HC Deb 11 December 1984 vol 69 cc896-7
6. Mr. Chapman

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what are the equivalent numbers of nuclear missiles targeted by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Warsaw pact countries on western Europe and vice-versa.

Mr. Stanley

As detailed on page 43 of the "Statement on the Defence Estimates 1984", the Soviet Union has deployed about 1,800 intermediate and short-range land-based nuclear missiles facing western Europe. The equivalent figure for NATO systems based in Europe facing the Soviet Union is some 300. Strategic nuclear missile systems would be additional on both sides.

Mr. Chapman

As there is clearly an imbalance in nuclear missiles in favour of the Eastern bloc, would not any simple nuclear freeze result in a greater threat to western Europe unless it were the first stage of an agreed, verifiable multilateral disarmament programme?

Mr. Stanley

My hon. Friend is entirely right. The fallacy of a nuclear freeze is that in the present circumstances it would merely freeze the very substantial superiority of the Soviet Union in this area and remove any incentive for the Soviet Union to reduce that superiority.

Mr. Robert C. Brown

Is not the question of balance in terms of the number of warheads completely academic? Does the Minister appreciate that if nuclear war broke out in Europe many fewer missiles than those now sited would create a very cindery situation in this country and mainland Europe?

Mr. Stanley

I remind the hon. Gentleman that the policy of successive Governments has been that multilateral disarmament should be on a balanced and verifiable basis.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

Does the Minister accept that whether he is counting missiles or warheads, which he is not counting today, the deployment of sea-launched cruise missiles, not only in the waters surrounding Europe but in the Atlantic and other areas totally annihilates the potential for verifiable arms control?

Mr. Stanley

The deployment to which the hon. Gentleman refers is carried out by both the United States and the Soviet Union. In the short term, the Soviet Union is likely to have an operational capability for strategic ground-launched cruise missiles, strategic air-launched cruise missiles and strategic sea-launched cruise missiles.

Mr. Terlezki

As Mr. Chernenko is to visit this country soon, will my right hon. Friend give him a message to take back to the Soviet Union—that we want peace, but not at any price; that if the Soviets dismantle their nuclear missiles we will dismantle ours; and that the British people are not naive?

Mr. Stanley

My hon. Friend summarises the message very well. The British Government want a more peaceful world, and a world that is also more secure. That means multilateral balanced disarmament by both sides.

Mr. Denzil Davies

When we consider nuclear missiles, must we not also consider strategic as well as Euro and intermediate missiles? On the question of a freeze, is it not true that there is a balance now, generally speaking, between the Soviet Union and the West?

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned multilateral talks. Can he tell us whether the British Government favour talks to cover both strategic and intermediate range weapons? As he is so keen on multilateral disarmament, will he also tell us whether the British Government will be present at those talks?

Mr. Stanley

Like the American Government. the British Government favour participation in both the strategic and intermediate areas. We have been taking part in the negotiations. We have been directly involved, for example in the talks on chemical weapons. Traditionally, strategic negotiations have been matters for the United States and the Soviet Union.