HC Deb 10 April 1984 vol 58 cc179-80
1. Mr. David Atkinson

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what consultations he has had with his United States counterpart on space defence systems.

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Michael Heseltine)

I enjoy satisfactory and frequent consultations with Mr. Weinberger on all matters of common defence interest, including space.

Mr. Atkinson

Given Britain's knowledge and expertise in satellite technology, is there not here an opportunity for the closest possible collaboration with the United States on anti-satellite and anti-missile technology from the point of view of space defence systems?

Mr. Heseltine

My hon. Friend will appreciate that our speciality is much more in communication satellites than in any other activity. It is important to remember that at this stage the Americans are considering a very long-term research programme. It is, therefore, much too early to anticipate any possible developments that could come at a later stage.

Mr. Strang

Do the British Government support President Reagan's decision to develop the capability to fight a nuclear war in space?

Mr. Heseltine

The President is considering the possibilities of ensuring that there are no threats to the United States or its allies from space developments. It is a long-term research project and it is understandable, given the capability of the Soviet Union, that he should undertake such a research consideration.

Mr. Michael Marshall

Whatever consultations may proceed with the United States, particularly in the context of NASA and perhaps in relation to civil applications spreading to military use, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he agrees that the European option might also be explored, because we may want to consider a situation which is simply not left to the Russians and the Americans?

Mr. Heseltine

My hon. Friend is as aware as I am of the history of European collaboration on space projects. I believe that there is an argument for continuing to keep in close touch on these matters through the European Space Agency.

Mr. McNamara

Rather than supporting the United States President's policy of research into space systems, should not Her Majesty's Government be urging the United States to have discussions with the Soviet Union to prevent a further escalation of the arms race in space?

Mr. Heseltine

The hon. Gentleman is as aware as I am that the United States is pursuing the opportunities for arms control in a whole range of forums, and we support that. But in this instance, where it is considering a research programme, it has made it clear that at this stage it does not see any means of verification.

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