HC Deb 24 May 1988 vol 134 cc179-80
2. Mr. Norman Hogg

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions he has had with the United States Defence Secretary about sea-launched cruise missiles.

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. George Younger)

Mr. Carlucci and I discuss a wide variety of defence and security matters. The details of our discussions are confidential.

Mr. Hogg

Is it not clear that the Secretary of State has sanctioned the use of Holy Loch for sea-launched cruise missiles without the House being consulted? Is it not a fact that the occasional visits of these submarines will become frequent visits? Is that not very different from what the Secretary of State told the Defence Select Committee? Has not a major strategic defence change taken place? This is a serious matter that the House should discuss on a future occasion.

Mr. Younger

The hon. Gentleman is wrong. There has been no change in the practice or status of Holy Loch. The Government would be consulted by the United States' authorities if they wished to base a new class of nuclear weapon in the United Kingdom. United States' SSNs visit Holy Loch occasionally, but no decisions for any change of principle have been taken.

Mr. Bill Walker

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the advantage of bases on the west coast of Scotland is that they offer access to deep water so that submarines can come and go without potential enemies being able to track them down? It would be nonsense not to use them effectively and properly for the NATO deterrent.

Mr. Younger

I agree with my hon. Friend. The many military advantages of the bases on the west coast of Scotland have been recognised by all Governments, both Labour and Conservative, in the past.

Sir Antony Buck

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is a good thing that United States' ships pay frequent visits to our ports? They increase the deterrent capability of NATO, and that should be so.

Mr. Younger

My hon. and learned Friend is correct. The United States is one of our principal allies in defending western Europe and this country, and visits by its ships are very welcome.