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Nuclear Deterrent Policy

Volume 387: debated on Tuesday 8 November 1977

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2.40 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have reached a decision on whether a nuclear deterrent should be maintained when the four Polaris missile submarines become ineffective in the 1990s.

My Lords, the Government have no plans for a successor to the Polaris force which has many years of effective life ahead of it.

My Lords, is it not the case that a decision will have to be reached at least within the next two years, and that in view of that fact some consideration must be given to the problem? Will the Government, when they consider this problem, remember that there are the hopeful SALT talks and the United Nations General Assembly meeting on disarmament next year, which is to be followed by a world disarmament conference, and not take a decision which is premature, misconceived and dangerous?

My Lords, I would agree. Her Majesty's Government will, as always, take full account of the considerations that my noble friend has described, especially the last one that they must not take misguided and hasty decisions in this field.

My Lords, will the noble Lord accept that when the next Government take their decision it will not be based upon hope but on reality?

My Lords, I think I said that Polaris had many years of effective life ahead of it. Probably the next alternative Government will be postponed even beyond the life of Polaris.

My Lords, will the noble Lord bear in mind that we could do with a great many more Polaris submarines? Can I have an answer, please?

My Lords, while it is desirable to take note of the SALT talks, and a lot of other talk that goes on—really much of it rubbish and in no way associated with reality—would it not also be wise to take note of the massive demonstration we have seen on television this week of the military strength of the USSR? Ought we not also to take note of that?

My Lords, I can assure my noble friend that we do take note of the facts which he has described. Equally, I should like to assure him that there are certain developments in the arms control and disarmament fields these days which are highly encouraging.

My Lords, may I ask the Minister whether he recollects that President Carter has expressed the hope that nuclear arms production will be reduced to zero? Is he aware that in the Labour Party Manifesto, on which this Government were returned, the statement was made that the Labour Party would embark on "no new generation of strategic nuclear weapons"?

My Lords, my answer to my noble friend was an answer to the latter part of his question. As to his reference to President Carter, we share his hopes and we are co-operating to realise those hopes.