HC Deb 22 October 1987 vol 120 cc944-1013

Order for Second Reading read.

4.48 pm
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Sir Geoffrey Howe)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The purpose of the Bill is to confer appropriate immunities on people engaged in verification activities under last year's Stockholm accord on confidence building and disarmament in Europe—the so-called CDE process—and to make similar provision for future arms control agreements.

The Stockholm conference concluded on 22 September 1986 with agreement on a substantial package of confidence and security building measures. The resultant accord provides for on-site verification and for observation of military activities. It also requires participating states to grant inspectors and observers the same privileges and immunities as diplomats receive under the Vienna convention.

The Bill accordingly gives observers, inspectors and their auxiliary staff suitable privileges and immunities as set out in the Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964. On that basis, inspectors and observers will enjoy, subject to certain exceptions, immunity from criminal, civil and administrative jurisdiction, and certain fiscal privileges. Auxiliary personnel will be given the more restricted privileges and immunities normally conferred upon so-called "administrative and technical staff" assigned to diplomatic missions. In particular, their immunity from civil and administrative jurisdiction will be confined to acts performed during the course of their duties.

In addition, we are taking advantage of the opportunity offered by the Bill to provide for comparable needs that may arise from future arms control agreements. Clause 1(2) accordingly provides for privileges and immunities to be conferred by Order in Council, to give effect to new arrangements overtaking the Stockholm document or to other arrangements or agreements in connection with arms control and disarmament. If we seek an example of such possible agreements, one need look, of course, no further than the INF agreement which is now in prospect.

The Bill will mean only a very modest increase in the number of people potentially entitled to diplomatic privileges and immunities. Observers will often be people already accredited here. In other cases, visits will be very short—usually about two or three days. The maximum number of inspections any country has to accept under the accord is only three per year. We are likely to invite observers to military exercises in the UK only once every two or three years.

The House might like to notice that the Stockholm accord was the first agreement of this kind to provide for verification through on-site "challenge" inspection. More important perhaps than that, it was the first solid sign after a number of barren years of real improvement in East-West relations. Moreover, Stockholm was only a stage in the continuing CSCE process. Work is being carried forward in Vienna at this moment on a Western proposal for further negotiations on confidence building and a better balance of conventional forces throughout Europe. Those negotiations should actually get under way next year. So this is a sensible time for the House to take a broader look at the prospect for arms control, and, like many hon. Members, I welcome that opportunity.

In today's world, no war between the great powers can be limited. Modern technology has ensured that conflict of that kind—whether nuclear, conventional or chemical—would all too probably engulf entire continents. It is no longer enough—if indeed it ever was—to be able to win such a war, when winning would have so little meaning. We have to prevent it from happening at all. There only two ways to do that without putting our freedom at risk. One way is to create such a climate of trust that war is inconceivable. We have not, alas, yet reached that point. The other way is to make the consequences of war so frightful that no potential adversary could contemplate starting one.

With a certain sense of antiquity, I recall that the first election in which I played any active part, albeit a very modest one, was just after I had joined the Army in 1945. How many of us engaged in that election would then have forecast that peace in western Europe would survive for 42 years? Why, indeed, has it done so, in spite of great tensions which in earlier ages would certainly have led to war?

I have no doubt that that peace has endured because we have enjoyed the protection of nuclear weapons. That is why I find so compelling Churchill's plea to the United States Congress: Be careful above all things not to let go of the atomic weapon, until you are sure, and more than sure, that other means of preserving peace are in your hands".

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

If the Secretary of State is so convinced that nuclear weapons have preserved the peace, can he explain why since the 1960s, when mutually assured destruction was possible, there has been a continuing increase in the yield, number and range of weapons? He must surely answer that question. Most of those initiatives have been by the West, not by the Soviet Union.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

We have not been able until now to create a sufficient atmosphere of confidence to make it possible to move in the opposite direction. We find it so urgently necessary to try to make progress in the opposite direction because the stock of nuclear weapons on both sides has accumulated so much. None of that invalidates my central point. Every word of Churchill's statement deserves to be measured and weighed. His words are important: until you are sure, and more than sure, that other means of preserving peace are in your hands. That is the purpose of the weapons.

I do not say that we shall need nuclear weapons for ever. However, sadly I do not believe that the day when we can safely cast them all away is even remotely in sight.

Mr. Denzil Davies (Llanelli)

In view of what the Secretary of State has said, does he mean that the Government are not prepared to negotiate the weapons away, even through multilateral negotiations?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

Although in an ideal world it would no doubt be desirable to achieve a state of affairs in which all weapons of all kinds, including nuclear weapons, could be cast away—and plainly even the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) would acknowledge that that would make sense only in a multilateral context—such a day, as I have said, is not yet remotely in sight. Therefore, Churchill's statement remains of the utmost validity. He said that we should be sure that we have some equally effective means of preserving the peace before we cast away the protection of all our nuclear weapons.

Having said that, there is of course enormous scope for reducing the total stock of such weapons. The current world stock of no fewer than 50,000 warheads is far beyond any remotely reasonable requirement. The same is true of conventional arms. Our attitude to arms control proposals will continue to depend, as it must, on whether we judge that they will make an effective contribution, not just to the maintenance of peace, but to our security.

Dr. Keith Hampson (Leeds, North-West)

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the point is that the Opposition continually argue that they would take nuclear disarmament down to such a level that in the present context it would make Europe safe for conventional war?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

That is the anxiety. We believe that the retention of nuclear capability is an important part of our security for the foreseeable future because we do not want to make Europe safe for conventional war. In that spirit, we have approached the INF negotiations, which we hope are now moving towards a conclusion.

It is instructive to consider the history of the negotiations. It is 10 years since the Soviet Union, in 1977, introduced the SS20—an accurate mobile missile with three independently targeted warheads. It could strike all major targets in western Europe and put at particular risk airfields where key NATO aircraft were based. No comparable Western system existed or was under development. The Soviet decision to introduce it, following the earlier introduction of the Backfire nuclear bomber, was undoubtedly designed to alter the nuclear balance in Europe, and it did. It posed a threat to Western security that could not be ignored.

For that reason NATO responded, as it had to, with a decision in 1979 to deploy our own intermediate range systems, but from the outset we made it clear that we were willing to negotiate with the Russians for the removal of both sets of systems. Right from the start we were prepared to retrace our steps, provided that the Soviet Union was willing to do the same.

That carefully balanced "dual-track" approach was met with threats from the Soviet Union and howls of rage from the so-called peace movements. The Opposition Benches then claimed that it would destroy any prospect of arms control for the foreseeable future. The Russians sought to play to that gallery by withdrawing from negotiations in Geneva. They grossly overestimated the influence of those who argued for disarmament at any price. Above all they greatly underestimated the determination and resolution of NATO. The idea of a zero-zero outcome was formally proposed by the Americans, with Allied support, in 1981. Once again, the voices of doom from Opposition Members said that the Russians would never agree.

What has happened since then? The Russians have twisted and turned in an effort to preserve the superiority that they had established in these weapons. They laid out a formidable obstacle course for the West. They left the negotiating table when the first American deployment took place in 1983. When they returned, they tried to throw the British and French nuclear deterrents into the negotiators' pot and they tried to link the INF negotiations to SDI. Not until February this year did Mr. Gorbachev abandon those linkages. Only in July did he accept the proposal that elimination of these weapons should be global.

Meanwhile, NATO had also raised the issue of shorter-range — 500 to 1000 km — INF missiles in order to ensure that an INF agreement could not be circumvented by missiles of slightly shorter range. In April Mr. Gorbachev proposed elimination, without making it clear whether that would be global. In June the Allies agreed to elimination, on condition that it was global. The Soviet Union has since accepted that. Of course, important issues remain, such as the verification arrangements and the timing and phasing of the elimination of the systems involved. Secretary of State Shultz, whom I saw in London on Tuesday and shall see again on Saturday, is now in Moscow. He gave me no reason to believe that negotiations were not on course towards an agreement around the end of the year.

We must draw a clear conclusion from that history. That negotiation has driven the final nails into the coffin of unilateral disarmament. The House will have noticed the attempts of some Opposition Members to claim the INF result as the fruits of their labours. That is the grandest larceny that I have ever heard.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Will the Foreign Secretary clarify the statements—they may be rumours, or they may be accurate—about hiring nuclear weapons from the Americans? What is the position?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

The hon. Gentleman asks whether the statements are rumours or accurate. They are of less substance than that. The idea that we will only be leasing or hiring Trident missiles is absolute nonsense. We shall buy them outright and they will remain ours. About every seven or eight years some of them will need servicing, and that will be done in the United States under the arrangements that the Government have already made public. There is no substance whatever in the proposition put forward. We shall continue to own the same number of missiles at all times. Of course, none of this affects warheads. They remain in United Kingdom hands at all times.

Mr. Denzil Davies

Does that mean that when the missiles go back every seven years to King's Bay, Georgia, for servicing we will get the same missiles back? Will they have numbers such as Maggie 1 and Maggie 2, or will we be given other American missiles?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

The position is as I have stated it. About every seven or eight years some of the missiles will need servicing, and that will be done in the United States under arrangements that the Government made public as long ago as 1982. During that process the missiles will, of course, be stripped down and some of the parts will be replaced. However, the same number of missiles will be coming back. We shall continue throughout to own the same number of missiles at all times. I repeat the sentence with which I began: we shall be buying the missiles outright. They will remain ours. The idea that we shall not own Trident missiles is nonsense. That should be certain enough for the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell).

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

Did the Foreign Secretary not hear his hon. Friend the Chairman of the Select Committee on Defence explain on a radio programme that it was the same as taking an empty Calor gas cylinder back to the garage and receiving a full cylinder in exchange? Surely the point is that at any time during that process it is within the capacity of the United States Government not to provide the exchange missile, and therefore that the deterrent is not independent at all.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

The position remains as I have described it. Obviously the scale and pattern of repair and the extent to which this or that component is stripped down and replaced can vary, but we shall continue to own the same number of missiles at all times. We shall have bought the missiles. We shall not be leasing any missiles, and the arrangements are not the subject of a mystery or recent development. As I have said, the arrangements are as announced some time ago. I repeat that we shall buy the missiles outright and they will remain ours.

Ms. Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford)

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I have been dealing with this issue for long enough, and I shall continue my own speech.

If we had followed the advice of the Labour party and refrained from continuing with the dual-track decision we would not be considering arrangements for arms control and disarmament inspectors, but would be facing the appalling threat of hundreds of missiles from the Soviet Union, with nothing comparable of our own.

Mr. Cryer


Sir Geoffrey Howe

If the hon. Gentleman believes that, he will believe anything.

Mr. Cryer

If the right hon. and learned Gentleman is so obsessed with the possession of nuclear weapons, can he tell us why the 121 nations which signed the United Nations nuclear non-proliferation treaty have not followed our example if that is so desperately necessary to bring about arms negotiations? Will he tell us whether all the missiles that he will obtain on hock from the United States conform with clause 6 of that treaty signed by our nation?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

The hon. Gentleman seems to forget that we are discussing an arms control of which I have just proposed the Second Reading. The Bill is necessary in order to accommodate the first agreement since the development of nuclear weapons which provides specifically for the reduction of such weapons. The hon. Gentleman should be acclaiming that rather than challenging the proposition. Some Members of the Labour party have begun to realise the significance of what is happening. Some of them, at last, appear to be contemplating switching to the multilateral train of the 1990s. I am afraid that they will not find it easy to persuade the CND faithful to climb on to it as well. If they are willing to join us in welcoming and endorsing the principle of multilateral disarmament and endorsing the agreement in prospect as a dramatic success for that principle, Conservative Members will certainly welcome them on board.

There are solid achievements for the West as a result of the agreement that is now in prospect. First, there is the total elimination of the SS20. It is worth recalling that the Russians have taken themselves—and us—on a pointless 10-year odyssey that has ended up precisely where it began, and along the way we have secured the elimination of the SS4, SS22 and SS23. Secondly this will be the first ever negotiated reduction in numbers of nuclear weapons. The task now is to do the same for strategic and conventional weapons, and to outlaw chemical weapons altogether. Thirdly there is the fact that some 1,500 Soviet warheads are to be eliminated, as against some 300 United States warheads. That asymmetry is an important precedent for future arms control negotiations. Finally, there will be a stringent, effective and mandatory verification package that will allow both sides to establish confidence in the treaty's operation. This is indeed a breakthrough in negotiations with the Soviet Union. Access to SS20 bases is glasnost for real. Verification is the key to all arms control.

Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)

The right hon. and learned Gentleman has gone a little further than the immediate objects of the Bill and introduced the element of negotiation in relation to the reduction of strategic nuclear weapons. Will he give us some indication, however tacit, of the United Kingdom Government's position regarding the inclusion of Polaris or the Trident systems in such negotiations?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I can do precisely that by saying, as I said to the United Nations General Assembly in 1983, that we have never said "never" in that respect. But only if and when there are substantial reductions in the nuclear armouries of the super-powers on both sides, and no significant changes in the defensive arrangements of the Soviet Union, will it be possible for our nuclear deterrent to be part of the agenda.

The reason is very simple. Our independent deterrent is 3 per cent. of the nuclear resources available to either of the super-powers. It is the minimum necessary credible deterrent to be an effective deterrent in the true meaning of the word. Even after the deployment of Trident, and even after the 50 per cent. reduction in strategic nuclear weapons on both sides, our deterrent will represent the same percentage of the Soviet Union's nuclear forces as Polaris did when it first started. The position is not a mystery. It is as I stated in my 1983 speech.

The Government's verdict on the prospective agreement — which seems to be shared by Opposition Members—is clear. It is a very good agreement. It is not the promised land, but it is the beginning of the beginning. If it is faithfully implemented it will increase mutual trust and help to lay a foundation for more far-reaching arms control agreements between East and West.

I know that some critics believe that the agreement will undercut deterrence, or will undermine the long-established NATO doctrine of flexible response. I respect the seriousness of those views, but I regard them as seriously mistaken. Neither deterrence nor flexible response depends on the existence of a particular array of nuclear weapons. What deters is the totality of NATO's nuclear and conventional capability, and the collective political will behind it. There is no precise ladder of escalation, each rung of which requires a special weapons system with its own technical characteristics. What is necessary is a broad spread of capability at different ranges, and that we still have. Even after the INF agreement NATO will still have over 4,000 nuclear weapons in Europe, and we shall continue to keep the minimum mix of nuclear forces necessary to maintain credible deterrence.

It goes without saying that NATO will not circumvent the INF agreement. However, we shall continue to keep our force structure up to date, as we have always done. That may require some adjustments in numbers of particular systems. The Alliance has to adapt to changing defence requirements if it is to remain viable.

Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)

The Foreign Secretary has said that Her Majesty's Government will not circumvent the agreement. Does that mean that Her Majesty's Government will not take action to convert cruise missiles, which are land-based, to become air and sea-based?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

It means that the Alliance retains, as it has done throughout, the freedom to undertake adjustments in its total nuclear armoury. That has always been the position. Adjustments have been continuous throughout the nuclear age. Our rule is to maintain the minimum necessary for credible and effective deterrence, and that will certainly result in the net reduction of the nuclear stockpile of the Alliance.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor and Maidenhead)

Will my right hon. and learned Friend tell us whether the Bill will have to be extended to cover chemical and biological weapons?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I said at the beginning of my speech that the Bill would enable us to extend by Order in Council its provisions to cover arms control inspectors and observers for other arms control agreements.

We decided shortly after coming into office to update the British independent deterrent because of the need to keep on adapting and modernising our defensive resources. That contrasts very sharply with the vacillation, confusion and — it must be said — dishonesty of the Opposition. They know, or at least some of them know, the value of nuclear deterrence for Britain's security. Some of them were members of Governments that supported it, but they cannot summon up the courage to say so openly.

Another fear that some may have voiced about an INF agreement is that it might decouple the United States from Europe. I believe that that fear also is mistaken. Europe is, and remains, the first line of America's defences, and to cast doubt on the political solidarity or military coupling of the American commitment when there are more than 300,000 United States troops stationed in Europe is fanciful.

The INF agreement should be a significant step towards enhanced security for East and West. Other NATO arms control priorities, which the present Government have played a key part in shaping, involve the prospect of greater prizes: 50 per cent. reductions in United States and Soviet strategic nuclear weapons. a worldwide ban on chemical weapons and the elimination of conventional disparities in Europe.

On strategic weapons, it is clear from my discussions with Mr. Shevardnadze in New York last month, and with Mr. Shultz here in London earlier this week, that there has been some Soviet movement, but there is still a long way to go. The Russians are still blocking progress on strategic weapons, in an attempt to impose unacceptable constraints on SDI. We have suggested to them that greater predictability in programmes permitted under the ABM treaty could meet their security concerns in a way that would also be acceptable to the Americans. We believe that that approach deserves serious consideration by the Soviet Union.

Chemical weapons, as people increasingly realise, are peculiarly hideous. The Soviet Union has a huge arsenal of such weapons, and we want to see a properly verifiable global ban.

There has recently been encouraging progress on some aspects of verification. A British paper on implementing a chemical weapons ban has been well received in the House, and I welcome that. However, many difficult problems remain. One particularly vital requirement is the provision of adequate data on existing capabilities. That is fundamental, but we still seem to be a long way from achieving it.

The progress being made in regard to nuclear weapons adds to the importance of tackling the huge imbalance in conventional forces. The Warsaw pact has three times as many tanks and artillery pieces as the NATO Alliance. It has twice as many tactical aircraft. There has been a 70 per cent. real increase in Soviet defence spending in the past 15 years.

It makes no sense for NATO to deal with that disparity by doubling or trebling the size of its own forces, even if we could sensibly find the resources with which to do so. As Mr. Gorbachev himself said: Should we have any balance to redress, we must redress it, not by letting the one short of some elements build them up, but by having the one with more of them scale them down". I agree that that is the way to greater stability in Europe.

The Allies are currently discussing with the Warsaw pact arrangements for conventional stability negotiations covering Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals. As I have said, we expect negotiations to start next year. However, if we are to get the talks off the ground, the Soviet Union must be more ready to take them more seriously. Above all, it will have to be willing to discuss candidly what Warsaw pact military capabilities actually are. The Soviets have refused to do that in the MBFR and at Stockholm. We must ask when glasnost will really apply to military matters. When will the Russians do as we do and publish each year a defence White Paper showing what forces they have, and where? That is the key question.

Under this Government, the United Kingdom has played a key role in the search for agreements.

Mr. Denzil Davies

The Bill is partly about verification, but the Foreign Secretary has not told us how that verification will be done. Will Soviet inspectors he allowed on to Greenham Common? Will there be short-notice inspections, and how many sites in Britain will be subject to such inspections? Can the Foreign Secretary say something about the mechanics of implementing the legislation? As he has said, verification is the key.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I dealt with that point earlier. The verification arrangements are still under negotiation. However, they plainly involve the right of Soviet inspectors to attend in the United Kingdom to verify within the terms of the agreements that will eventually emerge. That is what the Bill is intended to achieve. I am unable to go further than that at this stage, because the provisions are still under negotiation.

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Newbury)

As Greenham Common is in my constituency, may I say that the Bill means that Soviet observers will come to Royal Air Force establishments to verify the weapons of a third party. Will there be any limit on the number of observers who can come and on how long they can stay in this country? Will there be a reciprocal arrangement under which British observers will be included among those who may go from NATO to verify what is being done in the Soviet Union?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

In the context of a possible INF agreement, that question has not yet been resolved. The Bill makes provision for the enjoyment by British inspectors and observers of rights conferred under the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe agreement. Reciprocity will be at the heart of verification, and the arrangements that emerge for an INF agreement will provide for the attendance of Soviet inspectors at bases such as Greenham Common.

Mr. Douglas

Will the Foreign Secretary give way on that point?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I must move on. The House will have an opportunity to ask questions during the debate. I have given way on many occasions and I believe that the House wants to debate the Bill more generally.

Under this Government, the United Kingdom has played a key role in the search for agreements which mean greater predictability and security for us all. We shall continue to do just that. We must be vigilant. We must not confuse Soviet style with substance, but we must also be alert and must recognise and exploit new opportunities.

There is a very full agenda ahead and there are some formidable problems, but the prospective INF agreement gives grounds for hope that further progress is possible toward agreements that enhance predictability and security on both sides. It is that which the Bill will help to achieve. That is why I have no hesitation in commending it to the House.

5.22 pm
Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)

Since this is the first time, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I have had the opportunity to address the House since you were elected to the Chair, may I congratulate you and say what an enormous pleasure it is to be speaking while you are in the Chair. By contrast, I draw attention to the fact that neither of the Social Democratic parties is present this afternoon, possibly because they have been unable to reconcile their differences.

This is a tiny, two-clause Bill, but in its implications it is almost certainly more far-reaching than any piece of legislation that this House has debated during the last 40 years and more. Its significance is heightened by two events fresh off the press. The first is the presence in Moscow today of Mr. George Shultz for talks on the finalisation of the INF agreement with Mr. Shevardnadze. The second is the extraordinary revelation, made public in spite of the Government's wish to suppress it, that the Trident system — Britain's much vaunted independent nuclear deterrent — will not be independent at all but will be merely an exceptionally expensive subscription by the British taxpayer to a missile library owned by the United States. We are all spending £9.265 billion on Moss Bros missiles, to be returned to the proprietors for refurbishing after non-use.

