HC Deb 17 June 1986 vol 99 cc900-1
7. Mr. Strang

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions he has had with his European counterparts within the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation about how best to halt the nuclear arms race; and if he wll make a statement.

Mr. Younger

I had useful discussions with both my European and North American counterparts at last month's meeting of the Defence Planning Committee. We confirmed our objective of seeking balanced, equitable and verifiable arms control agreements involving United States and Soviet nuclear forces and expressed our strong support for the United States stance in the Geneva negotiations. Details are contained in the DPC communiqué, a copy of which is in the Library.

Mr. Strang

Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that the whole world was dismayed at President Reagan's threat last month at that very meeting to breach the SALT 2 treaty later this year? Do the Government support the American Administration on this matter?

Mr. Younger

The hon. Gentleman should look carefully at what the American Administration has said. As my right hon. Friend has already made clear, we welcome President Reagan's decision to continue to respect, for the time being, the constraints of the unratified SALT agreement by dismantling two Poseidon submarines. The President's statement on 27 May makes it clear that, if the Soviet Union takes constructive steps between now and the end of the year to alter the current position, the President will take that into account in reviewing whether the United States should exceed SALT 2 limits. Thus the door has been left open, and there is a clear opportunity for the Soviet Union to respond constructively.

Mr. Forman

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the best next step that the Government could take and urge upon their allies to limit, if not halt, the nuclear arms race would be a progressive step-by-step reduction in not only frequency hut the number of' underground nuclear tests, as recommended by Chancellor Kohl?

Mr. Younger

I appreciate my hon. Friend's point. We have repeatedly made it clear that we favour a comprehensive test ban, if that can be achieved. The key is adequate steps for verification, and we shall pursue that line.

Mr. Allan Roberts

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that one way to help to prevent the arms race is to support non-proliferation treaties? To that end, is it not unwise to re-process other people's spent fuel at Sellafield, as we plan to do with the THORP project, to produce plutonium, which we would send back to countries such as Germany and Japan? We know that plutonium can be used only to produce nuclear weapons.

Mr. Younger

That is a different question. The position in this country has always been that, provided adequate safety provisions are carefully adhered to, these industrial matters should he pursued in an industrial manner.

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