HL Deb 08 March 1967 vol 280 cc1501-34

5.58 p.m.

LORD HENDERSON rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what progress has made made since the recent convening of the Disarmament Conference in Geneva. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to ask the Unstarred Question which stands on the Order Paper in my name. I believe there will be a general desire in all parts of the House to hear from the Minister of State with special responsibility for disarmament matters what progress has been made in disarmament discussions and negotiations, both before and since the resumption of the Disarmament Conference in Geneva. My own remarks will therefore be reasonably brief.

In earlier disarmament debates we have sought to emphasise the importance we all attach to progress in the negotiations which have been going on for a very long time. We all recognise that there is no aspect of international affairs in which it is more urgent that the nations of the world should move towards understanding and agreement. The penalties for failing to do so, as we are all aware, are too awesome to contemplate. But, by contrast, the rewards that would follow from success would be felt and welcomed over the whole field of world affairs. There can be no surer way of reducing international tension and contributing to the new spirit of détente between East and West than by movement towards agreement on questions of arms control and disarmament. We know that Her Majesty's Government share these views and hopes, I believe that they have been working as vigorously as circumstances permit for progress in the disarmament field.

In particular, I would mention especially the valuable work of my noble friend Lord Chalfont, the Minister of State. During the weeks and months that the Geneva Conference was in recess he seemed to be in almost continuous discussion and negotiation, either at home or abroad, seeking to develop an increasing understanding of and support for the projected non-proliferation treaty. I think it is only right to recognise that he has worked hard, and I am sure that noble Lords in all parts of the House applaud his efforts. I do not doubt that during the same period he did not lose sight of the need for other arms control measures which we are all anxious to see the Geneva Conference bring to the stage of agreement. I will mention only one: the scheme for European arms control and balanced arms reduction which has been urged over a long period of time. I have no doubt that these were matters which came up for attention during the recent visit to London of the Polish Foreign Minister, Mr. Rapacki.

It would seem that we are now approaching a crucial stage in disarmament negotiations. For many months our hopes have been directed towards the possibility of an agreement to prevent the further spread of nuclear weapons. My noble friend Lord Chalfont has told your Lordships on other occasions of the steps he has taken to pursue this vital agreement. I say "vital" because I think we shall all agree that there is no more important task in disarmament than to agree on provisions which would prevent the proliferation of these terrible weapons. Even now, when only five Powers possess nuclear weapons, the fear of nuclear war must always be present in our calculations. How much greater would be the danger if nuclear weapons spread still more widely!

If one can judge by reports, the prospects for progress to a non-proliferation agreement are now brighter than they have ever been. We know that there have been certain contacts between the United States and the Soviet Government; that they have been in continuing discussion of the terms of the proposed draft treaty; and that, while general agreement has been reached, the joint efforts to have a draft treaty on the table at Geneva continue. To get a draft treaty tabled is the important next step. It is, however, only right to recognise that there are misgivings and doubts on the part of non-nuclear States. These reactions have been well summarised by The Times, which has set out three areas of doubt in relation to the treaty. The first is how to guarantee the non-nuclear Powers against nuclear attack and blackmail. The second is how to enforce the provisions of the treaty. And the third is how to avoid cramping the industrial development of nuclear power.

If there is to be a non-proliferation treaty, these fears and doubts clearly cannot be ignored. They represent difficulty that must be resolved. It is my belief that, in the absence of such a treaty, little if any headway will be made in other spheres of arms control and disarmament. It is an urgent demand on the part of the non-nuclear States that there should be further measures of arms control and disarmament soon after agreement on the non-proliferation treaty, and that these should be measures which affect the nuclear powers as well as themselves. This, in effect, is a demand for some measure of balance of obligation. An example of such a further measure would be a comprehensive test ban treaty, which is something all in this House wish to see achieved. It is clearly necessary to achieve further steps towards disarmament of this nature if the non-proliferation treaty is to be fully acceptable to the non-nuclear States and is to endure. It would in my opinion be a real tragedy if the nuclear Powers were to fail to give these assurances which would enable the non-nuclear Powers to sign.

The Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee, as noble Lords know, has been charged by the international community with responsibility for conducting international negotiations on disarmament. It has now started its meeting once again in Geneva. I understand that its attention is particularly directed towards the non-proliferation question. What are the chances of success? We know that the first abortive proposal to avoid a nuclear arms race was made twenty years ago by the United States Government. We know how very long disarmament negotiations have been going on, and with what disappointing results. We know how long it took to get even a partial test ban treaty. Speaking for myself, I should be content if the one concrete result of the present session of the Geneva Conference was a non-proliferation agreement that would put an effective stop to the spread of nuclear weapons, for I believe that every new agreement is a stepping-stone on the way to the goal of general and controlled disarmament.

I realise that my observations have been largely directed to the question of getting a treaty to ban the further spread of nuclear weapons. That is because this particular issue is at the forefront of the Geneva Conference at present. I am, of course, only too well aware that there are other aspects of the problem of disarmament which we all want to see dealt with and in which we want to see progress made towards agreement. But it is not always easy to discover to what stage negotiations have been carried. That is, however, a disadvantage which can be overcome here, for we are fortunate to have as a Member of this House my noble friend the Minister of State who has special responsibility for disarmament matters, and to whose wide-ranging activities in this field I have already made reference. He is, as we know, very much in the current of disarmament affairs at the moment, because he has just come back from the Geneva Conference, and I understand that he will be leaving for Brussels to-morrow where he is to discuss with Euratom the complicated question of safeguards.

My noble friend has on earlier occasions given us detailed and informative accounts of how matters stand in the disarmament field. My Question is intended to serve the same purpose: to enable the Minister to give the House an up-to-date survey. It is my hope that he will to-day take us as far as he can into his confidence and tell us something about the present prospects for progress in disarmament negotiations, now that the Geneva Conference is again in session.

6.12 p.m.


My Lords, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, indicated, this is not really the occasion for a full dress debate on disarmament. But I am sure we are most grateful to him for giving us this opportunity of asking Her Majesty's Government some questions about their disarmament policy and the prospects for negotiations at Geneva. As the noble Lord said in his very informative speech, the non-proliferation agreement seems to have been holding the centre of the stage in recent months. But while no one would wish to deny, I least of all, the importance of calling a halt to the growth in the number of nations equipped with nuclear weapons, I think we need to aim for other objectives besides the non-proliferation agreement and want to keep within our vision rather wider horizons with regard to disarmament.

To my mind, the nations of the world, particularly the industrially-advanced nations, still continue to spend a shockingly large proportion of their wealth on armaments which they hope they will never have to use. Indeed, I believe the figures show that we are nowadays spending on armaments far more than was being spent by the rather belligerent nations which were around in the world just before the outbreak of the 1939 war, although we like to think that we are now living under rather more peaceful conditions. As the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, said, our final goal must still be major reductions in these armaments, under proper supervision and control, together with improvements in the peacekeeping capability of the United Nations because we shall never get one without the other.

