HL Deb 01 February 1995 vol 560 cc1487-8
Lord Jenkins of Putney

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether Western ballistic missiles were targeted on Moscow; whether this is still the case; if not, what is the present position; and what is known about the targeting of such operational missiles based in the area of the former Soviet Union.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Minister of Defence (Lord Henley)

My Lords, in the early part of 1994 both the United Kingdom and the United States made joint announcements with Russia that each nation's strategic nuclear missiles would be detargeted by 30th May. All three nations later confirmed that that action had been completed. It is not our practice to comment further on matters of targeting.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for giving the facts as they are at the moment. As the missiles are apparently now detargeted, is it not the case that they cannot be deterring anyone or else they are deterring everyone? So will the Government's practice of referring to those deadly weapons as deterrents now be stopped? Since one assumes that the weapons will now never be used, would it not be a good plan to make them out of marzipan in future?

Lord Henley

My Lords, I am afraid that I do not agree with the noble Lord. Such weapons still provide a useful minimum deterrent for the UK's defences. I shall welcome the day when the noble Lord forms the same view as I do. I accept that the detargeting of our strategic deterrent is obviously unverifiable, just as whether the Russians or the Americans have detargeted theirs is unverifiable. We still believe that it is a worthwhile confidence-building measure.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

My Lords, would it not be admirable if they did deter everyone and continued to do so?

Lord Henley

My Lords, I believe that they do deter most people. I am afraid that they do not deter the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins.

Lord Williams of Elvel

My Lords, will the Minister tell the House what progress is being made in decommissioning the ballistic missiles which are apparently rusting away in the former Soviet Union?

Lord Henley

My Lords, that is obviously a matter for the Russian authorities. If we can provide any technical assistance, we are more than happy to do so whenever possible.

Lord Gisborough

My Lords, will my noble friend give some idea of the time-scale for retargeting these missiles should the necessity arise?

Lord Henley

My Lords, I can merely say that they can be retargeted quickly.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, is it not, however, an extremely expensive way of going on? All these missiles probably prevent our having as many military bands as we might otherwise have. May I suggest to the Minister that in future he has a token missile about the place and spends a little more on military bands?

Lord Henley

My Lords, the Trident programme absorbs something of the order of 2.5 per cent. of our budget, a small proportion for the valuable deterrence it provides.

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