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Nuclear Warfare

Oral Answers to Questions — Welsh Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th November 1957.

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Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Rowley Regis and Tipton 12:00 am, 19th November 1957

asked the Prime Minister whether he will associate Her Majesty's Government with the recent official statement by the Canadian Prime Minister approving the holding of a world conference of scientists on the dangers to mankind of a thermal nuclear war.

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

I assume the right hon. and learned Gentleman is referring to exchanges which took place in the Canadian House of Commons on 12th November during which the Canadian Prime Minister made it clear that the suggestion was—to use his own words: …not a matter of national Government consideration". The question does not, therefore, arise.

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Rowley Regis and Tipton

Surely the Prime Minister can go as far as the Canadian Prime Minister went? Did he not say in the same statement that in his view a meeting of the scientists of the world for this purpose could make a definite contribution furthering peace in the world? Is not the Prime Minister prepared to go as far as that?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

I wish I were so confident that the mere knowledge of a danger automatically produces the methods of reducing it. The scientific facts about the dangers are, of course, well established and well known to the public, at least on this side of the Iron Curtain. Whether a special scientific conference would be valuable or not, while I would consider it, I feel rather doubtful. At any rate, the whole matter is now being fully studied under the aegis of the United Nations.

Photo of Mr Konni Zilliacus Mr Konni Zilliacus , Manchester, Gorton

asked the Prime Minister whether the policy of Her Majesty's Government is still guided by the declaration of his predecessor, Sir Anthony Eden, at the July, 1955 summit conference, Geneva, to the effect that a nuclear war would mean the annihilation of both the belligerents and the neutrals; and what steps he proposes to take to prepare and summon another summit conference in order to avert this possibility.

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

The policy of the nuclear deterrent is outlined in the White Paper on Defence. I have nothing to add to what I told the hon. Member on 12th November, about a summit conference. The danger of nuclear war could best be averted if the Soviet Government would accept the Western Powers' proposals for partial disarmament.

Photo of Mr Konni Zilliacus Mr Konni Zilliacus , Manchester, Gorton

Does that mean that the Prime Minister is prepared to accept the idea of the abolition of nuclear tests without tying it up with a package deal?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

No, Sir. It means that the Government of this country stand firmly with their allies on the proposals which were made and which received overwhelming support from the Assembly of the United Nations.

Photo of Mr Konni Zilliacus Mr Konni Zilliacus , Manchester, Gorton

asked the Prime Minister whether the speech made at Sunningdale last July by the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation to the effect that it was essential to resume the life of the country as quickly and smoothly as possible after a hydrogen bomb attack, represents the policy of the Government.

Photo of Mr Konni Zilliacus Mr Konni Zilliacus , Manchester, Gorton

Do the Government seriously contend that after a major nuclear attack it will be possible to resume the life of this country smoothly and quickly? Is not that an attempt to deceive the people as to the true nature of hydrogen-bomb warfare?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

No, Sir. Because an attack may have the most formidable results is no reason why people should not make the necessary efforts to recover from it.