and nothing is more remarkable than the speed with which, starting from scratch, the scientists, engineers and others developed these atomic factories of which we read with such pride. Therefore, I approach the matter in this way: Why do we now want to change a set-up which has been so remarkably successful? It may not have been particularly orthodox to leave it all to a Government Department, but it has worked, and it has worked supremely well.

    The hon. Member says that the set-up has worked supremely well. Can he produce any yardstick or evidence of any external judgment for that statement?

    That is just what I was proposing to adduce. I am grateful to the noble Lord for his intervention.

    Not only, as the world knows, have we produced atomic bombs and made very successful experiments, but we have produced a unit or a set of units working on atomic research which have not only proved their efficiency but also comprise a happy contented team of experts, working under conditions which have produced no complaint. We have the testimony, for example, of the satsifaction which scientists in the universities outside the Ministry of Supply feel about the success of the existing organisation.

    I was speaking a little while ago to a distinguished nuclear physicist working in one of the universities, and I asked his opinion. He is not alone in his views. Persons who are concerned with fundamental research working outside the sphere of atomic energy at Harwell and elsewhere all speak with great enthusiasm and satisfaction of the close collaboration that exists between the physicists and the scientists in the universities and those working at Harwell and other atomic energy establishments. In industry I hear the same opinion.

    I am, therefore, profoundly baffled to know why the Government want to change this system, which is working so well, for something else, which is untested, and I am very mystified and suspicious about it. I have heard the speeches this afternoon of the Minister of Works and other Members from the Government benches. I have not yet heard what the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) has to say, but I hope that if he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, he will address himself to this problem. After all, the burden of establishing a case for making a change of organisation is on the Government.

    When I listened to the Minister of Works struggling, as I thought, to prove the need to change this system of administration that has worked so well, I was reminded of the well-known couplet of Alexander Pope:
    "For forms of government let fools contest; Whate'er is best administered is best:"
    Why the Government should be so foolish as to want to change a system of administration, which by common consent has worked with such conspicuous success, I fail to understand—but I must try to probe it.

    What is the reason? Is it something to do with security? Is it something to do with Parliamentary control or a fear of Parliamentary control? Is it something to do with financial arrangements? There may be a desire on the part of the Government to try to remove this important field of human activity from proper Parliamentary control. I should not be surprised if that is the real reason.

    I acknowledge that so far, although the House has been fully entitled, both under the Labour regime and under the present Administration, to much more information than has been pressed for about atomic research, Members on both sides have shown a very commendable degree of restraint in asking questions about matters which, for security reasons, have been properly shrouded in a good deal of secrecy. But there can be no abandonment of Parliament's right of the fullest knowledge on these matters, and it may well be that as matters develop and if the need for security becomes, as we all hope, less urgent, the natural desire for much more information will require to be satisfied and it will be the duty of Members on both sides to press for much more information from the Government of the day on these important matters.

    It seems to me that if the Government were intending to design a framework for the overall control of atomic energy they could not possibly have thought of a framework under which it would be more difficult to ensure public accountability and proper Parliamentary control. I am not making any point of the fact that at the present moment the Lord President of the Council sits in the House of Lords. I regard that as a temporary accident. It is one of the idiosyncrasies of this present Government that they prefer to have a majority of Ministers sitting in the other place. On most occasions the Lord President of the Council would be sitting in this Chamber and, therefore, Questions would be adressed to him.

    I am much more concerned about the serious division of Ministerial responsibility that emerges from this Bill. Several members in the Cabinet and several outside the Cabinet are given particular functions, some of which are overlapping and some overriding, so that it is difficult to distinguish the role which the Lord President of the Council, the Minister of Supply and the Service Ministers will play, the role which the President of the Board of Trade will play in connection with trade and industry, and, finally, but I imagine not least, the rôle which the Chancellor of the Exchequer will play.

    If this Bill goes through, the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) will be baffled to know where proper Ministerial responsibility lies, when he puts down Questions from time to time.

    I am beginning to wonder whether the hon. Member has read the Bill. If he has, he will find in the appropriate Clause that moneys required will be voted by Parliament, and so long as these moneys are voted by Parliament there must be complete Parliamentary accountability.

    When the hon. Member has been in the House longer he will realise that in Second Reading debates only general broad principles in a Bill are dealt with. Committee points are dealt with in Committee, and, therefore, it is not necessary, in making a Second Reading speech, to deal with all the meticulous minutiae in Clauses. I am dealing with the general scope of the subject. I will come to matters of Committee interest when we reach the Committee stage, if I happen to be on the Committee.

    I want to continue what I was saying before I was interrupted. I regret that the Lord Privy Seal is not in his place, but we have the advantage of the presence of the Attorney-General, who is one of the few Ministers not mentioned in this Bill. I am not sure whether that is the reason he is in charge for the Government at the present moment, or whether it is because of the references that have been made to the Official Secrets Acts. I have no doubt that the Attorney-General, if he is going to speak, will deal with the points raised about the Official Secrets Acts.

    If the Attorney-General is not going to speak, I hope he will convey in brief form to the Lord Privy Seal one or two points that I propose to make, which it would be particularly appropriate for him to deal with. If the Bill goes through in this form we shall have an atomic energy organisation which is a kind of hybrid in the sphere of nationalised undertakings now run by corporations.

    The Lord Privy Seal invited the House a few days ago to make its comments on the Report of the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries. It will be remembered that one of the recommendations was that a Select Committee of this House should be set up as a kind of watchdog to keep an eye on the activities of all nationalised industries. The Lord Privy Seal spoke in favour of the setting up of such a Committee. He thought a certain number of hon. Members should be handpicked for the purpose of regularly reviewing the nationalised industries, and keeping in touch with those who directed and managed their affairs.

    What I am anxious to know—and I hope the Attorney-General can tell us because, if I may remind the hon. Member for Kidderminster, there is nothing in the Bill about this—is, if such a Select Committee of this House is set up to watch over the activities of the nationalised industries, will the activities of this atomic energy organisation come within the purview of that Committee, and, if not, why not?

    If it is desirable that Members of this House should have a Committee to inform them of the day-to-day activities of the nationalised industries, then I assume that this atomic energy organisation would be subject to that Committee. It is a question to which we are entitled to have an answer before we pass on.

    If the real motive behind this Bill is not to avoid proper Parliamentary control and responsibility, has the hidden motive something to do with security? I am mystified by one paragraph in the White Paper. I personally have the greatest admiration for Lord Waverley, whom we all knew in this House as Sir John Anderson. I should not have thought that it required the skill and ingenuity of Lord Waverley to produce the recommendation that the functions of the atomic energy department of the Ministry of Supply should be handed over to the atomic energy organisation.

    It is a remarkable thing that this White Paper, scanty and attenuated as it is, refrains from quoting the report of Lord Waverley's Committee. It contents itself with quoting a few sentences from the report and then merely sets out the recommendations, but it does not set out any of the arguments put forward by that Committee.

    I was wondering why not, because the failure of the Government to do that cannot be due to any risk of security. What Lord Waverley's Committee says is that, if an organisation of the kind we are considering is set up, it should deal with the question of security and that idea finds a place in the Bill. That seems to me a very remarkable thing. I should have thought that if there was one aspect above all others on this important subject about which there should be no doubt as to Ministerial responsibility, it was this aspect of security.

    We shall wait to hear from the Lord President of the Council what plans the Government have in mind with regard to the Official Secrets Acts and with regard to security. We have had an assurance that there will be the same kind of provisions regarding appeals as exist at present. We have also had an assurance that the interests of the staff at present employed in the atomic energy department of the Ministry of Supply will be fully safeguarded. That is an act of elementary justice and the least we can expect, but I want to look at that matter from another angle.

    We have been told the number of staff engaged in this field at present, and they are perfectly happy, well-organised and contented. What changes will be made in their status and remuneration? Will the effect of this transfer of operation be an additional cost to the country, and, if so, how much?

    It has been stated that one of the reasons for appointing this Authority is that it will be able to select as officers people to whom a higher remuneration may have to be paid than is normally the case by Civil Service standards. But surely that cannot be the real reason for the curious, comic administrative muddle which will be created under this Bill? If it is necessary from time to time to recruit from outside expert technicians, scientists and others and pay them a salary commensurate with that paid by corporations running the nationalised industries, that has been done under the Ministry of Supply and it can still be done.

    There has hitherto been every requirement not only of imagination and drive at the Ministry of Supply in the conduct of atomic energy production, but also the maximum of flexibility and rapidity of decision, and there is no reason to suppose that these qualities will not continue if responsibility for atomic energy is left where it is at present, and where it ought to remain.

    7.53 p.m.

    It is four months now since Her Majesty's Government announced that the responsibility for the development of atomic energy would be transferred to a statutory and largely autonomous corporation. A White Paper was subsequently published on this matter and provided, so far as I am concerned, all the necessary background for this important decision.

    The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) has led the speeches from his side of the House and they all seemed to be extraordinarily similar in character in emphasising that, as the organisation for the development of atomic power has proved highly successful in the sole hands of the Ministry of Supply since 1946, it should not be interfered with in any way. The words of the right hon. Gentleman were echoed by the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher). The right hon. Gentleman was kind enough to give way to me in his speech after he had quoted from page 10 of the booklet, to which reference has been made in this debate, entitled "Britain's Atomic Factories."

    In the period between 1946 and 1954 the primary concern of the Ministry of Supply, through the establishment that it has created, has been twofold: firstly, atomic weapons, which are to remain with the Ministry, and secondly, the production of fissionable material in adequate quantities for the generation of electric power, after passing through various processes, and for manifold other peaceful applications.

    Mr. Beswick rose—

    The hon. Gentleman has been missing for the last two hours. I wish he would allow me to commence my speech before interrupting. We are at the end of the first post-war era of development within the atomic field. We have arrived at the stage now where we have an adequate supply of fissionable material for both warlike and peaceful purposes, and the argument between the right hon. Gentleman and myself can be explained in this way. He feels that for all time a monopoly should rest with the Ministry of Supply for the manifold applications of atomic energy and power outside the military sphere as well as within the military sphere; whereas I believe that Her Majesty's Government, through the Ministry of Supply, should retain full monopoly powers only in the spheres of the production of military weapons and the production of fissionable material. From that stage, when the fissionable material is available, all secrets may be dispensed with and the general industry should participate as widely as possible in every field of further development of the applications of nuclear science and atomic power.

    The hon. Gentleman realises that under the proposals now before the House the production of fis- sionable material will be the responsibility of the Authority and the Lord Privy Seal and that his case, that it should remain under the authority of the Ministry of Supply, is contradicted by the provisions of the Bill?

    I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. Certainly the Atomic Energy Authority will produce the fissionable material. From that point one might say that there will be two courses flowing. The first will be to the weapon production in the hands of the Ministry of Supply. The second will be to general industry, nationalised and private, for manifold applications of fissionable material and its various associated and by-products. I see nothing harmful or offensive in that. It seems to me to be the wise course in present circumstances.

    Now I return to the statements made initially by Her Majesty's Government on this matter of establishing a statutory corporation for atomic energy. I have spent a good deal of time in considering what should be the principal matters which the Bill before us today should cover. I arrived at the conclusion that they were five in number and, simply expressed and suitably compressed, they are as follows.

    First, the consideration of what structure the Authority should have and its responsibilities, also its Parliamentary accountability, to which I shall refer in greater detail later. Secondly, the vital and, in my view, major issue that flows from this Bill, which is the Authority's full collaboration with general industry in the application of inventions within the field of nuclear science. Thirdly, the finances of the Authority, which are certain to be very large. Fourthly, the proper maintenance of full security and the balance between military and civil requirements. Fifthly, the training and— I emphasise the second word—retention of an elite corps of nuclear physicists and scientists within the Authority, within general industry in this country, and at research establishments.

    Dealing with the first point, I have little adverse comment to make on the proposed structure of the Authority and the board that will control it. There are a number of distinguished scientists under the chairmanship of Sir Edwin Plowden, who is himself an admirable choice for the chairmanship, already appointed to the board. I join with my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. Carr) in saying that I believe that the remaining members of this board—and there are two to six more to be appointed—should be either full-time or part-time members. I emphasise that in the circumstances I would not rule out part-time members so long as they have one very important attribute, which is long experience and great knowledge of every possible aspect of British industry and of the probable applications of the products of atomic science.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing) rightly referred to transportation. He dealt with marine transportation, but I should like to add that there is, of course, an important field open for the development of atomic products, through electricity generation, for the widespread and largescale electrification of our railway system, which at present is operated so largely on the basis of coal supplies.

