HL Deb 09 July 1975 vol 362 cc861-902

6.45 p.m.

Lord BROCKWAY rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what achievements they foresee at the third stage of the European Conference on Security and Co-operation. The noble Lord said: My Lords, it is the hope of many of us that in a few weeks—the date is uncertain, it may be in a few months—the representatives of 35 nations will meet to consider the most far-reaching proposals for peace and co-operation that have been made since the Second World War. The composition of the meeting is quite extraordinary. It will include representatives of NATO and of the Warsaw Pact Alliance—among them, on the NATO side, the United States of America and Canada. It will include all the Governments of Western Europe, the neutral Governments as well as those which are part of NATO. It will include from Eastern Europe, Yugoslavia, which is not part of the Warsaw Pact Alliance. It will even include the Mediterranean countries, Spain, Malta, Cyprus, Greece and Turkey. This is a really remarkable occasion of the comprehensive representation of all the Governments which are concerned in Europe.

I mentioned just now that the date is uncertain. The hope is that the Conference will be held in Helsinki on 28th July, and even at this late hour it is the fervent hope of many of us that it may take place. If that does not happen at the end of this month, it will take place in October. The Question refers to the third stage. The first stage was two years ago at Helsinki, when representatives of all these Governments met and decided to set up first in Vienna a meeting of representatives of East and West to seek to balance their military arms. Secondly, they set up commissions in Geneva, which were to seek agreement on almost every aspect of co-operation between East and West. One has to acknowledge that the Vienna meeting, seeking some mutual military reduction, has been disappointing, though in recent weeks it has gone further towards agreement. This only emphasises the conclusion, to which I am becoming more and more drawn, that disarmament in the world is likely to take place not as a result of two sides seeking military agreement, but by greater political, social and economic co-operation between the peoples of the two sides.

The commissions which have been meeting at Geneva have had quite extraordinary success. For some technical reason they are not called commissions. I am amused to find that they are called "baskets"; a proposal made by the French Government. There has been the most amazing agreement on political principles, and economic, social and cultural co-operation at these gatherings in Geneva. I acknowledge that I am in some difficulty in that those agreements have not yet been published and I have to rely on unofficial information which I have received, but which I am convinced is reliable. I acknowledge that the Minister who will reply is in some difficulty; no doubt he is aware of the agreements which have been reached, but because they are not yet public he will be unable to comment on what I say. I can only say I very much hope that what I report will represent the actual achievements at Geneva.

First, I recognise that most of the political agreements are platitudinous; they are all accepted in the Charter of the United Nations and in the Declaration of Human Rights—the recognition of existing frontiers unless they are changed by agreement, and so on—but there is one principle which has been accepted by East and West which seems to be extraordinarily significant. It is that all the Governments concerned … respect human rights and fundamental freedoms including freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief for all without distinction of race, sex, language or religion".

That is a quite extraordinary acceptance of human rights by some of the Governments who have signed it, not only the Communist countries but, for example, Spain and Turkey, and I will later suggest ways in which it will be possible not only to accept these principles but to urge their implementation.

I turn from the political agreements to the extraordinary comprehensiveness of the agreements reached at Geneva by the commission, or "basket", which was dealing with economic affairs. That commission has agreed on co-operation, first, in large-scale projects relating to energy and raw materials; second, in electrical power; third, in the peaceful use of economic energy; fourth, in road networks across frontiers; fifth, in unified systems for shipping on rivers crossing frontiers; sixth, in the protection of the environment; seventh, in the development of economic ties; eighth, in scientific and technical co-operation; ninth, in transport; tenth, in tourism; and eleventh, in the training of personnel in economic activities. There was until yesterday still some disagreement regarding the "most favourable treatment" arrangements between countries. This astonishing area of agreement in the economic sphere indicates that we are now approaching a situation in which the new economic pattern for Europe can be established unitedly, both East and West.

The most difficult subject discussed at the commissions in Geneva was the freedom of movement, information and ideas. The West stood for the principle of these freedoms and I welcome that fact. Those of us who are libertarians feel that we are citizens not only of this country but of the new groupings of nations—citizens of the world—and we want to see the freedom of movement of all peoples, and the freedom of information and ideas across frontiers. However, your Lordships will forgive me if I say that the West was a little illogical in making that stand for those principles. Western countries also have their limitations on the movement of peoples. We have our immigration laws and the West also has its limitation on freedom of ideas and association; for example, many countries, including Western Germany, make the Communist Party illegal. The Communist representatives at Geneva declined to accept the principle of absolute freedom, but they made considerable concessions. According to my information, these included the reunification of families across frontiers, intermarriage across frontiers, access to private information including newspapers and journals across frontiers, cooperation in the provision of the study of foreign languages and free access to and exchange of arts and cultures. As a libertarian, I should have desired much more, but we must be realistic. The extension of freedom as some of us would desire will take place only as trust and confidence between East and West develop by the implementation of the decisions which have been reached.

This summit meeting of the Heads of State at Helsinki will take place with this extraordinary volume of agreement in recommendations. How will they be implemented? What are the means of implementation? They are not to be legally binding. I make this suggestion for consideration by the Government. Even if they are not legally binding, it would be possible for conventions to be established which would subsequently be recognised by Government for ratification. Secondly, as to the means of implementation, if this extraordinary sphere of agreement—social, economic and cultural—is to be implemented, there must be permanent commissions, representing East and West, to plan. There must he experts in continuous session, with the right to call representatives of industry involved to work out the success of the proposed co-operation. It may be necessary for those commissions to bring pressure for co-operation through the national Governments. The acceptance of the agreements on the movement of peoples, information and ideas, should be open to continuous surveillance by these commissions.

It has been suggested that annual review conferences would be enough, but they would not. They should take place every year to hear the reports from the continuing commissions, and to consider further proposals as they are made. For example, at this moment, the island of Malta is suggesting that the Mediterranean should be made a "lake of peace", and that both the American and Soviet navies should be withdrawn from the area. That is too much to hope for now, but I believe that this conference could be made the great breakthrough for peace in the world. NATO and the Warsaw Pact Alliance are the main instruments of confrontation between East and West. When this proposal was first made, it was suggested that their military aspects should be ended. That is too much to hope at this third stage of the renewed conference at Helsinki. It is not too much to hope at the fourth, fifth or sixth stages, if we accept this great opportunity for peace in the world. My Lords, I ask this Question and I hope that, from other Members of this House and from the Minister, we may have encouragement that this hope of destiny may be fulfilled by the co-operation of the Parties here and of the Government.

7.7 p.m.


My Lords, I feel that the whole House must be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, for asking this Unstarred Question. As the noble Lord has said, the first two stages of the European Conference on Security and Co-operation have taken nearly two years and, with the likelihood of the third stage taking place at the end of the month in Helsinki, this is an extremely appropriate time for the House to discuss the issues involved. When Mr. Wilson goes to the Heads of Government meeting, he will at least have heard the views of one of the Houses of Parliament.

We on this side of the House are in favour of improving relations with the Soviet Union and the Communist bloc countries. However, our support for detente is dependent on the proper maintenance of the security of Britain and of the West. It is noticeable how the Russian defence policy seems to operate independently of any moves by the Soviet Union towards détente with the West. Thus, irrespective of any developments at the CSCE talks in Geneva, the Warsaw Pact countries continue to expand their armed forces. We now have a situation in which the balance of power between NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries is vastly in the latter's favour. One has only to look at the Government's own White Paper on defence to see that, and the military balance of NATO's central front is one to two in the Soviet Union's favour. Thus, while Britain is cutting its own defence forces, the Communists are expanding theirs.

While we want a successful conclusion to the Conference, it would be wrong for the moves towards détente to be used as a reason for further savage defence cuts by the British Government. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, when he answers this Unstarred Question, will give the House the Government's assurance that détente will not be used as an excuse for further reducing the security of the country, and that they will resist any possible pressure from the Labour Left Wing to take the country down that path in the name of détente. Although I recognise that military and defence questions are the concern of the mutual and balanced force reduction talks in Vienna, and that only peripheral questions are now being discussed by the CSCE, to divorce the two would be the height of folly. One can properly judge relations between East and West only by looking at the whole picture, not at just one part of it.

