HL Deb 07 February 1973 vol 338 cc1060-108

3.11 p.m.

LORD KENNET rose to call attention to the question of European Security; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I realise that in opening the debate this afternoon we have a subject before us which is somewhat vague. European security can mean different things to different people. I should perhaps preface my remarks by saying what it means to me. It means, above all, the question of military security, the absence of war and the question of normalising relations between the two halves of our divided Continent.

I do not know whether Europe will achieve any disarmament in our lifetime or in that of our children, or indeed whether it will ever achieve any disarmament before there is a nuclear war—though I am certain that, if there is one, disarmament will be achieved afterwards. But this I do know: history will record that since the end of the Second World War the first two years during which the Governments of Western Europe could responsibly have hoped to see an agreement on arms reduction were 1961 and 1973. In 1961 we had the McCloy/Zorin joint statement of principles on disarmament between America and Russia. I think it is now forgotten how very close the world then was to meaningful disarmament. This year, in 1973, we have a good chance of seeing the opening of what has now come to be called M.B.F.R., the negotiations on mutual and balanced force reductions in Europe. I say this is only the second year in which Western European Governments could responsibly hope to achieve disarmament. I want to stress that word "responsibly". We could have had unilateral defence reductions of our own any time we wanted—we could have had them, that is, without an increase in security and without even maintaining our security at the level it is at now. What is new is that we now have a chance of getting the arms reductions without reducing our security.

The situation at the moment is so complicated it makes one's head go round. There are four sets of talks, and I shall argue that our best hope lies in getting a correct relation between those four sets of talks. Taken in order of seniority, as it were, in the length of time they have been going on, there is first the Committee on the Conference on Disarmament at Geneva, which has been sitting for nearly twenty years and is multilateral—it contains Eastern, Western and neutral countries. This is the forum which has produced a whole series of arms control arrangements, principally the Non-proliferation Treaty. The second oldest set of talks is the one called SALT, the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, which are going on between Russia and America. They are now about three years old and entering their second working session, which we may expect to last years rather than months. These talks also take place in Geneva and therefore are beside the first set, geographically. The third is the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, the pour-parlers for which have been going on now for several months in Helsinki. This concerns all the European countries, America and Canada. The fourth set concerns M.B.F.R., the negotiations on mutual and balanced force reductions in Europe, the pour priers for which began last week in Vienna.

Everything depends on the right relations between these four sets of talks. First of all, I should like to ask the Government what is the news about getting China into the C.C.D.G. in Geneva—that is the long-standing set of multilateral talks—because it strikes the eye at once that China is an invisible participant in all these four sets of talks—a sort of Banquo at the Four Feasts. If anything was done at any of these talks which China deems to be against her interests it would be only too easy for her to stymie the execution of such an agreement at a later stage. The Chinese have to be got in, and the obvious place to get them in is at the multilateral set of talks in Geneva. I do not think the Government disagree with this view, but I should very much like them to give us news of how it is going on.

We have at the moment this very real hope of disarmament, which has a concrete bearing on Britain's defence policy. We read that the Prime Minister has come back from Washington after discussing with the Americans the future of the British independent nuclear deterrent. Everything hangs here on the succession of weapons systems. We have the Polaris rocket at the moment; and then there is the Poseidon rocket, which the Americans are putting into their submarines to supersede Polaris—which we have not got but might logically want. Thirdly, there is the Trident system, which has not yet begun to be built by the Americans. So in the absence of disarmament we can see many decades ahead.

I am not among those who believe that the date of the phasing out of the British deterrent force should depend solely on the physical fact of rust: that is to say, that when our present rockets decay beyond serviceability we shall never get any more, and that we should take that as the date of our nuclear disarmament. That seems to me a capricious way of proceeding. But it obviously is a fact that when our present force does wear out we shall be faced with the question: do we get another one exactly the same, or do we get one a little better? All I am saying to-day is said in the hope that before that time comes we shall secure multilateral agreement on disarmament arrangements which will enable us to avoid the expensive, distressing, upsetting and provocative necessity of renewing our own submarine force, possibly on a more modern scale.

I should like to ask the Government several what I may call "chestnut" questions. I always ask them: I have never received answers, but I hope that we may have answers to-day. There was the question of the Soviet unilateral declaration that they held our strategic nuclear force to he limited by their agreement with the Americans—that is the strategic arms limitation agreement. I have asked the Government many times: why have they done nothing about that? It may be that they have a good reason, but they have never given it. It seems to me odd, if another country says, "I claim that your force is limited" and we do not agree, that we should not ourselves say anything to that country. We have also read in the Press that M. Pompidou, when he went recently to Minsk, said something about the corresponding unilateral declaration which has been made by the Russians with regard to the French independent nuclear force. Can the Government tell us what change he got when he raised it with the Russians, and why we do not? I should like to ask, again—I have asked this question many times—why we have not taken up the Russian invitation to join the little treaty about making the navies a little safer, by getting rid of "buzzing" at sea, and so on. There is a little treaty between Russia and America about this matter, and the Russians have invited other naval Powers to join. I have asked in this House why we do not join, and my honourable friend Mr. Judd has asked in another place; but neither of us has received any answer. Why is this?

Then there is the question of a report from SALT to the disarmament negotiation going on in Geneva. I have asked whether this should not be done by Britain, but again I have had no answer. Of course, a report from SALT to the General Assembly would be just as good. It would be a sign of responsibility to the world as to what goes on on the part of the Great Powers. Since I last mentioned this, there has been a resolution in the General Assembly (it is Resolution 2932B, if the noble Baroness wants to look it up) which called for precisely that: a report from SALT to the General Assembly. Britain stood aside from this Resolution. Why did we abstain? What sort of pusillanimous alliance bureaucracy was it that led us to abstain on that obvious resolution, instead of voting for it?

But the great test of getting the right policy in all these matters is the same as it has always been—the right handling of the 600 Soviet intermediate and medium range missiles which stand in Western Rusia. Those can reach us, and are targeted on us, but they cannot reach America. I have been asking for two years where we are going to discuss this matter. Let me remind the House of what we are talking about. There are 600 of these missiles with ranges of 1,200 and 2,300 miles. They each carry a warhead of 1 megaton—1 million tons T.N.T. equivalent. They have a colossal superiority over anything we have. They have stood there for 15 years threatening us. Until last year there was nowhere where we could talk about it with the Russians. Now there is. I have been asking about it for two years, and my right honourable friend Mr. Callaghan has been asking about it in the House of Commons; neither of us has received an answer. Are the missiles going to be talked about? If so, where? If the Government cannot answer, how can they claim that they take the security of this country seriously? It seems such an enormous matter to brush aside without answering in Parliament.

I hope that the Government will also be able to tell us that the M.B.F.R. negotiations will not only be confined to conventional weapons—some feel they might be. NATO research on this is confined to conventional weapons; they have done nothing about nuclear weapons or, apparently, about chemical weapons. I am sure that the Government are not foolish enough to go into the negotiations with their hands tied and their feet hobbled with a purely conventional weapons approach. If there is no answer on the point about 600 M.R.B.M.s, I shall be forced to conclude—I do not know whether my noble friends will join me in this—that the Government show a pretty casual attitude to the security of this country in this matter, as they do in the whole matter of Iceland. We had a Parliamentary Question just now. The Keflavik base in Iceland is the ears and eyes of NATO. This is what brings us our knowledge of Soviet naval and submarine movements in the Atlantic. No doubt behind the scenes the Government are very worried about this, but I wish they would take Parliament a little more into their confidence. The picture they present to the world is of a Government prepared to subject the major long-term interests of the whole alliance to a short-term private interest in the fishery dispute that they are conducting.

Now I turn to the European Security Conference to be held in Helsinki. This is supposed to talk about frontiers. It is a Soviet desire that it should stabilise frontiers. We have to distinguish between inviolability and unchangeability. It is quite right that frontiers should be inviolable, if you mean by that that they should not be violated by force; but I do not think that we could accept that frontiers should be unchangeable, especially not in this year when we have the question of Ireland uppermost in our minds. It is also a curious fact that an agreement on the unchangeability of frontiers would contravene the Soviet Constitution itself, and its Article 17. The Russians are only 53 per cent. of the population of the Soviet Union, and that figure is going down. By 1980 they will he in a minority. The majority of Soviet citizens will be Asians, Ukrainians, Georgians, and whatever. This is bound to give rise to a natural fissiparous tendency in the Soviet Union.

It was for this reason that on December 21 last Mr. Brezhnev made an important speech in which he said that the Soviet nationality and identity had now become more important than the separate national identities of the constituent republics of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Constitution was going to have to be changed. When the change had been formulated it would be put to the Soviet people in a referendum. He did not make it clear whether it was going to be one single all-union referendum, or whether it was going to be a series of separate referenda—one in each republic of the Soviet Union. This is obviously an extremely important matter for the Soviet Union constitutional lawyers to settle. Mr. Brezhnev even seemed to be proposing a constitution for the Socialist community (which I take to mean the Warsaw Pact countries plus Mongolia) analagous to the first Soviet Constitution itself. It seems to the Westerner that there might be a conflict between declaring frontiers to be quite unchangeable and Article 17 of the Soviet Constitution, which allows the free right of secession to any one of its constituent republics.

In Helsinki, also, there is to be discussion on the question of the exchange of people and ideas, and on propaganda, and all that. On this point Mr. Brezhnev made a most important declaration. He said: We are for comprehensive contacts between the people of various countries, provided one acts in the spirit of mutual respect and non-interference in the affairs of others and not from the positions of the Cold War. It is clear that the Socialist countries do not intend to conduct negotiations with anyone on the dissemination of anti-culture, such as pornography, racial slander, fascism, violence, hostility between the peoples and mendacious and slanderous propaganda. I think we can all agree that that is well formulated. We shall watch with care how the Soviet Union comes to grips with its own propaganda machine during the course of negotiations in Helsinki.

