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 Jimmy Wray Mr Jimmy Wray , Glasgow Provan 12:00 am, 9th May 1989

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the outcome of the recent NATO nuclear planning group meeting.

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

At the nuclear planning group meeting on 19 and 20 April, Ministers reaffirmed their determination to ensure that NATO has effective and up-to-date nuclear forces across the full spectrum of ranges, and expressed their continued support for national efforts to meet modernisation requirements stemming from Montebello. Ministers also noted SACEUR's conclusions about the link between modernisation and stockpile reductions and about the contribution to deterrence of new longer-range, ground-launched and air-delivered weapons. A copy of the communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, and agreed by all Ministers, has been placed in the Library of the House.

Photo of Mr Jimmy Wray Mr Jimmy Wray , Glasgow Provan

Is it not a fact that a question mark hangs over the decision taken by the nuclear planning group? Is it not also a fact that the Prime Minister, by delaying the modernisation of short-range missiles, is reluctant to accept that decision? Does the right hon. Gentleman's statement mean that there is to be an increase in the number of FE111 s and FE15s?

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

The hon. Gentleman is misinformed about the outcome of the meeting. The outcome, with the unanimous agreement of every nation present, was to reaffirm the nuclear defensive strategy of NATO, to reaffirm the need to keep weapons up to date and to reaffirm the unanimous view of all that a third zero would not be in the interests of the west. It cannot be said too often that we have had secure peace and freedom from war for so many years because of the existence of nuclear deterrence, which we would abandon at our peril.

Photo of Mr Anthony Grant Mr Anthony Grant , Cambridge South West

What does my right hon. Friend think would have been the reaction of his colleagues at that NATO meeting had he told them that it was the policy of Her Majesty's Government not to use the nuclear deterrent, even if necessary?

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

I am afraid that if I had made such a statement, nobody present from any Administration of any party would have agreed with me. Britain would have been in a minority of one, and I hope never to see Britain in a minority of one at NATO.

Photo of Mr Sean Hughes Mr Sean Hughes , Knowsley South

Will the right hon. Gentleman now answer the question that I put to him on 7 March, which the Minister of State also refused to answer on 11 April and about which I wrote to the Department a month ago and to which I have not received a reply? Do the Government take seriously the threat of a tactical nuclear attack on NATO's fixed assets in West Germany?

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

I am not sure what lies behind the question—[Hons. MEMBERS: "Answer."] The Government certainly do take seriously the large superiority in weapons lined up against us in western Europe—weapons of all kinds; nuclear, conventional and chemical—and it is to make all those unusable that the policy of nuclear deterrence has worked so effectively for so long.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

How would my right hon. Friend set about planning into such a meeting a nuclear deterrent which he had committed himself not to use? Would it not be something of a white elephant? Or, to put it another way, would it not be like hiring an expensive guard dog which had lost its bark, which he was having put down and which he intended to stuff?

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

I cannot better my hon. Friend's simile. To arm oneself with a deterrent which one then said one would in no circumstances use would be about as effective as a feather duster.