Even without this latest disclosure, the Bill contains ironies enough of strange dealings by the Government. —[Interruption.] The right hon. and learned Gentleman devoted the last few minutes of his speech to misleading remarks about the Opposition's attitude, and now he is getting shirty because we intend to respond in the manner in which he decided to address the House.

The world today is celebrating the prospect of the most heartening international agreement since the prototype atom bomb was tested in New Mexico in 1945. The INF agreement is remarkable and immensely heartening for many reasons. It may remove only 3 or 4 per cent. of the nuclear missiles that are befouling the earth, but it is, all the same, an exceptionally important forward step. It is unprecedented because, for the first time ever, nuclear powers are not simply agreeing to stop a development but are going much further and are actually reducing their nuclear capabilities. That is a sign to humankind that the nuclear arms race is not inexorable and that, if the will is there, we can roll back the nuclear frontier.

An entire category of United States and Soviet nuclear arms is to be eliminated. What is more, to make this agreement possible, the Soviets have consented to far greater cuts than the Americans. The Soviets will destroy four times as many missiles as the United States. They will destroy SS4s, SS12 scaleboards, and SS23s, although the Americans have no counterparts for reciprocal destruction. That is a practical example of the asymmetry of which Secretary Gorbachev has spoken. President Reagan and Secretary Gorbachev have earned the thanks of humankind in every country of the globe for the concessions that each has granted to make this agreement possible.

Both have also agreed to unprecedented arrangements for verification, with on-site inspections by both parties. The hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) referred to the presence of Soviet observers in his constituency and asked whether there will be reciprocity. There will not be reciprocity, because Britain is not a party to the agreement. However, on-site inspection by both parties is what the Bill is about. It will confer diplomatic status on the Soviet inspection teams which will be coming here periodically to ensure that the INF agreement is implemented in good faith. Therefore the cruise missiles, brought here with such subterfuge that Sarah Tisdall was sent to goal for six months for revealing the squalid arrangements for their arrival, are now to be removed in the full blaze of international publicity.

When he was Secretary of State for Defence the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) appeared on television on 15 January 1984 and said: The cruise missile system will become as accepted as the other nuclear weapons that … we've relied upon in this country to preserve the peace for nearly 40 years. However, instead of being accepted, as the right hon. Gentleman so vaingloriously and inaccurately promised, the cruise missiles are to be dismantled and destroyed and thrown into the dustbin of history.

Mr. David Sumberg (Bury, South)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Kaufman

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman in a minute.

Molesworth — where the right hon. Member for Henley cavorted like a clown in combat dress while supervising the erection of the protective perimeter for the cruise missile base — will now never receive cruise missiles. At Greenham Common, where The Times reported on 2 November 1983 the right hon. Gentleman's warning Cruise intruders could be shot, says Heseltine", this Bill will provide cruise intruders from the Soviet Union with full diplomatic protection.

The Greenham Common women — who have invigilated the Greenham Common site in all weathers and under all manner of vilification and who have been denounced by the Government and their cronies as Communist catspaws — are now to be superseded by genuine Soviet Communists, the difference being that, while the Greenham Common women were hampered and harassed, the Soviet inspectors will be welcomed as honoured guests and will be protected against even the possibility of being nicked for parking while they carry out their inspections.

Mr. Sumberg

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Kaufman


They will be able to come here at regular intervals— certainly for three years and maybe for five. Moreover, it is suggested that these inspectors will be able to demand access at short notice to many other British military bases if their satellites suggest that such bases could contain hidden missiles.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

Does the right hon. Gentleman oppose the agreement?

Mr. Kaufman

I am very much in favour of the agreement. The Prime Minister, the right hon. and learned Gentleman, the Minister of State and the right hon. Member for Henley have all championed the presence of cruise missiles in this country which now, thank God, are being removed without their being asked yea or nay.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

The right hon. Gentleman must be clear on this point. The presence of those cruise missiles has secured the removal of five times as many Soviet warheads. Is that not a good thing?

Mr. Kaufman

The presence of cruise missiles in this country is not necessarily relevant to the number of Soviet missiles that are being dismantled. The very idea that one must install these missiles to remove them is a curious attitude for the Government to adopt.

Mr. Sumberg

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall the debate that we had four years ago almost to the day when cruise missiles were coming to Britain? Did not his party oppose, root and branch, the introduction of those missiles? His predecessor made it clear that if they were introduced the chances for peace in Europe were almost gone for ever. How does the right hon. Gentleman reconcile that fact with the agreements that have occurred? Is this not blatant hypocrisy on the part of the right hon. Gentleman? Surely it was because the Government took the decision to bring these missiles in that the agreement has been reached.

Mr. Kaufman

I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman has said. In the last Parliament, the Labour party opposed the installation of cruise missiles, but now we have the agreement between President Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev. The Government have not been consulted as to whether the missiles should be removed, and will not be consulted. They are being removed whether the Government want them here or not.

In June of this year the Tory election manifesto stated that The Conservative Government (has) deployed cruise missiles. As in so much else, that document was not telling the truth. The United States, not the Conservative Government, deployed cruise missiles in Britain. The United States, not the Conservative Government, has decided to end their deployment. The Government have been given no say whatever as to whether they should go.

The Bill is extraordinary in that it is being introduced into the House to facilitate the implementation on British soil of an international agreement in which the British Government are not involved and to which they will not he a signatory. All others in receipt of diplomatic status in Britain are here as a result of diplomatic relations to which we are consenting parties or international agreements to which we are signatories. The Soviet inspectors in Britain will be protected by the Foreign Office and the police, as a result of an agreement to which we are not parties and in which the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Defence have had no significant say whatsoever.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I invite the right hon. Gentleman to accept three points. First, the primary purpose of the Bill is to provide for the CDE agreement, to which the United Kingdom is a party on an entirely reciprocal basis. Secondly, how does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that we achieve an INF agreement if we are not ready to make the necessary and sensible arrangements for verification, which is what the Bill does? Thirdly, does he not understand that the substance of negotiations whereby we have achieved this INF deal has been the subject of the closest possible consultation between the United States and this Government at meeting after meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, an organisation to which the right hon. Gentleman is very strange?

Mr. Kaufman

The right hon. and learned Gentleman must make the third point to justify the fact that he is sitting on that Bench, but very few people will accept that the United States has paid more than passing attention to what the Government have said. The United States has made this agreement with the Soviet Union. We are not party to it, we have not been asked, the United States is taking cruise missiles away and we have no say whatever on the subject. Of course I am in favour of verification procedures and the provisions in the Bill, but what I am saying is that the Government are moving the Second Reading of a Bill for the removal of cruise missiles when they said that cruise missiles stationed on British soil were essential for defence against the Soviet Union. That being so, either the right hon. and learned Gentleman is dim —as may well be the case; it cannot be ruled out—or he is being deliberately disingenuous.

Although the right hon. and learned Gentleman uttered a word or two of praise for the agreement, it is no wonder that the Prime Minister's reaction to this historic INF agreement has been so sour and grudging. With all his usual caution, Lord Carrington, the Secretary-General of NATO, has commented on this agreement and said, We should take yes for an answer. In Germany the Prime Minister said that nuclear arms cuts in Europe have gone far enough. She said that in a country whose Government have been brave and farsighted enough to assist the achievement of the INF agreement by unilaterally volunteering to scrap the Pershing IA missiles located on German territory. While others look forward to enhancing progress towards arms control and disarmament, the Prime Minister prefers the role of the last nuclear dinosaur.

We now understand more fully why the Prime Minister was so unhappy with the INF agreement. Even before yesterday, the consequences of the INF agreement, as well as of other important factors, threw some doubt on the viability of Trident as a successor to Polaris. Trident will gobble up vast sums of money from a defence budget that, as the Secretary of State for Defence not only admitted but totally accepted when speaking to the Select Committee for Defence on 14 May 1986, is declining in real terms. The more of that declining defence budget that is spent on Trident the less there is for Britain's conventional contribution to NATO.

Every authoritative reaction to the INF agreement has emphasised that withdrawal of intermediate nuclear missiles from Europe will throw the focus on the substantial imbalance in conventional forces between NATO and the Warsaw pact. In a leading article on 5 October, The Daily Telegraph said: The Government has hard choices to face and it is for the Prime Minister, who has hitherto intervened very little in defence affairs, to make the decisions. The principal problem is underfunding. Some £18 billion, about 20 per cent. of Government expenditure, will be spent this year by the Ministry of Defence. But it is not really enough to finance both Britain's strategic commitments and the procurement programme needed to maintain its forces in the first rank … In the last resort, the Government must either spend more or cut its commitments and establishments. In an address to the Royal United Services Institution on that same date, Lord Carrington said that an INF agreement will inevitably highlight the conventional element in deterrence and the imbalance which currently exists between Nato and the Warsaw pact in this area. Speaking a few days earlier on television, Lord Carrington said: Conventional defence becomes more important as a result of this agreement. On television on the same day, the Foreign Secretary said: Now, we're going to have to maintain our willingness to look at our conventional defences. Yet, when every authoritative source emphasises that need, the Government are reducing our conventional capability within a reduced overall defence budget. That distortion of defence priorities takes place within the context of growing doubts about the operability of Trident. Today's Daily Telegraph carries a report on the difficulties that are being faced at Faslane in finding sufficient crews who are properly trained for Trident when it becomes operational.

Moreover, it was disclosed only this month that we are to obtain a version of Trident that we cannot fully arm. At a high price, we are to be sold access to the Trident 2 system, one of whose versions provides for 12 warheads. Yet it is said that Britain does not possess enough weapons-grade plutonium to provide warheads for all the missiles that we will install. Indeed, when he was Secretary of State for Defence, Sir John Knott gave a commitment that the change from Polaris to Trident would not involve any increase in total warhead numbers.

A document that was published this year by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence gave the game away when it said: The Government have repeatedly made clear that they will not use the full theoretical maximum capability of the system. It looks as though this terrifying deterrent—only 3 per cent. of the total but nevertheless meant to be terrifying — Will be going to sea with some of the missile tubes empty. That really should throw terror into the Soviet Union. It is a nuclear version of Russian roulette in reverse.

All that is before we know the effects of Trident of the two further agreements on whose attainment the United States and the Soviet Union have, to their great credit, now embarked. One objective is the declared aim of a complete ban on nuclear testing. The joint statement by the United States and the Soviet Union which was released by the White House on 18 September said clearly and categorically: Having discussed questions related to nuclear testing, the two sides"— that is, the Soviet Union and the United States— agreed to begin, before December 1st 1987, full-scale, stage-by-stage negotiations which will be conducted in a single forum. The two super-powers have decided to begin negotiations before the end of this year to secure a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty.

However, only yesterday, during Question Time, the Minister of State, the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor) said: We believe, however, that it would be premature for negotiations to begin until progress is made on outstanding problems, notably verification." — [Official Report, 21 October 1987; Vol. 120, c. 716.] So, what the Soviet Union and the United States say they intend to do within the next two and a half months the Minister of State says is premature.

Why do the Government so often throw cold water on any efforts to achieve progress on arms control? Perhaps it is because they are worried that such progress would invalidate their own policies.

There are differing views on how a comprehensive test ban treaty would affect Trident. In a leading article on 19 September The Daily Telegraph stated: The test-ban treaty agreement would threaten the future of the British deterrent since weapons that cannot be tested become useless and all British tests are now carried out at American sites. The Guardian's defence correspondent also drew attention to the problem, although he stated it in a different and less immediate way. He said: For Britain, a dependant on the Americans for access to their underground test site in Nevada, the alarm bells will be ringing long before the one kilotonne threshold is reached. Aldermaston will want to know whether, if permitted yields and numbers are coming down, the United States intends at some stage to withdraw the privilege of using the Nevada range. The British can hardly go back to Australia and the French would no doubt demand a high price financially and politically for the use of their Pacific test sites. Whatever view is taken, what is clear is that Britain's alleged independent nuclear capability is at the mercy of the American suppliers and possible future arms control agreements between the Americans and the Russians. That was said before the disclosures that have been plastered over the front pages of the press today, to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman made an extremely carefully worded response this afternoon. I refer to the news that the Government have been concealing from Parliament and the people the fact that our £9.25 billion will never buy us a single Trident missile that will be all our own, that we will keep on having to take the missiles back to the Americans for servicing and that the replacement missiles that we will get will not be the same as the ones that we handed in.

When the Foreign Secretary was questioned about that, this afternoon he used his words very carefully. He said: We shall … own the same number of missiles at all times. He did not say that we shall own the same missiles at all times. By those carefully phrased words, the right hon. and learned Gentleman has admitted what The Daily Telegraph, The Times and other newspapers said today—that we are to have a form of leasing arrangement, that we are not buying anything for those immense sums but that we shall be subscribers to an extraordinarily expensive rent-a-missile library.

These rented missiles will not automatically be accepted by the Americans for re-servicing. Before they can be accepted back for a swap at the United States missile hock-shop at King's Bay in Georgia, they will have to be passed as being in a fit state by American officials stationed at Faslane and Coulport. No damaged goods can be returned. Britain will be paying billions of pounds for a second-hand delivery system that we shall never actually own.

It is hardly surprising that it is reported that the Secretary of State for Defence is ordering an inquiry to ascertain how some traitor has revealed to the British people how their money is being spent. Of course, the news of this swap arrangement throws doubt on the future viability of the whole Trident system as a British deterrent. Its independence is now shown to be a fiction. We are now seen to be wholly dependent on the Americans themselves continuing with such a system. Replacement missiles will clearly be available only if the Americans have them to replace.

Mr. George Walden (Buckingham)

I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman a simple and mundane question. When he sends his car to be mended and it comes back with a new engine is it the same car or a different car?

Mr. Kaufman

Using that analogy, I remind the hon. Gentleman that the Foreign Secretary said that we would get the same number of cars back. He did not say that we would get the same cars back. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman now wishes to amend his extremely careful phrase and say, "We shall own the same missiles at all times", I shall accept that the stories on the front pages of The Daily Telegraph and The Times today are inaccurate. However, the right hon. and learned Gentleman is sitting and mumbling to the Minister of State and not intervening because those words with which he came to the House today were cooked up between the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Secretary.

Sir Geoffrey Howe


Mr. Kaufman

If the right hon. Gentleman is now going to amend what he said and say that we shall own the same missiles at all times I shall be glad to withdraw.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

The right hon. Gentleman is perversely refusing to understand the position and perversely failing to acknowledge the advantages of the arrangement. There is no mystery about this. The statement from the Ministry of Defence on 9 September 1982 by the then Secretary of State for Defence explained the basis on which we would be purchasing the missiles. As I said at the outset, we shall own those missiles. We are spending money on purchasing them. The idea that we shall be leasing them or hiring them is total nonsense. Will the right hon. Gentleman please eliminate from his vocabulary all his merry quips about Moss Bros. and rent-a-missile? We shall be purchasing and owning the missiles.

The September statement said: This major difference between Trident and Polaris has accordingly enabled us to decide, in agreement with the US authorities, that we should use the planned US facilities at King's Bay, Georgia, for the initial preparation for service of our Trident missiles, and their refurbishment at the end of the 7–8 year commissions of our submarines … These revised arrangements will apply only to the missiles themselves: our nuclear warheads will be held in the United Kingdom. Does the right hon. Gentleman complain that that arrangement for refurbishment extends as far as replacement if necessary? I have said that components will be replaced, but what is wrong about replacing a whole missile? We shall have purchased the full set of missiles and be entitled to have them refurbished, and replaced if necessary, to maintain them in our possession. The great advantage of that is that this decision will produce considerable savings for the defence programme, amounting to several hundred million pounds in capital costs in addition to running costs. I do not see what there is to complain about in the arrangements for ownership of missiles which result in substantial savings.

Mr. Kaufman

The right hon. and learned Gentleman has made another speech but he did not respond to my request. I told him that if he used certain words I would withdraw what I said earlier and accept what he said. I asked him if he could replace the words We shall … own the same number of missiles at all times with, "We shall own the same missiles at all times." His protracted speech did not give us those few words which would set aside the stories in the Daily Telegraph, The Times and The Guardian today.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman did not do that because he could not, because the stories were true. If they were not, he would be able to deny them in his categorical way instead of producing a years-old press release which did not respond to the point made today in the press and the point which I have been making. Those stories are clearly true — [Interruption.] Instead of mumbling to himself, if the right hon. and learned Gentleman will say, "We shall own the same missiles at all times," he will put paid to all those wicked stories in Left-wing newspapers such as The Times and the Daily Telegraph. He is not prepared to do that, because it is clear that the stories in the press are true and that the arrangement is that we will not own the missiles all the time. We will pay for them as though we are buying them, but we will not own them.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

We shall own the missiles and have the right to replace them.

Mr. Kaufman

Who has the right to replace them? It is the United States' right to replace them. The Secretary of State could have settled these stories and put them to rest once and for all. He has not done so because the stories are clearly true.

If we are at the mercy of the United States with regard to the continuation of this alleged independent deterrent, what happens to this alleged deterrent if Trident falls victim to an arms control agreement between the Americans and the Russians and if the Americans destroy their versions of the missiles to replace those that we hand in for "refurbishing", as the Secretary of State calls it? What happens if Trident is superseded by another American weapons system? Where is Britain's much vaunted independent nuclear deterrent then?

This is tragedy degenerating into Whitehall farce. It would be much better if, before expenditure has passed the point of no return, the Government scrapped this system, which is as unreliable as it is provocative. It would be much better to seek, as the Germans have sensibly done, to use the missiles to facilitate a strategic arms reduction agreement between the West and the Soviet Union. One of the great merits of the INF agreement is that it forces us all to look to the future and to the further arms control and reduction agreements that NATO, the United States and Britain can hope for with the Soviet Union.

President Carter's former national security adviser, Mr. Brzezinski, has called for a tank-free zone in central Europe. Such a development would be desirable, provided that any agreement acknowledged that such an arrangement would push NATO's capability almost back to the Atlantic coast while leaving to the Soviet Union huge territories for manoeuvre and for marshalling a conventional attack from deep within Warsaw pact territory. Accordingly, any agreement of that type would have to be based on the asymmetry which Mr. Gorbachev has chosen.

Proposals have been made in the United States for a balanced reduction of land forces in central Europe. Such notions, too, have their attractions, but withdrawal or balanced reduction on an equal basis of American and Soviet land forces could leave Soviet troops far behind the present boundary between NATO and Warsaw pact countries but, all the same, present in large numbers in the European mainland while causing a substantial withdrawal of American military land power from the European mainland. That would not be acceptable to many in Britain who favour disarmament but who support British membership of NATO and regard an American physical presence on the European mainland as an essential symbol of United States' commitment to the NATO Alliance.

When Labour Members called for withdrawal of cruise missiles from this country, and said that they should not be sited in this country, we were warned that if they were removed the Americans would be seduced into decoupling and would remove their forces from the European mainland. The Americans have decided to withdraw their cruise missiles from Britain. Not only is there no prospect of the Americans decoupling but the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary has championed this afternoon, rightly, the fact that the United States intends to stay on the mainland of Europe. That is why we say that any troop withdrawal agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union would have to have an asymmetrical factor to take account of the point that Europe wants United States' forces to remain on the European mainland as a symbol of the United States' commitment to NATO.

What is clear, and marvellously encouraging, is that the INF agreement is releasing a torrent of new ideas for further arms reduction. Such proposals and further agreements can only improve East-West relations. Such agreements will create confidence between East and West. I very much hope that they will lead to a more confident Soviet Union taking other measures that will reduce international tension.

Following President Sadat's historic visit to Jerusalem, Egypt and Israel arrived at a peace agreement that is monitored not only by observers, as provided for in the Bill, but by the ordinary people of both countries, crossing open frontiers for commerce and tourism. Surprise attack is impossible over territory daily traversed by tourists and business men. Similarly, Soviet security as well as that of the West would he enhanced if the Warsaw pact countries were to open their frontiers, both for western visitors to go east and for eastern travellers to go west, for business and pleasure, and for emigration where desired.

The full implementation of the Helsinki accord by the Soviet Union would of itself not only be a further symbol to the world of the enormously welcome breath of fresh air with which Mr. Gorbachev is refreshing his country on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the 1917 revolution but enhance the universal wish of people in the East and the West to live in a peaceful world where national resources can be spent on construction rather than destruction. For the part it plays in that process, the Opposition welcome the Bill and will assist in its passage through Parliament.

5.57 pm
Sir Peter Blaker (Blackpool, South)

The speech of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) was ignorant and illogical and did not rise to the level that this subject deserves. Some years ago the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor as Labour spokesman on foreign affairs—the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey)—said that listening to a speech by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State gave him the feeling that he was being savaged by a dead sheep. We observe that the dead sheep is still active and in office, and that the right hon. Member for Leeds, East has had to leave the field. Having listened to the speech of the right hon. Member for Gorton, I feel as though I have been savaged by a live donkey. All I can say on the right hon. Gentleman's part is that he cannot possibly be as stupid as he seemed and that he was braying on behalf of a party whose foreign policies have been wholeheartedly rejected by the voters.