I should now like to quote from something broadcast by Moscow Radio last week. It said: The Tory Government is sticking to its attempts at suppressing by force the growing tide of the democratic movement for social and civic rights for the people of Ireland. This short-sighted policy is dictated in the main by the interests of the British monopolies who are making a fortune out of the poverty and cheap labour of the poorest Catholic section of the Ulster population. In their attempts to keep Northern Ireland as a private preserve of the City of London, the Conservative Cabinet is doing its utmost to ensure that no social changes take place in their European colony. London is in league with the most double-dyed of vocal reaction and does not stop at cruel terror to which about 700 Irishmen have already fallen victim. I do not think I need go on any longer. There is clearly some way for countries to come in achieving Mr. Brezhnev's ideal about a free and civilised exchange of information.

Turing now to the M.B.F.R. negotiations, how do the Government see the relationship between the Vienna negotiation and the Helsinki negotiation? How about the timing? I am sorry to keep quoting Mr. Brezhnev so much, but he is the only man whose remarks mean anything in Russia, and one has to keep having recourse to him as a source. When waiting for M. Pompidou at Minsk Airport last month he said something extraordinarily important. He said that the question of the balanced reduction of weapons would not be brought up until after the security conference. If he meant that, it is rather bad news; and the Government ought to look out for it to make sure that if he was saying that the agreement on a balanced reduction of weapons should not be finalised until after the security conference had come to its first agreements, that would be another matter. But if he meant what he said, that it was not to be brought up until after the end of the security conference, that is a grave statement and I should like to know the Government's views on it.

Now about the M.B.F.R. talks in Vienna. When the Soviet delegation arrived there, the Soviet delegate made a great point about talking about the mutual force reductions, not mutual balanced force reductions. He left out the word "balanced". That very same day I understand that the Austrian Government made arrangements to change all the signposts in Vienna from "Mutual balanced force reductions" to "Mutual force reductions", and changed the notices on the meeting hall and so on. Is this true and, if it is true, what did our Government have to say about that? Did they go along with the Austrian willingness to get rid of what must to us he the cardinal concept of the whole matter? Indeed, since that date there has been a barrage of propaganda from Eastern European capitals attacking the concept of "balanced" and saying that when the West says "balanced" it means "unbalanced". This propaganda does not make sense at the moment; but when you get a wave of nonsense propaganda from Eastern Europe it oftens heralds the emergence of a new line and betokens domestic quarrels inside the Soviet camp.

In any case, why did the Government go along with the Soviet proposal to have these crucial negotiations in Vienna rather than having them in Geneva as had originally been intended? Because it simply makes life very difficult for the small countries; they now have to have their experts scattered around three capitals. They must have them in Geneva for the disarmament negotiations; they must have them in Vienna for the mutual force reduction negotiations, and they must have them in Helsinki for the Security Conference. It is really a bit much, and my nasty mind turns to the possibility that the Russians may have done it just in order to make life difficult for everybody except the super Powers, who of course have enough staff to go round thirty capitals, let alone three. It would be helpful if the Government could tell us why they agreed to this, if indeed they did, or whether it was a question of force majeure.

As to balanced reductions, I think myself that it does not really matter whether the reductions are balanced. Who cares about that, and what is a "balanced" reduction? How would you know it if you saw it? What matters is that, after the reductions are over, and at every identifiable stage during the process of reduction, what should be left is a balanced situation. "Mutual balanced force reductions" is shorthand for "mutual force reductions and withdrawals leading to a balanced situation." That should be our attitude in the West: let us proclaim it and not fuss too much so long as it is understood by both sides.

There is a question of the membership of these Vienna talks. Will the Government enlighten us about this?—because at the moment the situation is as clear as mud. We thought that the Russians were going to be very restrictive about these talks and say that they would only come with two or three of their best friends and everybody else must keep out. So we in NATO did something of the same sort and arranged a complicated system whereby Norway, Italy and Greece would come in in rotation as representing the flank countries; and so we presented a tight, narrow front. Now, when we get there, I gather that the Russians are taking exactly the opposite line and are saying that everybody is welcome—all the world and his wife—and if we keep anybody out it will only cause trouble later. They seem to have given way to the Roumania view about this, the view of independent Communist Roumania. If this is so, I myself think it is good news. What is the Government's opinion? Are not the Russians, perhaps, for once being rather helpful, rather far-sighted, and making things easy? If they are making things easy for their own satellites in Eastern Europe, that can only be very good news for us. Those people, too, are human beings; they, too, are Europeans, and every extra little bit of freedom they are given we should rejoice at and should, in so far as it lies in our hands, go along with it.

My Lords, the main point I want to refer to (I have already spoken for rather too long) is the importance of information in this whole field. Eyes are better than teeth—


My Lords, may I venture to ask my noble friend a question? I am listening with great interest to what he is saying, in particular about the proposal for mutual force reductions or mutual balanced reductions. Has he tried to ascertain what is the motivation so far as the Soviet Union are concerned? Is it not simply that they have reached a stage of military expenditure which has become far too burdensome, and they would be very glad to reduce their military expenditure? What does it mean in the long run? If they reduce their military expenditure, military forces, either in manpower or equipment, and the West does the same, what position are we in? Are we not in precisely the same position, relatively, as we were before?


My Lords, I think my noble friend is exactly right. We are in precisely the same position, relatively, as before. But we are in the same position, in the same balance, at a lower level of expenditure. This, to my mind, has two advantages. First, we all spend less money on Defence, which means that we can spend more on more important things—and that is just as important to the Russians, who have an even worse housing problem than we have, as one finds out if one goes and looks at it—and also it means intrinsically a slightly safer position from a military point of view, because if fewer weapons and soldiers are lying around there are less likely to be mistakes.

In getting to such a situation. I cannot emphasise enough how important information is going to be. I was just coming to the formulation that eyes are better than teeth, and if we wish to draw our teeth mutually we must put our "specs" on. Over the last year I have been asking in this House about inspection and control of a M.B.F.R. agreement when it is reached. This means that we have to get access to American satellite data, or so at least I have said before. I asked the Government what they were doing about that; I received no answer. Assuming we are not doing anything, which I suspect is very likely the case, and assuming that the Government do not wish to disturb the august repose of the super Powers in this matter, would they reflect on the apparent intention of France and Japan to build and launch their own observation satellites within the next few years? Might there not be a joint West European system of satellite observation for the inspection and control of mutual and balanced force reduction agreements? This, at least, would be more constructive than the joint Anglo-French nuclear deterrent which the Secretary of State for Defence seems sometimes to be talking about.

Well, information rather than arms eyes rather than teeth. What can we hope for in the long run? What kind of Europe should we he working towards? I hope that there will come out of the Helsinki and Vienna negotiations a continuing body, or two continuing bodies—one for each, perhaps, with slightly different membership and obviously very different functions. This would be one or two—I hesitate to use the word "bridge" because it has fallen into disrepute, but one or two links or footbridges, if you like, between the two armed camps whose own levels of armament would be falling. In the West we would have the European Community, the integration of which we may be certain will proceed steadily, if not very fast. In the East, they have the C.M.E.A., the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, which corresponds to the E.E.C. although it is not nearly as tight. One may not safely assume that that will increasingly integrate, because integration there means Russian domination and all the others know it.

It will be interesting to get the near end of that footbridge rightly anchored in the European Community. It will be interesting to see how much traffic it will bear; it will be interesting to see how big, how important, a link we can make it between the two halves of Europe. Obviously, the more we democratise our own half, the more important it will be. I imagine that in the long run we shall be seeing a quadrupartite world, a cruciform world, perhaps, cross-shaped. There is already a natural de facto alliance between America and Russia. We can see it everywhere, and it makes me rather uneasy. There is a strong coincidence of interest between Western Europe and China. This coincidence is generated simply by the existence of the Russo-American coincidence of interest. It is no bad thing. It seems to me that a cross-shaped, quadrupartite world is one which has inherent in it many of the seeds of the stability which we all seek. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.39 p.m.


My Lords, I confess to being under some slight disadvantage, because until just before this debate I myself did not know what was inherent in, or indeed what was meant by, the subject of the debate; namely, "European Security". Nor did I know to any notable extent the general line which the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, was going to deploy. I must say that some confusion is engendered by the wording of the Motion. For what is meant by "European security"? Unless we can define "Europe" in some way, it is very difficult to know what we do mean. The Conference on "European" Co-operation and Security which is about to open at Helsinki in a way adds to the confusion, because there we are apparently speaking about the security of Europe, but the Soviet Union, which extends to Vladivostcck, and the United States of America and Canada are all going to participate, presumably on a basis of equality, and therefore if we are discussing security at Helsinki it is surely not European security but general security. A much larger problem is involved.

Then the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, referred, very properly from his point of view because he was taking in the whole picture, to the SALT negotiations, but, rightly or wrongly, while the SALT negotiations concern only the two super-Powers they have an indirect effect upon everybody. They cannot be said to come only into the European picture, while the conference on general and complete disarmament, which has been going on for so long in Geneva, embraces the entire world, and as the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, was saying we hope—and perhaps the noble Baroness in her reply will tell us whether we are right to hope —that the Chinese will soon be represented there also.

It is an appalling problem to try to contemplate the co-ordination which I thought the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said was necessary, between all these great centres of present activity. Can we really imagine that there might be some super-Power—unless it is the United Nations—which could co-ordinate such activities? I am afraid that in this wicked world they will all have to pursue their respective ways and we shall have to go on with them, such as they are, hoping for the best.

