§ 43. Mr. Mason
asked the Secretary of State for Air what consultations he has had, and with whom, regarding the value of the Thor missile sites in this country.
§ The Secretary of State for Air (Mr. Julian Amery)
This is a matter which I review regularly with my advisers.
§ Mr. Mason
Is it not time that we ran down these weapons and their bases in this country? Is it not the case that Thor is aggressive in intent, is antiquated, and is a first-strike weapon which costs £ 6 million a year to maintain? Is it not time that we got rid of it?
§ Mr. Amery
No, Sir, I do not think so. As I have frequently tried to explain, so long as the threat to these islands is predominately from manned aircraft, the warning time is considerable, and Thor is an effective second-strike weapon.
§ Mr. Collard
Will my right hon. Friend treat with suspicion advice on this subject from members of the Labour Party, whose declared policy it is to neglect and eventually to abolish the independent nuclear deterrent, if given a chance?
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the arguments for and against maintaining, Thor are wholly different from the one about whether we should have an independent nuclear deterrent? They are quite separate issues and it is false to mix the two.
§ Mr. Amery
I am well aware that the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. and hon. Friends for some reason see advantages in having a weapon under American custody.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) said in the defence debate recently that he was quite prepared to see the V-bomber force run down almost out of existence? The right hon. Gentleman wants the best of both worlds.