HC Deb 24 November 1960 vol 630 cc1309-10
40. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Prime Minister on what information he bases his estimate of the cost of the Polaris and of the number of the submarines that are to be built by the United States of America.

Mr. R. A. Butler

I have been asked to reply.

I assume that the hon. Member is referring to figures which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister mentioned in the course of replies to supplementary questions on 8th November. Those figures, relating to United States submarines, were given by my right hon. Friend as orders of magnitude to illustrate the points he was making, and the form of his remarks shows that they were not based on any exact information.

Mr. Hughes

Is the Leader of the House aware that the Prime Minister's figures were really astronomical? He quoted a figure of £50 million to £60 million for one submarine. Is he aware that this is twenty times the cost of the Britannia and twice the cost of a Cunarder? Will he give an assurance that he will not encourage any of his back benchers who are urging that the British Government should spend our money in this way?

Mr. Butler

I can give no such assurance. Our defence policy must be based on the absolute needs of the situation. I said that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave approximate figures. The actual final figure that we have been able to obtain from the United States authorities is about £45 million per Polaris submarine.