But, my Lords—and you may think, perhaps, that this is my King Charles's head—I myself will take Europe security as meaning (anythow for the purposes of our investigation to-day) something much less than the problem very properly raised by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet; namely, the security, by which I suppose one must mean the ultimate defence, of the body which we have just joined, that is, the extended European Economic Community—minus, one must imagine. Ireland, because Ireland is neutral and therefore could not take part in any discussions on this subject, unless she joins NATO, and perhaps even without the Danes who so far have not shown any great interest in the problems of defence or security other, of course, than being a member of NATO. In so doing, I hope to follow up one or two points made by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, and to see whether I can develop them to any noticeable degree.

As I see it, the States of the extended Europan Economic Community, minus Ireland and perhaps even minus Denmark, simply cannot avoid—and I believe the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, eventually admitted that—fairly soon tackling the problem of their own defence. By that I do not mean just co-operation in the so-called Eurogroup in NATO, which as we all know includes Turkey but does not include France, useful though this is. What I mean is getting down to the planning of a real scheme for specifically Western European defences within the general framework of the North Atlantic Alliance. That is a problem which we can at least understand and perhaps we can debate it with some profit as a problem for which there certainly should be a definite solution. After all, we are told that we must work towards, and indeed even expect to see, not only an economic but also a political union of Western Europe in no less than eight years from now. That is what our Ministers tell us. Are we then to suppose that such a union is to have a common foreign policy but not a common defence policy? That would be absurd, and yet if we are to have any common defence policy then, if we are to form this union in eight years' time, we must decide fairly soon on the general lines of the defence policy which we have in mind. Surely that is common sense.

As I see it, my Lords, there are three broad possibilities. The first, and no doubt the ideal one, assumes that the European Security and Co-operation Conference and the Conference on the Mutual and Balanced Reduction of Forces have been, by 1980, brought to a completely successful conclusion, in which case we must suppose that the Americans will have gone back to America and the Russians will have gone back to Russia; the various European countries—strictly speaking the European countries West of the Soviet Union—freed, presumably, from the membership of any bloc yet not forming a bloc themselves, living together in prosperous amity, largely disarmed and neutralised and certainly forming part of a denuclearised area and thus menacing nobody. That is presumably what we must hope to see. It would involve a European Economic Community extended—some might even say dissolved—and if that were so then the extended European Economic Community would presumably need no defence. That would be assured by the two super-Powers. I imagine also that there would be no central authority, but there might be a loose customs area organised under the general direction of the Council of Europe at Strasbourg.

A great deal of money would no doubt be spent on preserving and improving the environment; enormous sums would be devoted to aid and to rectifying the terms of trade. It would obviously be a kind of paradise compared to our modern world, and I suppose it would represent the complete détente that all our rulers now, including Mr. Brehznev, say they want to achieve in less than eight years from now. I devoutly hope that I may live to see this day, along with the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, and I hope also the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, who seems to have the one great virtue, namely the secret of perpetual youth.

Unhappily, détente—and I am sure about this—will not come about by any unilateral concessions on the part of the West. Nor are the tensions to be distended for the most part (as I believe, anyhow) due to us, though of course we do bear part of the responsibility. They stem—and we must appreciate this—from such causes as the need for certain regimes to maintain themselves in power; from nationalist emotions; from fear of economic collapse; from misguided ideologies; from the unseen pressure of the starving millions of the world, to say nothing of the sheer aggressive tendencies of the human animal. They will not easily disappear. The idea that we can achieve the détente by a display of reason and good will is, I am afraid, a pure illusion. We can probably in practice achieve it only by reducing fear on both sides of the Iron Curtain; and that implies making it apparent that we ourselves are safe.

If we do not do this—and this is my second possibility—I am afraid it is quite likely that something much worse than the present situation will prevail in eight years' time. For whether we like it or not, it is certainly possible to imagine that the Americans, as in Vietnam, will have evacuated Europe on terms which do not necessarily in themselves ensure the security of their allies. Such a disastrous development might well be due not so much to some aberration on the part of the Americans as to sheer reluctance on the part of the allies to do anything much to provide for their own defence.

It would not then in all likelihood be a question of our being attacked or invaded by the Soviet Union. But there is no doubt whatever that in such an event the Western European democracies would be subjected to strong pressures to join some united Europe, led by Moscow; and that this would lead, bit by bit, to the transformation of our present free societies into directed economies and to the formation, to the evident dismay of Peking, of a European colossus of some 700 million to 800 million people which would certainly seek to achieve the leadership of the world. One may not regard such a development as at all likely; and perhaps it is not. But it cannot be denied that it is possible more especially if we do not now bestir ourselves and seriously begin to organise our Western European defence. This indeed is the third possibility and clearly the most hopeful and creative; and it is entirely compatible with at least some progress in the negotiations for European security and still more with progress towards a mutual and balanced reduction of forces. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, in his hope for some steady progress on both these fronts, with perhaps the creation of a body that would supervise the whole situation. I agree with that, and I think it is possible.

The general idea would be that in return for greater willingness on the part of their European allies to think out new schemes for their own conventional defence—and no doubt also as the result of some agreed compromise on trade between Europe and North America—the United States, though gradually reducing the number of their forces stationed in Germany, would, failing the complete withdrawal of Russian forces to Russia, agree to maintain considerable conventional and nuclear forces in Europe, perhaps indefinitely, but certainly until such time as the European allies, by concentrating on a new type of forward defence, might be deemed capable by themselves of halting any Soviet armoured thrust towards the West—that is, unless of course the Russians were prepared to have first recourse to nuclear weapons, which, given the fact that there would be at least some nuclear come-back from the European side on a second strike, they would almost certainly not be prepared to do.

This is not the moment to develop this possibility in any detail; rather I shall hope to do so in the debate on the Defence Estimates. Nevertheless, I believe that it is entirely possible, given general agreement on the part of Western Germany, France and the United Kingdom—and if they got agreement the rest would follow—to think out a ten-year programme for a new kind of conventional defence which would be credible even if at the end of such a period the Americans had no more than token forces in Western Germany. I believe, too, that not only would such a scheme, if it were developed in an integrated way and combined with a streamlining of the production of the specialised arms involved, be very considerably cheaper than our present set-up but nothing would be more likely in the long run to result in an East-West détente based on a genuine balance of power.

I know that most noble Lords who are expert in this matter—and there are many in the House to-day—will tend to say that all this is nonsense and that, pending full agreement on the mutual and balanced reduction of forces, about which I am not at all optimistic, our entire safety will depend both on the maintenance of substantial United States forces in Germany and on their determination to have recourse to tactical nuclear weapons in the event of a serious armoured thrust from the East—the idea that conventional defences might be so reorganised, either with or without the Americans, as to contain such a thrust being pure moonshine.

Yet if this is really so, my Lords, what is our future in the event of American determination if necessary to press the nuclear button becoming less credible than it is at present; and still more so in the event of our ever being left on our own? The answer is quite simple. If that were to happen we should have no future; we should be completely at the mercy of the East. The idea that Europe, whether or not in ten years' time it has a President, would be willing to order a first nuclear strike against a major nuclear Power is the greatest of all illusions, and I only hope that it is not shared either by our own Government or by the Government of France, though I sometimes suspect that it may be. A small second-strike European nuclear force, whether tactical or strategic, is quite another matter, which can be argued on its merits; but that is not my present point.

It is said that necessity is the mother of invention. I rather think that, perhaps some time after the coming French elections, and whether or not my own theories are acceptable, we may be forced to have a new look at the whole problem of Western European defence within the framework of the Western Alliance. I have put no very difficult questions to the noble Baroness who will reply. Nevertheless, perhaps she will comment on my reflections. I know that sometimes she makes favourable remarks in a general way about some of the things I say, though that does not mean that she accepts my remarks. But I suggest that what I have said might be careful] considered by the Administration.

3.57 p.m.


My Lords, I wish first to express to my noble friend Lord Kennet my appreciation of the fact that he has chosen this subject for debate to-day. I also congratulate him on the penetrating speech which he delivered. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, expressed some difficulty over the meaning of security, which is our subject this afternoon.


European security.


I stand corrected: European security is our subject to-day. I should have hoped it meant that people in their ordinary lives might feel free to live those lives in security, without the danger of war. I hope that that will be the aim of our discussion. If it is our aim, then we begin with some hope, for the situation to-day is far better than it has been for many years. There is détente between the United States and the Soviet Union; there are the visits not only of President Nixon to Moscow and Peking but of our own Foreign Secretary; there are the SALT talks; there are discussions proceeding at Helsinki for the conference on European Security and Cooperation, and talks are beginning on the mutual and balanced reduction of forces.

We may be inclined to be a little cynical about the Disarmament Conference which has been held at Geneva over the years. We recall the millions of words that have been uttered there, the great projects presented, even those designed to lead to total disarmament, only to see them put aside. Nevertheless, even from those talks one has, at least on the borders the agreements regarding arms on the sea-bed, and the Non-Proliferation Treaty. If one looks at the whole scene, one sees that it is more hopeful than it has been for many years. That means that as we move towards the discussions which will arise from Helsinki and Vienna we should approach them in a spirit of confidence and of trust.

I was disturbed, as I read the debate in another place on this subject, at the doubts and the suspicions which were continually expressed in speech after speech. I remember that the Chancellor of Western Germany, Willy Brandt, after his successful negotiations with the Soviet Union, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and other Communist countries, expressed the view that he was met on the Soviet and Communist side by sincerity. I recognise at once that we must be alert about our own interests, but if these discussions are to be successful we must seek to put on one side the doubts and suspicions which have poisoned negotiations in the past, and at least try to approach an agreement on the basis of mutual sincerity.

