HC Deb 01 February 1983 vol 36 cc129-30
4. Miss Wright

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will list the United States nuclear bases in Great Britain.

Mr. Blaker

There is a facility for United States Poseidon submarines at Holy Loch, and United States aircraft with a nuclear as well as a conventional capability are based at two RAF stations in the United Kingdom. It is not the practice either to confirm or deny the presence or absence of nuclear weapons at any particular location.

Miss Wright

Are the Government prepared to include a list of these bases in any advertisements that they may take relating to the nuclear disarmament debate? Does he not agree that the anxiety of members of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, is understandable and that we cannot discover from the Government any information about where the nuclear arms are held or what sort of danger they represent to the nation?

Mr. Blaker

It has been the policy of successive Governments neither to confirm nor deny the presence or absence of muclear weapons at any particular location. That was the policy of Labour Governments.

There has been a great deal of misinformation about lists of United States bases. Some newspapers—the New Statesman, for example—alleged that there were over 100 United States bases in the United Kingdom. Upon investigation, one of them turned out to be a petrol pump in the Edgware Road. If hon. Gentlemen want to know where United States bases are in the United Kingdom they have only to look at the questions answered by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in 1980 and 1981, largely in answer to the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer).

Mr. Wilkinson

Does my hon. Friend agree that these bases are the ultimate guarantee of our security and that we would be much more vulnerable were the United States deterrent to be wielded on our behalf without there being such bases in the United Kingdom?

Mr. Blaker

I entirely agree that they are the guarantee of our liberty and have been ever since they have been here with the consent of Governments of both parties. I was interested to see that in a recent public opinion poll the majority of Labour voters supported the retention of United States bases in this country.

Mr. Denzil Davies

Does the Minister agree that many of those bases, not just in Great Britain but in Europe, are the consequence of NATO's first use of nuclear weapons doctrine? Rather than trying to market the bomb, would it not be better for the Government to conduct a campaign within NATO to move away from first use to no first use of nuclear weapons? Many of those bases would not then be necessary.

Mr. Blaker

I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman's premise. We have a better policy, which is no first use of any weapons. A doctrine or statement from the Soviet Union about no first us of nuclear weapons would be entirely unverifiable. It is not one upon which I should recommend we rely, since the Soviet Union has breached so many of its undertakings in the past.