HC Deb 21 February 1963 vol 672 cc634-5
Q4. Viscount Lambton

asked the Prime Minister whether he received at Nassau an undertaking that, if the British Polaris submarine force was assigned to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, no permissive link or mechanism of any kind would be attached to its warheads which would necessitate United Kingdom dependence upon any United States methods of communication if the Polaris submarines were returned to individual British command from North Atlantic Treaty Organisation command and the British command decided independently to use its nuclear warheads.

The Prime Minister

No such undertaking was necessary. The warheads will be British and there will be no question of attaching any mechanism to them of the kind described by my noble Friend. In addition, independent communications under British control between the submarines and the Admiralty command will always be available.

Viscount Lambton

Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that no machinery or mechanism of any sort to which the British Government have not the key will be incorporated in these submarines and related to the warheads before completion?

The Prime Minister

Of course, because these will be British warheads entirely under the British safety mechanisms which may be thought right. There is no question of this arising. It is completely a red herring. As regards communication, this will always be available directly through the Admiralty.

Mr. Lee

Will the fuel for powering the submarines, that is, the enriched uranium element, be British or shall we depend upon the United States for it?

The Prime Minister

I do not wish to go into the details of this, although I should like to refer to them. As the hon. Gentleman knows, our power to make the necessary amount of warheads is quite adequate to all demands.

Mr. Grimond

Is not the Prime Minister aware that, if the system of communication and control of these submarines and weapons is to be entirely British, the cost will be far in excess of anything so far mentioned by the Government in the House? If it is to be entirely British, why is there so little allocation of current resources to this purpose in the latest document on defence?

The Prime Minister

There is no difficulty about this. There is the ordinary communication system between our own submarines at present.

Mr. H. Wilson

Since his answers and statement so far have referred to a submarine force, will the Prime Minister tell us what communications he has had from the United States Government about a new proposal that there should be a surface force and not a submarine one?

The Prime Minister

I understood that that related to the proposal, which will be discussed with other proposals, for a N.A.T.O. force.