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Geneva Disarmament Talks

Volume 79: debated on Wednesday 22 May 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what consultations he has held with his North Atlantic Treaty Organisation opposite numbers about arms control following the end of the opening round of the latest Geneva disarmament negotiations.

My right hon. and learned Friend has had the opportunity to discuss arms control issues with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation colleagues on a number of recent occasions; at the ministerial meeting of the Council of Western European Union in April; during the economic summit in Bonn; during the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Austrian state treaty in Vienna: and at a number of bilateral meetings.

Does my hon. Friend agree that, given the Russian propensity to seek to drive a wedge between th United States and its NATO allies, such consultations should continue as a matter of urgency? Does my hon. Friend accept that the strategic defence initiative is one area within NATO where we should seek to find common ground?

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend that it is of the utmost importance that we continue this intensive consultation—not only with the United States but within the NATO Alliance — on these important issues, including SDI. This is something to which we attach the highest importance, and we shall certainly continue in that direction. There is no doubt that the Soviet Union is still indulging in wedge-driving between Europe and the United States.

Is it not the case that the real wedge was driven by the unilateral decision, within the Alliance. of the United States to pursue SDI and then to revise its position on SDI repeatedly since the meeting last December with the Prime Minister? In view of the serious deadlock during the first series of meetings in Geneva, has not the time come — the Foreign Secretary having expressed some wise reservations about SDI in a recent well-known speech to which we have all given our assent —for the Government to take the initiative in organising European action to break the deadlock by combining action to prevent experiments in space-related weapons with a massive reduction in offensive weapons? This is the only way forward. Only Britain can lead an initiative within NATO in this direction.

The right hon. Gentleman knows that the objective agreed for these talks between the United States and the Soviet Union was to prevent unconstrained military competition in space and to limit and reduce nuclear arms on earth. The two surely complement each other, as, indeed, the United States Administration made plain. My right hon. and learned Friend said earlier that we stick rigidly, as does the United States, to the four-point agreement reached between President Reagan and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. This includes the fact that there must be negotiation before there is any deployment of weapons.