The Bill and the prospect of an INF agreement are a total justification of the policy which the Government have pursued since 1979 and a total refutation of the policies of the Opposition parties. A few years ago the Opposition claimed that the introduction of cruise and Pershing would wreck the prospect of disarmament negotiations, hut, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State pointed out, the Soviet Union walked out of the negotiations but rapidly returned when it saw that its activities and those of people in this country who spoke in favour of unilateral disarmament had been rejected and that the West remained united and firm in its policies. It defies common sense to argue now that it would have been better to abandon our policies one-sidedly. To have done that would have relieved the Russians on their side of any pressure to reduce their armaments. It would have left NATO in disarray, and possibly worse.

Secondly, as I remarked at Question time yesterday, if we achieve an agreement on intermediate range nuclear forces—as I hope we will—that will make it much more important to achieve an agreement to ban the production, possession and use of chemical weapons and, indeed, an agreement to achieve a better balance of conventional forces in Europe. We must recognise that our nuclear defences have been intended to deter not simply a nuclear war but any war—not least a war in which the Soviet Union, whose forces are trained in the offensive use of chemical weapons, might choose to use those weapons.

If a whole layer of nuclear weapons — the intermediate layer — is removed from Europe, Soviet superiority in chemical and conventional weapons will be even more significant than it has been until now. If that state of affairs were allowed to continue without the achievement of agreements on chemical weapons and on other forms of conventional weapons, there would be a danger, over a period, of damage to the morale of NATO and a danger of the Soviet Union being tempted to indulge in military blackmail of the Western countries.

There are two ways of remedying that state of affairs. First, we could build up our chemical weapon stocks, which are very small; or secondly, we could try to persuade the Soviet Union to agree to ban chemical weapons and reduce its conventional weapon stocks. I hope that the latter course will be the one that succeeds. At this point I pay tribute to Her Majesty's Government for the determined and effective efforts and proposals that they have made in connection with the verification of a ban on chemical weapons.

Thirdly, what is our long-term objective on nuclear disarmament? I hope that we shall be able to move on—I speak now of the two super-powers—to achieve a 50 per cent. reduction in strategic nuclear forces. But I do not believe that it is sensible to talk about the total elimination of nuclear weapons. My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary touched on that point. President Reagan was unwise to set that as our objective. It is unwise to talk in such terms, because it is not credible. The total elimination of nuclear weapons is not going to happen. We know that it will not happen because, among other things, we cannot destroy the knowledge of how to make the weapons. Such language becomes simply a ritual incantation that detracts from the credibility of our objectives.

In the 1960s, when I was personally involved in negotiations with the Russians on disarmament, the objective was said on both sides to be general and complete disarmament. That was a ridiculous objective to hold out to ourselves, and it detracted from the effectiveness of our efforts. I hope that we shall not make the same mistake now. In any case, the desirability of totally abolishing nuclear weapons would be doubtful, even were the objective achievable. Nuclear weapons have kept the peace in Europe and we would be very unwise to try to get rid of them altogether. Instead, we need to reduce their numbers.

My fourth point concerns Trident and the French nuclear deterrent. The Opposition, as they search for new policies, talk of negotiating the Trident weapon away. As I understand it, if we achieved that it would mean that we would get rid of all our strategic nuclear weapons, while the Russians reduced to 97 per cent. of what they have at present. That does not seem to me to be a very good bargain. We need the Trident independent strategic deterrent because we cannot be sure that the Americans will be ready to defend Europe for ever. The public understand that point, as they have shown overwhelmingly in several general elections, and they are absolutely right.

I agree with my right hon. and learned Friend about the circumstances in which we might be prepared to negotiate about Trident. We are talking about negotiating on what sort of strategic nuclear deterrent we would have, not on whether we would have one at all. There is, of course, scope for reducing the British strategic nuclear deterrent—the Trident deterrent—not by eliminating one of the four Trident boats, but by adjusting the number of missiles that they carry and the number of warheads on each missile. However, we must ensure that we keep a credible nuclear deterrent.

Finally, we should be very careful before we assume that there has been a fundamental change in Soviet policy. There has certainly been a fundamental change in Soviet presentation, which is much cleverer than it has been in the past. However, my experience in negotiations with the Soviet Union is that its first instinct is always to try to divide the West. That is exactly what it did in the negotiations for the partial nuclear test ban treaty in 1962 and 1963. Only after the Soviet Union saw that it could not divide the West—that the West was wholly united—did it agree to make what turned out to be a very satisfactory agreement.

The Soviet Union still supports the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia. It still has its forces in Afghanistan. There are still Cuban forces in Angola. The Soviet Union continues to flout the Helsinki agreement on human rights, which rightly states that the observance of human rights is related to the preservation of peace. The Soviet Union continues to suppress the wishes of the peoples of eastern Europe. When it ceases to do that sort of thing I shall begin to believe that there may have been a fundamental change in Soviet policy and Soviet attitudes toward the free world. Until then, we would be right to suspend judgment.

We have a long way to go, but Soviet agreement to an INF treaty would be a first important step to reduce nuclear weapons, and a step in the right direction.

6.8 pm

Mr. A. E. P. Duffy (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

After the years of dangerous stagnation, 1987 has witnessed tremendous progress towards nuclear disarmament. For the first time in post-war history a big change in the military relationship between East and West seems possible. Yet an impassioned debate is taking place inside the Western Alliance about whether such an agreement on INF is in the long-term security interests of the Alliance. Nuclear disarmament is a many-sided question and involves a variety of perspectives, interests and options. For example, will the present agreement lead to an agreed framework for dramatic cuts in intercontinental missiles and, eventually, in battlefield nuclear systems? Can we really get the nuclear genie back into the bottle?

What of Warsaw pact superiority in conventional weapons? What is to offset that superiority, if not nuclear armaments? What are the costs of redressing that conventional imbalance in tanks, artillery, aircraft and ships? Should not the next agreement—triple zero—be on tanks? How will all this serve Russian interests?

If this agreement is secured, it will carry with it a threefold hope — for improved security, for added impetus to other negotiations, especially with regard to strategic nuclear arsenals and chemical weapons, and for improved co-operation from the Soviet Union. In the next, perhaps decisive, phase of arms control negotiations, both sides will need to show conclusively that there is sufficient political will to ensure that a serious disarmament process is here to stay.

No matter where one looks, there are few obvious signs of celebration. On the contrary, the nearer to zero the zero-zero option comes, the more NATO anxieties increase, mostly relating to the failure to link agreement on medium-range nuclear weapons with other aspects of the Soviet threat to western Europe.

Chancellor Kohl of West Germany is concerned about a solution that would remove missiles without at the same time including the Soviet Union's enormous advantage in conventional forces". General Bernard Rogers, just before stepping down recently as supreme military commander in Brussels, revealed that from a military perspective the agreement "gave me gas pains." His successor, General Jack Galvin, though more cautious, still believes that western defence will remain credible only if NATO retains an appropriate mix of nuclear and conventional forces. Henry Kissinger warned that the upshot would prove a strengthening of the neutralist trend in Europe, and French Foreign Minister André Giraud condemned the zero option as another Munich.

One lesson of Reykjavik, therefore, is that arms control may be more of a challenge than an opportunity. Was the West ready? In retrospect, the Reykjavik talks were quite bizarre. The Americans went to Reykjavik totally unprepared. I am told that they even had to borrow carbon paper from their Soviet opposite numbers and spent half the night hurriedly typing out position papers over a bath and without any consultation with their allies.

The first onus on the Alliance must be to recover its solidarity and cohesion. The United States must take steps to reassure Europe and all must reassure West Germany. Europe must also serve itself better by its own exertions. The United States spends more on European defence—$134 billion — than the $83 billion spent by Europe itself. For that reason, over a period of many years western European countries have become more and more dependent on nuclear-reliant policies. The Soviet Union has achieved its overwhelming conventional superiority to a considerable extent through the default of western European nations.

The West must seize the arms control initiative from Mr. Gorbachev. The passivity shown by the West, and especially by the United States in the past two years, is almost criminal. During that time there have been at least three times as many initiatives from the Soviet Union as from the West. We may certainly expect new disarmament initiatives from Mr. Gorbachev, and they may continue to catch the West off balance. It is true that the Soviet Union has given up more weapons this time, but there is a danger in the public expectation that this will create in the West, oblivious to the conventional threat. In the United States and in Europe there is, properly, a deep wish for a new era and new deals. In the United States, with its strong ethical strain in foreign policy making, the predisposition to see only the good in Mr. Gorbachev may be as pronounced as the inclination to see only the had in what went before.

There are encouraging signs of new political winds blowing from the Soviet Union. We could be on the threshold of new and more constructive relations between East and West, but that does not relieve us of the obligation to ask further questions. What lies behind Mr. Gorbachev's smile? How far will glasnost go? How far can it go, given the Soviet system? How far can verification go? The Foreign Secretary has said that that will be the key. At the Congress of Vienna, Prince Metternich complained that there was the difficulty always of obtaining true data from Russia". Nevertheless, Mr. Gorbachev should be taken at his word and the Soviet will should be tested. That is why I attach the utmost importance to confidence-building methods.

I shall want to hear the Foreign Secretary tell the House at a convenient moment what initiatives he is prepared to deploy within the Alliance or, preferably, to make on our behalf. Soviet domestic problems—we are all familiar with them and they make an alarming catalogue—call for domestic reform. Mr. Gorbachev may be the man that the Soviet Union needs for that job, so should we not be assisting him? For example, could not the United States offer agricultural technology rather than merely wheat shipments—for should we not all prefer a fat Russian to a thin one?

6.16 pm
Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith (Wealden)

It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy), a fellow delegate to the North Atlantic Assembly. Given our common experience, it will come as little surprise to him when I say that we share much the same views on a wide range of defence issues, albeit with the occasional difference of emphasis. I warmly support the points that he has made. His speech was a refreshing contrast to that of the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) from the Opposition Front Bench.

I should say at once to my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues how much we welcome the Bill and how much we respect the work carried out by the arms control and disarmament unit of the Foreign Office. As a leader of the British delegation to the North Atlantic Assembly, I have met politicians and officials from a number of countries. There is no doubt that the quality of our input into disarmament talks is respected worldwide, and to some extent we bask in that glory.

I agree with the right hon. Member for Gorton on just one point. The present situation makes us look to the future. I wish, therefore, to consider some of the opportunities and challenges posed by the INF agreement and by the Bill before the House. Lord Carrington, who is no starry-eyed politician, said in his excellent address to the North Atlantic Assembly in Oslo recently that in the light of the INF agreement we must be prepared to be innovative and imaginative. I agree wholeheartedly.

There is a recognition that new technology, which is increasingly sophisticated and expensive, will place even heavier burdens on our economies. Certainly, there is a growing public expectation that our Government should make positive proposals. We must admit that such public expectations have been roused not least by Mr. Gorbachev, who has displayed political nimbleness as well as an attractive public persona that is not usually associated with Soviet leaders. Across the political spectrum of the North Atlantic Assembly there was no doubt that the mood of the delegates was that the time is right to explore further arms control measures.

We have been asked how far we can trust Mr. Gorbachev and the Soviet Union's intentions. I have no idea how far we can trust him or, indeed, any of his colleagues. Even if we trust him a lot in the next year or so, he could always be disowned by his colleagues. His words and deeds make a refreshing change from those of Mr. Brezhnev. He appears to recognise the debilitating effects of too heavy a defence burden. Certainly, it has been a burden which the Soviet economy is not well able to bear, and he knows it. I suspect, of course, that he may find—this point may lurk in the dark recesses of his mind—that, at some time in the future, arms control discussions could lead to divisions in the West and that the lack of a well-thought-out concerted approach to arms control by NATO countries could lead to a more favourable military balance for the Soviet Union. Indeed, he might even consider that Western Governments, when faced with Warsaw pact countries' promises of arms reductions, may be reluctant to insist on adequate verification procedures for fear of jeopardising the agreement. That is why one attaches such importance to a Bill of this nature.

If trust is an essential precondition, undoubtedly, if any agreement is to work, verification is the methodology by which we can ensure that agreements are adhered to. Some of the risks that we face include a slackness of approach and a lack of concerted policies by Western Governments. I agree with Lord Carrington; we should explore every avenue and test Soviet initiatives. We should go further and produce some initiatives of our own. But we should be much clearer about what we want from arms control.

I start with a simple premise. Our strategy has been and will continue for some time to he one of stopping and deterring Soviet aggression in Europe. Military commanders, as the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) reminded us, tell us that the removal of intermediate and shorter-range nuclear weapons has meant that we have lost some of our flexibility in carrying out that strategy. One of the consequences of the agreement—it is not widely appreciated by the public—is the greater emphasis that will be put on our need for strong conventional forces which, as we know, are far more expensive than nuclear forces to maintain.

The Government, and NATO in particular, would be right to concentrate arms control talks on conventional arms. What makes the task so difficult is that we shall ask the Soviets to reduce their strength in an area in Europe in which they consider themselves to be superior. We know that the Warsaw pact and NATO forces' structures are asymmetrical. That is why equal percentage reductions are no answer. We know that Warsaw pact countries have about 17,000 tanks in place in the central region. NATO has about 8,000 tanks in place. A cut of about 10 per cent. across the board sounds good, but of course the threat to the West would be just as great.

Simple arguments about percentage cuts can lead only to negotiators getting bogged down in the numbers to be gained. The lack of symmetry means that, at some stage. each side must be prepared to accept unequal reductions, as was the case in respect of the SALT treaties, certainly was the case with the ABM treaties, and is now the case with the current zero-zero agreement. Europeans, especially west Europeans, have taken the greater military risk, whatever the political advantage may be. If either side is to be prepared to accept an unequal reduction, there must be an incentive if the risks involved are to be accepted. That is essential.

How might we proceed? We, together with our allies, need to move with some speed if we are to regain the initiative and stop reacting, as we often have in the past, to Mr. Gorbachev's latest moves. Many of his moves result from ideas that we put forward years ago but which the Russians did not pick up. The West has lacked sufficient conceptual clarity in the formulation of its arms control objectives. After all, we were reminded of that fact by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe. After Mr. Reagan, in Reykjavik, proposed the elimination of all nuclear weapons, the West was in disarray. Even today there is the suspicion that America's nuclear arms control objectives do not sufficiently take into account Europe's own security needs. There is no doubt that there is insufficient sign of an agreed list of priorities in western Europe.

A clear concept of our arms control aims is an indispensable precondition if we are to avoid falling into the trap of agreeing to superficially attractive proposals which, in the long term, can only damage our power to deter war and our capacity to defend ourselves should war ever break out. We expect the Government to make it clear at all talks that we want stability and security at a cheaper price. If we are to make a start along such lines, we should make it perfectly clear to the Soviets that the most destabilising and threatening element in Europe is the short warning attack potential of the Soviet conventional forces and their growing offensive capability. The latter is expressed in their qualitative and quantitative improvements to their heavy armoured divisions and to their impressive navy, which could seriously inhibit our own force deployment and reinforcement divisions in a crisis.

Mr. Gorbachev professes his seriousness about arms control and his wish to reduce tensions and to normalise relations with his neighbours. The litmus test of how serious he is about his stated intentions must be his willingness to reduce the massive Soviet offensively configured forces in central Europe. That would go a mighty long way to reducing East-West tensions, enhancing stability and saving money for him and for us. Of course, Mr. Gorbachev's advisers consider that our forces pose a threat to their security, although we stoutly maintain that we are a defensive Alliance and that our forces are primarily equipped to deter and repulse an attack, not to launch one.

Why not have the experts—the military commanders, as the Soviets have suggested—discuss that point? Let the military commanders talk directly to one another about what worries them about each other's offensive capabilities. It has already been said that progress towards stability, the removal of distrust and the maintenance of peace are not merely military matters. At a later stage in our progress, we should consider linking further arms control measures to progress in non-military fields which can affect our longer-term security.

I should sleep a lot easier in my bed if I knew that Mr. Gorbachev would make glasnost something more than an exercise in smoothing some of the rougher edges of Soviet life. Let Mr. Gorbachev look at the terms of the Helsinki agreement of 1975 which, if implemented, would allow greater freedom of expression, freedom of mobility and expansion of human rights for his citizens and will enable him still further to relax the Jewish emigration policy. He should do those things if he wishes to build our confidence and trust to enable us to make military progress. If he wants us to help him with his infrastructure and his agricultural technology, he should be perfectly clear that we are willing, but at a price. Part of that price would be our wanting his tanks and much else of his punitive and financially costly military paraphernalia to back off the frontiers of West Germany. If he did that he would find that we would not be unresponsive, economically and militarily.

We are at a critical point in the East-West conflict, which is why we must do all that we can to ascertain whether a real amelioration in that conflict is possible. To fail to do so would be a dereliction of our responsibility and an admission of defeat to Mr. Gorbachev in the battle for public opinion. The time is ripe for us to improve the climate of trust and to seize the initiative, provided that it is done on terms that are in harmony with our overall security policy.

6.30 pm
Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

I have no difficulty in agreeing wholeheartedly with the two preceding speakers on the need to secure a coherent, clear and agreed negotiating strategy for the West in arms negotiations. This debate illustrates how difficult that can be at times, when the prized objectives of the various key participants do not appear to be generally shared.

President Reagan has set as an objective the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons and has been denounced by Conservative Members for doing so. Having first been advanced and advocated by the West, the zero option came to be challenged at the point of its realisation by those who began to think they should never have advocated it in the first place. That is not a happy way to conduct arms negotiations and the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) was right to point to some of the lessons of the Reykjavik process.

The most obvious key feature of the Bill is that it is about verification. The fact that we have a Bill about the verification process is a welcome sign that we have begun to break the log jam on verification which stood in the way of effective or worthwhile arms control agreements. We hope that the form of the Bill reflects the possibilities of further substantial verification agreements in other aspects of arms control. That can only be welcomed.

Secondly, the Bill confers diplomatic immunity. As the Minister will be aware, that has not been without its vicissitudes of late and has aroused a fair amount of public concern because of two types of cases—first, the use of diplomatic immunity as a cover for terrorist activities. That led to breaches of diplomatic relations with Libya and Syria. The Government were bound to take those actions and I supported them, although I now take the view that Britain should consider the possibility of resuming diplomatic relations with Syria, where certain key changes have taken place. However, I have no doubt at all that the Government were right to break off diplomatic relations with Syria when they did. Indeed, I advocated that course some weeks earlier. The danger of the misuse of diplomatic immunity has been studied by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. That in turn has led the Government to take a tougher stance to ensure that it is not abused.

In addition to the terrorist cases to which I have referred, there have been three cases this year of other offences causing public concern. An American diplomat's husband was alleged to have committed an indecent assault. In that case there was no waiver of diplomatic immunity, despite one being requested. The man concerned was eventually removed from this country. There have been two other cases. One involved a sex charge and the other the giving of evidence in a murder investigation. Diplomatic immunity was waived in both.

There is a great deal of public concern about such issues and it is extremely important that the principles on which diplomatic immunity is based are observed by all the states involved, because it is essential to the conduct of foreign relations that we maintain the ability for states to talk to each other. That is fundamental to the prevention of war, and the system must be made to work effectively. Instances such as the ones that I have described threaten the ability to do so.

The fact that the Bill is before the House shows the pace and progress of arms control and the welcome developments, especially on the INF deal. We all hope that that will lead to a wider range of international disarmament agreements. In this context, it is worth asking what the Government's response is to the prospect of going beyond the INF deal to a deal that would affect Britain's own nuclear weapons. In some ways, the Government seemed to be adopting a more rigid view than any of the other participants in the current international discussions. The Prime Minister stated in an interview in Der Spiegel: I will never give up Britain's nuclear deterrent and neither will France". There have been repeated signals of various kinds that whatever progress is made in international disarmament negotiations the supposedly independent British deterrent is something about which we shall never negotiate.

Therefore, it is worth asking what it is all about. What is Britain's deterrent for? Is it a measured insurance against a real threat or do we have it because it is imagined that without nuclear weapons we would not be a real nation state? The case for Britain having independent nuclear weapons as a form of defence can be argued and considered, but nuclear weapons as a symbol of nationhood cannot be justified as a doctrine because it invites worldwide proliferation. It is manifestly the case that a country can be an effective nation state without having nuclear weapons.

It has long been the view of the Liberal party that the best defence for Europe is full British participation in a strong NATO, appropriately armed to meet any potential threat, including the nuclear threat, combined with determined attempts to achieve negotiated disarmament on a basis that would ensure no loss of security for either side at any stage. We have always accepted that NATO nuclear weapons should be stationed in Britain and that renders separate British deterrents unnecessary.

The challenge to that long-held view comes from the fear—not readily admitted by the Prime Minister, but widely discussed in specialist and public debate—that the United States nuclear guarantee to Europe might at some date be withdrawn or become unreliable. That is the basic argument for having some kind of independent British deterrent.

During the debate, the Foreign Secretary has said that it would be unthinkable to imagine that the United States guarantee would at some future date be withdrawn. The right hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Sir P. Blaker) said precisely the opposite—that it was a contingency against which we should guard. Clearly, there are different views on this.

