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Mr. Douglas : May I respectfully ask the Secretary of State to raise with Mr. Cheney the incident relating to the Soviet submarine at the weekend? Is there not a need to reach an international agreement and understanding, particularly among those powers that have nuclear weapons and nuclear-powered submarines, that there should be disclosure about what happens to such vessels when an accident or an incident takes place? Is it not essential that vessels of this type should not fall into the hands of people like Gaddafi? Is it not essential that no power should sell to such people vessels of that type, which could be extremely dangerous to the peace of the world?
Mr. Younger : The hon. Gentleman makes some valid points. Any accident of that kind, whoever is the owner of the ship in question, must cause us all the gravest concern. I note what the hon. Gentleman has said and I shall discuss the matter with Mr. Cheney when I meet him.
Mr. Younger : In a general review of NATO's affairs with Mr. Cheney, I expect to cover these matters generally. I am sure that Mr. Cheney will be able to confirm that the new Administration--like, indeed, all previous Administrations--are firm believers in the effectiveness of NATO as an organisation that is entirely defensive and aims to reduce armaments from a position of strength.
Mr. Cohen : Does the Secretary of State recall telling the House last July that no decisions had been made on NATO force modernisation? Why is it, then, that six weeks previously the United States started work on its new design facilities at RAF Upper Heyford to take new F111s? Will the Secretary of State discuss with the United States Defence Secretary why he is misleading the House?
Mr. Younger : The hon. Gentleman is not correct. No decisions have been taken on the modernisation of any NATO facilities of that kind. Any alternations or improvements that the United States wishes to make to its bases in this country will first have to receive the British Government's permission. Therefore, I deny both the hon. Gentleman's points.
Column 732Foreign Minister, at the joint NATO meeting organised by ambassador Abshire, at which a number of hon. Members were present when Mr. Tindemans made it absolutely clear that the Belgian Government would want to support the modernisation of all weapons, nuclear and otherwise, within the NATO armoury?
Mr. Younger : I thank my hon. Friend for reminding the House about that. The Belgian Government, like all the other members of the Western European Union, have subscribed to the platform of the Western European Union, which clearly commits the whole Alliance to a strategy based on nuclear deterrence.
Mr. O'Neill : Will the Secretary of State reflect on his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) about the construction changes which are to take place at Upper Heyford? Will he look at the military construction appropriations report for 1990 which was presented to the House of Representatives of the United States, because it contains references to major constructions at Upper Heyford as a consequence of a decision to deploy additional aircraft to that site? Will he consider that question and put his reply on record in the Library or write to me or my hon. Friend and correct us, because we seem to be going wrong? It appears that the United States Congress is spending money on something which the Secretary of State seems to know nothing about.
Mr. Younger : Of course I shall consider what the hon. Gentleman has said and write to him, but I stress that the question is whether works are taking place as a result of NATO decisions on modernisation. There have been no such decisions ; therefore, that is a clear answer to a clear question.
Mr. Rathbone : On a different aspect of possible co-operation, will my right hon. Friend find out in his discussions whether there is room for initiatives by Britain and the United States in offering military assistance to countries in south America which have to fight the war against the drug barons, to help them restore law and order to their own countries?
Mr. Younger : I note what my hon. Friend says. It is not our policy to detach any forces for operations in south America, but we would always be prepared to discuss with our allies any way we could help in the battle against drugs.
Mr. Wallace : I am grateful to the Secretary of State for his informative reply. Will he be discussing the SRAM-T missile and whether the Government intend to fit it to NATO aircraft and ultimately to the European fighter aircraft? Is he aware that General Ronald Yates in evidence to a congressional sub-committee indicated that the missile was designed to restore capability lost by the
Column 733INF treaty? Do the Government accept that restoration is necessary and will Britain play its part in that? Does he consider it justified, given the credit that the Government have tried to take for being party to the INF treaty?
Mr. Younger : I do not expect to discuss that issue with Dr. Woerner when I meet him next week, but I should make it absolutely clear once again that the INF treaty applies to ground-based intermediate-range missiles. We fully support that treaty which adopted NATO's proposals. There is no question of our wishing to go back on that treaty in any respect, but we have to maintain for our future defence a range of options that we could use if we were threatened with an attack which we could contain by no other means, and in that we are supported by the entire NATO Alliance.
Mr. Nicholas Bennett : As the proportion of Soviet GDP spent on defence has increased in recent years, does my right hon. Friend agree that NATO's defence policy must be predicated on what the Soviets do and not what they say?
