Missile Defence

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 29th October 2001.

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Photo of Mr David Atkinson Mr David Atkinson Conservative, Bournemouth East 2:30 pm, 29th October 2001

What discussions he has had with his Russian counterpart on the missile defence of Europe; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence

I met my Russian counterpart, Sergei Ivanov, most recently on 9 October. We discussed a number of issues of mutual concern, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. There is a continuous dialogue between NATO and Russia on the scope for increased co-operation in tackling proliferation and on theatre missile defences. We welcome this.

Photo of Mr David Atkinson Mr David Atkinson Conservative, Bournemouth East

As Europe remains defenceless against ballistic missile attack, and the events of 11 September must make us more vigilant, what detailed consideration have NATO and the Western European Union given to Russia's proposals for theatre missile defence of Europe, in addition to discussions between Presidents Putin and Bush? When does the Secretary of State expect decisions to be made on the outcome of that?

Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence

The hon. Gentleman is right to suggest that Russia's proposals are being carefully considered in NATO and by the WEU. NATO will discuss their implications in due course. However, I cannot put a timetable on that because it depends on NATO's internal deliberations.

Photo of Glenda Jackson Glenda Jackson Labour, Hampstead and Highgate

Would not this proposal constitute nuclear proliferation? If national missile defence goes ahead, would not Europe be America's first line of defence? If indeed we are engaged in a new struggle against international terrorism and in the creation of a new world order, should we not turn away from the excessive sums that are put into such developments and try to find a new way to tackle the problem?

Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence

I am afraid that I do not accept my hon. Friend's reasoning. As part of its approach to the development of missile defence, the United States has indicated a willingness to contemplate deep cuts in its nuclear arsenal. Rather than contributing to nuclear proliferation, missile defence would substantially reduce the number of missiles, probably in both the United States and, we hope, Russia.