PMQ – MISSILE DEFENCE – 24 October 2001

Dr Julian Lewis: If it is his policy to support ballistic missile defence in principle?

The Prime Minister (Mr Tony Blair): The position is unchanged. We believe that it is important to tackle the potential threat from ballistic missiles with a comprehensive strategy that includes arms control and counter-proliferation, diplomacy, deterrence and defensive measures. We will continue to work closely with the United States in all these areas. We understand the role that missile defence can play as one element of that comprehensive strategy, but as yet we have had no specific proposal from the United States.

[SUPPLEMENTARY:] The Prime Minister will appreciate that that question was tabled long before the events of 11 September. In the light of his admirable decision to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our American allies over those terrible events, will he now, once and for all, state whether he is prepared to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them over ballistic missile defence, particularly in view of the fact that more than 200 of his parliamentary colleagues are clearly massively opposed to ballistic missile defence?

The Prime Minister: I do not agree with those who are opposed to it. During the summit with President Bush in February, we made it clear that we were prepared to look at defensive as well as offensive systems. We have not as yet, however, had a specific proposal from the United States. I think that it is better to declare our position finally when we do have such a proposal. I take this opportunity of welcoming greatly the dialogue between Russia and the United States, which I think offers a way forward for the future.