HC Deb 28 November 1962 vol 668 cc377-9
8. Mr. Mulley

asked the Secretary of State for Air when he expects delivery of the Skybolt missiles; what is the estimated cost; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. H. Fraser

We expect the missiles to be delivered in the mid 'sixties. I can assure the House that the introduction of Skybolt will not bring the cost of our whole deterrent above the present approximate 10 per cent. of our defence budget.

Mr. Mulley

Can the right hon. Gentleman be quite categorical about this project going through? In certain quarters in the United States there is opposition to the completion of the Skybolt project. Is he certain that the missiles will be delivered? Can he indicate the cost to date? What commitments have we made as to the cost of development so far?

Mr. Fraser

The cost to date has largely been borne by the United States Government, and I think figures have been published by them. The hon. Gentleman asks for our costs, but to give them would reveal the number of missiles we have on order and I do not, quite rightly, propose to give these figures. Every major development is always the subject of speculation, and I see that there is speculation on Skybolt in today's Press. But Her Majesty's Government are quite resolved that this programme shall go through.

Mr. Eden

What progress is being made on the development of Skybolt? Can my right hon. Friend assure us that he is making it well known in the United States Departments which matter that we attach the greatest importance to the ultimate receipt of this weapon after it has been developed?

Mr. Fraser

The latest reports on development from the Douglas Aircraft Company are satisfactory. It is well known to the American Administration, as it is to this House, that we attach major importance to the continuation of the programme.

Mr. Lubbock

If the right hon. Gentleman says that, as a result of the introduction of Skybolt, the cost of our deterrent will remain at 10 per cent. of our defence budget, does that not mean that the budget is going to rise?

Mr. Fraser

I said that it will remain within the 10 per cent.

Mr. Mason

The right hon. Gentleman has emphasised that continuation of the so-called independent British nuclear deterrent depends upon Sky-bolt. There is, however, some concern as to whether this project will be completed or not. Is he satisfied that the American Government will go ahead with Skybolt?

Mr. Fraser

I am not responsible for the American Government's policy, but neither Her Majesty's Government nor the American Government have announced a change of policy. It remains our policy to push forward the development of Skybolt.

Mr. P. Williams

Does that mean that, subject to Skybolt being effectively developed in the military sense, the political commitment of the American Government is irrevocable and that we will politically be able to get this weapon?

Mr. Fraser

My hon. Friend is going very wide of the question.