Of course, I think we all realise that the achievement of this objective means travelling down a very long road, and we are well aware that disarmament is not just a technical matter which can be dealt with in isolation. There are a great many political problems which have to be overcome. By this I do not mean that the solution of certain political problems has to be a precondition for disarmament, but they must go hand in hand. All our experience has shown that we do not make progress on one unless we are making progress on the other. That is the reason why the disarmament policy of this country must be an integral part of the foreign policy and the defence policy of this country.

Having made those preliminary remarks, I should like to start by asking some questions about the non-proliferation treaty. I think it is perfectly obvious why the United States, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom would favour the signing of a non-proliferation treaty, and I personally believe that it would be in the general interests of all the nations of the world. But I should like to know what inducements are going to be held out to those non-nuclear Powers which have a capability of becoming nuclear Powers, and may be threatened by an existing nuclear Power in the world. I have particularly in mind countries such as Sweden, Israel, Japan and, perhaps above all, India.

In the light of her recent history, India may well be threatened by a China armed with nuclear weapons, and China has given not the slightest indication that she would wish to sign a non-proliferation treaty or a test ban treaty. Indeed, she has made it perfectly clear that she means to build up her nuclear armaments. Under these circumstances, can we really expect India to renounce nuclear weapons for all time unless we can give her some very firm guarantees? But if we are going to give guarantees, there must be two partners, and I quite recognise some of the difficulties in which the Government find themselves in this respect. If the Government of India do not wish for a specific guarantee it is rather difficult to see how we are going to give one. But, nevertheless, this seems to me to be at the root of the problem with regard to the non-proliferation treaty. How do we give assurances and guarantees to those present non-nuclear Powers which may in the future be threatened by a nuclear Power?

Another problem which seems to have arisen over the non-proliferation treaty relates to the situation in Western Europe, and particularly the situation which might arise in Western Europe if at some time in the future it becomes a single political unit, at least to the extent of having a common foreign and defence policy. Would such a united Europe, of which Germany must inevitably be an integral part, be entitled to own and control nuclear weapons in common? If such a Europe were denied that possibility, I think I can quite well understand some of the misgivings which we hear about on the Continent at the present time.

Here the present British Government have in some ways a unique responsibility, as up till the time of the 1964 Election, and indeed during the 1964 Election, they proclaimed to the world that they would not wish to continue with an independent nuclear capability. As I understand it, there is really no longer any hope of progress towards an Atlantic nuclear force, and therefore presumably at some moment in the future they envisage the merging of the British nuclear capability into some larger unit. I hope that, when the noble Lord comes to reply, he can give us some reassurances on these matters in connection with the non-proliferation treaty, because I am sure we all agree that a non-proliferation treaty is a goal which seems to be most nearly within our grasp.

I should like to turn now for just one or two moments to other matters in the disarmament field. As indeed the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, did, I want to say a word about the extension of the test ban treaty, which as he said, is a related matter. Some of the non-nuclear Powers want to see whether the nuclear Powers mean to take any further steps to restrict the expansion and the improvement and the increased expenditure in which they indulge in the field of nuclear weapons.

I quite accept that the possibilities of extending the nuclear test-ban treaty to cover underground tests very largely depend upon the state of the art with regard to the detection and identification of underground explosions. Could we now be given some indication of the latest progress in the science of seismology? For instance, how many events below, say, a figure of 4.5 magnitude would remain unidentified by external control methods? Clearly, if a significant number of such events still remain unidentified by such control methods then we should be right to continue to ask for a very limited number of inspections.

I hope that we will stick to that position if the scientific arguments are there to support it, because if the Soviet Union really wish to extend this treaty I do not see why they should not concede a few inspections. After all, they have conceded this at various times in the past. It is true that they have then withdrawn their offers, but at certain moments in their history when they have wished to make progress in this matter they have not found it impossible to agree to a limited number of inspections. They did this throughout the period from 1959 until, I think it was, May, 1960, when they withdrew their agreement. Then, of course, Mr. Khrushchev again offered three inspections to President Kennedy in the latter part of 1962, and that offer remained open for a large part of early 1963. So if they really want the treaty, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the Soviet Union might agree to a small number of inspections. Quite honestly, my Lords, if the Soviet Union cannot accept this very minimum amount of control, this least vexatious sort of control—a visit very occasionally by a small group of people under very strict supervision—then I fear that the chance of progress on major disarmament measures becomes increasingly slight.

On yet another matter, I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, whether we are still actively pursuing the idea of an exchange of observers in Europe. It always seemed to me that these would have some value in themselves, in that they would reduce the suspicion on either side with regard to the possibility of a surprise attack; and I think for fairly obvious reasons they could lead to an almost automatic reduction in forces on either side of what used to be called the Iron Curtain. If you know that the movements of all your forces are being very closely watched, it must in time occur to you that you are not offering a very serious threat to the other side. This becomes common knowledge on both sides, and then people begin to wonder whether it is really necessary to spend quite so much money on keeping very large forces formed up against each other in the centre of Europe.

I therefore think that simply having observers could lead to a certain amount of reduction in forces. I realise that in the past the Soviet Union have always demanded that a proposal of this kind should be linked with some reduction in forces, or at least in armaments, but it occurs to me that in the new climate of opinion in Europe, and particularly the new climate of opinion in Bonn, this might be a matter which is worth exploring again. As the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, said in his speech, there is an atmosphere of dtente about in Europe now so that these ideas which have been floated in the past and have failed to make progress are, I think, worth reviving at the present time.

Finally, I should like to ask the Minister about the latest "state of play" in regard to anti-ballistic missiles. I do not wish to prolong my speech by repeating what I have said in your Lordships' House in the past, about what I felt would be the disastrous consequences, both political and economic in nature, of a military escalation in this particular field. But could the Minister tell us in what direction the Soviet Union have agreed to a discussion of this matter with the United States? Have other countries any part to play? And is the conference at Geneva being kept informed about the progress of these talks? I am sorry to have asked the noble Lord so many questions, and I hope that I shall not provoke him into quite so long a reply as he made to the previous debate. Before I sit down, however, I would assure him that he has the good wishes and support of all of us from these Benches in his efforts at Geneva to create for us all a less dangerous and a more peaceful world.

6.27 p.m.


My Lords, I wish to speak for only a very few minutes, and I have to begin with an apology because, owing to the somewhat protracted nature of the last debate, I must I am afraid leave very shortly after I have sat down. I much regret this. It seems to me sheer bad manners, and a practice which is increasing in this House whereas it ought to be diminishing. All I can say is that I have an engagement which has been fixed for several months past and which has some remote connection with the subject under discussion.

