Nuclear Weapons (Accidental Release)

Oral Answers to Questions – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th December 1982.

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Photo of Mr Michael McNair-Wilson Mr Michael McNair-Wilson , Newbury 12:00 am, 14th December 1982

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what reciprocal procedures exist between the United Kingdom and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member States and countries bordering the organisation by which the accidental release of a nuclear weapon is notified.

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

The United States, the United Kingdom and France all have bilateral agreements with the Soviet Union concerning reciprocal procedures for the notification of accidental release of a nuclear weapon. I shall arrange to have these listed with their full titles in the Official Report.

Photo of Mr Michael McNair-Wilson Mr Michael McNair-Wilson , Newbury

As the Soviet agency Novosti has said that if a Euro-missile is accidentally fired at the Soviet Union after 1983 it will take instantaneous retaliatory action, what would happen if an SS20 were accidentally fired, today or at any time up to the point of the arrival of those Euro-missiles?

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

The Novosti press, assiduously followed by the Labour Party, in its party political broadcast—[Interruption]—was wrong in showing that the time required for a missile fired from Western Europe to reach the Soviet Union would be six minutes. With regard to the accidental firing of a missile, elaborate procedures have been agreed between the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom, between the Soviet Union and the United States, and between the Soviet Union and France, involving the use of the hot line.

Photo of Mr Arthur Newens Mr Arthur Newens , Harlow

Does not the possibility of the accidental release of such a missile underline the point that the women of Greenham Common are seeking to make, that it is undesirable for us to have more of these missiles deployed here as that must increase the danger of such a possibility? Will the hon. Gentleman make it clear that there are real dangers here, which these women are fighting against, and will he not smear them, either as naive or Soviet puppets?

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

I am not trying to smear the women who demonstrated. I simply point out what would be the likely consequences of their action. With regard to accidental release, I have nothing to add to what was said. There are very effective arrangements between the countries concerned, which are regularly tested.

Following are the agreements:

  1. (a) US-USSR—the "Memorandum of Understanding between the United States of America and Union of Soviet Socialist Republic Regarding the Establishment of a Direct Communications Link" (Hotline Agreement)—1963
  2. —the "Agreement on Measures to Reduce the Risk of Outbreak of Nuclear War between the United States of America and Union of Soviet Socialist Republic" (Accidents Measures Agreement)—1971
  3. (b) UK-USSR—the "British-Soviet Agreement on the Establishment of a Direct Communications Line" (British-Soviet Hotline Agreement)—1967
  4. —the "Agreement on the Prevention of Accidental Nuclear War" (Cmnd. 7072) —1977
  5. (c) France-USSR—the "Franco-Soviet Agreement on the Establishment of a Direct Communications Line" (France-Soviet Hotline Agreement)—1966
  6. —the "Franco-Soviet Nuclear Accidents Agreement"—1976.