§ 2.55 p.m.
§ Debate resumed on the Motion moved on Wednesday last by Baroness Phillips —namely, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."
§ Lord GORONWY-ROBERTS
My Lords, today we are to debate the defence and foreign affairs aspects of the gracious Address. My noble friend who speaks for the Ministry of Defence will concentrate on the subject of defence, and therefore I hope that the House will forgive me if I allude only briefly to that side and concentrate on foreign policy and Commonwealth issues. I should also like to apologise to the House for the fact that I shall not be able to stay for the whole of the debate, since I have to be in Paris this evening for a meeting of the Council of Europe. But I hope to stay for a great part of it.
I make no apology for turning first to economic questions, which nowadays occupy foreign policy planners as much as the traditional strategic and political questions. One does not mean that the latter have disappeared; they certainly have not. But we cannot today give them the almost undivided attention we gave them some years ago. Broadly, the central issue is the relationship between the industrialised countries of the West and the commodity producers, including the oil producers on the one hand and the producers of other primary commodities on the other; that is to say, between the developed and the developing worlds.
At the Kingston meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government, the Prime Minister launched a major initiative to achieve a better order of world trade in commodities, the result of which has enabled us to help transform the atmosphere of discussions on this subject. We have pursued and developed these 277 ideas through our membership of the EEC, the OECD and the United Nations, and the 7th Special Session of the General Assembly in September showed that the industrialised and the developing countries can, if they wish—and they seem to show that they desire to do so—reconcile their differing approaches to commodity problems. This is a major gain, in that sterile propagandist confrontation has begun to give way to constructive discussion.
We hope that it will be possible to continue this constructive discussion in other forums; in particular, the 4th United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in May, and the Conference on International Economic Co-operation, which will start in Paris on 16th December. As was made clear in the gracious Address, Her Majesty's Government attach very great importance to these Conferences. As the House knows, we are claiming a seat at the Conference in Paris in our own right, and we have very valid reasons for this. We are one of the industrialised world's chief consumers of oil, and by 1980 we shall also be producing 90 per cent. of Western Europe's oil. We are a major world market for raw materials, a leading donor of development aid, and London is one of the two biggest financial centres in the world. I do not believe that our claim to representation will jeopardise the success of the Conference.
The industrialised countries must themselves resolve the question of their representation before the December Conference; as my right honourable friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary said in another place, we have a two-fold aim: to ensure that British interests are properly represented, and that the Conference is a success. We believe firmly that our presence and expertise at the Conference will contribute to its success. I know that some noble Lords will say that we should relinquish our claim to a separate seat and allow our interests to be represented by the EEC. But the scope of this Conference is now very much wider than originally planned and it is a fact that the Community does not have detailed policies on the questions for discussion. We are working faithfully with the Community on a common mandate, but it would be quite unrealistic to expect that agreement can be reached in 278 the immediate future. These interests are vital to us all Member-States have vital interests; we have some and this is one of them—and this is why we believe we must have separate representation at this Conference.
I mentioned that it was the Kingston Conference which has contributed so much towards the present progress being made in the discussion between the developed and developing world. A few years ago many people doubted whether the Commonwealth had any future or effective role to play in the modern world. There may be some who still do doubt it; I rather think they are a diminishing number because the success of the Kingston Conference shows clearly that the Common wealth is a real forcein international discussions leading to action. I believe that many countries outside the Commonwealth now understand that it is the very flexibility and informality of the relationships within the Commonwealth which give it unique strength. It provides abridge between different regional groupings, between nations at quite different stages of development, and between different races. It is, as M. Ramphal, the new Secretary-General of the Common wealth Secretariat, said recently, "A sample of the world community". It is this fact which enabled us at Kingston to make progress towards reconciling the opposing viewpoints of different sections of the world community.
We did it, to start with, with great success within the Commonwealth, and I think that in many respects showed the rest of the world how. We should be much the poorer, and we believe that the world would be much the poorer, without this international relationship which the Commonwealth represents and which, so far from being in conflict with any other relationship we may have with Europe or indeed in the United Nations, serves and assists those other relationships. The gracious Speech makes clear the importance we attach to the Commonwealth as a continuing force for international progress.
