HC Deb 11 April 1989 vol 150 cc731-2
13. Mr. Douglas

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he intends to meet the Secretary of Defence of the United States of America to discuss matters of mutual interest.

Mr. Patnick

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects to meet his new United States of America counterpart; and what matters will be discussed.

Mr. Younger

I hope to meet Mr. Cheney at the meeting of NATO's nuclear planning group in Brussels next week to discuss a range of matters of mutual interest.

Mr. Douglas

May I respectfully ask the Secretary of State to raise with Mr. Cheney the incident relating to the Soviet submarine at the weekend? Is there not a need to reach an international agreement and understanding, particularly among those powers that have nuclear weapons and nuclear-powered submarines, that there should be disclosure about what happens to such vessels when an accident or an incident takes place? Is it not essential that vessels of this type should not fall into the hands of people like Gaddafi? Is it not essential that no power should sell to such people vessels of that type, which could be extremely dangerous to the peace of the world?

Mr. Younger

The hon. Gentleman makes some valid points. Any accident of that kind, whoever is the owner of the ship in question, must cause us all the gravest concern. I note what the hon. Gentleman has said and I shall discuss the matter with Mr. Cheney when I meet him.

Mr. Patnick

Will my right hon. Friend discuss with the United States Defence Secretary the United States commitment to and support of NATO?

Mr. Younger

In a general review of NATO's affairs with Mr. Cheney, I expect to cover these matters generally. I am sure that Mr. Cheney will be able to confirm that the new Administration—like, indeed, all previous Administrations—are firm believers in the effectiveness of NATO as an organisation that is entirely defensive and aims to reduce armaments from a position of strength.

Mr. Cohen

Does the Secretary of State recall telling the House last July that no decisions had been made on NATO force modernisation? Why is it, then, that six weeks previously the United States started work on its new design facilities at RAF Upper Heyford to take new Fills? Will the Secretary of State discuss with the United States Defence Secretary why he is misleading the House?

Mr. Younger

The hon. Gentleman is not correct. No decisions have been taken on the modernisation of any NATO facilities of that kind. Any alternations or improvements that the United States wishes to make to its bases in this country will first have to receive the British Government's permission. Therefore, I deny both the hon. Gentleman's points.

Sir Peter Emery

When my right hon. Friend meets Mr. Cheney and the other Defence Ministers, will he refer them to the speech made by Mr. Tindemans, the Belgian Foreign Minister, at the joint NATO meeting organised by ambassador Abshire, at which a number of hon. Members were present when Mr. Tindemans made it absolutely clear that the Belgian Government would want to support the modernisation of all weapons, nuclear and otherwise, within the NATO armoury?.

Mr. Younger

I thank my hon. Friend for reminding the House about that. The Belgian Government, like all the other members of the Western European Union, have subscribed to the platform of the Western European Union, which clearly commits the whole Alliance to a strategy based on nuclear deterrence.

Mr. O'Neill

Will the Secretary of State reflect on his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) about the construction changes which are to take place at Upper Heyford? Will he look at the military construction appropriations report for 1990 which was presented to the House of Representatives of the United States, because it contains references to major constructions at Upper Heyford as a consequence of a decision to deploy additional aircraft to that site? Will he consider that question and put his reply on record in the Library or write to me or my hon. Friend and correct us, because we seem to be going wrong? It appears that the United States Congress is spending money on something which the Secretary of State seems to know nothing about.

Mr. Younger

Of course I shall consider what the hon. Gentleman has said and write to him, but I stress that the question is whether works are taking place as a result of NATO decisions on modernisation. There have been no such decisions; therefore, that is a clear answer to a clear question.

Mr. Rathbone

On a different aspect of possible co-operation, will my right hon. Friend find out in his discussions whether there is room for initiatives by Britain and the United States in offering military assistance to countries in south America which have to fight the war against the drug barons, to help them restore law and order to their own countries?

Mr. Younger

I note what my hon. Friend says. It is not our policy to detach any forces for operations in south America, but we would always be prepared to discuss with our allies any way we could help in the battle against drugs.

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