I believe that my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel struck the right note during his debate on 30th April this year, when he said on the subject of the Conference on European Security and Co-operation: … we should not concede any point of substance unless it is matched by a concession of equal weight; we should not allow any treaty that we have signed or intend to sign to be broken without bringing the breach immediately to the public notice and releasing ourselves from the obligations assumed unless that breach is rectified at once. The price in terms of security of turning a blind eye to Communist deception is too high."—[Official Report, 30/4/75; col. 1260.] I believe that the contents of Basket 3 which, as the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, said, concerns improved human contacts and the freer and wider dissemination of information, are the most important from the point of view of this country and the West. While the reunification of families, the increased meetings of their members across frontiers, and marriages between citizens of different States in the East and West are excellent objectives, none of them is subject to any form of guarantee on the part of the Soviet Union. Each is preceded by a nebulous preamble; for example, such phrases as to give "favourable consideration" to, or to consider in a "positive and humanitarian way". Improved access for Western newspapers into the Communist bloc is an advantage to us, and so is the greater freedom to Western journalists. But of course this is entirely one-sided, since Soviet newspapers are already being sold in this country and journalists from the Eastern bloc countries can operate with comparative freedom here. But whereas we in this country think of security in terms of freedom of access and movement, the Soviet Union thinks of it in terms of control and non-interference in its sphere of influence.

Consequently it is Basket 1, with its declaration of principles and its military confidence-building measures, that appears so attractive and important to the Communist bloc. Of course it is necessary to remember that any agreed CSCE documents, which are signed by the Heads of Government, are only of political, and are not of legal, status. However, the Soviet Union still appears to hope to set the final seal upon its European conquests of the last war, and to gain the recognition and acceptance by the West of its declaration of principles, which include the non-interference in the affairs of one State by another, the inviolability of frontiers, and the preservation of quadripartite rights in Germany.

My Lords, I trust that the CSCE documents will not produce this result, and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, will confirm this point when he speaks. It is perfectly obvious that the declaration of principles is in complete contradiction to the Brezhnev doctrine. The rejection by the Soviet Union of the tough Rumanian proposal to prevent the USSR doing a "Czechoslovakia 1968" on them, or on any other country for that matter, proves that when the cards are down it is the Brezhnev doctrine that counts. Thus I am certain that despite the Conference and any decisions that are taken there, the Prime Minister will have another opportunity to forgive and to forget with alacrity.

I feel that one should be realistic when considering the military confidence-building measures and the exchange of observers and prior notification of manoeuvres. The Warsaw Pact countries can invade Western Europe whenever they want, and thus these provisions can only be of real benefit to us, because I believe it would be highly unlikely for Western European countries to invade Eastern Europe. It is interesting to note that where it suits the Soviet Union they are willing to overlook ideological considerations. At the moment they urgently need Western technology, and therefore ideology takes second place. The involvement of the European Commission in the discussion on the commercial and the industrial exchanges is of vital importance, since its involvement, and the possible agreements in this area, could provide a future framework for Pan-European trade. I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, said on this point.

I strongly urge the Government to tread with very great care when they come to consider any follow-up to the Conference. I believe that any permanent secretariat—as I believe the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, was advocating, if not in detail, then in spirit—if set up immediately, could provide a very useful propaganda platform for the Soviet Union against a Western Europe that appears to be split and divided. I feel that a better course would be to wait and see how matters develop over the next couple of years, then look to see to what extent tile Communist bloc countries have fulfilled the terms of any agreement that is reached, and consider then what course to follow there. This is the only realistic approach to take.

It should never be forgotten that in seeking detente the aims of the Soviet Union and its allies are not the same as I those of the West. To the Communist bloc peaceful co-existence means the continuation of the revolutionary struggle by all means short of war. On Moscow radio on 14th October last year it was said: In conditions of peaceful co-existence the ideological struggle between the two worlds and between the two ideologies not only does not cease, but, on the contrary, intensifies. The forms and methods of this struggle change, but the struggle between the ideology of scientific Communism and the ideology of the capitalist system of exploitation cannot cease until the complete liberation of labour on our planet. This bears out an earlier statement by Mr. Brezhnev himself, who said: While pressing for the assertion of the principle of peaceful co-existence, we realise that successes in this important matter in no way signify the possibility of weakening the ideological struggle. On the contrary, we should be prepared for the intensification of this struggle and for it becoming an increasingly more acute form of struggle between the two social systems. We have no doubt as to the outcome of the struggle, because the truth of history and the objective laws of social development are on our side. Thus, we on this side of the House believe that détente, although very worth while and something of which we are in favour, is no substitute for defence. On balance we are properly in favour of the results of the CSCE, but without the documents mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, we must reserve our position until we have seen them.

In the long run it is not a signed piece of paper that will matter, but the extent to which its terms are implemented by the parties to it. The peace of Europe has in the past been broken not because there has been a lack of treaties of nonaggression or statements of good will and friendship, but because countries have refused to respect them. A practical approach must be maintained. Any lack of fulfilment in one sector would no doubt affect the others. If there are rotten apples in one basket., then the other apples in the other baskets will become affected. It will be on the results, rather than the intentions that the CSCE will be judged. As for myself and my noble friends, we are in favour of détente, but it must be in the form of realism.

7.19 p.m.


My Lords, first, I wish to thank most heartily my noble friend Lord Brockway for his introduction of this theme and for the pressing of the Question to which it is hoped the Government will give a reply that will be creative and that will move towards the type of change which the noble Lord so eloquently described in the penultimate part of his speech. I must confess myself bitterly disappointed with what the noble Earl said. May I say to him professionally that where you are dealing with two bunches of sinners, it is always the worst of tactics, and is liable to the most lamentable of mistakes, to assume that all the evil lies on one side and by judicious selection of the delinquencies of one side, one can give the impression that the other side has been whitewashed into purity. This is not so. It would have been possible to have arranged and deployed arguments that would have proclaimed the same kind of delinquency on the part of the Western Powers as has been advocated and, at least, deployed by the noble Earl. May I remind him that there is an elementary mistake in saying that if you have two baskets of apples and one of them contains bad apples, the other basket will be liable to the bad apple infection as well. Not at all! If you have the kind of situation in which you are prepared to recognise the competing and complementary conditions that prevail in both sorts of apple baskets, then I believe you have the opportunity of the kind of inquiry to which we are invited to attend at this moment.


My Lords, whether one basket could be contaminated by the other depends upon how close they are together and how much one is dependent upon the other.


My Lords, I was going on to say that as a matter of fact it would seem that the contents of my noble friend's speech is almost totally unknown to the majority of people who ought to be concerned about it. This is lamentable and, in my judgment, a matter of urgent trouble. I believe that there is widespread complacency with regard to the military situation and the nuclear threat that now confronts us all. I believe that that complacency is to some extent due to the attitude of the Press, but I think also due to a widespread prejudice in favour of the idea that at the moment the mutual terror of the nuclear threat neutralises the situation and provides for the kind of freedom from the likelihood of war to such an extent that it can postpone its possibility. This is "Cloud Cuckoo-land" logic; rather like the man who falls over a cliff and comforts himself halfway down with the thought that so far he is getting on very well. The fact that the calamity has not happened is not due to the assurance that it will not; but to the size or the height of the cliff. We are already and continuously in a position of ever-increasing urgency and ever-increasing danger.

I would respectfully ask the House to consider one or two aspects of it. I remember clearly—and it sends still a shiver down my spine as I reflect on it—something that my noble friend, Lord Snow, said about the proliferation of nuclear weapons: that even if these weapons are not intentionally fired, the probability of an accident and a chain reaction to that accident becomes more cumulative as the number of those weapons increases. This constantly haunts me because there is a proliferation of nuclear weapons. There are far more triggers and far more fingers on the triggers. Twelve countries now, in addition to those already in possession of the know-how can, within a short time, provide themselves with nuclear weapons. We have already ten times the overkill and the results of the SALT talks were not to reduce the power of the nuclear threat but to add a great deal of power to the multiple warheads on both sides of the Atlantic.

Furthermore, the Clausewicz doctrine that a particular war is the inevitable consequence of the policy of which it is a continuation is illustrated not only by the problem of Cuba—in which the outstanding historical fact was not that Khruschev was deterred but that Kennedy was prepared and probably was within half an hour of using the threat of war and deploying instruments of perhaps nuclear war—but that only on Monday of this week Mr. Schlesinger, the Secretary for Defence in the American Government, made a declaration which is ominous, repetitive and supremely dangerous. It is that the Ford Government has no intention of changing the attitude hitherto preserved by the United States of being ready for a first-strike nuclear threat and not a retaliatory one; and, that that threat of using nuclear power as a first strike would not be limited to the one or two occasions which in the past have been advertised as qualifying for that atrocity.

