§ 18. Mr. Frank Allaun
asked the Minister of Defence if he will make a statement on his recent discussions with Mr. Gates on a worldwide 24-hours-aday joint patrol by United States and United Kingdom aircraft carrying hydrogen bombs.
§ 20. Mr. Swingler
asked the Minister of Defence, in view of the dangers arising from accidents or miscalculations, if he will reconsider the policy of Her Majesty's Government regarding participation in round-the-world hydrogen-bomb-carrying patrol flights.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I do not contemplate any change in the present policy for the British bomber force. Flexibility and dispersal are, of course, very important and the pattern of disposition of the force is, therefore, variable. It would not be in the public interest to explain exactly what our arrangements are, but some of the suggestions in the hon. Members' Questions are wide of the mark.
§ Mr. Allaun
If the Minister's object is dispersal and flexibility, what is the value of his plan if these aircraft do not frequently carry the hydrogen bomb? Will he give the House an undertaking that this will not be done either by British or American aircraft, in view of the enormously increased danger of an irretrievable mistake being made through the misinterpretation of a signal or a situation?
§ Mr. Watkinson
The question of the carriage of British nuclear weapons in British bombers has been clearly explained to this House several times before by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, and I have nothing to add to what they said. I want to make it plain that I did not discuss with Mr. Gates the question of a "round-the-world alert", as I have seen stated in some quarters. What we are undertaking is a steady development of the policy of the random movement of bombers, thus making them more invulnerable to surprise attack.
§ Mr. Swingler
Is the Minister's reply intended to be a categorical repudiation of the report which appeared in the Press—which, according to him, was wrongly attributed to the United States Defence Department—that there was an Anglo-American "round-the-world" nuclear bomb-carrying patrol flight developing? Is his answer a repudiation of that statement, or is he suggesting that this is being developed?
§ Mr. Mendelson
As the right hon. Gentleman has told the House that he does not wish to change the arrangements previously agreed to, does it mean that Her Majesty's Government will not allow any other forces to have an alert involving Britain without prior knowledge and approval by the British Government?