The use of the Commonwealth to provide a bridge between different communities can, as I have said, be of very great value to the United Nations. The very universality of the United Nations is its greatest strength, but it has also produced 279 some of its greatest difficulties. Because everyone is represented there, we have seen the formation of large groupings of Members whose interests are opposed one to the other, or groupings who consider that their interests are at variance, and we have been alarmed by the ten dency to extremism and divisive tactics which came to a head in 1974 at the 6th Special Session and the 29th Regular Session of the General Assembly. The cavalier attitude towards constitutionality and disregard for the principle of universality, which was evident at these Sessions, gave grave cause for anxiety as we approached this year's 30th General Assembly.
With one notable aberration, 1975 has seen the majority turn away from confrontation towards a more tolerant and moderate approach. There has been a greater willingness to seek consensus and a greater awareness that peaceful progress on the problems of international interdependence can be assured only through compromise and conciliation. Her Majesty's Government and certainly the Commonwealth can take some credit for this result. The aberration to which I refer is the passage by the General Assembly of a Resolution equating Zionism with racism. This has served no purpose but to bring the United Nations into disrepute. It has seriously undermined international support for the continuing campaign against racism and, tragically, it may also make more difficult the already formidable task of finding a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict, something which is vital to us all, to the developed and the developing world alike.
Having said that, I hope in unmistakable terms of censure on those who promoted this disreputable Resolution before the international authority, let me say that I do not think we should allow our natural repugnance at this one act of the United Nations to lead us to reduce British support for the United Nations and its true ideals. We should not forget the considerable successes over the years achieved by the United Nations in the field of international diplomacy, peacekeeping, peacemaking and, through the Specialised Agencies, in the provision of timely and vital aid to States and nations. We have made, and will continue to 280 make, a major contribution to all these activities. Perhaps I need only mention the continuation of the British contingent serving with United Nations forces in Cyprus.
We shall continue to work actively as Permanent Members of the Security Council and the Secretary-General knows that he has our full-hearted support in his efforts to help resolve disputes such as those in Cyprus, the Lebanon and the Spanish Sahara. But let there be no doubt that, in continuing to support the United Nations, we shall also stand up and speak out clearly for decency, tolerance and constructive moderation in the United Nations and in the relations of the nations of the world.
I should like now briefly to turn to things closer to home. Together with the United Nations and the Common wealth, the European Community is at the centre of our foreign policy. We made it clear after the referendum that we intended to play a full and constructive part in all Community policies and activities, and we have fulfilled and will continue to fulfil this pledge. For example, noble Lords will have seen the proposals which my right honourable friend the Prime Minister made public in his speech in Liverpool on 26th September about ways of exercising control over Community expenditure, and that is something with which I am sure this House will feel great sympathy. We shall work to translate these proposals into action at the forthcoming European Council on 1st and 2nd December and afterwards.
The Government have also taken part in discussions in the Council about the introduction of direct elections to the European Assembly. Our partners know that we accept the obligation in the Treaty of Rome to introduce direct elections, and they also know that we need time to consider and time to assess the consequences of any scheme in the field of constitutional and electoral reform. Time for study and digestion is vital. This is the field of the almost, if not quite, irreversible, after all, and it is for a country, as well as a community of countries, to approach questions of this kind with a great deal of caution as well as good will. We have made it clear that the date of 1978 is unrealistic so far as the United Kingdom is concerned, and this is a view which I find is not unshared 281 among other members of the Community. Parliament will have the final say and any Community arrangements on direct election will be embodied in a Treaty which will need approval by both Houses; democratic legislation will certainly be needed.
European union is a further area where deep discussion and much thought both in Government and among the public will be needed in the coming Session and possibly after that. We expect M. Tindemans to present his report on the concept of European union towards the turn of the year. We shall give this document careful study and will approach it with an open mind. I hope that it will contain proposals that are fully relevant to the probems that the Community faces now: we must avoid—I think our partners will agree with us—unrealistic goals with idealistic target dates. The essence of this and related questions is the will to progress and that must not be confused with rigid attachment to timetables.
