§ 2.58 p.m.
§ Debate resumed on the Motion moved on Wednesday last by Lord Wallace of Coslany—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's debate will be devoted to the defence and foreign affairs aspects of the gracious Speech. My noble friend who speaks for the Ministry of Defence and who will wind up the debate will concentrate, naturally, on the subject of defence, as he did last year, and I therefore propose to concentrate on foreign affairs, although I shall of course refer to defence matters.
My Lords, we are an island, but part of Europe, and facing the Atlantic, and traditionally outward-looking. Over the centuries Britain's outlook on the world has therefore developed three distinct strands: insular, European and international. As an island we have established a democratic system and a tradition of political stability of which we remain justifiably proud. It is in large part thanks to our position as an island that we have in the past been able to develop, relatively unmolested, a way of life which is not only one of our most valued national assets but also a long-standing and continuing source of influence on Europe and the world. But our insularity has never meant isolation.
285 It is today even less possible to rely solely on the natural advantages of our insular position to safeguard what we value. With the development of communications, the advent of air power as distinct from sea power, and the increasing growth of world inter-dependence, we in Britain find ourselves increasingly limited in our ability to protect our interests on our own. We are not unique in this. Indeed, today no nation, however powerful, can fully assure its prosperity and security in isolation.
While we should never forget our own qualities and resources, and our need and duty to husband and develop them, it is what links Britain to the wider world, not what separates us from it, which matters today. The Government therefore start from the premise that Britain's role is that of a major European Power with wide-ranging international interests and responsibilities which we share with our partners inside and outside Europe, including other members of the Commonwealth.
My Lords, Britain is a leading member of the European Community. The gracious Speech stressed the intention of the Government to play a full part in the activities and development of the Community. Our tenure of the Community Presidency in the first half of next year will focus afresh our commitment in Europe. We are also a central pillar of the Atlantic Alliance and a major contributor to NATO, with special responsibilities in Germany and Berlin, the exercise of which is vital to stability in Europe. We are, moreover, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. We play a leading part in various international economic organisations. As I have said, we belong to the Commonwealth and shall next year host in London a meeting of Commonwealth Heads of Government.
The influence that we derive from our international position helps us greatly to pursue the fundamental objectives of British foreign policy—the safeguarding of national security and the pursuit of national prosperity and the promotion of international agreement. Indeed, those objectives are linked. Our ability to play our proper role in the world—and it is considerable—depends first and 286 foremost on our own economic recovery. Equally, we shall find the task of national economic recovery formidably more difficult unless we have the right international conditions for export-led recovery. This we cannot hope to see without an orderly and sustained growth in world trade.
That is why the gracious Speech stresses the Government's intention to participate actively in international efforts to promote a more stable world economic order. For if there is one lesson to be learned from British history it is the abiding importance of overseas trade for our national wellbeing. We have always been a leading mercantile nation, and today we are one of the countries most heavily dependent on overseas trade. Our exports of goods and services represent over 30 per cent. of our gross national product. We import about half of our food, and even more of our raw materials. We are second only to the United States in the value of our overseas investments.
My Lords, these are the reasons why the Government attach paramount importance to working very closely with the other industrialised democracies. Unemployment, inflation, recession do not respect national frontiers. The measures which each country takes to curb inflation or to tackle unemployment can and do affect the prospects of all the others. The overriding preoccupation of the major industrialised countries is to achieve sustained economic growth without refuelling inflation, and at the same time to reduce unemployment. We shall only achieve these objectives if international co-ordination complements sound domestic policies. It is co-ordination of this kind between our national and international preoccupations which the Government are actively seeking to promote in, for instance, the OECD, the IMF and, of course, in the European Community. We saw at the Kingston Conference how the Commonwealth can make a vital contribution to international thought and action.
In today's world the interdependence of nations is more evident than at any time in the past, and nowhere has interdependence taken more sophisticated shape than in the European Community. We are full and active members of the 287 Community. This gives us the advantages of acting as a member of one of the wealthiest and potentially most economically powerful groups of the world. At the same time, with our traditional overseas links, we are in an especially good position to help shape the development of the Community's policies and, through the Community, to help shape the future of Europe itself, and through Europe, to contribute to world security and peace. There is no advantage to Europe in introversion, any more than there is in nationalism, and it is fair to say that Britain's accession to the Community has already helped to bring about changes of emphasis in Community attitudes to overseas countries.
It is clearly in. Britain's interest that the Community as a whole should prosper. We shall therefore continue to participate fully in the Community's activities so that we can help promote realistic and attainable policies which respond to the needs of the people of Europe. It is in this way that we can most effectively live up to the commitment, made in last year's White Paper, to work for a new and wider Europe, and always with the object of strengthening the European contribution to the creation of a more stable world.
It is in that spirit that we look forward to our tenure of the Community Presidency next year. This will be the first time that the British people will have had a close view of the Community in action. We are well aware of our responsibilities as Community President and we have been making careful preparations for some months. Our aim as European President will be to live up to the high standards set by those who preceded us, by discharging business as impartially and as efficiently as possible. We shall not pursue grandiose and ill-defined targets, but we shall seek to create the right conditions for productive debate leading to practical solutions.
One such practical step, admittedly in regard to procedure, was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich in his speech on the first day of this debate, when he referred to the Government's intention to introduce legislation to provide for direct elections to the European Parliament. A number of noble Lords, I know, are interested in the possible enlargement of the Community. It was 288 raised effectively at Question Time today by the noble Baroness, Lady Elles. On the question of a wider Europe, I will merely say that Greece and Portugal have moved in recent years from dictatorship to democracy. Her Majesty's Government hope and trust that Spain will follow them along the same path and take her place among the democracies of Western Europe. As in other fields, so in the dialogue, in the discussion, between developed and developing countries, Britain and the other Member States of the Community can make a more constructive contribution together than if they were acting on their own.
The House will be aware that at the Conference on International Economic Co-operation, the Community functions as a single unit, and its influence is undoubtedly much greater as such. I say this because it is of great importance that the Conference should be brought to a satisfactory conclusion, like the work programme set in train by last May's United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Since 1974 the world recession has aggravated the deteriorating economic balance between the richest and the poorest countries. The situation is not only morally unacceptable; it is also a source of instability in international economic and political relations. The lesson of the last three years is that no one, developed or developing, North or South, has anything to gain from confrontation, certainly not confrontation between demanders and conceders. We all have a vested interest in working together to set up a fair and rational world economic system based on common sense, common justice and common interests. The Government will, with their partners in the Community and in the wider world, work for a new relationship between the developed and developing countries based on those principles.
I believe the Commonwealth, with its links between the developed and developing countries, has an important role to play in this. As I say, at the invitation of Her Majesty's Government the next Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting will be held in London from 8th to 16th June next year. This will be the first meeting of its kind to be held in London since 1969, and I and my colleagues look forward with keen pleasure to welcoming to our shores the leaders 289 of this unique association. It will offer opportunities for friendly and informal discussion between representatives of a wide variety of different interests and regions, a cross-section in fact of the world community as a whole. Only in this way, by a free and relaxed exchange of views, can that kind of mutual understanding develop, leading in turn to constructive and fruitful action. We look forward to a rewarding and successful meeting.
My Lords, I have dwelt somewhat on the international economic issues of the day because of the degree to which they have come to the forefront of our foreign policy. But, of course, our foreign policy is still very much concerned with what might be called the traditional issues, the problems of war and peace and security. Membership of NATO is the cornerstone of Britain's security; the Organisation has first call on our defence resources. We have invited the North Atlantic Council to hold its spring meeting in London. So long as the Warsaw Pact countries continue to build up the strength of their armed forces, the cohesion and vigilance of NATO remain crucial to the security of the Western World. The Government are, of course, committed to policies of détente; but détente without security is a contradiction in terms. Our contribution to the alliance is a very substantial one. We alone of the European members contribute forces to all three elements of NATO's deterrent strategy—conventional, theatre nuclear and strategic nuclear forces. We maintain in Germany a highly professional army and a strong tactical air force, and in the Eastern Atlantic and Channel area we provide the greater part of NATO's readily available maritime forces. My noble friend, when he replies, will no doubt expand on these matters in the light of what is said in the debate.
But, my Lords, security is not only a matter of defence. We must continue to work for a genuine relaxation in tensions between East and West and, to this end, for a genuine implementation of all the provisions of the Helsinki Final Act, to which we, like 35 other countries, are fully committed. Next year's Belgrade Conference will provide us all with the opportunity to make a thorough review of the progress made by them. We are working positively for mutual balanced force reductions in the Vienna negotiations 290 to reduce forces in central Europe, and we are working hard in various international fora to bring about disarmament and to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. I shall give a few more details of this later on.
The Government are also concerned to act, where we can, to eliminate tensions in those areas of the world where a local conflict could escalate into a more perilous and widespread conflagration. The situations in the Middle East and Cyprus immediately spring to mind. We shall continue, with our friends and allies, to work for just and lasting settlements in both areas. It is a thoroughly sound principle in such situations to do everything we can, in collaboration with our friends, to encourage solution by agreement among the disputants directly involved.
This is perhaps particularly so in Southern Africa. There the failure to eliminate tensions could lead to violence that might spread far beyond the region. However, in Rhodesia a peaceful settlement may at last be in sight. The conference we have convened in Geneva is now well under way, and, although progress has not been dramatic, useful work has been done and agreement reached on the first main issue to be tackled, namely, the date for independence. However, major items of substance still remain to be discussed. They will need to be considered with urgency and with good will on all sides if the conference is to complete its work by the target date of 20th December. We for our part will do everything in our power to achieve an early and successful conclusion to the conference, and I remain cautiously optimistic that we shall succeed. It is important that we do so: the consequences of failure could be disastrous. A further extension of the guerrilla war would be in no one's interests and would bring with it the danger of introducing new complications, new sufferings for the African people, and new opportunities for externally promoted mischief making. Agreement, however, would provide not only a secure future at last for all the people of Rhodesia, but would also serve as a major contribution to the peace and security of Southern Africa as a whole.
I said I would enlarge a little on what I said earlier about arms control and 291 disarmament. I do so because the subject is one of my own particular responsibilities in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Disarmament is in the forefront of the Government's policy and we are negotiating and working to this end in the United Nations, in the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament, and in the Vienna negotiations on force reductions. We are fully committed to seeking the total abolition of nuclear weapons by multilateral negotiations and agreements. We believe the non-proliferation treaty of 1968 remains the best available means of controlling the spread of nuclear weapons and of nuclear explosive technology.
Meanwhile, in February we introduced a resolution in the International Atomic Energy Authority to allow States which are not parties to the NPT to accept IAEA safeguards on all their civil nuclear facilities. Furthermore, although we are not required to do so by the Treaty, we have voluntarily submitted to the IAEA safeguards those parts of the nuclear industry in Britain which support our civil nuclear programme, subject only to exclusions for purely national security reasons. Officials from a number of countries which have decided to harmonise their nuclear export policies held a further meeting on 11th and 12th November under United Kingdom chairmanship. We have not sought the chair at these meetings, but by general agreement Britain has been seen to be the most acceptable occupant of the chair. We are glad on those terms to assume it. The purpose of these meetings is to ensure that nuclear exports do not contribute to the proliferation of nuclear explosive devices. The Governments concerned will continue to keep in close touch.
We have also tabled a comprehensive draft Convention on the prohibition of chemical weapons. We did so at the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament on 12th August. We hope that when the Conference resumes its work in Geneva in 1977 all delegations will be ready with detailed discussions on the British draft. These are important initiatives undertaken by the United Kingdom. But equally we stand ready at all times to consider carefully and practically any proposal for arms control and disarmament emanating from any source.
292 I should not like to end today without saying something about the important European meeting which took place on Monday and Tuesday of this week. This meeting once again underlined the similarity of many of the problems faced by Member States and the importance of finding common ways of dealing with them. We have no illusions that self-help must come first: we must tackle our own problems with resolution. But those other Member States which have healthier economies undoubtedly can help —and the Council approved the report of the Commission which underlines this. We all want to see that the growth of economic activity both within and outside the Community does not falter, and we want to see the problems we all face dealt with within the machinery of the Community.
The Council also dealt with the Tindemans Report and approved the direction of the work which the Community Foreign Ministers have been doing. The Council will in fact take stock of progress every year. The important fields for the next period will be, above all, the need to fight inflation and unemployment, to work out a real regional and social policy and to develop common policies for energy and research. Perhaps I might repeat that. The important fields for the next period will be, above all, the need to fight inflation and unemployment, to work out a real regional and social policy and to develop common policies for energy and research.
The Council also reaffirmed the importance it attaches to the wide range of problems relating to international economic co-operation and therefore to the CIEC. It underlined the willingness of the Community to make as positive a contribution as it can to the extent that developments in its own economy permit. This links with something I said about the need to get away from a too rigid attitude to a new world economic order based simply on a confrontation between demanders and conceders. It is necessary to consider what can be done partly at least in relation to the capacities of those who are deemed most likely to be able to help.
The Council examined the whole range of issues which are at present current in the CIEC.
293 Noble Lords will have noticed that a good deal of attention has been paid in the Press to the difficulties arising from fluctuations in currency exchange rates for the Common Agricultural Policy, and it is quite true that some Member Governments wished to focus attention on this. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister made it quite clear that this issue could not be divorced from the very much larger problem of improving the Common Agricultural Policy itself, and preventing the build-up of expensive surpluses.
Finally, the Council also looked at the problems posed by trade imbalances between the Community and Japan, particularly in certain important industrial sectors. While noting with pleasure that the Japanese Government wishes to co-operate with the Community, the Council asked that the Community institutions should look urgently at these problems and should pursue vigorously this important aspect of the common commercial policy in discussions with Japan. The Council expects that substantial progress should be made before the Council meets again.
My Lords, in his speech to this year's Session of the United Nation's General Assembly, my right honourable friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary identified four great challenges which today confront the international community: the search for peace; the establishment of a proper economic balance between developed and developing countries; the promotion of human rights; and the maintenance of the rule of law. My right honourable friend gave, on behalf of the Government, an unequivocal pledge of support for the efforts being made to meet these challenges and thus for the work of the United Nations itself. I reaffirm this pledge today. In this way the Government believe that they can best serve the interests not only of the British people, but of the international community as a whole.
§ 3.32 p.m
§ Lord CARRINGTON
My Lords, the House will, as usual, be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, for his thorough-going speech and for the 294 usual common sense that he spoke. Your Lordships will be looking forward to the two maiden speakers who will address the House this afternoon. We await what my noble friend Lord Montgomery of Alamein has to say with great interest; his distinguished father used to be short, dramatic and always right, so we expect great things of him.
It is perhaps significant that there has been no debate on foreign affairs, nor indeed on defence, in the House of Commons during the debate on the Address. It is certainly true that visitors to this country, or at any rate those to whom I talk, are increasingly finding us preoccupied with our own affairs and less and less concerned with what happens elsewhere. Though that is much to be regretted, in a way it is understandable, since we have a great deal to be preoccupied about, as our debate yesterday and on Thursday showed. It is equally and sadly true that the influence of a country in a very weak economic situation is undermined. One has only to look at the decline in British influence over the last years to realise that. If we intend to recapture the position we once held—and we must try to do that—we have to do it with a strong economy and a resolute people, and Lord Goronwy-Roberts said exactly that. If we do not, then we shall increasingly lose the influence that we now possess.
Perhaps until then we should as a country moralise less about the attitudes of other Governments, and when we do moralise we might perhaps try to moralise rather more even-handedly. There seems to be a rather disturbing tendency on the part of some people to be selective. Oppression is oppression, whatever the politics of the oppressor. Nor am I always clear what exactly the purpose of Her Majesty's Government is on the occasions when they take a moral stance. For example, what exactly was the object of withdrawing our Ambassador in Chile? Of course Chile is not a democracy. Of course the Opposition there is harassed, to say the least. Dr. Cassidy was very badly treated by the Chilean authorities. But there are several thousand British subjects in Chile and one of the purposes of diplomatic representation is to protect one's own nationals. Yet at a time when it became more and more clear that protection for British subjects was needed, 295 the Government withdrew the Ambassador, and there is still no Ambassador in Santiago. I raise this point only to ask in general terms what is the object. What benefit do we seek to get from the action of withdrawing an Ambassador whose presence does not denote approval of the régime but, rather, serves a British purpose?
Equally, I find it difficult to understand why in August this year Her Majesty's Government established relations with Cambodia. It is of course difficult to be precise about what is happening in that sad country, but from all accounts several hundred thousand people—the figure is usually put at 800,000—are believed to have died since the civil war. either from starvation or as a result of the systematic campaign of liquidation carried out by the new rulers, an atrocity on a truly appalling scale and little commented on in the Free World. What did we expect to gain from such a move as recognition? It was surely not to signify approval of that régime, as apparently the removal of the Ambassador in Chile was to express disapproval. In short, why degrade representation in Chile, where we need it at every level, and then establish relations in Cambodia where there is no need?
I am not one of those who believes that cutting off relations is likely to change people's minds. On the contrary, personal contact is much the best way to influence people and change their views. But let us be clear, when we seek to influence Governments and people, that we are against oppression, against imprisonment without trial, against political trials, against the denial of those freedoms which we in this country take for granted; we are against all of that, whether it comes from Right or Left.
There is at any rate one thing, whether we are a rich or poor country, on which we can all agree, and in this I follow Lord Goronwy-Roberts in what he said; that is, the increasing interdependence of all the countries in the world. We have only to consider our own sophisticated economy to realise how dependent we are on the raw materials and markets of other countries. And what is true for us is true in its own way for everybody else; we cannot do without the lesser developed countries any more than they 296 can do without us. It is nonsense to suggest, as sometimes well-meaning people do suggest, that the combined and sustained economic growth of the West is bad for the rest of the world, that capitalism is the major problem of the world economy, or that the lesser developed countries should detach themselves from the present system; for without economic growth in the West there can be no improvement in living standards anywhere. Three-quarters of the exports of the lesser developed countries go to the industrial countries. We are totally dependent one upon the other.
It does not seem to me—this is not a criticism of the Government—that there is a sufficiently planned and coherent strategy for tackling the problems which arise from all our different needs, but I believe that at last there is beginning to be an understanding that there are problems. To put it at its very lowest, if the rich get richer and the poor get poorer there will not be much stability in the world, let alone justice and fairness. We have made a start, I think not a bad start, with such things as the Lomé Convention, the UNCTAD proposals, the talks in Paris and, as Lord Goronwy-Roberts said, the talks in the Commonwealth Conference at Kingston and the part the Commonwealth can play. But I am sure that something more is needed, a much wider package of trade reforms and institutional devices, and I am sure that something like the International Resources Bank is needed.
The disagreement in the Hague yesterday seemed to me to be more about tactics than about the substance of what the Nine should do, and if it means that the Plenary Session of the Conference in Paris will be delayed for some months, I do not think that matters. What matters is the genuine intention of the Nine to make it a success. To leave things as they are—and I believe that if anything they are getting worse in the sense that the gap between the developed and lesser developed countries is growing—would be to jeopardise peaceful progress, and there are some countries which are only too willing to take advantage of the discontent, jealousies and bitterness that will grow up unless we are firm in our determination to create greater stability in world trade.
Of course, grave problems face us quite apart from that theme, though they 297 are in a sense part of that theme. I do not intend to say anything about Africa. We had a debate on Rhodesia not so long ago and I believe that all your Lordships felt, as I still feel, that, while the Conference is going on in Geneva, there is nothing useful that can be said and much that might be said which could be misconstrued. Nor do I want to say anything about Europe, because my noble friend Lady Elles will no doubt have much to say on that, though I should like to make one point. There will be no one in this House who does not wish Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Tugendhat well in their task, and no one who knows the dedication that Mr. Jenkins has shown to Europe over a very long period who will not expect great things from him and who will not support him in every way possible. One of the things that I hope will happen is a much greater move towards a concerted European foreign policy than has been evidenced in the last few years.
What I wanted primarily to say this afternoon was a few words about the Middle East. Though the Arab-Israeli conflict has been relatively quiescent over the last year, there are signs of restlessness—perhaps understandable restlessness—on the part of the Arabs. I said this time last year that there would be very great difficulties unless there were further agreements between the Arabs and the Israelis and that, though individual problems might be solved by a step by step approach, the Arab-Israeli dispute was something that had to be considered as a whole. I still believe that to be true. The situation cannot be left where it is, nor is it possible to leave it where it is. A new peace initiative is now more urgent than it was. However, as in all things at the present time which have to do with foreign affairs, we have to await the appointment of a new American Secretary of State and, indeed, we have to wait to see what will be the policy of President Carter. Mr. Carter very sensibly did not commit himself in specific terms in the field of foreign policy during his election campaign, so none of us knows.
Before we shrug off the old and welcome the new, it would, to say the least of it, be ungenerous not to pay a tribute to Dr. Kissinger. It is fashionable at this moment to decry his achievement. I suppose that that is the lot of all politicians 298 and most people in the public eye at some time or another in their career. I, for one, should like to go on record as saying that he, and he more than anyone else, has been responsible for the peace—even if it has been an uneasy peace—that has prevailed in the Middle East since the Yom Kippur War. He, an American Jew, uniquely won the confidence of the Arabs without losing the friendship of the Israelis. In doing so, he prevented the total polarisation of that dispute into an East-West conflict in which the Arabs would have become identified with the Soviet Union. If Dr. Kissinger had done nothing else—and he has done a great deal more—he would, with that achievement, have rendered a very great service to the whole of mankind.
However, the fact is that, in spite of that, Security Council Resolution No. 242 is not at the moment complied with. The Israelis have not withdrawn from the occupied territories, nor has any security been given to them within their guaranteed borders. If no solution is found to these problems, we shall, once again, have the danger of polarisation and of renewed conflict. I believe that it is true that Soviet influence has waned in the Middle East in the last few months, but there is opportunity for its re-emergence if no progress is made in solving the problem.
For the Arabs and for the Israelis in particular, the present situation is economically appalling. It slows down their economic development and much too much of their gross national product is spent on armaments. For the West, there is always the danger that war or threats of war may bring with them the renewed use of the oil weapon and the economic disasters of three years ago. Certainly Arab diplomacy is expecting a new initiative by the American administration, though I imagine that they will not expect such an initiative until the spring of next year. President Sadat has claimed that a new initiative was part of the Sinai agreement. We can see that the reconciliation between Syria and Egypt, the settlement in the Lebanon and Syria's prompt renewal of the United Nations mandate are all part of that process. It appears that the PLO is under pressure from the Arabs to take a more moderate line. It was interesting to note that Mr. Farouk Kaddoumi, who is the head of the PLO delegation at the United Nations, stated in a recent 299 interview that the PLO was ready to accept a Palestinian State in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank of the Jordan.
All that is to the good, though the latter statement leaves a good many things unclear. It is good that at long last the civil war in the Lebanon has come to an end. Those of us who have been to the Lebanon will have been appalled by the destruction of Beirut and of the basis of prosperity which the Lebanese people have created for themselves. We hope that the settlement will enable them to rebuild their prosperity and their country.
We should therefore be expecting demands for a full-scale conference in Geneva next year and we should be prepared for them. President Sadat has said so in an interview with Mr. Henry Brandon in the Sunday Times. Certainly, some initiative of this kind must take place if momentum is to be maintained. Of course, the position of the Israelis is more difficult. The Israeli Government is in a less strong position than it was a year ago and it will be facing an election next autumn. Nevertheless, the Israeli Government has said that it is ready for direct talks at any time. Your Lordships may have seen a very interesting article in the Financial Times, in which the proposals of Mr. Allon are summarised. Broadly speaking, what Mr. Allon says is that Israel can afford to compromise on territory but it cannot afford to do so on security. It therefore requires defensible borders. Those of us who know that part of the world or who have been there will realise how militarily indefensible would be the position of Israel if the West Bank were returned to the Palestinians. The southern tip comes within a few miles of Tel Aviv. There must be assurance for the Israelis in terms of their security and no settlement of this problem is possible if the Israelis believe that the terms that they are asked to accept are worse than the alternative of sitting it out or fighting it out. Equally, they must and do understand what Mr. Allon has called the "extreme asymetrics" of the situation—the 134 million Arabs and the 3½ million Israelis.
The Israelis have much to lose and so have we. We must hope that Mr. Carter and his new Secretary of State will put their minds to this problem as their first 300 foreign priority. We must hope, too, that Britain and the European Community will play a more active role than they have done hitherto. After all, the Community has been able to adopt a common position on the Arab/Israeli dispute at the United Nations. Let the Government then press for direct Community help in this settlement of the most potentially dangerous problem today.
My Lords, this debate is also about defence, and I here feel a good deal less bipartisan. I have made so many speeches to your Lordships about defence that I feel reluctant to say in essence the same thing over and over again, but I cannot sit down without expressing my alarm about what the Government have done to our defence Forces and my fear that they may well be going to do even more damage. I hope that the absence of the Lord Chancellor and the Leader of the House means that they are fighting in the Cabinet that this should not happen.
I do not know whether your Lordships realise quite how much Her Majesty's Government have cut from the defence programme: £460 million in 1975: £578 million this year; £853 million next year; just under a billion pounds in 1978; and £1,100 million in 1979. I am afraid that I must say to noble Lords opposite that in my judgment they have singled out defence cuts not because they believe that we were spending too much on defence, nor because they believe that the international situation is sufficiently favourable to enable them to do this; one has only to read the speeches of Mr. Roy Mason to know that he, at any rate, believes no such thing. They have singled out defence because in political terms it is easier for them than cutting out anything else, and it preserves the unity of the Labour Party. It is the easiest way out of the problem.
If they are going to cut defence once again as part of the reduction in public expenditure called for by the International Monetary Fund, then in the judgment of Mr. Mason and Field Marshal Sir Michael Carver, and a great many others, and not least myself, they will seriously be putting at risk the security of this country. I see nothing in the relative strengths of East and West which can conceivably excuse the Government's policy; rather the reverse. In the meantime, I must tell the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, and his colleagues that we shall on these Benches, 301 in so far as we can, harry them, and oppose them, and show them up as irresponsible and unconcerned with the security of this country if they seek further to reduce the already inadequate defence Forces of this country.
