Military Aircraft (Loans)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2nd May 1966.

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Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire 12:00 am, 2nd May 1966

I have been here long enough to beware of these technical preparations. Once we are engaged on the technical preparations for the expenditure of this huge sum, we are surely committed to it. If my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary wants to make time so that we can consider our arguments in greater detail, all he has to do is to withdraw the Motion and postpone it for a more appropriate time.

Here we are embarking upon something which makes absolute nonsense of the economic policy of the Government. I suggest that the country cannot afford to go one step forward in embarking upon an expenditure of £430 million. If this is so irrelevant, immaterial and unecessary, why on earth is it brought before the Committee at this time of night?

We are entitled, therefore, to get a full explanation from whoever is responsible for explaining why these bombing aircraft are necessary for the country and how they will help the country's economic position. A warning should be uttered that there is strong opposition in the country to embarking upon very large expenditure on bombing aircraft at all.

Surely, the technical arguments should be introduced at this stage. When the country needs more money for education, more money for advanced factories, for the mining areas and for the building of factories for producing the goods to export to remedy our economic state of affairs, it is complete nonsense for us to sanction, in any preliminary or any other way, this expenditure on bombing aircraft from America.

I cannot see how the bombing aircraft will help the country's interests. We are to be committed to continuing the arms race. This £430 million will be spent on expensive bombing aircraft which, presumably, will carry the hydrogen bomb or the atomic bomb. At the same time, we are told that we must also embark, and we are embarking, upon a considerable sum for expenditure on other forms of nuclear warfare—the Polaris submarine.

I know that we are not discussing that expenditure in this debate, but when this country will tomorrow be calling upon its citizens to tighten their belts and imposing new taxation because our economic situation is precarious, it has to be made clear that this proposal is quite out of keeping with the arguments that the Prime Minister is using.

So I say that we must try—if I may use a military metaphor—to fire a few shots across the bows of this particular project, and if we can postpone our arguments till another time let us postpone this discussion, and let the Chief Secretary to the Treasury take back this enormously expensive programme which I believe will militate against what we need most in this country—a constructive effort to build the factories which will produce the goods which will save this country from economic crisis. Representing the constituency I come from, I say we want advance factories to provide work for miners who are shortly to be unemployed. We are totally against this embarking upon expenditure for bombing aircraft which will be a burden on the finances of this country and for which there is no possible military or economic justification.