HC Deb 10 July 1979 vol 970 cc235-7
1. Mr. Cryer

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will make a further statement on the replacement of Polaris.

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Francis Pym)

As I made clear in the House on 12 June, we shall take all the steps necessary to ensure that the Polaris force remains a deterrent to aggression into the 1990s. I shall not, however, be in a position to make any statement about a successor to Polaris until we have given very careful scrutiny to all the possible options.

Mr. Cryer

Does the Secretary of State accept that Polaris is expensive, outdated and deters no one? Does he agree that our support of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty could be demonstrated by the withdrawal and abandonment of Polaris? Will he assure the House that before any irrevocable steps are taken for any replacement he will come to the House for a decision rather than allow the military clique to make a decision, as happened in 1946 when we started out on this path?

Mr. Pym

I do not accept that Polaris is expensive for the role that it performs. We firmly believe that it makes a major contribution to our deterrent capability. The question of a successor system to Polaris is under consideration, as I have indicated, and it is the Government's conviction that because the nuclear deterrent achieves its objective we should consider its future.

Mr. Wall

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that our ballistic missile submarines could be adapted for Trident 1, and would not Trident 1 and the cruise missile make the right mix for the next generation?

Mr. Pym

My right hon. Friend has referred to a number of possible options which are relevant to other aspects of the nuclear deterrent, and I have these under review.

Mr. Cook

Has the Secretary of State had an opportunity to study the sixth report from the Expenditure Committee on this matter? If so, has he read the interesting memorandum from Field Marshal Lord Carver, in which the noble Lord points out that the cost of a successor system would not be justified if it were viewed as support for the American system, and that the circumstances in which it would be likely to be used in isolation from the American system are very unlikely to occur? In view of those sage words of advice from Field Marshal Lord Carver, does the Secretary of State think the Government would be justified in spending £3,000 million on a replacement?

Mr. Pym

The opinions expressed by Field Marshal Lord Carver are extremely important because of the positions that he has held. But they are matters of opinion, and there are judgments to be made, in concert with our allies. These are the kinds of considerations and factors that are under review in our contemplation of how we ought to proceed in the 1990s after the Polaris system has completed its useful life.

Mr. Buck

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that article 12 of the SALT agreement will not inhibit the United States of America from giving us technical information, as necessary, to get this very important and most necessary replacement for Polaris, a matter which many of us on the Conservative Benches regard as of great urgency?

Mr. Pym

I agree with my hon. and learned Friend that the importance of this technology within the alliance and between the United States and ourselves is very great. The Government have received assurances that the agreement will not interfere with continued nuclear and technical co-operation between the United States and its allies, and that the essential security interests of the alliance are safeguarded.

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