§ Mr. Speaker
I have selected the amendment in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition.
§ Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)
I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add:But humbly regret the unconditional commitment in the Gracious Speech to the deployment this year of Cruise missiles in Britain and to the continuation of the Trident programme, which jeopardise the possibility of any agreement on nuclear disarmament; regret that the failure of Her Majesty's Government to secure changes in the Common Agricultural Policy and the European Community Budget will injure the prospect of constructive relations with our European partners referred to in the Gracious Speech; and consider that he refusal of Her Majesty's Government to support adequate action for international economic recovery condemns the world to continuing mass unemployment, weakens co-operation with developing countries, and puts the world banking system at risk.I congratulate the right hon. and learned Member for East Surrey (Sir G. Howe) on assuming the difficult and somewhat dangerous office of Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. We have been sparring partners for many years and I look forward to continuing our familiar tournament on this new court. However, I deeply regret the circumstances in which he has assumed that office. His predecessor, the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Pym), showed courage and persistence in pressing British interests as seen by those with knowledge and experience of international affairs on a Prime Minister who was always reluctant to entertain on any matters opinions that are different from her own. The right hon. Member paid the price of offending the Empress and he has been excluded from the court. I dare say that he may come not to regret it as the years pass.
The right hon. Gentleman's presence below the Gangway should remind the Foreign Secretary that the greatest diplomatic problem facing him in what is the most dangerous decade since the war will not be thousands of miles away in Moscow or Washington or hundreds of miles away in Bonn or Paris, but a few yards away across the street in No. 10, where he must face an opinionated and ignorant Prime Minister who is always convinced that she knows best about everything. His predecessor, Lord Carrington, had the same problem. He handled it with perhaps more urbanity than the right hon. Gentleman, 465 although his success until the disaster of the Falklands war led him to resign office perhaps owed less to his diplomatic skill than to the fact that he was not seen as a political rival for leadership of the Conservative party.
The Foreign Secretary now has a colleague in Washington facing a similar problem. Time and again, Mr. Shultz has seen his responsibilities overidden and his advice rejected by men as ignorant and opinionated as the British Prime Minister but working in the White House. No one can feel happy that power in two of the most important countries in the world is now held in hands so dogmatic and insensitive.
I hope that many Conservative Members were as shocked as we were by the extraordinary jamboree at Wembley a few weeks ago—a rally all too reminiscent of others held elsewhere half a century ago—at which the appalling performance of Mr. Kenny Everett was received with ecstatic rapture by the Prime Minister and thousands of young Conservatives. Anyone tempted to regard that extraordinary performance as an accidental excess at the end of an election campaign must have had his complacency rudely dashed by the speech of the Prime Minister herself last Friday at the inaugural meeting of her Comintern, as The Times has already described the new organisation of half the Conservative parties in the world. It was an orgy of anti-Soviet rhetoric, but the problems that humanity now faces are far too serious and dangerous to yield to such comic-strip vulgarities.
As this is the first foreign affairs debate of a new Parliament, I think that it should take a somewhat broader look at the problems in the medium term. Our motion focuses on three—Europe, the crisis in the Western economies and the prospects for disarmament.
§ Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
How has the right hon. Gentleman managed to persuade his colleagues to put on the Order Paper a motion that reflects more nearly the manifesto on which I fought the election than that on which the right hon. Gentleman fought it? What has happened to the commitments to withdrawal from Europe and removal of all American nuclear bases from British soil?
§ Mr. Healey
All will be made plain to the hon. Gentleman as my speech proceeds.
There are other matters of perhaps equal importance with the three that we have singled out. There is the crisis in southern Africa, where Western failure to persuade Pretoria to accept independence for Namibia could plunge half a continent into war. The Government's decision to rely on South Africa to provide a base for building a military airport in the Falklands is bound to be seen by the friends of apartheid throughout the world as a signal of support, if not surrender.
There are grave problems in the Middle East, where the breakdown of the so-called Reagan plan has gravely damaged Western influence in the whole of the Arab world and given the Soviet Union a key role in negotiations for a lasting settlement—to be played whenever Moscow judges the time to be right.
There are problems, too, in central America, where Washington is drifting, consciously or unconsciously, into a Vietnam type of military intervention which could ruin half a hemisphere and could impose strains on American 466 society that would fatally weaken the ability of Washington to play a constructive role in world affairs in the coming years.
All these are vital issues to which the House will have to return time and again in the next few years. It is clear from even a cursory look at them, however, that at a time when the prospect of helpful initiatives from Washington is clouded it is highly desirable that western Europe should play a more coherent and constructive role in the world. Yet western Europe has been paralysed in recent years by the growing impossibility of making sense of the Rome treaty in its present form. As the Prime Minister reminded us last week, the whole financial structure of the Common Market will break down within a year with the exhaustion of the resources available to finance an ever more voracious common agricultural policy and to meet the legitimate needs of the Mediterranean countries which are already members, or are soon to become members.
My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) will deal in more detail with the problems of the Community, but I wish to say a word about the Stuttgart summit, about which the Prime Minister grossly misled the House last week when she said:The arrangement that we reached on this year's refund is separate from the long-term arrangement."—[Official Report, 23 June 1983; Vol. 44, c. 149.]I do not accuse the Prime Minister of wilfully misleading the House but merely of the failing to which she is so prone —selective amnesia, or the refusal to read or to notice anything disagreeable to her. That trait was well described in an interview which she gave during the election campaign to Miss Jean Rook. I wonder, incidentally, what became of that lady's peerage, but perhaps it will come up next time.
Chancellor Kohl, chairman of the Stuttgart meeting, said that the proposal for a British rebate, which itself was barely half what the Prime Minister was promising a few months ago, was "indissolubly linked" with that of Community financing as a whole. As he made clear, that means in practice an increase in own resources which will be essential once Spain and Portugal join and even more essential if there is not a draconic cut in spending on the common agricultural policy.
Prime Minister Mauroy of France was even more specific. The statement reads:Mr. Mauroy said that enlargement and development of the Community must go hand in hand. He regards the compromise concerning the British problem as conditional, which is to say that it is connected with the search for a long-term solution. On this matter the French delegation made a statement which had been included in the minutes, stating that the sum on which agreement was finally able to be reached was a one-off sum, invariable, with no reference to the past or the future, the actual payment of which is linked to the results of the negotiation on the future financing and the associated problems.That statement was supported at a press conference the same day by the Belgian Prime Minister.
In other words, nothing has yet been finally decided about the British rebate this year. All these matters will come up again in Athens in December and if there is then no solution to all the financial problems—the problems of increasing own resources, of the common agricultural policy and of enlargement to include Spain and Portugal—as the President of the European Assembly made clear publicly in London last week, it is likely that whatever Governments may then agree the European Assembly will block the budget in which the United Kingdom rebate is included.
467 In the light of those facts, no Member could regard the Prime Minister's statement in answer to questions last week as in any sense wholly candid. She was wrong time and again in saying that the agreement on the rebate was unconditional when it is clearly tied to agreement of all those other matters which will be extremely difficult to reach in the next six months and perhaps most difficult to reach at the meeting to be held in Athens just before Christmas, to be followed a few days later by a meeting of the European Assembly.
Meanwhile, the idiocies of the common agricultural policy continue. The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food announced yesterday that the European Commission is now selling 30,000 tonnes of butter, including British butter, to the Soviet Union with a subsidy of 47p per pound. The Russians will thus pay half the price that British housewives have to pay in British shops. I am forced once again to the conclusion that the common agricultural policy is a device invented by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States of America to undermine the red army by pumping its veins full of cholesterol from cheap Common Market butter. It is impossible to find any other rational explanation for what Western Governments are tolerating.
Yesterday the Minister told us that 62 per cent. of CAP spending goes on export subsidies and internal dispersal subsidies, compared with only 46 per cent. six years ago. In other words, the position has grown worse and not better under the Conservative Government's policies.
Unfortunately, the row about the British rebate and the CAP has completely blotted out European initiatives on world problems. However, I notice that the statement on central America by the summit meeting last week was encouraging. It said that the Heads of Government were convincedthat the problems of Central America cannot be solved by military means, but only by a political solution springing from the region itself and respecting the principles of non-interference and inviolability of frontiers. They, therefore, fully support the current initiative of the Contadora Group. They underlined the need for the establishment of democratic conditions and for the strict observance of human rights throughout the region".There could be no more direct and blunt a rebuttal of the main elements of the United States' policy for central America than that statement. Will the Foreign Secretary tell us today what steps the Government are taking to further that approach, which was endorsed by the Prime Minister in Stuttgart last week? For the past four years the Prime Minister has acted as President Reagan's poodle in central American affairs. Britain was the only European country to vote against aid to Nicaragua. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will tell us now that he will withdraw the British objection to aid to Nicaragua and restore diplomatic representation there, and that he will explain what steps he plans to take to fulfil the commitments he made at the Stuttgart summit.
The second major issue that the Labour Opposition wish to raise involves the crisis in the Western economic and financial system and the refusal of the British Government to take or to support the initiatives necessary to overcome it. The Foreign Secretary will realise better than many of his predecessors how important the economic health of the Western world is for its efficiency and influence in world affairs. Will he tell the House how he sees the future on the issues that I shall describe?
The civil wars proceeding and the external intervention continuing in central America pose a re al risk of collapse 468 of organised government in that important area. The problem is not confined to central America, but the whole of Latin America from Mexico in the north to Chile and Argentina in the south face the risk of economic and financial collapse with a consequent risk of political revolution. There are similar risks in many other important countries, especially in Nigeria in western Africa.
Barclays Bank pointed out that the main cause of the problems facing those countries was not the increase in oil prices brought about by OPEC but the action of the Western industrial countries, which in their pursuit of the holy grail of sado-monetarism have raised interest rates to unprecedented heights — there is no country in the Western world where interest rates are not far higher in relation to the rate of inflation than they have ever been over a sustained period—and the recession engendered in part by those stupendously high interest rates. Those interest rates have meant that, in 1982, 50 per cent. of the debt service of the developing countries that do not produce oil was devoted entirely to paying off interest, as against only one third in 1975. The recession in the Western world has produced a collapse in commodity prices to the lowest level for 30 years.
I was glad that the Prime Minister took credit for the word "patchy" in relation to present recovery in Britain. Recovery throughout the Western world at present is patchy and spasmodic. Most observers believe that it is likely to sputter out within 12 months unless interest rates can be drastically reduced. Unemployment in the OECD countries, according to the end year study by that organisation, is likely to reach 34 million human beings 12 months from now, which is an increase of 8.5 million in only three years. The human tragedy involved in figures of that magnitude does not need explanation. The political as well as the economic risks in continuing increases in mass unemployment should be equally obvious, but the risks to the world banking system are also great. If the world banking system were to collapse, all those problems would be grossly aggravated.
The Mexican crisis last summer exposed the fact that the failure of central banks to control lending by private banks, or even to monitor the complexities of the inter-bank market, have brought the entire financial system close to catastrophe. Castastrophe has so far been averted, thanks largely to the personal energy and professional skill of three men, all of whom I shall meet in Downing street this evening. They are the head of the International Monetary Fund, Jacques de Larosiére, the chairman of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, Paul Volcker, and the chairman of our central bank, Sir Gordon Richardson. The Prime Minister's personal prejudice has pushed Gordon Richardson from a continuing role in those affairs, and I wish to pay tribute here to a man who has been an outstanding central bank governer in Great Britain and who has made a major contribution in dealing with the economic and financial problems of the world during the past two or three years. He has been replaced by a personal favourite of the Prime Minister's, who told us within a week of his appointment that the banking crisis was over, if it had ever existed. I hope that the crash course that he has been undergoing during the past six months has taught him a little better.
Fortunately, President Reagan was finally persuaded to overcome his personal prejudice and to reappoint Mr. Volcker as chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank. Mr. de Larosiére has also been reappointed as managing director 469 of the International Monetary Fund within the past few weeks. However, all that those men have been able to achieve with support from Governments and private banks all over the world is merely first aid. The central problems that risked producing catastrophe nine months ago are still there. None of the major debtors has any prospect of solving its problems during the coming years as a result of decisions already taken.
By 1987, only four years from now, Mexico's debt, even if it carries through all the policies urged on it by the International Monetary Fund and by the banks that are lending money to Mexico, could be $101 billion as against $86 billion this year and $80 billion last year. Brazil faces similar problems, and its central bank warned the world yesterday that the conditions imposed for the aid already given could produce revolution within 12 months.
In a week or two, Argentina will get another $1.5 billion from the private banks, including a significant proportion from British banks. That is on top of the $1.1 billion that the Argentine Government received earlier this year. But the British Government have sought to set no conditions on those loans. They have not insisted that the money should be spent on getting the Argentine economy right. They have not insisted that the money should not be poured down the drain in buying weapons of war to be used, according to our Prime Minister, for attacks on British forces in the Falklands. Exactly the same is true of the aid that is now going to Chile.
I see that the British Government are hoping to sell the carrier Hermes to Chile in the coming months. Chile will no doubt use the aircraft carrier to attack the Argentine, or perhaps to join the Argentine—one never knows in that part of the world—in an attack on the Falklands. The fact still remains that the Prime Minister authorised British firms such as Rolls-Royce and David Brown to put essential equipment into warships that are now sailing from Hamburg to the Argentine to be used, according to the Prime Minister, at will against British forces in the Falklands.
§ Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)
In dealing with the conditions to be imposed upon any loans to Argentina, has the right hon. Gentleman considered how such conditions might be enforced?
§ Mr. Healey
Oh yes. I had the experience, which the new Foreign Secretary enjoyed as Chancellor of the Exchequer, of chairing the interim committee of the IMF. When the IMF makes loans, it makes them strictly conditional on performance. With regard to official IMF loans to Latin America, performance must be monitored month by month as each additional tranche of assistance is offered. There is no reason why similar conditions should not have been enforced by Western Governments who have supported British banks in similar loans — [Interruption.] I am glad that the new Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign Office was nodding his head. I presume that it was in agreement with me, because he showed no signs whatever of exhaustion.
Incidentally, I congratulate the hon. Gentleman. If there is such a thing as a wet in foreign policy, the hon. Gentleman is undoubtedly a wet. We respected the courage with which, though sometimes in coded language, he attacked the Government's policy on the Falklands over the years. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is successful in 470 shifting them somewhat in his new important position at the Foreign Office. He is not a wet in domestic affairs, but I think that he is in foreign affairs. There is often a distinction between the two.
If we lend money, or allow our private banks to lend money, to these Latin American countries, and allow them to spend it on arms rather than on reconstructing their economies, that money not only goes straight down the drain but risks bringing economic breakdown nearer and makes it certain that any political struggles that follow will be bloodier than they would otherwise have been. In this situation we have an opportunity to try to halt the arms race at least in Latin America, and I hope very much that the Foreign Secretary, no doubt ably assisted by the Under-Secretary, will find some way of persuading his international colleagues to follow that route.
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that one of the reasons why the banking sector and this Government are so lax about imposing any conditions on these various loans to Argentina, Brazil or anyone else is that according to the Inland Revenue statement at the beginning of the year the banks can set off all those bad debts against tax? That means that the £962 million already set aside by the top four banks will in the end be paid for by people who still have a job and are paying tax. That sum set off against tax is, roughly speaking, a loss of £400 million to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the rest of the British people will have to pick up that tab. Is it any wonder that the banks are not bothered about churning out money to these countries that are up to their necks in debt? They play the entrepreneurial role and the British people must pick up the tab. That is why the banks are not bothered about conditions.
§ Mr. Healey
My hon. Friend, with whom on this series of issues I have long agreed, or he has agreed with me —I am not sure which is more dangerous—is absolutely right. It suits the private banks very well to lend this money at high interest rates and to make large profits by doing so. I only wish that there were more Members in this House like the members of the American Congress who take very seriously the record profits that have been recorded by private banks out of unsound lending, backed by their own Governments, which is a charge on their own taxpayers.
That brings me to the next problem that I wish to raise with the right hon. and learned Gentleman. The problems that are now being faced in the international financial system are largely due to the fact that Governments have privatised the problem. When Governments first faced the stark reality of this nine months ago, I think they agreed that it was important to reduce the strain on the private banks and to expand the resources of the IMF and the World Bank so that they could play a larger role in financing the deficits of the major debtors. But last year IMF lending financed only 8 per cent. of the deficits of the non-oil less developed countries, and there was a heavy fall in overseas development assistance and other official flows of aid.
I read today that the 60 per cent. increase in the IMF cash resources, which the right hon. and learned Gentleman helped to arrange as Chancellor a few months ago, is not likely to be enough even to finance the IMF's existing lending commitments over the next two or three years. The plain fact is that the right hon. and learned 471 Gentleman as Chancellor completely failed, along with his colleagues, the Ministers of Finance in other Western countries, to increase the resources available for official financing on the scale required. He has now helped to produce a private banking system in the Western world that can survive only by lending ever more money to bad debtors, and is bullied into doing so by central banks and international institutions that are supposed to guarantee their prudence rather than to promote their profligacy. That is the situation which the world now faces.
It is not surprising that a proliferation of ingenious plans are now being developed on both sides of the Atlantic to provide more official guarantees for the restructuring of private debts. The plain fact is that there is no answer to this problem. The financial system is likely to collapse unless the Western world can achieve collective growth so that the demand for the commodities produced by the debtor countries increases and interest rates fall.
That is not only the view of the French Government. It was the view of American leaders, for example, put to the Chancellor by the Secretary for International Monetary Affairs at the United States Treasury some months ago. It is the view of all the international economic institutions, including the central bankers and the Central Bank—The Bank for International Settlements—in its report last week. Yet every such proposal has been turned down flat by the United Kingdom Government. The Foreign Secretary, who a few weeks ago was Chancellor of the Exchequer, turned it down flat even when it was put to him by the CBI the week before the general election was called.
One can only hope that in his new role the right hon. and learned Gentleman will pay more attention to the international consequences of sado-monetarism. Unless he does so and can persuade others to do so, the risks which the financial system still faces, the suffering caused to the developing countries by the draconic deflationary policies imposed on them either by events or by the IMF, and the suffering caused to the 34 million unemployed in the Western industrial world next year will produce political consequences immensely damaging to any attempt to sustain, still less develop, world order.
I come now to the most important issue of all: what steps can now be taken to halt and reverse the nuclear arms race? I think—at least, I hope—that all right hon. and hon. Members agree that we want to maintain the military balance between Russia and the West but to do so at the lowest cost and risk. So far, the search for agreement between the West and Russia, at least to control the arms race, has had some useful results—the non-proliferation treaty, the test ban treaty, and the first and second treaties on strategic arms limitation. Despite nose agreements, both sides have continued to increase their nuclear arsenals, and each now has enough to blow up the world 10 times over. Worse still, during the period arms spending in the Third world has been increasing faster than arms spending in the Soviet Union and the Western world, and in many countries in the Third world the arms race is now going nuclear—in the far east, the middle east, and perhaps soon in Africa.
Until recently, it was possible to argue that although the arms race involved an intolerable waste of money, it has not so far particularly increased the risk of war. That, I fear, is no longer true. First, some new weapons systems are being developed in the United States and the Soviet Union which may appear to offer the prospect of a 472 successful first strike which would destroy the enemy's retaliatory power. Some systems are being considered, notably President Reagan's so-called "Star Wars" speech which appeared to offer the prospect of launching an attack on an enemy without any risk of suffering nuclear retaliation. I wish that Conservative Members would wipe the silly smirk off their faces when I mention these matters, because all who have studied them carefully over recent years are deeply disturbed about the prospects, unless action is taken quickly to deal with these new threats.
Once such systems, either the first strike systems or the watertight defensive systems which President Reagan appeared to contemplate, begin to be deployed, the side which fears that its adversary possesses them will inevitably be tempted to strike first in a crisis, because it would risk losing everything if it did not do so. That is the first great risk facing the world if the arms race continues along the lines at present contemplated in both Washington and Moscow.
The second risk is that other new systems, particularly the cruise missile, are so small and easily hidden that once they are deployed in any numbers an arms control agreement would be almost impossible to verify without the degree of on-ground interference in national life by international bodies which not only the Soviet Union but certainly the United States would never agree to.
Both Russia and the United States now have the capacity to deploy those systems. If either does so, the other will certainly follow suit. Marshal Ustinov made that clear, not for the first time, in a speech that he made only yesterday. Yet if one sits back and looks at the problem, one has to accept that there is now an overall global equivalence between the super powers. At a recent meeting in Hamburg I was interested to find that the three leading officials dealing with defence and disarmament in the United States all agreed that there was a rough overall global equivalence at the strategic nuclear level.
There is, of course, a regional imbalance in nuclear forces in Europe which favours the Soviet Union, but there has been for the past 20 years, ever since NATO withdrew its land-based missiles in favour of submarine-based missiles allocated to SACEUR for use in the European theatre. The fact is that, by 1970, the Russians had 650 medium-range nuclear missiles SAM 4s and 5s, with ranges of 2,000 and 4,000 kilometres, deployed against the West. The West never felt it necessary to deploy similar land-based missiles, rightly judging that it was much better to counter that possible threat with submarine-based missiles, which are invulnerable to attack and therefore do not pose any temptation of a first strike. I was glad that the chairman of the military committee of NATO made that point again in an interesting speech only last week.
Here we have the dilemma. On the one hand, both sides are on the point of deploying systems that would immensely increase the risk of pre-emptive attack, which would make arms control infinitely more difficult. On the other hand, both sides already have not only a sufficiency but a gross superfluity of nuclear weapons, in rough equivalence with each other. In such a situation, we should adopt the first law of holes which, in a different context, I put to the House just before the general election. The first law of holes is that when one is in a hole one should stop digging. That is precisely what the world should do in the present arms race crisis.
§ Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)
The right hon. Gentleman has mentioned SAM 4s and 5s. Would he care to explain the difference between SAM 4s and 5s and SS 20s?
§ Mr. Healey
The essential difference is that SS 20s are more accurate. Incidentally, they are nowhere near as accurate as Pershing 2, because the American Air Force journal pointed out that their accuracy is not sufficient for them to be used against point targets. What is also important is that they are faster to react than the earlier missiles. Moreover, they are mobile. Of course they represent an improvement. However, there is no reason on earth why the answer to those missiles should be to do something that the West has deliberately avoided doing for very good reasons—and that is to put land-based missiles of a similar nature on the continent of Europe. I shall come to that in more detail in a moment, because it is a central issue.
As I said, the important thing is to stop digging. There is now an overwhelming case for seeking rapid agreement on a multilateral freeze on the development and deployment of new nuclear systems, and that would have to include cruise, Pershing, and Trident, and similar systems on the Soviet side. However, Her Majesty's Government, far from supporting the freeze, propose to move as rapidly as possible into each of these three new areas. They are strongly in favour of unilateral rearmament. To argue, against the background of the policy contained in the Gracious Speech, that the Government are in favour of disarmament is like Sir Campbell Fraser yesterday supporting a 2 per cent. increase in wages for the rest of the population after accepting a 30 per cent. increase for himself.
The Government are already—very belatedly —becoming a little uneasy about the nature of their commitment to Trident. The cost is likely to surpass £10 billion—that could be an underestimate—and it will pre-empt 40 per cent. of our equipment budget at the end of the decade, when all three Services will need major re-equipment. But it also represents a stupendous increase in British striking power. Our present Polaris submarines have a theoretical capacity to destroy 64 targets, because each of the three nuclear warheads in each missile is pointed at the same target; they are not independently targetable. The proposed Trident D4 system would have the capacity in theory to destroy 896 targets, because each missile carries 16 independently targetable re-entry vehicles.
The Secretary of State for Defence had to admit during the election campaign that if Russia and America, in our absence, made progress in disarmament, Britain would have to think again about the number of warheads in the Trident force. The Foreign Secretary went further—that no doubt explains why he is sitting a little detached from the Defence Secretary at this moment—and said that Britain would have to think again about the whole question of having an independent national deterrent.
We believe that the time to think again is now. We think that Britain should press to join negotiations and offer to put its existing Polaris forces within the negotiations, because we do not believe that we can trust President Reagan and Mr. Andropov alone to reach agreement. After all, President Reagan has recently appointed, as head of his arms control and disarmament agency, a man who said, just before his appointment, that he regarded arms negotiations as a sham, and that their 474 only purpose was to console or comfort public opinion. I fear that the Prime Minister went almost as far as that, according to a report in The Toronto Star, at the Williamsburg summit, when, in the course of a furious argument with the Canadian Prime Minister, she described talks with Russia on arms control as "an exercise in futility". Prime Minister Trudeau well replied that they were an exercise in necessity.
§ Mr. Peter Blaker (Blackpool, South)
Will the right hon. Gentleman say a little more about his party's policy? He will be aware that the British strategic nuclear deterrent represents 2½ per cent. of the total of the Russians' strategic nuclear forces. Is it the policy of his party that we should negotiate away the whole of our strategic nuclear deterrent in return for the Soviet Union's reducing its nuclear deterrent by 2½ per cent.?
§ Mr. Healey
I think that we should be prepared to put it in the negotiations. Lord Trefgarne said the same in the House of Lords two days ago, directly contradicting the Prime Minister, who said during the election campaign that she regarded—
§ Mr. Healey
I know why he got the sack, but I am much too kind to refer it. The plain fact is that we should put our force into the negotiations and see what is the best we can get for it.
§ Mr. Healey
I have given away a great deal already. Conservative Back Benchers must not be too jealous of one another's success in persuading me to accept their interventions.
I believe that there is immense confusion in Her Majesty's Government's policy. The Prime Minister said —as did the hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker), whom she sacked the other day — that she regarded our force as the irreducible minimum. The Defence Secretary said that he would be prepared to reduce it if the Americans and Russians had already reached agreement on drastic reductions in armaments. Lord Trefgarne said last week in another place that we —meaning Her Majesty's Government—have not ruled out putting the British deterrent into the strategic arms negotiations talks. There is a total inconsistency between the three statements. No doubt the Defence Secretary, who appears to be somewhat discomposed by this revelation of inconsistency on the Government Front Benches, will clear it up for us this evening. I shall be ready to intervene if I feel that his explanation is unsatisfactory.
With regard to the cruise and Pershing programmes, nobody now argues a military case for them. Even President Reagan, who originally argued for them in the context of the possibility of limiting a nuclear war to Europe, has ruled out the prospect of a limited nuclear war in Europe; in fact, the United States never believed that there was a military case for cruise and Pershing.
