HC Deb 05 December 1967 vol 755 cc1133-4
Q5. Mr. Marten

asked the Prime Minister what discussions he is proposing to have with other Heads of State about internationalising Great Britain's nuclear deterrent.

The Prime Minister

I have nothing to add to the Answer I gave on 11th July to a Question by the hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker).—[Vol. 750, c. 412.]

Mr. Marten

Can the right hon. Gentleman confirm whether, as a country, we still have the right to use our strategic nuclear forces if the independence of this country is threatened? Secondly—and we all hope that this is a hypothetical question, as we hope that the deterrent will never have to be used—is it the Government's intention to continue their policy of independent use in the cause of peace?

The Prime Minister

I think the hon. Gentleman knows our position. Our present nuclear forces, which do not yet include Polaris, are committed to N.A.T.O. We have the right to withdraw them after consultation with N.A.T.O. The future of Polaris is still a matter for negotiation and the hon. Gentleman will be aware of the important work of the Nuclear Planning Group in this connection.

Mr. Lubbock

Will the Prime Minister work out how much would be saved if the fleet of Polaris submarines was not commissioned but put into mothballs instead? In view of the state of the economy, will he seriously consider this?

The Prime Minister

I know the deep interest the hon. Gentleman takes in this matter hut I am sorry to say that the saving by mothballing the Polaris fleet when complete would be a great deal less than he probably imagines.

Mr. Horner

Will my right hon. Friend undertake to study the recent report of the Nuclear Weapons Commission of the United Nations, which clearly condemns the continued existence of individual weapons systems such as our own Polaris? Is he aware that one of the co-signatories of the report was the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Solly Zuckerman?

The Prime Minister

I do not think that the report pinpointed Britain. It called for progress towards general and universal disarmament, for which we have been continuously working, as did our predecessors, from the moment we took office. The most immediate requirement is a non-proliferation agreement to stop the spread of nuclear weapons to States which do not have them.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

If my right hon. Friend states that we ourselves will never use nuclear weapons first, how will we be in a position to use them second?

The Prime Minister

The statement about our use of nuclear weapons represents the view always held by this side of the House and, indeed, by our predecessors. As to the second part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question, the matter is not quite as simple as he has in mind.