To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether Her Majesty's Government will abandon their support for a replacement to the Lance short-range nuclear missile.
The Government were consulted on the decision not to proceed with the development of a follow-on to Lance, and we fully support it.
How do the Government justify their isolation in that respect? Will they stop blocking proposed cuts in short-range nuclear weapons at the next meeting of NATO?
We are not blocking any SNF negotiations, because the alliance's position on that has not yet been agreed. But there is no question of our blocking it. As to going along with the decision not to have a follow-on to Lance, we must accept that over the past year the position in eastern Europe has radically changed and that the need for short-range nuclear systems is not what it was.
In these important considerations, will my hon. Friend bear it in mind that the alliance needs to maintain the capability rather than a particular category of weapons systems?
That is absolutely right. I am sure that my hon. Friend agrees that we need to maintain the flexibility of nuclear response. Therefore, I sincerely hope that a tactical air-to-surface missile will be introduced as part of that—[Interruption.]
Order. I ask the House to settle down, please.
In view of the Minister's commitment to a mix of short-range nuclear weapons, will he say where they will be deployed and against whom, given the shortness of their range in Europe?
It is obvious that the hon. Gentleman is addressing his question to the wrong person. Why does the Soviet Union have both a shorter-range and ballistic missile capability? As long as it has that capability, and the ability to administer nuclear weapons at different ranges, we must be able to respond and thus maintain the nuclear stalemate in Europe.
Does my hon. Friend agree that what distinguishes the Conservative party from all other parties is that we are not prepared to drop our guard in defence matters? It is very important to be able to counter-punch when necessary. Mr. Gorbachev may not always be there, and we must keep up our defences.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We are entering a period of great uncertainty, and it would be foolish during that time to drop our guard.