HL Deb 21 February 1978 vol 389 cc109-50

7.20 p.m.

Lord BROCKWAY rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what proposals they plan to put forward at the forthcoming United Nations Special Assembly on Disarmament. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Unstarred Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. I will begin by way of what may be called "a commercial", but I hope that a wider significance will soon be recognised.

A few weeks ago I published a booklet The Hope for Peace, to which my noble friend Lord Noel-Baker contributed an important foreword. In that booklet I urged that partial disarmament had failed to reduce the extent of weapons, their destructive power and the danger of war; and therefore that we ought to make a radical advance to end all weapons of massive destruction and to take steps towards total disarmament. I urged that the United Nations Special Assembly on Disarmament to be held in May should provide the opportunity to realise these aims in view of the declarations on disarmament made by the Heads of State of the two great armament Powers, the United States of America and the Soviet Union.

I sent a copy of that booklet to the Foreign Secretary, and I will say at once that I was astonished by the reply. As I have indicated, I put forward views which may be regarded as extreme by Members of this House. The Foreign Secretary has given me permission to publish his replies. I will refrain from repeating the whole of his letters, because I do not want this to be made too much of an occasion for "a commercial". However, I am conscious that all Members of the House will appreciate the significance of the passages from his replies to me which he has given me permission to repeat. In a letter dated 19th December, the Foreign Secretary wrote: You are absolutely right in saying that there is now a chance of real progress on disarmament. I believe that President Carter and President Brezhnev are sincere in their expressed wish to move ahead in this field. For me, as I said in a meeting of NGOs yesterday, arms control is the barometer of détente. That is where the key lies, although, as you know, we are interested in détente in all its aspects, including human rights". In a letter to me dated 19th January, giving me permission to publish those statements, he adds: I share your hope that the world will turn towards peace this year. I shall certainly do all in my power to see that it does, and I am not unhopeful that we can achieve a breakthrough in the field of arms control".

My Lords, what were the proposals of President Carter and President Brezhnev, to which Dr. Owen has referred and the sincerity of which he recognises? President Carter of the United States has made the following proposals: first, the abolition of all nuclear tests; secondly, no distribution of nuclear weapons; thirdly, reciprocal reduction of stocks of such weapons by 50 per cent.—I repeat, 50 per cent.; fourthly, a ban on all chemical and radiological weapons; and, fifthly, the neutralisation of the Indian Ocean. At Des Moines, on 23rd October, President Carter said that after a SALT agreement: We will proceed towards my ultimate goal of reducing nuclear weapons to zero". Those are radical proposals, of good hope, from the head of the most powerful armaments nation in the whole world.

I turn to President Brezhnev of the Soviet Union. He has, first, endorsed all the proposals made by President Carter and has added that these measures should serve as a preliminary to a staged process to complete disarmament, to be realised over a stated period of years. I want to submit that when the heads of the two super-Powers of the world—those most involved, not merely in the largest armaments expenditure but in the production of the most destructive weapons—speak in those terms, surely there is hope that 1978 can be made a great year of decision for peace.

I shall be asking how far the British proposals further these aims, but before doing so I wish to ask a few preliminary questions, of which I have given the Minister notice. The document prepared by Her Majesty's Government, Draft Programme of Action on Disarmament for the United Nations Special Session on Disarmament, states that it is put forward at the United Nations on 1st February 1978 by the United Kingdom and other Western Powers. I want to ask the Minister which were the other Western Powers. Did they include all the members of NATO? Did they include France, or is France putting forward separate proposals? Is it true that the United States of America will not put forward its own proposals but will accept those put forward by the United Kingdom? May I ask him who will lead the British delegation and whether it is possible to state its size and the names of its members?

I want to congratulate the United Kingdom on taking the lead in this matter. It is exhilarating that Her Majesty's Government, after a period of acting as second and third to others, should now be accepting the position of priority on this great issue. But I do not want to hide the fact that in my view we shall have to go much further if Dr. Owen's hope of a breakthrough for peace is to be reached this year.

In the Preamble, the ultimate goal of general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control is accepted, but nowhere in the document which the British Government have presented is there a strategy to progress towards the end of complete disarmament. There are important single measures, as I shall indicate, but no co-ordinated plan with that aim in view. There is no indication of an acceptance of the Soviet proposal for a phased advance to total disarmament. I should be answering my own Question if I detailed the British proposals—my Question was formulated before they were available—but I will comment on some.

