HC Deb 04 December 1990 vol 182 cc158-9
2. Mrs. Mahon

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he next expects to meet the Secretary-General of NATO to discuss the role of nuclear weapons.

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Tom King)

I shall meet the Secretary-General of NATO when I am in Brussels later this week for NATO ministerial meetings. Nuclear issues will be among the topics that will be discussed.

Mrs. Mahon

Does the Secretary of State recall last year's NATO commitment to start negotiations on short-range nuclear weapons? Will he move speedily to support the mandate for talks to bring about the third zero, bearing in mind our commitment, under the non-proliferation treaty, to negotiate for disarmament?

Mr. King

The NATO review is continuing. The hon. Lady will know that, after the successful NATO summit in London in July, it was agreed by all the parties present that the alliance must maintain for the foreseeable future an appropriate mix of nuclear and conventional forces, and that work is continuing. The House will welcome the fact that, clearly, there will be a substantial reduction in nuclear warheads in Europe, but not on a unilateral basis.

Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Conservative Members fully support the Ministers' statement earlier this year? We accept the mix of nuclear weapons and we understand that that will be necessary as long as the Soviet Union—and not only the Soviet Union—retains a nuclear capability and to ensure that we can defend ourselves against threats from outside the NATO area.

Mr. King

I well understand why my hon. Friend makes that shrewd and perceptive point. Although we certainly wish to see far fewer nuclear weapons in the world, his point has great validity.

Mr. Menzies Campbell

What assurances will the Secretary of State be able to give the secretary-general when he meets him about the effectiveness of the United Kingdom nuclear deterrent? In the light of the reasons for the scrapping of Warspite, will he be able to assure the secretary-general that the United Kingdom is capable of keeping one submarine on station at all times?

Mr. King

That is our determination, as we made clear to the House.