HC Deb 15 April 1986 vol 95 cc721-2
10. Mr. Boyes

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will now publish the memorandum of understanding on the strategic defence initiative following the German Government's decision to do so.

Mr. Norman Lamont

No. The United States-United Kingdom memorandum of understanding on United Kingdom participation in the United States research programme is classified. I understand that the corresponding agreement between the United States and the Federal Republic of Germany, signed on 27 March 1986, is confidential and will not be published.

Mr. Boyes

Irrespective of the actions of the Federal Republic of Germany, why does the Minister insist on secrecy for this memorandum of understanding? Surely Parliament has a right to know—or is it all to do with the Prime Minister's docile, weak-kneed, agree-at-any-price relationship with the President of the United States of America, as demonstrated in the last 24 hours?

Mr. Lamont

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the memorandum of understanding is an agreement between our Government and the Government of the United States. The latter Government are also negotiating agreements with several other Governments, and in the circumstances it would be utterly astonishing if they wanted to have that agreement made available publicly.

Mr. Warren

As my hon. Friend knows, I have received a copy of this document from the United States, which bears no classification sign of any kind. Therefore, I should like confirmation from him of the degree of classification that it is being given in the United States. Secondly, will he please reconsider publication, because this document contains commitments and constraints on British industry which have been made known to British industrialists and I think ought to be made known to Parliament?

Mr. Lamont

I had noticed the report in a newspaper that my hon. Friend had received the document. Whether he has received the memorandum of understanding or a different document on procurement co-operation, I do not know. If he has received this document, all I can say is that I note that he is in possession of a classified document.

Mr. Meadowcroft

Does the memorandum include a statement on the vulnerability of Europe and the destabilisation of deterrence as a result of the SDI along the lines of his right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary's initial comments? Will he publish at least those aspects?

Mr. Lamont

I can tell the hon. Gentleman, without giving anything away, that it does not cover that matter because, of course, the memorandum of understanding is concerned with matters such as transfer of technology, intellectual property rights, commercial matters and the basis on which companies and institutions in this country would do deals with United States institutions on the SDI project.

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