I am going to confine what I say entirely to the nuclear situation. I think it is impossible to be too grave about this. I have heard it discussed since the atomic bomb first seemed a possibility, and every relevant discussion I have had since then—which would be 1940–41—has been less pessimistic than the events have justified. The whole process of nuclear armament has had what Einstein called "a weird inevitability" about it, and it has always been a weird inevitability pointing to disaster. There has been one slow slide in the direction which everyone in this House would most wish to avoid, with one tiny piece of hope—and that was the partial nuclear test-ban treaty in 1963. That was the one occasion when the situation seemed to be slightly reversed, when the slide was stopped.

There are two parts of the nuclear situation. One is that at the moment we live in an equilibrium which appears moderately stable between the United States and the Soviet Union. As the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, has just said, there are technical innovations which might make this equilibrium much more unstable. In that case, our chances are worse. My own feeling, however, is that probably this large-scale equilibrium is likely to remain in being within the foreseeable future—at least, the future so long as politicians can begin to legislate for it. So I think that we can rest, not assured, because no one can rest assured in the circumstances in which we have to live our lives, but at least with the feeling that imminent disaster is somewhat unlikely.

Whether the effect of the minor nuclear Powers upon this major equilibrium has ever been serious, I confess I do not know. I suspect that we made a wrong calculation in ever investing in nuclear arms at all. I think we have got extremely little out of it for an enormous expenditure, and I would think that a good deal of this proliferation problem might have been more easily solved, not in the case of China but in the case of all other countries, if in fact we had not been in the business. However, that is arguable. I think it is quite possible to form a substantial argument, though in my view not a convincing one, on the other side. In any case, we are here now. I do not think that if we abandoned our own small nuclear arms to-morrow it would make any difference whatever to the present political and technical problems so that, I think, we can put on one side. What has worried me deeply for many years is what I must call the nth-power problem, the spread of these weapons to a number of countries. I made a speech seven years ago in New York and like almost all the speeches I make, it got me into a great deal of trouble. I said two extremely simple things. At that time there were three nuclear Powers in the world—or, rather, there were two and ourselves in our small way. I said that within ten years there would be six more nations possessing nuclear weapons and that, unless this process was stopped, within the same period some of those nuclear weapons would go off. I think I slightly underestimated the actual time, and ten years or perhaps fifteen years ago would have been a better bet.

On the second point I do not think I over-stated my case at all. I believe that if a number of small Powers possess these weapons, the chance, not of a major nuclear war but of these bombs being dropped, perhaps by accident but more likely in anger, becomes greater in direct proportion to the number of countries possessing them. I think there can be no doubt about that. We can all think of situations in the world where countries have obvious reasons for hostiliity. These bombs are very easily made—anyone can make a nuclear bomb—and in the circumstances to which I am referring you do not have to have any complicated method of delivery. Let us remember that the only two that were ever dropped were dropped by Western men without any complicated method of delivery at all.

This could be done easily by others. They could be made in circumstances which I do not want to specify—we do not want to create unnecessary alarms. I believe we can all think of circumstances in the present world where possession by one, two or three countries of the simple atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima or Nagasaki would inevitably mean that one of these things would be dropped. If a nuclear bomb is dropped it may not mean a major nuclear war, but I should not like to bet too much money that we should not all ultimately be involved.

So, my Lords, the situation is grave and the time is short. If matters go along drifting, with this "wierd inevitability" it is extremely hard even for a stoical man to see any good fortune for the rest of human kind. Therefore, I attach great importance to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty at Geneva. If that can be signed—I agree it is not the only thing we want to have signed—this is one more tiny reversal of this dreadful process; and we shall all have something at least to console ourselves with, even if it is the grim, stoical reflection that the worst does not always happen.

We are in my view fortunate to have my noble friend Lord Chalfont negotiating for us in this matter. He has been exposed to a ridiculous amount of criticism which is so far from the truth that I do not know how it ever arose. This happens to be a particular concern of mine, so I am more familiar than most with some of the details of these things. To have anyone like my noble friend, with his military insight, his technical knowledge (picked up in some ways we do not know) and also—I think I must say this in the light of the end of the last debate—with his human concern, we are extremely fortunate. I do not believe that either side of the House could have picked a better qualified person to cope with this hideous situation. Therefore I should like to finish by wishing him, from myself and from my noble friends, all the luck in the world. If he has no luck, then I am afraid that a great many of us will not have any luck in the future.

6.35 p.m.


My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, for introducing the subject and for the statesmanlike speeches that we have listened to so far. Mine, I am afraid, cannot be in the same realm, and I shall confine it to the question of nuclear warfare and nuclear disarmament. I was very hesitant to speak in the debate knowing that I was to be followed by the noble Lord, Lord Soper, but my attention was drawn to a remark by a Minister of the Crown who is alleged to have said at the launching of the Polaris submarine that questions of decisions about deterrents were merely political and not moral questions, and that Bishops did not come into it at all. If he were reported aright, that is a situation with which I cannot hold in the least. I do not want to go back to the stage where the State was subservient to the Church as at Canossa, or as in some Eastern countries where the Church is entirely subservient; nor do I think it is quite clear that Cavour's idea of a free Church within a free State is really of much use. It sounded good at the time, rather like rendering unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's and unto God the things that are God's; but it has been to the detriment both of God and of Cæsar.

We need a State sensitive to and ready to understand some of the moral insights of a commanding and morally commanding Church. Whether we have a morally commanding Church or not is another matter. But we have the right to speak both as churchmen and also, I claim, as individuals. The fact that I happen to be a Bishop does not mean that I can know nothing whatever about cricket or the World Cup. Of course, I can. The only thing necessary is to make oneself as knowledgeable as one can.

On this question of nuclear warfare, we have a situation where we think it is morally wrong to initiate an attack by these ghastly weapons. Many of us would go further and say that to retaliate with them would be a morally wrong thing to do. The third idea is that it is morally right that we should take some pains to find out what defence we could make against others. There is very little we can make in the way of defence. So we are left with the question of whether it is a deterrent or not, and as to whether it plays its part in helping to stop the proliferation that is going on among nations. It is a moral question as well as a political question.

To what purpose is this waste?—because an enormous amount of money is wasted on this which might be used to a much greater effect for some of the purposes that we were discussing earlier in the day. I know some of the arguments. One is that we cannot go into a conference hall naked. No, not literally; but, metaphorically, why not? Has it not come to be a certain number of tokens or tablets with which we go into a conference and say: "We have another one up our sleeves here. We are willing to give up this one if you will give up that one"? Would it not be nobler and greater for us to say to the nations who have not got it: "We have not got it either"? I know that that will bring in all sorts of questions: whether America would not then look towards France or some other nation to try to help her with the military side of nuclear developments. So what, if they did?

