HC Deb 12 July 1983 vol 45 cc747-9
4. Mr. Flannery

asked the Secretary of State for Defence on what date he expects the delivery of the cruise missiles to begin.

9. Mr. Adley

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the timetable for the installation of cruise missiles.

Mr. Heseltine

As my hon. Friend the former Minister of State for the Armed Forces informed the House on 3 May, preparations are proceeding to enable deployment of cruise missiles in the United Kingdom to begin by the end of the year unless an agreement involving the total elimination of all longer-range land-based intermediate range nuclear force missiles can be reached in the arms control negotiations in Geneva. I am not prepared to discuss the details of these preparations.

Mr. Flannery

Is it not a fact that an election is no good reason for an elected dictatorship and that opinion polls have revealed that a majority of the British people are against cruise and Trident missiles? Is it not also a fact that we in Britain have almost a third of those horrific missiles, yet the House has no means of knowing whether the Prime Minister's finger shares the trigger with the President of the United States, although most believe that the one finger on the trigger is that of the United States' President?

Mr. Heseltine

That matter has been fully ventilated in the House and the House is fully aware of the joint decision-making arrangements with the President of the United States. I do not know of any context in which an elected dictatorship could apply in Britain, unless it were the result of policies to which the hon. Gentleman gives his name.

Mr. Adley

In view of the implied insult to the integrity of the Queen's Own Highlanders following their measures at Greenham Common to defend the cruise base against the activities of the women there, which was referred to a moment ago by my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Spicer), does my right hon. Friend agree that that would be serious were it not for the fact that it came from a discredited cleric? Will my right hon. Friend support me in a recommendation to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that, in view of the notable contribution by the CND to the Conservative party's election victory, a knighthood or some other signal honour should be conferred upon Monsignor Bruce Kent?

Mr. Heseltine

I should support such a recommendation only on the basis that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has shown remarkable skill in rejecting other frivolous suggestions.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I appeal for shorter supplementary questions, please.

Mr. George Robertson

If the deployment of cruise missiles goes ahead and the INF talks continue after that. what proposals for verification will the Government put forward which the Soviet Union will think are sensible and reasonable?

Mr. Heseltine

That implies that I know what the Soviet Union will accept. The verification issue is at the centre of the debate and we have never yet been able to persuade the Soviet Union to accept on-site inspection, which is critical if there is to be mutual confidence.

Mr. Bottomley

Is it worth trying to explain to the Opposition that there is the problem of the unelected dictatorship of the Soviet Union? People who look for weapons control and arms reduction should spend as much time being concerned about SS20s as they do about nuclear weapons on this side.

Mr. Heseltine

My hon. Friend comes to the heart of the matter. He can rely on the good sense of the British people, who rejected the advice of Labour Members on the matter.

Sir Patrick Wall

Is it not unlikely that the Soviet Union will negotiate seriously at either the INF talks or the mutual and balanced force reduction talks until the cruise missiles are deployed, after which we may expect serious negotiations?

Mr. Heseltine

I respect my hon. Friend's views, but I hope that that will not prove to be the case. It would be much more desirable if the Soviet Union were now to take seriously the decisions that were announced in 1979 to proceed four years later with the deployment of those weapon systems if we could not pursue meaningful negotiations in the meantime. I hope that the Soviet Union will realise that we mean what we say.

Mr. Meadowcroft

1 question the Secretary of State's rather bizarre arithmetic on the mandate for and against cruise at the election, but does he accept that the basis for discussions on cruise is that it represents a dangerous escalation of the nuclear balance with an unverifiable weapon which may be placed here in the future?

Mr. Heseltine

The deployment of the cruise missile system is to counter the deployment of the Soviet SS20s, and as such it was the logical extension of the plans upon which the previous Labour Government were working.

Dr. McDonald

Why does the Secretary of State stick to an arbitrary timetable for the deployment of cruise missiles? If he and his Government are serious about disarmament talks, why not delay the deployment of cruise missiles to give time for agreement to be reached at Geneva?

Mr. Heseltine

Conservative Members think that four years is adequate if the Soviet Union has any intention of negotiating.

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