HC Deb 04 July 1995 vol 263 c129
4. Mr. Gerrard

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions he has held recently with his French and American counterparts regarding the nuclear test ban treaty. [30558]

Mr. Rifkind

That is one of the wide range of defence matters which I discussed with and Dr. Perry in the past month.

Mr. Gerrard

Has the Minister made clear to the French the outrage felt by many people in this country at the resumption of nuclear weapons tests? Will he impress upon France, the US and other nuclear weapons states the need for a comprehensive test ban treaty, as was agreed at the non-proliferation treaty conference, with no loopholes to allow any continuation of underground tests? Will he give a commitment that this country will in no circumstances resume nuclear weapons testing?

Mr. Rifkind

The French Government have made it clear that their objective is to conclude a comprehensive test ban treaty. What they do at this moment is a matter for the French Government. I believe that they will work together with the United Kingdom and other countries towards such a test ban treaty. If the proper safeguards can be achieved, I look forward to the successful completion of the current negotiations.

Mr. John Marshall

Is not the real trouble in the House with regard to nuclear test bans that the official Opposition are stuffed full of one-sided disarmers who want to throw away our nuclear deterrent and who have taken the lead from the Leader of the Opposition who was a supporter of one-sided disarmament in the 1980s?

Mr. Rifkind

I have to say that the Opposition's policy is bizarre, to say the least. They were against Britain's possession of the nuclear deterrent at the height of the cold war and, once the cold war was over, they would have the British people believe that they have suddenly been converted to it. It is an incredible policy, to say the least.

Dr. David Clark

Does the Secretary of State recall that, as recently as 16 May, the Foreign Secretary told the House that there was no longer any need for the Government to undertake nuclear tests? Is that still the Government's view? Will the Secretary of State assure the House that he will not follow the French example and resume nuclear testing?

Mr. Rifkind

We have said that we have no intention of carrying out any further nuclear tests and, of course, the United States, which provides the testing ground, has a similar policy. The policy of the two Governments remains the same with regard to this matter.