HC Deb 13 May 1965 vol 712 cc697-9
Q2. Mr. Marten

asked the Prime Minister what representations about the cancellation of the TSR2 have been made to him by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

The Prime Minister

None, Sir.

Mr. Marten

Is the Prime Minister not aware that the C.N.D. demanded that the TSR2 should be cancelled as part of the way towards unilateral disarmament? Could he give the House a reassuring remark that he will not be pushed around by this pressure group of C.N.D. and will go no way towards unilateral disarmament?

The Prime Minister

If we were pushed around in this connection we were pushed around by the facts. They were the facts which the hon. Gentleman left us of a programme which had deteriorated in time scale and trebled in cost.

Mr. Arthur Henderson

However much one may agree or disagree with the objects of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, will the Prime Minister make it quite clear that in his view any organisation is entitled to put forward its views to the Government on any matter of public concern?

Sir F. Bennett

Including the First Secretary?

The Prime Minister

This is certainly the case, though, as I said in my original reply, this one has not done so.

Q6. Mr. Fell

asked the Prime Minister on what date the first discussions took place between himself and President Johnson of the United States of America on the possibility of an American alternative to the TSR2.

The Prime Minister

There has not been any discussion between President Johnson and myself on the possibility of an American alternative to the TSR2.

Mr. Fell

I wonder whether, in his general discussions in the United States of America on the cancellation of the TSR2, the Prime Minister tried to persuade the United States to buy some of the British equipment, such as the new tank, the strike fighter, the HF.125, and our advanced radar and communication equipment. Will he, in the next 13 weeks, issue an instruction to his Ministers to buy British wherever it is possible for them to buy British having regard to the price, the availability and the performance of the equipment?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to the hon. Member because his Question enabled me to get rid of one legend which has grown up, that all this began in my talks with President Johnson last December. The subject was never mentioned either then or in my visit in April. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] Because we had no intention of discussing with him any proposition for an American alternative to the TSR2, so we did not.

Of course, talks have been going on—as I think the hon. Member knows—not only about joint production, but about further development in American purchases for certain new projects, both with regard to avionics and to certain developments based on British aeroengines. In regard to a general overriding directive to buy British for all purposes, I remind the hon. Gentleman that a substantial purchase of Phantom aircraft and our development of American designs and foreign production for helicopters was started by the former Government a year ago.

Mr. Michael Foot

Why is the Prime Minister so eager to depreciate the Opposition's desire to buy British when he has been telling us all about these applications for honours?

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Would not the Prime Minister have spoken with more conviction in N.A.T.O. about interdependence if he had more faith in some of our most advanced British aero space projects? Will he separate propaganda from facts? Is he not aware that the country fully understands that what happened with the TSR2 was an act of double appeasement, of C.N.D. and the U.S.A., which smacks less of firm government than of political schizophrenia?

The Prime Minister

A lot of midnight oil was spent on that supplementary. I have made it clear, and I thought that this was understood by the whole House, that this project got completely out of hand from the cost point of view. It should be remembered that although right hon. Gentlemen opposite were telling the country that their Government would reduce taxes, in the TSR2 and in four other censure debates they have attacked this Government for not spending much more of the taxpayers' money than we are spending.

Mr. Soames

Would the Prime Minister say when he made the agreement with the United States on the purchase of the Phantom and the C130? What items of British military equipment being manufactured in this country did he suggest should be purchased by the Americans to go part of the way to meeting this expenditure?

The Prime Minister

The agreement was not made by me and it was not discussed with President Johnson. If the right hon. Gentleman wants details of individual items he should put a Question down to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence.