My right hon. Friend will next meet his colleagues in the Nuclear Planning Group in the autumn, when they will discuss a range of matters concerning nuclear issues.
That is correct. There is enormous numerical superiority in the Soviet systems, and they have been modernised all the way along. If we are to maintain the flexible response of the mix of nuclear and conventional weapons for our deterrence, it is important that these weapons are kept up to date.
The justification for short-range nuclear weapons has been the gross imbalance in conventional forces in favour of the Warsaw pact. If President Bush's initiative is sucessful, to the extent that conventional arms reductions have been achieved or are substantially under way by 1992, is not the reality that there will be no willingness in the United States to develop a follow-on to Lance and even less willingness in the Federal Republic of Germany to have it deployed there?
The reality is that flexible response is an essential part of Alliance policy. Even with reductions in conventional weapons, I think that we will keep to that policy. That was confirmed at the recent summit.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the reasons for modernisation are precisely the same as those that actuated the Labour party to modernise our nuclear deterrent by the introduction of Chevaline? The only difference is that the Labour party did it without telling anybody and we do it openly.
That is absolutely right. That was a period when the Labour party took a more responsible attitude towards defence. It is a great pity that the Labour party's new review has not taken us forward one jot.
Does the Minister of State agree that one reason advanced—usually the main one—for the existence of short-range nuclear forces is the disparity between the conventional forces of the Warsaw pact and NATO? If the CFE—conventional forces in Europe—talks reduce those forces to parity and then below, what justification will there be to retain short-range nuclear forces?
As the hon. Gentleman well knows, the justification for flexible response is that the enemy should not at any time contemplate attack because of the series of responses that might result. That is the whole basis of NATO policy. It was confirmed recently at the summit, and Labour Members are the only people who are out of step on this matter.