asked the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made on the anti-surface ship missile project; and if he will make a statement.
Following initial studies, the United Kingdom, together with a number of NATO Allies, is studying proposals put forward by industry for the development of a family of anti-ship missiles for the 1990's.
Is not there a little more to it than that? Is it not the case that those studies were extremely promising and were initially conducted on a trinational basis amongst ourselves, the French and the Germans, with the United States having a 2½ per cent. interest? Are not the United States approaching France and Germany to try to get a co-operative development on those lines, and not including the United Kingdom? Does my hon. Friend agree that that is a classic example—[Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen should listen. This is important.
Order. It is important, but the clock is moving on.
Is it not a classic example of the United States filching our technological inventiveness to feed its own military industrial complex and making us pay for it?
Although the United States were a full participant in the feasibility studies, they volunteered to accept a lesser status on the commencement of the more detailed stage of the project. That proposal is actively under consideration at present with our NATO colleagues.
Why do we need anti-surface ship missiles and theatre weapons if the Minister believes that our independent nuclear deterrent has deterred invasion since the war and will continue to do so? Why do we need these other weapons that are designed to be thrown around the theatre of Europe if there is an invasion?
Anti-surface ship missiles do not in any way replace the strategic deterrent. They are tactical missiles to deal with the growing surface fleet of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact. At present that fleet outnumbers the NATO fleet in the East Atlantic by a ratio of 1½: 1.