G/PM Files, Lot 68 D 349

The First Secretary of the British Embassy (Marten) to the Special Assistant to the Secretary of State (Arneson)1


Dear Gordon: I told you the other day that Mr. Blackburn was due to ask the Minister of Defence2 the following question in Parliament on the 28th February:—

“What steps is the Minister of Defence taking to obtain the fullest information as to atomic tests conducted by the U.S. since 1946 and for the future?”.

2. I mentioned to you that it was proposed that the following reply should be given:—

“I refer the Honourable and gallant Member to the reply given him on the 14th February on this subject”. (Blackburn’s question on the 14th February was “To ask the Minister of Defence what arrangements he made to ensure the presence of military and scientific British observers at the recent atomic tests in the United States of America”.3 The reply was “None, Sir. Since the passage of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act of 1946 it has not been the practice of the United States Government to admit non-American observers to atomic tests”)

3. When Blackburn asked his question on the 28th the proposed reply was given. Blackburn then asked the Minister of Defence, as a supplementary question, “If he was aware that during the war at great expense we gave the Americans all possible help with their project. Was it not utterly wrong and ungenerous, as most Americans would admit, for the United States authorities to have limited so much [Page 696] their cooperation with us?”. The Minister replied, referred to Anglo/U.S. relations, but it was not possible to hear in the gallery exactly what he said. (No doubt the correct version of the reply to this supplementary will appear in due course in Hansard.) A Member of Parliament of the opposition benches then asked, as a second supplementary, whether any British observers were present at the Nevada Trials and whether Lord Portal’s4 committee had received any report on those trials. The Minister of Defence replied that he had answered this question on the 14th February.

4. Blackburn then gave notice that in view of the very grave consequences which might flow from the present situation he would raise the matter on the adjournment at the earliest possible opportunity.

5. There is always a long waiting list of Members of Parliament with subjects to raise in the debate on the adjournment and we do not know whether or when Mr. Blackburn will in fact have an opportunity. We shall have some notice if this matter is to be raised on the adjournment and in that event we shall if it appears necessary keep in touch with you.5

Yours ever,

  1. On March 7, Arneson transmitted copies of this letter to Robert LeBaron, Chairman of the Military Liaison Committee, Department of Defense, and to John A. Hall, Chief of the Office of Special Projects, United States Atomic Energy Commission.
  2. Emanuel Shinwell.
  3. Reference is to the Ranger series of atomic tests, conducted in Nevada, January 27–February 6.
  4. Viscount Portal of Hungerford, Controller of Atomic Energy, British Ministry of Supply.
  5. On March 22, Mr. Blackburn did comment further on the state of United States–United Kingdom relations in the field of atomic energy. The resulting discussion also dealt with international control of atomic energy and possible publication of the Quebec Agreement. On March 29, Marten transmitted the verbatim text of the debate to Arneson with the comment that he believed “nothing prejudicial” had been said. (Atomic Energy Files, Lot 57 D 688)