I said at the beginning that I thought that personal and political contacts are essential if we are to influence events, and it is equally true that contacts are necessary between East and West. Whatever the problems of détente—and we have discussed that often enough in this House—there is no one who would not wish it to succeed if it were genuine and lasting. Helsinki was a start, though I think that all of us, wherever we sit in the House, had our reservations. There is an opportunity to review the progress of the Helsinki Agreement at Belgrade next I year. I very much hope that the Government will use that opportunity thoroughly to examine what has happened. We should not balk at asking awkward questions, not to undermine what has been achieved, but to reinforce the need for more effort and greater will on the part of all of us to relax tensions.
I hope the Government will not let Belgrade be a minor event, non-ministerial, where difficulties are swept under the carpet and we talk of the Security Conference only in terms of a worthless agreement. Treaties are words unless the participants genuinely mean to carry out the obligations they have undertaken. It would be idle to deny that we are disappointed, so far, at what has happened. Perhaps there was too much optimism, but that is not a reason for not seeking a genuine détente between East and West, for to remove the menace of a global war which hangs over the civilised world is perhaps the greatest prize of all.
§ 3.54 p.m.
§ Lord GLADWYN
My Lords, I shall devote my few remarks today almost entirely to the question of defence, leaving it to my colleague Lord Banks to deal with other aspects of foreign affairs, such as direct elections to the European Parliament, Rhodesia, and so on. But, first, I should like to associate myself, and indeed those of us on these Benches, wholeheartedly with the tribute which the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, paid to 302 Mr. Roy Jenkins upon his appointment to the post of Commissioner in Brussels, and to express all our hopes for his success in that very important job. I should like also to associate myself with the tribute which the noble Lord paid to Dr. Kissinger who, I agree, has been a very remarkable and, on the whole, a very successful Secretary of State in the most difficult circumstances imaginable.
Every year we debate the foreign affairs and defence aspects of the Queen's Speech. Every year we are effectively told, in what I think I may not improperly describe as rather bland language, if not by Her Majesty herself then at any rate by Her Ministers, that though the position in the world of this country as a second-rate State of the first order of importance, or as a first-rate State of the second order of importance, or whatever the mystical formula may be, has not exactly altered for the better, there is still hope that, through our own exertions, and more particularly perhaps the beneficent effect of détente—to the attainment of which of course Her Majesty's Government have attributed so much—we shall be able to play our full part in world affairs, even if our defences are cut to the bone as, year after year, they invariably are.
Naturally, I should not dissent from—indeed I greatly welcome—the statement of objectives so eloquently put forward just now by the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, especially his firm declaration in regard to Europe, which I am sure all Europeans will greatly appreciate. But I myself, speaking more particularly about defence, will probably introduce, as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, introduced, a rather more disturbing note into our discussion. I suggest in effect that the general effect of Governmental Statements on these questions year after year is to give the public the impression—I say only that the public get this impression—that there is no really fundamental danger inherent in the great and increasing Soviet military preponderance, since after all, for so long as détente persists, why should they make any evil use of their colossal strength, and, in the second place, that if our defences have so often been cut to the bone without any apparently dire result, why should not the process go on without any distressing consequences? I do not say that this is the right conclusion, but this is a 303 conclusion at which I believe a great part of the public in this country arrive.
But the sad fact is that, as was only to be expected, d½tente has been shown to be a delusion. The follow up to Helsinki, whatever people may say, has been to all intents and purposes negligible, and there must, in the nature of things, be a point at which the vast Soviet preponderance of power will, unless it is somehow corrected, become so overwhelming that it will be made use of to obtain political advantage, to the grave detriment of our free societies, more particularly in this part of the world. We do not of course want to hear such gloomy prognostications, with which we feel unable to cope. We have to reduce our general expenditure anyhow, apparently, if we are to prevent our standard of living from falling below that of Italy, or even perhaps one day below that of Portugal or Greece. Thus, we say to ourselves, we can only shrug our shoulders and hope vaguely for some miracle.
In the meantime we must naturally (as the Government so eloquently say) press ahead towards general and complete disarmament; lead the world in our efforts to assist the underdeveloped countries; support the United Nations; unite against apartheid; deplore aggression; recommend moderation, and, generally speaking, behave in a sensible and civilised way. Unfortunately, the profession of such excellent sentiments does little to disguise the fact that, largely for economic reasons, our actual influence on international events, in spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, said, is now very small, and that the serious ambition of one of the super-Powers, whose influence on events is, after all, all-important, tends in very different directions at the present time.
One might have supposed that, since our condition is so obviously parlous, thought would nevertheless have been given before now to the possibility of getting together more closely with our fellow members of the EEC in order to see how best we could form a more powerful and, above all, a more efficient unit in the Atlantic Alliance by pooling our research and development, rationalising the production of conventional armaments and considering the possibilities of an entirely new form of con- 304 ventional defence in conjunction, of course, with our American allies. One might indeed have thought so. The European Parliament recommended our doing precisely this over a year ago. So did Mr. Tindemans, the main proposals of whose report (although perhaps the Government may think differently) seem to be in process of being consigned, page by page, to the dustbin—or, rather, to consideration in the remote future.
There may, it is true, have been some slight move in the direction I have been suggesting. A year ago a body known. I think, as the European Programme Group, was formed, consisting of the directors of armaments of the nations represented in the Eurogroup, plus France—a very good thing⁁in order to consider whether there was any prospect of harmonising the production in Europe of certain armamemts. So far, nothing has been heard of the labours of this group. I think it is very unlikely, but it would be interesting if the Minister who is to reply could give us some slight indication of what, if anything, is going on. I am pretty certain he will not, but I think he should. Unfortunately, there is little reason to think that, though the constitution of this group is at least a sign of grace, it will ever achieve anything. unless it is given some kind of political directive from the top.
Then there was the plan attributed not long ago to Mr. Vredeling, the Netherlands Minister of Defence—now, I believe, nominated to the Commission—for some new defensive system in Western Europe coupled with the possible creation of a nuclear-free zone. The difficulties in the way of such a system are, as we all know, very considerable. But what happened to it when and if it was discussed by his fellow Ministers? These things should not be shrouded in mystery; they should be openly debated. Presumably silence has concealed the fact that Mr. Vredeling's colleagues were embarrassed even by the idea of discussing such matters at all.
There has also recently been a meeting in London of the NATO Nuclear Planning Group. Was there any indication of the Ministers of the Community considering a common line at that meeting? But presumably there is no question of Her Majesty's Government taking any initiative in this matter at the present time. 305 All they can do is to try desperately to keep their heads above the engulfing economic tide.
We are not, I understand, discussing the Statement made a few minutes ago in the House of Commons regarding the last meeting of the European Council, which I have had time only to glance at and not even to read; but my general impression, though I hope I am wrong, is that it was probably, in its essentials, the biggest flop since Copenhagen. In any case, there was no question of the crucial matter of defence being considered at that particular conference. Why? Why could not Her Majesty's Government consider making any such move? Because, apart from anything else, to raise it there would be to alienate the affections of their Left-Wing supporters, whose assistance, so we are told, is essential if the Social Contract is to be observed, and renewed, and the whole country saved from chaos, bankruptcy and general impotence.
Why do the Left-Wing members of the Labour Party object so strongly, as they do, to any move designed to strengthen our conventional defences, and at the same time save some £3 billion by pooling our research and development and rationalising the production of armaments, or at the least to arrive at what is now called the "interoperability" of certain essential weapons? No doubt, my Lords, for ideological reasons and for a strong inclination not to displease the Russians, who have indeed repeatedly said that any such effort would be inconsistent with détente (as defined by the Soviet Government), and in any case incompatible with the objectives of the conference on MBRF in Vienna. Interpreted, what this means is that since, by definition, all the free societies of the West are in what the Communists call the imperialist camp, they must not be in any position to defend themselves until they have broken with America, accepted a directed, or Marx-Leninist, form of economy, and consequently come into the all-embracing fold of the so-called popular democracies. There are undoubtedly some people in this country—and indeed some prominent in our politics, though perhaps not many—who would subscribe to these ends, even if not overtly: and not only in this country, of course, but elsewhere in Europe.
Timidity about defence is not only evident among those who are afraid of 306 provoking the Left: it is also shared by those who are dubious about taking any initiative which might question the continuing willingness of the Americans to station their forces in Europe. The first objective I have already dealt with. If we are ever to be dominated by Left Wing thinking on foreign affairs and defence, then, frankly, we are finished, and will end up, if we are lucky, with something like the Deutsche Demokratische Republik. But the second is an understandable, if, as I think, misguided, apprehension. For nothing would probably please the United States Government better than some decision on the part of the members of the EEC to strengthen their collective defensive effort, and indeed to initiate serious proposals for what is called a "two-way street" for the production and supply of armaments. In any case—and this, I think, is something which I think my colleagues on these Benches would particularly feel—the ugly scramble for armaments orders among the larger members of the Community is becoming something of a scandal. How can you arrive at a common foreign policy if one member of the Community is arming country A and another its great rival, country B? Markets should surely be shared out in accordance with some main political plan, and this should be discussed at the highest level, presumably in the European Council.
To illustrate the necessity for standardising armaments, let me give your Lordships one quotation from an excellent pamphlet by a certain Mr. Gardiner Tucker, who was, I believe, a member of the NATO staff. It was published recently by the Atlantic Institute, and here it is in resumé. He says:The first major consequence of 'de-standardisation' is the dissipation of research and development resources. The ACE Mobile Force (AMF) consists of units from seven member countries. These units train and operate together and would be the first integrated NATO force on the scene. With seven nations contributing there are seven different types of combat aircraft; six different types of recoilless rifle; four different types of wire-guided anti-tank weapons; three different types each of mortar, rifles and machine guns. Moreover, each of the seven national units must maintain its own logistic personnel and establish its own logistic support. Thus they cannot draw on host country supplies but must bring in their full supplies with them from the start. In sum, and apart from anything else, the absence of standardisation means that it takes twice as long to deploy the force than would otherwise be the case".307 My Lords, you may well be appalled by such revelations but it is only one small example of our disarray. Most national airfields, for instance, can supply and reload only the types of aircraft in the air force of the host nation. There are no common IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) systems. In NATO there are 100 different types of warships of destroyer class or larger; 36 different types of radars; 40 different types of guns and consequently of ammunition; and so it goes on. If your Lordships still question the fearful situation produced by "de-standardisation" you have only to read the excellent article by Mr. Julian Critchley in last Monday's The Times. It is difficult to imagine how we could even begin to hold up, by conventional means, any conventional assault by a highly trained and standardised force about three times as powerful as ours. It is a grim thought that by our feckless improvidence and ingrained nationalistic prejudices we are, month by month, widening the fatal nuclear threshold.
There are, of course, practical difficulties in the way of proceeding in the direction suggested, notably the hesitant attitude of France towards co-operation with anybody in the field of defence and the strongly nationalistic stance of both the Gaullist and the Communist Parties. There is also a lurking, if seldom expressed, fear on the part of the Germans that they may one day perhaps be deserted by their Western European partners and have to rely on a straight German-American alliance. And perhaps that any conflict, even a conventional one, could in view of the rapidly increasing urbanisation of the Federal Republic only have fearful consequences whatever the result might be.
My Lords, the best way to overcome all these fears and place the alliance on a sounder and more durable foundation would be for the British to raise the whole question of European defence within the framework of the alliance in the European Council. However, for this we shall probably have to await—if events allow us to wait so long—the arrival of some kind of broadly-based government in this country and some consequent resurgence of national confidence and initiative.
Perhaps I could end with a few words on détente. Nobody in his senses wants war, either hot or cold. But the sad 308 fact is that for so long as the Soviet Union bases itself on the postulate, as it does, that capitalism, or imperialism, or the bourgeoisie or whatever the name they give to the system which we know as democratic and pluralistic is something which must be overthrown and undermined by all means short of war—and even in the last resort, and if necessary, by warlike measures—"tension" must continue. That is on the assumption that our free societies resist the efforts made to transform them into "popular democracies", by which is meant directed economies in which all personal freedom disappears. There is not the slightest good thinking that you can somehow persuade the rulers of the Soviet Union to abandon this stance by the exercise of reason or even by the exercise of pressure. These men believe—and I should say that they genuinely believe—that the capitalists, the imperialists, the bourgeoisie and so on are on the way out, betrayed by their own inner contradictions and corrupted by their luxurious and permissive mode of life. I must say that sometimes I can hardly blame them; for if we go on as we are going on now, failing to discipline ourselves, failing to make collective sacrificies and, above all, failing to unite, we shall certainly deserve our fate.
So I can only once again express the ever-diminishing hope that the Governments of the Community—and more particularly Her Majesty's Government during the period of the British Presidency—will make a real attempt to make the institutions of the Community function. It is arguable that the one hope of achieving this end is to elect directly the Members of the European Parliament and then allow them to bring the necessary pressures to bear on those nationalist elements all over Europe who seem determined to see to it that we all hang separately. But while this may well be so, it is not impossible that even before the European direct elections this nation will be so shaken by internal and external events that it will throw up a leader who will understand where our European destiny lies and persuade not only his countrymen but also our immediate neighbours to walk towards it.
§ 4.14 p.m.
§ Lord WEIDENFELD
My Lords, the distinguished contributions from the Front 309 Benches have had the immediate effect upon me to want to shorten my speech and to lighten the burden of listening because some of the points made were those that I should have liked to make, although without the eloquence and authority of experienced, indeed great, Parliamentarians. None the less, I feel that I may have to draw heavily on your Lordships' good will when, addressing you for the first time, I ask you to share some thoughts and findings on our relations with Europe. I say "findings" because, as a publisher, I have to be in continuing touch with European opinion and opinion makers and have just returned from a trip to the Continent where I talked to some political leaders and people in business, in industry, in the universities and the arts, trying to discover something about their attitude towards us and their present mood.
Of course, the state of Britain is in the forefront of discussion everywhere and causes deep concern, but all sensible Europeans agree that what is fashionably described as the English malady is, deep down, a European ailment. It is an Irish, Italian, Danish, French malady. Even the affluent Germans are uneasy and, like Wagnerian Nibelungs, they sit on their Rhinegold in fear that the heroic cycle might end with the "Twilight of the Gods". All Europeans have at various times and in varying degrees shared such symptoms as inflation, stagnation, self doubt, apocalyptic prophecies of doom. Yet what is striking about our neighbours, or some of them, is that even when they are in trouble, even when they are in conflict with one another, when they pugnaciously or obstreperously fight for their national interests (as they have done earlier this week), they tend to think at the same time in both a national and European way. Yet they think and feel that we in Britain tend to see our problems somewhat in isolation and do not reach out spontaneously for European understanding as well as help. It is still felt that Britain may have joined the club but has not quite entered the family.
This thinking is not confined to our European neighbours. I should like to recall a constructive intervention by my noble friends Lord Northfield and Lord Vaizey in your Lordships' House when they argued that we should go to the 310 Governments of the Community as members of a tightly-knit family and do everything we can to develop and harmonise our financial and industrial policies with the Community. We should have no inhibitions about speaking plainly and forcefully for while today it may be our turn to approach them, tomorrow it will be their turn to seek our help in the same ringing tones of urgency. While everybody expects Britain to remain attached to her world-wide and especially her trans-Atlantic links, her friends in Europe hope that she will add to that sense of world co-operation an increasingly effective sense of her European ties; in other words, a European dimension.
My Lords, another strong impression that I gained abroad is that there is a marked difference in attitudes between the older and the younger generations towards the European Community. On one level, the EEC is an established fact for all, a working proposition. It may be humdrum, cumbersome, at times maddening and impersonal, but it is a fact of everyday life. Yet among the young there is none of that enthusiasm and faith which inspired European youth in the 1940s and 1950s. Worse, there is today a crisis of confidence in Europe which often goes hand in hand with a deep malaise and scepticism about democratic institutions and Parliamentary government in general.
There are few torches lit now for Europe in the streets and on the campuses. At the same time, the Third World seems to be able to rally and mobilise tens of thousands of young people in support of many of its political movements and social causes. Some of these are worthwhile and are not in conflict with the ideals of the Community. After all, Europe contributes an enormous amount of aid to the Third World. But social injustice, poverty and squalor are not only to be found in the desert and the bush. Just as David Livingstone, when he went to Africa, left behind the jungle of Clydeside, there are still distressed areas of Europe, pockets of grinding poverty and want. Surely here is real scope for the crusading zeal of young Europeans. Here is scope for experienced voluntary effort, and this is perhaps where our country may take the lead. Britain has an unrivalled world reputation with the expertise and progressive nature of its voluntary bodies. 311 She has a right and a duty to encourage the European Community to tap the resources of an unofficial European network in domestic and external fields of social welfare. In fact, this network of voluntary organisations throughout Europe might well be a third social partner, working alongside employers and trade unions.
In this context, what are the specific initiatives that our representatives in Brussels might take? I think they could work for the extension of the existing "Pilot Projects Against Poverty Programme", now restricted, alas!, to two years. They could work for the development of a true social fund to be used widely and not just for problems connected with employment. They could aim at bringing together all bodies using volunteers to discuss the possibilities of a Community programme which could cope with natural disasters and longer-term social problems. Perhaps in time it could form the nucleus of an international emergency corps, to which both the United Nations and NATO could turn. I was very interested to hear the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, speak about this topic yesterday at Question Time.
In spite of our economic priorities, we must not fail to continue and extend our educational and cultural exchanges. All exchanges within the Community, even when they are bilateral, strengthen the Community as a whole. I was very struck by a recent poll conducted in Germany and France when people under 30, over a wide social spectrum, were asked which foreign nation they admired and liked most. The largest number of French named Germany, and the majority of Germans named France. This is quite clearly the result of a systematic purposeful policy of Franco/German youth exchanges.
Finally, my Lords, the sphere in which, in the opinion of most Europeans I talked to, the British ingredient is expected to be felt most positively and effectively, is our active role in a directly elected European Parliament. Everyone agrees that this country, with its centuries of tradition in constitutional government, its instinctive rather than studied approach to free speech can make a decisive contribution to a democratic Europe.
A positive European policy at this juncture has an added relevance: during 312 the coming months, Britain's visibility in the European counsels will be high, for the new President of the Commission and the next Chairman of the Council of Ministers will come from this country. We can all be sure that Mr. Roy Jenkins and Mr. Anthony Crosland will excel in competence and efficiency. I simply urge that they bring vision and vigour to their task; that, undeterred by the strains of acrimonious debate and transient conflicts, they do not forget the cause of European solidarity, which may yet prove the hardest currency of all.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ Lord TREVELYAN
My Lords, your Lordships' debate this afternoon is remarkable for having a sandwich in it inside out: an old, rather stale piece of bread and, on either side, a liberal helping of jam. The noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, is a publisher with a most distinguished list who has been enlightening us for a very long time. I do not hold it against him that he declined to accept a manuscript of mine on the somewhat curious but, I have no doubt, fully justified grounds that it was too short. I congratulate him on his lively and stimulating speech. We are looking forward greatly to the speech of the next speaker, the noble Viscount who holds a name famous in our history.
I should like to support, with the utmost brevity, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, on three points. First, what he said about our Ambassador in Chile. I thought that the principles that he annunciated on where to place ambassadors were those which we had adopted, certainly throughout my career. I am sure that if we had decided to have ambassadors only in places having Governments of which we approved, I should have been en disponibilité for the whole of my career. I should like to support his tribute to Dr. Kissinger whose three great achievements I might describe as, first, getting his priorities right; second, understanding the Russians and the Chinese; and, thirdly, making more progress in the Middle East than anyone could have believed possible. I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, also on his view—which I hold—that at this point the only course to take in the Middle East is to 313 establish a conference at Geneva as soon as possible. That is mainly a responsibility of the Americans; but I feel sure that we can do a great deal in our relations with the Americans.
I shall confine myself this afternoon to some observations on Western negotiations with the Soviet Union. A good definition of what we ought to mean by détente is the management of our relations with the growing Soviet power for the purpose of helping to secure the peace and making our relations with the Soviet Union somewhat easier without weakening our defences. Diplomacy is, of course, a permanent process, not a matter only of ad hoc conferences, and no one can have any doubt that we must be in permanent negotiation with that mighty Power which shares with the Americans the ultimate responsibility for the destiny of this planet.
The framework of the peace is the nuclear balance between the two super Powers, as we all know, even if we do not always admit it. It is, if you like to call it such, a balance of terror. In India recently I found a disposition to regard this as a new and perilous stage in world history which should and could be surpassed in the foreseeable future. I believe this to be a mistaken concept. Perilous it is, but we cannot get rid of it and we should remind ourselves that the peace has often been kept by a balance of forces and destroyed by their imbalance. We must learn not only to live with it, but must help in whatever way we can to support it and make it firm, which will require constant effort. It will remain for a long time the basis of our existence, and the emergence of new centres of power such as China will not alter the basic situation for a long time to come.
The most important diplomatic negotiations will therefore remain the American-Soviet talks—permanent talks—on the limitation of strategic weapons. I am no expert on nuclear weapons, but the most superficial knowledge of the new generation of weapons, such as the cruise missile, relatively cheap and with, I read, an accuracy of 100 feet in a range of 1,500 miles, makes one realise that we are approaching a most dangerous stage when weapon control will only be achieved in the face of most formidable difficulties.
314 In our relations with the Soviet Union we in this country are more directly concerned in other aspects of disarmament. I believe we should continue to cast doubts on the perennial Soviet proposal, recently renewed by Mr. Gromyko, for a world disarmament conference. How can such a conference avoid becoming a battle ground for conflicting propaganda? It is surely better to concentrate on more limited objectives which give a chance of practical results—notably the efforts to prevent atomic weapons getting into the hands of any Government which might be tempted to use them—and the talks in Vienna for the limitation of forces in Central Europe. The talks in Vienna seem to me to be making little if any progress, and we must be prepared for a long slog over many years. We must never give them up; but they will not get anywhere until the Russians confirm that they no longer insist on maintaining the existing relative positions after the reduction in armaments.
Ideally, we should be pursuing other regional agreements for the limitation of arms supply by Governments and for the control of private arms sales. The great increase in arms supplies to the smaller and newer States is appallingly dangerous and criminally wasteful of resources required for economic development, but I see little hope of much progress towards such agreements until there is much more confidence between the Communist and non-Communist Governments and, in particular, a relaxation of the ideological struggle.
We face vast Soviet forces on land and sea and can never wholly discount the risk that some Soviet leaders might be tempted to use them in a way which they might calculate would not involve nuclear weapons. The proposal made at the last Warsaw Pact meeting does not make for confidence in this matter. But the present Soviet leaders, at least, are not any more than the Americans, likely to cross the fairly well-defined lines beyond which encroachment involves unacceptable nuclear risks. We can accept that they are sincere in their policy of détente in so far as it means that they want to diminish the danger of widespread nuclear destruction. Their public line on their relations with the United States is in accordance with this position, in spite of their periodical grumbles about a bloc of 315 enemies of peace and détente. But Soviet policy has another face. It is, they declare:a class policy, because it proceeds from a realistic understanding of those profound differences which make competition between the two systems and a battle of ideas objectively inevitable. They maintain the right to intervene in any part of the world in support of any contestant in a local struggle for power who they think can be brought to their side. This is what they call "a national liberation struggle". They demand that we should not object. We are to see no inconsistency between the Final Act of the Helsinki Conference and the maintenance of the ideological struggle; and the struggle should not, they declare, affect their bilateral relations with other countries. The two aspects of Soviet policy, the maintenance of the nuclear balance and the peace, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the ideological struggle, are to be kept in separate compartments.
I do not suggest that the Western Powers are paragons of virtue in their international conduct. So long as the ideological struggle continues, the Americans and their allies will act in support of people fighting for their independence against Communist infiltration, in much the same way as the Russians act in their efforts to promote the Communist ideology; and if the Russians accuse the West of still conducting the Cold War, because we neither accept their ideology nor remain inactive in the face of their efforts to change people's political systems, we should remind them that they are explicitly conducting a struggle of ideas and should not give bad names to others who are doing the same.
How, then, can we tackle this problem? We cannot accept that the Russians can have it both ways, that détente is divisible to suit their ideological and diplomatic requirements. But, on the other hand, we do not want to relapse into hostility, which will endanger the foundations of the peace. We have to accept that the ideological struggle exists and will continue to exist. But we can at least attempt to get an understanding, if not explicity, that the game should be carried on in accordance with rules which will ensure that it will neither unduly embitter inter-State relations nor endanger the peace. The first rule must be restraint, and the next example over which we shall expect 316 restraint from the Russians concerns Rhodesia—particularly if we are left with an awful mess—about which some intemperate articles have recently appeared in the Soviet Press. On our side, we shall respond to evidence of Soviet restraint, although we must at the same time hope that Mr. Carter can prevent the United States Congress suffering from a fit of pique and advertising to the opposing team that they will leave the field clear for their opponents to shoot as many goals as they like.
Another important negotiation will be the review of the Helsinki Agreement by the Foreign Ministers in May 1977. I leave aside the commercial and economic questions in basket 2, important though they are. Apart from the limping negotiations between the EEC and Comecon, they are largely in the shape of bilateral agreements for economic and technical co-operation—the Russians being, perfectly fairly, concerned to pick up Western technology on the cheap, and the Western negotiators being concerned to secure profitable contracts in competition with each other.
