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Hydrogen Bomb Tests

Volume 526: debated on Monday 5 April 1954

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asked the Prime Minister what hydrogen bomb explosions taking place within the territories under the control of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics have been recorded by instruments in Britain.

It would not be in the public interest to disclose the extent of our information relating to Russian nuclear weapon tests.

Is not it true that the Prime Minister has said that there have been such explosions in Russia? Can we at least have that confirmed?

Are we to understand that the right hon. Gentleman is in sympathy with the view expressed in many quarters that we should ask the United States to disclose information about the hydrogen bomb? If so, why does he object to giving information about Soviet experiments? The right hon. Gentleman, I believe, objects, in the public interest, to giving the House information about Soviet hydrogen bomb experiments. As I understand, the House, generally speaking, desires that the United States should disclose information about their experiments. Is there not some inconsistency in that position?

I certainly should be very glad to study any disclosures made by the Soviet Government.

In view of the debate which is to take place this afternoon, is not it wise that the House should be in possession of as much information as possible, otherwise this matter will not be debated in its proper proportions and perspective?

I am advised that it is not in the public interest to disclose such information as we have about Russian nuclear bomb tests.


asked the Prime Minister what limits of latitude and longitude contain the area of 440,000 square miles in which movement of shipping is subject to control during the present series of hydrogen bomb tests; what shipping routes pass within or close to these limits, and what territories are contained therein.

As this answer is technical and scarcely intelligible without reference to the atlas, I am circulating the reply in the OFFICIAL REPORT

Shall we have a map in the OFFICIAL REPORT as well, to brighten the answer?

I took it for granted that most hon. Members would have access, if need be, to an atlas, but if the hon. Gentleman has any particular stress and difficulty in the matter, I will give directions that a map shall be sent to him with the answer to his Question.

Does the Prime Minister now propose to hand over to the Americans the copyright of "Britannia Rule the Waves"?

As the Gilbert and Ellice Islands are in the area, have precautions been taken to protect those islands from any misadventure which might come to them on account of hydrogen bomb tests?

I have nothing to add to other statements which have been made upon the subject.

As Mr. Stirling Cole, the Chairman of the United States Atomic Energy Committee, has stated that the distance of radiation effects has now increased six-fold, from 50,000 square miles to almost 300,000 square miles, can the Prime Minister guarantee that the effects of radiation will not affect the "Gothic" in its journey in the Pacific and Indian Oceans?

I do not think we should anticipate the debate which we are to have this afternoon by plunging into highly complicated and technical details which I cannot profess to be able to answer.

Following is the information:

The area which has been notified as dangerous to shipping comprises portions of a rectangle contained by latitudes 08° and 20° North and 157° and 172" East. The area closed to shipping is limited to the territorial waters of Bikini and Eniwetok atolls. Shipping routes passing within or near the danger area are those between Honolulu and the Philippines and the East Indies, between Japan and the Society Islands and between Japan and Noumea. The danger area includes only some minor atolls in the Marshall Islands in addition to Bikini and Eniwetok.