HC Deb 11 March 1971 vol 813 cc561-2
12. Mr. Hugh Jenkins

asked the Minister of State for Defence on what basis the public interest is assessed in deciding whether or not information is released on nuclear weapon development.

Lord Balniel

The criterion is whether or not release of such information would prejudice national security.

Mr. Jenkins

Is not national security best served by maximising the deterrent effect of the nuclear weapon? If the full possibilities, capabilities and development of this weapon are not known, how can it effectively deter a potential aggressor?

Lord Balniel

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. The effect of a deterrent policy would be reduced substantially if the release of information to a potential aggressor enabled him to assess the risk and deploy counter-measures.

Dr. David Owen

Will not the hon. Gentleman agree that, in comparison with the Americans, the amount of information that this House is given on nuclear weapons is derisory? Is not it time that there was more open discussion, given the limitations of security which are obviously inherent in the situation?

Lord Balniel

We will give the House what information we can. But the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that this affects the deterrent on which the peace of the world depends, and we shall certainly not disclose information which could be of assistance to potential aggressors. We will willingly give the House as much information as we can that we regard as being reasonably helpful.

15. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Minister of State for Defence what further development of nuclear weapons and missiles he intends; and how much in total such development will cost in the next financial year.

Lord Balniel

It is not the policy to divulge information of this nature. Her Majesty's Government will continue to take any necessary measures to maintain the effectiveness of nuclear weapons.

Mr. Allaun

Why is it that, while other projects are listed in the Defence White Paper, these are not? If they are supposed to deter, why not tell the world how terrible they are?

Lord Balniel

The whole world knows that Brtain, both under the present Government and under the previous Administration, has a nuclear deterrent which is completely credible to any potential aggressor.