Of the four conferences to which my noble friend Lord Kennet referred—the SALT discussions, the Disarmament Conference at Geneva, the Vienna Conference on Mutual and Balanced Reduction of Arms, and the Conference on Security and Co-operation—the Conference on Security and Co-operation is, in the long run, the most important. It is true that its success will depend upon the Vienna Conference dealing with the mutual and balanced reduction of forces, but I hope that the difficulties which have arisen at Vienna—the conflict as to whether the discussion should be limited to the Central European Powers or whether other nations shall be brought in—will be overcome and an agreement reached. As I see it, Central Europe is the concentrated point for reductions, but quite obviously the whole of Europe is interested. It should be possible to reach a solution of the problem that, although recognising that Central European countries have the major responsibility for discussion and decision, the other nations of Europe, including the neutral nations, should have an opportunity to make comments upon them.

The ambassadorial level discussions at Helsinki on the agenda for the European Conference have now gone on for several weeks, with a coming temporary adjournment. On the whole they have been encouraging in their results. The one point of conflict has been the Western proposal for free movement of peoples from the West to the East. I am entirely in favour of that proposal in principle. I want to see a breakdown in all the barriers, not merely for cultural exchange but also for an exchange of information, news, ideas, and for liberties of thought which are at present restricted in the Communist countries. But I should have thought that it might be possible to reach a solution by saying that we will seek to extend all these liberties, and hope that as co-operation extends between the East and the West, as a result of this Conference and its conclusions, we may move to the point where in the future there will be absolute freedom of movement between the peoples from one side to another.

It is quite clear—and I believe this is accepted—that one conference is not going to settle these issues. The Helsinki ambassadorial discussions are preparing the agenda and the meeting in June is to be on a Ministerial level. There is the idea that the Conference itself should be followed by the appointment of continuing commissions dealing with security, economic and social co-operation, problems of pollution, an exchange of information and cultural liberty. It seems to me that those commissions will be working out those problems for many months, and I would hope that the full Conference would meet again to receive the reports of those commissions, and even then that the commissions will continue, progressing towards greater co-operation between East and West. I should like to see some continuing body, bridging Eastern and Western Europe, to deal with these problems as they develop and grow. We should regard this Conference not as a conclusion of discussions but as the beginning of continuing co-operation.

I do not apologise for speaking with emphasis on this subject because I have been urging this course for six years in this House, and for a long time mine was quite a lonely voice. At the beginning the situation was difficult because the Communist countries made their proposals in a spirit of aggressive attacks upon the West and America and they could be dismissed as propaganda. But as the years have passed they have made concession after concession, and now we have reached the position, despite the doubts—indeed, obstructions—over the last six years where the Conference is becoming a reality. I beg Her Majesty's Government to put at the back of their mind the doubts which have existed on both sides of the House over the last six years, and to seize this opportunity and all that it allows.

I take the view that this can be the great breakthrough for peace in the world; not merely to avoid war in Europe—wars in Europe become world wars. Here can be provided the opportunity for real co-operation between East and West. It can end the antagonistic mobilisation of armed forces between NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries so that ultimately their necessity will disappear. It will provide the opportunity for disarmament, including areas in Europe which may be made free altogether from nuclear weapons and be an example to the world. All those opportunities lie in this Conference if we and other nations will seize them. I beg Her Majesty's Government to do what they can in this respect.

May I, before I sit down, add one personal remark, which I had intended to make earlier to the noble Baroness? I should like to apologise that yesterday I suggested that she had sought to avoid an answer to the question I had put on this subject in relation to East Germany. An exchange took place over the Table and I am afraid that those of us who were on the side Benches did not hear the answer of the noble Baroness. I apologise if I gave any impression that she was seeking to avoid an answer to the question which I had put.

4.10 p.m.


My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, because he is perfectly tuned in to the international wavelength, and I do not think there is one word which he has said in his speech on European security from which I dissent at all. I should particularly like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, for giving us the opportunity to discuss the subject of the present debate. As it happens, I was the only representative from your Lordships' House on a British delegation to Helsinki which returned at the weekend, and I have the opportunity now to knock off what little snow is remaining on my boots and to give some indication of the feeling in Helsinki at the present moment.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, has very accurately indicated the four conferences which are proceeding on the question of disarmament and security generally, so it is rather confusing to add a fifth, also in Helsinki. The conference which I attended was also in Helsinki and was also on European security, and it was conducted by the Inter-Parliamentary Union. This conference was running in parallel with what has been referred to earlier as the ambassadors' conference. It may be said that this conference was successful in its week's study and discussion on a whole range of subjects, but we narrowed our ground: we did not include M.B.F.R.s at all. The questions now being discussed in Vienna were thought better avoided and left off our agenda.

Well, what did we discuss?—European security in the absence of M.B.F.R. discussion, economic co-operation, cultural relations and freer movement among peoples. The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, expressed warm enthusiasm, as I understood it, for greater cultural exchanges, and I am sure he has already read with interest the resolutions regarding this particular matter which were unanimously agreed at the I.P.U. Conference. The ambassadors' conference at Helsinki about preparations for the European Security Conference, the multilateral discussions, appear to be covering precisely parallel ground to the I.P.U. Conference, and in the same place. It is very appropriate at this point that I should express the wholehearted gratitude of the British delegation to our Finnish hosts, who looked after us particularly well by making available to the Conference for a whole week the whole of their Parliamentary building and its ancillary services. I am quite sure that this very generous gesture by the Government and Parliament of Finland is most warmly appreciated by all participants in the conference.

Something which I think was typified throughout our visit was the desire of the Finnish people, as expressed through their elected representatives, that the conference should really work. They wanted a successful outcome, and they, as a neutral nation, wanted to see the two contending, opposed forces reach at least some degree of unanimity. In the case of our conference it is a remarkable fact that instead of being faced at the end of a week's discussion with vast areas of abandoned agendas, we did, after very protracted discussions, reach unanimity on all three subjects. I think it is to the credit of the Inter-Parliamentary Union that this was achieved.

I listened with great interest to Lord Gladwyn's speech in which he expressed the view that discussions on the M.B.F.R.s and the European security question might well continue probably up to about 1980. I would not dissent from that. But if it is not inappropriate to ask this question, may I ask why it is that Parliamentarians from a group of European countries can meet for a week in congenial surroundings and reach agreement within that short space of time on at least certain issues? Surely, there is a case for the Parliaments of European countries, and indeed of countries on the fringe of the European Continent, to have this opportunity of implementing the decisions reached. These resolutions are no more and no less than the strength that is given to them by the member-Parliaments of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, but here is an opportunity for Her Majesty's Government to examine the resolutions to which we gave our name and seek means whereby they can be implemented in the forthcoming programme of legislation.

I would pass from that aspect to the very important matter which the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, mentioned, the question of Mr. Brezhnev's speech last year. The noble Lord apologised to your Lordships for making constant reference to it. I must confess that as I read Mr. Brezhnev's speech I felt that that in itself might form the subject of debate, because its range of subject was so wide; indeed, it encompassed not only foreign relations, disarmament, forces in general, but also agriculture, pollution and a vast range of communications problems. The European Conference is a subject which I think I should mention in the course of my speech, because Mr. Brezhnev referred particularly to the status of the European Conference.

One has to wade deep in his speech. I went through 54 pages in the English text before I reached it. He said: The all-European conference on security and co-operation, for which the socialist countries have worked for many years, should open a new chapter in European history. It appears that the conference will begin not later than the middle of 1973. The peoples attach great hopes to the convocation of the all-European conference. They expect it to deal with the basic problems of strengthening European peace, to put an end to the suspicion and fear bred by the cold war, and give the European confidence in the morrow. He went on from there—and I must ask your Lordships' indulgence for another two sentences: We shall strive to achieve meaningful results at the conference, which would be of benefit to all its participants. Everybody knows the political principles which, in the opinion of the U.S.S.R. and its allies, should constitute the basis for ensuring the security of the European nations. I think we fully appreciate the basis of those principles and that we should heartily agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, said about illusions, because, if I remember aright, the poet Voltaire said: Illusion is the first of all pleasures. And indeed, frequently in the past European history has been determined by those who have had illusions and have fallen prey to those illusions, with disastrous results for whole peoples, and at times the Continent.

I should like to refer particularly to a document which came into my hands almost at the end of the Conference and which was presented as a gift personally to each member of the British delegation by our colleagues in the Czechoslovakian delegation. I thought that it was symtomatic of the degree of historical interest which they have in European questions that they had taken the trouble to research into a peace charter which was drawn up in the years 1462 to 1464, called, "The Proposal for a Universal Peace Organisation made by King George of Bohemia". This won in those days the support of Poland and Hungary and, for a time, Venice and France. It was concerned in those far-off days 500 years ago with no less a strikingly similar situation between two opposing forces in Europe, those of Christendom and Islam. This peace treaty aimed to convene security, as it was known in those days, and it was so remarkably like some of the principles of the United Nations Charter that perhaps I may give two of them mentioned in this document. One was the principle of peaceful settlement of international disputes, and the second the principle of equality of States associating together for peaceful cooperation while maintaining their sovereignty.

I feel that King George of Bohemia was a remarkably modern-minded person. But, surely, although this desirable state was never fully achieved, for a length of time peace was achieved in Europe between Christendom and Islam—until, presumably, the battle of Lepanto, and we all know the result after that period—and surely the achievement of almost 100 years of peace was a very significant achievement. All these efforts, be it by diplomats, experts, parliamentarians, or those who are attempting to construct footbridges—and here I very much agree with the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, that the word "bridge" is perhaps rather lacking in inspiration nowadays—are very attractive. The personal contact achieved at this Conference in Helsinki undoubtedly provided and produced a number of footbridges between East and West. I feel that these can be worked on, improved and enlarged, and surely all these contacts and channels of communication established between individual members are likely to bear fruit in the future.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I remind him that 1462 was the year when Pope Pius II tried to launch the last of the Crusades, but fortunately no one went with him—perhaps because they all listened to King George of Bohemia.

