HC Deb 30 November 1972 vol 847 cc613-4
25. Mr. Hugh Jenkins

asked the Minister of State for Defence having regard to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks agreement, if he will undertake not to modernise the British nuclear submarine fleet.

Mr. Ian Gilmour

As my right hon. Friend told the hon. Gentleman on 20th November, the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks agreements are solely between the United States and the Soviet Governments, and no question of our giving such an undertaking therefore arises.—[Vol. 846, c. 264.]

Mr. Jenkins

Is not the hon. Gentleman mistaken? With the development of Trident, which can operate from American bases, even nuclear fanatics will recognise that both Polaris and its bases will become redundant'? In those circumstances, would it not be a complete waste of public money, apart from anything else, to replace Polaris with Poseidon?

Mr. Gilmour

I am not a nuclear fanatic, and I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. As he knows, the effectiveness of our nuclear deterrent is kept continually under review.

Mr. Frank Allaun

As Trident's range is about 6,000 miles, it does not need a base here. Therefore, why should we make this country—a highly crowded country—a sitting duck for a superseded but still suicidal weapon?

Mr. Gilmour

We shall continue to make our bases available to the Americans so long as they want them. As the hon. Gentleman surely knows, the purpose of the nuclear deterrent is to prevent war. It does not, therefore, increase the risk of war.

Mr. Hattersley

I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman a question on which I pursued his predecessor but never had a very acceptable answer. Will he give an assurance that before any steps are taken radically to alter the nature or character of the Polaris fleet the House will be informed and allowed to express its views on them, rather than have a fait accompli simply reported to it as a matter of Government intention?

Mr. Gilmour

As no such decision has been made I cannot give any undertaking about what information, if any, will be given.