Mr. Younger : My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. We must look quite realistically at the capabilities of the countries concerned, and we must equip ourselves to defend ourselves in all foreseeable circumstances. Expressions of increase or decrease on the Soviet defence budget are not worth very much until we know the level of that budget.
Mr. Wilson : When the Secretary of State meets the Secretary General of NATO will he discuss the targeting policy for nuclear weapons for the duration of the Queen's visit to Moscow? Does he agree that there would be a certain irony in extending the hand of friendship on one side and, on the other side, threatening the use, implied or real, of nuclear weapons?
Mr. Younger : I have received no representations from Scotland specifically on defence policy, although I do, of course, receive a large volume of correspondence on various defence issues from all parts of the United Kingdom.
Inverness."]--resolutions were passed urging that the review of policy-- [Interruption.]
Column 734features. It occurred to me to wonder whether the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) supported that, or agreed with it.
Mr. Maxton : Will the Prime Minister tell my 79-year-old, blind constituent, Mr. William Bradley, whether she thinks that it is fair that on 1 April 1988 his income was £52.55, that on 1 April 1989 it was £52.55, and that on 1 April 1990 and 1 April 1991 it will be £52.55? If she thinks that that is fair, would she care to justify it?
The Prime Minister : The hon. Member is taking a particular case which, I assume from what he says, was the subject of transitional protection, so that when the whole system was simplified and improved, and a lot more money was spent on it, people were protected from having a reduction in their cash. The hon. Gentleman takes a particular case in which there will be no real increase. May I, therefore, take credit for the fact that 98 per cent. of all pensioners will receive a cash increase with the coming uprating?
Mr. Arbuthnot : Will my right hon. Friend find time today to comment on the National Health Service White Paper proposals on doctors' budgets? Will she confirm that the proposals are entirely voluntary, helpful guidelines to be available to those who want them, rather than cash limits imposed on those who do not?
The Prime Minister : Yes, whether or not a doctor wishes to hold his own budget, provided that he is within the eligible group, is a decision for him to take. The fact that some doctors do not wish to do it should not deny others the right to do it if they want. I noticed in a recent article in the New Statesman and Society a report of one doctor from the Royal College of General Practitioners saying :
"Why should general practitioners resign over a plan which embodies so much of what the Royal College has been working for over the years?"
The Prime Minister : No. I have nothing further to add-- [Interruption.] --nothing further to add to the many answers given in statements, speeches and replies to questions. I notice that the right hon. Gentleman has nothing real to complain about.
Mr. Andrew MacKay : During her busy day will my right hon. Friend find time to join me in congratulating my distinguished constituent, Nick Faldo, on his outstanding achievement on winning the American Masters? That, together with the equally important result achieved by Sandy Lyle last year, has illustrated that this country leads the world in golf.
The Prime Minister : I gladly congratulate Nick Faldo on this year's result. It was a very exciting tournament and a very exciting play-off. It was one of the best things that we have seen on television for a long time.
Dr. Owen : Given that the leader of the Transport and General Workers Union wants to renegotiate the terms and conditions under which the abolition of the dock labour scheme could go ahead, will the Prime Minister confirm that she would be ready--if such negotiations produced changes in the terms and given that the mineworkers' redundancy terms are much more generous--to amend the legislation as it goes through the House?
The Prime Minister : No. We believe that the restrictive practices contained in the present dock labour scheme are highly damaging to the prosperity of ports and highly damaging of the prospects of this country in 1992. There is only one thing to do and that is to abolish the scheme ; then those ports that suffer under it at present will have the chance to become as prosperous as those ports that do not belong to it. The redundancy terms, at up to £35,000 for redundant dockers, are generous.
Mr. Michael Morris : Is my right hon. Friend aware of the grave concern among family practitioners about some of the proposals regarding the new way in which they would work under their contracts? Will she listen to their representations and recognise that for family practitioners the key dimension in the end is care for the sick?
The Prime Minister : Obviously the changes in the National Health Service White Paper and in the accompanying detailed documents are meant to improve the service to the patient. I notice again from an article in the New Statesman and Society that it says : "The white paper is neither anti- socialist nor anti-NHS the gain for patients will be immeasurable".
I believe that my hon. Friend is referring to the contract arrangements which pre-dated the White Paper. With regard to the matters in the detailed consultation papers they are, of course, for consultation. They are not meant to be a specific blueprint and we will, of course, consider representations.
Mr. Fields : Will the Prime Minister tell the House whether it was she who gave permission to MI5 and mercenaries to bug telephones, private and public, in Scotland, to bug meetings of Labour politicians and to bug their telephones in Liverpool, to infiltrate and bug
Column 736meetings of opponents to nuclear power in other parts of the country and to tap the telephones of foreign politicians? If she did not do it, who gave permission? What is her link with David Coughlan and when can we expect criminal proceedings to commence against those people engaged in illegal activities?