However, if the fear is justified—I do not believe that we can simply ignore it — does the planned British deterrent provide us with an alternative guarantee? How can it, since it depends on continued co-operation from the United States in servicing and supply?

We had an increasingly abstruse discussion earlier about the ownership of Trident missiles. I refer the Foreign Secretary to the definition that was helpfully provided by the Chairman of the Defence Select Committee in the previous Parliament, the hon. Member for Hampshire, East (Mr. Mates), who said on radio today that it was like having a calor gas cylinder or soda siphon—one owned it while one had it, but then took it back and was given another one when it was used up. I will settle for that description if it is accepted by the Government.

It is not the issue of ownership that worries me but the system of refurbishment and renewal which depends on continued United States co-operation. That co-operation could cease to be available, perhaps because the United States was no longer willing to offer it or, more likely, because the United States was no longer maintaining those facilities for its own use, or because the continued involvement in the supply of Trident missiles by the United States might be incompatible with future strategic or INF deals between the United States and the Soviet Union. It is not an independent deterrent, but a very dependent one.

It follows from that that Britain's deterrent capacity with Trident would be in jeopardy in precisely the circumstances against which it is intended to be an insurance—circumstances under which the United States guarantee would cease to be available to us.

It must be hoped that with the new impetus of arms control negotiations we can reach the point at which Europe's defence does not need to depend, as it clearly does at the moment, on nuclear deterrence. That point cannot be reached until Europe's fears about the Soviet Union's conventional strength and its strength in chemical weapons are satisfied. If there is reason to believe that that might not be reached and that the United States guarantee may fail, a United States-based British deterrent cannot provide us with the insurance that we need. That could be achieved only by a deterrent wholly European in production and control.

Prudence suggests that Britain and her partners should at least explore that area and should do so without losing sight of the commitment to achieve the goal of negotiated disarmament which would make such a development unnecessary. Indeed, the exclusion of existing or future British and French weapon systems from arms negotiations would reduce the chances of enhancing Europe's security through multilateral disarmament. Therefore, the British Government's position is fundamentally illogical. Perhaps we shall receive more clarification of it tonight, but I think that this argument will continue for many months yet.

We hope that the discussions on strategic weapons between Mr. Shultz and Mr. Shevardnadze have productive results. They have been attended by certain transport difficulties, but they offer valuable prospects for real development on strategic weapons. But, again, in agreeing to a 50 per cent. cut in strategic weapons, as she did at Camp David, the Prime Minister was reported as insisting, "but no more". It appears that the British Government are always drawing the line at what can be regarded as worth attempting.

In all the discussions on strategic weapons there remains the fundamental obstacle of SDI. It appeared, certainly in the early stages, that the main motivation, other than economic motivation which is perhaps the most powerful of all, for Soviet desire for rapid movement in arms negotiations was their anxiety about SDI. That was not because they believed President Reagan's view that it would provide a complete protective shield against all nuclear weapons, but because of the enormously enhanced capacity involved in creating it.

Indeed, it is hard to find anybody who believes in President Reagan's vision of SDI which provides a global nuclear shield or, indeed, a nuclear shield merely around the United States of America. The Foreign Secretary's analysis of the failings of the SDI concept remains valid and the most effective critique of the whole SDI concept available in any library or text anywhere. I am worried that the Government have lost sight of the clarity with which he explained how the whole concept was a mirage.

It is time the British Government insisted publicly and more clearly that the existing SDI programme must not be allowed to threaten the ABM treaty and that it carries the potential to threaten European security, to which the Foreign Secretary so clearly and cogently referred.

The discussions on the test ban treaty may now be resumed. When negotiations on a test ban treaty were broken off in 1980, Britain was a partner in them. Now the prospect is that the discussions will reopen as part of the bilateral discussions between the United States and the Soviet Union. Where is Britain in all this? Since we were a party to the negotiations when they broke down, why should we not be now? Is it because we do not envisage that we can be a party to a comprehensive test ban treaty? Surely not.

Mr. Denzil Davies

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point and I hope that the Minister will answer it. As he said, Britain has always been a party to test ban treaty arrangements. The question he asks and which we shall ask is why we shall not be a party to these particular negotiations.

Mr. Beith

I am glad to have the right hon. Gentleman's support on this issue and perhaps the Minister who replies will clarify the position. It seems both illogical and a crippling limitation on the value of any future test ban treaty.

We must achieve progress on conventional forces reductions if the objective that I set is to be met. The objective is that all armed agreements should ensure that security is not lessened for either side. That is the basis of stability in arms negotiations and we cannot have that stability unless we make progress on conventional arms reductions and the whole frightening area of chemical weapons.

There are reasons for optimism in the state of progress so far and in the whole approach of Mr. Gorbachev, which must be seen against the background of his particular position. We should not be unrealistic or careless in our judgments about what he is doing or the limitations placed on him. However, we can afford to test the willingness and ability to deliver what he promises and we are in a position to negotiate realistic agreements with him. There are factors in the present Soviet system which make it inevitable that he will be much more determined to bring about serious arms reductions than any of his predecessors have ever been. Indeed, it is to his credit that he realises that this is necessary and that he has applied such imagination to doing so.

There are considerable signs of optimism, but also reasons for anxiety and pessimism in elements of both West and East. There are those in the Pentagon, this country and the Soviet Union who challenge the validity of the whole process. We must dispel the fears which they generate where those fears can be shown to be justified, but we must not lose impetus or determination.

The present Government worry me because they constantly seem to want to narrow the vision of what is possible. The Labour party worries me because it assumes that the vision has already become a reality. Clearly, it has not. We should set high horizons for what can be achieved, but we should be realistic in our recognition of the degree of security which must be guaranteed at each step along the road towards achieving those goals.

6.45 pm
Mr. George Walden (Buckingham)

I listened with interest to the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith). He asked the Government questions about their defence policy, and at the end of my remarks I should like to ask some questions about Liberal party policy.

We are debating a technical issue which hon. Members have widened into a much broader discussion of disarmament and defence. The present moment is both propitious and disturbing. It is propitious because, clearly, we are dealing with a new leader in the Soviet Union. Indeed, it is not going too far to say that there is evidence of a new spirit in international affairs. However, I find it slightly disturbing, because in this debate and in the general public debate on these matters we seem to concentrate on the technological side of disarmament and not much on the political side.

If one looks carefully at the experience of the past few years, one discovers that the mistakes that have been made in the West—there have been mistakes—are political This is a time to learn from them if we want to take advantage of the new opportunities that undoubtedly exist. I shall give three examples.

First, in the past year or two we have discussed insufficiently the origins of the military confrontation in Europe. We have spoken a great deal about technology. We do not want to fall into the position in New York, where they have programmed stock exchange dealings, with the results that we have just seen. The equivalent in defence would be alarming. We in Europe must return to base one, which is the political origins of the confrontation in Europe. In essence, they still exist today. Nothing that Gorbachev is offering to do will change that.

We should ask ourselves seriously what the present political situation is in eastern Europe. There are opportunities there for liberalisation and economic revitalisation. However, we should be rather pessimistic about how far it will prove possible for eastern European countries to take advantage of the opportunities. Clearly, the pressures for liberalisation that Gorbachev has generated in those countries will make it difficult to find a legitimate political outlet that will not challenge the basis of the regimes there or the basis of Soviet hegemony over them.

I put to the House the perfectly reasonable proposition that it is possible to conceive that in the next year or two we shall face trouble in eastern Europe of the kind that we have seen in the past. I ask the House to consider how the present spirit on arms control between East and West would be affected by an eruption of that kind. That seems to me a very potent example of the dangers of not taking sufficient account of the political element in East-West negotiations.

The second example that I should like to give concerns the political situation in the United States. During the INF episode, in my view the West found itself faced with quite unnecessary political difficulties during the deployment phase because of the attitude and rhetoric of some of our American allies. The deployment was made more difficult than it should have been. That phase has passed, but let us be frank. In the American political system there is an underlying instability—that is perhaps not too strong a word—that tends, over time, to cause rather alarming vacillations in American policy, no matter who is President.

We saw an example of that in Reykjavik, and I think that we shall see more examples of that in the future. It is my firm conviction that the American mood will change from one of what I regard as an unnecessary adversary attitude to the Soviet Union to one of rather dangerous indulgence towards a new Soviet leader. This is built into not only the American tradition, but the way in which the American Executive operates.

We have seen examples of excessively hostile attitudes to the Soviet Union that have damaged the cohesion of the Alliance. I suspect that in future we may be faced with rather different problems that could make the opportunities for disarmament, as the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) said, as much a challenge as an opportunity. I should not like to see a situation develop in which co-operation between the Soviet Union and America, which clearly will grow, in effect threatens the interests of Europe or this country. We should keep our eyes on politics and the political mood in the United States and also on the super-power co-operation that is bound to arise, and which we as a Government to some extent have encouraged, because there are risks as well as opportunities.

Thirdly, there is the political situation in the Soviet Union. I was glad to note that my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Sir G. Johnson Smith) made a certain linkage between politics and defence. When the Russians look at the relationship with the West, as the House knows, they have a technique of comparing the overall balance of forces. I have always thought that a wise attitude of the Soviets, and something that we should apply to them in turn. It means that one does not just weigh the balance of forces on the military scales, but looks at the social, economic and political position of the potential adversary.

Let us apply that to Mr. Gorbachev. I think we all know and welcome what he has said about glasnost and perestroika. Let us assess what has been done. One Russian has been quoted as saying that the only difference so far is that, whereas before they had to queue for food, they now have to queue for drink as well. There is a deep truth there, because the political test for Gorbachev concerns the economy. He has not started to tackle it yet. There are two major facets. One is to do with manpower, with facing the necessity of some degree of unemployment in the Soviet Union. He is cautious about that, and that could be a politically explosive factor. The other factor is prices.

I do not want to go too deeply into all that, but that is an example of the potential precariousness of the position of Mr. Gorbachev. It is something that we ought to keep in mind, because, however much we approve of his sentiments or his campaign for political openness, it does not matter that much whether or not we approve. What matters is whether the Soviet people — not just his Conservative opponents, who have become rather used to the inefficiencies of the Communist system—approve of the rigours of reformism that he wants to place upon them.

Much of what we have been discussing today could be seriously affected by political perturbations in the Soviet Union, which could make Mr. Gorbachev's position less secure. Naturally, I and many hon. Members would be unhappy at that prospect, but we must realise that that prospect is always there. We must keep that in mind because, as I mentioned earlier, there is the danger, not only in the United States but in this country, of, on the one hand, this underlying instability of vacillating between unnecessary exaggerations of the Soviet threat, and on the other hand a certain relief from the tensions, a euphoria, that could bring unrealistic demands for disarmament on the Government.

I should like to return to where I started, which is the technical side of this debate. It is to do with the CDE. As we know, the CDE will move on early in the new year to discuss not only these relatively minor confidence-building measures, but to talk about conventional disarmament. When that stage is reached, it is perfectly clear to me that Mr. Gorbachev will launch an eye-catching initiative and that, in the atmosphere of today, which is getting a little unrealistic about the potential for early measures on arms control and disarmament, that initiative will catch the West unbalanced and cause further euphoria in public opinion. We ought to remind public opinion at every stage of what I would call the political precariousness as well as the opportunities of the present position.

Finally, I should like to make one addition to a point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Sir P. Blaker). He was only partly right in his description of the policy of the Labour party on Trident, because he said that its policy was essentially to make the Russians an offer: "If you give up 3 per cent. of yours, we will give up 100 per cent. of ours." He is only partly right, because the next stage of the argument of the Labour party, and, as I understand it, of the Liberal party, is to say: "What is more, if you do not agree to that proposition, we will give up our deterrent anyway." Neither the Labour party nor the Liberal party is prepared to confront the real problem, which is the maintenance of a working deterrent for the foreseeable future if one is to indulge in genuine and productive negotiations with the Soviet Union.

Mr. Beith

Surely there is a difference between the possession of a deterrent which is intended to be independently British, which I contend we do not have, and a NATO deterrent stationed in Britain.

Mr. Walden

I do not want to intrude on the private discussions of the Liberal party, but by his intervention the hon. Gentleman has forced me to make a prediction. In the future, I foresee a Lib-Lab defence policy that I would call love in a mist. Both those parties are gravitating in the direction that I have just described—either the Russians will do a deal with us, or we will give up our deterrent anyway and that really will scare the pants off Moscow.

6.59 pm
Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)

In some ways I should like to take up the remarks of the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden) and engage in a discussion on defence policy generally. However, at the risk of being accused of dodging the issue, it would be the height of folly for the Labour party in 1987 to be fashioning a defence policy that it might want to use in a general election in 1991 or 1992. This is distinctly the wrong time to enter into the details of a defence policy. Instead, it is a time to be extremely cautious. I suggest to the hon. Member for Buckingham with great humility that no party has the perfect defence policy.

In engaging in the difficult analysis of international relations on which we have all now to embark, it does not help if we castigate others for insincerity or lack of national vigour. I would add — [Interruption.] The Under-Secretary of State has only recently entered the Chamber but he is already moping on the Government Front Bench. I would prefer him to be quiet for the present. I was saying in all sincerity that it does not help if we castigate others because they take a different view from ourselves. It does not assist to brand others as unpatriotic.

For example, the hon. Member for Buckingham talked about vacillation when discussing how we should behave towards the Soviet Union. In doing so, he suggested that the United States blows hot and cold. No one characterises his strictures more than the Prime Minister. Having met Mr. Gorbachev, she described him as a man with whom she could do business, but in the next breath she talks about the great red menace. Which posture are we to adopt? Which is the correct stance?

I share some of the thoughts of the hon. Member for Buckingham on suspicions towards the Soviet Union. That does not mean merely suspicions towards the Soviet Union now or over the past 70 years. There are suspicions in respect of the past 1,000 years of Russian history and the Russian outlook, including that on expansion. These suspicions do not necessarily help us in trying to analyse what Mr. Gorbachev is up to in 1987.

I am surprised that a specific and significant factor has not yet been mentioned in this debate. Surely Mr. Gorbachev must have recoiled from the Chernobyl incident. I am convinced that the full story of Chernobyl will never be told, but some of the implications of this "minor" nuclear disaster must have come home to him and the people of the Soviet Union. I am sure that he has recoiled from the implications of nuclear technology if it is mishandled. We have seen what can happen if an experiment or tests go wrong and the situation gets out of hand, and it is reasonable to suggest that Mr. Gorbachev has recoiled from the implications of chucking nuclear weapons about in European territories or elsewhere.

The INF negotiations have produced a helpful sign because for the first time the super-powers have come together and produced a reduction of horrific nuclear weapons, albeit an imbalanced one. It is against that background that I want now to deal with some of the issues that arise on a consideration of the Bill.

The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) has dealt with some of the technicalities of diplomatic immunity and we are aware that the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs has examined the issue. There are extreme difficulties in curtailing the operation of the Vienna convention because of its reciprocal nature. Diplomatic immunity is granted to foreign ambassadors and consuls on the basis of reciprocity. In other words, we give something and we arrive at a reciprocal arrangement. That is common sense, and it is an understanding that has been underpinned. There have been diplomatic relations since the creation of nation states.

The Bill contains the proposition that the United Kingdom should grant diplomatic immunity to observers and specialists but this provision is not accompanied by a definition. No one tells us what an observer or a scientist is. We have some understanding of what a diplomat or a consul is, but is proposed that observers and specialists will be able to enter the United Kingdom to carry out quick-fire inspections. They will come to Greenham Common and Molesworth, which are bases on United Kingdom soveriegn territory. The legal position of these bases is somewhat in dispute because of the Visiting Forces Act and because we are not entirely clear about the arrangements between ourselves and the United States.

It is against this background that observers and specialists will come to this country with the right to visit bases on British sovereign territory to examine weaponry possessed by a third nation. What do we get in return? It may be that the Foreign Secretary has alluded to the answer. He said, in effect, that it is too early to arrive at a firm position and that we should await negotiations. We have seen on television the arch yuppie types who are the negotiators of the United States. We see them moving around with large bundles of papers in the course of placing their position on verification on the record. We are party to that, but what do we get in return from the Soviet Union?

An article on relevance appeared in The Sunday Times on 20 September. The author, addressing himself to reciprocity, wrote: The Government is concerned that any agreement between the superpowers might give Soviet officials unrestricted access to British bases, providing an unprecedented opportunity for the Soviet Union to gather valuable intelligence. The Ministry of Defence has made it clear to the Americans that this is unacceptable. If it is unacceptable, are we helping the negotiations on verification? What is acceptable to us in terms of our understanding with the Americans? The Foreign Secretary has told us that he has met Mr. Shultz and has the intention of meeting him again, and as part of the current negotiations Mr. Shultz is discussing the vexatious and interesting issues of verification.

The Sunday Times article continued: The intermediate nuclear forces agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union announced on Friday will mean the scrapping of cruise missiles at two British bases, Greenham Common and Molesworth. Ninety-six cruise missiles are currently deployed at Greenham and a further 64 are scheduled for Molesworth when it becomes operational next year. The article continues and mentions a 20-page draft treaty.

As I have asked before, if we are to allow the Soviets to visit British bases by some arrangement, what do we get in return? What is the understanding between the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union? I hope that I shall have an answer to that question at least.

Mr. Kaufman

My hon. Friend will understand that there will be reciprocity between the United States and the Soviet Union because they are the parties to the agreement that will have the consequence of removal of cruise missiles from the United Kingdom. I was endeavouring to say earlier that we are a bystanding party to an agreement to the removal of weapons from our territory, even though we are required to control—I am much in favour of this — the diplomatic status of the Soviet observers who come here to visit British nuclear bases to supervise the removal of American weapons.

Mr. Douglas

I fully appreciate and take on board the point made by my right hon. Friend. I would take that point a little further. We are doing this in terms of a delegated outer station. As I understand it, the affirmative procedure may be carried out in an Order that might be debated in one and a half hours.

I ask the Under-Secretary of State to consider the precedent. I know of no precedent of a nation granting diplomatic immunity to the citizens of another nation state with ostensibly no reciprocity. If the Under-Secretary of State or any other hon. Member can come forward and recite the precedents, I would welcome that edification.

I want to consider the more detailed questions about verification. In the June 1987 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists the writers state clearly: The benefits of verification, like those of the broader agreement it serves, must exceed its risks. The primary risks of an intrusive verification system involve the potential compromise of national and industrial secrets to Soviet inspectors who would have at least the same access rights as US teams in the Soviet Union. I can see the thrust of that from the point of view of the United States, but if those inspectors come here, there is no reciprocity. We have the right to be reasonably suspicious. The Soviet scientists and observers will come here and carry out a job with no reciprocity.

The bulletin continues: On the benefit side, the United States could gain from on-site inspections new knowledge of Soviet missile production and storage practices, and the superpowers might be able to build confidence by using agreed inspection procedures to resolve compliance concerns. All the thrust is between the United States and the Soviet Union. Where does Britain stand?

Dr. Glyn

The hon. Gentleman has raised a most interesting point. However, this is only a reciprocal arrangement that will work between Great Britain and the Soviet Union through the United States. It is not a direct agreement and we are only the third party. As far as I can see, we have no rights at all in the Soviet Union.

Mr. Douglas

If I may put it delicately, the hon. Gentleman is reinforcing the point with which I am belabouring the House.

I want to consider where we might be going with regard to our relationship with the Soviet Union in general. Tangentially, I regret very much the absence of a Select Committee on Defence. I was a member of the previous Select Committee on Defence. Although I accept what the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed said about the remarks of the previous Chairman of the Select Committee with regard to newspaper speculation about the Trident lease deal, if there is anything that a Select Committee should examine in detail, it is that. We have had a long history of examining the Trident system. Indeed, we produced very recently an update of our views on the Trident system.

Such press speculation—if I may put it as delicately as that—might be examined by a Select Committee. I hesitate to caution the hon. Member for Hampshire, East when he is absent from the House, but I suggest that a former Chairman of the Select Committee on Defence should not make such statements without detailed examination. I do not believe that his analogy bears detailed examination by the House. I believe that the Select Committee should undertake that kind of job. I n anticipating next week's debate on the Defence Estimates, I believe that that debate will be the poorer because for the first time for a considerable period we will not have an examination of the Estimates by a Select Committee on Defence. The House and the debates in the House have benefited from having the searching examinations of the Select Committee and those undertaken by the Secretary of State and his officials.

In conclusion, we are all hopeful that the moves between the super-powers a with regard to INF will hear fruit. Any speculation on the part of the Labour party that somehow or other that will reduce the burden of defence commitment on us, whatever view we may take of the unique possession of a deterrent by the United Kingdom must be questioned. I ask any Conservative Member who thinks that we ought to continue to possess a strategic deterrent to name any situation in which we would be likely to use that deterrent—Polaris or Trident—without the support and/or the backing of the United States. I keep asking that question, but I never get an answer.

There is no conceivable situation in which we would use that deterrent without the support or backing of the United States. An essential pillar in our strategy is to remain committed to NATO and not to think that because of the reductions in nuclear weapons somehow we can reduce defence expenditure. We should have a unique naval role within NATO, but because the Government adhere to a costly strategic deterrent, we are not fulfilling that role now. An up-to-date thrust was given by the Secretary of State's reply to the Select Committee's report on the Falklands when, for the first time, he came clean and reneged on a long-standing commitment to order three type 23 frigates a year. That is a sign of the cost of Trident.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. I know that we have gone rather wide of the ruling of my predecessor, the Chairman of the Committee. Indeed, we are straying very wide now. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will have regard to the Bill.