Meanwhile the Nine are continuing to develop their foreign policies through their machinery of political co-operation. We are still far from comprehensive and agreed policies on all issues. Earlier this afternoon, in another exchange, I said that all countries have their special interests. Why not? We have a few ourselves and are as entitled as any other Member-State of the Community to assert them in the right way concomittant with proper negotiation and with the basic intent of creating a more effective and unified Community. But exchanges between Ministers and officials within the Community have reached an intensity which is not matched by any other international organisation. I am not an authority on how these things are done in the East but, speaking for the rest of the world, I would say that the intensity of the exchange of information and views which already obtains within the Community is very marked indeed. Co-operation in the CSCE negotiations was a striking example of this. We shall continue to give this process our fullest support.
We shall also continue to press on our partners the need for an outward-looking Community. The Lomé Convention, and the EEC initiative on commodities at the 7th UN Special Session show how the Nine together are making progress in the 282 direction of transforming the Community from what some people thought might become a tight little Zollverein into a group of like-minded countries which are always looking outward for the proper expansion of their activities. We live in an age of interdependence not simply in Western Europe but as between Western Europe and other regions and countries of the world, and it is not possible or desirable to erect barriers and retire behind them indefinitely.
The theme of political co-operation within the Community leads me naturally to revert to a remark which I made earlier, which was that the more traditional questions of foreign policy, while they are now matched in importance by world economic considerations, have not gone away. If it is true to say that the confrontation between East and West is not of quite the same nature as it was in the 'sixties, it would be idle to contend that the problem is not still with us. In recent years, the Governments of Europe have travelled a considerable distance along the road to détente; here I pay willing tribute to the contributions made not only by this Government and the Government of 1964–1970 but by the predecessor of the present Government. All British Governments have contributed to this forward movement of détente in Europe and the world.
We have constantly sought throughout this process to play a constructive part and we shall continue to do so. The CSCE has rightly been regarded as a positive step forward, and the Final Act puts into practical and concrete form the common intention expressed by all participating States to build more normal relations founded on mutual respect and the wish to involve ordinary people directly in détente. The practice of consensus, compromise and conciliation developed at Helsinki will stand us in good stead in the future. That is not to say that, like noble Lords opposite and on this side of the House, we shall not be ever watchful to ensure that the words so freely attested to at Helsinki are translated into progressive action. Helsinki was not a turning point in European relations. As I have said, it is the way that the Conference decisions are put into effect that will show whether the negotiations at Helsinki and Geneva have really borne fruit.
283 For our own part, as a country we have already taken action in a number of ways. A good deal of Helsinki was already part of the British way of life and of British law—most of it, in fact. But we are examining our system and practice to see whether we need to improve in order to come up to the very high standards imposed on all European countries by the Final Act in Helsinki. We have started doing the work. We have started a review of the working conditions for journalists working in Moscow. We have been pursuing personal cases with a number of Governments in Eastern Europe and, in some cases, there are distinct prospects of success. We have been working closely with our European friends and allies, in considering how best to use the skills and expertise of the Economic Commission for Europe and UNESCO to put into effect many of the decisions of the Conference.
On many occasions since the signature of the Helsinki agreement, my noble friend Lord Brockway has raised the question of a follow on; what institutional follow on procedure has been provided. No new institution was created to promote the implementation, but it was agreed that those two bodies—the Economic Commission for Europe and UNESCO in Europe—should be used to the utmost degree possible in order to implement appropriate and, indeed important, parts of the agreement. Like our NATO allies, we have also started to implement the arrangements for confidence building in the military field, through the notification of manoeuvres and the exchange of observers. Déente in military terms starts with confidence. To the extent that one can build confidence on both sides, the physical act of reduction, of peaceful redeployment, is possible. I have always felt—as, indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, has always emphasised—that détente and disarmament must be preceded by the creation of an adequate feeling of confidence.
Deeply ingrained practices and customs will not change overnight, and it is too early yet to come to any conclusions about what has been gained; nor, indeed, to assess what has not been won. We shall use our powers of negotiation and persuasion to the full in the coming months, and 284 by 1977 it should be possible to come to a realistic judgment on the effects of the CSCE. Meanwhile, we must be patient and seek to extend the boundaries of co-operation by negotiation and friendly discussion. We shall always make clear where we stand on any question, but we must avoid recrimination which may lead only to a hardening of attitudes.
