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Inf Agreement

Volume 124: debated on Tuesday 8 December 1987

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6.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will directly discuss with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics ways of reducing minimum nuclear forces following the signing of the intermediate nuclear forces agreement.

17.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will directly discuss with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics ways of reducing minimum nuclear forces following the signing of the intermediate nuclear forces agreement.

There are regular exchanges between the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union on nuclear arms control issues.

Why cannot Britain enter into bilateral talks with the Soviet Union on nuclear disarmament? Is it the Prime Minister who is blocking the progress of negotiations with the Soviet Union on nuclear disarmament agreements?

We do, as I have said, have discussions with the Soviet Union about arms control matters, but negotiations have been through the superpowers. I may add that if the hon. Lady's views, as expressed in the motion to which she put her name recently, were to be carried out, Britain would have no nuclear weapons and so would have no role in discussing and influencing the reduction of nuclear weapons in the world.

Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to welcome the INF agreement and to confirm that it would never have come about if the Opposition's policies had been pursued?

My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. If I had taken the Opposition's advice, and, indeed, that of CND, there would be no cruise missiles in Britain or Western Europe today and there would be a huge battery of them lined up pointing in our direction from the other side.

Does the Secretary of State have any cause to fear that although the Soviet Union may abide by the letter of the treaty, it may seek to undermine it by further nuclear deployment? Will that fear be more or less likely to be fulfilled if NATO goes about making compensatory adjustments and arrangements?

Of course, there is concern in some quarters as to whether both sides will keep the agreement. I can only tell the hon. Gentleman that NATO—and I believe the Soviet Union, too—is determined to keep to the spirit and the letter of the agreement. NATO has no intention to substitute for the weapons that have been removed.

I am sure that all will agree that today's agreement is historic in every way, but can my right hon. Friend yet tell us the implications of the agreement for the deployment of cruise missiles in Britain?

Yes, Sir. The agreement about to be signed in Washington is fully supported by the British Government and it has been warmly endorsed by all the United States' allies. Once the INF treaty has been ratified and comes into force, missile withdrawals will start and will be phased over a three-year period. Meanwhile, the normal training pattern will continue. During that time, six operational flights of ground-launched cruise missiles will be withdrawn from RAF Greenham Common and one operational flight from RAF Molesworth. I expect that the Molesworth missiles will be among the first weapons on the NATO side to be withdrawn.

Will the Secretary of State now confirm that, as stated in The Daily Telegraph editorial today, there is no formal agreement between the United Kingdom and the United States on the supply of Trident missiles? If a future American President, as part of STAR talks, were not to supply those missiles, the British Government would have no redress.

I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman at all. We have had the clearest possible assurances from the United States Administration that they regard themselves as committed to provide what they have undertaken to provide for our Trident programme. That is the end of the matter.