Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

HC Stmnt: [NATO Summit (Brussels)]

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [128/1280-95]
Editorial comments:
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 8631
Themes: Conservatism, Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Labour Party & socialism, Liberal & Social Democratic Parties, Media
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NATO Summit (Brussels)

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall make a statement about the meeting of Heads of State and Government of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Let us get off to a good start with the statement.

The Prime Minister

With permission I shall make a statement about the meeting of Heads of State and Government of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, held in Brussels on 2 and 3 March, which I attended with my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Geoffrey Howethe Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary.

The summit agreed a main declaration and a statement entitled “Conventional Arms Control: The Way Ahead” . Copies of both documents have been placed in the Library of the House.

Since NATO's last summit in 1982, there have been important changes affecting the Alliance. First, we have seen developments in the arms control field, above all the successful INF agreement, achieved as a result of NATO's resolve.

Secondly, we look forward to President Reagan 's forthcoming visit to Moscow and hope that—then or later—we shall see agreement to reduce the strategic nuclear weapons of the United States and the Soviet Union by 50 per cent.

Thirdly, we have seen bold reforms introduced by Mr. Gorbachev in the Soviet Union. These hold out the prospect of more responsibility and more choice for the Soviet people.

Fourthly, we have begun to see some signs of change in the Soviet Union's external policies, above all the very welcome decision to withdraw from Afghanistan.

At the same time, there has been no let-up in the Soviet Union's extensive military modernisation programmes. Indeed, they are going ahead as fast as ever. For example, first, by the mid-1990s, virtually the entire Soviet strategic force in place in the mid-1980s will have been replaced by new or modernised systems, including the world's only rail-mobile ICBM system. Secondly, one new submarine is deployed every 37 days. Thirdly, they are actively modernising their shorter-range missiles, where they already enjoy a major advantage, with more accurate longer-range SS21s. Fourthly, the Soviet Union made over 90 space launches last year for military purposes.

As a result, the Soviet Union has the world's largest nuclear and chemical arsenals, and the Warsaw pact enjoys substantial superiority over NATO in conventional forces.

Against this background, it was important for the leaders of the NATO countries to come together, take stock and to set guidelines for future action. The United Kingdom approached the meeting with a number of clear objectives. First, to underline the continuing importance of the NATO Alliance to the defence of the West. It is as vital now for protecting our freedom as when it was formed in 1949. Second, to confirm the unity and the resolve of NATO in the face of Soviet attempts to separate Europe from the United States and to denuclearise Europe. Third, to reaffirm the validity of NATO's strategy of flexible response and the consequent need to keep all NATO's weapons—nuclear as well as conventional—up [column 1281]to date. Fourth to discuss President Reagan 's forthcoming visit to Moscow for a United States-Soviet summit, and to confirm NATO's priorities in arms control.

These objectives were very fully and satisfactorily achieved, as will be clear from the texts of the declaration and the statement to which I have referred. They contain: first, a strong reaffirmation of the vital link between the security of Europe and that of North America. It is particularly important to remind people of this in a presidential election year in the United States. President Reagan assured the summit that NATO enjoyed a bipartisan support in the United States and that American troops would remain in Europe as long as the common defence of the democratic way of life required. We are all, of course, very grateful to the United States and Canada for the susbtantial forces which they keep in Europe.

Second, in the two documents we reaffirmed our determination that NATO's defences should remain strong, recognising the crucial role of the nuclear deterrence provided not just by the United States strategic deterrent but also by the presence of effective and up-to-date nuclear weapons in Europe. I am particularly pleased that all Heads of Government agreed on

“a strategy of deterrence based on an appropriate mix of adequate and effective nuclear and conventional forces which will continue to be kept up to date where necessary” .

Third, based on confidence in our sure defence, a willingness to seek dialogue with the countries of the Warsaw pact and a desire for further arms control agreements, particularly on chemical and conventional weapons. Any further reductions in nuclear weapons after START would come about only in conjunction with the establishment of conventional balance and the global elimination of chemical weapons. It is quite clear that NATO is determined to avoid a third nuclear zero.

Heads of Government also took the opportunity to thank Lord Carrington, who retires in June, for his outstanding work as Secretary-General of NATO.

This summit meeting, which was convened as a result of a British initiative, successfully reinforced NATO's basic message of defence, deterrence and dialogue. It reaffirmed the strategy that has kept the peace in Europe for over 40 years. It underlined NATO's commitment to keep all our weapons, both conventional and nuclear, up-to-date in order to ensure that deterrence remains effective and that our defences are strong enough to convince any aggressor that he could not prevail. It is on the basis of such a sure defence that we are able to welcome the reforms that are taking place in the Soviet Union and to enter into further negotiations to reduce the level of weaponry on both sides.

Taken with the recent successful European summit, we have created a platform from which Europe can look with confidence to the future.

Mr. Neil Kinnock (Islwyn)

I am grateful to the Prime Minister for her statement.

