HC Deb 15 November 1979 vol 973 cc1495-7
Q1. Mr. Stoddart

asked the Prime Minister if she will pay an official visit to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

I have at present no plans to do so.

Mr. Stoddart

Is the Prime Minister aware that many people in this country regret the belligerent attitude that she is taking towards the Russians—[HON. MEMBERS: "Who?"]—Many people. Is she also aware that they regard the decision to station a new generation of nuclear weapons in this country as provocative and highly dangerous to world peace and the safety of the British people and others in Western Europe? Will she reconsider her decision and pay a visit to the Soviet Union, not in Churchill's trousers, but as a peace maker? Will she urge upon the Russians—and, indeed, all nations—that a reduction in weapons of mass destruction is the only way to world peace?

The Prime Minister

The message that I have received from the country is that the only way to tackle a potential threat from any potential aggressor is to be strong in defence forces in this country and to be strong enough at each and every level to deter any potential aggressor. That is the policy that we shall continue to follow.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is little purpose in holding discussions with the Russian leaders while they fail to honour the agreements that they have already entered into, such as the Helsinki agreement?

The Prime Minister

We long for the day when the agreement which the Soviet Union signed is, in fact, honoured.

Mr. James Lamond

Does the Prime Minister recall that President Carter said that to keep the peace we must avoid an uncontrolled and pointless nuclear arms race? If that is the case, why does she not go to the Soviet Union in a conciliatory vein and meet Mr. Brezhnev to discuss the proposals that he put forward on 6 October including those to reduce nuclear armaments in the European theatre?

The Prime Minister

We are always prepared to consider disarmament, provided that it applies to both sides. I hope that when I meet the leaders of the Soviet Union again—I met Mr. Kosygin in Moscow on my way to Tokyo—we shall be in a position to negotiate from strength.

Mr. McCrindle

While the Prime Minister is at home, and until she has the opportunity to visit the Soviet Union, will she take account of the recent press reports which indicate the most alarming development in both the quantity and quality of Russian arms in Europe?

The Prime Minister

It is true that the Russian forces in Europe are receiving the most up-to-date theatre nuclear weapons and that NATO has not had any new weapons for about 10 years. That is the task to which we must put our hand at the next NATO meeting early in December. We must agree to modernise those theatre nuclear forces.

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