HC Deb 26 February 1985 vol 74 cc163-4
14. Dr Mawhinney

asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many service men are currently based at RAF Molesworth.

Mr. Heseltine

The Army personnel have largely withdrawn, their task successfully completed, and the site is now guarded by Ministry of Defence police. There remains a small and variable number of service men, both RAF and Army, with responsibilities for command, control, communications and other support to the Ministry of Defence police.

Dr. Mawhinney

Is my right hon. Friend aware that he may have to increase the number of personnel? The Mayor of Peterborough, in conjunction with Labour and Liberal councillors, is conniving to make available city council property to CND so that it can advise protesters at Molesworth about how to evade and break the law. Will my right hon. Friend accept that while this is typical of the bodies mentioned, it is rejected by the majority of my constituents, who are both law-abiding and supportive of the Government's policies?

Mr. Heseltine

I thank my hon. Friend for giving me such conspicuous notice of the question that he intended to ask. It is quite obvious that the gain of my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) is the loss of my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney). I have no doubt at all that the overwhelming majority of the British people will share my hon. Friend's fury that those who seek to frustrate the will of the majority of the people and Government of this country impose an unwarrantable burden upon the ratepayers of individual constituencies, whose support for those people is no more than that of this House.

Mr. Meadowcroft

Has the Secretary of State considered the ill-timing of the Molesworth operation, which could have a detrimental effect upon the talks between the United States of America and the USSR, which at long last are under way?

Mr. Heseltine

I hope that the hon. Gentleman shares the assumption that the return of the Soviet Union to the negotiating table, from which it walked away, came about because the Western powers remained resolute about the maintenance of their own defence and deterrence. It is precisely because we have remained resolute that the Soviet Union, against the advice of the Opposition and of all the peace groups who tried to frustrate the majority Governments of the West, has now been forced back to the conference table.

Mr. Leigh

Has my right hon. Friend seen the latest pamphlet from CND, which asks its supporters if they wish or do not wish to take part in civil disobedience"? Now that the CND is condemned out of its own mouth for inciting people to break the law, does my right hon. Friend agree that it is essential that his troops and the police should continue to keep the real peace at Molesworth?

Mr. Heseltine

My hon. Friend has paid a great deal of attention to these matters. He is absolutely right. He can be assured that we shall pursue whatever policies are necessary for the maintenance of peace. The publications of CND are not required reading in the Ministry of Defence, unlike The Scotsman. However, we must accept that in a free society there are those who will give all manner of curious advice to constituents. What is so surprising is that the Opposition, who are supposed to believe in law and order, apparently support these actions.

Mr. McNamara

Will the Secretary of State explain to the House that the reason why he is no longer reading CND publications is perhaps because he is now listening in to or reading transcripts of telephone conversations which his Department authorised so that it could obtain political information about non-subversives, which would serve the political interests of the Conservative party and which the security forces could use for that purpose?

Mr. Heseltine

That is an argument that might appeal to the Opposition, but the real reason why I no longer bother to read CND publications is that I found something from the 1930s which contained all the same arguments and which proved to be wholly ill-founded.