HC Deb 06 February 1963 vol 671 cc434-5
20. Mr. Goodhart

asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty what consideration has been given by the naval staff to the practicability of mounting Polaris missiles on surface warships.

Mr. C. Ian On-Ewing

This has been considered but surface ships would not have the same invulnerability. Additional development would be needed to overcome problems which do not occur with the proved Polaris system.

Mr. Goodhart

If there should be any delay in the construction of our nuclear submarines, or if the deterrent gap should prove to be as serious as some Opposition spokesmen have indicated, will my hon. Friend look at this again? As we have five missile surface ships on order at the moment, would it not be fairly easy to adapt them so that they can take these very powerful missiles?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

We will bear this point in mind. I think it is better to put all our resources behind the production efforts for these new nuclear submarines and not divert them to try to solve the problems which arise if we look to surface ships—problems which do not arise in the other case.

Mr. Paget

Is there not something to be said for this? Would not Polaris missiles in the surface ships probably be more economically useless than putting them into submarines?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

There may be something to be said for it in the hon. and learned Member's mind, but I think that most strategists would not agree with him.

Mr. Kershaw

Is it not a fact that a ship equipped to fire Polaris missiles is about one-thirtieth of the cost of a Polaris submarine? Is it not, therefore, a consideration whether we should not have 30 of these ships, and would that not be more efficient than having all our eggs in one Polaris basket?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I would suggest that a surface ship is many more than 30 times as vulnerable as the Polaris submarine. We are trying to construct a deterrent which will last us right away through the 'seventies. It is surely better to have an ultimate deterrent rather than a temporary stop-gap.