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Arms Reductions

Volume 35: debated on Tuesday 18 January 1983

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asked the Prime Minister, pursuant to her answer of 16 December, Official Report, c. 477, if she will publish in the Official Report a list of the dates during which negotiations have taken place at Geneva on a comprehensive test ban treaty; if she will indicate what progress has been made in these negotiations; and when she anticipates that they will be successfully concluded.

Tripartite negotiations on a comprehensive test ban were held between the United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union in Geneva between 1977 and 1980. Considerable progress was made, but in important areas, such as verification, substantial work remained to be done. In the Committee on Disarmament in Geneva a working group is examining problems of verification which have to be resolved if a treaty in which we can place confidence is to be concluded.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list the dates of formal meetings in which the United Kingdom has been represented for the purpose of securing the zero option; and what progress has been made in these negotiations.

Discussion of NATO's position in the INF negotiations, which culminated in the endorsement of the zero option, took place at a series of NATO consultations in 1981 which led up to the meeting of the nuclear planning group on 20–21 October 1981 and the meeting of NATO's special consultative group on 20 November 1981. Only limited progress has been made in the negotiations so far because the Soviet Union has been unwilling to give up its demand to retain a monopoly of land-based INF missiles like the SS20. The next round of negotiations begins on 27 January.

asked the Prime Minister what practical targets for achievement have been agreed with the United States Administration in relation to the negotiations which are being undertaken by the United Kingdom through the medium of the United States to reduce substantially the number of strategic weapons; and what success these negotiations have achieved.

At the strategic arms reductions talks, and with our full support, the United States has proposed a reduction of one-third in the numbers of warheads carried by the superpowers' strategic ballistic missiles, involving a cut of over a half in the numbers of the ballistic missiles themselves. The United States is the only Western power taking part in the negotiations, although it holds frequent consultations with us and other allies.

asked the Prime Minister, pursuant to her reply of 16 December, Official Report, c. 477, if she will list the actual reductions in armaments which have arisen out of the Vienna negotiations on mutual and balanced force reductions, indicating the number of (a) missiles and (b) other weapons by which the armoury of each side has been reduced, and the annual value of these reductions in financial terms to the United Kingdom Treasury.

No armaments have been reduced by either side as a result of the MBFR talks. Progress in these talks has been deadlocked because of continuing Eastern refusal either to co-operate in resolving the dispute over the size of Eastern forces in the area or to discuss effective verification measures.

asked the Prime Minister whether Her Majesty's Government have yet made any response to the new ideas on nuclear missile reduction put forward by the Soviet Union and mentioned by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on 15 December 1982.

We have made it clear, publicly and to the Russians, that their statement may be a step in the right direction, if it means they recognise that SS20 missiles must be reduced. But to demand a continuing Soviet monopoly of such longer-range missiles, while insisting that the Americans alone implement a zero option, would be unacceptable. The British deterrent has no place at the INF negotiations.