HL Deb 18 November 1965 vol 270 cc718-76

4.35 p.m.

LORD HENDERSON rose to call attention to the problems concerning Disarmament; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise, somewhat belatedly, to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. I believe that it will meet with general approval. There cannot, I think, be anyone in this House who is not convinced of the importance of disarmament. The events of this century have shown what the will to war, coupled with the means, can bring about; and, as the weapons have become more powerful and the consequences of using them more awful, so, I think your Lordships will all agree, the need to restrict them and to restrain those who would use them has become more urgent.

I say this to remind us all that disarmament is not fundamentally a process of negotiations and bargaining, for there is always a danger that in conducting them one may lose sight of the end to which they are directed, and of its importance. Disarmament is the search for peace, for a world where war can never again take place; and a first step to this end must be to halt, and then to reverse, the dangerous and costly arms race. It is reasonable, I think, to accept the calculation that at least 10 per cent. of the world's annual output of wealth is spent on defence. Can any of us doubt that the world would be transformed if that 10 per cent., or the bulk of it, were available to be used for the more constructive purposes?

I recall a statement in the Labour Party's 1964 Manifesto. It said that the Labour Party had put forward constructive proposals to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, to establish nuclear free zones in Africa, Latin America and Central Europe and to achieve controlled reductions in manpower and arms".

However, before I come to these three topics, I should like to raise the question of general and complete disarmament. As we know, all nations are committed to it. For more than three years the Eighteen-Nations Disarmament Committee at Geneva has had before it the three-stage draft plans for general disarmament put forward both by the United States and by Soviet Russia. Efforts to build up agreement have not produced significant results so far, and I think I am right in saying that very little time was devoted to consideration of general disarmament at the last session of the Committee between July and September of this year.

There seems to be a growing feeling that progress in this direction is bound to be slow. From what I can gather, the opinion at Geneva has hardened that an early or significant break-through is not to be expected.

This is a cause of widespread disappointment. I realise, however, that, with present world tensions and disorders, discussions of the subject must at times seem unreal. But I should like reassurance that in the pursuit of partial, more concrete, measures, the goal of general and complete disarmament has not been and will not be lost sight of. I hope that the Government and the Minister for Disarmament, who is in charge of this debate, intend to persevere in this direction.

In this connection, I should like to ask: What is the Government's attitude towards the convening of a World Disarmament Conference? One of the problems of disarmament negotiations at Geneva has been that France would not, and China could not, be represented. Clearly, the absence of two of the five nuclear Powers from the discussions at Geneva makes the chance of agreement there more remote. In the case of China, the same objection can be raised against the disarmament debates at the United Nations, although the presence of such countries as Albania means that China's voice is not entirely unheard. But this can never be a satisfactory way of seeking agreement. I should like to ask the Minister: Do Her Majesty's Government still support the idea of a World Disarmament Conference? And is it likely that, as a result of discussions which I think are taking place at the United Nations to-day, China, which was refused admission to the United Nations yesterday, will be invited?

My Lords, the issue which has been the principal talking point at Geneva in the First Committee at the United Nations and in the Press is that of a non-proliferation treaty. The importance of such a treaty has been stressed time and again. The Prime Minister has called it "the most urgent problem facing us in the field of disarmament." The greater the number of nations which have control over nuclear weapons, the greater the chance that they will be used. It is not fanciful to suggest that if the precarious peace since 1945 has been the result of the possession by both sides of vast nuclear capabilities, it has also been the result of the responsibility which the principal controllers of the stockpiles have exercised. But there are countries in the world whose sense of responsibility might not be adequate if put to the test. Could any of us sleep more soundly if Egypt and Israel, India and Pakistan, or Indonesia and Malaysia, were equipped with nuclear weapons?

Secondly, the number of countries which will soon have the ability to produce nuclear weapons is increasing. Previously, the increase was from three nuclear Powers to four, and then from four to five; but the next increase may be not from five to six but from five to ten. I believe it is true—indeed, I am sure—that pressures in some of the non-nuclear States to acquire nuclear weapons are increasing, and that if a single State were to give way to these pressures it would then he too late to prevent gradual world-wide dissemination. That makes the signing of a non-proliferation treaty all the more urgent.

Here I must confess that I am puzzled by a remark made by the Prime Minister in another place on July 27 last when he said: … the Government have taken the initiative at Geneva—or will he doing so—in tabling proposals to stop the spread of nuclear weapons."—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Commons), Vol. 717 (No. 162), col. 224; 27/7/65.] This meant, I thought, that a British draft treaty would be put forward; but no such draft has ever been produced. Nor, so far as I can discover, did the United Kingdom co-sponsor the American draft treaty. The Russian opposition to the American draft treaty is well known: that it would leave the way open for the Federal Republic of Germany to gain control of nuclear weapons. They have said this many times and in many places, and Mr. Gromyko said it again in his covering memorandum to the Soviet Union's own draft treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. Another typical example was Mr. Federenko's speech in the First Committee of the Twentieth General Assembly on October 18. He said: No agreement has been reached on this problem…because the representatives of some leading powers in NATO are seeking, under the guise of an international agreement on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, to make their dissemination legal in fact. Here, my Lords, two questions suggest themselves. The first is: Why was the United Kingdom able neither to submit the text of a draft treaty nor to co-sponsor the American version? and the second: What can be done to resolve genuine Russian doubts? It is also relevant to ask whether the Minister is convinced that the Russian doubts are genuine—that they are genuinely afraid that the Federal German Republic will gain independent control of nuclear weapons—or whether they are merely trying to embarrass the Western Allies.

I myself believe that Soviet Russia and her allies are genuinely concerned lest the Federal German Republic is enabled to acquire national control of nuclear power, if not now, later on. I think it would be a mistake to regard their attitude as purely one of political calculation. The fact is that Western efforts over two years have failed to persuade the Russians that the M.L.F. will not lead to dissemination. And there has been no sign of getting them to modify their attitude of opposition which seems also to apply equally to the A.N.F.

The West cannot leave the issue at stalemate. It is necessary to remove the present obstacles to agreement. It was interesting, therefore, to read the suggestion of the Foreign Secretary, when he was in Washington, that before NATO committed itself too resolutely to a nuclear policy, it should find out more clearly the Soviet Union's views on non-proliferation. The Foreign Secretary was reported as saying—and this was in The Times of October 10—that: Britain was still preferring the creation of an A.N.F., but in view of Soviet objections, it would be reasonable for the NATO Allies to see whether they could get a non-proliferation agreement without sacrificing policies considered absolutely essential to the health of the alliance. It has been suggested that the remarks of the Foreign Secretary in the United States of America were moving towards concessions to the Russians; that the West must choose between M.L.F.—A.N.F.—Special Committee-type development in NATO and a non-proliferation treaty, but that they could not reasonably expect both. It would be unprofitable for me to speculate on the significance of these utterances. The Foreign Secretary is meeting the Federal German Foreign Minister to-morrow, and next month he goes to Moscow. No doubt the Minister for Disarmament will be taking part in both sets of talks, for it is, I think, a safe bet that the question of getting agreement on a non-proliferation treaty will be high on the agenda in both cases. All I would say is that I hope that their discussions will help to remove the present obstacles and bring nearer the adoption of an agreed treaty.

I am also concerned that the concentration of discussion on European security arrangements has diverted attention from the fact that the most important results of a non-proliferation treaty will be in areas outside Europe. Clearly there will be much greater danger if the Middle and Far Eastern countries acquire nuclear weapons. It is, of course, the non-nuclear countries which, in one sense, have the most to lose by signing such a treaty. They will be giving up something substantial, they will be making sacrifices, whereas the nuclear Powers will be renouncing something they had no intention of doing anyway. For this reason I hope that attention will be paid to their demand that the nuclear Powers should begin to reduce their weapon stockpiles; that a non-proliferation treaty should not be a means of establishing an "exclusive" nuclear club. It was, I believe, a useful move that Italy should have suggested a short-term moratorium by the non-nuclear Powers on the acquiring of nuclear weapons, to give the nuclear States time to make progress in their field.

Finally, on the subject of non-proliferation I should like the Minister to clarify the Resolution passed by the First Committee, calling on the 18-Nation Disarmament Committee to negotiate a treaty … devoid of any loopholes which might permit nuclear or non-nuclear Powers to proliferate, directly or indirectly, nuclear weapons, in any form. Both the United States and the Soviet Union voted for this Resolution, but clearly they understood the words, "any loophole" very differently. Does this mean that the next session of the 18-Nation Disarmament Committee which the Resolution urges will see the same arguments brought out time and again, and all over again? Or is it likely that a closer identity of view will be established in the meantime before the next meeting of the Committee?

My Lords, there is also the question of the Test Ban Treaty. When the Moscow Treaty was signed in 1963, we all thought that the extension of it to cover underground tests would not be long delayed. On June 15 of this year the Disarmament Commission especially recommended that the 18-Nation Disarmament Committee should consider, as a matter of priority, the question of extending the scope of the partial Test Ban Treaty to cover underground tests. But such development seems as far away as ever. The problem, of course, is still that of inspection. Both the United States and the United Kingdom have submitted memoranda to the 18-Nation Disarmament Committee outlining recent progress in the West on the detection and localising of underground events by means of new seismographic techniques. I would ask, to what extent do these techniques make it possible to identify a larger proportion of such events as earthquakes and so reduce the number of "unidentified" events which may or may not be nuclear tests?

Is there still no other method than on-site inspections for positively identifying such tests? I have noted the helpful suggestions made by non-aligned members of the Committee. First, that tests above a certain seismic magnitude—4.75 was the figure quoted by the Egyptian delegate—could be outlawed without the need to insist on the right of inspection, because seismological detection techniques have now improved to the point where it can be determined whether or no an explosion above the determined figure is an earthquake or a nuclear test. Second, the Swedish representative raised the possibility of forming a nuclear detection club. Its purpose would be to develop international co-operation for the detection of nuclear explosions. Could this not also be helpful in perhaps reducing the level of seismic magnitude which would need inspection, or reducing the number of inspections considered necessary to ensure that no party to the Treaty was acting in bad faith?

Much as we must all deplore the Russian attitude in refusing to allow inspections to take place, or joint scientific talks to convince the West of their assertion that inspection is unnecessary, it must not prevent us from persisting in the search for ways to satisfy both parties: for the Russians, no inspections; for the West, no insecurity. The Prime Minister has said in another place that the Government are examining the possibility of collective assurances to non-nuclear States against nuclear threats and blackmail in order to provide an alternative to the acquisition of nuclear weapons. The American Ambassador to the United Nations, Mr. Goldberg, has also mentioned that the United States is prepared to offer such guarantees.

The emergence of China as a nuclear Power has, of course, made this an immensely more important problem for our friends in Asia. It would also resolve some of the doubts the non-nuclear States might feel about signing a non-proliferation treaty. I realise that there may be difficulties. It is not easy for a non-nuclear State to accept such an assurance from either the Western or the Eastern Powers without appearing to align itself in one or other camp. Nevertheless, it is a matter to be looked into, and I hope that the Minister will say what developments have taken place in this field.

Finally, I would also ask the Minister whether he can tell us what steps are envisaged in the "freeze" and reduction of nuclear weapons and their delivery vehicles by the nuclear Powers. This is, in some ways, the most important step, since it would represent a step towards disarmament rather than a prevention of further armament. Once again the interests of the non-nuclear States are greatly concerned, and I am sure that they will keep a close watch to see what the nuclear Powers are prepared to do. I realise that there are other important matters to which I have not referred. The items I have mentioned are among what might be termed "collateral" measures, agreement on which would contribute greatly to building up international confidence. I believe that, in the present world conditions, work in a limited and specified field will enable greater concentration of effort with a better chance of getting results.