4.23 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that the brevity of this debate is no measure of the usefulness of it. It is not my intention in this short debate to detain the House, and I hope that I shall not reiterate points that have already been made. I listened to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, with interest, and I consider it axiomatic of all security conferences and the hopes of mankind since the days of Nebuchadnezzer and the days when the Assyrians came down like wolves on the fold that man has hoped to eradicate fear, if only he could. In a materialistic way we grow up with the illusion that affluence will eradicate fear. The strange fact is that the most affluent society in the world, the United States, is the most nag-ridden with fear, distress and violence. In other words, it is quite true that man does not live by bread alone; he needs something else. He needs some faith. I am not a good Christian, but metaphysicians and philosophers who have been struggling since pre-Grecian days, and all the histories of Christs on earth—and different ones—have shown us that man must have a peg to hang the hat of faith on, and believe in something. Consequently, whatever way we look at a European Security Conference, if we go into it with cynicism and shouting, "Yarboo ! this is not going to succeed", it surely will not succeed.

There is always a little risk in eradicating fear. The little risk that we must take is to get rid of our Walter-Mittyish ideas, and pillars of clouds, that we are now a Great Power. We no longer can defend and police the Pacific. In another ten to twenty years, Hongkong will be gone out of the—I will not use the old word "Empire", but out of the sway of Great Britain because of our agreement with China. We are no longer the force in the Mediterranean Sea, as Suez proved; and our forces cannot bring peace to Northern Ireland. Those are the facts of the situation when we are discussing European security to-day.

Who, then, is Britain building up forces to attack by herself? In this Walter-Mittyish idea that we can increase our military expenditure and thereby eradicate fear and bring security, certain qualifications must be enunciated. The first is that no longer can we think of Eastern Europe and Western Europe as a peninsula sticking out from the side of the Urals and detached from the world. The second axiom of our discussion is that Mr. Nixon has made a U-turn. Just as Prime Minister Heath has made a U-turn in his economics and stolen the clothes and left the poor Labour Party naked in the cold river, so has Mr. Nixon made a U-turn because of the pressure of events and reality. He has had to make a U-turn in his attitude to the Communist world, and there is no argument about that. Here was a mighty nation with the greatest nuclear forces in the world, and it was forced to make a rapprochement with China and the Soviet Union. I am not denouncing that; I think it is a good thing for the world.

I had better not be didactic about this, but am I right in assuming, in passing, that that in itself helps the world to a little better understanding than we had in 1954 at the Geneva Conference, when John Foster Dulles forced upon the world the war in Indo-China through a policy that went awry? Am I now right to assume that we have eradicated a little fear in that great sphere of influence? I think so. Nixon is going to visit Moscow, he is going to visit Peking again, and very soon he will be at the European Security Conference.

What worried me a little—and I listened with care to the constructive speech of my noble friend on the Front Bench—was the speech of the Prime Minister at the Lord Mayor's banquet, and the speech here of the noble Lord. Lord Carrington, who was talking to us about the realities which would continue to govern European defence. I have uttered some of the realities. He said to us that there is, … first and foremost the need to maintain and foster the North Atlantic Alliance … Secondly, as I have said time and again during the past year, we in Europe cannot count on that co-operation unless we assume a greater share of the burden of defence of other nations. He further said that we are called upon to make a greater effort to avoid the threat to Western Europe. Let us be fair to the noble Lord, because he qualified this statement when he added: The danger of direct military assault is perhaps now amongst the least of our worries. But harsh, even aggressive, political attitudes and policies, with the fact of overwhelmingly military superiority ever-present in the background, are another matter." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 1 / 11/72, col. 41.] By including that last passage I have not left it as though the noble Lord, the Minister of Defence, was talking blindly. What he has assumed is that we shall not get a military attack. If we did, this country alone could not possibly do anything, especially in view of the fact that we cannot subdue Ulster. What he is pointing out is that we are prepared to take big risks to stop the aggressive political attacks and, perhaps, the propaganda of Eastern Europe.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, and to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, for their interesting speeches. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, gave us the key to this debate when he asked: how can we eradicate fear? Unless we get rid of that, we cannot get anywhere. But I do not know the answer. On both sides of the Iron Curtain—I use that horrible old-fashioned expression—we must get together, because, to repeat a Macmillan phrase, "Jaw-jaw is better than war-war." What is wrong with the Disarmament Conference at Geneva going on for 20 years, if we are sill not firing shot and shell at each other in the struggle for peace? I am purposely cutting my speech, although I should like to build up this argument, but this House is so wise that it can follow even me. But what is there to stop us now, in this transition period, handing out a little more friendliness? Willy Brandt gave us the signpost with the Ost Politik. I have read the speech of Mr. Elliott, our Ambassador in Finland. I think we ought to pay tribute to Mr. Elliott, because at the preliminary to all these ambassadorial talks he hinted at the possibility of building a bridge over the chasm of fear. We could put out the hand of understanding.

No longer can we have European security without bringing in the rest of the world. In the same way as no man is an island, Europe is not an island any longer. So do not let us decry the work of the United Nations, despite all its failures. Many of us at different times have seen some of its work all around the world. Let us try to make these rickety man-made machines, which are trying to bridge over peace, work by building greater contacts. Russia is opening up her frontiers bit by bit. She is not ashamed now to show her house. The Eastern European countries in this affluent society are having their pollution and environment problems, in the same way as capitalism. Having presented to the world the two opposite economies, we have to decide how—it may take 20, 30 or 40 years—we shall find a rapprochement, and I would rather talk for 40 years than, through irritation and impatience, be driven into a nuclear war which would destroy civilisation. Noble Lords will be delighted that, having spoken for just ten minutes, I shall leave it there.

4.35 p.m.


My Lords, it was far from my intention to speak in this debate before I came into the House and listened to my noble friend Lord Davies of Leek, with whom I have been closely associated in a number of activities from the time when I first left the Army, nearly 40 years ago. During the last few months I have been away and have not had a chance to talk to him; and it looks as if my absence has made itself felt in his thinking because he seems to have reverted to his woolly Welsh ways, for he made some statements which are such unutterable nonsense that I take an early opportunity to put him right. I shall now do it publicly, because if I did it privately I should be more adjectival than would be in order in your Lordships' House.

My noble friend's first statement was a slur on the British Army. He did not intend it, for he is a very kindly man. But he said, dismissing the military potential of this country, that the Army cannot settle the problems of Ulster. Of course we could settle the problems of Ulster. But in a democracy, there is always the powerful instrument of criticism. You could tell the Army commander in Belfast, "Settle it, as the Russians settled the risings in East Berlin, in Hungary or in Czechoslovakia", and it would be settled. It is not a question of a deficiency in our Armed Forces, but of what steps we are prepared to take in a free society to bring about the result that we want. Therefore, for noble Lords to dismiss what is happening in Ireland as inability of the Army to do what is required is incorrect. In his next statement, my noble friend was tremendously pleased with Mr. Nixon's visits to Peking and Moscow and he regarded it as a change of heart. I am sorry, my Lords, but "Tricky Dicky"—


My Lords, obviously my noble friend has now lost the capacity of following thinking, because I said nothing of the sort. I did not say that it was a change of heart; I said that it was forced upon him. The noble Lord must not be so arrogant. He must not assume that I cast any slur on the Army. I did no such thing. Of course the Army could have finished it if they had wanted to be butchers, but knowing the humanity of the Army we could not at this moment mount that kind of action. I am dealing with European security as well.


My Lords, I must take up the point about the Army. I very carefully said that I was quite sure that my noble friend would be the last person to cast a slur on the Army. What I point out to him is that the potential to settle the Irish problem is present, but it cannot be used because, basically, the Government have accepted—in my judgment, rightly—that Ulster is a political problem which cannot be settled by force. That is the first point.

The second point is that I do not believe that "Tricky Dicky" had a change of heart as a result of a sudden conversion. I believe that the actions of President Nixon, from the time he assumed office four years ago up to the time of his re-election, were dictated by one fact and one fact alone. Every action that he took both at home and abroad, was dictated by his desire to win the Election. He went off to China and to Moscow, but what one has never yet seen is the small print. But there are signs of it. There were complaints to Sir Alec Douglas-Home, when he was in Peking, that before President Nixon got back to Washington he was already going back on his undertakings to the Chinese. I do not believe that the exercise of power by powerful States is dictated by the sudden conversion of particular individuals. The conflicts that exist in the world to-day are there, although the means by which they find expression change. My view is that war, as we have known it twice in our lifetimes, is now a thing of the past because the capacity for one Power to destroy another is now so absolute that all-out war is not "on". I do not believe that President Nixon has changed his spots—not for a moment. His policy is based on the need to look after President Nixon.

There is a noble Lord whom I shall call by a name by which he is not known; that is, the noble Lord, Lord Birch. I well remember his commenting on the 1958 White Paper, and saying that the opening words were among the biggest load of nonsense that he had ever read, and I have repeated his words since on many occasions. What the 1958 White Paper said—and it was the Government's policy up to 1964, and has been since—is that, … the world stands poised between total war and total peace". Total war, possibly, although I do not think it very likely. But total peace? Look around us, my Lords. Total peace is the Kingdom of Heaven. Ever since the Garden of Eden, ever since the days of recorded history, there have been struggles by wicked men to seize power and to use it in their own interest. That struggle will go on but it will take a very different form. It may well be that subversion, the kind of thing that is taking place in all the urban areas of the world, will become commonplace in our lives; that the old order, respect for authority, respect for discipline—even, if I may say so, respect for my noble friend's grey hairs—may become things of the past. We have to accept Northern Ireland or Palestine or Vietnam as an everyday occurrence. I have always held, and I still hold, that the interest of this country is to maintain the rule of law. I supported our intervention in Korea for that reason; I supported President Johnson in his attitudes towards Vietnam; and I support Her Majesty's Government in their attitude towards Northern Ireland—because I believe the alternative to an ordered society is anarchy, and there can be no looking after the interests of the old and the weak unless we establish meantime the rule of law.

