§ 45 Mr. Zilliacus
asked the Prime Minister (1) whether, since the British Medical Council and the World Health Organisation of the United Nations has pointed out that all man-made radiation causes genetic damage, he will reconsider his and President Eisenhower's joint decision to increase such radiation and, instead, propose an agreement between the three Powers producing hydrogen bombs to stop testing them forthwith;
(2) whether he and President Eisenhower considered the Soviet offer to end hydrogen bomb tests, by either a gentleman's agreement or a treaty between the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or through the Disarmament Commission of the United Nations, and the Soviet argument that, since such tests can be detected anywhere in the world by their effects on the atmosphere, no system of control would be needed; and on what ground the Soviet offer and argument have been ignored;
(3) to what extent his agreement with President Eisenhower to offer to notify the United Nations of hydrogen-bomb tests and to admit foreign observers, provided the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics does the same, rules out negotiations on the Soviet Government's offer to conclude an agreement, in any form acceptable to the United Kingdom and the United States of America, for abolishing hydrogen-bomb tests forthwith; and whether he will now propose negotiations between the three Powers on the Soviet offer.
§ 48. Mr. A. Henderson
asked the Prime Minister whether he will state the technical reasons which led him to agree with 1339 President Eisenhower at the Bermuda Conference that a nuclear test limitation agreement could not effectively be enforced nor breaches of it detected.
§ 50. Mr. Emrys Hughes
asked the Prime Minister if he will publish as a White Paper with explanatory notes, the recent communiqué and annexes on the Bermuda Conference.
§ 52. Mr. Allaun
asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement about his discussion of nuclear tests during his visit to Bermuda.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)
All these matters are best considered in the context of the communiqués which are being published in the form of a White Paper tomorrow.
Since I understand that there is to be a full debate next week on matters arising out of the Bermuda Conference, I think it would be more satisfactory both to the hon. Gentlemen and to the House as a whole if I dealt with these matters in detail in my opening speech.
§ Mr. Henderson
Can the Prime Minister explain to the House today why the Government have gone back on the repeated declarations of policy made by his predecessor to the effect that the Government were willing to enter into discussions with a view to limiting the number of nuclear explosions? Why is the Prime Minister now saying that it is not possible to detect these explosions when everybody knows that one thing which can be detected is the explosion of a hydrogen bomb?
§ The Prime Minister
I do not want to go into the detailed answer today. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] I think hon. and right hon. Members would feel that it would be better if I were to try to deploy the whole story, which I shall certainly do, on Monday. All I can say to the right hon. and learned Member is that the statements made in the communiqué are correct technically, I am informed by my advisers, and that I shall try to explain to the House. I am not running away from the question, but it is a difficult matter to deal with in a series of questions and then to have a debate on Monday about it all over again. I think it would be more agreeable to the right hon. and learned Gentleman and to the House as a whole if we could deal 1340 with it in that way. The question will be answered and the case that I shall deploy would, at least, be more coherent and, I think, more intelligible to those who take, as does the right hon. and learned Gentleman, a deep interest in these matters.
§ Mr. Zilliacus
While I appreciate the Prime Minister's desire to defer a full reply until the debate, will he bear in mind in making his reply, first, the concern about the apparent change in the Government's policy of 20th December; secondly, the strong feeling that there should be a positive reply to the Soviet offer to abolish tests by agreement; and thirdly, since the Prime Minister has pleaded in extenuation of his hydrogen bomb, like the story of the young lady, that it is only a little one, why did he say on 12th March that we must explode the bomb over Christmas Island in order to achieve parity with the other great Powers? If it will take five or six years to achieve parity, why not suspend the test?
§ The Prime Minister
Perhaps the hon. Member will not think it discourteous of me if I say that it was just because of that kind of supplementary question and the difficulty of dealing with the whole subject in that way that I thought it would be better for me to open the debate, as I intend to do, and then for hon. Members during the rest of the debate to answer and demolish, if they can, what I say. But I intend to open the debate with a full statement of the Government's position in these matters.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
While I welcome the Prime Minister's announcement that he will make a very full statement at the beginning of the debate, will he bear in mind the desirability of giving the House and the country the fullest possible information about the exact nature of the tests which it is proposed to hold, especially the effect on health? This is a point on which there is a good deal of obscurity, and before we debate it properly we must know the facts.