    The hon. Member for Islington, East felt a good deal of apprehension about Parliamentary accountability. I have little doubt about it under this Bill. We shall have ample opportunities in the course of the year to debate the affairs of the Authority not only on the Ministry of Supply Vote and not only on the Vote of the Lord President of the Council, for he assuredly will have a large Vote if the Bill reaches the Statute Book, but, in addition, on the annual report of the Authority.

    Certainly, I agree with the hon. Member that we get scant opportunity to debate the activities of nationalised industries today, but that will doubtless improve. I feel confident also that there will be no objection to Parliamentary Questions on matters of broad policy affecting the affairs of the Authority.

    The most important single aspect of this Bill is the degree of collaboration which may be achieved between the Authority and general industry in the application of industrial usages of atomic power and associated matters. That is very adequately covered in Clause 2 (e) and Clause 2 (f). In spite of much criticism from the other side of the House, I think that the Parliamentary draftsmen have put together an extraordinarily well phrased and comprehensive Clause in this Bill, upon this point of industrial collaboration.

    The Bill states:
    "(e) to make arrangements with universities and other institutions or persons for the conduct of research into matters connected with atomic energy or radioactive substances and, with the approval of the Lord President of the Council and the Treasury, to make grants or loans to persons engaged in the production or use of atomic energy or radioactive substances or in research into matters connected with atomic energy or radioactive substances;"
    Paragraph (f) of the Clause states:
    "to distribute information relating to, and educate and train persons in matters connected with, atomic energy or radioactive substances:"
    That may be inimical of the political convictions of the hon. Member for Islington, East, but it is still a fine piece of Parliamentary draftsmanship giving comprehensive and permissive powers within this Bill to secure the full degree of collaboration that is envisaged between the Authority that is to be created by the Bill, and research bodies in universities and in general industry and the manufacturing organisations in industry that will obviously have to contribute so greatly to the extensive plants for the production of atomic power.

    On the subject of collaboration, 1 want to see brought into active concert with the efforts of the Authority, after it commences work, all the resources of our great industrial concerns, such as Imperial Chemical Industries, the English Electric Company, Babcock and Wilcox, Parsons and countless other mechanical, electrical and chemical engineering firms, for not all the research brains of the United Kingdom are to be found in Government Departments or in the Ministry of Supply. There is a great complementary function to be performed by research bodies in private industry and in the universities, all of which we should seek to bring into the general stream of atomic developments.

    This trend has been readily discernible in the United States today. In the course of the last year or two there has been almost full divulgence by the Atomic Energy Commission to private industrial companies within the field to which I referred, such as Edison, Westinghouse, R.C.A., and Monsanto, for the application of the products of atomic power. The whole trend has been away from monopoly and towards placing development more and more in the hands of private industrial concerns whilst maintaining in the hands of the American Government—and here is the clear analogy—the two essential monopolies, namely that for the production of weapons and that for the production of fissionable materials. The only difference here in Britain is that we propose that weapons shall be dealt with by the Ministry of Supply and fissionable material, because of its dual application, shall be produced solely by the Atomic Energy Authority.

    I want to quote a passage from President Eisenhower's message to Congress on 17th February, 1954, only 12 days ago, because it seems to me so apposite to what we are seeking to achieve by this Bill. The President said:
    "The recent launching of the atomic powered submarine 'Nautilus' made it certain that the use of atomic energy for ship propulsion will ultimately become widespread.… In 1946, economic industrial power from atomic energy sources seemed very remote. Today, it is clearly in sight—largely a matter of further research and development and "—
    Here are the operative words and I commend them to the right hon. Member for Vauxhall—
    "the establishment of conditions in which the spirit of enterprise can flourish."
    That is exactly what we are trying to do in this Bill.

    The Civil Service, with all that it has to commend it, is not the sort of body to stimulate enterprise. On the contrary. It is not the type of body adequately to weigh commercial considerations. This is surely a matter of ideology between the two sides of the House. Only last Tuesday there was exactly the same quarrel between the two sides as to who should run the British Industries Fair. Hon. and right hon. Members opposite wanted the matter left to a Government Department, the Board of Trade. We on this side of the House wanted to create an autonomous body run as a largely commercial venture.

    I want to go a little further than President Eisenhower's message to Congress and illustrate very clearly the sort of development that is taking place in the United States today within this field of industrial atomic application as a result of the wide measure of collaboration which has been achieved between the Government Commission and private industry. It was reported a short time ago that a primitive atomic battery had been made in which the beta particles emitted by a by-product of the atomic pile are harnessed to a transistor to produce electricity. This has now been demonstrated in New York. Although the output of this battery which has been developed by the Radio Corporation of America is at present only one-millionth of one watt— just enough to produce a faint buzz in a telephone receiver—it is said to yield usable electric power one hundred times more efficiently than any previously reported radioactive generator.

    There is a leap forward in the scientific world. Today we in this country are thinking, quite rightly, on the lines of producing fissionable material as fuel, burning it under the boilers of a power house to produce steam, and with the steam driving a turbo-alternator and, from the alternator, making electricity. Here is an invention in its infancy which seeks to eliminate several of those processes. After all, the wireless set began its career with a crystal and the television set is traceable to the same earliest inventions in that field. Perhaps through the enterprise of a private industrial company working in close conjunction with a Government research establishment, inventions of this kind may be made possible.

    President Eisenhower is rightly seeking the revision of the 1946 Atomic Energy Act, the MacMahon Act. I am sure we in this House, wherever we sit, wish him very early success in that field. With the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman), I have been known to say on many occasions that the greatest single contribution that can be made to world peace is certainly the pooling of atomic knowledge and genuine co-operation between the nations of the West in the use of atomic power and energy for military as well as for peaceful purposes.

    I want to say something about the remarks of the Minister of Works in his opening speech and the reference he made—no doubt very shortly, because it was at the end of a long speech—to the question of generating electric power. It is not yet sufficiently realised that we are critically short of electric power in the United Kingdom. It is not yet sufficiently realised that there is little hope of balancing the coal budget in this country in the course of the next 20 years. The Ridley Report, published 18 months ago, said that we would probably be short of 20 million tons of coal a year by 1960. I thought it greatly underestimated the coal shortage which by then would have developed.

    The principal contributory factor in this coal shortage has been the fact that the electricity industry year by year is creating, quite rightly, for industry and manifold other purposes a rising demand for electric current for which—simply expressed—there is unlikely to be sufficient coal available in this country to meet. In fact, if all the power stations planned today by the British Electricity Authority, those to be constructed and put into use between 1954 and 1965, come to full fruition, it may well be that the present consumption of 35 million tons of coal a year for making electricity will rise to as high a figure as 60 million tons a year for electricity generation. There is little prospect of the National Coal Board meeting that additional demand.

    Side by side with that consideration is the fact that our aggregate generating capacity in this country today is about 18,000 megawatt installed as compared with the United States 90,000 megawatt installed of electric power. Relating that to industrial workers in each of the countries, we find that one paramount reason for the high rate of productivity in the United States is that a ratio of 5:2 or two and a half times the electric power is available for every worker employed in the United States as compared with every worker in this country. This point in relation to electricity from atomic power was admirably summed up, indeed all the views I have expressed were adequately confirmed, by a scientist of the National Coal Board, Professor J. Bronowski in the "Sunday Observer" on 31st January last when he said:
    "In ten years' time our electrical power stations ought to be using 15 million tons of coal a year more than they use now if our industries are not to languish. In twenty years' time they may need 30 million tons of coal more each year than now. Mine as hard as we can, we cannot keep up with this growth by anything but atomic power. Indeed we shall find it hard to keep up with it even so."
    I regard that as adequate confirmation of my views on the gravely developing shortage of coal and the first application of the products of the atomic energy Authority we seek to create. The words are not mine and can no doubt be substantiated in many scientific fields. To relate uranium to coal is indeed a fascinating study.

    An atomic pile of the simpler kind produces a relationship of 100 tons of uranium as equivalent to the electric power that would be derived from one million tons of coal. To take it a stage further, an atomic pile of the latest kind, breeding its own fuel continuously—a very highly refined form of uranium— produces the ratio of just one ton of highly refined uranium as the equivalent of the electrical power that would be derived from one million tons of coal. The possibilities of an economic relationship of the kind I have recounted are, indeed, limitless.

    I want to say a word about cost in this field. It has been suggested on many occasions that the cost of atomic power, both in respect of the capital installations and the cost of the current generated, would probably rule out its application for industrial purposes at any early date. That is totally misconceived—

    I am glad to have the support of an electrical engineer on the other side of the House, and I am sure he will confirm these figures. Today a new steam power station costs about £70 per kilowatt installed. A hydro-electric station in the North of Scotland costs £200 per kilowatt installed. It is estimated that today an atomic power station of the kind being built at Sellafield would cost £200 per kilowatt installed, approximately the same as a hydro-electric station in the North of Scotland. It is significant that this has been perceived on the other side of the world; I quote from the "Daily Telegraph" of 2nd November, 1953, an article headed:

    "Atomic power causes doubt on river plan.
    "Atomic energy developments in Britain are causing uncertainty in Federal and State Government circles about the wisdom of proceeding with Australia's most ambitious project, the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, because it is already becoming recognised by scientists, economists and financiers that the capital cost of supplying electricity as an end and refined product of atomic power plants is probably today not very much higher than the cost of more orthodox methods, including hydro-electric power."
    Lastly, I quote Professor B. L. Goodlet's paper to the British Association read at Liverpool on 4th September, 1953; the article was subsequently reprinted in "Engineering":
    "The technical feasibility of nuclear-electric power plants can be taken as established. At Harwell we have designed an improved form of natural uranium reactor enclosed in a pressure shell, the heat produced being transferred by a gas under pressure through a heat exchanger to a steam turbo-alternator. The designed output and overall thermal efficiency of this plant are satisfactory and it is now being built. If my guesses as to its life and cost prove correct then, assuming no byproduct revenue,"—
    there is certain to be a substantial revenue on that account—
    "the cost of electricity generated at a very high load factor should be about Id. per kilowatt."
    That figure of cost bears a direct and economic and commercial relationship to the cost of electricity generated today by equivalent and more orthodox methods. Above all other considerations, whatever sums are voted by Parliament for the use of the Atomic Energy Authority, it is vital that the greatest possible measure of those funds should be devoted, with singleness of purpose, to this question of increasing as rapidly as possible our generating capacity.

    I have listened to the hon. Member with great interest, and I agree with much of what he has said. But why is it necessary to have this elaborate Authority? Why cannot the British Electricity Authority do the job?

    I endeavoured to deal with that point before the hon. Member resumed his seat. I listened to his speech with a great deal of interest. There is no doubt that an argument could be made out for putting the functions we propose for the Authority into the hands of the B.E.A. I think it would be a mistake to do so, because, in spite of the overwhelming importance of the generation of electric power, the whole field of development of atomic products is so imponderable today that we may well find within a few years that there are other and diverse applications of almost equal import.

    I wish to say a word about the finances of the Authority. Reference has already been made to Clause 4 and the fact that:
    "The Lord President of the Council may, out of moneys provided by Parliament, pay to the Authority such sums in respect of the expenses of the Authority as he may, with the consent of the Treasury, determine."
    They will be sums devoted to capital expenditure, to research, to operating expenses and to various revenue charges of the Authority. One thing is quite certain. The Authority will be a very voracious animal financially. In 1953–54 the amount of money it consumed was £46½ million. In 1954–55 the Vote says that it will require £53·7 million. We may think those are substantial sums of money. My right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal may perhaps observe that this year in the United Kingdom we shall spend £53·7 million on atomic energy products. But that is "chicken feed," compared with what the United States are spending. I have looked up their figure for the same period, 1954–55, and they propose to spend £865 million, approximately 16 times as much.