§ Mr. Healey
I shall be referring later to Helmut Schmidt. The missiles—certainly the cruise missiles—are still facing immense technical problems. Indeed, if the Prime Minister were to have the cruise missiles in place 475 by the end of this year and they had to be fired next year, they would be as likely to fall on our European allies as on enemy country, but perhaps that is her intention. It has been argued—certainly by Chancellor Schmidt when he was still Chancellor—that the missiles were politically necessary to keep the Alliance united.
§ Mr. Healey
Absolutely not. The hon. Gentleman knows that that is totally untrue.
It is now clear that the prospect of having the missiles deployed is already dividing the Alliance. Nobody now believes that the Belgian and Dutch Governments will agree to deployment. The possibility of the next Italian Government agreeing to deployment is very open after the general election in Italy yesterday. Helmut Schmidt has now had second thoughts about the military sense and political wisdom of the programme.
I have always believed—I think that the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) will confirm this, because we were two of the small group of Ministers who discussed the problem when we were in power in 1979 — that to attempt to construct a Euro-strategic balance confined to the European continent was likely to weaken the American commitment to Europe, and therefore to decouple the American deterrent rather than to strengthen the link.
Above all, putting new missiles on land is directly contrary to the whole trend of American policy at the present time. Its proposals for strategic arms control are based entirely on trying to get the Russians to give up their land-based missiles in favour of submarine-based missiles. Indeed, it has always been a sensible triolet to say:Put those missiles out to seaWhere the real estate is freeAnd they're miles away from me.There is no doubt whatever that to introduce two whole new sets of land-based missiles into the towns and villages of western Europe will be profoundly destructive of popular support.
§ Mr. Healey
No, I shall not give way.
It is certain that if we proceed with the proposed course we shall be no better off, because there is no reason not to believe the Soviet spokesmen, Mr. Andropov and Mr. Ustinov, who said that they will follow suit and take similar measures if we take those steps.
It would be far better to recognise that the December 1979 decision was a mistake, as NATO recognised that the MLF proposal was a mistake 20 years ago, as President Carter recognised that his proposal to put the neutron bomb in Europe was a mistake six or seven years ago, and as the United States now recognises that its refusal to negotiate a ban on MIRVs in the SALT II treaty was a disastrous mistake. The Americans, having gone ahead with MIRV in the belief that they would have a lasting advantage out of it, are now trying to produce an arms control treaty which will ban MIRVs on both sides. I have not the slightest doubt that within a year or two they will be doing the same with the cruise system, but probably too late.
It would be far better for all countries now to support a nuclear freeze. It has overwhelming support in the United Nations, it has growing support among the people of the United States and Britain, it has support in public 476 opinion on both sides of the Atlantic, and the Soviet Government have formally endorsed the proposal in detail in a recent statement.
To cover as vast a canvas as the affairs of the world at a time of immense change and danger inevitably means using a broad brush. However, unless we examine the picture as a whole we risk losing sight of some of the major underlying factors that will determine the way in which the world moves during this Parliament. The major underlying factors make the years of the present Parliament by far the most dangerous since the second world war. They present us with the risk of convulsions, economic, military and political, which could threaten all our hopes of prosperity and, indeed, threaten our survival. Because the approach to those underlying problems in the Gracious Speech is gravely deficient, we have tabled the amendment, which we invite the House to support.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Sir Geoffrey Howe)
As the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) pointed out, this is the first time that I have addressed the House as Foreign Secretary. I do so at the beginning of my fourth week in the job. I take some comfort in being able to begin on an unusual note of harmony with the right hon. Gentleman. I thank him for his congratulations and good wishes on my appointment. We did not often have the opportunity to exchange such words in our previous partnership. To be received in that way by the right hon. Gentleman is rather like being nuzzled by an old ram.
§ Mr. Healey
I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will not spoil a beautiful friendship by accusing me of necrophilia.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
There is overwhelming evidence to rebut such a charge against the right hon. Gentleman. However, he did not sustain his good-humoured approach for long. We soon heard him unjustly accusing my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister of being dogmatic and insensitive. He should know because no one shows more evidence of those characteristics than he. I fancy that his reference to comic strip vulgarity was an apt description of his undistinguished part in the recent election campaign.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
The hon. Gentleman is getting extremely sensitive.
Although this is the beginning of a new Parliament, the Gracious Speech outlines a programme in foreign and defence policy which continues and builds on the work done by the previous Government. I see my task as continuing and building on the work done by my two distinguished predecessors as Secretary of State—my right hon. and noble Friend, Lord Carrington, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Pym). The policies they carried out have proved good for Britain and good for our friends, and they have earned the respect of those with whom we disagree. I am fortunate in my inheritance and I am grateful to my predecessors for the part that they played in building it up.
The range of issues with which my predecessors had to deal—indeed, with which any Foreign Secretary has to deal—is enormous, as the right hon. Member for Leeds, East recognised. Rather than try to comment on all of 477 them, I propose to concentrate on two major areas of foreign policy that were the centre of attention during the general election campaign. I have in mind two of the three issues with which the right hon. Gentleman dealt—defence and disarmament and membership of the European Community.
I shall deal briefly with three topics that are mentioned in the Gracious Speech—the Falklands, Hong Kong and Gibraltar. I should emphasise that they find themselves in the same paragraph as a matter of convenience, not because the Government want to make artificial links between the different subjects or to underestimate the importance of individual circumstances. In each case we have special responsibilities and in each case we shall fulfil in good faith the commitments that we have made.
In the case of the Falklands, we shall maintain the level of forces necessary to ensure the security of the islands and work to ensure that the islanders have a viable economic future. After the events of last year, we have a special duty to protect the rights of the Falkland islanders. The decision to build a strategic airfield on the islands at Mount Pleasant —which my right hon. Friend announced yesterday—is an illustration of our commitment.
We are also committed to do everything in our power to ensure the continuing well-being of the people of Hong Kong. As is made clear in the Gracious Speech, we aim to reach a solution on the future of the territory that is acceptable to this Parliament, China, and the people of Hong Kong.
Various rumours have been circulating about what may or may not be under discussion in the talks taking place through diplomatic channels in Peking. I hope that the House will accept that, at this stage, the talks must be confidential if they are to be successful. The Government do not regard anything said outside the talks as in any way prejudicing their outcome.
The background of good relations between the United Kingdom and China, and our common interest in ensuring the future stability and prosperity of the people of Hong Kong, give grounds for confidence that we shall be able to reach a satisfactory negotiated settlement.
In the case of Gibraltar, we shall continue to respect the wishes of its people, as the constitution provides. We have a long-standing commitment to support Gibraltar in face of the present restrictions. If, when the Royal Naval dockyard closes by the end of this year, it is decided to set up a commercial yard to take its place, we are prepared, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said during Question Time today, to offer a generous package of assistance to get the venture off to a good start. She and I will discuss that further with the Chief Minister of Gibraltar tomorrow.
§ Sir John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest)
As the Government are committed to supporting Spanish entry into the European Community, will not it be made virtually a condition of such entry that Spain respects the wishes of the people of Gibraltar?
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
I had intended almost immediately to say something about that. I see no contradiction between our support for the people of Gibraltar and our continued desire for good relations with 478 Spain, both bilaterally and, we hope, soon, as full members of the Western Alliance and the European Community.
We consider that the joint statement that was agreed at Lisbon in April 1980 and the letters that were subsequently exchanged by the two Governments provide the right basis for progress in relation to Gibraltar. In particular, they provide for the lifting of Spanish restrictions, the existence of which is, of course, quite incompatible with Spain's fellow membership of the European Community.
§ Mr. Foulkes
I am surprised that the Foreign Secretary has not said more about the Falklands. Would he care to comment on the fact that there are to be elections in Argentina later this year and that a democratic Government will be installed in Buenos Aires on 30 January? Is not that a significant matter on which the Foreign Secretary should comment? Is he aware that both the Peronists and the radicals in Buenos Aires have been making much more helpful comments about possible discussions and negotiations with the United Kingdom? Does the Foreign Secretary intend to conclude his remarks on the dependencies without commenting on that?
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
Even in Britain, remarks made several months ahead of an election campaign by some of the parties to that campaign are not necessarily a clear guide to the outcome of the election. I should not like to pursue the hon. Gentleman's analysis in regard to Argentina.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
No, I should like to continue.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, East devoted much of his speech to the Community. The nation's verdict at the election could not have been clearer. The electorate gave its overwhelming support to parties which want to stay in the Community and to make a success of British membership. It rejected the sterile alternative of withdrawal. I hope that the signs of fresh thinking by those who are contending for the right to lead the Opposition means that there, too, the message is beginning to be understood.
The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) drew attention to the limited nature of the amendment on that topic. I am sure that the House will look forward to hearing the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) expound on the matter. When the hon. Gentleman was pressed during his leadership campaign recently to explain Labour party policy on the issue, he replied with the immortal words, "Over the next five years, anything can happen."
For our part, we shall set out with confidence to do what the British people overwhelmingly want us to do—to make a success of British membership and to play a leading role in reshaping the Community for the next phase of its existence.
The election campaign, and above all the decisive result, marked a change in the climate of discussion in Britain at a critical moment for the meeting in Stuttgart. That meeting marked what I think will turn out to be an important stage in the development of the Community as a whole.
Understandably, the reports of that meeting were dominated by our budget refunds for 1983. We were 479 determined to secure an acceptable solution. Contrary to the right hon. Gentleman's extravagant denunciations, we secured just that. The result, which provided for a refund of almost exactly two-thirds of our net contribution over four years, is a satisfactory outcome for our efforts. It is in sharp contrast to the so-called Dublin mechanism which the Labour Government secured and which never produced a penny piece.
By contrast, the settlements that we have secured have been worth £2,500 million to Britain since 1980. The provision and agreement recorded in relation to that settlement are distinct from, and unrelated to, the agreements also recorded to deal with the longer-term Community problems. It was recorded and agreed at Stuttgart that provision should be made for the 1983 settlement in the provisional draft budget for 1984. In that way, the Community has shown that it is prepared to deal with unacceptable situations when they arise. We recognise that our partners have been willing to pay more — or receive less — at a time of general financial stringency to redeem that pledge.
As we emphasised from the start, the real focus must be on the long-term. It must be on finding a lasting solution to recurring financial problems that affect not only Britain, but the Community as a whole. It is there that the importance of Stuttgart lies, and that is why the Opposition amendment is so misconceived and untimely.
We have, albeit rather later than the House would have liked, got to the point where Heads of Government have launched negotiations to settle complex major problems that have dominated the Community agenda for too long. That will tackle precisely the points mentioned in the Opposition amendment — the twin problems of the budget and the CAP. By dealing with the problems, not by ignoring them, we shall find a solution.
The Heads of Government have set a clear timetable for the process. The objective is to reach conclusions on all the long-term questions by the Athens summit on 6 December. I attach the greatest importance to that timetable, and I welcome the decision to make an early start by calling a special meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council on 8 July.
The root of the problem is the Community budget. It has operated in a way that was clearly unfair to us, and that has made it harder to make progress towards the basic objectives of the Community. Both points are important and both are now recognised by our partners. As a result, the arrangements are at last to be overhauled. We have our own ideas of how that should best be done. In particular, we should like a safety net to be built into the Community's finances so that no member state will bear a burden disproportionate to its GNP and its relative prosperity. Our ideas will be on the table in the negotiations and we shall, of course, be ready to discuss others that may be put forward.
The objective is clear. As I said in my speech at the Hague on 3 June 1981:We must find solutions which will preserve the Community's existing achievements, not destroy them; which will bring harmony in place of discord; and which will strengthen the Community in the esteem of all our peoples. Above all, we must find solutions which will open the way for progress.As the House knows, there will also be discussion of the desirability of increasing what is known as the Community's "own resources". Some of our partners have 480 already put their case for that, but we are not convinced and the terms of reference for the negotiations are careful not to prejudge that issue.
It is important in this context not to be misled by the attractive simplicity of the phrase "own resources". There is only one way in which such resources can be increased. That is at the expense of access by somebody else, by some other institution, to the same source of resources—the pockets of taxpayers or consumers throughout the Community.
When considering the case for such a change, we should do well to remember two things. The first is that existing arrangements for "own resources"— based on the yield of VAT—already provide a buoyant source of revenue. Secondly, as every Community Finance Minister will readily testify, we must remember that the most pressing economic need is for a reduction, and not an increase, in national budget deficits.
That is why our position is that the onus of demonstrating the need for more "own resources" lies on those who want them. That is also why effective steps must be taken at the same time to control the rate of spending on agriculture and other policies and why, at the same time, a lasting solution must be found to our budget problem. We have made those points clearly to our partners and I am sure that they have been fully understood.
The Heads of Government at Stuttgart called for an across-the-board examination of the CAP and the Commission has been asked to submit its proposals by 1 August.
Mr. Eric S. Heller (Liverpool, Walton)
On the question of "own resources", the Prime Minister was not clear and the right hon. and learned Gentleman is also dodging the issue. May we have a clear assurance that if other members of the Community demonstrate to their own satisfaction that there should be an increase in VAT the British Government will not agree to that increase?
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
The proposal is not for an increase in VAT, but for an increase in the proportion of VAT revenue assigned to the Community. We have undertaken to consider whether there should be an increase in "own resources". For the reasons that I have given, we do not think that the case has been made out. Before there is any change, there must be agreement at the Council of Ministers and subsequent legislation by national Parliaments. The case remains to be proven. It must be proven to the satisfaction of each member state and each national Parliament. We cannot exclude the issue from the agenda and we have not sought to do so, but we do not believe that the case is made out.
§ Mr. Healey
I accept that that is the position that the Prime Minister put to the House last week, but the right hon. and learned Gentleman has not dealt with the British rebate and a satisfactory settlement of the financial arrangements which are indissolubly linked. The French Prime Minister said that one was dependent on the other, and his Belgian colleague took the same view and used the same phrase.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
I have dealt with that a ready. In the proceedings at Stuttgart the discussion was devoted to two subjects—the settlement of the British budget contribution for 1983 and putting in place a programme of 481 work for the longer term. The settlement of the British budget dispute was arrived at and a figure was agreed. It was conditional only until we reached agreement on the other matters discussed at Stuttgart. Once we had agreed on the programme and agenda there, the British budget agreement was valid and all agreed to its inclusion in the 1984 draft budget. That is the position. There is no linkage or connection. The matter still has to be carried through the Parliament, as it was last year. I assure the House that we shall remain as determined as we were last year to secure a proper settlement and the proper payment of the sum agreed to be paid by us.
I was saying that we should be putting forward some ideas of our own about the common agricultural policy. In particular, we attach importance to the establishment of a firm financial guideline that will govern agricultural spending. The negotiations will also cover other areas of Community business, to give direction to the development of the Community and to promote a better balance of policies. But there can be no question of balancing the CAP by the indiscriminate increase of expenditure in other sectors.
Budgetary discipline is needed over the whole range of policies, but as a condition of—not as an alternative to—effective Community action, which we certainly wish to see, in areas where it makes sense to operate at a European rather than an exclusively national level.
Europe can—and must—be far more competitive internationally in the industries of the future if we can develop more effectively the Community's internal market. Despite the energetic efforts of the German Presidency over the last six months, much remains to be done. Non-tariff barriers continue to proliferate—and we are still far from having an open market in important services such as insurance and civil aviation. There is important progress to be made before air travel within the Community can become as widely—and as cheaply—available as it is in the United States.
The solution of individual problems of this type is made easier if the general principles on which the Community is based are kept firmly in mind. It was therefore appropriate that, following the initiative of Herr Genscher and Signor Colombo, the Heads of Government at Stuttgart, as well as launching the negotiations that I have described, should have signed the solemn declaration in which they recommitted themselves to the principles on which the Community was founded.
The declaration also mentioned the need to widen the scope of political co-operation. The voice of the Ten is one that counts in world affairs; and the Community must remain outward-looking, not least in relation to the Third world.
In the renegotiation of the Lomé convention which will begin later this year, we shall look to the continued constructive involvement of the Community in helping economic progress in developing countries, and, of course, the Community itself will be changing; the Government hope to see the early accession of Spain and Portugal.
The challenge is plainly there. The Community must now respond quickly and effectively, because the problems will not go away or become easier with the passage of time.
§ Mr. Roy Jenkins (Glasgow, Hillhead)
What does the right hon. and learned Gentleman have in mind as a possible accession date for Spain and Portugal?
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
The date currently in mind is for completion of the negotiations during 1984, with a view to accession at the beginning of 1986. That is the expected pattern.
Another matter with which the right hon. Member for Leeds, East, dealt and on which the verdict of the electorate was equally clear, was defence and disarmament.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes
As the Secretary of State has been dealing with problems that will not go away, will he say something about the role of the Government in the Western contact group of five on the future of Namibia? That is a pressing and urgent problem, as the Secretary-General is supposed to report to the United Nations by 1 August. For six years, the contact group of five has apparently done nothing. The Foreign Secretary and his predecessors have never reported to the House on the matter in a full foreign affairs debate and it is time that the right hon. and learned Gentleman did so.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
After the six years of inaction alleged by the hon. Gentleman, which I do not necessarily accept, I am not disposed to give a full report after three weeks in office. It is an important matter and I shall refer to it later in my speech.
I return to the issue of defence and disarmament. We shall be acting, in accordance with the verdict of the electorate and with our NATO allies, to maintain and strengthen the deterrent strategy that has successfully kept the peace in Europe since the second world war, to negotiate major reductions in the numbers of weapons held by East and West, and to establish a balance of forces at the lowest possible level commensurate with our security. That is the dual strategy which makes sense, morally, militarily and economically.
If we want to negotiate successfully with the Russians, we must make it clear, as we certainly do, that it is only by negotiation, not by threat and bluster or with public appeals to the naive, that they will get the reduction in force levels that they, too, claim to want. If the Soviet leaders are serious about wanting to do business, they will abandon the shadow of negotiations with Western public opinion and concentrate instead on the substance of negotiation in the conference chamber.
Experience shows that the Russians will be quick to take advantage of any weakness on the Western side. But experience also shows that agreements can be reached and made to stick. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned several previous agreements—the partial test ban treaty, the non-proliferation treaty, SALT and the anti-ballistic missile treaty are all cases in point. We want—indeed, the whole House wants—more such successes, and nowhere more than in the talks on long-range intermediate nuclear weapons, where there is a Soviet monopoly which the Western allies cannot accept. That is what the negotiations should be about.
The Russians, perhaps understandably, find that simple arithmetic not to their liking, and have set up endless smoke screens in the hope of confusing the issue. They would do better to address themselves to the real issues. If they will not agree to eliminate the whole category of long-range intermediate land-based missiles, President 483 Reagan has offered an interim agreement of balanced numbers but at a level higher than zero. The Russians seem barely to have given that possibility serious attention.
The same, unfortunately, seems to be true of the Soviet attitude to Western proposals in other negotiations, for example, in the strategic weapons talks in Geneva, where President Reagan has once again signalled United States flexibility in the face of the Soviet refusal to accept the United States proposals for deep cuts in Madrid, where the West has worked hard for a conference on disarmament in Europe; in the committee on disarmament in Geneva, where Britain has played a leading role in negotiations on a complete and global ban on chemical weapons; and in the MBFR talks in Vienna, where NATO participants recently put forward a comprehensive draft treaty.
The lack of progress is, of course, frustrating, but we shall not give up trying, because that would be to give up also the hope of building a safer and more stable world for future generations.
My right hon. Friend will deal in more detail with the Opposition amendment. I, for one, find it difficult to understand the reference to an "unconditional commitment" to deploy cruise missiles. On the contrary, the Western proposal to eliminate this whole category of weapons remains on the table. I find it difficult to understand how it can rationally be suggested that to abandon the NATO decision would make agreement more likely. The whole point surely is that such a decision would remove from the Russians all incentive to negotiate. And why is Trident thought to have harmful effects on the negotiating process which Polaris does not? Is it seriously contended that a system approaching obsolescence offers some negotiating advantage?
Arms control is, of course, only part of the picture of East-West relations, though a very important part. We shall continue to look for progress in other areas too. As Secretary Shultz said in his important testimony to Congress on 15 June:We and the Soviets have sharply divergent goals and philosophies of political and moral order; and these differences will not soon go away. Any other assumption is unrealistic. At the same time we have a fundamental common interest in the avoidance of war. This common interest impels us to work towards a relationship between our nations that can lead to a safer world for all mankind.That is exactly the sort of relationship that we want and we shall play a full part in working for it, and we fully accept the need to keep open the channels of communication.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
What assurances does this Foreign Secretary have from the Prime Minister that the Foreign Office—of which he is the head—would at least be consulted if he were in a negotiating position, bearing in mind that his predecessor, the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Pym), was not consulted at a time of crisis in relation to the decision to attack the Belgrano? That may have been a relatively minor war, but the question is whether we have an assurance that in a crisis the Foreign Office will be consulted by the Prime Minister, who, on a previous occasion, did not consult the diplomats.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
The hon. Gentleman has waited until a late stage in my speech to find a tenuous peg on which to hang his obsessive question. I do not accept the premise on which his question is based, but I assure him that in this Administration, as in the previous one, 484 consultation between the Prime Minister and her colleagues will be whole and sufficient. I repudiate the hon. Gentleman's point. The hon. Gentleman strayed a long way from the issue that I was discussing, which was the attitude and performance on the world stage of the Soviet leaders. They have been left in no doubt that we deeply disapprove of many aspects of their conduct. We do not forget that there are more than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan and a fifth of the population of that unfortunate country are refugees outside their homeland. We do not overlook the failure of the Soviet Government to live up to many of their commitments under the Helsinki final act. But, at the same time, we have made it clear that if they are willing to show greater restraint in their international actions, a more constructive relationship with the West is available. A good first step by the Russians would be agreement to the concluding document at the CSCE review conference in Madrid, and thus to the convening of the conference on disarmament in Europe to which I referred earlier.
It is clear from what I have said already that we attach the greatest importance to the continuing unity of the North Atlantic Alliance and the continuing commitment of the United States to the security of Europe. We see that not as an alternative to a more constructive relationship with the Soviet Union and still less as an obstacle to it. It is, rather, an essential condition of what we want to achieve.
That is not, of course, to suggest that the relationship is, or should be, static or to pretend that there will never be difficulties. British and American interests, for example, will clash from time to time. When they do, we shall represent our interests with vigour. But that will not prevent us from maintaining between this country and the United States the relationship of co-operation and candour that has served us well in the past and will continue to do so. The economic aspects of the relationship — and, indeed, the impact of American economic policy on the political as well as the economic prospects of the entire world—are so important that I hope that there may be some value in the fact that on each side of the Atlantic there is in post a Foreign Minister who has had previous experience in command of his nation's Treasury. Neither of us regards the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) as an appropriate mentor in the conduct of our affairs.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
I have devoted most of my speech to the major issues of defence and disarmament and Europe. Those were the two areas under closest scrutiny during the election and they are the areas of policy on which there are still great differences between the Government and the Opposition. But no one should be tempted to conclude that my speech signifies some great change of emphasis or that I shall regard as any less important the other relationships of vital interest to us or the other great international issues with which we are faced.
My two distinguished predecessors were both great supporters of the Commonwealth. I shall take particular pleasure in maintaining that tradition. It is an institution which I came to know well through attendance at meetings of Commonwealth Finance Ministers—the last of which I was honoured to host here in London. I look forward to 485 accompanying my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the Commonwealth Heads of Government conference in New Delhi in November. Britain also has a special responsibility, as a permanent member of the Security Council, to play a full part in the work of the United Nations. I look forward also to paying my first visit to the General Assembly in September.
The list of actual or potential trouble spots is long. As we have seen in Namibia, progress in reducing it can be painfully slow. We should give our close attention to that matter. The continuing tension in Central America is a reminder that the list can all too quickly lengthen.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
I have made it plain that I am not prepared to deal with the hon. Gentleman's question this afternoon. I am approaching the close of my speech. The hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to ask questions later.
§ Mr. Faulds
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will the Foreign Secretary consider delaying any future debates on foreign affairs until he is more au fait with his brief.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman must address his point of order to me, not to the Foreign Secretary.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
I do not wish to follow the example of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East, who took almost an hour for his speech.
The continuing tension in Central America is a reminder that the list can quickly lengthen. None of these problems is more acute than the Middle East. Despite the Israel-Lebanon agreement, foreign troops remain in Lebanon and the wider Arab-Israel dispute looks as far from solution as ever. We must hope that President Reagan's initiative can still offer a way forward. But in any event, we shall continue to take the active role that our history and our interests dictate in searching for a solution. We shall be playing our part in co-operation with like-minded Governments in working for a peaceful, negotiated settlement. The position is too dangerous to neglect.
I have taken advantage of my new-found freedom by saying very little about economic issues. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East seized the opportunity to return to his former economic domain. On that subject, I gladly join him in paying tribute to the notable record of public service of the retiring Governor of the Bank of England, Sir Gordon Richardson. I deplore the right hon. Gentleman's gratuitous and unjustified attack on the new Governor of the Bank of England.
The Gracious Speech does, of course, refer to our economic relationship with the developing world and the importance of increased trade. A most important need for developing countries is to find a market for their goods. The key to improving their market prospects is sustained 486 and non-inflationary growth in industrialised countries. That is why the recovery in our domestic economy and in the other industrial economies — most notably in the United States—is so crucial.
The Williamsburg summit showed the wide measure of agreement that exists on how the world can be brought most surely out of recession. The Opposition amendment and the right hon. Gentleman's speech purport to find us guilty of not taking adequate action for international recovery. The right hon. Gentleman implied that we neglected — and perversely rejected — some attractive approach that was offered for consideration at Williamsburg. But that is not what happened. At Williamsburg there was no dissent from the position adopted by Her Majesty's Government. It was recognised on all sides that continued success in reducing inflation and in curbing budget deficits as a way of reducing interest rates was the best way of strengthening the prospects for sustainable growth in the Western countries.
