§ 10. Mr. Caborn
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is Her Majesty's Government's policy concerning proposals for a nuclear weapon-free corridor in central Europe.
§ Mr. Renton
Proposals for a nuclear weapon-free corridor or zone would not enhance NATO security. Such areas could still be targeted by weapons located outside the zone. Such weapons could also be moved into those areas at short notice, and at a time of crisis. Real progress will be made only through significant, balanced and verifiable reductions in nuclear armaments.
§ Mr. Caborn
It is unfortunate that such a negative answer should be given by the Minister. I am sure he will know that the recommendation came from the Olaf Palme commission, which called for, as part of the entire strategy, a 300-mile corridor in Europe. Indeed, that policy has been picked up by the SDP in West Germany, which has come to some arrangement with regard to a 150-mile corridor, if it is in a position to implement it. Although that would be only a small but significant step towards the elimination of nuclear weapons, will the Government rethink their position in a more positive light, not the negative position that has been given from the Dispatch Box?
§ Mr. Renton
I must tell the hon. Gentleman that the Foreign Minister of the German Democratic Republic, Mr. Fischer, who was with us last week, did not once mention a nuclear-free corridor. The reason is that such corridors only give the illusion of security. Where the weapons are targeted matters far more than where they are based. The hon. Gentleman represents part of the city of Sheffield, which has declared itself a nuclear weapon-free zone. I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that, rather than spend £250,000 a year on a peace budget and £500 on a 928 CND balloon on nuclear free-zone day, the hard-pressed residents of Sheffield would prefer a reduction in their rates.
§ Mr. Waller
Is my hon. Friend aware that the nuclear issues and emergency planning committee of the city of Bradford metropolitan council is actively promoting its own foreign policy and recently met Herr Schneidratus of the East German embassy, when Councillor Rye and his colleagues on the committee responded enthusiastically to the idea of a nuclear-free corridor in central Europe? Is that not a naive reaction, bearing in mind that the idea of a nuclear-free zone in central Europe is completely discredited and that it would involve the withdrawal of our deterrent from central Europe while the Warsaw Pact retained its intermediate weapons to the east of the Urals, which can hit anywhere in Europe?
§ Mr. Renton
I notice, too, that Manchester is promoting a nuclear-free Europe at a cost of at least £500,000. The city's nuclear-free zone is being guarded by five full-time staff at a cost of £95,000 a year. The inhabitants of eastern Europe, notably the German Democratic Republic, would prefer, not a nuclear weapon-free zone or corridor, but the withdrawal of some of the 400,000 Soviet troops who are stationed in that country.
§ Mr. George Robertson
Instead of sneering at genuine efforts to promote peace and understanding in Europe, can the Minister give a more constructive response to a proposal which would help to reduce risks and tension in Europe by increasing the time span for taking decisions on the central front? Is there not something to be said for a policy which unites the SDP of West Germany, the Communist party of East Germany and the leader of the British Social Democratic party, who endorsed it in the Palme commission report?
§ Mr. Renton
I wonder whether the policy also has the support of the Liberal party. The hon. Gentleman is far too intelligent not to know that nuclear weapon-free corridors 300 km wide mean absolutely nothing in the event of hostilities being declared. Weapons that have been moved out can be moved back quickly. What matters is where the weapons are targeted, not where they are based. It is significant that the Cristian Democrats in the Federal Republic have not shown any inclination to back those proposals.