HC Deb 24 March 1987 vol 113 cc154-5
10. Mr. Dykes

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the numbers and types of representations on different defence and disarmament options which he has received from members of the public since the beginning of the current year.

Mr. Stanley

According to available records, my Department so far in 1987 has received some 340 letters from right hon. and hon. Members and directly from the general public on defence policy and disarmament issues. Most of these are either requests for information or comments on aspects of nuclear policy and arms control.

Mr. Dykes

Did any of the comments and suggestions in the party document "Europe's New Detente" include the ludicrous suggestion that there might be individual sets of negotiations with individual Warsaw Pact countries on conventional arms reductions, excluding the Soviet Union?

Mr. Stanley

I notice that that publication has emerged only recently. I am not surprised that we have not had any representations in relation to it, but I expect that we shall certainly have some. I fully agree with my hon. Friend. It would be a ludicrous posture for any British Government to adopt.

Mr. Leigh

Given the nature of the Warsaw Pact, is it not laughable to imagine that countries such as Poland and Czechoslovakia would be allowed to make individual agreements with any Western countries, given the fact that hundreds of thousands of Soviet troops are stationed in those countries to hold down subject populations?

Mr. Stanley

My hon. Friend makes a telling point. Our arms control posture is served well by advancing on a NATO-wide basis. That is the only sensible basis on which we can pursue negotiations on behalf of the Alliance as a whole.

Mr. Corbyn

How many representations has the Minister had concerning the deployment of cruise missiles at Molesworth? Will he confirm that cruise missiles have been taken to Molesworth this week in advance of the Prime Minister's meeting with Mr. Gorbachev? Is this not a deliberate attempt to escalate world tension?

Mr. Stanley

I can provide no such confirmation to the hon. Gentleman. I am quite certain that the great majority of people in this country now recognise that it is only by the successful deployment of NATO cruise missiles and Pershing 2 that we now have the possibility of making real progress in getting rid of a major class of weapons.

Mr. Greg Knight

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, in defence terms, the cancellation of Trident makes about as much sense as the Labour party conference decision in the 1930s to scrap the Royal Air Force?

Mr. Stanley

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding us of that very important piece of history. The removal of the British independent strategic deterrent makes absolutely no sense whatsover, just as it makes no sense whatsover to attempt to resist and to deter the nuclear threat with conventional weapons, which is the absurd policy of the Opposition Front Bench.