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14/03/2011

Duration:
30 minutes
First broadcast:
Monday 14 March 2011

Mike Thomson returns with Radio 4's investigative history series.

1. The Bomb, the Chancellor and Britain's Nuclear Secrets

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

Also in this series, Mike Thomson will shed new light on what some regard as the first shots in the Cold War between Britain and Soviet Russia: an alleged plot to overthrow the Bolshevik regime in 1918 and to kill its leaders, Lenin and Trotsky.

  • Mike Thomson interviews Tony Benn at home

    Mike Thomson interviews Tony Benn at home

  • Former Chancellor Lord Healey

    Former Chancellor Lord Healey

  • Former Foreign Secretary Lord Owen being interviewed by Mike Thomson

    Former Foreign Secretary Lord Owen being interviewed by Mike Thomson

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