HC Deb 15 December 1982 vol 34 cc310-54 4.49 pm
Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)

I beg to move, That this House do now adjourn.

Leave having been given on Tuesday 14 December under Standing Order No. 9 to discuss: The recent ministerial meeting of the NATO Council. This debate takes place at a critical moment for the Alliance, on which we depend for our security and which commands overwhelming support among the British people. It is also a critical moment for world peace. The fears of the rest of the world were reflected in the enormous majority at the recent United Nations Assembly for a freeze on the further development of nuclear weapons.

The Alliance is under exceptional strain in two respects. First, confidence between the United States and West European Governments is weaker than I can ever remember it. Secondly, public anxiety on both sides of the Atlantic about the Alliance's excessive dependence on nuclear weapons is greater than ever before. That has been reflected in demonstrations on both sides of the Atlantic.

The anxiety about the Alliance's excessive dependence on nuclear weapons has been echoed by some of the most distinguished military men with direct personal knowledge of the problem. In Britain, Admiral of the Fleet Lord Mountbatten, who served with me for a while in the Ministry of Defence and was Chief of Defence Staff for six years, said that the belief that nuclear weapons could be used in field warfare without triggering an all-out nuclear exchange leading to the final holocaust was more and more incredible. One of his successors, Admiral Hill-Norton, said he knew no informed observer who believed that war with nuclear weapons was credible. His successor as Chief of Defence Staff, Field Marshal Lord Carver, observed that no sensible, responsible military person believed that a war could be fought in Europe in which nuclear weapons were used while avoiding a strategic nuclear exchange.

Those men are not Soviet agents. Nor are they dupes of Soviet propaganda. They were reflecting the anxiety that is widespread among people who have direct knowledge of warfare and intimate knowledge of nuclear weapons. Those anxieties were in some ways even more relevantly expressed recently in the words of General Rogers, the NATO Supreme Allied Commander for Europe. He said that NATO had mortgaged its defence to the nuclear response.

Those worries, which I believe have grown recently within the military community, have been much increased by suggestions from senior representatives of the American Administration that they contemplate the prospect of a nuclear war which is limited to the European Continent. Worries have also grown because of the revelation a few months ago that the American Administration were preparing a five-year plan for the United States to fight and win a protracted nuclear war with the Soviet Union.

All that worry, which is natural and not the product of enemy propaganda, has inevitably been heightened by a series of leaks—mainly in the American press—of which the report of the United States' intention to move one of its bases from Germany to Britain is only the latest example. That proposal may be sensible, but the shifting and evasive handling of that press leak by all the Governments concerned, including the British Government, was calculated to arouse maximum alarm and suspicion on both sides of the Atlantic. That cannot be denied. Yet we now hear that both the British and American Governments have known of that proposal for several months.

I hope that when the Foreign Secretary replies to the debate he will tell us precisely what is the nature of that proposal. We were told first that there was no such proposal. We were then told that it was a proposal to set up a base here if the base in Germany became inoperable during a war. Now we are told that a base will be set up and made use of in peace time. I hope that the Foreign Secretary can at least clear up those uncertainties.

The report illustrates the fact that whatever impressions the phrase "forward defence strategy" is intended to convey, NATO rightly recognises that a major conflict in Europe is bound to lead to Soviet military action deep inside the territory of West Germany. That knowledge and recognition strengthens the case for maximising NATO's conventional capability by organising the defence of NATO territory in depth.

I understand that the forward strategy has not so far led to the German Government providing the forward facilities that are needed to maintain their troops where they would be required. However, such a change in the forward strategy would help to rid NATO of the commitment to the early use of nuclear weapons. All the military experts of the greatest authority to whom I have referred would support such action, whether it was taken by following recommendations of the kind that General Rogers is said to have made to the NATO council the other day, or by adopting the Swedish Government's proposal to have a 200-mile band on both sides of the Iron Curtain in which no nuclear weapons would be held.

There is widespread recognition of the unnecessary danger for the Alliance and world peace when two-thirds of NATO's weapons are artillery shells and free-fall bombs that are delivered by aircraft, the only purpose of which is to use them early in a tactical battle.

I hope that the Foreign Secretary will be able to tell us something about how the NATO Council responded to the proposals made by General Rogers for a change in strategy that would make the Alliance less dependent upon nuclear weapons. The press reports that came out of the NATO Council were extremely confusing and ambiguous. The subject is of immense importance to all of us and it is of legitimate interest to the House.

If the Alliance could rid itself of dependence on the early use of nuclear weapons, it might be able to move quickly to circumstances in which it was not required to initiate the use of nuclear weapons. As the House will know, a pledge on "no first use" of nuclear weapons has recently been recommended by leading American authorities, such as Mr. Robert McNamara and Mr. McGeorge Bundy who were Defence Secretary and National Security Adviser respectively in the Kennedy Administration. Their views also cannot be held as being determined by over-tenderness to the Soviet Union or to the organised peace movement.

I shall now deal with the most urgent issue, the one which, above all, prompted me to ask for your indulgence for this debate, Mr. Speaker. How will the United States and NATO handle negotiations for nuclear disarmament in Europe in the next 12 months? The so-called two-track decision was taken by NATO Governments at the end of 1979 when it was generally assumed that SALT II, which had already been negotiated, would be ratified. As the House knows, it was not ratified under the Carter Administration and the Reagan Administration fought an election on the basis that it would not ratify it either. Nevertheless, until now, both the Soviet and the American Governments have observed its provisions.

It is widely believed—I think legitimately—that President Reagan's recent proposal to deploy the MX missile in the dense pack formation would violate not only SALT II, but SALT I. That view is widely held, although Mr. Weinberger, the American Defence Secretary, is tempted to argue to the contrary by a somewhat fanciful interpretation of the treaty. The House will have been glad to see that this proposal was abandoned by the American Government. Congress has voted some funds for the MX programme on condition that it is first able to approve some other method of basing the missile. I see that Mr. Tip O'Neill, the leading Member of the Democratic Party in the House of Representatives, where it has a majority, says he does not think that it will ever be revived.

It was agreed that negotiations should take place simultaneously with the preparation of cruise and Pershing missiles for deployment if disarmament negotiations had failed to reach agreement by the end of 1983, yet for a long time after President Reagan was elected there were no negotiations whatever. Hon. Members on both sides were delighted when he finally agreed to negotiate on the basis of the so-called zero option, which my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) and myself pressed strongly on President Brezhnev when we met him just over a year ago.

We had to admit that it was never likely that the Soviet Union would actually accept the zero option. That was recognised by Mr. Luns, the Secretary General of NATO, when he said that the zero option was the ideal solution, but not the only one. I see that President Mitterrand suggested that it might be possible to reach agreement somewhere between the original Soviet position and the zero option. I am glad that our own Defence Secretary has said recently that other proposals should be examined.

It appears that other proposals have at last been made by the Soviet Government, although, because of our reliance on a press leak in the New York Times, certainly no one on the Opposition Benches knows precisely what those proposals imply. I hope that now that the matter has moved into the public domain the Foreign Secretary will be able to tell us something about them. I understand that they were not formal proposals. It is, however, normal in difficult negotiations of this nature to discuss proposals informally before tabling them formally. If we are to believe the New York Times report, the latest Soviet proposals imply a cut of a half in the SS20 force targeted against Europe, provided that there is no deployment at all of cruise or Pershing.

I do not believe that the proposal in itself is one that the West would be wise to accept. I believe, however, that it creates a basis for negotiation which we must immediately follow up. I welcome the news in the British press yesterday that the Foreign Office view, conveyed by the subterranean channels through which the Foreign Office communicates its attitudes—perhaps for fear that the Prime Minister will find out what they are—is that the Soviet proposal needs clarification across the negotiating table. I hope that hon. Members on both sides will strongly agree with that approach. I see that the Danish Government formally expressed that view through the Prime Minister during a visit to Washington on Tuesday.

Mr. Alan Clark (Plymouth, Sutton)


Mr. Healey

With respect, I should like to proceed a little further with my speech. President Reagan, apparently, according to the report, rejected that offer out of hand. It was regarded as of little interest by Mr. Shultz in a statement yesterday, although, knowing Mr. Shultz's extremely able way of conducting his relations with the Head of this Government, we can assume, I think, that because he did not rule out some intermediate position, he will do his best to secure the President's agreement to negotiate.

What concerned me was the reason given by President Reagan, which was that the Russians would be left with a monopoly of land-based missiles in Europe. Of course it would. The Russians have had a monopoly for 20 years. It did not disturb the West until very recently. The Americans withdrew their Thor and Jupiter land-based missiles from Europe at the beginning of 1963. By 1970 the Soviet Union had deployed 650 SS4 and SS5 nuclear missiles. NATO did not feel it necessary to respond in kind. There was a good reason. Over this period the Alliance had built up an enormous preponderance in submarine-based missiles for use in the European theatre. Submarine-based missiles are far less vulnerable and do not provide targets that put civilian populations at risk.

We move into a difficult area in trying to allocate different types of weapon to different types of function. The categorisation made by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in its recent publication, "Military Balance 1982–83", gives as good a distribution of the weapons as is possible. It points out, in relation to submarine—based missiles for use in the European theatre, that the Soviet Union at the moment has 26 serviceable warheads for delivery from submarines. The United Kingdom has 29 and France has 36. It has become a little disingenuous to continue arguing that negotiations in this area can proceed with the Soviet Union without taking account of the British and French nuclear forces. I know that this view is widely held in the United States.

Mr. Alan Clark

No one who has followed the right hon. Gentleman's career through the Ministry of Defence and the Treasury can any longer feign surprise at his inconsistencies. Is it not the case that the right hon. Gentleman was a member of an Administration who, however informally, agreed to the deployment of cruise? Is it not the case also that, at the time that this was put before the appropriate Cabinet Committee in that Administration, the number of SS20s deployed in Europe was no larger than it would be under the present Soviet offer of reducing it by half, and the very purpose of the deployment, which the right hon. Gentleman agreed, to defend us against would be vitiated?

Mr. Healey

No one who has attended our debates will be surprised that the hon. Gentleman has no sense of history and no political memory. I remind him that the decision by NATO Governments for twin-track deployment and negotiation at the same time was taken in December 1979 when this country had already been suffering for six months under the Tory Government. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not interrupt again, especially with a slightly silly preamble, when he has shown himself to be so vulnerable.

I wish to proceed from this passage of arms to the problems of disarmament. The British and French forces are each as powerful as the submarine-based Soviet forces allocated for the European theatre. I know that there can be arguments, but that is the view of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. More important still, the United States has allocated 400 warheads in its Poseidon and Trident missiles for targeting by the Supreme Allied Commander Europe against targets of concern to NATO. By this calculation, there is an enormous preponderance of submarine-based missiles on the NATO side, just as there is a monopoly of land-based missiles on the Soviet side.

Have said that, however, it is still true that if one calculates military strength in terms of deliverable warheads the Russians have a substantial advantage in the European theatre, purely because they have deployed the SS20. Those who recognise that will deplore even more the fact that we did not take advantage of offers by the Soviet Union to cease deploying its SS20 missiles in 1979, when very few had yet been deployed, provided that the West did not go ahead with preparations for the cruise missile and Pershing deployment. That is water over the dam. The Soviet Union now has a significant but not decisive overall preponderance of weapons for use in the European theatre. The Soviet proposal leaked the other day would reduce that preponderance significantly, but not, in my view, sufficiently.

Rather than adopt the Soviet proposal, I should much prefer a proposal which I have supported at the Western European Union and in the British press. The proposal was put forward by the American committee on national security, headed by Mr. Paul Warlike, with whom I worked 20 years ago when he was Clark Clifford's deputy secretary for defence, and who himself negotiated SALT II.

Mr. Raymond Whitney (Wycombe)

The right hon. Gentleman referred to the SS20 and the timing of the Western European attitude to the threat. He informed the House that he has a sense of history. Does he agree that in 1976 or 1977—he will be able to confirm the date—his friend ex-Chancellor Helmut Schmidt first made the bid from Western Europe for SS20s to be countered by cruise missiles and that that request was supported both by the right hon. Gentleman and by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), the then Prime Minister?

Mr. Healey

The matter was not discussed in NATO circles, and no decision was taken, until the end of 1979—[Interruption.] That is true. The decision was taken at the NATO Council meeting in December 1979, when the present Government had been in power for six months.

However, the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) has raised an important point. The American Government had no intention whatever of responding to the deployment of the SS20 by deploying more medium-range land-based missiles in Europe. The hon. Gentleman is right about that. The American decision was taken in response to pressure from European Governments. I believe that that pressure was mistaken, and I said so three years ago. I said so at a meeting in the United States in the autumn of 1979, just before the decision was finally taken.

We have an opportunity to try to prevent the arms race from moving into a new and touch more dangerous cycle. As I have said in the House on several occasions, it is not possible to detect by what the Russians call national means whether the cruise missile is carrying nuclear or conventional warheads, and it may be very diffiult to detect its position at all. As a disarmament agreement depends upon the ability to verify the deployment of weapons, a move by the West into large-scale dependence on land-based cruise missiles could make the future disarmament negotiations much more difficult. So, too, for different but none the less relevant technical reasons, would deployment of the MX type of missile.

I think that we all believe that now that the Russians are finally moving we should take advantage of the shift in their position and press on with the negotiations as fast as possible to see if we can find, as President Mitterrand suggested, a position on which agreement can be based somewhere between the Russian one and the zero option.

Mr. Alan Clark

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Healey

No, I shall not give way again.

I believe that something on the lines of the Warnke proposals would meet the bill. One factor that has been too little discussed in this regard is that, so far as one can tell from the press reports, the new initiative by the Soviet Union was taken almost within days of Mr. Andropov becoming the new leader of the Soviet Government.

