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American Forces

Volume 115: debated on Tuesday 5 May 1987

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asked the Secretary of State for Defence when he next plans to meet the United States Secretary of State for Defence to discuss the level of American forces in Europe; and if he will make a statement.

I next expect to meet the United States Defence Secretary at the spring meeting of NATO's nuclear planning group when a range of Alliance defence issues will be discussed.

Will my right hon. Friend assure the United State Defence Secretary that the Government are firmly committed to nuclear deterrence and that, unlike the Labour party, we do not expect 300,000 United States troops to put their necks on the line defending us when we are busy shutting their bases and throwing away our nuclear weapons?

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that it would be totally disastrous for the defence of the West if anything remotely resembling the policy that the Labour party has adopted on withdrawal of American forces were ever to be undertaken.

When the right hon. Gentleman meets Caspar Weinberger, will he congratulate him on being candid—more candid than the British Government have been so far—in his statement to Congress admitting that 155 mm nuclear shells were now being deployed by NATO? When the right hon. Gentleman returns from that meeting, will he explain to the House why I was misled by a ministerial answer to a written question in 1984 about the Montebello decision, when I was told that there were no such plans to deploy these nuclear weapons with a neutron potentiality?

The fact is that no such weapons are deployed in Europe by NATO or by any member of NATO. I think that the hon. Gentleman has had that information. On 24 March my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said to the House:

"as Defence Ministers have made clear … no decisions affecting the modernisation of the theatre nuclear weapons in service with British forces have yet been made."—[Official Report, 24 March 1987; Vol. 113, c. 162.]