HC Deb 09 May 1962 vol 659 cc431-2
26. Mr. Shinwell

asked the Minister of Defence whether he will make a statement on his recent discussions with the American Secretary of Defence.

Mr. Watkinson

I have had a most valuable discussion with Mr. McNamara which covered the whole range of our defence interests. I found that we were in general agreement on all subjects, including the rôle of conventional forces in N.A.T.O.

Mr. Shinwell

I am not asking the right hon. Gentleman to disclose confidential aspects of these discussions. Nevertheless, is he aware that President Kennedy has been pressing the need for further conventional forces and an increased allocation from the United Kingdom? What has been the right hon. Gentleman's response to these requests?

Mr. Watkinson

I am afraid that I cannot answer for President Kennedy. What I have said in my Answer is that Mr. McNamara, the United States Secretary of Defence, and I had a very careful examination of all these problems, and we came to the conclusion that we were in general agreement. I made the Government's position on these matters quite plain in my reply to the debate on the Address, in November of last year.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Has my right hon. Friend had any discussion about, or assurances in respect of, the progress being made by Skybolt?

Mr. Watkinson

Yes—some very satisfactory ones.

Mr. Mulley

Can the right hon. Gentleman throw some light on Mr. McNamara's comment, made when he was here, that it was only a possibility that Skybolt might be available for our V-bombers and his own B.52s?

Mr. Watkinson

I hope that I shall be forgiven if I am wrong, but my recollection is that that was a report of a statement which Mr. McNamara made to an American committee, early this year, I believe.

Commander Courtney

Arising out of the Athens conversations, can my right hon. Friend confirm that the five American Polaris submarines and those under N.A.T.O. will, in war, if in the Eastern Atlantic, come under the command of the Commander, Submarine Forces, Eastern Atlantic, who is a British officer?

Mr. Watkinson

No. What I assume—it is for the Americans to answer, and not for the British Government—is that the American's Polaris submarines allocated to N.A.T.O. in that area would come under SACLANT.