Greenham Common

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th January 1984.

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Photo of Andrew MacKay Andrew MacKay , Berkshire East 12:00 am, 17th January 1984

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on security at the Greenham common base.

Photo of John Stanley John Stanley Minister of State (Ministry of Defence) (Minister for the Armed Forces)

Security at the base is under constant review. A number of further security measures have been implemented in recent months and others are under consideration.

Photo of Andrew MacKay Andrew MacKay , Berkshire East

Does my hon. Friend agree that we should keep in perspective the security threat posed by the so-called peace women? We should not over-react by spending too high a percentage of the defence budget on guarding the Greenham common base and playing straight into the hands of CND and its supporters, who would like the money spent on defence to be spent elsewhere.

Photo of John Stanley John Stanley Minister of State (Ministry of Defence) (Minister for the Armed Forces)

I agree with my hon. Friend. Clearly, a balance must be struck between the security needs of the base and, as he rightly points out, not creating an unnecessary and unjustified diversion of both finance and manpower into protecting the outer perimeter fence.

Photo of Mr Martin Flannery Mr Martin Flannery , Sheffield, Hillsborough

Is it not a fact that the women who have got into Greenham common have proved that there is no real security there, and is the hon. Gentleman aware that his hon. Friend who represents the area, the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson), has actually said that? Is it not also a fact that to get in — one wonders whether this is how the missiles will be got out—Members of Parliament and delegations will have to go over the women's heads in helicopters? Is that the sort of security the exists at that base, not to mention the obscenities perpetrated by American troops against the women outside the base—[Interruption.]—which some of us have witnessed, including concrete blocks being thrown at the women by American troops. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] We have seen that happen.

Photo of John Stanley John Stanley Minister of State (Ministry of Defence) (Minister for the Armed Forces)

I assure the hon. Gentleman and the House that the Greenham women have not proved that there is no security at the base. There has been no penetration of the highest security areas.

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney , Peterborough

I acknowledge the need for a balance, but does my hon. Friend accept that the repeated illegal excursions of these women on to the base is a matter of growing national concern? Does he further accept that it is equally a matter of concern that appropriately severe measures do not appear to be taken against those who break the law in this fashion?

Photo of John Stanley John Stanley Minister of State (Ministry of Defence) (Minister for the Armed Forces)

I agree with my hon. Friend that the penetration even of the outer perimeter fence must be a matter of concern. That is why, as I said in my main answer, we have taken a number of measures to improve security, and further measures are under consideration. The question of sanctions is a matter for the Home Secretary.

Photo of Mr Denzil Davies Mr Denzil Davies , Llanelli

In regard to breaking the law and sanctions in this case, is it not a fact that two different laws apply to the security forces at Greenham common? If a British soldier breaks the law, he is subject to the common law of Great Britain. If an American soldier breaks the law, he is subject only to American military law. If the Government desire acceptance of their cruise missiles programme, why do they not make sure that American soldiers are also subject to British law?

Photo of John Stanley John Stanley Minister of State (Ministry of Defence) (Minister for the Armed Forces)

The view which the right hon. Gentleman has expressed is completely incorrect. The Visiting Forces Act is on the statute book on the same basis as it has been for successive Governments. I urge him to read in detail the excellent speech by the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department when answering one of the Christmas Adjournment debates, in which he set out the legal position extremely fully and succinctly.