Mr. Douglas

I appreciate that stricture and conclude by stating that that is a clear sign of the cost of Trident to our overall defence commitment and defence capability.

7.16 pm
Mr. Robert Rhodes James (Cambridge)

It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) whose understanding of these matters and whose outspokenness is greatly appreciated on both sides of the House. It is also a pleasure to follow the wisdom of my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden).

I was very grateful to the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) for his reference to my friend and colleague, Kerensky. Kerensky and I were visiting professors at Stanford University where I was doing a course on the Russian revolution. I nearly dropped a tree on him and almost became famous as the man who killed Kerensky. That is the only agreeable reference that I can make to the speech of the right hon. Member for Gorton.

With all respect to the right hon. Member for Gorton and to the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock), who I suspect will speak shortly, my complaint against the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament was that it emphasised totally the horrors and perils of nuclear war and therefore gave some people at least the impression that conventional war was tolerable and reasonable.

Mr. Frank Cook (Stockton, North)

Absolute nonsense.

Mr. Rhodes James

It is not absolute nonsense. I am a soldier's son. I was born in 1933 and was brought up during the war. I experienced so-called conventional warfare. I also make the point—and this is not a party political point — that more people were killed in two nights in Tokyo and Hamburg than were killed in Hiroshima or Nagasaki. That does not make me any less of a strong——

Ms. Ruddock

As the hon. Gentleman has just referred to me and to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, I want to make the position quite clear. We, and I personally, have never felt that conventional war was tolerable in any way. We have opposed conventional wars throughout the world which have occurred continually while we have had the so-called "peace" for 40 years. We have said that, given the likely delivery of nuclear weapons with the current state of arsenals, in no sense would we have a war equivalent to the dropping of one or two bombs on Japan during the last world war. We would have an all-out nuclear war ending life on this planet. That is the difference. That is not a threat posed by conventional weaponry. That does not mean in any way that we regard conventional wars as tolerable.

Mr. Rhodes James

I do not want to dispute with the hon. Lady except to make a simple but important point. So often it is alleged that nuclear war is the ultimate horror, which it is, but that somehow conventional war is not. When we look at the world in which we live we see war everywhere. We see war in every continent and in every area. Those who claim that the third world war has already begun have some evidence to support them.

The Iran-Iraq war is the most perilous of all the conflicts.

Mr. Martin J. O'Neill (Clackmannan)

Surely one of the difficulties we have is that the removal of intermediate weapons from central Europe requires greater vigilance over conventional weaponry. One of the regrettable aspects of the arms control debate as it is conducted in this country is the low priority placed by the Government, which the hon. Gentleman supports from time to time, given his independent position on many issues, on obtaining any sort of control or reduction in conventional weaponry within Europe. The Government are not prepared to support the movements that are a natural consequence of the INF agreement that we all welcome.

Mr. Rhodes James

That is not up to the hon. Gentleman's usual standard, particularly because of the references made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary to that point. I am not making a party political speech but the Foreign Secretary's speech and the Bill represent a significant step forward, which I would have hoped would have been more warmly welcomed by the Opposition than it has been.

The Iran-Iraq war is, as I have said, the most perilous of all the conflicts we are now facing. The major arms-producing nations have willingly supplied and sold to the belligerents the instruments and equipment that have fed the slaughter of the past seven years. They are now appalled and frightened, with good cause. Now, so typically and so late in the day, they turn to the United Nations, that scapegoat and court of last resort. They are at last dimly realising that the Persian Gulf, in terms of time and distance, is closer to this country than Sarajevo where the events in 1914 led my father to the Western front, Loos and Gallipoli and which led to the slaughter of a generation.

Even after Hungerford we are told by the gun lobby that guns do not kill, only people kill. That is the old American cry. In spite of the murder of a President, his brother and others we still hear that same cry. It is a grim historical fact that in modern history, until the late 1960s, there were few nations in the world which were militarily capable of inflicting any serious damage on another country. Today, that capability is virtually universal. The military industrial complex which President Eisenhower denounced and against which he warned is triumphant. The arms dealers, private and public, covert and overt, have never had it so good and, as a result, we have a world at war. It is only just being realised by the major nations that we are looking over an abyss. No-one appreciates that more than my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary. Peace-keeping is a crucial role but peacemaking is infinitely more difficult in a world where armaments are prevalent and where military strength is regarded as the real strength of a nation or community.

Mr. David Young (Bolton, South-East)

Given the advent of such things as the atomic artillery shell, we are concerned about a conventional war escalating into a nuclear holocaust. Since our deterrent is not independent—we are confined as to the people against whom we can use it — we seek to contain any escalation of a conflict. That is the issue that concerns us here.

Mr. Rhodes James

It is all very well for the hon. Gentleman to say that, but how does one contain the escalation of a powder keg — for example, the middle east? How do we prevent that?

I welcome this Bill and the developments we have achieved because it represents a step, some may say a small step, in the right direction. It is a step towards sanity and understanding. I agree with the hon. Member for Bolton, South East (Mr. Young) on one point. If we allow a conflict, whether in the Gulf, the middle east, Southern Africa or Central America, to escalate then the problem to which he alludes may occur. My point is that peace making or preventing such a situation from arising is the key.

Disarmament and arms control tend to be discussed solely in the context of the East-West relationship whereas the problems we face are much wider, more complex and more dangerous. However, here we have a real cause for hope and progress. The five thermonuclear powers in the Security Council have realised the enormity of the problems and the dangers in the Gulf. They have many differences but they have realised that they have a common interest in preventing that conflagration from extending. They recognise fully what may happen and perhaps because of that—I am always an optimist—sanity might break out.

This modest Bill, dealing with one part of the problem, may expand and lead us towards dealing with the wider problem: the proliferation of armaments and the peril that that presents for us all, for this nation and not only to western democracy but to our futures.

7.28 pm
Ms. Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford)

I stand here as someone who is proud to have been, and who is still today, a member of the much maligned peace movement to which Conservative Members have referred. As a member of that movement I wholeheartedly welcome the Bill, coming as it does from the Stockholm conference on security measures, disarmament and confidence building in Europe and heralding, as it does, an INF agreement.

Much has been made today of the process by which the INF agreement has reached the drawing board. It is claimed that it is the result of negotiation from strength. It is also being said that the Soviets had the strength. Indeed, it is said that it was a measure brought about because we had to deploy weapons in order to have the SS20s removed. I have heard of few things more extraordinary. It is a fact that they are removing four times as many warheads as the West is removing. Where is the strength? Who has been motivated to bring about the negotiation that is concluding in this way?

The truth is that deploying cruise and Pershing missiles had nothing to do with the military need to remove SS20s or, indeed, to counter them, despite the claims of Conservative Members. It was a political decision, which rested on trying to reassert the position of the United States vis-a-vis western Europe and its involvement in this continent. It was General Rogers who said: Some people agreed to a zero option proposal because they never thought it would be accepted by the Soviet Union. That is the truth of the dual track position of the West. The reason that we have a deal today that is reaching its final conclusion has nothing to do with that position, but has much to do with other factors that have not been mentioned today. Certainly it has nothing to do with the British Government, who have tried all along to frustrate the process, and little to do with the military leadership of NATO, which has not shown itself inclined towards nuclear disarmament.

I believe that the present factors are threefold. First, President Reagan is very much in need of a foreign policy success.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. David Mellor)

Did I hear the hon. Lady say that NATO is not interested in disarmament? What does she say about the Montebello process, whereby the number of nuclear warheads held by NATO has been unilaterally reduced from over 7,000 to just over 4.000?

An Hon Member

That was one-sided.

Ms. Ruddock

That was indeed, one-sided. It was done because it suited us, and because we wanted to modernise. It had nothing to do with trying to encourage nuclear disarmament by unilateral or bilateral means.

The second factor, I believe, is Mr. Gorbachev, who, as has been recognised on the Conservative Benches, is concerned with restructuring the Soviet Union in economic terms, and who, furthermore, has decided that the concept of parity in the nuclear arena is nonsense in an age of gross overkill.

Thirdly, I cite the influence of public opinion, led by the much-maligned peace movement. Let me remind the House of the unpopularity of American missiles in Europe. In polls taken earlier this year, 56 per cent. of British people, 66 per cent. of West Germans and 78 per cent. of Italians opposed them. It is the pressure of public opinion that has brought the leaders of the super-powers to a negotiating position. There is a strong desire among the people of Europe, both East and West, for real nuclear disarmament—a desire that is mirrored in the objective of both super-power leaders to achieve a nuclear-free world.

Dr. Hampson

I know that there are always different ways of interpreting history, but we really are going down a strange road here. It is surely just as likely that historians will say that the Kremlin stayed its hand and made no effort to negotiate, or even to make any overtures to the West, as long as it believed that the public opinion cited by the hon. Lady might do the job for it. Of course, the Soviets then realised that Western Governments, led largely by our Government, were not going to listen to public opinion. Then they decided to come to the negotiating table.

Ms. Ruddock

I stand by my point. It is clear that public opinion influenced President Reagan. He now sees that if he is to have a foreign policy success he must be seen to be in favour of nuclear disarmament.

It is also worth our considering a question that hon. Members have urged us to examine today. What would be the position if the result of the June election had been different? A Conservative Member said that Britain would be facing the appalling threat of thousands of Russian missiles. If that were the case, what does he think would have happened? Does he really believe that the Soviets would have attacked this country because they had a huge arsenal of nuclear weapons and we did not? On which other countries have they used their nuclear weapons? It is a considered fact that our nuclear arsenal is equivalent to only 3 per cent. of that of the Soviets. If they had wanted to attack this country, they would have done so. Our nuclear weapons have nothing to do with the fact that they have not done so.

Our nuclear weapons system—the so-called independent British nuclear deterrent—is useless. There is no scenario in which it could be used, and the only course for any sensible British Government is to get rid of it. if Labour were in government, we would now enthusiastically be welcoming the INF deal. We would be embarking on a process by which, because of our willingness, there would be an end to tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, and by getting rid of Trident we would be giving a major impetus to the strategic weapons reduction to 50 per cent. which the super-powers have expressed themselves willing to undertake.

Suddenly, all the debate is about conventional instead of nuclear weapons. I wonder why that is. We should look very carefully at what the Soviet Union is saying. The Soviets are prepared to make conventional reductions, they have accepted that they must be asymmetric, and Mr. Gorbachev himself is on record as talking about a reasonable sufficiency of conventional weaponry.

I believe that the Bill signals the potential of major change in super-power relations and for establishing real detente between East and West. As such, the Opposition support it. The Foreign Secretary quoted Churchill and gave us the benefit of his opinion that it was necessary to establish a climate of trust. I think that he was absolutely right, but I believe that the essence of today's debate should have been how to establish such a climate. There is little point in talking about technicalities, while opposing the spirit of detente. I hope that the Foreign Secretary, or whoever winds up the debate, can explain how it is possible for the Government to be in the spirit of the Bill when they appear to oppose any further nuclear disarmament. I refer, of course, to the statement by the Prime Minister that nuclear disarmament in Europe had gone far enough.

I also hope that it will be made clear to us in that final response that the Government will give an undertaking that, while preparing to agree verification of INF in Britain, they are not also preparing to assist in the substitution of those weapons. Let me quote from the October edition of Aviation Week and Space Technology. Discussing Western leaders' reassessment of the Alliance's nuclear position post-INF, it states: NATO's officials agreed to investigate ways to modernize its nuclear forces, including the possible replacement of the short-range Lance battlefield tactical missile, a new stand-off air-launched cruise missile, and improving the alliance's dual-role aircraft capability. That, I believe, has been specifically spelt out as a possibility of more F111 Is for Britain. If that is what the Government are planning behind the scenes it will be a major problem and will thoroughly undermine the process of nuclear disarmament to which the Government are on record as having publicly committed themselves in the past.

The people of this country deserve to know the real intentions behind the Bill. Are the Government going to engage in a cosmetic exercise which they had no choice but to enter, or are they going to take this opportunity to engage in a process of nuclear disarmament desired by the peoples of the world, which could be brought about by the changed attitudes of the super-powers? I regret to tell the House that I believe that the former is the case.

7.39 pm
Mr. James Hill (Southampton, Test)

We have wandered far and wide—certainly far wider than this two-clause Bill. Emphasis has been placed on the euphoria created by the Gorbachev agreement and on the possibility that the INF agreement will be signed next spring. Professional verification will be needed within the next 18 months.

The Bill is designed to provide observers, scientists and scrutineers with diplomatic immunity. The euphoria led to almost a Gorbachev fever, which swept through the world. However, most of these matters have to be taken on trust. We are delighted to know that the new leader of the USSR has created in his country an environment in which such an agreement can be discussed and perhaps brought to a successful conclusion. Only a minute percentage of the total stockpiles are covered by this agreement, but it is a start.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister accepts with pride the fact that at last there is an agreement. However, we must view it with great caution and examine every part of it. If there are to be further agreements on battlefield, conventional or chemical weapons, parity must be secured so that European security is not endangered. Red Star—the Soviet forces newspaper—believes that the agreement is a breakthrough and that it could speed up negotiations on long-range strategic missiles, and perhaps beyond.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made it clear, as have the French, that independent deterrents, such as Trident and the French nuclear submarines, will not be given up. Lord Carrington, the Secretary-General of NATO, has confirmed that nuclear weapons will still be part of the European flexible response. That is how it must remain until there is conclusive proof that Mr. Gorbachev in particular is able to deliver the goods. When there was an open inspection of a factory in the USSR that makes chemical weapons, the bosses of the USSR forces would not allow scrutineers or journalists to see their latest chemical weapons. There will, therefore, be a conflict between Mr. Gorbachev's glasnost policy and the old establishment, not only in the Politburo but also in the Supreme Soviet.

There is a European institution which, although 36 hon. Members belong to it, receives little publicity. I refer to the Western European Union. Three years ago, Herr Genscher, who was then chairman of the Council of Ministers of the WEU, said in Rome that there was a chance that the seven nations of the WEU, which includes France, would adopt a more central role over European security. The Western European Union includes the big four—France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Italy—and the three Benelux countries. They were brought together after the second world war to verify the stockpiles of those nations that had been defeated. With its headquarters in London, the WEU could be reactivated and could play a big part in the verification process.

The WEU serves as an information base for papers on the strategic defence initiative, the Falklands, the Iran-Iraq conflict, Afghanistan and the Turkish-Greek stalemate over Cyprus. Academically, therefore, its work could be useful to the verification process. The WEU is called the European pillar of the Atlantic Alliance, but it is seldom mentioned. Once in a while it is referred to by Mr. Chirac or President Mitterrand, or even by the German Minister of Defence, and then it receives a few columns in the press. The French want to push the WEU for three reasons. First, the French are not in NATO. Secondly, France has its own independent nuclear defence deterrent. Thirdly, the political decisions are taken in Paris. France, therefore, wants to play a key role in European security.

Those who study European security might care to know that there are to be two seminars on the subject. One is to be held in London next March by the WEU's Scientific and Technological and Aerospace Committee. The seminar will last for about three days, and one of the subjects to be dealt with is verification. Unless agreements can he verified, they are useless. In the autumn of next year there is to he a seminar in Brussels at which every strand of European security will be discussed.

Europe is nervous about what happened at Reykjavik between America and the USSR. It is also nervous about what is happening now. The West Germans are extremely nervous about the results of such agreements. Along the 600 or 700 miles of the Berlin wall they can see the forces of Eastern Europe. They know that it would be a matter of only a few hours before they were taken over.

The Western European Union has drafted a resolution for discussion by the Council of Ministers. My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary will be discussing that resolution with his colleagues. The only guarantee of European security is the policy of deterrence that is pursued by the Atlantic Alliance. The main threats to international peace now arise in areas that are not covered by the Atlantic Alliance. The Gulf is a perfect example of that. However, one could go further afield.

The harmonisation of armaments design is an essential part of European security. The involvement of forces with weapons that were not interchangeable was a startling weakness. The Western European Union has tried to harmonise that matter.

The stockpile of chemical weapons is only just coming to light. I understand—this is a terrifying point—that the USSR has about 900,000 tonnes of chemical weapons. In a demonstration for journalists, a chemical was dropped in a rabbit's ear and it died within five seconds. It is a most terrifying weapon that no one will be able to avoid. We in the WEU—I am sure that most sensible parliamentarians will agree with this — consider the recent development of chemical weapons to be a significantly serious threat to mankind.

Some 36 hon. Members are members of the WEU, but it receives little publicity. It is a vehicle for European verification procedures. It currently has a basic structure hut like many other institutions it is under-funded. It has few observers, so it will be difficult to obtain a considerable number of professional observers within a short time. They will have to be trained and that process will have to start shortly.

I hope that the next time that the Foreign Ministers meet, they will say, "We will have the INF agreement at Easter. It looks as if there will be verification but it cannot all be carried out from satellites. We must probe the factories or arsenals." In this context, the reactivation of the WEU will be of great assistance not only to NATO but to the USSR as well. If the USSR wishes to prove that it intends to he open and above board, we must be able to go to its factories and arsenals and see what it is doing.

The squabble that we heard earlier about whether we should have Trident is academic. We must get the first agreement thoroughly tied down and our verification procedures must be 100 per cent. We must then start talks on conventional and chemical weapons. We must talk about battlefield nuclear weapons and perhaps in the long term about intercontinental ballistic missiles, which concerns Trident.

By that time, we in this House will have enough experience to be able to talk not only on procedures for verification but also on the next steps that we will have to take to protect western Europe and the rest of the world.

7.53 pm
Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

I am grateful for the opportunity that the Bill gives to discuss some of these issues. It concerns the straightforward granting of diplomatic privileges and immunities to people who are coming here to undertake verification under a series of agreements both present and, we hope, future.

It is worth pointing out first that our possession of nuclear weapons, which is so vaunted by Conservative Members, and is supposed to give us a seat at the negotiating table and make us powerful enough to be there, does not seem to apply in this case. As has repeatedly been pointed out, the Bill is not to do with our Foreign Office or our representatives; it allows members of the Soviet Union to inspect weapons of the United States sited in Britain.

Our Government were foolish enough to allow the stationing of weapons of a foreign state on our soil. It is clear from what the Foreign Secretary said that no reciprocal relations are involved in the Bill at the moment.

Mr. Mellor

The hon. Gentleman has not changed much in the five years that he has been away; he is completely wrong. The Bill deals with the Stockholm arrangements on confidence-building measures arid provides for British inspectors to look at exercises in the east, as we did in East Germany in September. It makes provision for the granting of diplomatic immunity to Warsaw pact observers who come here, as they will next month, to observe the Purple Warrior exercise in Scotland. Whether the INF inspections are attached to that will depend on whether an INF' treaty results. The Bill deals with the Stockholm arrangements, to which we are party. Will the hon. Gentleman kindly acknowledge that fact?

Mr. Cryer

I wish that the Minister would read the Bill. In clause 1(2) he will see that the privileges and amenities to be conferred relate to future arms control agreements that can be made without further resort to primary legislation.

Mr. Mellor


Mr. Cryer

I know that the hon. Gentleman is anxious to intervene, but I should like to finish this point. I am looking at a research note that the Library has kindly provided and it suggests that the first application of the clause could arise from the INF agreement between the USA and the USSR, which is now imminent. Will the Minister confirm that the negotiations are between those two countries? The Foreign Secretary was unable to tell the House whether there was to be a reciprocal arrangement whereby members of our Government could inspect Soviet installations.

Mr. Mellor

That again was characteristic of the hon. Gentleman, whom we have all grown to love; he will never admit that he has his facts wrong. The hon. Gentleman asserted that there was no element of reciprocity in these arrangements. I say again that the Bill will bring into effect the existing Stockholm arrangements, which are reciprocal in the sense that British observers have already observed Warsaw pact manoeuvres in eastern Europe. It may also have, by Order in Council, an INF component if there is one, but that is a different point. I acknowledge that that is a bilateral matter, but all I am asking the hon. Gentleman to concede—if he looks at Hansard he will see this—is that he asserted that there was no element of reciprocity in the Bill and that he was wrong.

Mr. Cryer

I know that the Minister has been sleeping for a while and that he came to suddenly, but he knows perfectly well that I was referring to nuclear weapons on our soil and their inspection. I have yet to come to the Stockholm agreement. Like me, the Minister is anxious to discuss it. For the Minister's benefit I shall reiterate my earlier point. The possession of nuclear weapons has not given us a seat at the negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union. Perhaps the Minister would like to contradict me?

Mr. Mellor

Our missiles are not the subject of those negotiations, so we are not party to them.

Mr. Cryer

Before the Minister intervened, I said that our Government were foolish enough to subordinate our country to a foreign power by placing cruise missiles on our shores. That subordination has not given us a seat at the negotiating table.

Mr. Mellor


Mr. Cryer

The Minister knows that it is perfectly true. Our expenditure of £30 million or £40 million on these facilities has not given us the key to open the door to the negotiating table.