There is the splendid declaration in favour of halting and reversing the nuclear arms race with the objective of reducing and eventually eliminating nuclear weapons. It is suggested that this should be done by the SALT discussions and by follow-up negotiations. I suggest that this is tragically inadequate. The SALT talks have proposed the limitation of the number of missiles while allowing those which remain to become more and more destructive; fewer launchers, more warheads. The International Institute for Strategic Studies estimates that by the early 1980s the number of warheads in the Soviet Union will increase from 3,600 to 7,500, and in the United States of America from 11,600 to 14,000, despite the limitation on the number of launchers in the SALT talks.

I welcome the British proposition which extends to the qualitative character of weapons, but I submit that experience demonstrates that restricted negotiations on nuclear weapons are not now enough. The United Nations Assembly should, first, demand the ending of all nuclear weapons and the destruction of all stock-piles. Secondly, the world disarmament conference should implement this demand in detail. In view of the statements of President Carter and President Brezhnev, the United States of America and the Soviet Union could not logically refuse to participate in such discussions and to participate towards this objective.

I welcome many recommendations in the British proposals: a comprehensive test banning treaty, the establishment of nuclear weapon free zones, the prohibition of chemical and radiological weapons and the destruction of stockpiles, the restriction of conventional weapons—though this is dealt with rather superficially—the publication of information about (1) the strength of armed forces, (2) the transfer of arms to other countries and (3) military budgets. These represent great advances which one hopes the United Nations Assembly will accept in principle, but they will demand detailed implementation.

The proposal will be made to the Assembly that it should be followed by a world disarmament conference to apply to them specifically. I want to ask the British Government if they will support that proposal. But I have to acknowledge this. When all that has been said, and notwithstanding all the hope that is promised, one must recognise the scepticism and the doubt which is in the world today. There is disbelief that the ideals of disarmament and peace can be realised. The Foreign Secretary has recognised the sincerity of the Presidents of the United States of America and the Soviet Union in their proposals—and who, with greater influence, could possibly have made such proposals? I am asking our Foreign Secretary, our Government and the leader of our delegation to the United Nations Assembly to go there not only with sincerity, about which I have no doubt at all, but with a determination that these great hopes may be realised in practical politics.

I believe that the time will come when mankind will look back on our generation with disbelief. They will think that we were all mad, that we should have permitted to be built up in the world armaments which could destroy the whole of humanity, and to accept this so quietly and without making demands. Think, my Lords, of today, with the Cruise missile able to destroy 200 times the population that was destroyed at Hiroshima. Think, my Lords, of the neutron bomb, able to destroy all life but allowing material things still to remain. The policy for the neutron bomb is that it will be localised on one battlefield. I hope that members not only of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, but of the Ministry of Defence, read the article contributed by the defence correspondent of the Sunday Times on 14th August. That article described the whole technical research process by which the neutron bomb was formalised: The practical problem was to scale the neutron bomb to a size suitable for the battlefield". In its production, the technical problem was to prevent the neutron bomb from extending far from the battlefield to great areas, where it might destroy, over days and weeks and in painful agony, men, women and children whom it approached

Yet I conclude by saying this. I remain optimistic. This world of ours has existed for millions of years. The human race has existed for only some thousands of years. It is still in its childhood, perhaps adolescence. But the time will come when the human race has grown to adulthood, when war will be an unthinkable atrocity to those future generations. My appeal tonight, while welcoming the proposals which they have made, is that Her Majesty's Government will at the United Nations conference, where, undoubtedly, the majority of the delegates will urge it to go much further than the Government's proposals, contribute to the time when mankind will feel that war is an obscenity which a civilised world should not tolerate.

7.45 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, has made an eloquent and, indeed, moving plea in the course of putting his Unstarred Question to Her Majesty's Government. I hope that he will understand, or, at least, extend to me the indulgence due to a former constituent of his, when I say that, as well as the deep passion and shining idealism with which he always arms himself, if I may use the term, when dealing with these great international and supranational questions, cool and calm negotiation between the great Powers who decide these matters is, in the end, essential if real progress is to be made. I say that because with the warm heart, which I hope beats as strongly and firmly in my case as it does in his, it is necessary to bring the cold head and the cool mind, when these matters are to be decided between those whose fingers are on the buttons which would unleash nuclear war.

