Polaris Submarines

Oral Answers to Questions — Ministry of Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st March 1967.

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Photo of Mr Patrick Wall Mr Patrick Wall , Haltemprice 12:00 am, 1st March 1967

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what delays have taken place in the completion of each of the four Polaris submarines; what is the estimated revised date of completion of trials; and what modifications are being made to their armament.

Photo of Sir Knox Cunningham Sir Knox Cunningham , South Antrim

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the rate of construction of Polaris; and what delay there has been in the timetable.

Photo of Mr William Griffiths Mr William Griffiths , Manchester Exchange

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he is satisfied with the progress being made with the construction of a Polaris submarine at the Birkenhead yards of Cammell Laird; and whether the date scheduled for the submarine to be operational will be adhered to.

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made in the construction of the Polaris submarine fleet for the Royal Navy.

Photo of Mr Roy Mason Mr Roy Mason , Barnsley

On the building programme, I have nothing to add to my replies to the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) on Monday, 13th February, and the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith) on Wednesday, 15th February. The only major item we plan to add to the armament is an extra navigation equipment. [Vol. 741, c. 35; Vol. 741, c. 113.]

Photo of Mr Patrick Wall Mr Patrick Wall , Haltemprice

Is the Minister satisfied that there is now no longer any trouble over the hull welding, and can he confirm that the A3 missiles will be fitted with antiballistic missile counter measures or decoy devices?

Photo of Mr Roy Mason Mr Roy Mason , Barnsley

The answer to the first part of the supplementary question posed by the hon. Gentleman is "Yes". On the second part, this is a matter of deployment, and I would require notice of the question. The original Question was to do with constructional matters and the operational date.

Photo of Sir Knox Cunningham Sir Knox Cunningham , South Antrim

Does this mean that Her Majesty's Government's policy is to maintain and increase the British nuclear deterrent? If that be the case, is the hon. Gentleman aware that they will have the support of the vast majority of this House regardless of the stabs in the back from his hon. Friends?

Photo of Mr Roy Mason Mr Roy Mason , Barnsley

The hon. and learned Gentleman is going beyond the terms of the Question, which concerns construction and operational dates, not policy and deployment.

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

As our allies regard the proposal for an Atlantic Nuclear Force as having been abandoned, whatever the Government may pretend, is it still the Government's policy to internationalise these submarines and, if so, how?

Photo of Mr Roy Mason Mr Roy Mason , Barnsley

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said on Monday, when the four Polaris submarines become operational towards the end of 1969 they will displace the V-bombers and, therefore, will be part of the Western European strategic deterrent.

Photo of Mr Edwin Brooks Mr Edwin Brooks , Bebington

Referring to Question No. 26, is my hon. Friend aware that, following certain Ministerial criticism voiced at Cammell Laird's shipyards, the managing director of that company, in a Press statement made on 31st January, stated that the "Renown" contract had turned out to be twice as big as was first expected? Would he say, therefore, why I was informed in a Written Answer last Friday that no major additional work had been necessary?

Photo of Mr Roy Mason Mr Roy Mason , Barnsley

No major work has been necessary. I must inform my hon. Friend and the House, and those responsible for defence contracts outside, that if in future they are undertaking major contract work for Her Majesty's Government or military contracts there will be the most stringent scrutiny, even more than there has been hitherto, and that they should estimate at the outset the size of their contract and be able to carry out the date of delivery which they promised.

Photo of Mr Patrick Wall Mr Patrick Wall , Haltemprice

Did the hon. Gentleman read the Question? What modifications have been carried out to their armament? The difference between the A3 missile and Poseidon is that the latter is fitted with these devices. Can they, and will they, be fitted to the A3 missile?

Photo of Mr Roy Mason Mr Roy Mason , Barnsley

I said in my Answer that navigation equipment was the only additional feature. The question of further development of the atomic warheads is under continuous review and we have full co-operation with our American allies.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

Is my hon. Friend aware that his one-day visit to Cammell Laird's shipyard, which was followed by a severe criticism not only of the management but of the workers, was deeply resented by the workers in the Cammell Laird shipyard and that it was not in any way helpful as far as the workers were concerned?

Photo of Mr Roy Mason Mr Roy Mason , Barnsley

I am sorry that my hon. Friend feels like that, but I must emphasise that if we are embarking on on a programme whereby Her Majesty's Government, as the customer, are purchasing from British shipyards complex weapons systems which may be costing £50 million each, we expect them to deliver them on time. Therefore, I felt that I was right to talk to the management more harshly than I did to the men. They are responsible for the project. They are responsible for having a project manager on the job and for seeing that it is delivered on time. I thought that my remarks were necessary at that time.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what weapon system he envisages will succeed Polaris as the United Kingdom's nuclear deterrent.

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

I have nothing to add to the replies which I gave to the hon. Member for Merton and Morden (Mr. Atkins) on 22nd June, 1966, and to the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Good-hew) on 13th February, 1967.—[Vol. 730, c. 554. Vol. 741, c. 35.]

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

Will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear that he has not closed his mind to further development of the British warhead to the Polaris missile in order to improve its penetrating possibilities?

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

Does the Minister agree that by the time these Polaris submarines are supposed to come into action they will be obsolete, since the Russians can now bring them down? Does this not mean that £350 million of the nation's money will be wasted?

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

I have the greatest respect for my hon. Friend's opinions on defence matters, but I regret to say that his information in this regard is inaccurate.

Photo of Mr Tufton Beamish Mr Tufton Beamish , Lewes

Does the hon. Gentleman recognise the Polaris weapon system as independent, British, and a deterrent?

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

We have discussed this many times. What I can say is that we regard our Polaris system as a valuable contribution to the collective deterrent forces of the West.

Photo of Mr Edwin Brooks Mr Edwin Brooks , Bebington

Since it was the express policy of the Macmillan Government to develop Polaris as a contribution to Western deterrence, would my right hon. Friend explain in what way that policy differs from the policy now being pursued by the present Government?

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

Probably the most important distinction is that the previous Administration maintained that the possession of nuclear weapons in itself would guarantee this country a position at the top table on all issues, a claim that we have always rejected. The second big difference is that the previous Administration seemed to imagine that circumstances would or might arise in which it would make sense for this country alone to use these weapons.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

Have the present Government given up the right, which this nation reserved for itself under the Nassau Agreement, of independent use of these weapons?

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

The right exists, although we cannot conceive of any situation in which we would need to exercise it.