HC Deb 20 May 1981 vol 5 cc275-6
9. Mr. Viggers

asked the Lord Privy Seal if Her Majesty's Government support the taking of a fresh initiative at this stage toward a reduction of arms levels.

Mr. Blaker

The Government play an active part in the search for realistic and verifiable arms control agreements which will enhance international security. We would gladly support fresh initiatives if we and our allies judged that they would achieve these objectives and that the Soviet Union was prepared to negotiate seriously.

Mr. Viggers

Does my hon. Friend agree that a fresh initiative to reduce arms levels would be timely and that the special United Nations session in 1982 might prove to be an appropriate forum? Does not he further agree that such a move can be effective only if it is based on clear and specific undertakings to reduce arms, with monitoring facilities? Is not it pointless to base ourselves on cloudy and dreamy ideas to the effect that if we lead others will follow?

Mr. Blaker

I agree that the special session of the United Nations, which is intended to be held next year, will be a useful forum. I am not sure whether we need additional fresh initiatives, or whether that was my hon. Friend's suggestion. There are half a dozen forums in which arms control is being negotiated. I agree with my hon. Friend's latter remarks.

Mr. Roper

What progress has been made in Madrid with the proposals that the French put forward for a conference on disarmament in Europe, with—as the first stage—the extension of confidence building measures for the whole of Europe?

Mr. Blaker

As the hon. Gentleman knows, that proposal was supported by the Western allies. Some weeks ago, the Soviet Union said that it would be prepared to consider confidence building measures that extended to the whole of Europe. We are trying to ascertain whether the Soviet Union is prepared to agree to the other aspects of the proposal, which involve verification as well as mandatory and militarily significant measures.

Mr. Denzil Davies

Is the Minister aware—as was implied in his previous answer—that we approve of the American Administration's apparent change of mind about having talks with the Soviet Union on theatre nuclear weapons? Will he confirm that one of the main objectives of the talks will be to secure a reduction in the number of cruise, Pershing II and SS20 missiles on the Continent of Europe?

Mr. Blaker

The objective is to secure a limitation and, if possible, a reduction. As was stated the other day in the NATO communiqué, the deployment of SS20s already exceeds the proposed deployment of theatre nuclear forces by the Western side. Therefore, the Soviet Union has a big lead.

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