There will doubtless be a long wrangle over the contents of basket 3, in the sphere of social and cultural relations. Here again the Soviet politicians are equivocal in their declarations. A Soviet writer declares,the relaxation of tension presupposes an extension of cultural relations, the expansion of Soviet policy and of contacts between individuals and the exchange of information".So far so good; but then he goes on to say:Our country has signed many agreements and is going to carry them out scrupulously, but we have not agreed to facilitate actions designed to harm Socialism. Plans of reactionary circles that are connected with this have no bearing on the relevant sections of the document signed in Helsinki".We have recently seen how that is interpreted. The customary crop of exchanges under cultural agreements which we welcome—librarians, language teachers, dentists and so on—will be carried out with precision; but if the BBC broadcasts a statement of a Soviet citizen expelled from his country, the Director-General will not be given a visa. We do not agree with this dichotomy, but it will not help to stand in a corner and sulk.
The whole social system of the Soviet Union is not going to be changed, whatever 317 the terms of the Helsinki Agreement. We must continue to press for a freer exchange of ideas and peoples, insisting that while our Press and radio are free to attack, Soviet, and indeed British and American policy of all kinds, we are not trying to destroy the internal Soviet system, whatever we may think of it, but we are trying only to make peaceful co-existence mean what it says, both ways.
I have recently had the opportunity to visit the Soviet Union as a member of a party under the auspices of Chatham House, for a general discussion of political and economic questions, known as the Anglo-Soviet Round Table, with a Soviet party under the auspices of the Soviet Institute of World Economy and International Politics, which is a branch of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. My colleagues were, I think, a strong delegation, including, unbeknownst to us, a shadow Foreign Secretary and an EEC commissioner.
The intellectual quality of this Russian party was in every way the equal of theirs. The Russians have developed an interesting system of academic institutes covering the world, alongside the normal machinery of the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs. One goes to these meetings wondering whether they will prove to be anything more than the exchange of well-worn formulae. But this meeting was, in my opinion, well worthwhile because the Soviet participants were prepared for frank discussions of all aspects of political and economic importance to an extent which I had not hitherto experienced—even to an exchange of views on the relations between Soviet and Western European Communism, Soviet relations with the developing countries and the issues about which I have spoken this afternoon. I am confirmed in my view, strongly held, that we must be in permanent negotiation with representatives of the Soviet Union at all levels, and that these negotiations should be regularly supplemented by unofficial discussions with the Soviet academic institutes such as we in Chatham House are now undertaking on an annual basis. Contact with power must be maintained.
§ 4.39 p.m.
§ Viscount MONTGOMERY of ALAMEIN
My Lords, as this is the first 318 time I have addressed your Lordships' House, I ask your special indulgence. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has been very kind in advance, and I hope he will be so afterwards. He has already made my task more difficult, but I can assure him that I shall be short. However, I doubt whether I can comply with the other two adjectives.
I should like to start by thanking the many noble Lords from all sides of the House who took part in the Defence debate in April this year, for the very generous tributes that they paid to my late father. I have read the Report of the debate with great interest, and the kind remarks were very much appreciated by myself and by my family. It is rather difficult to follow such an extraordinary man—better to pursue an entirely different course in life. Those who knew him will not be surprised to hear that he agreed with this philosophy.
Turning to the subject of foreign affairs, I should like to say a few words about Latin America which has been, and unfortunately still is, somewhat neglected by this country. The last time that your Lordships' House occupied itself with Latin America at any length was in January 1972, in a debate initiated by the late Lord Cowley, who was very sadly taken from us at an early age at the start of a promising career. In speaking on this subject I must declare an interest, and possibly even some prejudice, as I have myself been closely involved with the Latin American scene for the last 22 years, and advise British companies on the promotion of business in and with that Continent.
There is no doubt that the majority of the 20 Republics are stable, their economies are sound and the people are friendly and only too willing to do business with us. Inevitably, this is a sweeping generalisation, as there are many differences in detail, but this is not the right occasion to go further and there is not time. The important point remains that great good will exists towards the United Kingdom in all the Latin American countries, and we should be taking greater advantage of this favourable position.
There was a time, towards the early part of this century, when Britain was the principal overseas trading partner and 319 accounted for a major part of the total foreign trade of the area. This position has been gradually eroded by competition, and other circumstances, to the extent that we now account for only about 3 per cent. of total Latin American trade. I think it is important that we realise how our competitive position in Latin America has changed in the last few years. In 1972, British exports to Latin America amounted to £339 million, whereas by 1975 they had risen to £686 million. This is a very important quantitative increase and reflects great credit on all concerned.
However, the key fact is that the export figure for 1972 represented about 5 per cent. of total Latin American imports, whereas the increased value for 1975 comprised only about 3½ per cent. This will give your Lordships some understanding of the spectacular growth rate of the Latin American countries, and the consequent growth of export opportunity. It àlso shows—and this is not quite so good—that we are not keeping pace with their growth rate, and that we are losing our proportionate share of this valuable and growing market. Your Lordships may feel that these trade figures—nearly £700 million—are not very significant in terms of total Biritsh trade, and represent only about 3 to 4 per cent. of our total overseas trade. This is quite true, but it is the future that matters and the growth rate in the countries concerned.
Although it is presumptuous of me to say this as a new boy, I believe that your Lordships' House as presently constituted—and I hope it will stay this way—should be occupying itself with long-term strategic matters. In this context, Latin America should figure more and more in the deliberations of Her Majesty's Government. There are some other encouraging signs, such as the increasing volume of business visitors in both directions. In May this year, we had a most welcome State visit by President Geisel from Brazil, and last week an equally important official visit from the President of Venezuela. We need to have more visits of this kind and, at the same time, more visits by British Ministers to Latin America. I recommend to Her Majesty's Government that, although we are moving in the right direction, we are still not doing nearly enough. We are continually 320 reminded—as if there were any need—of the importance of exports and overseas trade. Here are the opportunities. I hope that we will take them.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Lord BOURNE
My Lords, it is a very great pleasure to welcome to this House the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein. We all knew his father extremely well, chiefly in your Lordships' House. Of course, we soldiers knew him otherwise. As well as winning a series of battles of great importance to this country, he had the great gift of making a big problem seem small so that we fellows could understand it. I detect the same spirit in the noble Viscount. He was very careful to pursue an entirely different line from that of his father, with which, apparently, his father agreed, and talked to us about South America. Not many of us know a great deal about South America and it was a very good subject. Similarly, the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, has great experience of Europe and I hope that both he and the noble Viscount will speak very often indeed.
I should like to speak about the possibility of cuts in the Defence Vote, which the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, spoke about. I do not have the figures, but the noble Lord read them out and they made our spines creep. If the cuts go on like this, they will have a very great effect, not only through weakening the Defence Services, but also on morale. Morale is not something that one can talk about; it is just there. It is difficult to estimate, but it is a serious matter. To take an example, the 1975 cuts in NATO were fairly bad, and we in the House of Lords Defence Study Group talked in Brussels to the Head of the Military Committee, who spoke roughly as follows. The British had a difficult time in February, 1975—this was January, 1976, by the way—getting their own cuts reluctantly agreed by the Allies, particularly in regard to the Northern flank in Norway. As Head of the Military Committee, he had naturally not contacted the Ministry of Defence, but he considered NATO, which he represented, to be on the edge of a precipice. Furthermore, he said, now that the Soviets have a superiority of 2½ to 1, and their previous disadvantage of quality—we used to think that we had an edge on them in quality—has disappeared, 321 any more cuts will mean NATO going over the edge of the precipice. I think that that is very serious. The Queen, in Her gracious Speech, said the following:My Government will continue to contribute modern and effective forces to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation".That is quite short, of course. As NATO is the linch-pin, and admittedly so, let us all hope that this will be so. In my opinion, it is high time that education, health, roads and local government had to bear their share of the cuts. Defence has been cut more than enough.
To that we must add the following four facts. First, we must add Northern Ireland, which is a continuing drain on the Army and the Royal Air Force. Secondly, we could not even spare a small warship to go to the Seychelles for their Independence celebrations. This showed that we were short of ships. Thirdly, for years we have been unable to send a brigade group and the Royal Navy, and the Royal Air Force, in suitable forces, to any overseas emergency. Fourthly, one-third of the strength of the Royal Air Force Transport Command has been cut. I do not like to speak of their morale.
On top of these facts, the Supreme Commander, General Haig, who recently addressed both Houses of Parliament, has warned the NATO allies that they cannot reduce their forces without very serious risks. The Supreme Commander was only repeating President Ford when he said:Defence spending provides no benefit except the most precious benefit of all, the freedom of our country.I think that this applies to the United Kingdom as well as to any other ally.
One more effect of the weakening of our defences and the fact that we have no force at all is the effect upon British Embassies overseas and visiting Ministers. They are negotiators who have no force behind them. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, mentioned this when he said that the British voice in Europe is remarkably small.
I have taken six examples—Singapore, the Persian Gulf, Rhodesia, Cyprus, Angola, Vietnam and Cambodia. Dealing first with Singapore, we cut out live frigates East of Suez, a battalion in 322 Singapore, a squadron of Nimrods and a few helicopters. For the sake of £10 million annually, we gave up not only a military presence in South-East Asia, which is bad enough, but also a military promise to our friends in Australia and New Zealand. I want to say only a word or two about the Persian Gulf. Britain had only small forces there, and since our withdrawal the Persian Gulf has been quite peaceful. Incidentally, the rest of the Middle East has been far from peaceful since the British withdrew from the Canal. However, in my opinion, the theory that small British forces can be replaced by British Embassies has yet to be proved.
Turning to Rhodesia, since UDI we have always made it clear that we would not use force. Now, with the possibility of continuing war with guerrillas, who are openly supported by the Communists, we may soon face the dilemma (although I hope that we do not) of whether we should assist a British territory, however illegal, against a Communist supported régime. I feel that we ought to give up straight away aid to Mozambique. Cyprus is admittedly a horrible problem which has been with us for 30 or 40 years. The Treaty of Guarantee of 1960 was engineered by the noble Lord, Lord Caradon. I think he was a marvellous man. Under that Treaty, we were one of the three guaranteeing Powers and we:reserved the right to take action with the sole aim of re-establishing the state of affairs created by the present Treaty".When Mr. Callaghan was questioned upon it by the Select Committee of the House of Commons he admitted that we had a legal obligation to do so, but he did not accept the moral obligation and made it clear that the British Government were concerned principally with safeguarding British families and holidaymakers. In other words, we should never have become a guaranteeing Power if we had no intention of acting. This is a good example of Britain's word not being worth anything overseas. May I remind your Lordships that on this occasion Britain was acting less as a Colonial power than as a loyal member of NATO.
If I may deal next with Angola, can noble Lords imagine Angola happening before World War II, or even quite a short time ago? Leaving out the local effects, the fact remains that the Soviet 323 Navy has a friendly port in Luanda—it is quite a good port, by the way; I have been there—and we are making it easier for the Soviets by abrogating the Simonstown Agreement. In other words, they have a free run around the Cape. We must expect more Soviet bases in West Africa; we must not be a bit surprised. Turning to Vietnam, as a result of the Communist victory in South Vietnam and Cambodia, the balance of power has changed in favour of Communism; yet this is the moment when, for the sake of £10 million, we pull out. Ought we not, observing many of our essential raw materials, quite apart from our old friends, to stiffen our resolve to fight Communism wherever it goes against our interests?
In conclusion, while we have saved money, this raises the question whether we ought to have saved it. Even if we stick to the present economies we must not make the situation worse. We regard NATO as a linch-pin, yet we have helped our allies to the edge of a precipice. In the overseas world—not wishing to be a world policeman; we gave that up years ago—our word, not backed by the threat of force, already means little. I am very sorry for British Embassies abroad; it must be very difficult for them. Successive cuts, made mostly by this Government, are very bad for morale in the three Services, and they must stop. Apart from weakening our defences, we risk three things: First, the British will have no "say" in the world overseas; second, the morale in the three Services may drop to a low which we cannot afford, and, third, our foreign policy will collapse.
§ 5 p.m.
§ Lord BROCKWAY
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, will not expect me to agree with him in what he has been saying to the House. He will find, however, that during the course of my speech I shall be commenting upon many of the issues which he has raised. I should like to join with others in welcoming the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, and the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein. They both spoke from personal experience of the problems which they raised in this House and I am quite sure that your Lordships will greatly welcome further contributions from them. I should like to make an 324 apology. I regret very much that this evening I am fulfilling an important engagement for an honourable Member of another place and I shall not be able to stay for the whole of the debate. It is perhaps one of the advantages of this Chamber that we can get away to such engagements, when in another place there is only a majority of one and a departure might be fatal.
I want to begin with a reference to something which is not strictly within the sphere of foreign affairs but which nevertheless is very concerned with the issues of war and peace. It is to pay a tribute to the women of Northern Ireland who, in a remarkable way during these past few weeks, have revealed the desire of the thousands of their fellow citizens for peace in that violence-dominated area. It seems to me amazing that two ordinary housewives in Andersonstown, outraged by the murder of children, should have been able to create this kind of movement in Ireland. Thousands marching, the bells in the churches ringing, the international recognition which they have obtained. If some of us have refrained from identifying ourselves with the movement it is because we have been involved in Northern Irish affairs and wish to respect their neutrality, but I am perfectly sure that those who take a different view about Irish affairs will wish to express their appreciation of the courage and imagination of those women and the hope that the initiative they have taken may bring peace to Ireland.
The area of foreign affairs covers a very wide field. One would like to speak of the gulf between the rich and poor nations. I welcome what the Prime Minister said in the City of London on this subject and what the Minister of State has said today in his remarks. One would like to speak of the dangers in the Middle East. I find myself in the unusual position that I think I agree with every word that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said upon that subject. But if one is to be effective one must concentrate upon particular issues and I turn to the other area of the world where I believe there is the greatest danger of conflict today; namely, Southern Africa.
Rhodesia is the immediate issue. I welcome the fact that at Geneva the deadlock about the date of independence has been postponed. I hope that advice 325 I have given may have influenced that a little. I do not think it possible, as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said, for us to discuss in detail the problems which are now raised at Geneva. I think one can only lay down certain principles and the first principle that must be recognised is that Britain has responsibility for what is happening in Rhodesia. It remains a British Colony; it has had an illegal government for 11 years but in the last resort it is our responsibility. But I want to accept this, that in the present situation it is tremendously important that any initiative which the British Government take in Rhodesia shall have the support of the rest of the Commonwealth and of the United Nations and it is only if we internationalise the problem of Rhodesia in that way that we are likely to have the strength to reach a satisfactory solution.
Rhodesia is only the fringe of the problem of Southern Africa and I think we have very clearly to face an issue to decide what our conduct should be. The issue is this: which is the greater motive—is it the fear of Communism in South Africa or is it a belief in African democratic rights? I raise this issue particularly today because of an article which the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, contributed to The Times on 22nd November. I have given the noble Lord notice that I was going to raise this issue. The article was under a five column heading "When will the West remove its blinkers and see what is happening in Africa?" His argument was that the Soviet Union is taking over Southern Africa and that our majorconcern should be to prevent it from doing so.
I always read the articles written by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, in The Times. I am tremendously interested in them. I do not pretend to be able to discuss the military problems which he raises, but I do know something about Africa and I am absolutely amazed that anyone should write on that subject with the influence of leading pages of The Times and reveal so much ignorance of the subject.
I take two instances. He includes Tanzania with two other African countries as—and I quote "firmly within the Russian orbit". The Russian orbit of three countries out of 32 States in Africa, and he includes Tanzania! He might have had some authority for suggesting 326 that Tanzania was influenced towards China. China has built its great railway, though in fact Tanzania has resisted every effort to put strings to any aid that has been given. But to suggest Tanzania is in the Soviet orbit! Does not the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, remember that great speech of President Nyerere of Tanzania in which he said that the real issue in the world today is not between East and West, but with the rich and the poor nations of the world, and in which he included the Soviet Union among the rich nations to which he was opposed? That anyone should include Tanzania in the Soviet orbit in Africa is a revelation of great ignorance about the subject.
My Lords, I take a second, almost unbelievable, example. The noble Lord names Nkomo, now engaged in the negotiations in Geneva as,Moscow's official nominee as leader of the black majorityin Rhodesia. Nkomo is the most moderate of the representatives at Geneva. He is, indeed, being attacked as a representative of the West and of Britain. Yet in this article there is a suggestion that he is the tool of the Soviet Union. As one might expect, the article emphasises what has happened in Angola, which has been reflected in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, due to the fact that in the struggle which took place Russian arms were provided and Cuban troops were present. I have been against all foreign intervention in Angola or anywhere else—Russian or Cuban. But one must remember that there was CIA intervention in Angola before that of the Soviet Union, or the presence of Cuban troops. One should remember that in fact Cuban troops entered Angola only after the invasion by South African troops.
There was a remarkable article in the Guardian of 25th November, analysing the present position in Angola. It demonstrated that Soviet claims to have bases there have been rejected by the Angolan Government. It points out that the constitution of Angola forbids the presence of bases there. There is quoted a statement by the Minister of Information that Angola will not invade Namibia with its own troops, or allow Cuban troops to do so. So far from Angola becoming part of the Soviet system in 327 Southern Africa, its socialism is distinct. I would say it was a combination of Algeria and Tanzania, and I know President Neto. I know how dedicated he is to an African socialism distinct from either the Soviet Union or from China. I know how dedicated he is to the cause of non-alignment.
My Lords, the other subject with which I wish briefly to deal is that of the present position of détente between East and West. Détente is now theoretically accepted by the West, by America and by the Communist countries. Yet now there is a very great danger of a new cold war campaign. It was illustrated in America by Mr. Reagan when he stood for the Presidency. He did not win, but politically the Republican Party endorsed his views. Even President Ford said he would not use the word "détente" again; he would use only the phrase, "peace through strength". This has been illustrated in this country by the speeches of the Leader of the Conservative Party, Margaret Thatcher. In the Soviet countries, they gave her the name of the Iron Lady. I would call her the Iron Curtain Lady, because I believe her speeches will have the effect of lowering the Iron Curtain again. The whole effect of this propaganda is to suggest that the Soviet Union is insincere and is deluding us when it seeks disarmament in the world.
I have tried to look at this objectively because I am no friend of totalitarian rule in the world. But I find it extraordinarily difficult to believe that a Government, and the spokesmen of a Government, can so continually, in every utterance, urge the cause of disarmament and détente, that their newspapers can be flooding their country with this propaganda, without there being sincerity behind it. At one time, I had the fear that the suggestion of détente in Europe was that they might be stronger in their opposition to China, but that fear is now being removed by the actions of reconciliation which the Soviet Union has been taking towards China in recent weeks.
My Lords, I want to urge upon this House and upon this Government that if the Soviet Union are insincere, let us call their bluff. When they are proposing disarmament, when they are urging a world disarmament conference, when they 328 are making proposals for the ending of all nuclear tests, when they are putting forward the proposal that all nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction should be destroyed, when they are proposing progressive disarmament leading to complete disarmament, let us call their bluff. The Minister representing the Government has said that our Government have all those objectives, too. but there must be verification, and there must be inspection. The Soviet Union have now accepted both verification and inspection. They did it in the communique after the visit of the Russian Foreign Secretary to this country. They have said in the declaration made by the Warsaw Pact countries, that they will accept inspection. The last reason for refusing to consider these proposals has now gone.
I want to ask our Government to appreciate, as the gesture of the women of Northern Ireland shows, that among the common people of our country and of all countries there is this great desire for peace, that threats of renewed cold war should be met by challenging assertion of the dedication of our Socialist movement for peace in the world. I believe if that could be done we should find a response among our people which would surprise many of those who are sceptical today.
§ 5.21 p.m.
§ The Earl of GLASGOW
My Lords, may I first add my congratulations to both the maiden speakers who spoke this afternoon, and particularly for the originality of their contributions. I hope we shall hear both of them many times again.
My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, I had also taken note of that particular sentence from the gracious Speech:My Government will continue to contribute modern and effective forces to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation".I do not know whether I am right in assuming that this sentence expresses an intention to check the steady and insidious rundown of our Armed Forces. I sincerely hope it does. But so far as the Royal Navy is concerned—and I think I can safely say the same for the Army and the Royal Air Force—this rundown has already gone too far.
329 I want to make only three points today, and I shall be very brief. First, our naval strategy: I believe as strongly now as I ever did that we are wrong to call in our warships from the oceans of the world and concentrate them in home waters and on the NATO coast of the Eastern Atlantic. I particularly deplore our withdrawal from the Mediterranean at a time when the allied posture in that area is far from stable. It has had a most demoralising effect on our allies. The trade routes, and particularly in the South Atlantic and Indian Ocean, are of vital importance to ourselves and to Europe. As the largest NATO navy on this side of the Atlantic, we must be prepared to play our part in their defence, and our allies would expect us to do so.
Secondly, I read in the Press that the Government are considering closing down one of the four naval dockyards in this country. I am not in a position to know whether this would be a wise economy; it might well be. Nevertheless, I feel fairly certain that the trade unions would strongly oppose any such decision and would probably win the day. I would infinitely prefer to lose a dockyard than to see any further reduction in the size and composition of the seagoing fleet. My Lords, it is the ships' companies and their officers in the first place who make a navy. I only wish they had a more powerful voice to speak for them.
Thirdly, I want to say a word about Polaris submarines. For a number of years now I have been imploring successive Governments to build the fifth Polaris submarine which was planned in the original building programme. From the operational point of view, the difference between four and five ships in any class is far greater than between, say, five and six, or even three and four. It appears that the crunch has now come. I am told that the "Resolution" goes in for long refit next year, which will keep her in dockyard hands for at least a year. With only three remaining submarines, it is likely that there will be periods when we have no Polaris submarine on patrol at all. As these ships now provide our only strategic nuclear deterrent, this is a very sorry state of affairs. I do not pretend to know the answer to this problem now, but I sincerely hope that it is being given the serious consideration that it deserves in high places.
330 Finally, may I say that I support every word that was said by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, on defence. I am deeply conscious of the importance of the Welfare State, of the social services, housing, schools and hospitals, but of what use are these if we cannot defend them? The defence of the realm must be the first priority of any Government. However tempting it must be for a Socialist Government to spend our limited resources on other and more popular needs, we must be prepared to provide what is necessary for the security of an island kingdom.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ Lord SHINWELL
My Lords, I discover by arithmetical calculation that we appear to have reached the period of half-time in this game. I must confess that, not having found it exciting, I almost felt inclined to leave the ground and repair to the dressing-room, but I have overcome my disappointment. For, after all, there have been some compensations. Two new players have been introduced. The noble Lord, Lord Wiedenfeld, in the course of a most interesting and constructive speech, dealing very largely with a subject which I sometimes find repugnant, namely the Common Market, implied that if the countries of the Nine had the common sense to telescope their efforts, particularly in the sphere of social well-being, removing all the unsightly slums not only in this country but throughout Europe, it would be to our advantage. That was a constructive suggestion of which I hope note will be taken. I congratulate him on his appearance, and have no doubt we shall hear him again.
As for my noble friend (as I shall call him) Lord Montgomery, how much I appreciate his presence, how much he reminds me of my old friend and colleague the Field Marshal, whose humanity I have sought from time to time to portray and applaud despite senseless criticisms. You have got to know men, understand them, work with them, live with them, in order to discover their essential qualities. I have no doubt that the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, will develop in due course the theme which he embarked upon in the course of his speech. It seemed to be extraneous, exterior, to the theme which is developing; but he did indicate something with which I fundamentally agree, that whatever country it be, whoever 331 the people are, whatever their ideology, we have to try to understand them and divest ourselves of our prejudices. On that theme we can have discussions on some other occasion, no doubt.
As for the remainder of the players in this game, I must confess that the two centre forwards disappointed me. My noble friend Lord Goronwy-Roberts referred in his oratorical, pleasant fashion to the desire of Her Majesty's Government to use every endeavour; all their best endeavours, he suggested, to ensure that we would always do the right thing. I have heard it all before. It simply gets you nowhere. It is Foreign Office stuff, and it is that kind of material, that pabulum—I am not blaming my noble friend but the Foreign Office—that has frequently, as a result of its so-called diplomacy, its appeasement, weakened our influence in the world. I regard it with distrust.
As for the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, he made his usual excellent speech. But, if I may say with great respect, there were some imperfections. For example (and I use merely an illustration), he explained things—and how right he was in explaining them—but provided us with no escape from the dilemma. Even when he referred to the Middle East imbroglio he spoke, if I may say so, with wishful thinking. Of course everybody would welcome peace in the Middle East except, I think, some of the intransigent Arabs from Saudi Arabia. But I had better be careful and not say too much derogatory about Saudi Arabia or the price of oil may go up, and we cannot afford that. We must be careful.
I do not believe that it is likely in the foreseeable future—and apart from the foreseeable future I can play no part in this game; in the remote future I shall be silent—that there is going to be peace. That is why the Israelis, despite their desire for it and security, and also readiness to negotiate—how often has that been illustrated?—keep their powder dry. That is sensible. Keep your powder dry; you never know what is going to happen; let it be effective when it has to be used.
Defence and foreign affairs have to be telescoped. There is a close relationship. There has been rather too much in this debate about foreign affairs and too little 332 of defence. The relationship exists because if we can develop close, friendly and durable relations with other countries, despite their ideological disadvantages according to our point of view, that will condition our decisions on defence. For example, if the Russians decided to implement everything they said at Helsinki, and all they have said from time to time about the desire for détente, obviously we would not require to spend £5,000 million, or thereabouts, on defence. We could cut it down.
However, despite the speech I listened to from my noble friend Lord Brockway—who has had to leave; I do not complain about that—I am sceptical about the Russians. I wish it could be otherwise. If only we could believe that they say what they mean, life would be much more pleasant. But I do not believe that they say what they mean. It is as simple as that. May I indulge in a digression which you may think is irrelevant but it just occurs to me. As noble Lords are aware, we have in the House of Lords achieved after many years a Defence Study Group, and we have invited several notabilities to come and speak to our group; for example, as referred to by the noble Lord, General Lord Bourne, General Haig, the Supreme Commander of NATO, and we have asked others. Recently I thought it might be desirable to ask the Russian Embassy to send somebody to come and talk to us because we ought to know their point of view, but they never even replied to the letter. I telephoned them the other day, hoping I could make a personal approach; and I notice what the noble Lord, Lord Trevelyan, said, that we must have contacts. I 'phoned them in the most friendly fashion. I used the softest and most muted tone of voice. I said, "We don't want you to bother too much about defence: you could talk about foreign affairs", but they ignored me completely. There was an opportunity for contact to tell your Lordships about what they have to say about defence, but on, so we have to look elsewhere.