Meanwhile, there remains a serious, worrying and growing disparity between the strengths of the Warsaw Pact and the NATO Forces in Central Europe. We shall continue to work for progress in the mutual and balanced force reduction talks in Vienna and in the various disarmament discussions under way in Geneva and elsewhere. But our security and our confidence lie, and will continue to lie, in our membership of the North Atlantic Alliance, which has not only served our country well over many years, but has clearly served the cause of peace and stability in Europe, and in the world, for the same number of years. We stand at a time when the world is full of alarms and excursions of one kind or another. But it is also a world which has enjoyed freedom from large scale war for 30 years—a considerably longer period than that which elapsed between the end of the First and the declaration of the Second World War. To this comparative freedom from war, NATO—the North Atlantic Alliance—based, as it is, on defence and détente, has made an undeniable contribution.
The close and effective co-ordination of members of the Alliance in the MBFR talks, and at Helsinki, shows that our desire to turn NATO into an instrument of détente as well as of defence is not an idle wish. This is a operative alliance, greater than and different from any preceding alliance. It is not only an alliance based on military needs—I thought for a moment I was going to be halted in mid-flight in the nicest possible way—but an alliance in defence of democracy and human rights; of continuing to do so during peace as well in the exercise of war.
The defence White Paper did not disguise the fact that the Defence Review was a matter of concern to our allies, but that concern was tempered by some understanding for our position. The effectiveness of our contribution to the central region of NATO was not affected by the Defence Review; indeed, by 285 means of the extensive reorganisation of the Army in line with the principles described in the White Paper we aim to get more operational troops on the ground in BAOR at the expense of the tail.
The Defence Review also recognised the key importance of the Eastern Atlantic and Channel areas, and as a result we decided to concentrate our maritime forces there. Much of our specialist reinforcement forces suitable for deployment to the flanks of NATO are being maintained unchanged. For example, we are retaining our pre-Defence Review contribution to the Allied Command Europe Mobile Force. We are also continuing to train and equip one of the Royal Marine Commando groups for mountain and Arctic operations. This will be available for deployment to Northern Norway all the year round.
The initial Defence Review proposals, as they affected the two Banks, were not welcome to NATO. But as a result of the consultation process within the Alliance, we agreed to continue our participation in NATO maritime exercises, and in the NATO on-call force in the Mediterranean, as part of national deployments. We also agreed to maintain Southern Region reinforcement options for the Special Air Service regiment. We are continuing to study other significant measures suggested by our allies for meeting the effects of the Defence Review changes and reductions. These are also relevant to our contribution to the flanks and, where appropriate, we shall announce decisions as they are taken.
My Lords, this is a time of great change, and the world situation is possibly now more fluid than it has been since the end of the Second World War. I need only mention the East-West relation ship, and détente; the situation in the Mediterranean, in Cyprus, in Portugal and now in Spain; the developing situation in Africa, especially in Central and Southern Africa; the role of China, and the new situation in the Far East; and the relationship between the Third World and the West, as reflected in the producer-consumer discussion. It is a world full of change and potential change, and there are great dangers here. But there are also great opportunities. The United Kingdom is not a super-Power, but it is still a great Power. It has very great influence in 286 the world; and our influence would be stronger if, by our own exertions, our economic circumstances were better. The task of Government in foreign policy is first to build up the strength of our country at home, thereby increasing our influence in world affairs; to seek to use this influence to help the world community to steer clear of the undoubted dangers that beset it; and also to use to the full the great opportunities that confront it and so, my Lords, create a safer and saner world.
§ 3.32 p.m.
§ Lord CARRINGTON
My Lords, constant attenders in your Lordships' House at Question Time will have formed an unbounded admiration for the skill of the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts. He has a remarkable capacity for saying "No" or for refusing to say anything, and he says it in an infinite number of ways, all courteous and all very ingenuous. He is unmatched, if I may say so, in defensive play; the ball never gets past his bat. He is the Trevor Bailey of the Labour Front Bench; and today he has not disappointed your Lordships. He has been as skilful as ever, and we are very grateful to him indeed for his comprehensive speech on this, the day on which we discuss foreign and defence affairs.