We have been talking about the greatness of Britain. Is the greatness in our nuclear warheads? Is the greatness in the amount of our trade? Surely a great part of our greatness is in our moral willingness to take risks; and to take risks in such a way as to say: "We think it is morally wrong to have these weapons. We want the other nations to give them up. We will begin." Somebody must begin. I see no reason why we should not go down to history as one of the nations who began this great disarmament for which we are all longing.

6.40 p.m.


My Lords, we are grateful to my noble friend Lord Henderson for asking this Unstarred Question. We shall be more grateful for such capricious answers as may be elicited from my noble friend the Minister when he comes to reply. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, that this is not the occasion for a full-dress debate on this matter. At the same time I am going to presume to enlarge the area somewhat and to make a certain number of comments which spring from two sources. First of all, from the sense almost of gloom represented by my noble friend Lord Snow—and why not? He seemed to me to reiterate the cynicism of the American who said, "Nuclear energy is here to stay; the important question is, are we?" That is still the important question, and I still think that, apart from certain slight indications of improvement, the peril is probably as large as, or greater than, it was.

But I do not stand upon that circumstantial platform. I make no bones about it: I believe that in any debate on the question of disarmament it is right and proper that the pacifist position should be set forth. There may be in your Lordships' House those who regard the pacifist position as disagreeable, even repugnant. I would plead with them that it is possible from the pacifist position to exhibit like qualities of loyalty and true patriotism as those expressed in more martial forms. However, it is for a more important reason that I bring it to light and testify to it. A great predecessor in the office of Archbishop in the Church of England, Dr. Temple, to whom I owe so much, laid it down that it is a reputable and tenable position in the light of Christian theology to profess the Christian pacifist position. He did not—I do. I profess it, and I believe in total disarmament as being right and proper. Nevertheless, I do not want to delay your Lordships with an exposition, however theologically impeccable; I want merely to draw one or two conclusions in a more practical sphere which I believe, humbly, may be of some assistance to those who have so long and ardently pursued programmes of possible disarmament which are still unfruitful.

The first lies in the field of the sheer possession of arms. A man has a gun in his pocket; his mind is occupied by that gun, and ultimately his mind is perverted by that gun. I have come reluctantly but clearly to the conclusion that until we get rid of the gun it is impossible for us to think clearly. May I give one or two brief illustrations of this?

I found that a great many people were throwing their hats in the air and cheering lustily over the avoidance of war in the Cuban crisis by President Kennedy, and also, by inference, by President Khrushchev for his preparedness to climb down. I do not find any cause for comfort there. I believe that the Cuban crisis, for those who have the ability to think outside the periphery of weapons, demonstrated the utter falsity, the utter stupidity, of the argument of the deterrent. For if it be true that Khrushchev was not prepared to go to war, it is equally true that Kennedy was. That is the grim and terrible fact which I can never keep far from my own mind. The deterrent, in fact, did not work, in the sense that it did not deter Kennedy from going to within perhaps half-an-hour of the prosecution, not necessarily of a war that was atomic or nuclear in its inception, but a war which had all the capacity for such escalation.

My Lords, I have just come back from Malta. I went there on purely spiritual business. I did not occupy myself inquisitively in some other matters—I had neither the time nor the opportunity so to do; but I met a great number of Maltese people. There is no credit attached to us in the field of what they interpret to be the disarmament programme for withdrawing our troops because, as they firmly believe, we have done it for the wrong motives. Therefore it seems to me that in this matter, as in the matter of Aden, we are prepared in some circumstances to undertake programmes which are at least interpretable as disarmament programmes for reasons which are purely circumstan- tial and have nothing to do with morals. They are, in fact, reasons thrust upon us by economic necessity.

In this field, to begin to argue the case for disarmament, and to argue that case only on the ground that it may be necessary, in this particular circumstance or that, to proceed with a certain programme, without stating outside the category of violence that this is a morally right thing to do, is reminiscent of the kind of situation created by those people who, remembering a certain text in the New Testament about taking care and that "if you are going to lose your soul you might as well gain the world in the process", are prepared to barter the world as well as their souls.

This dereliction of intellectual and, I believe, truly sensible argument is one of the things which inevitably accompanies the possession of arms; and until a man is prepared to put away the gun, he will be occluded in his thought from any firm and final determination to secure other methods for his own defence, or the well being of his friends, or indeed his enemies. I say this, not because I do not believe it is necessary and desirable that we should pursue what multilateral programmes are possible, but because I am convinced (and I do not stand alone in this: there are many pacifists who agree with me; or rather I agree with them) that in the last analysis it is impossible to expect to have a right-thinking community until that community has endeavoured, by quite radical means, to discharge itself of the responsibilities of the thinking which comes with the gun, and is thinking independently of the weapon.

This leads me to the other point which I am quite sure, as a pacifist, needs to be reiterated. It is that, generally speaking, disarmament will come only when one particular party to the various deliberations is prepared unilaterally to take the risk and unilaterally to disarm itself. I hope that I am wrong, but my noble friend Lord Snow has given me no occasion for confidence that I am wrong—in fact, every continuing evidence seems to point to the fact that this is a right calculation, and that disarmament will not come until some country (and let it be ours, because it seems to me unreasonable at this moment to expect that either the United States or Russia would be prepared to do it) makes a unilateral decision to disarm and to disarm thoroughly. For it seems to me that to disarm only in a nuclear fashion may well encourage warfare rather than prevent it.

The total disarmament of these Islands does not seem to me to be something which ought to be avoided as a sentimental operation, but something which, in the light of the circumstances which I have briefly adumbrated, is at the centre of the whole matter. Therefore I testify to my own pacifist faith. I testify also to the considerations which seem to me to belong to the nature of this Disarmament Conference; and only in the light of a total disarmament programme, and a unilateral one at that, does it appear to me that there is a real prospect of a final solution.

My Lords, I want to add one further thing before I sit down. I have a sore throat, because I have just come from a larger and a louder place. I have been yelling my head off on Tower Hill, as I do every week. It is not easy to defend the Government at the moment, although I intend to go on doing so. It is not easy (and this is a wider concern at the moment) to persuade those to whom you seek to speak of the virtues and the ultimate necessity of Socialism, in which I firmly believe. If—and I would offer this again humbly to my noble friends and to anybody who may care to pick it up—there is any prospect of a truly Socialist programme being undertaken in this country in the near future, I want to suggest that one of the ways which will fertilise and fecundate that programme is a process of unilateral disarmament. If we were to disarm at this moment, as is apparent in the way in which the Government are prepared to withdraw forces from Malta—I will say no more than that—we should create automatically a condition of economic crisis.

