HC Deb 29 November 1988 vol 142 c571
16. Ms. Ruddock

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement of the outcome of the Scheveningen meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation nuclear planning group.

Mr. Younger

At the nuclear planning group meeting on 27 and 28 October Ministers reaffirmed the essential contribution made by nuclear weapons to NATO's strategy of deterrence and underlined their determination to take those actions required to keep the Alliance's forces, nuclear and conventional, up to date where necessary. While no decisions were taken or required at the meeting, Ministers noted the progress being made and agreed to continue a step-by-step approach to the work in hand. A copy of the communiqué issued after the meeting, and agreed by all Ministers, has been placed in the Library of the House.

Ms. Ruddock

Is it true that at that meeting the Secretary of State helped to crush Belgium's protest that it was too soon to discuss deploying new nuclear weapons in western Europe? Through those actions, is he not ruling out any further disarmament agreement; such as the INF, that would be available from the Soviet Union and would remove another entire range of nuclear weapons from our continent?

Mr. Younger

There is no truth in what the hon. Lady has said. There was no need for me to alter any Belgian view, because the Belgian Minister made it perfectly clear that he did not disagree with the content of the report. It was merely a matter of the timing of when we should approve it.

As the hon. Lady probably knows, we have succeeded—against all the advice that she has given us over the years—in obtaining the INF treaty, and if we continue to ignore her advice I hope that we shall obtain many more such treaties.