My Lords, on one thing, at any rate, we can all of us be agreed, and that is that the problems of the world do not get any less or any easier to solve. Portugal, Spain, Cyprus, the Middle East, Central America, the Far East, the economic recession everywhere you look there is uncertainty, conflict and danger. Another thing, I am afraid, is true (if I may depart a little from the closing remarks of the noble Lord), and that is that we in this country are not in a position to take as active a lead as we have in the past or to exert the influence that we used to exert in helping to solve these problems, for our own situation is not one which the rest of the world regards with unstinted admiration or respect. I really do not think it becomes the Prime Minister to make extravagant claims on this score, even if the forum is a Party Conference. To say, as he did, that he could point to a record of achievement and influence unparalleled by any Government since the war, is really absurd. Let us acknowledge—and all of us acknowledge—that until we put our 287 economy right, until we are once more regarded as a country which can manage its own internal and financial affairs in a sensible fashion, we shall neither possess the strength, physical or moral, that we used to have; for, as is said so often in this House and outside it (and it can never be repeated too often), there can be no effective foreign or defence policy unless there is a strong economic base and political stability.
Broadly speaking, my Lords, ever since the war we in this country have had a bipartisan foreign policy, and over the field as a whole I would not quarrel with the policy of the Labour Government over these last two years. Of course it may be that there are areas in which we would have altered the emphasis, and one or two situations in which, perhaps, we might have acted differently. But it would not be right or fair to suggest that the policy followed by Her Majesty's Government does not have the support of the Opposition. And that is as it should be, for no country should, or I think in the long term could, lurch from one set of foreign policies to another and remain stable or credible in the opinion of its allies. Nor would I necessarily quarrel with the aims of the Government in their defence policy, though I am very much more critical (and will say something of this a little later on) of the means, and of their determination to cut down on the means, by which that defence policy is carried out—regardless, it seems, of the consequences.
My Lords, earlier this year we saw the British people taking perhaps the most important peace-time decision of their lives. We are now firmly, legally and logically in the Common Market. I am not one of those who supposes that over-night the problems, the jealousies, the rivalries and the histories of nine disparate countries can suddenly disappear or be forgotten; a new era dawn in which there are not differences of opinion, difficulties which must be the subject of negotiation, and differing views as to how best the Community as a whole should proceed.
I must admit without shame that I am not a great believer in blueprints or statements of intent, whether they come from Chequers or from Brussels. Those who believe, as I do, in the eventual unity of 288 Europe do not see this as stemming from some imposed solution dictated by Ministers or Commissioners, or a combination of both, in Brussels. It will come—and I think it will take a little time—from the organic growth of the Community, provided only that its members genuinely wish it to come. It will come because at a given time it will seem to everybody that there should be a further movement towards unity or commonality of one kind or another. To push too strongly proposals for integration before the time is ripe is, I think, to delay their eventual implementation. But having said that, that is not to say that there should not be those who advocate these things, for unless the ideas are put forward how are they ever to be discussed or, in the end, put into effect? Nor is it to say that there should be a negative approach, and an appearance of being unwilling to play one's proper part in the EEC.
My Lords, if I may make a mild criticism, I detect some tendency on the Government's part to that particular failing. Of course we must look after our own interests, particularly in our present weak economic state. Of course we must have regard for our own interests; but —and here I part company with the noble Lord—I confess to a doubt (and I speak probably for myself alone) about the wisdom, for example, of insisting upon a separate seat at the Energy Conference. Yes, it is obviously true that we must guard our own interests in the North Sea, but I am not sure that the way to do it is by alienating our friends in the Community. But we have; and I believe that it may very well be that that kind of action is delaying the time when Europe can speak with one voice in foreign and economic affairs which affect the whole world.
I have never believed that in military terms Europe should or could seek to be a rival of the two (or, if you include China, the three) super-Powers. But Europe could have enormous importance in international affairs if, from the base of great prosperity and economic strength, it could speak with a united voice. Let me give one illustration. In common with other Members of your Lordships' House, I have recently paid a visit to China. Chinese foreign policy is based upon fear of the Soviet Union's intentions. This governs their actions 289 and causes suspicions (which I believe to be misplaced) about the extent of American commitment to détente and also a worry about the validity of NATO in a climate of European disenchantment with defence. If Europe spoke and acted united, there is no doubt in my mind that the influence upon the Chinese would be wholly beneficial, as, indeed, it would be upon the United States, and a question mark of uncertainty would be removed. I must hope that in the next few months the Government will demonstrate beyond doubt that they really believe in Europe and recognise the fact that if they are to get advantage from Europe they must themselves be prepared to trust their neighbours as we ourselves would hope to be trusted.