    I recognise that there are considerations which ought to be stated, but which I have not time to mention, and which might make this relationship between the expenditure here and in the United States a little more palatable.

    Hear, hear. There is the size of the country, and everything else.

    Really. Such an irrelevant interruption from one who has just returned to the Chamber—one who, in fact, has not been seen here previously in this debate, is surely to be ignored.

    The point I wish to make, and I hope that on Committee stage we may address ourselves to it, is whether the capital expenditure of the Authority ought to be met by Parliamentary Vote. I observe and support certain canons of finance—as do my hon. Friends—which say that capital expenditure should be met by saving, and that operating expenditure, less receipts— and there will be receipts in the form of revenue—which would represent the annual deficit for the Authority should be met by Parliamentary Vote each year, and so be provided by the taxpayer. I doubt the wisdom of asking the taxpayer in the annual Budget to provide sums of money for capital works of the Authority.

    I do not believe that is a sound method of financing capital works, which are fixed assets and should be depreciated year by year in the accounts of the Authority. If there is any deficit on the operating accounts of the Authority, by all means meet that from the Parliamentary Vote, but not the capital cost of the works concerned. That should be met in the same way as capital is provided for the British Electricity Authority, for example, or the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board—by public subscription on the open money market.

    In case my right hon. Friend thinks that the Authority would be too big to allow for public subscriptions and issues of that kind, may I remind him that this year the capital investment programme of the British Electricity Authority is £165 million, compared with £54 million of the Atomic Energy Authority. So in fact the Atomic Energy Authority requirement is approximately one-third of the amount that is to be invested in capital works of the British Electricity Authority.

    Subject only to that financial comment, or perhaps I should say criticism, of Clause 4, I find the Bill fully satisfies all the desiderata that I anticipated when I first read in the Gracious Speech from the Throne the intention of Her Majesty's Government to create a largely autonomous and statutory atomic Authority. I believe the overriding and supreme advantage to be derived from what we propose today is that we are bringing general industry, with its diverse gifts of inventiveness and development, into full collaboration with Her Majesty's Government and with the statutory Authority. Only by that means will rapid development in atomic matters be achieved. As a Right-wing Conservative, I am delighted to find that I am marching in step with the policy that offers so much promise and hope in the United States, the policy in atomic energy matters pronounced with such enthusiasm by a Republican, President Eisenhower, only 12 days ago.

    8.29 p.m.

    I must apologise to the hon. Member for Kidder-minister (Mr. Nabarro) that I should have attempted to interrupt him with a question. I had not realised how difficult it was for him, once having started, to come even to a temporary halt. Despite what the hon. Gentleman said, I have listened to nearly every speech, not only in this debate but during the one on the White Paper, and I am bound to say that the reasons for this transfer become more confused the more the debate continues.

    The hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. Carr) said that the prime reason for this transfer was the necessity for an independent authority. But the transfer has also been justified by succeeding speakers on the ground that for the first time there will be some Parliamentary accountability and that we shall see how the money is spent. The hon. Member for Kidderminster has said with relish how often we shall have the opportunity to debate the matter.

    Another reason put forward by the Minister of Works in the previous debate was that, of necessity, there must be a separation of the civil side of this matter from the military. That was a reason put forward with great eloquence before, but today we understand that there will not be this separation, and that within the responsibility of the Authority will be responsibility for the manufacture, or certainly for the preparation, of weapons. Presumably that is the reason Sir William Penney is to be appointed to the Authority. One would like to know whether this means a complete severance of that most distinguished and eminent scientist from work on the development of weapons for which previously he has been responsible.

    Then, too, we were told at one point that the reason for the transfer was that the Authority must speak with the voice of industry. Subsequently we were informed that at any rate four people of the Authority would speak with the accents of science and of the Civil Service. Really, it is becoming much more difficult to appreciate why the Government have chosen this time to make the change.

    The Minister of Works attempted, I thought somewhat reluctantly and a little disdainfully, to offset the criticism made in the previous debate about the success of the Civil Service in the direction of the industry hitherto. He said that if they were free the Government could publish an impressive list of results. As a matter of fact, a most impressive list of results has been published. I wondered whether the Minister of Works had read the publication of the Ministry of Supply.

    Since the debate on the White Paper we have had a most fascinating story of Britain's atomic factories. It is a story without parallel in industrial achievement, to which reference has been made several times today. The Minister rightly said that he was hopeful that success in this field would have the same beneficial effect upon our prestige as the conquest of Everest. I think, however, that the progress already achieved has had a magnificent effect upon our prestige.

    If I had my way, I should compel some hon. Gentlemen opposite to write out pages of this story every night after the House had risen. On the top of each page I should compel the hon. Member for Kidderminster to write the words, "Why I believe that public enterprise can succeed." It should from now on be compulsory reading for anyone who says that drive and flexibility—to use the words of the Ministry—are not possible unless private profit is dangled before human eyes. I put forward the suggestion quite seriously that this story should be made readily available to all our secondary schools and grammar schools. Children should be able to read how we were able to build this industry from the ground up.

    It is an industry producing hitherto unknown elements by processes previously unknown on this planet, the nearest approach one can point to being processes on the sun. We can feel great confidence from the way in which young technicians have been trained since the war. I read somewhere that the average age of some technicians was under 30. It is a most remarkable achievement. I am surprised that some hon. Members opposite have not been boasting about the way in which our young British lads could so quickly achieve what has been achieved in our atomic industry.

    The hon. Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Fort) in the last debate went so far as to say that the proof that this transfer was needed lay in the fact that:
    "…the Russians, who started on this technique several years after we did, managed to detonate their first atomic bomb considerably before we were able to."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 10th December, 1953; Vol. 521, c. 2301.]
    When I suggested to him that possibly the Russians had started a considerable time before, he was just a little rude to me.

    In 1946 a Russian scientist described to me in some detail how the Russians had already produced plutonium. When I reported the fact, none of our people would accept it, although I think that they subsequently had reason to believe that they were wrong and that my Russian scientist friend was right.

    It is of some interest to note that when the late President Roosevelt and our Prime Minister met in Quebec during the war, President Roosevelt, so I am given to understand, suggested to our Prime Minister that our Russian allies should be informed of the new weapon which was then contemplated and on which work had already started. It was our own Prime Minister who argued against the disclosure. Subsequently, the two sat at the same table with Mr. Stalin. Not a word was said about the work then being done on the weapon.

    I have often wondered what Mr. Stalin must have thought as he looked upon the representatives of the two allied nations, for even at that date he knew the nature of the work which was going on in the United States, because, as we now know, Fuchs had told him. It seems to me that much of the suspicion and fear between East and West originated from that policy of mutual deception.

    I turn now to one or two details of the Bill. The one thing which is clearly specified in the Bill is that Members of Parliament should be excluded from consideration for membership of the Authority. This is not an unusual provision; it appears in the other nationalisation Acts. I have often questioned the wisdom of the decision. I understand the dangers which are involved, and I appreciate the reason for it, but hon. Members are not excluded from membership of boards of private companies, although patronage is not unknown hi the world of private enterprise and much the same danger exists there.

    Membership of the House of Commons has been known to be the reason for bestowing a directorship upon an individual. It may well be that a director in this House is able to help his company. Certainly, such an hon. Member is in a position to give the House the benefit of? more intimate knowledge of matters with which the company is concerned. Surely there can be nothing wrong if all possible assistance that membership of this House may confer should be made available to an organisation on whose board an hon. Member sits.

    We shall certainly be in need of hon. Members who can speak with some knowledge of this matter. I do not imagine that the House will readily change its policy about hon. Members serving, even unpaid, upon boards, but I believe that we shall need some special arrangement. The Minister referred to the problem of getting the necessary liaison between the House and the Authority without giving any indication of how he proposed to solve it. The Americans have their Joint Congressional Committees of 18 members each, established under their Atomic Energy Act, 1946, and each body has the responsibility of keeping itself fully and currently informed about the activities of the A.E.C.

    The Lord Privy Seal may remember that in a recent debate I spoke in favour of the Motion that he submitted to the House recommending that we should set up a Select Committee or Committees attached to publicly-owned industries. I certainly believe that there will be a special need for something of that type attached to the Authority proposed in the Bill. Despite the persuasive way in which the hon. Member for Kidderminster talks about these matters, the fact is that we have not many people who know very much about them.

    Moreover, no public authority has ever been contemplated in this country with the same loosely-defined directive as this. Clause 2 empowers the Authority to do so many things that all direction, shape and sense of purpose are completely lost. My hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. G. Darling) said that no duties apparently were to be imposed upon the Authority. It had to produce, use and dispose of atomic energy. It was given the power to do that, but the duty was not laid upon it. To what particular end?

    We have still to learn who is to determine the order of priority. Mention has been made by various back benchers of the generation of electrical energy from this power source, but there is no indication in the Bill what the order of priority should be. What economic considerations are to guide the Authority? We now learn—and I was not aware of it—that a good deal of the activity of this body is to be devoted to experiments with weapons. That will not bring in any revenue. Who is to decide how much of its resources should be spent upon unremunerative military work and how much on civil work?

    We were told that the reason this body was to be set up was that it would be a separate, independent authority, the cost of which we would be able to see. We would know how much money was being devoted to its civil activities. If the Authority is to be concerned with both the military and civil uses of atomic energy, we do not appear to be much better off. Some public authorities have been charged with the duty of providing a defined service without any revenue —for example, the National Assistance Board, which is a statutory body. Other public authorities, such as the National Coal Board and the British Transport Commission, have had the responsibility of making their revenue balance their expenditure, taking one year with another. The Air Corparations are charged with the duty of developing their industry, with a public subsidy predetermined and known to the House to enable them to balance income and expenditure.

    The proposed Authority may or may not have revenue, and its activities are not closely denned. Under the Ministry of Supply its financial transactions would have been under some check. Who is to be responsible for that now? The Lord President of the Council is named. Are we to understand that it is the Lord President of the Council personally? Who is to advise him? What secretariat will he have, and what sort of department? If he is to have adequate advice, we are apparently setting up another Ministry; yet the whole argument in the previous debate was that the great advantage of the Lord President of the Council was that he had no Ministry and no vested interest of that kind.

    On the broad question of industrial and economic priorities, will it be the Authority which decides? The people so far named do not appear to include anyone with broad knowledge of the industrial or social needs of the country. The Bill merely says that the broad policy will be settled by the Lord President of the Council. Again, what is the machinery within the Lord President's office which will enable him to give advice or make decisions in this matter? If he is to have more staff, presumably they will come from the Ministry of Supply. Why could they not be left in the Ministry of Supply, with the Minister conducting the necessary work and acting upon the advice given to him? Under the Ministry of Supply policy would be made with full knowledge of the nation's needs.

    If there is to be any change at all, there is a strong case for the work being under the charge of the Minister of Fuel and Power. I do not support the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland (Mr. Palmer) that responsibility should be placed with the British Electricity Authority. Ultimately—in this I agree with the hon. Member for Kidderminster—the Ministry of Fuel and Power will have the task of fitting atomic energy into the overall fuel policy. I have been looking with some interest at the set-up in the United States, some of whose organisations I have had the opportunity of seeing. I notice that the Atomic Energy Commission has no fewer than 19 separate liaison and advisory committees, for this work does impinge on social and economic life at many points. But are we to get the necessary liaison here? Is it to be through inter-Departmental committees? If so, I really do not see why atomic energy should not have been left under the control of some properly constituted Department. We really cannot have so important an industrial potential completely foot-loose. It has to have a definite position within the general, overall, national economic policy.

    Much as we may appreciate all that has been said by hon. Members opposite about the great advantages which the development of this power source can confer upon this country—we agree with them wholeheartedly, and want to work with them to get the greatest possible impetus behind this development—nevertheless, the proposals before us are neither Departmental fish, nationalised fowl nor good private enterprise red herring. I am not quite sure whether the Government are trying to set up an aristocrat or a pariah among nationalised industries. It is a sort of cross between the two.

    It has been said that this country has very fine scientists—and we are as a nation really indebted to them. But we have not too many of them, and we have a duty to see that they are used to the full in actual scientific work. There has been a certain amount of criticism that some of these excellent people—quite extraordinary men—have to spend too much time filling in forms. There is a feeling that, even at the top, the most rare and valuable brains have been called upon to do too much administrative work which could have been done by others— or quite probably left undone altogether.

