HC Deb 15 April 1986 vol 95 cc713-4
3. Mrs. Clwyd

asked the Secretary of State for Defence which projects his Department has approved and funded on strategic defence initiative-related research in United Kingdom universities.

The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Mr. Norman Lamont)

The hon. Lady's question is based on a misunderstanding. It has been made clear that the United Kingdom is not contributing funds to the United States SDI research programme, nor is it subject to approval by the Ministry of Defence.

Mrs. Clwyd

Given the fears expressed many times in the House on the dangers of SDI, how can anyone be expected to trust the Government when they have shown that they are ready to deceive the House, the people of Britain and our European allies by mounting a senseless, dangerous attack on another country—Libya?

Mr. Lamont

I am surprised that the hon. Lady is not more enthusiastic about SDI, because the Labour party advocates a non-nuclear defence policy. It is extraordinary that the hon. Lady had nothing to say about the enormous efforts being made by the Soviet Union. Why did she say nothing about the extensive programme employing thousands of scientists on high energy lasers and about the space launch system which the Soviet Union is developing, which is essential for a space-launched weapons system?

Sir Peter Emery

What guidance has my hon. Friend arranged for universities so that they may know of the participation and research contracts that can be made available to British industry and universities to assist and benefit from the SDI programme, which we should encourage?

Mr. Lamont

I have written to universities and institutions of higher education which we think could be involved in the programme. We have explained to them what our SDI office can do. We shall arrange a series of briefings in which we hope institutions of higher education will participate.

Dr. Bray

Has the hon. Gentleman read the United States Department of Defence report by the Eastport committee? Is he aware that the report characterises SDI as being likely in its early stages to be more effective as an offensive rather than a defensive system?

Mr. Lamont

President Reagan has made it clear that it is intended as a defensive system. Our commitment is to the research programme. That programme will establish the basis of the project. It implies nothing beyond research.

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

Are funds being made available for the possible study of a European defence initiative?

Mr. Lamont

As I explained in answer to the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd), the project is funded by the United States Government. A European architecture study is obviously an important aspect of that. It will be carried on bilaterally between the companies and countries of Europe and the United States.

Mr. McNamara

The Minister said that universities should not need the approval of the Ministry of Defence on work they did under the SDI. What check does the Ministry of Defence make of any of our secrets which may go to the United States? What information does the Ministry demand from universities as part and parcel of the work that they do on SDI?

Mr. Lamont

The universities are subject to the normal security procedures to which defence contractors are subject. That does not mean that, over and above security considerations, we have a veto over the work that they do.