Nuclear Non-proliferation

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

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton 12:00 am, 11th July 1989

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is his assessment of the implications for British defence policy of the current number of countries accepting the principle and practice of nuclear non-proliferation.

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

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.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

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?

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

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.

Photo of Mr James Hill Mr James Hill , Southampton, Test

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?

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

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.

Photo of Mr John Cartwright Mr John Cartwright , Woolwich

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?

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

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.

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry , Banbury

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?

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

Yes, but I do not think that anything has changed. Some Opposition Members have seemed to speak up for the Soviet Union on every possible occasion for as long as I have been in the House.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

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.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Everyone recognises the hon. Gentleman's position as a highly honourable Member of the House.