    This problem of administration by professionals seems to be a phenomenon of modern times; we have doctors complaining of too much form filling and teachers handing out free milk—but surely in this industry, it could be, if true, the most profligate waste of all. We have been told that three of the finest brains in atomic energy development are now to be given places on the Authority. Does not that really mean that they are going to have to spend more time in administrative work in attending board meetings and making broad decisions? I am not sure that it is going to help us. So fine a brain as that of Sir William Penney, for example, should be devoted to scientific work; it can give so much more than that of the ordinary human being.

    Then there is security. We have heard that one reason why Lord Cherwell liked the idea of this change was that it gave the opportunity of tightening up security precautions. We have received some assurance—although not complete—that something like the Civil Service appeal procedure in security will be set up under this Authority. I hope that will be so. It will be a most dreadful business if work has to go on within these wretched security checks.

    I should have liked the Minister to have gone much further. We want more, not less, or even the same freedom. We really must find ways and means of getting the most complete exchange of information between this country and others engaged upon this work. One thing that is now quite certain is that the American policy of secrecy has not been successful. It has not prevented the principal enemy from developing weapons. What it has done is to set back by some years the development of atomic power for constructive, peaceful purposes.

    The case for this transfer has not been made out. Various reasons have been advanced for it, but they have been largely self-contradictory. I should have thought that it would have been better to have left this organisation which has made such remarkable strides, as it is, for some time at any rate. When we get nearer the point when the generation of electricity by atomic energy is within sight, then it might well be that a different set-up will be needed. The advantages would then seem to lie in the direction of a straightforward public authority, under the overall responsibility of a properly constituted department. Because the case for this Bill has been so badly made out, I shall certainly vote against it.

    8.51 p.m.

    I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his opening speech. I felt that he put this Bill into the correct perspective. I have listened to many speeches from hon. Members opposite, but I have not yet been convinced of their reasons for proposing to vote against the Bill. First, it takes almost word for word the provisions of their own Acts of 1946 and 1948. The hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. G. Darling) tried to defend his position by saying that everything which the Labour Government did during that period was not necessarily good, but hon. Members opposite did not attack that part of the Bill which incorporates parts of the 1946 and 1948 Acts.

    This Bill sets up an Authority—a body which is much loved by hon. Members opposite. I have heard them argue how efficient such a body may be in the productive sphere. In the debate on steel, the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) advanced the argument that such a body provides an efficient method of dealing with production difficulties. I do not necessarily agree, but this Bill sets up such a body.

    Some hon. Members opposite are now saying that a Ministry should deal with production. I hope that the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) will address himself to this point, because he has argued against it in the past. Is it a new departure in Socialism that these matters can be properly dealt with only by Ministerial direction? If so, why are hon. Members opposite opposing this Bill.

    The Authority which is to be set up, not being in a position like that of many nationalised corporations, will be directly accountable to this House, through the Treasury. Hon. Members opposite will have for more opportunity to ask questions and to keep control of this organisation through our financial procedure. My criticism of this Bill is that it is too socialistic in its outlook. I have not heard any hon. Member opposite explaining that fact away.

    I took a note of the five points which the right hon. Member for Vauxhall mentioned as being very serious disadvantages. First, he said that it deprived the Ministry of Supply of the organisation of research. If that is so, does he really contend that that fact warrants him voting against the Bill? I do not believe for a moment that those people who are at the moment dealing with research in this wide field will be unable to give their advice if they wish or if they are asked for it.

    The right hon. Gentleman said the next disadvantage was that the Bill divided Ministerial responsibility between the Minister of Works and the Minister of Supply. Does not that happen on a number of productive occasions? We in Sheffield are well aware of the enormous amount of work which comes form Admiralty contracts and the Ministry of Supply, for example. There is dual responsibility—a dual responsibility which the right hon. Member for Vauxhall has himself exercised. Does he think that is something which makes it necessary for him to vote against the Bill?

    His third point was the weakest of all. He said that as a result of the Bill there would be a weakening of Parliamentary control. How can he say that when we know that the Parliamentary control under this organisation will be considerably greater than that which has existed in the past? Indeed, the Minister of Works said that in the past we were not meant to find out the figures put before us in the various Votes. Now we shall know the exact figures.

    The other two objections by the right hon. Member for Vauxhall were, first, in connection with staff arrangements—and that is a Committee point—and, secondly, an objection leading to an attack on Lord Cherwell. In fact, the Waverley Committee was responsible for the advice on this subject, and it was most ungenerous and unfair of the right hon. Gentleman to attack Lord Cherwell on that score.

    I want now to turn to one criticism of the Bill which has already been made, a criticism of Clause 4. I hope my right hon. Friend will address himself to it when he replies to the debate. This Clause deals with the financial responsibility of the Authority. May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for Hendon, North (Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing) and Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) on the financial aspects of the problem? Some of us feel that this vast capital expenditure should not be a direct charge on the annual taxation of the country. We are dealing with a project which may increase as the years go by, with a vast increase not only in material but also in money, and it is unsound to put such a burden on to direct taxation, especially when we already carry the heavy burden of defence. To my mind it might have the effect of reducing the rate of production and the rate of progress in this field. We all want to see a high rate of progress.

    May I put this question to my right hon. Friend? Is it possible, as the Bill is drawn, to arrange for these moneys to be raised from below-the-line expenditure? Can it be done by a loan raised initially, as it must be, on behalf of the Government? I do not think the commercial activities of the Authority will be sufficient to service any large debt to start with, and it seems to me that, initially, the money must come from a Government loan, but as the Authority develops, as industry needs more of its products and as revenue begins to come in, there is no reason why the financing of this Authority should not be on a wider basis enabling more people and more institutions to invest their money in it.

    As I understand the financial provisions of the Bill, it would not be possible for that to take place. It would not even be possible to raise the money from below-the-line expenditure. To take such an action would need an amendment of the Bill. I am not quite clear on that point, but I think I am right. If that is so, this might well be the last opportunity we shall have to raise the matter, because once the Financial Resolution has been passed we may be debarred from discussing it in Committee or on Report. I therefore express this doubt to my hon. Friend; it is one which a number of my hon. Friends hold and I believe it is a reasonable doubt to bring to his attention.

    I am extremely enthusiastic about the concept of the Bill. What we are doing is, I am certain, quite right; we are taking an opportunity of great development. I have been a member of the Public Accounts Committee for some years, and I know how these learned gentlemen have to come and explain all the details of their expenditure. That Public Accounts Committee will have great difficulty in dealing with the secrecy side, at any rate, of this matter, and, therefore, I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to give a favourable reply.

    I conclude by saying that there are great developments in the industrial centres at Sheffield, from where I come, where we have up to now based our economy upon coal. The time is coming —has already come—when the shortage of coal is a handicap to industry. That is why I feel that here we have the beginning of something which will not only maintain the prosperity of the great industries of this country, but also enhance them.

    We have seen this development in the field of atomic energy growing up, as my right hon. Friend said, from the nursery stage to something wider, and to a vitally important stage of this development. I am honoured to take part in this debate and I wish that there had been more Members here to take part in it. I welcome this Bill and give it my wholehearted support.

    9.2 p.m.

    We have listened today to an interesting, important and, indeed, an anxious debate. On all sides of the House there has been concern that the new organisation for the new phase of nuclear fission into which we are now entering should be adapted and suitable for the problems and the tasks with which we are confronted.

    We all know of the dwindling resources of conventional power. We all know how desirable it is that we should be able to have between 30 million and 40 million tons of coal released for export by new methods of power production. These are considerations in the forefront of our minds. Our anxieties are tonight that nothing now done in order to change the structure of the existing atomic energy project should impede our purposes.

    It is precisely for that reason that we on this side of the House oppose the Bill. We believe that it will be disruptive, that it will disrupt the admirable organisation which has grown up under the Ministry of Supply and has produced such excellent results. We believe that it will be confusing and set up a whole net-work of committees of liaison which will. merely add to the complexities and the bureaucracy which is involved in this widespread project; and we believe that it will be wasteful because, on the one hand, the Department of State will be suppressed in its particular interest in atomic energy, and, on the other hand, the new department will be built up around the Lord President in order to handle these matters.

    Everyone recognises that the 20th century industrial revolution begins with the atom. We all recognise that we have now reached the moment when our scientists have succeeded in domesticating the great roaring beast of atomic energy and harnessing it to our peaceful purposes. That is why we are all so concerned tonight that, if the organisation which has produced such satisfactory results is interfered with in any way, it should only be altered and changed in such a manner that it will not hamper or impede the steady progress which has already been achieved.

    When we look at the Bill before us we see the vestigial remains of Lord Cherwell, peeping out from the undergrowth of the Bill. The Bill is originated in the idée fixe which so obsessed Lord Cherwell in 1951. My right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) quoted from Lord Cherwell's speech in 1951 when he put forward the idea of a non-Departmental corporation to undertake the work of atomic energy. I should like to quote just one sentence from the same speech. In those days, when Lord Cherwell was urging—urging hysterically—that the organisation should be changed, he said that unless such action were taken,
    "the whole project will disintegrate and atrophy."
    He added:
    "I do not say it will collapse; it will just run down."
    That is precisely the organisation which the Minister of Works in a recent debate referred to as a "going concern." That is precisely the organisation which, only one year after Lord Cherwell had spoken in another place, produced the atomic explosion at Monte Bello.

    I should like for a few moments to rehearse the circumstances of the Ministry of Supply's control and development of atomic power. I interpose the thought that while I welcome very much that the Lord Privy Seal will reply tonight on behalf of the Government, I regret that the Minister of Supply has not in the course of the debate said anything about that Department with which he was so intimately concerned and which is now about to die.

    Let us consider the tremendous work done by that Department and remember that it was the Ministry of Supply, and not any other Ministry, which was able to produce the result that today was announced casually—so casually that, perhaps many of us hardly noticed its significance—that a fast breeder reactor is about to be built in Caithness, a development which will be of the most tremendous importance to the development of power in this country.

    Our achievements in atomic energy are not due to any sudden irruption of the Minister of Works or the Lord President, or of the Lord Privy Seal, into the field of atomic science. That result was brought about because scientists, engineers, chemists and administrators of the Ministry of Supply who over a long period of years worked on the atomic energy project and have produced a result which is the admiration of scientists all over the world. All that is now to be discarded.

    If we look at the brief history of the atomic energy project in the hands of the Ministry of Supply, we see what magnificent work it accomplished during those short years. It was in 1943 that the Coalition Government decided that it would take away the atomic energy activities from the Lord President and transfer as much of them as feasible to the United States, so that the Americans, with their great resources and great spaces, could continue with atomic development. We deliberately renounced our participation in the development of atomic energy. And so, for over two years, we of our own free will retired from the race.

    In 1945, after the United States had exploded its bombs, we came on the scene again, having to start from scratch, with depleted resources, with most of our industry engaged in other essential national work. Notwithstanding that we started from scratch, within five short years we were able to explode a bomb and to proceed with our own forms of atomic energy development. The result has been that scientists all over the world have expressed their admiration for the great achievement of the Ministry of Supply.

    During this debate Mr. Gordon Dean, the former Chairman of the American Atomic Energy Commission, has frequently been referred to. Those who have read his books and have had the privilege of knowing him will be aware that he has expressed his admiration of atomic energy developments in this country in the most warm and cordial terms. There is nothing that we need be ashamed of in the work that has been done. On the contrary, were it possible to make a detailed comparison of the progress which we have made in the development of atomic energy and that made by the United States, I should say that technically and scientifically we have made the greater progress.

    I would adduce that one indication of the probable truth of what I have said is the fact that when we announced that it was our intention to introduce an atomic energy programme for industrial power and provide facilities for the generation of 50,000 kilowatts, then and only then did the Americans decide to produce stations capable of producing 60,000 kilowatts. There is a strong inference there that in the field of the use of atomic energy for industrial power we are today probably ahead of the United States even though we have far more limited resources than the Americans can dispose of.