Is it not a fact that the statement that we heard this Friday morning is evidence of the Prime Minister's success in having the summit and of her failure to get what she wanted out of it? Is it not also clear that, in the week before she met allies in Brussels, Chancellor Helmut Kohl had already concluded the summit during his visit to Washington by agreeing not to press for the third zero on tactical weapons in return for the United States' [column 1282]reassurance that nuclear modernisation would receive no priority? Therefore, is it not obvious that the Prime Minister was effectively sidelined by the manoeuvre before she even got to Brussels?

Yesterday the Prime Minister said that the conclusion of the summit was that conventional weapons had to be brought down to parity and chemical weapons eliminated before any further negotiations on nuclear weapons took place. Was the Prime Minister reflecting the position of our allies? The communiqué states that the NATO disarmament goal includes,

“in conjunction with the establishment of a conventional balance, the global elimination of chemical weapons, tangible and verifiable reductions of American and Soviet land-based nuclear missile systems of shorter range, leading to equal ceilings” .

Therefore, was not Lord Carrington more accurate than the Prime Minister? He said:

“nobody is saying that you cannot start one set of negotiations before another has ended.”

Is it not the case that the West German Government take the view that negotiations to reduce battlefield and short-range nuclear weapons on their soil should be commenced as soon as possible and that separate and simultaneous negotiations can proceed without waiting for the completion of one agreement before others are pursued?

There has been a certain amount of semantic anarchy between our various allies since the summit ended. As words are actions in communiqués like that—[Interruption.] I suppose I made the mistake of quoting The Wall Street Journal on that issue. As words are actions in communiqués such as those coming out of Brussels, are the Parliaments and forces of allied nations to act upon the objective of keeping forces maintained in proper condition where that is desirable, which is the German version, kept up-to-date where necessary, which is the English version, or, as the Prime Minister says that that version is a euphemism for modernisation, should modernisation, as she interprets it, be the objective? Could she tell us whether, in her view, the act of modernisation should include the installation of new weapons systems, whether sea, air or ground launched, and whether they are regarded as being tactical, intermediate or strategic in range?

The Prime Minister says that she strongly favours the bold changes in the Soviet Union, both for the sake of the Soviet people and to increase international stability, and one cannot but concur with her there. But does she not realise that the pressures that she wishes to impose by the rearmament that would come from the form of modernisation that she wants would insert the greatest possible impediment to the changes that we all want to see in the Soviet Union?

The Prime Minister has previously spoken of the continual renovation and innovation in Soviet arms, and she did so again this morning. Is she aware that she can stop and reverse such a build up by fostering agreements which secure arms build down? However, is it not clear that she wants to pursue the contrary course and, under the guise of modernisation, bring about a multiplication of armaments? Therefore, does she not appreciate that, to put it at its most polite, there is a significant inconsistency in her approach?

There is much justifiable concern about the numerical superiority of Warsaw pact forces in Europe, and a clear need rigorously to pursue the asymmetrical reductions in conventional forces offered by the Soviets and considered [column 1283]by our allies. However, does the Prime Minister share the view of many experts, including the United States chiefs of staff report to Congress last year, that the imbalance of forces, if considered in terms of quality as well as in terms of quantity, is less in reality than is sometimes argued by many, including the Prime Minister? If she does, will she be pursuing force reductions on that basis rather than on the basis of what is sometimes called the “bean count” view of force disparities between the Soviet Union and the Western allies?

The Prime Minister

I sat for nearly two days in the NATO summit listening to many speeches, including many from Socialist Heads of Government, and I never heard such claptrap as I have heard from the Opposition Front Bench today. This country's Socialist party is out of step with every other one in Europe. That is no wonder, because it is virtually a CND Socialist party.

The Government got precisely what we wanted out of the summit in modernising nuclear forces, and that was endorsed by 16 nations, including the United States. Many of those countries supported us, and others agreed with the communiqué—[Interruption.] Yes, because some countries neither make nor deploy nuclear weapons, but they support the rest of us in doing so, unlike the Labour party.

There was a clear declaration in the conventional statement that we have to continue to keep conventional weapons up to date, and we thought it absolutely right that we should put it also in the bigger declaration, which says:

“This is a strategy of deterrence based upon an appropriate mix of adequate and effective nuclear and conventional forces which will continue to be kept up to date where necessary.”

The right hon. Gentleman has difficulty with that sentence, he might try the next one for size. The first sentence of paragraph 6 says:

“While seeking security and stability at lower levels of armaments, we are determined to sustain the requisite efforts to ensure the continued viablity, credibility and effectiveness of our conventional and nuclear forces, including the nuclear forces in Europe, which together provide the guarantee of our common security.”

How does the right hon. Gentleman think that one can possibily do that without keeping nuclear forces in Europe up to date? That is precisely what this NATO summit agreed. The right hon. Gentleman is out of step with each and every country in NATO.

