Fylingdales Early Warning Station

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th April 1989.

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Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish 12:00 am, 11th April 1989

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what agreement there is with the United States of America about sharing early warning information from Fylingdales early warning station and ensuring it can be used independently by the United Kingdom Government.

Photo of Sir Archie Hamilton Sir Archie Hamilton The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

The ballistic missile early warning system at Fylingdales is under RAF command and control. Early warning information from the system is disseminated in parallel to the United Kingdom and United States authorities for their own use without restriction.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish

Does the Minister accept that the United States has done all the modernisation? Is he confident that the United States would pass on information to the British Government if the British Government were contemplating using Trident in some way of which the United States did not approve? Surely if we are to have a credible deterrent of our own we should have our own early warning system and not be dependent on the Americans who might not pass on the information. Or is all that now irrelevant? Have we a guarantee from the Soviet Union that if it intends to launch any missiles at us it will ring up and tell us?

Photo of Sir Archie Hamilton Sir Archie Hamilton The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

The hon. Gentleman is working on the wrong assumption. We share the information that comes from Fylingdales. We receive it in parallel, so there is no question of one nation having it and giving it to the other, or vice versa. The costs of modernisation are also being shared. The United States will be paying for the radar and we shall be paying for the infrastructure that goes with it. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the RAF operates Fylingdales early warning station, so we can ensure that we obtain information from it—and we do.

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell , Gedling

Does my hon. Friend accept that the question is flawed because the international early warning system, in which Fylingdales plays so important a part, is based on the principle of mutual corroboration? Will he take this opportunity to send to the men and women who have worked throughout the past 25 years at RAF Fylingdales, which I had the pleasure of visiting recently, his congratulations on the expertise and professionalism with which they conduct their task?

Photo of Sir Archie Hamilton Sir Archie Hamilton The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend and I will pass on his message of congratulation on a job extremely well done.