§ Mr. Healey
The right hon. and learned Gentleman referred to Williamsburg, but I did not. I said that the French Government, American Ministries — important Ministries as the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows — and all three of the big international organisations, the BIS, the OECD and the European Community, all put forward proposals for collective action to increase demand. They did so again last week. It is perfectly true that sado-monetarism ruled at Williamsburg, and the world will suffer as a result. The right hon. and learned Gentleman might at least address himself to the argument. He is the main criminal.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
I thought that the right hon. Gentleman would return to that theme. One of the least impressive aspects of his career in recent times has been his epithetical search for ways of dissociating himself from the discipline of monetary policy. He knows that he first introduced the concept of monetary policy. He knows that he sought to practise it with discipline. He now seeks to stand away from it by speaking first of punk monetarism, and when that epithet wore out he embarked on the even more curious proposition of sado-monetarism.
The Ministers represented at Williamsburg, including representatives from the French Government—which is hardly a sado-monetarist and mad capitalist organisation — all agreed on the necessity to continue the fight against inflation and to reduce budget deficits. They regarded that as the best way of strengthening the prospects for sustainable growth in Western countries. Not least, they regarded it as important in the United States. They thought that that would help to bring about a real improvement in employment, to help developing countries and to strengthen the international financial system.
Of course for some developing countries, especially the poorest, aid remains a necessity. I have already touched on the contribution of the Community through Lomé. We are also engaged bilaterally, and in support of other multilateral programmes. Our aid will continue to concentrate on those for whom it is most needed, while recognising the special claims of countries with which we have especially close links because of our history. We shall continue to look for a proper return to our own economy from the aid that we give. Above all, we shall look to the effective application of aid in support of sound policies followed by the recipient countries themselves.
487 Those are the points in the Gracious Speech of most concern to the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary. Those that I have touched on only briefly are no less important than those which it seemed helpful to emphasise.
Our approach in each case will remain one of vigorous promotion of Britain and British interests. Our aim is security and prosperity, both for ourselves and for others. It is on the basis of a realistic assessment of our needs and of our capacity that the Government will seek to further those aims.
§ Mr. Speaker
May I ask for the help of the House this afternoon? Eleven new Members have indicated that they wish to catch my eye in this important debate and I should like to call most of them. In the interests of maintaining a balance that might not be possible, but I shall do my best. I therefore appeal to Privy Councillors, and the large number of other hon. Members who have written to me, to make brief speeches. I also urge them not to come to the Chair to check their position on my list, because that might be counter-productive.
§ Mr. Roy Jenkins (Glasgow, Hillhead)
I join the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) in congratulating the Foreign Secretary on his accession to his new post. If, as he says, he is looking forward eagerly to a July meeting of the Council of Ministers to deal with financial questions, he is certainly approaching it with remarkable zest and zeal.
I do not propose to tour as much of the horizon as the right hon. Member for Leeds, East, and the House will be pleased to hear that such tour as I undertake will be done at rather greater speed than I normally speak. I shall concentrate on the two points on which the Foreign Secretary said he would concentrate—though, instigated by some interruptions, he went rather wider—namely, Europe and arms control.
First, Europe. One of the few beneficial outcomes of the general election is that it has finally settled the issue of the permanence of Britain's membership of the European Community. That should have been settled by the referendum. Those who most wanted the referendum said that they wanted it because it would determine Britain's policy and direction for a generation ahead.—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—Yes, they did. However, It was not settled by that and, owing to the tergiversations of the Labour party, it became an open issue again. It is now settled, and I have no doubt that the issue was a vote loser for the Labour party at the election.
The Community may not arouse great enthusiasm in the country, but there is a growing feeling that to come out would have devastating effects on jobs and investment. If, in the future, the Labour party should ever come within shouting distance of Government, I am sure that it will do so with the commitment to withdrawal cut out of its programme. So either way the issue is settled.
We may have rows with the Community. So will the French, as will other nations. That happens now, but it happens without the question of their membership being called into issue. The new permanence of which I speak could be of considerable benefit to our influence in the Community.
In that context I wish briefly to consider the budget dispute. This year's settlement of £437 million was 488 substantially less than the figure about which the Prime Minister had been talking, or briefing, a short time before Stuttgart, and less than the figures for previous years. But, taking the four years from 1980 as a whole, a 65.4 per cent. refund is a good outcome and in my view the Prime Minister was right to accept it.
The right hon. Lady is also right to insist that this settlement should now stand on its own. For others to go on arguing that we will not get it unless we agree to X or Y is unreasonable and, in a way, rather squalid. I hope, therefore, that the issue is settled. At the same time, Her Majesty's Government must want this four-year saga of special subventions to be at an end. We really cannot have more of these short-term negotiations. They are unlikely to turn out well, and having them at all only weakens our influence.
§ Mr. Jenkins
I played a substantial part in helping with the 1980 negotiations, which led to £2,500 million being repaid to this country.
Although linkage is undesirable, it is, on its merits, highly desirable that a new long-term financial settlement for the Community as a whole should be negotiated in the coming months and ratified at Athens in December. That must encompass and underline settlement of the British budgetary problems in a way that puts the balance broadly right for us and other countries, aside from special subventions, without which it is almost impossible to go on.
That brings me to the increase in own resources or VAT ceiling. Just as I believe it to be wrong to link, so I consider it wrong, indeed foolish, for Her Majesty's Government to continue to resist a moderate increase in own resources. There is the problem of making sure that any such increase is not just swallowed up in agricultural expenditure. At present, agricultural expenditure and surpluses are out of control to a far greater extent than they were six years ago, as the right hon. Member for Leeds, East said.
§ Mr. Jenkins
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman is pursuing a futile line of chatter in his first dealings in the House.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, East referred to the beginning of my period of office. At the end of that period, two and half years ago, the mountains had virtually disappeared and the proportion was much lower than it is today.
§ Mr. Allan Rogers (Rhondda)
The right hon. Gentleman said that he would agree to a modest increase in VAT and resources. Will he spell out what a 0.5 per cent. increase in VAT contributions would mean?
§ Mr. Jenkins
I am deploying an argument for doing that, though the figure of 1.4 per cent. is mainly talked about, as opposed to the present 1 per cent.
§ Mr. Jenkins
I am not sure what the hon. Gentleman means when he says that I should spell out what it would mean.
§ Mr. Jenkins
I come to the essential part of my argument, which is that we shall never get the British budgetary position right unless we develop new programmes, and that means a limited increase of that sort. While it is essential to lean on agricultural expenditure, do not let Ministers escape their responsibilities in that respect. Things have got much worse, not exclusively, but mainly, because Ministers, including the British Minister of Agriculture, have agreed to price increases which, except for last year, have been consistently higher than those put forward by the Commission or which were sensible in the circumstances.
There is the danger that some people will try to grab the increase for agriculture. I thought that the Danish Minister of Agriculture made some extremely ill-judged remarks this week. However, that is not the unanimous position in the Community. Nor is it the position taken by the most powerful. It is not the German position, nor do I believe that it will be the French position, because the French, who have never been great beneficiaries from a budgetary point of view — although they are substantial beneficiaries from a resource point of view — are moving quite rapidly into a position of being net payers. They are becoming significant net payers — though not as significant net payers as we or the Germans — and therefore they would not want to see that happen.
§ Mr. Jim Spicer (West Dorset)
I see the way in which the right hon. Gentleman is developing his argument. Would he be prepared to see an increase in own resources without a reform of the CAP in advance? Whatever argument he adduces, we know that those resources would be swallowed up by the agricultural side, whatever we did, unless we held firm on the reform issue.
§ Mr. Jenkins
The majority of interventions, even those that come from such well-informed Members as the hon. Gentleman, rarely anticipate the next stage of my argument. Therefore, they consume some of the time of the House.
It is essential that we fix a much lower limit—this is now becoming a practical possibility—to the percentage of the Community budget that can be directed to jointly financed agricultural expenditure. If member countries want to uphold a higher level of agricultural support, let them finance it themselves. I have no doubt that a lower fixed limit would produce a considerably greater mood of stringent realism. The form but not the substance of central financing could be maintained by varying the increased VAT contribution according to a country's level of agricultural production. That would bring sense into the Community budget in this sector and go some way towards solving the British problem.
It would not solve the entire problem. It would not be allowed to do so because of the budgetary balance of the Community as a whole. There is an inherent lopsidedness about a community which is overwhelmingly industrial and not agricultural and yet spends such a great part of its budget on agricultural expenditure. However, that will not be corrected, and the British budget problem will not be solved at the root so that we do not have to argue about special subventions without some expansion—I am not talking about vast expansion — of non-agricultural programmes, the regional and social fund, energy saving and energy-producing investment. We could do with a great deal of coal, which could easily be available in 490 Britain, and the encouragement of new advanced technology industries. That will not take place, and cannot take place, without an increase—limited by all means—in the own resources ceiling, and probably the VAT ceiling, although there could be other methods.
It is extremely shortsighted of the Labour party, unless it is to flog the dead horse of withdrawal the whole time, to try to get the Government to give pledges against such a move. However, it has done so consistently in the days of this Parliament. I am happy to say that the Government have not given such a pledge, but nor have they given a promise in the other direction. They have indicated that they want to link the issue with Spanish and Portuguese entry.
I am strongly in favour of Spanish and Portuguese entry, which I think is of major Western interest on the grounds of peace, stability and democracy. If we are to achieve our objectives, we cannot keep Spain and Portugal hanging about much longer. I recall that 1983 was the original year of entry. There was then a slip to 1984. The Foreign Secretary told us this afternoon that it will now be 1986. We must be careful not to let the date of entry slip too much, as that will destroy the real political benefits of entry. It is a major Western political interest, but it will take some time to realise. We cannot wait that long for a permanent solution to the British budget problem.
The 1983 settlement is not brilliant, but it is acceptable when taken with the settlements of preceding years. I am sure that we shall not be able to negotiate successfully on the old basis for 1984–85, and nor will we necessarily have such a fluid Community financial position later this summer and into the autumn. Let us get on with it. Let us get on with finding a permanent solution. That means that an increase in VAT must be coupled with effective measures against the agricultural strain. They should not conflict with Spanish and Portuguese entry.
§ The Secretary of State for Energy (Mr. Peter Walker)
I have listened to the right hon. Gentleman with interest. Does he agree that the only substantial increase in the past four years was voted through with the full support of the Commission? Does he also agree that, following the most recent price fixing, the Social Democratic party's spokesman on agriculture complained that the prices were not as high as those that the NFU was demanding?
§ Mr. Jenkins
Well, what is the position? The right hon. Gentleman knows that the Council of Agriculture Ministers has increased the Commission's recommendation nearly every year. Sometimes, and occasionally mistakenly, the Commission has gone along with that. There was one year when there was no increase. I think that that was about two years ago.
§ Mr. Jenkins
No. The Commission resisted quite strongly and suggested that there should be a freeze. That was not supported by the British Government or the other Governments.
I shall make a few remarks about arms control and nuclear weapons policy—
§ Mr. Jenkins
I have taken about one fifth of the time that was taken by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East.
§ Mr. Jenkins
I speak on behalf of 93 or 94 per cent. alliance votes; as many votes as those for which the right hon. Gentleman speaks. In spite of that, I shall be a great deal shorter. Indeed, I shall be substantially less than half as long.
§ Mr. Jenkins
General opinion in Britain is clearly not unilateralist. However, there is deep concern about the nuclear threat. The mistake of the unilateralist position has always been not to exaggerate the extent of the nuclear threat, but, paradoxically, to underestimate it. To believe that the danger is confined to those living around certain areas where there are nuclear bases, or to a country which has nuclear weapons as opposed to one which has not, is greatly to underestimate the threat. The nature of the threat is such that it is not confined to an area around Holy loch or Greenham common. It is not even confined to Britain as a whole, as opposed to Denmark or Holland. The whole of civilisation will be at risk if nuclear war breaks out. Therefore, our safety, let alone our freedom, depends overwhelmingly on the preservation of general peace and not on deluding ourselves that we can contract out of a dangerous world.
Our safety would not be advanced by the absence of a totally secure Western second strike capacity. Nor would we gain by just throwing our own weapons away. There is not a shred of evidence that we would convert by example. It is not credible either to shelter behind the American deterrent and at the same time unctuously to wash our hands of any responsibility for providing facilities or other contributory means.
That is not the end of the matter. There is a most urgent need for progress in arms control negotiations. I have an uneasy feeling that that progress is slipping away from us this summer with every month that passes. If that is so, we may never be able to retrieve the position. Verification will become increasingly difficult. I agree with much of what the right hon. Member for Leeds, East said on this subject. Pointless and dangerous escalation will become the order of the day. Mr. Reagan's ideas for going into ABMs shows that there is no limit to the leapfrogging that can take place.
What is the reality? Nuclear weapons certainly can deter. They cannot defend without self-destruction. Still less can they conceivably give a victory, because there would be no victory in a nuclear war. Just as there can be no victory in a nuclear war, so there is no point in seeking superiority in a nuclear arms race.
The Prime Minister appeared to accept that view in her speech on Wednesday, when she said thatwe do not seek superiority".That is not always the view that President Reagan takes — sometimes he does, sometimes he does not. The Prime Minister went on to use, in my view, less reassuring words, when she said thatthe West has tabled a whole series of disarmament proposals. If they are accepted by the Soviet Union, the world will be a better place.I agree with the right hon. Lady so far. She then said:There are proposals, and it is for the Soviet Union to accept them."—[Official Report, 22 June 1983; Vol. 44, c. 61–62.]That is not the way in which to achieve a negotiated settlement. I should not abandon the cruise or Pershing 2 492 proposals, because by so doing we would take the pressure off the Russians before the negotiations were at an end. I do not believe that the Russians will ever give something for nothing, although they may give something for something. We will never achieve effective negotiations on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. That has been the fault of the Prime Minister's approach. Before Christmas she was firmly on the zero option as the only subject that was discussable. She then moved from that. To reach agreement, one must be prepared to negotiate. One will not get exactly what one is seeking, if only for face-saving reasons, for one side or the other.
Can we not return, before it is too late, to the Nietze-Kvitsinsky basis of last July. It is a possible way forward. It has neither been accepted nor rejected by either of the super power Governments. It offers by far the best basis for a practical major reduction on which confidence could be built, with neither side giving away its position and from which one could move forward in the future.
If we lose the opportunity during the remaining months of 1983 it may never recur and we shall be set on a course of unnecessary and mounting terror and danger on a scale completely unknown in the world's history.
§ Mr. Robert Harvey (Clywd, South-West)
I am grateful for the opportunity to represent the constituency of Clwyd, South-West. It has one of the finest and proudest farming traditions in Wales and the United Kingdom, and has enormous potential for the expansion of small businesses and tourism. It has an industrial tradition that should provide a major incentive to new industries looking for promising locations in the economic revival now under way.
I pay tribute also to my two distinguished predecessors — Mr. Geraint Morgan who represented the Denbigh part of the division for 23 years with great distinction and who was one of the hardest working Members, and Mr. Tom Ellis, who represented the Wrexham part of the division and who was well respected by both sides of the House. He will be much missed.
I welcome the Government's continuing commitment, as expressed yesterday and today, to the defence of the Falklands. There can be few hon. Members who doubted at the time that the Government's course last year in sending the task force to the Falklands and in re-taking the islands from the Argentine aggressor was wholly justified before the bar of world opinion and history.
We should remind ourselves of the historic principles for which we stood in taking that action. They were, first and foremost, that we as a nation uphold the principle that territorial disputes should be resolved through peaceful means, not through the use of force; that aggression must not be seen to pay; that it must be resisted; and that unless Great Britain, as one of the foremost members of the Western community, was prepared to uphold that principle where its territory was concerned the world would be a less safe place.
I can think of at least three territorial disputes in Latin America alone—the one between Argentina and Chile over the Beagle channel, the one between Chile, Bolivia and Peru over the Arica strip and the one between Venezuela and Guyana—which might have come to the boil if Argentina had succeeded in proving that aggression pays over the Falklands.
493 By dispelling any Argentine illusions on that score, Great Britain has paid an unrequited service to Latin America.
The second principle that Great Britain upheld was that the fate of her territories should be decided by the free choice of their inhabitants. We had to maintain the right to self-determination, no matter that the numbers involved were small, within the limits of what was practically possible. The Falklanders had the right freely to insist upon remaining a part of Great Britain and to reject the claims upon them of an unstable, turbulent nation 400 miles away, which at that time would not even recognise the right of its people to self-determination.
Those were the principles for which we fought and for which we were right to fight, and for upholding which the world owes us a debt of gratitude. We did not fight for the retention of those islands in perpetuity, regardless of the feelings of the inhabitants. I feel sure that the Government will not commit themselves to the diversion of substantial resources from this country to the indefinite defence of the islands without first ensuring that every possible avenue for the peaceful settlement of the Falklands dispute is exhausted.
Argentina must be left in no doubt that Great Britain is ready to pay the price for the indefinite defence of the islands if the Argentine Government persist in their stubborn refusal to accept that hostilities have ended. I am equally convinced that the Government must, and will, show a willingness to be flexible if Argentina shows signs of flexibility. If it wants to talk, let us talk. Argentina knows now that it will never gain the Falklands through aggression. We made it clear that any settlement that does not take account of the Falklanders' interests is simply not on.
Where does that leave the prospect for such talks? It leaves them with a starting point. If Argentina can accept that in principle we are committed not to perpetual British sovereignty over the Falklands but to upholding the interests of the Falklanders, there may be the germ of a formula by which both sides can commit themselves to respecting the Falklanders' final say in the matter. Argentina, as has been said, is moving towards democratic elections in October followed in January by the restoration of civil rule.
There may be hope that the experience of military rule over the past few years and of the Falklands trauma will induce a greater sense of responsibility and of the politically attainable in Argentina's new civilian rulers. For the Falklanders there may begin to be attractions in the prospect not of any change in sovereignty over them—the bitterness of a year ago will take many years to overcome — but in co-operation with Argentina to provide an economic future for the islands.
Hon. Members will be well aware of the promising economic prospects for the islands suggested in the Shackleton report once the uncertainty is lifted from them. Only through economic co-operation ultimately with Argentina can the Falklands hope to be developed economically, and only through co-operation can Argentina one day hope to persuade the Falklanders that their future may lie elsewhere than with Great Britain.
By showing a continuing readiness to talk, Britain can only enhance the prestige that it has gained through the Falklands crisis, adding a third principle—a readiness to 494 negotiate peacefully — to the principles of self-determination and resistance to aggression, which are already established. It is worth continuing to try. I am confident that the Government will do so. I thank the House for its indulgence in listening to me today.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)
These are the days of the maidens—and I hope that you will not think it impertinent, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I offer you the congratulations of the House upon your maiden appearance in the Chair. On these days of the maidens, we raddled harridans of parliamentary life are apt to feel rather lost in an ocean of virginity. Our difficulty in fitting names to faces is exceeded only by our difficulty in guessing where the constituencies, the names of which are entirely unfamiliar to us, may be located upon the map.
The hon. Member for Clwyd, South-West (Mr. Harvey) assisted us in that respect at the beginning of his speech, but he also delivered to the House a trenchant contribution to the debate, which showed that he was not afraid to state his own mind and to appeal to principles regardless of where, superficially, they might take him. On that basis, his contributions to these debates will be welcomed in future. I hope that there will be many of them.
It was in the dying days of the last House of Commons that I expressed my regret and, indeed, indignation that the old House of Commons had been given no opportunity, though it sought one, to discuss the principle of the nuclear deterrent and of the British independent nuclear deterrent. I remember prophesying that that question, which we had neglected, would go out of doors and be handled by the public in the course of the election. I was mistaken. It was an election in which it was clear that both the Opposition and, so far as one could judge, the electorate wanted nothing to do with debate on the major issues concerning the nation. To judge by the media, the only topic of interest consisted of prophecies about who would win the election—prophecies which in respect of one particular constituency turned out to be mistaken.
However, those questions, because they were neglected when the earlier opportunities arose, will not on that account go away, and it is ironic that two of them, which did not feature largely—let me put it kindly—in the campaign of the official Opposition, have found a place in the first motion upon which this new House will divide. The one question is how far we can reconcile membership of the European Community with the constitution of the United Kingdom and the sovereignty and functions of the House; the other question is how far it is possible to assign a rational role in defence to the nuclear weapon in general and in particular to the independent nuclear weapon held and possessed by the United Kingdom.
The Prime Minister, both at the end of the last Parliament and again at the beginning of the debate, repeatedly said that in her view the nuclear weapon, and Britain's independent nuclear deterrent, was a weapon "of last resort". It may be helpful, in clarification, if one takes that formulation of the Prime Minister and examines it a little more closely by attempting to identify what on any calculation would be a situation of last resort, and then inquiring what role might be played in it by the British nuclear weapon.
A week or two ago I sought to address to the Prime Minister a specific question. Having described such a 495 situation, I asked her whether in those circumstances she would order the use of the nuclear deterrent by the United Kingdom. It seemed to me that faintly an answer was wafted across the Irish sea. If I caught it correctly, it was an answer in the affirmative: she said that she would. I believe that that reply was repeated on more than one occasion by the Prime Minister.
I do not believe that answer. I do not believe it on two grounds, very different in character. I do not believe it as it applies to the Prime Minister. It happened to be my privilege—a privilege that I shall never forget—to be able to observe rather closely how the Prime Minister sustained the responsibility that she carried for the conduct of the war in which this country was engaged last year. Having done so, I do not believe that that Prime Minister would take a decision that would consign a whole generation to destruction in any conceivable circumstances whatsoever. However, I shall not rest on the argument ad hominem, for I believe that there are more general grounds for concluding that the true answer to the question is negative.
Let me set up the scene that I would regard as a situation of last resort, such as is held to justify the possession and use of Britain's nuclear weapon. Let us take this country's situation in the summer of 1940, with a victorious enemy in undisputed possession of the adjacent continent, having apparently immense superiority in conventional weapons. In my imaginary scene, as in 1940, this country is not —not yet, at any rate—supported by the alliance of the United States. Let us further suppose that, as in 1940, there is evident imminence of an invasion and an attempt to conquer these islands by force. I do not believe that any hon. Member could dispute that, whatever other circumstances there might be that might call for the use of the ultimate deterrent, that would be a situation of last resort.
Therefore, I invite the House to consider the conditions and the rationality of using our weapon in those circumstances. So far as I can see, they fall under two heads. One can assume a case of nuclear blackmail on the part of the enemy. Alternatively, once can assume that the enemy is determined to pursue his advantage by the conventional use of his overwhelming strength.
Let me take those two cases in order. Let us suppose that Russia and the Warsaw Pact, standing in the shoes, imaginarily, in which Hitler stood in 1940, were to say to the United Kingdom, "Surrender or we shall use a nuclear weapon against you." Let us consider what role in defending ourselves our own nuclear weapon would then play.
I assume that such an enemy, planting such a threat on the table, would not, at any rate immediately, destroy London, Birmingham and Bristol. He would seek to give credibility to his threat and seriousness to his purpose by a much narrower and more limited use of a nucler weapon. I am not attempting to be jocular when I say that he might use it on Rockall. He would then say, "Here is the use of our nuclear weapon. Think of it for yourselves. Watch it. This is the weapon that we will use on you if your surrender is not in our hands within a given period of time." That is exactly the reason, so we are told, why the United Kingdom needs to possess its own nuclear weapon—to defend itself against blackmail.
What would the United Kingdom do? Would it discharge Polaris, Trident or whatever against the main centres of population on the Continent of Europe or in 496 European Russia? If so, what would be the consequence? The consequence would not be that we should survive, that we should repel our antagonist—nor would it be that we should escape defeat. The consequence would be that we would make certain, as far as is humanly possible, the virtual destruction and elimination of the hope of the future in these islands. We would obliterate, as far as is humanly possible, the possibility of recovery, the possibility of resurgence and the possibility of reversing the adverse verdict of war in which we had been involved. Faced with that situation and with that weapon in their hands, I do not believe that anyone in control of the affairs of this country would use it and, even if I should be mistaken as to some particular individual, I would much sooner that the power to use it was not in the hands of any individual in this country at all.
Let me come to the alternative case of the position of last resort: not merely are the intention and the ability to invade this country evident and imminent, but the invasion has actually been launched, the aircraft are in the air, the barges are on the sea. It is not possible to get nearer to the edge than that, especially for an island whose escarpments in the south face in the wrong direction; it is not possible to be nearer to staring defeat in the face than those circumstances portray. That is the alternative position, presumably, in which as an act of last resort we use the nuclear weapon.
So what do we do? We might use the intermediate nuclear weapon. Suppose we had some cruise missiles around. We might take out—the House can make its own choice—an Army group or two, two or three major centres of population on the European Continent, or just a few cities of metropolitan Russia. The consequences must be assumed to be the same. We should be condemning, not merely to death, but to as near as may be the non-existence of our population. We should not win. It would be an inconceivable modality of losing, an inconceivable alternative to fighting on the beaches, in the streets and in the towns, to fighting, if necessary, in the next generation, to coming back again and again, as other nations that were defeated in past European wars have done.
In this second interpretation of the case of last resort, I came upon the heart, not only of the theory of the 13ritish nuclear deterrent, but the theory of the nuclear deterrent itself, by grace of which it is claimed the nuclear weapon has kept the peace in Europe for the past 35 years—that because of the possession of that weapon by Russia's potential enemies Russia has not invaded central Europe or sought to possess herself of the national territories of the West.
The Prime Minister said in The Times on the day before the poll:Yes, of course if you have got a nuclear deterrent you have to be prepared to press the button because that deters anyone from using nuclear"—and now come the all-significant words—and also from crossing the Nato line on conventional.The theory that we would defend ourselves in a position of last resort by the possession and use of the nuclear weapon is in reality the same theory as says that is the reason why the Russians stay on the other side of the Iron Curtain. It is the presumption that the first engagement or the second engagement, the campaign of the first week or the campaign of the second week, would be brought to a close by the escalating and inconceivable interchange of 497 a nuclear armoury. It is a presumption that does not bear examination. Those who would hesitate, in the last extremity of their own national existence, when facing national defeat, to resort — who could not rationally resort—to the use of the weapon are supposed to be prepared to use it in the event of a distant line being overrun, a preliminary battle being lost—
§ Mr. Julian Critchley (Aldershot)
Why does the right hon. Gentleman try to base his analysis on the belief that politics is a rational activity, which it is clearly not? Is it not also the case that the uncertainty as to either the British or the allied response is perhaps the most important element in deterrence?
