Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

HC Stmnt: [NATO Summit]

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [154/19-29]
Editorial comments: 1530-1600.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 5874
Themes: Conservatism, Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Labour Party & socialism, Security services & intelligence
[column 19]

NATO Summit

3.30 pm

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall make a statement about the meeting of NATO Heads of State and Government held in Brussels on 29 and 30 May, which I attended together with my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Geoffrey Howethe Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary.

The meeting approved two documents: a declaration to mark NATO's 40th anniversary; and a comprehensive concept for arms control and disarmament. Copies have been placed in the Library.

I will deal first with the declaration. This celebrates NATO's success in withstanding the test of four decades and enabling our countries to enjoy in freedom one of the longest periods of peace and prosperity in their history. It reaffirms NATO's belief in strong defence and a strategy of nuclear deterrence. It confirms that the presence of American conventional and nuclear forces remains vital to the security of Europe.

The declaration endorses NATO's conventional arms control proposals, which call for the elimination of disparities between NATO and the Warsaw pact in tanks, artillery and armoured troop carriers. It also welcomes the initiative announced by President Bush at the summit. For land-based combat aircraft and helicopters, this provides for reduction to equal ceilings at a level 15 per cent. below current Alliance holdings. All the equipment withdrawn is to be destroyed.

The initiative proposes a 20 per cent. cut in combat manpower in United States stationed forces, and a resulting ceiling of 275,000 on United States and Soviet ground and air force personnel stationed outside national territory in the area between the Atlantic and the Urals. This ceiling would require the Soviet Union to reduce its forces in eastern Europe by some 325,000. United States and Soviet forces withdrawn will be demobilised.

The American initiative sets the ambitious goal of trying to accomplish these reductions by 1992 or 1993. In addition, the declaration commends President Bush 's “open skies” proposal.

The declaration also sets some very important political aims. At British initiative, it calls upon the Soviet Union and the east European countries to tear down the walls that separate us physically and politically; to ensure that people are not prevented by armed force from crossing the frontiers and boundaries which we share with the eastern countries; to respect in law and practice people's right to determine freely and periodically the nature of the government which they wish to have; and to see to it that their peoples can decide through their elected authorities what form of relations they wish to have with other countries.

I deal next with the comprehensive concept. This asserts a number of very important points: first, NATO's strategy remains one of deterrence. Secondly, conventional defence alone cannot ensure deterrence. Only the nuclear element can confront an aggressor with an unacceptable risk, and thus plays an indispensable role in the current strategy of war prevention.

Thirdly, deterrence therefore requires an appropriate mix of adequate and effective nuclear and conventional forces which will continue to be kept up to date where necessary—that is, a strategy of flexible response. [column 20]

Fourthly, nuclear forces below the strategic level make an essential contribution to deterrence. Those points match in every respect the Government's views.

The comprehensive concept also deals with the particular role of short-range nuclear forces. This section confirms that land, sea and air-based systems, including ground-based missiles, will continue to be needed in Europe. It challenges the Soviet Union to reduce unilaterally its short-range missiles—in which it has massive superiority—to NATO levels.

It states that introduction and deployment of a follow-on system to the Lance missile will be addressed in 1992. Meanwhile, NATO recognises the value of the continuing research and development work on the follow-on to Lance being done by the United States.

Once agreement has been reached on conventional force reductions and implementation of that agreement is under way, then and only then, the United States is authorised to enter into negotiations to achieve a partial reduction in short-range missiles. But no reductions will be made in NATO's SNF missiles until after the agreement on conventional force reductions has been fully implemented. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker


The Prime Minister

Moreover, it is specifically recognised that removal of the imbalance in conventional forces——

An hon. Member

That is not telling the truth.

Mr. Speaker

I heard that remark. Please withdraw it. I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw that remark.

Mr. D.N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

Whatever you require, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Order. It was from a sedentary position, and I accept it.

The Prime Minister

Moreover, it is specifically recognised that removal of the imbalance in conventional forces would not obviate the continuing need for short-range missiles. In other words, negotiations will take place only when those strict conditions have been met—and there will be no third zero.

I pay tribute to the contribution of the Secretary-General of NATO, Dr. Woerner, in achieving that excellent result; and also to my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Geoffrey Howethe Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary for his very considerable part in the negotiation of the final documents.

