HC Deb 01 August 1962 vol 664 cc557-8
6. Mr. Gordon Walker

asked the Minister of Defence if he will make a statement on his recent discussions with the United States Government regarding a reappraisal of the military necessity for the United States strategic air force bases in this country.

Mr. Thorneycroft

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) on 26th July.

Mr. Gordon Walker

Would not the Minister agree that the new missiles that the Americans are now installing cover all the targets that could be covered from bases in this country, bringing nearer, at any rate, the day when these American strategic bases will not be any longer necessary? Is he aware that whereas we on this side of the House are perfectly prepared to support American bases of this kind as long as they are necessary, we are now beginning to doubt whether this is any longer true?

Mr. Thorneycroft

The precise disposition of the nuclear strike force—how much by missiles and how much be aircraft—is a matter of military judgment at any particular time, but I am very glad to welcome the right hon. Gentleman's assurance that the party opposite fully supports American bases in this country.

Mr. Paget

Would the right hon. Gentleman say that these bases are becoming obsolete by reason of American rocket developments? Are not they— as well as, perhaps, the V-bomber bases —becoming obsolete because of Russian developments? It surely is the case that this island is no longer very useful as a deterrent base.

Mr. Thorneycroft

If the hon. and learned Gentleman is saying that we could dispense with all bases in this country for a nuclear strike, I think that the answer is clearly "No"; and that answer would be given whether in the United States or here.