HC Deb 22 April 1987 vol 114 cc651-3
1. Mr. Campbell-Savours

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made following his recent visit to Moscow of the prospects for a summit meeting between President Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Tim Renton)

Following Mr. Shultz's recent visit to Moscow, prospects for a United States-Soviet summit meeting have become clearer. Mr. Gorbachev is reported as saying that he was ready to meet President Reagan in order to agree on key provisions on strategic offensive weapons, anti-ballistic missile systems and nuclear tests, as well as to conclude a treaty on intermediate range nuclear forces. My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, who saw Mr. Shultz last week, has made it clear that we would welcome a United States-Soviet summit meeting if it contributed to agreement on arms control and progress on human rights and regional issues.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Is it not true that, following the successful visits of a number of Western leaders to Moscow, the world now expects a deal on nuclear weapons? If the Prime Minister trusts Mr. Gorbachev, why does she not only give up cruise missiles but place Trident in these negotiations or further negotiations? Why do the Government not make sure, if a summit takes place, that the French and British independent nuclear deterrents are, if possible, on the table for negotiation?

Mr. Renton

The hon. Member must not try so hard to turn potential silk purses back into sows' ears. It is wholly desirable not just to freeze armaments at their present levels but to try to cut them sharply and, indeed, to try to eliminate certain classes of arms altogether. In attempting to do that we should not put our own security at risk. That is the guiding principle that will be behind us in the months ahead.

Sir Peter Blaker

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is no case for Her Majesty's Government, or any successor Government, giving up Trident? If the possible summit takes place, does my hon. Friend agree that one test of the sincerity of Mr. Gorbachev's wish for better relations and peace will be the willingness of the Soviet Union to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan? Has my hon. Friend any progress to report on that matter?

Mr. Renton

I agree with my right hon. Friend on both points. There is no question of our independent strategic deterrent, or the French strategic deterrent, being part of the present discussions, which concern intermediate range weapons only, and which Mr. Gorbachev did not mention as being part of these discussions during the recent visit of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary to Moscow.

As to Afghanistan, my right hon. Friend is right. That would prove the sincerity of the new regime in Moscow. So far there is no practical sign of Soviet troops being withdrawn from Afghanistan. We hope that in the weeks ahead it will become more evident that they arc reaching an agreement under which it will be possible for the troops to be withdrawn, and for a new Government to take shape in Kabul and represent all the Afghan people.

Mr. James Lamond

Would it not be advisable for this summit meeting to take place as quickly as possible, before those in the United States and in Europe—led by our Prime Minister— who are determined to sabotage any attempt at world nuclear disarmament, are able to exercise their influence too much? May we be told whether the Prime Miniser is a multilateral nuclear disarmer?

Mr. Renton

The hon. Gentleman's words about my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister being determined to sabotage these efforts are so ridiculous as hardly to deserve any answer. It is clear from the initiatives that my right hon. Friend took in Moscow that she is one of the creators of the momentum towards arms control. It was her insistence on the Soviets not maintaining their monopoly in the shorter range intermediate nuclear weapons that has subsequently caused Mr. Gorbachev to say that he is prepared to consider abandoning that monopoly altogether.

Dr. Glyn

Does my hon. Friend agree that while the requirements of the United States may be different from ours it is, nevertheless, vital that in any agreement the United States and Great Britain act together to reach an agreement that secures not only their security but ours as well?

Mr. Renton

Yes, my hon. Friend puts his finger on the point exactly. The road that we must follow is to make quite certain that we do not jeopardise our security at the lower levels of armaments that we wish to achieve, while at the same time ensuring that we do not lose the opportunity to arrive at a sensible and balanced arms control agreement.

Mr. Healey

Now that the Prime Minister at last fully supports the zero option for medium-range missiles in Europe, will she not be persuaded to join President Reagan in welcoming a zero option for shorter range missiles, rather than seek to freeze shorter range missiles at a level that ensures a permanent superiority — she claims, of 9:1 —in favour of the Soviet Union? If her odd position in this is not simply due to what the Russians call her nuclearphilia, and if it is really inspired by concern about the conventional balance in Europe, why has she not taken up the Soviet offer of talks on conventional weapons in Europe, aiming at a 25 per cent. cut in the next three years, plus the removal of any existing disparities between the two sides in this sector? The Minister will recall that the Soviet Government first put this proposal forward last June. Why has there so far been no response from the Western side?

Mr. Renton

The right hon. Gentleman has become the Walter Mitty of the arms control world, with his recent claim on television that he personally had invented the zero-zero option. In the past six weeks Mr. Gorbachev has made three different offers about shorter range intermediate nuclear weapons, each of which has moved the Russian position somewhat nearer to NATO's position. It would be foolish for NATO now, within a matter of hours, to take final decisions without carefully considering what its course of action should be. That consideration is being carried out by groups of experts in NATO, who are meeting today.

On the question of reduction of conventional weapons, the right hon. Gentleman should know that last December the North Atlantic Council agreed that there should be two separate types of negotiations, one dealing with conventional stability at lower levels, and the other on confidence building measures. The first discussions have already taken place with Warsaw pact countries about the conventional stability.