HC Deb 11 December 1984 vol 69 cc892-4
2. Mr. Wigley

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he has any plans to alter security precautions for exercises involving cruise missile convoys.

5. Mr. Home Robertson

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he has any proposals to change the security precautions for exercises involving cruise convoys.

The Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Mr. John Stanley)

Security precautions always remain under review.

Mr. Wigley

Is the Minister aware that, in the early hours of 15 November, when a convoy of cruise missiles was entering Longmoor camp in Hampshire, two local inhabitants who were disturbed by the convoy were kidnapped by the police, deposited in a 5 ft deep pit, fenced by barbed wire, and guarded by two armed soldiers? Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the deployment of cruise missiles will inevitably lead to this sort of erosion of civil rights and put us on the road to totalitarianism?

Mr. Stanley

The hon. Gentleman has an extraordinary recollection of that event. Those individuals were trespassing in a military training area during a military exercise. To protect them, they were put in the one place where there was some shelter and cover from the elements—a rifle range, which was not, of course, being used at that time.

Mr. Home Robertson

Does the Minister accept that interference with telephone lines in the neighbourhood of cruise missile convoy exercises, as happened last night, is neither tolerable nor legitimate as a security precaution? Does the right hon. Gentleman now accept that his strategy of trying to hide American weapons in the British countryside is doomed to failure, because many thousands of people will not turn a blind eye to what is going on?

Mr. Stanley

The hon. Gentleman is mistaken. The off-base deployment programme of ground-launched cruise missiles for training purposes has been extremely successful.

Sir Antony Buck

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is most important that there should be off-base deployment to maintain the credibility and deterrence effect of the second strike power of all this weaponry? It seems to me that that approach is broadly accepted not only by those who live in the area but by those who are concerned about defence matters.

Mr. Stanley

I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend for making that point. He is entirely correct.

Mr. John Browne

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the activity of people such as those who participate in Cruise Watch—whether or not they are aware of it—in monitoring the movement of these missiles off-base only aids and abets this country's enemies?

Mr. Stanley

I agree with my hon. Friend that the amount of time and effort devoted by certain small minorities to watching cruise missiles is strange. Some Conservative Members wish that those people would devote the same amount of energy to watching the progress on SS20s on the other side of the wall.

Mr. Denzil Davies

Are not all these problems an indication of how ridiculous it is to base cruise missiles not only in Britain but in the most populous areas of southern England? Is it not a fact that the cardinal principle of ground-launched missiles is that they should be mobile and not be detected? These missiles are not mobile. It seems that everyone from here to the Kremlin knows where they are.

Mr. Stanley

That is not the case, as the right hon. Gentleman knows. The Government and NATO were right to serve notice on the Soviet Union that the massive increase in its capacity to blackmail western Europe through the SS20s would not go unanswered by the West.

Mr. Viggers

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that such are the safeguards built into the cruise missile system that the only risk of deployment is a traffic accident and, therefore, the right action for right minded people is to ensure that deployment can occur without obstruction?

Mr. Stanley

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point. I am sure that all responsible people believe that deployment for training purposes is a necessary part of deterrence. Responsible people will enable those deployments to take place.