There have been signs of movement in Soviet policy in other areas. There has been the halting movement towards greater liberalisation in Poland. I know that it is not enough to satisfy most of us in the House, but it is none the less real and genuine movement in the right direction. There are also signs of a search for some agreement about Afghanistan which would enable Soviet troops to be withdrawn. President Zia has referred to that on several occasions.

Most fascinating of all, perhaps, is the fact that Mr. Chester Crocker found it possible to go to the Soviet Union this week and to discuss with the Soviet Government the presence of Cuban troops in Angola. It would have been difficult to imagine that happening a month or two ago.

Nevertheless, one must accept that there are forces within the Soviet Union, particularly in the military establishment, that are bound to resist any further movement. I read with mounting dismay the remarks of General Lebedev as reported by Novosti. It was certainly a bit thick to say that if the Americans deployed MX or cruise and Pershing, the Russians would launch on warning. Western Europe has lived for many years under the threat of a six-minute attack from Soviet missiles but has never contemplated such a dangerous and foolish approach.

I believe, and I hope that the Foreign Secretary will agree with me, that the British Government must throw their weight behind those in both Moscow and Washington who would far rather have an agreement on arms control than open a new and more dangerous cycle of the arms race that will make arms control more difficult. I was interested to read in the New York Times that among the doves in this respect is Mr. Paul Nitze, whom I have known for 30 years and who is certainly among the most sceptical, hard-headed and experienced negotiators that America could produce in this area.

What disturbs me—I hope that the Foreign Secretary will be able to give us some reassurance—is the attitude, not of the Foreign Office, but of the Prime Minister on these matters. I do not wish to make too much of this. We are familiar with the exuberance with which the Prime Minister approaches Question Time in the House. Nevertheless, I am appalled at the stony and callous indifference that she seems to show to the idea of arms control and her tendency to provoke jingoistic hysteria on issues that demand rational and objective thought.

I hope that the Foreign Secretary can assure us that, to use the kind of diplomatic language in which Secretary Shultz is so able, he will use his influence in the direction that I have suggested. I hope also that he will take the opportunity of today's debate to withdraw the careless statement that he made in Brussels last Friday that the British House of Commons should not be allowed lo take a decision or even to discuss the deployment of Cruise and Pershing missiles if the Government thought it necessary to deploy them.

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarvon)


Mr. Healey

If the Government fail to carry the British people with them, they will make the failure of their policies certain. That is one of the lessons to be learnt from what has happened in the Western world in the past year or two in the whole area of disarmament and defence.

Mr. Wigley

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Healey


The Government must convince the British people that they are using all their energy and ingenuity to obtain an agreement on arms control in the coming year. If the Government fail to do that, they will deservedly lose the confidence of the British people and their policies will surely fail.

5.20 pm
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Francis Pym)

I very much welcome the opportunity to debate such enormously important issues and I am glad to set out, once again, the aims of the Alliance and of the British Government. The security of our country and our way of life is of paramount concern to us all, not only to those who make their concern visible in demonstrations. I shall follow the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) in that the major part of my speech will be about nuclear matters The North Atlantic Council meeting in Brussels on 9 and 10 September was a constructive and timely meeting. The allies demonstrated once again their unity on the two main themes. The first theme was East-West relations in the light of the change of leadership in Moscow. We all agreed on our desire to improve relations with the members of the Warsaw Pact. We made good progress in our discussions of the handling of East-West economic relations. We agreed that our bilateral economic and trade relations with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe must be consistent with our security, and should avoid contributing to Soviet military strength. Studies are under way on various aspects of East-West economic relations and will be examined again by Ministers next year.

More generally, the change in the Soviet leadership has provided the opportunity to take a fresh look at East-West relations. My approach is one of firmness and realism, coupled with open-mindedness and dialogue. I do not have over-optimistic hopes that there will be a sudden sea change in the Soviet leadership and their approach to the world. We are not naive in our expectations of the policies that the new Soviet leadership is likely to adopt.

Nevertheless, we and our allies have made it clear to Moscow that a more positive and constructive relationship is available if the Soviet Union is willing to adopt a new approach. That is the message that I left with Mr. Gromyko when I saw him on 15 November and it is the message of last week's NATO communiqué. We hope that Mr. Andropov and his colleagues will be receptive to this message. We do not exclude the possibility that the Soviet Union may be ready to look for initiatives that could be in the mutual interest of both East and West.

The second and major theme of our discussion was defence and disarmament. It is hard to understand the apparent views of some hon. Members that I or my right hon. Friends are in some way reluctant to find time to discuss such matters in the House.

Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)

Of course you are.

Mr. Pym

The right hon. Gentleman is wrong. The Government have done more to encourage debate on nuclear and defence issues in Parliament and in public than almost any of their predecessors since the Second World War. In January 1980, I initiated the first debate on nuclear weapons in the House for 15 years. There was no such debate in the previous Parliament. The debate followed the historic decision in favour of the dual track that was taken in December 1979. Since then, the House has had two major opportunities to debate nuclear defence issues exclusively. I am delighted to do so again today as we approach 1983 which, as the right hon. Member for Leeds, East said, is an important year for the Alliance.

The right hon. Gentleman also mentioned the planned location in war time of the United States European command headquarters in the United Kingdom. I strongly refute his accusation that the Government have been furtive or elusive on the issue. It is not the habit of the Government, any more than it was that of previous Administrations, to make public confidential information that is likely to prove useful to an enemy. That would obviously apply to defence plans and to contingency military command arrangements. The protection of information about the security of Britain is not furtive—it is just common sense. I regret the fact that some information was leaked, but as some of the reports are misleading, it is right that I should now set the record straight The United States European command is located in peace time at Stuttgart in the Federal Republic of Germany. There are no plans to move it. All American combat forces in Europe would in war time be placed under direct NATO command, which would be exercised as at present from SHAPE headquarters on the continent of Europe. The Government have agreed that in war time alternative headquarters for certain residual elements of the purely national United States command could be located in the United Kingdom, should that prove necessary. Those elements would be responsible for directing the administrative, reinforcement and logistic support of American forces in Europe and for exercising control over other American forces not committed to NATO. I make it abundantly clear that those contingency plans do not change NATO's firm commitment to the strategy of forward defence. Those are the facts, and I hope that I have put at rest the wilder conclusions that have appeared in some sections of the press.

Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)

Why did the British Government spokesman say that the report of a transfer in time of war from Stuttgart was fundamentally incorrect, when that report was made one day before the American Government's admission that it was true?

Mr. Pym

The report that people noticed was fundamentally inaccurate in the way that I have just described. There will not be such a transfer.

I shall deal now with nuclear matters and especially with the Geneva negotiations between the United States of America and the Soviet Union on intermediate range nuclear weapons. As the right hon. Gentleman said, the Alliance position stems from the decision taken at the North Atlantic Council in December 1979 to modernise NATO's intermediate range nuclear forces in Europe and at the same time to offer arms control negotiations between America and the Soviet Union on their respective intermediate range nuclear forces. The aim was to safeguard the security of the Alliance in Europe with lower levels of armaments on both sides. I emphasise the fact that the entire Alliance was involved in the so-called dual track decision from the outset. Both elements of that decision—to modernise all NATO's forces and to offer serious arms control talks—were worked out fully and freely by the allies working together. The Labour Government had no doubts at the time about the value and correctness of the careful preparations for the dual track decision, however much the Labour Party may now find it expedient to take a different attitude.

From the start, the Russians reacted coolly to NATO's offer. Even before the double decision, President Brezhnev had said that he would negotiate only if NATO did not decide to modernise. After that decision, the Russians stated that NATO's plans had destroyed the basis for negotiation, and for six months they refused to contemplate any possibility of talks. The Alliance remained firm in its determination to modernise and consistent in its offer to negotiate. What was the result? By June 1980, the Russians dropped their preconditions and agreed that first talks on intermediate range nuclear systems could begin. Even then, they claimed that no agreement could be implemented before the ratification of the SALT 2 treaty.

Despite the change of Administration in Washington, our American allies were quick to say at the first meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers in Rome in May 1981 that the United States would resume the negotiations begun by their predecessors before the end of the year. They were as good as their word. President Reagan stated in his speech to the National Press Club in Washington on 18 November 1981: We intend to negotiate in good faith and to go to Geneva willing to listen to and consider the proposals of our Soviet counterparts". The proposal tabled by the Americans was bold and far-reaching, while being fully consistent with the major principles agreed within the Alliance at the time of the December 1979 decision. It embodied the agreed Alliance approach to move step by step, focusing first on the most threatening element of Soviet intermediate range nuclear forces—that is, SS20s, SS4s, and SS5s—together with the NATO programmes that the Russians had shown were of main interest to them. That proposal, which is the zero option, offers complete elimination on both sides of the intermediate land-based nuclear missiles.

In exchange for dismantling of all Russian SS20 missiles and their earlier generation of SS4s and SS5s—I might add that the West has no such missiles—NATO will abandon completely its plans to modernise the NATO armoury by deploying cruise and Pershing 2 missiles in certain European countries.

The House appreciates that the threat that we face has altered in the past three years since the dual track decision was taken. In that time the Russians have almost tripled the number of SS20 missiles deployed throughout the Soviet Union. Despite the so-called moratorium announced by the Russians, new SS20s continue to appear. There are currently over 330 deployed—that means 1,000 warheads—of which more than two thirds can reach NATO targets from their present deployment areas. The Americans, with solid NATO backing, have made a negotiating offer which, if accepted, would abolish all these missiles on both sides.

Three rounds of negotiations have been held so far in Geneva. We support fully the United States's efforts to enhance security through the total elimination of all existing and planned Soviet and United States missiles in that category. We welcome the continuing United States commitment to serious negotiations and to consider carefully with the allies any serious Soviet proposal. In the absence of concrete arms control results, the necessary NATO deployments must begin according to schedule next year.

These deployments will include, as the House knows, 160 cruise missiles at Greenham Common and at Molesworth in due course. The United Kingdom, as a nuclear power, has long and rather special experience of United States bases in this country from which nuclear capable systems might operate.

Mr. Orme

Shame. Get them out.

Mr. Pym

The right hon. Gentleman says, "Shame", and, "Get them out". We can, if the Russians are prepared to negotiate the zero option.

There are long-standing agreements under which the use of such bases in an emergency would be a matter for joint decision with the British Government. British personnel will also be closely involved.

Mr. Healey

I was disturbed, as no doubt were others, to hear Mr. Perle, who I think is deputy defence secretary for international affairs in the United States, imply on British radio this morning that in fact there would be no dual control of the cruise missiles if they were here. He attempted to justify that. If that were so it would, as the Foreign Secretary implied, be a completely novel feature in the presence of American missiles or nuclear capable aircraft in Great Britain. Can the Foreign Secretary assure the House that if those missiles are ever placed in Great Britain they will be subject to the same dual-control arrangments as for earlier American nuclear weapons based in Great Britain?

Mr. Pym

I cannot give that assurance. The position remains exactly as it was when I made a statement to the House three years ago about the dual track position. I am aware of the point raised not just by the right hon. Gentleman but by other hon. Members and their anxiety that some such arrangement would be highly desirable. I have explained the present position to the House.

Mr. James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)

It might be useful if the Foreign Secretary were to check the date on which RAF Greenham Common ceased to be a standby airfield and was handed over to the Americans for its new purpose.

Mr. Pym

I do not know the date off the top of my head. I am dealing with the serious point raised by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey). I acknowledge that it is serious, and when I made the statement previously I explained the position and the fact that we were satisfied with the arrangements. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East and other right hon. and hon. Gentlemen have expressed their anxiety. I certainly take the point on board. That is as far as I can go today. I note what the right hon. Member for Leeds, East has said.

The allies were fully briefed in Brussels.

Mr. John Morris (Aberavon)


Mr. Pym

I shall not give way. I have a great deal more to say.

The allies were fully briefed in Brussels on 24 November by Ambassador Nitze, the leader of the United States team, about the round of talks which has just finished. Regular consultations have continued to take place in the North Atlantic Council and in NATO's special consultative group. Despite pressure by the Americans for progress towards an arms control agreement, the Russians appear to entertain hopes that they can achieve their objective of preventing or indefinitely delaying NATO's forces' modernisation, without having to pay the price for this at the negotiaing table. We want an agreement. Let the House be in no doubt. That is our objective. We must continue to make it clear that, failing that, these deployments will go forward on schedule. As the Russians come to understand this more clearly, they will see that they have good reason to do business with the Alliance. The chances for success in negotiations on terms acceptable to both sides will thereby increase.

Ambassador Nitze also came to London at the beginning of the month, and I had direct discussions with him about the round of negotiations just ended. I know that the right hon. Member for Leeds, East is anxious that I should give details of what has transpired, particularly in the light of certain newspaper reports. I respect his wish to know as much as possible about these important matters. Equally, I hope the House will understand that if negotiations of this difficult and delicate kind between the Americans and the Russians are to get anywhere, and be successful, as the House will want, confidentiality must be respected. This has always been an essential part of successful arms control negotiations in the past.

I do not therefore intend to go into details. However, I can say that the description by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East of an offer by Mr. Andropov to cut by 50 per cent. or more the number of SS20 missiles targeted against Western Europe is not in accordance with our understanding. The Russians themselves have disavowed recent Western press reports of progress at the negotiations. They said such reports were unfounded.

The Russians have recently floated some new ideas, as the right hon. Member for Leeds, East mentioned, though I am informed that he is incorrect and that all of these came up before the death of President Brezhnev. Although there has been no precise and formal expression of them as yet, we are studying their implications. A top priority when the negotiations resume at the end of January will be to obtain clarification. There will be further Alliance consultation before then.