The Soviet Union is, as I said, and as we all know, continuing to modernise all its weapons, whether conventional or nuclear. I set out some of the changes this morning, and there are many more. It is absolutely vital that we negotiate from a basis of strength because that tactic got the intermediate nuclear weapons treaty. It is because of that continued strength that we are able to deter. One does not deter with obsolete weapons, whether conventional or nuclear, and one has to keep them up to date.

The right hon. Gentleman referred to the American chiefs of staff. General Galvin needed the decision which we were instrumental in getting. America was prominent in supporting us all the way in securing this form of wording. The actual text was negotiated in English, so it is English which is the clear version.

Sir Antony Buck (Colchester, North)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there are two most encouraging features about this summit? The first is the total [column 1284]reaffirmation of the American position, and its commitment to NATO as the sheet anchor of NATO. The second important feature that is emerging is the improved relationship between France and NATO. Many of us would like France to return to being a fully integrated member of NATO but realise that that is not likely. Nevertheless, it is good that there has been a closing of relationships and so much interservice co-operation.

The Prime Minister

Yes, the total reaffirmation of American forces to Europe was welcome, particularly during an election year in the United States. I agree with my hon. and learned Friend that another encouraging factor was the presence of President Mitterrand and the way in which France is, voluntarily because it does not belong to the integrated military structure of NATO, exercising its forces, bearing in mind the NATO exercises. I put several proposals to President Mitterrand regarding, for example, being able to practise reinforcements through French Channel ports and airfields of any forces that would be needed, should there ever be an alert. So far, we have not been able to practise through those Channel ports, and I hope that we should be able to. Again, that is evidence of further close co-operation between French forces and the NATO structure.

Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil)

Will the Prime Minister recognise how welcome it is that wiser heads in NATO have forced her away from unilateralism in seeking to raise the number of nuclear weapons? Since both the Warsaw pact and NATO have the capacity to destroy each other 50 times over, why does she want more? Is not enough enough?

The Prime Minister

As we know from the last election, only one party in this country is willing to keep a sure defence and to deter an aggressor. The Soviet Union is modernising her nuclear weapons. She has, for example, the only strategic ballistic missile which can be moved around by rail, and, as we know, can be brought into areas that are being vacated by the SS20s. We do not expect the hon. Gentleman and his party to be strong—they do not have a policy.

We are determined to keep defence and deterrent sure. That means modernising nuclear weapons. Ministers when they meet in their next nuclear planning group meeting, which takes place in April, will have to make decisions. They have on their agenda a proposal to make deployments in connection with the pulling out of Europe of the intermediate nuclear weapons.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that Marshals Yazov and Akhromeyev are already saying that they will have to take this matter into account and compensating moves will have to be made? Marshal Akhromeyev said that in the ratification hearings for the intermediate treaty. We have the guts to keep this country properly defended, and so does NATO.

Mr. David Howell (Guildford)

Will my right hon. Friend accept that the outcome of the Brussels meeting is sensible, realistic and greatly reassuring to the future peace of Europe? However, is she satisfied about the verification regime which will be needed for the proposed strategic missile negotiations? Will it be the same regime as the one that is in place for the INF treaty, or does she think that a much deeper and more comprehensive verification regime will be needed for the START negotiations?

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The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend is correct. A much deeper and more detailed regime is necessary for the START proposals than for the intermediate nuclear forces. The intermediate nuclear forces regime became easier when the Soviet Union agreed to a global ban, whereas my right hon. Friend is aware that at first it was proposed that the Soviet Union and the United States should each keep 100. That would have been almost impossible to verify. It will be much more difficult with START than with a global ban because there will be a mix of weapons. The establishment of a proper verification procedure is one of the reasons why it is taking a considerable time to get a START agreement. We think that it is more important to get the right and sure agreement than it is to get one quickly.

Mr. Michael Foot (Blaenau Gwent)

Does not the Prime Minister appreciate that many other countries apart from those represented in NATO are greatly interested in nuclear and other forms of disarmament? Does she not understand that her perpetual, indeed paranoid, insistence on building up nuclear weapons is a barefaced breach of Britain's commitments under the non-proliferation treaty? How does she imagine that we will get other countries to abide by that treaty? Does she propose to tear it up? If she continues to say that we must have nuclear weapons, many other countries will say the same.

The Prime Minister

First, the Soviet Union probably has more nuclear warheads than any other country. Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman went to the root of the communiqué because he does not believe that nuclear weapons are necessary for deterrence. The communiqué clearly says that nuclear weapons alone give the requisite degree of deterrence to the enemy. The right hon. Gentleman does not agree. Thirdly, this was agreed by the whole of NATO. Fourthly, the first nuclear arms control agreement that reduced the number of nuclear weapons was achieved under a Conservative Government through firm resolve and strength and by deploying cruise missiles. We played a big part in that. We were the first to deploy the cruise missiles and the Labour party would never have done that. We would never have had an agreement and the Russians would still have all their SS20s up. Had a Labour Government been in power there would have been no similar weapons on the Western side. We had a great influence over that agreement, and the Opposition do not like the fact that it was strength that achieved proper and balanced arms reductions.

