HC Deb 08 November 1967 vol 753 cc1015-6
19. Mr. G. Campbell

asked the Secretary of State for Defence when the third and fourth Polaris submarines are due to be commissioned.

Mr. Mason

The third Polaris submarine, H.M.S. "Repulse", is due to be commissioned in the autumn of 1968; the fourth submarine, H.M.S. "Revenge", is due to follow six months later.

Mr. Campbell

For how long is this independent deterrent to be retained? In particular, are the Government planning to develop a more modern warhead for the missiles to prolong the life of the Polaris system?

Mr. Mason

The deployment and development of hardened or Poseidon warheads for carriers and submarines is an entirely different question from that on the Order Paper, which concerns commissioning.

Mr. Hale

In view of the Prime Minister's clear undertaking on this question, may we be assured that all these had, at the time of the 1964 election, reached a stage at which it was impossible to stop their progress or cancel their production because they could not be adapted for any other purposes?

Mr. Mason

Yes, Sir. The House should also be aware—especially my hon. Friend—that, when a Government embark on building a very complex and expensive weapons system like this, lead items are ordered in many cases two years before the keel of the vessel is laid.

Mr. James Davidson

I should like to ask the Minister what estimate has been made of the running expenses of the Polaris submarines when they are commissioned.

Mr. Mason

I could not give that information without notice, but I shall be pleased to write to the hon. Member about it.

Mr. Rankin

Will my hon. Friend ensure that when either of these is launched there is no mud about, because the last one was a very undignified spectacle?

Mr. Mason

As far as I can help it, yes, Sir.