HC Deb 15 January 1980 vol 976 cc1416-7
7. Mr. Stoddart

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he intends to site any new generation nuclear missiles within 30 miles of Swindon.

17. Mr. Renton

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what the current position is regarding the location of cruise missiles in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Pym

We are discussing with the Government of the United States the locations of the 160 ground launched cruise missiles to be based in this country. At present, however, consideration of potential sites is at an early stage and it would be premature to speculate on the possibilities.

Mr. Stoddart

Can I urge the right hon. Gentleman not to agree to the siting of any nuclear weapons at either Greenham Common or Fairford, which are within 30 miles of my constituency? Does he realise that it is a misguided and potentially catastrophic policy to have nuclear weapons in this country at all?

Mr. Pym

I fully appreciate the views of the hon. Gentleman. Frankly, at this stage, it would be wrong for me to give any undertaking about any particular site. We are at too early a stage. I must add, however, that this decision, taken not only by this Government, but by the whole NATO Alliance, was taken in the interests of peace and in the interests of the defence of freedom and democracy.

The siting of these weapons in no way affects the vulnerability or otherwise of a particular place. It is a mistake for anyone to think that the siting of a weapon in a particular place in the United Kingdom, or any other country in NATO, makes it more or less vulnerable. We are all vulnerable in the horrifying event of a holocaust.

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

How soon after a decision is made will the missiles be on station?

Mr. Pym

The missiles will be on station between 1982–83 and 1986.

Mr. Jay

As the right hon. Gentleman has said that the control of the use of these weapons will be the same as under previous Governments, will he confirm that this means that they can be used only with the agreement of both Governments?

Mr. Pym

I refer the right hon. Gentleman to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) before Christmas.

Mr. Churchill

Will my right hon. Friend explore with the United States Government the possibility of ensuring that the mobile launchers of these missiles remain relatively as lightweight as possible so that they are as mobile as possible and therefore not confined to a handful of bases which would increase the interest of a potential aggressor in a pre-emptive strike?

Mr. Pym

I have already said that the question of basing is being considered by the United States Government in conjunction with ourselves. There is no question about mobility. I am afraid that I could not give, off the cuff, the actual weight of this vehicle. Obviously, it is a pretty hefty thing. But mobile it is. I cannot say more about the bases at this stage.