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Cruise Missiles

Volume 26: debated on Tuesday 29 June 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on progress on the installation of cruise missiles.

Preparations are on schedule to receive the first cruise missiles before the end of 1983.

Will the Minister confirm that cruise missiles are not verifiable, that there is no right of veto over their use by the United Kingdom Government and that millions of people in Holland, Belgium, West Germany and Britain are deeply opposed to the deployment of cruise missiles? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in Britain such opposition is symbolised by the determination of the women camped outside Greenham Common to demonstrate that the nation rejects the potential escalation in nuclear weaponry?

As has been explained from the Dispatch Box in the past, the arrangements for the use of the bases are the same as have applied for 30 years—namely, that they cannot be used without the joint agreement of the American and British Governments.

Many people may be opposed to the presence of cruise missiles in Britain on the basis of false assumptions spread by people who do not understand the true facts. I am convinced that millions of people believe that we should preserve our defences and are in favour of the installation of cruise missiles, which are intended by the United States, at the request of Europe, to demonstrate its commitment to the defence of Europe.

Since the deployment of the missiles is to some context contingent upon the success or otherwise of the Geneva talks on limiting intermediate range nuclear missiles, will my hon. Friend say when an outcome of the talks can be expected?

My hon. Friend is right. If the proposal by the American Government for the zero option is successful, it will not be necessary to install the missiles. My hon. Friend asked about progress. My experience is that when negotiating with the Soviet Union about disarmament, one must be extremely patient. That is the right approach now.

Is not the zero option a false option, because it does not take into consideration other weapons systems in Europe and only puts the American systems on land against the Russian systems on land? If we must be patient, why cannot we be patient about the establishment of cruise missiles? Why not wait for the outcome of the Geneva talks before we decide?

If one compares like with like, taking the SS20, the SS4 and SS5 missiles on one side and the Pershing and cruise missiles on our side, the ratio in favour of the Soviet Union is 4:1. If one includes aircraft, the ratio becomes about 6:1.

I was asked about the time scale for the installation of cruise missiles. My opinion is that continuing to show our determination in a united manner to install the missiles in default of agreement provides the best chance of persuading the Soviet Union to agree to the zero option.

In view of the divergence in defence policy between ourselves and the United States, particularly in the Middle East, is it not essential that we should have a physical bar on the use of cruise missiles? Otherwise, Soviet perception of United States policy in Europe might visit a dreadful retribution on the United Kingdom?

My hon. Friend is 180 degrees off target. Our determination to show our resolve with the United States to defend the United Kingdom and Western Europe is the best safeguard for peace.