Guided Missiles

Oral Answers to Questions — Ministry of Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd April 1957.

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Photo of Mr George Brown Mr George Brown , Belper 12:00 am, 3rd April 1957

asked the Minister of Defence what information was made available at the Bermuda Conference concerning the present stage of development of the Thor intermediate range ballistic missile; and when it will be available for use in Great Britain.

Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East

asked the Minister of Defence when he expects that the United States guided missiles of intermediate range will be available for supply to this country.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

I cannot at present add to the information given to the House by the Prime Minister in his speech on Monday and in his replies to Questions on this subject yesterday.

Photo of Mr George Brown Mr George Brown , Belper

Yes, Sir, but yesterday the Prime Minister simply said that he could not add to the information given before, and so far we have had no information except an unsupported assertion that this will save us money and effort. Was anything told the Prime Minister at Bermuda about the state of development or about anything at all? Is it true that no single Thor yet exists, and if all this is true, how can it be asserted by the Prime Minister that it saves us time and money? Ought not the Minister to share what information he has with the House?

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

I do not think that I ought to give as long an answer as the right hon. Gentleman's supplementary question. I think we shall have occasions shortly when it will be possible to go into these matters. I do not think I could do so in an answer of this kind. However, these weapons are in an advanced stage of development, and plans have to be made a long time ahead.

Photo of Mr George Brown Mr George Brown , Belper

Yes, Sir, but if the Minister is now prepared to say that they are in an advanced stage, he must know how advanced. My Question asked him exactly how advanced they are? Will he now tell us what he knows about them?

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

It is not our custom to give information about the exact state of development of our own weapons, and I think it would be highly improper for me to give information about the state of development of the weapons of other people.

Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East

Would the Minister explain to the House how he can frame any intelligible defence policy, or expect the House to criticise it, unless we have some approximate idea as to when these intermediate range ballistic missiles will be ready? Surely the Minister must know that?

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

The hon. Gentleman asks two questions. First, how it is possible for the Government to make their plans. Well, we have a good deal of information about all this. He then asks how the House can form its opinion about these things. On matters of defence there are certain limits outside which it is not desirable to go.

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

Is the Minister aware that we have certain advance information about these guided missiles, and that is the cost? Is he aware that they have been criticised by prominent American admirals on the ground that each cost £ 20,000? How many of them are we going to fire off before we solve the economic crisis?

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

asked the Minister of Defence what arrangements he has made with the United States Government for the testing of British guided missiles on United States rocket ranges.

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us if we are going to get guided missiles tested in the United States and then test them again on the rocket range at South Uist? Is he aware that he is going to spend about £ 12 million on South Uist, and will not this guided missile programme be an extraordinarily expensive addition to our defence costs before it is finished?

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

The Bahamas range—the American range—to which I think the hon. Gentleman is referring, is for long-distance ballistic rockets. There is no intention of testing weapons of that kind—

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

But the hon. Gentleman asked about the arrangements in his Question. Perhaps he remembers the Question? It referred to the range in America, which is for testing long-distance ballistic rockets. There is no question of testing weapons of that kind in the Hebrides.

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

Is there no rocket range for testing short-range rockets in America?