What does our possession of nuclear weapons mean? We have heard a number of complacent views: we must have Trident; the Bill is not related to Trident in any way, but relates purely to the INF agreement that we hope the two super-powers will reach soon.

My hon. Friends have suggested that we should get rid of Trident. When my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock), who distinguished herself by being chair of CND for a number of years, was talking about getting rid of nuclear weapons, there were jeers from the Tory Benches.

I remind the House that Tories support mass extermination. Of course they say that they do not want to use nuclear weapons, but that is a bit like Hitler putting the gas ovens on one side and saying that they are just a threat or a deterrent. Despite the cosy language, the Government are retaining the means of exterminating men, women and children without distinction. I believe that to be totally immoral and, therefore, like my hon. Friends, I welcome the Bill as a gesture towards getting rid of some nuclear weapons. We are talking of only between 3 per cent. and 4 per cent. of the world's stockpile.

The Foreign Secretary said that nuclear weapons had kept the peace for 40 years. I asked him why, when we had reached the point of mutually assured destruction and both sides could "take out"—in the newspeak of mass extermination — sufficient cities on either side to represent a deterrent, we did not pause with the sword of Damocles hanging over us instead of continuing to make more weapons with greater yield and greater accuracy. Still some on the Tory Benches want to continue down that path.

That path moves us towards the brink of the abyss—that nuclear holocaust from which there is no retreat. That is why members of the Labour and Tory parties say that the Bill represents one move away from that. It is a chink in the awful vortex of deterrence which has built up over the years so that we now have, as the Foreign Secretary admitted, between 50,000 and 60,000 of these weapons of mass extermination.

In clause 1(4) reference is made to the "Stockholm Document". It says that this means the document dated 19th September 1986 and concluded at the Stockholm Conference on confidence and security building measures and disarmament in Europe. That document was signed by 35 states at the end of the conference. An important section of the agreed document is headed: Refraining from the threat or use of force". Section (9) states: The participating States, recalling their obligation to refrain, in their mutual relations as well as in their international relations in general, from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations". The Government say that the Bill has nothing to do with the Trident programme, but they signed an agreement not to be inconsistent with United Nations aims. If it is necessary for us to have nuclear weapons, why have 121 nations not followed our example and why have other nations not caught on to the Foreign Secretary's idea of retaining the peace? Why do they not get hold of this magic totem that keeps the peace?

The junior Minister, because he has not got that far in his brief, might like to know that there is a United Nations nuclear non-proliferation treaty which, in addition to the Stockholm document, has been signed by Britain. That treaty commits us to carrying out the aims of the United Nations. Clause 6 of the treaty commits us to get rid of nuclear weapons. That means that we are committed to get rid of any development after Polaris. Indeed, it commits us to remove Polaris. Yet the Government, far from honouring that United Nations treaty, are increasing our nuclear firepower or extermination power by between four and 10 times.

The basic, underlying deal in the United Nations non-proliferation treaty is that the 121 non-nuclear signatories declare that they will not deploy nuclear weapons, that they will not develop nuclear weapons provided that the nuclear signatories, including the United States, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom enter firm negotiations in good faith to get rid of their nuclear weapons.

The United States and the Soviet Union are doing that; hence the Bill and its passage without a vote. We welcome the Bill. However, the United Kingdom is not making the slightest effort to diminish its nuclear capacity. What are the Government to say to the 121 non-nuclear nations who signed the non-proliferation treaty when they ask—as they have at several review conferences, including that in September 1986 at Geneva—"Why should we live in a world without nuclear weapons and honour our commitment to the treaty when the United Kingdom is deliberately setting out to break the treaty and ignore our commitments?" Anyone with a modicum of sense can see that that is dangerous.

Two major countries are negotiating a reduction in nuclear weapons but this Government are creating a train of thought in non-nuclear nations that might lead those nations to establish nuclear weapons. That is a great danger. What if Libya embarked upon that course? The Government would hold up their hands in horror. The junior Minister would leap to his feet in an even greater frenzy than that which he displayed at the beginning of my modest contribution. He would say that Libya should not have nuclear weapons.

It is difficult for the junior Minister to say to a country, "You should not have nuclear weapons," when he is part of a Government who are spending £11 billion on nuclear weapons.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), who follows these matters closely, will remember two Tories arguing that more money should be spent on the National Health Service. The hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Miller) said that hospitals in Birmingham cannot take patients because of lack of money. The Government should reduce expenditure on Trident and spend more on the National Health Service and other methods of preserving life.

If the Conservative party is so worried about the threat of a Soviet onslaught ——

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

What? The rent-a-rocket mob?

Mr. Cryer

Yes. If the Government are so concerned about a Russian invasion, why do they embark on a policy of mass extermination? Why not just take suicide pills and let the rest of us get on with living? In the deployment of nuclear weapons the Government are threatening mass extermination, in contradistinction to the document which they signed on the threat or use of force. The deployment of Trident is a threat of force on a scale greater than we have ever witnessed.

Sir Antony Buck (Colchester, North)

Does the hon. Gentlemen agree that we are going into this exercise for precisely the same reasons that made the Labour Government update our nuclear deterrent by introducing Chevaline? But we are doing this openly — it can be debated in the House of Commons—rather than behind the scenes. We are updating our nuclear deterrent so that we can get what we all want—balanced force reductions on both sides. I do not think that the unilateralist cause commends itself to most sane Members.

Mr. Cryer

I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman is implying that Chevaline was developed secretly by four members of the Labour Cabinet and that the decision was announced to the House by a Tory Secretary of State for Defence. I accept the hon. and learned Gentleman's criticism. The Chevaline episode was shameful. The decision was not announced in public by those four members of the Labour Cabinet because they knew that the trade unions and the Labour party would campaign strenuously against it because it breached Labour party policy. Present Labour party policy is clearly committed to removing nuclear weapons.

The former Secretary of State for Defence—the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) — went with 2,000 policemen and more troops than stormed Goose Green to remove 16 peace people from Greenham Common. That demonstrates the strength and power of the peace movement's ideas. The Bill has been introduced partly because of the negotiations between Gorbachev and Reagan. The negotiations were brought about, in fair measure, by public pressure. The right hon. Member for Henley went to Greenham Common with all his military paraphernalia because he knew that his blond locks and the bomber jacket covering his torso would be on television and that a group of people using Ministry of Defence land to grow wheat for the starving people of the world was a cogent symbol of the false priorities of the Tory Government. That is why the right hon. Gentleman had to crush the movement with such force. There is no other explanation. Why else should the former Secretary of State for Defence with 2,000 police in evidence go on a dawn swoop to get rid of only 16 people?

Mr. Skinner

They were Quakers.

Mr. Cryer

They were Quakers and religious people who thought that peace was the vision for the future and that peace was necessary to escape the holocaust with which the British and United States Governments and the Soviet Union — albeit to a lesser extent — were threatening to engulf the world. That is why those people were crushed. But the movement still exists. We hope that when the INF agreement is concluded, Molesworth will be turned into something useful and the Greenham Common base will be closed. The Greenham Common women and many millions of other people will have struggled amid a barrage of abuse from our rotten press and the sneers of Tory Members, the Prime Minister and the rest of the Cabinet against the presence of nuclear missiles.

We welcome this legislation to provide immunities based on the document produced at the Stockholm conference. We hope that the Government will pay more attention to that document than they have paid to the United Nations nuclear non-proliferation treaty. We hope especially that the Government will pay attention to section (9) and section (14), which concerns the commitment to peace and security. We hope that the Government will recognise the utter foolishness and hypocrisy surrounding the massive £11 billion expenditure on Trident nuclear weapons, and will carry out the confidence-building measures represented by the Stockholm document and the Bill. We hope that the Government say, "We must obey the document and fulfil our treaty obligations." The Government will cut the provision for the poorest people and reduce expenditure on public services, the National Health Service and education. They should put some of this money from Trident towards worthwhile objectives.

8.14 pm
Dr. Keith Hampson (Leeds, North-West)

Had my speech followed that of the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock), I should willingly have taken her to task on a number of important points. The remarks of the hon. Member for Keighley——

Mr. Cryer

Bradford, South.

Dr. Hampson

He is the hon. Member for Bradford, South, Keighley, Sheffield and everywhere else. The remarks of the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) had no relationship to the debate, whatever his reasons for being here.

The hon. Member for Deptford accused the Conservative party of having an obsession with "nuclear". The last few Labour Members to speak in the debate showed a total obsession with "nuclear". They cannot free their minds of it or of speculation on the supposed use of a nuclear weapon. They ignore the fact that it is in the system to stop the risk of any sort of war occurring. As I said during the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary, Labour Members would have us reach the stage of "denuclearising" Europe so that it would become safe to have a conventional war in Europe—one begun possibly by either side, by a politician or a general—because there would no longer be the deterrent of a nuclear weapon.

We can see the imbalance of Labour's argument, the one-sidedness of its case and its unwillingness to pay regard to the intentions and good will behind any alternative view. There was not a word of credit for the Government's intentions to bring about nuclear disarmament and to ensure that there is peace with stability. Labour Members ignore the essence of the Bill, which is about the confidence-seeking measures stemming from the Stockholm conference. We are debating a Bill to establish greater trust between the super-powers — we on the NATO side, and those on the Warsaw pact side.

The importance of these measures cannot be overestimated. The Soviet Union has failed for decades to acknowledge the need for on-the-spot verification, but that is what we have achieved. I do not understand how the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas), who is one of the most sensible defence spokesmen, could have started running the hare to the effect that there is no reciprocity. Stockholm is about reciprocity and about letting our people go on to Soviet soil and challenge. One can do only so much with space technology. One can see whether missiles have been removed, but not where the warheads have gone or what is happening in the chemical plants. This is the first big breakthrough in the disarmament process, because everything hangs on verification.

We shall be able to see Soviet military manoeuvres, and they will see ours. This is a great step forward. During the disarmament talks one of the Soviet spokesmen said that history is in the making in the INF talks. History would not forgive us if we missed the opportunity that stems from the Stockholm conference. It is not just INF. At the heart of the matter lies the verification process.

Unlike Labour Members, I believe that, just because we have begun the disarmament process and there has been a lessening of tension, it does not mean that NATO countries should relax. Soviet military aims remain essentially the same. The Soviet Union still wants to decouple United States forces from Europe. The Soviet Union wants to "denuclearise"—a terrible phrase—the European theatre. The West's emotional response is to want to sweep along in the process of removing nuclear weapons, but that would be dangerous at this stage.

We are to get rid of an entire tier of weapons systems—the intermediate systems—but we should hang on to what remains for now. We have an intermediate range of weapons — aircraft which in many senses are more effective than cruise. This is not the stage at which to dismantle the whole. On the other hand, I do not for one moment believe, as many in Western Governments seem to believe, that the INF deal will leave us dangerously exposed. It is crucial that we accept it—and accept it willingly. I find it odd — it is certainly illogical that Opposition Members can be so carping and grudging about the terms of the Bill, while at the same time accusing us and our Prime Minister of being grudging. It is the Opposition who begrudge every single advance. The process will take a considerable time to evolve, because it takes a long time to foster good will, given the cold war and the history of relations between the countries involved.

Some unpalatable facts remain, and in our genuine search for good will we must not be blind to the reality of those facts. First, 95 per cent. of our nuclear arsenal remains. Moreover, as has already been said, the huge conventional strength of the Warsaw pact creates a dreadful imbalance that could destabilise Europe and produce a conflict that could escalate. Therefore, it would be rash of Europe to allow itself to end up in a situation in which either side felt that there was a possible element of risk. Opposition Members always refuse to consider the matter in a balanced way. I have to ask them, "Why is every Soviet manoeuvre in design and execution offensive, unlike NATO manoeuvres?" There is a good case for taking things slowly while, at the same time, looking for evidence and a real commitment on the Soviet side to showing that things are changing.

I do not for one moment believe that the next real breakthrough will be on strategic weapons, because I think that that will get bogged down by SDI. However, it is in the interests of those on both sides of the iron curtain to come together on conventional weapons and try to achieve an agreement to reduce the imbalance of forces. That means that the Soviets will have to accept that their side will have to reduce more to even out the disparities.

That must make sense to us. I do not accept that any of us in the West will easily pour extra sums of money into our conventional defences on a large enough scale. I certainly believe that we can achieve much more by greater co-operation on procurement and joint measures. However, to meet the objective, it would be much better to run down forces to achieve a better balance on the conventional side. That applies equally to the Soviet Union. If Gorbachev is serious about trying to get his economy moving, he must bear in mind that one of the biggest distortions for the Soviets is the sheer scale of their conventional forces.

Those hon. Members who have read anything by John Ericson of Edinburgh will know that his writing shows not only that the Soviet high command in many ways plans for a long conventional war in Europe, but, equally, that it is disturbed by the inefficiency of its conventional forces and by the proliferation of arsenals of all kinds, which add nothing to the defence and security of the Soviet Union. Conventional weapons present great potential for reductions. Brzezinski has recently argued that the most destabilising factor of all in Europe is not one of the different nuclear systems; it is the tank. It is the sheer scale of the tank forces on the other side that the West has always feared most of all.

My key point is that we must encourage a downward spiral in military measures and counter-measures; build up a dialogue at all levels — in cultural and sporting activities, in exchanges, particularly between young people and in television broadcasting—and try to build up a better understanding on both sides. We should reinforce that with as many agreements and treaties as possible. As INF has shown, the process of talking to try to reach an agreement helps in turn to ease tension. At the same time, the exchanges on nuclear reduction must be balanced by exchanges about, and the reduction of, conventional forces. I should not like to see our battlefield or short-range nuclear weapons negotiated away without first dealing with conventional forces.

Behind all these matters lies the question whether we can really trust Mr. Gorbachev. Is he really different? How far will his fresh approach go? Is he a serious reformer? I believe that the answer is in part that the system is breaking down. Mr. Gorbachev is much less dogmatic than his predecessors. I do not believe that he consults Communist ideology before making decisions. However, that does not make him any less dangerous. He is a patriot who will act in the national interest. However, the system is changing, and because of that it is worth while for us to do everything that we can to encourage the process and to give Mr. Gorbachev something to show for the effort that is going into the new detente.

The West has distrusted the Communist system. Therefore, the more that that system changes, the greater ultimately the degree of trust will be, and that will result in greater security and peace in Europe. I am sure that the Soviet Union will become a less frightening place to people in Europe. However, we shall inevitably still see foreign policy objectives on the Soviet side that are simply not ours. Therefore, we must keep our guard up. I wish that the Soviets could give us specific evidence that they were prepared to be more accommodating and to show more trust. For example, it would help if, in the Gulf, they were more prepared to offer help, rather than pouring vodka on the flames.

I am a great believer in breaking down the stereotypes built up during the cold war. Even President Reagan has changed his view and the stereotypes are no longer so powerful for him. However, at all costs, we must avoid seeing Gorbachev as we would like him to be. He is still the ruler of a super-power with its own interests. We can all dream our dreams and we can all have hopes, but we must act as reality dictates.

8.26 pm
Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)

The Bill is about inspection to facilitate the INF agreement. It is a small Bill, but it covers a very big topic. Before the summer recess, I was pleased to win a debate on the state of the arms control talks at that time. I welcomed the agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union then, as I welcome it in its present form. I welcome that agreement not just for itself but because it represents an important start along the road. It is an important step because this is the first time that it has appeared that there will be any reduction in the nuclear arms race. Previous agreements have dealt with the limitation of arms expansion, so this is an important step forward.

However, let us get this measure into perspective. it deals only with nuclear weapons of a limited range-the intermediate range—which runs between 500 km and about 5,500 km or perhaps slightly more. As has been said, the agreement deals with only 3 to 4 per cent. of the nuclear weapons in the world. As the Foreign Secretary said, more than 4,000 nuclear weapons will remain in Europe. It is still very much a case of nuclear overkill in the world. By any standards there is a glut of nuclear weapons in the world, although for me one would represent a glut. It is that glut which has resulted in this agreement and to which this agreement is intended to address itself. Against a background of that information this agreement can only he a start. However, the Prime Minister is trying to make it into a stop rather than a start with her statement that arms cuts have gone far enough. The truth is that they have gone nowhere near far enough. We still have a long way to go.

When my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) opened the debate he said that the arms control talks had produced a torrent of ideas to take us forward to new agreements. That is right. Around the world, especially in the peace movements, there have been suggestions to take the agreement on. But there has also been a torrent of ideas in a different direction—looking for ways to cheat on the agreement. The British Government and certain NATO military people are looking for loopholes — "compensatory measures", to use their jargon—such as the conversion of cruise from land-based to sea and air-based missiles in an attempt to get around the agreement.

Expansion of battlefield nuclear weapons, which are outside the scope of the agreement, would include shells with a neutron bomb capacity. Neutron bombs kill people but leave property intact. I understand that there was a dispute between the Prime Minister and Chancellor Kohl when these weapons were discussed. The West Germans do not want reliance on battlefield nuclear weapons because they know that such weapons will be used only in Germany. Naturally, they do not want that, and they are right to argue that any agreement should be rapidly extended to include such weapons. I hope that the Minister will state the Government's position and explain why the Prime Minister was at odds with Chancellor Kohl on that issue.

The Government are looking for loopholes in relation to long-range missiles, too. It has been widely reported in the press, but not to the House, that the Government and NATO are looking for replacements for the Lance missile. That would be an extension of long-range nuclear missiles. It was announced only yesterday in relation to trident that there were to be 16 missiles, each with a capability of eight warheads. That is a massive expansion of Polaris and of Britain's curret capability. At a time when the super-powers are looking to reduce their nuclear arsenals, that is a terrible indictment of the Government's nuclear policy. Yesterday's news, which might be described as "rent-a-rocket", makes nonsense of the assumption that Britain's nuclear deterrent is independent. We are dependent on the United States in this respect.

At the beginning of the debate, there was controversy between the Front Benches about what the Foreign Secretary described as the right of replacement. It is a right of replacement by the United States, not by Great Britain. That again shows our dependence. When Trident is superseded, this country will be faced with a "take it or leave it" situation. I hope that we shall leave it, but we may be forced to take some new generation of weapons and to incure further costs. If the whole missile needs to be replaced, we shall presumably he charged millions of pounds again. That is not independence. It is a case of dependence and of expansion at a time when the world is looking for reductions in nuclear weapons.

There is another loophole in relation to the expansion of conventional weapons. I understood and sympathised with the point made by the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) when he said that conventional weapons have a terrible capability. That is all the more reason to secure reductions in conventional weapons rather than the expansion that Conservative Members see as the Government's natural recourse in the wake of an INF agreement. We should be looking for agreements about conventional weapons, but the Government are looking for loopholes, particularly in relation to weapons that can easily be converted to nuclear capability. That is why there is currently talk about the stand-off bomber. It could very easily become a stand-off nuclear bomber, which would certainly be in breach of the spirit of the agreement. It is dressed up as a conventional system, but the real purpose is nuclear.

When the Secretary of State for Defence visited his counterpart in France recently, the main purpose was to discuss nuclear joint ventures, again getting around the spirit of the agreement being put on paper by the United States and the Soviet Union.

One of the most dangerous loopholes of all is the star wars expansion, which is being pushed ahead. I have always regarded the argument that it is a shield as a fraudulent misuse of language. It represents a highly dangerous first-strike nuclear capability from space, but the British Government have gone along with it and have not raised their voice to halt that dangerous programme.

Those are all loopholes and ways of cheating on this very important agreement. Yet the Foreign Secretary had the nerve to say from the Dispatch Box that the Government would not circumvent an agreement. When I picked him up on that, he dodged the point in relation to cruise missiles. If the Government do not intend to circumvent the agreement, why is there such a desperate search for loopholes and talk of further expansion?

One of the main emphases has been verification to make the agreement stick. I agree that that is very important, but I do not believe that the problems are insurmountable. The Bill is part of the process of dealing with the difficult aspects of verification.

In my view, a far more serious and longer-term threat to the INF deal and to future world peace is proliferation. We see examples of such proliferation regularly. There is Israel's Jericho 2 bomb. South Africa was reported to have exploded a nuclear device on 30 September. During the summer, Pakistan got into trouble with the United States Administration for pushing ahead with its own nuclear programme. Those developments pose a great threat to world peace and the Government were wrong to remain silent rather than calling for the abandonment of such proliferation and strengthening embargoes to ensure that such countries receive no nuclear material whatever.

The Government's philosophy has favoured proliferation. When the Prime Minister visited the Soviet Union before the general election she said, in effect, that any small country which felt threatened by a larger one should be entitled to have nuclear weapons. That is a recipe for proliferation and for countries such as those that I have mentioned to say that they want their own nuclear weapons.

The Government encouraged proliferation not only by the philosophy of their approach but by their actions. One such act was reported in The Independent during the summer recess. I shall refer to it on a future occasion. The Government have given permission to British Nuclear Fuels Ltd to sell weapons-grade plutonium to foreign countries. The first clients will be Japan and West Germany. It is ironic that those countries formed the axis in the last war. It is a scandal that the sale of weapons-grade plutonium should go on. I strongly condemn it. Let us have some straight answers from the Government on that point.