These are matters which, for me, make the question of security far more important even than the question of cooperation; although I agree with my noble friend that one of the best ways of creating détente is to provide in the economic sphere and the social sphere opportunities for such co-operation as will reduce the fear and the distrust which prevails in the military sphere. But it is noteworthy that in this matter there has been considerable and outstanding success in the economic and social spheres and prospects of even greater success. This stands in stark contrast to the lack of success in the military sphere.

The inquiry should be made by all concerned as to why this has happened. I suggest that two of the reasons are obvious. One is that where fear is dominant, rational thought is at a discount. Where war is concerned, or preparation for war, nothing is more true than the observation of Sir Winston Churchill that lying in wartime is an indispensable ally. I do not know what actual conditions prevail in Western Europe. I read—and if I were not standing in this tribune I might advertise the document from which I derive this information—that what has been going on in the calculations in Europe as to the relative strengths of conventional forces may not be true and in many cases is obviously false. Nevertheless, I would not wish to disagree with the proposition that conventionally the weapons of the Eastern bloc are superior in number and perhaps in efficiency to those of the Western bloc.

Therefore, whereas with economic and social matters, reasonable thinking and the quiet atmosphere of conference may provide the right opportunity (as hitherto it has begun to do with the kind of changes for the better which have been succinctly represented by my noble friend), yet fear and lack of information and distrust prevail in the military sphere—and here I would disagree with the noble Lord, that there is a great deal to be done in allaying the kind of suspicions and rebutting and repudiating many of the extravagent claims made on both sides and not a few in your Lordships' House in the debate a few days ago. Therefore, I hope the Government will press for certain realisable unilateral decisions in the light of the kind of situation which will not respond, however much we hope it might, to the administration of conference and the opportunities of close reasoning.

My Lords, for that reason, I would make three observations. First, I hope that Her Majesty's Government will try to do something to restrain the iniquitous and increasing wickedness of the arms trade which has grown enormously over the last few years. In many cases the only way to get oil—at least for some countries—is to sell arms, obsolete, outdated or, even, the most sophisticated. This is a wicked and dreadful business. I hope the Government will present at the convening of this Conference their declaration on this matter and make constructive proposals. Then I hope the Government will foresee the opportunity of a further reduction in armaments; but when I say "reduction in armaments", I am aware that hitherto the deterrent of the nuclear power has operated until people have realised that a conventional, more gentle bomb that is not nuclear nevertheless has a lethal effect. We may be in the position where the nuclear threat is not so dominant as the conventional one. Therefore, I do not believe partial disarmament is really much good, and I ask the House to bear with me for a moment in considering this matter. It may sound somewhat strange to people to think this is a practical suggestion.

I have lived long enough to come to the conclusion that there is something crazy about the attitude of the crossing-keeper who opens one of his two gates when he is half persuaded that there is a train coming. I do not believe that in the issue of disarmament there is anything which stands between a total commitment to full armament and total rejection of the whole instrumentality of violence. This is a pacifist position, and I make no apology for advertising and advocating that in your Lordships' House. I know it is universally repudiated in the high quarters of Government; I know it is regarded as jejune.

I reflect that CND is a long time ago. Where have all the flowers of its enthusiasm gone? I would not pretend that only I am left—and certainly they do not seek my life to take it away. There are others in your Lordships' House this evening who marched in the wet and the rain and were very close to a victory. We now realise that as we marched our Achilles heel was that we sang, "We shall overcome some day". Time was not on our side, and I would claim from this House that the situation is just as urgent and imperative now as ever it was. You will halt this iniquitous and dreadful business of nuclear power not when a conference will agree multilaterally to do so, but when one country is prepared to take the unilateral risk of encouraging the others by its overt act to do that.

There are 12 countries in the process of getting their own nuclear weapons. I believe a country like the one in which I live could have a moral effect which far outdistanced the practical arguments which could be advanced against it, if it were to say, "We will unilaterally give up the nuclear threat, nuclear arms, and invite others to do the same." I know the arguments. I stand in open spaces and defend this position from time to time. I know there are all kinds of arguments which can be proposed against it. We are in an absolutely critical condition, and I wonder whether we have much more time. I entirely and heartily subscribe to what my noble friend said about the need for recognition of and welcome to the prospects that lie within the economic and social opportunities of this renewed Conference, and I believe it is worth while to continue to talk with those with whom we profoundly disagree and, in many cases, accept what they say.

But, above all, the time is still right, still apposite, for taking that final step of saying that we have argued, some have prayed, we have thought about it and it is not happening; we are in a world of absolute crisis, and it needs another kind of attitude. The CND was right. I hope that the Government take their courage in both hands and offer this Conference a CND, a campaign for nuclear disarmament, and take the initiative by saying, "We will be the first to put it into practice."

7.34 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to join in expressing gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, for initiating this debate today through this Question, so enabling us to discuss the Conference, and also to hear the Answer which is to be given by the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts. When the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe began in July, 1973, it was widely felt that the Russians were looking merely for a means of securing ratification of the status quo in Europe, a freezing of the present division in Europe. The West were thought to be taking part in the Conference more for appearance sake than from any hope of anything practical coming out of it. It was described as a Conference about the cosmetics rather than the practicalities. It seemed that the discussions about the real problems of European security would take place outside that Conference in the SALT talks, the talks about a balanced mutual force reduction, and in the normal meetings of Heads of Government and other Ministers which are constantly taking place. The Conference, too, in these past two years has been taking place against the background of the increasing preponderance in conventional military power of the Warsaw Pact countries. This very fact is bound to put Western countries on their guard, and I think that they are entitled to ask: If détente is the genuine aim of the Russian Government, why is this preponderance in forces required?

We all agree in this House that Russia does not want a major war. But what does Russia mean by "peaceful co-existence"? Does it mean the acceptance of the maxim, "live and let live", or does the Russian Government wish to extend its dominion wherever it can do so without danger to itself? So far as Russia is concerned, is it just an obsession with the fear of attack from the West and East, or possibly both, with the Warsaw Pact countries in the West regarded as essential buffer space against such a contingency? Or is there a design to turn the flanks of NATO, to outstrip NATO in military power, so as to bring Bonn, Paris and London as much under the shadow of Moscow as Helsinki is today or, ultimately, as much under the domination of Moscow as Prague and Budapest? The fact is we cannot be sure and, faced with the conundrum of Russian intentions, although we may sincerely desire détente, we cannot abandon entirely a hard-headed vigilence.

In the light of this fact and position, how should we judge the likely achievements of the Conference on Security and Co-operation? It has been divided, as the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, told us, into three different sections: political cooperation, economic and scientific cooperation, and freedom of movement and information. I shall be interested to hear how the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, feels that the political co-operation section has advanced. There cannot be anything against re-stating a belief in the peaceful settlement of disputes without the use of force. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, pointed out, the nations participating in the Conference are already committed to that course under the Charter of the United Nations. While it may be encouraging to have it stated again, it does not take us very much further forward. Then there is the endorsement of the sovereignty of nation States. Everything depends on how that is interpreted in practice, and one cannot help bearing in mind the fate of Czechoslovakia and Hungary.

Then we come to more specific details such as the warning which is to be given where manoeuvres of troops exceeding a certain size are taking place and within a certain distance of frontiers. That is of course to be warmly welcomed; but so far as the main security problems of Europe are concerned, it is peripheral. The same is true of observers attending manoeuvres from different sides of the Iron Curtain—something else to be welcomed, but not in itself something which goes to the heart of European security problems. It seems to me that agreements on this section are in danger either of being platitudinous, depending entirely on the test of practice, or else though welcome, to be peripheral to the problems of European security.


My Lords, may I interrupt? Is the noble Lord aware that only yesterday agreement was reached between the Communist countries and the West on this issue of manoeuvres? The area from the frontier was agreed and the strength of the arms was agreed. This gives another indication of the quite surprising agreement which has been reached in these discussions.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his explanation of the position. I was aware of that and welcome it. But I do not think it alters my interpretation, which is that it does not go to the heart of the European security problems, although it is an indication of relaxation of tension and, as such, is warmly to be welcomed. I am not trying in any way to belittle these achievements, but am merely trying to put them into perspective. If they are not put into perspective, there is this danger of platitude on the one hand, and useful, but not fundamental, improvements on the other, which we must welcome as far as they go.

