HC Deb 21 January 1959 vol 598 cc183-5
18 and 19. Mr. Hale

asked the Secretary of State for Air (1) to what extent he is now satisfied that the security arrangements in connection with the United Kingdom rocket firing bases are adequate to prevent knowledge of their location being acquired by a potential enemy and if he will make a statement;

(2) whether he will reconsider his decision to erect high security fences around land rocket bases in view of the fact that a security fence is an indication of the whereabouts of a high security base.

The Secretary of State for Air (Mr. George Ward)

Any base of this kind must obviously become known in time, but I am satisfied that this is no reason for publishing an official list of all of the sites.

Mr. Hale

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I was not suggesting that he should publish an official list. I was supporting his desire to have secrecy. In view of the fact that the situation of many of these places is now published in every newspaper from The Times to the "Poultry Breeders' Weekly Gazette" and is known to the Nuclear Action Committee, I wondered whether there was not a possibility that some of these things might be translated into Russian and become known abroad. Ought not the right hon. Gentleman to preserve more strictly his undertaking not to let the House of Commons know where they are either by a statement from him or through the Press?

Turning to Question 19, does he not realise that there is the difficulty that if security fences are high they become noticeable and if they are low they do not give security?

Mr. Ward

The Government's position was made perfectly clear on this matter by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence on 24th February, 1958, when he said: It would obviously not be in the public interest to disclose the number of missiles or the number of sites or their precise location."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th February, 1958; Vol. 583, c. 30.] That is still the Government's position.

20. Mr. Hale

asked the Secretary of State for Air how many civilian police are at present employed at the secret rocket bases at North Pickenham and Watton, respectively.

Mr. Ward

None, Sir.

Mr. Hale

Does not that mean that the employment of a large collection of ordinary police in full police uniform in a small village in Norfolk gives some indication that something of a secret nature might be happening there? Would not the right hon. Gentleman consider the suggestion that when he has erected a high security fence he might deceive the public by putting a notice on the fence saying, "Police College, Norfolk, Air Ministry Property"?

Mr. Ward

I have already stated that there are no civil police there at present. When we asked for their help the Norfolk Constabulary kindly came and helped us.

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