The outcome of the summit is a great success for NATO. We have shown ourselves to be a strong, confident and united alliance, holding the initiative on arms control and challenging the Soviet and east European Governments to give their people the genuine freedom of choice which our own people enjoy. The values which have guided the West for 40 years have been reaffirmed. Our common commitment to a strong defence has been renewed. On NATO's 40th anniversary, this was a very satisfactory outcome for the Alliance and for the United Kingdom.

Mr. Neil Kinnock (Islwyn)

I thank the Prime Minister for her statement and specifically welcome, among other things, proposals for the elimination of disparities between NATO and the Warsaw pact countries, and the emphasis [column 21]given in her statement and in the communiqué to the removal of physical and political barriers between East and West, and rapid progress towards freedom of movement, thought and political and civil rights in the Warsaw pact countries. However, arising from her statement, can the Prime Minister confirm that, when she said that no reductions will be made in NATO's SNF missiles until after the agreement on conventional force reductions has been fully implemented, she did not mean that there would be no negotiations on reductions in missiles until after the conventional force agreement had been completed? [Interruption.] In view of the confusion, clarification is necessary.

Will the Prime Minister confirm that her main objectives at last week's NATO summit were, first, to gain a specific commitment to the replacement of the existing Lance missile launchers by new weapon systems with ranges of up to 485 km; secondly, to gain the specific exclusion of all possibility of negotiating short-range nuclear weapons reductions, as she made clear in her statement of 7 May that

“there can be no negotiations” ;

and, thirdly and consequently, to rule out explicitly any question of a third nuclear zero in central Europe at any time? Will the Prime Minister confirm that she failed to achieve a single one of those objectives?

Will the Prime Minister confirm that, following Secretary of State Baker's visit to Moscow on 11 May, the Russians responded on 23 May by accepting NATO's proposed ceilings on the number of tanks and armoured vehicles, with obvious consequences for reductions in troop levels? Does she agree that it was then very wise of President Bush to lead NATO to accommodate the Soviet proposal that combat aircraft, helicopters and troops should be included in negotiations? Do those proposals and objectives have the right hon. Lady's wholehearted and unremitting support?

In the light of developments over past months, and particularly last week, is it not now obvious that the Prime Minister should change her attitudes to take advantage of changing conditions in the way that the United States, the Federal Republic of Germany and other NATO countries are clearly doing? Is the right hon. Lady prepared to join them in efforts to work to conditions in which, in President Bush 's words, Europe can

“forgo the peace of tension for the peace of trust” ?

Does the Prime Minister now agree with President Bush that there is a need to go “beyond containment” of the Soviet Union to a situation in which, as freedom and democracy spread in eastern Europe,

“the role of NATO shifts from the main emphasis upon deterrence” ?

Is the Prime Minister aware that unless she changes she will ensure that it will be the United States and the Federal Republic of Germany that are, in President Bush 's words in Mainz last Wednesday, the “partners in leadership” ?

The Prime Minister

I shall read the full extent of what the comprehensive concept says about negotiations on short-range nuclear forces:

“Once implementation of such an agreement is under way” ——

Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)

But not completed.

The Prime Minister

There is quite a lot to come yet. The comprehensive concept says: [column 22]

“Once implementation of such an agreement is under way, the United States, in consultation with the Allies concerned, is prepared to enter into negotiations to achieve a partial reduction” ——

[Hon. Members: “Read it.” ] I did—

“of American and Soviet land-based nuclear missile forces of shorter range to equal and verifiable levels. With special reference to the Western proposals on CFE tabled in Vienna, enhanced by the proposals by the United States at the May 1989 Summit, the Allies concerned proceed on the understanding” ——

this is the bit that the right hon. Gentleman forgot to observe—

“that negotiated reductions leading to a level below the existing level of their SNF missiles will not be carried out until the results of these negotiations have been implemented.”

Negotiations do not start—precisely what I said. [Interruption.] Implemented means implemented—yes, fully implemented. No short-range nuclear missile will be taken out until the results of the conventional negotiations have been implemented. Implemented means fully implemented. The comprehensive concept says:

“Reductions of Warsaw Pact SNF systems should be carried out before that date.”

On the entire comprehensive concept, it reaffirms all the principles with which we agree but which Neil Kinnockthe Leader of the Opposition rejects. It states that

“for the foreseeable future there is no alternative to the Alliance's strategy for prevention of war.”

