Nuclear Weapons

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th May 1989.

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Photo of Mr Peter Pike Mr Peter Pike , Burnley 12:00 am, 9th May 1989

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what are the most recent proposals for new nuclear artillery shells.

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

SACEUR's latest nuclear weapons requirement study addresses the full spectrum of NATO's nuclear requirements, including the need to continue with the modernisation of NATO's nuclear artillery shells.

Photo of Mr Peter Pike Mr Peter Pike , Burnley

The Secretary of State will know that Chancellor Kohl has called for equal ceilings for nuclear artillery shells at drastically reduced levels. Does not that conflict with the policy of the United States Government to modernise and to develop new nuclear shells that are capable of being turned into neutron bombs? Will the Secretary of State argue that the new shells should not be deployed in Europe?

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is familiar with SACEUR's nuclear weapons requirement study. The proposals in it include a very large net reduction in the number of nuclear warheads. That compares with the fact that NATO has reduced its nuclear warheads by no less than 2,400 in recent years, whereas the Soviet Union has made practically no reduction. It is well open to the Soviet Union to make reductions if it so wishes.

Photo of Mr Tim Janman Mr Tim Janman , Thurrock

Can my right hon. Friend predict what the effect would be on his Department's ability to defend the country, on the morale of the armed forces and on the nation's security, if the Labour party's policies on defence were implemented?

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

That is extremely difficult to predict, but it is certainly true that any policy that tried to throw over the policy of nuclear deterrence, which is supported by all countries in NATO, would be quite disastrous for the safety and security of this country.

Photo of Mr James Lamond Mr James Lamond , Oldham Central and Royton

In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) the Secretary of State mentioned 2.400 warheads. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that when I mentioned the subject to the Prime Minister at Question Time, she dismissed it as nothing at all—just a small reduction by NATO? Will the right hon. Gentleman have a word with the Prime Minister and tell her which story they should go forward with?

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

I am not sure what point the hon. Gentleman is trying to make. The Prime Minister has often referred to those figures, as have I. The hon. Gentleman must face the fact that the policy of nuclear deterrence is supported by all members of NATO without exception —including all those with Socialist Governments. The Labour party is in danger of getting out of step with all of them.

Photo of Mr Jonathan Sayeed Mr Jonathan Sayeed , Bristol East

Will my right hon. Friend remind the House of the balance of nuclear-capable artillery between Soviet and NATO forces?

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

I shall be glad to remind the House of the modernisation that has been taking place. For instance, the Soviet Union has modernised 95 per cent.—almost all —its short-range nuclear missile systems in the past five years. It has replaced Frog missiles with the more capable SS21s and it is deploying the AS16 missile, which is a tactical air-to-surface missile. Labour Members who are supposed to be considering these matters should be a bit realistic about what is going on in the world.