§ 3.12 p.m.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government why it is necessary for the Secretary of State for Defence to visit the U.S.A. twice within three weeks, presumably to take decisions as to the purchase of the F.111 aircraft, without Parliament being advised of the matter.]
§ THE MINISTER OF DEFENCE FOR THE ROYAL AIR FORCE (LORD SHACKLETON)
My Lords, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence has gone to Washington for a meeting of the Nuclear Planning Working Group of the NATO Special Committee on Nuclear Consultation, which was arranged several months ago. The visit is not connected with the possible purchase of the F.111 aircraft. The Defence Secretary's previous visit to the United States of America, with the Foreign Secretary, was part of the general consultation with our allies about various aspects of our Defence Review, including equipment questions.
My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for his reply, may I ask him this further question? Is he aware that the Air League is on the side of the Navy and that a member of 1147 the Council, who is also a distinguished member of the Party opposite, has sent a telegram to the Minister of Defence for Air urging most strongly the reconsideration of the Spey-Mirage project, in view of new factors, publicly stated, affecting the F.111 performance and consequently—
—increased cost in equipment, and further urging the formula of "Spey-Mirage plus aircraft carriers" as most desirable in British interests?
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I would hardly call that a question. It does not arise out of the Question which the noble Lord asked. I can only say that he reads fairly fast.
§ LORD BLYTON
My Lords, may I ask my noble friend not to yield to the pressures of those who want us to retain aircraft carriers? As an old submariner in the First World War, may I say that aircraft carriers are now so big and are such vulnerable objects that killer-submarines, such as the American "Nautilus", could put them out of existence in a minute?