HL Deb 24 February 1984 vol 448 cc961-3
Lord Jenkins of Putney

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are aware that drug-taking is reported to be a massive problem affecting up to 50 per cent. of American servicemen and whether they are also aware that it is reported to have existed among those in charge of nuclear weapons on British soil; and that, although said officially by USAAF not to be a common practice here, drug-taking is also reported to exist at Greenham Common and elsewhere; and whether they will now assert British operational control over cruise missiles or require their immediate removal.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy (The Earl of Avon)

My Lords, I understand that the level of drug abuse among United States Air Force personnel is very substantially below the quite inaccurate figure which the noble Lord cites. The small number of people involved at RAF Greenham Common were all in non-sensitive clerical posts and were in no way associated with the missiles themselves. There are of course special and stringent screening procedures for personnel engaged in sensitive areas.

As the Government have repeated on many occasions, we are entirely satisfied with existing arrangements for the control of United States GLCMSs based in this country.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, are the Government not too easily satisfied? Is it not disquieting that anybody who is accused—and apparently justly accused—of being concerned with drugs, should have any association whatever with nuclear weapons? Is it not even more disquieting when those people are not under the control of the Government of this country?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I do not think that the noble Lord can have understood my earlier Answer when I said that the number of people concerned were in the non-sensitive clerical posts and were in no way associated with the missiles themselves. Although I respect the noble Lord's views, and of course he has a right to them, I do feel that, by disseminating this inaccurate information, he does his views only discredit.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that the information is not inaccurate, as I will prove to him in due course in further Questions which I shall put down upon this matter? Is he further aware that I always understand his Answers, because he does attempt to answer the Question, which is not universally the case among his colleagues?

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, as the capacity of NATO to defend the countries of Western Europe against the fate of Czechoslavakia and Hungary depends directly on the massive contribution made by the United States to NATO, is not the noble Lord's Question, alleging unconfirmed statements, designed to give the maximum offence to our oldest and strongest ally? Is not this a peculiarly unhelpful Question in the interests of national security?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I concur with my noble friend and I should like to add that we have complete confidence in the United States and its commitment to the collective defence of the West.

Lord Bishopston

My Lords, in the absence of dual-key control, the Government assure the House that the agreement made in Mr. Attlee's time still prevails with regard to the joint operation of the sites between the United States and United Kingdom personnel. Can the noble Earl assure the House that this situation is always updated in view of changing circumstances, including those such as my noble friend has mentioned, and also having regard to the increased lethality of the weapons which they operate?

The Earl of Avon

Yes, my Lords, indeed I can reiterate what my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said about the present arrangements. The effect of the understanding and the arrangements for implementing this, is that no nuclear weapon will be tired or launched from British territory without the agreement of the British Prime Minister.

Viscount St. Davids

My Lords, is it not pleasing to see that we shall have the support of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, in making sure that cannabis is not legalised?—because, although it is a comparatively innocuous drug, the noble Lord is well aware as many of us are aware that, if it falls into the hands of people with great responsibilities, it could be a very considerable danger.

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I believe that that is another Question.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, since the question appears to be addressed to me rather than to the noble Earl, perhaps I may trespass upon the kindness of the House—

Noble Lords


Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, in that case, I ask the noble Earl to acquaint his noble friend with the fact that Portugal is our oldest ally, and not the United States. Will he also inform our noble friend on the Cross-Benches that I will support him on the point that he has raised here? Finally, may I ask the noble Earl whether he is aware that I and many other people in this country and in the United States will much more warmly welcome the American contribution when it becomes a non-nuclear contribution?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, of course I appreciate what the noble Lord has said and particularly his last point.

Lord Leatherland

My Lords, will the noble Minister agree that this alleged drug-taking is not so very different from the rum ration which we used to be issued with in the trenches in 1915?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, it was very clever of the noble Lord to bring in Portugal again.

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