I should like to repeat what I said at the beginning of my speech, that disarmament is so necessary and its fruits so beneficial that I hope that Her Majesty's Government will continue to work for it as urgently as ever, and that the Minister for Disarmament will seize every opportunity for practical initiatives. I beg to move for Papers.

5.0 p.m.


My Lords, it is always a pleasure to hear the noble Lord, Lord Henderson. We all miss his amiable presence from the Front Bench on his side of the House, and we are very much delighted to hear him again, speaking with his usual modesty, patience and deep sincerity on a subject which is so close to his heart. This subject is indeed of tremendous moment to the welfare and perhaps to the survival of mankind, but I think that our debate this afternoon will be a short one, because we have discussed the matter exhaustively on several occasions during the last twelve months, and perhaps the main object of the noble Lord in putting down this Motion was to enable the Minister of Disarmament, the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, to tell us something about what has been happening at Geneva during the last three months.

The last time the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, spoke in your Lordships' House, he had to leave in the middle of the debate for a long train journey to Geneva. He took with him the good wishes of all your Lordships, not only for the comfort and safety of his journey, but also for his success when he arrived in Geneva. Of course, to wish success to a man going to a disarmament conference at Geneva is rather like wishing success to a man going to fight a battle with a hydra, which grows three new heads whenever you cut off one. However persistent and however valiant you are, success is unlikely to be either speedy or sensational, and I do not think that any of us, least of all the noble Lord, expected that it would be.

I think we all understand the chief obstacles to disarmament, the reasons why this apparently fatuous round of abortive conferences has been going on for the last twenty years or more without any real result, except the Test Ban Treaty. And I think it is necessary to the success of our work that we should understand the obstacles. In my judgment, the main obstacle is and has been (I hope to an even greater extent than it is now), Communist power politics, the belief prevailing among the great Communist Powers of the world that they can dominate the world by a display, if not by an exercise, of force, counting on the certainty that the free nations will not start a war and that the social institutions of the free nations will collapse and the Communists will achieve domination, if they keep on pushing everywhere in the world, backed up by a growing strength of nuclear force and conventional force at the same time.

The last five speechs of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, have lately been published as a White Paper. I have read them with great pleasure and with great agreement, but there is one passage with which I do not agree. That is the reason why I think I ought to quote it. In his third speech, on August 19, speaking of what he called The Clausewitzian view of military power, which he rightly said ought to have no place in the age of nuclear missiles, the noble Lord went on to say: As I have already acknowledged in New York, the idea that nuclear weapons are status symbols or tickets of admission for some powerful and exclusive cabal is largely the fault of the existing nuclear Powers, my country among them. I do not agree with that. I think that it is incorrect historically. If the United States, for example, had regarded the hydrogen bomb as a status symbol or ticket of admission to some exclusive cabal, they would have started manufacturing, hydrogen bombs many years earlier. At the end of the war they were the only country in the world which had the atomic bomb, and they did their utmost to get an agreement to enable them to get rid of it, but, owing entirely to Russian opposition, they could not do so. Under President Truman's Administration, they deliberately refrained from preparations to produce the far more destructive hydrogen bomb until they received unquestionable information that Russia was not only manufacturing atomic bombs (which had been known for a long time) but had gone so far in their preparations to make the hydrogen bomb, too, that it seemed probable that the Russians might have it in usable quantities before America, if nothing was done. It was only then that President Truman, at the beginning of 1950, took the decision that America must prepare to make a hydrogen bomb, too. The only reason why he did that was because we had learned from bitter experience that the only way in which we could ever end the cold war and bring about disarmament was to convince the Russians that aggression and power politics would not pay and would not succeed.

Conviction has taken a very long time. I think it would be fair to say that until 1962 every singe disarmament conference was for the Russians a Russian propaganda exercise, and nothing more. I think that after the Cuban affair, in the autumn of 1962, the Russians at last began to change their outlook. It was soon after that that Mr. Khrushchev, who was then Prime Minister of Russia, instead of telling us how likely it was that those who disagreed with him would all be blown to smithereens, began saying that war was not necessarily inevitable and that it might even be wrong. A year later, we had at least one concrete agreement, in the shape of the Test Ban Treaty, which was signed in Moscow in August, 1963. The Russian language and attitude and expressions of policy on the subject of disarmament have been not quite so uncompromising and have shown a greater desire for peaceful co-existence and agreement than they did before.

The late Government put forward, on many occasions, practical proposals for disarmament, and I think the present Government agree with the principles which have always governed disarmament proposals—first, disarmament must be carried out in balanced stages; secondly, any agreement must contain provision for verification, for inspection to see that the people who signed it were not cheating and, thirdly, disarmament must eventually be followed by the formation of an international police force.

I think that the necessity of all these conditions is fairly obvious. We must have a balanced reduction of armaments by stages, so that nobody will be left with an overwhelming superiority at any one moment. We must have verification. I think that the need for that, if there was any need to prove it, was shown by the Cuba incident. Only a month or two before the crisis, the Russian Foreign Secretary had categorically assured the American Government that there were no Russian nuclear installations of any kind in Cuba. I do not think you will ever get confidence in the reality of disarmament unless all the great Powers are willing to agree to adequate inspection and verification. As for the International Force, that is a more distant objective. But we must always have it in mind, because clearly the ultimate success of disarmament cannot endure unless there is some police force, and the policing of the world cannot be left to any one country.

While all of us in the West were trying to get agreement on these lines, and as the objective still receded as fast as we could pursue it, other countries besides Russia, America and Britain began to produce and develop nuclear weapons—first, France, and then China. Nearly two years ago, the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, who was then Foreign Secretary, put forward at the Geneva Disarmament Conference which was then in session proposals for a non-dissemination treaty. Her Majesty's present Ministers are taking the same course, and, indeed, it has been the principal subject of discussion at Geneva for the last three months, ever since the Geneva Conference was reconvened rather unexpectedly by the sudden and welcome decision of the Russians that it should start again after having been in recess, the Russians refusing to come for a very long time.

I will not stand more than a minute or two between your Lordships and Lord Chalfont's account of what has been happening about our hopes for a non-dissemination agreement at Geneva. There must clearly be an agreement between those countries who possess nuclear weapons not to give them to anybody else, and an agreement among all countries who are willing to join the agreement, and who have not got nuclear weapons, that they will not seek them. But what does the noble Lord think our attitude is likely to be (this is a general question, but it must be thought of now) towards any countries who will not come into the agreement? What are you going to do, for instance, if China will not agree either to disarm or to undertake not to give nuclear weapons to her satellites or to any other country who might be her ally? Are you to confine yourself to protestations?—in which case it is not likely that our own dissemination agreement would last very long. Or are you to bring persuasion or pressure, or even some kind of coercion eventually, on other countries who will not come in?—because you can never get these things on a permanent basis until there is some system of enforcing international law.

That, as I say, is a general question. The particular difficulty which seems to have been encountered at Geneva about non-dissemination is the obstinate Russian belief, or at least professed belief, that either the Multilateral Force or the proposed Atlantic Nuclear Force are a means of disseminating nuclear weapons to people who have not got them, and particularly to the Germans—although, as I understand them, both these proposals would actually restrict the possibility of nuclear war by, as the phrase is, putting more fingers on the safety-catch and not on the trigger. This, I think, has been clearly impressed on the Conference by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, but the Russians have refused to appreciate or, so far as one can see, even to listen to his argument.

I should like, since I have quoted one passage from one of the noble Lord's speeches without agreeing with it, to quote what he said about this, on which I wholeheartedly agree with him. In his speech in September he said: We want, sincerely and deeply, to prevent the spread of all nuclear weapons not only in Europe but anywhere in the world, and we are prepared to discuss the form and content of an agreement…that will satisfy the Soviet Union of our good faith. But I should be failing in my duty to this Conference if I did not make it clear that, so far as my Government is concerned, the security of NATO and its members is not up for bargaining, here or anywhere else". Then, after a quotation from Abraham Lincoln, the noble Lord said: However desperately we in the West may want and work for disarmament agreements, there are certain principles we will not compromise. I was very glad to read that.

I should like to conclude by asking the noble Lord—and I am sure he will be able to do it—to reconcile this statement of his with the Press interview given by the Foreign Secretary on October 8 in New York. I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, mentioned this particular interview, although he mentioned some other statements the Foreign Secretary made. What he indicated at this interview was that we might be prepared to consider abandoning M.L.F. and A.N.F., or both, in order to get a non-dissemination agreement with Russia. Well, my Lords, as neither of these proposed forces, M.L.F. or A.N.F., has come into being, and as they are both very much in the blueprint stage, at first sight one would think it a very small price to pay for a real non-dissemination agreement. But the point is that if you were to abandon them, it might well have serious effects on the unity of NATO, if NATO thought you were going behind their backs and making an agreement with the Russians.

I thought, when I read the Foreign Secretary's interview, that there were two problems which might arise from it: one a comparatively trivial domestic problem, which was that A.N.F. is the method of getting the Labour Party "off the hook" on the question of the British nuclear deterrent, and if you are going to throw that away, what will the Labour Party do? Will they admit that we must have an independent nuclear deterrent, or not? However, that is trivial compared with the international problem, of what effect this might have on NATO. I think the Foreign Secretary's interview and the suggestion which he made about the possibility of doing this has caused a good deal of concern, both among our NATO Allies, and perhaps also in the United States.

I am quite sure that the Foreign Secretary would be the first person to agree that there are some concessions which could defeat their own object, and that if you made a concession which would mean the disruption of NATO, the result would be that you would not get your dissemination agreement. You would lose both ways. You would lose NATO and your dissemination agreement, because the Communists, when they saw NATO breaking up, would immediately decide that it was not worth making an agreement of this kind, and would revert to their former belief that they can obtain their objectives by power politics and without making these agreements. Therefore, I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, to deal with this point of the Foreign Secretary's, and to explain exactly what the Foreign Secretary meant. We all agree that we ought to seek to make any concession which can be made without doing harm of this kind, in order to persuade the Russians to make the non-dissemination agreement—and Russian agreement is essential if ever we are to get disarmament. But, at the same time, we must make it plain—and I hope that the noble Lord will make it plain—that we cannot disrupt NATO or take any action which might lead to the weakening of NATO, because the strength of NATO is an essential foundation for all our hopes, both in disarmament and of world peace.

5.21 p.m.


My Lords, I must first of all apologise to the House. Our schedule has been rather upset, and in any case I have to rush off soon as I have an unbreakable engagement, and I fear I shall not be able to come back to hear the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, wind up. I also rise with considerable reluctance to intervene in this debate, in the first place because I am not an expert myself on disarmament, though I have, I suppose, been associated with it in some way for a very long time; I have, as it were, lived with it. Furthermore, I think one always has a certain sense of despondency, if not in our weaker moments even a sense of futility, when we consider this tremendous subject, which has now after all been discussed, not for the last twenty years, if I may venture to correct the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, but probably for the last forty years.

Ever since I went into the Service in 1924, I remember, as I say, living to some extent with this appalling problem. I remember very well the first great conference on disarmament presided over so magnificently by the father of the noble Lord who introduced this subject, Mr. Arthur Henderson. I remember attending myself the conference in 1932 in Geneva, in which Mr. Anthony Eden, as he then was, took a prominent part. Even then one began to be filled with a certain sense of futility when one had many committees sitting to decide whether a tank was an offensive or a defensive weapon. It was quite evident that there was, I am afraid, no real political will to push the thing through. I remember, for instance, after the war, when we were considering whether we should refer to this great matter in the Charter of the United Nations, the Russians, for some extraordinary reason, seemed rather reluctant to do so. So I asked Mr. Gromyko, in front of other people, "Why is it you object to even mentioning the word 'disarmament' in the Charter?", for he would only go so far as to talk about the regulation of armaments. After a long pause he said, "It is a slogan". As a matter of fact, I am told that it was Lenin who first said that it was a slogan—I do not know when, but probably in 1918. So that was not very encouraging to start up our discussions, when you could not even get the Russians willingly to admit that even the word should appear in the Charter, although they eventually did.

