asked the Secretary of State for Air what consideration is now being given to the life of the V-bomber force and Great Britain's independent deterrent, in view of the fact that the recent display of Soviet air strength indicated that Russian air defences now include Mach 2 fighters.
Nothing seen at Tushino alters our view that the V-force, with the successive improvements already planned in its offensive capability, will remain a valid deterrent for the rest of this decade.
Would the right hon. Gentleman be a little more specific? Is he saying that the existing V-bomber force is a valid deterrent in view of what we saw at the air display, or that the V-force which he has in mind, which I understand is not in operation, would be a valid deterrent if it were in operation?
The V-force as it is is a valid deterrent. We are, of course, and have been for some time aware of the general direction of Soviet developments in air defence, and, of course, it has been with this in mind that the improvements we have planned and are undertaking have been conceived. We are quite satisfied that as things are developing at the moment the V-force is and will continue to be an effective deterrent.
Would my right hon. Friend not agree that, whatever else may have been learned from the Soviet Air Display, it certainly indicated a great and important rôle for manned aircraft in the future?
I agree very much with what my hon. Friend has just said.
Would the right hon. Gentleman not also consider this in the light of the general requirements of the Air Force, and if we are short of transport and other planes, should he not perhaps consider that these should also be taken into account and that we should concentrate more on mobility than on producing a new V-bomber force at this time?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, we attach the greatest importance to mobility and to transport, but plainly, I think, the evidence of increasing developments in Soviet air defence and combat shows the wisdom of our plans in the Air Ministry for maintaining the effectiveness of the deterrent over the decade ahead.