HL Deb 21 October 1985 vol 467 cc819-20
Lord Molloy

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, in view of the report of the strategic defence initiative submitted to members of the US Congress and its effect on US-Soviet arms talks, they will initiate talks thereon in NATO generally.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Young)

My Lords, the SDI, comparable Soviet activities and the implications for arms control are regularly discussed in NATO.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that reply. Is she aware of the report in The Times and in the International Herald Tribune to the effect that a report of Congress has caused considerable consternation in the United States and that one senior general of the United States Army has resigned on the grounds that, in its present form, SDI could make nuclear war much more likely? In view of the fact that there is no serious discussion in the United States, would it be possible for our Government to initiate some discussion within NATO?

Baroness Young

My Lords, the most recent discussions in NATO were by the United States Secretary of State, Mr. Shultz, when he briefed all his colleagues on the North Atlantic Council on 15th October about the current negotiations in Geneva and the forthcoming meeting between President Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, can the noble Baroness say whether the SDI has any implications for the ABM Treaty? Secondly, is she able to tell the House whether the Soviet Union are developing their own form of SDI? Is there any clear evidence of that?

Baroness Young

My Lords, on the first point mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, as President Reagan has repeatedly confirmed the SDI research is consistent with present obligations, including the ABM Treaty, and this was confirmed again by Mr. Shultz when he spoke at the North Atlantic Assembly. On the second point, the Soviet research programme has continued since the 1960s. The ABM defences around Moscow are the only type in existence in the world, and they are being upgraded. There is an extensive programme based on ballistic missile defence-related technologies.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, from the discussions in NATO, do the Government get the impression that the Americans are going to be willing to discuss the prevention of an arms race in space with the Russians at Geneva?

Baroness Young

My Lords, so far as the negotiations are concerned, we are glad that the Geneva talks are focusing on preventing an arms race in space. We recognise that both SDI and the parallel Soviet research are permitted under the existing agreements.

Lord Molloy

My Lord, is the noble Baroness aware that the gravamen of my submission is simply that the issue could determine the future of all mankind? Some eminent scientists said in Britain on Sunday that thermo-nuclear war is inevitable and is going to happen unless there is very serious examination by all the nations involved. I accept from the noble Baroness that the talks between the Soviet Union and the United States of America are very important, but I would ask the Government whether they consider that Great Britain should take a lead among all the other NATO countries in being involved in these discussions so that we might know precisely what the dangers to mankind are.

Baroness Young

My Lords, I think we would all agree that we want to see progress made at Geneva, but we must face the fact that the talks are not going to produce quick or easy results. However, we are all working with the objective in mind of achieving some constructive results.

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