BUSINESS QUESTION – RAF FYLINGDALES – 19 December 2002

Dr Julian Lewis: May we have a debate early in the New Year on Early Day Motion 412

[That this House notes the United States request to upgrade facilities at RAF Fylingdales to enable the possible development of defences against ballistic missiles aimed at Europe or America; and calls upon the Government to respond promptly and positively to this long-anticipated request, not withstanding the opposition to the Ballistic Missile Defence previously expressed by more than 200 Labour back benchers]

and also on Early-Day Motion 436?

[That this House notes the request by the United States Government to upgrade facilities at RAF Fylingdales as part of their National Missile Defence programme; recognises that there are huge moral, economic, technological and legal issues raised by NMD; welcomes the Government's commitment to a wide ranging public debate on these issues; and believes that the United States request should not even be considered until the British public has been able to have this debate and decide whether the 'Son of Star Wars' proposals offer any real security for Britain or the international community.]

Both relate to the American request to upgrade RAF Fylingdales, with a possible view to the creation of a system of Ballistic Missile Defence. The former motion expresses the view of the Opposition, which also appears to be the view of those on the Government Front Bench, that such a request should be seriously considered and should probably receive a positive response. The latter reflects the views previously expressed by more than 200 Government Backbenchers that on no account should Ballistic Missile Defence be supported. Such a debate would obviously be topical, it would obviously be important, and if there were to be a substantive motion, it would obviously give the Leader of the House the opportunity to show the House whether he would vote along with those on his Government Front Bench, as one thinks he might have to, or along with the majority of his Government Backbenchers, as one thinks he probably wants to.

[Mr Cook: Life does not provide enough opportunities to vote alongside my Government. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Deputy Chief Whip will make sure that I know which Lobby is the appropriate one in which to express my support for the Government's excellent record.

On Fylingdales, the hon. Gentleman is aware that there has been an approach and that the Secretary of State has made it plain that he will keep the House informed about what response the Government will make. The matter will, of course, be considered with great care. I very much hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence will take 25 December off from considering it carefully, and that he will also relax a little on 31 December, but at an appropriate time after the House returns, I am sure that he will wish to make a statement to the House.]