HC Deb 25 November 1959 vol 614 cc349-51
23. Mr. Wall

asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty whether he will make a statement about the provision of British n clear-propulsion units for Her Majesty's ships.

Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing

I have already referred to the nuclear submarine proto- type machinery that is being constructed at Dounreay. The possible applications of nuclear propulsion to surface warships are being studied at the present time.

Mr. Wall

Can my hon. Friend say whether the second nuclear submarine, when laid down, will have a British nuclear-propulsion unit? Will he also bear in mind that, as the prototype nuclear-propelled surface ship is likely to be highly uneconomic either to build or operate, it might well be advisable to have it under the White Ensign?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

The first part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question is rather hypothetical: if it is laid down, will it have British machinery? I do not think that I can add very much to what I said about our Dounreay prototype, except that it is of British construction, although it uses a pressurised water system that is similar to the American type of propulsion unit. The second part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question is a matter for more mature and careful consideration, and will concern my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport.

Mr. Steele

Can the Civil Lord tell the House what has happened to the Committee, of which the Civil Lord was chairman, that was set up to look into this question of nuclear propulsion for ships? Is that Committee still under the Admiralty, or has it disappeared into some other Ministry?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

That Committee would become the responsibility of the Ministry of Transport, but I imagine that we shall continue to have a very close interest in it.

Mr. Steele

But is the Committee still under the Admiralty, or what is happening to it at present?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

No, it is under the Minister of Transport.

Mr. Peyton

In view of the real importance of this matter, is my hon. Friend satisfied with the arrangements, under the new dispensation, between himself and the Minister of Transport, and could he arrange for some fuller information to be given to the House at a fairly early date as to the progress being made?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

We have a very close and abiding interest in the propulsion of a warship. Perhaps I could add to what I said earlier. There is a study contract already placed with the Yarrow—Admiralty Research Department, and this is going ahead with our full support. I could not give an answer to the other part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question without consideration and deliberation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport.

Dame Irene Ward

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the fact that everybody has asked the question that is to be answered tomorrow by the Minister of Transport in reply to a Question put by me that I tried to have put down to the Prime Minister, could I ask whether everybody will be in attendance tomorrow to hear the full facts?

Mr. Speaker