HC Deb 01 December 1966 vol 737 cc620-1
Q11. Mr. Rankin

asked the Prime Minister if he will ensure that his offer of Polaris submarines for a joint Indian Ocean nuclear force does not interfere with his policy of non-proliferation; who are the prospective members of the force; and what contributions they have offered to the strength of the force.

The Prime Minister

I have made no such offer. The rest of the Question does not, therefore, arise.

Mr. Rankin

While I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask whether he will assure us that no such force will be created and that no such offer will be made if the force is created?

The Prime Minister

That is a hypothetical question but I can tell my hon. Friend that, throughout, our policy on the question of Polaris submarines or on nuclear questions generally is related in a high degree to the international need for a non-proliferation agreement. This is one of the main issues my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary had in mind on his recent visit to Moscow.

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles

Does not the Prime Minister realise that the ships needed for keeping the peace in the Indian Ocean are not submarines but aircraft carriers?

The Prime Minister

I am aware of the hon. and gallant Gentleman's view to that effect, but he will recall that these arguments were fully debated in the two defence debates last spring and that, while his view was expressed with great vigour by him and others, it did not receive universal acceptance in the House.

Mrs. Anne Kerr

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the ships that are really required for keeping peace throughout Asia are probably grain-carrying ships rather than nuclear, Polaris or any other kind of military ships?

The Prime Minister

I certainly agree about the importance of the grain-carrying ships and I think, when my hon. Friend has time to study these matters, that she will pay tribute to what Her Majesty's Government have done, with other friendly countries, in the tremendous aid we have given to India in her acute distress. But, while agreeing with my hon. Friend, I hope that, on her next visit to China, she will make that point in Peking.

Mr. Lubbock

If there is no intention of having Polaris submarines in the Indian Ocean, will the Prime Minister say for what purpose islands have been acquired in that part of the world?

The Prime Minister

It is not so much a question of the acquisition of islands and one does not necessarily need islands for nuclear submarines. However, in view of the hon. Gentleman's interest in islands, I refer him to the relevant paragraph—I think that it is paragraph 20, although I may be wrong; I could point it out to him if I had a copy here—of the Defence Review last year when we were talking about the urgent need not to keep so many troops in overseas bases, but to have the means of getting them there quickly, and we would not take them in Polaris submarines anyway.

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