Then we got on to the discussions of the whole problem, and all this has now ended up, so far as actual disarmament is concerned, in the great plan, which has not yet been agreed, for general and complete disarmament. Here I can only echo what the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, said. It is evident that you must have three major conditions for anything of the sort. First of all, you must have complete verification. Here I urge your Lordships, if you are really interested in the subject, to read an excellent work published about six months ago by my ex-colleague and friend Sir Michael Wright, who was for three years associated with this enormous problem in Geneva, and elsewhere, called Disarm and Verify. It emerges from that work most clearly that these conditions which he maintains should be accepted, and thinks can be accepted, because he is an optimist, are appallingly difficult when you come to consider them. Verification would require an army of highly-trained international officials all over the world, particularly from all the great Powers. Apart from the expense of recruitment it would be difficult to see how they could operate.

Now it is clear that it is impossible—things have gone too far—to verify the exact stocks of fissile material. Even the experts, I gather, acknowledge now that you cannot, with the best will in the world, however many experts you have, be absolutely certain that there is no more fissile material in Russia or the United States beyond what has been declared by the Government that it possesses. As only 10 per cent. of the existing colossal stocks would probably be enough to wreck the world, it seems difficult to imagine that you are going to make successful progress in the field of verification, and that is essential.

The second condition is that at every stage of this vast plan you must have a balance. You must never pass from one stage to the other until it is absolutely certain that nobody is going to steal a march on the other person and thus affect a complete balance of forces. Your Lordships can see how difficult that would be to arrange. Finally—and this might be the most difficult thing of all—before you can even move out of stage one, you have to have agreement on the prior constitution of a sort of peace army, a United Nations peace force. A United Nations peace force can operate—we all know this—only if there is an authority, in fact it must be world authority, on which it can depend. So before you can even start, or get very far with this great plan, you must have a world authority, and, of course, it stands to reason that until you get that authority you will not have real disarmament. But it is a good thing to plan and this work has not been done in vain. The great plan, partially agreed, stands there as a kind of monument.

It is quite clear that you cannot get on with it, and never would be able to get on with it, until there is a reduction of tension in the world, and until at any rate some progress has been made towards solving the major political problems. At the moment, when there is a war raging in Vietnam, and a potential war elsewhere, it is inconceivable that you can make much progress with this great plan for complete and general world disarmament. It is logically possible, but not at the present time. First of all—and this is not impossible—we must create a sort of climate of peace, as is said, right round the Northern Hemisphere, which I think is not inconceivable in the next few years; and then we might well have time to get this matter out of its pigeonhole and get on with it—but not before.

What we have been able to do up to now, seeing that disarmament up to now has been impossible, is to make progress with what is called, broadly speaking, the regulation of armaments. In the regulation of armaments, of course, there has been one triumph, and that is the Test Ban Treaty. Why did that Treaty ever come about? What was the real reason for that? I suggest that it was the constitution or the completion, if you like, of the famous balance of terror. When there is a situation such as we have now—it may be the precarious balance of terror, but anyhow it exists—its first fruit is to produce agreement between the two great super-Powers of the world not to poison further the atmosphere by letting off these devices when there is no need for either of them to let off any more. I think that fairly shortly, with a bit of luck, this ban will be extended to underground tests, and I think that so far as the Soviet Union and America are concerned there will be no more tests; and that is an excellent thing and one of the bases of the climate of peace which has gradually been established—inevitably by the force of things, by the balance of terror—by the Americans and the Russians themselves. That is excellent, and we can only hope that other people perhaps will sign it. As one or two countries explode a bomb, later on even China might support it. Why not?

Then we get on to the other great outstanding question and the real regulation of armaments which is clearly the question of proliferation. On proliferation, there are optimists who say—I do not think I am one of them—that just as the balance of terror is the only thing which produces peace, so it may be that if further countries get a small or not very large nuclear potential they will be even more cautious than they were before. There is a considerable reason, for instance, to suppose that since the explosion of their nuclear devices the Chinese have been far more cautious as regards the Vietnamese war. They now realise that if they go too far, the first thing that will probably happen is that the Americans will send conventional bombers to Lanchow and do away with their means of producing the atom bomb. Therefore they have become much more amenable to the frame of mind which may well lead to some kind of peace emerging in the Far East. All these things are paradoxical but there is some truth in them.

There is a danger, of course, given the situation between India and Pakistan, that India might become a nuclear Power and an obvious danger in the Middle East of Egypt's using a bomb for her own purposes. Of course, we all know that it would not matter in the least if Sweden or Switzerland had the bomb. In this field generally there is a certain danger, but it is not overwhelming. What is disturbing is this apparent Russian conviction that the Atlantic Nuclear Force, or indeed the M.L.F., will be an appalling example of proliferation, in the sense that it will inevitably "give the German Generals the nuclear bomb", as they will have it. I think one of the main things which the Foreign Secretary and the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, can do is to disabuse the minds of the Russians of this appalling misconception, and even, I should think, a nightmare, because the creation of an Atlantic Nuclear Force, if it was ever possible, would result in not more but less proliferation. Inevitably it would mean that the British and French nuclear forces would be more or less amalgamated. What would be done with them, nobody knows. But there would be one authority rather than two, which, on the face of it, would be less proliferation. Furthermore, the association of the Germans, not in the way of making these horrible things, but in some form of control over this new force, should make Germany more cautious, rather than more aggressive, towards the Russians. The Germans do not want to be blown up, and I cannot see why the Russians should think that the Atlantic Nuclear Force would really be such an enormous menace to them.

We had an Atlantic Treaty Association meeting in Rome which I thought was very successful, and one of the recommendations there was something which bore a marked resemblance to that brainchild of the Labour Administration. I rather hope that they will not abandon this brain-child, because it has much potential good in it, and I commend this particular resolution to the noble Lord in case he has not seen it. It was agreed to by a powerful French and a powerful German delegation, to say nothing of British, Italian and other representatives.

I have talked too long and I know noble Lords will wish to hear other views on this matter, so I will conclude by saying that we on these Benches are particularly glad that a brilliant man of the calibre of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has the task of doing this essential preparatory work, for such I think it is, for something which will come into operation if and when the political circumstances permit. After all, nobody could be better qualified, for, as we all know, he was brought up in the best Liberal traditions and therefore he has clearly the right instincts in this crucial matter of disarmament. We were indeed sorry to lose him, but we tend to regard him less as a deserter than as a sort of infiltrator into the Socialist camp. In any case, we wish him all possible luck in these disheartening negotiations with which he is so suitably associated.

5.35 p.m.


My Lords, I also must begin by craving the indulgence of this House. I, too, have been trapped by the time schedule and have to keep a date at Great St. Mary's, Cambridge, later on in the evening; therefore I must ask the noble Lord if he will excuse me if I also have to go immediately after I have spoken. I am the more sorry because I should have been most anxious to hear what my noble friend Lord Chalfont had to say in reply to many of the questions which have already been asked. He has been good enough to indicate that he understands that I have to go, and I am sure he will understand also that I approach this problem of disarmament from the pacifist angle and as one rooted in the pacifist principle.

I am not discouraged from venturing to say my piece on this theme because of the wide drawing of the actual terms of this debate. We are invited to call attention to problems concerning disarmament, and no one can complain that hitherto none of these problems has been ventilated. In fact, they have been widely and wisely thought of, and no doubt enlightening answers will be given when my noble friend, rises to answer. But in the gracious Speech this Government committed themselves to the promotion of disarmament, and therefore I will take courage and try to say something of what seems to me, at least, to lie within the pacifist position, not as something which can be immediately translated into governmental action, but as a principle which can be of service to the Government and the community in their search for peace and in their programme of disarmament.

Let me briefly say what the position that I hold adds up to. I believe it is never right for a professing Christian to indulge in war in any circumstances; therefore, so far as I am a free agent, in no circumstances do I feel able to contribute to it. Most of my noble ecclesiastical friends, who are at least here in spirit, I am sure, would agree as a general proposition that war is evil; but they do not agree, as the majority of Church people do not agree, that there are no circumstances in which it is permissible, and they hang on to the proposition that in certain circumstances a just war is not only permissible but is in fact the lesser of two evils. There is a consequence for the pacifist which immediately flows from his total rejection, in so far as he is a free agent, of participation in war, and it is simply that he therefore cannot tolerate as morally permissible the instruments of war, and therefore he attaches the same moral obloquy to the methods by which a war can be prepared as he does to the actual exercise of war itself.

It is in this particular frame that I would make a pertinent comment, not as an arrogant pacifist seeking to convert this House to pacifism, but as one who has laboured long enough in the Pacifist cause to realise how multitudinous are its difficulties and how lacking in humility are some of its protagonists; and I believe it is in this field that a contribution can be made. It is that if a pacifist feels compelled by his faith to reject—as by my faith I feel compelled to reject—the instrumentality of war, he cannot sit back thereafter and say, "I have done my bit; now let others do theirs". He has to contribute positively what he believes to be the moral alternative to that grievous exhibition of violence which so many sincere people feel they are compelled to make.

It is in this field that I would turn to the whole question of disarmament and propose, as a general statement of what is to be believed, that disarmament is not the flower and fruit of the process of peace-making; it is the ground and tillage of that peace-making. I believe there is a rose that is called "Peace". The disarmament programme is not (shall we say?) the bloom and blossom of that rose; it is the cultivation of that rose. We have already heard a good deal in this debate of the problems that confront us in a world where there is suspicion and hatred and a good deal of rather naive thinking about philosophies to which we do not attach our own thinking. It is therefore, I would humbly suggest to your Lordships, a question not so much of saying, "Let us wait for the circumstances which will be propitious and then we can disarm". The very nature of these propitious circumstances depends on the initiation whereby we undertake certain processes of disarmament, not because the world is ready to receive them, not because our enemies are trustworthy, not because everybody is good and kind and gentle, but because only by the prosecution of such a programme can such an end be envisaged.

I quite agree—who can deny it?—that there is widespread suspicion. How much of that suspicion, however, is quite definitely associated with the possession of armaments, and not only with the prosecution of wars? It was Sir Winston Churchill who, very sapiently, said that lying in wartime is an indispensable ally. We all know that in war truth is the first casualty. I think we have to learn that before a war starts nobody tells the truth about the armaments he possesses, and the very possession of armaments occludes the processes of honesty and straightforwardness. I am no Communist, though I find a good many of the contentions against Communists naïve and uninformed—and I would remind the noble Earl that it was Mr. Khrushchev who alone, of all the world's statesmen, has proposed total disarmament by a process of stages; and, furthermore, the bringing down to certain quite appreciably lower levels the armed forces of the Soviet Union has been one very constructive and obvious plan of making evident to the world, as he said, the good intentions of the Soviet Union. I will not delay the House to talk about the relative merits. I have never attached total depravity to the Communists, although they have their usual dose of Original Sin. What I am concerned to say is that only by the exercise of a positive attitude of risks taken in disarmament is it likely that we shall change the dubious atmosphere in which so many people feel that it is impossible to undertake any disarmament at all.

