HC Deb 11 May 1976 vol 911 cc210-1
7. Mr. Forman

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether the British component of the NATO nuclear capability is affected by the recent changes in United States targeting policy.

Mr. Mason

United States targeting plans are consistent with NATO's policy of flexibility in response. The British contribution to NATO's nuclear capability is targeted in accordance with NATO policy, and these plans are kept constantly under review.

Mr. Forman

In spite of that answer, does the Secretary of State accept that the credibility of the British component is dependent upon the counter-city and not the counter-force strategy? Will he reconsider the dubious claim in his White Paper that this could be used in any future conflict in a controlled and effective way?

Mr. Mason

The change in targeting policy by the United States has given it a further option of limited response and therefore, instead of the industrial and city targets being the first priority, it can if it wishes now target on the nuclear missile silos. Therefore, it has a new dimension. We are not involved in that targeting.

Mr. Flannery

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the nuclear capability of the United States and the Soviet Union is enough to blow the whole world sky-high over and over again? Is he aware that many of us believe that the capability that we have is a drop in the ocean. and is totally unnecessary in such circumstances?

Mr. Mason

It may be a drop in the ocean relatively speaking, compared with the massive overkill nuclear capacity and capability of the United States and the USSR, but if NATO unravelled and Britain was forced back on its own nuclear strategic deterrent we would not be subject to nuclear blackmail, because we would still have a second strike nuclear capability.