I believe that one of the greatest instruments for the maintenance of the rule of law is the Army. This is not the occasion on which one should enlarge upon that subject, although I hope to do so in the future. I certainly do not accept the interpretation which my noble friend puts on the action of Willy Brandt and the Ostpolitik. I have a very different explanation. Just by chance, I have been looking at this matter, and I have put a Question on the Order Paper. I am not out to publicise my Question, but what are the facts? In 1958 there was a Protocol to the Treaty of Rome. I am astonished that nobody ever talked about the Protocol that Dr. Adenauer insisted should be included in the Treaty of Rome. It is a Protocol which relates to German internal trade and connected problems; and it means that all trade as between East and West Germany should be regarded as a whole.

So when Willy Brandt was firmly in the saddle he had something to offer the Communist bloc by way of this deal, because what it means is that the chicken from Czechoslovakia and Poland plus the ballbearings from Sweden are pouring into Western Europe—and there has even been some of them here. There are acres of warehouses in Hamburg stocked up with goods from all over Communist Europe, waiting to pour, free of duty, into Europe. Of course the Communists are only too pleased that there are such mugs as we are to permit this to go on without discussion. And it has gone on. It is significant that the French started to raise objections, but M. Pompidou, when he met Willy Brandt, took the hint and did not raise the subject. This is very apposite to the struggle in the world, because my noble friend is quite right: it is going to take on a different look—not guns, not atomic weapons, but the struggle for a position of power, and so on and so forth, to see who gets most at the least possible price.

My noble friend, as he has so often done in the past, excited me to get on my feet and talk—


Very unfortunate !


—and to anticipate the speech I am going to make in the future on this very important subject. But perhaps I may conclude by saying this. I believe, and have believed ever since the end of the war, that the struggle for power has moved from Europe and that we are now no longer in the race. The struggle for power has moved South and East, and that is why I have listened with cynicism to the arguments about the Common Market. They are utterly and completely irrelevant. We have got in for one simple reason: that Mr. Heath has stood pat and has never shifted from his Harvard speech, and M. Pompidou was prepared to take him as he was not prepared to take Mr. Macmillan or Mr. Wilson. Because M. Pompidou. too, hopes one day to get rid of M. Debré, and then he will bring to pass the wild, foolish, fantastic nonsense of a European deterrent which France and Britain will hold in trust for the rest of Europe. Mr. Heath believes it: he said it at Harvard. Obviously, when he spoke to Pompidou and got "Yes" to enter the Common Market he told Pompidou of his acceptance of a joint British/French deterrent, and that is why he got his "Yes". For the Common Market is not to do with tariffs; it is to do with power: and as far as power is concerned, neither Britain nor France, nor any other country in Europe, nor Europe as a whole, is any longer in the race. The race is between the Soviet Union and the United States.

4.45 p.m.


My Lords, I apologise to the noble Baroness for intervening, but there are two points which have not been covered in the debate so far and which I should like to mention rather briefly. For more than twenty years since NATO was set up there has been absolute peace in Europe, whereas there has not been peace in the Far East. One of the reasons for that, I suggest, is because, as the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, has just said, the scene in Europe is coloured by the super Powers; that is to say, the nuclear power of the United States of America and of the Soviet Union. Therefore I think it is highly dangerous to have more than the NATO representatives and the Warsaw Pact representatives at the M.B.F.R. Conference in Vienna; and the Soviet invitation to widen the membership of the Conference is, in my opinion, rather a risky one to accept. We all understand about the well-known neutrals—that is to say, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, et cetera—but if any more countries are introduced to that Conference then before we know where we are we shall be outvoted by the neutrals who live quite close to Russia; and I think it is rather risky.

The second point was touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, when he mentioned the Anglo-French nuclear power agreement of the future. I have spoken about this subject before in your Lordships' House, and I am dead against such an agreement for the following reasons. First of all, M. Debré, who was then French Defence Minister, said—and I think he was quite right: The decision to employ nuclear weapons can only be made by a single nation". I entirely agree with that: and, if your Lordships remember. I said that I was quite satisfied with the President of the United States having his finger on the trigger on our side. A French official recently said: NATO may change: France will never change". I think that is distinctly apropos.

So I suggest that an Anglo-French nuclear power agreement would be wrong for the following four reasons. First of ail, the agreement would be highly dangerous, in that it would upset a balance which has kept peace for twenty years. Secondly, I agree that it is a single country's decision. Thirdly, we have lived under the threat of having 600 Soviet missiles close to our centres of population for many years past; and, anyway, there is not a proper warning period. Fourthly, there is the impossible cost. I believe that for its nuclear weapons the United States pays roughly the amount of the French and British Defence budgets added together, so the cost would be impossible. In conclusion I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, a question concerning his cruciform picture of the future. I wonder whether he could elaborate on that subject a little more, because at the moment it is one that escapes me.

4.50 p.m.


My Lords, I hope I may say a few words before this debate ends. I would start by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, on what I thought was an admirably documented and very objective statement of the situation. But, as I think my noble friend who has just sat down feels, I have some doubt about the analysis in his last paragraph of what he calls the cruciform situation. I personally have enormous admiration for what President Nixon and Dr. Kissinger have done. They have acted with enormous courage. I was privileged, while on a visit to Canada and the United States from which I have just come back, to hear a most remarkable interview on television with Dr. Kissinger. I think he is one of the most remarkable diplomats of our era. The point I want to make is that he does not see the situation as cruciform; and he says that President Nixon does not do so either. He sees the world as containing five major power factors: first, the U.S.A. and then Russia and, of course, China; then Japan and, finally (I say "finally" purely for convenience) Europe. Those five do not lend them- selves to a cruciform situation. I do not think that that forms part of the American idea.

I should like to say that President Nixon could not have a detente with either of the Communist Powers without appearing to be mixed up in the dispute between Russia and China. From that it follows that if he went to one he must go to the other. Secondly, I think it was extremely good that he was able to use the fact that both of them are getting a bit fed up with the Indonesian war and that neither of them wants the Americans to be in Indonesia, in order to settle the gathering number of outstanding questions.

I believe that we should never miss an opportunity of settling outstanding questions with the Communist Powers. One cannot always be sure what the result of negotiations will be; but one must never miss an opportunity of settling. We should always be on the look-out for the olive branch or for just that opportunity, in the way that President Nixon has been. I really think that he deserves thanks from all of us because his action has been good for European security. There is no doubt that these huge tensions between major Powers can easily produce situations which involve Europe's security and which are liable to be very bad for us. I believe that there are major dangers there to the continent in which we live.

I was extremely shocked when in Canada and America at the tremendous disillusion and the cynicism of American opinion. Their public opinion is really all over the place. Some of them go around saying, "That shows how tricky Dick's been all the time; and Mao is really the blue-eyed boy". Some are saying, "We sold the Vietnamese down the river"—although they hesitate to say that they ought to go on fighting. Opinion is really all over the place. No doubt, under the influence of President Nixon and his advisers, American opinion will settle down in time. I personally think that it would be very good for all of us if the situation were to settle down.

We ought to remember, referring to the people who believe that Mao is the "blue-eyed boy", that this is the same Mao who has had military trouble with every one of his neighbours with the exception of Pakistan—and China is divided from Pakistan by 12,000-foot mountains. This is the same Mao who ordered the episode of "letting 1.000 flowers bloom" and who afterwards slapped down on the journalists, the writers, and the intellectuals who said what they thought. He is the same Mao who put the Reuter correspondent under house arrest after his being beaten up, and who kept him without trial for over a year. I am all for making arrangements with these people; but do not forget, for instance, the Red Guards—they were not so very long ago. I think that we should be extremely cautious in our dealings with these great Powers. I find them very forbidding.

It is very important, too, that we should not conduct our affairs in Europe in such a way as to make U.S. opinion still more disillusioned about Europe. There is a major danger in our doing this either in trade affairs or in other affairs. I think we ought to be very careful. Let us make no mistake: If Europe gets into trouble without the U.S. nuclear umbrella being available, Europe would, in modern terms, be finished. I hope that Europe will pull itself together soon, as the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, urged that it should. I am entirely on his side. The advice he gave was extremely wise. But if Europe does not pull itself together, then I think that in twenty years' time there probably will be no Europe. The attitude of the anti-Europeans on this issue is what might be called a "non-attitude" and is entirely harmful and dangerous.

So clearly we must, so far as we can, take part in the forthcoming security and disarmament discussions. I think it extremely important that we should make the best of them. But let us not be bamboozled. If the discussions are going to end in the United States, with its disillusioned public opinion, withdrawing its troops from Europe, then I think that would be fatal for us. We need the American presence; we need the American umbrella, and we should not be under the illusion that we should be safe with the Russia which so recently destroyed Czechoslovakia. Unless we are strong and reasonably united—and I do not necessarily mean doing anything in nuclear terms—I do not think that our security will be very long lasting.

Secondly, I should like to refer to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Wigg. I thought that he made a very important and interesting point. I draw your Lordships' attention to it. I would put it in this way. The threat to Europe may be, in modern terms, internal rather than external; and, as the political and military detente grows, so we may be in danger of lowering our sights and not seeing the dangers which come from inside. One realises that the anarchism of the I.R.A. (busily murdering teenagers, and with Communist inspiration behind it) could be very dangerous. No doubt they will be run out of Northern Ireland. But where will they go after that? They will not be welcome in Canada or the U.S.A. I suspect they will start up in Liverpool and Glasgow and other places over here. Are we then going to use the Army as (in my opinion, inexcusably) we have done in Northern Ireland? It will be time to think up the proper, modern answer to internal subversion—which is a powerful police force backed by proper intelligence.