I will delay the House no longer than to point this particular lesson, if it is a lesson, in one particular field. If unilateral action is required in general terms to promote the ends of disarmament and peace, how much more imperative is that action in the light of the nuclear threat? I find myself almost totally opposed to those who take comfort from the events of the Cuba crisis. The chilling thought to me is that, whereas Mr. Khrushchev was deterred by the nuclear threat, Mr. Kennedy was not. And when people comfort me, or seek to comfort me, by saying, "Here is evidence of the mortal danger which threatens the world, the mortal danger which is postponed and held in check by the dreadful consequences which will attach to either side if they go to war in a nuclear age", I find myself utterly bewildered, because so far as the evidence goes to show—and recently that evidence has been made quite clear in the Sunday newspapers—America was not deterred; America was prepared to take the very risk that the possession of nuclear arms is said to prevent. I shudder to think what will happen the next time such a crisis happens, when the man involved will not be Mr. Khrushchev, who was wiser than his fellows.

Then, only yesterday, as the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, pointed out, China has once again been refused admission to the United Nations. I will not delay your Lordships to talk about that, except to say that in my view it is wrong to assume that the Chinese attitude to the possibility of war, and nuclear war, is a compound of malevolence and treachery. It is no more malevolent or treacherous than the attitude of certain millenarian people and Egyptologists who prophesy the end of the world and all kinds of horrors at Armageddon before that end comes. I know that some of them were quite furious with the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, when he won the battle of Alamein and therefore prevented what they thought was to be Armageddon further down in Egypt. They are not animated by any sense of acute malevolence or vituperative violence, any more than the Chinese are.

What really happens is this. If you are utterly persuaded that the logic of history leads to certain military consequences, then you will set your sails in that direction and lay your plans. It is impossible to argue such people out of these totalitarian fantasies, but it is possible by presentation of ineluctable facts to present to them evidence which they cannot finally reject. Therefore, although it may sound idealistic, it would still seem to me to be a preferable risk in the world of nuclear threat that this country should unilaterally get rid of its nuclear possibilities and threats as a demonstration which even all the propaganda of Peking could not finally avoid.

I have one other point to make. I was immensely impressed by, and consistently felt the coerciveness of the argument of, my noble friend Lord Snow, that if proliferation of nuclear weapons continues, then, whether by accident or design, sooner or later, the calculations of probability are so high that it is relatively certain, it is statistically certain, that they will go off, or one of them will go off. That I believe to be a nightmare which is not very far from the logical thinking of anybody who takes the trouble to look carefully into this prospect, and who sees that unless a break is made in this vicious circle we are no happier and no more safe because just at the moment our headlines may be preoccupied with other matters.

I know that what I have said in defence of a pacifist position and in the interests of unilateral action is not a policy that can be undertaken at this moment. I witness to it. Moreover, my Lords, alongside the various efforts which I have no doubt are being made, and the various disclosures of better efforts that are in train or in the pipeline, which your Lordships will have an opportunity of hearing about a little later on when my noble friend Lord Chalfont replies, I would respectfully add what I am sure is in the mind and intention of the Government, the plea that to make an adventure in peacemaking will be a colossal risk. But I wonder whether it will be anything like the risk if we continue to wait for multilateral disarmament in a world which can only be made ready for it when somebody takes the risk of a personal, national, individual act of disarmament itself. That is a wish and a hope. It is more for me; it is a faith, and I should have been unfair and dishonest with myself if I did not communi- cate it to you. I hope very much when Lord Chalfont speaks to your Lordships he will be able to say that, in the interests of peace, this Government, to which such high hopes are attached, will in fact be taking a lead which is both adventurous and dangerous, but a lead which alone can bring a new spirit into the world.

5.47 p.m.


My Lords, may I add my modest welcome to the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, for introducing this Motion? In his speech he asked a number of pointed and precise questions. Like Lord Henderson, I hope that the noble Lord, the Minister for Disarmament, will in due course, be able to deal with them in his reply, and I should not delay that by anything I could say if it were not that I wish to add one general question. But before coming to that, perhaps your Lordships will allow me to make some general reflections on the state of the human condition and about disarmament in general, particularly after what the noble Lord, Lord Soper has recently said to us.

The human condition has reached a peculiarly dangerous and paradoxical state in its development by staging the nuclear explosion and the population explosion at one and the same time. One part of its efforts are going towards the process of doubling its numbers, at a rate now calculated at twice every 35 years, and another part of its energies are being devoted to developing and producing weapons of mass destruction of such power that it is becoming possible that their all-out use would eliminate the human race from the face of the earth. It would therefore seem that a debate on this subject in your Lordships' House is timely now, and will be timely from time to time in the future. The rub, of course, is that despite all the paper and all the plans, and all the words expended on disarmament, there have been, at least in my working life as a diplomatist from 1929 onwards, all too few occasions when any results could be reasonably hoped for.

Meanwhile, some essential "rules of the road" have emerged; and, if I may say so respectfully, I have no doubt that the Minister of State has been observing them, and will continue to observe them, handsomely, and a lot else besides. The first of these is never to give up trying; the possible gain is so great for humanity as a whole, and for this country in particular, in avoiding unnecessary and unproductive expenditure on arms. There is plenty else to be done with the money, provided that national security is not endangered. On that Adam Smith may have said the first and the last word: "Defence is greater than opulence".

The second, and deriving from that, is to avoid confusion between what is desirable and what is attainable, and that, in particular at this time, is to know with whom we are negotiating, the Soviet Union. Having spent over four years doing just this, week in and week out in the Allied Commission in Austria (and for a large part of that time the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, was the Under-Secretary of State in the Foreign Office, under whose encouragement and direction we worked), I hope your Lordships will allow me to repeat what has often been said before about Soviet methods. It is that the Russians are not lightly or normally to be persuaded, by eloquence, or convenience, or by reasoned arguments. They prefer to rely on what Stalin used to call the proper basis of international policy, "the calculation of forces". In my experience, this basic concept has not changed much since Stalin died. I regret this, but it means that gestures and concessions, and unilateral acts done by way of example, have no validity, and that the Soviet Union merely puts them in her pocket and ascribes them to weakness, moral or financial. I think it is vital not to misunderstand the character of the Soviet Government and its approach to international policy and to believe otherwise.

The third general rule is that proper account must be taken of the fact that we have allies and are not in this alone. One of them, in particular, the United States of America, has an even greater stake in the security of the Free World than we have, and is now spending and risking more than we are in blood and treasure. This need not paralyse us. The example of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty is a case in point, and, as the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, will remember, President Kennedy was most generous in his acknowledgement of the part which the British Government at that time had played in making such a Treaty possible.

But it should persuade us to retain a certain sense of proportion.

The plain fact is that we, by ourselves, cannot offer the Russians any sufficient inducement to persuade them to make a worthwhile concession. We do not command a sufficient percentage of the stock. Once again, this should not depress us unduly. The same applies in great measure to the United States. It will still be of importance to the Soviet Union to know whether the Americans can deliver their friends.

As all these elementary guide lines are no doubt in the mind of the Minister—I say again that I would scarcely have intervened, and wasted your Lordships' time by such glimpses of the obvious, if I had not wanted to put a question of a general character lying behind the questions asked by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, and later by the noble Earl, Lord Dundee. I should myself say that it is "the 64-dollar question." It is this: is there any indication that the Russians may now want to do business on any ground which might be acceptable to us and our major allies? I ask this out of a searing experience of the Austrian State Treaty.

Some years after it had been concluded, I met a Russian diplomatist (for his own safety perhaps he had better remain anonymous) who said to me over a drink: "Perhaps at this stage you will not mind my referring again to the discussions we had over many years and many hundreds of meetings on that Treaty. So far as we were concerned, it fell into two separate phases. During the entire first phase we had just one word of instruction from our Government. That word was, 'No.'" He then said, "We saw—I hope you will not mind my putting it this way—with interest, sometimes amusement, occasionally embarrassment, the way in which you would come back, and back, and back with new arguments why we should conclude this State Treaty. Our one word of instruction stood, and we had the difficult task of thinking up reasons why, on each occasion, we should not, after all, accept the arguments that were being put to us, no matter with what cogency. It was not until the second stage was reached, which was after the departure of Stalin, that a new view was taken in Moscow, one which included the thought that a conventional type war in Europe was most unlikely, and that therefore it was a matter of relative unimportance whether Russian troops were 100 miles forward in one place or a few miles back in another in the area of Austria. From that moment onwards the word was 'Yes' on certain conditions."

So, my Lords, I think it is a valid question to ask: is there now some real indication that the Russians may be ready to do business on terms that we and our allies can contemplate? Of course, normally the Russians do not give many such indications, if they were a Power operating in the Western manner it would be possible to say to them, quite openly, or at least informally: is there any possibility of doing business or not? If you were told that, for political reasons of various kinds, it was not, that would be that. But, of course, in the Russian case it is not a question that one can ask. No Russian would be likely to give an answer, for fear of what might happen to him should he say anything at all revealing; and in any case he would be most unlikely to know, unless he were one of the few—and there are very few—near the centre of power.

All the same, there are sometimes signs and portents of a change. There was such over the, nuclear test ban arrangement. If it is not an embarrassing matter to the Minister, perhaps I may ask whether he has any reason to hope for some result now, or should we conclude that he is soldiering on, since in this matter of disarmament we must never give up—and I am quite sure that he, above all, would never be ready to give up. If I may make the question more precise on one special point: is there any hope that this might be in the field of non-proliferation or non-dissemination of nuclear weapons, and that there may be some solution which will not damage NATO still more than it has already been weakened by the attitude of one of our major allies?

6.0 p.m.


My Lords, I do not have the experience of the noble Lord, Lord Caccia, but I should like to join with him in offering congratulations to my noble friend Lord Henderson upon the excellent lead he gave this afternoon. His is a noble name, noble in more senses than one, particularly in the many chapters on disarmament. I wonder what his father, who was the "father" of disarmament in my young days after World World I, would be saying to-day, two-thirds of the way through the century, if lie heard that his son was carrying on his good work. It is interesting that in the field of disarmament the names that stand out during the century are those of Arthur Henderson and Philip Noel-Baker, who in recent years has been awarded the Nobel Prize; and, in no Party sense, I would mention that these are former Labour Ministers.

To-day, we are, in a sense, really carrying on the debate on the gracious Speech, a speech in which the Government undertake to promote disarmament". The Government have already given ample evidence within the last year, since they came to office, of their interest in disarmament and thus have in fact created a new Ministry of Disarmament, over which my noble friend Lord Chalfont is Minister. We welcome him here to-day from his arduous duties elsewhere to give us a reply this evening. In world affairs at present he holds a very privileged position and a key in which, if I may say so, he has already distinguished himself. There is a long way to go with disarmament, and he is really only doing his job when he is not here.

Disarmament, in my view, can take place only within the context of the United Nations. The 51 peace-loving nations, who met at the Golden Gate in San Francisco some twenty years ago, pledged themselves to keep the peace—to live in peace—and practise tolerance, they said. The 51 have now grown to 115, so, in a reverse way, we can say that the threats to peace to-day are all, or almost all, contained within the United Nations. Of the Great Powers only China remains outside. And who can say what the threat to peace from China is so long as she is frustrated in her efforts to join? So long as she is in an aggressive mood, she can almost, without saying a word, delay progress to disarmament and upset the balance without which we cannot move steadily to full nuclear disarmament. I, like other noble Lords who have taken part in the debate this afternoon, very much regret that even yesterday it was not found possible at the United Nations to admit China to the Club.

My Lords, in spite of those early protestations of peace-loving in the United Nations, the Organisation is still far from achieving its goal, especially the goal of disarmament. Disarmament requires a world climate of confidence in the peacemakers; whereas to-day, as we all know, there is but mistrust and suspicion throughout the world.

