Oral Answers to Questions — Strontium 90

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30 April 1959.

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Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East 12:00, 30 April 1959

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the latest levels of strontium 90 detected in Scotland.

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

Reports on levels of strontium 90 for the whole of the United Kingdom which are published periodically and placed in the Library of the House include measurements of samples taken in Scotland.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

Can the Prime Minister say whether the incidence in Scotland is heavier than in other parts of the United Kingdom? Is he aware that, after having studied the statement which he made on Tuesday, one is left with the feeling that there is a great deal of scientific uncertainty about the threat of strontium 90? In order to give the negotiations at Geneva a chance of making faster progress in an atmosphere of greater good will, will he make an announcement on behalf of Her Majesty's Government that we are willing to give up our tests?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

The Question related to certain measurements in Scotland as related to the rest of the country. If the hon. Gentleman will put down a Question as to the precise figures, I will try to give them. I hope that the House will not expect me to answer supplementary questions on these scientific matters off the cuff. I have not the technical knowledge to do so. On the wider question, I think that was debated at length in the foreign affairs debate.

Photo of Mr Hugh Gaitskell Mr Hugh Gaitskell , Leeds South

Since the statement circulated by the Prime Minister shows that the rate of deposition of strontium 90 has doubled since May, 1958, and can go no further than saying that its concentration in human bone is likely to remain below that at which immediate consideration would be necessary, will the Prime Minister say whether steps are being taken to try to establish more precisely how great the danger is?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

That again is a question which I should like to see on the Order Paper. I was asked a Question about Scotland. I do not think it fair to draw me into these large and difficult subjects of scientific discussion on a wholly different question. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will put down a Question?

Photo of Mr Hugh Gaitskell Mr Hugh Gaitskell , Leeds South

My supplementary question was not a technical one at all. I fully sympathise with the Prime Minister in his unwillingness to answer technical and complicated questions off the cuff. I am asking what further research is being undertaken in order to establish the true facts.

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

If the right hon. Gentleman will give me notice of that, I will try to answer it in detail.

Photo of Dr Edith Summerskill Dr Edith Summerskill , Warrington

The Prime Minister will recall that on Tuesday he said he would make a statement in answer to a number of Questions put down on this subject. Will he include in his statement the position about the genetic effects? Is he aware—this is a fairly simple question; I would not ask him a complicated technical one—that the threshold dose, so far as the genetic effect is concerned, has not yet been considered by the specialists to be any specific one? In other words, any amount of radioactivity has a certain genetic effect. Would he comment on that?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

On Tuesday, in four columns of very close type in HANSARD, I made a statement which I was asked to make. I would be very willing to try to answer any precise questions upon this subject, such as this one, and I anticipated that the Questions on it would probably appear next week on the Order Paper. I would propose to arm myself with the best information I can, because I am anxious not to make a statement to the House on this matter except after close and careful consultation with my scientific advisers.