Strangely enough—and noble Lords may be surprised because of the speeches I have made on this subject before—I was attracted to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn. This was not because of his unqualified support for the Common Market, but because he said that if you are going to have the EEC, this 333 combination of countries, it must be effective not only in economic and financial affairs and in the building up constructively of industry and the like but also in defence; and that is common sense. There is something to be said for that: to implement NATO, to give it a bulwark, a support, a booster. It is very necessary indeed.
I do not want to dilate unnecessarily tonight. I want to come to what I regard as realism in this debate. With the greatest respect and meaning no offence to any of those who have taken part in this debate, may I say, Let us be realistic. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, came near when he said to the Government, "We cannot afford to cut down defence". That was realism. Of course the Government are in a difficulty financially and everybody knows that, but even if the Government could escape from their financial difficulties you can be sure that they would not increase defence expenditure. You have to face the fact.
The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, offered the reason. He said that it was the Left Wing. I am not dominated by the Left Wing, or anybody for that matter, but I do not believe that it is entirely the Left Wing. It is simply because there is not the interest, the enthusiasm, any passion at all for defence. It is almost the last word in the programme. I do not believe we can afford to let it be the last word. It is true that Mr. Brezhnev, Mr. Gromyko, or somebody speaking on behalf of the Soviet Union said the other day that they would like to come to some arrangement about nuclear weapons, and so on. It is just poppycock. I am going to say something that my noble friend Lord Brockway would not like if I said it in his presence, but he will learn about it and read about it.
In the same way, all the talk about disarmament is poppycock, and I speak from experience. I remember the talk about disarmament before the First World War. Even Lloyd George, in 1911, before he became Prime Minister in 1915, did not want to go to war with Germany; he talked about peace and disarmament and many others spoke in the same vein. There was much talk about building up an international peace keeping force and I remember a Lord Davies—perhaps my noble friend is a descendant of his— 334 talking about it in those days. During the First War there was talk about peace by negotiation and much the same talk went on after 1918. There was a great deal of talk about disarmament and there were disarmament conferences here, there and everywhere.
That sort of thing is all very fine, but we have had more wars this century than ever before, with the exception perhaps of the One Hundred Years' War. It is all very well to talk about disarmament, but as I listened to my noble friend Lord Goronwy-Roberts, for whom I have a very high regard and affection, I thought that he was speaking as though one only had to talk in that way and appeal for peace and it would be achieved. I wish that were true. Unfortunately, it is not, and the plain fact is that we must defend ourselves because one fine day we may have to face trouble. I hope that will not be the case, but the way things are now I fear that we may have to defend ourselves.
I will give the House a few illustrations to show what I mean, and several other noble Lords have referred to these issues. Consider, for example, Rhodesia. I dismiss all the talk about an illegal régime there because Her Majesty's Government have now accepted it; they are taking part in it, so it is no longer illegal. What will happen there? I wonder whether noble Lords listened the other night to what Mr. Mugabe said. That nationalist leader was asked what he would do when he gained power and he said, in effect, "We remember the exploitation. We remember what they did to us. We will get our own back". In fact, he went so far as to suggest the people would be put on trial. What a blood bath there will be at the end of the day! I see no peace there. I am sorry to say that, but it is my view.
That brings me to the issue, because it is an issue, of who we should recognise; who are our friends in the world. Is it the Russains? I answer by using an expression regularly used by Molotov—"in the negative". Even the United States is sometimes lukewarm in relation to defence. They sometimes talk about withdrawing their forces from NATO. Sometimes they say they should not do so. It is sometimes this and sometimes that, but remember that there are elements in the United States who do not like us 335 or our power and who dislike our traditions, our great past. We must be mighty careful.
We are in the sphere where operations might commence. That being the case, what should we do? I can only utter a word of warning: Let us be mighty careful. Of course we must go on talking. Talk is all very well and Churchill once said, "Jaw, jaw, rather than war, war". Nevertheless, we must build up our defences. The remarkable thing is that there is not a country in the world that is not doing precisely that nowadays. I was looking at a document produced by NATO stating military balances and statistics for every part of the world and was surprised that not one country—even some with such a small number of people that one wonders why they consider they need any defence at all—is without a means of defence. Small or large, they all feel that they must have some measure of defence. Why is that? Probably for very small countries it will not help their security. Nevertheless, they feel that it is right to have some form of defence because it gives them a feeling of strength. Last century John Bright said, "Force is no remedy"—but it is a fine thing to have if one is negotiating. It is clear that, whether or not we like it, we must be strong.
I wish that we as a country could spend more on defence and I hope that eventually we will. But if we cannot spend more, we must, even if some of us are reluctant about it, accept what the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, suggested, and utilise the countries of the Nine. I recognise difficulties in Italy, Turkey and Greece, but let us utilise their power and strength and their military potential. That would be a useful asset if we must engage in negotiations with the Russians or anybody else. That is my warning to noble Lords.
We have had these debates time and again and one begins to despair. We seem to be getting nowhere because we just talk round the subject; it is a sort of vicious circle and is not good enough. We either believe in defence for the purpose of our security or we do not believe in it. If we believe in defence, then we must be adequately defended, otherwise it is not worth while. That observation may be obnoxious to many people but I make it 336 because I sincerely hold this view and, having expressed it, leave the matter in the hands of your Lordships.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Baroness NORTHCHURCH
My Lords, I can think of nothing more difficult than to speak following the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, and the speech which he just made. I was a little comforted to hear him say that he was completely ignored when speaking on the telephone, and that gave me heart to make these few brief comments. I seldom speak in your Lordships' House, but I am anxious to do so today for two reasons. The first is to congratulate noble Lords who are speaking for the first time, particularly the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, who made an excellent speech—we welcome him and are glad to have him with us—and also the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld.
The second is to remind noble Lords of a speech I made in this House four or five years ago when, as today, foreign affairs was the main subject under discussion. I had been pressed to bring to your Lordships' attention the ever increasing importance of our trade with the South American Continent. If I remember aright, the late Lord Cowley introduced that important subject and in his speech, an excellent one which I have just re-read, be concluded by saying:I feel that these countries will play an increasingly important role in world affairs and should not be written off as an area of the world suffering from revolutions.It is sad for all of us that we no longer have Lord Cowley with us. He was a great asset to the House and was doing great work, particularly from the point of view of South America, an area which was always of great importance to him. However, the importance of trade with the countries of South America has increased rather than diminished in importance, and it is vital to this country to see that we do our best in this regard.
I am thankful to say that Canning House, which is 2 Belgrave Square, was started by my husband when he returned from what to all of us, and to me especially, was a very anxious time. He had been sent to South America by the then Government to tour as much of that Continent as he could. I am referring of 337 course to the period 1939/45, right in the middle of the war. For many months we did not hear anything of his activities and, as I say, it was an anxious time for us all. He was there during quite the worst period of the war, but when he returned, I am glad to say safely, he was able to provide the Government with much valuable information and I know that they greatly appreciated what he had to tell them. I remember so well his deep anxiety as to what was happening, and what would happen unless we could build up some form of centre here in London and by that means increase the interest in, and the necessity of, increasing trade between ourselves and that great continent of South America when the war ended.
I think that people were beginning to realise the importance of it, as I have said, and it was then that Canning House was started. I think that one can claim that it has been going from strength to strength, although it has been going through very difficult times. Now it is under the presidency of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. I hope that he will be able to tell us something of the most excellent work that he has been doing since he became president there. He realises, as we do, how necessary it is to make the ordinary public realise, despite all one hears, as is the case with most countries in the world today, that there is a great opening of trade with that great continent and we must not lose any possible opportunity.
I am not going to attempt to say very much more because we have listened to such a good speech from the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein. As I hoped, he gave us some idea of what we were at the moment losing financially in our trade with South America, and he spoke of the necessity of what ought to be done to increase it as soon as possible. Now I can hand on to the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont.
§ 5.51 p.m.
§ Lord CHALFONT
My Lords, I should like to begin by congratulating the two noble Lords who have made their maiden speeches in your Lordships' House today, the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, and the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein. I regard them both as valued friends and they 338 have in different ways laboured with me in various parts of the dusty vineyards of international affairs: the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, in connection with Europe, and the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, in connection with Latin America. It is a very great personal pleasure to me to see them both here in your Lordships' House, to congratulate them upon elegant and impressive maiden speeches and to express the hope that we shall often hear them both again in your Lordships' House.
I fear that I shall not be able to accept the invitation of the noble Baroness to talk about Latin America this evening. Like her I believe that the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, was an excellent appeal and a rallying cry to the Government for a more active trade and foreign policy in Latin America. I should like myself to concentrate, as I believe it is necessary in debates of this kind to concentrate on one specific subject, upon the question of Southern Africa. I recognise that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said in his excellent speech that it would be wrong to discuss too closely the detailed issues that are at present in front of the Constitutional Conference in Geneva, and that I shall not do. However, I should like to speak briefly in a broader context.
It is impossible to do so without referring first to the somewhat remarkable speech of the noble Lord, Lord Brockway. The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, whom I am sorry to see is no longer in his place, had the courtesy to inform me that he was going to refer to an article of mine in The Times. There it seems his courtesy ran out because in his speech I felt that he was, to say the least, intemperate, and it seems to me that to accuse someone of ignorance of a subject because his views differ from one's own is an unusual form of debating, to say the least. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, has different views about the sphere of influence into which one might place the ruler of Tanzania or Mr. Joshua Nkomo. These are very largely matters of opinion and matters of the sources to whom one refers for one's information.
But if one says, as the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, said, that Angola is not under Soviet influence—when he refers to a country in which practically all the 339 military advisers are either Russian or Cuban, to a country which has close commercial, military, and political ties of a formal kind with the Soviet Union, to a country in which the president is a Moscow-trained Communist and a former member of the Communist Party in Portugal, a country in which there are 15,000 to 20,000 Cuban troops fighting against the Unita forces which are in confrontation with the Government—and that that country owes no allegiance to, and is not under the influence of, the Soviet Union, if he says that its president is passionately committed to the cause of non-alignment, then I think that some of us may have some doubts about whose ignorance of this continent is the more profound.
I have not suggested, nor do I suggest now, that what is happening in Southern Africa is a Communist conspiracy. Nothing could be further from the truth. What is happening in Southern Africa is a manifestation of African nationalism, and in many cases an understandable revulsion against oppressive policies and more especially the humiliations of apartheid. But what is true is that the frictions and the bloodshed that will inevitably be caused by these aspirations and these resentments among the black people of Southern Africa will be exploited by those outside, and are being exploited now. Again it is not a question of morality. It is not wrong that the Soviet Union should wish to extend its power and its political influence in the world. But I believe that we in the West must recognise quite clearly that that is what is happening; and to dismiss articles, or speeches, or statements about the growing power of the Soviet Union in Southern Africa is simply to bury one's head in the sand. I have said already that there are 15,000 Cuban soldiers fighting at this moment in Angola, and that Angola itself is virtually dominated by the Soviet Union, which incidentally if the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, were here I should like to assure him, was aiding the MPLA in Angola in 1968, long before any other super-Power in the world had any influence or interest in the area.
But let us move on to Mozambique. I doubt that anyone would contest that Mozambique is a Marxist-Leninist State. If they do, then they are contesting it with the leader of Mozambique himself, Mr. Samora Machel, who has declared 340 that his country is a Marxist-Leninist republic. This is a fact of life, and it is a fact of life that we must take very clearly into account, when we look at the future of Rhodesia, the future of South West Africa, and the future of the Republic of South Africa itself. I say this because what is happening, whether we like it or not—and we are not doing very much about it—is that the Republic of South Africa is very gradually being encircled. Internally, the Republic is heading for a crisis of the most appalling dimensions. I was in Pretoria recently and I had a long talk with the Prime Minister of South Africa, Mr. Vorster, and I found him depressingly inflexible about his policies. He showed no sign personally that there was any room for manoeuvre in the policies even of petty apartheid, much less in the larger principle of separate development.
At the other end of the political spectrum in that country there are now black extremists—some of them, not all of them, Communists or Communist trained—whose aim is not majority rule, is not a share in the Government of South Africa. It is the expulsion of the white man and the taking over of the country. I do not say that that is the aim of all black South Africans, but it is certainly the aim of some of the extremist leaders.
The confrontation which is taking place there, and which I believe is heading almost inevitably for a disaster, is of great significance, my Lords, for the West and for this country. Quite apart from the general arguments about the balance of power (whatever that might mean these days), there are very real interests for us in that continent and in the seas around it. If we in the West can be denied access to the precious mineral resources of Southern Africa; if the ports of the Continent of Africa can be denied to us, either in peace or in war; if the oil routes along which we bring our precious oil from the Middle East to this country and to much of Western Europe can be cut off, then we shall suffer economically and militarily. This is not only a question of the erosion of our economic prosperity in peacetime: it is a question of placing us in a situation of the profoundest danger if we should ever go to war.
Of course, most of us would agree, I think, that political reform is urgently 341 required in South Africa. No civilised person, I believe, could defend the policies of apartheid or at least the petty apartheid—the small but oppressive humiliations that go with the policies of separate development. No one could defend that. No one, I believe, would want to defend the Immorality Act or the legislation on mixed marriages in South Africa. But there are white people in South Africa who want to see this changed, too, and in my view it is not enough simply to utter stern and pious moral judgments about it. We cannot apply, without some kind of adjustment, the standards and the principles of Western European liberal democracy to a country like South Africa. They have problems of a very special kind which it is very difficult for us, brought up in our own traditions, to understand.
What I think is much more important than the simple utterance of pious platitudes is to understand that much of the economic prosperity of the West and much of its security in peace and in war is at stake in Southern Africa. What we need are intelligent, practical policies. What we in this country need to do, I think, is to work with our partners in NATO and in the European Economic Community to evolve and work out some really imaginative, intelligent policies which will take into account, not only those things about which the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, is rightly concerned—the racial conflict, the appalling humiliation suffered by certain sections of the population in South Africa and in other African countries as well—but the interests of the West and the security of the West; the interests, economic, political and social, of our own people. I believe, as other noble Lords have said this evening, that we should be taking more of a lead in this than we are at the moment.
Some of the reasons, perhaps, why we are not taking a lead were reflected in the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, about double standards—the double standards of criticism of the internal régimes of other countries. It is true, as the noble Lord has said—and it is impossible to deny—that too often in this country, if there are stories of oppression in Chile, in Iran or in Southern Africa, the outrage and the outcry is immediate, shrill and loud. But let similar oppressions take place, similar cruelties be 342 reported, in the Soviet Union, in Ethiopia or in Cambodia, then the outcry is somehow strangely muted—and it may be for that reason. I think there has been an even more vivid example of this recently. Your Lordships will recall that a handful of miserable British mercenaries in Angola attracted the scorn and vituperation of a great number of people in this country over a long period. Yet today there are 15,000 Communist mercenaries fighting in Angola, and how much outcry do we hear about that? Very little. As the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has said, oppression and cruelty are oppression and cruelty whether it is of the Left or of the Right. There should be no such double standards.
In that context, I think we must recognise that, whatever revulsion we may have against the policies of apartheid in South Africa, we and the Republic of South Africa have many long-term interests in common. I believe we should realise that if South Africa—Southern Africa as a whole, but South Africa specifically—goes down in a blood bath or becomes involved in a long and bloody war as a result of the guerrilla activities which are now going on, and are likely to be intensified, in Rhodesia, then it will not be only the white people of South Africa who will be the losers. Black Africa will suffer, too, and will suffer appallingly. So will we in the West: and so above all, my Lords, I think, will we in this country, because this is where a good deal of our future is going to be decided. We cannot afford any longer, in my view, the simple luxury of distant moral superiority. We have to combine a realisation of the social and political issues which are real and pressing in South Africa with a serious and intelligent realisation of where our own interests lie.
§ 6.7 p.m.
§ Lord SEGAL
My Lords, we have been privileged this afternoon to hear two excellent maiden speeches, and I should like to add my own congratulations to those already expressed, on all sides of the House, to both speakers on two speeches of rare quality. Lord Weidenfeld gave us, I thought, an exceptional speech, and I am sure will prove himself a very valuable accession to this side of the House. Those of us who were privileged to serve under 343 the distinguished father of the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, in the Western Desert are delighted to see the noble Viscount occupying almost the very same seat, certainly the same row, that his father occupied when his presence graced your Lordships' House.
My Lords, in this foreign affairs debate I wish to refer to only one sentence in the gracious Speech—that which deals with the Middle East. We have all noted with a deep sense of relief the recent improvements in the Middle East situation, especially a ceasefire in Lebanon which shows every sign of enduring. We have also noted the recent overtures from President Sadat to Israel, and his call for a return to the Geneva Conference—and I was very glad indeed that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, devoted the major part of his speech to a very balanced and able review of this extremely difficult situation. It is only natural that suspicions arise in Israel, because there the risks are so much greater. Here in Britain we can accept that President Sadat is genuinely seeking peace, and can readily support his initiative; because in Britain we have everything to gain and nothing to lose. We can rely implicitly on his good faith. Indeed, the economic situation of Egypt today, with her vast external debt, can hardly favour another war, although according to President Sadat that risk cannot he entirely ruled out.
But the risks of a further war to Israel are enormous. Their fear in Israel is that, with further territorial concessions in Sinai, the Egyptian troops may edge nearer and nearer to the old Israeli borders, so that Israel appears now to have developed a kind of "Trojan Horse" complex. There, the risk they run is no less than the complete extermination of the Jewish State. Against that, they have the solemn word of President Sadat, which I can accept in all good faith. But the Palestinians only recently had implicit faith in the good word of Syria, and that has resulted in their virtual extinction as a military force—a blow inflicted on them by their staunchest friend and ally. We have seen how in the Middle East—and this has unfortunately happened only too often—the friend of yesterday can become the foe of today. I believe profoundly that the reverse can also be true 344 in the Middle East, and that the Palestinians' worst enemy of today may yet prove to be their best friend of tomorrow.
The problem remains, How can Israel be convinced that Egypt is genuinely ready to make peace? This is especially difficult because of the painful memories of the Yom Kippur War, when a whole nation at prayer was attacked on the holiest day of the Jewish year. How can the wall of suspicion be broken down and replaced by an attitude of complete trust on both sides? I believe that complete trust can be established, and I shall go on to explain how I think this can be achieved and how Britain can play the part of an honest broker towards both sides, to draw them closer together in peace and understanding. Once the principle of co-existence has been accepted by both sides, territorial adjustments will fall into their proper perspective and Egypt could well be agreeably surprised by the large amount of Sinai—if not the whole of Sinai—that Israel would be prepared to give up, once peace had been established in the fullest sense of the word.
Let us try to find a parallel in what has happened between Soviet Russia and the Iron Curtain countries on the one hand, and Western Europe on the other. For many years there has been military confrontation with NATO troops stationed on German soil and, even today, the Russian military and naval build-up is more ominous for the Free World than ever before, as so many speakers have pointed out this afternoon. Vast territorial adjustments still hang in the balance. Yet this ominous situation has not in any way prevented a close cultural relationship from developing between the countries behind the iron Curtain and ourselves. For many years now the Great Britain-East Europe centre, under the able direction of Sir William Harpham and his devoted colleagues, has been doing magnificent work in promoting cultural exchanges between the Iron Curtain countries and our universities inviting visiting professors in science, medicine, technology and agriculture to come to this country, and sending out to them our own visiting professors in exchange. The gain to both sides has been enormous and, if measured in terms of goodwill and mutual understanding, almost incalculable. We have only to 345 recall the visit of the Bolshoi ballet to this country to realise what untold good these emissaries of art can achieve in so many directions.
Why cannot similar steps be undertaken today between Israel and Egypt? Already, in fact, much steady progress has been made. Jews who are known to be Zionists—for, after all, apart from a few freaks, the terms are synonymous—have already been invited to visit Egypt. Sir Ludwig Guttmann, of Stoke Mandeville fame, who has saved many hundreds of valuable lives in this country, including those of Members of your Lordships' House, was invited to Cairo to help in the treatment and rehabilitation of paraplegic Egyptian soldiers, wounded in the Middle East wars. He carried out the same healing work on paraplegic Israeli soldiers wounded in the same wars, and was instrumental in bringing Egyptian and Israeli teams to compete together in the Olympic Games for Paraplegics that have been held in England, Tokyo and Montreal. At the Middle East Institute of St. Antony's College in Oxford—founded, incidentally, through a legacy of Antony Besse, a merchant from Aden—visiting graduates and professors from Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Israel have for many years been living and working together under the same roof, discussing problems of mutual interest to their own countries, and to the Middle East as a whole. More recently still, Jewish scholars have been invited to Cairo to assist the Egyptologists there in deciphering some of the hieroglyphics recently unearthed near the Step Pyramid of Sakkara.
Out of all the tragic events of the civil war in Lebanon there came one hopeful development—the establishment of an open frontier between southern Lebanon and Israel, where hundreds of Arab refugees were welcomed across the border daily and given medical treatment and regular work in Israel. It is to be hoped that even after the ceasefire has finally been established, this work of rehabilitation and reconciliation will be allowed to continue and a peaceful frontier allowed to remain open.
One small incident that I saw recently on the West Bank is symbolic of the good work that can be done. It occurred in the Christian Arab city of Ramallah, 346 some twelve miles North of Jerusalem. A professor of paediatrics, an old friend of mine from the war days—Professor Russell from the Hadassah hospital of the Hebrew University—was doing his weekly clinical round with Arab Moslem doctors, in the only children's hospital in the whole of the West Bank. It caters for some 1 million Arabs—Christian and Moslem alike—and draws patients from as far afield as Hebron in the South to Jenin and Tulkeram in the North. Waiting for him in out-patients was a bright-eyed Arab boy of eight years old, who proudly displayed an insulin syringe in the breast pocket of his blazer. This little boy had been brought to the hospital five months earlier completely moribund and in a state of deep coma. His parents and doctors had despaired of saving his life, but when his urine was tested at the hospital it was found to be loaded with sugar. A prompt injection of insulin saved his life, and his parents have been glad to have him maintained on insulin ever since. They were overcome with gratitude and beamed happily as the youngster produced his syringe and had his regular check-up from Professor Russell. Similar instances could be repeated endlessly, and many other extraordinary cases of healing were shown to me in Ramallah that afternoon.
I believe profoundly that no single act by President Sadat could do so much to create good faith between Egypt and Israel and to dissipate the "Trojan Horse" complex that now seems to bedevil all their negotiations, as the establishment on an official basis of cultural relations between the two countries. This step need not await territorial concessions or military withdrawals. It should indeed precede them. It could be acted on today. The effect would be instantaneous and the repercussions tremendous all over the Middle East. If, for example, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem would invite a visiting professor from El Azhar University in Cairo to lecture on Koranic Law, he would be delighted at the welcome that he would receive. If, in return, the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, which has a unique reputation all over the Middle East, were invited to send a team of paediatricians, ophthalmologists or orthopaedic surgeons to the teaching hospitals of Cairo and Alexandria Universities, how- many valuable lives could be saved and how much 347 suffering and misery could be avoided! If the Agricultural Research Institute of Rehovot were invited to send out a team of agricultural experts to the Goumouriyah Province or the desert villages of Upper Egypt to demonstrate the simple techniques I have seen carried out successfully in the kibbutz of Ein Gedi in a remote part of the Jordan Valley, how much help and sustenance could be given to the teeming millions of Egypt's rural population! The whole relationship between Egypt and Israel would undergo a dramatic change, and a new hope created for peace in the Middle East. What an escape that would be from all the sterile polemics of the last few years into something creative and constructive at last !
Cannot Britain, with our ancient tradition of culture and goodwill, act as an honest broker in this respect? We all know the dedication of my noble friend on the Front Bench to the cause of peace. We believe that it is shared equally by his right honourable friend in another place, the present Foreign Secretary. Can we not turn to President Sadat, who is in the happy position of being married to an Englishwoman— as I am in the no less happy position of being married to a wife from Egypt—in the hope that he may be able to take this new and dramatic step, and open up cultural relations between Egypt and Israel? The response would be instantaneous and overwhelming, and would bring, a measure of untold good to both sides. Such a step could well open up a new chapter of real hope in the age-long history of the Middle East.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Lord GISBOROUGH
My Lords, I believe that we in the West are facing a great and increasing threat to our survival by Soviet imperialism. I think that they have an overwhelming superiority of conventional weapons in Europe and nuclear parity. But I think it is realised by every country now that the atomic threat is stalemate, with as much damage to the country that uses it as to the one that is attacked. I cannot see any possible likelihood of nuclear war. But why should Russia ever wish to use their conventional weapons in attack to attain the objective of overwhelming the West when they can achieve their object by less risky 348 alternatives. Therefore, I feel that land defeat of the West is no longer necessary from the Russian point of view and therefore the whole threat comes from the sea lanes and war by proxy.
We all know that the Red Fleet now has bases in Aden, Somalia, Angola, Cuba, Mozambique and many other places. They now constitute a terrible potential challenge to our trade routes and, in particular, to the vital raw materials route running around the Cape to Western Europe, USA and Japan. Since the Cuba affair in the 1960s, they have created a navy which is the greatest challenge that the West has ever seen since the birth of the Soviet Empire. I think that ships now have priority in Soviet thinking over tanks. They have grasped the meaning of the command of the sea and realise that confrontation with the West is shifting from land to sea. They see naval power as closely allied to foreign policy and that it can be used as an ever-ready threat. They demonstrated their strength two years ago when they carried out the famous Okean 75 exercise throughout all the high seas as a huge rehearsal.