What happens if France goes Communist? One must think of these things. Europe's security situation will look different in a few weeks' time if the Communists really gain the advances which some people fear they might. I personally think the pollsters may be trying to frighten moderate opinion in France; and that France is probably still a sound country, though difficult to work with. I think that this is a danger, both in France and in Italy, that we ought to bear in mind.

My Lords, nobody in this debate has mentioned North Africa or East Africa. May I draw the attention of your Lordships to the extraordinary growth of the influence of the Communist countries all along the coast of North Africa in the last 20 years, and also to the penetration of East Africa by the Chinese. I believe that these things are very dangerous to European security. We want to be friends with the huge continent lying to the South, and unless we pull ourselves together and have a more unified foreign policy I do not think that we have much chance of achieving that. So I want to see Europe pull itself together and do something adequate about the Mediterranean. In my opinion we have the economic power and the imagination—and one might cite the precedent of the Marshall Plan—and we ought to be able to do something to produce an altogether better situation there. That would be very good for our security.

We have also mentioned Iceland. Iceland is the "cork" in the "Atlantic bottle". If, by stimulating a fisheries dispute, anyone succeeds in pulling out the cork, the naval situation in the Atlantic would be totally transformed. I think that this really dangerous situation is one which we ought to be watching very carefully. I have been interested in the Parliamentary Questions which are being asked on this subject, although it is a very difficult subject for the Government to be frank about.

In conclusion, my Lords, I think that the situation for European security is not as bright as it would appear to be and that we ought to be extremely careful. I hope that we shall do everything we can to produce agreement with the Communist Powers, and that we shall exercise great discretion, caution and wisdom in what we agree to.

5.2 p.m.


My Lords, I also am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, for calling attention to a great number of important questions, and I have listened with the greatest interest to the contributions made by noble Lords from both sides of the House. We are considering the subject of European security at a particularly good moment, as the talks to prepare the way for a Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe are taking place in Helsinki; and last week exploratory discussions began in Vienna on mutual and balanced force reductions in Central Europe. If, as we all hope, these preparatory consultations are successful, a Security Conference is likely to begin in the middle of this year and negotiations on M.B.F.R. in the autumn; so that 1973 could be a vital year for East-West relations, or what I think the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, called possibly a great break through. May I thank the noble Lord very much for his handsome analogy over Questions yesterday.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, was good enough to send me a letter in which he asked me no fewer than 11 questions and he added a great many others to-day. So in fairness to those who have taken part in the debate, I should like to answer his main questions and perhaps write to the noble Lord in respect of his other questions. I should also like to refer to what other noble Lords have said. First, I should like to answer Lord Kennet's question about China and the C.C.D. China has on many occasions been told that she would be most welcome to join in the discussions, but she has never replied. But the Chinese have made clear that they would not be prepared to discuss disarmament in any body which did not include all interested countries. Another major question from the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, related to the question of where Soviet intermediary-range and medium-range ballistic missiles would be discussed. I can only say that it is too early to predict the scope of the M.B.F.R. or of the SALT phase 2 negotiations.

The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, as usual, gave us a very thoughtful theme to consider. My noble friend the Secretary of State for Defence will be very interested to know more of the noble Lord's ideas about the means for producing larger conventional forces more cheaply. I suggest that the noble Lord—


My Lords, the noble Baroness has got it wrong. I said not larger conventional forces, but more streamlined, economic and efficient forces.


Well, my Lords, shall we say more efficient conventional forces.


And cheaper.


My Lords, I thought the noble Lord said "cheaper" as well. That is very important and would appeal to my noble friend. Perhaps we shall return to this theme in the defence debate later this month. My noble friend the Secretary of State for Defence said in a former debate that the whole object of the NATO doctrine was to have what he called a flexible response, and I think it is agreed by everyone that NATO must have adequate conventional forces. We attach great importance to this. The NATO strategy is designed to provide the Alliance with the maximum number of options for defensive action. I agree with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Bourne. We agree with him also that a greater degree of co-operation on defence among the European NATO allies is necessary, not only because the military potential of the Warsaw Pact continues to increase but also because it is important that the Europeans should make a real constructive reply to the United States commitment to keep and improve the United States forces in Europe, provided the Europeans adopt a similar approach. I was sorry to hear the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, say that he felt there was considerable disillusion among the American public at this time. I have a feeling that we could do a great deal within Europe to strengthen our understanding of and confidence in each other.

My Lords, Europe has enjoyed a peace, although an uneasy one, for about a quarter of a century and we are concerned, in the negotiations in which we hope to take part, to improve the quality of that peace. We have to try to create more confidence and trust among the countries of Europe; that, I think, was the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek. The whole history of this century shows how immensely difficult this is, but there is no task which is more important. It is the lack of confidence which led to the building of barriers in Europe where none should exist. It is the same mistrust which keeps the military confrontation at the present level. I think that I would also accept something said by the noble Lord, Lord Wigg—that a good deal of mistrust is due to the fear of subversion and all the modern forms that it takes to-day. That is why a Security Conference and negotiations for a mutual and balanced force reduction are inter-related, but they merit quite different treatment.

I should like to say something about the preparatory talks in Helsinki. Surely the fact that 34 countries, including the United States and Canada, have gathered together there is in itself something of an achievement. It would not have been possible without the improvement in the relations between East and West to which the Federal German Government made such an important contribution. I was interested that my noble friend Lord Sandys had been in Helsinki, and I should like to join with him in saying how much we appreciate the part that the Government of Finland has played in providing the necessary facilities for these talks, as well as the I.P.U. conference to which he referred. With our partners and allies we have worked hard to try to prepare for the Conference, and by the time that the ambassadors met in November last year we had a fairly good idea of what we wanted to achieve in the preparatory talks, and then, if all went well, in the Conference itself. Her Majesty's Government have always believed that a European Conference of this kind would only yield useful results if attention was concentrated on practical measures to increase confidence. It is right that we should subscribe to declarations of common beliefs, but such declarations, I suggest, would mean very little to the people of Europe unless they can grow into real action that is effective.

I am glad to be able to report to the House that the consultations in Helsinki have so far achieved useful work. In the first session before Christmas, there was a round of opening statements and a discussion of the future programme of work. Agreement was reached on the broad form that a Conference should take. It would begin with a meeting of foreign Ministers in a general debate; then at official level committees and subcommittees would discuss thte various areas of the agenda in detail and make recommendations; and finally, a further Ministerial meeting.

When the talks resumed on January 15, the Italian, Belgian and Danish delegations, after full consultation among members of the Community and the Alliance, put forward detailed proposals on the questions to be discussed at the Conference, and our ambassador associated himself with these proposals. They divided the agenda roughly into three broad themes. The first is political and security matters—and we think these should cover the principles guilding relations between States, and certain military measures, such as the prior notification of military movements which are designed to allay suspicions about each other's military intentions. The second item, we thought, should concern economic and environmental co-operation. We should like to discuss such matters as commercial exchanges and co-operation in a wide variety of economic and technical fields, including the environment. The third item was one again referred to, in particular, by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway; that is, the development of human contacts, the broadening of educational and technical exchanges and much more information. As your Lordships know, our Allies and ourselves believe this to be essential. After the last Ministerial meeting of the North Atlantic Council in December the 15 Foreign Ministers declared that they were determined to bring about closer relationships, both collectively and individually, and they attached particular importance to freedom of movement.

We consider it essential that agreement should be reached at the preparatory talks on the terms of reference for the committees and sub-committees of the Conference. This is not just a procedural question, because when the consultations end in Helsinki, probably next month, the Governments will have to decide whether to take part in the Conference itself. I do not believe that any Government will wish to do this without knowing what is to be discussed and without a reasonable assurance that a Conference will be worth holding. Other delegations have of course made suggestions for the agenda. The neutral and non-aligned countries played a considerable part, and we very much welcome the fact that they did. All this is now being worked on in Helsinki. But the agenda must reflect the fact that the Conference is one on security and co-operation in Europe. It cannot hope, I suggest, to deal with everything, or turn itself into a mini-General Assembly of the United Nations, although its work will obviously be of great interest to countries who will not be taking part, particularly in the Mediterranean.

There are, of course, some European problems which a Conference of 34 countries cannot be expected to handle. For instance, as I have said already, we do not think it is the right place to discuss the detailed question of force reductions. As your Lordships know, the proposal for a Conference on European Security first came from the Soviet Union and its Allies, while the proposal for mutual and balanced force reductions was made by the NATO countries. We believe that the fundamental problem of European security is military security, because no guarantees on paper, no principles of conduct or statements of good intentions could ever be a protection against military power. This is why there is a close relationship between the M.B.F.R. talks and the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe.

My Lords, the first session of the exploratory talks on M.B.F.R. took place on January 31. We are therefore only at the beginning. But I think it would be worth describing some of the problems and the background to this matter. NATO countries first proposed that negotiations on mutual and balanced force reductions should be held as long ago as 1968, and this proposal was repeated on various occasions. It was not until the autumn of last year that the Soviet Union provisionally agreed to a broad timetable which covered the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, as well as M.B.F.R. That timetable provided for the opening of exploratory talks on M.B.F.R. at the end of January.