I want to emphasise to the House that the Alliance has always stood ready to consider any serious negotiating offer from the Soviet side. If indeed Soviet demeanour at the last round foreshadows the start of a serious move towards elimination of their SS20s, then this would be a step in the right direction. In that event we would of course examine it and evaluate it with the greatest care. We shall find out when the negotiations resume. Meanwhile the zero option remains the Alliance's objective. Whatever else the right hon. Member for Leeds, East may have said about alternatives I cannot believe that he would not adhere totally to the zero option as an objective. I feel sure everyone will agree.

We must be realistic, not naively optimistic. If the Russians find it in their interest to make concessions, it will be because they recognise a firmness of purpose and a determination on our side to stick by Alliance decisions. I do not know of any occasion when this has proved a disadvantage at the negotiating table. The core of our arms control policy rests on the belief that there can be solutions which are in the interests of both parties. I ask the right hon. Member for Leeds, East to remind his Labour Party colleagues that in the business of international arms control negotiations, as in other national and international affairs, staunchness and consistency pay off: weakness and vacillation do not. The right hon. Gentleman knows that well.

NATO's modernisation programme and new deployments will go ahead if, despite all our efforts, agreement is not achieved. I add that this NATO programme, even when fully implemented, will not increase the total number of nuclear warheads, in Western Europe by a single one. We have always made it clear that the modernisation programme would only replace existing warheads on a one-for-one basis.

We have also said, as long ago as the original decision, that success in arms control in constraining the Soviet build-up could, by enhancing Alliance security, modify the scale of NATO force requirements. These would be examined in the light of concrete results reached through negotiations. So nothing is irrevocable. Even when deployments take place—it will take about five years to achieve this fully—we can put the process into reverse, if results achieved at the negotiating table justify that action.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)

Do the new deployments relate to the South Atlantic? If so, what is the legal position in relation to protocol 1 of the treaty of Tlatelolco, which we signed and which he, the right hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath), endorsed in the name of the previous Conservative Government?

Mr. Pym

I shall not be diverted by that intervention.

Meanwhile the Alliance will also continue to ensure that existing deployments of the shorter range—battlefield—nuclear weapons in Western Europe are no greater than is required by NATO's strategy. People often forget that, since the dual track decision in 1979, NATO has already withdrawn 1,000 nuclear warheads from Western Europe without replacement—a reduction that has not been matched on the Soviet side. NATO will continue to review its stockpile of nuclear weapons in Western Europe to ensure that the numbers and types available are no more than what is required for effective deterrence. The North Atlantic Assembly when it met in London last month welcomed current efforts to reduce, if possible, NATO's reliance on short-range nuclear weapons.

Mr. Healey

I welcome what the right hon. Gentleman says, but he will know that General Rogers or sources close to him did a great deal of press briefing a few weeks ago to the effect that it might be possible under certain circumstances to cut the number of warheads by at least one third. That would be a substantial withdrawal of 2,000. Was progress in that direction agreed at the NATO Council?

Mr. Pym

No. We did not address our minds to the point, but the thrust of what General Rogers has recently argued is that if all members of the Alliance agree to increase spending on conventional weapons by about 4 per cent.—if they attain the force goals—the nuclear threshold will be raised much higher. That is a desirable objective but it requires a large increase in defence expenditure in all NATO countries.

In real terms this Government have increased the contribution and resources devoted to defence. We are living up to General Rogers' criterion. But that does not apply to the whole Alliance and, according to the General's argument, it would have to apply to the whole Alliance to enable us to raise the nuclear threshold by a significant amount.

The fundamental point is, as everyone knows, that the Alliance does not threaten anyone. No NATO weapon, conventional or nuclear, will ever be used except in response to attack.

The right hon. Gentleman told the House yesterday that the NATO ministerial meeting had left him confused about intermediate range nuclear forces and the current state of play between the United States and the Soviet Union. I hope that I have dispelled that confusion and made the position clear. He himself, in a way, contributes to the confusion when he suggests, as he did again this afternoon, and as the Russians suggest, that British nuclear forces ought to have a place in these negotiations. I hope that he will tell me that this is not any longer his position. If it is, I would regard it as a case of confusion compounded.

The overriding priority must be to reduce the arsenals of the United States and the Soviet Union, which are vastly greater than those of the other nuclear weapons States, and to do so on the basis of parity of numbers between the two super Powers. If we took account of the nuclear systems of third parties like China, France or Britain, it would mean that the Soviet Union was entitled to have as many nuclear weapons as all the other nuclear States put together. That in turn would mean endorsing in treaty form Soviet nuclear superiority over the United States—a position at once unstable and probably unratifiable.

The British sea-based strategic nuclear deterrent has no place in bilateral US-Soviet negotiations on sub-strategic land-based nuclear forces in Europe. It is excluded, by definition. The Soviet aim in clinging to this unrealistic notion is to retain its SS20s intact while securing the removal of the greatest possible number of United States nuclear weapons which are based in Europe for the defence of the Alliance. This would further its long-term goal of dividing the Alliance and decoupling the United States from the defence of Europe. The right hon. Gentleman knows this elementary point very well.

By the same token, I hope that we shall no longer hear the right hon. Gentleman echoing calls for a nuclear freeze, which are only superficially beguiling or attractive. The effect of a freeze on these negotiations would be to perpetuate an overwhelming Soviet predominance and to remove any incentive for mutual negotiated reductions, because the primary Soviet aim of preventing NATO's modernisation at nil cost would have been achieved. Those who take the responsibility for preserving peace cannot afford to adopt as policy ideas which, on closer scrutiny, do not contribute to greater international stability and security.

I have concentrated my remarks on the intermediate nuclear force part of the multilateral arms control process because that is where the right hon. Gentleman's confusion was most pronounced. But it is legitimate to remind the House that the Alliance is currently involved in a wider spectrum of arms control negotiations than any previous British Government can remember. Western proposals for reductions in strategic United States and Soviet nuclear weapons would, if accepted, halve the number of deployed missiles of intercontinental range and cut warhead numbers by one third by the end of this decade.

Earlier this year, the West put forward at the MBFR talks imaginative proposals designed to overcome obstacles which the East said had made agreement impossible. At Madrid, the West offered a formula for negotiating confidence—building measures for the whole of Europe to stabilise the military situation in any future crisis and to reduce the chances of preparations for surreptitious attack. Such measures, if agreed, could lead to further disarmament initiatives in Europe. The West is also actively promoting agreement to ban the production and possession of chemical weapons, with Britain very much in the lead at the Committee on Disarmament in Geneva. We are thus engaged in a most comprehensive range of arms control talks. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give his full support to that work.

There are no short cuts to achieving agreement on these difficult subjects if we are to secure disarmament on both sides, but it is false and, indeed, mischievous to say that the multilateral approach does not work. I invite hon. Members who doubt me to consider the list of 18 separate agreements produced by the multilateral arms control process over the past 20 years. They cover such subjects as nuclear testing, non-proliferation, the hot line, reducing the risk of nuclear war by accident and arms control in outer space, on the sea bed and in the Antarctic. They are not enough, but they cannot be dismissed as being of no consequence. I defy hon. Members to point to any achievement in arms control and disarmament by alternative routes, despite all the blandishments and catchphrases of the cause that the Labour Party now embraces.

The Pope has said that the strategy of nuclear deterrence is only acceptable—or perhaps tolerable—on the understanding that we all bend our efforts unstintingly to securing a peaceful world by arms reductions and disarmament. That is our continuing moral duty. This Government will certainly do so. We recognise that firmness of purpose in defending our security must be combined with the open hand of dialogue and that if we are to deter our possible adversaries we must do so in a way that reassures our friends and allies abroad and our citizens at home about the prospects for greater security.

The matters that we are discussing today are of the utmost gravity and seriousness. There is absolutely no room for complacency. Far from being complacent, whoever holds my office can never have these immensely important issues far from his mind. The supreme task is to ensure the security of the realm by maintaining peace in the nuclear age. That means that we shall continue to extend the hand of friendship to all who genuinely seek a safer and more stable world. It means that we shall be unremitting in our efforts to bring about international agreements to reduce the arsenals of the world and diminish the risks of conflict. But it means, too, that we shall be resolute in the protection of the values for which Her Majesty's Government, the House and, I believe, the whole British people, stand champion: the democratic right to live in justice, security and peace.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Before the debate proceeds, I must tell the House that many right hon. and hon. Members hope to catch my eye. This is a three-hour debate, and only two hours of it remain. I hope that hon. Members who are fortunate enough to be called will bear in mind the fact that others want to speak.

5.51 pm
Dr. David Owen (Plymouth, Devonport)

The tone and content of the Foreign Secretary's speech totally justify the debate. His speech also justifies the need for the House of Commons to debate these issues at fairy regular intervals as we go into the complex and difficult period of negotiations.

It is hard to quibble with any point of substance in the speech made by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey). That speech could have been made in a different Parliament by Helmut Schmidt. It was an excellent Social Democratic speech. I feel like the man in the Bateman cartoon who reminds the right hon. Gentleman of the existence of the Labour Party. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where does the right hon. Gentleman stand?"] Hon. Members need not worry. They know where I stand.

Hon. Members

Get on with it.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The House has listened to a serious debate so far. I hope that we shall continue in that mood.

Dr. Owen

I shall continue on that serious note, but the House must take into account the views of the Leader of the Opposition. After all, in a sense he is the organ grinder. I shall not offend the right hon. Member for Leeds, East by calling him the monkey. He is more like the orang-utan.

The right hon. Gentleman made a serious speech. The question is whether it is the policy of the Leader of the Opposition. Indeed, is it the policy of the Labour Party? That is the serious and sensible question that the House must debate.

Mr. Orme

What is the policy of the Social Democratic Party?

Dr. Owen

The policy of the Social Democratic Party is clear. What is more, it has not switched around between 1978, 1979, 1980 and 1981. It has stayed exactly the same. Right hon. and hon. Members on the unofficial Opposition Front Bench, as I like to call it, may laugh. They may not like my speech, but they will have to hear it. They have changed their position dramatically on the issue.

Our position has stayed exactly the same. We are in favour of the dual track decision that was taken in December 1979. We see it as a readiness to deploy, if necessary, and to negotiate seriously in the profound hope that it is not necessary to deploy cruise missiles or Pershing 2s. That position has already been justified by the revelations of the new Soviet negotiating position. If the Soviet Union had faced a Labour Government under the present Leader of the Opposition, it would know already that there would be no deployment of cruise missiles and no support for Pershing 2s. It would know that all the United States bases would be removed from this country. Does anyone seriously think that the Soviet Union would then offer to withdraw some of its SS20 missiles? It is time that the Labour Party faced reality.

What the right hon. Member for Leeds, East said today on the Soviet offer made the utmost sense. He said that we should not accept the Soviet Union's present position. He is right. He was also right to remind the Government that we do not expect to see them holding firm in all circumstances to the opening bid. What negotiation has ever existed in which the opening bid is the same as the final offer? To hear the Prime Minister speak, one would think that the zero sum option was not only the opening bid, but the final offer. I wish that the Prime Minister would read the Foreign Secretary's speech, which was different in tone, style and sensitivity from everything that she has said on this issue. She is the recruiting sergeant for the unilateralists in this country. If the case for multilateralism was heard more often in the way in which the right hon. Member for Leeds, East and the Foreign Secretary put it, it would carry a great deal more conviction.

The House should not make up its mind on the deployment of cruise missiles until the intermediate nuclear force negotiations are completed or until we have reached a period, for example in November next year, when we shall otherwise have to deploy. To reach that point it will be necessary for NATO to continue to make the preparations for deployment. The launchers will have to arrive in this country and perhaps the missiles will as well. The Prime Minister, however, should give the House the assurance for which I have asked her repeatedly—that the deployment of United States nuclear warheads will not be made in this country until the House has had the opportunity to decide the issue and debate it fully.

That is a democratic safeguard that all hon. Members on both sides of the House should justify. The debate already shows that the House of Commons can grapple with this issue in a way that reflects the genuine interests of this country and the Alliance, of which we are proud to be members.

I shall deal with some of the detailed points in the Foreign Secretary's speech. I very much welcome what he said about battlefield nuclear weapons. He is beginning to sense the shift in opinion of many people within NATO and the need to change our previous strategy over flexible response and to try not only to reduce battlefield nuclear weapons but to take them totally out of a zone near to the frontiers so that there is no danger of battlefield nuclear weapons being overrun in the event of accidental conventional attack, which most people believe is the only realistic scenario. We are more likely to see a military confrontation.

Mr. Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry, North-West)


Dr. Owen

I shall not give way as time is short.

The Foreign Secretary also showed sensitivity on this issue. I greatly welcomed that. Although at present no dual key is offered on cruise missiles, were it to be necessary to deploy them in this country, I detect that the Foreign Secretary would be aware of the concern on both sides of the House that the missiles should be under the physical dual key mechanism similar to that applied to the Thor missiles and to that applied now to the Lance missiles. Those battlefield nuclear missiles are under a dual key mechanism applying to the United States and Western Europe. Therefore, there is already an ample precedent both in the Lance and Thor missiles for the dual key mechanism.

I would prefer to pay for the missiles, if I had to, to ensure that there was a dual key mechanism. There is great merit in being able to say to the British people that if we have to deploy cruise missiles—I hope that we do not—they can be absolutely certain that they cannot be fired from British territory without not just the political but the physical decision of the British Cabinet and Prime Minister. That would start to give the assurance on this issue that the public want.

The Foreign Secretary has cleared up much of the controversy arising from the story about the United States headquarters. Many people believe that it is sensible that there should be emergency arrangements so that, in a war, the headquarters can be moved. We welcome the assurance that he gave that there is no change in the present arrangements over Stuttgart. The Federal Republic of Germany and our continental friends and allies in the Alliance will be considerably reassured.

