HC Deb 03 April 1963 vol 675 cc428-30
10. Mr. Wall

asked the Minister of Defence what conclusions he has reached as a result of his examination of the proposed North Atlantic Treaty Organisation multilateral Polaris surface force regarding its military advantages; what degree of British participation is now planned; how it is proposed that the force will be controlled; and under what legal authority it is proposed that discipline will be enforced.

Mr. Thorneycroft

I refer my hon. Friend to my replies, and that of the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, of 27th March.

Mr. Wall

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that, while there may be political advantages in this idea, there must be very few military advantages in having ships crewed by men of different nations? Would he not agree that this might be a very expensive form of deterrent?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I will bear in mind these and all other considerations which have been put in question and answer and debates on these subjects.

16. Mr. Cronin

asked the Minister of Defence if he will now give details of the proposed composition of the crews of the vessels of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation multilateral force now under consideration.

Mr. Thorneycroft

British ships will be manned by British crews. The proposal for a mixed-manned component is being studied in N.A.T.O. and no decision on it has yet been taken.

Mr. Cronin

Will the Minister indicate whether the authenticating officers who fire the missiles will be of mixed nationalities and, in that context, will he bear in mind the undesirable consequences of any German fingers being on the buttons which fire the missiles?

Mr. Thorneycroft

All these matters will be borne in mind in the consideration which N.A.T.O. is giving to this topic.

Mr. P. Williams

Will my right hon. Friend give an undertaking that he will keep his mind open on this matter of multi-racial crews, providing one thing—that at the end of the day he rejects the idea?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I think that it is better to consider things before one either accepts or rejects them.