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Naval Nuclear Weapons

Volume 79: debated on Thursday 16 May 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether it is envisaged that the naval nuclear weapons listed in paragraph 408 of the Defence Estimates could be used in a naval engagement without the conflict escalating into a strategic nuclear exchange.

The Government have always made it clear that their policy is not to fight a nuclear war but to prevent such a conflict from the outset. In the words of the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1981:

"It is not certain that any East-West conflict would rise to all-out nuclear war: escalation is a matter of human decision, not an inexorable scientific process. It is perfectly sensible—indeed essential— to make plans which could increase and exploit whatever chance there might be of ending war short of global catastrophe. But that chance will always be precarious, whether at the conventional or the nuclear level; amid the confusions, passions and irrationalities of war, escalation must always be a grave danger. The only safe course is outright prevention."