HC Deb 10 April 1963 vol 675 cc1266-8
31. Mr. Stodart

asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty when he will announce where an operating base will be constructed for the Polaris submarines.

32. Miss Vickers

asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty whether he will consider making Devonport the operational base for Polaris submarines.

Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing

I am not yet able to make a statement but we hope to do so soon after the Easter Recess.

Mr. Stodart

While operational considerations in this matter are obviously of paramount importance, may I ask my hon. Friend to continue to appreciate the advantages which Scotland has to offer, particularly in view of the Answers he has given, which show that the Admiralty appreciates the importance of Scotland?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

Yes, I am aware of these facts. But, as my hon. Friend says, it is speed which is of paramount importance, together with the operational advantages which we have to take into serious consideration.

Miss Vickers

In considering this, will my hon. Friend remember the service given by the dockyard at Devonport during the last 300 years? Will he ensure that the present level of employment there is maintained? If it cannot be an operational base for these submarines, will he see that the aircraft carriers, for which this port is eminently suitable, are sent there? Frigates could also be based there, and there is the possibility of building further ships so that the dockyard can be kept fully employed.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I will certainly bear that point in mind.

Mr. Manuel

Will the Polaris submarines, when they arrive—if ever—be put under the control of N.A.T.O.? If they are, will N.A.T.O. decide on the operational base or will this be a unilateral decision?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

The hon. Gentleman is not right in his assumptions. We are making plans at the present time about these submarines. If there are talks at a higher level on an international agreement concerning them, that is another matter. At present the Admiralty must get ahead with plans for the operational base.

Mr. S. Silverman

Before complying with the request of the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) to make Devonport an operational base for Polaris submarines, what steps would the hon. Gentleman take to ascertain whether the inhabitants of Devonport desired it?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I am sure that the inhabitants desire to remain part of a free country, I am sure that they will wish to make their contribution to defence.

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