HL Deb 31 July 1980 vol 412 cc1039-40

3.11 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government why, seeing that the activation of cruise missiles in this country will be the result of a joint Anglo-American decision, they cannot agree to their being operated on the principle of the "double key".

The MINISTER of STATE, MINISTRY of DEFENCE (Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal)

My Lords, the arrangements which will apply for control over the US ground-launched cruise missiles to be based in this country have operated satisfactorily for over 20 years. A "dual-key" system would entail the United Kingdom purchasing the cruise missile systems (except the war-heads) and providing the manpower to operate and maintain them. The Government do not believe that this would be a sensible use of defence resources.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for that reply, may I ask whether the real question is not whether or not we have an effective veto on the firing of these missiles? This is really a more far-reaching question than that posed by present arrangements for the employment of certain nuclear missiles on aeroplanes by Americans in this country. Seeing that it is a more important question, and it should be firmly established whether or not we have a veto, could not the Government ask the Americans whether they would not in these circumstances give us the right to have a double key system, despite the fact that we are not going to purchase the missiles?


My Lords, it has been said many times that the matter of the control of these bases is a question of joint decision between the two Governments in the light of the circumstances prevailing at the time. The bases may not be used without such a joint decision. I do not know whether the noble Lord calls that a veto or not.