§ Mr. Powell
Whatever may be the weaknesses or otherwise of the argument in which I am attempting to interest the House, there is no patent in it; I have no monopoly of it. These are ratiocinations that can be pursued in French, German or even Russian—I dare say the logic would be the same in Russian. I do not disagree with the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley), that sometimes in war those who are in charge act in an insane manner. After all, we have twice been saved as a nation by decisions on the part of a conqueror of the Continent that could in retrospect be judged unbalanced; in each case, it was a decision to invade and to attempt to conquer Russia.
The question we must ask is whether we can protect ourselves against that insanity by ourselves acting in an irrational manner. No amount of assumption of irrationality on the part of others will excuse us from the necessity of demonstrating rationally and on rational grounds, grounds which we are prepared coolly and coldly to accept, that the possession, the use or the promised use of the British nuclear weapon would be the means of saving us from being the victims either of conventional force or of nuclear blackmail.
I say again, after many years of thinking and debating this subject, I do not believe it. I do not believe that there are rational grounds on which the deformation of our defence preparations in the United Kingdom by our determination to maintain a current independent nuclear deterrent can be justified.
§ The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Michael Heseltine)
I have listened carefully to the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). I ask him to address himself to the following scenario. I ask him to consider the attitude of those in the Kremlin who have to make a judgment about the prospect that would face them if they launched an attack upon us. Having said that Britain should not have an independent nuclear deterrent, is the right hon. Gentleman now suggesting that there should be no nuclear deterrent at all in the hands of the NATO Alliance?
§ Mr. Powell
I do think it can be argued that it is better to have two major nuclear powers in the world than only one; but that is not the question to which I was addressing myself, or indeed to which the House can address itself, as we have no control over that matter. I was addressing myself to the matter over which the House has not only control but for which it has responsibility—the defence preparations of this country and the thinking, philosophy and theory upon which they are based.
498 In conclusion, I believe that there is a widespread feeling—a sense, an instinct—among the people of this country that the reasoning is unsound, that they are being asked to accept a theory and a proposition, and to admit on their own soil weapons of this character over which the nature of the control is controversial, without being fully satisfied themselves of the rationality, the common sense and the practicability —I I have said nothing about the morality—of the grounds on which this course has been urged and commended to them.
This is not the last of these debates. It is but the earliest of these debates. They will have to go on either until the people of this country are satisfied that there is some rationale completely different from any that I have been able to discover underlying the policies of the Government or until the policies of the Government themselves have to give way to debate and to reason and be changed.
§ 6.1 pm
§ Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Bristol, East)
I rise with some trepidation to address you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and this honourable House for the first time. This trepidation is not caused solely by the fact that this is my maiden speech. It is also a recognition of the sacrifices that others have made in the cause of freedom to enable us to be in this place. I am here — we are all here — because for centuries men and women of this nation have opposed oppression and sought freedom and justice for all. For that, they have suffered imprisonment, torture and death. I hope that I shall never forget the debt that I owe to those who came before and the responsibility that I bear to those who will come after.
I have inherited a constituency drawn from two seats which were represented by Mr. Arthur Palmer and Mr. Wedgwood Benn. As the House well knows, Mr. Arthur Palmer represented Bristol, North-East and the honour of this House extremely well for many years without fuss or show. His particular contribution to the subjects of science, technology and energy will, I am sure, be remembered by many.
My opponent in the last election, Mr. Wedgwood Benn, had the good fortune to serve the city of Bristol for even longer than Mr. Palmer did. For more than three decades he represented his constituency according to his beliefs, with flair, imagination and integrity. Although I disagree with many of his views, I wish to place on record my appreciation of his 33 years of service to Bristol. I believe that it took great courage for him to fight the seat of Bristol, East when he could so easily have taken a safe Labour seat. He did not do so, but stuck to his promise to stand by Bristol, showing the courage and integrity of a man whose most deep-seated belief is in parliamentary democracy.
The city represented by those gentlemen in whose place I now appear is a magnificent city surrounded by some of the most beautiful countryside and bordered by the western sea approaches. It illustrates all that is good and some of that which is bad in the cities of our nation today. It is a proud and ancient city founded on trade and the sea and it has grown through endeavour, enterprise and fair dealing to be the capital of the west country. It has modern, high technology industry, fast-expanding leisure services and conference facilities that will be the pride of Europe, but it also has decaying inner city housing, outdated and declining inner city industry and inner city unemployment that is a tragic human and economic waste. 499 So there is much to be done, and I am proud to have been chosen and given the opportunity to do some of it. Bristol has the strategic position on the motorway network and the western sea approaches to be confident of its future, given the right leadership, but the greatest asset of Bristol is its people. They are loyal, hard working, proud of their freedom and ever ready to defend it with honesty, kindness, steadfastness and strength. For centuries, its history of corporate democracy has been the envy of many and an example to others.
That democracy and the democracy and freedom that we all enjoy and cherish must be defended. Many Bristolians work in industries — electronics, British Aerospace, Rolls-Royce—which assist in our defence, and many more serve in the armed services. That defence is the prime duty of Government. It will always be an issue that we disregard at our peril. In the words of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey),once we cut defence expenditure to the extent where our security is imperilled, we have no houses, we have no hospitals, we have no schools; we have a heap of cinders.The question of our security is so basic that we cannot afford to lose the argument.
Our arguments must be clear and make sense, for emotion and wishful thinking are on the side of the CND. I do not seek to cast aspersions on the integrity of CND supporters. In the main, they are compassionate and caring people, but I believe that they are utterly wrong. In the words of Soviet Premier Andropov, "We are not unilateralists. We are not that naive." The Labour party is now unilateralist. It believes that, although we are an island nation at the most strategically vital threshold of the world, we should dismantle our deterrent, throw out our American allies, yet still expect them lo defend us. Some less charitable than I might call that a policy of hypocrisy.
One-sided disarmament has never worked, as we saw before the second world war. Although we gave up chemical weapons unilaterally, the Russians increased production of chemical and biological weapons. They have used them in Afghanistan and they have 700 tonnes ready if war should ever come to Europe.
The lesson of history—all history is the same—is that the fight for peace is itself a battle. Unilateral disarmament makes war more likely and it is we who believe in strong defences who are the true party of peace. Whenever the West has backed down and left a power vacuum, the Russians have moved in. So how can the CND say that Russia is not warlike or that Russia does not believe that war is a viable instrument of foreign policy? I deeply regret to say that I believe that the Russian regime is an evil regime. It walls its people in and sends them to concentration camps or asylums if they disagree and it is buttressed by secret police and a one-party state. Most fundamentally, however, it is a regime that fears our ideas of freedom.
That freedom of land and of ideas needs men and weapons to defend it. We know that in our armed services we have a body of men superior to those anywhere in the world, but we cannot expect them to defend us and we have no right to ask them to do so unless we provide them with the conventional and nuclear forces to match the very real threat that we face.
In strategic nuclear forces there is broad parity, although the West has 10 per cent. fewer than the Soviet Union, but in intermediate nuclear weapons, which is what cruise, Pershing and the main focus of current CND 500 activity are about, the West is outgunned by four to one. Our conventional forces are also inferior: in central Europe the Soviet Union has three times as many men, tanks, artillery and tactical aircraft and in the eastern Atlantic it has twice as many submarines, more aircraft and 31 times as many mines as we have. Mine warfare may be one of the more shadowy forms of warfare, but as an island nation we know, and the Russians well know, that it is one of the most chillingly effective. We must increase our ability to protect ourselves because only when the Russians are convinced of our ability and willingness to fight can we achieve disarmament, which is the aim of us all.
Finally, our arguments must hold out hope of continued peace that is based on the realism founded on nearly 40 years of European peace, when 120 wars have raged worldwide, and on the realism of the Russians, who know that if both sides can defend themselves there will be no winner in a nuclear war. We, too, have families we love and friends whom we cherish, and we too want peace and disarmament, but there will be peace only when neither side wants a war because neither side can win a war.
I am pleased to have had the opportunity to address you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and the Chamber for the first time on the subject of the first importance. Although right hon. and hon. Members may disagree about the methods that should be employed, we all want to create greater opportunities, better schooling and education, more jobs and improved housing. We are here to create a structure that offers more freedom, self-reliance and self-respect. Under the umbrella of collective security we are here to continue to build a Britain that is proud of its past and looking forward to its future.
§ Mr. John Morris (Aberavon)
The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) said that we were faced with oceans of virginity. The Bible tells us that there are two classes of virgins, the wise virgins and those who are otherwise. Those who were otherwise had no oil in their lamps. We listened with interest to the hon. Member for Bristol, East (Mr. Sayeed), and all hon. Members will agree that he had plenty of oil in his lamp. He showed no nervousness and was more controversial than most, and we may take up his arguments in the future. I was glad that he paid tribute to his two predecessors, whom the House will miss greatly, because they served here for long periods and with great distinction.
I shall concentrate on the Falkland Islands, which were referred to briefly in the Queen's Speech, and especially to the sinking of the General Belgrano. The Foreign Secretary—I congratulate him on his new office—said that there would be full and sufficient consultation between the Prime Minister and himself in this Government as in the previous Government. I suggest that he was pitching it low as a prospectus, given the history. I have followed the single-handed campaign of my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), who has a reputation for pursuing causes in considerable depth. I have known him since university days. He is not always right and can fall flat on his face, but only an imprudent man would ignore or belittle a cause just because my hon. Friend has taken an interest in it.
For the Foreign Secretary to say that my hon. Friend is obsessive was insulting. Indeed, my hon. Friend should be watched carefully when he takes up a cause. I have some experience of being at the receiving end of his 501 causes, both as a Defence Minister and as Secretary of State for Wales. The House owes a great deal to him on this matter. Whether he is eventually proved right or wrong, the House owes him a debt for his single-mindedness, resilience and tenacity. If he were not a Scotsman, I would liken him to a Welsh corgi, because when the Welsh corgi bites it does not let go until it gets to the bone.
My approach to the Falklands war was rather different from that of my hon. Friend in one fundamental aspect. I did not dissent from the need at that time, in the face of the failure of negotiations, to ensure with all the means at our command that freedom and liberty were protected in the south Atlantic. Unfortunately, military victory has not meant political victory, and the problem remains unsolved, as the hon. Member for Clwyd, South-West (Mr. Harvey) said.
Anything that I say is not a reflection on the armed services, especially the submarine service. I lost many constituents and had to deal with some of the problems thereafter. My family and I, especially my wife, maintain close contact with the sister ship of the Courageous, which was also in the south Atlantic. From my limited knowledge of what happened, the captain's action was copybook, and the political decision rather than the military action is at issue.
I approach the problem with what remains of my knowledge as a former Defence Minister, and from the evidential aspect. With the help of the Library, I have read most matters of significance written about the subject, and I noted carefully the reaction of the Prime Minister when questioned on television by Mrs. Gould, a lady from Southampton. I have spent portions of my life closely observing the reaction and demeanour of witnesses, and the Prime Minister's response made me very uneasy. It did not satisfy me to hear her repetitive cry that when all is revealed she will be proved right.
My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow has made serious allegations and has gone as far as possible, within the confines of parliamentary language, to allege deception of the House. He has challenged the Prime Minister's reputation and integrity. I do not join him in that. However, there is evidence of a prima facie case against the war Cabinet, except for the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister. The Cabinet has collectively, and she has individually, a case to answer. First, was it necessary for the order to be given for the General Belgrano to be sunk at that time? Secondly, did the firing of the torpedo also torpedo the peace talks for which the Foreign Secretary had been dispatched to America? Thirdly, did the act of the sinking of the Belgrano change the entire dimension of the war, whereby we lost much of the moral force of the collective support of the free world, leading to the sinking of the Sheffield, the Coventry and the Atlantic Conveyor, with the loss of many lives?
I hope that the House will consider my case for an inquiry on the basis of a series of questions to which I have failed to find a satisfactory answer, or where answers have been contradicted from time to time by later evidence. First, why did Sir John Nott tell the House on 4 May 1982 that the Belgranowas close to the total exclusion zone and was closing on elements of our task force, which was only hours away"—[Official Report, 4 May 1982; Vol. 23, c. 29–30.]502 whereas, as later evidence has shown, she was on a course away from the islands and our ships? On which part of our task force was she closing?
Secondly, when precisely was the Belgrano spotted? Was it, as Lord Lewin told Christopher Lee of the BBC:That from the time the Conqueror sighted the Belgrano to the time it took to sink her was only a matter of hours"?Was it, as the Government's White Paper and, later, Admiral Fieldhouse's despatch said:The Belgrano was detected on May 2",or was it, as Commander Wreford-Brown, the captain of the ship, said much later:We took up a position astern and followed the Belgrano for over 30 hours. We reported we were in contact with her"?Was all this known at Northwood headquarters and perhaps revealed to Lord Lewin only by chance when he chanced to visit the headquarters on that Sunday morning?
Thirdly, why did Sir John Nott tell the House on 5 May:The actual decision to launch a torpedo was clearly one taken by the submarine commander"? — [Official Report, 5 May 1983; Vol. 23, c. 156.]Was that the whole truth, or was a more accurate statement of the facts given by Commander Wreford-Brown who told the Scottish press that the decision was taken by headquarters at Northwood?
Fourthly, why was it not revealed that Northwood obtained the sanction of the Prime Minister and members of the inner war Cabinet, minus the Foreign Secretary, who were lunching at Chequers on 2 May?
Fifthly, why was the House told on 29 November that there was concern that HMS Conqueror might lose the Belgrano as she ran over the shallow water of the Burdwood bank? Given the draught of the Conqueror, the depth of the bank and the course the Belgrano was following, how could some or all of these considerations be relevant? What were the factors, all or some of them, that necessitated a change in the rules of engagement?
Sixthly, what evidence is there that at the point where the Belgrano was torpedoed—45 miles south-west of the bank and heading west-north-west— she might change her course and head for the bank? Was it more likely than not that she was heading for her home port?
Seventhly, what knowledge was available before the decision to fire was taken of the decision-making process in Argentina at that time which could lead to withdrawal? Was there any knowledge that the Argentine navy had been ordered to port? If so, was some of that knowledge available, possibly up to five hours before the decision was taken? At what stage was any information of this nature made available to Ministers?
Eighthly, how much of this was known, in particular to the Foreign Secretary, and what exactly was the state of the document prepared by the Peruvian authorities for signature on 2 May? What communications did the British ambassador in Lima have with the Foreign Secretary and-or with Whitehall giving the times and the content of those communications? What was the purpose of the visit of our ambassador to the Peruvian Foreign Secretary in Lima at 6.30 pm on 2 May?
Ninthly, what communication by telephone or otherwise did Secretary of State Haig have with the Prime Minister on 2 May or on the previous day?
Tenthly, could the statement of the Prime Minister thatNews of the Peruvian proposals did not reach London until after the attack503 be clarified? Does that mean that there was no news in any shape or form in Whitehall of what was happening in Lima?
Eleventhly, in referring to the proposals as "a sketchy outline", is the Prime Minister referring exactly to what Secretary Haig believed to be containingsome difficult problems remaining to be settled. We did think we had a formulation that provided hope that a settlement could be reached"?Twelfthly, why precisely did the Prime Minister state in her "Election Call" interview on 7 June that had she done nothing she would have left the Hermes, the Invincible or other ships to be sunk, when the Hermes and Invincible were kept east of the Falklands and at the time of the sinking the Belgrano was nine hours away on a course steaming away from the islands?
Thirteenthly, if Northwood knew about the Belgrano in the early hours of 1 May, why was leave not obtained to sink her then, when she was conceivably more of a threat to our ships than she could have been 24 hours later, particularly if it was established that there was at least a suspicion that she was heading for her home port? Was Lord Lewin wholly frank in The Guardian on 4 June which said:He could not recall any message from naval intelligence that the Argentines had ordered their ships back to port"?Fourteenthly, on what basis did the Foreign Secretary state at his press conference on 1 May:No further military action is envisaged at the moment, except to keep the exclusion zone secure"?Fifteenthly, before the decision was taken on Sunday, what efforts were made to ascertain the views of the Foreign Secretary?
That brings me bang up to date with the new Foreign Secretary's comments today. The previous Foreign Secretary had been sent on a peace mission. He was negotiating. Was it not of paramount importance to have his updated views on the effect of the order to sink? Would the danger from the Belgrano have increased while those views were sought and taken into account?
I have tried, I hope cooly and clinically, to sift the wheat from the chaff on this issue. I have tried to discover the answer to my own questions. I have tried to reconcile what is apparently irreconcilable. It would be a very serious matter indeed if serious doubt remained that the single act of changing the policy on firing at such short notice, with extremely limited consultation, resulted in a substantial acceleration of the war and subsequent loss of life on both sides when there were serious hopes that it could have been brought to an end.
§ Mr. Morris
If that were conclusively proved, it would be a national and personal disgrace. I believe that some doubts have been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow. I have sought to set them out.
§ Mr. Morris
They will not go away. The highest tribunal is necessary to examine the facts, the state of the deliberations, the intelligence available and, in particular, the log of the Conqueror.
§ Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)
I do not want to follow the right hon. and learned Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) into all the minutiae of the questions that he raised. In commenting on his speech, I would only say that had the task force failed to achieve its objective 8,000 miles away from home with no adequate air cover—and well it might have failed—had it transpired that the Belgrano had played a part in preventing the task force from achieving its objective and had it later transpired that the Cabinet here at home had prevented the sinking of the Belgrano, the Government would have been oven to the gravest possible censure. When one is at war, one has to take every opportunity to destroy the enemy when and where one finds him.
§ Mr. John Morris
Does not the evidence show that the circumstances that the right hon. Gentleman poses are wholly hypothetical? If what he says were true, the situation would be wholly different, but it was not.
§ Mr. Amery
War proceeds on the basis of hypothesis. One does not know how it will turn out. Clearly the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not understand the conduct of war. The operation was very risky. We had no certainty of achieving our objective. We had to take every opportunity that we could to destroy the enemy. I see no possible ground, with the islands invaded and the Argentines established on them, on which we could responsibly have allowed any important element of the Argentine fleet to get away.
I was greatly saddened by the speech of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), on two counts. The right hon. Gentleman has rightly achieved a reputation for having the most logical mind in the House of Commons, yet I found myself unable to follow the logic of the two possible scenarios that he deployed in questioning the rationale of the independent British deterrent.
The basis of the rationale, as I see it, is this. If it is in the power of Britain to destroy 20, 30 or 40 Soviet centres of population, there can be no advantage that the Soviet Union or any other power can gain by attacking this island, conventionally or nuclear-wise, that would compensate for what it would lose if we were to use our deterrent. I cannot see how any rational regime in the Kremlin could order the invasion of Britain conventionally or threaten us with blackmail if it knew that it was running the risk of unacceptable damage being inflicted on its people by us. That is well within our power. The right hon. Gentleman may think that it would not be rational, and that there would be an irrational element in the attack. It is difficult to conduct an argument of this kind on the basis that one side or the other is irrational. I fail to see the logic in believing that the Kremlin is more prepared to risk the destruction of 20 or 30 cities than we are to commit national suicide. Therefore, in my opinion, the deterrent should protect us against that threat.
I am saddened for another and deeper reason. The right hon. Gentleman is a great patriot. Of course, the analogies with 1940 are not valid. The situation now is very different, and the nature of the weapons has greatly increased their destructive power. However, what I heard him say just now was reminiscent of what many patriotic Frenchmen said in 1940, not least the hero of Verdun.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) urged that we should put the British and French nuclear 505 deterrents on the Geneva negotiating table. I do not see the sense of that. We have no capability of overkill; still less have the French. The only countries that have the power of overkill are the United States and the Soviet Union. It is their responsibility to try to achieve a balance of deterrence at a lower level. We cannot make a serious contribution without going below the minimum force that we require to maintain a deterrent of last resort.
The people of this country understand that. Although the right hon. Gentleman for Down, South doubted whether they were convinced of the need for a deterrent, everything that I saw and heard in the election campaign suggested to me that there was a strong feeling that Britain must have its own independent deterrent — I am not talking about any particular system. The President of the United States understands that, and I salute his resolve not to bring the British and French deterrents to the negotiating table. He knows that nothing would do more damage to the cohesion of the Alliance. It was not always so. There have been American Administrations who would have been glad to deprive Britain or France of an independent deterrent. That is not true today. Mr. Andropov may have hoped to tempt the Americans into supporting his proposals and to persuade them to try to establish a Brezhnev doctrine inside NATO. However, President Reagan has been wiser than that, and we owe him a great deal for his staunch stand in the matter.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, East said that Trident was a more powerful weapon than we needed. Who is to say? It will not be deployed for 10 years, and it then has to last 30 years. I should have thought that we needed a slight margin of insurance against the development of better defence systems by a possible adversary, or unforeseen developments in the world.
Then there is the matter of cost. Having negotiated many weapons systems with the Treasury, I have little or no doubt that the Argus-eyed Treasury officials would not have allowed Trident to be adopted as our main weapon system if they had been able to prove, even marginally, that it was less cost effective than any other system. I do not have time to go into the details, but I commend to right hon. and hon. Members Lord Lewin's letter in the Daily Telegraph on the matter during the election.
I come now to the question of cruise, Pershing and arms control. We in Britain and France have a certain security by virtue of the deterrents that we possess. We are unlikely to be attacked, for the reasons that I gave a moment ago. Western Germany is in a quite different position. The split between Western and Eastern Germany and the special status of Berlin obviously inhibit that country from becoming a nuclear power in its own right. It has to rely on the United States. Now, leading Americans in every walk of life, military and political, have made it only too clear that the United States would not expose its own homeland to Soviet nuclear retaliation by seeking to defend its allies outside the United States by striking at the Soviet Union. So there is only one security for the Germans, and that is to have American missiles deployed on German soil—not in the sea, not far away, but on German soil — in support of the American army in Germany. Even that is not a 100 per cent. guarantee, but it is a pretty good one.
The same applies in some measure to us in this country. We have given hospitality, and rightly so, to major 506 American installations in this country. As has often been pointed out by Opposition Members, these could be targets for the Soviet Union. To prevent them from being targets for the Soviet Union, it is a good thing that our own deterrent should be supported and seconded by American deterrent missiles in this country, backing up the installations that they have already established here.
The talks on arms control at Geneva are naturally conducted in terms of nuclear accountancy—the number of warheads and missiles — but the real argument is about Germany and Europe. It is about the relationship, above all, of Germany towards the Alliance, and of the United States to Europe. If the cruise and Pershing systems were not deployed, what would be the impact on the British Army of the Rhine? I do not know how long my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence would agree to leave the British Army of the Rhine in Germany without the backing of a proper missile system to answer the SS20s. I do not know how long Mr. Weinberger would be prepared to leave the United States Army if the missiles were not deployed.
But, above all, consider the impact on Germany. If the Germans no longer felt secure in NATO, what option would they have except to turn to neutrality and seek reunion with East Germany under Soviet aegis? That would represent an irreversible shift in the world balance of power. Those are the realities behind all the talk about arms control. It is not a question of warheads and missiles but of whether Germany remains in the Alliance, and whether the alliance between the United States and Western Europe holds together.
That was well and truly appreciated at the Williamsburg conference by two leading men who are not in NATO. It was appreciated by President Mitterrand of France, a member of the Alliance but not of NATO, and a Socialist, who underwrote at Williamsburg our general strategy for defence. Perhaps even more significantly, it was appreciated by the Prime Minister of Japan, on the eve of an election—and Japan is the only country which has ever suffered a nuclear strike.
I think we must say that it is imperative that we proceed with the deployment of the missiles as well as with the maintenance, development and modernisation of our own British deterrent. We must not conceal from ourselves the fact that the situation that confronts us is extremely fragile and dangerous—rather more than has appeared as yet in speeches either in the election campaign or in our debate today. For the moment, the Soviets have the edge over the West in Europe, in the middle east and in the far east, but for how long? The cruise and Pershing missiles will be deployed; the American rapid deployment force in the middle east is taking shape; Japan has begun to rearm. Overall, the Western powers are rearming — the Americans at an impressive rate.
There is no way in which the Soviet Union can compete in an arms race with the industrial West—it simply has not the technological or industrial power—but here is the danger; here is the rub that we must not ignore. There must be a strong temptation to the Soviet Union to take advantage of the window of opportunity that is still open to it before it closes, and to try to gain some assets while it can, whether in Europe or in the middle east. It is a very dangerous situation and we have brought that danger on ourselves—especially the United States under President 507 Carter's regime—but the danger is there and there is no way that we can avoid it. To hesitate would only encourage Soviet expansion.
I agree that to go forward also has risks, but even at the height of the cold war, in 1955, suddenly the Soviets gave way on Austria and we had the Austrian treaty. So while there are dangers in going forward with our plans, there is a much greater danger in running away from them. We do not know exactly what is happening on the other side of the hill.
Plainly, there must be no provocation, but patiently and resolutely we must go forward with our plans, both to defend ourselves and to help those countries and movements which are on our side and are our friends. We have to convince Moscow that we shall not accept Soviet imperialism as a valid and legitimate element in the world. If we succeed in doing that—it will not be easy; it will call for great patience and resolution—internal pressures inside the Soviet bloc, economic, social and national, may well bring about important reforms and changes in the Soviet system. One would like to think that the Soviet empire could turn into a Soviet commonwealth, with real, not cosmetic, independence, for its different members. Is that wishful thinking? Perhaps it is, but it is well-nigh certain that weakness or hesitation on our side will lead to inevitable disaster.
§ Mr. John Hume (Foyle)
I have come here to represent a new constituency in the north-west of Ireland. It contains the ancient and historic city of Derry and the town of Strabane. It is a commentary on the politics of the north of Ireland—or the fact that there is a problem there—that never before has someone with either my religious or my political persuasion stood in this House to represent the city of Derry.
I represent an area which has the unenviable distinction of having the highest unemployment rate of any constituency represented in this House, with 38 per cent. in Strabane and 28 per cent. in Derry. Those are statistics which interact seriously and severely with the political crisis in the north of Ireland, because that same area has borne more than its share of the brunt of the atrocities that have taken place in the north of Ireland over the past decade. It is the interaction of the economic situation with the political situation that requires a great deal of attention if the problems of that part of the world are to be resolved.
