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Holy Loch (Security)

Volume 640: debated on Wednesday 10 May 1961

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asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, in view of his responsibilities for joint arrangements for the security of United States ships in the Holy Loch, if he will make a statement on the recent activities of canoeists approaching and boarding these ships.

So far as the local naval authorities are concerned these demonstrations although sometimes foolhardy are no more than a nuisance. They do not in any way endanger the security of the American ships involved or the contribution which this anchorage makes to the Western deterrent and the peace.

As a few canoeists, however much of a nuisance they may have been, seem able completely to riddle whatever security or insecurity arrangements have been made in consultation with the hon. Gentleman, would he not find it more to his advantage if he were to follow the advice recently tendered by certain great trade unions and the Scottish Trades Union Congress, that the sooner he gets these vessels out of this country the better for himself and for every other person concerned?

I am glad that the hon. Member agrees that it is only a very small number of canoeists. Our information is that there were eight, all English, I think. Of that number, only two or three provided most of the publicity stunts. I cannot agree with the second part of the hon. Member's supplementary question. The country as a whole believes that this is a very valuable and safe method of adding to the deterrent.

Is my hon. Friend aware that public opinion in Scotland would welcome the prosecution of these law breakers, especially as they are mainly Sassenachs anyway?

I think that that is a matter for the Procurator Fiscal rather than myself.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that Scotland treats the English much better than his hon. Friend wants to see them treated?


asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty for how long it is expected that the additional cost of £24,000 to provide Admiralty constabulary personnel in connection with the Polaris base at the Holy Loch will have to be met.

The duties on which these personnel are employed and the cost involved are likely to continue so long as the depôt ship and Polaris submarines are using the Holy Loch. I cannot say how long that will be.

Do these police, costing £24,000 a year, have to play a part in protecting the Polaris submarines from these canoeists, from English "weirdies" who are attracted to the Holy Loch by the inflammatory speeches of Left-wingers and pacifists and fellow travellers?

These police are normally employed on security duties at the Navy Buildings, Greenoch, the Cardwell Bay jetty and Ardnadam Pier, Dunoon. Although they play a small part, they do not play all the part in protection against the canoeists.

Can the hon. Gentleman explain why the police protect the Holy Loch and the vessels so ineffectively? Is he aware that the point of the Question of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) was not the damage done by these canoeists—because it is common ground that they do not intend to do any damage—but that if the canoeists who do not intend to do any damage can get through with the ease which has been demonstrated on this occasion, it is clear that people with much more nefarious designs could get through?

I think it shows the sort of tolerance with which we have approached this—the fact that we have not tried to use strong-arm methods but have shown sensible tolerance. The hon. Member will agree that these canoeists are sometimes very foolhardy and even dangerous, and I fear that if they continue with these very strange tactics, they will not only risk their own lives, but may also risk the lives of those people who are trying to save them from accident.