HC Deb 09 May 1962 vol 659 cc429-30
22. Commander Courtney

asked the Minister of Defence why a basic objective of British defence policy, namely, the defence of sea communications, is not mentioned in paragraph 3 of his Statement on Defence, 1962.

The Minister of Defence (Mr. Harold Watkinson)

The statement in the White Paper of the basic objectives of Britain's defence policy is in general terms. The defence of sea communications is one of the essential means by which we seek to carry out the three objectives set out in the White Paper.

Commander Courtney

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Will he agree that the 1935 Defence White Paper contained a statement to the effect that the security of sea passage to this country forms the basis of our system of imperial defence, without which all other measures would be of little avail, and can he say if any circumstances have arisen since, assuming a limited war, which invalidate that statement?

Mr. Watkinson

I gladly confirm what my hon. and gallant Friend has said that the maintenance of sea communications not only for this island but for the Commonwealth as a whole is an essential part of our defence programme. I agree entirely.

Mr. Paget

What is the point of maintaining sea communications with ports which the right hon. Gentleman admits that he cannot defend?

Mr. Watkinson

I have not admitted that we cannot defend any particular port. If the hon. and learned Gentleman wants more information on that, perhaps he will put down a Question.