HC Deb 30 October 2000 vol 355 cc505-6
12. Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

What recent assessment he has made of the military threat to the United Kingdom from states with rogue Governments. [132996]

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon)

Our assessment is that there is no significant immediate military threat to the United Kingdom. We continue, however, to monitor the development of military threats very closely.

Mr. Flynn

That is a great relief. If there is no threat to us, what will be our attitude to the phantom threat that is encouraging the United States to introduce a national missile defence system that will entail the upgrading of the radar station at Fylingdales in this country, which we are told is in conflict with the anti-ballistic missile treaty? If George Bush wins the election in America, is not it true that there will be an attempt to introduce that very dangerous national missile system not to secure world peace, but to secure fat contracts for the American arms industry?

Mr. Hoon

My hon. Friend has asked that sort of question before, but I should have thought that he would have taken account of the measured approach adopted by President Clinton in stating that he would defer any decision on the deployment of national missile defence. In those circumstances, no request has been made of the United Kingdom and, therefore, much of what he asks me to comment on is mere speculation. However, I can tell him that President Clinton took careful account of the views of the United States allies, including the United Kingdom.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

Given that the Foreign Office is opposed to ballistic missile defence, what pressure has the Secretary of State received from his right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to curtail his Department's involvement in the United Kingdom readiness and risk assessment programme?

Mr. Hoon

Again, Opposition Members need to understand the doctrine of collective Cabinet responsibility, because the Government speak with a single voice on those matters. I have set out the Government's view precisely. We have had discussions with our US allies. We were delighted that, in announcing his decision to defer any decision in the United States, President Clinton said that he had taken account of those views. We are most grateful.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn), the Defence Secretary said that President Clinton had taken account of the views put forward by allied Governments, including the United Kingdom. Can he tell us exactly what those views were? Will he place those opinions in the Library so that they can be made public? Will he say that, in the event that either future President Gore or future President Bush requests us to endorse national missile defence, with all its dangers and illegalities, the British Government will simply say no?

Mr. Hoon

My hon. Friend asks me to speculate on a decision that has not even been taken in the United States and which the US President has recently said does not need to be taken. In those circumstances, he is simply making a request for speculation. A number of issues have to be taken into account. I am delighted that the US President was prepared to take into account the views of allies and said as much.

Mrs. Jacqui Lait (Beckenham)

Given that rogue Governments may well use information warfare techniques to pose a military threat to the United Kingdom, and that our information warfare defences will almost certainly include commercially available software, what action does the Secretary of State plan to take following the recent hacking into Microsoft's most secure systems?

Mr. Hoon

The hon. Lady is right to point out that there are, in the modern world, ways in which Governments can be attacked other than by conventional military means. We are aware, across Government, of such threats, and we take every step to develop defences against such potential attacks. As the Microsoft incident shows, there are some ingenious and clever people who are prepared to put their talents at the disposal of the unscrupulous, and we must guard against them, too.

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