§ The Prime Minister
I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman has made that suggestion. I shall do my best to put the whole matter, according to the advice I am given, in the best possible perspective. How far I shall succeed will be a matter of debate, but I assure the 1341 House that nobody in my position could do other than feel the great responsibility which I bear both for the security and interest of the country and as to the right course to take in this very complicated matter.
§ Mr. Allaun
On a point of order. The Prime Minister said that he would answer Question No. 52 with the others, and I have tried, unsuccessfully, to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker.
I hope there is not a misunderstanding that when a number of Questions are answered together each of the hon. Members asking the various Questions has the right to ask a supplementary question. That is not so. In the circumstances, in view of the intervention by the Leader of the Opposition, I thought it best to pass on to the next Question. Mr. Emrys Hughes.
§ Mr. Allaun
Further to that point of order. It seemed to me, Mr. Speaker, that the Prime Minister was willing to deal with supplementary questions. Surely, I should be given the right to put one to him.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Further to that point of order. For the guidance of the House, could you tell us, Mr. Speaker, whether it is not a tradition and convention that where a group of Questions are answered together it is customary to allow all the individual Members concerned to put a supplementary question to their Questions? If that is not a convention of the House, could you give us for our guidance an indication of the last occasion when an hon. Member was not allowed to ask a supplementary question when his Question had been answered?
It is my endeavour always to try to enable an hon. Member who was asked a Question which has been answered in an omnibus reply to ask a supplementary question, but there is no binding rule about it, and it is not the invariable practice of the House. The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) asks me to name the last 1342 occasion when I followed that course. I do not keep a note of it, but I have done this in the past and it has generally been with the consent of the House.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
Whilst appreciating your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, that there is no right to ask a supplementary question when a number of Questions are brought together and one Answer is given, may I ask whether that is not always with the consent of the hon. Member? If he withholds his consent, is he not entitled to be answered separately?
That is rather another question. I have ruled before that the words, "With permission I will answer these Questions together," are really a formal and polite introduction and that an hon. Member cannot object to his Question being answered with others until he has heard the reply.
§ Mr. Griffiths
With great respect, I submit that this is a very important matter. In my recollection, it has never been the rule previously that a Minister's asking for consent to answer a number of Questions together is merely a formality. I understood that if an hon. Member objected his Question stood and he was entitled to a separate Answer. Is not that the rule?
In my view it is not, and I have ruled in the past that it is unreasonable for an hon. Member to object to an Answer which he has not heard and which might very well cover his Question. One of the things that I have to do is to try to get as many Questions satisfactorily answered as possible. I think that, in the interest of the House, I should take advantage of everything that expedites properly the conduct of Question Time so that hon. Members may have a chance of putting their Questions.
§ Mr. Bowles
You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) gave notice on an earlier Question that he would raise the matter on the Adjournment. My hon. Friend the Member for Durham (Mr. Grey) then got up on a point of order and said that one of his Questions was among those answered together and that you had not called on him to ask a supplementary 1343 question. Although my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East had given notice that he would call attention to the subject matter on the Adjournment— and therefore all other questions on the matter were out— nevertheless you called my hon. Friend the Member for Durham to ask his supplementary question.
§ Mr. Griffiths
Since this is a matter of importance and concerns the right of private Members, may I ask whether you will be good enough to consider it, and particularly the right of an hon. Member to refuse consent to his Question being answered with others? May we have a considered ruling on that?
The right hon. Gentleman asks me to consider it. I will, of course, undertake to do that.
§ Mr. Hughes
In view of the fact that you had already called my Question and the Prime Minister rose to reply, would it be in order, Mr. Speaker, to ask you to allow the right hon. Gentleman to answer?
The hon. Member was interrupted by a point of order with which I had to deal, and I have to stop Questions at 3.30 p.m.