HC Deb 02 April 1957 vol 568 cc234-7
48. Mr. G. Brown

asked the Prime Minister who will he responsible for making the decision to use the Thor intermediate range ballistic missiles which are to be deployed in Great Britain.

50. Mr. G. Brown

asked the Prime Minister what arrangements were made at the Bermuda Conference to enable our research engineers to have access to the Thor intermediate range ballistic missile in order to enable us to produce our own war-heads for this missile.

55. Mr. Wigg

asked the Prime Minister on what date intermediate ballistic missiles supplied by the United States of America under the terms of the Bermuda Agreement will be operationally available on sites situated in Great Britain.

71. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Prime Minister what arrangements were made at the Bermuda Conference for the testing of guided missiles which are to be supplied to the United Kingdom.

The Prime Minister

Until detailed arrangements have been worked out, I cannot add to the account I gave in the debate yesterday of the agreement reached at Bermuda for the, supply of certain guided missiles to the United Kingdom.

Mr. Brown

Will the Prime Minister tell the House whether there is at the moment no intermediate ballistic missile available on the other side of the Atlantic? I gather from his answer yesterday that we are going on with ours. Is not the whole crux of the matter whether any arrangement can be made to integrate the work that goes on on both sides, and that, if nothing is done about that, then the whole suggestion made by the Prime Minister is "phoney "?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I know that the right hon. Gentleman is very expert in these matters— [Laughter.]— and, if I may say so without doing him any injury, takes a very fine and patriotic view on these matters. We have to distinguish between research work upon the missiles themselves—the rockets—which is not inhibited by any law of Congress of the United States. Therefore, our joint research is going on now, and always has gone on, because it is not subject to the specific law to which the Leader of the Opposition and others referred, which precludes the Administration of the United States from interchanging information on nuclear and atomic questions. On the rocket part of it, this joint research always has gone on and will go on. It is on the nuclear component, the warhead of the rocket, that, as the House well knows, the Administration of the United States are inhibited by the present state of the law.

Mr. Brown

It is very important to know what the Prime Minister has just said. I understand that we are developing our own intermediate range ballistic missile here, have been doing so for some time and are continuing to do so, and that we expect to have something ready in the mid-1960s. We understand that the work going on in the United States on the Thor project is going on quite separately, which is why the Prime Minister went to America to try to obtain supplies of that weapon. If those two projects are going on separately in the two countries, how can the Prime Minister assert that joint work is proceeding?

The Prime Minister

Joint interchange of information has always gone on on this side of the problem. It is true that the American development is ahead of ours. We can debate this in great detail when we come to the defence debate. I think we shall gain both in time and money by the agreement in principle which I have arrived at with the President of the United States.

Mr. Wigg

May I ask the Prime Minister a question which will make no strain on his patriotism but may strain his veracity a little?

Mr. Nabarro

On a point of order. Is the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) in order in suggesting that the Prime Minister's veracity is being strained?

Mr. Speaker

It was an unnecessary remark, but the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), I have to think, did not suggest that the Prime Minister's veracity would be strained beyond breaking point.

Mr. Wigg

I am much obliged to you, Mr. Speaker, for that interpretation which, of course, completely accords with the purpose of my supplementary question. The Prime Minister yesterday told the House that we should have the intermediate range ballistic missile in the very near future. Mr. Dulles told representatives of the Press in the United States that these missiles were not yet in experimental use. Would the Prime Minister be kind enough to tell the House who is correct, himself or Mr. Dulles?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman's deep courtesy naturally inspires me to give an answer in the same strain. All I can say is that both statements are correct and do not contradict each other.

Mr. Hughes

Why is this missile called Thor? Does that mean that the Government's policy can be summarised as "back to Thor "? Is that not going a good way back? Will he also tell us whether, as well as getting missiles from America, he proposes to spend £12 million of national money upon developing a rocket range in the Western Isles of Scotland?

The Prime Minister

To reply to the first part of the hon. Member's supplementary question, I think that he is as well informed about primitive mythology as I am. As to the second part, I think that the range will be required.

Sir J. Hutchison

While welcoming my right hon. Friend's forward steps towards co-ordinating research in these missiles with that of the United States, may I ask whether similar steps are to be taken to co-ordinate research with other countries, as with Western Europe, so that there may be no overlapping such as I have myself seen in the last few days?

The Prime Minister

That is another question, but a very important one. Everything that can be done to bring greater effectiveness into the work of the Western European Union in co-ordinating measures for the development of research upon these matters will he of advantage.