HC Deb 03 May 1983 vol 42 cc11-2
11. Mr. Chapman

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the rate of change in the balance of nuclear intermediate range weapons between the Warsaw Pact and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries.

Mr. Blaker

The Warsaw Pact has about 4,000 intermediate range nuclear weapons, while the equivalent NATO total is under 1,000. Although these figures for weapons systems have remained fairly constant for the last few years, the figure for actual warheads has shown a marked increase for the Warsaw Pact. Since 1977 the number of Soviet warheads on systems targeted on western Europe has increased by over 700 with the deployment of the SS20 missile. NATO has no comparable system and the planned NATO modernisation programme will entail no increase in NATO warhead numbers.

Mr. Chapman

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that information. Does not his answer underline two points? First, would not anyone having a scintilla of doubt about Russia's desire to reduce tension in Europe and reduce its nuclear arsenal have his reservations utterly justified? Secondly, is not the deployment of cruise not only a replacement for our more obsolete weapons, but a direct response to the deployment of SS20s by the Russians?

Mr. Blaker

I agree with my hon. Friend that, on the basis of Soviet action, we can only be pessimistic about that country's intentions. I hope that if we remain resolute and united in NATO in our negotiating posture the Russians will, in due course, agree to some sensible arrangement to reduce the number of SS20s that they have deployed.

I agree that the cruise and Pershing II missiles are intended partly to replace out-of-date weapons systems such as the Vulcan bomber, and partly to match the very big build up of SS20s.

Mr. Frank Allaun

As American officials favouring agreement have been removed, is the Minister convinced that Washington really wants any arms negotiations to succeed?

Mr. Blaker

I do not know to which officials the hon. Gentleman is referring. He may be referring to Mr. Rostow, but he would be drawing false conclusions if he read into that change of personnel any sign of a weakening of the American desire to reach agreement, whether in the INF or the START negotiations. The hon. Gentleman will know that the Americans have put forward bold proposals for reductions. We need a sensible response from the Soviet Union.

Mr. Maclennan

Can the Minister confirm that the Warsaw Pact intermediate range weapons are targeted not only on this country but on a number of other countries that do not have intermediate range weapons?

Mr. Blaker

I have no evidence about the targets of the Soviet weapons, but I imagine that the hon. Gentleman is correct.