We know that in the last twenty years the United Nations has had to face many problems. It has been, and still is being, torn by the pressure of power politics. It has been hampered, to put it mildly, for many years by the cold war. It has been frustrated by conflicts of interest, and unbridgeable differences such as we are experiencing to-day in Rhodesia—and who can say what these may bring? The racialism of the Smith Government and the colour conflict there are blatant evidence of hate and discrimination. So how can we expect the new nations of Africa to lend a hand in aid of disarmament? Indeed, only the other day my noble friend Lord Shepherd, speaking from the Front Bench, very effectively said that one of the greatest dangers to peace, and especially in the present situation, is the fearful possibility of a colour conflict. While this fear lasts, disarmament is impeded and only the Great Powers can set an example.

My noble friend Lord Henderson has to-day ably and lucidly outlined what are the immediate problems and what little has been achieved. The partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty is about the only highlight of the story. It followed years of frustration, years of abortive discussion: talks of inspection, of verification, of so-called balanced disarmament—and, now, non-proliferation agreements. So often to the ordinary layman it seems talk and nothing else. Yet think of the prize of even partial success for us here. We spend £2,000 million a year on defence. If, by even partial disarmament, we could reduce that burden, think how peace might flourish in our midst. Think of the houses, the schools, the hospitals, the factories, the roads we could build with the money saved. Whatever frustrations my noble friend the Minister has to suffer from the endless, boring, and sometimes stifling discussions, he knows that, in the end, every minute will be worth it, if by his efforts he can reduce our present crippling bill for armaments.

For many people, however, the goal of disarmament is too far away to be realistic. They look for more limited objectives, and, as my noble friend Lord Henderson said this afternoon, we must seek to make progress in a limited field. It is here that I would attempt to make one small contribution. I have been very much impressed by the success, or partial success, which has attended the United Nations' peace-keeping efforts. This may seem to be an odd way to pursue disarmament. Only when there is an effective deterrent, in the shape of an International Peace Force, will nations realise the uselessness of building up large stockpiles of costly armaments. Yet it is in these efforts towards peace-keeping that the United Nations has largely come unstuck.

The unwillingness of certain nations to become involved in peace-keeping operations is very apparent. The unwillingness of certain other larger nations—indeed, members of the Security Council—to contribute towards peace-keeping operations of which they do not approve has brought the United Nations to the brink of bankruptcy and created a crisis in the Organisation. The debt for peace-keeping has recently been as high as 143 million dollars or, shall we say, £50 million. The refusal of the U.S.S.R., France and certain Eastern European countries to pay their peace-keeping contributions has caused a rapid deterioration in the United Nations' financial position. But once again may I say that our Government showed their good faith.

In spite of our adverse economic conditions—and with a change of policy since we had previously insisted on knowing first how much the Russians would contribute—the Government have made a handsome gesture within recent months with a pledge of some 10 million dollars, or £3 million, towards the peace-keeping deficit. This might have given a lead to the United States, but so far there has been no change in her policy. Of course, the United States already contributes generously to the funds of the United Nations. She pays 32.7 per cent. of the peace-keeping budget, while at the same time paying 32 per cent. of the regular budget. Britain pays 7.2 per cent. of the peace-keeping costs. The U.S.S.R. was assessed at 14.9 per cent. and France at just over 6 per cent. So our Government's additional contribution of £3 million was a most welcome and generous offer, especially as at the beginning of the 19th Session of the United Nations there were 62 nations in arrears of contributions.

Peace-keeping is a costly operation, but we shall all surely agree that it is a well worth while one. For example, at the height of the Congo United Nations' operations the costs to be met by the United Nations were 114 million dollars a year, or £38 million, and for the 1960–63 period they were running at £30 million a year. Such is the price of peacekeeping. But who in this country will deny the value of peace-keeping operations in, for example, Kashmir, in Cyprus, in the Middle East and other places; and now perhaps in Rhodesia? If peace-keeping, with all its costs, is to be regarded as a stage on the road to general disarmament, and certainly to an International Peace Force, then any contribution by this Government is money well spent.

6.11 p.m.


My Lords, I must begin by apologising to the Members of this House for being absent when the debate began. I had a political engagement in Norwich, and I deeply regret that I did not hear the speech with which my noble friend Lord Henderson opened the debate. I would also apologise to the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, for being absent when he spoke for the Opposition.

My noble friend Lord Haire of Whiteabbey has made reference to the fact that this Government now have a Disarmament Minister. I want to emphasise that, because I regard it as of tremendous significance. It is the first time that any Government in this country has had a Minister whose whole thought, energies and enthusiasm are directed to the purpose of disarmament. I not only welcome the fact that we have such a Minister; I welcome the fact that my noble friend Lord Chalfont is that Minister, because none of us can have heard him or met him without appreciating the dedication which he has given to that task. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, suggested that he was a Liberal who had infiltrated the Labour Party. I would rather put it in this way: that Liberalism is a very good apprenticeship for the more developed ideas which not only Lord Chalfont but I myself went through as we joined the Labour Party.

The Minister for Disarmament is mostly concerned in the international field, in the very difficult task of bringing Governments together, in the development of the Test Ban Treaty, and in the prevention of the proliferation of nuclear weapons. I wish that his duties also included that of influencing the expenditure on armaments of our own Government, which I suppose is mostly in the hands of the Minister of Defence and the Ministers representing the War Office, the Air Force, and the Admiralty. I am going to make a plea this evening that there should be a substantial reduction in our own expediture on defence.

As my noble friend Lord Haire of Whiteabbey has said, our expenditure on defence now reaches the appalling figure of £2,100 million a year. We have a Minister for Disarmament, but that figure is actually £100 million more than it was a year ago. The Government have promised that they will not exceed the limit of £2,000 million a year before the end of this decade, but that limit is to be at 1964 prices, and it may well mean that by 1969–70 the expenditure upon defence by this country will have reached the figure of £2,500 million.

The Government have claimed that this is a reduction of £400 million, on the ground that the programme of their predecessors would have reached that figure. Quite honestly, I find it a little strange that a Government should take credit for a reduction in expenditure of one of its Departments, on the ground of the intentions of the Opposition. I know that the Government are now having a review of the whole subject of defence, and I express the hope that that review may mean that the present figure of £2,100 million will be substantially reduced. I repeat—and I am perfectly sure that my noble friend Lord Chalfont will agree with this point—that while we have this vast expenditure we cannot be building the houses; we cannot be building the schools; we cannot be building the hospitals; we cannot be building the roads, which this country so much needs. Moreover, we cannot, while we are expending these vast sums upon defence, be attracting to the most essential services of our country the teachers, the nurses and the others, by paying them the salaries which their service to the community deserves.

I add to that one item in the Labour Government's programme about which I think I am keener in the domestic sphere than any other, and that is that we should establish in this country a minimum standard of life below which no one should be allowed to fall. That is within our programme, but because of the cost of that it has been postponed. I would urge very strongly indeed that we should seek a reduction of our expenditure on armaments and preparations for war, in order that at least we may lift the whole community of our people above a poverty level so that they may enjoy a decent human life.

I want to congratulate the Government, if I may, on certain decisions which they have reached. I include the cancellation of the TSR 2, which has saved us £700 million. There were great fears when that cancellation was announced. There were fears of unemployment among men who were engaged in constructing that aircraft. We have found, in fact, that other industries of a constructive character have been so much in need of their skilled labour that hardly any of the men who were previously employed on the TSR 2 are now unemployed. I must express the hope that the Government will refrain from ordering American aircraft as substitutes for the TSR 2. I should have hoped the difficulties of our balance-of-payments position would have made them careful about that.

I congratulate the Government also, despite what has been said in another place and in this House, on their decision to reorganise the Territorial Services, which, again, will mean a saving of £20 million a year. We have been promised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that there shall be a reduction by £100 million next year. I welcome that, but even that will only bring us down to £2,000 million, which was the figure for last year, and many of us do not feel that that is enough.

The Minister will be well aware of the feeling in our Party upon this subject. I find it very remarkable that the Par- liamentary Labour Party in another place quite unanimously adopted a resolution saying that in their view drastic cuts are required in defence expenditure much earlier than at present proposed. The Minister was present at the Labour Party Conference, and his speech at that Conference, I know, convinced the delegates of the sincerity with which he is facing his task. But he sat through the debate and he knows the intensity of feeling that there is in the membership of the Labour Party for more drastic disarmament—and that has been expressed by the Parliamentary Labour Party in the resolution which it has adopted. Honestly, we cannot be complacent with a situation in which, in every minute that passes, this country is spending £67 million on armaments, on Armies and on defence. That amounts to 15s. a week off the income of every man, woman and child in this country, and the Minister will know how all of us in our Party desire that that should be ended.

May I just put this point from the standpoint of the problem of balance of payments, which is so much the concern of the Government now? Every year £350 million of the money spent on defence is in foreign currency. That £350 million amounts to one-half of Britain's deficit in the external account. May I also draw the Minister's attention to the fact that, whilst our expenditure on defence has been increasing, other Governments have been decreasing their expenditure. The Soviet Union has done it by £240 million; the United States of America has done it by an even larger figure of £350 million, although I am afraid that recently, owing to the war in Vietnam, there has been a tendency to increase; and West Germany, France and Hungary have all cut their defence expenditure. It is a little sad that our Government should be the only Government among the larger Powers whose defence expenditure is increasing.

The Minister will not be surprised if I identify myself with the 78 Labour Members of another place who have asked for a reduction of 25 per cent.—that is, £500 million—in our annual defence expenditure. He has the right to ask how we should bring about those reductions. First, I would say, in the presence of our 50,000 troops in Western Germany. They cost us £85 million a year, of which, again, two-thirds is in the foreign currency which we can ill-afford. They went to Western Germany to meet the fear of a Red Army overflowing into Western Europe. I do not believe there is anyone who now regards that as a danger: and I take the view that this is particularly ironic when West Germany itself has recently cut its own defence expenditure by £70 million a year.

The second sphere in which I believe our defence expenditure could be reduced is in the Far East. We have there 55,000 troops, costing us £225 million a year. They are engaged in the confrontation of Indonesia and Malaysia. I make the point only in passing (because I do not want to emphasise it) that from the first I took the view that Malaysia was an artificial Federation. It was to be a Federation of five countries. One of those five, Brunei, did not join at the beginning: another, Singapore, has been expelled from it; and it is now clear that the whole pattern in that area will have to be reconsidered. This is a little outside the sphere of the Minister, but perhaps he could pass it on to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that surely the changes that have recently taken place in Indonesia itself, and the statement by President Soekarno on this very matter, make it desirable that some initiative should be taken to bring the war between Indonesia and Malaysia to an end, so that a wider confederation can he established in that area which really will reflect the minds of people.

Thirdly, there is the sphere of the Middle East. The bases in Cyprus and Aden cost this country £125 million a year. At the time of the Suez venture the noble Earl, Lord Avon, urged that British action then was necessary in defence of the oil supplies which Britain needed. But the Labour Party has always laid it down that our oil supplies should be guaranteed by commercial arrangements rather than through the use and threat of force. In addition, our Party has said quite clearly that bases should not be retained on any territory against the wishes of the population of that territory. In the case of Cyprus and Aden, I quote Mr. Denis Healey, the Minister of Defence. He has said that they are: commitments from an imperial past which have lost their relevance in the modern world", and which are—I quote again— based on the false belief that it is still possible or worth while to use military force against foreign countries purely to protect our national economic interest". My Lords, the time has come when this country must adjust itself, not only to the fact that it is no longer one of the great military Powers of the world but to the fact that if there are to be peacekeeping operations in the world, they should be the responsibility of the United Nations rather than the responsibility of any Government or of any group of Governments. I quote once again from a speech Mr. Denis Healey delivered on February 23 last year: Our long-term defences have to be adjusted to colonial and foreign policies. We are not, repeat not, going to have bases overseas in ten years' time; certainly not, repeat not, in countries that are not Colonies…The major problem for the next Labour Government is going to be to decide whether there are any real British interests overseas which it is going to be in the long run both politically and militarily possible to protect by force. Accept that principle, and we shall be able to reduce our vast expenditure on defence.