One wonders whether the oil countries would ever have risked their restriction policy if they had not had some Soviet backing. Moscow realised that the Arabs had succeeded in precipitating a crisis and disunity where they themselves had failed. It was an economic war carried out by proxy with the support of their fleet. The Western countries, to some extent, view navies as the weapons of yesterday—certainly we, with our small navy, seem to do so—whereas the Soviets believe them to be the weapons of tomorrow. We all know the Soviet navy is now vast and has far more submarines than Germany ever had and that it is a navy designed for offence and is far in excess of their need for defence. Moscow realises that their fleet gives them a new field of action and allows them to indulge in military and political subversion at a great distance and the fleet allows them to outflank the West European bridgehead. This naval capability reduces the value almost to nil of any agreements in Vienna for troop reductions.
The key point, as the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has said, is South Africa which commands the Cape route. Without this trade route the industries of the West 349 would grind to a halt. Until recently, it does not appear that adequate importance has been attached to South Africa. We have heard nothing but verbal attacks; but South Africa is vital to the West and to the Western World. If it becomes Communist or if it were to lose its white people (as has been mentioned as a possibility) it would be a disaster for the West. The vacuum in the South Atlantic is an ever-growing temptation to the Soviet Navy to fill. They have their bases in Cuba and are building a naval and air base at Conakry and are able to make a complete stranglehold of the wasp waist of the Atlantic if they so wish.
But South Africa is still an inconvenient obstacle to the Soviet offensive plan. I believe that South Africa is on their list as an objective. It is therefore in the defensive interest of the West to give them every possible support and I believe that that support should take precedence over any racial theories or any other dislikes we may have of that country. It will be suicide for the West if South Africa were allowed to be Sovietised. I think we must look to our own strategic security and co-operate in every way with Southern Africa. If we can build them ships, we should do so because in addition to supporting our own trade routes, the trade would strengthen and with that would come the influence that we may wish in order to combat those aspects of South Africa that we do not like.
The Soviets have a strategic policy, which I think is known to all, that by 1984 they believe they will have taken over South Africa, the Middle East and all Europe. Then they believe the USA will not be able to resist them. We do not perhaps wish to believe this; we do not want to face it; and, in fact, President Ford did not even believe that Poland and Rumania were in the clutches of the East. The Soviet had plans for the period 1960 to 1972. Their strategic objectives were to promote disunity in the West, to promote social dislocation in the capitalist world, to exploit the fear of a German resurgence and to detach France from NATO. They wanted the unions and the young to exploit industrial and social unrest and so on. We can judge for ourselves to what extent that has been a success. We must not dismiss the possibility of the success or partial success of this current strategic policy.
350 My Lords, turning to the land of Africa, we know that President Neto supports revolutionaries in his neighbouring countries and it has already been mentioned that the Minister of Defence in. Angola is controlled by the Russians and that the Cuban advisers fill most of the appointments. It is run largely by Mr. McBride, as UN representative, an ex-IRA gun runner, whose hatred of South Africa is intense since South Africa refused to help him over his IRA cause. He would like the country governed by SWAPO, which consists mainly of unelected Ovambos. Not only are they unelected, but the elected Ovambos have demanded that SWAPO should be outlawed, as they are Marxists and terrorists.
Angola provides the Soviets now with valuable ports and facilities from Mogadishu to Lobito and these bases virtually encircle the South Atlantic and South Africa. In Mozambique they have control of the harbours and airfields, and there are masses of Russians instructing teenage guerrillas so that they can form the spearhead of any thrust into Rhodesia. The next targets from the Russian point of view must be Rhodesia and South-West Africa with all their mineral resources. We all want to see a settlement reached in Rhodesia on multi-racial lines. I will take advice and not talk about that, but it is not very reassuring to hear Mr. Mugabe say that he will fight on if he is not successful, particularly when one would imagine he will be supported by the 15,000 Cubans who are available for him. The possible outcome of this is fairly obvious.
China has warned the West repeatedly of the Soviet plans and asked what the West are planning to do to remedy their military weakness. They are increasingly writing the West off as hopeless, and one reads that they may well possibly be switching their policy as a result. I believe that we must realise that we are subject to a strategic garrotte being applied on the African trade routes. We must listen and react to the Soviet's declared aims and intentions, and support South Africa of necessity, regardless of their internal policies. We can also support actively such organisations as UNITA in Angola and expose the Soviets for the colonial and empire builders that they are. They are certainly no friends of 351 the blacks. We should support Jonas Savimba's UNITA, because he commands the support of two million Ovimbundas, which are about 35 per cent. of the population of Angola. He succeeded in denying the use of the Benguela Railway to the Cubans, holds the granaries of Angola and has some Cuban prisoners. He is reported as moving closer to Luanda, and surely everything should be done to support this movement with arms, money or whatever else they may wish.
What do we do? It seems we hardly do anything to stop the Soviet expansion. We even lent them money at low rates and supplied them with corn to hide the inefficiency of their own agricultural system, so they can divert more resources to their military effort. Brezhnev in 1968 said:If we want to win we cannot achieve our goals without strong military forces. Did we ever say we would not use force if necessary to support progressive movements; for example, in Britain, France, Sweden?That speaks for itself. He was made a hero in the Soviet Union in 1966 for outstanding merit in strengthening the defence capability of the USSR. One can compare that with the image presented to the West in directing a peace offensive. He was recently referred to officially as "Vozhd", which is the Russian equivalent to Fuehrer or Duce. That has an ominous ring. We have been able to read Mein Kampf which set out a policy. We preferred to put our heads in the sand in that period. The dangers are much greater now, yet we disarm and ignore these warnings. I believe that we do this at our peril.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Lord KENNET
My Lords, I want to start by saying a nice thing or two about my noble friend Lord Weidenfeld. The House are lucky to have him with us for many reasons. He not only knows the Continent of Europe, but knows it from a professional point of view, which cannot be said of those of us who are merely professional connoisseurs of the Continent of Europe. It is in exercising a profession around other countries that you truly learn them. Moreover, he is not even of British origin. An increasing number of your Lordships are not. I welcome it and believe that this is a factor tending 352 towards internationalism which can balance, to my knowledge, the lower percentage of persons not of British origin who sit in another place. I am sure that the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, was equally as good, but I could not hear him because I was called from my place.
I am going to talk poppycock, as my noble friend Lord Shinwell calls talk about disarmament. I wish that that antique spirit of ancestral combat were in his place to hear what I have to say. I might affect his views, though it seems unlikely. Disarmament is a difficult subject to talk about anywhere in this country because of the low general level of knowledge about it which affects even public debate in the Press, on television and in Parliament. This low general level has been compounded by the passionate simplicities of those whose perception that social service spending is more pleasant than defence spending blinds them to the necessity of the unpleasant. Not one of the present disarmament negotiations are of any great use or interest to the United Kingdom or the world at large. This is because the potentially useful ones are carried on in darkest secrecy, and those carried on openly are pointless and sometimes even dangerous.
Let us look round the disarmament scene which becomes more thickly planted with institutions every year. The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks—SALT, for short—have been secret from the start. Their modest achievements and potentialities have disappeared in the rising welter of new weapons that the two participants have been developing: Cruise missiles, anti-satellite satellites; mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles; multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicles, (so that by 1980 each side will possibly have over 10,000 nuclear warheads) and laser beams, perhaps.
I will remind the House that Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty says that we will all undertake not to proliferate nuclear weapons, whether by receipt or by diffusion, provided that the super Powers get on with disarmament. That was how SALT began. Having first appeared as an attempt to fulfil Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the SALT talks were then effectively decoupled when 353 neither the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament nor the United Nations General Assembly were invited to examine or comment on their first results, the 1972 Treaties. The talks on Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions in Europe, which began sensibly enough, are closely geared to the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Helsinki. Indeed, their opening was made a condition of the Helsinki Conference beginning. But they were soon separated off and allowed to become secret. They are now, of course, completely stalled.
The Non-Proliferation Treaty itself, the main sections of which were bilaterally negotiated between America and Russia—in secrecy of course—has not lived up to its name so far, despite 100 signatures. It is now being superseded by negotiations yet more secret in a Nuclear Supplier States' Club, known as the London Club, which is now, not surprisingly, being blown open by those who feel their interests to be threatened. Many of your Lordships who follow these matters will have been impressed by an exceptionally well-informed article in the Observer ten clays ago, which did precisely that.
Yet again, there are proposals whereby apparently the nuclear weapons States would be exempted from the inspection imposed upon the rest. Meanwhile, the rest are allowed to use their infant gums on such nonsensical pap as the proposed treaty to ban environmental modification for military purposes. It is nonsensical because it is environmental modification, as such, that needs agreeing about, not just that which is openly admitted to be "hostile" or "military". Certainly we need a system for examining the international environmental impact of certain national programmes. The Soviet Union's transformation of Nature programme is one such—especially, perhaps, that part of it which reverses the flow of the great rivers flowing into the Arctic Ocean for which, as we all know, they are using nuclear explosions. But these programmes have nothing whatever to do with arms control or disarmament. They are for the United Nations' Environmental Programme, and not for the Conference on Disarmament.
We may well be at a turning point in international affairs. There are new personalities in Washington and in Peking, 354 as well as in London. In Moscow, Mr. Brezhnev may be feeling the draught as he sees the United States recovering from the traumas of Watergate and Vietnam. The present weapons systems are being overtaken by a new generation, some of which will be far less "élitist", if one can use that word, than the last. Some of them will not be nuclear at all, and some will clearly scupper the present set-up altogether. These, too, are alarming to the Soviet Union. Soon the existing SALT agreements will look like bridges over Ox-bow lakes whence the stream of the river has moved away. Perhaps all this is what has led to the recent Soviet propaganda barrage—because there has been a new and marked propaganda barrage about arms control by the Soviet Union, leading up to the declaration of the Bucharest Summit, and also since that time. The main item in that barrage has been the proposed new treaty between the Warsaw Pact and NATO, whereby countries belonging to either will undertake not to use nuclear weapons first against each other—and against each other only. That is new, because it has never before been proposed by the Soviet Union that there should be a treaty, declaration or agreement limited to alliances.
There are two difficulties there: first, the obvious and familiar one that no doubt the West would be very willing to consider such a thing as soon as the East agrees to come down to conventional parity with us, but not before. The second difficulty is the question of China. It is well known that China is the only nuclear Power in the world to have stated unequivocally and unconditionally from the very beginning that she would never be the first to use nuclear weapons against any country. Russia has not said this; nor America; nor have we, nor has France and nor has India. China has said it, and we now have in our minds the unilateral and unconditional Chinese declaration, and the proposed limited treaty between the Warsaw Pact and NATO. One can see very well who is and who is not free to use nuclear weapons against whom.
I should now like to quote to your Lordships something which it is good to bear in mind. We have this Soviet propaganda barrage on disarmament. Let us listen for a moment to a domestic voice in the Soviet Union. I shall go 355 rather fast here because it is extremely boring. The Hansard writers need not worry: I have the text and will give it to them. Listen to General Gorchakov, who is head of the Political Directorate of the Strategic Missile Troops, speaking for internal consumption on the Soviet radio:An unrestrained arms race is continuing in the USA and the other NATO countries. In these conditions, the Communist Party and the Soviet Government, in their conduct of a consistent foreign policy of peace, are forced to show constant concern for strengthening the defence of the country and improving the combat readiness of the Army and Navy …The missile and artillery troops see their task as persistently mastering military equipment and weapons, tirelessly improving their military skill and constantly raising the combat readiness of units and sub-units. Celebrating their festival, the missile and artillery troops, engineers and technicians, workers of the defence industry, the creators of mighty missile and artillery weapons, give an account to the Communist Party and the Soviet people of their immense hard work to strengthen the defence capacity of the USSR and the socialist countries.The Soviet people and their military personnel express their profound gratitude to the CPSU, under whose leadership in the postwar period the fundamental revolutionary transformations of our armed forces have been carried out, raising their strength to a new level. Qualitative changes are shown first and foremost by the setting up of the strategic missile troops and in the equipment of all the armed forces with nuclear missiles. Since their foundation, the strategic missile troops have advanced along a short but glorious path of development. At present they are the principal component of the Soviet armed forces and basically determine the defensive might of our State.The missile units are equipped with the latest missiles, capable of carrying warheads of colossal power over any distance, inflicting a precise and devastating blow on the aggressor wherever he may be. The firepower and striking power of the ground forces has increased; their basic striking force is operational-tactical and tactical missiles with nuclear warheads. At the same time conventional and rocket artillery will not lose their significance as an important means of striking the enemy on the field of battle. The armament of our artillery units now include powerful new systems of gun, howitzer, anti-tank and rocket artillery".And so on, and so on, minute after minute, hour after hour, week after week, every day, generally three times a day, on the Soviet Union internal radio. I should like the House and the people of this country to be able to carry that as a kind of bumbling background noise in their heads when they read the external Soviet proposals—the ones directed towards us.
356 Our country is in an unsatisfactory position about arms control: we are never sure whether we are hare or hound. We were the first proliferator, but we are also the enthusiastic backer of bilateral Soviet-American anti-proliferation policies even at their most implausible. We should be well placed, if we were courageous enough to speak out, to influence the course of events and do the world some good. I am not suggesting that we should be an example to the world by unilaterally disarming: nothing could be more irrelevant. The principal point to be clear about is that arms control negotiations, as organised—topics, tempo, participation—by the United States and the Soviet Union, are, and are bound to be, ineffective. The arms race is a world problem, not a bilateral one; and only if it is treated as a world problem is there any hope of controlling it. The Special Session of the UN General Assembly on Disarmament provides the opportunity. It should be a high priority for the Government—I hope it is—to find out what are China's deep objections to this Session, and then to do what is possible to remove them.
The first change that is needed, and that is possible, is to move the whole topic out into the open: the darkness, within which all serious negotiations have taken place, was conceded by the Americans to the Russians when they recognised secrecy as a Russian strategic interest at the time of massive American preponderance. Even the principle of proper verification for arms control measures was given up by Mr. Johnson when he was so keen to get the Russians to SALT while the Vietnam war was going on that he abandoned this fundamental world interest in his efforts to get them to the table. The fact that the United States can to some extent verify by satellite what the Soviet Union is doing, is of small interest to a world which is not allowed to share the information. An international arms control verification system is necessary and we should take steps to set it up: seismic monitoring would be an excellent beginning, but satellite surveillance is an urgent next step.
The second change that is needed is a proper, logical, honest and open link-up between SALT, MBFR and CCD. If CCD—the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament—were to move to Vienna, as the Austrians want, this would make that easier, because then all three 357 sets of negotiations would be in the same city. We desperately need a comprehensive negotiating structure.
The third change that is needed is comprehensiveness in the matter to be negotiated. The American interest in strategic arms limitation may be limited to the Soviet Union's intercontinental range weapons. The other nuclear weapons States—very much including us—are interested, to no lesser a degree, in shorter range Soviet weapons. It is the explosive scale of the weapons, not their range, that makes them strategic.
For 16 years now, I have been asking in this place and elsewhere that somewhere in some negotiation, the Soviet intermediate range ballistic missiles stationed in Western Russia, which can hit Western Europe but not America, should be taken into account in disarmament talks; should be negotiated about, should be got rid of. Usually, I have received no answer from successive Governments. Sometimes I have received the answer "They are old. They are soft. They are on their way out. Do not worry. Time will see to the problem". We now know that these IRBMs are being succeeded by the SSX20s—highly invulnerable, extremely new and sophisticated and with MIRV'd warheads capable of hitting us, but not capable of hitting the Americans. In the 16th year, I ask the Government: who will talk about it, and where? This is an interest, incidentally, that we share with China—not with America.
There is a temptation, particularly within Whitehall, not to rock the SALT boat, to try to exclude from discussion in the international fora, in the CCD and in the General Assembly, the bilateral negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union. This would be the greatest possible mistake. If control of the arms race is serious, and it is, all tools must be used to achieve it. One of the most useful tools the international community has is the floodlight. I believe that it is not in keeping with the American spirit and tradition that the United States should have got bogged down, as it has, in a series of negotiations carried on in Kremlin-type conditions of secrecy.
It may be argued that the Soviet Union will never agree to anything else. The Soviet Union will certainly not agree to openness, if the West accepts Soviet 358 demands for secrecy. But should we go along for another 15 years with a method of negotiation which simply does not work? At the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, in its third session—UNCLOS III—a conference which the Soviet Union long opposed, they have given up position after position because, in the light of day, in the sight of all, they could not justify what can only be called maritime imperialistic practices. In the light of day, the Soviet Union will not be able to justify an arms build-up and arms expenditure which are at once dangerous and tragic—dangerous for peace, and tragic because of the waste of resources.
Let me praise the Government. I should like to praise the Government, and my noble friend Lord Goronwy-Roberts, in particular, for his initiative on chemical arms control and disarmament. I do not know how many of your Lordships will have noticed the reported remarks of the present head of the American Defence Intelligence Agency, General Daniel Graham, who said that a large proportion of Soviet missiles and bombs in Eastern Europe are tipped with toxic gas, because the Russians have not been able to build up nuclear warheads as fast as they were building missiles. Without derogating from my main thesis, which is that we must try to do everything at once, I should still like to praise the Government for having singled out this matter which is becoming intensely urgent. But it is not enough. Let us now link it altogether.
The new Administration in the United States is pledged to greater openness, as well as to new initiatives in arms control. There is, in fact, no reason whatever to suppose that the new President would not welcome from this country, from Western Europe, proposals and policies that will help break up the private log-jam in the dark that he has inherited. The rest of the world has not in any way accepted that the bilateral arms control strategy of the nuclear Super-Powers is satisfactory. At the time the Russians and Americans, supported far too obediently by the British, were producing their non-proliferation treaty there was another arms control strategy being proposed—one supported far more widely. To that strategy, abandoned when we were blown off course by the powerful but irrelevant collusion of the nuclear Super-Powers, I think we must now return.
§ Lord CHALFONT
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down after his absorbing and valuable speech, may I ask for one point of clarification which I think might cause confusion if left as it is? In the context of the nuclear weapons Powers, he referred to Britain as the first proliferator. Did he mean that we were the second country to achieve a nuclear weapons capability, or was there something more significant in that remark?
§ Lord KENNET
My Lords, I meant precisely that we were the third country to achieve that capability after the United States and after the Soviet Union. The House surely needs no reminding that the wartime atom bomb was developed by America, Britain and France, with some help from Canada, and that, due to the oddities of the American Constitution, the Hyde Park and Quebec Agreements were not kept by the United States Government, because the incoming President did not know about them, and that then became the American atom bomb. The Russians followed suit and we then—because, as France now, we did not trust America always to come to our rescue—developed our own. So that, strictly, one could say that the Soviet Union was the first proliferator and we were the second. But I think an easier picture to understand is that there was America, there was Russia and then proliferation began, and we were the first proliferator.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Lord GORE-BOOTH
My Lords, I am not going to seek to follow the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, in his extremely learned and interesting discourse on disarmament. I think it is extremely appropriate that he should have brought this intensely intractable subject into this debate, and I am sure we are all grateful to him for doing so. If I may just make one comment, I have, in my unscholarly and simplistic way, written to the effect that if only, somehow, Communist States could give up being conspirators and this passion for secrecy, the dramatic developments in the disarmament field are hardly to be believed. But how to get them to do it seems to me to be the absolute basic of this problem. The noble Lord hopes that if the Americans broke away this would happen. I am not so sure.
May I add to your Lordships' tributes to our maiden speakers a statement of 360 my own? I should like to say that the arrival and the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, appeal to me very much on three points. The first is the noble Lord's very close connection with the late Sir Harold Nicholson, whose perceptive and charming comments on diplomacy are something that all people in that profession—and many people outside—read with such delight. The second point is that he attributed to his speech a Wagnerian style—fortunately, not a Wagnerian length—and my reply to him would be that his theme seemed to be, Europa erwach' noch langem Schlaf, which means, "Europe awake after long sleep". That is only one word different, I think—but the noble Lord will no doubt correct me in writing if I am wrong—from the text in the second Act of Siegfried. The other point of the noble Lord which appeals very much to me as I am involved in the voluntary organisation movement, relates to his appreciation of what voluntary organisations can do to help government. We appreciate such a comment because there is a certain trendy propensity to nark at voluntary organisations, whatever they may be doing. This does not apply to the Government, with whom we cooperate very happily.
May I also go on record as congratulating the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, on his first personal reconnaissance of the terrain of your Lordships' House. It was delightful. I was very happy that the noble Viscount mentioned the late Lord Cowley, whom we very much miss. In his absence it is good to have with us a new expert on Latin America.
I should like to add one further tribute with which I do not think any of your Lordships would disagree. During the year the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, has consistently dealt with our questions on foreign affairs with patience, thoroughness and expertise and with a certain style which is unique to him, and perhaps also to his country. We all owe him a great deal for what he has been able to do for us.
Last year the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, who made such a forceful speech this afternoon, expressed regret that it seemed to be impossible to have as an item on our 361 agenda in this House a great debate on foreign and Commonwealth affairs. We always seem to stray into particular paths. I sympathised with the noble Lord and said that I thought that such a debate was impossible. With your Lordships' permission, I am now going, in some degree, to daunt the impossible a little because it seems to me that it would be helpful if I tried, in a limited way, to go a little beneath the surface of the individual items that we speak about, and make some reflections upon general political situations and the role that we should and, indeed, should not try to play. I think noble Lords will appreciate that I have sought to discipline myself in the length of my interventions in this House, but I must warn them that this one will last perhaps a little longer than my average; and if they feel thirsty for something other than diplomatic discourse after a time, I shall not be offended.
May I begin with the matter of ideology, to which considerable time has been devoted this afternoon. I have been somewhat puzzled by the fact that in the middle of this year I met so many people and read so many articles which suggested that the trouble with the world is economic—the world's economic troubles are indeed formidable—but there was a nagging feeling at the back of my mind that I had heard this before. Then I remembered the context in which I had heard it preached as a gospel. That was in the summer of 1968, just before the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact stepped in to destroy the Dubcek-Czechoslovak "springtime". Therefore I grew very suspicious of this gospel. I think that it had the intention of distracting us from the matter which, despite what anybody may say, remains the top item of importance in world argument and world practice. I do not necessarily intend to preach against Soviet practices and performances in different places. That is not the point. The point is that this doctrine exists, persists and continues to be a menace to us all.
Perhaps I can illustrate this best by some references to situations on our own Continent of Europe. One pattern that we find in Europe is that if there is a Social Democratic party in a democratic country which can maintain itself and which has the courage of character and the clarity of mind to understand the difference between 362 Social Democracy and philosophy such as Marxist-Leninism, then the position of democracy can be maintained. I have in mind particularly Herr Schmidt in Germany and, perhaps more surprisingly and more interestingly, the discovery by Social Democracy in Portugal of a leader who has statesmanship and leadership qualities, Dr. Mario Soares. But where social democracy of a really democratic kind does not have such a voice and where it has a rather ill-thought out inclination to combine with Communists, then there is a very distinct and dangerous menace to democratic institutions, and that is what is happening in Italy now. Of course I could extend this argument, but I might get into an embarrassing position if I did. Therefore I will stop at that point.
It leads on, however, to another point which has already been mentioned in this debate by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont; that is, the position in a case like Chile. I will not go into that question in exactly the same way as did their Lordships but perhaps I may suggest that very few people know, and possibly very few people care to know, that the Fascist régime that exists now in Chile grew out of an already extreme situation. The Allende Government not only were in the process of totally ruining the country economically; they were also aiming at control by undemocratic means. And who were found finally in the Government buildings? Cuban mercenaries. So we have the predecessors of the Cuban mercenaries in Angola, of whom your Lordships have heard much this evening. Therefore the moral of the Chilean story is not so much that the wicked Fascists overcame good and virtuous democrats but that there was a position in which two extremes confronted each other. That is one of the reasons for so much of the sadness in the world today.
I should not suggest that the Communist camp does not have its own difficulties and setbacks. Much the most interesting situation now is the relationship between the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China. One must assume that in China there is going on at this moment a private and secret but very intense and probably widespread debate on the future of relations between China and the Soviet Union and 363 that there are small signs of a slight approach towards a limited détente.
I do not see why the other side should not enjoy the disadvantage of that very easily misunderstood word. It may be some time before it comes out which way the vote of the Chinese Committee will go. If it went in favour of détente with the Soviet Union, in some ways that would be a disadvantage for the rest of us. On the other hand, it would be an admission by the Chinese of a certain doctrinal retreat. It would also mean an admission of what I think one must consider to be the fact, that in the race for Africa in the twentieth century, the Chinese, despite the Tanzania railway, have somewhat lost out to the heavy hardware and the Cuban mercenaries, wielded by the Russians. In this state of debate and uncertainty in the Communist camp I am sure it is wise for us to pursue the policy which the Government, and I think their predecessors, pursued, which is to get as close to the Chinese as we can in terms of both commercial dealing and political content. But of course this does not go very far in the light of Chinese customs and practice. But whatever there is, I am certain that we are right to maintain our connections and our trade.
Perhaps we may now turn to the problems of the Third World. The Third World seems to divide itself voluntarily into two bodies which meet from time to time: the non-alignment grouping and the developing countries' grouping. The non-alignment grouping was an idea which I think was launched by the late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of India, and I think launched with the good purpose of giving certain countries freedom of choice in particular questions. But, unhappily, right from the beginning that group had Communist country membership—and one simply cannot have a group which calls itself non-aligned and contains Communist members (as it now does) and is credible.