People have wondered about the rise in the political strength of extremism in the north of Ireland. There is no greater example of the reasons for extremism in that area than that we now have a generation of young people who were only four years old in 1969 and 1970 and have grown up in a society in which they have always seen security forces and violence on the streets, in which they have been continually searched simply because they are young people, and in which, when they reach the age of 18, they have no hope of any employment because they happen to have come of age during the deepest economic crisis for a long time. Therefore, there are resentments, and there are sadistic people who play upon those resentments, point to a British soldier and say, "Get rid of him and all your problems will be solved". That simplistic message has an appeal to young people, and people such as myself and members of my party who seek to show that the problems are rather more complex have a difficult task.
508 If the Government were to take seriously the economic crisis in the north of Ireland and make a sensible and determined attack on the problems of youth employment, they would also be making a determined attack on the problems of extremism.
The debate is about defence and foreign affairs. In the Gracious Speech there is reference to the major issue between Britain and Ireland—the problems of Northern Ireland. It also happens to be one of the most serious human issues facing the House. Having come here after surviving over a decade on the streets of Northern Ireland, I have to say with some bitterness that I do not see much evidence that there are many hon. Members who think that it is an issue of great human concern.
We have been told repeatedly by Ministers, Secretaries of State and Prime Ministers, of whatever party, that Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom. We are told by the Prime Minister that we are as 13ritish as Finchley.
I should like hon. Members to take any part of the United Kingdom over the past decade and to imagine the following things happening. Imagine 2,000 people being killed on the streets in Yorkshire, 20,000 people maimed and injured, and £430 million spent on compensation for bomb damage; two new prisons built and a third under construction; the rule of law drastically distorted, with the introduction of imprisonment without trial; senior politicians and policemen murdered, and innocent civilians murdered by the security forces and by paramilitary forces. Imagine a shoot-to-kill policy for people suspected of crime being introduced from time to time instead of their being arrested. Imagine jury courts being disbanded, plastic bullets used on the streets and innocent children being killed. Imagine paramilitary organisations engaging in violence and the type of interrogation methods that led to the British Government being found guilty in the European Court of Human Rights being introduced. Imagine hunger strikers dying in prison in Yorkshire and representatives of the paramilitary being elected to this House to represent Yorkshire.
If those things had happened on what is commonly called the mainland, can anyone tell me that those events would not have been the major issue in the general election campaign? Can anyone persuade me that any speech made since that election would not have referred to that issue? However, the only hon. Members who have referred to it were leaders of two parties in Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, we are told that we are as British as Finchley.
Does any hon. Member believe that Northern Ireland is as British as Finchley or any other part of what is called the mainland? Do any hon. Members honestly believe that in their hearts? If so, where is the evidence of their concern? The truth is that if every hon. Member spoke his heart, he would say that he has psychologically withdrawn from Northern Ireland. The truth is that Britain has psychologically withdrawn from Northern Ireland. Britain and Northern Ireland would be healthier places if that psychological reality were translated into political reality.
The extent of the problem in Northern Ireland today can be summed up by the desperate indictment of a brick wall that has been built between two sections of the community in Belfast to keep them apart and to protect them from each other. That is happening in what is described as a part of the United Kingdom.
509 That wall is an indictment of anyone who has governed Northern Ireland in the past 14 years. It is also an indictment of every political party in Northern Ireland. It is an indictment of everyone who has any part to play in the problem. It is an indictment of the Unionist tradition, the Nationalist tradition and the British who govern from this House. It is an indictment, but it is also a challenge because the only truth that has emerged out of all the suffering of the past decade is that all our policies have led us to that wall in Belfast. The real challenge is to reexamine urgently our traditional approaches to a solution.
Hon. Members who represent the Loyalist tradition have a lot of thinking to do. Their consistent stance on Northern Ireland has been to protect the integrity of the tradition in an island in which they form a minority. I have no quarrel with that objective. Any country is richer for diversity. I quarrel with the methods of protecting the integrity. Put crudely, that method dictates, "We must hold all power in our own hands." That is precisely what has been said. It is a violent attitude. It is an attitude which demands the exclusive exercise of power. The leaders of that tradition have consistently maintained that view, but it invites violence. It is not possible permanently to exclude an entire section of the population from any say in the decision-making process.
The Nationalist tradition has also taken a rather simplistic approach. Its argument has often been presented in emotional and romantic terms. Its simplistic definition of Irishness is extremely sectional. It is based substantially on two powerful strands of the Irish tradition — the Gaelic and Catholic — to the exclusion of the Protestants. That narrow definition makes the Protestant tradition feel excluded from that notion of Irishness. In its more extreme form, it is thought right not only to die, but to kill, for that version of Ireland. In those circumstances, we can understand what contribution my tradition has made to the deepening of Irish divisions.
When one considers the streets of Belfast and examines the performance of the organisation that represents itself as the ultimate in Irish patriotism—the Provisional IRA—and one considers the bitterness that it has created by its campaign of destruction and killing, one can see how much rethinking and examination we must do if we are to bring about a settlement of the Irish problem and bring forward a definition of Irishness which is inclusive, not exclusive.
The third element is the British Government and the House. As matters stand, it now has all the power over Northern Ireland. Examination of history reveals one consistent policy. Moreover, it is the only policy that I have heard enunciated here—that Northern Ireland shall remain part of the United Kingdom as long as a majority so wish. On the face of it, that seems to be a democratic statement and guarantee. However, if one looks behind that, one sees that the majority that is being guaranteed was created artificially by a sectarian headcount. When one tells the majority that it can protect itself only by remaining in majority, one invites it to maintain sectorian solidarity as the only means of protection. Therefore, one makes sectarianism the motive force of politics. Northern Ireland has 60 years of elections to demonstrate that that is precisely what has happened.
If we are to break the sectarian mould and the divisions, we must recognise that they cannot continue for ever. We 510 cannot deny that 5 million people in a Europe which twice this century has slaughtered its people by the millions could find the wisdom and foresight to say, "Let us build structures whereby we can grow together at our own speed." What is wrong with asking for that for our small island of 5 million people? What is wrong with asking to be able to build structures whereby the different traditions can live in peace, harmony and unity in a new relationship with Britain? What is wrong with the Government adopting that as a policy objective? That policy was stated by no less a person than Sir Winston Churchill who, on 7 July 1922, in a private letter to Michael Collins, wrote:Meanwhile, in the intervals of grappling with revolts and revolution, I think that you should think over in your mind what would be the greatest offer the south could make for northern co-operation. Of course, from the imperial point of view, there is nothing we should like better than to see the north and the south join hands in an all-Ireland assembly without prejudice to the existing rights of Irishmen. Such ideas could be vehemently denied in many quarters at the moment, but events in the history of nations sometimes move very quickly.They often move quickly when there is a strong Government in power who have the courage to grasp the nettle and face up to reality. Ending divisions in Ireland has evaded statesmen for centuries. Ending the divisions requires strength and leadership. It is not asking a great deal of the Government to adopt as policy the statement that Sir Winston Churchill made on 7 July 1922.
§ 7 pm
§ Sir Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)
The House has just listened to a remarkable maiden speech by the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume), delivered with the eloquence that we have come to expect from our Irish colleagues. We are aware of the feelings that Northern Ireland generates in the breasts of those with responsibilities. The hon. Member comes to us with a great reputation and as a parliamentarian. He is a member of three Parliaments, although he has not taken his seat in one. He is a member of the European Parliament and the House of Commons, so the expertise with which he addressed us was not too surprising.
The hon. Gentleman said that he detected an absence of human feeling about Ireland in this Chamber. I hope that he will modify that opinion in due course. Members of the House have much sympathy not only with the political situation in Northern Ireland but for our colleagues who represent Irish constituencies. We understand their difficulties and restraints. We appreciate their difficulties and we are glad that more Northern Ireland representatives are here to sit in this Parliament. If we seem to be indifferent, it is because we are unable to decide what to do. Now that the hon. Gentleman has come to assist our counsels light will be thrown upon the difficulties and we shall be able to come to better conclusions. The House will wish to hear the hon. Gentleman often on important and delicate issues.
I welcome my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary to his new post. It is a post to which his dazzling career and high achievements have not hitherto particularly qualified him. My right hon. and learned Friend said that it was a good thing that he and someone else of whom he spoke had previously been Finance Ministers. I do not think that it is. The precedent is not good. Austen Chamberlain and John Simon were both rotten Foreign Ministers. The Father of the House, the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. 511 Callaghan), who is not here, was not much better. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend does not bring to his new desk the skills which so ornamented his time at the Treasury.
I was glad that the Prime Minister's statement on the European Council the other day contained references to the general gain in terms of strengthening democracy, and securing peace, which the EC provides. Too often in our discussion of the EC and European activities a mere recitation of figures is considered to be adequate. My right hon. and learned Friend did nothing to dispel my illusion today.
If each country counts its advantages as being only what it can grab out of the pork barrel and no more, it misleads itself and will not contribute to the future. We do that too often in the United Kingdom.
Such an approach makes no sense even in economic terms. We are talking about a contribution of £800 million. That is a lot of money, but it is not nearly 1 per cent. of our national budget. Such an approach disregards the trade benefits and the enormous increase in operations inside the EC and with other European countries with which the EC has special relationships. It takes no account of our activities with those countries which give us a surplus in trade. We do not have much to complain about economically.
I wish that the Foreign Secretary had been able to describe our future policy towards the EC. The EC made good progress in the 1960s and 1970s when we joined, but now we are marking time. Yet the economic and political dangers are greater. There is a world depression, which is difficult at any time. European unemployment is running at about 12 million, with all the social consequences that stem from that. The idea that a nation state can emerge from that alone is too ridiculous to contemplate.
Super-power confrontation is an additional element. Europe's influence is shrinking. It is inevitable that we shall be involved if anything goes wrong in the middle east. We hear little about what Europe could do about that. Nothing much has happened since the Venice declaration a few years ago. We play a small role. So not only is Europe shrinking in importance: we are diverging in our European policies from the United States. Ever since the collapse of detente stresses and strains have occurred in the Atlantic Alliance which have not yet been resolved and which call for a common approach by the powers.
We all complain that other EC members are not doing their bit; that they are taking out too much money or not putting in enough; and that they operate restrictions. I read the other day that the menu in a Spanish inn depends upon what the travellers bring. I believe that, unless we bring something, we are not entitled to complain that we do not get anything out.
The way out is not to retreat—that is impossible—but we cannot stand still. We must identify a wider range of issues and review our common interests with Europe. The Government should seek to set out how they see the EC developing and how they intend to achieve their policies. We are more likely to bring success if we give a lead and let others know our goals.
I have some suggestions. We have some unfinished business on the economic front. Some matters should have been settled a long time ago. I refer to the freeing of internal services such as insurance, aircraft fares and airlines. We must continue to press for that.
512 The CAP is an obvious target for reform. It is clear to me—perhaps I am wrong—that the CAP's object is social. It is intended to help the smaller farmers in Europe and not to make rich farmers richer. The way in which we support the CAP must be in the direction of the small farmer. It must not swell the incomes of those who do not need help. It is doubly urgent to settle the matter soon because we cannot maintain, during a period of falling world commodity prices, the enormous surpluses produced by the present system.
Before long, we must have more money from own resources. That should not produce such a terrible hiccup for Britain because we should, at the same time, have a progressive taxation system. Countries which fall below average income should pay less and countries above it should pay more. That is a usual way to deal with taxation. It would be useful to adapt that principle to the present circumstances, especially in view of the enlargement caused by Spain and Portugal which are bound to need special treatment for some time. Enlargement will cost immediate money, but I urge the House to consider that the enlargement of the trading area and the protection of democracy makes it highly desirable for Spain and Portugal to join.
What about Gibraltar? That issue has been missing from our discussions so far. What has been said today is obscure. Apparently we want Spain in, but we continue to give Gibraltar a veto on whether the arrangements with Spain shall go ahead. What are the British Government doing to make it more possible for the Gibraltarians to work with Spain? We did not hear anything about that. We must discuss this properly with the Gibraltarians and I am glad that Sir Joshua Hassan is coming to Britain tomorrow. We should try to educate Gibraltarians into thinking that it might be possible to get along with Spain. Unless they do, it will be impossible for Spain to join the Common Market—yet we say that we want the Spanish to join in 1986 or even sooner. We need further clarification on this point and on what British policy is likely to be.
It is clear that we must work with our partners in the EC to cure unemployment so far as is possible. Any special measures which Britain might take, such as reducing the retirement age or special redundancy payments, would on the whole increase our costs and, if our other partners did not do so at the same time, would very much diminish our competitiveness. This problem can only be solved satisfactorily in conjunction with our partners.
I wonder also whether the time has come to consider again the European monetary system. I do not see how an economic area such as the EC can continue long without a common monetary system. I do not believe that the arguments against, which are technical and would take too long to go into now, are as strong as they were.
It is important that we should work with Europe on energy. We have a great deal of oil and coal and we should have a policy which makes it easier for our partners to ensure their independence in energy if difficulty arises in the future. All those interests are common and surely the solutions should be too.
I believe that we should make a greater cultural effort in Europe. Perhaps I should declare an interest. I am one of the vice-chairmen of the British Council, which spends a great deal of energy and money in Europe. It has to some extent reduced its activities there, the argument being that the Europeans can read about us in their newspapers, so 513 why bother to spend good British money? I believe that that is a false argument. We spend a great deal of energy and time teaching English, which is a great diplomatic asset to this country. The British Council is entitled to a more favourable eye from the Foreign Office than it has perhaps received hitherto.
The Foreign Office and the Government must make up their minds what they want the British Council to do and then they must provide it with the money to do it. Very often, they provide a task and then discover that inflation overseas has made it impossible for the British Council to fulfil that task. With the new system of accounting, they object very much to keeping up with that inflation which is no fault of the British Council or its efficiency. Of course, the Foreign Office is in the same cart in that regard. The tributes that have been paid to the British Council recently, particularly by the Prime Minister, who said that the British Council has "an excellent reputation" the world over for the work it does and for its total integrity, should be translated into a little more cash and into a little more activity with our allies, which is so important culturally.
I do not believe that our co-operation in Europe should stop there. Our economic security is at one with our political and military security. We can bring about our economic security only within the ambience of the EC. Therefore, I believe that we should add to our deliberations in Europe our consideration of security aspects. We share a common interest in disarmament, in the middle east, in Poland and in Berlin. We cannot extricate ourselves from these international pressure points. I believe, therefore, that the Genscher-Colombo proposals which were welcomed by the Prime Minister are very much in our interests and should be pressed on with and made to come alive.
Until now, the United Kingdom has not been regarded as a faithful EC member. After the referendum and the recent elections, there is no reason why that view should continue to be held. Perhaps it is the way that we put things sometimes, our strident calls for more money, which puts up the backs of our colleagues in Europe and makes them feel that we are in it only for the cash that we can get out. I am sure that that is not true, but I believe that we should speak with a more certain voice in order to dissipate that illusion.
It would be folly to go back to individual nation states. Standing still is dangerous, and these are dangerous times. The Prime Minister is now the doyenne of European statesmen. She can give a lead which will increase the chances of safety and prosperity for our people.
§ Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)
I am extremely grateful for being called to make my maiden speech in this debate, when matters of such great moment are being discussed. To be permitted to make my maiden speech in the debate on the Gracious Speech heightens my sense of the honour bestowed on me by my constituents and my sense of responsibility to them in the future.
I have the privilege of representing the constituency of Montgomery, unravaged in name or size by the Boundary Commission changes. It remains a vast and beautiful constituency, running to more than 500,000 acres—perhaps I may be permitted to continue to use "acres", for 514 we still sell farms in acres in Montgomery—and with the sixth smallest electorate in the United Kingdom I am proud to have been one of those who fought to preserve Montgomery as a single constituency, a fight which was also taken up with great vigour and success by the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Hooson).
At first sight the constituency of Montgomery may appear to be purely agricultural, but a considerable amount of industry has grown up in Montgomeryshire in recent years — some indigenous, some from outside. That industry brought with it an influx of several thousand people, who were attracted to Montgomeryshire from various parts of England, most notably the west midlands, by the opportunity to work and live in our glorious county. Though small in electors, Montgomery, with its agricultural and industrial base, represents a microcosm of Wales as a whole. With that in mind, I feel proud indeed to have won the highest percentage share of votes of any Liberal or SDP alliance candidate in Wales—indeed, a share a little higher than that won nationally by the Government, who claim to have an overwhelming mandate to govern the United Kingdom.
The first Liberal Member of Parliament for Montgomery was elected in 1880. During the next 99 years there were only Liberal Members of Parliament for Montgomery. I am pleased to say that their survival rate was high, for there were only five of them. I hope that I can at least emulate their average.
One or two right hon. and hon. Members will remember Clement Davies, whose wisdom and warmth were much loved in this House for 33 years, and were bywords in Montgomeryshire. He was followed for 17 years by Lord Hooson, as he now is, who is still held in the highest regard in Montgomeryshire. His gentle encouragement and mercurial smile gave me much support in my sustained campaign to regain the seat. In one of my many election meetings, an over-enthusiastic warm-up speaker introduced me as the next Member of Parliament for Montgomery—Mr. Alex Hooson. The noble Lord and I both deny the implicit allegation in that remark. But I value very greatly the close personal, political and professional association that I have with the noble Lord.
In 1979, at the end of those 99 years, Montgomery fell, one year short of the centenary that we shall soon celebrate. It fell to my predecessor, Mr. Delwyn Williams. It is fitting, as well as in accordance with tradition, that I should commend his service as Member for Montgomery for four years and wish him well in his new ventures. Montgomeryshire is now back where it belongs, in the Liberal fold. I take up the onerous but welcome task of attempting to prove myself a worthy heir to as great a constituency Liberal traditon as exists in the United Kingdom.
The concerns that were expressed to me by my constituents, both before and during the election campaign, and in my prolific postbag since, are many and varied. They are far from restricted to the agricultural and rural matters which may well have been the principal concerns of my predecessors, although those issues are still of great importance.
Among the foremost of the issues that I find being raised in my constituency are nuclear power and nuclear weapons. The nuclear waste problem is an issue in Montgomery and in mid-Wales as a whole. During 1980 proposals were in existence which raised the possibility of boreholes being drilled in mid-Wales with a view to the 515 eventual dumping of nuclear waste. As a result, an intense multipartite campaign followed. A popular movement arose that had the support not only of the anti-nuclear pressure groups, but of the established bodies, such as both Welsh farming unions.
My first major public engagement in mid-Wales was in 1980 at a meeting in Dinas Mawddwy where I shared a platform with the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Thomas). Feelings were high and the determination was unmistakable. The effect of that and other meetings and pressure was to cause those proposals to be shelved. That is where they belong, on the shelf. I shall regard it as a part of my responsibility to Montgomery to ensure that those proposals remain not only on the shelf, but unmoved and on the same shelf.
One aspect of nuclear weapons which has been repeatedly mentioned today is the Trident programme. I, and I am sure the majority of my constituents, view with regret that passage in the Gracious Speech which states the Government's intention to modernise the existing independent nuclear deterrent with the Trident programme. Trident represents an unnecessary and expensive heightening of the nuclear profile at a time when arms control negotiations are in progress with the Soviet Union. I do not believe that the cause of conciliation, in which we should all believe, is helped by the escalation that Trident represents, with its range of 6,000 miles and its frightening and uncanny accuracy—factors that are sure to stiffen the Soviet resolve to compete, rocket for rocket, bomb for bomb.
Nor is Trident needed for the purpose of defence. Its only utility would arise in circumstances where the United States would not want to use nuclear weapons, but the United Kingdom would want to use them. That postulates Trident being used in a position where the United Kingdom would choose to make the first nuclear strike, to deter a suspected pre-emptive strike by the Soviet Union on the United Kingdom. The consequences that would follow would make the Inferno seem like a Sunday afternoon tea party.
Those of us who are fortunate enough to have entered the House while still quite young—many like myself with young children, with the future spreading before us and them—must maintain a long political perspective. Our sense of purpose must be to contribute to and to consolidate a future for those children, and for all the children of our constituents and the nation. The warning that many of us give is that Trident only threatens that future.
§ Sir John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest)
It is always a privilege to follow a maiden speech, and it is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile). He addressed the House with grace, eloquence, confidence, charm and a spice of humour. He showed his affection for his constituency and a proper knowledge of its history. I am sorry that the leader of his party was not in his place to hear such an admirable, although not wholly uncontroversial, maiden speech. There are Members on the Liberal Benches who will be able to tell the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Steel) of the hon. Gentleman's excellent maiden speech.
§ Mr. Beith
I hesitate to interrupt the hon. Gentleman in his kind references to my hon. Friend's speech. 516 However, there appeared to be a note of criticism in his reference to the leader of the Liberal party. The hon. Gentleman may not be aware that my right hon. Friend is attending the quatrocentenary of the University of Edinburgh, at which Her Majesty the Queen is present.
§ Sir John Biggs-Davison
If there was a note of acerbity in my words, I withdraw it. I do not want it to detract from the unalloyed praise that I wish to give the hon. Gentleman for his maiden speech. I will not say that I wish the hon. Gentleman a lengthy tenure in representing his constituency. Many of us on the Conservative Benches miss Delwyn Williams, and I believe that many people in Wales will miss him as their Member of Parliament.
Yesterday and today we heard complaints in this Chamber of the cost of what is pejoratively termed "fortress Falklands". Some of those who protested that the Falkland Islands could not be defended and some of those who protested that they could not be regained are now putting it about that to hold them is too expensive. General Galtieri has said that had he known that the British would resist, he would not have attacked. Therefore, if a firm purpose to defend the Falklands is shown here in the United Kingdom, it is extremely unlikely that there will be another attack.
What General Galtieri said is distressing. It means that the operation comes into the Churchillian category of an unnecessary war. Some of us on the Government Benches still have a clear conscience in having urged for more than a decade the construction of an ample airfield there. Once that is built and once rapid reinforcement is possible, our garrison in the Falkland Islands can be modest—modest in manpower, though not in the efficiency of early warning and missile defence. Moreover, the cost throughout must be set against the asset of unrivalled training grounds for all arms of the three services.
Yesterday my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence alluded to the strategic significance of that part of the world. It is a perversity that NATO ends at the tropic of Cancer and that there is no adequate system of maritime defence over that vast area ranging from Australasia through southern Africa to south America. It is not practicable — it is not politically possible — to extend the NATO area, but if there were a SATO to put with NATO then, when the wounds had healed, Argentina might be one of those states taking part in such an organisation of allied maritime defence and the Falkland Islands might be a headquarters or base in that system of the future.
The Falkland Islands were compared frequently before the invasion by Ulstermen and Unionists with Northern Ireland. The Falklands have also been compared with Gibraltar, the subject which followed that of the Falkland Islands in the Gracious Speech, and I too have made these comparisons.
The closing passage of the Gracious Speech is, to me, the least satisfactory. We heard an eloquent maiden speech from the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume). His party has not taken part in the Northern Ireland Assembly, on which such stress is laid in the Gracious Speech. However, as we were made well aware, the hon. Member for Foyle is present in this House, and it is here that reconciliation can take place or can be furthered. It is here, in the sovereign Parliament of the whole United Kingdom, that demagoguery and bigotry are cut down to size.
517 I do not quarrel with the Northern Ireland Assembly, which exists—if it can be adapted to a proper system of regional administration for that part of the United Kingdom under one sovereign legislature—but all that differentiates and distances Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom just encourages the terrorists in their belief that the British can be blasted or bored out of Ireland. Every political initiative of that kind that we have had under successive Secretaries of State has been lethal.
The wish of the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar and Northern Ireland to stay British is a wish to exercise or retain the right to self-determination. Self-determination and national sovereignty were, I believe, the essence of the conversations that took place recently in Poland between the Pope and General Jaruzelski. General Jaruzelski is something of an enigma, a man of noble birth, of Catholic education and of Soviet indoctrination. It is certain that he desires, as do the Polish people, to keep Poland free from Soviet military occupation. To that extent he is a believer in national sovereignty and self-determination.
The principle of national sovereignty is universally acclaimed. The principle of self-determination is universally proclaimed. But it is in Europe, not in the Third world, that these principles are most flagrantly denied. Brezhnev spoke of limited sovereignty. Recently Mr. Gromyko said that Poland would always remain an inalienable member of the Socialist community or Socialist commonwealth.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) looked into the distance to a time when there might be a sort of dominion status within what is now the Soviet empire, but that is not the case today. It is hypocrisy to speak of a Socialist community or commonwealth; it is an empire. But the Soviet empire is not the only empire in the world immune from dissolution. When Mr. Gromyko says that Poland will always remain in that empire, I would reply that "always", like "never", is a dangerous word for a politician to use.
Europe is half slave and half free. The Gracious Speech refers to the development of the European Community, but the EC—in at least the common agricultural policy and the budget—is for many of our fellow subjects a pain in the neck. But Europe is more than a market, and it does not end at the Berlin wall, the wire and the watchtowers. The very existence of the Community—to which the Gracious Speech expresses the renewed commitment of Her Majesty's Government — as a partnership of sovereign nations can and does exert a strong attraction on the Europe that, in God's time, will be free again.
§ Mr. Stan Thorne (Preston)
I hope that the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) will forgive me if I do not go down the road that he followed. It is difficult when debating the Gracious Speech to adhere strictly to the chosen subjects for the day, so I trust that a certain flexibility will be allowed because I shall raise a number of points that might be considered not to be directly within the terms of Mr. Speaker's selection of subjects.
I am glad to see the Minister of State for the Armed Forces in his place, because I hope that he will comment on what the Secretary of State for Defence alluded to in 518 a television programme a few days ago, when he referred to the need to care for the members of the Armed Forces, which presumably included their families.
There is a family in my constituency which lost a soldier in Germany in February 1983 as a result of an attack by two other soldiers. It seems that four months later the Ministry of Defence is incapable of giving me any real information about when the body will be returned to the family for burial, when charges will be laid against the two assailants, and there will be a trial concerning the precise circumstances of the attack. It took several telephone calls during the past few days to get an agreement with the noble Lord to see me about the matter on Thursday. I hope that the Minister of State for the Armed Forces will do something about his Department if that is how it operates in such circumstances.
I have read the Queen's Speech several times and it seems that there is little in it about meeting people's needs. That should be the main consideration of the House if it is facing its responsibilities to the British people. Many of the measures in the Queen's Speech relate to what is dear to the hearts and minds of Conservative Members, and that is private profit. It seems that we shall privatise certain parts of our public assets. The Government have no right to do that, because they did not obtain a mandate for any of those policies in the election.
