HC Deb 26 June 1984 vol 62 cc798-800
11. Mr. Hoyle

asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many military bases there are in the United Kingdom at which the senior military officer is an American.

Mr. Stanley

American service personnel at military bases in the United Kingdom are all under the command of an American officer. At most bases there is also a RAF commander acting in a liaison role but not subordinate to the American commander.

Mr. Hoyle

Whether or not there is an American commander, will the Minister say which bases house nuclear weapons? In particular, will he, in view of the fears of my constituents, say whether there are nuclear weapons or missiles stored at Burtonwood, Warrington? Will he take action to stop the heavy military manoeuvres by American helicopters at night, because they are disturbing the peace of the neighbourhood?

Mr. Stanley

The policy of the American Government is exactly the same as that of Her Majesty's Government in this matter; we do not confirm or deny the presence of nuclear weapons in individual places.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

Is it not still the case, as it was formerly, that there are no American bases in the United Kingdom but that certain British bases are placed at the disposal of our American allies and that the British flag continues to fly over them?

Mr. Stanley

My hon. Friend has described the position accurately. The arrangements which exist today concerning the use of British facilities by Americans in this country are exactly the same as those which have existed for many years, including under previous Labour Governments. They are arrangements that have commanded the support of those Governments.

Mr. Boyes

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his hon. Friend the Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers) misled the House when he said that Labour Members did not go inside the cruise missile base at Greenham common? Not only did we go inside, but we learnt——

Mr. Speaker

Order. Supplementary questions must be related to the main question.

Mr. Boyes

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that not only did we learn that the base is under the command of a United States officer, but that he alone can decide whether to fire a cruise missile? Is he further aware that the nonsense of claiming that there is dual control was smashed out of existence by those of us who had an opportunity to talk to the American military forces?

Mr. Stanley

The hon. Gentleman cannot have been listening carefully, because the position is quite different from that which he suggests. No cruise missile can be fired in this country without the consent of the British Prime Minister.

Mr. Dorrell

Has my right hon. Friend seen reports of moves in the American Congress which could result in a reduced commitment of American service personnel to the defence of western Europe? While that may be welcome to Labour Members, does my right hon. Friend agree that it would represent a significant shift in the balance of advantage from West to East and would represent a major coup for Soviet propaganda?

Mr. Stanley

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that extremely important point. We welcome the fact that the Congress resolution to which he referred, which called for a reduction in United States forces in Europe, was not passed. The spirit and tenor of many of the questions posed by Opposition Members can hardly encourage our American allies to continue their current level of presence in this country.

Mr. Redmond

Will the right hon. Gentleman say in what connection military personnel or bases have been used in connection with the current mining dispute?

Mr. Stanley

As has been said on many occasions, there is no involvement by military personnel in support of the civil authorities in that dispute.

Mr. Stokes

Does my right hon. Friend agree that within the NATO Alliance, the great shield of the West, the nationality of the individual commander is immaterial? There are surely plenty of British commanders on the mainland of Europe.

Mr. Stanley

My hon. Friend is right. The position whereby American forces in the United Kingdom are under American command is the same as that of British forces in Germany, who are under British command.

Mr. McNamara

Is it possible at any American base in the United Kingdom for British liaison officers to veto American operations?

Mr. Stanley

American operations will be carried out under overall NATO directions, because American forces in the United Kingdom are working within the NATO command structure.

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