Defence

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th January 1963.

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Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire 12:00 am, 30th January 1963

I used the word "only" in the sense that the Prime Minister used it. He said that we could support it. However, does anyone think that it will end there? Will not these nuclear submarines require an escort? Will we not require planes, based either on land or on aircraft carriers, to protect the submarines? Surely we will not allow submarines costing £40 million or £50 million to go without some kind of escort? Very able authorities point out that, rather than £400 million being the total sum, it is likely to be nearer £1,000 million before the bill ultimately comes to be reckoned up.

Our economic situation is very precarious. Either today or tomorrow the Prime Minister or some other Government spokesman will say, "Consider the help this will give to the shipyards and the unemployed". We must pay attention to that argument. It is likely that unemployed workers, or workers likely to be unemployed, on the Tyne, at Chatham or on the Clyde will say, "Yes, let us have these submarines because they will provide some kind of work". This plea was made at Question Time. We may be able to employ thousands of shipbuilding workers on Polaris submarines. The workers cannot be blamed for saying, "We will work on this rather than on nothing".

However, the economic plight of the country must be considered. It must be remembered that if the workers in shipyards are employed building naval vessels they will not be building the type of ships needed so that the commercial prosperity of the country can be restored.

While our people are engaged on Polaris submarines, shipyard workers in Japan and Germany, East and West, will be engaged on building the modern ships necessary to modern commercial needs. At the end of the day our shipbuilding centres will be pools of stagnant unemployment. An economic crisis will be inevitable. Thousands and thousands of workers will be unemployed and at the end of the day our commercial competitors will have captured the market. I warn hon. Members not to be deluded into thinking that our economic problem can be solved by going in for inflated armaments bills.

President de Gaulle has been mentioned. I differ ideologically and fundamentally from the dictator or semi-dictator who is President. Many people in this country say that General de Gaulle is sticking up for France. In a sense he has shown guts which the British Prime Minister is not showing. President de Gaulle has said, "I am not going to allow the defence arrangements of France to be put in the hands of America". There will be a good deal of sympathy for his attitude.

Many people in this country believe that today too much power of decision in a matter which might lead to the obliteration of this country is in the hands of people in the Pentagon and in military circles in America who believe that this island is expendable. This debate, although it may range round the technical question of Skybolt or Polaris, goes deeper. The question is whether our policy is to be decided here by the House of Commons or is to be decided by people in America who are pushing the vested interests of big armaments concerns.