Deterrence requires

“an appropriate mix of adequate and effective nuclear and conventional forces which will continue to be kept up to date where necessary … Only the nuclear element can confront an aggressor with an unacceptable risk.”

I am reading directly from the comprehensive concept. It says:

“Nuclear forces below the strategic level will continue to be required.”

It states:

“There is … a level of forces, both nuclear and conventional, below which the credibility of deterrence cannot be maintained.”

It also says that the need for short-range nuclear weapons will not be obviated by anything in the comprehensive concept.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about President Bush 's proposal on the reductions of helicopters and aircraft and the amount specified in his proposals. We referred his suggestion, which must be carefully looked at, to a NATO group. France and Great Britain were both deeply concerned that it should not affect dual-capable aircraft which are vital to both our strategies, and are part of the NATO strategy. The proposal will be looked at very carefully by a group in NATO before it goes to the negotiations in Vienna. The right hon. Gentleman will find that, in the light of his recent proposals, he could not possibly have put his signature to the comprehensive concept proposals, which are excellent. They have been agreed by all the allies, and that is the strategy for the foreseeable future. They would be negated by the right hon. Gentleman's Labour policy.

Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith (Wealden)

Will my right hon. Friend accept that Conservative Members unequivocally welcome the statement on the outcome of the summit and warmly congratulate her on her important role in securing a settlement which contributes to the peace of the world and is certainly to the advantage of the West? Can she confirm that, of the 16 countries representing NATO, not one of the eight Socialist Prime Minister had [column 23]any reservations about the comprehensive concept and the continuing need for nuclear weapons, unlike the Leader of the Opposition?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend. All the countries at the summit, whether Socialist, Conservative or centre endorsed the comprehensive concept requiring a mix of conventional and nuclear weapons, and also agreed that a mix of nuclear weapons—land, sea and air-based—would be needed for the foreseeable future. All countries absolutely agreed on the concept of flexible response, which must be matched by the requisite weapons. It was a very good summit, but one to which the Labour party could never have acceded.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

We certainly welcome the initiative taken by President Bush which largely led to the issue of an agreed communiqué. I am sure that the Prime Minister will recognise that that is not the end of the story because clearly there are differences in interpretation. Will she explain why the West German Government maintain that there is a third zero option when she denies it? In one of the many statements after the summit the Prime Minister maintained that our relationship with the United States was paramount. Does she not think that, while affirming the importance of that relationship, it is time to put the development of the European pillar and of our relationship with our European allies as a paramount consideration in our defence and foreign policy?

The Prime Minister

I cannot speak specifically for the Federal Republic of Germany. The Secretary-General of NATO, Dr Woerner, clearly said that the reduction was partial and could not be entire. Paragraph 63 of the comprehensive concept clearly states that the need for short-range nuclear weapons is not obviated. President Bush confirmed that meaning. It is the United States which will have to enter into the partial reduction of those weapons, which belong to it and, when the time comes, the United States will carry out the negotiations. That seems pretty conclusive.

With regard to President Bush 's specific proposals for further reductions in conventional armaments, helicopter, aircraft and station forces are being looked at in detail by a committee of NATO. I hope that those considerations will be concluded within a comparatively short time of two months, because there must be a number of detailed considerations before detailed proposals are put on the table in Vienna.

Sir Peter Tapsell (East Lindsey)

Does not the sudden and tragic change in the political scene in Beijing underline yet again the need for extreme caution in the handling of these matters, and my right hon. Friend's great wisdom in stressing that point continually in recent weeks?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. What has happened in some part of Russia and—in a much worse way—in China shows that a defence policy can never be based on hope or good intentions; it can be based only on a sure defence. Those who value freedom and democracy will ensure that defences remain certain, and for the foreseeable future that will require a mix of conventional and nuclear weapons, and a mix of nuclear weapons from strategic to short range.