When I was in California I was told (I cannot vouch for it, but it seemed to me reasonable to suppose that it was true) that of all the jobs going in California, more than half were in the armaments industry or the industries allied to it; and it would appear as a matter almost of logistics and coercive force that if, under a capitalist or the present system, you make a wholesale effort to disarm, you create an economic condition which may well approach chaos. And if we are talking about a planned society (and I hope we are), one of the ways which will make it preemptory is to practise a unilateral disarmament programme which will, by its very inception and prosecution, require a far more ordered and planned society than the one in which we live now.

I offer this, not because I think it will be a fortuitous success and because it will be required as a matter of political necessity, but because I believe that disarmament and socialism go together, and once again I must testify to these two propositions. I presume to speak in this debate because I share so completely with my noble friend Lord Snow the grim feeling that, though we may have occasional opportunities of taking our breath and looking more carefully at the future, unless there is a reduction in the proliferation of these weapons, unless somebody breaks into the vicious circle, I cannot reasonably expect that my grandchildren will have a prospect of peace. I hope that this is not a sentimental attachment to my grandchildren, which ought not in any way to occlude the process of clear thought. But it seems to me a recognition shared by many other people.

Nothing Her Majesty's Government can do to reduce this sense of tension, and enable people once again to lift up their heads with confidence and look the world in the face with a reasonable expectation of happiness, would be more worth while than such an initiation in the process of disarmament as would do two things—as would certainly put in train new thoughts, new opportunities, new processes, and would offer to this country—


My Lords, the noble Lord has spoken a good deal about unilateral disarmament and I agree that, from a moral point of view, that would be the ideal. Probably I am as old as the noble Lord, and he will remember both major wars and the situation in which we were at the beginning of both of them—namely, with a far too small armed force. I wonder what he thinks would have been the result if, shortly before each of those wars, we had conducted a campaign for unilateral disarmament.


My Lords, it is a fascinating inquiry, and I must be brief in answer. There is one interesting comment on both world wars. Those who were fully armed to prosecute them, lost them both. But I suppose the more important comment is that we cannot cut up history into kaleidoscopic slides and say what would have happened. By 1949 we had fallen off the cliff, and once you have fallen off the cliff and are half way down there is not much point in saying, "What do you do now?". History is a continuum and we have a chance now of preventing a third world war. The nearer we get to it and the greater the proliferation of arms, the less will our freedom be engaged until, finally, I think, it will be completely overtaken.

Though I am sure that we were in a great condition of peril before the last war, I would go back as far as the Treaty of Versailles and point out that the way Hitler was able to come to power was precisely because he was able to point to what he regarded as our perfidy. Secondly, in 1935 we were so far unfaithful to our own principles to sign a Naval Treaty with Hitler himself. It is all part of the proliferation race, the arms race and the arms conduct, with which we are threatened again. I would draw the opposite inference to that referred to by the noble Lord. I regard it as a reasonable prospect that if we were now to disarm it would create a new train of events which might reduce the possibility of war and reverse the process. I cannot argue this case as if it were something that could be politically set forth in inexorable terms, but I speak for many people, in the Christian Church and outside, who would welcome such a programme of unilateral risk and believe that such a risk is infinitely to be preferred to the prospects of a future world war.

I listened to Mr. McNamara, and I wished I had not, because I heard him purport to say that the situation now is that if Russia were prepared to go in for a more defensive programme of anti-missiles, the United States would be compelled to take on a more offensive role in order to recover the balance of deterrence. This is an insane world, in which armaments like that are proliferated by people who claim intelligence. I would rather take the risk of believing that what is morally right is in the long run politically right, rather than continue in this insane round of what after all fulfils the old saying: Those whom the gods destroy, they first make mad.

6.57 p.m.


My Lords, as a unilateralist, I will not engage in the argument between my noble friend Lord Soper and the noble Lord, Lord Somers. As one who has lived with, and been as intimately concerned with, the problem of nuclear bombs as my noble friend Lord Snow, I should like to say that we owe a great debt to my noble friend Lord Henderson and also to my noble friend Lord Chalfont, for his conduct of the negotiations at Geneva. With the right reverend Prelate and my noble friend Lord Soper I am prepared to believe, for reasons which are rational as well as moral, that we could banish war if we believed forcibly enough that it could go. But that is not likely. We are living in the world of my noble friend Lord Snow, in which we are spending up to £45,000 million a year on something which is called the defence of peace, and neglecting the substance of the peace we are supposed to be defending.

What does it mean, this peace, when we have people hungry and desperate all over the world? We are living in a world—I do not know whether my noble friend Lord Chalfont will accept my figures—in which something like 320,000 million tons of T.N.T. equivalent are in the stock-piles of the nuclear Powers—100 tons of destructive power for every man, woman and child on earth, which I think is slightly excessive, and 14 tons to every acre of land surface. One thing that makes nuclear weapons completely distinct from general disarmament is that we must get the confounded things out of the way before we can even start discussing rationally any other kind of disarmament. I feel that this is manifest now in the disarmament discussions at Geneva. To me this is absolute.

We have heard to-day a lot about the "hot line". Obviously the main "hot line" runs between the Kremlin and Washington. Even if the great nuclear Powers decide, as I believe they did after Cuba, that politically nuclear war was not possible, that in the end there was no dividend, we are still faced with the continuing threat of war by accident and, above all, of war through the proliferation of weapons in the hands of people who may be even less responsible than the great Powers. I should like to hear from my noble friend Lord Chalfont the staging which is before us now. The non-proliferation pact will be one thing. I hope to hear from him what can be achieved in a nuclear free zone in Europe, as in Latin America. There is the Rapacki Plan—the Rapacki-Gaitskell Plan, in a sense, because it was so completely accepted by the Labour Party at the time. What is going to happen to the comprehensive test ban?

I shuddered to see in the main story in The Times this morning a suggestion that somehow or other we are going to test underground. I do not want to anticipate my noble friend's reply to the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, but I am prepared to say—and I think I would have the hacking of the noble Lord, Lord Snow—that it is possible and always will be possible to check on any underground tests. I should like to have an answer from my noble friend Lord Chalfont on this. In any event, I may say that anything below a certain degree will not be worth worrying about. This, I believe, has been our position, and certainly I know it is the position of British scientists; and I believe that the systems of detection will be sufficient to find out a "sneak" test.

What really worries me about The Timesarticle—and I hope that without any disloyalty to his old newspaper my noble friend Lord Chalfont will answer this—is the implication that not only are we to indulge in underground testing but that we are testing for the purposes of discovering what I gather to be an antimissile missile missile. This is complete and utter absurdity. We now have at least some check on anti-missile missiles, because that is what we were talking about in the terms of Mr. McNamara's threat to escalate. But are we going to test for the purpose of discovering antimissile missile missiles? This can go on to the ultimate degree of absurdity.

