HC Deb 19 May 1981 vol 5 cc142-4
4. Mr. Adley

asked the Secretary of State for Defence when next he intends to meet his North Atlantic Treaty Organisation counterparts to discuss future developments in the Alliance.

9. Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the May meeting of the members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

16. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the recent North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Defence Ministers' conference held in Brussels, particularly regarding nuclear missiles.

Mr. Nott

The NATO Defence Planning Committee met in ministerial session in Brussels on 12 and 13 May. We discussed a wide range of issues affecting Alliance security in the light of the disturbing growth in the nuclear and conventional military strength of the Soviet Union. Against this background we agreed that intensified NATO action was necessary to ensure deterrence. NATO Defence Ministers approved new guidance as the basis for Alliance defence planning for the period up to 1988 and confirmed the allied commitment to real annual increases in defence expenditure in the region of 3 per cent.

NATO will move ahead with the planned modernisation of long-range theatre nuclear forces while making efforts to reach satisfactory arms control agreements.

The full communique has been placed in the Library.

Mr. Adley

Can and will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Government are not engaged in an exercise to cut levels of defence expenditure? Do the Government remain firmly committed to the NATO aim of a 3 per cent. annual increase in defence expenditure? Am I to understand from what he is saying that the Governmet are committed to that aim for not only this year but definitely through until 1988?

Mr. Nott

The Government have already published their plans for defence spending in the Defence White Paper, which we shall be discussing shortly. I can confirm that there are no plans to cut defence spending below the levels contained in the White Paper, on which a debate will follow shortly.

Mr. McNair-Wilson

Can my right hon. Friend say whether any of the other NATO countries that said that they were willing to have cruise missiles stationed within their frontiers have yet confirmed that they are prepared to have those missiles?

Mr. Nott

It varies from country to country. The Germans and the Italians are well advanced in their plans. The Dutch and the Belgians are indicating that they hope to come to a final decision within the next year. The programme is moving forward well. We shall be the first country to deploy, but the Germans and the Italians, especially the Italians, are well advanced with their plans.

Mr. Allaun

If Russia has such nuclear superiority as the defence Ministers were told, why has not it attacked already?

Mr. Nott

I do not know, but it may be something to do with the fact that we have a nuclear deterrent.

Mr. Beith

Has the right hon. Gentleman discussed with our NATO allies which of them could possibly replace our naval contribution to Western defence if, as seems possible, he abandons much of that contribution to pay for the dubious privilege of being able to launch a nuclear response independently of those allies?

Mr. Nott

I have not asked our allies because there will be no need to approach them on this subject.

Mr. Robert Atkins

What discussions did my right hon. Friend have with his NATO colleagues about the chemical offensive weapon which it is known that the USSR has?

Mr. Nott

We did not have any discussions on chemical warfare at the recent meetings. As my hon. Friend suggests, it is true that the Warsaw Pact has a substantial offensive gas warfare capability. At the moment we are totally lacking in adequate deterrence. That is a matter of grave concern to NATO. At the moment we are equipping our people with defensive kits against chemical weapons, but it is certainly a matter of concern to NATO.

Mr. John

Did not the Ministers agree that talks should be opened between the Warsaw Pact and the NATO Ministers, particularly between the United States and the USSR? Will not the Secretary of State do everything he can to back up Chancellor Schmidt's plea to President Reagan, reported in The Times this morning, that the Americans should be serious and should undertake the talks so that they come to fruition?

Mr. Nott

I agree with Chancellor Schmidt, but the Americans are serious and have already given the undertaking. The Rome communique of the NATO Foreign Ministers, coupled with the communique of the NATO Defence Ministers last week, confirms that negotiations will begin this year.

5. Mr. Latham

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he is now able to announce the placing of orders with Marconi Limited for the guided weapon system 25, known as Sea Wolf; what representations he has received on this matter; and whether he will make a statement.

15. Mr. Farr

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether a decision has been taken to place a firm order for the Marconi 910 Sea Wolf tracker system.

Mr. Pattie

Marconi Radar Systems Limited is the current contractor for the programme to improve the existing tracking radar for the Sea Wolf shipborne point defence missile system. British Aerospace Dynamics has put forward proposals for an improved lighweight Sea Wolf system, incorporating the Dutch VM40 tracker. In the light of these and further proposals recently received from Marconi for an alternative lightweight design. the Navy Department is at present assessing the best way of meeting the Royal Navy's requirement for an improved Sea Wolf system.

Mr. Latham

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is great concern amongst the employees of Marconi Radar Systems Limited in Leicestershire and elsewhere that the contract for the tracker might be given to a Dutch company at the expense of British jobs? Will he confirm that the proposal put forward by Marconi is now being seriously considered by his Department.

Mr. Pattie

I can give that confirmation.

Mr. Farr

Is my hon. Friend aware that about 400 jobs are at stake in Leicester? As Marconi has developed a lighter tracker system than the Dutch, there is no earthly reason why the contract should go abroad. Will my hon. Friend bear that in mind?

Mr. Pattie

I assure my hon. Friend that that consideration is being borne centrally in mind, particularly in view of the new alternative proposal to which I referred in my original answer.

Mr. Greville Janner

Is the Minister aware that there are two Marconi plants in my constituency and that there is vast anxiety about the proposed switch to a Dutch system? When does he expect his assessment to be completed? Will he give us the assurance that Marconi will be given as much time as it needs to come up with an alternative system, since the present system was developed for the Government according to specifications given by the Government and has been an excellent system, used by our forces?

Mr. Pattie

As I said in my original answer, Marconi has already come forward with an alternative. It is being given all the time necessary to develop that and flesh it out. I understand that the decision will be made some time in the summer.

Mr. Hooley

Will the Minister give a firm assurance that the system will not be made available to South Africa?

Mr. Pattie

The same principles governing trading with South Africa will apply to this and to all other systems.

Back to