As one of the depository powers of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, the United Kingdom is actively committed to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and welcomes the growing number of accessions to the treaty. This is entirely consistent with British defence policy.
As 140 countries support the non-proliferation treaty, and as the Minister says that the Government actively oppose the spread of nuclear weapons, will he explain why the Government are not reacting positively to the initiatives of the Soviet Union? Do they really believe in the non-proliferation treaty? Is he aware that the Government's attitude makes life difficult for Pakistan and other Asian countries which are equally opposed to the spread of nuclear weapons, because it undermines their position?
The hon. Gentleman is letting off those nations that want to have nuclear weapons and refuse to sign the non-proliferation treaty. As he knows, when the treaty was drawn up, it recognised two categories of states —nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states. We were in the first category.
My hon. Friend will have read the full text of Mr. Mikhail Gorbachev's speech in Strasbourg last Thursday in which he made particular mention of further concessions. Will he give us some information about how his Department will make progress on that? Are we being bamboozled by one of the biggest propaganda exercises that the world has ever known?
My hon. Friend is right to suggest that we must beware pre-emptive disarmament among our allies. It is right to respond to the initiatives of President Gorbachev, but we must realise that he is taking them and making gestures from a position of enormous numerical superiority, so he can afford to do so.
As the Government now argue that short-range nuclear weapons will still be needed in Europe even if the present conventional imbalance is negotiated away, on the ground that only nuclear weapons can deter a conventional attack, how can they object to existing non-nuclear states following the logic of his argument and seeking to obtain nuclear weapons?
The spread of nuclear weapons throughout the world is an extremely unhealthy development, and if the hon. Gentleman does not see that, I despair of him.
To refer back to the remarks of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heifer), is it not disturbing that when complex East-West negotiations are continuing so many Opposition Members either wittingly or unwittingly appear to be auxiliaries to the Soviet negotiating position? Does that not demonstrate that Britain's defences will never be secure in their hands?
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Minister suggested that some of us speak up for the Soviet Union on every possible occasion. I object to that. My record in this House of opposing the Soviet Union when it went into Afghanistan and on other occasions is second to none. I do not want him or any other hon. Member to lie about us.