HC Deb 19 April 1978 vol 948 cc454-6
Mr. Thorne

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely, The question of the explosion by the French Government of a neutron bomb I apologise for not giving earlier notice of my intention to raise this matter but it was only later in the day that we heard the news about the French neutron bomb being exploded. I am aware that no Minister of the Crown has direct responsibility for the French neutron bomb test in the Pacific although it is clear that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary and others have responsibility for Anglo-French understanding and unity, which may be endangered by this unilateral action by the French Government.

In any event, the explosion of the neutron bomb by any Power in any part of the world raises highly important matters for the British people. I understand that this is a short-distance weapon, and its development by France threatens those countries closest to France, particularly West Germany and Britain.

The report described the test as a full-scale laboratory test aimed at achieving the production of an operational neutron bomb in three to four years. The French papers have described it as an event of the first magnitude. The test follows closely President Carter's decision to defer production of the neutron bomb in the United States.

In view of our own Prime Minister's reference recently to the delicate balance between military advantage and political disadvantage, this explosion tends to tip the balance towards the creation of major political disadvantages. For example, what is West Germany's reaction likely to be, and what influence are we able to bring in these matters? The French action is likely to exacerbate international tension and once again to renew the cold war. Therefore this is a matter of urgency and I urge you, Mr. Speaker, to accept my motion.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Thorne) gave me notice as soon as he could that he wished to raise this matter under Standing Order No. 9 namely, The question of the explosion by the French Government of a neutron bomb. I have listened very carefully to what he has said. As the House knows, under Standing Order No. 9 I am directed to take account of the various factors set out in the Standing Order but to give no reasons for the decision.

It is not for me to decide whether this matter should be debated. I must decide whether there should be an emergency debate. Although I have given careful consideration to the hon. Member's representations, I have to rule that his submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order. Therefore I cannot submit his application to the House.