In the economic and scientific section, I believe there has been good progress, although there were the difficulties to which the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, has referred concerning "most favoured nation treatment", reciprocity and so on. However, this is a sphere in which, as I believe the noble Earl, Lord Cowley, has already pointed out, the Russians need help and assistance. All that can be achieved under this heading must clearly help to improve good relations; but I think it has a limited, though not negligible, impact upon the problems of political security.

When we come to the section on freedom of movement, we should congratulate the NATO and EEC nations on the way they have been able to act together in putting their proposals before the Conference. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, has paid tribute to that in your Lordships' House on a previous occasion. Here, again, there seems to have been some useful progress and one must welcome the reunification of families and intermarriage across frontiers, and so on. I should like some further information, if the noble Lord can give it when he replies, about access to information and exactly how far agreement has gone under that head. Cultural exchanges, again, are always to be welcomed, but they are one of the easiest areas in which to come to some agreement.

It seems to me, trying to get an overall picture, that there is an exposition of good intention, together with a number of useful points of agreement; but one wonders whether this really justifies the title of the Conference. Is it not difficult to believe that European security will indeed rest on these decisions, welcome though they may be and important in some respects though they may also be? I should like to ask whether the noble Lord feels there has now been sufficient agreement and achievement to justify the calling of a summit meeting and, if so, when such a meeting is likely to be held.

Finally, there is the question of follow-up. The question of joint institutions between East and West has been mentioned. I wonder whether the Government have absolutely set their faces against that. It is one of the aims of the Russians in their negotiations to secure that, but it seems to me there may be a case for some form of experiment in this direction. An all-European body to guard the inviolability of national sovereignty, for example, might well be worth while. It would be in some ways a safeguard against the Brezhnev doctrine, but the basic conundrum of long-term Russian intentions, which I mentioned at the beginning, is left unresolved. The military imbalance remains. I greatly welcome any progress towards détente and indications of progress towards it in this Conference. I hope that when the Minister replies he will be able to encourage us regarding the extent to which progress has been achieved in this Conference. But I am sure he will agree that the price of liberty for the West continues to be political and military vigilance.

7.45 p.m.


My Lords, this is for some of us almost an emotional occasion, because my noble friend Lord Brockway has opened a discussion which is very up to date and very à propos, and which advocates those ethical principles with which his name has been associated for 70 years. If there is anything in my own life of which I am particularly proud, it is that I have been in intimate association with him in many spheres and in connection with many political projects. Always there have been the same ethics since his re-election to Westminster, after an interval in 1950. It was with the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, that in Paris shortly after that I had the privilege of making the acquaintance of the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, who will be speaking later tonight.

It may be that we were almost a pamphlet factory, most of us boasting the proud approval of the noble Lord, Lord Soper, with whom, on terrestrial ethical matters, I have never found myself in any disagreement at all except a week or two ago over the Common Market, which is perhaps not quite as ethical as that and about which I could understand a certain special interest. 'Throughout, the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, was with us. Of course, I would not for a moment attempt to involve a representative of the Foreign Office and a very distinguished and courteous Member of Her Majesty's Government who is about to reply, but for his own voluntary revelations as recently as last Monday when he said on British Guiana, "quorum pars parva fui". Indeed I will not attempt to commit the opinions of my noble friend on the Front Bench, except to say that I am quite sure there was much more with which he was in sympathy.

The noble Earl, Lord Cowley, who for a moment has just left the Chamber, always speaks with learning, grace, civility and charm, and I would not wish to introduce a particularly controversial note. But the views he expressed on the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was very much the opinion of Mr. Foster Dulles. Of course, they have done things with which we disagree. In point of fact, we disagree with a great deal of their philosophy. I have always said that had I been born in British Guiana or in Kenya I should have been a Communist. They were offering hope. The noble Lord who has spoken from the Liberal Benches referred to Czechoslovakia, which was indeed one of the great tragedies of Europe. None of us in this Chamber mourned the death of Jan Masaryk more than those who had some acquaintance with him. It was not the first rape of Czechoslovakia. The gravest rape of Czechoslovakia was in 1938 and 1939, when we were refusing the offers of friendship from the Russian Government.

I was at the Red Square in 1938 and saw the Russian Forces march by, and then had to come back here and read articles about cardboard tanks! One of my first essays in politics was to move a resolution that we should ask Sir Stafford Cripps, and offer to pay his expenses—though as a rich man he probably would have refused that offer—to go to Russia on his own, representing the Haldane Society, the Association of Left Wing Lawyers, to try to establish the basis of an agreement to bring back and present to the British people. All these matters seem a little far away from some of the idealism which we desire to express.

I call myself a pacifist, but I have to call myself a pragmatic pacifist because cannot agree to British soldiers going into war unless they are adequately armed. But for that I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Soper. I do not know how you manage the transitional period. It is difficult, and certainly as I have always said I agree that the presence of Polaris missiles on Holy Loch is a menace to the safety of Britain. I did not see the remark of Mr. Schlesinger—I take it from the speakers—but if we are still in a world in which the decision is taken there will be a great temptation in Moscow, if the button is to be pushed there before it is pushed in Washington, for them to say, "As a last resort, to show our determination, and to show that this has reached a pass in which the world may disappear, we will fire our first shots at some large ally of America who has nuclear arms posed against us." It may well be that Britain and the extermination of Britain could be the last effort to prevent a major conflict of the two great Powers.

My Lords, it is to the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, that I was indebted some weeks ago for hearing of a rather odd person whom I call Henry Adams who belonged to the Adams Presidential family. In 1906 he produced a theory of history in which he attempted to demonstrate that historic change took place in a form of a retrograde algebraical progression, so that each period of historic change was faster than the next and much briefer than the next. He predicted that around the year 2000 we should have approached a state of chaos, which of course is one of the predictions of the laws of thermodynamics. That political chaos would mean that law had ceased to function, that terrorism and individual violence was rampant, that the religion of mercy and of justice and sympathy had given way to a religion of violence, that justice could not be administered and that government had broken down. I admit that the reasons which induced him to make this prophecy—except that he wrote at a time when the speed of transport, invention and, obviously, the speed of change was increasing—escape me. I thought it was rather a cranky book.

But if we look at the world around us now we look at a world in which we have got to agree, a world in which the only hope for mankind is agreement. We are looking at a world in which we must not say any longer, "Can we trust them to carry out their agreement?" We look at a world—and I am perhaps rather more cynical than my noble friend, which may be due to a duodenal ulcer rather than to any diminution in my idealism—in which we have to be idealists and take whatever risks are inherent in that progress.

It is very odd that there is this newspaper attack on Communism, this newspaper misrepresentation of the political Left, which has never been as Left as all that and often not as Left as I would have wanted it. Almost as a tribute to my noble friend Lord Brockway I glanced today through many of the propositions which we embodied in our pamphlets. I thought, "How many mistakes shall we find? How many youthful errors?" I found that the first pamphlet on which my name appeared, The Keep Left pamphlet made its main point on summoning at once a conference of oil producers and oil consumers to arrange for the establishment of commodity prices. The subject of commodity prices is essentially a matter for international agreement, and has been a pregnant cause of economic insufficiency. I found that we advocated a united Europe and the taking of every step towards uniting Europe.

I am not surprised that we advocated an intensive expansion of Commonwealth relations. Perhaps having just visited Canada and being shortly to visit Australia, I had leather more to do with that than most. In Canada I was concerned that here was a great people with immense affection for Britain, with an immense desire for information, yet not a single British magazine or newspaper was being circulated among them. They got no information; they did not know what was happening; they were uninformed about British political views. It is one of the oddities of history that a few years later a comparatively unknown Canadian came popping over to Edinburgh and took over the Scotsman and then The Times—indeed, a bunch of papers that spreads all over the world. He was supplemented a little later by the arrival of an Australian editor who took over a chunk of the rest. There are some odd things about politics.

I conclude by repeating my own personal gratitude to my noble friend Lord Brockway—indefatigable, always at the public service; a man who has never served his own ends, who has happily accepted relative poverty throughout his life to devote himself to public service—for this further distinctive contribution to the cause of international understanding.

8.0 p.m.