In supporting the noble Lord's inquiry of the Government and of the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, about the nature of the proposals that they plan to put forward at the United Nations' Special Assembly, I should like to add to what the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, has already asked by putting this Question. What status have the proposals that have so far been published? We have heard about them from the noble Lord, Lord Brockway. Are they the basis of Her Majesty's Government's position, or will they be negotiated on later? I ask these questions not out of a desire to pick minor points and to be pernickety about details, but because I hope that the noble Lord who is to reply for the Government will be able to explain to your Lordships how the Government see these discussions at the United Nations' Special Assembly, in relation to all the other talks, negotiations and discussions. What relationship have Her Majesty's Government's plans for the United Nations' Special Assembly to the Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions and to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks? Surely it is important that what goes on in New York should not impede progress in Belgrade and Helsinki; and is it really a good idea to have a proliferation of discussions about the non-proliferation of weapons? Is this a propaganda gesture or is it, as one hopes, a serious plan of a co-ordinated nature, as the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, was inquiring?

Idealism is essential if negotitions are to succeed, but on the day upon which the latest White Paper on the Defenec Estimates is published it is hard to refrain from commenting that the record of Her Majesty's Government and the quintupling of their cuts in the Defence Estimates does not lead one to be optimistic that the voice of Her Majesty's Government will be listened to with respect throughout the world, especially when we read of what is going on in the Horn of Africa, or when we look at the figures relating to the build-up of the maritime forces of the Soviet Navy throughout the world. The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, spoke about President Carter's proposal for the neutralisation of the Indian Ocean. Let us have a call for that delightful objective from the admirals of the Soviet Navy!

There is another query which comes to my mind, and noble Lords opposite will understand why I am thinking in these terms. It seems to me that there is a basic contradiction in their attitude to international matters on the part of not only the Labour Government but the Labour movement and the Labour Party. When it is a question of general and vague declarations, everybody agrees that they are worth aiming for. However, when it is a question of making an international or supranational organisation work by giving it authority, then a curious schizophrenia seems to occur in Labour minds and hearts.

We are pursuing a wrecking policy, if you like, within the European Economic Community which has real authority, which protects directly our interests, which speaks with the voice of 250 million people and which is the largest trading bloc in the world. Under this Government we do not seek to make that Community work, although it is a Community with real power and authority and with genuine force throughout the world, in particular—and I stress this to the noble Lord, Lord Brockway—among the Afro-Asian countries which have signed the Lomé Convention and brought to themselves enormous benefits from their relationships with the European Economic Community.

Therefore the contradiction that I see, and which I suggest to your Lordships leads one to be a little sceptical about the nature of the proposal put forward by Her Majesty's Government for the Special Assembly, is that while the EEC is a world force, although the Government do not seem to enjoy making it work on behalf of us all, there is a proposal to look at disarmament in the context of the United Nations whose record of productivity is not all that high, and there the Government proceed with alacrity.

I should like to ask the noble Lord who is to reply for the Government this question: What efforts have Her Majesty's Government made to co-ordinate the policy of Member States of the European Economic Community? I know that the European Defence Community is a creature of the history books and not a real fact, and I understand the difficulties that might flow from it. However, I should be delighted to be proved wrong by the noble Lord if he could tell me that there is, and has been, full co-operation with our European Economic Community partners in preparing the position of Her Majesty's Government. In particular, I should like to know what the French have decided about their proposals, and whether those proposals are to be withdrawn. Also, could the noble Lord give us an indication of any major differences that remain between this country and France?

I do not want to detain the House for very long, but may I ask a question which was not touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway. The noble Lord did not mention China. I should like to ask the noble Lord about the attitude of Her Majesty's Government towards China. How do the Government view the role of the Chinese in relation to this particular and very difficult problem, and what future have all the non-nuclear and nearly nuclear Powers to look for in the way of permanent negotiation?

I do not think that there is any difference of opinion between one side of the House and the other about the objectives that we should seek when disarmament is being discussed. There is no real clash about what we all want. We want an end to war. But there is a difference, as I see it, as to methods and how one should achieve that wonderful goal, if ever it can be achieved.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, I believe that there is a real place for idealism and declarations of intent in negotiations of the kind which are the subject of discussion tonight in your Lordships' House. My family's motto is: "Victory or Death". In a nuclear war, victory may well be death because there will be nothing left to be victorious over and the old alternatives will be outdated. However, it is no use thinking that while the daily encroachment of the Soviet Union throughout Africa increases and grows, pious aspirations are enough.

If the Unstarred Question of the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, has served no other purpose than this, it will have been very useful. The purpose that I hope it will have served could be summed up in this way: Will Her Majesty's Government go into the discussions at the United Nations Special Assembly anxious to negotiate a workable solution to this awful and awe-inspiring problem, or will this he one more session of prolonged aspirations and very little achievement? If these hopes are to be dashed, it would have been better that they should never have been raised. If the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, can give us a clear understanding of the nature of the hopes of Her Majesty's Government with which they are going to that Special Assembly, then this Unstarred Question will have served a very useful purpose.