Mr. Michael Mates (Hampshire, East)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her robust leadership of the NATO nations. It has been confirmed within NATO that the twin-track policy that we have been following is the correct one—a policy of firm deterrence while seeking reductions. Will she now take every step that she and her Ministers can to explain to the people of Britain, who do not understand some of the nuances and who will be concerned at the thought of upgrading nuclear weapons, that modernisation and bringing up to date is not rearmament or escalation but simply the maintenance of that deterrent shield without which we would not have obtained any of the concessions that we have got from the Soviet Union?

The Prime Minister

I totally agree with my hon. Friend. We have to make certain that we have a sure [column 1286]defence and that the deterrence deters. To do that, weapons must be up to date. Then we must have dialogue on arms control agreements. That is what we are doing, and in those arms control agreements we are making certain that at no stage do they unbalance our defence effort or call it into question.

The Opposition policy of no nuclear weapons was defeated very surely in a phone-in during the general election campaign—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Prime Minister must be given a chance to answer.

The Prime Minister

During that phone-in, Lance Corporal Ragman questioned the Labour spokesman on defence about Labour's non-nuclear policy. He said:

“Now you're telling me to go into this battle knowing that if we do succeed in pushing them back” ——

that is the enemy—

“We're gonna get nuked and if we don't succeed in pushing them back we're gonna get invaded.”

Dr. David Owen (Plymouth, Devonport)

The Prime Minister knows that the SDP has consistently supported the updating of Britain's nuclear deterrent and NATO's nuclear deterrent. What is more, it will continue to do so. Does the Prime Minister agree that there are many in NATO who think that some categories of battlefield nuclear weapons could be completely removed with advantage to both sides? I am speaking especially of very short-range battlefield nuclear weapons such as nuclear artillery. However, aircraft will continue to need to be nuclear armed. Can the Prime Minister say whether she would consider a battlefield nuclear-free corridor as a confidence building measure while at the same time going ahead with a stand-off air-launched missile for the Tornado aircraft?

The Prime Minister

I know that the right hon. Gentleman has consistently supported the updating of nuclear weapons, except for Polaris, which he did not seem to agree should be updated. I know that he is not associated with the new party, and I notice that it does not have a policy. In its document that party says:

“The new party will, therefore, need to decide how to reconcile these changing realities with the manifesto commitment to ‘maintain our capability in the sense of freezing our capacity at a level no greater than that of the Polaris system’.”

If the party has a policy, it seems to be not to modernise in order to deter but to freeze in order to be obsolete compared with the threat that faces us.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about battlefield nuclear weapons. He will be aware that since the Montebello decision the number taken out of the field in Europe has been considerable. He will also be aware that the artillery shells are being updated. That decision was taken and is in process of being implemented.

Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)

Is the Prime Minister aware that the last opinion poll on this matter showed that 75 per cent. of the British people think that further increases and improvements in nuclear weapons would not bring any real advantage or benefit to the United States or the Soviet Union? Why is the Prime Minister pursuing such a hard line in this costly and unproductive nuclear rearmament? Is it not the case that her policy of rearmament, of wanting to turn Britain into a nuclear battle station, was not put to the electorate at the last election?

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The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman forgets that we have an arms control agreement that reduces intermediate land-based nuclear weapons to zero, and that we are going for a START agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union to reduce the strategic ballistic missiles of the two nations to 50 per cent. Such a reduction of weapons was never achieved under the defence policy of the Labour party when it was in power and certainly would not be achieved now if it was in power.

In an article in The Daily Telegraph of 3 November the Labour Chief Whip was reported as saying:

“We have over 100 members of the Parliamentary CND in the Parliamentary Labour Party, including of course the Leader of the Party, Neil Kinnock.”

Therefore, Labour party policy is to have no nuclear weapons at all. That is no deterrent.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

May I express my appreciation to my right hon. Friend for the fact that this communiqué presents starkly to the peoples of the Alliance the fact that under Gorbachev, as under his predecessors, the steady modernisation and enhancement of Soviet military power has proceeded apace? In the face of that reality, is it not completely irresponsible for the Labour party to advocate modernisation and improvement of neither our conventional forces nor our nuclear forces?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend. Most people in this country expect us to have a sure defence and know that that requires a nuclear deterrent. That was reaffirmed by NATO this week, which said in the communiqué:

“Only the nuclear element can confront a potential aggressor with an unacceptable risk. Therefore, for the foreseeable future deterrence will continue to require an adequate mix of nuclear as well as conventional forces.”

Governments of all sorts in Europe, including Socialist Governments, fully endorsed that communiqué. The Labour party is totally out of step with every other Government in Europe, including Socialist Governments, as well as with the United States.