My Lords, one of the most endearing attributes of my noble friend Lord Brockway is his daily affirmation that hope springs eternal in the human breast. As for my noble friend Lord Soper, I agree with him on one point—that we are all sinners now and for ever more, and that we live in a mad world which has been made madder through science and advanced technology. As I am not a pacifist, I do not wish that to come between us.

We are very grateful to my noble friend Lord Brockway for asking this Unstarred Question, but having listened to him today and having read his pamphlet called A Great Hope for Peace. I am left with mixed emotions. His catalogue of good and bad signs in the world today, which he claims herald a new era of peace, seem to me to cancel each other out. I wish I could look at the international scene through rose tinted spectacles and share the faith of my noble friend which he expresses in the results of the conferences that have taken place in the last few years. I wish I were bewitched and felt the magic in words like "détente" and "co-operation". I remain sceptical about international summitry, although I am all for our getting together in every kind of international jamboree. Usually, I enjoy them enormously: there is social confrontation when these jamborees take place which is the healthiest thing that we can have at the moment.

Despite my noble friend's insistence that his proposals are practical and not unrealistic, I remain unconvinced that, though the original aim of European security and co-operation was the dismantling of both NATO and the Warsaw Alliance, this is not the answer to our prayers today. I simply do not accept that proposition. All my experience at the United Nations refutes the solution that both of these bodies have to be dismantled. Let us look at the proposal made at the Helsinki meeting in 1973 to set up three commissions to deal with political, economic and scientific co-operation, the freedom of movement and the freedom of information. My noble friend admits that the discussions on the reduction of forces did not go so well. This is hardly surprising. Can anybody believe that the Soviet Union is really in favour of a relaxation of power over the East European countries in her empire?

I will quote a few words from the pamphlet of my noble friend. He writes: Critics of the Soviet Union will welcome the acceptance of respect for human rights and basic freedoms by each State. He says that this is what the Soviet Union is putting forward. I find this kind of platitudinous declaration absolutely meaningless. Last year I took part in a human rights seminar in Yugoslavia. The Soviet participant kept a very low profile, but when he spoke he flatly denied that there were any abuses of human rights in the Soviet Union. As for freedom in other countries, although Britain has suspended certain human rights in Northern Ireland because of the emergency, we "came clean"; we talked about it. But the Soviet Union does not talk about these matters.

As for freedom of movement and information, I was on the United Nations Human Rights Committee for five years, and we know that the Soviet Union do not allow this. We know that there is no freedom of movement—certainly not out of the Soviet Union, nor into it. My noble friend says that the Russians are not ready for limitless liberty—a charming phrase, my Lords. But it is really a sick joke when we have plenty of evidence that people who do not agree with the Soviet Government's politics are diagnosed as psychotics and treated with painful drugs which make them ill. Therefore, when Mr. Brezhnev speaks of "positive trends towards peace and cooperation in Europe", my noble friend regards these words as an important concession to freedom, but the evidence is very slim. Perhaps the most surprising statement in my noble friend's speech was his confession that the conflict between NATO and the Warsaw Alliance will be met not so much by disarmament conferences between military opposites as by actual co-operation between opposing blocs. Here we are back again in the "never-never-land" of wishful thinking. For my part, I would rather put my money on a system of controlled disarmament—agreed arms control.

My noble friend tells us in his pamphlet that our present expenditure on arms in NATO costs a British family of four £5 a week. I should dearly like to know how much the Soviet Union spends on armaments and what it costs a family of four in the Soviet Union. But where I part company with my noble friend is on his proposal to dismantle NATO. I noticed that he did not say this in his speech. He wrote it in his pamphlet. As for dismantling NATO, I think that this would be a most irresponsible and dangerous thing to do at this time. The referendum has just sealed our participation in Europe. The Labour Party is now represented there and by its representatives has added to the democratic Socialists from other countries.

It is vital that we should be part of the Atlantic Alliance. We need the help of America for our security, although I notice that nobody has mentioned this point so far. This does not exclude exchanges of all kinds—economic, cultural and social—with the East European countries which I know my noble friend favours.

To which country can the Western European countries look for their security? Has it ever crossed the mind of my noble friend Lord Brockway that without the help of the United States after 1945 we might now be part of the Soviet Empire? At present, the whole world is going through a turbulent crisis and change. Although still strong, the United States has suffered from the effects of Vietnam and Watergate, but because it can rely on its own raw materials, agriculture and food the chances of the United States overcoming its difficulties are good.

It has always been a generous country which has been ready to help other countries, although it has done some very dreadful things, too, in its time. This is not the same in Europe where we have been exploiting the products and raw materials of the developing countries to maintain a very high standard of living. The developing countries are putting a stop to this by their new international economic order. So, my Lords, this is not the time for dismantling NATO and quitting the Atlantic Alliance. It is a time for the European democratic countries to be united and stand together in defence of all their freedoms. They must continue with maximum aid to the developing countries, even if this affects their own high standard of living. Never has it been so imperative for the European democratic countries to exercise the greatest wisdom, and to set an example to the whole world in defence of all their traditional freedoms, and I believe it is on them that the responsibility for peace in the world mainly rests.

As I have said, let us get together, East and West Europe and the United States of America. Social confrontation is a desirable and enjoyable activity. Let us both try to learn from the Governments which we do not wish to emulate. We do not wish to emulate their kind of government, they do not wish to emulate ours, but each of us can learn from each other.

8.11 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Brockway for lighting candles in our darkness and sharing with us that irrepressible optimism by which he still maintains that reason and compassion will prevail. As a professor of international relations I describe myself as a paid optimist. I would not call Fenner Brockway a paid optimist; I think his optimism is entirely unpaid. It was—and is—my job to look for hopeful ways ahead. When situations look hopeless and the world seems to be passing through the tail of the comet—whether it is Henry Adams' comet or another comet—which blinds men of affairs to the obvious (and I think that is what we have been suffering from for the past 25 years) and bemuses their judgment, which I think is manifest at the present moment, I clutch at Lord Brockway and his faith in reason.

After that rehearsal for doomsday, the Cuban missile crisis, when the nuclear super-Powers were horn-locked on the edge of a precipice and disengaged at the 11th hour and 59th minute, a statement was made: People asked who won; people asked who lost. I say reason won, mankind won. I used to ask my students who made that statement and invariably the guess was President Kennedy. It was not President Kennedy, it was Chairman Khrushchev. It did not do him personally much good because the hawks in the Kremlin dispossessed him, but I believe that his sentiment was right and that, in its essence, the situation itself was the turning point in the Cold War which put us on the road to the European security Summit we are hopefully discussing tonight.

We look around the world and we find little to comfort us: unreason and man's inhumanity to man prevails in the Middle East, in Northern Ireland, in Africa and considerably in Latin America. Events in India become the more ominous because it, too, is in a state of crisis at the moment and has a capacity to develop and use a nuclear bomb. We have the cleavage in what Dulles (as was pointed out earlier) quite mistakenly regarded as monolithic Communism and the confrontation of the Soviet Union with the People's Republic of China, and if that gives the ghost of Mr. Dulles any satisfaction I should not like to join him where he is.

There is, however, no doubt that the focal point is Europe and the attitude and the example which is set there in the immediate future. In this context, more important than the spelling out of it will be the attitudes because they will reflect what we hope is to generate into a force for the changing of other things beyond Europe. This conference, for good or ill, determines the course of world events. I share the hopes of the noble Lord. Lord Brockway, which derive from the work of the commissions or the baskets and the encouraging accommodations which have been made by all parties. I must say that what I know about Geneva confirms at least what he has said and conforms to the substance of what he has said.

I do not regard the findings of the commission, as was, indeed, suggested by the noble Earl, Lord Cowley, as rhetoric or cynical semantics: I regard it as the language of conference. I believe that economic relations, cultural relations, improved communications and a frank—and I repeat, frank—discussion of human rights, and an interpretation of them and how to safeguard them, will extend the meaningful dialogue and produce enduring results. It is a slow process. I know from bitter experience of dozens of international conferences to which the delegates come with deep suspicions of each other's motives and with stereotyped ideas of each other's intentions, very much in the spirit which was reflected by the attitude of the noble Earl, Lord Cowley, to this conference. They find that, whatever their state of mind when they come, they have somehow to synchronise the facts. Sometimes they run away from them, but in the end they also have to rethink their preconceptions. This is a slow process and, as has been said, and I say it again with misgiving, time is not on our side. We have a long educational process, and this one is more impressive than most of the educational processes I have been in for the last five years.

