HC Deb 15 June 1992 vol 209 cc421-2W
Mr. Willetts

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is the current position on the United Kingdom nuclear weapons at sea policy.

Mr. Rifkind

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation confirmed last autumn that the sub-strategic nuclear capability remains essential to provide the link between conventional and strategic forces, but that significant reductions in sub-strategic nuclear forces were now possible. In addition to the reductions announced last autumn, the alliance has decided to terminate the deployment of US nuclear depth bombs on NATO maritime patrol aircraft.

The Government are committed to maintaining the United Kindom's nuclear arsenal at the minimum level necessary for our deterrent needs. My predecessor announced last Septemberr that tactical nuclear weapons would no longer be deployed on Royal Navy ships in normal circumstances. The Government have now decided that this residual capability is no longer needed. Royal Navy ships and aircraft and Royal Air Force maritime patrol aircraft will therefore no longer have the capability to deploy tactical nuclear weapons. The United Kingdom weapons previously earmarked for this role will be destroyed. The United Kingdom's sub-strategic nuclear capability will therefore consist of Royal Air Force dual-capable aircraft with the WE177 free-fall bomb.

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