HC Deb 29 November 1988 vol 142 c562
4. Mr. Ron Davies

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether he has discussed with any of his North Atlantic Treaty Organisation colleagues the possibility of a missile flight ban.

Mr. Archie Hamilton

The United States continues to keep its allies fully informed about its bilateral negotiations with the Soviet Union in a possible START agreement. There has been no proposal for a missile flight test ban.

Mr. Davies

Does the Minister accept that the Government are being inconsistent in not pressing for a ban? Surely any improvement in ballistic missile technology will be an advantage to the side that strikes first, which is completely incompatible with the Government's overall view on strategy.

Mr. Hamilton

The hon. Gentleman is well aware that Trident is a new system, and it is essential that it is tested to ensure that it operates properly. Unless we had that confidence, it would not be a deterrent.

Mr. Brazier

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the need for nuclear weapons, which includes the need for tested missiles to carry them, will remain as long as there is an overwhelming conventional advantage for the other side?

Mr. Hamilton

Yes, that is right. It is important that we should be able to continue to test our systems and to ensure that they work properly.