Nevertheless, my Lords, the paramount question is still that of military disposition. I do not think that the SALT talks can ever be more than a coy, tantalising striptease until a European Summit gives the necessary resolution—a resolution in both senses of the word—to military disengagement. I am not going to take issue with my noble friend Lady Gaitskell on what, in fact, is the nature of the object of ultimate security, except to say that we always believed, and thought the purpose of European security talks was eventually—not now, not tomorrow, not the next day—to see to the wasting away of NATO and its mirror image, the Warsaw Pact. That I should hope will be and must be the consummation of an European security resolution.

However, I want to remind your Lordships of some of the frightening facts which are buried behind the words and the attitudes—such frightening facts which by mute acceptance we have contrived to overlook. We talk now, rather as my noble friend has done, with a good deal of confidence—I hope confidence but at least with hope and, some of us, with substantial hope—about what might be resolved in areas other than those I am to talk about. Europe at this moment is a nuclear minefield. Apart from the massive retaliation of the strategical bomb, there are 7,500 US tactical nuclear weapons, about 3,500 Soviet tactical nuclear weapons and a limited number of French nuclear weapons.

The first US tactical nuclear weapons were introduced into Europe in 1954, three years before those of the Soviet Union. The object was to offset the numerically superior Soviet ground forces in the European theatre. To deliver tactical and nuclear missiles, the United States and its NATO allies have 2,250 aircraft, missile launchers and nuclear cannons. These weapons carry a combined explosive capability of 460 million tons of TNT, roughly 35,000 times greater than the nuclear weapon which destroyed Hiroshima. That is the American stockpile of nuclear missiles in Europe.

These nuclear weapons are all in NATO States, with the exception of Norway, Denmark and Luxembourg. The heaviest concentration is in West Germany. United States nuclear weapons include four different kinds of surface missiles, and two sizes of artillery shells, 150 millimetre and 203 millimetre. The largest tactical nuclear missile is over 400,000 tons of TNT equivalent or, in one missile, over 30 Hiroshimas. As Senator Stuart Symington said in the Senate last year—and I do not quote the Americans unfairly because I have been living and working with them on these issues for three years, so I quote not in disparagement or in any other sense, but because they at least communicate information and are allowed to— The significance of our nuclear weapons stockpiled in Europe alone becomes all too apparent when one realises that the destructive force in TNT equivalent of the nuclear weapons we have currently stockpiled is more than 20 times that of the combined total firepower expended in World War II, in the Korean War and in the Vietnam War". The doctrine of tactical nuclear weapons is whimsical. The United States Secretary of Defence, Mr. James Schlesinger, whose statement was quoted yesterday—and this underscores what he said then, because it shows his attitude of mind—gave his definition of the doctrine of tactical nuclear strategy as, first, to deter Soviet use of tactical nuclear weapons and Warsaw Pact attacks; and, secondly, to provide a nuclear option short of all out-war should deterrence fail and all our conventional forces collapse. That was the doctrine of Mr. Schlesinger. Mr. Morton Halperin, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence in the United States, put it more sardonically, when he said: The NATO doctrine is that we will fight with conventional forces until we are losing; then we will fight with tactical nuclear weapons until we are losing, and then we will blow up the world. What is a tactical nuclear weapon? I remember at the time of the introduction of tactical nuclear weapons into Europe, having a debate in Canada with a noble and gallant Member of your Lordships' House, whom I will not mention in his absence but who was rather critical in the scene at that time. I asked him that question, and its corollary which is: when does "tactical" become "strategical" and invoke massive retaliation? He replied that it depended on the rules of the game, and said, "You must understand that we are jousting with nuclear weapons". He said that it depends on the rules of the game. If each side was trying to avoid an all-out nuclear war, they would accept certain constraints confined to military targets.

He agreed with me that it was a macabre form of tennis. If the ball was kept within the military lines, that would be tactical; if it went outside, that would be strategical. He agreed that as we went on trying to avoid massive retaliation, which would be total nuclear war, the lines of that particular tennis court would have to be made of elastic. But who would be the accommodating linesman, or the referee? There is no demarcation between tactical and strategical nuclear weapons. Indeed, in my opinion, tactical weapons can be manifestly more dangerous than strategical.

My Lords, we all know about the strategy of massive retaliation with its gobbledy-gook of pre-emptive strike which is not retaliation at all, but aggression—which is what Schlesinger was talking about yesterday. We know that the ultimate decision on the delivery of an atom bomb rests with the Commanderin-Chief of the United States Forces—that is to say, with the President of the United States—or with his opposite num- ber in the Kremlin. Whoever he is, and on whichever side he is, he has 15 minutes in which to make up his mind to press the button of the black box which we saw with President Nixon on his visit to the Forbidden City, Peking, and which he took with him when he went to tea with Her Majesty and Mr. Heath at Chequers.

In those fifteen minutes, he has to decide that the enemy has indeed launched salvoes of intercontinental ballistic missiles, and that a counterattack is needed to put the enemy's bases out of action. We know the evidence can be wrong. There have been many conspicuous instances, such as when the early warning system identified a salvo of Soviet rockets heading for the heartlands of the United States. The United States bombers were aimed at Moscow and were recalled just before fail-safe, the point of no return, when it was found that the salvo of missiles was, in fact, a flock of Canada geese. There was another instance when an attack had been launched—it was on its way—before the "missiles" were recognised as the echoes of the radar signals from the distant early warning system itself.

We are now assured that the risks of human error have been removed, and that the whole thing is computerised. We are assured that the President of the United States cannot argue with a computer. The recognition that a mistake—and what a mistake!—can happen is in the existence and maintenance of the "hot line" now routed by communications satellite from Washington to Moscow. In the horrendous ultimate, the "hot line" means that the President or his opposite number phones up and says, "Sorry, old chap, there's a multi-headed missile on its way to vaporise you in 15 minutes. It has no political significance. We did not mean it. It was a technical fault." At least in the theory of the black box there is some recognition of responsibility, but what about tactical nuclear weapons? I remind your Lordships that there are 10,000 or more of these in Europe at this moment. Whatever the business of the double keys and so on, and the meaning of "tactics" in the Schlesinger definition, whatever the drill or discipline, the object of the exercise is to counter enemy moves in the battlefield, however big that may be, and that means delegated authority down to whatever is the nuclear battery level.

I would remind your Lordships of the Nixon alert during the Middle East crisis. We know President Nixon did not consult with, but merely informed, his NATO allies. This was a Stage 3 alert, which does not mean a count down; it was the last stage of the alert, and included nuclear units. Those units were on the alert and, I dread to say, trigger happy. Therefore, we have 10,000 weapons of unimaginable destructive power—I repeat the word "unimaginable", because we could not imagine Hiroshima before it happened, and this is Hiroshima many thousandfold—all stockpiled throughout Europe.

Under what security? We know what urban guerrillas are capable of. What if they penetrated any of the nuclear armouries? What would happen anywhere down the line in that dispersed chain of military command? I am not using these merely as illustrative questions. I mean it, because we do not know, and nobody can tell me that he knows. We know what would happen by deliberate decision. There have been a whole series of war games simulating a nuclear battle in Europe. One operation, "Sagebrush", simulated the use of 275 tactical nuclear weapons that ranged in yield from 2,000 to 40,000 tons. According to the official evaluation of that exercise, the simulated destruction was so great that no such thing as a limited nuclear war is possible in such an area; that is to say, in Central Europe.

The former Assistant Secretary of State for Defence, Alain Enthoven, in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, quoted a Defence Department report on all the war games conducted in Europe in the 1960s. It stated: Even under the most favourable assumptions about restraints and limitations in yields and targets, between 2 and 20 million Europeans would be killed in nuclear tactical war. It went on: …and a high risk of 100 million dead if it was escalated to attacks on cities. My Lords, while the SALT talks are horse-trading on quantities of missiles and delivery systems—and, my goodness, if you talk about cynicism at conferences, I think from my study of the SALT ones that they are the most cynical; and I think my friend Mrs. Alva Myrdal, who was the Chairman of the UN Committee on Disarmament would agree with me—the fact is that there is a nuclear minefield spread over Europe at this moment. There is no guarantee that by mishap or by incident an all-out nuclear war might not be triggered off. Something is wrong—it must be—with a doctrine, which I certainly cannot dignify as a strategy, which if implemented would destroy the countries it was designed to defend. While the Heads of State, whose people are the hostages of this doctrine, are discussing détente, economics, culture and the reduction of armed tension, they should have as a priority in their thinking the present and constant danger of the nuclear minefield, and how to defuse those hundreds of millions of tons of TNT equivalent already deployed in Europe.

