HC Deb 03 May 1983 vol 42 cc8-9
7. Mr. Winnick

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what recent representations he has received concerning the deployment of cruise missiles in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Heseltine

So far this year I have received about 130 letters per month from Members of Parliament and from members of the public on matters relating to the deployment of United States cruise missiles in this country.

Mr. Winnick

Is it because the Government have clearly lost the argument on cruise that they now resort to a policy of smears, innuendo and harassment of their critics while refusing, as the Secretary of State has, to engage in open debate with their critics? As the Secretary of State is supposed to be leading the campaign against CND, why did he not attend last Sunday's demonstration, when he could have joined a handful of people and a dog? Was it because there was no glamour in it, or because it was raining?

Mr. Heseltine

As the hon. Gentleman will know, CND announced a few days ago that it intended to attack the Conservatives in the marginal constituencies, and it is its democratic right to do so. Nevertheless, I thought it right to make it clear to those judging the decision taken that the majority of the elected council of CND were from the Left—varying from the Labour party through to the Communist party. That is a matter of fact, not a smear.

Mr. Adley

Will my right hon. Friend be careful with CND? Does he agree that it would be disastrous for the Conservative party if CND collapsed, as it is most important to our chances of re-election? Does he agree that Labour Members who seem to be motivated by pacifist fantasies should watch television at the weekend to see what goes on in countries such as Poland, where tear gas and water cannon are used against people, and reflect that the reason why we need adequately to defend ourselves is to ensure that we do not have a society that descends to actions of that kind?

Mr. Heseltine

My hon. Friend eloquently makes a point that I believe will have been borne in on British people at the weekend. As for any danger to Conservative re-election prospects and the collapse of CND, I take issue with my hon. Friend. So long as the Labour party remains, we shall be re-elected.

Mr. McNamara

The Secretary of State has clearly forgotten the activities of the Royal Ulster Constabulary with tear gas and water cannon in Northern Ireland from 1969 onwards. Perhaps he will concentrate on the argument about cruise. Does he agree that the agreement covers bases and not weapons, and that once the weapons are dispersed from the bases the British Government will have no control over their use?

Mr. Heseltine

In that case, perhaps the hon. Gentleman will explain why he was content to accept such an agreement in relation to the F111 bomber?