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Vote a. Number for Air Force Service

Part of Orders of the Day — Air Estimates, 1962–63 – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th March 1962.

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Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park 12:00 am, 12th March 1962

Without having to read the Red Star I am sure that the Russian general staffs realise that they could knock out our missiles with such missiles as they have and use their manned aircraft for other tasks.

Another difficulty of the first-strike weapons is that they are provocative, for they feed the sort of propaganda that we are preparing to attack. What is the essence of the N.A.T.O. doctrines? I have not discussed these matters with President Kennedy, but I have the impression that he is putting all his money on the West putting, in its turn, all its money on a second-strike capability.

The truth of the matter is that the Thor missile has been a costly mistake, and that is not a reflection on the men who actually fire it. When I was in California last year our R.A.F. crews were carrying out test firing. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that S.A.C. was extremely impressed with the efficiency of the R.A.F. Perhaps I can convey that point of view in reverse.

On the question of V-bombers, I have nothing to add to what I said last year. On that occasion—and this is on the record—I said that in my judgment the V-bomber force was extremely efficient and that, in certain circumstances, it would get through. To my knowledge, no one is advising the Secretary of State to scrap the V-bomber force now. We want him to get rid of the Thor missiles and, when that is done, we shall give him some further advice. In any event, presumably the V-bombers have a conventional capability. I do not know sufficient about this to be able to assess their value in that rôle, but paragraph 59 of the Memorandum refers to this at the time of the Kuwait crisis, when the aircraft were held in Malta for a possible conventional rôle.

Decisions must be made now about the future. Those decisions must be taken now for four, seven or even ten years hence and the proposition of my right hon. and hon. Friends simply is that there is no case, on military, economic or political grounds, for our seeking to remain an independent nuclear Power. I did not like the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones) when he called the bomber force a "decaying asset"; I prefer to call it a "wasting asset" because, unless great expenditure is incurred, it will not remain an effective force. That, I think, is common ground between us. Our case is that we should not seek to develop it as a nuclear striking force in the future.