The Government and those of us who believe in multilateral disarmament must commit ourselves in the next few months to making the INF negotiations succeed. It should be remembered that the initial decision in December 1979 linked the theatre nuclear weapon negotiations with SALT III, because in 1979 it was believed that SALT II would be ratified by the American Congress, and it was always thought necessary to link intermediate missile negotiations with strategic missile systems. In my opinion, the British nuclear weapons system, Polaris, should be in the negotiating pool, but it should be in START which covers strategic missile systems. I believe, too, that there should be a linkage between START and the intermediate nuclear force talks. That is essential.

I shall not speak for much longer, because I know that time is short. I welcome what the Foreign Secretary said about chemical weapons. I believe that we need a chemical weapon-free zone as much as a battlefield nuclear weapon-free zone. Those functional weapon-free zones are most important, based on weapons systems, not on geographical areas, such as countries. I hope, too, that the Foreign Secretary will give new emphasis to the MBFR talks. We are locked in dispute on data. The data situation is such that, for the Soviet Union to agree to the data base of European countries, it has to admit that it has been misleading NATO for the past nine years. It will not do that. Therefore, we need to circumvent the data problem and to agree a common data base on the first or second stage of the four-stage withdrawal process. If we continue to insist on agreement on data as the initial agreement, we shall continue to have difficulties. Let us agree to disagree in the initial signing of the agreement.

The Foreign Secretary, in his final remarks, said that he hoped that we would have more debates, but, as the decision continues, I hope that he and the Prime Minister will think again carefully. Yesterday the Prime Minister appeared to deny the need for the House to make the final decision. The Foreign Secretary was reported—inaccurately, I hope—to have said something similar in Brussels on Friday. It is essential for the House to demonstrate to the country that decisions on nuclear weapons, issues that affect the security of our country and the whole world, are made here in this House. If we cannot give that assurance, people will continue to link arms round Greenham Common, people will lie down in front of bulldozers, and there will be direct action.

The people of this country must have more confidence in the House of Commons to assert its own judgment. If Congress can assert its judgment over the MX dense pack—in my view, rightly—and reject it, if Congress can demonstrate that a President's fiat does not run, it is time that this House, too, demonstrated that it will not accept decisions on this issue being taken on the basis of an Adjournment debate on 24 January 1980. A decision must be made by the House of Commons, and it is in keeping with the Foreign Secretary's own commitment to the House, when he was Leader of the House, and in his readiness to have debates on nuclear questions when he was Secretary of State for Defence, that that commitment should be made to the House. It would give us the necessary stability to carry on through the difficult to-ing and fro-ing of the negotiating process in prospect through 1983.

I hope that there is no vote. There is no need for a vote. No doubt the Tribunite Left will vote for its policy. It would be a tragedy if we were forced into a vote. In my view, this Adjournment should take note of what the Foreign Secretary said and expose the humbug of the right hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme).

6.3 pm

Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)

The right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) was generous when he described the speech of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) as serious. Certainly, it was serious in tone, but I am not at all sure that it was serious in substance.

The right hon. Member for Leeds, East began by calling in evidence various authorities, dead or retired officers, who threw doubt on the efficacy of tactical nuclear weapons. I shall not go into that controversy, but he should recall that the beginning of the problem that we are now discussing was the loss of confidence on the part of European Governments, towards the end of the 1970s, in the ability of the United States to protect them against the overwhelming preponderance of the Russian short-range and medium-range tactical weapons. Chancellor Schmidt, the Social Democratic Chancellor, offered not only to sell the cruise missile and the Pershing to his people but before that, the so-called neutron bomb. The right hon. Member for Devonport will know what happened in the Labour Cabinet of the day, but that was to be the view of the German Cabinet at the time. Since then, a Socialist Prime Minister of France, President Mitterrand has given strong—if conditional—endorsement to the deployment of those weapons. So it seems to me that the authorities that the right hon. Member for Leeds, East prayed in aid were somewhat inferior to the ones that I have just mentioned.

A paradox lies at the heart of the defence of Europe. No one is ready to put up sufficient conventional forces to defend NATO against an attack with nuclear weapons. Even if anyone did, it would not work if the other side insisted on continuing to deploy tactical nuclear weapons.

What is the alternative to the deployment of tactical weapons that is now proposed, in the present timescale? The right hon. Gentleman—with his experience, it was a scandal to do so—talked about the efficacy of the British and French submarine forces. Any child in these matters knows that they are not tactical weapon systems. They are strategic weapon systems. They could not be pinpointed on to a target. It is irresponsible to say that they would be an effective substitute for either cruise or Pershing.

My right hon. Friend successfully dismissed the criticism of the formation of a contingency American headquarters in this country, although the right hon. Member for Leeds, East, in his submission yesterday to you, Mr. Speaker, made a meal of this, as though it were a terrible and scandalous development. I do not believe it is. However, if our friends in the United States came to the conclusion that the views on defence of the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) were to prevail in Europe, I would not blame them if they looked for a fall-back position as soon as possible.

On the Soviet proposal, all I shall say is that, as far as we know, it is informal. My right hon. Friend's Department was quite right to say that it should be clarified in negotiation across the table. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East said yesterday that it was an offer that we should grasp, and that it was perhaps the last chance. On the face of it, it is completely unacceptable. It amounts to a man with two pistols in his hands, coming up and saying, "I will lay one down if you promise not to take either of yours out of its holster". That is what it amounts to.

Of course the proposal must be probed. It may be an opening gambit, and something may come out of it, but to regard it as a tremendous opportunity and an offer that must not be missed, is quite unrealistic. I have no doubt that if the right hon. Member for Leeds, East were in office, he would take exactly the same view as I do.

President Mitterrand talked about a halfway house. By that, I understand that if the Russians were to scale down their deployment of SS20s and we in the West were to put in only an equivalent number of Pershings, perhaps there would be something to look at. However, if there is any realism in the Russian proposal, it is probably because the Soviet Union is finding the burden of deployment a little too much for it.

The question is, therefore, what advice do we give to our American friends? That was the reason for this debate. We must go back to the basic position. Our objective must be to restore the balance of power in Europe—a balance which for some years now has been tilted against us and will be for another year or two to come because of the Soviet preponderance in SS20s and other intermediate weapons. It was Europe which called for that reassurance and we should encourage the United States to achieve it. Yes, negotiate of course, but let us meanwhile press on with the agreed programme and let us avoid spreading illusions as the right hon. Member for Leeds, East did just now.

There is no substance in any suggestion that a solution to the Afghanistan problem is in sight. The right hon. Gentleman said that it would have been inconceivable for Mr. Crocker to have gone to Moscow in Mr. Brezhnev's time. If I am not misinformed—my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will correct me if I am wrong—this is neither Mr. Crocker's first visit, nor the first contact with Moscow on this score.

The right hon. Member for Leeds, East made much of the importance of the survival of hon. Members and their constituents. I do not know that what he said today will help his own survival in the environment in which he now has to live. I should like to think that that was not in his mind. However, the lesson that should be in all our minds is the one of the Falklands war, which, oddly, did not surface in the exchanges yesterday. Had we spent £12 million on organising the defence of the Falkland Islands in the 1970s, we need not have lost a single life, spent any money or lost any ships. That is the story of the Falklands, but it is also the story of the First World War and the Second World War. If we do not learn that lesson this time, the Third World War will come, and we shall deserve it.

6.11 pm
Mr. Tony Benn (Bristol, South-East)

It would be churlish not to admit that we are having the debate today because of the work of the peace movement in Britain and world-wide. To pretend that the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the women at Greenham Common and the other peace camps have not made it possible for the House to discuss this would be to do less than justice to reality.

The defector from Devonport—the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen)—asked what the Labour Party's policy was. I am able to tell him that at the national executive committee this morning, which was attended by everybody, including our Front-Bench spokesmen, the following resolution was passed: This meeting of the National Executive Committee supports the Women's Peace Camp at Greenham Common and other peace camps, which is in line with the policies passed at Conference for a completely non-nuclear defence policy for Britain including the removal of United States nuclear bases from Britain. If there is any question aroused in the mind of that particular defector, let it be set at rest.

The Government are frightened by what is happening. The Minister of State for the Armed Forces is always on television and, from their statements, the Government seem to be beginning to realise that they are up against something that they do not quite know how to handle. They say that the peace campaigners are sincere. I dare say that the peace movement thinks that the Cabinet is sincere. The Cabinet thinks that the peace movement is misguided, and I dare say that the peace movement thinks that the Cabinet is misguided. The Cabinet thinks that the peace movement is giving false information. Certainly the peace movement knows that the Government are giving false information. However, the main drift of the argument, which comes in various stages from the courtesy of the chairman of the Tory Party through to the unbridled extremism of Mr. Peregrine Worsthorne, is that behind the peace movement lies a Communist domination which makes the peace movement the unwitting agent of Moscow and hinders negotiation.

As many hon. Members want to speak, I shall briefly set out what I understand the peace movement here and world-wide to be saying. It is very simple and has no personal dimension to it. First, it is said by the peace people that nuclear weapons make war more likely not less. They do not believe that the peace since 1945 has been brought about by nuclear weapons. They do not believe that, because there are many people, of at least my age and above, who know that the Russians lost 20 million people in the last world war when Churchill embraced Russia as an ally against Fascism. The Russian Government and the Russian people have never shown by anything that they have done that they wish to make an attack upon Western Europe. I hope that Afghanistan will not be put forward, because when we had an empire we invaded Afghanistan three times. I strongly deplore the search for a buffer state around one's border and I went on a delegation to the Soviet ambassador to say so. However, that is not the same as reading into that some plan for a Russian invasion of Western Europe.

It is being said that there is and has been a risk of proliferation. While people talk about multilateralism, there has been an inexorable growth of missiles all over the world. Resources are wasted by the nuclear arms race. The death toll from nuclear weapons is already growing, because those who die of starvation around the world could have been fed by the money spent on nuclear weapons and must therefore be counted in the death toll from those weapons. It is also said that there is a risk of accident and that there is a sharpening of fear.

The British peace movement is also saying that the Government are deliberately misleading us about the military balance, and that is indisputable. Anyone who thought that such a thing was unthinkable about Ministers and civil servants has had a lesson from the Falklands' campaign, when deliberate disinformation was admitted by Ministry of Defence spokesmen on the ground that in a military situation it was justified.

Mr. John Major (Huntingdonshire)


Mr. Benn

I shall not give way, because I must be brief.

By attempting to confuse the strategic with the tactical, the land base with the submarine base, people are given the impression, which is wholly false, that the Soviet Union is stronger than the United States. That is not true. Anyone who reads the Foreign Secretary's speech with care will realise that he had to slip in an admission that if we marshalled British, French and other Western weapons the Russians would be in a position to argue that they had the right to further growth. The truth is that the United States is overwhelmingly the most powerful country, technically and militarily, in the world. Its gross national product and the percentage it spends on defence are high and its weapons are dominating. The reality is that we are being told the opposite.

The next point, which arises from that, is that the Government are using that fear to boost the arms budget and, at the same time, with the help of minor spokesmen, to denounce critics of their policy as traitors in some way, as agents of the Soviet Union. Another fear that is widely shared is that nuclear weapons undermine democracy. The reality is that just having such weapons means that Parliament is not told the truth. A moment ago the right hon. Member for Devonport said that the House of Commons should speak on this matter and decide upon it. He then ended by saying that there should not be a vote. Compare this Chamber, which was never even told about Chevaline, with the American Congress—

Dr. Owen

The right hon. Gentleman was in the Cabinet that agreed it in November 1974.

Mr. Benn

The Cabinet was never told about Chevaline. The former leader of the Labour Party, the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-east (Mr. Callaghan), has apologised for the fact that he has had to leave the House, but he will be answerable on that question, along with his predecessor. Compared to the American Congress, which has recently had the right to vote against the MX missile, what an impotent Chamber we are. The Attlee Government built the bomb without telling the House of Commons. People realise that the very holding of nuclear weapons—[Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) follows the previous hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden, he will suffer the same fate.

The American bases are not under the United Kingdom's control. If the Government want to confront this powerful movement, they had better recognise that it is international. It has a very strong moral base. Those who think that morality in politics is just a gesture should remember the power of non-violence in India, where a non-violent campaign ousted the British empire from that colony. The movement is growing in Japan. In Nagasaki and Hiroshima one does not have to be a Left-winger to see the disadvantage of nuclear weapons. The peace movement is also growing in America and one million people were on the streets of New York on 12 June. The movement is already frightening President Reagan.

The European nuclear disarmament movement had a massive conference in Brussels and is going to Berlin next April. That same sentiment is also found in the Labour and Liberal Parties and in the Church of England, in its document entitled "The Church and the Bomb". In their pastoral letter, the Catholic bishops in America have denounced nuclear weapons. The Pope and the General Assembly of the United Nations have also spoken on this issue.

Those forces cannot be dismissed by some McCarthyite smear that the movement is Communist dominated. Have the Communists taken over the Catholic Church? Are the hard Left to be found in the American Congress? Are the Trots in charge in the Church of England? Many people support it, including Labour, Liberal, Conservative and SDP supporters as well as those who do not belong to a party but want to see an end to the nuclear defence strategy of Britain. They want Trident to be cancelled, Polaris to be stopped and American and British nuclear bases to be closed. Hon. Members may laugh and have their little amendments and discussions, but the reality is that a new force has entered into British politics. Any Government, Tory or Labour, who ignore that force do so at their peril.