8.34 p.m.


My Lords, we have had a long day. I am tempted to go into the history of this. First, there is a little booklet I wrote on the possibilities of the destruction of millions of people called, Death Stands at Attention. I wrote it 25 years ago, when people thought we were psychiatric cases because we dared question a nuclear strategy. The conspiracy of silence about the evil effect of nucleonics is one of the world's wonders. I was down in the Pacific Ocean near Tahiti not long after the French were exploding their bombs. The arrogance of Western man in exploding his bombs everywhere except in his own territories is astounding. You get people saying there is no danger in the explosion. I saw the Fiji islanders and the islanders of the Pacific moaning about the poisoning of their food. I do not know whether Occidental man knows what he is doing to Oriental man in his arrogant militaristic tendencies. I do not know all the answers to this. I think mankind is going awry. He is the only animal who tells a lie; he is the only animal who fouls his nest. When you ask me what is the solution to the paranoia, the egotism and the pomposity of religious differences in our own territory in Ireland, I cannot answer it, because it is beyond all reason.

I have travelled all over Vietnam. I tried my best to meet Ho Chi Minh to get a peace agreement. When you see children cooked with a napalm bomb, you do not question so much Torquamada. Therefore, we look at these things, some of us, with horror, and it is no good scoffing about it, because mankind is in danger. When the destiny of man depends on a computer being accurate. God help us! Anybody who has had his bank account sent to him wrongly because it is computerised knows the possibilities of mathematical error, and you want only an elementary knowledge of calculus to see how you increase the possibilities. My noble friend Lord Goronwy-Roberts need not get worried, because I am going to speak only about three minutes, and I know he is as much interested in this as we are, and as much for peace.


My Lords, I would be most delighted if my noble friend took more than three minutes. I know of his long service in the cause of peace. If in any way I indicated the slightest impatience, I ask him to realise that it was most unintended.


My Lords, my noble friend is very kind. We have all had a busy day, and I know he has, too. My noble friend Lady Gaitskell and all noble Lords have contributed an essence of truth to this very difficult problem, including the noble Lord on the other side, who I am quite sure, together with the noble Lords sitting opposite, is just as concerned with the problem of mankind and peace as I, happen to be. All I hope is that we can find some answers and that Britain can give a lead. That is why I stayed behind today to support by noble friend Lord Brockway and to thank him for having raised this matter.

May I raise one other small point and then I will sit down, because so much has been covered. I remember Foster Dulles. I remember the beginning of the war in Vietnam. I remember his phrase that we will use "massive retaliation". Sir Winston Churchill and then Sir Anthony Eden—I was over at the Geneva Conference in 1954 after the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, and it was Churchill himself who was frightened of the gasconading nucleonic antics in the speeches of Foster Dulles at this period—steadied the British approach to the whole problem. I consequently hope that at Geneva, with common sense and not giving way to everything, and not agreeing or feeling that everything the Russians do or Eastern Europe does is evil, our leaders will, as I hope they always have—and I have had the pleasure of being with some of them, if it was only a discussion on the "Fearless", a summit talk on Rhodesia—try to bring a constructive approach, in the hope that mankind will solve this problem, which has bewitched it since the beginning of creation, of how to prevent major wars, because nuclear war means the end of civilisation.

8.39 p.m.


My Lords, I know that we are all very grateful to my noble friend Lord Brockway for raising this important subject at this time. The negotiations at the Conference are almost complete and the third stage is likely to be held within a matter of weeks. This is therefore a particularly good moment to take stock and to reflect on the importance of the meetings in Helsinki. I appreciate my noble friend's reminder to the House that as the texts have not been officially published, although he appears to have his own source of fairly accurate information, he will absolve me from any Parliamentary discourtesy if I do not deal with texts which in due course no doubt we shall be examining in some detail in this Chamber.

In view of the reservation expressed about the utility of this Conference from that Bench and by my noble friend Lady Gaitskell and others, perhaps I might indulge very briefly in a description of the historical origin of the Conference we are discussing. It is some time ago that the Soviet Union proposed such a conference—it is not a new idea—but for a variety of reasons the countries of Western Europe and North America regarded that proposal, in its then form, with a good deal of suspicion. As the noble Lord, Lord Banks, reminded us, many people in the Western democracies thought it looked as if such a conference would be used as a substitute for a genuine peace conference, as a means of legitimising the existing territorial divisions in Europe, of promoting conditions for the creation of a Pan-European system of collective security on strictly Soviet terms and, as it were, to set the status quo in Europe firmly in a bed of concrete.

The countries of Western Europe and North America never rejected the idea of a conference as such, but they did set out requirements and ideas of their own about what it should do and what its purposes should he. We did not, for example, want to create the illusion of security based on paper declarations of good intentions, when the underlying tension created by the overwhelmingly powerful forces of the Warsaw Pact countries remained untouched. Nor were we willing to go to a conference from which North America, the United States, the great democracy of the West, would be excluded, thereby making Western Europe more than ever vulnerable to pressures from the East. That would not have served the causes of peace and of disarmament. Finally, we wished to ensure balance in the work of the conference by providing a twofold aim: co-operation between the peoples as well as countries on the one hand, and the search for security on the other. There can be no détente without security, without confidence: hence the title of the conference, the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, the CSCE.

As noble Lords will recall, in the early part of this decade important changes took place in the political climate in Europe. I come here to two of the points raised by the noble Lord from the Front Bench opposite. The conclusion of the Eastern Treaties between the Federal German Government and the Soviet Union and Poland, and the Quadripartite Agreement on Berlin, very much the work of Willy Brandt, removed problems which in retrospect we must remember were mountainous problems which had bedevilled Europe and European diplomacy since the end of the war.

With these out of the way we could begin to raise our eyes to the wider problems of our Continent, and seek to replace the sterility of confrontation with a new realisation of mutual interests. Agreement was reached that preparations for two East-West conferences could begin: the first for the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Helsinki, and the second on Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions in Vienna. Both sets of preparations produced results by the summer of 1973. The agenda for the European Security Conference—the so-called Helsinki Blue Book—is a truly remarkable document. It fully met the Western requirements for a conference of that kind as well as the objectives of the Eastern European countries. The way was therefore clear for the first stage to begin, and at Helsinki in July 1973 the Foreign Ministers of the thirty-five participating States—some Communist, some democracies—met to launch the detailed work which is now reaching its conclusion.

So far so good. But with an agenda covering so many subjects, some of them of acute sensitivity, the discussions could easily have gone the way of so many international discussions over the years. Rigid positions could have been taken up. Some countries might have had second thoughts and might have preferred to stand in the way of agreement rather than content themselves with less than they had hoped to achieve in a partisan way. During the early days of the Conference, when proposals were piling up on the negotiating table from all sides, it was perfectly clear that the gap between the various points of view—national, ideological, special interests, and, above all, deep suspicions and the lack of confidence that anything could be done—would in many cases be extremely hard to bridge. But the negotiations went on, and all concerned were prepared to show, by patience and flexibility, that there was an underlying determination to reach agreement. So progress was made, little by little, spurred on by the knowledge that failure could no longer be accepted. Here I join with my noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder in the ominous warnings he has uttered once more, as have other Members of the House. This Conference, which does not directly touch the question of thermonuclear disarmament, must prove to be part of the ultimate means of averting from humankind the brooding horror of thermonuclear warfare.

The members of the Conference kept at it. They have been at it for two years, and gradually results have come about. States, large and small, have really had a full and equal voice. I come, therefore, to the first part of my Answer to the Question which the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, has put. The Government see it as an encouraging and hopeful sign that such a Conference should successfully have been held, and that, despite all the difficulties, it has been possible to bring matters to a satisfactory conclusion in a manner which has emphasised the full and equal contribution of every State involved.

It has also been a source of satisfaction for the Government to see the positive contribution which has been made by the countries of the European Economic Community and, more widely, by the Atlantic Alliance, which is a democratic alliance. By working together over a period in daily—indeed, almost hourly—contact, we have managed, together with our partners and allies, to secure our main objectives and to arrive at a result which is compatible with our democratic conception of détente.