    The budget that we have and the budget which the Americans have, which is probably 12 times greater than ours, have already been mentioned in this debate. Yet with our relatively small budget we have been able in the last five years to produce the results which are manifest in the bizarre architecture of the countryside, in Calder Hall, Caithness, Harwell and in all those places where atomic energy is now being developed or studied.

    That achievement was the achievement of the Ministry of Supply and none other, and when we consider what has been done and what is still being done by scientists who are or have been associated with the Ministry of Supply, we should also remember Lord Cherwell's prophecy that unless the organisation under the Ministry of Supply were changed it would atrophy and finally run down. Lord Cherwell has been proved in this matter to be a false prophet, and when hon. Gentlemen opposite go through the Lobbies in order to record their vote for Lord Cherwell's brain child, I hope they will recognise that, as has been said, they will be recording their votes for a triumph of hope over experience.

    We all know that in this matter one has to be empirical, that one can only go by what has been achieved. Throughout this debate, from hon. Members opposite there has not been a single valid argument put forward for changing the existing successful structure of the atomic energy Department of the Ministry of Supply. Reference has been made to the Waverley Committee. That was a body which was set up, not to advise as to the desirability of retaining the existing structure, or of substituting some new kind of organisation such as the proposed organisation. The Waverley Committee was asked to make proposals for an organisation of a non-Departmental character to which the atomic energy Department of the Ministry of Supply could be transferred. The Waverley Committe was not concerned to consider the principle of the matter but merely the mechanics of a new organisation.

    When we study the new organisation we should bear in mind that the Waverley Committee advocated that it should be brought into line with a great industrial organisation. Its problems are utterly and totally different from those of any commercial organisation, large or small. Although we are now talking of atomic energy being used for industrial purposes, we have to recognise that atomic energy is still in the laboratory stage even if the laboratory is as large as Calder Hall or Caithness. Atomic energy has not reached the point where we can apply it for the ordinary, competitive purposes of industry. I know that there are alternative opinions on the subject.

    Sir John Cockcroft and Sir Christopher Hinton have both suggested in writing and in speeches that at a certain moment it will be possible for atomic energy for industry to be competitive with electricity produced by conventional methods. If we examine the costings submitted by the Lord President of the Council in another place, it will foe seen to be dubious as to whether atomic energy for generating electricity is today an economic proposition. The Lord President of the Council indicated that the probable cost of generating electricity by means of atomic energy would 'be about one penny a unit, whereas the electricity generated by conventional methods costs between "6 pence and ·7 pence per unit.

    If we turn to the cost of the actual generating plant, we see there also a vast difference. In the case of a conventional generating plant for electricity, the cost of one capable of producing 50,000 kilowatts is £2½ million, whereas in the case of the atomic energy plant the cost has been estimated at £5 million, and on top of that has to be taken into account the cost of loading the atomic plant with the costly fuel, which will probably add another £1 million.

    I do not propose to burden the House with figures, and I mention this comparison merely to show that in the case of atomic energy we are still at the stage of strategic investment and have not reached the time when we can say that atomic energy can now be made available for industry in a normal way. We cannot regard the proposed Authority as an independent body like the Electricity Authority, with which it can enter into conjunction or into competition.

    Atomic energy for power production must be for a long time regarded as a protegé of the nation. We have to make this investment deliberately and coldbloodedly, recognising that we are discounting the present for the future. In order to do that, we must be prepared to accept that the form of organisation which we use must be of a special kind in intimate relationship with Government. I have already referred to the great work which has been done by the Ministry of Supply. I have suggested already that in inventiveness, enterprise and versatility, we have nothing to fear from American competition. Indeed, I thought of that when the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) was speaking, and he made great play with the match box which Mr. Sarnoff of the United States demonstrated to a Press Conference in order to show how atomic energy could be concentrated into the size of pocket batteries.

    I am certain that in our atomic energy stations and laboratories there is many a British scientist who could show similar toys and gadgets. The fact is that we have been able to produce major developments in atomic energy, and we have done that under the aegis, the encouragement and under the protection of the Ministry of Supply.

    Now I turn to the question of security, using that word in a somewhat different sense from that with which we have been familiar during the course of this debate. I am thinking at the moment of public safety, and in that connection I shall refer to what Sir Christopher Hinton said not long ago in the United States. He said then that we had no experience of a runaway reactor. By that he meant that the atomic energy experts in Britain have to work within the critical limits of their knowledge, that their progress is determined by the mechanics and physics of the materials which they control, and that consequently the rate of development is governed necessarily by the nature of the project. Bearing that in mind, bearing in mind the enormous dangers to the public safety which might result from a premature attempt to go too fast, we have to consider additional reasons for having direct public control.

    Surely the reference was to a runaway reactor. He meant that we had no experience of a reactor which had not been damped down with graphite rods and had got out of control. I hope that we shall not have an experience of that kind.

    The whole purpose of his remarks was to establish that British atomic scientists had been working within the limits of their knowledge and that they cannot be hurried or pushed forward other than by those considerations inherent in the problem with which they are dealing.

    So if this problem were removed from the Ministry of Supply, if the Authority were set up in which administrators, organisers and businessmen were dominating personalities, let it not be thought that in some mysterious way the green light would be given to scientists who are frustrated under the grip of the Civil Service, which would enable them to go on with new projects which they are at present not able to undertake.

    I proceed from that to the question of control. We have already said in this debate that the fact that the Lord President is today in another place is a limiting factor on the control which the House of Commons can exercise over this new project. In the past, whilst the project was entirely concerned with weapons, we had difficulty, very properly, in getting to know what was going on. An hon. Member has referred to the fact that when the atomic bomb was being developed my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition spent £100 millions surreptitiously in order to make provision for that purpose. I am sure that no one in this House will complain of that. There are times when a suitable reticence by a Government and an appropriate discretion by Members of this House are proper to what one knows to be taking place.

    Such was the case during the last five years, but today we are entering into a period of peaceful application of atomic energy and a new phase. Now is the time, when with atomic energy being used for industry, we want to be able to question the Minister and to ask him the nature of developments. We want to ask him the proportion of effort which is being allocated relatively to weapon development and development for civil purposes.

    But, instead of having access to the Minister, we find that he is now in the privileged sanctuary of another place where we cannot get at him. Although the Minister of Works no doubt will be able to deputise and, if I may say so with respect, act as a kind of complaint box for the Lord President, the fact is that here is another example of how by setting up the Authority yet another wall is being interposed between the public and the proper sources of inquiry.

    We are gravely concerned that throughout -the Bill there runs the general theme that the Authority is to achieve an independence which some of us regard as being an arbitrariness which formerly did not exist and which removes it from the proper scrutiny of Parliament. In that connection those who are perhaps most anxious about it are the men and women who are directly and actively engaged in the work of producing atomic energy.

    Although certain safeguards were forecast in the White Paper, although there are certain indications of safeguards in the Bill, those safeguards do no seem adequate to those who work in the industry. They feel grave concern that in the mass diversions and mass migrations of workers which inevitably will take place, their liberties will not be fully safeguarded. Consequently, I hope that when fee replies the Lord Privy Seal will make clear that proper safeguards, comparable to those in the Civil Service, will be offered to those who will be displaced by the action and the effect of the Bill.

    There is another question to which reference was made by the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave). He expressed anxiety lest in the necessary security arrangements which have to take place in atomic establishments the workers, scientists, physicists and economists, should have proper constitutional safeguards and that the existing machinery which today is present in the Civil Service, in the Ministry of Supply, for the protection of their civil rights, should at least be adequately repeated under the new Authority. That is a legitimate safe- guard. We in this country certainly do not wish to see those encroachments on the civil rights of individuals which, unhappily, have been seen in other countries. For those reasons, on behalf of hon. Members on this side of the House, I should like an assurance that in any security arrangements which are made the same safeguards will be reproduced under the Authority as have existed successfully under the Ministry of Supply.

    Looking back over the whole vista of the arrangements which the Government made, we see they have been attached to a doctrine put forward by Lord Cherwell, but a doctrine which proved to be false when the Ministry of Supply succeeded so pre-eminently well in producing, first, atomic weapons and, at a later stage, the means for producing industrial atomic energy. Those are facts of which we should not be ashamed, but rather of which we should all be proud. Because we are proud of the achievements of the Ministry of Supply, we resist this Bill It is a matter of great regret that in all this debate not a word has been said by either the Minister of Supply nor those associated with him in defence of his engineers, physicists and chemists.

    I really think I must try to put an end to this sort of rumour-mongering from hon. Members opposite. If the hon. Member will look at the Bill—it was suggested by another hon. Member earlier that I was not in favour of this Bill—he will see that I am one of the sponsors. Apart from that, I think hon. Members opposite would have been the first to complain if a member of the Cabinet had not wound up this debate, which concerns itself with the transfer of important responsibility from one Minister to another. Finally, if at a later stage, the Committee stage, matters concerning atomic weapons arise, I am of course at the disposal of the House to take part in that debate.

    In view of the confession of the right hon. Gentleman, I can only regret that he has now announced that he connived at the assassination of a project which was of such value. It is now clear that the Government are determined to go on with this bad Bill. Its badness is announced by the fact that everyone, on both sides of the House, unites in proclaiming the merit of what has been achieved by the Ministry of Supply. I can only say that this Bill is essentially a speculative take-over bid by the Government for the going concern of atomic energy. By saying "going concern" I am merely quoting the Ministry of Works, which is at such cross purposes with Lord Cherwell. It is irresponsible as well as injudicious. It has its roots in proved error. The Cassandras are falsified in their prophecies, but they continue to prophesy. We shall reinforce our disapproval by our vote.

    9.30 p.m.

    We have had a very interesting and a rather quiet debate on this topic. The subject matter is very difficult and abstruse for most right hon. and hon. Gentlemen, but those who are expert in the matter have given us the benefit of their advice. Of course, we have not really been discussing atomic energy as such, or any of the wonders of it. All we are debating is a particular Bill, passed in a particular form, for transferring all responsibility from one Minister to another and from one Government Department to a new Authority. Now responsibility is in an in-between stage, because it is temporarily under the Lord President.

    Here we are dealing with a machinery Bill but it has lent itself to a most interesting discussion. The great weight of the argument and the attack, if attack it was, really started with the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss), and was carried on through all the Opposition speeches. It was said what a terrible thing it was to take away the responsibility from the Ministry of Supply, which had done most wonderful work. That is admitted by everyone, and it has been the subject of congratulation throughout the debate. It was argued that it was a terrible thing to take the responsibility from the Ministry and put it somewhere else.

    As my hon. Friend the Member for Heeley (Mr. P. Roberts) said, that was not an easy argument for the Opposition to sustain. The hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) said— this was one of the complaints about what was to happen—that there would be another board injected between the public and the source of inquiry. I suppose he meant the Minister. The hon. Member was complaining that another board was to be injected, but the whole thesis of all the nationalisation Bills passed in the Parliament in which the party opposite were the Government was to put various organisations and productive industries and the rest of it into that form of organisation and not within a Government Department. Having done that when they started, as it were, from the other end, it is difficult for them to sustain the argument that responsibility for atomic energy should not be taken out of a Government Department and put into the kind of Authority that we suggest.

    Quite naturally, the right hon. Member for Vauxhall was sad at the diminution of authority of a Department over which he had presided. No doubt, as an ex-Minister, he was sorry that there should, be any reduction of authority at all. But when he talked about all the activities of his Department I thought he allowed his memory to go astray. I thought he implied that when he was Minister of Supply he ran the iron and steel industry. Of course he did not, but he implied that —and he also implied how well he had done it.

    The right hon. Gentleman said, "What is the point of this debate? You are going to have a great number of the same civil servants"—he called them, civil servants, but of course they will not be if and when they transfer into the employment of the Authority. But, taking the word telegraphically, he said, "You are going to have the same civil servants as before, and if they were bad before they will be bad in the future." No one has ever said that they were bad. It never entered the head of anyone to make such a ridiculous accusation. What we are envisaging is a new system, a new arrangement, and I hope that at last that is getting into the heads of those who do not like what we are doing.

    The right hon. Gentleman said, for example, that we dawdled, that we waited three years and then began to think about this matter. We have not waited three years. We have been in office for only 2¼ years.

