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The Neutron Bomb And Nato

Volume 387: debated on Thursday 10 November 1977

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3.13 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their attitude to the incorporation of the neutron bomb in the equipment of NATO.

My Lords, consultations on whether the United States should provide enhanced radiation warheads for deployment in Europe are now taking place in NATO, where all the implications are being considered. NATO has not yet reached a firm view on this question; neither have we.

My Lords, could the Minister confirm that the Pentagon, through the Defence Minister of the United States, Harold Brown, has urged NATO to adopt this weapon, and that President Carter is likely to base his endorsement of it on the NATO decision? In view of the fact that this is the climax of human suicide and that Mr. Maulding, who happens to be my Member of Parliament—and I hope, therefore, that the Conservatives will support my case—has said that this is the ultimate insult that man can offer to the human race or to God, will the Government do their utmost to oppose the adoption of this weapon?

My Lords, all weapons are terrible things, and this is just a variant of weapons which, I am afraid, are equally terrible. But, as I said, no firm view has been reached on its use, either by NATO or by Her Majesty's Government.

My Lords, is there any reason to suppose that the neutron bomb, if employed in the same circumstances, would annihilate substantially more human beings than an ordinary atomic bomb?

No, my Lords; nuclear weapons are all weapons of mass destruction.

My Lords, is not the difference that it will destroy all life while it will allow property and buildings still to stand?

My Lords, could the noble Lord say whether there have been any further tests of tactical nuclear weapons on the central front in NATO as a result of the possible advent of the neutron bomb?