Far from interfering, as some originally feared, with the cohesion of Western institutions, I believe that this Conference has given those institutions new strength, and I refer not only to our allies in Europe. The active participation in the Conference of the United States and Canada, which we have greatly welcomed, has made clear the extent to which those great and powerful countries regard the peace and security of Europe as being vital to their own national interests and to the peace of the world. Moreover, the Alliance and the Community have shown that, far from being an obstacle to greater understanding among nations, they are a powerful force for peace and co-operation. Here I wish to say that the British delegation to this Conference has played a major role in finding solutions to the most intractable problems.

We were told a few years ago that this country, having relinquished an empire, had not yet found a rôle. It certainly has a role in international affairs, not least at this Conference, which I repeat is part of the tremendous effort which is now going on to master the awesome problems of our age. The British contribution by our representatives at this Conference, which is recognised and appreciated by all the participants, from the East as well as from the West, should equally be recognised in their own country.

It would not be right for me to comment in detail on the documents which have been drawn up at this Conference, partly as a result of British initiative and suggestion. Detailed comment must await their publication and, indeed, their signature and approval at the third stage in. Helsinki. However, I would draw attention to some matters which I believe are of particular importance. First, a declaration of principles has been drawn up which refers, among other things, to the enjoyment of human rights and to cooperation between States and between individuals in terms which correspond fully to our traditional attitude to these matters. Here I agree with my noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder, that there is value in clear and cogent declarations of principle of this kind. Of course, principle must be converted into practice; but it is useful, indeed vital, for the world to remind itself of the basic principles of human existence and survival.

The declaration will also recognise that, while existing frontiers in Europe are to be regarded as inviolable—and here I approach another set of questions put by the noble Lord, and put in another way by the noble Lord, Lord Banks—they may be changed. It is possible to change them provided such change takes place in accordance with international law, by peaceful means or through agreement. For East and West to agree on that principle—and I still say that it must be converted into practice—and to come together and accept a fundamental principle of peaceful change and, by implication, abdicate the use of force to achieve such political changes, is no mean achievement.

The second point I wish to put to your Lordships is that, with the agreement reached on confidence-building measures, a start will have been made in attacking the causes of mistrust and tension between States. My noble friend Lord Brockway was right to point out that little progress has been made with the force reduction talks at Vienna, but they are continuing in a businesslike way; and here I join with my noble friend Baroness Gaitskell, who put the matter in a nutshell when she said that what we are after is controlled disarmament. One cannot get it in any other way, and it will not stick if one tries to get it in any other way. Controlled disarmament means that everybody joins in to make it a success.

I am not alarmed that progress in Vienna is slow. So long as they keep talking, inch by inch we will get nearer to the process of disarmament, which we all seek, and in that way we will be on the way to the ultimate objective that noble Lords, among them my noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder, have described as our primary aim, that of nuclear control and disarmament. Nevertheless, although Vienna rather than Helsinki is the locale for force reduction talks, there have been very useful agreements in the military sphere in the CSCE, for example to exchange observers at military manoeuvres and to notify in advance the details and purpose of major military manoeuvres. The Government hope and expect that this factor will go some way to reducing tension and misunderstanding arising from suspicions rather than knowledge of military dispositions—this is certainly something worth getting—and that this will improve the political climate in which the real issues of military security in Europe must now be tackled.

In reply to the substantive question put to me by the noble Earl, Lord Cowley, unless and until there are satisfactory results from the MBFR talks in Vienna, we will not in any way detract from our obligations under the Brussels Treaty. In the economic, commercial, industrial and technological fields a large variety of documents have been drawn up which will provide a basis not only for increased trade, co-operation and exchanges throughout Europe, but also for more effective contact between business representatives in the various countries of Europe, including the Communist States. By establishing common objectives and laying down certain standards of treatment for business representatives, I believe that commercial, industrial and technological exchanges throughout Europe will become for frequent, fruitful and rewarding, and in this way new links, new bonds, not only inter-State but between individuals and organisations, may spread throughout Europe.

My right honourable friend the Prime Minister and his colleagues will in Helsinki be putting their names to a series of documents dealing with the freer circu- lation of ideas and the freer movement of people throughout Europe; and this part of the document may well be without precedent. It will offer, we think, a prospect of real and lasting benefit to individuals in the various countries of Europe derived from the process of détente.

Before coming to the House this afternoon I re-read the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Home of Hirsel, when as Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs at Stage 1 of the Conference in Helsinki in July 1973 he said: We should be impatient of restrictions. If we do not improve the life of ordinary people at this Conference, we shall be asked—and with justice—what all our fine words and diplomatic phrases are about and have achieved. The principles are valueless without the practice. In the language of Helsinki, Basket I will be empty unless there are plenty of eggs in Basket III". That is to say that the declaration of principles will be valueless unless the implementation is a fact. I believe that the noble Lord was right to strike that note at that time.

The same note was struck again this afternoon by my noble friend Lord Brockway. But I do not think he will be disappointed. In the field of human contacts, texts have been drawn up for signature at Helsinki which should make it easier for individual citizens of all European countries to move freely throughout Europe, whether for professional or personal reasons, and whether temporarily or, in certain circumstances such as marriage or family reunification, permanently. And in the field of ideas and information, the participating States will commit themselves, in Helsinki, to ensuring that individual men and women in all the countries of Europe will have progressively freer access to spoken, written and broadcast information of all kinds and from all countries. They will also undertake to give each other's journalists the sort of facilities which will allow them freely to pursue their legitimate activity without official interference.

These and other texts in Basket III, providing for instance for an intensification of exchanges in the cultural and educational fields, set the scene for what I hope will prove to be a qualitative and permanent change in the situation in Europe as it affects ordinary people. Provided that all these good things come to pass, and that the words accepted at Helsinki are given the breath of life once the Conference is over, their importance will be hard to exaggerate. They will not only help to make Europe a safer and saner place for people to live in, but they may help us on the road to the larger and even more urgent objectives of which my noble friend so graphically reminded us.

This brings me to the question of future activities. This is not an easy one. It is easy to prescribe an institution which would preside over the development or implementation of decisions. But we are concerned with 35 countries, many of which still have reservations about many of the things to which they have agreed. I hope we shall not overload the situation at this stage, but shall give the agreement time to gain strength, substance and confidence. I am in no way disagreeing in principle with my noble friend about the need in due course for institutionalised arrangements, and even bodies to supervise, guide, and maybe to enforce. What I am advising—and I speak not only for Her Majesty's Government in this matter but for a great many other Governments which are perhaps not confined to the West—is that we should have a pause after the signature of these extremely important documents, during which Europe should get down to it and should begin to do the deeds as well as to approve the principles, doing them in its own way without the overlay of a presidial body which might daunt some, and between which and some there might be a running argument as to how things were going. We are in favour of a period—as are the majority of countries concerned—during which the work will go on. Then, possibly in 18 months or two years, we can come together again, assess the position in the light of experience, and perhaps set up machinery if that proves to be the right way of doing it!

Let us be flexible about this. The history of attempts to get international agreement and the implementation of international agreements is strewn with the failure d institutionalised provisions. Festina lente—let us hasten slowly and surely, making the 35 countries which will be party to this new and hopeful document feel that they are not under any undue pressure. They are subject to great expectations but they are free to build this up at the pace and in the way that suits them. We are dealing with countries that vary greatly in their experience of the democratic practice. We are dealing with countries both in the West and in the East where there are historical memories and we must not force the psychology of this too fast and too far. However, I repeat that I am not disagreeing in principle with my noble friend that in due course we shall need proper arrangements to see that these arrangements are carried on, strengthened and expanded.

I have spoken too long, but this is a vast subject. I do not want to raise our hopes too high. I and my generation stand at a point when we recall repeated disappointments in this field, when high hopes were entertained and when practice fell so tragically and fatally short of principle. But we must go on trying. That is the essence of the democratic idea. If one is beaten, one must pick oneself up and have another go. I hope that we do not regard the quite extensive and very hopeful measure of agreement that has been achieved in this Conference as in any way an alibi not to concentrate afresh on the terrible dangers of the other dimension that face human kind. I say to noble Lords, particularly to my noble friend who knows so much about the technology of this, that CSCE, MBFR, the United Nations, everything that brings nations together, first in an agreement in principle, secondly in an attempt to convert principle into practice—everything like that—is a movement towards the objective which I know my noble friend and the entire House recognise to be the real objective of all foreign policy and of all diplomacy.