HC Deb 16 July 1980 vol 988 cc1476-8
6. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Lord Privy Seal when he will next meet Mr. Gromyko and Mr. Muskie to discuss reduction of medium-range missiles in Europe.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Nicholas Ridley)

My right hon. Friend has no plans to meet Mr. Gromyko and Mr. Muskie to discuss the reduction of medium-range missiles in Europe.

Mr. Allaun

Will the Government now follow the example of Chancellor Schmidt, who has secured the removal of two Soviet conditions? If the Government say that they are in favour of negotiations, why are they proving the driving force in NATO for the deployment of cruise missiles?

Mr. Ridley

It is true that when Chancellor Schmidt visited Russia the Russians removed one of their preconditions for the negotiations. The problem is that they substituted another condition, namely, the inclusion of United States aircraft and the exclusion of Soviet aircraft from the negotiations. Surely the hon. Gentleman would agree that that would be most inequitable. That is why we are studying the matter closely.

Mr. Squire

Will my hon. Friend confirm yet again that if SS20 missiles were not rolling off the assembly lines in Russia, aimed at Europe, at the rate of more than one a week, the question of cruise missiles for Britain would be academic?

Mr. Ridley

We must take such precautions as are necessary for the defence of these islands and to deter the Soviet Union, which shows no signs of abating its increase in its military power, both conventional and nuclear.

Mr. Stoddart

Is the Minister aware that there is a deep and profound yearning for peace, both in Britain and throughout the world, and for the removal of the nuclear sword of Damocles from above our heads? Is it not the Government's duty to do everything that they can to bring the arms race to an end and to obtain a nuclear-free zone in Europe?

Mr. Ridley

The Government would welcome opportunities for a balanced reduction in armaments. Why does the hon. Gentleman not address his remarks to the Russians? It is they who are causing us to keep up our defences.


Mr. David Stoddart

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. During Question Time I asked a supplementary question to Question No. 6. At the end of his answer, the Minister—the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) asked me why I had not asked the Russians. Fortunately, Russian Ministers do not answer from the Dispatch Box. I am, therefore, not in a position to ask the Russians. Is it in order for one of her Majesty's Ministers to tell an hon. Member, who has put a reasonable, legitimate and serious question, to ask it of a foreign Power?

Mr. Speaker

I can rule only on whether the reply was out of order. I do not rule on the wisdom of it. I cannot say that the Minister's reply was out of order.