6.22 pm
Sir Peter Emery (Honiton)

I have seldom heard a speech in the House that is more likely to stop any agreement with the Russians on nuclear disarmament than that made by the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn). If he wants to prevent us from reaching disarmament agreements with the Russians, he is going the right way about it. He should bear in mind that what he terms the peace movement is nothing more or less than a movement of appeasement.

Mr. Michael Meacher (Oldham, West)


Sir Peter Emery

It is an appeasement of the Russians. The peace movement is doing exactly what the Labour Party attempted to do in 1936, 1937 and 1938, when it took every step to try to stop any form of rearmament in Britain—[Interruption.] There were some in the Conservative Party who thought rearmament unnecessary, but the Labour Party was the leader in that, and we know the results.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made a most excellent speech. He referred to Britain's willingness to maintain pressure for a multilateral agreement on arms control and disarmament. He said that he would welcome all serious negotiations and that he was willing to examine even the recent Soviet offer about the SS20, as long as that was in a serious context. He has made a most important statement, which we needed to have on the record.

The right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) suggested that the Alliance was weak. Does he really believe that the Alliance will be strengthened if some in his party—this is a point that the right hon. Gentleman neglected—advocate unilateral disarmament? [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman does not advocate that, and I had hoped that he would say so before leaving the Chamber. I shall try to show why am convinced that we cannot bring the Russians to the negotiating table if they believe that they can get any form of disarmament for nothing.

My great friend and colleague, the late Lord Godber of Willington, negotiated the nuclear test ban treaty. Negotiations started as long ago as 1958. However, he had nothing to do with it then. In 1961, when he became Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, he took over the negotiations. Those negotiations were greatly protracted. In a debate in the House in July 1962, he said: I found that on no fewer than 23 occasions before 25th April, this year, had we made formal requests to them".—[Official Report, 23 July 1962; Vol. 663, c. 985.] That is a reference to the Russians. Each time a request was made to them, the Russians refused it. It was only when we convinced the' Russians that they would get nothing more that we got them to the negotiating table.

The right hon. Member for Leeds, East had something to do with this tale. On 19 November 1962 the British Government, in the midst of the negotiations, announced that they would still test one of their nuclear weapons. There was uproar among the Opposition. The motion of semi-censure stated: That this House regrets the decision of Her Majesty's Government to proceed in the near future with the testing of a British nuclear device thus endangering the prospects of an early international agreement to ban nuclear tests."—[Official Report, 19 November 1962; Vol. 667, c. 947.] I am glad to say that that motion was defeated. However, it is intriguing to note that it was only when the British Government said that they were willing to continue testing that the Russians realised that they would not get anything for nothing.

The following January the Russians seriously began to negotiate, and within four months negotiations ended in the nuclear test ban treaty announced by the Prime Minister in the House on 25 July 1963. Rather surprisingly, the announcement was made at 11.1 pm after an hon. Member had given up his Adjournment debate. It is only when the Russians realise that they will get nothing from us unless they are willing to give something themselves that they will begin to negotiate seriously.

It is important to press on the liberal element that is associated with the peace movement and is as worried about nuclear weapons as everyone else must be, the fact that if the world believed that we were willing to adopt a unilateral approach to nuclear disarmament, the chance of any world disarmament agreements would be rendered null and void. I hope that that message will go out from the debate. I hope also that more people will expose the weakness of the argument propounded by the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East.

6.30 pm
Miss Jo Richardson (Barking)

The need for the debate epitomises the fact that the Government are at odds with almost everyone in Britain on nuclear disarmament, and particularly cruise missiles. They are at odds with 144 local authorities on nuclear-free zones. On Saturday morning I attended a moving GLC ceremony at which a flag that can still be seen flying from the flagpole was raised showing that London is proudly a nuclear-free zone. [Interruption.] I do not find that a laughing matter. I feel safer because that flag is there.

The Government are at odds with the United Nations, which clearly expected or hoped that the British Government would vote for freezing the production of nuclear weapons instead of abstaining, as I believe they did. They are at odds with general public opinion, which views the Government policy of overkill—that is what it is—as increasingly terrorising the country. I use those words advisedly.

The hon. Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) said that if a Government of Britain were to adopt a unilateralist policy, there would be no hope for disarmament. I totally disagree with him. The only hope of achieving multilateral disarmament is if Britain, as a great power, declares unilaterally that it will give up nuclear weapons. That would have a dramatic effect on world opinion. I hope that it would make the Soviet Union and the United States think again.

I should like to concentrate for a few minutes on the issue of public opinion and the Government's disregard for it. To hear the Government and their spokesmen pronounce, one would think that the vast body of opinion outside the House was made up of "nutters" and Communists. That is not true. I read in The Guardian yesterday that the Minister of State for the Armed Forces has made some strong and unwise statements over the past week. He called on people to speak up in support of the British independent nuclear deterrent.

Over the past few years, I have been on many demonstrations, but I have never heard of a demonstration in favour of the independent nuclear deterrent. I suggest that the Government or the Conservative Party organise a demonstration. It is easy to do so and I am sure that the Labour Party, and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament would be happy to give advice about how to get hold of Trafalgar Square, how to negotiate with the police and how to organise a demonstration in support of the independent nuclear deterrent. What stops the Government is the fact that no one would turn up at the demonstration or, if people did so, the majority would be those who came to show their feelings and to dissociate themselves from the Government's view.

Feeling is running extremely high all over Europe and in Britain. The courageous and moving demonstration by more than 30,000 women on Sunday and Monday surpassed the expectations of the Greenham Common women who organised it. [Interruption.] The women who went to Greenham Common were not naive or misguided. They fully recognise the danger of the build-up of these weapons. They believe—I agree with them—that the siting of cruise missiles will make Britain a decoy, drawing off nuclear fire from targets in other parts of the world. They do not want to be a decoy or live on an island which is a decoy. They see the concentration on nuclear weapons as a threat to their lives and to the lives of their loved ones. That is why they demonstrate. That is why they brought things that belonged to their children to hang on the outer perimeter fence of the base. That was most moving for those who attended. I was not there but I heard about it from friends of mine who did so.

There has also been criticism of the fact that the demonstration was by women only, and that they would not permit men to take part in the embracing of the base. I understand that, too, because those women who went along have seen that the weapons have been built up by men over many years. The build-up has been going on between Great Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union. I know that we have a woman Prime Minister, but these decisions are made by a male-dominated society. The women are determined to show that they are not prepared to tolerate it. The Government will not stop them by patronising them or by devaluing what they are doing.

Nor will the Government stop them by the police tactics of Monday. For the first time since the women camped at Greenham Common, there was a good deal of heat between the demonstrators and the police. There were few arrests but the House will recall that when about 20 women were arrested a month ago and were sent—it was a terrible decision—to prison for disturbing the peace at Greenham Common, public opinion was excited and there was public support for what the women had done and what they were having to go through because of it. The tactic on Monday changed. The order went out: "Do not arrest people, but it does not matter if you are brutal in what you do with them." I have heard from many women over the past few days that there was more brutality on Monday than there had ever been before at any demonstration at which they were present.

I have before me a copy of The Guardian of yesterday which shows a photograph of an elderly protester being carried away by two policemen. I find that absolutely disgusting and degrading. The woman should have been allowed to demonstrate as she wanted to.

The people of Britain want the Government to take cognisance of their views, especially on a matter as important as life or death. The people of Britain have not consented to the siting of cruise missiles at Greenham Common or anywhere else. They want the Government to withdraw their consent to cruise, to examine the substance of offers, whatever they maybe, from the Soviet Union and to respond to them. They want the Government flatly to refuse to accept any resiting—even in emergency—of American headquarters on our shores which would be an additional danger to them. They would have liked the Government to vote for the freezing of the production of nuclear weapons.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)


Miss Richardson

The majority of people, those women included, want Britain to give up its independent nuclear deterrent but the Government are deaf or, worse, they are not interested in the opinion of the people. I only hope that there is time before a holocaust to remove the Government and to elect one that will listen to the voice of the people.

6.40 pm
Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Newbury)

I suspect that the debate springs from the two-day demonstration at Greenham Common on Sunday and Monday. I suspect also that the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) decided that this was a way by which the Labour Party could cash in on the national publicity that the demonstration evoked. Having been at the demonstration on both Sunday and Monday, I know that those who took part will be disappointed in the right hon. Gentleman's speech. I find it extraordinary that he, speaking on behalf of the Labour Party, was unable use the words "unilateral disarmament" in any part of his speech. If the debate has served any useful purpose, it is that the Labour Party remains as divided as ever and that, if the right hon. Gentleman is to be believed, the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) is giving us the real word of the Labour Party, not the right hon. Member for Leeds, East.

The debate has also served the useful purpose of giving us a chance to hear a most far-reaching tour de force on disarmament and arms limitation and on the measures that the Government are taking to try to resolve these most intractable issues. I shall re-read the Foreign Secretary's speech when it appears in Hansard, because I believe that there is a great deal in it for us all to digest.

The hon. Member for Barking (Miss Richardson) told us that she had not been at the women's demonstration. If I say that I was there, I say no more than what any Member of Parliament would say about a demonstration so large and far-reaching in his constituency. I pay tribute to the women's commitment. The weather was bad, and they stuck it for two days. I pay tribute to their idealism. I pay tribute also to their organisation, for it was of a high order. I have not before seen a demonstration of that sort where walkie-talkies were quite so freely used or where such carefully written documents were provided for each of the demonstrators—even outlining the legal position should any of them get into difficulties with the law.

Now that most of the women have left Greenham Common and the euphoria has gone with them, I make no apology for raising the local issues of what we in Newbury will have to do to clear up the mess left by 35,000 protesters and the cost of the demonstration. I heard the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East say that the Labour Party supports the peace women. When I have listed some of the expenses, I hope that he will be prepared to say "We shall foot the bill". If not, the ratepayers of Newbury will be asked to foot it. Otherwise, he has made an empty gesture and left others to pick up the bill.

Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

Talk some politics.

Mr. J. W. Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Bar)

This is not a council chamber.

Mr. McNair-Wilson

My constituents recognise that RAF Greenham Common is a base of the greatest importance. They recognise that they must pay their share of our national defence. However, they wonder why they should now be asked to foot an additional bill as ratepayers. They are being asked to pay £20,000 in legal costs to prove their ownership of the common. They have done that, but it has cost £20,000 of ratepayers' money.

Mr. Arthur Lewis (Newham, North-West)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. McNair-Wilson

No. I shall not give way to anyone, because I want to get on with my speech.

The Newbury ratepayers are asking why they should have to pay £3,500 to clean up the common following the demonstration. They are asking why the police presence of 750—I must tell the hon. Member for Barking that I saw the police fraternising with the women protesters on Monday in a way rather different from that which she described—will cost £60,000 at least.

Mr. Flannery

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We are being treated to a kind of council comment on what happened at Greenham Common without it being related to the subject of the debate. It is so petty that it is almost unbelievable.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am grateful to hon. Members for co-operating, because so many wish to speak in the debate. No speech has been longer than 12 minutes since the two opening speeches from the Front Benches. If we can continue in this way, many more hon. Members will be able to make their contribution.

Mr. McNair-Wilson

I have come to the end of the list of costs. However, the costs remain to be paid and I hope that the Ministry of Defence or the Labour Party will come forward and help out. After all, we have been told that the Labour Party supports the peace women.

The tenor of the debate suggests that Western Europe is facing a threat that puts its security in grave peril. I remind the House that we have had 37 years of peace in Western Europe since the Second World War and that more than half the population of Western Europe was born since that war ended. In other words, more than half the population of Western Europe has never heard a shot fired in anger.

Europe has enjoyed the longest period of peace this century. This has happened in an area which has the greatest concentration of nuclear weaponry anywhere on the globe. It is the only area in which four nuclear nations virtually rub shoulders with each other. Each possesses the power to do unacceptable and horrific damage to its enemy. However, Western Europe has enjoyed 37 years of peace despite that collection of weaponry.

Peace is a variable entity. Peace in Western Europe is peace with freedom of expression in a free society. There is the freedom to protest that was demonstrated at Greenham. Peace in Eastern Europe is of a different character. It is the peace of the police State with the suppression of political thought. It is the peace that brought tanks into Hungary, martial law to Poland and suppression to Czechoslovakia. The people in those countries wanted to express their views against a regime which decided to impose its will. Nevertheless, it is peace, be it East or West.

How different is the situation in the rest of the world, which, since 1945, has been racked with 140 conventional wars in which at least 10 million have lost their lives. Many millions have been wounded and vast numbers have been made refugees. Some of them have escaped for their lives and have become those tragic people known as the boat people. These are escapees from tyranny. In the same 37 years Western Europe has enjoyed peace.

Whatever other argument is advanced against nuclear weapons, I do not think it is possible to say that their existence in Western Europe has upset the peace or subscribed to a situation which requires us to believe that they are the cause of much human misery.

We are told that although nuclear weapons may have performed a deterrent role, their new form as cruise and Pershing missiles stationed in Western Europe, including Greenham Common—this is the argument of the Greenham women—means that we are facing a new situation. It is said that cruise and Pershing missiles are not merely NATO's response to the build-up of Russian SS20 missiles, although that build-up started in 1976, but are new breeds of nuclear weapon which will make a limited nuclear war in Europe a possibility. It is claimed that the Pentagon, with cruise and Pershing, can think of a nuclear war confined to Europe and in which Fortress America is inviolate and intact.

That scenario is preposterous. It may have been fuelled by injudicious remarks by some top American politicians, who too often forget the effect that words spoken to an American audience can have in Europe. The idea that cruise missiles that travel at 600 miles an hour and can be viewed with the naked eye represent a first strike weapon that is likely to create the possibility of a limited nuclear war in Europe beggars description.

I should like to see a higher European profile at the disarmament talks in Geneva, but I recognise that, for that negotiation to be successful, it is better that America and Russia negotiate, and that America is briefed by NATO.

