§ 1. Mr. Caborn
asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the role of nuclear artillery in British Army tactical planning.
§ The Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Mr. John Stanley)
The role of the British Army's nuclear capable artillery is to contribute to NATO's overall strategy of deterrence and flexible response.
§ Mr. Caborn
I thank the Minister for his reply, but will he tell us why that announcement was not made to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) on 24 October, when it was clearly said that no decisions had been made? However, in the Senate, Dr. Wagner, the Assistant Secretary for Defence, announced in its official journal that NATO had agreed that the 155mm and the 8-inch shells should be converted to nuclear use. Why was that information not given to the House when the Minister had the opportunity to do so on 24 October?
§ Mr. Stanley
The hon. Gentleman did not take my answer. He is talking about procurement aspects, which should be dealt with in answer to a question that follows almost immediately. His question related to the role of nuclear artillery in British Army tactical planning, and the answer that I have given him is an answer that has endured throughout this Government's and previous Government's view of these matters.
§ Mr. Ashdown
Is not the real role for this nuclear artillery, stationed so close to the front-line in Germay, to provide Britain and NATO with a chance to use nuclear weapons first in the case of a conventional attack? Is not that policy not only morally disreputable but militarily dangerous, in the sense that it places local commanders in a position whereby they must either use those nuclear weapons or risk losing them during an attack?
§ Mr. Stanley
The rationale of having nuclear capable artillery is to provide a deterrent against the use of the heavy nuclear capable artillery asset which the Warsaw Pact has potentially available for use against us.