Mr. Michael Alison (Selby)

Does my right hon. Friend recall St. Augustine 's observation that memory is the stomach of the mind? The fact that the Labour party has no stomach for maintaining a proper balance in our effective defence, including a nuclear balance, is merely a reflection of the fact that it has no memory of the holocaust that followed pre-war appeasement and one-sided military weakness.

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is absolutely correct: no memory, no stomach, no spine, no guts.

Mr. Peter Shore (Bethnal Green and Stepney)

Although I welcome the progress made towards multilateral nuclear disarmament through the INF treaty and the START talks, and although I accept that the emphasis must now be on rectifying the conventional imbalance in Western Europe, does the Prime Minister believe that it is possible to make much progress towards reductions of conventional weapons in Europe without embarking upon parallel negotiations to limit and reduce the number of battlefield nuclear weapons in the European theatre?

The Prime Minister stated her strong objection to the third zero, as she called it. What can be the objection to [column 1288]the achievement of such a goal if—but only if—we have reached agreement with the Soviet Union to reduce its overwhelming supremacy in conventional weapons?

The Prime Minister

As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, a third nuclear zero in Europe would unbalance the forces, which is why we do not wish to enter that sort of negotiation now. That is why the communiqué talks about doing this “in conjunction with” a conventional balance and the elimination of chemical weapons. Most of us believe that it can be done only when that is complete. Chancellor Kohl accepts that there should be no third nuclear zero in Europe, so he is absolutely with us.

The phrase in the communiqué,

“in conjunction with … a conventional balance and the global elimination of chemical weapons” ,

came from the ministerial communiqué at Reykjavik, and has come forward into this communiqué. Most, indeed, all of us agree that the next priority is an asymmetrical reduction in conventional weapons because the Soviet union has such a great superiority and, if possible, a global ban on chemical weapons, although the verification problems would be enormous.

Sir Anthony Meyer (Clwyd, North-West)

My right hon. Friend must be warmly congratulated on the major role that she played in securing an agreement in which no one got exactly what he wanted and everyone got much more than he expected. Does she accept that the presence of President Mitterrand at the meeting suggested the possibility of closer Franco-British co-operation, which might lead to closer co-operation in defence equipment procurement and manufacture and, in due course, to closer consultation about the use of our independent nuclear deterrent?

The Prime Minister

I agree that it was very good that President Mitterrand was present at the nuclear summit. He is a staunch believer in nuclear deterrence, and France is updating its nuclear weapons. We have had a good deal of bilateral discussion with France, trying all the time to get greater practical co-operation between the military forces of France and the military forces of NATO. That seems to be forthcoming. Although France will not rejoin NATO, it will, nevertheless, co-operate closely with its conventional and possibly its nuclear forces, although the latter would be much more difficult.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Why does the Prime Minister suppose that she was unable to persuade even the Americans to support us on Exercise Fire Focus? Secondly, did she have any discussions with Chancellor Kohl or Secretary Shultz about the case of Christina Endrigkeit, which undermines the whole basis on which the Libyan bombing took place? Why is it that the evidence of Major Ruth La Fontaine, the acting officer in charge in Berlin, contradicts what the British and the American Governments said?

The Prime Minister

I am happy to tell the hon. Gentleman that Libya was not discussed at this NATO summit, not even in bilateral talks between the United States and ourselves. I note that the hon. Gentleman has no complaint about the NATO communiqué, for which I am grateful.

Mr. John Browne (Winchester)

Does my right hon. Friend accept that, unlike the Labour party, many millions—if not hundreds of millions—of people throughout the free world thank her for rejuvenating NATO and urging [column 1289]our NATO allies to concentrate upon not merely the words of the Soviet Union but the actions of the Soviet Union projected into the long term? Does she accept that arms control must be balanced, integrated in terms of nuclear, chemical and conventional and, above all, prudent? As for the funding of NATO, does she accept that vast alternative sources of funds are available if only NATO would co-ordinate its procurement programme effectively?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend. It was a vigorous communiqué by a vigorous NATO carrying into the future the strategy that has kept the peace in Europe for 40 years. Next year, NATO will celebrate 40 years of existence. The communiqué stands for everything that the Labour party rejects.

Ms. Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford)

What precisely does the Prime Minister mean by “necessary modernisation” ? Does it include replacing free-fall bombs on Tornado with cruise missiles? Does it include extending the range of the Lance missile? Does it include the so-called updating of the field artillery? How does she think the latter will be received in West Germany, where the people bitterly resent being told that they should be the firebreak for Europe? If she believes that the modernisation of Soviet short-range missiles is undesirable, how does she think all this updating and modernisation will help? It is substitution, it goes against the spirit of the present disarmament agreements and it cannot be in the interests of our people.

