HC Deb 11 July 1979 vol 970 cc455-6
13. Mr. Churchill

asked the Lord Privy Seal what reassurances Her Majesty's Government have received from the Government of the United States that articles XII and XIII of the Salt II agreement will not preclude any further Nassau-type agreement between the United States of America and Great Britain for the sales of strategic launch vehicles or the transfer of strategic weapons technology, including cruise missile technology.

Sir Ian Gilmour

President Carter has already made it quite clear in public that Salt II will not affect existing patterns of co-operation and collaboration within the Alliance, nor will it preclude co-operation in modernisation. We have also discussed this confidentially with the Americans. I cannot give details of confidential exchanges, but we are satisfied from the assurances we have received that British interests are safeguarded.

Mr. Churchill

The House will wish to consider at greater length the important reassurances that the Government have received from President Carter and the United States Administration on the matter. Will my right hon. Friend tell the House what articles XII and XIII prevent, if it is not a circumvention of the SALT II agreement by the sale or transfer of strategic weaponry to third countries?

Sir I. Gilmour

With respect to my hon. Friend, he is confusing the non-circumvention clause with a no-transfer clause. He will remember that there was a no-transfer clause in the antiballistic missile treaty of 1972. I am glad to say that the United States resisted successfully the Soviet demands for a no-transfer clause in SALT II.

Mr. Cryer

Will the Minister accept that we do not want another Nassau-type agreement in which Polaris-type weapons are adopted? Will he also accept that this country is a subscriber to the non-proliferation treaty and that, from that point of view, we should be considering phasing out Polaris rapidly? That would provide a practical demonstration to other nations which may be considering adopting nuclear weapons that they are totally irrelevant, expensive, deter nobody and should be scrapped completely.

Sir I. Gilmour

I do not agree with any part of the hon. Gentleman's question. We have clearly stated that part of our defence policy is to maintain the effectiveness of our nuclear deterrent. We intend to do that as a high priority. Moreover, as we already possess nuclear weapons, in no sense can we be said, by continuing to possess them, to be in any way circumventing the non-proliferation treaty.

Mr. du Cann

Do not these exchanges indicate that there is a plain need for the House to debate the subject? Will my right hon. Friend be good enough to consult the Leader of the House, who has recently entered the Chamber, with a view to ensuring that that is arranged before the Summer Recess?

Sir I. Gilmour

I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has heard what my right hon. Friend has said.

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