Arms Control Negotiations

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th February 1979.

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Photo of Mr Emlyn Hooson Mr Emlyn Hooson , Montgomery 12:00 am, 13th February 1979

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what policy he has regarding the inclusion of theatre nuclear weapons and especially British strategic forces in future arms control negotiations.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

Together with our NATO allies we are considering whether those nuclear weapons not at present covered in the strategic arms limitation talks should be included in future arms control negotiations, but no decisions have yet been taken. Our aim will be to achieve the right balance between the need to maintain sufficient forces to preserve NATO's deterrent strategy and the need to secure lower levels of armaments.

Photo of Mr Emlyn Hooson Mr Emlyn Hooson , Montgomery

What is the Government's policy on this? Are the Polaris fleet and RAF Strike Command to come within the arms control negotiations at the next stage? Alternatively, are we first to take a decision on the cruise missile before a decision is taken on Government policy?

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

I said that no decisions had been taken, and what the hon. and learned Gentleman referred to are the matters about which no decisions have been taken. Until the SALT II negotiations are concluded, it is premature to become too involved in subsequent or similar SALT negotiations. No decisions have been taken, but obviously preliminary discussions within the alliance on some of these matters have been held.

Mr. Alan Lee Williams:

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, whatever case there might be in the future for the deployment of the cruise missile as a tactical weapon, the Russians might respond in that area, which would cause difficulties about arms control? Does he further agree that the cruise missile, deployed strategically, is no replacement for the A3, which is now on British Polaris submarines?

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

Many hon. Members hold that view. The whole of this area is a matter for future decision in the light of studies within the Alliance and of discussions between the allies. It is impossible to state a position on behalf of the Government until events move a little further.

Photo of Mr Victor Goodhew Mr Victor Goodhew , St Albans

Can the Secretary of State tell the House of any arms control agreement with the Soviet Union which has not resulted in advantage to the Soviet Union and disadvantage to the West?

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

The SALT I agreement was—as I hope that the SALT II agreement will be when it is realised—highly beneficial in lowering the general level of nuclear development.

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Chesham and Amersham

Since the British nuclear deterrent has not declined in use or importance over the years, will the Secretary of State take this opportunity of repudiating the Labour Party's absurd policy of opposing in all circumstances a follow-on to our Polaris system?

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

As I have said on many occasions, as the Polaris missiles will continue to be effective into the 1990s it is too early to take a decision as to a possible successor, if it is decided that that would be a proper course to take in the light of arms control, defence and economic considerations.