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Nuclear Tests

Oral Answers to Questions — Ministry of Supply – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15th April 1957.

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Photo of Mr Frank Beswick Mr Frank Beswick , Uxbridge 12:00 am, 15th April 1957

asked the Minister of Supply what area of sky over and around Christmas Island is likely to be affected by the hydrogen bomb test explosion at Christmas Island; what action will be taken to police the affected area; and under what authority action will be taken against any foreign aircraft which takes test scoops of particles from the atmosphere after the test explosion.

Photo of Mr Aubrey Jones Mr Aubrey Jones , Birmingham, Hall Green

The danger area which has been declared more than covers any area of sky likely to be affected. All reasonable precautions, including search by aircraft, will be taken to ensure that no unauthorised vessel or aircraft is in the area when tests take place.

Photo of Mr Frank Beswick Mr Frank Beswick , Uxbridge

Is it not a fact that Her Majesty's Government have neither the legal right to enforce this ban nor the physical means of enforcing it? Is the Minister not aware that there is absolutely nothing to stop any other country interested from sending aircraft into the affected area and taking samples and measurements, without any interference by Her Majesty's Government?

Photo of Mr Aubrey Jones Mr Aubrey Jones , Birmingham, Hall Green

I have implied nothing more than that a danger area has been declared, and those who enter the danger area clearly do so at their own risk.

Photo of Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas , Leicester North East

Do the Government take the view that they are legally, under international law, in a position to declare a danger area and to make an area so dangerous both for other aircraft and shipping that they cannot go upon their normal courses?

Photo of Mr Aubrey Jones Mr Aubrey Jones , Birmingham, Hall Green

I think that Question on these matters of law really should be addressed to the Foreign Secretary rather than myself. It really is a convention that the danger areas are declared, and such declarations have not been regarded in the past as infractions of the freedom of the high seas.

Photo of Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas , Leicester North East

On a point of order. The Minister has said that the Question should be addressed to the Foreign Secretary. A Question in almost these terms, and certainly to this effect, was put down by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) a week or two ago, and it was then transferred from him to the Prime Minister. Does the Minister now say that his Ministry is not responsible for this? It is an impossible position when we are told by one Minister that it is the responsibility of another Minister.

Photo of Mr Frank Beswick Mr Frank Beswick , Uxbridge

Further to that point of order. The fact of the matter is that this question was originally addressed to the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister's Office wrote and informed me that the Minister of Supply was the person to answer. In that case, ought we not to expect a reply from the Minister of Supply?

Photo of Mr Aubrey Jones Mr Aubrey Jones , Birmingham, Hall Green

I think that, if I am not mistaken, the original Question which was put down by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) has since been re-addressed to the Prime Minister and is down for tomorrow.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

These are not points for me. I have frequently said in the House that the transfer of Questions is quite outside my control.

Photo of Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas , Leicester North East

On a point of order. Is it in order for the Prime Minister to transfer a Question to another Minister, then for the Question to be put down to that other Minister, and then to be re-transferred to the Prime Minister? Is there anything to prevent the Prime Minister re-transferring it again and this ridiculous game continuing quite indefinitely?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

In answer to the first part of that question, there is nothing in the rules of the House against that. That is all I am saying. If the hon. Member thinks it has been an ill-advised action, it is a matter for him to take up with the Minister. It is not one for me.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham South

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he would be good enough to look into this procedure of Ministers about this matter, because we are getting into a muddle, and I think there is an obligation on the Leader of the House to try to straighten it out.

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

I shall be glad to look into it, provided that I reserve absolutely the position of the Table in the matter, and while I am looking into the position of Ministers to have regard to the position of the Table.

Photo of Mr Frank Beswick Mr Frank Beswick , Uxbridge

Further to that point of order—

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

It is not really a point of order for me at all.

Photo of Mr Frank Beswick Mr Frank Beswick , Uxbridge

The aspect of the point of order which I wish to raise is this. The Minister of Supply informed me that certain parts of my Question should be transferred to the Foreign Secretary. I now ask you, Sir, whether, if I put down this Question to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on this occasion, it will be accepted and placed before him, even though, quite clearly, the Foreign Secretary is unable to answer any technical questions as to other aircraft coming in and taking samples of the affected atmosphere?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

It is not a question for me. It is a question for the Foreign Secretary and the Ministers concerned.