    It may be too long for the hon. Gentleman but it is not too long for those who vote at by-elections. However, I do not want to be carried away by that riposte of the hon. Gentleman, who is very learned in these scientific matters and ought to know better than to interrupt me like that.

    I do not know how far the right hon. Gentleman would agree with this as a possible analogy. One might have a small boy at school who was doing very well indeed and was top of the class for a long time. That is no reason why he should never go to another school and never grow up, but just stay as a very good little boy who never failed at anything for years and years. Times change. People grow up. Work connected with atomic energy is growing up, too.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) spoke with gratitude on behalf of his constituents for the developments which will take place in the north of Scotland. I am sure that everyone is glad that such an improvement can take place.

    We have had several groups of criticism. I have notes of what hon. and right hon. Gentlemen have said. I should like to take one or two points. The hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave), the hon. Member for Whitehaven (Mr. F. Anderson) and others asked a number of questions about staff problems. Broadly speaking, I would say that these really are more Committee points than Second Reading points, in view of the firm assurance given by the Minister of Works. However, I would make one or two comments.

    The industrial staff have been in touch with the present Department of Atomic Energy. I understand that a letter was sent on 22nd February to the vice-chairman of the Joint Industrial Council at the Ministry of Supply explaining the situation about industrial staffs. I understand the non-industrial staff position to be that the Department of Atomic Energy has already established a Whitley Council and it has had useful discussions. The department has reiterated assurances that the interests of the staffs will be fully safeguarded. The necessary details must be worked out in consultation with the Whitley Council—I am sure that we all agree about that—as representatives of the staff would obviously wish.

    I say again, as my right hon. Friend has said, that the staff will not be forced to join the Authority. Of course, we hope that the terms offered and the other prospects ahead will be such that many of them will be attracted to stay. Established civil servants have all the protection of their established status in the Service.

    Questions were asked about houses. The position is that the Authority will take over all the property held by the Lord President of the Council in connection with the atomic energy project. That includes houses and the power to build houses. So far as we can see, the provision of housing for the staff will continue exactly as in the past. There is no particular need to spell all that out in the Bill. There is no doubt that civil servants who are seconded to the Authority under the proposals will continue to be represented by their recognised staff associations.

    Finally, there was the question about the negotiating machinery dealt with in Clause 7. All these matters can be discussed further and more fully at the appropriate time, but these provisions are the standard form used in recent nationalisation Acts and there is certainly no ominous suggestion of having compulsory arbitration. I do not know where that idea came from. It is not there, and any arrangements for arbitration, as the relevant subsection says, will be discussed with the staff through the Whitley Council. I hope that deals with most of those points.

    Another group of questions was about finance and whether the proposals in the Bill represented the right way to deal with the vast expenditure which is involved. One or two of my hon. Friends wondered whether financing could not better be done by some form of Joan. I do not think anybody believes that there is the slightest prospect of the Authority making any money for a considerable time to come. If all goes well, it will in due course, no doubt, get something back in the way of royalties or sales or whatever it may be, but it is very unlikely that for a very long time, if ever, it will be on any kind of paying basis, using the term in its widest sense.

    The Waverley Committee said on this point:
    "The Corporation's expenditure will be very heavy and, at least for many years to come, its receipts will be relatively small. We recommend that the money required should be voted annually by Parliament to the designated Ministry in the form of a grant, unspent money being surrendered at the end of the year."
    That is the course that has been adopted. There is, of course, the safeguard of the Comptroller and the Auditor-General.

    I was asked whether—this is the matter which we discussed the other day —the Authority would come within the ambit of a Select Committee set up in relation to nationalised industry. The answer is, "No, not according to the Report of the Select Committee itself." The Report included in the work of such a Select Committee only corporations whose annual receipts are not wholly or mainly derived from money provided by Parliament or advanced from the Exchequer. Therefore, according to the Select Committee's Report, the Authority and several of the corporations would not come within the ambit of such a Select Committee.

    Do I understand that, once we pass the Money Resolution and, therefore, this part of the matter, we shall not be able again to discuss the matter of a Government loan during the debates on the Bill, or will there be another opportunity?

    I cannot give a ruling about a matter of that kind, for that is not my function. I was merely saying that what is proposed is that the money, according to the recommendations of the Waverley Committee, should come direct out of Parliamentary funds.

    Among other questions, I was asked whether any members of the Authority might be part-time. There is nothing to prevent that happening, and I should have thought that it was more than likely, but, again, I must not prejudge the issue.

    The hon. Member for Watford (Mr. J. Freeman) asked a number of questions. I found it very hard to accept as a criticism his suggestion that there would be a great waste of expertise through the setting up of the Authority because it would not have the same contacts with other Departments as existed when it was part of the Ministry of Supply. I cannot see any reason in the world why that should be so because the people engaged in the work come under a different organisation. After all, they will be doing a great deal of the some kind of work, and I should have thought that they would be keeping in touch with exactly the same sort of people.

    I was interested to hear the hon. Member say he thought that, under Clause 3, the Lord President would have far greater powers than any of the other Ministers who have an interest, in other nationalised boards. What the Clause lays down clearly is that the general duty of the Lord President of the Council is to
    "promote and control the development of atomic energy…
    " and that the duty shall include
    "in particular, the duty of securing that, in the conduct of the affairs of the Authority, the proper degrees of importance are attached to the various applications of atomic energy."
    There, one can find the answer to a point which was put that it was provided in Clause 2 that the Authority had power to do this, that and the other, but that no duty was put upon the Authority to do anything. The answer is that one has to turn to Clause 3 to see that the duty of the Lord President is to secure that the proper degree of importance is attached to the various applications of atomic energy. Clause 3 (2) further says:
    The Lord President of the Council shall have power to give the Authority such directions as he may think fit.…."
    Subsection (3) says that the directions may be general or particular, but that the Lord President is not to regard it as his duty
    "to intervene in detail in the conduct by the Authority of their affairs unless in his opinion overriding national interests so require."
    The assumption of most people upon reading those words would be that the Lord President would not interfere with the day-to-day detail, but that if he found that it was in the overriding interests of the nation to do so he would. He would not do so normally, after he had finished the general duty laid upon him in Clause 3 (1) of deciding the proper degrees of importance to be attached to the various applications of atomic energy.

    Would the Lord Privy Seal kindly elucidate that point further? The point I made was that the Clause gave the Lord President of the Council more power than was possessed by any Minister under the previous nationalisation Measures. If the Lord Privy Seal will be good enough to read subsections (2) and (3), he will find that that is absolutely correct. The Lord President will have power

    "to give the Authority such directions as he may think fit.…."
    but he need not give such directions unless he thinks they are in the overriding national interests.

    The hon. Member will not have omitted to remember that the Lord President of the Council will be dealing with matters of the utmost secrecy in that part of his work, and will have to have that power, which would not be given to any other Minister in that connection. [Interruption.] I do not know what the hon. Gentleman wants. Would he be good enough to interrupt properly? If there is no question to answer from him, I will proceed with my speech.

    On a point of order. The right hon. Gentleman has accused me of making an interruption. I am now making an interruption so that he may be able to pad his speech out until 10 o'clock.

    It was not the hon. Gentleman, but his chatty friend the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) that I was thinking of.

    The hon. Member for Whitehaven asked about the special measures in and about and in connection with the various establishments. There are three different medical aspects of this problem: the protection of the people working in the establishments; the care to be taken over the whole neighbourhood outside these establishments; and the third, which is the most important in one sense, the general effect that all these discoveries and changes will have in the modern world.

    On the first point, protection of the staff, the standards on the various atom projects are very high. Of course, all that continue under the Authority. It, as everyone has in the past, will do its best to see that those working in these plants enjoy the maximum conditions of safety. That aspect has, of course, been investigated by a whole series of eminent and distinguished people, and has been worked on by medical experts both inside the establishments and on the Medical Research Council.

    They first make quite certain when the plants are constructed that safety aspects are kept in mind, and that in the processes that take place every precaution—protective devices, protective clothing and monitoring—is taking for the safety of those who work there. As a result, all those who have been so employed have been perfectly satisfied with what has been done for their safety and protection.

    The second question asked by the hon. Member for Whitehaven was in regard to the neighbourhood at large. After all, there are effluents—if that is the right word to use at the same time for gas and liquids—and they are dealt with from the point of view of the safety of everybody living in the neighbourhood. There again, when the plants are built precautions are taken. In the case of gases the piles, for example at Windscale— which I think is the plant the hon. Member particularly mentioned—are cooled by air. There is a threefold check. First, the effluent is air-filtered, then monitored as it leaves the high chimney, and, thirdly, regular surveys of the surrounding neighbourhood are made to see that no radioactivity has escaped into the wrong place. There again, therefore, we can be reasonably satisfied with the position.

    Water effluent is discharged either into rivers or into the sea. That, at present, is a matter for agreement between the Department of Atomic Energy and the two Ministries. Under the Bill it will be agreed between the Atomic Authority and the two Ministries. I should say that, the degree of tolerance has been set down by the Medical Research Council.

    The third point concerns the use of isotopes which is gradually being made in medicine. One could say a great deal on that, but tonight I would only say that great steps have been taken. At the moment small radium units have been converted into cobalt units at University College Hospital, Leeds and Sheffield. The great Canadian cobalt bomb which was presented last year to the British Empire Cancer Campaign has been put to work. By a strange coincidence, this very morning the first patient was treated with that bomb at the Mount Vernon Hospital.

    What the House cannot quite follow is why this bomb should be transferred to another authority. Is it not working satisfactorily at the moment?

    It has nothing to do with the Authority. Hon. Members may think it funny, but I was only dealing with the three points raised by the hon. Gentleman. Two of those were the protection for the worker and protection for the neighbourhood. I went on to say that one of the great developments in this field was in the way of research—particularly radium, cobalt and the rest of it—for dealing with cancer. It has nothing to do with transference to the Authority at all, and I never said that it had. The hon. Member is much too quick.

    He asked why we were introducing this Bill, and said that it was not at all clear. I would refer him and the House, once again, to the White Paper which was produced in November. [Laughter.] This is not a laughing matter. It has been dealt with very seriously all the afternoon. The White Paper said:
    "As the industrial uses of atomic energy become relatively more prominent, the case for a form of control of the project which is more akin to the structure of a big industrial organisation than to that of a Government department becomes increasingly strong; and it will, in the Government's view, become stronger with the increase in the need for closer contact and co-operation with industry, including the nationalised industries,"—
    about which so much has been said today—
    "and the widening application of atomic techniques."
    It is just because of that fact that we introduced the Bill, and we are taking this opportunity to show that we are moving into a new era of atomic energy.

    Division No. 44.]


    [10.0 p.m.

    Aitken, W. T.Barber, AnthonyBoothby, Sir R. J. G
    Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)Barlow, Sir JohnBossom, Sir A. C.
    Alport, C. J. M.Baxter, A. BBoyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A
    Amory, Rt. Han. Heathcoat (Tiverton)Beach, Maj. HicksBoyle, Sir Edward
    Arbuthnot, JohnBell, Philip (Bolton, E.)Braine, B. R.
    Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)
    Baker, P. A. D.Bennett, Or Reginald (Gosport)Braithwaite, Sir Gurney
    Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W H
    Baldwin, A. E.Bishop, F. P.Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)
    Banks, Col C.Black, C. W.Browne, Jack (Govan)

    As has been pointed out by one or two other speakers, it is interesting to notice that our American friends and partners are also moving towards the extension of atomic power, from their preoccupation with weapons, to the arts of peace. I take this opportunity of welcoming the message of President Eisenhower to Congress on 17th February. He was commending certain amendments to the McMahon Act, which amendments, he said, were intended to strengthen not only the defence but also the economy of the United States and the free world. If they were approved by Congress, they would widen the basis of co-operation between the United States and her allies. They would help the dissemination of information and encourage the broader participation of commercial enterprise in the development of atomic energy. The same is true of us.

    That is another reason for the Bill. I repeat that the strides which have been made recently in atomic energy open up a wonderful prospect. President Eisenhower said:

    "What was only a hope and a distant goal in 1945—the beneficent use of atomic energy in human service—can soon be a reality. Before our scientists and engineers lie rich possibilities in the harnessing of atomic power."

