HC Deb 28 February 1962 vol 654 cc1338-40
45. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Minister of Defence what is his estimate of the cost to be incurred in the testing of a nuclear weapon underground in Nevada; and what is his estimate of the cost of production of the weapon to be exploded.

46. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Minister of Defence What is the estimated cost of the British nuclear tests at Nevada; and when, precisely, it is proposed to hold them.

Mr. Watkinson

The information about costs for which I am asked is classified and I am not prepared to disclose it. As regards the time of the test, my right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister said on 8th February that it would be held within a few weeks.

Mr. Hughes

Even though the Minister is not prepared to give the exact figures, can he confirm that the cost will be very heavy indeed; and that one of the reasons for his not giving the cost is that he does not want to frighten the British taxpayer? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, although America may be able to go in for these expensive weapons, the state of our economy and finance—as shown yesterday by the Chancellor—is such that this country cannot do so without going bankrupt?

Mr. Watkinson

On the contrary, this is quits a small test, and the cost is not out of proportion to the size of the test.

Mr. Allaun

Is the Minister aware that it was stated in Washington on 24th February that this test would take place within fourteen days from then? Is that so? And if—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The right hon. Gentleman is not responsible for some statement made in Washington. He cannot be asked to confirm or deny a statement made in Washington.

Mr. Allaun

In that case, Mr. Speaker, perhaps I may rephrase my supplementary question. Will the test take place within the next fourteen days? If so, is it not a discouragement to those who think and hope that something will come out of the Geneva talks to stop all tests by all countries?

Mr. Watkinson

I think that the hon. Member's supplementary question was really answered by my original Answer, when I quoted my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister as saying on 8th February that the tests would be held within a few weeks.

Mr. Paget

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether this test involves the proposed nuclear artillery weapon, Blue Water?

Mr. Watkinson

No, because the information about the test, both as to cost and type, is classified.

Dr. King

Can the right hon. Gentleman give an estimate of the cost of the recent Russian tests? Will he circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT the statements made by the Russian military leaders at their military celebrations last week as to the extent and power of the recent Russian nuclear tests?

Mr. Watkinson

I think—

Mr. Rankin

On a point of order. What responsibility does the Minister have for answering for Russia?

Mr. Speaker

I dare say that the right hon. Member can circulate something in the OFFICIAL REPORT, but perhaps we had better get on. Mr. Maudling—statement.