In view of the fact that a large number of scientists, including Sir Bernard Lovell, have declared that this experiment contaminates space, is not it something in the nature of the high altitude tests which have been suspended, and is it not likely that unless some form of international control is established these experiments may well be repeated by other countries which are seeking the same objective as the United States?
I admit that we brought to the notice of our American friends the dangers that if these were released before it was established that the satellite was in its correct orbit some harmful effects might take place on scientific research. In view of all the other difficulties, I do not feel very confident about being able to get agreement on civil international control.
Does the right hon. Gentleman's answer mean that the United States Government embarked on this experiment without any consultation with the British Government at all? Does he think that the United States Government have the right to treat the Universe as if it belonged to them—like some Latin-American State? And even if that is the position of the Prime Minister, is the right hon. Gentleman so pusillanimous that he is not even prepared to propose that there should be some international consultation before these experiments are conducted?
We are closely informed by the Americans. This experiment has the greatest importance—or it may have the greatest significance—in one of the most important aspects of defence.
This experiment was first conducted in October 1961. We were in touch with the United States Government. As I have said, they have agreed that any future experiment will be so arranged that the needles are not released until the vehicle is in its proper orbit. I have been personally into what is proposed. It is an experiment which, I can assure the House, may be of very great significance in the whole system of the deterrent defence.
May I ask whether my right hon. Friend will bear in mind that he will have very considerable support from all the leading scientists in this country and from many hon. Members on both sides of the House if he can use his influence to ensure, so far as possible, that we are not led into a sort of cold war in space involving the distribution of haberdashery all over the universe?
My noble Friend the Lord President of the Council and Minister for Science arranged for a panel of experts to consider the scientific effects of high-altitude nuclear tests, and to report to him through the Steering Group on Space Research. Their Report is published today as a White Paper, and copies will be available in the Vote Office. A copy of the text has been sent to the United States Government.
The Report has just been concluded and has been sent to them. Regarding the substance of the Report, perhaps the hon. Gentleman would study it. I find myself very unwilling to answer questions "off the cuff" on the rather complicated questions which the hon. Gentleman will see when he reads the Report.
While I am sure we are grateful to the Prime Minister for the care which he has taken to get this Report produced, does not he think that it would have been better to have had this investigation and Report produced in this House before he gave his approval to these high altitude tests instead of after they have happened?
The whole House will, I am sure, recognise the extraordinary difficulty of the Prime Minister in this matter in view of the fact that this rainbow bomb test was originally a purely American test. Is my right hon. Friend aware that he may rest assured that many people will be deeply grateful for the initiative which he took in arranging for this report? We shall want some time to consider it, but would my right hon. Friend do everything he can to reassure us that before any further tests of this kind take place, the appropriate steps will be taken with the Americans?
Yes, Sir. I think that over this matter the American Government are just as anxious as we are to proceed only with what is necessary and to have every regard to the considerations which I know are felt by my hon. Friend and other hon. Members. Therefore, I will undertake to do that. I must add that I am bound to say that the only final satisfactory end would be if we could abolish these tests altogether by all sides.