Now that in the United Nations we and other democratic countries are in a minority, I think that we should be less inhibited about speaking frankly on things like this than we were when we were leaders of a majority, trying to keep the world respectable. On the other hand, we must distinguish very carefully from 364 the developing world as such—the world of UNCTAD and so on—because that is a very real and genuine and important section of the world. I think it is much to the credit of Governments of both major Parties in this country that, whatever the difficulties, they have made the effort to keep the British share in aid to developing countries from lagging or dropping. There have been many temptations to do this, whether as a result of the behaviour of the countries we have helped or simply from our own financial difficulties, but we have tried to keep our aid going. I believe it to be now accepted by the Overseas Development Ministry as 2.5 per cent. of the gross national product, and even if the Government share of that is a minority, none the less the effort is commendable and I hope it will continue to be maintained even in our difficult times.
There are two small points in the passage in the gracious Speech on this subject on which I should like to ask the Minister who is to wind up the debate whether he would care to comment, and I should be grateful if he could so do. The expression "rich and poor nations" was a highly useful and emotive one when launched (I think) by Barbara Ward as a definition of the nations in stable times, and it served that purpose for perhaps a decade. Since the rise in oil prices this equation has been much more difficult to work out and it is much more fluid and unstable. I should have thought it would be better for official up-to-date purposes to use the phrase "richer and poorer nations" because there will be ups and downs in the scale, but I would not have thought that the British public at this moment very much appreciated being called a rich nation.
My other point concerns the growing emphasis on the poorest countries. I think this is unexceptionable, as is most of the gracious Speech on these matters. But would the noble Lord who is to wind up the debate be prepared to say that in the allocation of aid suitable regard is paid to the prospect that aid given to the poorest countries is practicable for use and is effectively and properly used? After all, this is the taxpayers' money, and I think the taxpayer, just like the subscriber to a charity, likes to have some assurance that the aid he is giving can be properly used.
365 While we are on the subject of the position in the developing countries perhaps I may turn for a moment to Rhodesia. I have no special knowledge of this problem, nor any expert things to say, but I should like to say that the impression one has from outside is that this is a very difficult Conference—indeed a supremely difficult Conference, and it is being handled by Mr. Ivor Richard with very considerable skill. He is accused far too often by "media" persons of either not getting on fast enough or not being explicit enough, or this or that. I think it must be one of the most difficult conferences anyone has ever had to handle and I feel that we should be grateful to him for the efforts he is making.
Rhodesia leads on to South Africa, about which the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has spoken so eloquently. Perhaps I may add one idea. In your Lordships' House on one occasion I suggested that we should give up simply abusing Mr. Ian Smith in Rhodesia and concentrate on arguing with him that it was time for him to accept the inevitable. This was not received with any great pleasure, but I am now going to suggest it again. I do not think that if we wish to influence South Africa we can do it by just being rude, but I think we might make some progress in applying influence if we could hammer home that it is inevitable that something will change in a big way. There may be a widening of human rights to coloured and black people, or that in the end there will be a division of that country—we do not know; but I do not think we shall carry much weight unless we switch our argument from straight criticism, which we all feel, to emphasising the notion that a change is inevitable.
Going quickly from that subject, perhaps I may just say that after 1976 we shall bask in an afterglow of happy feeling with the United States of America after the successful bicentennial, from both sides, and we shall also be encouraged by the thought of enjoying a multiracial kinship at the Commonwealth meeting of Prime Ministers next summer. Then, inevitably, we must come back to Europe and ourselves.
Again referring to the White Paper, there is just one point on which I should like the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, 366 to answer a question. Would he feel able to amplify just a little the statement in the gracious Speech that the Government continue to study the question of Cyprus? I do not wish to comment on past decisions or indecisions, but our present position is possibly the only international responsibility of that nature which we have. When we have finished the Rhodesian Conference, for better or worse, I do not see that, except for Cyprus, we are likely to be presiding over a conference with that degree of responsibility, possibly for years to come, as a single and independent nation; so it would be useful, and perhaps encouraging, to know in which way we are hoping that the Cyprus matter may be developed through our influence and persuasion.
Now we come back very much to our own case and, as the final part of my speech, I should like to venture a few suggestions on what British Governments should and should not do in our present crisis. One has been mentioned already, but I should like to underline it very strongly. Could Ministers give us a moratorium for some time ahead in an attempt to say, either to our own people or to the rest of the world, how much influence we wield at this moment? The attitude of abroad to this country at the moment contains much compassion, much friendliness; but it really is not a question of a willingness to subject themselves to any influence that we may suppose, or say we suppose, that we have.
It really is not for nothing that the Italian Press called the recent football match between the two countries "a dual of the derelicts of Europe", or that the normally extremely friendly Christian Science Monitor in Boston put a rather tart headline in their paper, saying that the British pound needs British help. So could we, for the time being, be suitably modest about our position in the world—not apologetic, but simply modest?
Then, could we avoid another attitude, which I do not wish to pin on the Government or Ministers, but on all of us, in a sense. The Japanese make automobiles which are convenient, are adequate, and show good workmanship; they are delivered on the date for which they have been promised. They also come at an economic price from a high price economy. 367 Up to now, this has been something of a menace to our motor industry. While we have to protect ourselves, to speak of this as though delivering a good car, well made, at the right time, is a moral crime by the Japanese is really quite nauseating, and, whether in writing, speaking, or in whatever capacity, we must avoid making moral judgments about things other people do well. They are not unfair.
My Lords, I do not wish to depress your Lordships, but I think also we ought ourselves to remember that there are things which this country does magnificently. The mystery of our present condition is that we do not seem to run the whole show magnificently. I will give your Lordships a few examples at random. I will start loyally and sincerely with the Royal Family and go on to air transportation, the running of Heathrow. Then I go on to invisible exports, an activity which proceeds with much trendy "narking" all the time, and brings in 40 per cent. of our foreign exchange income. Then I can go on to individual enterprises, though I will not discriminate between industries because I know too little. But taking various activities in this country, including Marks and Spencer and the London Palladium, there are a number of things which the British do magnificently.
We have to ask ourselves: Why is it, when we have able people doing things so well, that we somehow seem at the moment not to be running our whole show as well as we should? The only definite area in which we seem to be lagging is what I would define simply as productivity over a wide front. I shall not give examples, because I have spoken for long enough already. But if your Lordships disbelieve me, may I ask you to look on page 2 of the Sun newspaper of yesterday and see some of the things going on in the wildest way in some of our more important factories. I can console your Lordships by saying that when you have read page 2, you will have your reward by looking at the picture of the lady on page 3.
My Lords, this brings me back to the beginning. There is in the world a small minority of countries which can call themselves democratic in their institutions, practices and human rights. Countries in Asia have receded; countries in Africa 368 have receded. Possibly there is an addition or two in Western Europe; there is Northern Europe, North America, the old Commonwealth. But when you tot them up, they are tragically few in number.
If, at the end, I have talked about our obligations to the world, one of them is that, whatever we do, we must never for a moment falter in our duties and obligations to the democratic group in the world. We are now a member of a small group defending these principles, and the one thing I am sure that none of us, whether in your Lordships' House or mostly round the country, would wish to do would be by apathy or cynicism, or simply by ignorance, to let go by default government of the people, for the people, by the people, which still remains the best form of government that has ever been devised.
§ 7.26 p.m.
My Lords, after that very interesting speech with regard to the point of view about China, if the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, cares to come along to a conference we are having between the EEC countries and Europe in February, his views would be very interesting to them. May I add my congratulations to the two maiden speakers. As was the last speaker, I was particularly interested when the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, raised the question of voluntary organisations. The noble Lord has done a great deal to help them. At present they need people like the noble Lord to give them courage in many cases to carry on because there are so many difficulties. May I say to the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, that I thought his speech was interesting and excellent. When he said to noble Lords that they ought to think in terms of long-term planning, or strategic planning, he may be starting a new era because one feels one can speak in this House and nobody takes any notice at all, but perhaps with the influence of the noble Viscount more notice will be taken in the future.
I should like to speak for a little about defence, if I may. I should like a message to go out from this House today of congratulation to all the men and women of Her Majesty's Services. They are 369 doing a splendid job in a very difficult time. They undertake their job on behalf of the country, of which they are very proud. Especially having been to Ulster on several occasions, we have to thank them for the marvellous work they are doing there. The men and women of the Services have carried on despite all the cuts. As the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, said, they are getting very worried about the cuts in expenditure because in many cases there is a lack of equipment, and a lack of proper facilities for training. It may be very nice to have a simulator to help train the troops, but it is not the same as having practical training with real weapons and ammunition. These exercises cannot really be done if one is shut up in a room. Of course it facilitates early training, but I feel that these men and women have great difficulties to face when they go out from training. Somerset Maugham wrote:If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom. The irony is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that, too.This may happen to us at this period.
I am glad to see the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, here because we owe him a debt of gratitude for starting his All-Party Committee, which has had a quite resounding success. I should like the noble Lord the Minister to be kind enough to convey to Mr. Roy Mason, the past Minister, that we are grateful, and he should be congratulated for the fact that he made a stand. It was very brave of him to say quite publicly that we cannot cut any more, following the enormous cuts he himself had made. He has been transferred to another job. We want to know what is going to be the policy of the Government in the future, because the scene has changed. This makes us increasingly worried about whether there are to be any further cuts. I hope the present Minister is putting up a fight equal to his predecessor's. General Alexander Haig warned us on 3rd November that it wasunwise to attempt to solve social and economic problems by reducing expenditure on defence.In the Defence Estimates, Cmnd. 6432/76, it has been shown how much more powerful the Warsaw Pact countries are in weapons and manpower than are the NATO allies. This has been mentioned by several other noble Lords.
370 The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, with whom I worked quite a lot in the WEU, stressed the question of standardising equipment. We tried over the very many years, nearly ten years, I was attending the WEU in Paris, and we were not at all successful, particularly with the French, who appeared to prefer to have their own type of weapons. The noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, mentioned the question of Russian bases. They have now increased, I understand, to ten in number. What worries me is that they have a base in South Yemen and another in Berber, exactly on opposite sides; so they could hold up all the ships in the Suez Canal except their own. The Command Paper which we had, No. 6432, does not show the real position as it is today.
In our Defence Estimates we have to carry the medical services, about £110 million, £70 million on education, about £95 million for housing for the married couples, and £300 million for the Services and their pensions. Also, for some unknown reason, the Estimate includes the Meteorological Office, which costs £22 million. In Germany and France these are not carried on the Defence Estimates. We also have—from the Answer to a Question I put down the other day—123,446 non-industrial civil servants. We are told that we spend so much more than our allies on defence. But in point of fact Germany spends per head £81, France £76 and the United Kingdom £63. It is said that to endanger our security or that of our friends in our concern for social justice—and I often wonder what "social justice" really means—would, if implemented, render us virtually defenceless.
I would quote Admiral Sir Terence Lewin. He said:I believe that by far the greatest risk lies in the part of the world where we are vulnerable and the Soviets are not, and that is at sea. The West depends utterly on freedom of sea communications. During the past six years Russia has more than doubled the number of her missile-equipped cruisers, quadrupled her nuclear submarines in the last two years and is now completing one a month.We all remember that in the last World War, and to a certain extent in the First World War, if it had not been for our Navy bringing in the convoys of food we in this country would probably have starved. With the cuts in the Navy and 371 the increase in the Russian Navy, this is becoming more worrying than ever. Also, in intercontinental ballistic missiles they have increased from 224 to 1,600, sea-launched ballistics from 20 to 730, bombs from 450 to 2,500. I think this gives us food for thought.
I am not at all happy about any commitment of total defence policy in Europe, if this means that we are unable to take any action if required elsewhere, as Russia seems determined not to uphold the spirit of détente or keep the agreed provisions of the Helsinki Agreement. We have already lost 38,000 Servicemen and 40,000 civilians; they have already finished their service. It has been suggested that the money we save would be invested in industry but, of course, that has not happened and there are still more unemployed. It is an interesting fact that at the Conservative Women's Conference they balloted for a motion to discuss defence; it was not the motion chosen by the Committee. There were more motions on the order paper in regard to defence than anything else. I think this is because women now are beginning to realise the great importance of protecting their country. What is extremely galling to me is that Her Majesty's Government are lending money to the Soviets at a lower rate of interest than we have to pay for our own borrowings. I think this is very unfortunate indeed.
If I may go for a moment to domestic matters, I should like to ask about the Island class ships, about which questions have been asked before. Perhaps the Minister could give us some idea how they are getting on, whether they will be successful and whether they will be repeated in the future. I should also like to return to Royal Naval Dockyards, Cmnd. Paper No. 5976, which at page 76, paragraph 27, states:with the difficulty in recruiting and retaining labour it will be necessary to continue and intensify measures to improve recruitment.I should very much like to know whether this is happening. At the present time, with such a small Navy, it is absolutely essential to have well-trained people who can turn round the ships in the quickest possible time. Then it was said later in the Estimates that spare capacity would come in 1977-78, and they might then have 372 to find additional repayment work. If there are not enough people now to repair the actual ships, why is it necessary to get repayment work? Then there is the question of apprentices. So many people now are cutting down on apprenticeships. Her Majesty's Government can give excellent training, both to boys and girls, and when they are trained they do not have to stay in the dockyard. They can go, and I have met them, to many very advantageous jobs all over the world.
In Cmnd. Paper No. 6432, on page 73, paragraph 5, it is said that these dockyards are going to have improving efficiency, including this Royal Dockyards Policy Board. I did ask a Question some time ago to find out what the policy of this Board is going to be. Will it be discussed with the Whitley Committee? Are the men going to know what is going to happen in the future? At every Election, and every time there is a change of Minister, naturally all these people employed by the Government, particularly on defence, are worried. There is to be a separate Estimate for 1976–77, and I should be very grateful if we could know when this is coming out. There is also to be, I understand, a new wages structure. It is being tried out at Chatham at the present moment and the trial period is now over, and we should like to know whether it is possible to implement this at other yards. May I ask after the health of HMS "Ark Royal"? How long is it before she is going to be cremated? We have heard something about her practically every year. As the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, is not here, I should like to make inquiry about the present situation with regard to the Gurkhas. As we know, the Sultan of Brunei has offered to pay the entire cost of the Gurkhas, and I do think it is absolutely essential that he should have some answer in the near future.
I would inquire about the question of the welfare reports, because these are very important to the future of all three Services. We had a welfare report, the Seebohm Report on the Royal Navy, and there were 29 recommendations. It was stated that the period of separation for families should be reduced at the earliest possible opportunity. This was over a year ago, and I should like to know if any action was taken. Now we have had this very interesting report from the Army Welfare Inquiry Committee. This was 373 suddenly produced yesterday, having been received by the Government last December; I do not know why there has been such a delay in publishing it. However, it is very disappointing, as the Under-Secretary for the Army stated in a Written Answer yesterday, of column 77 of the Commons Official Report:After very full consideration, I have, however, decided not to adopt the committee's main recommendation for an Army Social Work Service.Leaving aside, as I understand it, the fact that there are pressures on the defence budget, I find that it is likely to cost about £650,000.
It appeared in an article in The Times today that the Army is against this proposal because it fears a barrier between the commanding officer and his regimental problems. Surely if this scheme, which I personally think would be a good one, were introduced one could report direct to the commanding officer and always be in touch. Because what happens so often is that the wives are left behind in the various countries, either Germany or England, and the officers go with their men to Ulster or wherever they are being sent overseas. So he is really not there to be contacted in detail.
I should have thought that the alternative suggestions put forward by the Minister are not very good. He said that there should be improved links with the local authority social services. As the greatest problem is in Germany, this does not seem a very helpful suggestion. I also found that it was not at all realistic in the way it was approached. The Minister's reply, to which I have referred, went on to say:We are, however, examining two alternatives …with the Sailors' Soldiers' and Airmen's Families Association the possibility of expanding its activities…".This is an excellent organisation, as we all know, but at the present time they are mostly voluntary workers and they would have to have a completely different set-up. Then, as I mentioned before, there are the local authority social services. I hope that the Minister, when he replies, will say whether there is any chance of getting the present situation changed, because it is unfortunate that these people should not have a service recommended by a Special Committee.
374 May I just quote from the Sunday Times:Problems appear to be worst in Germany. 'We found there,' the report states, 'a combination of vulnerable young families living in a strange land, many of them in high-rise flats at some distance from their unit locations and often without the head of the family, and too few social workers operating without the back-up services available from local authorities in the United Kingdom. This particularly struck us as a recipe for social distress'.It also says:As a Lance Corporal told the committee, 'You live with blokes all the time, in cramped dirty conditions and you live from day to day and come back depressed and in a temper. I get niggled with anything out of place and jump at my wife and say that's not good enough. I look forward to coming home and then we get niggly at one another …".Moreover, the article states:Children suffer too. 'The children feel nervous of me,' one sergeant said. 'The youngest cried when I spoke to him and it took me some time to win his confidence before he would come to me. It really upset me…'.When you look at the report you will see the length of time for which these families are separated. So can anything be done to get a change of attitude by the Minister to see whether we cannot get a proper service, because it is frightening to think that so many of these young men leave the Service. Some of them leave in a few days and some of them leave in a few months. Forty-seven per cent. of the non-privates also leave after three years, so it seems to me that things are not satisfactory. I should like the Minister to take this report seriously, which I am sure he will, and have a word with his colleagues and see whether we cannot get some change of attitude both by the Minister and by the Army themselves, because I feel it is essential that this issue should be looked into.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Lord CLIFFORD of CHUDLEIGH
My Lords, when I first joined your Lordships' House anyone speaking after about 6 o'clock prefaced his remarks with,"At this late hour …" and then he was quite often commendably short. At this late hour I will try to be commendably short, but before I ride my particular hobby-horses I should like to welcome the two maiden speakers today; the very erudite speech of the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, and the maiden speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of 375 Alamein. I was particularly interested in his speech because three-and-a-half years ago I led a Parliamentary Mission to Brazil. What has worried me most over the years (and I am now speaking defencewise) has been our lack of reserves. The greatest trouble that befell us was the abolition, or practically the abolition, of the Territorial Army by Healey. I think a lot of people do not realise how little that Army cost, how great was its potential for training the reserves and, what is even more to the point, at the time of its abolition the terrific amount of time and expertise that it had in producing the very good civil defence organisation which we had in the country at the time.
The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, is not here at the moment. He spoke for the Government in the debate when we were condemning the Government's abolition of the Civil Defence organisation. It is ironic that in my part of the world just after they had been abolished, and the Territorial Army was abolished, we had some flood disasters. Several bridges on the borders of our county with Somerset were washed away. A year before the local TA engineer unit would have replaced them with a Bailey bridge in no time. In fact that has happened. At that time they had to send all the way to Essex to get a Bailey bridge to take the A303, which is the main route into the county. That is not the only point. There was a terrific amount in the Civil Defence. They abolished the Civil Defence organisation en passant. They have abolished the Civil Defence staff college, of which I was a graduate, and that was turned into a college for civil servants. I think when we look back at the growth rate of that particular industry and compare it with everything else, that is somewhat ironical in our present day and age.
The main point I should like to make about my main hobby-horse is that I think a civilian army, militia, call it what you will—I will call it a Territorial Army—could and should be our third deterrent. Doubt is now being cast on part of the what I call the second deterrent. Tactical nuclear weapons (and I admit that that depends on whether you are going to have fusion or fission) are the first deterrent. The second deterrent is our Regular conventional forces. Only by having a large civilian army, percentage- 376 wise somewhat on the scale of the Chinese or Yugoslavs, can we have a sufficient locally based third deterrent which—I am talking in the European context and not in terms of this country alone—when the initial enemy thrust takes place, can flow round its flanks, a tactic that has proved so successful in the past.
I also believe that we should re-introduce National Service. In that way not only would we get adequate reserves for our Regular Forces and our Territorial Army but it would do a terrific amount of social good, especially in this era when we no longer have the disciplines which used to come from religious beliefs and so on. If, at that formative stage of their lives, young men of all sections of society could feel that they were working for the common good, we should achieve a great deal. My noble friend Lord Hunt wrote a letter to The Times suggesting the establishment of some sort of youth service. I suggest that experience teaches us that such services can, before long, get into the wrong hands and that the only way to do it on a national basis is to have a national service on the lines we had previously. Remember, with a proper national service a large part of the time of young men can be spent doing things of a social nature, such as Civil Defence.
An example of what I mean when I say that certain youth services can get into the wrong hands is contained in a letter which I have with me from a local person who went on a course to become a youth leader. When being interviewed he was asked what sort of activities he would engage in with the youths he would be leading and he replied that he would organise football matches, hikes and similar events. The instructor—I emphasise that it was the instructor who said this—asked him, in effect, "Wouldn't it be a better idea to organise local marches with banners to the town hall protesting against this or that?" That illustrates how careful we must be when contemplating any organisation other than a national service because, to call a spade a spade, the service can fall into the hands of people who are serving the cause of political violence.
Ten years ago the equipment of our Armed Forces was second to none. While in the intervening years we have not progressed, the other side has. Following 377 the Yom Kippur War, the Soviets had a large meeting at the Malenovsky Tank Academy, and those meetings have continued ever since. At them they have studied and brought up to date the weapons of all their services, so much so that the lead we had in our equipment only 10 years ago no longer exists. Consider the Navy. I presume that most noble Lords read the article in the Sunday Telegraph. What a pathetic story it was; only one cruiser and practically nothing else. I dined, as we say in the Navy, in the "Ark Royal" at Devonport in July; I remember it well because it was during the very hot weather. The air conditioning was not working and a naval officer sitting next to me said, "We are finding things very hard. We are being skimped left, right and centre, so we had to let the air conditioning go in order to have something else". Other noble Lords have referred to the feeling of demoralisation that exists in the Services. It is caused by the fact that they are no longer the best. I hasten to add that I am talking equipment-wise only; the material we have in terms of the men is excellent.
A brief comment about submarines. We have cut down on the number of conventional submarines and this is a great worry to the Navy, first because nuclear submariners are trained in conventional submarines, and secondly because nuclear submarines cannot operate in shallow waters like the Channel or the North Sea or in other places where we might wish to use them in war time. The submariners are very concerned about the cut in conventional submarines. Equally, was it not humiliating that for the recent NATO exercise we had to hire civilian ferries to take our troops across the North Sea? All this comes back to the lack of reserves.
As for the Army, we all know what an excellent job they are doing in Northern Ireland. Let us face it, however, that we do not have sufficient men for our NATO commitments plus Northern Ireland. I tried to draw General Haig out on this issue when on our way to the airport. He was too wise a chap to answer me directly, so he turned the conversation round and said what admiration he had for the British units in Germany training for Northern Ireland, and he spoke of how well they had 378 erected a mock village and done other work. Perhaps I might mention that when he was there he was given a rifle and shown round by a Scottish major. A target appeared at a window and the General was invited to shoot at it. He fired but the target did not fall. The major shouted to the soldier in charge of the target, "Drop the target, quick! Didn't you see it was the General who shot at it!". Need I say that the General had missed? Seriously, there is great admiration for the training that is given, and the spirit of the men is obviously extremely high. I am sure that other noble Lords will comment on the question of equipment. I would only add that I gather that our best tanks are now going to the Shah of Persia.
One of our major problems is that of internal defence. The number of people advocating political violence is on the increase. To call a spade a spade, a lot of people are very worried lest the supporters of those two newspapers, the Militant and the Tribune, should take over the Labour Party. I think that that would be extremely dangerous for the future of the country. A supporter of one of those groups to whom we were talking said that he would abolish defence and the police, so I asked him as I was escorting him away what he would replace them with. "A workers' militia", he answered. I asked what he would do then and he replied that the money that would be saved would go into the factories. I asked him, "What about the fact that 70 per cent. of our food and raw materials for those factories comes round or from the Cape area?" I asked him whether he would not just be starving the people as well as the factories. That is a point that it does not seem possible to get across.
Was it not ironical, that, at the same time as the extremists were demanding that we should send troops to topple the Smith régime, notices appeared in the Press that the RAF was selling the last of its long range troop transports? Where, again, are our medium-lift helicopters? Many people have quoted the comment of SACEUR that we cannot solve our socio-economic problems by cutting down on our security. This had been mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, in articles in The Times and Telegraph and by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. People 379 do not seem to realise that we are only at peace now through the courtesy of the United States of America and China. Otherwise, we should already be an East European satellite. To my mind, those who demand more cuts in defence are the real fifth columnists in this country today.
Perhaps the best reform would be a reform not of this House but of the House of Commons. I feel that, if we had proportional representation, the extremists, whether of Right or Left, would come out in their own colours and we might have less danger of subversive infiltration. I believe that, if we do not act now, the defence of our country, of our trade, of our standard of living and, most of all, of our freedom will have been lost. We all know who will benefit from that.
§ 8.4 p.m.
§ Lord NEWALL
My Lords, we have heard very many good speeches today both on foreign affairs and on defence, and I should like to add my sincere congratulations to the two noble Lords who made their maiden speeches today. We hope to hear them again many times. I shall confine my brief remarks tonight to defence. There are many aspects to defence and the first and most important thing to decide is the degree of the threat of aggression. Without the feeling of any threat, one can only hope to be educated a little. My contention is that the threat is very much in evidence. Information on this is freely available from many sources, not least from General Haig, who has been widely quoted in this House today. General Haig is no scaremonger. His knowledge is second to none. He leads the NATO forces and is very closely in touch with what is going on. He has recently made two speeches in this country, one to the House of Lords Defence Study Group and one to the Air League. On both occasions he said that the threat was very severe and that there was a new, aggressive aspect to the Russian forces and equipment. Surely, one need look no further for these facts.
The facts are denied by the Russians but all the experts agree that their forces are now more offensive than defensive. So what are we to do? We must educate the public as to what it means to have an 380 aggressive potential enemy. Possibly, also, we have to continue to try to educate some of our politicians. The Government have in the past been known to use empty words, to say that they support NATO and then continue their savage cuts so that our establishment is only nominally correct while the back-up of reserves which is so urgently required is just not adequate.
The recent large-scale manoeuvres in Germany, which attracted quite a lot of attention in the Press, got very good results, but that was due to the efficiency of our forces rather than to the Government, who have continued to cut away at the heart of the Armed Forces' supplies and, consequently, at the morale of all three Services. This is a fact that was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Bourne.