    In the same message he said:

    "In 1946 too, economic industrial power from atomic energy sources seemed very remote; today, it is clearly in sight—largely a matter of further research and development, and"—

    these are the words 1 stress—

    "the establishment of conditions in which the spirit of enterprise can flourish."

    That is the object of the Bill.

    Question put, "That 'now' stand part of the Question."

    The House divided: Ayes, 244; Noes, 226.

    Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)Raikes, Sir Victor
    Burden, F. F. AHoward, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)Rayner, Brig. R.
    Butcher, Sir HerbertHudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)Redmayne, M
    Campbell, Sir DavidHudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)Rees-Davies, W. R.
    Carr, RobertHulbert, Wing Cdr. N. J.Remnant, Hon. P.
    Cary, Sir RobertHurd, A. R.Renton, D. L. M.
    Channon, H.Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.Ridsdale, J. E.
    Churchill, Rt. Hon. Sir WinstonHylton-Foster, H. B. H.Roberts, Peter (Heeley)
    Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)Iremonger, T. L.Robson-Brown, W.
    Clarke, Brig Terence (Portsmouth. W.)Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
    Clyde, Rt. Hon. J. L.Johnson, Eric (Blackley)Roper, Sir Harold
    Cole, NormanJohnson, Howard (Kemptown)Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
    Colegate, W. A.Jones, A. (Hall Green)Russell, R. S.
    Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. AlbartKaberry, D.Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.
    Cooper-Key, E. M.Kerr, H. WSandys, Rt. Hon. D.
    Craddook, Beresford (Spelthorne)Lambert, Hon. G.Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.
    Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon H. F. CLambton, ViscountScott, R. Donald
    Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.Lancaster, Col. C. G.Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.
    Crouch, R, F.Leather, E. H. C.Shepherd, William
    Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W>
    Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
    Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton)Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)
    Davidson ViscountessLloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)
    Deeds, W. F.Lookwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.Snadden, W. McN.
    Digby, S. WingfieldLow, A. R. W.Soames, Capt. C.
    Dodds-Parker, A. D.Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)Spearman, A. C. M
    Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McALucas, P. B. (Brentford)Speir, R. M.
    Donner, Sir P. W.Lucas-Tooth, Sir HughStanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
    Doughty, C. J. A.McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. SStoddart-Scott, Col. M.
    Douglas-Hamilton, Lord MalcolmMacdonald, Sir PeterStorey, S.
    Drayson, G. B.Mackeson, Brig. Sir HarryStrauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)
    Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.McKibbin, A. J.Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)
    Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir D. M.Maclay, Rt. Hon. JohnStudholme, H. G
    Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)Maclean FitzroySummers, G. S.
    Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)Sutcliffe, Sir Harold
    Erroll F. J.Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
    Fell, A.Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
    Finlay, GraemeMarkham, Major Sir FrankTeeling, W.
    Fisher, Nigel
    Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.Marlowe, A. A. H.Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)
    Fletcher-Cooke CMarples, A. E.Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
    Ford, Mrs PatriciaMarshall, Douglas (Bodmin)Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)
    Fort, R.Maude, AngusThompson, Kenneth (Walton)
    Foster. JohnMaydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)
    Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David MaxwellMedlicott, Brig. F.Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)
    Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)Mellor, Sir JohnThornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.
    Garner-Evans, E. H.Molson, A. H. E.Touche, Sir Gordon
    George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. LloydMott-Radclyffe, C. E.Turner, H. F. L.
    Glover, D.Nabarro, G. D. N.Tweedsmuir, Lady
    Godber, J. B.Neave, AireyVane, W. M. F.
    Gomme-Duncan, Col. ANicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
    Gough, C. F. H.Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)Vosper, D. F.
    Gower, H. R.Nield, Basil (Chester)Wade, D. W.
    Graham, Sir FergusNoble, Cmdr. A. H. P.Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
    Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)Nugent, G. R. H.Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)
    Hall, John (Wycombe)Nutting, AnthonyWalker-Smith, D. C.
    Hare, Hon. J. H.Odey, G. W.Wall, P. H. B.
    Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)
    Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
    Harvie-Watt, Sir GeorgeOrr, Capt. L. P. S.Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
    Hay, JohnOrr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)Watkinson, H. A.
    Heath, EdwardOrr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare)Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)
    Higgs, J. M. C.Osborne, C.Wellwood, W.
    Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)Page, R. GWilliams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)
    Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)Peake, Rt. Hon. O.Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
    Hinchingbrooke, ViscountPerkins, Sir RobertWilliams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)
    Hirst, GeoffreyPeto, Brig. C. H. M.Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
    Holland-Martin, C. J.Pilkington, Capt. R. A.Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
    Hollis, M. C.Pitt, Miss E. M.Wills, G.
    Holt, A. F.Powell, J. EnochWilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
    Hope Lord JohnPrice, Henry (Lewisham, W.)
    Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
    Horobin, I. M.Profumo, J. D.Sir Cedric Drewe and Mr. Conant


    Acland, Sir RichardBellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G
    Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)Benn, Hon. WedgwoodBowden, H. W.
    Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)Benson, G.Bowles, F. G.
    Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.Beswick, F.Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth
    Awbery, S. S.Bevan, Rt Hon A. (Ebbw Vale)Brook, Dryden (Halifax)
    Bacon, Miss AliceBing, G. H. CBroughton, Dr. A. D. D.
    Baird, J.Blackburn, F.Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)
    Barnes, Fit Hon A. JBlenkinsop, ABrown, Thomas (Ince)
    Bartley. PBlyton, W. RBurke, W. A.

    Burton, Miss F. E.Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)Reid, William (Camlachie)
    Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S)Janner, B.Rhodes, H
    Callaghan, L. J.Jeger, George (Goole)Robens, Rt. Hon. A
    Carmichael, J.Jeger, Mrs. LenaRoberts, Albert (Normanton)
    Castle, Mrs. B A.Johnson, James (Rugby)Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
    Champion, A. J.Jones, David (Hartlepool)Robinson Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
    Chapman, W D.Jones, Jack (Rotherham)Ross, William
    Chelwynd, G RJones, T. W. (Merioneth)Royle, C.
    Clunie, J.Keenan, W.Shackleton, E. A. A
    Coldrick, W.Kenyon, C.Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley
    Collick, P. H.Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
    Corbet, Mrs. FredaKing, Dr. H. M.Short, E. W.
    Craddock, George (Bradford. S.)Kinley, J.Silverman, Julius (Erdington)
    Crosland, C. A. R.Lee, Frederick (Newton)Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
    Crossman, R. H S.Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)
    Cullen, Mrs. A,Lever, Leslie (Ardwiek)Skeffington, A. M.
    Darling, George (Hillsborough)Lewis, ArthurSlater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)
    Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefied)
    de Freitas, GeoffreyLogan, D. G.Snow, J. W.
    Deer, GMacColl, J. E.Sorensen, R. W.
    Delargy, H. J.McGhee, H. G.Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
    Dodds, N. N.McInnes, J.Sparks, J. A.
    Donnelly, D. L.McKay, John (Wallsend)Steele, T.
    Driberg, T. E. N.McLeavy, F.Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
    Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.Strachey, Rt. Hon. J
    Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)
    Edelman, M.Mainwaring, W. H.Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.
    Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)Sylvester, G. O.
    Edwards, W. J. Stepney)Mann, Mrs. JeanTaylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
    Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)Manuel, A. C.Taylor, John (West Lothian)
    Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)Mason, RoyTaylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)
    Fernyhough, E.Mayhew, C. P.Thomas, George (Cardiff)
    Fienburgh, W.Mellish, R. J.Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
    Finch, H. J.Messer, Sir F.Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)
    Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)Mikardo, IanThomson, George (Dundee, E.)
    Follick, M.Mitchison, G. RThornton, E.
    Foot, M. M.Monslow, W.Turner-Samuels, M.
    Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)Moody. A. S.Viant, S P.
    Freeman, John (Watford)Morgan, Dr. H. B. W.Wallace, H. W.
    Gooch, E. G.Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)
    Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon- P. C.Mulley F WWebb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)
    Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.Morley, R.Warbey, W. N.
    Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)Murray, J. D.Weitzman, D.
    Grey, C. F.Neal, Harold (Bolsover)Wells, Percy (Faversham)
    Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P JWells, William (Walsall)
    Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)O'Brien, T.West, D. G.
    Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)Oliver, G. HWheeldon, W. E.
    Hamilton, W. W.Orbach M.White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
    Hannan, W.Oswald, T.Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W;
    Hargreaves, APadley, W. E.Wigg, George
    Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)Paget, R. T.Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.
    Hastings, S.Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)Wilkins, W A
    Hayman, F. H.Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)Willey, F. T.
    Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)Palmer, A. M. FWilliams, David (Neath)
    Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)Pannell, CharlesWilliams, Ronald (Wigan)
    Herbison, Miss M.Pargiter, G. A.Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)
    Hewitson, Capt. M.Parker, J.Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)
    Hobson, C. R.Parkin, B. T.Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)
    Holman, P.Pearl, T. F.Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
    Holmes, HoracePlummer, Sir Lull*Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)
    Houghton, DouglasPopplewell, E.Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
    Hoy, J. H.Porter, G.Wyatt, W. L.
    Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)Yates, V. F.
    Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)Proctor, W. T.Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
    Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)Pursey, Cmdr. H.
    Hynd, H. (Accrington)Rankin, JohnTELLERS FOR THE NOES:
    Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)Reeves, J.Mr. Pearson and Mr. Arthur Allen.
    Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)Reid, Thomas (Swindon)

    Bill accordingly read a Second time.

    Committed to a Committee of the whole House —[ Mr. Kaberry.]

    Committee Tomorrow.

    Atomic Energy Authority Money

    Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 84.—[ Queen's Recommendation signified.]

    [Sir RHYS HOPKIN MORRIS in the Chair]

    Motion made, and Question proposed,

    That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to provide for the setting up of an Atomic Energy Authority for the United Kingdom and for other purposes, it is expedient to authorise—
  • (a) the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of such sums in respect of the expenses of that Authority as the Lord President of the Council may with the consent of the Treasury determine; and
  • (b) the payment into the Exchequer, if the Lord President of the Council with the approval of the Treasury so directs, of the whole or any part of the revenues of that Authority for any financial year.—[Mr. Crookshank.]
  • It being after Ten o'Clock, and objection being taken to further Proceeding, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.

    Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.

    Coroners Money

    Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 84.—[ Queen's Recommendation signified.]

    [Sir RHYS HOPKIN MORRIS in the Chair]


    That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to amend the law as to the fees and allowances payable by coroners to witnesses, to persons summoned to attend as witnesses and to medical practitioners making post-mortem examinations by the coroner's direction or at the coroner's request, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of any increase attributable to the said Act in the grants under Part I of the Local Government Act, 1948, or under the Local Government (Financial Provisions) (Scotland) Act, 1954.—[Sir H. Lucas-Tooth.]

    Resolution reported forthwith, and agreed to.

    Road Haulage Units (Disposal)

    Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [ Mr. Kaberry.]

    10.13 p.m.

    I want to raise the matter of the disposal of road transport units by the Road Haulage Disposal Board. Let me, first, set at rest the mind of the editor of the "Daily Herald," who is very concerned that I and my colleagues want to try to get the Minister to agree to sell these units, or to instruct the Disposal Board to sell them, at knock-out prices. Exactly the contrary is the truth as far as I am concerned.

    The whole point of my raising this matter tonight is to show that there is a great demand in the country for these transport units and that the fault, if any, lies with the method adopted by the Transport Commission and the Disposal Board in connection with their attempted sales. I entirely agree with the Transport Commission when it says that in connection with disposals up to date it has meticulously observed the letter of the Transport Act, 1953. That is the statement which it made, and which was published in "The Times" of 26th February.

    I want to submit that it is not sufficient for the Commission meticulously to observe the letter of the law. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I believe I shall carry the House with me when I say that there is a certain spirit behind an Act of Parliament, and that it is not just sufficient for the Commission meticulously to observe the conditions. It needs to do two other things. One is to have some regard to the spirit behind the Act, and also to set the right climate in which sales can take place most advantageously for the taxpayers of this country. Those are the persons with whom I am concerned.

    On a point of order. I ask your guidance, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, on this aspect of the matter now before the House. Some little time ago I raised this matter in another connection by way of Questions which I tabled. I was told it was not competent for the House to discuss this matter, which fell within the day-to-day administration of the British Transport Commission. My Questions were ruled out of order.