My Lords, at this moment we are looking with some interest at the political future of the Iberian Peninsula, at what happened and at what is happening in Portugal where, despite preparations clearly made over many years by the Communist Party, the democrats have fought back in a way which must win the admiration of us all. It is very easy to say that, but when one knows—I have met one or two of those concerned—of the intimidation, the threats to wives and families which leaders of political Parties, and, in particular, of the centre political Parties, have had to endure and the courage with which they have carried on, one must feel that there is hope for Portugal and hope that she may escape the horrors of a Communist dictatorship.
My Lords, it is possible that there is a lesson here that we might learn. The Communist Party decided that, since the army in Portugal was the centre of power, there should be a steady and determined infiltration of the Armed Forces. We have seen the result. It would surely not be too fanciful to suppose that the Communist Party has done precisely the same thing in other countries of Western Europe and that we in this country are not immune. In this country it is not the Armed Forces which are the centre of power. It does not take much imagination on the part of anybody in this House to know where that infiltration could be. Do not let us say we have not been warned by the events in Portugal.
My Lords, in Spain, after very many years of dictatorship, the Spanish people are embarking on a new course. Surely 290 all of us would wish them well and at the same time pray that extremists will not do to them what they have done to Portugal. The other event of great importance this year, on which the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, dwelt at some length, was the signing of the Helsinki Pact, the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe. I differ in emphasis from the noble Lord, though not, I think, very much. I cannot pretend that I believe that, of itself, the signing of that document was very significant, although, of course, I would subscribe to its terms and to the general wish to promote greater understanding and freedom between East and West. My doubts are whether it would become effective or be anything other than the expression of pious hopes. Certainly the auguries at this moment are not very good. The actions of the Soviet Union immediately after signature—and the noble Lord, Lord Janner, drew attention to some of them—are not encouraging. The more recent events in Angola that we discussed early this afternoon are discouraging.
My Lords, to me the importance of Helsinki is this. I agree with the noble Lord opposite that we must give time correctly to assess the Soviet Union's attitude. We must then decide jointly with our friends whether or not it is possible for us to go any further along the road of détente without some concrete expression from the Russians of their willingness to give as well as to receive. I, for one, am very unhappy at the decoupling of the security conference from that of the conference on mutual force withdrawals in Vienna. It had hitherto been assumed that the two went together and that there would be no signature of the Helsinki Pact until the Viennese conversations had reached a point where agreement was possible; but that has not happened. The West—I know it was the United States who were the leaders in this and not Her Majesty's Government—decided to sign the Helsinki agreement with no progress whatever in Vienna. In fact, the only progress—if you can call it progress—that has been made in the last months has been the change in the title of the conference. The word "Balanced" has disappeared, so that, "Mutual and Balanced Force Withdrawals" now becomes "Mutual Force Withdrawals". Those of us who look 291 at the balance between the Warsaw Pact and NATO find that a chilling development.
My Lords, we are not concerned with the SALT talks except in so far as we are kept informed by the United States Government. But what happens there affects I all of us in Western Europe; for if the Americans get it wrong then we in the West are that much more vulnerable. The test of Western firmness will be whether we make any concessions in Vienna or in the strategic arms talks without firm reciprocal concessions on the part of the Soviet Union. There may be some in this House—I have no doubt that if he were here one might be the noble Lord, Lord Brockway—who feel that this is very hard-line talk. But it is not. There is nobody keener than I am to see a genuine reduction in tension and a fair. and genuine reduction in armaments. For who could want to perpetuate a state of affairs in which vast sums of money, badly needed for other things, are spent on defence because of mistrust on both sides? But unless there is some real indication from the other side, how can it be either in the interests of the West or safe for us to go on making concessions which seem increasingly to be one-sided and to which there is no like response?
My Lords, the only other area on which I should like to touch is the Middle East. Here I, for one, believe that the situation has very greatly improved—and in a way that the most optimistic of us would not have believed possible 18 months ago. I believe that it has improved because of the realism of those concerned; in particular, President Sad at and, more perhaps than anyone else. Dr. Kissinger, without whose efforts a really grave situation might have arisen. Of course, there are difficulties ahead, but let us not overlook—as it is so easy to do—the good things: an agreement between Egypt and Israel; the opening of the Suez Canal; the lessening of a danger of world conflict by the involvement of two super-Powers and the friendship which has grown up between the US and Egypt, thus avoiding the polarisation between Arabs and the Soviet Union and Israel and America. That, I believe, was the real danger to world peace.
