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Hydrogen Bomb

Volume 526: debated on Tuesday 6 April 1954

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46.

asked the Prime Minister what British observers were present at the recent hydrogen bomb experiments in the Pacific.

No British technical observers watched the explosions. But the United States authorities had agreed that we should have certain facilities for collecting scientific data bearing on their effects. Similar facilities had been granted to the Americans on the occasion of our own nuclear test in Australia. Therefore an aircraft of the Royal Air Force made a flight in the vicinity of the explosion of 1st March, some hours after it occurred; a similar flight was also made on 27th March. No injury or damage was suffered by this aircraft or its crew, on either occasion.

I think, however, that the House should know that two Canberra aircraft which had been assigned to this duty were lost in transit to the American base in the Pacific. Of these, one is believed to have fallen into the sea and the relatives of its crew of three have, of course, been told. The second made a forced landing on an island with the loss of the aircraft but without injury to the crew. Her Majesty's Government greatly regret the loss of life, and I feel sure that the House will join with me in expressing our sympathy with the relatives. The House will understand that the loss of these two aircraft was in no way due to the risks of the special mission which they were to have undertaken.

On behalf of all Members on this side of the House, I should like to express our regret at these losses. May I also ask the Prime Minister, in view of the importance of this House and the Government having full information on this matter, whether we are to have observers present at future tests?

I have not any knowledge of new arrangements having been made from those which existed at the beginning of these tests.

47.

asked the Prime Minister if he is aware that the uncontrolled destructive power indicated in the recent hydrogen bomb test is creating a feeling of insecurity in the minds of people who are becoming convinced that it is more likely to destroy than to save civilisation; and whether he will take steps to bring about an early meeting of the United Nations in order to direct the attention of the nations away from a negative and mutually destructive policy to one of mutual aid by using more effectively the. machinery of the United Nations.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary dealt fully with this aspect yesterday. I also said something about it.

Is the Prime Minister aware that there is a general feeling in this country that the only organisation which can deal efficiently and effectively with the "hell bomb" is the United Nations organisation? Is he further aware that the League of Nations was destroyed because it was not used, and will he see that the United Nations organisation is not destroyed in the same way? Will he use it effectively now, at this critical moment in our history, so that it will not be destroyed in the way that the League of Nations was?

I thought we were all agreed yesterday that something much more intimate, swift and precise should be put into operation than the procedure of the United Nations organisation.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give us an assurance that, pending the meeting of the Assembly or appropriate committee of the United Nations, he will keep in close touch not only with the President of the United States but also with the Governments of the British Commonwealth, since the deep concern which is felt by the peoples of this country is, I believe, shared by the peoples of the Commonwealth, particularly in Australia and New Zealand?

Yes. The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations is in continual touch and correspondence with Australia and New Zealand.