7.58 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, for providing us with the opportunity this evening to discuss the forthcoming United Nations Special Assembly on Disarmament and the world disarmament scene which will confront it. I am sure that we all appreciated the eloquent sincerity with which the noble Lord made his appeal.

When we debated defence in this House on 7th December last, I said that the alternatives open to NATO countries, as it seemed to me, were either to abandon any attempt to defend ourselves, and thus place our freedom and independence in jeopardy, or to provide ourselves with adequate arms to maintain a credible balance while vigorously seeking détente and disarmament. I made it clear that my noble friends and I supported the second alternative. I added that the mistake would be to opt for that second alternative while failing to provide sufficient strength to make it credible.

That remains our position and, indeed, it is reinforced by the publication today of the White Paper on Defence, showing, as it does, a two and a half to one ratio superiority in tanks, artillery and fixed-wing tactical aircraft for the Warsaw Pact countries over the NATO countries. So I repeat that we have to provide ourselves with adequate arms to maintain a credible balance while vigorously seeking détente and disarmament. It is in that context that we express our support for sincere attempts to bring about disarmament and wish them well. It is in that context that we view this special session of the United Nations Assembly.

For Britain and our NATO allies the core of the disarmament problem is to be found in the negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union and between the NATO countries and the Warsaw Pact countries, and there are perhaps three main aspects of these. First, there are the SALT talks about strategic weapons, weapons possessed by the super powers, capable of striking at each other's heartlands. Secondly, there are the mutual and balanced force reduction talks in Vienna, basically about ground forces. And, thirdly, there is the confidence-building section of the Helsinki Agreement, the notification of military manoeuvres, the appointment of observers and matters of that kind.

So far as the SALT talks are concerned, we have been told for some time that we should expect an agreement in the near future on SALT II. But now there appear to be some doubts; we understand that there are some reservations within the United States Administration. There is the question as to whether Congress will agree to the proposed terms of the agreement, and there has been expressed in Pravda very recently some Russian irritation with the possibility that the United States might be seeking some further concessions in the proposals so far agreed. But there are, in addition, misgivings among some of the European partners of the United States in NATO, particularly on the part of the West Germans. There is a feeling that there is an area not covered by either SALT or the Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction talks. A whole range of weapons are being deployed by the Soviet Union which are not classified as strategic but which are targeted on Western Europe. There are the Backfire and Fencer aircraft; there is the recently deployed SS 20 ballistic missile. These are Euro-strategic or Continental weapons, and the Soviet Union is seen as extending its strategic capacity in an area not covered by any form of arms control, something that falls between the existing attempts to secure a measure of disarmament.

It is argued by some that the Cruise missile, which is subject to SALT, could provide a counter to these Euro-strategic weapons, and there is a fear that the United States will agree in SALT II to limitations on the Cruise missile which will leave the European members of NATO at a disadvantage. I am wondering whether, when he comes to reply, the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, can give us any reassurance on the validity or otherwise of these misgivings, which do exist and cannot be ignored.

Turning to the Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction talks, these, of course, have been bogged down for some time on the Warsaw demand for a percentage reduction and on the NATO demand for a reduction to an equal level on both sides. Recently the Warsaw countries appear to have argued that there is no disparity, that there is in fact parity. Although this is an obstacle to agreement, it may contain within it the seed of hope, because if there is agreement that there ought to be parity that at least is a commencing point for discussion; it may be that the noble Lord who is to reply is in a position to tell us a little more about the possibility of any development from that starting point.

So far as the confidence-building is concerned, that appears to be making some progress, although, of course, there are doubts about the possibility of an overall agreement being reached by the conference in Belgrade which is monitoring the achievements so far under the Helsinki Agreement. I wonder how far the Government are hopeful that the United Nations Assembly will be able to help matters forward in any of these three areas.

I warmly welcome the fact, as did the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, that the United Kingdom Government have put forward a detailed plan for consideration by the Assembly, a plan which commands general Western support, and I look forward to hearing more about it when the noble Lord comes to reply. Perhaps I could refer to one or two of the points which I understand are contained in that document. It is proposed that there should be assurances by the nuclear Powers that non-nuclear States will not be subjected to nuclear attack. That, of course, is welcome as far as it goes. It is suggested that there should be the creation of regional nuclear-free zones. I am not quite clear exactly where it is proposed these should be. If it is possible to have further information on that, I should welcome it. It is proposed that conventions should be signed banning chemical and radiological weapons, and that we would all applaud.

