HC Deb 01 August 1962 vol 664 cc562-4
14. Mr. Driberg

asked the Minister of Defence how closely the defence policy and nuclear strategy of Her Majesty's Government are integrated with those of the United States' Administration and Strategic Air Force; and for how much longer Thor missiles and United States strategic bases are to be retained in this country.

Mr. Thorneycroft

Very closely. On the subject of the Thor missiles, I would refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply I have just given to the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker).

Mr. Driberg

In view of the first part of that very informative Answer, I wonder if the right hon. Gentleman could say whether he has noted that passage in Mr. McNamara's recent speech which has been interpreted by most commentators, in Washington and elsewhere, as indicating a change from a second-strike to a first-strike nuclear strategy, whether Her Majesty's Government accept that interpretation, whether they were consulted about such an important change and whether they agreed to it?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I doubt whether the interpretation which the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) has put on the speech is very widely accepted, but I will consider all these matters. The question here is "Are we closely integrated in our discussions with the United States"?, and the answer is "Very closely indeed."

Mr. P. Williams

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that, although we are closely integrated, it is also true that we can operate independently and that this situation is more important now than it has been in recent years? Would he not also agree that it is absolutely vital to carry public opinion with Government policy on this matter? Can my right hon. Friend undertake that the Service Ministers and himself will do more at times, other than when presenting the Service Estimates, to explain defence policy in detail throughout the country?

Mr. Thorneycroft

Yes, Sir. I think that it is right that both aspects of this should be emphasised; that we have this independence to which my hon. Friend has referred and about which fee talks a great deal in the House, and that we also have the closest integration with an important ally.

Mr. M. Foot

Would not the Minister agree that the statement made by Mr. McNamara and the interpretation placed on it, as has been explained by my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg), is of the highest importance? Will he, therefore, undertake to make a public statement, say, next week—even though the House may not be sitting—on the British Government's attitude to Mr. McNamara's statement and the implications which many have placed on it?

Mr. Thorneycroft

Mr. McNamara's statement was of the highest importance, but I doubt if all these glosses put on it are.

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