My Lords, I began by saying that while we have our present expenditure on defence it will be impossible to proceed with urgent measures to relieve poverty, to extend education and to meet the ravages of disease in our own country. I want to end with another reason. Not only has this country to reduce its expenditure on defence, but we have to encourage the Minister in approaching his problem of international disarmament so that world expenditure upon defence may be decreased. It is not only poverty in Britain; it is the fact that nearly half the population of the world is hungry; it is the fact that half the population of the world are not receiving the medical attention which could prevent disease; it is the fact that nearly half the world has no opportunities of education. Added to the present tragedy which that reflects is the increase of population to which the noble Lord, Lord Caccia, referred: the fact that our population will be doubled in 35 years. That population will face starvation because food production in the world is not adequate to begin to meet it. If only the same powers of science which are spent on armaments were devoted to construction, it would be possible not only to remove present hunger in the world but to remove the hunger that is likely to develop.

One-third of the territory of the earth is desert. We know that that desert can be made fertile soil. Beneath the desert is water. If it had been oil it would have been brought to the surface long ago, but the water to make the deserts fertile is even more important for mankind than oil. We have seen the wonderful experiments in Israel. We have seen the remarkable experiments in Libya under the auspices of the Food and Agriculture Organisation. We have been hearing recently of the projects of Miss Campbell-Purdie in Morocco and Algeria which give the promise even of the Sahara becoming fertile area.

One of the great reasons why to-day we should be reducing our expenditure on arms and devoting that expenditure to meeting the needs of the world is the fact that not only our own present poverty but the poverty which will extend as the population grows will doom millions to hunger unless we divert science to the purposes of construction rather than to the purposes of death.

6.35 p.m.


My Lords, I should like first to express my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, for introducing this Motion and for doing it in such clear and constructive terms. As has already been said, there is probably no noble Lord in this House more suited by his background to lead us in a debate of this sort, and I find it moving and impressive that he should be following so clearly and well in the footsteps of his distinguished father. I should like, to say a word of appreciation for the many comments that have been made during this debate about my appointment and about the difficulties I face in it. I would say how useful and valuable I have found every contribution made to this debate this afternoon.

Then, if I may, I would refer to the speech just made by my noble friend Lord Brockway. It was, as always, a sincere and moving speech. He is always sincere and I always listen with respect to what he has to say on the subject. But I know he will forgive me if I do not follow him in his references to the Defence Review and the changes which may become necessary in the shape of our Defence structure. These considerations I know he will not expect me to comment upon. There is one point that I might make for the record. I make it in no sense as a debating point; but he did suggest (unless I misunderstood him) that we are spending £67 million a minute on defence. There has been, I think, a slight mathematical infelicity here. I would suggest that this sum is nearer £3,500 a minute. That is not small; but it is a little smaller than £67 million.

I hope your Lordships will agree that it is important that, as was suggested, I should from time to time have an opportunity to report to your Lordships' House at some length on the progress that is being made in the international disarmament negotiations and to set out the general lines of thought and policy that guide Her Majesty's Government in their approach to this problem. The noble Earl opposite, in his very thoughtful and careful speech, was good enough to recall that the last time I had the privilege of discussing these matters with you I was taking part in the deliberations of the 18-Nation Disarmament Committee in Geneva in the summer, and that I returned to London expressly to take part in the debate in your Lordships' House. On this occasion, I have returned from the Twentieth Assembly of the United Nations in New York, where the First Political Committee of the General Assembly is now engaged in a disarmament debate.

Before I begin to deal specifically with the issues that we have been discussing in Geneva and New York, perhaps I should make it clear—indeed the noble Earl foreshadowed that I would do this—that the progress I shall have to report will be in no sense dramatic or spectacular. Your Lordships will know, indeed the understanding of this has become clear to me this afternoon, that the problems of disarmament are not the sort of problems that can be solved overnight. They involve, on the one hand, political decisions of great significance, decisions that have to do with the basic political structure of the world; with the concept of the sovereign nation State and all the pressures and all the fears that are peculiar to this concept. And, as His Holiness Pope Paul VI said in the memorable address he gave us in the United Nations Assembly a little over a month ago: Peace is not built up only by means of politics, by the balance of forces and of interests. It is constructed with the mind, with ideas, with works of peace. At the same time, within the general framework of these far-reaching political and moral considerations, disarmament and arms control are matters of great technical complexity; they involve the delicate balance between the search for peace and the requirements of security and they involve also the constantly accelerating pace of scientific research and technological development. I say this simply to point out that, although I am convinced that in the long run we shall solve these problems, because we must, it would be foolish and misleading to suggest that they will be solved quickly. I must say, in this connection, that I was a little depressed to hear that the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, who has unfortunately had to leave the Chamber, was so pessimistic about the possibilities in this respect. It was not always so in the Liberal Party.

When the Party opposite was in power its representatives at the various disarmament negotiations worked long and patiently for much the same aims as Her Majesty's Government are working for now. In their time there was one significant step forward on the road to disarmament. I mean the Treaty, signed in Moscow in 1963, which prohibited the testing of nuclear devices in the atmosphere, in space and under the sea. Although this cannot be represented, or should not be, as a spectacular achievement in international co-operation, its importance as a step towards the eventual goal of disarmament should never be forgotten; and I have no hesitation in paying tribute to the vital part played in the achievement of that agreement by the British Government of the day. I believe that it is by way of these gradual and painfully achieved steps that we shall eventually break through the political barrier and the psychological barrier to disarmament and the achievement of a world governed by the international rule of law rather than by the rule of force and fear.

What, in fact, has happened in disarmament negotations since I last addressed your Lordships' House before the Summer Recess? The main weight of effort has been, as I suggested then that it would be, in one particular area of the disarmament problem: what is called the non-proliferation issue—the urgent need to prevent the further spread of nuclear weapons—to prevent the development of nuclear weapons in those countries that have the scientific and technical resources to do so. There are disturbing signs that some of them are now beginning, disastrously I believe, to think that to join the so-called nuclear "club" will give them not only greater status in the world but greater security against their real or imagined enemies.

I will not to-day repeat the arguments that I have developed before in your Lordships' House about the gravity and urgency of this problem. It is enough to remind your Lordships that, while we have to-day five Powers in the world that can be called nuclear Powers, in the sense that they have successfully detonated a nuclear device, there are at least a dozen other countries who, if they made the political decision to do so, could probably carry out a successful nuclear test within the next few years; that if we do not find some way of stopping this we may well have within the next ten or fifteen years not five but ten or a dozen nuclear powers. I think I need spend no more time in elaborating the dangers that such a development would bring, or in repeating at length to your Lordships my conviction that if this happens all the roads to disarmament will be blocked for many years to come.

In this context, may I say that I again take mild issue with the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and agree with my noble friend Lord Soper in his analysis of the danger, the awful, appalling danger, with which this problem confronts us. We should be in no doubt about this and not allow ourselves to be reassured by any false premises or arguments that the growth of nuclear weapons in the world will bring greater security. I believe this to be a pathetic and dangerous fallacy.

In the deliberations of the First Political Committee in New York the delegates at the United Nations agreed, almost without dissent, that this problem is the most urgent of all those facing us at the moment, and with this in mind it was agreed that it should be the first item to be discussed by the Political Committee. In three weeks of debate on this one single item the representatives of 59 countries at the United Nations spoke and gave expression to their concern about this danger. I am sure your Lordships will agree that this, in itself, is a significant and encouraging development.

We have always said, since I made my very first examination of this problem when the Government first came to office, that this was the first important problem. Unless we halt and turn back the nuclear arms race, all other questions of disarmament will become merely a matter of academic debate. I believe that anyone who looks at this debate from the outside is entitled to ask one obvious question in the light of what I have just said. If so many people in the world are desperately anxious, as they seem to be, to stop nuclear weapons spreading, what is it that still lies in the way of agreement?

To answer that question I think I shall have to explain that in general terms, as was said by the noble Earl, there are two main elements in the problem. The first is the need for agreement among the nuclear Powers that they themselves will not help in spreading nuclear weapons, or control of nuclear weapons, beyond the present limits. The second is the need to convince the non-nuclear Powers, especially those that are most technically advanced, that it is not in their interest, their security or any other interests, to manufacture or develop, or in any other way to acquire, nuclear weapons or control over their use.

Let me first deal with the question of the nuclear Powers. First of all, let me refer to the latest arrivals in the nuclear club, Communist China and France. This point has been referred to in more than one speech this afternoon. So far, regrettably, there is no evidence that the Government of Communist China has any real interest in disarmament or in the control of nuclear weapons. I believe this to be a reflection of one of the major tragedies of the present international debate, the fact that the Government of Communist China, for a whole complex of reasons, remains for the moment outside the main stream of international negotiations.

So far as Her Majesty's Government are concerned, we believe that this state of affairs should not last for one moment longer than it has to. We believe that the Government of Communist China should be represented in the United Nations and that, as a member of the United Nations, they should take part in the whole range of international negotiations, disarmament included. But I must make it clear—it would be wrong not to do so—that the question of whether Communist China should be invited to take a seat in the United Nations Assembly is only one side of the problem. As I have said already, there is, unfortunately, little evidence at the moment that the Chinese would be seriously interested in such an invitation, even if it were made.

So far as disarmament negotiations are concerned, the Political Committee of the United Nations Assembly is at the moment in the course of discussing a World Disarmament Conference, to which my noble friend Lord Henderson made reference. He asked what was the attitude of the Government to this proposal. The World Disarmament Conference is an idea designed mainly to include China in its membership. I am not very much impressed with the idea of a World Conference as an effective forum for serious negotiation of disarmament issues. You cannot negotiate seriously among 117 countries. But the Government's view is that if a Conference of this sort succeeds in bringing China into contact and discussion with the Americans and the Russians (that is a very important point, because otherwise it would not be very effective), if we can do that, and bring those people round the table together, and be there ourselves, it can hardly fail to do some good. But there are many aspects of this idea of a World Conference which will need a lot more deep thought and careful planning than has been given up to now.

Let me look for a moment at the problem of France. Again for a whole complicated set of political reasons, the Government of France at present take no part in disarmament negotiations. Their chair at the Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee in Geneva remains empty day after day, and although they are present at the deliberations of the United Nations, they play no active or constructive rôle in the discussions on disarmament. I believe that the absence of China and France from the disarmament negotiations is regrettable and that in many ways disarmament agreements can never really be complete without them. On the other hand, I think it very important to resist the suggestion which is sometimes made, that disarmament negotiations or agreements are useless so long as the French and the Chinese take no part in them. So far as this particular problem of the spread of nuclear weapons is concerned, it would clearly be altogether more satisfactory if all five nuclear Powers were involved.

On the other hand, there is no reason to believe that either the French or the Chinese, any more than the Russians, the Americans or ourselves, have any interest in wanting to transfer nuclear weapons, or the control of them, to any other country, and for that reason I am convinced that the absence of China or France, although regrettable, is not a limiting factor. But we should leave the way open for them to join our negotiations at any time they may wish to do so and to accede to any agreements that we may reach. But I believe that we should be wrong and irresponsible to relax our efforts simply because, for the moment, they do not feel inclined to do so.

