HC Deb 17 December 1958 vol 597 cc1119-21
43. Mr. V. Yates

asked the Secretary of State for Air what has been the total expenditure to date upon the installation and equipment of rocket bases in the United Kingdom; and what he estimates to be the total expenditure upon the present programme for such bases.

49. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for Air if he will make a statement about intermediate-range ballistic missile bases in Great Britain, including, if possible, their cost, number, and degree of completion.

Mr. Ward

The estimated cost of constructing the sites and of supplying the items of equipment to be paid for by this country remains as stated by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence on 24th February. Expenditure for this financial year will total approximately £2½ million. It would not be in the public interest for me to give the number of sites or the extent to which they have been completed. Construction has, however, been going on for some time past and the first missiles are now with the crews for training.

Mr. Yates

Do I understand from the Minister that the estimate which was originally given will not be exceeded? In view of the doubt which has been cast upon the necessity for these sites or the advantage of them in present circumstances, and since £2½ million is to he spent, should there not be some reconsideration of this waste of public money?

Mr. Ward

There is no indication at the moment that the estimate given by my right hon. Friend will be exceeded. I cannot agree with the hon. Member when he says that this is a waste of public money.

Mr. Allaun

Is it not obvious that if these nuclear missiles are launched we shall get them back instantly and that therefore they are suicide weapons? If the Minister admits this but argues that the expense is justified as a deterrent, will he also admit that their very existence adds to world tension and suspicion and, therefore, makes war more likely and not less likely?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member asked in his Question about the cost and the date of completion. He is now raising larger matters of policy which it would be difficult to discuss in Questions.

Mr. de Freitas

Is it not a fact that these Thor missiles have not yet passed their tests? If that is so, why are they being installed in these stations? Does not the description which we gave to them a year ago now appear to be amply borne out—that they are no more than junk? Is it not time that they were abandoned and public money saved?

Mr. Ward

No, Sir. There is no reason whatever to suppose that Thor will not be a successful weapon. The proving trials in America are going according to plan.

Mr. de Freitas

Did not the Minister of Defence tell us that they would not be installed for the R.A.F. until they had passed their tests?

Mr. Ward

He made it clear that those we have here now are for training the crews.