I have heard the argument that the British people would feel easier about cruise if there were a dual key control. If so, why has none of the NATO countries that is to receive cruise asked for dual key? Why has none of them even chosen to purchase the missiles, but to rely on the present procedure whereby sovereign countries have the right to refuse the firing of the missiles.

Unless I am to be told that the NATO countries are spoiling for a nuclear war with the Soviet Union, does anybody believe the limited nuclear war scenario? I find it impossible to accept. To that extent, the fear of cruise missiles whipped up by the peace women of Greenham Common on Sunday and Monday is misplaced and dangerously misleading.

I cannot think of anything that either the CND or the peace women have achieved with their campaign. Which Government have offered to disarm unilaterally as a result of what these people have had to say? Which Government came to the talks at Geneva because of the so-called peace movement? As has been said before, it was not until NATO showed its determination to bring cruise and Pershing missiles to Western Europe unless the Russians came to the talks in Geneva that the Russians came. If the negotiations work out, and zero option is accepted, it could mean that the missiles need never be deployed.

The peace women stirred up the emotions of us all. The Labour Party offers unilateral disarmament as its emotional response, but if it chooses to look at the words of Mr. Andropov, the new leader of the Soviet Union, it will find that he categorically states that he does not want or expect unilateral disarmament from the West. He wants a fair negotiation. So do I, and Geneva, with its two sets of nuclear weapons talks, can still produce a result that can lower the temperature of the world in terms of nuclear weapons.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. A moment ago you rightly pointed out your difficulty in calling speakers. You have a difficult job and I have raised this point of order before. May I draw your attention to the fact that you have rightly chosen to call five Privy Councillors, and that—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman—

Mr. Lewis

—only one of those right hon. Members has remained in the Chamber.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must resume his seat when I am on my feet. He is being unfair to the rest of the House. I have not seen him in the Chamber for very long. He may have been here, but I have not seen him. It is unfair to others who wish to take part in the debate that he should chase his King Charles's head at this moment.

Mr. Lewis

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have been sitting here the whole time, even though you have not been able to see me. I have been here the whole time since 2.30 this afternoon. I am sorry that I have lost weight, but I was here.

You have called five Privy Councillors, and only the Secretary of State has remained here to listen to the debate. I do not wish to take part in the debate, but I think that it is unfair to Back Benchers who wish to take part. You should bear that in mind when you call hon. Members in future debates.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I warn the hon. Member that he will cut out an hon. Member at the end of the debate.

6.56 pm Mr. Norman Atkinson (Tottenham)

I should like to take up some of the points made by the Foreign Secretary and by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey). Both of them, like the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) spoke of unilateralism and its meaning in relation to the debate, but the important aspect of the unilateralist concept has been missed. Incidentally, Mr. Andropov was referring to the United States, not to the European theatre, when he said that he did not expect a unilateralist approach from the West. He was not speaking about the United Kingdom.

The point about a unilateralist argument is that it should be recognised that in almost 20 years of serious nuclear discussion between the major powers of the world there has never been one nuclear weapon dismantled by agreement across the table. That is the first point that should be made by unilateralists taking part in the debate.

Secondly, it is not part of the unilateralist case, in its approach to stage one and nuclear disarmament, to argue for a destabilisation of the nuclear strategic balance. It is to approach that in a more secure form that the unilateralists seriously argue their case. They are saying that the only way in which the proliferation of nuclear weapons can be prevented by agreement is by adopting the initiatives outlined by the unilateralist case.

It is about non-proliferation that the arguments are framed as they are. In other words, to confine nuclear weapons to the two major powers of the world—the United States and the Soviet Union—and to achieve a strategic balance between those powers it is necessary for European powers and the other nuclear powers to make their contributions in the unilateral sense. That is the essence of unilateralists' case, not the other peripheral arguments that have been advanced so far today.

I was profoundly disappointed when listening to my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East. He has spelt out the differences in the Labour Party leadership. That imposes a tremendous strain on the Labour Party. We have not many months to go before we face a general election in which the major issue must be nuclear disarmament. However, here we are faced with this profound difference between the case set out, brilliantly on occasions, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) and that set out by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East, talked about the mentally moribund character of the Government's approach to these matters, but also said that the Soviet offer should be rejected. He went on to say that we should negotiate, but ended by saying that an accord should be made half way between a zero option and no cruise.

That is not the Labour Party's position, and will not be Labour Party policy as presented to the electorate at the next general election. It is not the basis of our policy, because implicit in that is an acceptance of cruise bases in this country, which the Labour Party has clearly denounced by saying that we shall fight the next general election on no cruise bases in Britain, and no Pershing II. [HON. MEMBERS: "No SS20s".] That is a consideration, but it is not a qualifying caveat with regard to the rejection of cruise and Pershing II.

I hope that tonight's vote will not be misunderstood. It is an official Opposition vote on a three-line Whip, but it does not mean that we are voting in favour of a halfway house between the zero option and no cruise.

It could be said that the zero option argument as presented by the Foreign Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East is an offer by NATO. That in itself merely confuses what has been said up to now. Labour Members must keep uppermost in their minds the profound difficulty with which they are now faced and must consider how they can get out.

The Foreign Secretary spoke of the immense superiority of both Soviet forces and Soviet weapons. If there is such a superiority, of necessity the Soviet Union since November 1979 must have broken the agreement on SALT I and SALT II. They must of necessity have done so to have the nuclear superiority that has been spelt out both by the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister. However, during the three rounds of talks that have taken place at Geneva in the last 12 months, no reference has been made to the breaking of the SALT I and II by the Soviet Union by the mounting of additional nuclear weapons in the theatres to which the Foreign Secretary referred.

Why is there such an absence of protest at the Geneva talks? The verification argument cannot proceed if there is doubt about SALT I and SALT II. The talks between the United States and the Soviet Union have never been interrupted by charges that the Soviet Union has broken the original agreements. Indeed, the strategic and tactical balance that was agreed in November 1979 has never been challenged, in relation to subsequent events after November 1979 or anything else.

There is something phoney about the case that is now advanced in favour of cruise and Pershing 2. The Foreign Secretary now has an opportunity to spell out the changes that have given the Soviet Union this overwhelming superiority. He can comment on the number of SS20s and the dismantling of SS4s and SS5s. He can tell us what has happened about the MIRV-ing of weapons on both sides and about the miniaturisation process.

I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), the former Labour Prime Minister, has left the Chamber, because he is involved in part of the argument advanced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn). In fact, the most profound comments about that period could have been endorsed by the then Labour Prime Minister, such as whether the House knew anything about Chevaline or whether the Cabinet was told. The former Labour Prime Minister has confirmed that the Cabinet was not told about Chevaline, a view that was endorsed by the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), who said that he made costings and told the House of the decision that had already been taken.

I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East is no longer present, because I should have liked to tell him that our electoral policy is not to go for a halfway house between the zero option and no cruise. The Labour Party is clearly saying "No cruise from now on". That is the very basis of the unilateral argument. I therefore appeal to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition to make a clear statement on where the Labour Party stands [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear".] I need no assistance from hon. Members who have deserted the Labour Party. Despite all the machinations of Fleet Street and the distortion of the truth in which it engages, I believe that the British people are sufficiently mature to understand the discussion within the Labour Party about these profound issues, which envelope us all. The development of the peace movement is a sign that the British people are now mature and can understand the realism behind the arguments.

It is not to the Labour Party's disadvantage to talk about the difference in approach. I am not challenging the sincerity of my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East. I understand his difficulty. My goodness, his contribution has been tremendous. He is the longest-serving Secretary of State for Defence. However, he cannot say "Forget my past. I want to get rid of it". He cannot stand before the House without absolute ridicule and say "Forget all that I have said in the past, I am now committed to something new". We all understand why the slow process of change has taken place and why this issue has suddenly become uppermost in the minds of the British people. For that reason, my right hon. Friend, as deputy leader of a harmonious joint leadership, must grapple with this question and provide some leadership.

As a result of this debate I hope that we can now move on to the next stage. I hope that the Leader of the Opposition will make it absolutely clear that it is no halfway house for Labour, but rather no cruise and no Pershing 2 for Britain.

7.8 pm

Mr. John Major (Huntingdonshire)

I shall not enter into the Labour Party's internal disputes, tempting though that may be.

In recent days there have been persistent rumours, which have led to this debate, that the Soviet Union has made some initiative towards arms reduction in Western Europe. On the basis of those rumours, and what we have subsequently heard from my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, it is entirely right to have this debate.

It is important that, as far as we can, we should pursue any genuine option that may be available for significant and verifiable arms reductions on both sides of the Iron Curtain. I therefore welcome the debate.

For understandable reasons, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary was unable to go into the details of the new ideas that may have been floated. But there will be a general welcome within the House and beyond for his assurance that those ideas will be pursued at Geneva and that the West will consider whether any offers that have been made will lead to a substantial reduction in armaments throughout Europe.

When these matters are discussed, these offers may turn out not to be acceptable—the future will determine that—but the fact that offers have been made is illuminating and encouraging. It is illuminating because it shows that the Soviet Union, when faced with NATO resolution to install cruise and Pershing missiles, has been prepared to alter its stance. The offers are encouraging because this flexibility may offer a chance of genuine multilateral arms reduction. No hon. Member will disagree that that is what we all hope will be the outcome.

There is a lesson that those who tend to oppose the Government's policy about the offer should learn. Would the offer that appears to have been made by the Soviet Union have been made if NATO countries had not been so resolute and so determined to go ahead with their decision to install cruise and Pershing missiles? Opponents of the Government's policies would be wise to address themselves to that question. We cannot be sure of the answer to it, but I strongly doubt whether that offer would have been made had it not been for the resolution of the NATO countries.

It is clear that the movement by the Soviet Union is the best possible vindication there could be for the policy that the Alliance has followed since 1979. I look forward to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament praising the reason why the new initiative has been advanced as well as supporting its existence.

I regret that much of the debate in the country about arms reduction is based on emotion rather than logic. That can be seen at Greenham Common in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) and in Molesworth in my constituency of Huntingdonshire.

There is no debate today that more requires cool, clear, detached logic and judgment than the one about how we may seek multilateral arms reduction. There is no subject that would benefit more from a united approach in so far as we are able to achieve one in the House. We all know what our objective is—peace. We want sustained, lasting and secure peace and we want multilateral disarmament. There is no dispute about that. Every sane person wants it.

However, we cannot guarantee peace and we cannot guarantee that we shall not be attacked. Therefore, I beg those who propose unilateral disarmament to understand that many of us fear that any unilateral disarmament by the West, which is not balanced by a similar movement in the Soviet Union, would be a terrible gamble that we believe we should not take for the present generation or for the next one. My fear, which is shared by many of my right hon. and hon. Friends, is that an unthinking clamour for unilateral disarmament may damage the prospect for negotiated and genuine multilateral disarmament at Geneva. That may happen if the domestic clamour encourages the Soviet Union to believe that we shall disarm unilaterally as a result of internal pressure rather than multilaterally as a result of a negotiated agreement.

I do not wish to be partisan, especially today, but the stance taken by the Leader of the Opposition, as opposed to that set by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), must reinforce the Soviet view that the Governments of the West might be pushed out of their present resolute posture. I do not doubt the Leader of the Opposition's sincerity, but his views are likely to weaken the NATO Alliance and to impede the possibility of disarmament by our adversaries. It will be a terrible loss if that happens, and the job of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary at the Geneva negotiations and the job of the American Government would be made that much more difficult.

I recently came across an old Russian proverb to which I hope the Leader of the Opposition will direct his attention. It is: Make yourself a sheep and a wolf will come along by and by. It might. We should remember that.

Some hon. Members and others—members of the CND regard it as an article of faith—claim that they want Britain to give a lead by disarming unilaterally. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I note the support of the right hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) and others. Such people claim that Britain would set an example that other countries would follow. That is all very well. Would they? What countries? Would the Soviet Union follow? Would China follow? Would anyone follow? I strongly doubt whether any country would follow our example. We would have weakened ourselves to no advantage. We would have weakened ourselves and the Alliance, which relies on the support of member nations to provide for the community at large. That would be the result of the Opposition's policy, were we to follow it.

The alluring fantasy that the Opposition and the CND peddle—that we can safely dismantle nuclear weapons and rely on conventional ones—is surely absurd. Indeed, it is unsustainable.

The Warsaw Pact countries outnumber the West in conventional forces by between three and four to one. If they retained nuclear weapons and we did not, they would need only to threaten to use those nuclear weapons to make nearly all of our conventional forces useless. That is the point that the Opposition must take into account. Unilateral nuclear disarmament would be the clearest possible signal by the United Kingdom that neither we nor NATO any longer had the resolution or intention to defend ourselves against European aggressors or to contribute to the defence of the West. That is the reality that public debate must accept.

We must also destroy the fiction that the build-up of arms by the Soviet Union is in response to the arms that are in place in Western Europe. How different is the fact. The Russians now allocate about one-seventh of their annual wealth to military purposes. That is more than twice that of any Western country. Let me put the point in more lurid terms. The Russians spend twice as much on defence as they spend on health and education combined. By contrast, we spend twice as much on health and education as on defence.

Mr. Frank Alluan

That is not true.

Mr. Major

In the past decade the West has spent consistently less on arms in real terms than the Soviets.

The Government and the nation want peace. Surely that is not in dispute? NATO is a defensive, not an offensive, Alliance. The nation and the Government also want security and genuine verifiable multilateral disarmament. These are desirable objectives, but I fear that we shall achieve them only if we have the courage and resolution to sustain our part in NATO and the Western Alliance. Peace must continue to be our aim. But it must be peace with security. It must be peace with liberty. No other peace can discharge our responsibility to this and the next generation. No other peace should be sought and no other peace is acceptable.

