HC Deb 12 February 1958 vol 582 cc366-70
8. Mr. Dodds

asked the Minister of Defence what decisions have been reached in regard to the manning of the intermediate missile bases in Great Britain.

9. Mr. Lipton

asked the Minister of Defence what agreements have now been made with the United States of America about British bases for nuclear missiles.

10. Mr. Malcolm MacMillan

asked the Minister of Defence whether the agreement for the supply of ballistic missiles by the United States of America to this country has yet been concluded; how many launching bases are to be established for their use in this country; and in which localities.

13. Mr. de Freitas

asked the Minister of Defence what missiles of United States origin are to be installed at Royal Air Force stations.

16. Mr. Rankin

asked the Minister of Defence whether he has a further statement to make about the number and location of missile bases in this country and the supply of warheads.

18. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Minister of Defence if he is aware of the opposition in Scotland to rocket bases being placed there; and if he will make a statement on the policy of Her Majesty's Government in this matter.

24. Mr. G. Brown

asked the Minister of Defence if he is yet in a position to make a statement about the agreement between the United Kingdom and the United States of America relating to the establishment of intermediate range ballistic missile bases in these islands.

33. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Minister of Defence if he has yet decided where each of the proposed rocket missile sites in Scotland will be located; how much land has been, and will be, acquired for these purposes; and when the work of construction will begin.

Mr. Sandys

I would refer hon. Members to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) on 5th February, to which at present I have nothing to add.

Mr. Dodds

Is the Minister of Defence aware that that reply is far from satisfactory? Will he bear in mind that there are many people of moderate views in this country who feel that it would be a suicidal policy to have missile bases anywhere in Britain, particularly if the Americans have the last word? In view of the revelations about the slackness of our Government—[Interruption.]—wait for it; hon. Members will get certified in a minute. In view of the revelations about the slackness of our Government in relation to the carrying of H-bombs by American 'planes on patrol here, is not the Minister aware that many people will demand safeguards to ensure that we, and not the Americans, have the final word, and with no escape clauses?

Mr. Sandys

I think that when the agreement is published, the hon. Member will find it to be much more satisfactory than he seems to imagine.

Captain Pilkington

If, in 1939, we had had the degree of Anglo-American co-operation that we have now, might not that have averted the Second World War?

Mr. Malcolm MacMillan

Is the Minister aware that there is very widespread concern and resistance in the country to the idea of establishing these bases, which are regarded by many people as valueless for defence and both technically and militarily an investment in obsolescence, and a very considerable waste of time and money when every effort is being bent by himself and the Cabinet towards saving money in respect of military installations and preparations? Does he realise that there is very strong resentment that before every effort has been made towards international agreement with the Soviet Government, we should be undertaking this vast spending, and the surrender of British sovereignty, in respect of the custody of nuclear warheads, to the American Government?

Mr. Sandys

I do not want to anticipate the agreement, when concluded, as I think that it will be, quite shortly. The terms, apart from strictly operational details, will be fully published, and hon. Members will be able to judge for themselves. I would ask them to accept my assurance. They will, I am sure, find that many of the anxieties expressed are groundless.

Mr. de Freitas

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is likely that we will have the information in time for the defence debates the week after next, or the foreign affairs debate next week?

Mr. Sandys

The defence debate, I should think, almost certainly. I am not sure about the foreign affairs debate.

Mr. Rankin

Can the Minister answer just one simple question? Since the bases are not to be established in Scotland, can he say how many other parts of the country have indicated the desire to have them?

Mr. Sandys

There is a Question on the Order Paper about the desirability of siting these bases in Scotland—

Mr. Rankin

It is mine.

Mr. Sandys

Then perhaps the hon. Gentleman will await the Answer to his own Question later on.

Mr. Rankin

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Minister intimated that he was answering my Question No. 16 now.

Mr. Sandys

I am sorry. I think the hon. Member himself misled me. I said that later in the Order Paper there was a Question about Scotland. He said "It is mine," and I thought that his Question was one of the later ones. There are some Questions later on about the siting of bases in Scotland.

Mr. Hector Hughes

As to Question No. 33, which affects Scotland, and to which the Minister purported to reply just now, is he aware that there is a strong body of opinion that if missile bases are to be provided they should be mobile, easily concealed, and at sea, for instance, in the Atlantic Ocean, but not in large centres of population where people will be exposed to great risk unnecessarily?

Mr. Sandys

I should be most grateful to the hon. and learned Member for assisting me in defining the operational requirement.

Mr. Lipton

Is it correct to assume from the right hon. Gentleman's original reply, the contents of which I still recall, that the agreement, or the published part of the agreement, will clearly indicate that the control of these missile bases will finally vest in British hands?

Mr. Harold Davies

My hon. Friend will not get an answer to that.

Mr. Sandys

Of course the hon. Member will get an answer. The answer is that the terms of the agreement will be fully published.—[Interruption.]—I dare say that I could give reassuring Answers to lots of the Questions put to me, but it is a thoroughly improper thing when negotiations between two Governments are not completed—[Interruption.] They are not completed until the agreement is actually signed, and until then it is highly improper to start revealing bits and pieces of an agreement.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Does the Minister agree that the agreement is, or will be, of sufficient importance in relation to great issues of foreign policy which have been discussed in this House recently, and will again be discussed next week, to be brought before the House for formal approval?

Mr. Sandys

That is not a matter for me, but I will certainly convey it to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is the Minister aware that there is strong opposition throughout the length and breadth of the land to the whole idea of missile bases being established in this country? Does not he think that, in a matter where people feel that the whole future of the country and the future of their children and coming generations is at stake, this should be an issue at a General Election? Will he give an assurance that this discredited Government will come forward and ask the opinion of the people before putting the agreement into operation?

Mr. Sandys rose

Mr. Hector Hughes

On a point of order. I understand that supplementary questions on this Question are exhausted. If that is so, I give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.

32. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Minister of Defence how many representations, and from whom, he has received for and against the establishment in Scotland of missile bases; and what replies he has sent.

Mr. Sandys

I have received three letters on this subject from this House seeking information. None expressed any opinion for or against siting rockets in Scotland.

Mr. Hughes

Will the Minister take it from me that there is a very widespread body of opinion in Scotland against spending Treasury money on ineffective bases, as they would be in Scotland, and unnecessarily exposing the people to undue risk?

Mr. Sandys

The location of the sites will, of course, be determined by operational considerations. If it is thought desirable to site rockets in a certain area, I have no doubt that the people of that area will accept their share of responsibility in the defence of our country.