In his opening remarks, the Foreign Secretary said that nuclear weapons have kept the peace since the war. The Conservative party relies on that statement as the crux of its argument on such matters. The logic of such a simplistic assertion is quite clear. If it is true, all countries should have nuclear weapons. The logic of that argument is that countries such as Iran and Iraq should have nuclear weapons. Do the Government agree that South Africa, the front-line states, Israel and the Arab states should have nuclear weapons? The Government should be much clearer on the matter and say that it is not appropriate. Once they agree, their argument that nuclear weapons have kept the peace for 40 years and can provide an umbrella for peace falls on its back.

The truth is that they have not kept the peace since the war. Every day since the last world war, a war has been going on somewhere in the world. Some of the participants have had nuclear weapons. So nuclear weapons have not kept the peace in countries such as Vietnam and Afghanistan and the Falkland Islands. So much for the effect of nuclear blackmail that some people constantly bleat about or the mystical power of nuclear weapons for keeping the peace, as the Government claim. It is a myth.

Whenever the point is made that nuclear weapons have kept the peace since the war, one must always say, "So far," or, "Up till now." A dangerous nuclear conflagration could still develop. I fear that, because of the hysteria that has been generated by the press and the tension that arises in a difficult situation, nuclear weapons could be used at some time in the future. I remind the House of the hysteria that was generated during the Falklands war and in conflicts between the United States and Iran. Long before the current Gulf developments, extreme Right wingers marched in the streets of the United States, screaming, "Nuke Iran". That was their cry. It could happen. Such tendencies could have an effect on the Government at a future date.

Since the war, NATO, the United States and Britain have always sought somehow to limit nuclear weapons. I do not think that it is possible, but they believe that they can perhaps limit the power of nuclear weapons and use them in a certain theatre — invariably the European theatre. The object should be to keep such weapons from the Soviet Union and the United States from where the first nuclear bombs would be dropped. The temptation exists. Nuclear bombs could be used against a country which challenges the overseas assets or imperialistic interests of the super-powers.

Let us face facts. What is the unspoken fear about the Gulf war at the moment? It is that it could escalate to a point at which the United States will use a nuclear weapon, if not against Iran, against another country. If it is a bomb of the type dropped at Hiroshima or Nagasaki, it would still mean an enormous loss of life. Radiation effects such as those at Chernobyl would be absolutely catastrophic not only in the country concerned and surrounding countries but around the world. There would be many thousands of deaths.

The danger of escalation would be monumental. It may not be limited to one or two nuclear bombs. It could set off a conflagration — a holocaust. Of course that is horrible. I do not go along with those who have said that it is so horrible that it will never be used. There is a danger that it could he used, and it is likely that it may be used in future. That is why it is vital to step away from the nuclear arms race and get reductions in nuclear armaments around the world. That is why it is important that the agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union is encouraged as a move towards much more important things — to stop any nuclear confrontation. Nuclear weapons get in the way of an agreement being reached between the Soviet Union and the United States for any large-scale reductions. We must encourage this and further agreements. It should stop the cheating and the attempt to get around the agreement. In the longer term, when we have a Labour Government, we must step away from the nuclear arms race.

8.49 pm
Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor and Maidenhead)

I agree with the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) on one point, and that is that we all welcome disarmament. There is a possibility of a nuclear outburst, but as long as we can preserve our overruling strength, it is unlikely. I welcome this small Bill, which has been widened by the House. It is a start to disarmament, particularly nuclear disarmament, in accordance with the Stockholm agreement. But we must remember that such agreements have been reached only because we have been in a powerful position —not only with NATO but with the United States—to negotiate them. I understand from my hon. and learned Friend the Minister that if the INF agreement is enlarged there could be equal facilities for us and the Soviet Union. It is quite a long way off but it is an extremely important point. The real importance of this agreement is the word "verification". For how long have we in this House been looking for proper verification of arms?

The Bill contains the provision of immunity for those who carry out verification work. Although I do not regard that as important in this country, it is important that that immunity should extend to our people whenever they are operating in foreign countries, such as in Soviet territory. People could be accused of all sorts of things, such as spying, and could be in some trouble without diplomatic immunity. The important point about immunity is not the immunity that we are offering now, but the immunity that we shall require when we are in the same position.

The Stockholm agreement is to be welcomed and we are fortunate to have it. The agreement itself is simple but its scope can be enlarged and it is capable, by Order in Council, of being increased. I regard that as most important because it would enable us to have some sort of arrangement with the Soviets. I wish to go into those arrangements in a little more detail, but before I do so I should like to say that we already have some form of arms agreement through the INF deal and, at last, the SS20s are beginning to recede.

I am reminded of Prince Metternich's expression at the Congress of Vienna in that one thing that is absent is that we do not know the exact armaments of the Russians. We do not know Russia's absolute capability. We have many ideas but we do not know exactly where their sites are. When it comes to making an agreement with the Russians, we cannot rely on satellite information. We must know what stocks of poison gases and biological weapons they have concealed deep in the Ural mountains. We know approximately and have been given figures on that today. We do not know whether those figures are right or wrong but we do know that they are massive. We know that the Soviet army is equipped to use those weapons and that it has protective clothing. Agreement must be reached on this important matter. It is possibly even more important than, or at least as important as, atomic weapons.

Mr. Gorbachev's policy is not a new one for him or for Russia. If one casts one's mind back to the days of Lenin, one recalls that he said exactly the same thing. Mr. Gorbachev realises that his own economy is stagnant and that he does not have the capability to sustain a vast armaments campaign. He clearly wants to develop his country just as Lenin did in the 20s until Stalin came along. Russia was importing materials and trying to build up its factories. Indeed, I remember that Ford tractors were sent there. Mr. Gorbachev is endeavouring to do the same. However, we should always remember that Mr. Gorbachev is not the only master. He is surrounded by people who do not want to do the same things. So far he has managed to control them and has been able to put over his own policies.

The other main point that has been raised today is that of the American negotiations, which I think are slightly out of the context of the Bill. I have repeatedly said in the House that the time may come when the defence interests of the American people do not coincide with our interests. At that point we are in grave danger. We must always ensure that our armoury is sufficient to defend ourselves, independent of the Americans. America could be affected by, for example, a change of Government. Equally, so could Russia. We must recognise and appreciate the work and the potentialites of the Bill but we must keep ourselves ready for an emergency.

I shall not comment on the policies of the Liberal and Labour parties, because they are not likely to be in government for a long time. At any rate they cannot be for the next five years, and I do not think that they will be during the next 10 years.

I should like to say a quick word about Trident. which has been mentioned frequently in the debate. I am no longer alarmed by the articles in The Daily Telegraph and The Times. The Government are capable of negotiating a settlement with the United States which, after all, is our principal ally, whereby we can guarantee to have replacements. Of course, both minor and major repairs will have to be carried out. I rather liked the analogy of the soda siphon and the cylinders. Indeed, the whole unit may have to be replaced; but I am sure that the United States will honour its bargains and if it returns something it will send back an appropriate replacement. As one of my hon. Friends said, the engine may need changing or may even have gone too far to be replaced and a completely new unit may be required. Like many hon. Members, I was alarmed by The Daily Telegraph and The Times this morning. However, I am glad that that matter has been cleared up by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.

Chernobyl was a horrible disaster but lessons can be learned from it. Both the Russians and ourselves realise the enormity of what happend. Hiroshima is a long time ago but Chernobyl is a recent event and has brought home to everyone the awful consequences that could arise from a minor event. However, what would happen in the event of a major disaster? The Chernobyl disaster has been a great lesson to the world on the dangers of atomic warfare and has brought home to people in other countries who might not previously have appreciated it, the sort of thing that could overtake us.

With the vast conventional forces and the nuclear and chemical arsenals of the Soviet Union, NATO must never allow itself at any time or by any agreement to put itself at either a nuclear or conventional disadvantage, in long-range, intermediate battlefield or strategic nuclear weapons so that we do not put ourselves at the mercy of any other power. The United States may withdraw slightly and Mr. Gorbachev's policy may alter slightly, so we must always be ready to say that we are capable and able to defend this country. Any Government must have that as a priority.

8.58 pm
Mr. Frank Cook (Stockton, North)

I shall detain the House only briefly with a couple of points which came to my attention while I listened to the debate.

I detect a change of attitude on the Government Benches. In contrast to their previous attitude, they now seem to display a melange of confusion and consternation. They are in a dilemma to reconcile a slavish pro-Reagan apostleship with his stumbling ensnarement by Gorbachev's skilful manoeuvring. I do not know whether Gorbachev is a chess master, but clearly his negotiations with the United States premier have placed this Tory Government in a dilemma of a knight's fork on arms negotiations.

Why has this change come about? How has it been achieved? Tory Members have sought in their desperation to camouflage their confusion by accusing Gorbachev of being driven by economic necessity to recognise the strength of the West and to concede to the strength displayed by the deployment of cruise and Pershing. In the same breath they accuse my colleagues of re-writing history—that is their phrase. Typically, they seek to visit their failures on their opponents.

The real scenario is akin to that, but for different reasons. Many senior Soviet leaders realised long ago that the whole purpose of the West's ardent advocacy of the nuclear arms race was to create major profits for the American armouries and to compel the Soviet Union to devote far more of its industrial and economic resources to military production — military production which developing countries could ill afford. The West was determined to portray the USSR as inefficient industrially and unstable economically because of what the West asserted was ideological fallacy. Many Soviet leaders saw this and said so long ago. Gorbachev is the first of that school of thought to achieve a position from which pressure can be exerted to break the mad cycle of such a Mexican stand-off mentality. Because of that, he has been able to outmanoeuvre Western leaders by taking up options so rapidly that Western countries have been unable to deal with each other to produce any sort of sensible or coherent response.

The basis of the Bill will chase that into the open. As my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) said tonight, one suspects the Government's motives in introducing this, but one would like to hope that their motives are clear and that we can make honourable progress as a result of this measure.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

I call Mr. Denzil Davies.

Mr. John Browne (Winchester)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I understand that my hon. Friend the Minister of State is prepared to speak for only 20 minutes. Could you prevail upon the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) to start speaking at 10 past nine rather than at 9 o'clock?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I have no power to do that. I realise that the hon. Gentleman hoped to speak in the debate and I suggest that he looks out for his chance some time before 10 o'clock.

9.2 pm

Mr. Denzil Davies

The Bill has been welcomed, perhaps with a few reservations, by hon. Members on both sides, and I too welcome it.

When the Foreign Secretary spoke, I detected some confusion. Yes, he—and I sincerely believe him—was in favour of the measure if it led to an INF agreement, but he was not sure whether he wanted to go much further down the road of multilateral nuclear disarmament, despite protestations of belief in multilateralism. I also detected some contradiction from Government Back Benchers. Yes, they were in favour of multilateralism, but I am not sure whether, even if we could match the Russians bullet for bullet, bayonet for bayonet and tank for tank in conventional weapons, they would be happy to get rid of nuclear weapons.

The Bill deals with several matters. It deals with the Stockholm conference and the need to provide immunity for observers. It also provides for an Order in Council —I do not know why the Minister got so shirty with my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) about this — to enable inspectors to come to verify an INF agreement or, indeed, any other agreement. The explanatory memorandum makes it clear that the Order in Council could relate to further arms control or disarmament measures.

The Bill is important for two reasons. We hope that it is a forerunner of an INF agreement, and it provides for important verification in those circumstances. The Foreign Secretary could have dealt a little more fully with the consequences of an INF agreement in respect of verification because the Bill will presage an Order in Council in relation to that.

I know that the Minister of State is to take only 20 minutes in reply, but I hope that he will tell us something. There have been negotiations. The British Government have been in communication with the United States Government on those matters. We are close to an INF agreement. If there is an agreement, where will the Soviet inspectors be allowed to visit? Will they be confined to Greenham Common? What will happen at Molesworth? If there is an INF agreement, is it clear that missiles will not be sited in Molesworth? Will Soviet inspectors be allowed in other sites in Britain? How many visits will be allowed? Will there be short-notice inspections? Will the Government agree to that? I am sure that the Minster of State knows quite a lot about it. He should tell us a little about whether the Government are thinking about allowing Soviet inspectors into Britain in consequence of an INF agreement.

It will be an historic agreement if, as I assume it will be, it is reached and ratified. As has been said, it will lead to the reduction and the elimination of a whole class of nuclear weapons. As far as I am aware, all previous arms control agreements have not brought about reductions. A very fair criticism of previous arms control agreements that has come from the Right wing in the United States and from the Left wing in Europe is that they have merely controlled the increase in weapons and not led to the reduction in weapons. Frankly, they have often been about yesterday's technology. Both sides have been happy to agree to control yesterday's technology and leave out future technology. If the INF agreement comes about, it will be different. For that reason it will be of immense significance to Europe, to detente and to future relations between the super-powers. It may apply only to about 3 per cent. or 4 per cent. of the total stock of nuclear weapons, but for the two super-powers who have seen each other as enemies for so long, to reduce any class of nuclear weapons is an important step forward.

The agreement has caused some confusion in the ranks of what one American commentator described as the nuclearphiliacs. I do not say that any Government Member who spoke tonight was a nuclearphiliac, but I did detect signs of nuclearphilia in some speeches. One group of nuclearphiliacs hailed the agreement as the justification of a policy that they described as negotiating from nuclear strength. Another group of nuclearphiliacs are full of gloom and doom at the demise of a few of their nuclear toys and see the agreement as weakening Western security. The second group ignores the fact that the Russians will give up a 3:1 superiority in the longer range intermediate weapons—SS20s, SS4s, SS5s, Pershing II and cruise—and a 9:1 superiority in shorter range intermediate weapons. As far as the West is concerned, the I is merely the Pershing I missiles in the Federal Republic of Germany.

I cannot see how allowing an agreement whereby the Soviet Union gives up a 3:1 and a 9:1 superiority can possibly be said to damage Western security. If the Soviet Union enters into that agreement for whatever reasons, that will be a benefit for us.

Despite the superiority of the Soviet Union in certain areas, another group of nuclearphiliacs believes that everything must be done by negotiating from strength. I am not sure whose strength that will be when the Soviet Union has a 300 per cent. superiority of strength in one class of weapon and a 900 per cent. superiority in another. I fear that arms control, like life, is not as simple as some people think. The reasons why we are so near an INF agreement are perhaps more complex than some appreciate.

We are faced with an extraordinary coincidence. The leader of the Soviet Union, Mr. Gorbachev, wants to restructure his country. If he is to do so, he must restructure his domestic economy and his foreign policy. We have a United States president, despite what we have said from the Opposition Benches about President Reagan, who since his visit to the Cheyenne mountains some years ago to inspect the American nuclear button has acquired a genuine abhorrence for nuclear weapons and an impatience with some of the more arcane metaphysics of deterrence. The effect of this extraordinary coincidence was seen at the Reykjavik summit last year, when President Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev nearly agreed— unfortunately this was not clear at the end—to eliminate all ballistic nuclear missiles.

The Reykjavik talks and the atmosphere created by the two leaders have led to a near-certainty, we hope, of a agreement on intermediate range nuclear weapons. If such an agreement is concluded, the talks will probably lead also to an agreement before the termination of President Reagan's presidency to reduce ballistic missiles to 50 per cent.

It is no wonder that the Prime Minister worked herself into a lather following the Reykjavik talks and rushed off to Washington to try to preserve what is now described ridiculously as the British independent nuclear deterrent, or Trident. The Foreign Office must know—if it does not, it is falling down on the job — that President Reagan's offer at Reykjavik to get rid of all ballistic missiles was not the product of a confused and senile mind. In this instance, I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy). Of course, the nuclearphiliacs would wish that view to be taken, and the publicity after the Reykjavik talks tried to persuade us that that was the position. It was suggested that the Americans had no paper on which to write and that they had to scribble something in the bathroom. It is suggested also that they did not know what they were doing.

That is not entirely the position, and I am sure that the Foreign Office knows it. The President had agreed a negotiating position on eliminating ballistic missiles before he left for Reykjavik. His Secretary of State, his Secretary of Defence, his Director of Arms Control and Mr. Richard Perle, whom we call the prince of darkness, were involved. I have no doubt that he did so for his own reasons because he does not believe in ballistic missiles. It must not be assumed by anyone that this was an aberration on the part of President Reagan. I understand that there was an obsession with star wars, but President Reagan, for all his faults, has realised that it is impossible to defend America, or Peoria, Illinois, for example, with 25,000 nuclear warheads when the other side has 25,000 nuclear warheads targeted on Peoria, Illinois or any other place in the United States. That is why we had the extraordinary offer from President Reagan and the counter-offer from Mr. Gorbachev at the Reykjavik summit.

When the INF agreement comes—I believe that there will be further agreements on ballistic missiles—it will reflect an extraordinary change on the part of the leaders of both super-powers. No doubt the British Government hope that the issue of strategic missile talks will go away. They hope that Trident D5—the missiles that we are supposed to have bought—will not be part of the talks. Indeed, we have been told by Ministers that they will not be part of those talks. I want to consider the reports in this morning's newspapers following the extraordinary briefing at Faslane yesterday about the missiles that we are supposed to be buying.

The Foreign Secretary said that they are our missiles, we will buy them and there will be an equal number of missiles if they are traded in for service. It may be pendantic to ask whether we own the missiles. We certainly own the Polaris missiles. They are ours and we service them. Perhaps we can return to this point during the defence debate next week. As I understand it, the whole rationale and basis of King's Bay, Georgia and the saving of money on servicing is based on handing missiles in and taking other missiles out. Missiles go in to be serviced and others are taken out. Missiles from Britain that may have been put in for service may very well end up in American nuclear submarines.

We are not faced with a payment of £4.5 billion for missiles. We are paying £4.5 billion for the right of access to a pool of American nuclear missiles. We are buying the right to those missiles, but they are not British missiles. I notice that the Foreign Secretary has arrived in the Chamber. Perhaps he does not remember his Bar exams years ago. There was something called Clayton's bag. People put sovereigns in that bag and it was impossible to know whose sovereigns were whose once they were there. We appear to be entering a kind of Clayton's bag. There will be American missiles in that bag.

If we do not own missiles, but own the right to a number of missiles from an American pool, that becomes important in relation to arms control talks. That is not a pedantic matter. We should recall the Pershing IA missiles in West Germany. The United States Government and the West German Government made it clear—although in the end they found a way round this — that those missiles were third-country systems. If we are not buying missiles, but simply buying the right to some American missiles, it is impossible to argue that the British Trident missile is a third-country system, because they will be included in the talks, as they are all American missiles. I hope that we can have further clarification on that from the Foreign Secretary. He did not clear that up today, but read from a very carefully drafted brief.

I want to consider compensatory measures. The nuclearphiliacs have not given up. They are still working away trying to undermine Reykjavik and the consequences of INF. They are working away within NATO's military and civilian bureaucracy. With the careful drafting for which the Foreign Office is well known, the Foreign Secretary said that of course they would not do such a terrible thing as to have compensatory measures. He said that we would have adjustments because everyone is in favour of adjustments and compensatory measures are considered terrible. We can call them compensation or adjustments, but I want to call them compensation. However, what are they compensation or adjustments for? Perhaps the Minister of State will tell us when he replies. What are we compensating for? Presumably we are compensating or adjusting because the Russians have given up three times as many medium-range intermediate missiles as we have given up and nine times as many shorter-range intermediate nuclear missiles. Apparently we are going to compensate or adjust for that.

Various suggestions have been made. We heard one or two during the general election campaign from the Secretary of State for Defence, although he conveniently forgot to answer some of the questions that were asked. We have been told that perhaps we could have more F111 bombers carrying hydrogen bombs from Upper Heyford and Lakenheath or, according to Mr. John Keegan of The Daily Telegraph, we could have cruise missiles on submarines or frigates. Apparently, although this is even more far-fetched, American B1 bombers could be located in Britain to compensate or adjust for giving up one third and one ninth of what the Russians are giving up. No doubt all those new weapons would then be committed to NATO. Presumably, if NATO felt that it must adjust or replace cruise and Pershing II missiles with other weapons, there would be no Western or NATO objection if the Soviet Union deployed three times or nine times as many weapons to compensate for our adjustment. The whole absurd situation goes on.

If there was any attempt to circumvent or adjust— whatever weasel words may be thought of at the time— an INF agreement in that way, the political damage to NATO in Europe, especially in the Federal Republic of Germany, where there are problems as the Foreign Office knows, would be considerable. I hope that the Minister can tell us what the Foreign Secretary had in mind when he talked about adjustments to compensate for the INF agreement. I hope that he can tell us that there will not be any adjustments and that the Government will not agree within NATO councils to allow those weapons to be committed to NATO for the purpose of compensation or adjustment.

Several hon. Members have mentioned battlefield nuclear weapons and conventional arms reduction talks. One of the consequences of the INF agreement is that the only land-based nuclear weapons committed to NATO in western Europe will be battlefield weapons based in West Germany. They will be mainly nuclear artillery and the Lance missile. The West German Government, quite properly, want to get rid of them. They have a short range and in a war in Germany they would cause devastation on NATO territory. As Werner Ruhe, the special adviser to Chancellor Kohl said—everybody knows the quotation by now — "The shorter the range, the deader the Germans." Those weapons would destroy 55,000 British troops. They would destroy the troops of our allies, 300,000 American troops and all the families of the troops situated in the Federal Republic of Germany. Although the information is not very good, I understand that the Soviet Union has at least 30 per cent. greater superiority in those weapons and that the weapons have a longer range. It is in NATO's interest to negotiate away those battlefield nuclear weapons because they will destroy our own forces, and that is an extraordinary military strategy.