There are proposals to restrict the conventional arms race, particularly in developing countries. I am not quite clear exactly how that is to be done, but if it could involve some control of the trade in arms then we on these Benches would greatly welcome it. I am well aware of the economic argument of the importance of arms contracts to industrial countries. I am well aware of the arguments which say that developing countries and countries which have no large industrial base are entitled to have their armed forces and to have them adequately provided for. But, even so, I am convinced that we shall never have any kind of a peaceful world unless there is some form of control of the trade in arms, and the sooner that can begin the better.


My Lords, would not the noble Lord take some encouragement from the fact that this special assembly of the United Nations on Disarmament is being called on the initiative of the developing countries, the unaligned Governments of the world?


Yes, my Lords, I certainly would take some encouragement from that fact. I understand, too, that the document says that the rôle of the United Nations in the disarmament field should be stepped up, and I am wondering just in what way that would be done. There is also a proposal that there should be much greater use made of peace-keeping forces. That again we on these Benches would greatly welcome. I understand, too, that it is suggested that the confidence-building measures in the Helsinki Agreement should be more widely accepted. I am wondering whether it is thought that these could be used beyond Europe in other parts of the world. I very much hope that a great deal of attention will be focussed on the need to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

I think it is clear from the number of points I and other speakers have mentioned that much valuable work can be done by this assembly. It may prove to be entirely peripheral to what I have described as the core of the disarmament problem, the problem in Europe itself. But success in these important matters would be no less welcome for that. With the success in these peripheral matters, we should have to return doggedly and determinedly to dealing with the difficult and dangerous problems of United States-Soviet negotiation and NATO-Warsaw Pact negotiation. For that we need neither a starry-eyed optimism nor a defeatist pessimism, but rather a sober appraisal of the threat to our security and to the security of the world and a determination to work vigorously and urgently for agreed disarmament while, with our allies, maintaining our defences in good order.

8.10 p.m.


My Lords, I wish to begin by thanking my noble friend Lord Brockway for initiating this debate and for his very powerful speech. He has added one more to his long record of services to the cause of peace and harmony among the nations and races of the world. I remember a party given for him by our friends of the new countries of the Commonwealth on, I think, his 70th birthday in gratitude for his valiant struggle for their dignity and rights. If the Government will do what he has asked of them tonight we shall give him an even better party.

I wish to follow my noble friend in urging the Government to view the forthcoming proceedings in New York in a bold, constructive spirit. I should like them to ponder a saying by a great British philosopher whose works many of us studied when we were undergraduates long ago. I am referring to John Stuart Mill, who once said in a pregnant aphorism: Against a great evil, a small remedy does not produce a small result; it produces no result at all". He might have had the modern arms race in mind when he wrote those words. The modern arms race is the greatest evil which the human race has ever known. It began with the Franco-Prussian war in 1870. The quick victory of Bismarck's conscripts and Krupp's steel guns made Government after Government decide that they must adopt compulsory military service and must arm their troops with the latest weapons, however costly they might be.

Year by year as engineers invented new weapons and new kinds of war, the manpower in the standing forces of the world and the expenditure on armaments increased at an astronomical rate. Vast vested interests were built up. There came the military industrial complexes against whose immense and dangerous influence President Eisenhower warned us. There came the acceptance of war as a frequent and necessary fact in international life. Finally, there has come in the last stages of the arms race the commitment of Governments to the total indiscriminate violence of the "A" and "H" bombs.

Let me give two figures that illustrate the sweep and magnitude of the arms race of recent years. In 1913, at the peak of the arms race, which Lord Grey, our then Foreign Secretary, said had been the true cause of the First World War, there were 5 million men in the standing peacetime forces of the world. Today in 1978 there are 35 million men in the standing peacetime forces of the world. In 1913 the world expenditure on armaments was £500 million: today it is about £240,000 million—about £600 million a day or 1,000 million dollars a day.

The armaments have produced wars. Never was there a more striking confirmation of what Shakespeare said in King John: How oft the sight of means to do ill deeds makes ill deeds done". As the armaments have increased so have the armed conflicts. In the second 40 years of this century there have probably been something like 10 times as many wars as there were in the first 40 years. The armaments have not produced the stability which they were supposed to produce. They have not produced international order. They have not made nations safer. There is greater insecurity in the world today than there has ever been.

