Oral Answers to Questions — Polaris Sales Agreement

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th May 1963.

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Photo of Mr George Wigg Mr George Wigg , Dudley 12:00 am, 16th May 1963

asked the Prime Minister if steps have now been taken to ensure that the undertaking entered into by the Government under the conditions of paragraph 2 of Article XIV of the Polaris Sales Agreement, Command Paper No. 1995, has been implemented throughout industry, the Armed Services and the Civil Service; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

Naturally we are taking the measures necessary to fulfil this undertaking.

Photo of Mr George Wigg Mr George Wigg , Dudley

Will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to tell the House whether, when the Polaris Sales Agreement was being negotiated, he took fully into account the disparity in practice between what happens in the United States and in this country? Has he taken any steps whatever to consult industry, both sides—employers and the T.U.C.—about what is involved in positive vetting if, on this occasion, the Government are to honour the agreement into which they have entered with the United States?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

Of course we have gone into this. We are not required to adopt in detail exactly their methods. But our procedures are broadly the same and are known to the Americans. There will be certain cases —very few of them—where there is access to classified information and where special security measures would have to be taken. But those would be taken whether we had an agreement with the Americans or not because it would be the right thing to do.

Mr. H. Wilson:

In view of the concern expressed in the debate on the Report of the Radcliffe Tribunal about the inadequacy of positive vetting in the particular case dealt with by the Tribunal, would the right hon. Gentleman say whether there have been requirements in the system of positive vetting arising out of the Radcliffe Report, and secondly, whether they will apply in other cases in relation to Article 14(2) of the Polaris Agreement?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

I am continually discussing this matter with the security authorities. I understood that the anxiety of the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) was lest these procedures might be too severe.

Photo of Mr George Wigg Mr George Wigg , Dudley

Is the Prime Minister aware that he is dodging the issue a little? He said that it will not be the same arrangements in detail. That is not the point. He has in honour committed this country to afford the same measure of protection to the concept of Polaris as is ensured by the United States by their methods. That is what the agreement says. If he will read the paragraph, of which surely he is aware, he will see that it uses the words the same degree of protection as is afforded by the Government of the United States. Did he before he undertook that obligation examine and see what the obligation meant? Now he has committed the honour of this country, will he for the first time see that we carry out our obligations?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

Article 14, subsection (2) reads: Shall undertake such security measures with the Government of the U.K. as are necessary to afford to classified articles, services and documents substantially the same degree of protection… The hon. Member did not read it accurately— as is afforded by the United States. That is exactly what I said. Our measures are similar although not precisely the same.

Mr. H. Wilson:

Emphasising the word "substantially" does not mean that the Prime Minister is suggesting it will not be equal even though it may be different in method? Do we understand from him that, while detailed methods may be different, there will be the same measure of protection by our security vetting system that the Americans have with theirs? Since it is quite clear that there was nothing like that amount in the Vassall case because they did not even have the commonsense to look through his Service record or ask the views of his immediate past Service chiefs in Moscow, will the Prime Minister say whether improvements have been made so that in carrying out this article there will be substantially the same measure of protection?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

Improvements are continually being made and will be made. I am glad this exchange has taken place, because we hope to have the support of the House if there are measures which may impose a certain degree of distaste or discomfort on a number of workers in different parts of this undertaking.