HC Deb 23 March 1982 vol 20 cc788-9
10. Mr. Haynes

asked the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) on 23 February, Official Report, column 737, whether the United States Government have consulted him about the storage of chemical weapons in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Pattie

There is nothing that I can usefully add to the answer that my right hon. Friend gave to the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) on 23 February. The United States Government have not requested the storage of chemical weapons in the United Kingdom and we are not expecting any such request.

Mr. Haynes

Is the Minister aware that that answer is not acceptable and that many of us believe that the Government are hiding behind the Official Secrets Act on this matter? Will the Government come from behind that cloak of deceit and let Britain know exactly what is goring on with chemical weapons?

Mr. Pattie

The hon. Gentleman persists in his delusion about a cloak of deceit. I repeat that there have been no such requests, nor are we expecting one.

Mr. Alan Clark

Does my hon. Friend agree that if this country wishes to make, store or deploy chemical weapons, that is a matter for the Government and for the House, possibly, to debate and discuss, but the fact that any other Power might wish to store them here is not of the slightest interest or relevance? Will he confirm that there is a clear qualitative distinction between any facilities and agreements that allow the United States of America to store nuclear weapons in this country and that these could not, under any circumstances, be invoked to cover an equivalent facility for chemical weapons?

Mr. Pattie

I certainly agree with the general thrust of my hon. Friend's remarks. It is the duty of any British Government to be aware of the changing nature of the threat and to be aware of the fact that the Soviet Union has 60, 000 troops specially trained and designated for chemical warfare, with huge quantities of chemical agents that they are deploying forward.

Mr. Denzil Davies

Why does not the Minister assure us that the British Government will not allow the stockpiling of American chemical weapons in Britain? Does he not agree that there has been enough proliferation of nuclear weapons in Europe already, without embarking upon further proliferation of chemical weapons?

Mr. Pattie

I have already answered the question that was originally put to me. In the unlikely event of the right hon. Gentleman being in my place, he would not answer such a hypothetical question.

Mr. Warren

Will my hon. Friend confirm that not only is the Soviet Army equipped with chemical weapons, but that they are a front-line capability of the Soviet troops in the Warsaw Pact facing our men in Central Europe?

Mr. Pattie

We know from observations of Soviet exercises that all of their exercises are conducted under nuclear, biological and chemical conditions. We are also aware that chemical weapons have been supplied to satellite countries of the Soviet Union and are used, as has been reported in today's newspapers, in different parts of the world, including Kampuchea.