I have been very fortunate, as have many other Members of your Lordships' House who have made visits. I went to NATO in January and to Germany in April, and I visited the Navy in September. All the people I talked to, regardless of rank, said that they were worried by the cuts which made them inefficient and led them, in some cases, to feel themselves a second-class force compared with most of their NATO allies. Their morale was still surprisingly good, but it was on the verge of going down. The situation is not improving.
There is another aspect that I should like to mention. The word "slippage" has crept into the vocabulary of the Forces. It is a new threat. There is delay in supplying new and vital equipment that is essential to the Armed Forces—equipment that it has already been agreed shall be supplied and on which plans have been based relying on its supply. Frequently, such equipment is being delayed. I should like to mention one or two examples. First, there is "Milan", a German-French anti-tank weapon. The restructured corps in Germany is depending on this weapon. If it is not available that will certainly jeopardise our future role. I gather that there is some argument over whether it is to be built in the United Kingdom. That is immaterial. It looks as though it will be seriously delayed.
As regards radios, there is a new generation of radios which is coming along. Here again, there is some delay, possibly 381 for technical or industrial reasons, but if this equipment is delayed it will surely cause the backbone of BAOR to be severely dislocated. It must be available in 1977 in order to keep our forces efficient. The same could be said of the helicopter anti-tank guided weapon, whose implementation is very badly needed, but I shall not go on about that.
It is said that the Russians have a 19th century strategy with 20th century weapons: surely, we cannot play our proper role without modern weapons. The Channel is, after all, only a dyke and the Third World War, if it has to come, will be won or lost in Germany. As we have heard many times this afternoon, the Russians have both the intention and the capability of winning the next battle. Their capability is growing very fast. The threat today is tremendous: tomorrow, it will be that much greater.
So we must take note of the lessons to be learnt from history and see where unpreparedness and lack of defences have led nations in the past. My father was Chief of the Air Staff from 1937 and during the Battle of Britain and I know that he had enormous battles with the Government on the supply of aeroplanes, so it is clearly nothing new. But we have the best men and some of the best military machines in all branches of the Services. Let us not make our Servicemen work with one hand tied behind their back for, if we continue to do so—and I feel that we are doing so in certain instances—we shall give this country away to our enemies. We are heading towards it politically. Surely, we shall not do so militarily as well, or there will be no Welfare State, no Health Service, no freedom of the individual, and more of our private little pieces of England will be gone with nothing left to defend them. We have to defend ourselves nationally first, then we can try to defend our individual freedoms and points of view, albeit with the stresses and strains of politics.
We cannot cut our forces any more. There is certainly no fat left. Let us once more use a single aspect of human nature—an aspect that is sadly lacking these days, particularly in Government—our plain common sense. Let us make our excellent Forces really efficient by giving them the equipment that they deserve and the means to use it.
§ 8.9 p.m.
My Lords, I, too, should like to add my compliments and thanks to the two maiden speakers who spoke today. In the course of a fairly long Parliamentary career I have listened to a large number of maiden speakers, and I think that the standard which was reached by the noble Lords today—and those who have been in both Houses for years will agree with me—was equal to, if not better than, the standard of many of those whom we have heard in the past. Of course we hope that we shall hear from today's maiden speakers on a number of occasions in the future. Their speeches were full of interesting material and they have given us cause for a considerable amount of thought.
Your Lordships will not be surprised to know that I want to touch on the question of the Middle East. The noble Lord, Lord Segal, commented upon some instance which had occurred in which exchanges of visits had taken place between Egyptians and Israelis and I share his hopes for the future. I have been in the Zionist movement practically from boyhood, from my university days. Weizmann, who was a very distinguished predecessor of mine as President of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland, on all occasions whenever the question of Israel, the Jewish National Home, had been raised, made statements and supported resolution after resolution which were passed which gave hope that re-establishment of the Jewish State would produce effective results, not only for itself but for all its neighbours.
Balfour laid the foundation stone of the Hebrew University which was the first important action taken after the granting of the Mandate. One of the important Departments, if not the most important, was the Department of Arabic. Israel has invariably sought peaceful relations with its neighbours. There is no question at all, for example, that the thousands of Arab students who come into Israel over the borders are allowed in freely and can do what they like so far as their pursuits are concerned, provided, of course, they are legitimate pursuits, and the Arab population in Israel and the surrounding territories has never lacked anything in the nature of using its health services, social services, or correct and 383 proper treatment so far as employment is concerned: as, for example, members of the exemplary trade union, the Histadruth. I have visited Israel and, before that, Palestine, very many times and I have never yet found animus by Jews against any Arab in Israel. I defy anybody—I state this publicly—who has been to Israel to state that he or she has ever heard an Israeli use defamatory terms against individual Arabs; of course, against the Arab attackers from outside it is a different matter.
If the Arabs had only had some decency and sense at the time when the United Nations had given its assent or had re-established the ancient Jewish homeland as a recognised entity. It is nonsense for people to speak about Israel not being the Jewish homeland. One has only to go into the Robing Room here and one sees paintings of Moses and Daniel, of the farmer who put Joshua into that land. Incidentally, we are speaking on the verge of a very interesting Festival which is identified with the Jewish homeland, that is, the Festival of Lights which commemorates the feat of Judas Maccabaeus who with his army saved Jerusalem and the world from being overcome by idolators and thus from endangering religion. Furthermore, if you want to see a painting about Judas Maccabaeus in this Parliament you can see it at the side of the steps leading down to the Terrace. It is absurd for some people to suggest that Israel is not the Jewish homeland.
With regard to remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Segal, the fact of the matter is that the response by Sadat is not effectively there. It is not a question purely of Egypt. Egypt is in the hands of the terrorists at present. Everybody knows that. Anybody who understands the position at all knows very well that even when Egypt entered into an arrangement with Israel she had serious difficulties from the PLO and other terrorists. What we are faced with at the present time is this. I agree that we should make every endeavour to promote good relationships between the two countries, Egypt and Israel. Reference was made to the Sunday Times. I suggest that when we go out of here some of us who have not read the article in the Sunday Times should look at it and see what Sadat actually says. It is not, I believe, a free Sadat who speaks. 384 It is the Arab set-up which, in my view, is itself terrorised by the terrorists. What we have to consider is what is in fact the position in the Middle East at present.
Everybody agrees that there should be a meeting again in Geneva, and everybody who has any sense agrees that the people who should meet each other are the parties who themselves have to settle the issues. But what does Sadat say at home to his newspapers? I think this is because he fears other forces. The statements he makes in those papers are not the same as he makes outside. So we are faced with a very considerable difficulty. The Prime Minister of Israel is prepared to meet heads of Arab States at any time whether it be in Egypt or any of the others. His approaches have been turned down. Golda Meir, who is admired throughout the world, made offer after offer to go to meet the opponents of Israel to make peace. It would be a mercy not only for the Middle East but for the world if the situation was settled peacefully, particularly for the Middle East itself, because, say what you will, the high culture and the kind of developments in all peaceful pursuits which have taken place in Israel is a most remarkable example to the world at the present time. Since it has been a State, Israel has shown itself anxious to bring proper education and culture to every one of its citizens—Arab and Jew alike. I myself happen to be a governor of one of the many universities, which is acting in conjunction with the Arizona University, not for the purpose of making arms and not for the purpose of offence except in one direction; that is, offence against the ravages of nature. That is what Israel is doing. Israel is concerned with benefiting her population. Jews have been scattered over the world but Israel has always had a Jewish population. Israel has integrated 80 different groups from all over the world. Israel has problems of integration, of course, but it is overcoming them very much better than most other nations who have integration problems.
So I think that what we should try to do—and I would put this to the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, and his colleagues—is to see what can be done to prevent the kind of thing that is happening at the present time. In my view there is—and I speak in plain language—a 385 Machiavellian plot on the part of many sections of the present enemies of Israel to destroy Israel. My Lords, Israel will not allow itself to be destroyed. Can anyone blame her? Is there any reason why, when four wars have been fought against her, she should lie down? No, my Lords; a large number of the Jewish people who are in Israel today have had the devilish treatment of the concentration camps. Israel is not going to allow such oppression any more. They will protect themselves against enemies to the bitter end, and they are indeed a gallant and heroic people.
Let me give your Lordships an illustration. What is the latest move that has been made at the UN? I think it will be useful for your Lordships to know what was said about that latest move in which, I am happy to say, our Government took a proper stand against those who, in my view, were taking a further step towards planning the destruction of Israel. We know, of course, what our Ambassador at the UN said, and I think he played a significant role. But let us see what was said by somebody from another country. A report was being considered. Incidentally, that report was prepared by those who had no diplomatic relationship with Israel at all, and it was accepted at the United Nations; in itself a disgrace to the United Nations. This is one of the things which is really bringing opprobrium upon what should be, and what must eventually be, a forum which does not depend on terrorism or on Mr. Arafat standing up and threatening the peoples of the world that if they do not do what he wants he is going to use the gun, but the kind of international body which it was intended to be, according to the Charter, and which, if the Charter was observed, could and would produce tremendously beneficial results for the world.
This is what Ambassador Scranton said, talking about issues which were left out of the report—and this is only a few weeks ago. This is not a matter of past history; this is what happened recently. He said that "absolutely essential issues" were not dealt with, and he went on:I shall name but a few. There is no mention of the right of an Israel to exist in the Middle East. The need for the Palestinians to accept the legitimacy and reality of the State of Israel is utterly ignored … Moreover, nowhere in the recommendations is there the stipulation that the 386 Arab States as well as Israel must join in ending the state of war and in arriving at a peaceful settlement in the area.Then he said:There is one further very basic flaw in the report. In large measure the Committee's recommendations pre-judge the outcome of negotiations … any individual or State involved in international negotiations"—this is Scranton, not me—should have an opportunity to meet each other.
My Lords, it is a longer accusation, but I want to cut it as short as I possibly can. Let me say this about the PLO. Incidentally, a few days ago the BBC produced a propaganda film which was full of untruths and half-truths. Who was it publicising? The PLO—roof cover for assassination, for hi-jacking, for evils with which the world has been confronted, violence and everything else. The BBC was used in order to give an opportunity to an organisation supporting the PLO to present a film which in my view, and I think in the view of anybody who knows Israel, who has ever visited Israel or who knows anything at all about the history of the whole of the Middle East, was very misleading.
I think it would be interesting, too, to know what Gadaffi, who is now trying to get closer to Sadat, says. The Sunday Observer said:I cannot speak for Arafat, but I believe the reason he and some other Palestinians now welcome the principle of a mini-State is that they think it will result in the ultimate destruction of Israel.And so it would, my Lords. Sixty per cent. of the Palestinians are in Jordan. Such a State would be a menace to Jordan; it would be a menace to Israel; it would be something which, eventually, would create a state of affairs similar to that in the State of Lebanon, which is a clear example of the kind of State that Arafat and the others who are threatening have in mind, and which they call a secular State.
I think that it might be of interest if I gave some of the replies to vilification of Israel on the UN report. They said:Israel is condemned for trading with South Africa. In fact the Jewish State accounts for one half of one per cent. of South Africa's foreign trade, prompting the delegate of the African State of Malawi to accuse some of his Third World colleagues of 'double-faced hypocrisy' for singling out Israel while ignoring South 387 Africa's massive commercial and arms traffic with the rest of the world, including Arab and Communist States.This is the kind of argument we are hearing now put forward by the enemies of Israel. The report continues:UNESCO condemns Israel's educational policies in the West Bank and accuses Israel of 'cultural assimilation'. In fact, the curriculum, teachers and administrators in West Bank schools are all Jordanian. When the Arab States proposed an investigation by UNESCO, Israel agreed. The Arabs then reversed themselves and UNESCO voted to condemn Israel without an investigation.The General Assembly adopts a resolution calling on Israel to empty out the modern homes and apartments built for the Arabs of Gaza and return them to the slums and hovels in which they were forced to live for nearly 20 years under Egyptian rule. In fact, the Arabs of Gaza are buying the homes Israel has built for them—buying them with earnings from jobs made possible by Israel's success in ending unemployment in the Gaza Strip".Where is the sense in the United Nations raising vile accusations against a State which is an example to the world? I say that with pride because I, as a Zionist, have had some, albeit a very humble, part in attempting to create the State. I hope that what I have said has caused some concern to those in this House and that it will spread elsewhere to counteract the millions or possibly billions of dollars, petrol dollars, being used in order to deceive the world through the media.
I am sure that my noble friend Lord Goronwy-Roberts will know the position. He has done his best. I hope that not only we in our Parliament but other Parliaments will strengthen his arm in an attempt to bring real peace, where Israel will be recognised in the same way as the Arab States and where harmony will come to the Middle East.
§ 8.34 p.m.
§ Lord BANKS
My Lords, we have had an interesting and very wide-ranging debate today in which a considerable and varied expertise has been deployed. The noble Lord who has just spoken has spoken from long experience and a depth of feeling. I should like to join in offering congratulations to the two maiden speakers. The noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, spoke of the lack of enthusiasm for the European Community which he found among the Community 388 itself. I think that the European concept has to be presented in terms of idealism. Pragmatism is not enough; there has to be vision. The noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, reminded us of the importance of Latin America which, as he pointed out, is very often neglected in our discussions.
I should like briefly to refer to four sentences in the gracious Speech. The first sentence is this:My Government will continue to play a full part in the activities and development of the European Communities, and look forward to holding the Presidency of the Council of Ministers in the first 6 months of 1977.I had seen it written in the Press that the motto of the Government during the period of their presidency was going to be, "Business as usual", and that the emphasis was going to be on the efficient conduct of the business combined with the maintenance of a low profile. This I found rather disappointing; but I was encouraged a little by the use in that sentence that I have just read of the phrase "development of the European Communities", playing "a full part in the … development of the … Communities".
I wonder what development the Government have in mind. There are those of us who feel that, faced with unemployment, inflation, balance-of-payments problems, North-South dialogue, East-West confrontation, the nations of the Community should pool their resources and act as a unit. The question arises as to whether this can best be done, as I have said to your Lordships on a previous occasion, by the members of the Community acting as a group of nations working together when they can and going their own way when they feel they cannot, with or without apology; or, on the other hand, whether we need a tighter supranational organisation. I think experience is proving that we need the latter.
Nearly a year ago the Belgian Prime Minister, Mr. Tindemans, put forward in his report some modest proposals which were designed to take the Community a few steps further along the road towards that tighter supranational organisation. Among the suggestions that he made—and, of course, it has been made by many other people as well—was that the Council of Ministers, as soon as can be arranged, 389 should move to qualified majority voting where the Treaties provided for this. It seems if the Community is going to be enlarged (as is a possibility) within the next year or so that it will be impossible to get decisions; that there will be deadlock and paralysis unless the system of qualified majority voting is used.
Of course it means, using that system, that there will be occasions when each nation has to accept unpalatable decisions. If the summit meeting of the European Council which has just been held in The Hague had been subject to qualified majority voting—although I appreciate that it is outside the structure of the Community—then West Germany would, I think, have had to accept a degree of support for the concept of a common fund to stabilise commodity prices and the United Kingdom would have had to accept some measure of devaluation of the Green Pound. You cannot please everybody all the time, but if you are going to run the Community efficiently then I believe the nations have got to learn to accept the principle of qualified majority voting.
While I realise that the British Government are not the only Government that want to go slowly on this in the Community, I think we should pay a tribute to those countries, Holland, Luxembourg and Belgium, which have tried to move the Community further along the road of political integration and I am alarmed to see from the Press today that the Tindemans Report, it would seem, has been pigeonholed. I know there is to be a regular report on what is happening with respect to political integration, political union, but that report could well be that nothing very much is happening. The great consolation is that the Community is committed to direct elections in 1978, and that is a very significant event from the supranational point of view. I hope that the Government feel confident that all the arrangements they are making would enable this country to play its part in those elections on target in 1978.
The second sentence from the gracious Speech on which I should like to make a comment is this:My Government will continue to take part in international efforts to promote a more stable world economic order, and a fairer distribution, within an expanding world economy, of the world's wealth between rich and poor nations".390 This is an area in which it is clear that the European Economic Community should be united. They were not united at the recent UNCTAD Conference and during the last two days it seemed that West Germany were still standing out on the question of the common fund.
At the UNCTAD Conference the United Kingdom did not accept the common fund, but afterwards made it clear that they were prepared to go along with discussions about the possibility of such a fund. It would seem now that they have moved further and that they give some approval to the concept. I should be interested to know how far the Government have moved towards accepting that there should be a common fund as part of the machinery for stabilising commodity prices. Such a fund and also some concessions on the question of debts, are essential if the North-South dialogue is to come to a successful conclusion.
Obviously, this will involve a transfer of resources; that is implicit in the sentence which I read out from the gracious Speech. It is much better that it should take place in an orderly manner by agreement of all concerned rather than in the way in which it took place for oil, as we well remember. I realise, also, that the degree of further oil price increases is very much connected with the success or failure of this dialogue. Relations with the Third World also depend on political factors as well as these economic ones. It depends, for example, on events in Southern Africa, about which a good deal has been said in the course of our debate. As a country we are committed to majority rule in Rhodesia. We want to see independence and majority rule in Namibia; and I hope that it will be possible to bring that to a successful conclusion in both countries.
Once that is done, the problem of South Africa will come right to the forefront. All the pressures on South Africa and on other countries about their relations with South Africa, will become even stronger than they are now. This raises for us the very difficult problems of defence and economics to which reference has been made today; but it seems to be clear that the United States are intending to take a firm line on this, a firm line with the Government of South Africa, a firm line in their opposition to the 391 policies that are pursued there at the present time. I do not think that we will save Southern Africa from Marxism or Russian influence by seeking to bolster the South African régime with its present policies, if we seek to bolster it as a bulwark against them. I was inclined to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, when he said that we should put a good deal of emphasis in our discussions with the South African Government on the inevitability of change, and that is what we must work for, rather than trying to bolster the South Africa we have today as a bulwark against Russia or Marxism.
The third sentence that I should like to make a comment on is this:My Government will also continue to work for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.Again, a good deal has been said on this subject and we witnessed in recent weeks the launching of what has been called the "Arab Peace Offensive". It would seem to me that it would be sensible to see if we can test this out by seeking the reconvening of the Geneva Conference, as was suggested by the noble Lords, Lord Carrington and Lord Trevelyan. But the difficulty is that the Arabs want the PLO to be at such a conference and Israel does not for the reasons put before us by the noble Lord, Lord Janner. We must uphold the right of the Palestinians on the West Bank and in Gaza to determine their own future through their chosen representatives. I realise that there might be difficulties about applying it. If the PLO were among those chosen to represent them if the PLO were to make a clear declaration that they accepted the existence of the State of Israel, there would be a considerable move forward in the situation, and it is just possible that, chastened by their recent experiences in the Lebanon, the PLO may be prepared to modify the kind of stand which they have taken in the past.
The last sentence about which I should like to comment is this:My Ministers will continue to attach great importance to the further improvement of relations between East and West.During the debate it has been pointed out that we are still faced by the continuing Russian build-up, by the preponderance of the Warsaw Pact forces in Europe 392 and by the extension of Russian influence in different parts of the world. The Warsaw Pact countries spent something like 11 per cent. of their gross national product on arms as against 5.7 per cent. in the United Kingdom and 6.7 per cent. in the United States. At the recent Summit of the Warsaw Pact countries, the proposal was put forward to which the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, referred: that a Treaty should be negotiated between the Warsaw Pact and NATO under which the signatories would agree not to be the first to use nuclear weapons.
At first sight, this seems a reasonable proposition; but if it were to be brought about I wonder whether it would become a treaty to make Europe safe for conventional war. There is also the question of the influence of precision targeting, and whether that has undermined the deterrent effect of nuclear weapons. I should be interested to know what the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, feels about that. Thinking about that brings us naturally to consider the mutual force reductions where the Russians want a percentage reduction, which would leave them with a preponderance, and the West want a reduction which would leave the two sides with roughly equal sized forces. These discussions are now entering their fourth year.
About a year ago the West put forward a proposition under which some nuclear weapons would have been withdrawn from the West in return for the withdrawal of tanks from Eastern European countries. I do not know whether there is any hope for some development of that idea, breaking the deadlock, or whether we are in for the long slog of which the noble Lord, Lord Trevelyan, spoke. One more encouraging part of the scene has been the Helsinki Agreement. We in this House expressed doubts about it at the time. There are good grounds for still having considerable doubts about its total application. But it has led to some easing of the situation. It has led to some co-operation in troop movements, for example. We on these Benches hope that the Belgrade Conference will be a genuine investigation of the way in which the Helsinki Agreement has worked, and that its application to human rights will be carefully examined.
There is one factor which has been mentioned in the course of the debate and 393 which I do not think we should allow out of our minds: that is, the possibility that there will be some modification of the stand taken by the Chinese Government in their relations with the Soviet Union and also possibly in their relations with the United States. They may in fact want to pursue both actively and to reduce to some degree the hostility which they have been displaying towards the Soviet Union in the past. That could have a very big effect on the balance of power in the world, and must be very carefully watched and taken into account in deciding our own actions. To conclude, I would say that we must maintain the strength of the West. We must continue in all these different ways to seek understanding and agreement with the East. We must be alert to the dangers inherent in Russian strength and Russian expansionism, without taking too apocalyptic a view of them.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ Baroness ELLES
My Lords, by the end of a long and important debate there is very little benefit in going over the ground which has been traversed so expertly by so many other speakers, both on particular aspects of foreign affairs and defence and on general observations. I should like first, if I may, to add my warm congratulations to the maiden speakers: the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, and my noble friend Lord Montgomery of Alamein. They made most excellent contributions. The noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, has for so long been known as a careful and judicious selector of other people's words and now for once he will be presented tomorrow with a copy of his own words in Hansard, which will be circulated throughout the country. We hope that people will enjoy reading Hansard tomorrow as much as so many people have enjoyed reading the books which the noble Lord has so carefully selected for the general public.
It is, of course, a great pleasure to congratulate from these Benches such an able speaker as my noble friend Lord Montgomery of Alamein. He not only bears the name of someone as famous as his father but continues in the same way to fight for causes in which he so passionately believes, putting the case across in such a practical way and so much to the point, and he will, I am sure, be of great benefit to your Lordships' House. 394 Indeed, if it would not be considered too controversial and contentious a remark, I would say that we have today the proof that hereditary Peers can play a very noble and useful role in your Lordships' House.
My noble friend Lord Carrington has covered the major foreign policy issue on a global basis and therefore I shall confine my comments to those aspects of the Queen's Speech which deal specifically with the relationship of the United Kingdom and the European Community. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Janner, is not in his place, but I must say to him—perhaps he will read it in tomorrow's Hansard—that though I am not going to cover the Middle East today, there are some people in this House who would diametrically disagree with some of the statements he made. Obviously this is not the moment to start an argument on such a controversial subject as Israel and Palestine, but I would wish to record my brief observation that I very much disagree with the noble Lord's interpretation of both history and fact.
With regard to the European Community, I should like to take this opportunity of thanking the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, for his courtesy in giving us a summary of what happened at the Council of Ministers. We have found it most helpful and I shall be commenting on one or two particular aspects of it during the course of my speech. We welcome the statement in the Queen's Speech that theGovernment will continue to play a full part in the activities and development of the European Communities.I do not think it has so far been observed that we have, more than any other Member State, an opportunity during the next six months and beyond not only to show our willingness to co-operate effectively and wholeheartedly but also our capacity for competent and effective administration, because for the first time we shall be holding practically all the key positions in the institutions of the Community: the presidency of the Council of Ministers for the six months from January, the presidency of the Commission in the person of Mr. Roy Jenkins, the chairmanship of the Economic and Social Committee in the person of Mr. Ferranti, and we shall also probably have a candidate 395 for the presidency of the European Parliament. I think that might really be called a hat trick. We have a chance to show what we can do, and I sincerely hope that we shall make the most of it.
The development of concertation within the Community institutions, of course, enforces the need for a more democratic control of those institutions. The value of the mainly consultative status of the European Parliament will certainly be reinforced by having Members who are elected by universal suffrage from Member States. We in this House have ourselves heard something recently about the virtues, if such they be, of an elected, as against an unelected, Chamber. Therefore there is some justification to expect that the Government—and I hope in particular Mr. Foot—will be among the keenest to press for the rapid conclusion of procedures required to elect Members to the European Parliament. Implementation of the unanimous decision of the Council of Ministers of December 1975, that direct elections should be held throughout the Member States by May or June 1978, is at least as important to many of us and, I think, to many people throughout the country as implementing the Manifesto.
The importance of adhering to the timetable cannot be over-emphasised. The Select Committee on Direct Elections, as your Lordships will know, sounded a warning note in their Third Report to the Government that in order to be ready by the envisaged date the requisite Bill should receive Royal Assent by the end of February 1977 at the latest. It is essential for us to stick to the timetable so that the Boundary Commission can do a proper job, openly and fairly, and have sufficient time to receive representations in an orderly manner. The required Bill should therefore be introduced without delay so that we are not in the shameful position of not being ready by the agreed date. Other Member States are pressing ahead with the necessary constitutional procedures, and Italy has reportedly already ratified the Convention contained in the decision of 20th December, signed in Brussels. Other Member States certainly will not want to be held back because we have not taken the necessary steps in due time. If that were to happen, the Govenment would be accused—quite rightly— 396 of lack of good faith, if they had not made every effort to be ready for the date set.
It would indeed be encouraging to receive an assurance from the Government that the timetable will be kept. That assurance will encourage not only us in this country but also the other Member States of the Community. The cry going up from Benches in another place for elected democratic institutions, which have precedence, priority and more power than unelected bodies, will have a hollow ring if Members do not enable, and indeed encourage, the necessary legislation to go through as quickly as possible.
