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Nuclear Security

Volume 977: debated on Tuesday 29 January 1980

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Q4.

asked the Prime Minister if she will make a statement on her latest discussions with Mr. van Agt, Prime Minister of Holland, on security at the joint conference project at URENCO, Almelo, Holland.

I have not spoken to Mr. van Agt since our meeting on 6 December 1979, when I made my concern about the Khan affair very clear to him. As I told the hon. Gentleman on 17 January, we remain in close touch with the Netherlands and German Governments through diplomatic channels and the URENCO joint committee to ensure that all the necessary action to prevent a repetition is being taken.

Has there yet been a complete and candid explanation by the Dutch as to why, for four long years, their British and German partners were not told about a major security leak to Pakistan?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, there is a report of which we have received a confidential copy. I know of the hon. Gentleman's concern about this matter and I wish to make it quite clear that we are every bit as concerned as he is. It was an appalling breach of security which can have very far-reaching consequences. All our efforts at the moment are strained to see that there is no repetition of that incident.

Since Pakistan deceived the British Government into sending it inverters for a nuclear weapon plant under the pretence that they were for a textile mill—I was personally involved in bringing this to the attention of the House—is it right to send arms to Pakistan?

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, I do not think that the two issues are exactly related. My right hon. and noble Friend the Foreign Secretary made our views very clear to the Pakistan Government. As the hon. Gentleman knows, Pakistan has not signed the non-proliferation agreement, which is a matter of great concern to us. We tried to secure undertakings from the Government of Pakistan that they would not transfer any nuclear technology anywhere else.

The selling of arms to Pakistan is a different matter, especially as Pakistan is right in the front line now.