The Prime Minister

The communiqué recognised that we cannot deter with outdated weapons, whether conventional or nuclear. The Soviet Union knows that, which is why it is already updating its short-range as well as its longer-range weapons. Indeed, it is ahead of us in updating some long-range weapons

Since the INF agreement was signed, the Soviet Defence Minister, Mr. Yazov, has said:

“We shall exert all efforts to make the military alliance of Socialist countries, the Warsaw Pact organisation, even more powerful,”

In the ratification hearings before the Supreme Soviet, Marshal Akhromeyev has said that the Soviet Union

“has other nuclear weapons in the European area which to a certain extent compensate for these”

INF “missiles.”

That is the threat which we have to deter. I think that peace is extremely important. We shall continue to have peace only if we continue the strategy of NATO, which is to have nuclear weapons and to update them. If our free-fall nuclear bombs are absolutely incapable of delivery, there is no point in thinking that they would deter. Yes, in due course it will be necessary to update them.

Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)

Will my right hon. Friend dismiss with total derision the shambling defence policy strictures of the Opposition, which are pure Mickey Mouse with a couple of bullets in the pocket? In accepting the congratulations of the House on her successful participation in the summit, will my right hon. Friend say a little more about the interesting partial French return to NATO, despite what she said about them not being members of it, and that, with British encouragement, they can overcome their inhibitions about the United States [column 1290]aspect of the policy? Will my right hon. Friend particularly say whether the French have now begun to reconcile themselves on the shorter-range missiles with the German inhibitions about the presence and location of the French missiles?

The Prime Minister

I think that there is no possibility of our French friends returning to the military structure of NATO. They were present as part of the political structure of the Western Alliance. I think that there is no possibility at present of their returning to the military structure. They are always extremely helpful in their approach to nuclear weapons. They know full well that there is no deterrence without them. They know full well that one must keep them modern and up to date. They are doing that with their own long range weapons, and they are in fact modernising their own short range. I believe that the fact that a Socialist President of France is taking such a strong view has had a very strong effect on Socialists also in West Germany, and has been helpful to the NATO Alliance as a whole.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

While, at times, fear and deterrence are necessary, in this case through NATO, does not the Prime Minister agree that sure defence—the phrase that she used—and abiding security and stability are obtained only through knowledge that leads to that elusive political commodity, justified confidence?

In that respect, has not the United Kingdom two incomparable assets? First, we are the cultural and institutional centre of a language that is now a major world language—English. Secondly, we have through history, endowment and performance a major world news agency, the BBC World Service, which serves the ends that I have just described. Cannot the £3 million that is now necessary for a world television service be made available, particularly bearing in mind the fact that it is the cost of about 20 modern war planes? Does not that make only good sense in our contribution to confidence, which alone separates us from nuclear holocaust and, from the Prime Minister's point of view, is very good value for money? Should not the government therefore invest in that news service that we all want to see?

The Prime Minister

Sometimes it seems to me that we need to aim more knowledge and more facts towards the Opposition to achieve their agreement to a NATO communiqué. So far, the BBC does not seem to have been able to do that. Yes, the BBC external services are broadcast in many countries. The hon. Gentleman is aware that the Independent Television News already has an international television service, which does not cost the taxpayer a penny.

Mr. Alistair Burt (Bury, North)

Has my right hon. Friend considered that her sadly realistic view that conventional warfare will be deterred only by nuclear weapons will strike a chord not only in our own constituencies, but throughout the length and breadth of Europe in working men's clubs, and particularly in the Soviet Union, where the Soviets' experience of invasion by conventional warfare was so horrific during the second world war? Does not my right hon. Friend feel that opinions engendered by such an experience and such a memory are likely to be worth a few more beans than the vacuous opinions expressed by Opposition Members?

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The Prime Minister

Yes, I have always found that in this country people understand, because memories are still vivid, that one must have a strong defence. They understand that one needs nuclear weapons for defence. The Army—all our armed forces—understands that this Government at least would never put our young men in the field inadequately equipped and with equipment that was not sufficient to deter the threat. That was their worry in the piece that I read out. Therefore, they support the policy, and the people generally support the policy. They would prefer us to have a sound defence. They know that it is necessary and they have a certain amount of pride in the part that this country plays as a staunch ally in NATO, and also more worldwide even than NATO.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

In view of the statement that the Prime Minister has just made about the BBC, is she aware that many of us are absolutely delighted that she has come back from the NATO summit without getting entirely her own way? It is about time that the nations of the world decided that Mrs. Thatcher does not run everything. If she did, we should be involved in a nuclear war in no time.

Is the right hon. Lady further aware that she speaks with two voices? On the one hand, she says how delighted she is to work with Mr. Gorbachev and, on the other hand, she does everything possible to strengthen the military forces in the Soviet Union that want to undermine Mr. Gorbachev and are in fact undermining Mr. Gorbachev. Is it not clear that the Russians want to get rid of nuclear weapons over a period, to carry out the reforms that Mr. Gorbachev wants, and she more than anyone else in the Western world, even more than Reagan, is undermining those efforts?

