Free-fall Nuclear Bomb

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 28th November 1989.

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Photo of Mr Ron Davies Mr Ron Davies , Caerphilly 12:00 am, 28th November 1989

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what expenditure has been incurred to date on the study of possible options for the replacement of the WE177 free-fall nuclear bomb.

Photo of Mr Alan Clark Mr Alan Clark , Plymouth, Sutton

We are continuing to study a number of options for the replacement of the United Kingdom's free-fall nuclear bomb. The expenditure to date has been negligible.

Photo of Mr Ron Davies Mr Ron Davies , Caerphilly

Can the Minister explain why we are spending any money at all on developing a new nuclear weapon system that will probably be negotiated away before it is even commissioned? At a time when the Berlin wall is coming down, democracy is breaking out all over eastern Europe and peace is in the air, what sense is there in developing new nuclear weapons and keeping up the obsession with the cold war?

Photo of Mr Alan Clark Mr Alan Clark , Plymouth, Sutton

The system is not covered, because it is not ground based. I believe that we cannot predict the pattern of diplomatic alignments within 20 years. I cannot say where the United Kingdom's adversaries may be found, or what part of the globe they inhabit, but any prudent Government are obliged to update all their weapon systems to ensure that their forces have the best equipment available, because the lead time for such systems—the time before they must next face an enemy—is so long.

Photo of Mr John Wilkinson Mr John Wilkinson , Ruislip - Northwood

Is it not the case that as it will probably become politically more difficult to modernise our short-range nuclear forces with a direct follow-on to Lance, it is all the more important to procure an air-launched system that is inherently more flexible and potentially of greater range? Will my hon. Friend therefore say what specific options are being studied as a replacement, particularly as the United Kingdom is not now pursuing the modular stand-off weapon programme?

Photo of Mr Alan Clark Mr Alan Clark , Plymouth, Sutton

My hon. Friend reinforces the conclusion made in paragraph 92 of the Select Committee's report. As he will appreciate, I cannot go into much detail, but we are considering American and French options.

Photo of Mr Allan Rogers Mr Allan Rogers , Rhondda

Today and in previous parliamentary questions, the Minister refused to comment on the replacement for a free-fall bomb. Will he affirm or deny that an agreement has been signed by the United Kingdom and the United States for a stand-off missile to be deployed on Tornado aircraft?

Photo of Mr Alan Clark Mr Alan Clark , Plymouth, Sutton

No such agreement has been signed. Expenditure has been negligible because studies are at an extremely early stage.