[column 24]

Mr. A. E. P. Duffy (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

Is the Prime Minister aware that NATO parliamentarians meeting in the spring session last week warmly welcomed the summit agreement and endorsed the comprehensive concept approach to arms control, but that their discussions reflected differing attitudes to negotiations on short-range nuclear forces? They probably thought that, on balance, the key lay in the Vienna talks on conventional armed forces in Europe—CFE. As so much may hinge on those talks, will the Prime Minister do whatever she can to speed up the timetable?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the negotiations in Vienna on tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery are going very well. Some proposals have been agreed and others have yet to be agreed, but agreement has not yet been reached on the monitoring and verification of the destruction of vehicles. As the hon. Gentleman will realise, that is absolutely vital: there is no earthly good in an agreement that tanks and armoured personnel vehicles shall be destroyed unless there is an adequate verification procedure, without which they might be withdrawn behind the Urals and not actually destroyed. The same goes for helicopters and other aircraft. That, unfortunately, will take some time to negotiate.

As the hon. Gentleman will realise, the question of helicopters and other aircraft must be considered carefully within NATO—because of the dual-capable aircraft and a number of other factors—as must the question of stationed forces. It is thought that the negotiations may not take too long; implementation and verification would of course take much longer. There is no delay, but we want to be certain that verification procedures are adequate so that we can keep our strong defence.

Mr. Alistair Burt (Bury, North)

Recalling how both East and West reached their present position on disarmament, should we not pay tribute to the resolve of the British people, who consistently supported a party of nuclear deterrrence—as offered by the Conservatives in the past few general elections—in the teeth of considerable objection from Opposition parties whose policies would never have brought us to our present position? Is there not an element of humbug in the Opposition's cheering of aspects of disarmament policy from the sidelines when their policies would never have allowed us to come anywhere near the position that we have now achieved?

The Prime Minister

I agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend. It was the firmness upheld by the Government and our NATO partners that brought the Soviet Union to the negotiating table, which I believe was an aspect of the change in its policies. Without that firmness Communism would be stronger today instead of very much weaker; without it the changes in the Soviet Union could never have come about.

Mr. John Cartwright (Woolwich)

The military argument in favour of NATO's land-based short-range nuclear weapons has always been that they were needed to offset the Soviet supremacy in conventional firepower. If, as we all hope, the CFE negotiations will result in the removal of that Soviet threat, why do we need a new generation of SNF missiles in addition to the nuclear artillery and the sea-launched and air-launched nuclear weapons that NATO already deploys in Europe?

[column 25]

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman will find the answer in paragraph 63 of the comprehensive concept. The removal of the imbalance in conventional forces would provide scope for further reductions in the sub-strategic nuclear forces of members of the integrated military structure, although it would not obviate the need for such forces. The hon. Gentleman will find an expansion of that in the comprehensive concept. Short-range nuclear weapons must be available to commanders in the field at all stages so that at any time a potential aggressor could not be certain whether they would be used. That is an essential part of flexible response. [Interruption.] I am not preaching to the hon. Gentleman: I would not waste my breath. I am trying to quote from the comprehensive concept.

Sir Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the concept of a Europe whole and free embraces the notion of a united Germany? Does she regard that as a stabilising or a destabilising consideration in the future of Europe?

The Prime Minister

The declaration envisages that possibility when it says that the peoples of any particular country should be able to say through their elected representatives—and of course we want democracy in each of them—what its relationship to other countries should be. That idea is embodied in the declaration.

Ms. Clare Short (Birmingham, Ladywood)

Does not the Prime Minister understand that the best help we can give to the people of eastern Europe in enhancing democracy and their economic development is to agree to arms reductions on both sides? The right hon. Lady alone in NATO is blocking those processes by pushing for modernisation and opposing the third zero. Her rhetoric belongs to the past. She does not understand the new era that is now possible—a free and united Europe. She is blocking the development of democracy in eastern Europe.

The Prime Minister

The hon. Lady talks nonsense, and she is the prisoner of her own propaganda. It was this Government who, together with our partners in NATO, put on the table in Vienna proposals for very deep cuts in tanks, armoured personnel vehicles and artillery, to bring down their numbers far lower than the Soviet Union ever thought of. We are pursuing those reductions, but we insist on a proper procedure for verifying the destruction of those weapons. To do anything else would be highly dangerous to the future of democracy and freedom in western Europe.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke)

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Brussels declaration, which reaffirms the necessity for nuclear deterrence, would not in all conscience have been signed by anyone who was a member of CND?

The Prime Minister

Confirmed absolutely.

Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)

Will the Prime Minister make clear exactly how she stands on the modernisation of short-range nuclear weapons? Is she really saying that, regardless of what reductions are achieved in conventional weapons, NATO should persist in modernising the remaining short-range weapons that presumably it must have to maintain a flexible response? If that is what the right hon. Lady is saying, is that not to be interpreted as a prophecy of doom—that no matter how [column 26]the Soviets use their resources, be they conventional or chemical, NATO's response would have to include retaliation by use of a nuclear deterrent?

The Prime Minister

I repeat that to which 16 nations agreed in the comprehensive concept——

Mr. Douglas

Did you agree?

The Prime Minister

Of course I agreed to it wholeheartedly, on behalf of the Government and people of this country:

“The removal of the imbalance in conventional forces would provide scope for further reductions in sub-strategic nuclear forces … though it would not obviate the need for such forces.”

Therefore, the need for them remains.

Mr. Douglas


The Prime Minister

Regardless? That is the principle of Alliance security set out in the comprehensive concept. It states also:

“for the foreseeable future there is no alternative to the Alliance's strategy for prevention of war.”

Deterrence requires

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

The concept goes on to refer to short-range nuclear forces also, in paragraph 27:

“The Allies sub-strategic nuclear forces are not designed to compensate for conventional imbalances … Their role is to ensure that there are no circumstances in which a potential aggressor might discount the prospect of nuclear retaliation in response to military action. Nuclear forces below the strategic level thus make an essential contribution to deterrence.”

Sixteen nations signed up to that agreement—but not the Labour party.

Mr. Andrew MacKay (Berkshire, East)

Before she left for Brussels, did my right hon. Friend find time to read the comment of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) that she would be alone and totally isolated? In light of the fact that NATO unanimously reaffirmed its commitment to nuclear deterrence, does my right hon. Friend agree that it is the Labour party and the right hon. Member for Gorton who are totally isolated, particularly from their fellow Socialists in Europe, who entirely support nuclear deterrence?

The Prime Minister

Far from being isolated, we were very prominent in negotiating an excellent result. My right hon. and learned Friend Sir Geoffrey Howethe Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs was particularly prominent in negotiating the final language of the communiqué, especially that concerned with short-range nuclear forces. Altogether it was a very satisfactory conference and result for the United Kingdom and for the Alliance. The Opposition could never have signed that as their policy rejects flexible response and want a third zero—both those options were negated by what we agreed. The Labour party wants to get rid of all nuclear weapons, whereas the NATO summit particularly confirmed the continuing need for a mix of conventional and nuclear weapons. We value democracy and freedom enough to defend it adequately on behalf of the people.

Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough)

Will the Prime Minister enlighten the House? At what stage is she [column 27]prepared to put British land-based aircraft into the negotiations on the reduction of conventional weapons in Europe?

The Prime Minister

We are not prepared to put dual-capable aircraft into the negotiations, for obvious reasons—obvious from what the hon. Gentleman said. The proposal is for a reduction in aircraft of something like 15 per cent., and we are advised that that should not include dual-capable aircraft.

Mr. Roger King (Birmingham, Northfield)

My right hon. Friend will be aware that today we celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Anglo-American landings in Normandy to set Europe free. Will she confirm that the Anglo-American partnership within NATO is as strong and united as ever? Does she further agree that the way to freedom in the Eastern bloc is a strong Western democracy?

The Prime Minister

Yes. President Bush reaffirmed once again the United States' commitment to the defence of Europe and its forces to Europe. Of course, Europe would not be free had it not been for the devotion and the forces of the United States. We are eternally grateful for that and for the United States' continuing commitment. The comprehensive concept sets out the need for land-based nuclear missiles from America to be present in Europe.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Did the Prime Minister take the opportunity to share with our NATO allies the concerns expressed by one of the Ministers at the Foreign Office about the blackmail of Labour Members of Parliament? Does she share those concerns?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that such thoughts were never mentioned at NATO. He is fully aware of the statement which my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Geoffrey Howethe Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs published and which the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office made quite clear.

Mr. William Cash (Stafford)

Will my right hon. Friend note that at about the same time as the NATO summit President Gorbachev announced an increase in spending on defence several times higher than had previously been announced? Does my right hon. Friend agree that against that background we should have looked extremely stupid in NATO and in Britain had we taken the blindest notice of the puny and supine attitude adopted over the years by the Leader of the Opposition and his party?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend. The Warsaw pact countries, particularly the Soviet forces, have immensely increased large numbers of conventional weapons over ours and will continue to do so for a long time to come. Even if a conventional agreement was signed, it would take a long time to get Soviet forces down and verified to the levels we seek, and during that time we should be extremely vulnerable. Even after that, we should need a mix of conventional and nuclear weapons to be a proper deterrent.

Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)

Will the Prime Minister ever agree to dual-capable aircraft being included in the [column 28]negotiations? What does she have against parallel negotiations on conventional and strategic nuclear forces? Is it not time that we stopped nuclear modernisation and gave peace a chance?

The Prime Minister

Reductions in strategic arms by the Soviet Union and United States have recommenced. Discussions on reductions in conventional weapons will go ahead at Vienna, and there will also be talks on reducing chemical weapons. The hon. Gentleman is aware that the Soviet Union has enormous superiority in forces, weaponry and aircraft, which will remain for a long time. Conservative Members are concerned to ensure that we have a proper and effective defence.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Has Mr. Bush suggested that Tornado be included in the package for negotiation? Do the comments that the Prime Minister made today about modernisation accord with statements made to the West German Parliament by Mr. Kohl?

The Prime Minister

No, President Bush has not suggested that Tornado be included. He has made general proposals and is aware of our view on dual-capable aircraft. Our advice is that they need not be included in the 15 per cent., and that is our understanding. Of course the details are to be worked out—it is vital how they are spread—in a NATO group before they are put on the table at Vienna. Detailed proposals will need to be put on the table. [Interruption.] I do not answer for Chancellor Kohl, who is well able to speak for himself. He signed up for the comprehensive concept, and when I challenged everyone assembled at NATO that it did not mean a third zero no one dissented from my view. Dr. WoernerThe Secretary-General of NATO and President Bush said that “partial” means partial, and only partial. Germany signed, in paragraph 63, for the fact that anything in the comprehensive concept does not obviate the need for short-range nuclear weapons. I assume that Germany will keep the word to which she honourably put her name.

Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)

Does my right hon. Friend realise that the far-reaching communiqué that was made soon after the summit is acutely embarrassing to those who have supported CND and unilateralism and to those who have been apologists for Soviet imperialism? When dealing with questions put to her, often by Labour Members, will she continue to practise the Christian virtue of forgiveness?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my right hon. Friend. Sixteen Governments agreed this most far-reaching communiqué, which sets the strategy for the foreseeable future. Precious few Labour Members would agree anything of it.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

Is not the Prime Minister's obsession with modernisation a back-door means of fuelling the arms race? As the Prime Minister has been talking about freedom and democracy, perhaps she will explain to the House what freedom and democracy British people have if nuclear arms are used—she has repeated that she is prepared to use them if necessary—to turn our part of the planet into a radioactive cinder heap?

The Prime Minister

Unless one is prepared to use weapons, they are not, and never could be, a deterrent. I say again that 16 nations across Europe and the other side of the Atlantic—the United States, Canada and the [column 29]nations of Europe belonging to NATO going way beyond the European Community—signed the treaty, including other Socialist Governments. The Labour party could not sign the document and therefore could not accept the shield and defence of NATO. What a pity Labour Members are such a puny lot.

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the most critical reasons for our retention of tactical nuclear weapons is the overwhelming number of chemical weapons that the Soviet Union possesses—approximately one quarter of its forward stocks of ammunition? Does she further agree that those weapons give the Soviet conventional forces an overwhelming advantage, which is further enhanced by their numerical superiority?

The Prime Minister

I agree that the Soviets have colossal superiority in chemical weapons, a point that is dealt with effectively in this year's defence White Paper. In 1991 the older chemical weapons that the United States has stationed in the Federal Republic will be withdrawn and then we shall be without any chemical weapons unless modernised ones are substituted and stationed. In that case, our only response to the use of chemical weapons would be nuclear, and that is an additional reason for keeping nuclear weapons.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

Why is it so difficult for the right hon. Lady to admit that a major change has taken place in recent times in the special relationship between America and the United Kingdom?

The Prime Minister

The alliance between the United States and Canada and the European partners of NATO is as firm as ever it was, and it is that which makes our defence sure. The major change that has taken place has been in the approach, opinions and views of the Soviet Union, a change that would never have come about but for the firmness of people who share our views on defence.