There is a pious comment in the Queen's Speech about unemployment, but there is nothing about the way in which we can overcome that unemployment by creating demand within the economy. One direct method of doing so is through investment. Most Conservative Members, and some who occupy places on the Opposition Benches, especially the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins), are keen on our involvement in the Common Market. However, there seemed to be nothing in what the right hon. Gentleman said, nor in what the Government have said in the Queen's Speech and elsewhere, about using part of the massive funds in Europe—I understand that they stand at about £1,000 billion—to create the jobs that are needed throughout Europe, especially within the United Kingdom. It has been estimated that we could find about 20 million jobs over the next 10 years if those funds were used sensibly and in a planned way in accordance with the economic needs of Europe.
There seems to be more anxiety on the Government Benches to protect international finance capital than to promote investment in manufacturing industry. Another omission from the Queen's Speech — this is not surprising — is a reference to controlling prices and dividends. There is little provision for relieving the massive poverty that exists in so much of Britain.
The Queen's Speech must be seen against the background of the general election. I make no apology for dealing briefly with certain aspects of it. There is no doubt that the election was a disaster for the Labour party. I feel that the economic crisis of the late 1960s and the 1970s saw Labour and Conservative Governments involved in crisis management. We saw that during the late 1960s under Sir Harold Wilson's prime ministership and we saw it again under the Labour Government of 1974–79. Labour's management of a capitalist economy in that period included wage restraint, which alienated many working people from the Labour party. More important, it laid the basis for Thatcherism, which has emerged from 519 the struggle against social democracy and the wets within the Tory party by the radical Right led by the Prime Minister.
The Queen's Speech confirms Thatcherism's victory. The political forces of the Right have been given the go-ahead by further anti-trade union legislation and privatisation measures, some of which are contained in the speech. The victory of Thatcherism has been made possible to some degree by the divisions within the left of the Labour party and by changes in the cultural milieu that is enjoyed by what we loosely call the working class and in their response to the economic crisis.
The Labour party was not seen by the electorate as the political representative of the interests of the working class and of organised labour. The electorate heard and listened, but unfortunately it was duped by the Tory media's slogans and references to concepts such as the nation, making Britain great once more, the Falklands, the family, duty, authority, traditionalism, self-interest and competitive individualism.
Possibly most important in some ways was the denigration of the state. The state related to Labour statism and the Tory advocacy of anti-statism, while strengthening the state apparatus of oppression within Britain. Thatcherism has succeeded in equating Socialism with state bureaucracy and counterposing the idea of a free market, which is to be extended into education, health and into some notion of public choice, when we all know that we are talking about the ability to pay.
The image has been created by the Tory media that the Labour party is enmeshed in the pursuit of a state apparatus that would be riddled with bureaucracy while the new brand of Toryism that is promoted by the Prime Minister provides freedom for the people. Unfortunately, many people have been embraced by this populism.
I remind the Government that there was no mandate for their policies in the election. Their Note fell by about 800,000. There was a majority of 2 million or 3 million votes cast against the Tory party, that is, nearly 19 million votes. The many seats that the Tories have in the House are merely a reflection of our undemocratic electoral system. That does not disguise the miserable vote of about 8 million that the Labour party secured. The Labour party's failure to reach the working class— overwhelmingly the majority of the British people—was based on its inability to win the people over to the policies of the Left.
What is likely to follow from this? It is clear that there will be a major increase in extra-parliamentary action, which can only be welcomed as an expression of people's increasing unwillingness to tolerate the lowered standard of living which is inevitable from the Government's policies. In my constituency there is some appalling housing. We are probably talking about several million pounds being needed to replace housing and give people the opportunity to live in decent homes. We need new sheltered accommodation for the increasing elderly population in the area and major resources in welfare and health. Trade union rights need to be protected. The prospects of achieving such aims under the Government are almost non-existent.
I travelled by train recently with a trustee of a major multinational company's pension fund. He was one of the workers' representatives. That day the trustees had been discussing a recommendation tabled by the directors about £440 million which they were anxious to invest. We are 520 talking about workers' pension funds. What was the recommendation? It was suggested that Phillips and Drew were talking about a 7 per cent. inflation rate later this year. The directors were satisfied that there were no high expectations of improvements in manufacturing. Where was the investment to go? Overseas. Fortunately, the workers' representatives resisted that suggestion. It is difficult to say what will follow. However, it is a sign that within our society, encouraged by the Government's philosophy, there is more interest in investment overseas than in British manufacturing industry. That is one of the reasons why our expectation of an upturn in the economy in the foreseeable future is virtually non-existent.
At this juncture the Labour party needs, above all, an involvement in a broad alliance for social change if it is to have political power in the late 1980s to plan the social change that will lead us to a Socialist Britain.
§ Mr. Robert Jackson (Wantage)
The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) said:These are the days of the maidens.It is not just a maidenly duty, but a pleasure, for me to pay the customary tribute to my predecessors. Tom Benyon had a reputation in the constituency for helpfulness. I experienced it at first hand as the representative for his constituency, which is now mine, in the European Parliament. Tom Benyon and I suffer from the difficulty that we follow a much greater man than either of us. As the Member representing Abingdon—now the Wantage division—Airey Neave is remembered well, not just in his constituency, but in the House. I see his name and arms illuminated over the door that faces you, Mr Deputy Speaker, among the escutcheons of those Members who fell fighting for our country. He was a man who carried a flame which I shall do the utmost in my power to honour.
The Wantage constituency rises in a series of gentle terraces from the flood plain of the Thames to the Berkshire downs. Two arresting visual images impose themselves upon my mind. At the one end we have the white horse, which is carved in chalk against the green of the downs, and at the other, and less romantically, we have the cooling towers of Didcot power station.
Amid this wide landscape in the four towns of Faringdon, Wantage, Didcot and Wallingford and in the many villages around, some 100,000 souls live, work and have their being. Their fate may seem far removed from such questions as the future of the European budget which is being discussed today, but that is not so.
Let me dwell for a moment on the ties that join the European Community and its institutions—including the European budget — to the people whom I have the honour to represent in the House and at Strasbourg. Most of my constituents earn their living in enterprises such as the motor industry and the new science-based industries that are springing up in what has been called the "M4 corridor". The present and future of these enterprises depend largely upon access to the open market place of the Community, which in turn depends for its continued existence upon a stable and developing frame work of European institutions.
The basis of my constituency's prosperity lies today, as it did in ancient times, in agriculture, which is the principal charge upon the European budget—the main focus of controversy in the European Community—and 521 a leading British industry which has profited exceedingly —some may even say excessively—from Community policy.
I represent thousands of scientific and engineering civil servants at Harwell and other institutions in the constituency. About 10 per cent. of their professional activities and budget are influenced strongly by our European commitment.
Whatever may be the case in some other parts of these islands, my constituency has certainly joined Europe. For that reason we feel that we have something to say about its future. One of the most valuable things that I have learnt from my experience of the four years in the European Parliament is that one does not have to be a Continental to be a European. The definition of a European is not "Made in Paris, Bonn, Rome or The Hague". The consequences of our mistaken aloofness from the European movement in the 1950s are now fading and Great Britain possesses her authentic and original points of view about the Community and its future.
Let me identify just three of those. In spite of our taste for ceremonial, the British tend to look at the substance rather than the form of things. We have a strong interest in the practical side of the Community; in particular, the creation of a genuine common market without restrictions and impediments. A country which has fulfilled its treaty commitment to free the movement of capital does not need lectures on the European spirit from those who have not yet done so. Nor do we need such lectures from those who continue to maintain obstacles to the freedom of the provision of services without let or hindrance throughout Europe.
The British are realistic. We know that an organisation such as the European Community lives and grows by a continuous process of negotiation. We know that in the present state of Community affairs Great Britain seeks at least three major national objectives—to assure long-term equity in the European budget; to improve the operations of the common agricultural policy; and to ensure that our budget payments this year and next are contained within reasonable limits.
We know that in the give and take of negotiations it is unlikely that we shall be able to secure those objectives without at the same time giving some ground and going some way towards meeting the major objectives of some of our partners—some increase in the Community's own resources.
I believe that the main issue is not if, but when, and, above all, on what conditions. The British have a profound interest in how the Community is governed. Our most distinctive national contribution to the arts of civilisation probably lies in the sphere of government. We know that no free polity can succeed whose actions run ahead of the comprehension and consent of its subjects. That is why, for instance, we take a cautious and evolutionary view of how the Community Council should take its decisions.
We know also that a parliamentary institution possesses life and vigour only to the extent that its members and proceedings represent the true, vital forces of society, which is the spirit in which our British colleagues in the European Parliament have been making an effort which I fear has not yet been sufficiently recognised in the House.
From our national experience, we know that no fiscal system can survive where there is an unappeased sense of 522 grievance and inequity. I have never been one of those who believe that Britain's net contribution to the Community budget is a matter of de minimis. A principle that is fundamental to Europe's future is at stake. It is that the future of the Community's resources should be assured by putting them on that basis of equity and fair play that is taken for granted in the finances of all civilised states.
If I go further I shall be in danger of exceeding the time that convention allows maiden speakers. I thank the House for its courtesy. It is a great privilege and the fulfilment of a lifetime's dream to be here. I hope that for many years I shall be able to remain here to serve the people of the Wantage constituency, whom I thank for doing me the honour of sending me here.
§ 8.1 pm
§ Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)
It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Wantage (Mr. Jackson) and to say that his maiden speech was most able and eloquent, delivered with erudition and in a civilised manner, which I shall find great difficulty in following. However, we would expect little less from someone who has had the training and experience that he has had in Europe. I am glad that he delivered his speech at a reasonable speed, unlike the hon. Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile), who seemed to be waiting for interpretation. Like the hon. Member for Wantage, I represent a seat that has a large agricultural interest, but I shall resist the temptation to follow him down the highways and byways of Europe.
It is difficult in a Queen's Speech debate, and even on the relatively narrow topic of defence and foreign affairs, to decide what to concentrate on. Although not concentrating on Europe and tempted to talk about Hong Kong and Gibraltar or to follow the contributions on defence and disarmament, I make no apology for returning to the subject of the Falkland Islands. I was one of the few hon. Members who spoke in the debate in April last year against sending the task force. I am pleased to see present, now as Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, one of the few others who expressed reservations about the dispatch of the task force.
The Falklands problem is not a matter of history. I mean no disrespect to my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), who carried out an important campaign with regard to the General Belgrano, but the future is more important than the analysis of history. Much of our discussion in the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs and our attempts to produce a report have been stifled by some Conservative Members. Apart from our work, little has been done about considering the future of the Falkland Islands.
Earlier in the debate, when I asked the Foreign Secretary a question about the future of the Falklands, he deliberately and studiously avoided answering it. The Foreign Secretary will not be able for much longer to avoid answering questions about the future of the Falklands or the discussions that will be pressed upon us by our colleagues in the United Nations and by the United States and our European partners.
Yesterday's announcement about the go-ahead for a major new airport in the Falklands is a major step backwards. It is more ill-conceived than even the groundnuts scheme. It will provide a bigger bonanza for the friends of the Tory party than the black market has provided. Even worse, it will lead us to a much more 523 dangerous situation than the one before the invasion. It makes a long-term peaceful and negotiated solution much less likely. It will be perceived as representing a hardening of the United Kingdom's attitudes towards negotiations. That perceived hardening of attitudes will have occurred, and is occurring, at the same time as the opposite is happening in Buenos Aires. There, the climate has improved. Attitudes are softening. There is progress towards democracy.
My question to the Foreign Secretary was derided by some of the Tory hawks. I said that there was progress towards elections in Argentina. I am glad that the hon. Member for Clwyd, South-West (Mr. Harvey) admitted that in an important and courageous maiden speech. There are to be elections later this year. A democratic Government will take over at the end of January.
Let us examine the statements made by the people likely to be in a democratic Government. The Peronist party is still the largest party in Argentina. A very important spokesman said:Peronist policy will be one of peace and co-operation.He said that the Falklands war wasan imprudent war with no adequate political or military basis.He went on:We must prepare the ground for a new negotiation.Positive attitudes are coming out of Buenos Aires at the same time as a negative attitude persists in the United Kingdom.
Fortunately, the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, including some Conservative Members, was moving towards a more enlightened attitude. Had that Committee been allowed to produce its report, there would have been a majority recommendation urging negotiations, just as many other people have done — not just the United Nations, but the Church of Scotland and many other forces that are coming round to the view that we must eventually enter into negotiations with Argentina about the future of the Falklands because of the continuing claim that will not go away, the escalating costs that cannot be shrugged off and the diplomatic pressure that will continue.
The Falklands airport proposal is regrettable not just because it threatens to close our options for peaceful negotiations but for many other reasons There first is the South African connection. We are having to use the apartheid regime of South Africa as our staging post. That shows that we still have poor relations with Latin America. The hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) would do well to take note of this. He said the opposite during previous discussions. Britain still has such poor relations with every state in Latin America that we cannot find one that will give us landing rights, so we must deal with the Right-wing regime in South Africa. As my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) rightly said, that is an insult not only to 18 million black South Africans, but to black people throughout the world.
Another unfortunate aspect about the airport is the profits that will be made. As has been said, the Conservatives are in the operation for profit—profits for Mowlem, Laing and Amey-Roadstone, and, of course, for the Falkland Islands Company which will be selling to the Government the land on which the new airport is to be constructed, no doubt at greatly inflated prices.
The development of an airport on those islands in the south Atlantic will be strategically useless. The Secretary of State for Defence, in reply to a question from the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), said that the 524 base in the south Atlantic has wide strategic implications. That is absolute rubbish. Nothing was said about important strategic implications before the invasion. No generals, admirals or RAF officers pressed on the Government the importance of having a base in the south Atlantic. Nothing was done until the invasion took place. It is sheer rationalisation. It has no strategic importance.
Negotiations must be undertaken with a democratic Government in Argentina, when that comes about, and sovereignty must be considered. I appreciate that we must deal with the duplicity of the Government of Argentina. We must compare their actions and statements before and after the invasion and now. The hon. and learned Member for Colchester, North (Sir A. Buck), quoting the famous phrase much used by Conservative Members, said that he did not want the islanders to live under the heel of a Fascist junta. We often hear those words tripping off the tongues of Conservative Members. The hon. Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mrs. McCurley) nods.
In August 1980, the then Minister for Trade, now the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, formerly a member of the great war Cabinet which fought the war, was happily trotting round Argentina leading a delegation comprising Mr. P. E. G. Bates of Plessey, Mr. R. J. Dowding of Hawker Siddeley, and Mr. H. W. Jackson of GEC. The representatives of those companies were not discussing trade in textiles or tourism. I shall let right hon. and hon. Members guess what they were discussing, especially since they met air force officers, Brigadier Major Carlos Washington Pastor and Commodore Ravel Cura.
The press in Argentina reported the Minister for Trade, who later became the chairman of the Conservative party, the right hon. Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Parkinson), as saying:The British admire the efforts of Argentina … The conversations on the Falklands should be allowed to develop.Those are the same people whom they later described as "the Fascist junta" under whose heel they did not want the poor Falkland islanders to live. That is the type of duplicity with which we have to deal with this Government.
When the Opposition and one or two Conservative Members, who really are honourable Members, highlighted the appalling, deplorable human rights' record of the Argentine Government, we were literally laughed down by some Conservative Members, just as they laugh now when we talk about other Right-wing Fascist countries or the dangers of selling HMS Hermes to Chile, supplying arms or other goods to South Africa or using South Africa as a staging post. However, they will laugh on the other side of their faces, as they did when Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands.
§ Mr. Foulkes
And, as my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell, North (Mr. Hamilton) says, in the case of Suez.
The growing catalogue of criticisms about the Falkland Islands Company is amazing. It points to the need for an investigation into its operations. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) drew my attention to a Norwegian newspaper which, on 8 May 1982, pointed out that reports were circulating about the Prime Minister's husband having a large shareholding in Coalite, which controls the Falkland Islands Company. That report, which has not been denied by the 525 Government, bears investigation. There must be either a denial or a further examination of the matter as it raises serious questions about the conduct of the whole operation.
There are many criticisms of the Falkland Islands Company. It is in the business of extracting blood money, fleecing Argentines and British alike and trading with the enemy. The Select Committee on Defence criticised the company for its extortionate charges for accommodation for United Kingdom troops.
On 19 June, The Sunday Times revealed that the company sold wool to the Argentine army at inflated prices. Mr. Needham's answer to that was that the Argentines would have taken it anyway. I suspect that 50 million people in Britain, including myself, as well as 1,800 Falklanders and the 250 British troops who died, would have said that that is what the company should have made them do, rather than giving it to them or selling it to them and making money out of trade with the enemy.
Further revelations show that the Coalite company in Bolsover was in constant telex communication with Port Stanley throughout the war and that not only bales of wool, but jeeps and other war materials were sold to the Argentines. That, too, needs investigation.
The Select Committee on Foreign Affairs also criticised the Falkland Islands Company for the way in which it exploited its monopoly on the islands for its own profit by controlling the storage and shipping of the wool clip and thus exercising total control over the price of wool to the independent farmers.
Finally, in an amazing attempt to exploit public interest and concern about the Falklands, the company proposed the sale of 50-acre plots at £1,000 each. That is £20 per acre, when land on the islands normally costs about 50p per acre. The plots were to be sold with a false prospectus, as there was no access, no housing, no water or electricity and no wood for fencing or building. Everything necessary to make the plots viable would have had to be brought 8,000 miles from the United Kingdom by means of the tortuous transport link that we know so well.
All those cases are amazing instances of exploitation or attempted exploitation by the company of interest in the islands. I hope that the company's activities will be investigated. It is a company which puts profit before principles, but, knowing this Government and the Tory Members who also put profit before principles, I have very little hope that they will instigate the kind of investigation that is necessary.
§ Rev. William McCrea (Mid-Ulster)
I am grateful for the honour that has been given to me today to address this House. I understand that it is a tradition of the House that maiden speeches should be short and non-controversial. Given the record of many Northern Ireland Members, however, I doubt whether that tradition counts for anything any more. As the new Member for a unique constituency in the United Kingdom, I wish to express the fears and wishes of the people who elected me. If in so doing I appear controversial or partisan, so be it.
First, I pay tribute to the outgoing Member for Mid-Ulster, Mr. John Dunlop. I wish to put on record my personal thanks for his efforts in the years during which he served the people of Mid-Ulster in this House. He and 526 I have been personal friends for a long time. Indeed, I campaigned with him and in each election he had the backing of my party. After the Northern Ireland Assembly elections in October, he wrote to me intimating that he would be standing down and that he looked upon me as his rightful successor. My only regret is that petty bickering and personal ambition on the part of others who claim to be Unionists nearly led to Danny Morrison, an IRA front man, winning the Mid-Ulster seat. Thankfully, the Unionist electorate placed greater importance on the union than on that petty rivalry and united behind me to defeat that apologist for murderers. Although I had a majority of only 78 votes over him, I assure the House that I am delighted to have a majority over the representative of murderers. As a result, Mid-Ulster has a representative who believes in the supremacy of the ballot box and does not believe in supplementing it with the Armalite.
In my constituency, 16,000 people voted for the gunmen and for a man who openly supports an organisation that practises genocide against the Protestant population in Mid-Ulster and other border constituencies. Therefore, I must first mention security in Northern Ireland.
I make my maiden speech today with a heavy heart, because another Protestant has just been brutally murdered by the IRA. As I sat in the early hours of this morning with a young widow in her 30s, with a child of four on her knee and three other children around her, what comfort could I bring them? What message can I deliver to that family when I return home for the burial tomorrow? What hope does the House give me for my people who sit as easy prey to the murderers? Mr. Moffat died brutally while doing his day's work simply because he was a Protestant and not because he was a member of the security forces. He was never connected with them, but he was a Protestant who was carrying on and prospering in his own little family business. That was sufficient to have him murdered and to leave four children without a father.
Early this morning I heard a child of four asking his mother, "Mammy, why did God take Daddy?" That child did not realise that Daddy was done to death by brutal IRA murderers, who are no better than cowards. Only a coward can lie behind a hedge and shoot a man in the back. Only cowards can shoot our policemen, our Ulster Defence Regiment men and our soldiers from behind without showing themselves. I believe that our security forces are capable of dealing effectively with IRA murderers if they could be brought from their dens, and then Ulster could live in peace.
I am disappointed by the reference in the Queen's Speech to security in Northern Ireland. The Government's promise to continue to give the highest priority to upholding law and order there is looked upon with sadness by my people and, if the position were not so serious, it might even be looked upon as a joke. That promise implies that the Government are already doing all they can about security in Northern Ireland, but the House should examine that. Some hon. Members may think that I sound ungrateful, but they must realise that if all that can be done is being done, the future holds nothing but despair, death, sorrow and tragedy for my constituents.
Do two murders a week in an area the size of Yorkshire suggest that all in the Government's power is being done to eradicate terrorism? Week after week, and day after day, we mourn, we weep, and we bury our dead, and the cry that goes up as thousands of Ulstermen and women 527 walk behind the caskets on our country roads is, "Will it ever stop?" or, "Who is next?" The question is not, "Will there be a next?", but my people are asking, "Who is next?" Perhaps someone sitting at home sympathising with that widow will tonight leave behind a widow and little children as orphans. It seems that we rear our children — I have five — just to be mown down by the IRA gunmen at will. Does anyone really care?
Are there any Members in the House today who would accept that level of violence in their constituencies without being enraged? Yet an eminent Member of the House once said that there is an acceptable level of violence in Ulster. Until the Government show the will and determination to win in Northern Ireland that they showed in the Falklands, death, destruction and despair will continue to be a way of life in our Province. The long-drawn-out murder campaign by the IRA and the inactivity of successive British Governments have led to cynicism among the Unionists of Northern Ireland. In the Falklands, when the Government's reputation was at stake, money and effort could be found to deal with the problem. No effort was spared to free 1,800 British citizens from under the heel of a terrible aggressor.
Unlike Opposition Members, I salute the resolute leadership given to our nation by the Prime Minister, and I congratulate her on her forthright and honourable stand for freedom. We in Ulster were proud that Her Majesty's Government were not willing to sacrifice the lives of our gallant service men, but that they efficiently and effectively finished the war in a proper military fashion. Although we must all grieve at the loss of any life in any war, and the lives lost in the Falklands war, Britain had restored to it a national pride in the fact that aggression would not succeed and that cherished freedom would be defended, no matter what the cost.
However, the position in Northern Ireland — not distant relatives but part of the same British family—has been allowed to drag on, not for a few months but for many years. We seem to be a political pawn in an international game. We have admired the efforts of our young service men, but we genuinely believe that their political masters have tied their hands rather than risk the wrath of the press and the international community, which is manipulated by the IRA propaganda machine.
I pay tribute to the members of the security forces who continually risk their lives in the streets and in the countryside of Ulster, both on duty and off duty. I make a solemn appeal to the Government: do not let the matter continue for another 13 years. Perhaps some hon. Members do not remember it, but there was a time when Ulster lived in peace. [Interruption.] It may be funny to some people but 2,000 dead bodies are not laughable. When our fellow British citizens died as service men in the Falklands, the rest of the family, and we as part of it, did not think that funny either.
There was a time when we did live in peace. Prosperity did blossom and tranquillity reigned. I pay tribute to the gallant Ulster special constabulary, who courageously maintained the peace of Ulster although they were maligned both inside and outside this House by men whose avowed aim was to see Ulster out of the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, to appease Republicanism, that dedicated force was disbanded, and our children have witnessed nothing but death and tragedy ever since.
If only I could take hon. Members to the homes of the victims. If only they could take the hand of the sorrowing 528 widow and see the scars that have been caused by the IRA. If they did, I am sure that they would feel as I do. I do feel passionately about this, because I lost two of my own loved ones who were murdered by the IRA. A young girl of 21, just engaged to be married, went out to show her aunt her engagement ring, proud that she had put it on her finger. Her young brother of 16 went with her. The remains of that 16-year-old boy were scooped up in a plastic bag.
When I went to identify the body, I witnessed a few bones with some flesh on them. They looked as if they had been savaged by a wild animal. The girl of 21 had half her head blown off and her body burst wide open. The effects of such deaths devastated the family. The mother, who saw them go out but not return—closed coffins came back— at the early age of 41 died last October of a broken heart. That is what is happening in Ulster I assure the House that that is not funny.
Death is continuing on every hand in our community. The appeal from the people of Ulster, who want to live as part of this family, is, "Stamp out these evil men." Not only is strong action needed in the apprehension of these criminals, but a punishment that fits the crime must he administered. I say now that in the debate on hanging I shall be clearly voting for action that takes these murderers out of circulation for ever. We in Ulster make our choice. I would rather have a dead martyr any day than a living murderer, because a dead martyr cannot shoot someone in the back, fire the gun or set the bomb, whereas a living murderer so often has.
We in Ulster—I know that hon. Members perhaps feel the same—are sick of looking at such sights. A people's patience is running out. Must they live like this for the rest of their lives? No free people should have to suffer that.
History proves that Ulster gladly gave its sons and daughters to fight for Britain at the call of duty. We did not need conscription. The history books and the facts show that they went gladly. We love freedom, and, no matter what action we must take to maintain it, we shall never—I say this whether it is liked or not never surrender to these Republicans; nor will we let them win in Ulster.
Some people are under the misapprehension that the IRA is fighting for its legitimate aspirations and is using violence to counter the repression that it has experienced. Let me lay that myth to rest. The IRA has two aims. The first and the most important aim is to drive the Protestants out of parts of Northern Ireland and eventually to get them out altogether. Then it will be Sinn Fein alone. Isolated farmers are threatened. Members of their families are killed with the sole aim of intimidating the survivors, who have no one to sell the farms to but Republicans, because no one will go into those areas any more. It is nothing short of genocide, and it is happening on a large scale in Mid-Ulster. Secondly, the IRA knows that it can never win its case through the ballot box. So it seeks by violence to pervert the democratic process.