7.18 pm
Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)

The Prime Minister constantly tells us that she believes in multilateral disarmament. The Foreign Secretary said the same thing today. The Prime Minister should support rather than oppose three recent moves. Yesterday, the freeze was debated at the United Nations. The subject has seized American imagination. The motion was carried by 114 votes. What did the British Government do? They opposed the proposal.

Secondly why did the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister not support the proposal that was made on 1 October at the United Nations by Mr. Gromyko? It was for a comprehensive test ban agreement. That would have helped to stop further development of weapons by nuclear powers. It would also have meant that those weapons would not spread to new powers. Most of all, the Prime Minister should support the recent Soviet offer to halve the number of its SS20s in Europe. At least she should start negotiations on the proposal. Why was it kept secret? Why had it to be leaked to the American press? It was because the NATO chiefs were fearful of the effect on public opinion. They thought that the offer would receive wide support from ordinary people.

The Secretary of State for Defence, for once, did not reject it out of hand. Nor did he automatically support the President. Why does the Prime Minister not back her Secretary of State for Defence? It is because, only on one issue—that of the pipeline for Siberian gas—has she failed to applaud everything coming from the White House.

I, for one, am fed up with the eternal minuet between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. As one side advances the other retreats, so they never meet. There has been reference to multilateral disarmament. For eight years the powers of the world have been meeting at Vienna to discuss conventional weapons. In that time they have failed to agree to reduce them by even one rifle. We cannot afford to wait another eight years.

The Prime Minister and her Ministers state constantly that we have had 37 years of peace, thanks to nuclear weapons. The right hon. Lady is like the little boy rushing towards the precipice shouting "I have not fallen over". If the bomb has brought peace, as we are told, why are people more concerned about war today than at any time since 1939? Why are millions of people marching for peace and against cruise missiles in every capital in Europe and in the United States? Why did 300,000 women ring the cruise missile base at Greenham last weekend on a freezing December day? Why are they doing it? It is because they know that mankind is getting nearer to the brink. The instinct for human survival has been alerted.

My mail, as well as public opinion polls, show that this is particularly so among women. This may be due to the fact that women bring babies into the world and are more impressed by life than by weaponry. According to the Gallup poll on 20 October, despite constant propaganda in almost every national newspaper, 44 per cent. are in favour of cancelling Trident compared to 32 per cent. who want it, with 24 per cent. "Don't knows". Similar responses are achieved over cruise and United States bases in Britain. The polls show 47 per cent. against allowing United States bases to continue, with 39 per cent. saying the opposite and 14 per cent. "Don't knows".

The CND has supporters in all parties and among people who do not belong to any party. That is good. The women at Greenham did a magnificent job. In the end, however, it will have to be a Government decision to accept or reject the cruise missile.

The polls show that a substantial proportion of Conservative supporters are opposed to cruise and Trident. It is a matter of genuine regret that I cannot name one Tory Member who will publicly declare himself or herself in favour of CND.

Three things are needed—the election of a Labour Government; a full anti-nuclear programme clearly and unambiguously stated in Labour's election programme; and the determination of an elected Labour Government to carry it out.

7.24 pm
Mr. Raymond Whitney (Wycombe)

At the beginning of the debate the House was treated to three splendid speeches. However, the real debate began with the speech of the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr.

Benn). Since then, all the Opposition Members who have spoken have revealed the true voice of the Labour Party, the true voice of unilateralism and the real danger to peace that faces Britain and the West.

I congratulate the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) on giving hon. Members and the nation the opportunity to hear the true voice of the Labour Party. This is our problem. Every 25 years a bout of deep pacifism hits this country. The more recent speeches today from the Opposition Benches bring to mind the famous debate in the Oxford Union in 1933, when the undergraduates stated that under no circumstances would they fight for king and country. I hope very much that Opposition Members who offer the unilateralist line will understand the problems.

Mr. Healey


Mr. Whitney

I am sorry. I cannot give way at this stage.

Opposition Members must understand the real dangers of unilateralism, which created the last war. If those Opposition Members now preaching unilateralism again are really scared of the horrors of nuclear war, they should bear in mind the lessons of the 1930s. The horrors of the 1980s dwarf those that had to be withstood in 1939.

The argument, put forward mainly by the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East, that nuclear weapons make war more likely has not been proved. No one from the Opposition Benches has mentioned the fact that for the 33 years that NATO has existed we have had peace. Any change must therefore be carried out with the greatest care. The Government know that. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East knows that. The right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) knows that. I wonder whether Opposition Members ever listen to what the Soviet Union says. I wonder whether they understand Mr. Andropov when he says that the Soviet Union is not naive enough to enter into unilateral disarmament.

The right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East maintained that the Soviet Union had never shown that it wanted to attack Western Europe. He should ask the countries of Eastern Europe, from Estonia and Lithuania through to Berlin. There, the Soviet Union was stopped because NATO organised itself. There, it has remained stopped.

The growth of missiles has been mentioned. The West has withdrawn 1,000 warheads, and the response from the Soviet Union has been to install more. That meets no objection from the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East who stated that the Soviet Union had a right to increase the number of its nuclear weapons. The right hon. Gentleman deployed the usual argument of unilateralists which is that all the money spent on arms would be better used on world development. How right he is. Who is leading the charge? Who is spending $120 billion a year? Who is spending between 14 and 15 per cent. of its gross national product on arms? It is the Soviet Union. The United States reduced expenditure from 8.8 per cent. of GNP in 1969 to 5.5 per cent. in 1980. These facts are ignored. Who would suggest, apart from the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East and his friends, that the Government are using the fear of nuclear warfare to boost the arms budget? The right hon. Gentleman must have some understanding of the debate in Government circles.

If he does not, he should attend Treasury debates to hear how eager hon. Members may, or may not be, to boost defence spending.

The right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East denies that he, as a member of the Cabinet in 1974, was told of the Chevaline decision. Of course he knew. If he listened to the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport, he would hear that in November 1974 he, as a member of the Cabinet, was told about it. Did he resign? Of course he did not. The right hon. Gentleman even sought to quote the Roman Catholic Church, but the Pope himself has clearly said that multilateral disarmament is the only way to achieve sensible arms control agreements.

The hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) said that disarmament would be the major issue at the next general election. If that is the Labour Party's intention, it has seriously misjudged the tenor of opinion in Britain. The people of Britain understand the threat and they know what must be done to meet it. The same applies to the people in my constituency who have been excited in the past few days by highly tendentious reports about contingency plans to resite United States communications and military headquarters. They are purely contingency plans, and the contingency in question would be a war in other words, an attack on the West by the Soviet Union. An attack on the West, not the re-siting of a communications headquarters, is what we have to fear. Therefore, anything that makes that more likely is to be feared, and it would certainly be made more likely if we accepted all the pressures from the majority of Labour Members and from the misguided people in CND. It should be remembered that the official slogan adopted in Sheffield by CND is NATO out of Britain and Britain out of NATO. We should never let people forget that.

Of course there is a way forward. There is more to be done on arms control. Members on both sides of the House in the campaign for arms control have offered initiatives to the Government. We have offered initiatives at the United Nations special session on disarmament and we shall be going to Washington and Moscow in January. I believe that we can offer a further way forward—the way that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has pointed—but if we follow the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East, we follow him to war and disaster.

7.32 pm
Mr. Healey

I beg leave of the House to speak again very briefly.

This has been a worthwhile debate, and the majority of speeches, reflecting all sections of opinion, have been serious ones. First, I should like to comment on two Back Bench speeches. The hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Witney) is quite wrong. We accused the Government of using the Falklands crisis to boost defence expenditure, and the White Paper published yesterday shows how right we were. The hon. Gentleman refered to the 1935 "King and Country" motion. I remind him that that motion was moved by one Max Beloff, who is now the most obsequious of all the Prime Minister's advisers.

My hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) completely misunderstood what I said. I quoted with approval President Mitterrand's statement that there should be a middle position between the Soviet Union's deployment of its full SS20 force, which is equivalent to all the Pershings deployed by the Americans, and the zero option. I was not talking about a compromise between the zero option and cruise.

The Foreign Secretary gave us some useful information, but far too little specific information about either developments in NATO discussions of defence strategy or the progress of the INF negotiations. It would be helpful if the Government offered time early next year to continue this discussion, which will be of vital importance for at least another 12 months.

On several vital points, the Foreign Secretary completely failed to give the House the required assurances. It is true that we raised the question of establishing British control with American control over any cruise missiles in Britain, but the right hon. Gentleman made it quite clear that he has made no progress whatsoever with the Americans in the last 12 months in reaching such an agreement. That was extremely disturbing. Some of the things that the Foreign Secretary said shook our confidence in the depth of his commitment to disarmament. First, he refused absolutely to take account of British and French nulear forces in any disarmament discussion, whether in the European theatre or at strategic level. That is preposterous at this time, particularly for a Minister in a Government who propose the purchase of Trident, which would give Britain more desructive capacity than the whole of the Soviet planned SS20 force. On reflection the right hon. Gentleman will recognise that that position is not sustainable. I think that he will discover that in the course of the next 12 months.

In speaking against a nuclear weapon freeze, the Foreign Secretary made a statement which he must know is not accurate. He said that a freeze would consolidate an overwhelming Soviet predominance. There is no overwhelming Soviet predominance. In an unchallenged statement of the position a few weeks ago, the International Institute for Strategic Studies pointed out that the West has a preponderance of warheads, although the Soviet Union has a preponderance of megatonnage, and that, broadly speaking, there is already parity at the strategic level. The right hon. Gentleman would be unwise to write off the growing demand for a freeze, which will become irresistible unless progress in multilateral arms reduction talks can be made in the coming months.

The Foreign Secretary was asked by Members on both sides of the House for an assurance that the House of Commons would have the same right to determine the deployment of American missiles in Britain as the United States Congress has to determine the deployment of American missiles in the United States. His refusal to disavow reports of his statement in Brussels last week makes his position unacceptable to the House. Unless the Minister of State can give us an assurance that the Government will seek the approval of the House before making a final decision on this matter, we shall seek to divide the House at the end of the debate.

7.37 pm
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Douglas Hurd)

The debate has been both useful and interesting, partly because it has focused so much on the arms control and disarmament negotiations actually taking place. One of the difficulties in discussing these matters outside the House is that many people seem not to realise that serious negotiations are taking place, and one cannot discuss the problems of peace and war in a sensible way without discussing the progress and prospects of those negotiations. We want the negotiations to succeed and we are working hard to that end because we believe that that is the only sure way to assure peace.

The right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) repeated the point made earlier, and I and my right hon. Friends have taken careful note of what has been said about the role of the House in these matters. Obviously Parliament is and must be closely involved, and I believe that the record of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary proves that we have practised as well as preached that. There has been a debate today, there will evidently be a division later and the coming year will bring many more opportunities for further discussion of the issue.

A number of questions and comments in the debate have related to the control of cruise missiles if they are deployed in this country. The arrangement is that it will be exactly the same as for the F111s. That is to say, the use of such bases in an emergency will be a matter for joint decision with the British Government. As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said, we have noted the comments that have been made, but the arrangement is of long standing and was agreed by the Labour Government.

The right hon. Member for Leeds, East and other hon. Members spoke about the British and French systems. The Government have made it clear that we do not believe that the British systems belong to the INF—the intermediate range—discussion. My right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) made that point clearly. In the SALT I negotiations, the Russians acknowledged that the systems were strategic.

The first priority in the strategic talks, START, is deep reductions in the American and Soviet strategic systems. That is the American position and we support it. The defence White Paper stated that if circumstances were to change significantly, for example if Soviet military capabilities and the threats that they pose to the United Kingdom were to be substantially reduced, we should be prepared to review our position on arms control and the British strategic systems.

The right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) changed the course of the debate. He gave a version of Labour Party policy that was notably different from that which we heard earlier. The sad thing about his speech was the scorn for this House that breathed through almost every word that he uttered. He neglected the reason why we are here. Parliment is elected by the people and Parliament controls the Government. That is the meaning of parliamentary democracy. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to be advancing a different doctrine—that we should count the number of demonstrators in the streets and guide our policy accordingly.

Mr. Benn


Mr. Hurd

I am sorry, but I have only seven more minutes.

Mr. Benn


Hon. Members

Give way.

Mr. Hurd

The right hon. Gentleman was equally inaccurate to try to convey the impression that the peace movements that he praised are universal. He listed several countries and organizations—

Mr. Benn


Hon. Members

Give way.

Mr. Hurd

I am replying to points raised in the debate. The right hon. Gentleman listed several countries and organisations, not always accurately, to prove the point about universality, but he made no mention of the influence of peace movements in or on the Soviet Union, which is understandable, because such influence is impossible to detect.

Fair-minded people accept the real anxiety of many people throughout the world about the nuclear issue, whether they belong to peace movements or not, but to fair-minded people the impact of the present peace movement is less, because it is obviously one-sided. Repression in the Soviet system has seen to that. If I had more time, I could provide examples. Protesters in the Soviet Union are behind the wire and not linking arms outside it.

The debate has mainly been about the continuing discussions in Geneva in the intermediate talks to reach agreement on that part of the nuclear problem. They are serious negotiations and that is acknowledged by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East and by the powers that take part in them. They have not degenerated into a forum for the exchange of insults. I say to the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun) that that is partly because the negotiations have to a large extent been kept confidential. It is impossible to imagine successful negotiations unless, for large parts of the time, the discussion can take place in confidence.

