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Washington (Visit)

Volume 84: debated on Tuesday 22 October 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Defence when he next proposes to visit Washington for discussions with his United States counterpart.

I have no immediate plans to do so. On current plans, I will next meet the United States Secretary for Defence at the meeting of NATO's nuclear planning group in Brussels at the end of this month.

In view of some of the reservations expressed by senior American Ministers and others about western Europe's determination to defend itself, will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity of the next meeting to point to the recently signed European fighter aircraft deal that was entered into by four western European countries, not only for its own sake, but as an example of western Europe's determination to play an effective part in its own defence?

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend. I think that the successful conclusion of the decision by Germany, Italy and Britain— I welcome the fact that Spain has now joined the arrangement — to build a European fighter aircraft is one of the greatest manifestations of Europe's determination to defend itself and of Britain's determination to play a full part in that process.

Irrespective of the decision made this week on chemical weapons by the United States Congress, will the right hon. Gentleman inform his counterpart in the United States that Britain will under no circumstances accept chemical weapons on its soil? Will the right hon. Gentleman say also that the American stocks that are held in West Germany will be neither added to nor improved?

I would be more likely to ask my counterpart about his views on the 300,000 tonnes of Soviet chemical weapons that are based in positions that could be used aggressively against the Western Alliance.

When my right hon. Friend meets the United States Secretary of Defence, will he urge upon him the necessity to consult the Secretary of State at the State Department so that they can get their act together to decide what is or is not allowed under the ABM treaty when pursuing their strategic defence initiative?

The Prime Minister has already agreed with the United States President our views about the ABM treaty and the strategic defence initiative. It would be something of an impertinence for a member of one Government to lecture another Government about what might appear to be two voices within one Administration.

Will the Secretary of State make it clear to the American Administration that Her Majesty's Government will not endorse a re-interpretation of the ABM treaty which would allow the development, testing and deployment of anti-ballistic missiles in space?

The hon. Gentleman will recognise that it was my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister who first made clear the role of the ABM treaty in the context of SDI and, therefore, perhaps placed on the world record one of the most important decisions that Mr. Reagan has made in that context.