The Prime Minister

It will come as no surprise to the hon. Gentleman to hear that I disagree with him. Perhaps he can say where one did not get the British way in NATO. One did. It was our job. We fought to get the modernisation in. There was no debate about whether or not nuclear forces needed to be modernised. Everyone accepted that they did. In the ministerial groups and the high-level groups, everyone accepts that they do. They make provision for future action. The only question was whether we said that in the communiqué. I believed in being open in the communiqué and, supported and backed by many others, we agreed that not only should we modernise our nuclear forces, but that we should say so in the communiqué. That is clear. There is no doubt about it. Everyone knows that we have to do it. It was what we said in the communiqué. I hope that the hon. Gentleman thinks that it was right to be open-minded.

We welcome the reforms in the Soviet Union. I have said many times that it is only on the basis of a sure defence and a sure deterrence that we can encourage openly the reforms that are taking place. We know that it is not easy. If they fell apart, if trouble is caused in the satellite countries, or if the Soviets return to a much more Stalinist figure, we know that, whatever happens, our defence continues to be sure because we take the necessary decisions in time. The hon. Gentleman will know that the lead times for modern equipment are very long, and one mistake now in refusing to make decisions could undermine the defence of the whole country. That is our fully consistent position.

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Mr. William Cash (Stafford)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that we speak with one voice, and that that voice is for unity and security in Europe and the rest of the world? Does she agree also that the Opposition speak with one voice in matters relating to disarmament, and that that is a voice of surrender and sellout? Does she further agree that the results of this summit will do an enormous amount to enhance respect for this country in the world as a result of her efforts in initiating it and carrying it through?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I agree. Conservative Members speak with one voice: that we should have a sure defence and deterrence. We are always ready to enter dialogue on effective arms control agreements. I agree with my hon. Friend that the Opposition speak with one voice. Neil KinnockThe Leader of the Opposition used that voice clearly when he spoke, during the election campaign, of using all the resources that one has to make any occupation completely untenable.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I must have regard for the fact that this is private Members' time. I shall allow questions to continue until noon and then we must move on.

Mr. Paul Boateng (Brent, South)

The Prime Minister was free with her advice to Mr. Gorbachev as to how he might deal with dissidents in his Politburo—and she should know. Was she so free with her advice to her protagonist, Chancellor Kohl, as to how to deal with elements in his Cabinet and country who, under no circumstances, will accept one of her modernised Lance missiles, or any other missiles, on West German territory?

The Prime Minister

Chancellor Kohl has been one of the staunchest members of NATO. It was he who agreed to deploy cruise and Pershing missiles. We deployed cruise first; West Germany was second. Those were new nuclear weapons that were necessary to deter the Soviet Union. It was necessary to demonstrate our strength, and Chancellor Kohl was the second to deploy. West Germany has also taken modernised nuclear artillery shells, so the hon. Gentleman is completely wrong.

How do I give Chancellor Kohl advice? I say that I do not believe in coalition Governments—Liberals are weak everywhere.

Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh)

Despite the mental meanderings of the Opposition, there is overwhelming evidence to show that the people of this country have not forgotten the lessons of the inter-war years. The memory has not been dulled that war came about because of weakness, not strength. My right hon. Friend's statement today will be welcomed throughout the country, particularly in the north of England, because we can now look forward to the modernisation of our defence programme. I hope that this will not be the last time that my right hon. Friend comes to the Dispatch Box to say that we shall remain strong in this country.

Bearing in mind all the work that my right hon. Friend must do, may I ask her to reflect for a few moments on the BBC before doling out more money to it, and look at the play that it put on this week, which was a travesty of justice for NATO and the defence of the western world?

The Prime Minister

It is six years since we have had this sort of NATO summit of Heads of State and Government taking stock and considering guidelines for future action. It was therefore vital that we secured the agreement [column 1293]publicly that nuclear forces must be modernised as necessary. The detailed decisions, as my hon. Friend knows, are taken in the ministerial nuclear planning group, which meets in April. It will first have to consider any dispositions consequent upon the intermediate nuclear forces agreement, and, later, which weapons should be updated as necessary. My hon. Friend is aware that the lead times are long, which is why we had to get the guidelines clear for Ministers who take these detailed decisions. However, it is clear from the NATO communiqué that our defence will continue to be sure; so will our deterrence, and all members of NATO agree with that conclusion.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

Does the Prime Minister accept that anyone looking objectively at what she has done this week would conclude that she has gone completely mad? The world is racked by debt, hunger and poverty. The National Health Service is collapsing in her own country for lack of funding, and she goes to a NATO Council of Ministers with the deliberate intention of scuppering the possibility of a future disarmament treaty with the Soviet Union by agreeing to upgrade and spend a great deal of money on nuclear weapons. Does she not think it is time to stop increasing expenditure on nuclear weapons and to start spending money on the vital social needs of this country and the rest of the world? Is it not time seriously to promote disarmament, on which the Soviet Union is clearly keen, even if she and her friends in Europe are not?

