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Polaris Submarines (Nuclear Warheads)

Volume 720: debated on Thursday 18 November 1965

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Q5.

asked the Prime Minister if he is satisfied that all necessary steps are being taken to ensure that the nuclear warheads for Great Britain's Polaris submarines will be fully effective; and if he will make a statement.

For the reasons I explained in my statement in the House on 17th December last, it would not be possible under the partial test ban treaty to test the efficiency of the warhead system as a whole. As I explained to the House on 20th July, Her Majesty's Government considered there might be a case, purely on ground of economy of expensive materials, for repeating the earlier test, which was unsuccessful, of a component of the warhead. This test has now taken place and was sucessful.

The right hon. Gentleman has referred to economy of expensive materials. Will he repeat the assurance that he gave to the House in the last Session that any further tests on components will be carried out which are necessary for the purpose of effectiveness?

If the hon. Gentleman did not hear me last time, I will certainly repeat it for him. He will be aware that so far as his economy question was concerned, there was a test undertaken a year earlier by the previous Government which, unfortunately, did not succeed. It was very expensive, and it did not succeed. It has been repeated, with success this time, and will lead to a considerable saving in cost. On the hon. Gentleman's other question, we shall do whatever is necessary to maintain what is needed for the purpose of an inter-nationalised deterrent.

Supposing anyone were foolish enough to fire one of these, would it not be an unconvenanted blessing if it did not go off? Why should we try and avoid that?

I think that raises rather wider questions than can be dealt with at Question Time. I think that we have been into some of the theology of the question as fully as the House would want over the last few years.