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Thermo-Nuclear Explosions (Shipping Restrictions)

Volume 527: debated on Tuesday 11 May 1954

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asked the Prime Minister to what extent the present practice of sealing-off an area of sea for the purpose of a thermo-nuclear explosion conflicts with Her Majesty's Government's policy of preserving the freedom of the seas; and what action is proposed to be taken to restore freedom of navigation.

Only the area of territorial waters round the atolls and islands where the United States thermo-nuclear explosions took place is closed to shipping. A wider area of sea is notified as dangerous to shipping for a limited period, but not closed. It has never been considered a violation of the freedom of the seas to use areas outside territorial waters temporarily for gunnery and bombing practice, but when shipping is about to enter a danger area it has been warned off, and, if necessary, escorted to safe waters. For the British test in Australia a danger area of about 25,000 square miles was prescribed. The United States action does not run contrary, therefore, to our own policy, or with the principle on which we notify areas as dangerous to shipping. No action by Her Majesty's Government is, therefore, contemplated.

Yes, but in view of the erection of this thermo-nuclear curtain in the once Pacific Ocean, the exclusion of Britain from the A.N.Z.U.S. Pact, the decision of America to finance a new Japanese fleet, and the closing of the seas around the Bahamas for bacteriological warfare research, would the right hon. Gentleman now consider adopting the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) and issue a White Paper containing a new and annotated edition of "Rule Britannia" indicating with precision in which way Her Majesty's Government now rule the waves?