NATO Foreign Ministers at Reykjavik last June agreed that there should be talks on conventional arms reduction as well as on battlefield nuclear weapons. It makes sense for those talks to take place simultaneously. I concede the point, if it is necessary to do so, that those talks have a bearing on the battlefield talks. However, there is no reason why conventional arms reduction talks between the Warsaw pact and NATO, which will hopefully start in the new year, should not take place simultaneously with those on the reduction and elimination of battlefield nuclear weapons.

We are told that we have the nuclear artillery because of all the Russian tanks. No doubt the conventional talks will address themselves to trying to reduce those Russian tanks. I see no reason why there should not be simultaneous talks on battlefield nuclear weapons. That, I believe, is the view of the German Government, and of Chancellor Kohl.

Alas, as so often in these cases, it is unfortunately not the view of the Prime Minister. [Interruption.] It is no good the hon. Member for Wealden (Sir G. Johnson Smith) muttering from a sedentary position.

Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith

Stop bashing her.

Mr. Davies

I am not bashing her; I am describing the position. The hon. Gentleman need only read the Reichstag speech—the Foreign Secretary probably does not approve of it, but it was a very interesting speech—made to the International Democratic Union, which could be described as the first Capitalist International. In that speech, an audience including Chancellor Kohl was told that he must not get rid of battlefield nuclear weapons, or even negotiate them away from his soil, because that would mean the denuclearisation of Europe.

I thought it rather arrogant of the Prime Minister to tell the Germans not to get rid of those weapons, which are the first weapons that NATO would use and which would wipe out the whole of Germany, as well as 55,000 British troops and 300,000 American troops. The Foreign Secretary, I know, takes a different view, and I hope that the Minister of State in his wind-up speech will tell us the view of the British Government. Will the talks be postponed until after the completion of talks on conventional arms reductions, or is the Government's view the same as that of the Federal Republic and Chancellor Kohl—that the talks should take place simultaneously, so that we can get rid of those weapons as well?

If the double zero option is so good, as everyone agrees it is, what is so wrong with a triple zero option to get rid of battlefield nuclear weapons — provided, of course, that the Russians get rid of theirs, and that we can somehow link the process to conventional arms reductions?

An INF agreement, once signed, will have been brought about by the changing attitude to nuclear weapons within the leadership of the United States, and by the advent of Mr. Gorbachev and the changes that he wishes to see in the Soviet Union. The agreement will present a real challenge to NATO. We have not heard much about it tonight, but it does present a challenge, especially to the European countries within NATO and to NATO's strategy of flexible response, which I believe can no longer be sustained in its old form.

If NATO does not come up with some new thinking, Mr. Gorbachev, for his own purposes, will exploit quite ruthlessly the contradictions within NATO strategy which now exist, which have existed for a long time and which are now highlighted by an INF agreement. It is no good saying that that is propaganda or public relations.

Sir Antony Buck

The hon. Gentleman has been talking about new thinking. Will he give us some of his new thinking? What line does he suggest would cause a breakthrough, or some progress, in these matters which are of such deep concern to him and to me? Has he anything more positive to suggest?

Mr. Davies

I am prepared to take another half hour from the Minister if necessary. I have made a number of speeches in the House to which the hon. and learned Gentleman has listened, and I shall no doubt have another opportunity during the next few days to discuss the matter.

As for "new thinking", I will say this to the hon. and learned Gentleman. If we cannot secure balanced reductions in conventional forces, we have always argued that those forces should be strengthened to enable us to move away from the suicidal strategy of the nuclear element in flexible response. The hon. and learned Gentleman's Government are cutting conventional defence, and relying more on nuclear weapons. That is a ridiculous way to proceed.

The agreement will present a real challenge to NATO, but the momentum that it creates will not be easily stopped. The British Government 'and Conservative Members are faced with a choice: either they cling to the Prime Minister's antiquated rhetoric or they join with others and work towards a saner, and nuclear-free, world.

9.29 pm
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. David Mellor)

This debate, which has focused on the arms race, arms control and disarmament, has touched on some of the major problems that face the world today. As well as being major problems in their own terms, all of them are symptoms of an even more fundamental problem—the lack of trust and confidence between East and West, as was so eloquently pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-West (Dr. Hampson). This debate — which has properly ranged very wide, as it was intended to do—is based on a little Bill that deals with the building of confidence between East and West.

This is my first opportunity to welcome the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) to his new responsibilities. He could not have imagined, any more than I did when we were transferred from the salt mines of Home Office Bills, that we would find ourselves so soon engaged on a Foreign Office Bill. It is a slimmer Bill than those to which we were accustomed. We shall enjoy the Committee stage of the Bill, but I hope that it will not take up 59 sessions, as happened with the Committee stage of what is now the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. I say that in case any hon. Member is enthusiastic about bidding for a place on the Committee.

This little Bill is based on the Stockholm confidence-building arrangements, about which too little has been heard. There has been a great breakthrough this summer. Warsaw pact observers were present at NATO exercises in West Germany. They observed the nature of those exercises and the number of men deployed. United Kingdom observers were present at similiar exercises in East Germany. In November we shall welcome Warsaw pact observers to the Purple Warrior exercise in Scotland. Such confidence-building measures lie at the root of building the necessary trust upon which we can then design the international arrangements that will reduce the overstocked arsenals, both conventional and nuclear, of so many world powers.

I endorse some of the suggestions that have been made tonight, notably the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Sir G. Johnson Smith). He referred to ways in which those who are engaged in practical military business can talk to each other about what it is that takes place on the other side that causes the temperature to rise — the configuration of forces that leads military men to adopt aggressive rather than defensive postures. The more we think about confidence-building measures, the better it will be. I hope that there will be a major extension of the Stockholm arrangements at the Vienna CSCE meeting, which we hope will reach its final stages during the next few weeks or months.

A great deal has been said today about the other exciting development of recent months: the prospect of the making of treaties being resumed between East and West. Between 1971 and 1974, 25 international agreements between East and West were signed. There was then a pause, but there are now over 20 worldwide discussions that will lead, one hopes, to a similar range of international treaties. The one on which we are focusing, the INF treaty, is currently the subject of intensive discussions between Secretary Shultz and Mr. Shevardnadze in Moscow.

I entirely accept the commendation of the treaty by the right hon. Member for Gorton. The treaty is significant, first, because it amounts to a reduction in the world's nuclear arsenal; and, secondly, because it allows for a reduction that recognises that some have more than others. If we are to succeed in making reductions, it is crucial that people recognise that asymmetrical reductions will have to be at the heart of the process. Thirdly, it has a symbolic significance, because it shows what can be achieved and that further progress is necessary.

If the right hon. Gentleman had confined himself to such sentiments, we would have been pleased to say that his speech was an auspicious one. However, there was a great deal in his speech with which I could not agree, notably his analysis of what led to the INF arrangements and why they are likely to succeed.

We have recently heard from the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies). He believes, like me, that the INF deal is a good one. He displayed that peculiar inwardness that characterises Labour defence spokesmen who are trying desperately to whistle to keep up the spirits of Opposition Members and who have lost any conviction that they can persuade the rest of the world of the credibility and sanity of what they are saying. He is of the opinion that it is only nuclearphiliacs — a most unattractive term—on the Conservative Back Benches who believe that it was only by standing firm and negotiating from strength that we almost have an INF agreement.

I shall quote from that well-known Conservative newspaper, The Observer. In a most interesting editorial on these matters on 20 September it said: Think back to 1979, when NATO settled on its 'twin-track' decision to deploy cruise and Pershing-2 missiles in Europe while continuing to negotiate with the Russians about the elimination of such systems. If the Soviet Union had then offered, inconceivably, to eliminate all its intermediate and short-range missiles aimed at Western Europe in return for the non-deployment of cruise and Pershing-2, the offer would have been greeted with disbelief—and joy. Yet that is the very outcome that has now been achieved by deployment and negotiation: the twin-track decision has achieved its objective. As we lawyers say, hearken to this: Now is the moment for those who stood firm in 1983—the year of deployment—to enjoy the results of their resolution. Despite public agitation"— the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) knows all about that— and the parading of conscience through the streets"— the hon. Lady is good at that as well— NATO was not deterred. Who would now have the nerve to claim that if the prescription of the peace groups had been followed the outcome would have been as good? The deal is a triumph for toughness and realism in international relations. The hon. Member for Deptford has the requisite degree of brazenness, as she exhibited at some length during the debate. None of us should be under any illusions. The Labour party, with its policies, could not possibly have obtained this deal.

I shall deal with some points about the INF negotiations.

Mr. Cohen

If the Minister believes that we will derive advantages from this deal, will he tell us whether there will be fewer nuclear weapons in the world as a result of the agreement than there were at the beginning of the Reagan Administration, which instigated a massive expansion in nuclear weapons, including their siting in this country?

Mr. Mellor

The hon. Member should know that the INF process started with a massive expansion in Soviet weaponry in Europe. That was where we came in. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I now make my contribution, having listened to his.

I wish to take up three points made by the right hon. Member for Gorton about the INF arrangements that did not seem to have the ring of truth about them. First, the right hon. Gentleman asserted that the United States decided to put cruise missiles into Europe and that the United States will take them out whether we like it or not. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was a collective Alliance decision in 1979 and it showed a solidarity which the Labour party and its acolytes in the world of extra-parliamentary activity did their best to undermine. However, as The Observer was kind enough to say, the Alliance stood firm.

The hon. Member for Deptford said that the dual-track decision was forced on the West by the peace movement. It was forced on us, but by the decision of the Soviet Union to deploy SS20 missiles—something that was known from the middle of the 1970s and which were deployed in 1977. I do not recall the hon. Lady or Monsignor Bruce Kent chaining themselves to the railings beside the Soviet embassy to protest. If the hon. Lady was in chains, I should be glad to hear about it.

Ms. Ruddock

I wonder how the hon. Gentleman accounts for the fact that cruise missiles were on the drawing board long before the SS20s were deployed. The West was preparing a missile system. The nature of the ground-launched cruise missiles was such that they could not be deployed by the United States except in Western Europe.

Mr. Mellor

The hon. Lady owes those "facts" to her imagination—not for the first time.

It is not necessary for Oppositions to be logical. That is one of the joys of sitting on the Opposition Benches. However, it was interesting to note that the right hon. Member for Gorton praised the deal itself, yet called the deployment of the missiles that made the deal possible squalid. I find that reasoning difficult to understand.

The right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues support the Bill, but we heard from them some extraordinary cheeseparing and graceless arguments about Soviet inspectors coming here to verify. They returned to the sad and tired old dogma that is part of Labour party defence policy which makes them ready to jump on to the lowest common denominator of public fear where that can be exploited.

Mr. Denzil Davies

Give way.

Mr. Mellor

I must continue.

Mr. Davies

Give way.

Mr. Mellor

No. I decide when I give way. I shall continue, and then I shall give way.

Mr. Davies

Give way.

Mr. Mellor

I shall not give way.

Mr. Davies

Give way.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Only one at a time please.

Mr. Mellor

I shall give way in my own time.

Mr. Davies

Give way.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Minister is not giving way.

Mr. Mellor

The right hon. Member for Gorton used the pivotal position of the inspectors in the Bill as a launch pad for a lyrical passage about the Greenham Common women. The Greenham Common women contributed nothing to the disarmament arrangements, but merely encouraged the Soviets to think that they could get what they wanted for nothing. It took them until 1985 to realise that that would not be possible.

Mr. Davies

I have no objection, because we are talking about a sensible part of the verification arrangements, but where will the Soviet inspectors be allowed to go? Will they be allowed to go to Greenham Common and Molesworth only? This is the subject of discussion between the British and United States Governments. Will the inspectors be allowed on other sites? Will there be such a thing as a short notice inquiry? Will the Minister tell us a little about the negotiations?

Mr. Mellor

I heard the right hon. Gentleman when he made the point the first time. I am sorry that he felt the need to intervene and waste time making it again. I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for acknowledging something that the right hon. Member for Gorton was not prepared to acknowledge.

Mr. Davies

Answer the question.

Mr. Mellor

I shall answer, but I shall tell the right hon. Gentleman something else first. The right hon. Member for Gorton suggested that the British Government had no part to play in these negotiations. That was the third major inaccuracy that I wish to draw to the attention of the House. At least the right hon. Member for Llanelli bases his question on a somewhat firmer factual base in acknowledging the work being done. One issue that has to be determined between Mr. Shultz and Mr. Shevardnadze in Moscow is the detail of the verification regime. Mr. Shultz has consulted us regularly, and we in the Foreign Office have seen not just weekly, but daily, pieces of paper on the details of the arrangement. We accept the need for thorough and effective inspection provisions. The proposals which the United States put to the Soviet Union followed consultations with us and were made with our support. The details of the proposals cannot be made public at this point, but the arrangements will concern right of access by Soviet inspectors to Greenham Common and Molesworth.

Mr. Davies


Mr. Mellor

I shall not say any more on that point, but will carry on making my speech. I did not interrupt the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Davies


Mr. Mellor

One of the right hon. Gentleman's more attractive qualities is that he thinks that every point he makes is important. Some of us think that our points are important, too, and want to make them. I shall do so, if I may, in a House that allows free debate on both sides.

This treaty is a sign that the Alliance works and that we are capable, by negotiating firmly and clearly with each other, of finding a basis on which we can persuade the Soviet Union that it is in its interests to yield up more of the missiles which it so provocatively placed in Europe at the end of the 1970s and to which we made a measured, sensible response which has won the confidence of the British people and of sensible folk throughout Europe.

It seems that the Labour party, in the terminal phase of its defence policy, thinks that any expedient will do to belittle Trident. The Labour party has seized with alacrity upon what was said in the newspapers this morning. We have heard about Moss Bros. missiles, and so on. In so far as any misleading impression was conveyed during the briefing, I very much regret that. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State made the position clear this afternoon. Because there appears to be some doubt, I shall endeavour to make the position clear again.

Mr. Davies


Mr. Mellor

I am always careful. There is a little motto engraved on Sir Humphrey's paper: "Be careful" —Sir Humphrey always says this — "particularly in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office."

The Trident missile system, like the Polaris missile system, is purchased from the United States. The Polaris rockets need more frequent refurbishments than Trident, and they are carried out in Scotland. The Trident missile needs fewer refurbishments, and they are required to be carried out every seven or eight years. One of the Labour party's key points is that this system is too expensive, but we can save more than £700 million of public money if, instead of constructing a facility to carry out refurbishments locally, the work is done in the United States. It then becomes a matter of logistics as to how a rocket in need of refurbishment can best be refurbished and returned with the minimum time and fuss to the job that it is intended to do. The Americans have discovered that if a rocket has to be fully overhauled it might be just as convenient to replace it with another missile. Refurbishment may vary from a minimum amount of work to total replacement of the missile. I cannot understand why we should call down difficulties on an arrangement that allows a missile to be fully overhauled every seven years to the point of replacement.

The right hon. Member for Llanelli, for all his many faults, was a distinguished law student with a fine academic record. He knows that the law of property is sophisticated enough to embrace a concept whereby one can own a rocket for eight years, take it back and get another rocket, which one owns. We do not have to go to Moss Bros. for legal arrangements like that.

Mr. Kaufman

Is the Minister confirming what was said on the front page of The Daily Telegraph today—that the arrangement will involve regular replacement of the missiles from a pool held in the United States?

Mr. Mellor

The amount of work that needs to be done on each missile will be determined by the state of that missile when it arrives for its refurbishment.

As a relative newcomer to debates such as this, to me the most revealing aspect of this debate has been the way in which the Labour party—for all the valiant attempts to launch second fronts—has lurched unsteadily through the day with the albatross of unilateral nuclear disarmament hanging heavily around its neck.

It was said of the Bourbons that they saw everything and remembered nothing. However, compared with the Labour party, the Bourbons were filled to overflowing with insight. Will Labour Members ever appreciate the fact that, if the truth be told, unilateral disarmament does not even persuade many of those who have to advocate it from the Labour Front Bench and that it certainly does not have the remotest prospect of persuading the British people? We know that many Labour Members would like to ditch the policy. There is a revisionist tendency within the Labour party.

However, the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone), who does not need to appear on occasions such as this—it is not necessary for his purposes—was there at the Labour party conference telling Members what they could and could not do. In his own inimitable way he made it absolutely clear when he said: any attempt to abandon our non-nuclear defence policy would lead to civil war inside the party which would render it unelectable in 1991. We have here an interesting example of Morton's fork. According to the hon. Member for Brent, East, the party will be unelectable in 1991 if it abandons unilateral disarmament. It will also be unelectable in 1991 if it keeps unilateral disarmament, because that policy renders it unelectable. I find that a very happy situation.

Mr. Davies


Mr. Mellor

The fly has caught a fat trout.

Mr. Davies

I am trying to assist the hon. and learned Gentleman. This speech is getting rather thin and he has eight minutes to go. Will he answer the very important question about battlefield nuclear weapons and the need to start talks on them at the same time as on conventional weapons? What is the Government's view about immediate or speedy talks on battlefield nuclear weapons?

Mr. Mellor

The right hon. Gentleman is right in saying that that is an important point. At the moment we have the prospect of concluding an INF deal fairly shortly, although a number of difficult details remain. In addition, talks are taking place in Geneva on two other aspects. One set of talks could, if the political will was there, lead to settlement fairly quickly. I am referring to the talks on strategic weapons, based on a reduction of 50 per cent. in each side's arsenal. That is something that all of us commend. It is a joint Alliance position. We must seek some balance in the way in which the world moves—as I hope it will — towards arms control and arms reductions. We cannot allow ourselves to do business exclusively on the part of the agenda that is determined by Mr. Gorbachev.

We face a tremendous Soviet advantage in chemical weapons, which we unilaterally repudiated, but on which the Soviet Union showed no reciprocity whatever—that shows the futility of unilateral gestures — so we must consider the potency of the Soviet chemical and biological weapons threat. [Interruption.] I am coming to the point. As the right hon. Gentleman kindly told me, I have a few minutes left and I shall arrive at the point within that time. These are complicated matters and I wish to set them in a coherent framework so that the right hon. Gentleman may have the advantage of hearing the argument in all its glory.

The Soviet Union has an overwhelming preponderance in the conventional sphere, to which, glasnost notwithstanding, it is adding by the minute. In 1986 it was adding tanks at a rate of eight per day, fighter aircraft at two per day, pieces of field artillery at six per day and warships at a rate of one per month. We must insist on a balanced approach to disarmament issues and demand that the conventional imbalance between the Soviet Union and the West be redressed. In this, we could do with the assistance of the Opposition. All too often they seem to see their role as voice and echo to the latest speech by Mr. Gorbachev, but they could have a role in sticking up for the British interest, which would be to insist that Mr. Gorbachev publishes details of the Soviet conventional weaponry and where it is.

Until we reach that point, we must look with great suspicion at any proposal further to reduce the nuclear weaponry available to western Europe, when our troops and our society would nakedly face the overwhelming preponderance of Soviet and eastern European conventional forces. A point that did not emerge with any clarity from the speech of the hon. Member for Deptford is that one is just as dead when one is shot at by a tank as when one is hit by a nuclear weapon. The killing power of conventional weaponry should not be underestimated, nor should the potential for aggression on the part of the Warsaw pact.

That is why—I come to the point in a logical way which would have appealed to the right hon. Gentleman when he was busy being a successful law student—on that basis I say that if we have two successful negotiations on nuclear weapons it is time that we did something about conventional weapons before making further reductions in the nuclear arsenal, which would have the potential to make Europe safe once again for conventional warfare.

Mr. Davies

The answer should be quite clear. The British Government do not agree with the West German Government that there should be simultaneous talks on conventional arms reductions and on battlefield nuclear weapons. Chancellor Kohl wants simultaneous talks, but the British Government want to wait until an agreement is concluded on conventional arms reductions. Is that the position—yes or no?

Mr. Mellor

I have set out our position with as much clarity as I can muster. Just as the right hon. Gentleman has to discuss matters of defence policy with his hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East, so we have to discuss with our allies what the arrangements should be. [Interruption.] I think that the hon. Member for Brent, East is an ally of the right hon. Member for Llanelli, although it is a marginal point. We shall discuss within the Alliance how these things should be done.

Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith

So far I have admired everything that my hon. Friend has said, but his last point was not a very fair comparison.

Mr. Mellor

The current position is that we have the prospect of resuming business between East and West, which could lead to a reduction in what we can all agree, whatever our other disagreements, are the enormously over-swollen arsenals of both conventional and nuclear weapons. We have the opportunity to build confidence between East and West, but that can be achieved only by allowing representatives of each Alliance to visit the other with the full protection of diplomatic privilege to ensure that trust and confidence are properly based on compliance.

That is what this modest but important little Bill seeks to achieve. I commend it to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time and committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 61 (Committal of Bills).

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