Polaris Nuclear Submarine "Renown" (Incident)

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3 December 1969.

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Photo of Mr Frank Allaun Mr Frank Allaun , Salford East 12:00, 3 December 1969

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the recent incident in which the Polaris nuclear submarine "Renown" was involved in an accident with another ship.

Photo of Dr David Owen Dr David Owen , Plymouth, Sutton

H.M.S. "Renown" collided with the M.V. "Moyle" while carrying out work-up exercises in the Irish Sea on the night of 13th October. There were no casualties. Both vessels suffered some damage but the "Renown" was operational again the next day. H.M.S. "Renown's" commanding officer is to be tried by court-martial.

Photo of Mr Frank Allaun Mr Frank Allaun , Salford East

Although no missiles were aboard in this case, does not my hon. Friend agree that this was an entirely unforeseeable and a one-in-a-thousand accident and that therefore the same kind of accident could happen to missiles on board a Polaris submarine, or the thousands available elsewhere, despite the safeguards on them?

Photo of Dr David Owen Dr David Owen , Plymouth, Sutton

Naturally, any accident at sea is a subject for concern, and the role performed by the Polaris boats calls for extraordinary vigilance against any possibility of a mishap. However, I should remind the House that, in the unlikely event of a nuclear weapon being involved in a collision, there would be no danger of a nuclear explosion.

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfriesshire

Was this submarine carrying lights in this busy shipping channel, and why was not the accident reported so that the search could have been called off much sooner?

Photo of Dr David Owen Dr David Owen , Plymouth, Sutton

I have written to the hon. Gentleman about some other points in his letter. I think that the House will agree that, in view of the impending court-martial, I would be wise not to comment on any other aspects.