So far, the concertation of Community action has been in the limited spheres of political and economic activity. I should like just to comment on one or two isolated aspects of subjects that were raised at the recent Council Meeting. First of all, with regard to the Green Pound, whereas the pre-entry discussions concerned the cost of Britain's joining the Communities, we now seem to have reached a situation where other Member States are asking how much it is going to keep on costing them to keep us in. Twenty-five per cent. of the CAP budget goes on monetary compensation amounts—now somewhere in the order of £l¾ million a day—to support the difference in the value of the pound: a difference of a staggering 45 per cent.
It is surely time to consider devaluing the pound, as indeed the Irish have already done. This, in itself, has caused a differential of 9 per cent. between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, with all the consequent difficulties of cattle transfers and so on across the Border. Of course, I do not wish to make a Party political point on this, but the situation is already becoming very difficult between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and I very much hope that the Government, regardless of the difficulties which it will raise, will consider the dangers that are paramount in this area for both the United Kingdom and its neighbour.
A contribution which Britain could make would be, at least, to start to devalue the Green Pound by a certain amount, and put forward at the same time some proposals for a restructuring of the CAP. Everybody is agreed that the CAP is not a satisfactory policy at the moment, and if we keep on criticising it it is up to the Government to put forward 397 some practical proposals. I would just point out one factor which should certainly be taken into account, and that is the change in the proportion of agricultural workers throughout the Community since the CAP was first formed in 1956. The change is so dramatic that it must require a new look, and it should be considered whether agricultural workers as such should be treated differently from any other workers, and whether social security benefits or tax rebates should help agricultural workers to maintain a good standard of living, rather than have a special mechanism through the CAP. This would, of course, have a very considerable effect on our contribution, as well as on the part of the Community Budget being spent solely on agriculture.
Turning to fisheries, here again there are negotiations going on, but we see a lack of achievement in bilateral negotiations with Iceland. It is to be hoped that the existing agreement, which concludes today, will be replaced by a successful outcome of the talks between Commissioner Gundelach, on behalf of the EEC as a whole, and the Icelandic Government. This is an example of where we have not succeeded—and everybody admits that we have not succeeded—in making satisfactory arrangements for our fishermen in Icelandic waters, and where the united strength of the European Communities negotiating as a whole may provide better conditions and an improvement in the protection of our fishing grounds, at the same time as protecting the livelihood of our fishermen. This is also an example of where concerted action by the Member States could prove to be beneficial to a group of people who were worried and perturbed at the time of our entry into the Community.
I should now like to refer to one topic which was touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, who graphically drew our attention to our role in Cyprus. I do not think it is helpful for me to go over past failures and difficulties, or, indeed, over many of the present difficulties. But we should remember that there are grave humanitarian issues which are still unresolved, and to which the Government are urgently asked to turn their attention. The question of missing persons has not yet been resolved; the expulsion of Greek Cypriots from the North, and also (this 398 is a matter for the British Government specifically) compensatory and other rights attaching to the property of British citizens, are aspects which the Government are urged to look at, and to do something about.
It may be that a search for a concerted policy within the European Communities, together with the Associated States of Greece and Turkey, must be continued; and possibly a feasible solution will be found in a more global approach, than merely by the British Government dealing bilaterally with Cyprus. In this connection, all upholders of democracy will be looking forward to the eventual entry into the European Communities of Greece and Portugal. Both from the East of Europe and from the West of Europe, we can look forward to consolidating an area which will support the ideals of democracy for which we have always fought, and for which we continue to fight. It is certainly in the area of foreign policy, above all, where the united influence of the Member States could be effective, and could continue to contribute to the improvement of external relations.
There is one other aspect on which I should like to touch, and I hope that the Minister will not consider it too controversial. I feel that it is the duty of somebody who travels abroad a great deal, and who, perhaps unfortunately, can sometimes understand what is written in foreign newspapers, to draw the attention of the Government and of the people to what is being said abroad about this country. Indeed, the effectiveness of any Government's foreign policy may be gauged by the image it presents abroad in the foreign Press. The gunboat is no longer the visible sign of a foreign Power, and it is the newspapers, the television and the wireless which communicate the image of another country. In fact, the mass media are playing an increasingly important role in the field of foreign relations, so that what happens internationally has more influence than ever before on the domestic scene.
It is therefore not surprising that it is with a deep sense of shame that we are sometimes confronted with European newspapers which have such headlines as these—I could give the names and dates of the newspapers, but I will not bother your Lordships with such details: 399The collapse of the British economy would have such grave consequences that rich countries of the West have decided to support it … on certain conditions.England on the edge of the abyss.No one expects a serious revival before 1980. It is a question of stopping the situation getting worse.What is happening to these poor English?The currency is the true image of a country. The pound sterling is only the image of a country crippled with debts, eroded by inflation, undermined by unemployment and threatened with an outburst of future claims.The fascinating spectacle of a people watching their own people sinking with their own island.Those headlines have been recently printed in the Continental Press.
Of course, very largely, those Press comments are totally wrong. Either they do not understand or they underestimate the great powers of resilience and recovery of the British people. But one must ask: Is it a fact that the British Government and their policies no longer represent the true image of the British people? Certainly, the image as it is read in the foreign Press is a devastating one. But these Press comments cannot be dismissed as irrevelant, since they express the views of the electors who choose the Governments with which we are allied, and to which we are turning for help. It does not help to have these kind of comments made about us in foreign newspapers when we are asking these countries at the same time for massive loans and massive assistance. The way in which the foreign Press regards this country must affect the standing of the country and the Government.
European Community policies, which are worked out on the basis of consensus, pay regard to the contribution that each Member State makes to the development of the Community. I mean contributions not only in terms of cash but also in terms of prestige. Therefore we are lowering our bargaining position; we are reducing our powers of leverage if we cannot show that we have a flourishing economy. Indeed, how can any country take Mr. Callaghan seriously when he threatens, most ill-advisedly, to withdraw troops from Germany if financial aid is not given? Surely these are politics fit for the nursery, not for a nation which still wishes, and I believe has the right, to claim respect in the world.
400 Is this how Mr. Callaghan proposes, and I quote from the gracious Speech:to continue to contribute modern and effective forces to NATO"?We must ask this question, yet it was only last month, with Mr. Callaghan's request for financial aid or, otherwise, the threat of possible withdrawal, that doubt was cast for the first time on Britain's role in NATO. How is it possible to convince our allies of our good faith and of our will to contribute to the defence of the West when the Government cannot even convince themselves? Today we heard the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, make an outstanding speech, with full assurances. I should like to know whether the assurances that he has given are backed by all the members of the Cabinet.
§ Baroness ELLES
My Lords, I am delighted to hear that, because the schizophrenic appearance of the so-called Cabinet of collective responsibility does not inspire confidence, either abroad or at home. The recent figures of defence cuts, totalling over £8,000 million up to 1983 at the 1976 survey prices, do not indicate that we are going to contribute modern and effective weapons. At the same time, we have Mr. Roy Mason—who is, after all, a member of the Cabinet, although he does not now have responsibility for defence—stating in the Labour Weekly of 11th June, 1976, admittedly a paper that is perhaps not so widely read as others:Any further reduction, even of much less than £1,000 million a year, would require savage cuts in the Armed Forces and many big equipment orders would have to be cancelled. Our allies would no longer regard us as allies and partners".This comes from a Cabinet Minister who had at the time responsibility for defence.
Surely the Government's first task is to defend the nation and contribute to the maintenance of peace. World equilibrium is ensured by the Atlantic Alliance. It is only a strong system of defence, with the existence of NATO, which enables us to pursue and even to consider pursuing a policy of détente and international collaboration. We had an outstanding speech from the noble Lord, Lord Trevelyan, who gave us a very clear analysis of the 401 situation in relation to the Helsinki Agreement. I agree with very much of what the noble Lord said. Surely this is another aspect in relation to détente.
I should like to ask the Government what preparations they are making for Belgrade, and whether we have set up a system to monitor the development of human rights—not only to watch what is happening in the Soviet Union but to watch what is happening in Western countries. We shall have to give an answer to Belgrade and we shall be attacked by the Soviets, who will give endless examples of where human rights are being denied and broken in the West. Without such a system, we shall not be able either to reply or to attack. I hope that as the American Government have set up an independent monitoring system for the observation of human rights, the Government here will seriously consider doing the same thing in order that we shall be prepared effectively to answer at Belgrade any attack and, in our turn, be able to make the necessary observations on Eastern countries. I hope very much that the Government will take this into serious consideration.
In the same context it is the economic alliance in the West, through the European Community and its associated agreements, which has contributed to the rapid rise in the standard of living and the ability to contribute to commercial and financial developments in other quarters of the globe. If they wish to pursue an effective foreign policy, it is for the Government to show that they are capable of leading the nation, of restoring the confidence of the people in themselves and of restoring their own image abroad by taking all the necessary measures to strengthen both the economy and our national defence.
§ 9.14 p.m.
§ Lord WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, we have had a prolonged and yet I think an extremely interesting debate from which I have profited and I hope other noble Lords have also profited. Of course noble Lords will agree that it is impossible to reply to a debate as wide and varied as this by answering every question raised, but, where I think it would be helpful, if a noble Lord who has spoken is not now present I shall write and give an answer to any important point raised.
402 Before I reply to the debate I should like first to pay tribute to our two maiden speakers who have made their contributions for the first time today. The noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, spoke as a man who knew Europe from within rather than without, and I think I can claim that myself. I had great sympathy with what he was saying and one point he made is absolutely valid and should not be forgotten in the middle of our present discontents. He said that the English problem is in fact a European problem; that at this moment we may be going through a particularly difficult period. But his optimism came through and he expressed the view that in due course we should pass through this period. I remember very well in 1945 to 1950 that we in this country were carrying more than our fair burden in getting Europe back on its feet. I believe that in the very near future we shall once again become a strong member of the European Community, to whom other nations will have to turn when misfortune strikes. I take a wider view of our problems than just one year past or one year to come, as did the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld.
Turning to the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, in one thing he followed his father: he was factual, precise and concise. He gave us six minutes of valuable comment upon a topic which was ignored by other speakers, and when he and the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, have lost their maiden modesty we hope to see them coming in controversially to help us clear our minds on a number of world problems.
I should like to turn to the opening speech by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. He very kindly told me—and apparently with deep regret—that he could not be here to listen to me this evening, but nevertheless I feel that I should reply to one or two major points that he made, with which I was in a great deal of sympathy, both intellectually and emotionally. I welcome the degree to which the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, was able to support what was said about foreign affairs by my noble friend Lord Goronwy-Roberts. In particular I should like to associate myself and the Government with what he said about Dr. Kissinger and his great contribution to world peace. It is easy enough to knock those who are doing the difficult jobs in this world, but 403 I am certain history will recall that Dr. Kissinger has left the world a great legacy when he retires to the pleasant life of some better university, which I expect will be his fate.
I should like to assure the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, that Her Majesty's Government together, we hope, with our European partners will do everything they can to help progress in the Middle East and I hope that will satisfy my noble friend Lord Janner. I also agree with the noble Lord that we shall have to await the inauguration of President Carter before we can go very far. Having said that, I do not agree quite so wholeheartedly with the noble Lord in what he said about double standards in international relationships. It is the policy of Her Majesty's Government to adopt in any particular case the approach which they judge to be most effective in bringing pressure on a Government with which they have to deal, and in this particular case he was speaking about the present Government in Chile.
In the case of Chile we decided to withdraw our Ambassador and we have some reason to suppose that our attitude towards Chile has influenced the Chilean Government in its policies; but I should emphasise that we have not broken off diplomatic relations and that our diplomatic staff in Santiago continue to work on behalf of the large British community there. Finally, I should like to assure the noble Lord that we regard the CSCE review in Belgrade as an event of major importance and we shall not allow its significance to be suppressed. That point was also mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Elles. In fact, we recognise that as President of the European Community for the first half of 1977 we shall have a major responsibility for co-ordinating the attitude of the EEC countries whose unity has been such a major influence on the progress of CSCE from the beginning.
I should now like to turn to the points made in the course of the debate. It will be a rather untidy process but it will be related to the point in the debate when various important matters were raised. First, turning to the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, about the problems arising while HMS "Resolution" is in refit. The noble Earl will be glad to 404 know that there will be no gap. Operational planning takes into account the periods required for regular refits. I sympathise with the view that perhaps the fifth Polaris submarine might be a useful asset, but at present it is a marginal asset. There will always be Polaris submarines available and operational during the period of refits. The noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, also raised the point that the Press had speculated that a United Kingdom dockyard is likely to close. I would not normally comment upon Press rumour, but I can confirm that there is no truth in this matter. No United Kingdom dockyard is going to close.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, who, we all agree, is a gamekeeper turned poacher, made his usual powerful and common sense contribution to our debate. I thought he seemed somewhat pessimistic. He accused the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, of arguing that there was no escape from our present predicament, and there I agree with him. I believe, with the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, that we are not going to escape, but are going to grow out of our present position. With him, I do not believe, as we negotiate and talk with our potential opponents, that because nothing happens quickly, this is a ground for despair. We must continue to talk and to negotiate with our potential enemies. We are not following a completely hopeless path.
We have had peace in terms of major conflict for over 30 years, an exceptionally long time and the situation at the moment is certainly not getting worse, although no one could say that the present situation is without certain causes for alarm. Nevertheless, we must continue patiently to proceed with our determination to bring into the light of day—I believe it was the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, who said this; he is not here at the moment—the various complex issues concerned in our negotiations. When they come into the light of day, it is more and more difficult for our ideological opponents to maintain their case in the uncommitted world. After all, we are arguing our case to a large number of nations not committed to either side. If we can win that argument, we have won the ideological conflict.
My Lords, may I turn now to what I thought was a very powerful speech made 405 by the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, a speech which covered almost the whole spectrum of foreign policy. In particular, I would thank the noble Lord on behalf of my noble friend for his very warm tribute to my noble friend for the way in which he has handled foreign affairs questions in the House during his period of office. Perhaps I may touch on one important point made by the noble Lord; that is, the question of the Cyprus dispute. This was raised by other speakers also. Her Majesty's Government are naturally concerned with the continuing impasse on the resumption of the inter-communal talks on Cyprus. There is no substitute for talks under Dr. Waldheim which bring together the parties most concerned.
Neither Her Majesty's Government nor anyone else can or, indeed, should impose a solution on the parties to the dispute. This is their right, and this is their responsibility. We have been, and continue to be, engaged in strenuous diplomatic activity with our partners in the Nine, and with the Americans, both to assist in the resumption of the inter-communal talks and to encourage the development of some flexibility and content in the negotiating postures of each side. As I think everyone will agree, such efforts are best pursued in confidence. We shall continue in conjunction with our EEC partners and the United States to attempt to persuade the parties involved to be more flexible and constructive in their approach towards a solution.
We regard the apparent unwillingness or inability of the two communities' negotiators to overcome the procedural difficulties in resuming the inter-communal talks with deep concern and disappointment. We shall, of course, continue to support the efforts of Dr. Waldheim to bring the two sides together, and we are in close touch with our European partners and our American ally on how this might best be achieved.
The noble Lord also made a rather important semantic point. He queried our old classification of rich and poor nations. He is, of course, right. In the last few years we have seen a fundamental change in relationships, and the richest countries in purely monetary terms are certainly now the oil producers. In fact, the rector of one of the Arab universities said to me that the increase in wealth was horrifying, 406 and he was speaking as a wise man, because he felt that this enormous growth in wealth could in fact destroy the culture of his country.
The noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, also asked whether Her Majesty's Government would make sure that the aid which they provided pre-eminently to the poorest countries was made available in such a way that it could be used in a practical way. This in point of fact is the basis of an important debate on the work of ODM. Nevertheless, I can give the assurance that what he has said is in fact the policy of Her Majesty's Government.
I must apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, that I was not present when she made her speech. I had to withdraw to clear my mind. She began with a gracious tribute to the men and women of all three Services and rightly praised them for doing a splendid job. I think this might be the point when we might say that although tonight we sit here and debate foreign affairs and defence, in Northern Ireland and elsewhere there are troops of our country performing in the manner that we expect of them. One can say no more than that. The noble Baroness raised a number of detailed questions about which, if I may, I will write to her when this debate is over, as I undertook to do earlier.
The noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, again raised an issue which I know is very close to his heart, which is, of course, the importance of the reserve forces, the value of national service, and his deep concern for the contribution that the members of the Armed Forces can give to our society as a whole. He mentioned that he feared that cuts or threatened cuts would demoralise the Armed Forces and reduce their morale, which remains high in spite of all the tribulations through which they are going. I know that he will keep a close watch on the activities of the Government of the day from the Cross-Benches. Whether it be noble Lords opposite or from this side of the House, he will doubtless watch what we are doing with a critical eye.
I should like to make one important point about Her Majesty's Government's attitude towards our troops based in Germany. During a talk on the media the Prime Minister said something which has, I think, been totally distorted and put out 407 of perspective. His statement that we might have to withdraw our troops from Europe was in no way intended as a threat. He was stressing, on the one hand, the importance of maintaining our contribution to the alliance, and the importance of our contribution is something which is universally accepted in that alliance, and on the other hand he was illustrating the very serious financial burden of stationing British forces in Germany. We all agree that the sudden collapse of the pound has increased the financial burden placed upon our country of maintaining those troops overseas.
§ Baroness ELLES
My Lords, will the noble Lord allow me to intervene? It was clearly understood when the Prime Minister spoke on the BBC in Panorama—and I accept that people can say things they do not mean, which is quite another matter—and I watched this programme, that unless our friends and allies were prepared to bail us out of our economic plight on his terms he would threaten to withdraw our forces stationed in Germany. I think this was as it was understood not only by those who watched but certainly in the British Press and, even more importantly, in the foreign Press.
§ Lord WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, I cannot accept this. I can only say clearly that that was not the intention. Anybody can believe anything they read in the Press or see on television. What I am saying is that the Prime Minister was making no threat. He was stating a dilemma. It is a problem that we are facing with our Allies and which we will solve. After all, I do not think we could have stated anything more clearly than was stated in the gracious Speech about our intentions in relation to NATO. I can say firmly and clearly that whatever might have been said in a television interview is not the total policy of Her Majesty's Government.
§ Baroness ELLES
My Lords, I wonder whether the Minister would be very kind and make a categoric statement that the Government have no intention to withdraw any troops from Germany? I think that would then solve the dilemma.
§ Lord WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, as my noble friend reminds me, he has 408 gone on record in his opening speech in today's debate. We can hardly do more than that. I am certain that twice is three times as good as once. It is no good creating doubts in matters like this. The noble Baroness herself rightly pointed out the damage that can be done by half-informed Press comment upon the state of our nation, which we know is far stronger than the Press often wishes to believe. We really must accept the fact that our intentions are clear-cut, and this is what we will do.
May I turn to a speech of admirable clarity and conciseness made by the noble Lord, Lord Newall. He, in fact, took exactly the same time as the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein—six minutes apiece—which is four minutes within the agreed optimum size of a House of Lords' speech. He spoke about the need for educating the public, and this is entirely true. Miseducation, misinformation, is one of the most dangerous things we have to face. He commented quite rightly that one could have a splendid military exercise and, when it was all over, all the vehicles had to go back for maintenance and there were not necessarily the spares to get them back into fully operational condition within a short time. This is a matter that I know is close to his heart, and which I know he has studied at first-hand.
Lastly, he spoke about slippage. Can I say simply that slippage is a very well-known factor in military planning. With the best of intents, all sorts of things go wrong. I do not think there is very much slippage on the Milan, which he mentioned. What we did was to buy training weapons from the Franco-German consortium in preparation for manufacturing them in this country. BAC will in fact be putting this particular weapon into major manufacturing runs in the near future, and, what is more important perhaps, will be involved in the development of the next generation of weapons of this type. Radios are a problem which I agree exists. On the SS 11, we have not made up our minds about a substitute for a helicopter-borne weapon yet. I did, in fact, make a Statement in this House last September in which I gave a note on the whole of the programme.
The one area uncovered which, quite rightly, we must watch is the supply of an 409 anti-tank weapon of modern design to be carried on a helicopter. That we shall have to consider, but we do not believe that this is of such a high priority as the other weapons which we have decided to purchase or manufacture ourselves.
§ Lord CHALFONT
My Lords, before the Minister leaves the question of weapons and equipment, may I ask him to say what is the programme for bringing Milan into operational service in the British Armed Forces?
§ Lord WINTERBOTTOM
I cannot give detail on that, my Lords. It has been decided that this shall be a standard infantry weapon. I know that material manufactured in France or Germany is being brought here for training purposes, but the mass introduction of the weapon will depend on British manufacture. It is well on its way. This is a first-class example of a common weapon shared by the French, Germans and British, with all three of us being involved in the development of the next generation of weapons of this type.
This is a success story and it answers in small part the powerful speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, on the subject of the problems of standardisation and inter-operability. This is a theme he has hammered home over a number of years and such persistence can be nothing but helpful, but I do not want him to be as despondent as he seemed to be. We are moving slowly in the right direction. After all, any weapons system takes perhaps 10 years to produce and 10 years to be in use, so although he may have converted me and other colleagues to the need for standardisation, nevertheless he must not be too despondent if immediately we do not all turn out all carrying the same weapons and all riding in the same vehicles. It is important that as soon as possible we should have inter-operability, and we are getting that; and we get it much more simply than we can get standardisation.
The noble Lord rightly made the point about being able to refuel aircraft of the alliance on any airfield of the alliance and the need for common rounds of ammunition, and we are in fact moving towards that area under the very firm guidance of SACEUR. We are getting to the point, 410 which is to me personally more interesting, when we can get a common design of pylon on the wings of our various aircraft so that we can carry various weapons on a standard pylon. This in my view is something of great importance.
§ Lord GLADWYN
My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord for his kind remarks about my poor speech. However, would he reply to my specific question? What progress, if any, is being made in the so-called European Programme Group consisting of the members of the Eurogroup and France? Has any progress been made and, if not, what have they been up to?
§ Lord WINTERBOTTOM
This is a very young baby in the cradle, my Lords. The noble Lord rightly said that a welcome aspect of the work of the European Programme Group was that the French were a member of it. This is absolutely of the first importance. It is about a year old and is starting to work very satisfactorily, but because of the long-term scale of the production of weapons, it cannot produce a Eurodefence industry out of a hat. The noble Lord mentioned the Nuclear Planning Group and the House will be interested to know that I have arranged for a copy of the Communiqué issued after the most recent Nuclear Planning Group meeting to be placed in the House of Lords Library. It will be there tomorrow and that information will therefore be available to noble Lords.
Before turning to my last point about the fishing limits, I should like, in this whole area of standardisation, to pay tribute during our first debate on defence since his departure to the work of my right honourable friend the former Secretary of State for Defence in the area of collaboration. Under his chairmanship last year, the Eurogroup was very active. The European Programme Group and all the interested European members of the alliance, including France, have made valuable progress in promoting European collaborative effort in the defence equipment field. As a group, the European Procurement Group should make an important contribution to the European side of the "two-way street" with the United States. The two-way street is the result of negotiations undertaken with 411 the Americans by the former Secretary of State, and the memorandum of understanding that he signed with the American Secretary of State is now fully operational following upon a visit to this country by officials from the American Defence Department. This thing is on its way and it is going rather well.
I should like to make one final point about the whole problem arising from the extension of fishing limits and the potential vulnerability of the various oil structures in the North Sea. I hope that noble Lords who were present at Question Time will forgive me for repeating what I said then. The arrangements that the Ministry of Defence have made to police the extended fishing limits are for five new Royal Navy ships of the Island Class and four Royal Air Force Nimrod surveillance aircraft to be provided for this purpose and for the protection of our offshore gas and oil installations. The first of the Island Class ships is operational, the second will be operational in March and I expect the remainder to enter service before the end of 1977. During the construction period, the gap will be filled by operational frigates. The Nimrod will be available from the 1st of next month. They will fly five nine-hour surveillance sorties a week and in that time they will cover a very substantial area of the sea.
Although many people criticise the type of ship chosen by the Navy for surveillance, they must realise that these ships have to stay at sea for long periods under some of the harshest conditions experienced by any navy. In fact, talking to members of the French Navy and comparing the Mediterranean with the seas off Iceland, it was clear that they were moving into a different operational world. The ships that we have are the equivalent of the policeman on the beat. They can call up either faster and larger ships bearing helicopters or aircraft from the mainland. So the ships that we are ordering and bringing into operation are really the policemen on the beat who can call up forces quickly if they note some development that they find disturbing. Of course, they will have plenty of advance warning from the Nimrods which will be sweeping the seas in front of them.
§ Baroness ELLES
My Lords, can the noble Lord say whether this policing of the 200 mile zone will be done in co-operation with the other Member States' navies?
§ Lord WINTERBOTTOM
Yes, my Lords. I am speaking from memory, but I seem to remember that, in answering a question earlier, it was explained that a conference was called in Norway a little while ago at which the various nations which had an interest in policing the whole of the North Sea from the Iceland Gap down to the Channel—and this was of course before the 200 mile zone was agreed on—were involved.
§ Baroness ELLES
But, my Lords, is not the 200 mile zone for European Community countries? I do not believe that it would involve Norway because Norway is outside the 200 mile Community zone. What I was asking was whether there was to be concerted police action with European Community navies in the EEC zone. I wonder whether the Minister can enlarge on that or, if he cannot, perhaps we can have a written reply some time later on?
§ Lord WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, I think that the point made by the noble Baroness is sufficiently important perhaps to require an Unstarred Question. But I say now that the general intention is that there should, of course, be a concerted response to the policing of the whole of this important area, which is not only agriculturally sensitive but also militarily sensitive. Well, my Lords, that is the best I can do in replying to what I have found to be an extremely interesting and informative debate. Once again I should like to pay tribute to our troops who serve us so well.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to nemine dissentiente: The said Address to be presented to Her Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.
§ House adjourned at a quarter before ten o'clock.