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Nato Forces (Polaris Submarines')

Volume 640: debated on Wednesday 17 May 1961

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asked the Minister of Defence whether Her Majesty's Government will oppose the acceptance of the offer of the United States Government of Polaris nuclear weapons for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

I take it that my noble Friend is referring to the offer by the United States Government to commit five Polaris submarines to the 6th Fleet which is earmarked for assignment to N.A.T.O. Details of this plan are being considered by N.A.T.O., but Her Majesty's Government welcome the objectives of the United States' proposals.

How does my right hon. Friend reconcile this last statement with the statement he made in the defence debate on 27th February, when he said:

"We do not see any advantage in setting up N.A.T.O. as a strategic nuclear Power; nor, I understand, does General Norstad."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February, 1961; Vol. 635, c. 1204.]
Will the Government stick firmly to that position, and if they are to change their point of view on this, will he consult the House before doing so?

I quite agree with my hon. Friend. The difference is this. These Polaris submarines are merely a part of the American 6th Fleet, which is only assigned to General Norstad in certain special circumstances and does not come under his command in normal times.