I should like to know whether there are any prospects at this time of stopping the production of fissionable deter- rents? Can we conceive of any possibility that the great Powers will stop producing fissionable materials for weapons? Is there any prospect of seeing some check on the delivery system for weapons? I believe this is possible, certainly between the great Powers. Is there not merely the possibility of a check, but the prospect of seeing reduction of the delivery system? These things are the progression which, I regret to tell my noble friend Lord Soper, I, as a complete disarmer, like himself, feel are the necessary steps before we can get anywhere in a breakthrough in the problems of general disarmament. On that note I want to say that I hope my noble friend Lord Chalfont will again go back to Geneva, where I personally from my own knowledge of what he has been doing, can certify that his influence has been enormous; and I believe that any positive results achieved there will be largely due to him.

7.3 p.m.


My Lords, I accept the gentle rebuke from the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, and I shall try to keep my reply to this debate shorter. I can only say that I have had a great deal of work to do recently, and perhaps I might borrow an apology from another context and say that I am sorry I wrote such a long speech; I did not have time to write a shorter one.

I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, for giving me the opportunity to say a few words to your Lordships about where we now stand in the disarmament negotiations in Geneva. Before I do that, may I first of all say how encouraged and indeed moved I have been by the very kind remarks that have been made by several noble Lords, and especially by the noble Lords, Lord Snow and Lord Ritchie-Calder. This business of labouring in the dusty vineyards of disarmament, as the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, will know, is sometimes frustrating and dispiriting, but what has been said in your Lordships' House to-day, and the reaction of your Lordships to it, will send me back to the vineyards determined and refreshed.

I should like to mention quite briefly (briefly for no other reason than that I want to keep the proceedings as short as possible), the contributions of the right reverend Prelate and the noble Lord, Lord Soper. Speaking for myself, I welcome the injection of moral principles and moral imperatives into a disarmament debate. I should find it intolerable if political and military expediency were the only factors which guided our policies in this matter. I am not a pacifist, but I respect the pacifist position; I am not a unilateralist, but I respect the unilateralist position. Perhaps I might say in passing—although I do not want to be led into a debate on this aspect of the matter—that I cannot entirely accept the analysis of the noble Lord, Lord Soper, on the matter of the Cuba missile crisis, or indeed of the confrontation in the field of ballistic missile defence. This whole business of the philosophy of deterrence has elements of irrationality, and I should welcome an opportunity at any other time to debate this subject with the noble Lord, although perhaps not on Tower Hill.

The noble Lord, Lord Harlech, asked some specific questions which, before making the formal part of my progress report, I should like to answer. The first was: What inducements are we going to offer to the non-nuclear powers—and he mentioned India, in particular—to engage them in the process of entering a self-denying ordinance of the sort reflected in a non-proliferation treaty? He is quite right of course. This is a part of the whole integral business of policy making, and especially foreign policy making, and we have to work out some way of guaranteeing that the security of countries like India, and some of the others that he mentioned—although they all have their separate problems—is not put at risk by the fact that they are prepared to sign a non-proliferation treaty. Whether this can be done by some system of security guarantee and if so how, is, as he will know, an immensely complicated matter. There are those who suggest that a country like India, with a tradition and a positive policy of neutrality and non-alignment, cannot in logic accept a security guarantee, because this, if made by one side or the other, would mean that they were aligned.

The possibility of getting a collective agreement in which Communist countries and countries of the West took part together, in the present political climate, seems to be a limited possibility. But I do not think it is an impossibility. The climate is changing, and I think it is not impossible now that we shall be able to work out some way of giving assurances to India against the possibility of nuclear attack or nuclear blackmail. I think I should say that this is more likely to come in the more general context of some United Nations action than in the specific context of a non-proliferation treaty. I believe that if we try to work into a non-proliferation treaty a specific clause so far-reaching as a military commitment, which is in effect what a guarantee is, we shall find ourselves negotiating this over many years, until it is too late to do anything about it.

The noble Lord asked a question about what is sometimes called the European option; that is to say, would a United States of Europe in effect be debarred by the provisions of a non-proliferation treaty from having and deploying a nuclear weapons capability of its own? I can only say (I do not want to go into the deep arguments about the European option) that there is nothing in a non-proliferation treaty—at least, in no draft of a non-proliferation treaty that I have seen—that would, or could, affect the status of a truly federal United States of Europe. A United States of Europe of this sort—although I believe it to be a remote political contingency—would inherit by the normal processes of international law all the resources of the countries that went to make it up, and it would be irrelevant, to my mind, to attempt to inhibit those processes in a non-proliferation treaty of this sort, which is basically directed towards preventing the spread of nuclear activities.

Perhaps I might now, as briefly as I can, do what the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, asked me to do, which is to report on the progress that we have made since I last had an opportunity to speak about this matter in your Lordships' House. We had hopes that when the Committee reassembled in Geneva on February 21 we should have a draft treaty on the spread of nuclear weapons—the non-proliferation treaty—put on the table for the Conference to work on. Since the Conference adjourned last August there has been an exchange of views between the Americans and the Russians on the draft, of which we have been kept closely informed, and it is evident that a large measure of agreement has been reached. Indeed, I think it is possible to say that, apart from the question of safeguard (that is to say, the way in which the operation of the treaty is controlled), there is little that now separates the positions of the Soviet Union and the West on the subject of non-proliferation.

Why was it not possible to table the text as we had expected? Some points, and particularly, as I have mentioned, the question of safeguards—the way in which the treaty is policed or controlled—have not yet been fully resolved and I think it would be wrong and, as they say, counter-productive to put a treaty on the table before an important issue of that sort had been fully agreed between the Soviet Union and the West, and indeed within the Western Alliance itself.

I think it was inevitable that when the language of the draft treaty began to be known among the Governments of the world there would be some criticism of it, but I find it interesting that the preoccupation with the effect of the treaty on a State's military security, which was once the most prominent reaction in the whole non-proliferation debate, has now been replaced. One does not hear so much about the effect that a treaty will have on their military security; the preoccupation is now with the effect of a treaty on the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, and this is where the problem of safeguards of control and inspection of the treaty becomes extremely relevant and important.

There are three aspects of the problem on which attention has been focused. The first is one which I think in the end will prove one of the most difficult technical and political hurdles to surmount. It concerns what are called "peaceful nuclear explosions"; that is to say, a programme of using nuclear explosives for engineering purposes, such as digging canals or creating oil deposits—what is called by the United States' engineers, who are doing most of the work on these ideas, the "Plowshare Project". Some of the non-nuclear weapon States are expressing serious anxiety that if a nonproliferation treaty bans these uses of nuclear explosions, they would be cut off from an important branch of civil nuclear technology and engineering.

