HC Deb 28 June 1978 vol 952 cc1375-8
6. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Common-wealth Affairs what action he will take to follow up the conclusion of the United Nations Special Session on Disarmament.

7. Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, now that the United Nations Special Session on Disarmament has finished, and in view of the Prime Minister's speech to the Session, what steps the Government are taking to pursue the Prime Minister's proposals for practical action.

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Evan Luard)

We shall pursue with vig- our the negotiations in which we are currently involved and try to advance progress in disarmament through the proposals which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made in his speech to the General Assembly on 2nd June.

Mr. Allaun

Would it not be a practical sequel if we accepted the new Warsaw Pact proposals for a force reduction in central Europe, in which they offer for the first time greater reductions than NATO? Can the Minister indicate roughly the British reaction to that and, if possible, the American reaction, as stated by spokesmen so far?

Mr. Luard

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence has said in the House, we regard these new proposals as a significant advance. For the first time they accept at least the principle of parity as the outcome of the mutual and balanced force reduction negotiations. In part the proposals result from those that we made to the Soviet Union. We therefore welcome this response. The proposals will have to be studied carefully, and no doubt we shall be pursuing the negotiations further.

Mr. Bennett

Does my hon. Friend agree that the initiative taken by the Canadian Government in renouncing the use of nuclear weapons is valuable? Would it not be a good idea for the British Government to follow that initiative and do the same thing, particularly in view of the statements by the United States and Russia that they will guarantee countries such as India and Brazil against attack by nuclear weapons if they do not develop them?

Mr. Luard

As my hon. Friend knows, we belong to an alliance. Matters such as this are for the alliance as a whole. Many of us would doubt whether the security of this country would be advanced if we made unmistakably clear in advance that we would never use nuclear weapons in response to a conventional attack, given that there is conventional weapon superiority on the Warsaw Pact side in Europe at present.

Mr. Churchill

Does the Minister agree that it is a matter of the gravest concern that while we have been engaging with the Soviets in the strategic arms limitation talks and the mutual and balanced force reduction negotiations in good faith, at least in the case of the conventional build-up, we have seen a situation arise in recent years which has led to the position that today, even if a whole Soviet tank army of three tank divisions were to be removed from the group of Soviet forces in Germany, there would still be several hundred more Soviet tanks in East Germany than there were at the start of the MBFR talks at the beginning of the decade?

Mr. Luard

I have just expressed concern about the imbalance of conventional forces in Europe. The size of Soviet tank armies in the central Europe area has been a crucial issue in the MBFR negotiations, and we have made proposals designed to reduce that tank strength.

Mr. Kinnock

Does my hon. Friend agree that a significant contribution could be made to disarmament by denying arms and armaments to Governments who are likely to use them against other nations or against their own people? Bearing that in mind, will he make a statement about the Government's attitude towards the provision, to the Chilean fascist junta, of the aero-engines now in Britain?

Mr. Luard

My hon. Friend knows that we consider every individual arms deal very carefully in the light of precisely the kind of consideration that he has raised—whether they are likely to be used against neighbouring States, and whether they might be used against the population of the country concerned. I cannot comment at present about the aero-engines for Chile.

Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg

Referring to the Minister's first answer to the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun), may I ask whether he agrees that it is all very well for the Russians to offer to reduce their forces to a greater extent than we reduce ours but that they can get their forces back quickly across the land, whereas our reinforcements and those of America have to come by sea and air?

Mr. Luard

That is one of the considerations that the NATO Alliance has in mind in undertaking these negotiations. As for the central European area, which is under discussion in the MBFR negotiations, we have from the beginning been aiming at a position of parity between the forces on both sides. The advance that has now been made, is that the Soviet Union has accepted that in principle. The difficulty is that there is still no agreement about the present balance of forces in that area.