The Prime Minister

Sixteen NATO Heads of Government and Heads of State agreed this effective statement. Of course, I do not expect the hon. Gentleman to like it. He does not agree with NATO or nuclear deterrence. He does not, therefore, agree with deterrence. One gets disarmament agreements only by negotiating from strength, in detail and toughly. One can then be very certain that there is verification. Those agreements will stick. When one agreement is completed, we move to another knowing that defence is sure and that the treaties that have been signed will stick and be honoured meticulously. Therefore, the intermediate nuclear agreement was reached and the United States and the Soviet Union move on to the START agreement, which I believe will be made. The hon. Gentleman wants arms control agreements and they are happening under this Government and other NATO Governments because we have acted from strength.

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Opposition, in trying to destroy our defences, overlooked one key political fact—that, despite being willing to give up some nuclear weapons, the Warsaw pact countries still show no sign of giving up their Communist creed or their desire to spread their revolution wherever they can?

The Prime Minister

Of course, it is part of the Communist creed that it should be extended by one means or another the world over. That has been part of the Communist creed from the beginning. That is why we watch their actions throughout the world very carefully. The Communist creed is spread by military might, by subversion or by proxy. At the moment there are hopeful [column 1294]signs, and we welcome the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan. We have been demanding that withdrawal for a long time. That withdrawal is welcome and we will watch its implementation carefully. We also note that more world aid is provided by NATO countries than by Communist countries.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

Is not the Prime Minister's obsession with nuclear weapons undermining the United Nations nuclear non-proliferation treaty signed by 133 nations stating that they will not have nuclear weapons manufactured or deployed on their territory? Is not her obsession also undermining the INF agreement, which she claims that she had something to do with—and that is not true—because many nations will believe that she is cheating on that agreement because of the increase in nuclear weapons? Will she consider an alternative other than the threat of mass extermination if she thinks that the Russians are coming? Why will she not commit suicide if she is frightened of the Russians and allow the rest of us to continue to negotiate with Mr. Gorbachev, who she called “that boldly courageous leader” ?

The Prime Minister

No. Disarmament was hoped for after the last world war and the West began to disarm. Shortly afterwards, the Berlin airlift occurred, and we will all remember that. As was said at the NATO summit, we did not choose to make the Soviet Union an enemy; the Soviet Union chose to be one. NATO was formed after the Berlin airlift and after the Soviet Union chose to embark on a heavy programme of rearmament. That NATO agreement and the action following it have kept the peace in Europe for 40 years and enabled us to continue to produce this kind of statement and debate in the House. The hon. Gentleman is the first to take advantage of that but the last to defend the means that achieved it.

Mr. John Bowis (Battersea)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that we did not reach today's negotiating table by dangling obsolete weaponry before the Soviet policy makers? Does she also agree that the people in this country who seek genuine peace and security will be more reassured by this Government's policies than by the Labour party's policies which at best will leave our defence capabilities rusting in the cupboard, and at worst will abolish them tomorrow, and, according to the Leader of the Opposition, will involve us “taking to the hills” ?

The Prime Minister

Obsolete weapons do not deter. Conventional weapons alone do not deter, and two world wars in Europe have already proved that. We want a war-free Europe, and we need to keep nuclear weapons to achieve that.

Mr. John Fraser (Norwood)

Was the Prime Minister implying in her earlier replies that Chancellor Kohl is enthusiastic about the immediate deployment of modernised Lance missiles on German soil?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir, I said modernised artillery weapons. They have already been modernised. A decision has yet to be made about Lance. That will be one of the decisions. It is a United States weapon; it will have to be designed. The point about making the present decision is that we will be prepared as necessary to make decisions to deploy modernised nuclear weapons.

Mr. Graham Riddick (Colne Valley)

Can my right hon. Friend give the House more details of how NATO is to [column 1295]persuade the Soviet Union to eliminate its massive stockpile of chemical weapons? Does she not agree that the process has been made much more difficult by Britain's decision in the 1950s unilaterally to get rid of its chemical weapons? Does she not think that there is a lesson to be learnt from that in relation to nuclear weapons?

The Prime Minister

Yes; my hon. Friend is right. I have frequently said that Opposition Members should really criticise the Soviet Union for not following our example in unilaterally getting rid of chemical weapons. It proves that unilateral disarmament is useless. One's opponent merely increases his stockpile and modernises and updates his weapons. I think that a change of view came about in the Soviet Union when the United States, which has only a very small stockpile of older chemical weapons, decided to go ahead with work that would update that stockpile if necessary. It was following that decision that the Soviet Union changed its mind about wanting to negotiate a global plan for the reduction of chemical weapons. Again, we have to watch verification because these weapons are very easy to make and therefore very difficult to verify.

Mr. Speaker

We now return to the debate on the enterprise initiative.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)


Mr. Speaker

Will the hon. Gentleman please resume his seat?