An interesting radio documentary from the BBC regarding Britain’s development of the Chevaline programme and the decision to keep Denis Healey out of the loop.
The Bomb, the Chancellor and Britain’s Nuclear Secrets
BBC Radio 4
In the first edition of a new series, Mike investigates documents which suggest that Labour Chancellor Denis Healey was kept in the dark over plans to modernise Polaris, Britain’s nuclear weapons system in the mid-1970s.
Dubbed Chevaline, the upgrade programme was top secret and highly controversial, that would eventually cost hundreds of millions of pounds more than originally estimated. And all this at a time of economic hardship. Striving to keep his split party together on the highly sensitive issue of nuclear weapons, Prime Minister Harold Wilson restricted decision-making to a small circle of ministers.
But Thomson discovers papers which suggest that officials may have gone to extreme lengths to ensure that Chevaline was kept on track, proposing to withold key information from a sceptical Chancellor on the “need to know” basis. Was national security the real reason or were other motives at play?
Mike puts the claims to former Cabinet Ministers Tony Benn and Lord Owen, formerly David Owen, Foreign Secretary in the late 70s.
Producer: Laurence Grissell
Good grief. Healey, Benn and Owen. Those are names from the 1970s/80s for any Brit to conjure with.