HC Deb 28 May 1924 vol 174 cc421-3
Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

(by Private Notice) asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether he can now make any statement relative to the invention known as the death ray?


The official statement issued to the Press yesterday contains the essential facts as regards the invention of the so-called death ray. Mr. Grindell Matthews was offered and refused an opportunity to demonstrate his invention under conditions which would satisfy either scientists or business men. I wish to assure the House that every facility has been afforded to Mr. Grindell Matthews to give a demonstration under conditions satisfactory to himself and to the Services. The Departments have been placed in a difficult position in dealing with Mr. Grindell Matthews, partly because of the vigorous Press campaign which has been conducted on behalf of this gentleman and partly because this is not the first occasion on which this inventor has put forward schemes for which extravagant claims have been made. As a result, the Departments are unable to accept Mr. Grindell Matthews' statements in regard to this invention without a scrutiny which, apparently, he is not prepared to face.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Was this gentleman not paid £25,000 by the Admiralty for an invention to direct vessels by wireless, and were the Admiralty exactly throwing money away then?


I cannot answer for another Department, but at any rate that took place before we accepted office.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Are the Government quite certain that there is no value in this invention, and, if so, are they taking any steps to prevent it going into other hands outside this country?


We are not in a position to pass judgment on the value of this ray, because we have not been allowed to make proper tests of it. Therefore, whether there is anything in it or not is a matter which remains unexplored.

Commander BELLAIRS

Are there not several other claimants to an invention of a similar description? Why is this particular investigation being confined to the Air Ministry and not to the other fighting Services, since they have much greater experience in dealing with these matters?


If there is any substance in this invention, how is it that, according to the newspapers, some steps have been taken to prevent this individual selling this particular invention to France?

Viscount CURZON

Is it not a fact that we have in use in the Air Force to-day an invention which will do all that Mr. Grindell Matthews was able to do in the course of his experiments the other day?


In reply to the last question, every phenomenon produced by Mr. Grindell Matthews at this trial can readily be reproduced by the people in our Department, but that does not say there is anything of value in the phenomenon. In reply to the other question, all three Departments were joined in the investigation conducted at the laboratory of Mr. Grindell Matthews, and their opinion was unanimous on the matter. I cannot, of course, say much in favour of the romantic-minded public, which is inclined to take too much notice of a Press campaign, because that phenomenon is too frequent.


Having regard to the extraordinary sums of public money which had to be spent on an American firm to prevent them supplying foodstuffs to the Germans during the War, will the right hon. Gentleman undertake that no public money will be spent on any blackmailing individual who threatens otherwise to sell his invention to a foreign power?

Lieut.-Colonel RUDKIN

May I ask if the interim injunction issued prior to the departure of the inventor abroad was issued at the instance of the Government?


No, we had nothing to do with that matter at all.


Will the right hon. Gentleman say what he means by the word "phenomenon"?

Lieut.-Colonel WATTS-MOR GAN

Would it be possible to introduce this invention to perform an operation on the Opposition?