HC Deb 17 March 1964 vol 691 cc1179-81
Q2. Mr. P. Noel-Baker

asked the Prime Minister what consultation he had with President Johnson on the subject of Polaris submarines.

Q8. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Prime Minister to what extent he discussed the question of Polaris submarines with President Johnson.

The Prime Minister

I would refer the right hon. and hon. Members to the Answer which I gave on 12th March in reply to the hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey).

Mr. Noel-Baker

Does the Prime Minister recall saying to the Committee of 18 in Geneva just two years ago this week that The task of the Committee is to move towards general and complete disarmament as quickly as possible from 0 per cent. to 100 per cent."? How does the right hon. Gentleman reconcile that with the assertion by the Minister of Defence on 26th February that in all circumstances we should go on constructing Polaris submarines for eight years?

The Prime Minister

I take it that the right hon. Gentleman is obliquely referring to President Johnson's proposal for the control of strategic nuclear delivery systems. As I have said before, what President Johnson said at that time, and what my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary echoed at Geneva, was that we are perfectly willing, with the Russians and the Americans, to consider such a limitation. But it will not affect our Polaris programme or the American programme of missile construction.

Mr. Noel-Baker

What I was referring to was the Prime Minister's speech two years ago, and I was wondering whether his fair words then have been forgotten just before the General Election. Since he has raised the question of the freeze, perhaps I can ask him this: does it not make nonsense of the freeze if we add 80 strategic missiles to a stock which President Johnson has offered to stabilise at 500?

The Prime Minister

I do not think the right hon. Gentleman's facts are quite correct. Of course, I said two years ago that we should proceed from the position in which we are now as regards disarmament, which is nothing, to 100 per cent. if we can. But I am not in control of the pace of the Committee of 18's deliberations. We will do what we can to help it, but it has not made much progress.

On the question about the number of missiles, the right hon. Gentleman will perhaps remember that before the missiles and the Polaris submarines come in, the bombers will have fallen out.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

When the Prime Minister was discussing the question of Polaris submarines with President Johnson, did he raise the question of whether the American Government should make some financial contribution to the mothers of illegitimate children left behind by Polaris submarine sailors? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the illegitimate birth rate and the venereal disease figures in the area show a considerable increase? If he doubts that, will he disguise himself as an American sailor and go to Dunoon on a Saturday night and find out for himself?

The Prime Minister

I did not discuss any of these by-products of the Nassau Agreement.

Mr. Grimond

Reverting to the Question of the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker), is the Prime Minister saying that, even if the Russians offered to drop their current programme for further nuclear arms, under no circumstances whatever would we give up our right to acquire Polaris submarines?

The Prime Minister

No. I think the right hon. Gentleman knows quite well that I said nothing of the kind. I said that we were willing to discuss with the Russians and the Americans the form of any such agreement. But if the right hon. Gentleman really thinks that the Russians will give up their nuclear programme, he had better go and talk to Mr. Khrushchev.

Mr. Monslow

In view of the totally unsatisfactory nature of the reply to the Question of my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker), I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.