§ 6. Mr. Frank Allaun
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he will next discuss cruise missiles with Foreign Ministers of other European countries.
§ Mr. Allaun
Do the Government intend to press for power to veto cruise launchings, meaningless though that would be? Will the Minister press for the inclusion in his negotiations of all intermediate nuclear weapons in Europe, not excepting Polaris and the French nuclear weapons, and not confining them to Mr. Reagan's selective choice of systems?
§ Mr. Pym
On the first point, the question of a veto does not arise, because the weapons can be used only on the basis of joint decision. So there is no question of veto. In answer to the hon. Gentleman's second point, yes, the negotiations on INF are confined to INF weapons. Polaris is not an INF weapon. It is a strategic weapon, and was recognised as such by the Soviet Union in earlier negotiations on strategic weapons.
§ Mr. Cyril D. Townsend
When my right hon. Friend next meets his West German opposite number, will he take the opportunity to congratulate him warmly on the robust stand taken by the electorate in West Germany on these issues, which I hope will be repeated in this country before many weeks have passed? Secondly, is it not all too obvious that a gross imbalance of theatre nuclear weapons neither serves the cause of peace in western Europe nor brings a feeling of security to western European countries?
§ Mr. Pym
I am sure that my German opposite number is more grateful than anyone else that the German electorate showed the robustness that it did. In answer to my hon. Friend's second point, yes, part of the immediate problem is the imbalance in these weapons. Incidentally, that is why a freeze is quite unacceptable. To ensure the security of both sides we want a reduction in armaments to the lowest number of weapons that it is possible to negotiate.
§ Mr. Healey
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that there has always been an imbalance in these weapons because NATO always decided to match the Soviet intermediate-range missiles in Europe by allocating Polaris and Poseidon submarine warheads to SACEUR? Does he accept the view of Field-Marshal Lord Carver that there is no military case for the deployment of those weapons and the growing evidence that their deployment would immensely damage public support for NATO in all the countries concerned? Will the right hon. Gentleman therefore drop these proposals and align himself with the great majority of people on both sides of the Atlantic who would now support a freeze on the deployment of all nuclear weapons?
§ Mr. Pym
I completely reject what the right hon. Gentleman said. In fact, the Labour Government were party to considering and agreeing to address the matter of modernisation. That matter has been addressed and brought to a conclusion by this Government. I am certain that the absence of modernised intermediate nuclear weapons leaves a gap in our deterrence strategy. We have against us a constantly increasing number of SS20s and other weapons, and unless we modernise our weapons—our present weapons are aging and out-ofdate—there will be a gap in our deterrence. The whole basis of our defence policy is to deter war and preserve peace. Therefore, NATO cannot afford to have a gap in that shield. That is why we are proceeding with this modernisation, unless the Soviet Union is prepared to negotiate the zero option.
§ Mr. Healey
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the word "modernisation" applied to these weapons is wholly mistaken, because there have never been any intermediate-range land-based missiles in the NATO armoury since Thor and Jupiter were withdrawn after the Russians had begun deploying their SS4 and SS5 missiles? Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that to pretend that 791 cruise is modernising the short-range battlefield nuclear weapons now being withdrawn by NATO is dishonest in the extreme?
§ Mr. Pym
That is not the proposal at all. We are facing an escalating number of SS20s, which are modernising the SS4s and SS5s, on the Warsaw pact side. We had Vulcans and United States intermediate weapons. We needed the modernisation of these in order to have a deterrent effect against potential use of Warsaw Pact weapons. Had we not taken that decision, we should be completely exposed in that area. That is why NATO decided that it needed a complete range of deterrent capabilities, and that is why we intend to modernise it. On those grounds, it must be the right decision.
§ Mr. Wilkinson
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the shift of position by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) is extremely dangerous and will give great heart to the men in the Kremlin? When he suggests that Western strategic nuclear forces should be weighed in the balance against the increasing theatre capability of the Soviets, does he not take into account the fact that the Soviets now have a preponderence at the strategic level and that three quarters of their strategic nuclear force has been constructed in the past five years?
§ Mr. Healey
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It has been said twice on the Government Benches that my position on cruise was at one time different from what it now is. That is absolutely untrue. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I thought that the right hon. Gentleman made his position quite clear, that he has not changed his mind.