The immediate problem, so far as the nuclear Powers are concerned, is to reach agreement among the three nuclear Powers that are engaged in the negotiations—the United States, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom. It seems self-evident to me that none of these three countries has any more interest in the spread of nuclear weapons than has France or China. In fact, I believe that there is a very real community of interest between the Soviet Union and the West to halt the spread of nuclear weapons by whatever means they can devise. What then prevents them from reaching agreement?

I believe that the answer to this question, my Lords, has emerged quite clearly from the discussions that we have had in New York and in Geneva over the past six months. There was a time, until the summer of this year, when the obstacle appeared to be the general sense of crisis in the world and particularly the struggle going on in Vietnam. The Soviet Union repeatedly protested that there could be no serious disarmament negotiations between them and the West so long as the war in Vietnam continued. But at Geneva in the summer, Mr. Tsarapkin, the chief Russian disarmament negotiator, answered a question at a Press conference by saying that the war in Vietnam was no longer an insuperable obstacle to an agreement to prevent the further spread of nuclear weapons.

Russian negotiators now say that the only obstacle that is left in the way is that presented by the plans that are being discussed within the Western Alliance for the sharing of nuclear responsibilities. They point to the American plan for an M.L.F., a Multilateral Nuclear Force of ships to be built and manned and controlled jointly by the countries of the Western Alliance, and the British plan for an A.N.F., an Atlantic Nuclear Force, which was put forward by the British Government as an alternative to the American plan. The Soviet Union say that they see no difference between these two plans and maintain vigorous opposition to both of them.

In particular (and here, as has been suggested already to-day, I believe is the heart of the problem), they constantly and inflexibly press their opposition to any participation by the Federal Republic of Germany in the nuclear arrangements of the Alliance—to what they call "access by Western Germany to nuclear weapons". This is their slogan. So far, as much as I and my American colleagues have argued, they have refused to accept our proposition, that the British proposals for an Atlantic Nuclear Force already contain full and effective safeguards against the transfer of the control of nuclear weapons.

I think it is important here, partly because of the way in which this subject has come to be discussed in the world in recent days, to make quite clear the attitude of Her Majesty's Government to this problem. Our policy contains two parallel and, to my mind, compatible elements. In the first place, we are determined not to embark on any action which involves dissemination—that is to say, which involves the transfer of the control of nuclear weapons to any country which does not at present possess it. At the same time, we are resolved to maintain and to contribute to the strength and the cohesion of the Western Alliance, which in our view—and in this I agree wholeheartedly with what the noble Earl opposite has said—is an indispensable basis for effective disarmament negotiations. How, then, are we to ensure an effective and appropriate rôle for the Federal Republic within the Atlantic Alliance and at the same time move forward towards arms control and disarmament agreements with the Soviet Union?

The first and obvious fact, of course, is that we cannot, and will not, allow countries outside the Western Alliance, and especially those hostile to it, to dictate, for their own purposes, the development of strategic arrangements within the Alliance. But I must make it clear that this does not mean that we cannot discuss these arrangements with the Soviet Union. Indeed, we can, and must, explain our arrangements to them, if we are to persuade them that our plans are compatible with preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.

But, of course, before we can explain our arrangements to the Soviet Union, or anyone else, in the course of disarmament negotiations, we must decide within the Western Alliance exactly what our own arrangements are going to be. The noble Earl asked what is the attitude of Her Majesty's Government towards these arrangements. Perhaps I might take this opportunity to say as clearly as I can what that attitude is. It springs, in the first instance, from our view of the Western Alliance as an alliance of free nations. Within it there are, of course, nuclear Powers and non-nuclear Powers. But there are no first-class or second-class States. Every member of the alliance has a right to expect that its voice shall be heard in matters that vitally affect its security.

Some of the non-nuclear members of the Alliance feel that, as their security depends in the final analysis on the strength of the nuclear Powers, they themselves should have some influence on how and when nuclear weapons would be used if they were ever used at all. We recognise the strength of this view and the validity of the arguments which lie behind it. It is no good telling them to relax and leave it to us: we must do something to resolve their legitimate doubts and remove their very real fears. It was for this reason that the idea of the multilateral nuclear force was born. In the form originally suggested by the United States, the M.L.F. was to have been a fleet of missile ships jointly owned and manned by the countries of the Alliance. Her Majesty's Government never really thought this to be an ideal solution and they never really agreed to it.

Our own proposal—the Atlantic Nuclear Force, or A.N.F.—proposed, roughly speaking, to bring existing nuclear forces under joint alliance control. This proposal is still being discussed within the Alliance. It is now also being suggested that there may be other approaches to the problem, for example, by improving the consultative and planning machinery of the Alliance. The view of Her Majesty's Government is that, in the first place, whatever arrangements are eventually agreed should be agreed quickly, so that constant and endless discussion in NATO does not disrupt the Alliance and, at the same time, make disarmament negotiations more difficult. In the second place—and this is important—when looking at proposals for new alliance arrangements, we should ask ourselves two clear questions. First, does the proposal substantially improve the strength and cohesion of the alliance? Secondly, does it make agreements on disarmament, and especially on a non-proliferation treaty, more difficult to achieve?

I think that your Lordships would agree that there would be little to be said for any proposal that conferred little or no advantage on the Alliance, but which at the same time stood in the way of agreements on preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. Our A.N.F. proposals, in fact, contain specific clauses designed to forbid any transfer of control of nuclear weapons. And, whatever the arrangements proposed for the future, I must say again now, as I said at the Geneva Disarmament Conference in my last speech there in September, that Her Majesty's Government are resolved never to take part in any arrangement that would place the control of nuclear weapons in the hands of any non-nuclear Power.

It was, indeed, over this vital matter of control, as the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, has said, that the British draft treaty on non-dissemination, which I took with me to Geneva last summer, failed eventually to see the light of day. And perhaps I may explain in a few words how that occurred. Our interpretation of non-dissemination was, as it is now, strict, and our treaty as it was drafted would have prevented any possibility that there could ever be a non-nuclear Power, or a group of non-nuclear Powers, in Europe or anywhere else, that could control the use of nuclear weapons without the positive consent of one of the existing nuclear Powers. Sonic of our allies were unwilling to support us on this issue, and your Lordships may have seen that when the Western draft was finally tabled by the United States, while I gave it general support in Geneva, I expressed reservations on this issue on behalf of Her Majesty's Government. That is the reason why the British draft treaty never saw the light of day, and that is the reason why we certainly could not have co-sponsored the one that did. But we must not be too proprietorial about these things. What matters is not who drafted or tabled the treaty, but that a constructive draft treaty was tabled and became the basis for serious negotiations.

What, then, is the position now, after the negotiations in Geneva and the debate in New York? Shortly before the discussions in New York began, the Soviet Government tabled their own draft treaty to be considered alongside that of the West. After the comprehensive debate I have already referred to, the United Nations Political Committee adopted without dissent a resolution which will form a valuable basis for the next phase of negotiations.

I might refer, in passing, to a question which was raised about the wording of part of this resolution, in which we were enjoined to conclude a treaty as soon as possible containing no loopholes, and fears were expressed that this was a form of compromise that would lead to endless argument when we returned to Geneva. I think this need not be the case. The resolution was one which has at least enabled us to return to Geneva and to discuss this matter in an expert body of seventeen nations, which I believe to be the correct forum for this sort of discussion. I believe, too, that the resolution that was adopted will give us a good start to get on with these negotiations. We shall not, of course, waste time before we go back to Geneva. We shall be spending a great deal of our time closing the position and discussing it with the Soviet Union and the United States, and I very much hope that when we get back to Geneva any fears about long, futile arguments will be ill-founded. I think that what we have to do now is to close this gap and bring together the American and the Russian draft treaties; and I believe that, with patience and care, we can do so. I hope I may be forgiven for saying that. I hope your Lordships will agree that in bringing this matter to the point of serious, hard negotiations between the Soviet Union and the West, Her Majesty's Government can justifiably claim a modest part of the credit.

So far I have spoken only of the need for agreement among the nuclear Powers. As I suggested earlier, a problem of even greater complexity is how we persuade non-nuclear Powers—especially those with advanced standard, of technology and highly developed pre-occupations with status or security—to undertake voluntarily to deny themselves the option of developing nuclear weapons. There is, of course, no simple or single answer to this. Each of the countries that has the capacity to make nuclear weapons is under pressures peculiar to its own position.

The noble Lord, Lord Henderson, asked me specifically about guarantees or assurances to non-nuclear States. Some of the latter say that before they will sign a non-dissemination agreement their security must be given collective assurances by the nuclear Powers. That is easy enough to say, but it poses problems of fearful complexity. Who, in the first place, is to give the assurances? Can we, for example, expect the Soviet Union to join with the West in assuring India against attack by China? I do not know, but I suspect it would present some very difficult problems for the Russians. And if the West alone proposed to support India, would this be acceptable to the Indians in terms of their known policy of non-alignment? And then there is the even more complicated problem of what our assurances would mean. Are they designed to prevent nuclear attack only? If so, they seem to face only the most unlikely contingency. Are they then to prevent attack by conventional forces? If so, how? By the threat of massive nuclear retaliation? Or would it involve the stationing of foreign troops or weapons on Indian soil?

My Lords, I pose these questions here not, I fear, to answer them, but merely to give some idea that the reassuring concept of underpinning the security of a country that is not bound to you by a formal military alliance is no simple matter. But, as my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said in another place, if non-nuclear countries want these assurances, we must try to find some way of providing them. But let us not persuade ourselves that it will be easy. In any case, as I have said, some countries do not want these assurances—their concept of neutrality would not include them.

What else is there that can be offered as an incentive to persuade countries not to acquire nuclear weapons? A great deal has been said—in Geneva and in New York, and indeed in your Lordships' House—about the need for the nuclear Powers to show an example by, I think it has been put, dismantling the nuclear club. Some say that the nuclear Powers should, as an earnest of their intentions, conclude a comprehensive test ban treaty—that is to say, a treaty which would extend the Moscow Treaty of 1963 to forbid the testing of weapons underground. There is no doubt that this would be an important measure of disarmament in its own right, apart from its effect on the non-proliferation issue. But I fear for the moment there seem to be insuperable obstacles in the way. Before the West will agree to such a treaty, there would have to be provision for a small number of inspections; that is to say, inspection teams would actually be exchanged between the countries concerned. These need not be particularly intrusive, but the West demands them in pursuance of the principle of disarmament agreements in order to make reason- ably sure that no cheating takes place. The Soviet Union says that such inspection is unnecessary—that national means of detection and identifying underground nuclear explosions, by which they mean the use of scientific instruments like the seismograph, are entirely adequate for locating and identifying all underground events such as earthquakes or nuclear tests. They quite unequivocally refuse to allow inspection teams on their soil, and so far they have refused, too, I regret to say, to exchange with us scientific information about detection methods.

But our own British scientists have been engaged for some time on a seismic research programme to examine the possibilities of a new detection system that might help to break this deadlock. Using electronic data processing and a new system of detection arrays our scientists have set up experimental establishments here in the United Kingdom and in other parts of the Commonwealth. It has become apparent that there are prospects of a real advance in the detection and location of underground events and that an underground test ban might, in the future, be monitored with a relatively small number of detection stations. We are now in the phase of studying specific explosions and earthquakes, using these large arrays; and it remains to be seen to what extent our researches will reduce the need for on-site inspection. I need hardly add, I think, but I will, that British scientists are willing to share their knowledge with any other country in the world if it will help to bring a ban on underground tests any nearer. It was with this in mind that at Geneva in September I welcomed on behalf of Her Majesty's Government a proposal, referred to by my noble friend Lord Henderson, by the Swedish Government for international co-operation in a sort of "detection club" that would correlate and interpret the data from seismic stations all over the world.

