HC Deb 11 March 1980 vol 980 cc1145-6
19. Mr. Churchill

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the cost involved in extending the fatigue life of the V-bomber force and equipping it with air-launched cruise missiles in order to maintain the effectiveness of Great Britain's independent deterrent until the Polaris replacement enters service.

Mr. Pym

As I said in the House on 24 January, the Polaris force, improved as I described, will maintain full effectiveness of the United Kingdom's strategic deterrent into the 1990s. There is, therefore, no need to supplement the Polaris force with cruise missiles.

Mr. Churchill

Bearing in mind that the United States' B52 force of exactly the same age as our V-bombers is being run on until the mid-1990s in this role, and that the cost of so equipping the V-bombers would be no greater than 18 months of the British Steel Corporation's deficit, does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be an important enhancement of Britain's deterrent capability, which at times relies on a single submarine deployed on station, to have 50 V-bombers armed with 500 cruise missiles?

Mr. Pym

It is important that not only we but every member of the NATO Alliance should contribute to the pool and use its defence resources in a way that gives the whole Alliance the greatest degree of effectiveness that is possible. The duplication, which underlies my hon. Friend's question to some extent, might not be the most appropriate way for us to use those resources. What matters is that the pattern throughout the Alliance as a whole is adequate to deter. That is what we believe we have at present.