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Strategic Defence Initiative

Volume 115: debated on Tuesday 5 May 1987

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3.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what further consultations his Department has had over the strategic defence initiative testing programme being drawn up by the United States of America.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement
(Mr. Archie Hamilton)

We are in regular contact with the United States authorities over the SDI research programme.

Will the Minister inform the House whether he intends to discuss with the United States the SDI testing of the patriot anti-aircraft missile or the development of the Rapier missile as an anti-tactical weapon? Does he agree that if any such testing takes place it will be a major breach of the ABM treaty?

Testing missiles is a matter for the United States. We have no locus in the interpretation of the ABM treaty.

Is my hon. Friend confident that what is being developed at the moment by our friend and alley the United States is within the ABM treaty? Will he state the number of British firms that have contracts for SDI, and the value of those contracts in terms of either money or jobs?

Some $34 million worth of contracts have been awarded already to British industry. A total of 400 companies and 100 academic institutions have expressed interest, and 36 are now involved. Therefore, it is certainly in our interests and we are going ahead with it.

The Minister must reflect on the answer he has given in relation to the interpretation of the ABM treaty. Is it not a fact that Her Majesty's Government have a memorandum of understanding with regard to that treaty? Will the Minister give us an assurance that, no matter how the United States tries to interpret the treaty, we will interpret it within the narrow definitions of the treaty?

All that I can do is refer the hon. Gentleman to what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said. Deployment is clearly a matter for negotiation, as we have agreed, and we have received satisfactory assurances from the United States that there will be consultation about any significant change of policy in relation to SDI research.

Does my hon. Friend agree that, through our co-operation with our American allies on the whole of the programme, there is enormous future potential for our allies and our companies here and that it may give us an opportunity to get away from the awful doctrine of mutually assured destruction to something more sane?

I accept that there are enormous technical advantages to be got out of SDI. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister realised that when she came to an agreement with President Reagan some time ago.