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Defence Policy

Volume 81: debated on Wednesday 19 June 1985

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asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland whether he will publish in the Official Report the full text of complaints lodged with procurators fiscal alleging the illegality of Her Majesty's Government's defence policy and the reason why no action was taken.

In view of the complaints lodged with the procurator fiscal at Stirling by students at Stirling university to the effect that, under the terms of the Geneva convention, it is a crime in international law to target the civilian population, and in view of the fact that the Government's nuclear arms policy presents a threat to the civilian population as well as to military personnel, is there not at least prima facie evidence for bringing a prosecution against the Prime Minister and her Government for conducting a defence policy that is criminal?

There is no general multilateral convention outlawing nuclear weapons, nor under international law is the use or possession of nuclear weapons prohibited. Indeed, the existence of such treaties as the one on non-proliferation would seem to indicate implicit acceptance of the legality of possession of nuclear weapons by some nuclear states. In any event, I would scarcely have thought that Stirling sheriff court was the appropriate forum to arraign before it every Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Defence since this country acquired a nuclear capability.

Does my hon. and learned Friend not regret these misplaced and misguided attempts to bring into the judicial sphere that which correctly belongs to the political sphere? Does he agree that the electorate of the United Kingdom wholeheartedly endorse the Government's defence policy?

My hon. Friend is right. What is being sought by the question and by the approach that was made to the procurator fiscal is the introduction of a political element into legal proceedings. In any event, as I have sought to emphasise, it is the view of the Government that the possession of nuclear weapons is not a breach of international law.