HC Deb 03 April 1963 vol 675 cc427-8
8. Mr. Healey

asked the Minister of Defence which authority in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation will command the British V-bombers assigned by Her Majesty's Government to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Mr. Thorneycroft

The command and other arrangements for the nuclear force of which these aircraft will form part are matters for N.A.T.O. as a whole and are still under discussion.

Mr. Healey

Can the Minister of Defence confirm that until this date no purely N.A.T.O. authority has had any strategic nuclear weapons at its command? Does he not agree that the use in certain ways of the V-bomber force could automatically involve the whole world in total global thermo-nuclear war? Is it not, therefore, a very extraordinary thing that Her Majesty's Government should have decided to assign these bombers to N.A.T.O. without first finding out what authority in N.A.T.O. is going to control the use of these bombers?

Mr. Thorneycroft

We should be agreeable to these being put under the command of SACEUR, but it is right and proper that I should defer any announcement about details of command and control until N.A.T.O., which is, after all, an alliance, has had an opportunity of considering these matters.

Mr. Kershaw

Is it not a fact that N.A.T.O. has had tactical nuclear weapons under its command for some time? Is it not also a fact that the impact on the ground of tactical nuclear weapons is not so very different from the strategic weapons which are now being referred to?

Mr. Thorneycroft

My lion. Friend is, of course, quite right. The injudicious use of nuclear weapons of any kind could involve the world in total destruction.

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