HC Deb 14 April 1964 vol 693 cc233-4
Q5. Dr. Dickson Mabon

asked the Prime Minister whether he will authorise the construction of a nuclear-powered fleet replenishment tanker or other naval surface vessel in a shipyard in the United Kingdom.

The Prime Minister

I would refer the hon. Member to the replies I gave to Questions on this subject on 9th April.

Dr. Mabon

Is the Prime Minister aware that not a year ago his predecessor gave a promise which still remains unfulfilled? Is he aware that the Government have spent eight years in committee on this subject and that in the interval four of our rivals have decided on the system which they will use in these ships? Can he give some assurance that the Government will come to a definite decision by Whitsun?

The Prime Minister

I should not like to put an actual time limit on this. We shall come to a decision as quickly as possible. This is another situation in which there are various reactors available and the question is to decide between them. I do not know which are the countries the hon. Member referred to, but at least one, Japan, has not yet taken a decision.

Commander Courtney

Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that this important matter will not be delayed by reason of the reluctance of any Department?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. We shall not have any unnecessary delay. We shall take a decision as soon as possible. But I want the decision, when taken, to be the right one.

Mr. Awbery


Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman must remove his headdress.

Mr. Awbery

I was quite aware, Mr. Speaker, that it was necessary for me to raise my hat when I addressed you. I was waiting for you to call me before I raised my hat.

I now wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware that four years ago hon. Members of this House were invited to an exhibition in Whitehall of nuclear-powered marine engines? Is he aware that we were then promised that within two years we should have nuclear-powered ships at sea? May I ask why this long delay has taken place?

The Prime Minister

The long delay has taken place because there are a number of generators and ways of generating this power which had to be considered very carefully before one could be put into a ship. That is the reason why there has been a delay—because we wanted to get the answer right.