The Geneva negotiations stem from NATO's double track decision made in December 1979, which the Opposition did not oppose at the time. After a delay, that NATO decision brought the Soviet Union to the conference table on intermediate nuclear forces. That decision may still lead—the right hon. Member for Leeds, East acknowledged this—the Soviet Union to the concessions that will make agreement possible. The NATO double track decision has achieved that prospect, which the whole House wishes. However, if we waver in our determination to modernise those forces in the absence of agreement, we lose the chance of success in the negotiations. My hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) made that point clearly.

It is naive to suppose that the Soviet Union would not prefer to keep its present superiority in such weaponry. Of course it would prefer to keep the SS20s without making any concession to NATO. If public opinion in the West were to prevent modernisation, although no agreement had been reached, that would suit the Soviet Union very well. It would still have the SS20s, but the West would have no equivalent. Can anyone seriously say that that outcome would be stable and likely to preserve peace? We must be right to hold out for something better, more radical and safer than that.

It is right to go one stage further in the argument and to discuss another warning. If we allow the Soviet Union in 1983 to shake our purpose, and if the decision to modernise were abandonded without a satisfactory agreement at the negotiating table, the Soviet Union would know that it had found the way, through playing on public opinion in the West, to control the foreign and defence policies of Western Governments. That lesson, once learnt, would not be forgotten. That trigger, once found, would be pressed over and over again. To call that "Finlandisation" would be an insult to the Finns. That point must be considered and weighed carefully.

The sense of this debate, regardless of the artificial vote that is to follow—

Mr. Orme

It is called democracy, and it is real.

Mr. Hurd

Among those who will vote in different Lobbies there is a realisation that the great prize of balanced agreements, patiently negotiated and capable of verification, is worth an enormous effort. It is the only thing that could usher in a safer world.

The right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), in an interesting speech, mentioned the link between the INF and the START talks. They are the twins in the process and there is a necessary intellectual link between the two discussions. That is why they are happening simultaneously in the same city. The basis of the policy outlined by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is that we shall lose that prize unless we are steady in its pursuit. The prize is there. If we are to win it, we must be willing to negotiate, to listen and patiently and in a reasonable tone of voice to explain to public opinion in all parts of the world where public opinion is important, and in areas where, unfortunately, it has not yet reached, the purpose of our actions.

However, it is not enough simply to be reasonable. We must also be steadfast, and 1983 will be a test of the steadfastness and clear-sightedness, not just of Governments, but of Parliaments and peoples throughout the Western world. Steadfastness is reputed to be one of the qualities of this House and of Britain. I hope that, when the prize of finding a way to ensure peace is so great, that quality of steadfastness will be forthcoming.

Question put, That this House do now adjourn:

The House Divided: Ayes 236, Noes 318.

Division No. 33] [7.50 pm
Abse, Leo Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S)
Adams, Allen Cohen, Stanley
Allaun, Frank Coleman, Donald
Alton, David Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.
Anderson, Donald Conlan, Bernard
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Cook, Robin F.
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Cowans, Harry
Ashton, Joe Cox, T. (W'dsw'th, Toot'g)
Atkinson, N.(H'gey,) Craigen, J. M. (G'gow, M'hill)
Bagier, Gordon A.T. Crowther, Stan
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Cryer, Bob
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd) Cunliffe, Lawrence
Beith, A. J. Cunningham, Dr J. (W'h'n)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Dalyell, Tam
Bennett, Andrew (St'kp't N) Davidson, Arthur
Bidwell, Sydney Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Davis, Terry (B'ham, Stechf'd)
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Deakins, Eric
Bottomley, Rt Hon A. (M'b'ro) Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Dewar, Donald
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Dixon, Donald
Brown, R. C. (N'castle W) Dobson, Frank
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith) Dormand, Jack
Buchan, Norman Douglas, Dick
Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n & P) Dubs, Alfred
Campbell, Ian Duffy, A. E. P.
Campbell-Savours, Dale Dunnett, Jack
Canavan, Dennis Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.
Cant, R. B. Eastham, Ken
Carmichael, Neil Edwards, R. (W'hampt'n S E)
Carter-Jones, Lewis Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) English, Michael
Clarke, Thomas (C'b'dge, A'rie) Ennals, Rt Hon David
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Meacher, Michael
Evans, John (Newton) Mikardo, Ian
Ewing, Harry Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Faulds, Andrew Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Field, Frank Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby)
Fitch, Alan Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Fitt, Gerard Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw)
Flannery, Martin Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Moyle, Rt Hon Roland
Ford, Ben Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick
Forrester, John Newens, Stanley
Foster, Derek Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Foulkes, George O'Neill, Martin
Fraser, J. (Lamb'th, N'w'd) Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Palmer, Arthur
Freud, Clement Park, George
Garrett, John (Norwich S) Parker, John
George, Bruce Parry, Robert
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Pendry, Tom
Golding, John Penhaligon, David
Graham, Ted Pitt, William Henry
Grimond, Rt Hon J. Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Prescott, John
Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife) Price, C. (Lewisham W)
Harman, Harriet (Peckham) Race, Reg
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Radice, Giles
Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S)
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Richardson, Jo
Haynes, Frank Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Heffer, Eric S. Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Hogg, N. (E Dunb't'nshire) Robertson, George
Holland, S. (L'b'th, Vauxh'll) Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Home Robertson, John Rooker, J. W.
Homewood, William Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)
Hooley, Frank Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Howell, Rt Hon D. Rowlands, Ted
Howells, Geraint Ryman, John
Hoyle, Douglas Sever, John
Huckfield, Les Sheerman, Barry
Hughes, Mark (Durham) Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Short, Mrs Renée
Janner, Hon Greville Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford)
Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Silverman, Julius
John, Brynmor Skinner, Dennis
Johnson, James (Hull West) Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Smith, Rt Hon J. (N Lanark)
Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Snape, Peter
Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rh'dda) Soley, Clive
Jones, Barry (East Flint) Spearing, Nigel
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Spellar, John Francis (B'ham)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Spriggs, Leslie
Kerr, Russell Stallard, A. W.
Kilroy-Silk, Robert Steel, Rt Hon David
Lambie, David Stoddart, David
Lead bitter, Ted Stott, Roger
Leighton, Ronald Strang, Gavin
Lestor, Miss Joan Straw, Jack
Lewis, Arthur (N'ham NW) Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Litherland, Robert Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
McCartney, Hugh Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Tilley, John
McElhone, Mrs Helen Tinn, James
McGuire, Michael (Ince) Torney, Tom
McKay, Allen (Penistone) Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
McKeivey, William Wainwright, E. (Dearne V)
MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Wainwright, R.(Colne V)
McNamara, Kevin Walker, Rt Hon H. (D'caster)
McTaggart, Robert Wardell, Gareth
McWilliam, John Watkins, David
Marks, Kenneth Weetch, Ken
Marshall, D(G'gow S'ton) Welsh, Michael
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) White, Frank R.
Martin, M (G'gow S'burn) White, J. (G'gow Pollok)
Mason, Rt Hon Roy Whitehead, Phillip
Maxton, John Whitlock, William
Maynard, Miss Joan Wigley, Dafydd
Willey, Rt Hon Frederick Woolmer, Kenneth
Williams, Rt Hon A.(S'sea W) Wright, Sheila
Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E) Young, David (Bolton E)
Wilson, Rt Hon Sir H. (H'ton)
Wilson, William (C'try SE) Tellers for the Ayes:
Winnick, David Mr. George Morton and
Woodall, Alec Dr. Edmund Marshall.
Adley, Robert du Cann, Rt Hon Edward
Aitken, Jonathan Dunlop, John
Alexander, Richard Dunn, Robert (Dartford)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Durant, Tony
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Dykes, Hugh
Ancram, Michael Eden, Rt Hon Sir John
Arnold, Tom Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)
Aspinwall, Jack Eggar, Tim
Atkins, Rt Hon H.(S'thorne) Elliott, Sir William
Atkins, Robert (Preston N) Emery, Sir Peter
Atkinson, David (B'm'th,E) Eyre, Reginald
Baker, Kenneth (St.M'bone) Fairbairn, Nicholas
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Fairgrieve, Sir Russell
Banks, Robert Faith, Mrs Sheila
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Farr, John
Bendall, Vivian Fell, Sir Anthony
Benyon, Thomas (A'don) Fenner, Mrs Peggy
Benyon, W. (Buckingham) Finsberg, Geoffrey
Best, Keith Fisher, Sir Nigel
Bevan, David Gilroy Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'gh N)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Fletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Fookes, Miss Janet
Blackburn, John Forman, Nigel
Blaker, Peter Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Body, Richard Fox, Marcus
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh
Boscawen, Hon Robert Fraser, Peter (South Angus)
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W) Fry, Peter
Bowden, Andrew Gardiner, George (Reigate)
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)
Braine, Sir Bernard Garel-Jones, Tristan
Bright, Graham Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Brinton, Tim Glyn, Dr Alan
Brittan, Rt. Hon. Leon Goodhart, Sir Philip
Brooke, Hon Peter Goodhew, Sir Victor
Brotherton, Michael Goodlad, Alastair
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'n) Gorst, John
Browne, John (Winchester) Gow, Ian
Bruce-Gardyne, John Gower, Sir Raymond
Bryan, Sir Paul Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)
Buchanan-Smith, Rt. Hon. A. Gray, Rt Hon Hamish
Buck, Antony Greenway, Harry
Budgen, Nick Grieve, Percy
Bulmer, Esmond Griffiths, E. (B'y St. Edm'ds)
Burden, Sir Frederick Griffiths, Peter Portsm'th N)
Butcher, John Grist, Ian
Butler, Hon Adam Grylls, Michael
Carlisle, John (Luton West) Gummer, John Selwyn
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n) Hampson, Dr Keith
Chalker, Mrs. Lynda Hannam, John
Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul Haselhurst, Alan
Chapman, Sydney Hastings, Stephen
Churchill, W. S. Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n) Hawksley, Warren
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Hayhoe, Barney
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Heath, Rt Hon Edward
Clegg, Sir Walter Heddle, John
Cockeram, Eric Henderson, Barry
Colvin, Michael Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Cope, John Hicks, Robert
Cormack, Patrick Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Corrie, John Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Costain, Sir Albert Holland, Philip (Carlton)
Cranborne, Viscount Hooson, Tom
Critchley, Julian Hordern, Peter
Crouch, David Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Dickens, Geoffrey Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldf'd)
Dorrell, Stephen Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Hunt, David (Wirral)
Dover, Denshore Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Irvine, Rt Hon Bryant Godman Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Mayhew, Patrick
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Mellor, David
Jessel, Toby Meyer, Sir Anthony
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
Kaberry, Sir Donald Miscampbell, Norman
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Kershaw, Sir Anthony Moate, Roger
Kimball, Sir Marcus Monro, Sir Hector
King, Rt Hon Tom Montgomery, Fergus
Kitson, Sir Timothy Moore, John
Knight, Mrs Jill Morris, M. (N'hampton S)
Knox, David Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Lamont, Norman Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Lang, Ian Mudd, David
Latham, Michael Murphy, Christopher
Lawrence, Ivan Myles, David
Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel Neale, Gerrard
Lee, John Needham, Richard
Le Marchant, Spencer Nelson, Anthony
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Neubert, Michael
Lester, Jim (Beeston) Newton, Tony
Lewis, Kenneth. (Rutland) Normanton, Tom
Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo) Nott, Rt Hon John
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Onslow, Cranley
Loveridge, John Osborn, John
Luce, Richard Page, John (Harrow, West)
Lyell, Nicholas Page, Richard (SW Herts)
McCrindle, Robert Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Macfarlane, Neil Parris, Matthew
MacGregor, John Patten, Christopher (Bath)
MacKay, John (Argyll) Patten, John (Oxford)
Macmillan, Rt Hon M. Pattie, Geoffrey
McNalr-Wilson, M. (N'bury) Pawsey, James
McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st) Percival, Sir Ian
McQuarrie, Albert Peyton, Rt Hon John
Madel, David Pink, R. Bonner
Major, John Pollock, Alexander
Marland, Paul Porter, Barry
Marlow, Antony Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Marten, Rt Hon Neil Price, Sir David (Eastleigh)
Mates, Michael Prior, Rt Hon James
Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus Proctor, K. Harvey
Mawby, Ray Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Stradling Thomas, J.
Rathbone, Tim Tapsell, Peter
Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal) Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Rees-Davies, W. R. Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Renton, Tim Temple-Morris, Peter
Rhodes James, Robert Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Rifkind, Malcolm Thompson, Donald
Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey Thome, Neil (Ilford South)
Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW) Thornton, Malcolm
Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Townend, John (Bridlington)
Rossi, Hugh Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)
Rost, Peter Trippier, David
Royle, Sir Anthony Trotter, Neville
Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R. van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Vaughan, Dr Gerard
St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N. Viggers, Peter
Scott, Nicholas Waddington, David
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Wakeham, John
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Waldegrave, Hon William
Shelton, William (Streatham) Walker, Rt Hon P.(W'cester)
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Walker, B. (Perth)
Shepherd, Richard Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D.
Shersby, Michael Wall, Sir Patrick
Silvester, Fred Waller, Gary
Sims, Roger Walters, Dennis
Skeet, T. H. H. Ward, John
Smith, Dudley Warren, Kenneth
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Watson, John
Speed, Keith Wells, Bowen
Speller, Tony Wheeler, John
Spence, John Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Spicer, Jim (West Dorset) Whitney, Raymond
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Wiggin, Jerry
Sproat, Iain Wilkinson, John
Squire, Robin Williams, D.(Montgomery)
Stanbrook, Ivor Winterton, Nicholas
Stanley, John Young, Sir George (Acton)
Steen, Anthony Younger, Rt Hon George
Stevens, Martin
Stewart, A. (E Renfrewshire) Tellers for the Noes:
Stewart, Ian (Hitchin) Mr. Carol Mather and
Stokes, John Mr. Anthony Berry.

Question accordingly negatived.

Forward to