HC Deb 07 March 1989 vol 148 cc745-7
8. Mr. Anthony Coombs

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent representations he has received advocating a defence policy of reciprocal unilaterism.

Mr. Archie Hamilton

The Ministry of Defence has received no letters on the subject of reciprocal unilaterialism since last year's summer recess. The Government share with our allies a security policy based on strength in defence and readiness for dialogue.

Mr. Coombs

Will my hon. Friend confirm that reciprocal unilateralism is really a transparent sleight of hand by certain Opposition Members to defend the indefensible? Does he also agree that it is an attempt to conceal from the British public Labour party defence policies that are not only profoundly dangerous but that have been regarded as unrealistic by the Soviets themselves, and are proof positive that, far from the Labour party being able to run a defence policy for this country, it could not even run a bath?

Mr. Hamilton

My hon. Friend is right. I can see no difference between reciprocal unilateralism and the policy that the Opposition adopted at the last election which was robustly rejected by the electorate. What we are talking about is the hook on which the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) finds herself—trying to reconcile her former chairmanship of CND with being on the Labour Front Bench at a time when the party is changing its policy.

Ms. Short

Did not the Minister hear the Secretary of State say a few moments ago that NATO had unilaterally got rid of many weapons? The whole world knows that Gorbachev has taken a series of unilateral initiatives. Is it not the case that in so far as we are making progress on disarmament, it has been a process of reciprocal unilateralism?

Mr. Hamilton

I think that the hon. Lady is playing with words. We all know what unilateralism means to the Labour party. Labour supporters would get rid of our independent deterrent without expecting anything in return or, if there was something in return, it would be very minimal. They would leave us with nothing when our enemies would still have considerable nuclear capability.

Mr. Hind

Will my hon. Friend confirm that he is a multilateralist and, unlike 100 opposition Members, he has no plans to join CND? He will, therefore, have no use for a bilateral, unilateral and multilateral nuclear defence policy, whatever that means.

Mr. Hamilton

I certainly confirm that I have no intention of joining CND. It is quite interesting that the whole idea of reciprocal unilateralism was advocated by an American, Mr. Leonard Sullivan. He said, however, that, if the reciprocation did not come through, he believed that nations should go back to rebuilding their nuclear arsenals with up-to-date weapons. I cannot believe that that is what the hon. Lady the Member for Lewisham (Ms. Ruddock) is advocating.

Dr. Thomas

Is the Minister not being completely hypocritical, because the Government have just indicated their endorsement of non-reciprocal unilateral short-range modernisation?

Mr. Hamilton

Hon. Members are continuing to play with words—[Interruption] We have always thought it necessary to keep our weapons up to date, otherwise there would be no point in having them.

Mr. Baldry

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is impossible for the Opposition to reconcile reality with the policies of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament? The more the Opposition try to do so by their various policy somersaults, the more they demonstrate that they are completely unfit to govern this country, to keep our defences and to maintain the peace.

Mr. Hamilton

That is right. I do not believe that anyone in the country will be fooled by the Opposition's performance. Although the Opposition are trying to obscure what they are up to, they will end up leaving people bemused and certainly in no way convinced that they have a reputable policy with which to defend this country.