Before leaving this subject, it might be useful to your Lordships if I said a word about this idea of what is called a seismic threshold. This is the theory that you might be able to have a ban on underground tests without inspection if you confine the ban to events or explosions above a certain seismic magnitude. The seismic magnitude proposed by the United Arab Republic, who brought this matter up in Geneva, was 4.75. I will not try to explain what that means. It is simply a unit on a scale of seismic measurement. I think it would be dangerous to think that there is too much scientific accuracy about this concept. If I simply say that it is possible, by certain techniques, to produce that seismic reaction on the scale by an explosion of 5 kilo-tons underground in certain geological structures, and of 50 kilo-tons underground in other geological structures, you will see, I think, without further explanation, that a 4.75 threshold is not a matter of great scientific exactitude. I say we must not dismiss the proposal, because it must obviously he considered very closely and seriously, but I point out that this is not quite such an attractive idea as it may appear to be on the surface.

There are critics of the nuclear Powers, of course, who go even further than a nuclear test ban, and demand that we should make a start now in nuclear disarmament. Although I believe it would be wrong, quite wrong, to make nuclear disarmament by the nuclear Powers a precondition of a treaty to ban the spread of nuclear weapons, I must confess that I have a great deal of sympathy for this general point of view. I believe, as I have said before, that the security, both of the East and of the West, could be assured with levels of nuclear weapons lower that the enormous armouries which now exist. Already, indeed, the United States has made two important proposals in this direction. In January of last year President Johnson suggested a "freeze"; that is to say, a halt to all production of the means of delivering nuclear weapons. At the United Nations General Assembly this year, the United States has further proposed—and I think this has not received nearly as much publicity as it deserves—an agreement to destroy a number of nuclear warheads, provided that the Soviet Union will do so as well, and to transfer the fissionable material in those warheads to peaceful uses. So far the Soviet Union has shown little enthusiasm for either of these proposals.

I think I might here say in passing that I often wish some of my countrymen who heap constant criticism on the United States would study the record of disarmament negotiations over the last ten years. I think they would be surprised at the way in which our American allies have gone on, year after year, trying to get agreement in arms control and disarmament, without very much encouragement from the other side. I should like here, in passing, to refer to something that my noble friend Lord Soper said in his speech. I regret that he is not here, but I think I should say this for the Record. He suggested, I believe, that Mr. Khrushchev was the only man who had proposed a plan of general and complete disarmament under international inspection. This is not factually correct. An American plan also exists, and is on the table at Geneva. I should like, but it is not possible, to follow my noble friend Lord Soper a little more closely in his arguments about Cuba; but I must leave that to another time.

I believe, like my noble friend Lord Henderson, that the West must aim to go even further than these proposals I have just mentioned. We ought to try to come to an agreement, the West with the Soviet Union, as soon as possible, to begin to destroy some of the bombers and missiles that now exist in thousands all over the world. We cannot, as my noble friend has said, expect the non-nuclear Powers of the world to remain contentedly outside the magic circle, while inside the nuclear Powers go on with their own private arms race. After all, when these weapons are used—and they will be one day, unless we come to our senses—it is not only the nuclear Powers who are going to suffer.

I have dealt so far with what I believe to be the most urgent and immediate problems that face us—the spread of nuclear weapons, underground testing, and the constantly growing armouries of the nuclear Powers. There are, of course, many other paths towards disarmament that we must constantly follow and explore. We must encourage steps towards the effective international control of atomic energy establishments. There is a body designed for that purpose. We shall all follow with great interest the efforts that are being made to establish nuclear-free zones in Latin America and Africa; although these efforts, of course, are primarily a matter for the countries concerned. We shall still seek ways of bringing under effective control the international traffic in arms, and, of course, we shall, I am glad to say, give the assurance that we shall continue to give our full and wholehearted support to the United Nations as the central and indispensable peace-keeping agency in an armed, fearful and divided world.

There is one complex of disarmament problems to which I have not so far referred. There are a number of proposals, usually associated with the Polish statesmen Gomulka and Rapacki, for various forms of denuclearisation, disengagement or demilitarisation of Central Europe. This problem was mentioned in the pre-Election manifesto of the Party before it came into power last year. It is in fact—I think I can claim this—the only part of the disarmament section of the manifesto in which, during the past year, there have been no real initiatives, no new proposals, and indeed no progress. I have no intention of trying to avoid this issue, because I know that a great many people, a great number of them supporters of the Government's disarmament policies, are anxious to know whether our policy in this matter has changed. One of the cardinal principles of an effective disarmament process, as the noble Earl opposite has very cogently pointed out, is that it must not disturb the military balance in the world until the disarmament process is complete. At no time must one side find itself in a position of marked superiority over the other. The dangers of this are too obvious to need elaboration. All the proposals that I have seen and examined for arms control or denuclearised zones in Central Europe contain a very real danger that the military balance would be seriously upset so long as they are considered outside the context of the political problems of the area. If we could take them together with some of the political problems—Berlin, divided Germany, and so on—then they might present important disarmament possibilities. As soon as Her Majesty's Government see a suitable climate for following up these possibilities we shall do so with all our resources.

Finally, I should like to underline one important fact about all the steps in arms control and disarmament that I have mentioned to-day. I believe, of course, that they are important in themselves. Each small, patient success, however insignificant it may appear to the impatient onlooker, helps to reduce tension, to dis- pel mistrust and suspicion, and to create a climate for further and perhaps more ambitious success. But all these things must be, in the long run, steps towards the final goal of comprehensive disarmament under international control. I can assure your Lordships' House, and specifically my noble friend Lord Henderson, that this is the final aim of Her Majesty's Government, and I am glad to say it is the aim of most of the Governments of civilised countries in the world.

But we shall not, as I suggested at the beginning of my speech, achieve that aim this year or next year, and perhaps not in the lives of many of us. But I believe that, if we are ever to achieve it, we must be prepared to go on patiently, calmly and persistently in this back-breaking and often frustrating task of negotiating for small successes. We have to build, stone by stone, a foundation on which a peaceful world can eventually be built. Here, I must refer again, briefly, to a point in the most interesting and sincere speech of the noble Lord, Lord Soper. I shall not, of course, argue in detail the concept of the just war; nor shall I attempt here to argue the concept of absolute pacifism. I will content myself with saying here that, whatever may be the moral position, we should not deceive ourselves on any political terms that any major unilateral disarmament by this country would have much effect on a similar process in the rest of the world.

What then, my Lords, are our immediate prospects? I have set out the main lines of the disarmament policy of Her Majesty's Government—general and complete disarmament as the final and long-term aim; the urgent problems, the spread of nuclear weapons; a comprehensive ban on nuclear tests and a beginning of nuclear disarmament; and, at the same time, constant examination of the problems of nuclear-free zones; collective guarantees for non-nuclear Powers; control of atomic energy and the international traffic in arms—all this within the framework of our contribution to a strong, prosperous and effective United Nations.

What are our chances of success? I believe, my Lords, that they may be, in the months ahead, as great as they have ever been. As I said earlier, there are signs of a change in the attitude of the Soviet Union. The noble Lord, Lord Caccia, made some interesting comments and asked some very pertinent questions about this matter, I recall in the worst days of the cold war a British diplomat (not the noble Lord, Lord Caccia) saying to me—I was in the Army at the time—"Negotiating with the Russians is like operating a slot machine. You put your money in and sometimes what comes out is what you want. If it is not what you want, it is sometimes effective to shake the machine, or kick it, but it is no use talking to it." The noble Lord, Lord Caccia, in a more restrained and elegant way was advancing a somewhat similar view of the nature of Soviet diplomacy, and if I may take issue with such a distinguished diplomatist I believe, unless I am mistaken, that this is no longer the case. It is always worth talking to the Russians, even if there is no prospect of agreement.

When Mr. Khrushchev decided in the summer of 1963 that he could accept a nuclear test ban treaty we were able to move quickly to its signature. And the reasons why we were able to move quickly was that for long, sometimes seemingly sterile, months the delegation at Geneva had gone over the ground again and again; so we knew what to do when the opportunity came. It is very difficult, at the present time, to tell how much the Russians want to reach further agreements with the West, and whether they will insist on attaching conditions they know the West will not and cannot accept. As your Lordships will know, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary is shortly to visit Moscow, and I hope that when he comes back to London in a week or so we shall be a little clearer as to exactly what Soviet attitudes are.

But I believe that if the West as a whole is prepared, as Her Majesty's Government are, to react firmly but flexibly; and if the Soviet Union and the West are prepared to shake off old prejudices and to re-examine old assumptions about where the threats to our security lie, we shall be able to make some real progress in the months ahead. Too often, I be-live, in the past there has been a distorting mirror effect in the Soviet and Western estimates of each other—there have been distortions by both sides of the realities of each others' aims and atti- tudes. These have tended to be cumulative and self-confirming, so that in the end each has begun to behave as it thinks the other expects it to. There are signs that we may be starting to see things more clearly. But I believe, my Lords, that we must be on our guard against one grave danger. We must not, if we succeed in breaking, at long last, out of the paralysing grip of one cold war, allow ourselves to be drawn into another. That is why, as I have said, we must, as soon as we can, bring Communist China into the whole complex of international negotiations—especially those on disarmament.

My Lords, I apologise for having kept the House so long. It is so rarely that I have the privilege and the pleasure of taking part in your Lordships' debates that I fear I may have trespassed on your courtesy and patience. I hope, however, that I have given you an idea of the way in which the Government hope to move forward in a serious attempt to bring about effective international agreements on disarmament. But success or failure of course does not rest with us alone. Much depends upon what the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, called the political will of the two great super-Powers of the world, and on their desire and determination to find a common interest in the sort of agreements that will lead to a solution to some of the political problems that divide the world.

Much will depend upon the exchanges and visits and discussions of the next few weeks—in NATO, in Washington, in London and in Moscow. Many of the answers may have become clearer when the Disarmament Conference meets again in Geneva—probably early in the New Year. I very much hope that when I next address your Lordships' House it will be with news of real progress. I fear, my Lords, that time is not on our side, but as that great man, Pandit Nehru, said nearly twenty years ago—and I think it is interesting and significant that this remark was made by an Indian: One of the most terrible of the conflicts that distort and corrupt our lives is that between nuclear weapons and the human spirit. I have no doubt in my mind that ultimately in this conflict that is confronting the world the human spirit will prevail over the atom bomb.

7.26 p.m.


My Lords, I think that everybody here will agree with me that we have listened to a very remarkable speech, which has combined an exposition of British disarmament policy with a survey of the recent disarmament discussions and indications of the likely prospects in the coming conference.

I have one regret, and I look at the Leader of the House when I say this; I think our debate started far too late. One of the saddest things about this discussion is the paucity of attendance of noble Lords to listen to the speech just made by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. We do not often have the opportunity of listening to the Minister for Disarmament, and when we do have a debate I think it is essential that more noble Lords should listen to the speech and the progress report given by the Minister. I must confess I am very disappointed that the Minister has not had a far bigger audience, and I think it is partly due to the fact that we were too late in starting the debate. If we had started an hour, or an hour and a half, earlier than we did, the Minister would have started his speech before 6 o'clock and more noble Lords would have been present. I make my protest in public to the Leader of the House. I think he is the best person to make it to, and I hope my noble friend the Minister for Disarmament will not have a further experience of this sort.


My Lords, may I intervene for one moment? I made some apologies earlier to the noble Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, for one thing or another, and I am willing to make them to the noble Lord, but I never thought he would force me to my knees.


My Lords, my noble friend has misunderstood. The apology is not due to me but to my noble friend the Minister. I wish to say one further thing. I am most grateful to all those noble Lords who have taken part in the debate, which has been a good one. We are indebted to the Minister for a most unusual and informative speech. Having said that, and having drawn an apology from the Leader of the House, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.