On November 15 of last year the NATO countries directly involved in Central Europe invited the Soviet Union, Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia and the German Democratic Republic to open these exploratory discussions. Our invitation was only accepted on January 18, when the Warsaw Pact countries raised questions concerning participation which have not yet been entirely resolved. It was then—I say this in answer to the query put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet—that they argued that the talks should take place in Vienna rather than in Geneva, where at the request of the NATO countries, and with the full knowledge of the Soviet Union and its Allies, the Swiss Government had already made administrative preparations. But in order to get these important talks started, our Allies and ourselves agreed to go to Vienna, and that is why the talks started there at the end of last month. I should like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the Austrian Government for making all the facilities available at such short notice; and also to thank the Swiss Government for the arrangements that they made, and to express in public our great regret for the inconvenience which must have been caused by the last-minute change of plan.

The aim of these exploratory discussions is to prepare the way for serious negotiations, which we hope will begin in the autumn. The talks in Vienna will not be concerned with the complex and difficult issues which will have to be tackled during the negotiations. They will be concerned mainly with reaching agreement on the agenda, organisation, procedure, and who takes part before the actual negotiations begin. But there will of course be opportunities for each side to learn something of the other's thinking on the substantive questions, and it is important that we should establish through the exploratory talks that there really is a sound basis for real negotiation.

We have always believed that such negotiations should focus on the military situation in Central Europe. This is because it is in Central Europe that the military confrontation between NATO and the Warsaw Pact is at its most acute.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, asked why it was right to limit those taking part in discussions on M.B.F.R. I think the answer lies in what I said about the exploratory nature of the talks, and the fact that if the actual negotiations are to yield the kind of results that we want they will have to be detailed and technical. It follows, I think, that they should be confined to the States that are directly involved in the military confrontation in Central Europe; in other words, those with forces and territories in that area. Certain other NATO and Warsaw Pact countries have a special geographical and military relationship with those principally concerned, and while they would not qualify as taking a direct part, it is right that they should play some part in the talks. The basis on which they should do so is among the questions now under discussion in Vienna. I understand this is known within NATO as "the problem of the rotating flanks".

There are those who argue for wider participation on the ground that the security of all European States will be affected by the outcome of the negotiations. We recognise that other European States have a legitimate interest in M.B.F.R. Our broad objective in negotiations is the same as that of the other members of the Alliance, and I hope it is also shared by the Warsaw Pact countries. It is to find some way of lowering the level of armed forces and armaments in Central Europe while at the same time keeping and maintaining undiminished security for us all.

The difficulties are of enormous complexity, and there are also the facts of the military situation. Defence expenditure in Western European countries has increased very little in real terms since 1968. By contrast, defence expenditure among the Warsaw Pact countries continues to increase. In the Soviet Union, for example, it has risen by 5 per cent. every year since the NATO countries first proposed talks on M.B.F.R. In fact the gap in conventional strength between NATO and the Warsaw Pact on the central front has continued to widen. In the central region alone, NATO has 23½ divisions and division-equivalents, compared with 70 of the Warsaw Pact. The fact that NATO divisions are half as large again as those of the Warsaw Pact means that the manpower ratio is only two to one, but even so I do not myself find that very comforting. The Warsaw Pact also has over 17.000 battle tanks in the central region, compared with 4,200 on the NATO side. When one considers artillery, the ratio is 5,000 as compared with 1.800. The Warsaw Pact forces also enjoy enormous advantages when it comes to reinforcement from peace-time levels. American reinforcements have to cross the Atlantic, whereas Soviet reinforcements could arrive much more quickly over short land routes.

I would suggest that these figures alone illustrate some of the problems that have to be overcome. They perhaps also explain why, at the NATO meeting in December, Ministers once more endorsed the principle that the overall military capability of NATO should not be reduced except as part of a pattern of mutual force reductions balanced in scope and timing. should like, if I may, to remind the House that the United States reaffirmed its position that given a similar approach by other countries of the Alliance, the United States would maintain and improve its forces in Europe and not reduce them unless there is reciprocal action by the other side.


My Lords, if I may ask the noble Baroness to give way, I hope it is not ungallant to charge her with having crocodile tears, but in so far as she speaks on behalf of a Conservative Administration, is it not the fact that Sir Anthony Eden gave an undertaking on behalf of a Conservative Government that Britain would maintain four divisions on the European land mass to the end of the century, and in the earlier White Paper four divisions were expressed as 88,000? Then it came to 77,000; then to 64,000; then 55,000; and we have never at any time since Sir Anthony Eden uttered these words, ever had 45,000. So to express regret now for the disparity between our strength and that of the Warsaw Pact countries means, if I may again misquote Shakespeare: The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars but in ourselves.


My Lords, if I may say so, "The fault, dear Brutus", no doubt lies also as much with the previous Government, who tried very hard, if I remember rightly, to reduce their expenditure on armaments.


My Lords, the previous Administration did not take steps to abolish conscription, which made it impossible to maintain 50,000.


Perhaps, my Lords, I might be allowed to ask a question: Is the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, in favour of having conscription now?


My Lords, a thousand times yes; ten thousand times—on military and social grounds.


My Lords, I know that the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, is a very ardent supporter of the Army, and it is good to hear him so clear on this question—



My Lords, I think perhaps I should finish, because the House has been listening to me long enough. I will only say that I should be interested to know whether the noble Lord's profound belief that there should be conscription is also the official policy of the Party to which I understand he belongs.


My Lords, the noble Baroness knows perfectly well that it is not the policy of the Labour Party, and she is playing political tricks when she tries to fasten on to what I say. I held the view before I became a Minister; I held it during the time I was a Minister, and I hold the same view now: I say that this country cannot discharge its obligations to Europe or to itself unless it has a compulsory military service of some kind. It has gone back on it, and now I think it is too late.


My Lords, I must thank the noble Lord for being so frank with us all. But it is time I ended this rather long speech, illumined as it has been by the last interruption. I should like to quote something which was said in another place by a Front Bench spokesman for the Opposition. I thought the words were rather good, and that is why I am repeating them: we all should feel as safe at the end"— of the negotiations— as we do at the beginning."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, Commons, 14/12/72, col. 670.] This really is what I think should be in the back of all our minds as we approach these various preparatory talks. Because, although an arrangement under which each side reduced its forces by an equal percentage appears fair at first glance, in view of the present and growing disparity in forces and armaments and the geographical factors involved, such an arrangement would put the West at a serious disadvantage. That is why negotiations are likely to be at least as complex as any that have hitherto been undertaken and why I would advise the House that it would be unwise to expect early results.

5.27 p.m.


My Lords, the House will not expect me to take up every speech that has been made. However, on behalf of the whole House I must thank the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, for the news he brought from Helsinki. It was indeed interesting to have someone with snow still virtually on his boots, as he put it himself, to tell us what is happening.

The debate has been enlivened by the sudden outbreak of sniping between the authoritarian and the libertarian wings of my own Party: across the Severn. My noble friend Lord Wigg said that in his opinion every action taken by President Nixon had been designed towards winning the election. My Lords, I should hope so. That is what democrats are for, in my view, and if the American nation wanted better relations with China and Russia and the end of the Vietnam war, that is exactly what President Nixon has given them, and it is precisely because of their confidence that he was going to do that that they did re-elect him last autumn.

On the question of the "cruciform world", may I explain to the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, that it is simply a matter of the world containing four great centres of armed power, America, Russia, China, Western Europe. It happens to lie in the form of a cross, if you are looking at the world from the North Pole. That is all I mean by "cruciform". May I say this to the noble Lord, Lord Hankey: I am sure that Dr. Henry Kissinger was right in his television interview with Marvin Kalb, that the world is a five-centre one and not a four-centre one. I entirely agree with him that we are coming to that, but I think he was looking a little further ahead, because it strikes the eye that Japan is not at the moment a country of great military might. Its economic might is quite overwhelming; but as a military force Japan is not yet in the big league. Of course, neither is Western Europe, and there is no such thing as "Western European armament". Nevertheless, there are a lot of Western European countries that are armed, and together they are in alliance. The world, as I see it, has four centres now and these may become five centres later. Which is preferable? "You pays your money and you takes your choice". The four has a certain in-built stability about it; the five may be a bit like a handful of billiard balls, but it is certainly better than three and much better than two, which we had before.

If I may come now to the speech of the noble Baroness on behalf of the Government, I must thank her very much for giving me, by my reckoning, 2½ answers to my 11 questions. They were useful and full answers. I cannot conceal that I think 2½ out of 11 is a low ratio from what I hope was a responsible Opposition speech on the subject.


My Lords, I am loth to interrupt the noble Lord, but I think his arithmetic is wrong. He may also remember that the question on Iceland was answered this afternoon.


My Lords, if that was counted it was 2½, out of 10. I do not think my arithmetic is wrong. The noble Baroness gave a good answer about China; a good answer about the location of M.B.F.R. in Vienna, and half an answer on the membership of M.B.F.R. That was how I totted it up.

I seriously regret that we still have no answer on why we have not taken up the Russian invitation to join the naval treaty; that we still have no answer on why we abstained on the General Assembly's resolution of the report from SALT; and why, after two years' repeated questioning, we still have no answer on where the 600 missiles are to be talked about. If the, noble Baroness were able to say to the House, "We do not yet know whether they will be talked about in SALT or M.B.F.R.; but we can promise that they are going to be talked about in one of them or we will know the reason why", the House and I would be satisfied. But the noble Baroness has not said that. She has said, "It is too early to predict the scope of M.B.F.R. or SALT." If the scope of both is insufficient to permit discussion of the 600 missiles, the Government are in quite severe dereliction of duty towards the security of this country.

My Lords, let me wind up by endorsing what the noble Baroness said in thanks to the Swiss Government for their abortive effort. It is a pity that it went that way. There is a slightly dangerous and unpleasant situation, but I understand the reasons for which we agreed to go to Vienna. Let me thank the noble Baroness most heartily for hammering home once again, as Sir Alec did in the House of Commons on December 22, the facts and figures about the Eastern predominance over NATO in Europe. My Lords, I beg to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, with-drawn.