Does my right hon. Friend welcome the constructive disarmament proposals that were put forward by Mr. Gorbachev? Does she accept that it is only because of the stalwart refusal of her own and other Western Governments to remove the weapons that defend us that the USSR is now prepared to offer to remove those that threaten us?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments. An agreement on intermediate range nuclear weapons was singled out for progress when I met President Reagan last November. It is a useful step—[Interruption.]
It is a useful step forward that Mr. Gorbachov has now accepted this without making any link with SDI, but a great deal of work remains to be done. I agree with my hon. Friend absolutely in the view that Western strength and resolve have been crucial in bringing the matter to this point.
Is the Prime Minister aware that her latter point is somewhat difficult to sustain, given the 3:1 superiority in intermediate nuclear forces of the Soviet Union in Europe? Given that she welcomes Mr. Gorbachev's proposals and the positive response of the United States to such proposals, does she agree that it would be wrong now to make the elimination of intermediate nuclear forces conditional upon an agreement to reduce short-range and tactical nuclear forces? Does she agree that the best route now to the reduction of tactical and shorter range forces is through the elimination of intermediate forces?
First, the right hon. Gentleman would abolish all our nuclear weapons and leave the Soviet Union with all of theirs, and then he actually complains—[Interruption]
The right hon. Gentleman then complains that we looked at the small print of a proposal that has been put to us. I shall quote from the communiqué that was issued after my meeting with President Reagan at Camp David. It states :
We agreed that priority should be given to:—an INF agreement, with restraints on shorter range systems,
We were not so foolish as to say that it could all be sorted out with intermediate range systems when we knew that the Soviet Union had a total preponderance of shorter range systems. They have to be dealt with at the same time. We also said that
effective verification would be an essential element.
We also agreed on the need to press ahead with the SDI research programme … At the same time, reductions in nuclear weapons would increase the importance of eliminating conventional disparities. Nuclear weapons cannot be dealt with in isolation, given the need for stable overall balance at all times.
The complete matter was reviewed carefully at Camp David. That was the stance that we took and the stance that we shall continue to take.
Obviously when such important matters are concerned it is worth looking, as the Prime Minister suggests, at the small print, but knowing that Mr. Gorbachev's various initiatives stem almost entirely from the pressures on his economy and the need for alternative technological development, will the Prime Minister now say whether she is to turn her back on the current opportunity or encourage its use, bearing in mind the fact that she once said, quite rightly, that no weapons would be better than some but few are better than more?
I believe that the proposals that have come from Moscow stem from the resolve of the West to stand firm and that they would never have come from any of the right hon. Gentleman's policies. It is, nevertheless, absolutely vital that we have strict verification arrangements and negotiations to correct the huge imbalance in the Soviet Union's favour in shorter range systems. The right hon. Gentleman would throw away the security of our defence system too easily. We look at it very carefully, and we shall consider it extremely carefully where it should be considered — in the negotiations in Geneva.
Are those matters relating to other force reductions a precondition, as far as as the Prime Minister is concerned, of intermediate force elimination, or are they not? Yes or no.
The right hon. Gentleman would have heard, had he listened to what I said earlier, that the Soviet Union has total superiority in shorter range systems. We in this country are within range of those shorter range nuclear systems. He would throw away our own security and defence. I would consider those shorter range systems, as well as the intermediate ones.
Does the Prime Minister not agree that it would be extremely foolish to link the INF negotiations either with conventional force reductions, desirable though they are, or with a chemical weapons ban, desirable though that is? Will she make it clear to other European countries that the INF negotiation stands on its own as part of the zero-zero option?
I believe that to keep the security of the West and NATO, we must look at all of them together. In particular, I believe that we can go ahead as a matter of priority with intermediate range nuclear weapons, but at the same time we must also look at the shorter range ones. The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that if we succeed in getting an agreement upon that matter there is an enhanced importance for our own nuclear deterrent. I shall be delighted, therefore, when he agrees to update Polaris with Trident.
As my right hon. Friend says, there would have been no point in coming to negotiate had we, like the Labour party, unilaterally given up own powers, with the result that Russia would have kept all of hers.
It was a fact that was denied last July by Baroness Young, the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Is it not a fact that the only way in which we will break this sinister and undemocratic link between this Government and the— [Interruption.]—warmongering of Reagan is the calling of an early general election?
I could not hear all of the question, but I got the gist of the early part, which referred to a report in the United States media that we had given approval to the supply of Blowpipe to the Contras. Those allegations are totally unfounded. We have clearly demonstrated our support for political and not military solutions to the problems of central America.
Will my right hon. Friend find time today to tell the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much we in Ealing are looking forward to his Budget on 17 March, and how we hope it will help us to pay for the Labour budget on Thursday when our rates are forecast to go up by 80 per cent? Can she think of any better way of underlining the difference between the two major parties in this House than by giving the widest possible publicity to these two contrasting budgets?
I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for having done just that. The difference is that we trust the people to spend the greatest share of their earnings, whereas the Labour party wants to maximise the amount which it takes out of people's pockets.
Will the Prime Minister take time today to explain why her Government are so reluctant to grant asylum to the Tamil refugees, despite the evidence that they have fled the bombing of their homes and the torture and murder of their families and neighbours, while six ex-Nazi war criminals are allowed to live here freely as she waits for sufficient evidence to be collected against them? What is that? Racism or hypocrisy?
As the hon. Gentleman is aware, there will be a statement on the Tamils after Question Time, and therefore I leave comments on the Tamils to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. On the question of asylum abuse generally, this country has an excellent record of hospitality towards genuine refugees. We are entitled, however, to take firm action to deal effectively with the large increase in the number of passengers who are arriving here with forged documents, or who have destroyed their documents and who are making asylum claims that prove to be baseless.
With regard to the other matter that the hon. Gentleman mentioned—which is also within the duties of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary—my right hon. Friend has met right hon. and hon. Members to discuss the allegations of the Simon Wiesenthal centre. We have urged the centre to provide information to substantiate its allegations. The case for any change in our law would depend substantially on the weight of evidence brought forward. The hon. Gentleman does not need reminding that it is not guilt by accusation, but it is guilt only through evidence in a court of law.
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the growing concern over the delay in responding to the proposals on future space policy of the British National Space Centre? Is she further aware of the opportunities which are open to us through the European Space Agency and NASA? Will she bend her efforts to reaching an early decision on this important matter?
Yes. One has to look at those space proposals carefully to see what part of them would benefit the United Kingdom. Many people want more to be spent on research and development. It is not just extra expenditure that would yield returns, but being selective in the amount of expenditure one makes. We must look at the proposals in that light.
In view of the magnificent and resounding SDP-Liberal alliance triumph in the Greenwich by-election last week, will the Prime Minister take this opportunity to congratulate and welcome an excellent new Member of Parliament for the constituency? Will she have a wee word with her party chairman, whose advice to the electorate is clearly as discredited as that of the leader of the Labour party? [Interruption.] An alliance vote—
I remind the young Member of what happened to the alliance Member who was returned for Crosby when it came to the general election.