HC Deb 25 July 1962 vol 663 cc1469-71
25. Mr. Longden

asked the Minister of Defence if he will make a statement on the Government's present policy in regard to the independent nuclear deterrent.

26. Mr. Wall

asked the Minister of Defence what proposals he now has for strengthening the British nuclear deterrent.

Mr. Thorneycroft

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister stated in the House on 26th June, Her Majesty's Government intend to maintain the British nuclear deterrent.

Mr. Longden

May I also congratulate my right hon. Friend on his appointment? Is he aware that what people want to know is just how independent our deterrent is. If it is not independent, let us drop the pretence that it is. If it is independent, may we be told clearly Why it is necessary, as I think it is, that we should retain it? Will he tell the people these things in what I might call "home-truths"—that is, in simple, clear, forthright language which everyone can understand?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I shall endeavour to be intelligible.

Mr. Wall

Will my right thon. Friend consider the future generation of nuclear deterrents, and, in so doing, will he give particular consideration to the advantages of the Polaris submarine which at the moment this country does not possess?

Mr. Thorneycroft

Obviously these are all matters which will require consideration, but I cannot deal with all of them in answer to this Question.

Mr. Gordon Walker

Now that the right hon. Gentleman has assumed his new great office, will he consider again with a fresh mind whether it is in the national interest that we should maintain this so-called independent nuclear deterrent? Can he say whether we have been having any talks with America about the cost of Skybolt and whether it is true that the costs which we would have to pay are rising rather alarmingly?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I think that in the case of Skybolt we are getting an independent deterrent a great deal cheaper than we would have done if we had done the development ourselves.

Mr. Wade

May I press the Minister on this question of definition? What exactly does he mean by the "independent nuclear deterrent"? Do Her Majesty's Government seriously contemplate using nuclear weapons independently or even threatening to use them independently? Is not that an out-of-date as well as dangerous concept?

Mr. Thorneycroft

It is hardly for me to try to instruct the hon. Gentleman on the use of English. "Independent" means independent. However, I think that between allies a little more concentration on inter-dependence would not be amiss.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that he will not in any way be influenced by the briefings that the members of the Opposition Front Bench get from the Pentagon?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I fully appreciate that.

Mr. M. Foot

While reserving my congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman, may I ask whether he has yet had time to circulate throughout his Department the speech which he delivered on the subject of an independent nuclear deterrent when he was able to speak his mind as a free man from the back benches?

Mr. Thorneycroft

In view of the point made by the hon. Member, I will try to refresh my memory on the subject.

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