Our view of this is based on the fact, which I take to be indisputable, that in the present state of technological development peaceful and military nuclear explosive devices are totally indistinguishable. An explosion, by definition, means the uncontrolled use of nuclear energy, either by fission or fusion, or a combination of both. As I have pointed out to the Disarmament Conference in Geneva, not once but many times, a nuclear device which can be used to move a million tons of earth for engineering purposes can also, given an effective means of delivery, be used to annihilate a city of a million people.

To my mind, therefore, such devices as this must come within the ambit of any effective non-proliferation treaty. But, in any case, this technique has not yet been developed to the point of being an economic proposition, or even safe. Therefore I think it should be possible for us to devise, within the framework of the treaty some workable arrangements with some sort of international supervision, to make the benefits of these techniques available, when they are developed, to the states that require them. Indeed, it is essential (and I think this is an important point to make when meeting the concern and the demands of non-nuclear weapons) that if there should be some substantial advance in this new technology of engineering by nuclear explosives, we must devise some watertight means which will enable the technology and its benefits to be available to all the countries that want it, on a fair economic basis and without political or other strings. I hope very much that, when we are trying to negotiate this treaty, which is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and not nuclear technology, we shall take this point seriously. I know that Her Majesty's Government certainly do.

The second criticism which has been made concerns something which has another new and splendid name—"spin-off". This is the word used for the technological advance which is gained in the civil field of nuclear energy from having a military programme. It is being argued by some countries that those countries which develop nuclear weapons have an enormous advantage in the field of nuclear technology. I am convinced that this is a false argument and if our experience is any guide there is very little, if any, "spin-off". The mainstream of civil nuclear development is controlled fission, and perhaps one day will be even controlled fusion. The whole basis of weapons development is, as I have said, uncontrolled fission and fusion. These two techniques are fundamentally different, and I believe the "spin-off" argument to be overplayed and exaggerated.

Finally, it is argued that the exchange of scientific information will be restricted by a non-proliferation treaty. Countries fear that the exchange of information with regard to the use of nuclear energy in other, peaceful ways would be stopped. I must confess that I fail also to see the validity of this argument. It is our view that if we had such a treaty and everybody had confidence in it, it would certainly not inhibit the flow of information, because under such a treaty as we contemplate, even if the information had military value, there would be safeguards and assurances to ensure that it was used for only peaceful purposes. I believe, therefore, that a non-proliferation treaty would make the exchange of this type of information easier and not harder.

However, this is not to say that we do not take these criticisms seriously, and generally speaking this is the crux of the reason why the treaty has not yet been put on the table. But I think we can answer these criticisms. The States that make them are genuinely worried about them. I do not believe this is any sinister conspiracy against the non-proliferation treaty, and it is up to us, the nuclear Powers, to calm the fears of the non-nuclear nations and to make it clear to them that they will not be subject to any discrimination at all in their peaceful nuclear activities as a result of signing a non-proliferation treaty.

I mentioned the question of safeguards. If this is unfamiliar jargon to your Lordships, I apologise. "Safeguards" is simply a system devised to ensure that nuclear fissile and other nuclear material designed for peaceful purposes is not diverted, in some clandestine way, to military purposes. This system of safeguards has given rise to a problem, in Europe particularly. The European Atomic Energy Community, EURATOM, which of course is one of the important organisations of the Common Market of the Six, feels that its existence might be threatened by the imposition of the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency to the treaty, and this is one proposal that has been made.

As the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, mentioned, I am going to Brussels tomorrow to meet the European Atomic Energy Commission to discuss some of these problems. Of course, as I said, EURATOM is one of the European Communities that we are exploring the possibility of joining, and I think we should be able to contribute very substantially to that organisation in the technological field. So far as safeguards are concerned, EURATOM already operates a very effective system, and we certainly should not wish to see the EURATOM system disrupted. Nor could we support any international agreement that disrupted European co-operation in the peaceful development of nuclear energy. Indeed, as potential members of the European Economic Community it would scarcely be in our interests to do so, even if we were only looking at this problem in the context of narrow self-interest.

I think it is possible, given good will and adequate time and patience, to reach an agreement which would enable the two systems—the I.A.E.A. and the EURATOM systems—to work harmoniously together side by side. I think we can devise a solution which would draw on the best of both systems and provide the sort of assurance, the sort of control system, that I believe is necessary in a world-wide treaty of this importance.

A matter that has been brought up in this debate, and will obviously be discussed very comprehensively at Geneva, is the question of what is called balance in the treaty. The non-nuclear States feel that the treaty discriminates between them in a way, and they want the nuclear countries to take balancing obligations. A number of these have been mentioned in this debate and I shall not, again for reasons of time only, follow each one of these down its separate path. I simply mention them again by way of confirming that, so far as Her Majesty's Government are concerned, we believe that the non-proliferation treaty is only a single step in a much wider disarmament and non-proliferation strategy. We think that we should go on to such measures as a comprehensive test ban treaty, the banning of all tests including underground tests.

I should have liked to go into some detail about the system of seismic detection to which the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, and the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, made reference, but I can only say at this stage that it is a very complicated subject and it is dangerous even to mention this unless one is going to talk about it at length. But I will say that our best scientific advice is that it is not yet possible to be certain that underground events can be detected and identified positively by remote seismic techniques. I have chosen my words with great care, and I simply say that the Government are not satisfied that at the moment we can rely entirely upon scientific methods of detection, although of course we hope it is in this field, in the area of seismic detection and improvements in the techniques of seismic detection, that the effective verification of a test ban treaty will lie in the future.

We believe (these are points that were raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder) that we must go on to stop the production of fissile material for weapons purposes; to cut it off and use our fissile material only for peaceful purposes. We believe that there should be, as soon as possible, a freeze on the production of what are called nuclear delivery vehicles, that is to say vehicles designed entirely for the carriage of nuclear warheads, and that eventually we should move towards a positive reduction in the actual number of these missiles that exist at the moment.

I should perhaps mention in this context, since the point was especially raised, the report that has appeared about the future of our nuclear policy. I do not want to follow the whole of this argument in this debate, but so far as any suggestion is made that the Government are contemplating further underground tests, I can perhaps answer it best by saying that, although The Times now has a very distinguished defence correspondent, it is no longer possible to believe everything we read in that paper about defence. However, I am sure that all these measures I have mentioned will be exhaustively discussed in the present session at Geneva. I would repeat that a nonproliferation treaty makes sense only if it is one step in the whole disarmament process.

