HC Deb 17 January 1984 vol 52 cc146-8
2. Mr. Dubs

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what representations he has received about cruise missiles at Greenham common.

9. Mr. Teddy Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many letters he has received in his official capacity on the issue of cruise over the past year.

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

I received 2,102 letters from Members of Parliament and from members of the public during 1983.

Mr. Dubs

Is the Secretary of State aware that Members of Parliament are grateful that he has acknowledged our representations that we should be allowed to visit Greenham common, a visit which I believe has been arranged for next Tuesday? Will he confirm that it is his intention that the visit should take place by helicopter? What is the reason for this appalling waste of public money, if that is what is to happen? Is it because the Secretary of State is afraid that some of us might talk to the women of Greenham common before entering the base?

Mr. Heseltine

From my knowledge of events, Labour Members who wish to talk to the Greenham common women have already taken the opportunity to do so.

Mr. Taylor

In view of the massive propaganda drive being conducted by the CND and other organisations, will my right hon. Friend take every opportunity to get across the basic fact that we could very quickly get rid of cruise missiles if only the Russians would agree to remove their comparable weapons? Secondly, will my right hon. Friend point out that we are trying to defend ourselves against a regime which sends protesters against nuclear weapons to prison or psychiatric hospitals?

Mr. Heseltine

My hon. Friend goes to the heart of the matter. We in the NATO Alliance have spent four years trying to avoid the need to deploy cruise missiles, and it is only because the Soviet Union refused to conclude satisfactorily the arms control negotiations with us that we took the inevitable steps, in policy terms, that we did.

Mr. Strang

Is the Secretary of State aware that I delivered to his office this morning a large chunk of concrete which the Greenham common women believe was thrown over the perimeter fence on to one of their tents in the middle of the night just before Christmas by a British soldier? Has he noticed the recent reports in the press of the harassment of the Greenham common women by British soldiers? Will he take this opportunity to make it clear that he is opposed to any such harassment and that if any Member of Parliament provides him with precise details of any such incident it will be investigated?

Mr. Heseltine

I think that I can help the hon. Gentleman. I am against members of the armed forces throwing concrete at people.

Mr. Soames

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the deployment of cruise represents a significant setback for Soviet foreign policy and that the women of Greenham common are in no way representative of public opinion?

Mr. Heseltine

My hon. Friend is right, and the reason why the ladies of Greenham common have to go to such lengths to get publicity for their cause is that they cannot be elected and voice their views in a democratic forum.

Mr. Denzil Davies

Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Dubs)? Is it a fact that the Ministry of Defence is making arrangements to fly Members of Parliament into Greenham common? If that is so, why is it being done in this way? Of what is the Secretary of State afraid?

Mr. Heseltine

We shall make arrangements to fly those hon. Members who wish to see Greenham common to the base by fixed-wing aircraft. The reason for that is clear. We think that it will enable Members of Parliament to go about their legitimate functions of representing and inquiring into these matters without the need to face organised demonstrations—

Mr. Willie W. Hamilton

Now we know.

Mr. Heseltine

—by people who are seeking media coverage for a cause and whom right hon. and hon. Gentlemen would be free to consult if it were in their interest to do so.

Mr. Denzil Davies


Mr. Speaker

Order. There are other questions on this matter.