HC Deb 01 February 1983 vol 36 cc134-5
10. Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether, during dispersals of cruise missile launchers, for practices or during an alert, they will use sites under public or private ownership; and if under private ownership, whether permission of the private owners will be negotiated.

Mr. Blaker

Practice peace time dispersals of cruise missile launchers will use public roads and Ministry of Defence land. It is not in the interests of security to comment on dispersals in times of tension or war.

Mr. Bennett

Does the Minister appreciate that the vast majority of people in Britain do not want cruise missiles anywhere and that they will be especially alarmed at the thought that the missiles will be moved along public roads and deployed on small corners of land up and down the country? When that takes place there will be many demonstrations around those sites, which will cause much difficulty to the programme. Would it not be a good idea to cancel the whole system here and now?

Mr. Blaker

I have learnt from recent public opinion polls that a large majority of British people support our independent strategic nuclear deterrent and oppose a policy of one-sided disarmament by the Government. Those figures include a majority of Labour voters in each case. As I said, in peace time the deployments will be on Ministry of Defence land.

Mr. Robert Atkins

Does my hon. Friend agree that it will be as reassuring to the populace of Britain to see cruise missile launchers being moved around the countryside as it is now to see ships at sea or aeroplanes in the air or ordinary military convoys? Does my hon. Friend recognise that it is just as important to have those missiles to defend our freedom as it is to have an independent nuclear deterrent?

Mr. Blaker

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The cruise missiles will be brought here, in the absence of agreement to reduce them at the negotiations in Geneva, at the request of the European countries. They are not being imposed on us by the Americans. There is much misinformation about cruise missiles, which accounts for some of the anxiety to which my right hon. Friend referred. It is our purpose to put right the information. It has been alleged, for example, by the CND that the missiles would be used for a first strike. That is totally untrue. It is impossible to use them for that purpose.

Mr. John Silkin

Does not the Minister of State's first reply show how irrelevant was the reply of the Secretary of State for Defence to my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies)? As we are talking about roads, what relevance do the bases have? The fact of the matter is that Britain has no control over the cruise missiles, whatever the truth may be about the bases.

Mr. Blaker

My right hon. Friend has dealt carefully, fairly and explicitly with the question of control and I have nothing to add.

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