HC Deb 12 July 1983 vol 45 cc759-60
Q2. Mr. Stuart Holland

asked the Prime Minister whether she will seek to negotiate with President Reagan an agreement on joint control of United States nuclear weapons on British soil.

The Prime Minister

I have already reviewed with President Reagan the existing understandings between the United Kingdom and the United States governing the use by the United States of nuclear weapons and bases in this country. I described the effect of these understandings in answer to a question on 12 May and again on 30 June.

Mr. Holland

Is the Prime Minister aware of the great concern inside and outside the House about the lack of transparent agreement on these matters? If, in fact, there can be no guarantee of dual control of these weapons, does she agree that the so-called nuclear defence strategy of the Government will be seen to be neither independent of, nor co-dependent with, the United States, but utterly dependent on President Reagan?

The Prime Minister

If the hon. Gentleman has indeed read the reply that I gave again on 30 June, he will know that joint decision means exactly what it says. It would require the decision of both President Reagan—or the then President of the United States—and the current Prime Minister before any such weapon could be fired. President Reagan has already made that perfectly clear and has said in the United States that it is tantamount to a veto.

Mr. Faulds

Gullible lady.

Mr. Stokes

Is my right hon. Friend aware that while most people are quite satisfied with the arrangements for the control of nuclear weapons here, what does concern them, and concerned them at the last general election, is the utter lack of concern shown by Opposition Members to the huge build-up of Soviet arms facing this country and threatening our way of life?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend. It is NATO that has made extensive proposals in Geneva and, for many years, in Vienna, for disarmament.

Dr. Owen

Do logistic difficulties mean that it might not be possible to deploy Pershing 2 in Germany and cruise missiles in Italy at the end of this year, should it be necessary? Does this not underline the importance of having RAF personnel involved in the dual key mechanism if Britain alone of the NATO allies has to deploy cruise missiles at the end of the year?

The Prime Minister

I am not aware of any such logistic difficulties, particularly with regard to Germany. It is Germany's intention to deploy at the end of the year in accordance with our agreements.

Mr. Dykes

Was not a striking feature of the election campaign the complete public satisfaction and calm on the issue of joint decision-making and supervision? It was not an election issue, despite Left-wing attempts to build it up as such. Does my right hon. Friend agree that public acceptance of an obviously sensitive arrangement that has lasted for many years will continue in the future?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend. The last election showed two things very clearly: first, that the British people believe that Britain's defences should remain strong and part of NATO and, secondly, that disarmament should be on a multilateral, balanced and verifiable basis.