    That is a different matter altogether. This debate is taking place on the Adjournment Motion, but I was wondering, from the speech of the hon. Member for Kemptown (Mr. H. Johnson), how far he was discussing the Act of Parliament.

    The point was that I wanted to show that the Minister had very great responsibility under this Act. Under various Sections he has a right to consent or to approve, and under Section 11 he has the power to dissolve the whole of the Road Haulage Disposal Board. I submit that these are matters that are completely within the power of the Minister.

    I come now to what I call the meat of the matter. I think the time has arrived when the Minister might well be advised to give some recommendations to this Disposal Board about the basis on which the board is valuing both the vehicles and the A licences.

    I am sorry, but I have very little time, and I am sure we are all anxious to hear the Minister reply.

    On a point of order. The hon. Member is suggesting that the Minister can give instructions to the Disposal Board in this connection. There is nothing in the Act permitting him to do so; and, therefore, the hon. Member is agitating for new legislation which is outside the terms of the Adjournment Motion.

    If the hon. Member is dealing with new legislation he is out of order, but if he is dealing with the administrative powers of the Minister then he is in order, but he must keep within that limit.

    I am submitting it is within the power of the Minister to make recommendations to the board.

    I am saying that the time has come when the Minister might well give recommendations to the board that it should let him know the basis upon which both vehicles and A licences are being held. I should like to give one or two examples. One has arisen in my own constituency. First of all, an offer was made for two very old Dodge lorries, one a Vulcan 48 and one an E.R.F. lorry. Those lorries were valued by independent valuers of repute. The Transport Commission must have written off the two Dodge lorries a year or so ago as totally valueless.

    The Vulcan 48 was valued at £250 and the E.R.F. at £600. The person who was desirous of coming back into the road haulage industry made an offer for those vehicles of no less than £2,500, and it was estimated that a sum of not less than £1,500 must have been attributable to the value of the A licences. That offer was rejected by the Disposal Board. I want to emphasise that an offer of £2,500 was far in excess of any figure which the private road haulier obtained in the takeover under the 1947 Act.

    Indeed, if I had the time, and too many points of order were not raised, I could give many instances of operators who have made bids on exactly the same basis as their business was taken over under the 1947 Act, namely, the value of the vehicle new, less 20 per cent, of the price as new plus betterment plus £70 per ton for unladen tonnage. Every one of those offers on that basis has been rejected by the British Transport Commission and the Disposal Board.

    I submit that there is something radically wrong and that it is time the Minister made recommendations on this point so that prospective newcomers, as well as persons who have been in the industry and want to come back, would have an idea of the method of valuation both of the vehicles and of the A licences by the Disposal Board. If we get that position we shall have healthier bids and tenders and better bids and tenders than we have had in the past.

    I have one other complaint to make about the methods adopted by the Transport Commission and the Disposal Board to date. That is the fantastically unbusinesslike and sloppy way in which these units have been lotted together. One example I have is of a unit where the vehicles were offered with property. The vehicles were so large and high that they would not go into the garages offered with the lot. Of all the fantastic absurdities, to offer vehicles of such a size and height —[HON MEMBERS: "Names?"] I will not give any names because the reject lists are now coming out, and if I gave names I venture to suggest that these persons who tender again may well find their tenders rejected again—[Hon. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."]—and I will not have anyone victimised.

    On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. The hon. Gentleman has made an accusation against the British Transport Commission which is serious. He has suggested that they are offering lorries with premises—

    This is not a point of order for me. The hon. Member is responsible for any statement he has made.

    I have other accusations to make about the British Transport Commission—

    I want to ask the Minister this question: Do the members of the Disposal Board inspect all these vehicles, properties and lots when they come forward from the Disposal Board and from the British Transport Commission? If they do not inspect the vehicles and the properties offered with them, I fail to understand how they can give a proper and full consent to the method of lotting.

    Another complaint is that in any case unsuitable vehicles have been offered together in one lot. At Shoreham-by-Sea, very near to my constituency, 23 vehicles were offered in one lot and of those no fewer than seven were of different makes. I am sure that anyone would agree that any prudent road haulage contractor would wish to have as many vehicles as possible of the same make in his unit. Obviously he does not want to have to stock spare parts for different types, and he wants to have mechanics who are used so maintaining certain types. There were three trailers in the lot and all three were of different makes. Except for one vehicle, all 23 were 12 to 14 years of age.

    All this meant that all the bids were rejected, and now we have the farcical position that in the first list of rejected bids these 23 vehicles and three trailers are being offered in exactly the same form as they were in the past. Shoreham-by-Sea is a town eminently suitable for the small transport man to operate in. Prior to nationalisation, Smart Bros, operated a very efficient road haulage service there with nine vehicles which covered the demands of the locality. Now we have 23 vehicles offered in one lot, and no bid accepted.

    It is important that the Minister should know—and if I am wrong I hope some one will correct me—that before these 23 vehicles were put up the advice of the local area manager of the British Transport Commission was not asked for and not obtained. I think that that is quite ridiculous.

    When I come to question the valuations, I shall say more about what I found out.

    This is some of the nonsense with which we have to put up and which those who want to go back into the industry have to endure.

    I say that this is part of a campaign by the British Transport Commission to ensure that lotting is most unfavourable to the prospective purchaser. It is time that the Minister interfered and saw to it that the British Transport Commission carried out its statutory obligation to dispose of these units in the quickest possible time.

    Is it not correct to say, Mr. Speaker, that if an hon. Member is criticising the Road Haulage Disposal Board, the body which is responsible for disposing of the vehicle in question, he is entirely out of order when so doing in criticising the British Transport Commission?

    Further to that point of order. The Act under which these Regulations are made makes it specifically clear that the British Transport Commission cannot accept or invite tenders for any vehicles except with the permission of the Road Haulage Disposal Board. So the responsibility rests entirely on the Board and not on the Commission.

    If what the hon. Member is suggesting would involve legislation, that would be quite a different matter, but I did not gather that it did.

    I did not suggest that in any shape or form. My criticism was of the method by which these vehicles were lotted together and offered for tender.

    I should like to make some suggestions for making improvements none of which, I assure you, Mr. Speaker, will require legislation.

    I have suggested already that the Minister should recommend to the Board that the basis of valuation of both vehicles and A licences should be made publicly known. I have also suggested that the method of lotting should be greatly improved so that as many vehicles as possible of the same make are included in one lot. I also say that where property is offered in the same lot as vehicles it should be suitable for the Storage and garaging of these units. I say also that small units should be offered in small towns.

    Under sub-paragraph 6 of paragraph 1 of the First Schedule substitute A licences can be given only for a vehicle of the same or less weight unladen. In the lists which have been opened there are a number of vehicles for which bids must be made although they do not carry A licences. I do not think the Minister is aware that, for example, a 1942 Bedford 5-ton lorry cannot be replaced by a 1953 Bedford 5-ton lorry because the 1953 vehicle has an unladen weight of 5 cwt. more. I say that the Minister should recommend—[HON. MEMBERS: "That is in the Act."]—to the licensing authority—

    On a point of order. The hon. Member keeps suggesting that the Minister should give a recommendation. But under the Act, as I understand it, there is no provision for the Minister to recommend to the Disposal Board anything regarding the disposal of the vehicles. In effect he is suggesting that there should be legislation.

    It seems difficult in this case to draw the borderline between administration and legislation. The hon. Member must keep clear of anything which would involve an extension of the powers of the Minister under the Act. If what he is suggesting, as I am told is the case, is that the Minister should take powers which he has not by the statute, then he is suggesting legislation and is out of order.

    With respect, I did not suggest that. I suggested that the Minister should make recommendations to the licensing authority and not to the board. It is well known that the Minister has complete power—[HON. MEMBERS: "No"]—to make recommendations to the authority.

    Further to that point of order. Will the hon. Gentleman inform us under what Section of the Act the Minister has any power to make recommendations to the Disposal Board, which is, after all, the authority for the disposal of these vehicles, or to the licensing authority, which the hon. Member has introduced, and which is not concerned with the disposal of these vehicles?

    The hon. Gentleman seems to be dealing with the methods of the Disposal Board. That, in general, I should have thought was administration. But, as I have said before, if the hon. Member is suggesting that the Minister should have new powers, that is legislation and is out of order.

    I think the hon. Gentleman is making suggestions not in general, but in particular cases, and, therefore, he is arguing against the Act.

    The Minister should pay some attention to Section 3 (3) of the Act whereby the Commission shall have regard to the desirability to secure for persons desirous of entering and re-entering the road haulage industry a reasonable opportunity to do so. The tenders which have been issued so far do not require that the tenderer shall say whether he was in the road haulage industry or not.

    I say that it is an administrative matter that the Minister can tell the Disposal Board that he would like some reference to be made in the form of tender so that the board will know whether a person making a tender is seeking to re-enter the industry from which he was excluded by the 1947 Act. There is a very great demand for the purchase of these vehicles if only they can be offered on good businesslike terms and not in the slipshod, sloppy, unbusinesslike way in which they are being offered at present.

    10.36 p.m.

    The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation
    (Mr. Hugh Molson)

    I apologise for having to rise now, but I am inclined to think that the responsibility for that is evenly divided between both sides of the House, as there is extremely little time in which I can make plain what the legal position is.

    I should like to begin by saying to my hon. Friend the Member for Kemptown (Mr. H. Johnson) that under the Act of 1933 the licensing authorities are independent authorities. My right hon. Friend not only has no power to give directions to the authorities but he is always at pains to abstain from attempting to influence them in what really is a quasi-judicial function. Secondly, the somewhat controversial Transport Act of 1953, which was passed by this House before I had anything to do with transport, provided for the disposal of the great majority of the lorries owned by the Commission. The actual responsibility for the sales rested with the Commission but the Disposal Board was specially appointed under the Act to make certain that the disposal should be conducted on lines which were uninfluenced by politics and would be conducted with the single object of making certain that it was done in accordance with the spirit of the legislation.

    The main purpose was that the lorries and other property should be disposed of at the best possible price, and a special provision was also inserted to ensure that the small man should have his proper chance. Therefore, when my hon. Friend is criticising what has been done, he is not justified in blaming the Commission.

    The body which was appointed by my right hon. Friend under the provisions of the Transport Act has concurred in every action that has taken place. They are gentlemen who command in a matter of this kind the confidence of the general public, and I really believe, of both sides of the House—even the confidence of those hon. Members opposite who disapprove of the general policy.

    There is as Chairman Sir Malcolm Trustram Eve, who has been a very distinguished servant of the State in many responsible offices. There is Mr. Orchin, who used to be Director of Finance at the Ministry of Transport; he then became Chief Finance Officer of the Road Haulage Executive during the time that they were acquiring the property which is now being disposed of. There is Mr. Farmer from the Road Haulage Association; Mr. Gordon Grahame, representa-ting trade and industry, who came from the Morris Organisation; Mr. Greenwood, who, as an official of a large steel concern, knows the point of view of C licence holders; and Lord Rusholm, who, after being a very distinguished representative of the Wholesale Co-operative Society, was appointed to the British Transport Commission by the last Government in office.

    He still sits there as the representative of the Wholesale Co-operative Society.

    I believe that is so.

    I can say to my hon. Friend that in the whole of the disposal that has taken place down to the present time there has been no difference of opinion between the British Transport Commission and the Disposal Board.

    This House passed legislation which imposed this responsibility upon the British Transport Commission and upon the Disposal Board which was set up for this special purpose, and, really it does not lie in the mouth of any hon. Member now to start telling them how they ought to discharge their responsibility.

    So far, the disposal, which is to sell 32,441 lorries, has not even gone half way. It is a very difficult job to undertake. I have no doubt that there are cases where the grouping of the units to be disposed of has not entirely satisfied the wishes of some purchaser. But, really, when one is disposing of a large number of vehicles to a large and unknown number of purchasers, it is impossible to be quite certain that in all cases the allocation will be exactly what is desired. But I have no reason to suppose at all that in any case the British Transport Commission has not tried to allocate them—

    The Question having been proposed after Ten o'Clock, and the Debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

    Adjourned at Sixteen Minutes to Eleven o'Clock.