The Prime Minister : Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would care to look up the legislation passed in this House which governs telephone interception. That legislation is followed meticulously and an annual report is made upon it.
Sir William Shelton : Is my right hon. Friend aware that on Good Friday seven of my Conservative councillors in Lambeth found their houses daubed with death threats? On Sunday last three of those seven received threats by telephone to kill them and to burn down their, expletive deleted, houses. Will she condemn such outrageous extremist political action and urge the police to increase surveillance and activity so as to apprehend those wretches as soon as they can?
The Prime Minister : The events which my hon. Friend describes are utterly disgraceful and totally contrary to democracy. I shall, of course, do as my hon. Friend says, and I hope that anyone who has information will not hesitate to give it to the police to see that such behaviour is stopped and, if need be, the people who perpetrated it are brought before the courts.
Mr. Maclennan : Would the Prime Minister be prepared to consider the proposal made by Nobel prize winner Professor Abdus Salam at the Edinburgh science festival on Saturday that an international science centre should be established in Caithness drawing on the resources of that community to provide facilities for advanced scientists coming from the Third world to developed countries?
The Prime Minister : I saw a proposal for an international science centre in Edinburgh. I did not see one for Caithness. For a feasibility study to be conducted into any proposal for an international science centre --I think that such a proposal has been put forward by Edinburgh district council--an application for money should be made to the Scottish Development Agency for its consideration. No such formal request has yet been made to that agency. The hon. Gentleman--or anybody from Edinburgh-- should first go to the SDA.
Mr. Baldry : Is my right hon. Friend aware that the whole House welcomes the progress that was made in Anglo-Soviet relations last week, not least those of us who were fortunate enough to be among the last Inter- Parliamentary Union delegation to the Soviet Union? But does my right hon. Friend agree that Mr. Gorbachev's comments about modernising NATO's short- range nuclear weapons were somewhat cynical having regard to
Column 737what the Soviet Union has been doing with its short-range nuclear weapons in the last five years? Does she agree that the concession on uranium and plutonium could better be put into context?
The Prime Minister : I agree with my hon. Friend. We estimate that about 95 per cent. of Soviet short-range nuclear missile systems in the forward area have been modernised or replaced in the last five years and that some 200 SS21 missiles have been introduced since 1981. By contrast, NATO's Lance missile was introduced in 1972 and therefore needs modernisation. As for uranium and plutonium, as I have said, the Soviet Union has very substantial stockpiles and of course weapons grade uranium and plutonium do not deteriorate. The closure of three plutonium production reactors would leave four others still in operation.
Mr. Loyden : Will the Prime Minister say why, following a most peaceful period in the docks industry, with ports such as Liverpool being in profit, she should cause a political strike? Is it because we have a bloody-minded Minister, a bloody-minded Cabinet and a bloody-minded Prime Minister who are prepared to take political action to achieve an industrial end?
The Prime Minister : No. The Minister, Ministers, the Government and the Prime Minister are concerned that all our docks should be working at maximum efficiency and prosperity and that those who are in the hinterlands to docks should have the chance of attracting inward investment, just as have those who are in the hinterlands to non-scheme docks. It will be much better and we should be able, when all the ports are working well and economically, to attract a lot of business from the European docklands to this country. Many fishermen who are having difficulty getting their fish landed will welcome our decision.
Mr. Aitken : Will my right hon. Friend soon find time to introduce some major improvements to the highly unsatisfactory methods by which the House continues to scrutinise EEC legislation? Does she agree that it is wrong that an important EC directive such as the one on broadcasting which will be ratified next week, could not be debated in the House? However, perhaps because of lack of scrutiny, that directive has been supported by Home Office Ministers who agreed even to a statutory right of reply being introduced for the European media. Can my right hon. Friend confirm that her Government will now support the same principle by giving a fair wind to the private Member's Right of Reply Bill when it comes back to the House on Friday?
The Prime Minister : I shall attempt to answer the multiple parts of my hon. Friend's question. It is important to have the best possible scrutiny of draft directives before they are debated in the House, especially with the number of them now coming forward, the effect that they will have on our lives and the tendency of the Commission to put far too much detail in them. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Lord President has put some suggestions to the Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee for improving the scrutiny that should take place. I understand my hon. Friend's concern about the broadcasting directive. He asked about the private Member's Right of Reply Bill. Of course that is a matter for private Members. Whatever view is taken, it indicates that there is great concern about some of the things that we see in the press today. We may not have the right answer, but we cannot ignore the concern.
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