Her Majesty's Government say in the Gracious Speech:the people of Northern Ireland will continue to be offered a framework for participation in local democracy and political progress on the basis of widespread acceptance throughout the community".The Anglo-Irish talks and their insistence on power-sharing give the gunmen the incentive to continue their campaign. As a Unionist, I reject any interference in 529 Northern Ireland by the Government of the Irish Republic, who give moral support to the IRA through the continued constitutional claim that they make on British territory, and give physical shelter to the IRA gunmen by refusing to extradite them.
I earnestly beseech this Government not to go down the road of such dangerous talks. The Unionist population says clearly, "A united Ireland, never." If any in this House are in cloud-cuckoo-land or a dream world, believing that a million Protestants in Ulster will surrender their precious heritage, it would be good for them to awake from their sleep. I assure the House that, after the deaths that have occurred in our Province, we are British, we are proud to be British, it has cost us to remain British, and British by the grace of God we will remain.
I want to see in our country a fully developed Government, based on British democracy. My party has not tried to wreck the Northern Ireland Assembly. Rather, we have sought to use it to introduce better and more effective government to Northern Ireland. I assure the House that direct rule is and has been a fiasco. We have not gone sulking into the corner, like the SDLP and the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume), trying to outdo their fellow Republicans, Sinn Fein, in not taking their seats in the Assembly. Neither have we acted like spoilt children, like members of the Official Unionist party who, because all the sweets were not given to them, would not play any more.
This Government must get away from the idea that a power-sharing solution is possible. The hon. Member for Foyle knows that in Londonderry, where the SDLP is in the majority, it has taken every key post for itself. I am a member of a district council, where the SDLP majority has taken every key post. There is no power-sharing there, none whatsoever. Listening to the hon. Member's speech today, one would have thought that he was a moderate in-between. I remind the House that it was a member of that hon. Gentleman's own party who, when 19 British soldiers were murdered at Warrenpoint, is on record as saying, "I shed no tears over them." That was the day on which Lord Mountbatten himself was murdered. When it was put to the hon. Gentleman that many of those young British soldiers were of his own religion, he said, "But they were not Irish."
We live in a sad time, but I ask Her Majesty's Government to allow our people to have the rule of their country as a part of the British family. I ask this House and the Government this evening to give us security, to give us democracy, and to allow our people to live in peace.
§ Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley)
I am grateful for the opportunity that you have given me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to make my maiden speech in this debate. I am very aware of the traditions of the House, and of the many excellent maiden speeches made in the debate by other hon. Members. I congratulate the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea) on his maiden speech, which he delivered so powerfully.
It is a great privilege to be elected to the House, and I sincerely thank the people of Burnley for giving me their support and electing me to represent them. It was in 1918 that Burnley first chose a Labour Member to represent it in Parliament, when Dan Irving was elected. In 1931, 530 Burnley temporarily left Labour, but it returned to Labour in 1935 and has been represented by Labour continuously since that time. It will be my intention at all times to fight for Burnley and its residents, and I hope that I shall justify their confidence in me.
Burnley has a long tradition as a constituency, and I am pleased that the name has not been changed, although the boundaries are new. It now includes the whole of the new borough, which, in addition to the urban areas of Burnley and Padiham, also includes six parish wards. Therefore, we have a mix of varied industries and agriculture, terraced houses, new housing, and large and attractive rural areas. In the previous Parliament, the rural areas were part of the Clitheroe constituency and were then represented by the hon. and learned Member for the new constituency of Ribble Valley (Mr. Waddington). I can say in all honesty that, while I was leader of the Burnley council, despite our being poles apart politically, we were always able to get from him a good and co-operative response on the non-political issues facing Burnley. It was much appreciated and was to the advantage of Burnley.
I pay tribute, however, to the former hon. Member for Burnley for nearly 24 years, Dan Jones. Hon. Members on both sides of the House will, I know, agree that Dan always fought hard and vigorously for Burnley. In the constituency, his service and his availablity to his constituents were second to none. That was why Dan was made a freeman of the borough in 1981. I hope that I can match him in his service to Burnley in the years that lie ahead. I know that the good wishes of all hon. Members will go to Dan for a speedy recovery to good health, a return to his home and a happy retirement.
I know that by tradition this speech should be non-controversial. That will not be easy, because the Gracious Speech itself is controversial. As a Socialist, I regrettably see nothing in the Gracious Speech that will help to solve the problems of Britain or those of my constituents. The Government's proposals on defence are regrettable. We should be clearly saying no to cruise and no to Trident. I believe that both weapons pose a threat to the security of the country and provide no defence.
The proposals for the Falkland Islands announced yesterday are a great waste of money when there is so much to be done in Britain, but, as I do not wish to be too controversial, I shall not develop those issues today. Let us hope that the Government will have second thoughts on those issues, and will use the money needed for Trident and fortress Falklands on efforts to get people back to work.
Burnley has suffered unemployment problems on many occasions. Our traditional industries of coal and cotton have suffered badly over the years. Coal has gone completely and textiles are only a shadow of what they used to be. Even our new industries are struggling — Burco, Prestige, Michelin, Mullard, Lucas and many others have made cuts in their labour forces.
It is not acceptable for 13.3 per cent. of the population to be unemployed. Although that is lower than the average for the north-west, it is slightly higher than that for the rest of north-east Lancashire. Figures show that one in eight of the workers of Burnley is out of work. The true level is probably nearer one in seven. That cannot be allowed to continue. A change in Government policy is essential if we are to solve the problem.
The Gracious Speech refers to problems arising from rates, but most industrialists that I have met complain 531 about energy costs and little about rates. Burnley has a proud tradition of fighting to retain jobs and attracting new ones and is part of the north-east Lancashire enterprise zone which will start to function later this year. However, an enterprise zone alone is no solution to our problems and will do little to create the new jobs that we want.
Burnley has a motorway that, when completed, will not link up with the M6 to the west or with anything in the east. I hope that the Government will seriously think about that again and will change their policy and link the M65 with the rest of the motorway network
There is no direct rail network from Burnley to Manchester or even to Preston which is just over 20 miles away. A journey to Preston takes nearly an hour. We need such a line to be maintained and to receive major improvements. If any of the Serpell recommendations are accepted, we are likely to have no rail link at all. That would be disastrous for north-east Lancashire and Burnley.
The Government's proposals on rate limitations are undemocratic and unfair. In terms of poundage, Burnley's rate is the highest in Lancashire but, in terms of cash paid per head of the population, its rates are among the lowest in the country. However, in the Government's terms, Burnley is a high spender. Furthermore, the Government recognise Burnley as a deprived area—it received inner urban area designation earlier this year The only way in which to tackle the problem is to spend money. The council has the will and determination to do so. Do the Government intend to back the council and let it get on with the job or do they intend to starve it of money? The Government often seem unaware that it is not simply a case of providing capital for local government, because capital expenditure has revenue implications which must be taken into account if they impose any more restrictions on rates.
My hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, South (Mr. Hughes) referred yesterday to the need to limit rent increases. I agree with him. As nearly 500 houses in Burnley are empty, it is clear that the rents are too high. There are two extreme examples. One is an estate called Kibble Bank which was built in the early 1970s. One quarter of the houses on that estate have been sold to the tenants. Therefore, the houses must be acceptable. As a former tenant of one of those houses, I can assure the House that they are good. While one qt. after of the estate has been sold, another quarter stands empty. Why? Because the rents are too high. People cannot afford to remain tenants as Government policy has forced council house rents ever higher.
At the other extreme is a pre-war council estate called Bleak House. The houses are basically good, but they urgently need modernisation and a massive injection of capital. Nearly one third of those houses stand empty. The estate, which I represent on the local council, needs urgent attention. An estates management officer has been appointed and the council is giving the problems and possible solutions urgent attention. However, if that problem is tackled, something else that is equally important will have to be deleted from the housing programme. Even an additional HIP allocation would not solve the problem. Housing improvement in the public sector has massive revenue implications for local government. Its cost must be met out of higher rates or higher rents, neither of which is acceptable at the moment.
532 The Government must ensure that improvements in public sector housing receive fair treatment, equal to that accorded to the private sector. Many parts of the country would be assisted by an early notification of the future levels of grants for improvements, repairs and the rest. That would ensure continuity of work beyond 31 March next year in the private housing sector. That matter is of great concern to my constituency which has many old but solid stone-built terraced houses.
I believe that a non-nuclear defence policy based on conventional weapons would not only give us better security and a safer future for our children, but would release the resources necessary to tackle the problems in my constituency and the rest of the country.
§ Sir Frederic Bennett (Torbay)
The restraints of time prevent my paying the usual tribute to the two maiden speakers who preceded me. I am sure that they will have the opportunity to make their mark. I was particularly grateful to the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) for referring in his closing remarks to the subject of today's debate, although I could not agree with him.
I have one theme to stress. One of my few regrets that the election was called when it was is that it robbed the House of a promised two-day debate on disarmament and defence. That is a pity and I hope that the Secretary of State and others will not regard today's debate, which has ranged wide, as a substitute for a full two-day debate. We have not given the subject adequate treatment today.
In that respect the election was like fighting a battle with a ball of cotton wool. I tried to watch all the television broadcasts by spokesmen from the Labour party and the alliance. I was as confused about their policies on defence and deterrence at the end of the campaign as I was at the beginning. I suspect that they were equally confused.
I have examined today's official Opposition amendment with care. We want to know whether the official Opposition are still in favour of effective action on unilateral nuclear disarmament within the lifetime of this Parliament. I do not mind what the argument is, one way or the other, but we are entitled to know their thoughts. Only if we know can we have a constructive argument. Even those who disagree with me must admit that a muddled series of statements have been made by the official Opposition and by the alliance, which hopes to become the official Opposition.
I want to analyse the arguments for unilateral nuclear disarmament as I see them. The first involves setting an example. We have had two or three opportunities to see what happens when we set an example. Back in 1957 the British Government decided unilaterally to abandon chemical warfare and announced the destruction of all our stocks and the intention not to build any more. We said that we hoped others would follow that example. The Soviet Union's reaction was to multiply its chemical warfare weaponry tenfold. It now has about 300,000 tonnes, a significant proportion of which is being tried out on the unfortunate inhabitants on the borders of Thailand in south-east Asia and in Afghanistan. The evidence is clear for all to see. So that does not seem to be a good example of how setting a moral example achieves practical results. Furthermore, on the European central front a formidable amount of weaponry and manpower are ready and equipped for chemical warfare against the West.
533 A second instance of what happens when one sets an example is to be found in the removal by the United States of a number of tactical land-based nuclear weapons from Europe. Earlier today the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said that what we did was to shift our emphasis from land-based weapons to submarine-based weapons, but the figures show—I wish that I had the opportunity to read them to the House—that the Soviet Union's only reaction was to increase its submarine nuclear fleet and, at the same time, to develop its SS20 armaments which now threaten us. At this moment, 1,020 SS20 warheads are directed against the West and, as they are mobile, all the talk about their pointing East or West is irrelevant. Each one of those warheads has 12 times the destructive power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
We are told that we must negotiate, but we do not have a single land-based nuclear weapon in Europe — the French have 18 — which could possibly reach the borders of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union has from 650 to 1,050 warheads, depending on which figure one cares to use in debate. So the figure for negotiation is somewhere between nought on our side and the figure that I have mentioned for the other side. It is difficult to halve nought. It is difficult to give away a quarter of nought, or a part of nought, but that is the position into which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is being pushed at the moment. Having agreed to the zero option, which is none at all for anyone, we are now being asked to give up something on condition that the number of SS20s is reduced, but so far the only Soviet answer has been to point out that our negotiating position is nought and nothing more. How it is possible to negotiate on nought has yet to be explained to me.
I must draw to the attention of Opposition Members a subject with which they may not be well acquainted, but one with which all political personalities in Scandinavia are concerned. At a time when a nuclear-free zone for Scandinavia and the Baltic is being advocated, Soviet nuclear-armed submarines are regularly invading the territorial waters of countries around the Baltic sea.
Another argument is that an adequate balance of weapons, both nuclear and conventional, has been reached and that therefore we have no need to take the steps that the Government are advocating with regard to our nuclear deterrent and the stationing of cruise missiles in Britain. A study of the figures shows that there is no such adequate balance.
A further argument is that conventional weaponry is preferable to nuclear weaponry. Those countries that have adopted the Opposition's attitude and have thought it better to rely on conventional weapons have suffered 6 million deaths since the war. Those figures are on record. The idea that, because one gives up nuclear weapons, one suddenly inherits an era of peace has no basis at all.
I must spare a word for the alliance. I am not sure what it wants. As I interpret its position, it is reluctantly—although not vocally or articulately—prepared to accept cruise missiles in Britain and Europe. It is also reluctantly prepared to keep our present nuclear submarine deterrent, but not to agree to any form of modernisation. It is a ludicrous pose when a party says that it is prepared to keep the national nuclear deterrent as a last resort provided that it is obsolescent and increasingly ineffective. That is not only immoral; it is a total fallacy for the possibilities of 534 providing any argument that would induce the Soviet Union to enter a constructive discourse on disarmament with the West — something that we are currently engaged upon.
Because I wish to hear more about that discourse, I readily sit down so that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State can provide us with the material and evidence to support what I have said this evening in a short space of time. I do not have the slightest lack of confidence in my right hon. Friend. I know that he will fill the gaps in my speech.
§ Mr. Bill Walker
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. While I understand the constraints that exist in the debate with so many new Members speaking, I wish to draw your attention to the fact that part of the debate is about Trident, which will be based in Scotland. Yet no Scots from the Conservative Benches have been called in the debate. In addition, some hon. Members were called who were absent from the Chamber for long periods and those—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I explained at the beginning of the debate that it would be difficult to include every hon. Member who wished to speak. If the hon. Gentleman has been here for most of the time, he will have heard some hon. Members speaking for rather longer than others, thereby preventing their colleagues from speaking.
§ 9.2 pm
§ Mr. Eric Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
I have to disappoint the hon. Member for Torbay (Sir F. Bennett). I have not yet been appointed Secretary of State for Defence. The hon. Gentleman will have to wait for another half an hour before he hears what his right hon. Friend has to say.
The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) said that this was the day of the maidens. There has been a considerable number of maiden speeches and I apologise if I do not know all the constituencies. It is difficult for older Members to fit together new names, faces and constituencies. I found all the maiden speeches interesting. The hon. Member for Clwyd, South-West (Mr. Harvey) clearly has a mind of his own. His Front Bench will take note of what he said about the Falklands. Indeed, the Prime Minister should take note of his remarks.
I notice that some new hon. Members who have spoken already have the bad habit of disappearing from the Chamber and not returning. Even though they are not present, I must tell them that I hope that that will not be the position in future. When hon. Members make speeches they should stay in the Chamber and listen to other speeches, and should certainly be here to listen to the Front Bench replies to the debate. I find it difficult to be nice to hon. Members who are not here. Perhaps I should ignore the maiden speeches other than those of hon. Members who are in the House.
The hon. Member for Bristol, East (Mr. Sayeed) was generous about his two predecessors and especially about Mr. Tony Benn, who is a great loss to the House. I hope that he will be back in the House at the earliest possible moment.
The flavour of Northern Ireland was brought into the debate in two speeches. One was by the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) and, although I cannot say that he made 535 a maiden speech—because he is a well-known politician in his own right in other assemblies — he made an interesting and moving contribution and what he said about Northern Ireland must be taken on board. There was a lot of truth in what he said, especially when he asked whether psychologically we had opted out of the problem of Northern Ireland. I believe that many hon. Members have done that because they are not certain of the type of solution there should be of the Northern Ireland problem.
In that connection, the speech of the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea), if I may be somewhat rude to him, was a rather sectarian contribution and was not too helpful, although I understand absolutely the deep feelings he holds, as does everybody, about the loss of human life, particularly when we are speaking of friends. I fought in the last war along with many good Catholic people from Northern Ireland. Thousands from Southern Ireland also fought and died in the war. In other words, not just Protestants from Ireland fought in the war. That is sometimes forgotten.
The hon. Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) made an extremely elegant speech. There must be general agreement with his remarks about Trident. The hon. Member for Wantage (Mr. Jackson)—who unfortunately is not in his place—and I have known each other for some time. Indeed, we met on a vaporetto in Venice many years ago, long before he became an MEP. We had a friendly argument then about politics and I am sure that we shall have many more in the future. My hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) made an excellent and interesting speech and I am sure that he will be a great successor to our old friend in the House, Dan Jones.
The right hon. Member for Down, South said that the two main issues of today's debate—Labour's attitude to and policy for withdrawal from the European Community and our policy on nuclear weapons—had not come to the fore in the general election. I assure him that both subjects were put in clear terms to the electorate on Merseyside, whatever may have happened elsewhere, and on Merseyside the Labour vote not only held up, but showed a swing towards us. There may be a lesson in that for the party as a whole. We put our policies on both subjects in the clearest possible terms.
The case made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) for an inquiry into the sinking of the Belgrano must be taken seriously by the Government, who must answer the questions put by him today and by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), who the other day also called for such an inquiry. I believe that we should have an inquiry. It would benefit the House and the country to have it at the earliest possible moment.
The Prime Minister's speech on Wednesday had a bossy certainty about it. The right hon. Lady always knows best. She knows what is good for the British people whether they want it or not. Millions of our citizens detest her policies and hate everything for which she and her Government stand. The Government must not allow themselves to be carried away because their party won the election on a reduced vote. It would be wonderful if just once the right hon. Lady showed some humility and admitted that perhaps she could be wrong, that perhaps everything is not right with the country and that her policies are not necessarily the best. Merely to say that things are getting better is not the same as seeing things actually getting better. The right hon. Lady's speech 536 contained the element of certainty that all her speeches contain, but it was designed to avoid answering some important questions.
I noted what the Foreign Secretary said about what I would say about the Common Market. Apparently he is interested in the Common Market and my views on it. I am delighted that someone should be interested in them. The policy of withdrawal from the Common Market that the Labour party advanced during the general election was correct and in the best interests of the British people—
§ Mr. Heffer
I do not retreat from that policy. I said that five years is a long time and it is obvious that it is. I do not think that one should be criticised for making what the right hon. and learned Gentleman described as a pretty obvious statement. The Labour party fought the election on a good manifesto that contained the right policies. I do not think that we need to make any apologies for it.
Since Britain has been a member of the Common Market, we have heard consistently from Ministers that progress is being made and that Britain is negotiating a better deal. We are told that we should look forward with confidence to our future in the Common Market. The right hon. Lady said that on Wednesday. She said:There is now a real prospect of an effective, outward-looking organisation of European states, well designed to bring about a more prosperous future for its people and to carry its benefits to a wider world."—[Official Report, 22 June 1983; Vo. 44, c. 61.]I hope that I shall be forgiven if I express some scepticism about those words. We have heard them all before. We have heard that sort of speech time after time. It is 10 years since we were taken into the Common Market by the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) and his Government. We are now told that we have the prospect—only the prospect—that things will get better in the market and that it might become an effective organisation.
One thing is certain—that over the past 10 years, despite all that was said by the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup and many others, the British people have gained no benefits from our being a member of the European Community. In yesterday's Daily Telegraph an interesting article describes the workings of the CAP and its cost to the British people and the effect that it has on our people.
We are constantly being asked to accept that the Prime Minister and her Ministers return from the EC with great triumphs. Every time the right hon. Lady and the Foreign Secretary go over there they return claiming that there has been a tremendous success. The latest success has been the budget rebate. If we have many more such triumphs, people will be living permanently on their knees.
Great Britain asked for £800 million at Stuttgart. It was expected that we would receive £650 million and we actually received £437 million. In effect, that means that the Government have accepted the assertion of other EC countries and officials that the United Kingdom has been overpaid in rebates over the previous years. To get even that we had to give away a great deal. That happens in all EC negotiations.
Although the Prime Minister has said that she is not in favour of the Community own resources being increased, 537 when she was questioned in the House by one of my hon. Friends she did not—nor did the Foreign Secretary today—give a clear commitment that the Government would not agree to an increase in VAT contributions to the Community. She cannot guarantee either that after the six-month schedule agreed for the discussion of financial reforms, which will culminate in the conference in Athens on 6 December, the European Parliament will not vote down the budget proposals. There is absolutely no guarantee on that.
I was among the group of people who met Mr. Pieter Dankert, the president of the Assembly, the other evening. I received the distinct impression from a brief conversation that there is a possibility that the Parliament will vote the proposals down. Next year there are European elections and the European Assembly will want to flex its muscles, to show how good and strong it is—in fact, where it stands, a bit of machoism. It will take advantage of that, following the Athens meetings. My guess is that it will vote the proposals down. The Government cannot guarantee that they will get the budget rebate that they have been promised.
We have the solemn declaration on European unity. The House and the British people should know that that declaration is intended to lead to a treaty of European union in five years. That would mean that the European Parliament would have greater powers and that there would be a speeding up of harmonisation on such issues as the social security system and criminal and procedural law in the Community.
Stuttgart has not been a great victory. It failed to attack the problems of unemployment and industrial decline. There was not one concrete proposal for co-ordinated reflation to create employment in the Community. There was a sell-out on the budget and there is likely to be a sellout on the VAT ceiling. There are prospects of increased powers for the European Parliament at the expense of the House. The moves towards European union are a matter of grave concern. The three-tier system suggested in the Tindemanns report, although it was never formally accepted, is already being put into effect. First, the Heads of Government are meeting, which is not in the treaty of Rome; second, there is the Council of Foreign Ministers; third, other Minsters are making up sub-committees.
The Prime Minister said:Freedom and justice are our most priceless possessions. We value them for ourselves and aspire to them for others, because the cause of freedom and justice knows no national boundaries." —[Official Report, 22 June 1983; Vol. 44, c. 59–60.]That is a wonderful statement. No democrat could disagree with it. However, the unhappy truth is that the Government and the right hon. Lady have double standards. She equates freedom purely with the free enterprise capitalist system. Therefore, it is a qualified freedom. She and all her Ministers say that they support Polish Solidarity and its fight for free trade unions in Poland. We believe that it is right that there should be free trade unions in Poland. Yet at the same time as Ministers say how important it is to have free trade unions in Poland, they are meeting Admiral Merino, a member of the Chilean junta. They are negotiating with him at the very moment when in Chile the trade union movement, which is in chains, is finding that the leaders that it has managed to retain are being put into Chilean gaols.
538 It is time that the Government stopped having double standards. Political freedom is indivisible. It is just as right to fight for political freedom in Chile, Turkey, South Africa and black African states as it is in Poland and East Europe. If Tory Members have double standards, we do not. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] We do not have double standards. Our people have consistently fought for the right for freedom and democracy in the the Soviet Union. I should like to hear some Conservative Members just once giving their support in the House of Commons to those in El Salvador who are fighting for their freedom, those in Chile and elsewhere.
The situation in Turkey is interesting. I have been to see Foreign Office Ministers about Turkey, urging them to say that unless democratic rights are restored in that country it will be condemned by NATO and the Council of Europe. Have they taken a stand in NATO? Have they done anything about it? The answer is clear. They have not.
I refer now to the argument about Labour's defence policy. [HON. MEMBERS: "What is it?"] I shall tell hon. Members what it is. It was in our manifesto. So that the House knows more accurately what the policy was—not the fantasy of Tory Members — I shall quote the manifesto. We said:Labour believes in effective defence through collective security but rejects the present emphasis on nuclear weapons. Britain and her allies should have sufficient military strength to discourage external aggression and to defend themselves, should they be attacked.The Labour party is not and never has been a pacifist party, but, although it wants sufficient conventional weapons so that we can defend ourselves, it is clearly opposed to nuclear weapons. The Labour party's manifesto states:Labour's commitment is to establish a non-nuclear defence policy for this country.We said that we would cancel the Trident programme and try to prevent the deployment here and elsewhere in western Europe of the cruise and Pershing missiles.
So that there is no dubiety, I again quote from the manifesto. It says that this means:The rejection of any fresh nuclear bases or weapons on British soil or in British waters, and the removal of all existing nuclear bases and weapons, thus enabling us to make a direct contribution to an eventually much wider nuclear-free zone in Europe.That policy was and would still be right for Britain. I hope that the Government might listen to the Opposition instead of some of their fantasies. Europe is in a dangerous position. The late Earl Mountbatten, in that famous speech in Strasbourg on 11 May 1979, said:Do the frightening facts about the arms race, which show that we are rushing headlong to the precipice, make any of those responsible for this disastrous course pull themselves together and reach for the brakes? The answer is 'No', and I only wish that I could be the bearer of glad tidings that there has been a change of attitude and we are beginning to see a steady rate of disarmament. Alas, that is not the case.Alas, it is still not the case.
The unfortunate truth is that no sooner have the fires of the second world war died than a handful of countries set out to make or improve the atomic bomb. They all wanted security. In that quest for security they sought a bigger and better bomb and so began the biggest, most wasteful and dangerous arms race in human history. Unless we begin the process of withdrawing from the precipice referred to by Earl Mountbatten, we are heading towards the total self-destruction of civilisation. The numbers of nuclear weapons today are such that the world could be destroyed 539 again and again. The nuclear defence burden for the British people is too great and it is especially too much for our shaky economy to bear.
On the one hand, defence spending is increasing. In real terms it will have risen by more than 23 per cent. between 1978–79 and 1983–84. Despite this privileged treatment for defence expenditure, with the extension of cash limits, workers in the naval dockyards at Chatham and Portsmouth are losing their jobs. Tie Government's emphasis on defence has been wrong and, as further expenditure on nuclear weapons is envisaged for the future, it will continue to be wrong.
During the years, the so-called tactical nuclear weapons have been developed. Leading NATO generals and admirals are making interesting speeches. The Canadian admiral Robert Falls, who is the chairman of NATO's military committee, is reported in The Guardian to have said:If arms control talks don't work then it might become necessary to act unilaterally to reduce—especially battlefield nuclear weapons—because we have perhaps more than we need.It would have been far better had Conservative Members listened to the NATO generals and admirals who were telling them another story, instead of going round the country during the election campaign smearing the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and trying to suggest that the people in CND and the Labour party were agents for Moscow and eastern Europe. It would be better now if the Government would take on board what NATO people are saying and what the Labour party is also saying.
What is the Minister's response to the Church of England Synod which voted certainly not for unilateral disarmament but that there should be no first use of nuclear weapons? Does he believe that the Synod is right, and can he give a clear assurance today that there will be no first use?
The Prime Minister came back from Williamsburg with the so-called agreement with President Reagan, but that is suspect for two reasons. First, I understand that it would be unconstitutional for such weapons to be handed over and, secondly, the Atomic Energy Act does not allow President Reagan to do it.