My Lords, all this is good and we should be grateful for the statesmanship 292 of those who made it possible—not least those in Israel who have realised the need for some step forward if the integrity of the State is to be recognised by its neighbours. But there will be very great difficulties unless there are further agreements between the Arabs and the Israelis—and fairly soon at that. The next task upon which Dr. Kissinger and the other participants must embark is that of the Golan Heights. At the same time they have to remember that, although individual problems may be solved in a step-by-step approach, the Arab-Israeli dispute is something which must be considered as a whole. Those who, like me, have recently been to the Golan Heights and have seen it from both sides realise the difficulties that face us.
If you go to Syria and are taken to the town of El Quneitra at the base of the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, and you look at the Israeli fortifications dominating the plain to Damascus, you can well understand the attitude of the Syrian Government, outraged that their territory has been taken from them and threatened—as they see it—by Israeli military dominance of the Heights. If you go to the Israeli side, as I did in July, and visit the Golan Heights themselves and see the vulnerability of the Israeli side, equally at the mercy of those who occupy those Heights, then you can understand equally well the feeling of vulnerability of the Israelis.
I do not believe there is any solution to this matter which does not involve a neutral zone on the Golan Heights, controlled and policed by some international force. Surely that is possible. But even when that difficult problem has been solved there remains the West Bank of Jordan—undoubtedly Arab territory, yet its border delineated to within seven miles of the City of Tel Aviv. Lastly, the problem of Jerusalem. And who shall say, contemplating the history of the world, that religious problems are the easiest ones to solve? But we can take comfort from what has happened, and I know that Her Majesty's Government will do everything in their power to help Dr. Kissinger in the next stage of his negotiations, for he certainly needs that help as do those moderate men on both sides who seek to find a peaceful solution.
293 My Lords, I have not spoken of defence except in the context of détente, and I will leave it to my noble friend Lord Strathcona to speak in more detail. But I want to say one thing: there are already rumours of further cuts in the defence budget. This comes at a time when already there have been very significant reductions in British capability, when our allies are openly worried about the British contribution to NATO, and when there is no sign of a slackening in Soviet arms expenditure, or a lessening of her capability. I beg the noble Lord opposite to remember, when he said that NATO should be an instrument of détente as well as defence, that NATO should also be an instrument of defence as well as détente. This prospect of further cuts comes at a time when the prospect of détente makes people believe that it has arrived because it is talked about.
Now it is rumoured we are to have a further £600 million cut in the defence budget. This in addition to the very severe cuts which were made last year. Your Lordships will remember that at that time it was claimed by the Government that those cuts were the result of the most comprehensive review ever undertaken in the defence Services. Let us suppose for a moment that that is true, and that the exercise was not merely designed to make respectable a pre-ordainedcut. If we are to believe the Government, then after the most extensive review ever undertaken conclusions were reached which enabled the Government to cut defence expenditure by a very substantial sum. Presumably the review body decided that these were the maximum cuts consistent with the Government's defence policy and their international obligations. If that were not so, greater cuts would then have been made. What, then, are we to believe if the further cuts are to be made? Either the review was a sham, a cover up, so to speak, unrelated to defence needs or, regardless of their own inquiry, the Government intend to reduce the level of defence expenditure below the minimum which their own Committee believed to be right or safe.
We shall be watching closely what is proposed about defence expenditure. Let the Government not misunderstand the consequences of their actions. What of the increased unemployment which will 294 be inevitable if there are further cuts? Retrenchment must be in manpower if in anything. What of the future of those two industries which are about to be nationalized—the shipbuilding industry and the aircraft industry? That will give them a good start. Let the Government not misunderstand the consequences of their actions upon their allies, who themselves wish to reduce their defence expenditure. Let them not underestimate the consequences of their actions on the United States and its public opinion. If the Government shirk their duty and put our safety at risk, then let them be in no doubt what the reaction will be in this country from those who are aware of the vast superiority of the Warsaw Pact, the weakness of NATO, and those who believe the duty of this Government is to maintain adequate defence forces for the safety of their own citizens.