HC Deb 08 March 1961 vol 636 cc441-2
9 and 10. Mr. Paget

asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty (1) whether he will make a statement with regard to the directives issued by Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic, to the British Fleet in the event of war;

(2) whether, on the outbreak of war, the British Fleet under Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic, is still ordered first to strike with maximum atomic capacity at enemy airfields and bases.

Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing

I cannot, of course, discuss the detailed and secret directives given to N.A.T.O. Commanders.

The wording of the second question refers to a brochure issued some years ago by SACLANT's public information division. This document does not mean that we should ever be the aggressor nor is it intended to lay down the order in which action is taken as this must depend on the strategic and political situation.

Mr. Paget

Does not the document say quite distinctly what the order is?

The first thing on outbreak is a strike against the enemy homeland with maximum atomic power. Is not this a hangover from the idea of massive deterrent and the Sandys policy? Is it not time that representations were made that this should be corrected?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

It is true that this document was issued in 1957 or 1958. The paragraph is headed, "In Capsule Form". It tends perhaps to oversimplify the present arrangements. It is a publicity document and it perhaps emasculates and over-simplifies. I recommend the hon. and learned Gentleman and others interested in the changing N.A.T.O. scene to consult not this document but the N.A.T.O. Handbook which is issued annually and which is in the House of Commons Library.

Mr. Willis

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that he has studiously avoided answering this question for three years? Is it not important for the Navy to state what its position is regarding the use of nuclear weapons? As it stands at present, it represents a very serious threat to the future of mankind.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

We have always said, and we are proud, that we make a contribution to the nuclear deterrent. It is a small contribution compared with the other Services. However, it surely cannot be in the interests of the preservation of peace that we should state categorically under what conditions it should be used. It is not necessarily in the order laid down in this document.

Mr. Paget

I do not suggest for a moment that categorical directions should be given, but in view of the amount of propaganda we have to deal with it is undesirable that this sort of document should be left without correction.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I was not seeking to correct it. I was merely seeking to put the document in its proper perspective as an old document, issued for publicity purposes, possibly over-simplifying matters. I asked the House to consult the up-to-date N.A.T.O Handbook.