In this connection, it would perhaps be appropriate to say how much we welcome the news that the United States and the Soviet Governments are to begin talks on possible ways of limiting the arms race. The noble Lord, Lord Harlech, mentioned the question of ballistic missile defences, and the answer to his specific question is that the Soviet Government has agreed to enter into talks, provided that the talks cover both offensive and defensive missiles. So far as the question about the role of other countries is concerned, certainly the Geneva Conference is kept in touch with these developments, and I believe that when the talks are a little further advanced there will certainly be a role for other countries to play in this matter. We have been in touch with the United States and Soviet Governments in this matter and they are fully aware of our misgivings and of the fact that we subscribe to the belief that the deployment of ballistic missile defences would be the beginning of a dangerous new dimension in the arms race.

I should like, finally, to make a short comment on the possibility of what are sometimes called regional arms control measures. The noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, and the noble Lord, Lord Henderson. mentioned for example the Rapacki Plan, the plan put forward by the distinguished Polish statesman who has been visiting this country, proposing a freeze and eventual removal of nuclear weapons from a specific zone in central Europe. We have recently had an important advance in regional arms control, and this is, of course, the Latin-American nuclear-free zone. A number of countries in Latin America have just reached agreement on this matter in a treaty, and this represents the first occasion on which nations have agreed on detailed treaty language, the aim of which, when it comes into force, will be to keep free of nuclear weapons a major population centre of the world.

We have supported the efforts of the Latin American countries throughout the negotiations. I very much hope that we shall in due course be able to associate ourselves with the treaty, now that it has been concluded, both in respect of our dependent territories in the area and as a nuclear Power ourselves. I think this makes it necessary that we should look at the possibility of this type of arms control in other areas, and it seems to me that some of these possibilities have been overshadowed by the great concentration we have made, I think rightly, on attempting to achieve a treaty to control the spread of nuclear weapons. But I see no reason why we should not examine these other possibilities actively and closely, because this type of regional arms control agreement can, I am sure, make a contribution of its own.

In my view, it is time now to take another look at these proposals for arms control measures in Europe and to see what constructive ideas they may offer for forwarding the process of détente between East and West and for creating the more secure Europe which is the goal of every one of us. I might mention, in passing, that the proposal for the exchange of observers—the British proposal, as the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, will know—still remains on the table; it is still a valid, live proposal. But so far the Soviet Government have shown no real interest in it, except as he suggested, as part of a larger disarmament package.

If we are to take a new and more hopeful look at the possibilities of arms control in Europe we must start by recognising the way in which the military situation in Europe has changed in the period since NATO was first established. There is now, I believe, a general recognition that tension between East and West has relaxed, and there is little, if any, danger of aggression at present in Europe. This welcome change, for which NATO itself is in no small measure responsible, has been noted already by the member Governments of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. They declared their intention, in the communiqué issued after the December meeting of the North Atlantic Council, to secure: better relations with the Soviet Union and the States of Eastern Europe in the political, economic, social, scientific and cultural fields. I believe that this is a most important and significant development in the life of an organisation like NATO. There is a close connection between the political problems which are posed by this division in Europe and the search for ways to make the Continent more secure. The forces and armaments deployed on either side of the dividing line in Europe are there mainly because of the underlying political problems. I suppose this means that we must try to make progress simultaneously on arms control measures and on the solution of the political problems. But I suggest that we must at the same time recognise that arms control measures themselves have a viable and worthwhile contribution to make in reducing tension and building up confidence.

One possibility I have in mind at this moment is that of a balanced reduction by both sides of the armed forces at present maintained in Central Europe by the two Alliances, the Warsaw Pact and NATO. It is of course essential that we should do nothing in this process to upset the military balance, because this would create rather than relax tension. But I believe that we should seriously consider whether peace and security in Europe, and the balance of deterrence in the area, could not be maintained at a much lower level than it is now. This, I think, is a sphere in which our aim should probably be to make a start by setting one another a good example.

I believe that a balanced reduction of forces by both sides would do much to create a new atmosphere of confidence between Eastern and Western Europe, the beneficial effects of which would be widely felt, not least in regard to European problems themselves. On all this we should naturally have to proceed in concert with our allies, taking into account all the realities of the situation, and if we are to reach anything like a disarmament agreement, as opposed to what I would call arms control by mutual example, then we shall have to look effectively at the means of verification, because this is where the major trouble always comes in disarmament negotiations.

In conclusion, my Lords, I should like to take up Lord Henderson's remarks about the importance of making further progress in disarmament as a whole. Our ultimate objective, as I have said before, is nothing less than an agreement for general and complete disarmament which should banish for all time the danger of war. But in the meantime we believe that there is much that can be done while maintaining this as a long-term aim. I believe that the especial urgency, as other noble Lords have said, is the case of nuclear weapons. We must bring them under control, and we must eventually begin to eliminate them. It is to this end that the whole of our non-proliferation strategy is designed.

It has become fashionable recently to criticise the non-proliferation policy. Some people criticise it because it does not go far enough; because it is not, they say, a measure of disarmament but only a preservation of the existing monopoly. Others say that it goes too far; that it will reduce and tie down non-nuclear countries to an inferior status. Yet others say, in our own domestic field, that Britain's advocacy of a non-proliferation treaty is at odds in some way with our desire to enter the European Economic Community. I believe that none of these criticisms is really substantial. In our view, the non-proliferation treaty is only a step—a quite small step—towards other measures of arms control and towards actual nuclear disarmament. From that point of view, it is less important that the Treaty should be signed immediately and perhaps too precipitately than that the international community should continue to engage itself in a dynamic strategy of non-proliferation.

In any event, as I have suggested before, the treaty must be carefully framed so that no country is deprived of the enormous benefits that the peaceful uses of nuclear energy can bring. And anyone who says that our European policy and our disarmament policies are in con- flict must be thinking of a quite different Europe from the one that I have in mind. Let us not forget that Europe does not stop at the River Elbe. I believe most passionately that a successful non-proliferation strategy of the sort that I have outlined would go far to building up international confidence, with all that this would mean for further progress in disarmament and in the settling of political differences that divide nation from nation.

My Lords, I have tried to show, as briefly as I have been able, because this is a wide and complicated problem, the stage that we have reached in these negotiations. We find ourselves now, I think, on the last few steps towards what I believe will be one of the most important arms control disarmament developments since the invention of the nuclear weapon. But if we can begin to bring this terrible weapon under control, if we can stop it spreading not only horizontally around the world, but vertically into new and terrifying spirals of the arms race, then we must have some hope that the sombre world of Lord Snow will not come to pass, and that instead, as the noble Lord, Lord Soper, has said, we shall be able to give our grandchildren at least some prospect of happiness and prosperity. It is this hope, and this belief, that inspires the Government's disarmament policies and all of my activities.

House adjourned at twenty-two minutes before eight o'clock.