HC Deb 29 March 1983 vol 40 cc175-7
14. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will have further discussions with Defence Ministers in other countries on the installation of United States cruise missiles on British territory.

Mr. Heseltine

I meet my NATO ministerial colleagues periodically to discuss progress on implementing the decisions taken by the Alliance in December 1979 to modernise NATO's intermediate range nuclear forces, and to seek, by negotiation, limitations on intermediate range nuclear forces belonging both to the Soviet Union and the United States.

Mr. Allaun

Does Mr. Reagan's new formula, which was announced this week, mean that not one single cruise missile will be deployed in Britain? If it does not mean that, is the Secretary of State aware that it is utterly unacceptable both to CND and Labour, whose manifesto this afternoon clearly states that there should be no cruise, no Trident and no nuclear bases on our territory?

Mr. Heseltine

I am aware of the contents of the Labour party statement this afternoon, which amounts to an abandonment of all the defence policies that the Labour party believed in when it was in power. I can think of no more reckless gamble than for the Labour party to turn its back on the policies that have guaranteed the peace of the Western world for 37 years.

Dr. Owen

Will the Government urge President Reagan to introduce into the INF negotiations the flexibility that was envisaged in 1979 at the time of the dual track decision—a linkage between intermediate missiles and strategic missiles? Without that flexibility we shall not be able to achieve satisfactory negotiations. The rigidity of trading off only SS20s against cruise and Pershing is the obstacle.

Mr. Heseltine

The right hon. Gentleman raises an issue which is primarily the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. The House will be aware that President Reagan announced last week that he would make a further statement on the issue this week. It is the subject of close consultation between the Governments.

Mr. Allan Clark

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the fact that the United Kingdom is an independent nuclear power makes, or should make, the conditions under which cruise missiles are deployed here quite different from those in other members of the Alliance?

Mr. Heseltine

I understand my hon. Friend's anxiety but he will be fully aware that the party of which vie are both members has long since accepted in government the joint decision arrangements with regard to existing American systems that are already deployed here. We believe that those systems and guarantees have worked and, therefore, we have accepted them with regard to cruise missiles.

Mr. Denzil Davies

Why do not the Government now recognise that the 1979 decision to locate cruise missiles was wrong, dangerous and has done more to damage the Western alliance than any other decision? In view of the deep division in the House and the country, why do the Government not now stop all work on cruise missiles until the British public have decided one way or the other in the traditional manner?

Mr. Heseltine

For the very reasons that the Secretary of State in the Labour Government at the NATO committee meeting just before the 1979 general election said that it was necessary for NATO to have nuclear weapons and to modernise them. All that we have done is carry the agreement that the Labour party reached in government to its logical conclusion.

Mr. Donald Stewart

Does the Secretary of State accept, in the light of MOD support for a naval base at Stornoway in the Western Isles and the possibility of cruise missiles being stationed there, that he ought to intercede with his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister because of the opposition of the majority of people there to that decision and in view of a report from a committee set up by the Secretary of State saying that the interests of the islanders ought to be paramount?

Mr. Heseltine

I assure the right hon. Gentleman that I have had no consideration of such a proposal.