I conclude by quoting from a report last Sunday by the Sunday Telegraph crime correspondent, Christopher House, about children arrested on the picket line, or whatever one wishes to call it, at Upper Heyford— a part of the country that I know well as I was stationed there with the American Eighth Army air corps during the war years. One of those arrested, a 16-year-old girl, said:Although I was aware of the risk of being arrested, I also believed that I couldn't sit back without showing how much I was opposed to the nuclear threat.I don't believe that anyone has the right to pollute our world with weapons capable of mass destruction. Why should anyone have the right to put our future and our world in danger of extinction?".To me, the words of that child explain completely and better than anything else the basic attitude of the Labour party to the bomb.
§ The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Michael Heseltine)
I am sure that all hon. Members will agree that we have had an extremely wide-ranging debate. Perhaps the most conspicuous impact on today's debate, however, was the quality and coherence of so many maiden speeches from both sides. One new Member after another has 540 clearly shown that the election of 1983 has made a notable contribution to the quality of debate in the House. I hope that they will forgive me for not mentioning them individually. As there were so many, it would be invidious to single out any one and impossible to do justice to them all. Having heard so many of them, I add my sincere congratulations to those already extended to them.
Equally, there are many other contributions to which I cannot respond because the debate has ranged so widely. I hope that the House will therefore forgive me if I concentrate on the defence arguments put before us today.
Since the end of the second world war, British defence policy has had one objective—the preservation of our people in peace and freedom. Successive Governments have pursued that objective in the same way — by supporting the NATO Alliance of free nations. Britain has made four main contributions to that Alliance. The first has been the defence of our homeland. The second has been to provide powerful land and air forces on the continent of Europe. The third has been the maintenance of strong and flexible naval and maritime air forces. The fourth has been the maintenance of a last resort independent nuclear deterrent under the total control of the British Prime Minister. As a second centre of decision, and as a force committed to the Alliance, it has powerfully reinforced the Alliance's strategy of deterrence.
For the first time since the war, a genuine choice of defence policies has emerged before the British electorate, because the Labour party's policies have now struck at the heart of the consensus that has been maintained by all Governments since the war. Conversely, the policies for which I am responsible are the logical extension of everything that my predecessors as Secretaries of State for Defence have pursued. We shall maintain our four main defence roles and, as the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) said, we are pledged to maintain real increases in defence expenditure up to 1985–86 in line with NATO targets, which will allow us to continue with the modernisation of our conventional forces. Within our budgets, we shall modernise Britain's independent nuclear deterrent by replacing Polaris with Trident.
That decision involves two issues. The first is whether Britain needs an independent deterrent. That is the critical decision, and it follows that, if it does, a secondary question must be asked about the nature of the weapons system that should make up that independent deterrent. The Labour party criticised Trident, not on its merits as a weapons system but because the party is committed, as the hon. Member for Walton spelt out clearly— with a clarity that escaped many speeches by Labour Members during the election campaign—to pursue a one-sided, non-nuclear policy regardless of the response of the Soviet Union and the threat that it might pose to British interests, and irrespective of the weapons system that we choose as an independent deterrent. That is how the Labour party rejects Trident. It is a reversal of everything that any Labour Secretary of State for Defence since the war has believed.
Trident, by updating Polaris, will give Britain a credible last-resort deterrent for the 1990s and beyond. As the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) made clear, it will have a greater capability than Polaris, but the scale of Russia's nuclear deployments and the threats that they could pose to our deterrent are larger than those which were faced when Polaris was designed in the 1950s. Therefore, it would be irresponsible of the Government of 541 the day to avoid a considered and timely decision to update our Polaris capability. That is as true today as it was when the Labour Governments of Sir Harold Wilson and the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan) updated Polaris with the Chevaline system. It is as true today in Britain as it is in France, where President Mitterrand has given us the clearest Socialist insight into his willingness to trust the Soviet Union. However, the difference is that the Labour Government of 1974–79 updated Britain's independent deterrent Polaris in secret, fearing the effect of publication upon their Back-Bench Members. The Conservative party has openly proclaimed its policies and put them to the electorate, and it has decisively won the argument with the electorate.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, East quoted the figures for the Trident programme. During its introduction Trident will cost about £7.5 billion, but that will be during a period when the total defence budget will be more than £250 billion, which puts the matter in a proper perspective. Even in the peak years of expenditure, Trident will cost only 10 per cent. of the equipment budget of my Ministry, and the Government believe that that is a legitimate charge to the cost of our national and NATO defence policies. We were elected on a mandate to proceed—and proceed we shall—to prepare Trident for service in the mid-1990s.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Did I hear the hon. Gentleman use an unparliamentary word? If so, will he withdraw it?
§ Mr. Foulkes
Is it not the case that more people throughout the United Kingdom voted for parties that wanted to scrap Trident and wanted no cruise missiles on this soil than voted for the Conservatives? Therefore, the Tory party has no mandate for either of these things.
§ Mr. Heseltine
I can just hear the hon. Gentleman's reaction to phoney arguments of that sort were a Labour Government on these Benches today.
As the whole House realises, the deployment of cruise missiles is now a critical matter with which we must deal. It is important to know something of the history and background within which that decision was reached. Five days before the Conservative Government were elected in 1979, the Labour Government of the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth committed themselves, along with their NATO allies, to maintain and modernise the nuclear NATO capability. Those right hon. and hon. Members sitting on the Opposition Benches now say that there was no such need for nuclear capability. I notice that they do not shake their heads in disagreement.
I noticed the Leader of the Opposition shaking his head in disbelief when I referred to the fact that he must have known that the NATO communique in the name of the Government of which he was a prominent member made it absolutely clear that: 542In their consideration of NATO's requirements, as part of the Long-Term Defence Programme, to modernise theatre nuclear forces, Ministers"—of the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman was a member—reaffirmed that NATO could not rely on conventional forces alone for credible deterrence in Europe; and that, without increasing dependence on nuclear weapons or prejudicing long-term defence improvements in conventional forces, it would be necessary to maintain and modernise theatre nuclear forces".They were the policies of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Blaenau Gwent)
I absolutely repudiate the right hon. Gentleman's charge. If he wants all the documents relating to that time published, let him seek proper permission for doing so. He will then understand the matters that were discussed. The charge that he makes has already been repudiated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) and others. If the right hon. Gentleman wants all the documents relating to that period published — I am strongly in favour of doing so—he will have to seek permission from the proper place.
§ Mr. Heseltine
There is no need to seek further evidence than the press communiqué to which a Minister in the Government to whom I referred gave his name in April 1979. It is on the record, and right hon. Members are now trying to change their minds.
§ Mr. Foot
My right hon. Friend will quote in a moment from the document that the right hon. Gentleman is quoting. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to behave properly to the House and the country, he should seek permission to have all these documents published. The right hon. Gentleman is trying to say that a decision was taken by that Government to go ahead on the basis that he said. That has been repudiated on many previous occasions. If he wants to have Cabinet minutes published, let him ask for the proper permission. He cannot quote them in the distorted way that he has done here. My right hon. Friend will now quote the document from which he was quoting. I repudiate entirely the charge that the right hon. Gentleman seeks to make. If he has nothing better to do than that, he had better pack up altogether.
§ Mr. Heseltine
I must tell the leader of the Labour party that there is only one candidate for packing up 543 altogether, and it is he. The issue is absolutely clear. NATO took a decision that it was necessary to modernise its intermediate range weapons.
§ Mr. Healey
No. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman has finally made a statement that is totally untrue. The communiquéé to which he refers, which was the communiqué of the NATO nuclear planning group a few days before the general election, on 25 April, says on the subject of the longer-range theatre-based element in NATO forces thatNo decisions were taken at this stage… consideration of a modernisation effort would need to take full account of arms control possibilities and … these are being studied in further depth by a special group recently set up in NATO for this purpose".In other words, the right hon. Gentleman is making a statement that he knows to be untrue when he says that NATO decided then in favour of modernising intermediate range nuclear missiles. The right hon. Gentleman must withdraw that statement, because he knows it to be untrue. I quoted the statement.
§ Mr. Heseltine
NATO took a decision that it would be necessary to maintain and modernise theatre nuclear forces. After that issue in principle had been resolved by the Labour Government, this Government had to decide on the specific weapon system. That decision led this Government to determine to fulfil the pledge made by the Labour Government about the cruise missile system. That is what happened.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The right hon. Gentleman has been here a very long time and he well knows that if the Secretary of State does not give way he cannot press his question.
§ Mr. Healey
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Of course I respect your ruling, as I always will, but the right hon. Gentleman made a statement that the Labour Government had agreed to modernise intermediate range nuclear forces. In fact, the right hon. Gentleman has now made a different statement. Will he admit now that he was not telling the truth to the House a moment ago?[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Heseltine
I have only—[Interruption.] All I have done is to quote from the documents of the previous Labour Government. [Interruption.] I know how embarrassing those documents are, but it does not lie in my gift to withdraw the truth of their own records. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. John Morris
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in accordance with the traditions of this House, especially at the beginning of a Session, for a senior Minister to make allegations of the sort that have been made and for him not to give way when the matter is still severely tested?
§ Mr. Speaker
The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows that that is frequently done. If the Minister does not give way, he must be allowed to continue his speech.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. We are at the beginning of a Session. This is a very important debate on the Queen's Speech. I hope that the House will give a fair hearing to the Secretary of State. Many things are said in this Chamber with which other hon. Members disagree. They may disagree with the Secretary of State, but it is his speech.
§ Mr. Foot
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not the case that, according to the customs of this House, when a right hon. or hon. Member—particularly a Minister—makes allegations referring to particular documents, the documents should be agreed to be laid before the House? I understand that the right hon. Gentleman is referring not only to the NATO document to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) has referred —I should have thought that on that basis he already owes the House an apology which he has not yet had the grace to make — but is going further and making allegations about what was said by the previous Government. That is a question of Cabinet minutes. If the Secretary of State is to make allegations concerning what happened in the Cabinet, he must have permission to lodge those documents with the House.
It is not right for the Secretary of State to conic to this House, make wild allegations, and then not be prepared to lay the documents before the House. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I am asking, on a point of order, that you give a ruling that all the documents to which the Secretary of State has referred, which must include Cabinet documents, should be laid before the House.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I have been trying to listen to what the Secretary of State has been saying. As I understand it, he has been quoting from a public document —I believe a press communiqué—and that is quite in order.
§ Mr. Heseltine
I am quoting from a press release—[HON MEMBERS: "Oh"]—which was issued by NATO as a result of the meeting at which Mr. Fred Mulley, the Secretary of State for Defence in the previous Labour Government, represented the Government. The Leader of the Opposition said that I am taking words out of context 545 and that I am quoting Ministers without the evidence. Let me try once again to quote from the document which Mr. Mulley approved. [Interruption.] It said:In their consideration of NATO's requirements, as part of the Long-Term Defence Programme, to modernise theatre nuclear forces, Ministers reaffirmed that NATO could not rely on conventional forces alone".One of those Ministers was Fred Mulley, the Labour Secretary of State.
§ Mr. Speaker
If the Secretary of State does not wish to give way, the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) must not persist.
§ Mr. Healey
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As the Secretary of State has practically admitted to telling an untruth, will you allow him to take the Mace away again?[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Healey
I apologise, Mr. Speaker, if you were unable to hear my point of order because of the outcry from the Conservative Benches. As the right hon. Gentleman now confesses to having made an untrue statement, will you allow him to take the Mace away once again?
§ Mr. Heseltine
It is a devastating reflection on the divisions within the Labour party that, throughout the general election campaign, the right hon. Member for Leeds, East tried to hide his party's defence policies. He is now trying to stop me from expounding our defence policy in the House. If we intend to discuss the record of those right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House who have served in the Ministry of Defence, we should remember what the right hon. Member for Leeds, East said when he held my post and what he wrote as a reflection of it in The Guardian of 12 April 1981. [Interruption.] We should understand what the ex-Secretary of State for Defence, who is now the deputy leader of the Labour party, believed. He said:Whether we like it or not, it is the stability of the military balance between NATO and the Warsaw powers which has kept Europe at peace for over 30 years when over 20 million people have been killed in wars outside Europe.NATO's nuclear strategy is an essential part of that balance. To threaten to upset it by refusing to let America base any of her nuclear weapons in Britain would make war more likely, not less likely.Within two years of saying that, the right hon. Gentleman was campaigning throughout the country to elect a Labour Government who would have driven American nuclear bases out of Britain. [HON. MEMBERS: "Take the Mace away again."] I have quoted the right hon. Gentleman's own words. He said that refusing to allow American nuclear weapons in Britain would make war more, not less, likely. Under the apparent unity of the Labour manifesto, there is an irreconcilable division. [Interruption.] During the election campaign, there were ceaseless attempts to put over a range of different defence policies. If a prime objective of defence is to confuse one's 546 enemy, the Labour party did a first-class job during the election campaign. However, it did not confuse the British people, who saw through it with devastating clarity.
I shall conclude with one more quotation:We must have strong defences not for their own sake but to preserve our right to live in freedom. Once we cut defence expenditure to the extent where our security is imperilled we have no houses, we have no hospitals, we have no schools: we have a heap of cinders.Those are the words of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East. They are as true today as when he first said them. The first and overriding duty of any British Government is to secure the defence of peace and liberty. The Government will not betray that trust, no matter how much the Opposition now try to betray everything that they have stood for during nearly 30 years in government and opposition. [Interruption.] The Opposition should know that Attlee would not have behaved like this. Harold Wilson would not have behaved like this and nor would the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth. The Labour party has sold out to the Left. The only party that the country can depend on for defence now forms the Government. The Labour party has sold out to the Left. The only party that this country can depend on today for its defence is this Government's party.
§ Question put, That the amendment be made:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 215, Noes 375.550
|Division No. 1]||[10 pm|
|Abse, Leo||Cook, Frank (Stockton North)|
|Adams, Allen (Paisley N)||Cook, Robin (Livingston)|
|Alton, David||Corbett, Robin|
|Anderson, Donald||Corbyn, Jeremy|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Cowans, Harry|
|Ashdown, Paddy||Craigen, J. M.|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Crowther, Stan|
|Ashton, Joe||Dalyell, Tarn|
|Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)|
|Barnett, Guy||Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'I)|
|Barron, Kevin||Deakins, Eric|
|Beckett, Mrs. Margaret||Dewar, Donald|
|Beith, A. J.||Dixon, Donald|
|Bell, Stuart||Dobson, Frank|
|Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)||Dormand, Jack|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Douglas, Dick|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Dubs, Alfred|
|Blair, Anthony||Duffy, A. E. P.|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Dunwoody, Hon Mrs. G.|
|Boyes, Roland||Eadie, Alex|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Evans, loan (Cynon Valley)|
|Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)||Evans, John (St. Helens N)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Ewing, Harry|
|Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)||Fatchett, Derek|
|Brown R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N)||Faulds, Andrew|
|Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)||Field, Frank (Birkenhead)|
|Bruce, Malcolm||Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)|
|Buchan, Norman||Fisher, Mark|
|Caborn, Richard||Flannery, Martin|
|Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)||Foot, Rt Hon Michael|
|Campbell, Ian||Forrester, John|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)|
|Canavan, Dennis||Foster, Derek|
|Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)||Foulkes, George|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Fraser, J. (Norwood)|
|Cartwright, John||Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Freud, Clement|
|Clarke, Thomas (Monkl'ds W)||Garrett, W. E.|
|Clay, Robert||George, Bruce|
|Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)||Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr. John|
|Cohen, Harry||Godman, Norman|
|Coleman, Donald||Gould, Bryan|
|Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.||Hamilton, W. W. (Fife Central)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Hardy, Peter|
|Harman, Harriet (Peckham)||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Pendry, Tom|
|Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith||Penhaligon, David|
|Haynes, Frank||Pike, Peter|
|Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (Down S)|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|Hogg, N. (C'nauld amp; Kilsyth)||Prescott, John|
|Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)||Radice, Giles|
|Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)||Randall, Stuart|
|Howells, Geraint||Redmond, M.|
|Hoyle, Douglas||Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)|
|Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Richardson, Jo|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Roberts, Allan (Bootle)|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport East)||Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)|
|Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)||Robertson, George|
|Hughes, Simon (Southwark)||Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)|
|Janner, Hon Greville||Rogers, Allan.|
|Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd)||Rooker, J. W.|
|John, Brynmor||Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Kinnock, Neil||Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)|
|Lambie, David||Rowlands, Ted|
|Lamond, James||Ryman, John|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Leighton, Ronald||Sheldon, Rt Hon R.|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Lewis, Terence (Worsley)||Short, Clare (B'ham Ladyw')|
|Litherland, Robert||Short, Mrs H.W'hamp'n NE)|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford)|
|Loyden, Edward||Skinner, Dennis|
|McCartney, Hugh||Smith, C.(lsl'ton S amp; F'bury)|
|McCusker, Harold||Smith, Cynl (Rochdale)|
|McDonald, DrOonagh||Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)|
|McGuire, Michael||Smyth, Rev W. M. (Belfast S)|
|MacKay, Allen (Penistone)||Snape, Peter|
|McKelvey, William||Soley, Clivie|
|MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Spearing, Nigel|
|McNamara, Kevin||Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)|
|McTaggart, Robert||Stott, Roger|
|McWilliam, John||Strang, Gavin|
|Madden, Max||Straw, Jack|
|Maginnis, Ken||Taylor, John (Strangford)|
|Marek, Dr John||Thomas, Dafydd (Merionydd)|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Thomas, D' R. (Carmarthen)|
|Martin, Michael||Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)|
|Mason, Rt Hon Roy||Thorne, Stan (Preston)|
|Maxton, John||Tinn, James|
|Maynard, Miss Joan||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Meacher, Michael||Wainwright, R.|
|Michie, William||Wallace, James|
|Mikardo, Ian||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Wareing, Robert|
|Miller, Dr M. S. (E. Kilbride)||Weetch, Ken|
|Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)||Welsh, Miciael|
|Molyneaux, James||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)||Williams, Rt Hon A.|
|Nellist, David||Wilson, Gordon|
|Nicolson, J.||Winnick, David|
|Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon||Woodall, Alec|
|O'Brien, William||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Owen, Rt Hon Dr David||Mr. James Hamilton and|
|Park, George||Mr. Lawrence Cunliffe.|
|Adley, Robert||Baldry, Anthony|
|Aitken Jonathan||Banks, Robert (Harrogate)|
|Alexander, Richard||Batiste, Spencer|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Beaumont-Dark, Anthony|
|Amess, David||Bellingham Henry|
|Ancram, Michael||Bendall, Vivian|
|Arnold, Tom||Bennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay)|
|Ashby, David||Benyon, William|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Berry, Hon Anthony|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (S'thorne)||Best, Keith|
|Atkins Robert (South Ribble)||Bevan, David Gilroy|
|Baker, Kenneth (Mole Valley)||Biffen, Rt Hon John|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Biggs-Davison, Sir John|
|Blackburn, John||Gardiner, George (Reigate)|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Peter||Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Garel-Jones, Tristan|
|Bottomley, Peter||Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton K'ton)||Glyn, Dr. Alan|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Goodhart, Sir Philip|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes||Goodlad, Alastair|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Gorst, John|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Gow, Ian|
|Bright, Graham||Gower, Sir Raymond|
|Brinton, Tim||Greenway, Harry|
|Brittan, Rt Hon Leon||Gregory, Conal|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Griffiths, E. (By St Edm'ds)|
|Brown, M. (Brigg amp; Cl'thpes)||Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)|
|Browne, John||Grist, Ian|
|Bruinvels, Peter||Ground, Patrick|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Gummer, John Selwyn|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.||Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)|
|Buck, Antony||Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)|
|Budgen, Nick||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Hanley, Jeremy|
|Butterfill, John||Hargreaves, Kenneth|
|Carlisle, John (Luton N)||Harris, David|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Harvey, Robert|
|Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S)||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Carttiss, Michael||Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael|
|Chalker, Mrs. Lynda||Hawkins, C. (High Peak)|
|Chapman, Sydney||Hawksley, Warren|
|Chope, Christopher||Hayes, J.|
|Churchill, W. S.||Hayhoe, Barney|
|Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)||Hayward, Robert|
|Clark, Michael (Rochford)||Heath, Rt Hon Edward|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Heathcote-Amery, David|
|Clarke Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Heddle, John|
|Clegg, Sir Walter||Henderson, Barry|
|Cockeram, Eric||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Colvin, Michael||Hickmet, Richard|
|Conway, Derek||Hicks, Robert|
|Coombs, Simon||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Cope, John||Hill, James|
|Cormack, Patrick||Hind, Kenneth|
|Corrie, John||Hirst, Michael|
|Couchman, James||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)|
|Cranbourne, Viscount||Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)|
|Critchley, Julian||Holt, Richard|
|Crouch, David||Hooson, Tom|
|Currie, Mrs. Edwina||Hordern, Peter|
|Dicks, T.||Howard, Michael|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.||Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)|
|Dover, Denshore||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)|
|Dunn, Robert||Howell, Ralph (Norfolk N)|
|Dykes, Hugh||Hubbard-Miles, Peter|
|Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)||Hunt, David (Wirral)|
|Eggar, Tim||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)|
|Emery, Sir Peter||Hunter, Andrew|
|Evennett, David||Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Eyre, Reginald||Irving, Charles|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||Jackson, Robert|
|Fallon, Michael||Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick|
|Farr, John||Johnson-Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Favell, Anthony||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Jones, Robert (Herts W)|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael|
|Fletcher, Alexander||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine|
|Forman, Nigel||Kershaw, Sir Anthony|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Key, Robert|
|Forth, Eric||King, Roger (B'ham N'field)|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Norman||King, Rt Hon Tom|
|Fox, Marcus||Knight, Gregory (Derby N)|
|Franks, Cecil||Knight, Mrs. Jill (Edgbaston)|
|Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh||Knowles, Michael|
|Fraser, Peter (Angus East)||Knox, David|
|Freeman, Roger||Lamont, Norman|
|Fry, Peter||Lang, Ian|
|Gale, Roger||Latham, Michael|
|Galley, Roy||Lawler, Geoffrey|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Porter, Barry|
|Lee, John (Pendle)||Powell, William (Corby)|
|Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)||Powley, John (Norwich S)|
|Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Lestor, Jim||Price, Sir David|
|Lewis, Sir Kenneth||Prior, Rt Hon James|
|Lightbown, David||Proctor, K. Harvey|
|Lilley, Peter||Pym, Rt Hon Francis|
|Lloyd, Ian (Havant)||Raffan, Keith|
|Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)||Raison, Rt Hon Timothy|
|Lord, Michael||Rathbone, Tim|
|Luce, Richard||Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)|
|Lyell, Nicholas||Renton, Tim|
|McCrea, Rev Robert||Rhodes James, Robert|
|McCrindle, Robert||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|McCurley, Mrs Anna||Ridsdale, Sir Julian|
|Macfarlane, Neil||Rifkind, Malcolm|
|MacGregor, John||Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey|
|MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|MacKay, John (Argyll amp; Bute)||Robinson, Mark (N'port W)|
|Macmillan, Rt Hon M.||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)||Rossi, Hugh|
|McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)||Rost, Peter|
|McQuarrie, Albert||Rowe, Andrew|
|Madel, David||Rumbold, Mrs Angela|
|Major, John||Ryder, Richard|
|Mallins, Humphrey||Sackville, Hon Thomas|
|Malone, Gerald||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Maples, John||St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.|
|Marland, Paul||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Marlow, Antony||Scott, Nicholas|
|Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Mates, Michael||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|Maude, Francis||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Mawhinney, Dr Brian||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)|
|Mayhew, Sir Patrick||Shersby, Michael|
|Mellor, David||Silvester, Fred|
|Merchant, Piers||Sims, Roger|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Miller, Hal (B'grove)||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Mills, Ian (Meridan)||Soames, Hon Nicholas|
|Mills, Sir Peter (Devon, West)||Speed, Keith|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Speller, Tony|
|Mitchell, David (Hants, NW)||Spence, John|
|Moate, Roger||Spencer, D.|
|Monro, Sir Hector||Spicer, Jim (Dorset W)|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Spicer, Michael (Worcs, S)|
|Moore, John||Squire, Robin|
|Morris, M. (N'hampton, S.)||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)||Stanley, John|
|Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)||Steen, Anthony|
|Moynihan, Hon C.||Stern, Michael|
|Mudd, David||Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)|
|Murphy, Christopher||Stevens, Martin (Fulham)|
|Neale, Gerrard||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Needham, Richard||Stewart Andrew (Sherwood)|
|Nelson, Anthony||Stewart, Ian (Hertf'dshire, N)|
|Neubert, Michael||Stokes, John|
|Newton, Tony||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Sumberg, David|
|Normanton, Tom||Tapsell, Peter|
|Norris, Steven||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Onslow, Cranley||Taylor, John (Solihull)|
|Oppenheim, Philip||Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman|
|Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Ottaway, Richard||Terlezki, Stefan|
|Page, John (Harrow, W)||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Page, Richard (Herts, SW)||Thompson, Donald (Calder V)|
|Paisley, Rev Ian||Thompson, Patrick (N'ich, N)|
|Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil||Thorne, Neil (llford, S)|
|Parris, Matthew||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Patten, Christopher (Bath)||Thurnham, Peter|
|Patten, John (Oxford)||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Pattie, Geoffrey||Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)|
|Pawsey, James||Tracey, Richard|
|Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth||Trippier, David|
|Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian||Trotter, Neville|
|Pink, R. Bonner||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Pollock, Alexander||van Straubenzee, Sir W.|
|Vaughan, Dr Gerard||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Viggers, Peter||Wheeler, John|
|Waddington, David||Whitney, Raymond|
|Wakeham, Rt Hon John||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Waldegrave, Hon William||Wilkinson, John|
|Walden, George||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Walker, William (T'side N)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)||Wolfson, Mark|
|Wall, Sir Patrick||Wood, Timothy|
|Waller, Gary||Woodcock, Michael|
|Walters, Dennis||Yeo, Tim|
|Ward, John||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Wardle, C. (Boxhill)|
|Warren, Kenneth||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Watson, John||Mr. Carol Mather and|
|Watts, John||Mr. Robert Boscawen.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Debate adjourned.—[Mr. Sainsbury.]
§ Debate to be resumed tomorrow.