HC Deb 21 March 1978 vol 946 cc1299-301
1. Mr. Norman Atkinson

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what issues he expects to discuss when he next meets Dr. Luns, Secretary-General of NATO.

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Frederick Mulley)

I expect to meet Dr. Luns at the biannual meeting of the Nuclear Planning Group next month, which will review general nuclear issues.

Mr. Atkinson

When my right hon. Friend meets Dr. Luns will he remind him that in our October 1974 manifesto the Labour Party very clearly declared that it was not its intention to introduce any new generation of nuclear weapons, either nuclear warheads or methods of delivery? Will he now stand by that declaration that we made in the election campaign?

Mr. Mulley

As I have told my hon. Friend and others on many occasions—this was also the position taken by my predecessor—we have no plans for any new generation of nuclear weapons.

Mr. Pattie

On the question of the percentage share of GNP, which the Secre- tary of State is often discussing with Dr. Luns, next time he sees Dr. Luns, will he put to him the other way of tackling this matter, which is that far from this country reducing its share to the level of the other nations, the other nations might be encouraged to increase their share to equal ours?

Mr. Mulley

I am grateful for that point. It is a point that I made at the last discussion among NATO Ministers.

Mr. Newens

Will my right hon. Friend point out to Dr. Luns when he next sees him that, at a time when a more buoyant German economy would be in the interests of world trade, it cannot possibly be justifiable for Britain to continue to accept the heavy economic burden represented by BAOR? Will he discuss with Dr. Luns as a matter of urgency the need for cutting down the cost to Britain of this commitment?

Mr. Mulley

I think that our Allies are aware of the particular economic difficulties that we have had to face and also of the very substantial contribution that we make to the Alliance. We have no plans to reduce the forces in BAOR, which are consistent with our treaty obligations.

Sir Ian Gilmour

The Secretary of State says that he has no plans for a future generation of nuclear weapons. Will he elucidate what he means? Does he mean simply natural indecisiveness, or that the Government have decided not to go ahead with any future generation of nuclear weapons?

Mr. Mulley

It means quite simply that as our existing strategic nuclear force has many years of effective life ahead of it, there is no occasion for a decision to be taken about what may or may not happen thereafter.

Sir Ian Gilmour

With respect to the Secretary of State, that is a rather evasive answer. It is, surely, generally agreed that if we are to have a new generation of nuclear weapons the decision has to be made well before 1980. There is not very much time. Therefore, what does the Secretary of State mean by suggesting that we go on as we are?

Mr. Mulley

I do not know what the right hon. Gentleman means when he says that is is generally agreed that we have to take a decision by 1980. Somebody wrote a pamphlet about it expressing a point of view, of which, of course, I am aware. But many things can happen in the next decade, all of which could have a relevance to our future role in these matters.

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