Indeed, wars have become so frequent that the Press hardly bothers to report them at all and the Security Council of the United Nations simply pretends that they have not happened. The present example is the ghastly conflict between Somalia and Ethiopia in which two nations are destroying their hope of social progress for a century to come.

I want to suggest that the Government might study with greater care than perhaps they have done so far some documents that date from 17 years ago, documents that were the result of 40 years of international discussion, of careful international work by the League of Nations and the United Nations, sometimes at the very highest level, as in the nearly successful disarmament conference of 1932. Men like Robert Cecil, of the highest standing, made a great contribution to this work. The documents to which I wish to draw attention are, first, a statement made by a conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers which met in London in March 1961. At that time there were 12 Prime Ministers of self-governing countries. As it chanced, the Prime Ministers of the old Commonwealth—Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa—were all Conservatives in politics and spoke for Conservative Parliaments which had sent them here. The Prime Ministers of the new Commonwealth included such men as Pundit Nehru of India, Field-Marshal Ayub of Pakistan and Mr. Nyerere of Tanzania. Between them they spoke for a quarter of the human race. Their final communiqué recorded that they had held a full discussion of the problems of disarmament. It was a full discussion; there were 12 of them and the discussion lasted several days.

The communiqué recorded that they had unanimously adopted a Statement on the problems of disarmament—a Statement from which I hope to read, if my defective eyesight allows it, some brief paragraphs. The Statement says:

  1. "1. The aim must be to achieve total worldwide disarmament, subject to effective inspection and control.
  2. 2. In view of the slaughter and destruction experienced in so-called conventional wars, and of the difficulty of preventing a conventional war, once started, from becoming a nuclear war, our aim must be nothing less than the complete abolition of the means of waging war of any kind.
  3. 3. An agreement for this purpose should be negotiated as soon as possible "—
several times in their declaration and in their communiqué the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth emphasised the need for speed— on the basis of the following principles: (a) All national armed forces and armaments must be reduced to the levels agreed to be necessary for internal security". There was nothing for aggressive war. They were very conscious of the difference between aggressive and defensive weapons. They demanded the abolition of everything that was not needed for internal security and, in fact, in a later clause, a contribution to a UN peace-keeping force. That reduction to the level needed for internal security, with an addition for a contribution to a UN peace-keeping force, is still a vital principle which the Government should bear in mind. The Statement continues: (b) Once started the process of disarmament should be continued without interruption until it is completed, subject to verification at each stage that all parties are carrying out their undertakings". The Prime Ministers went on to emphasise again the need for speed; to say that the agreement must be negotiated in the United Nations and that all nations must take part.

I venture to believe that that document is of great value today. It was followed shortly by the Zorin-McCloy principles, unanimously endorsed by the General Assembly of the United Nations in September 1961, six months later. That was followed by the two draft treaties presented to the UN Committee of Eighteen in Geneva in March 1962— Khrushchev's draft treaty of general and complete disarmament under effective international inspection and control, and President John Kennedy's draft treaty of complete and general disarmament in a peaceful world. I hope that the Government will put these three documents into the proceedings of the preparatory commission. I hope that they will consider that the assembly of the United Nations and the possible world conference are far more likely to produce practical results than partial negotiations by a small number of nations sending junior officials or military men to discuss in private, without any properly thought out plan before them. I am saying that I do not attach great importance either to SALT or to the MBFR talks in Vienna. They have gone on for so many years; they have not reduced armaments by a single rifle. They have been a cloak for the vast increase of armaments which has happened during these long years. They have made many people—perhaps some noble Lords—believe that something was being done when in fact there was no hope whatever of a practical result.

I have lived in this work since 1920. I have been in very many Government negotiations. I was assistant to the President of the Disarmament Conference of 1932 which, as I have said, came so near to full success but which was defeated by the hawks and militarists of Britain, France and Germany. As a result of my experience, I believe that if disarmament ever comes it will be as the result of public debates by top rank statesmen in the organs of the United Nations or in a world conference, if one be called.

I hope that the Government will take the line in New York which my noble friend Lord Brockway and I have urged. I hope that they will bring the nations back from the world of illusion, in which Governments have been living, to the realities of what government is for. People have talked; some noble Lords have talked. I say with respect that I have a feeling of gratitude for the temperate and constructive tone of the two speeches made by the noble Lords who followed my noble friend Lord Brockway. However, I believe that the Governments have been living in a world of illusion. The Romans said: "Si vis pacem para bellum"—more armaments will prevent the war. Militarists have gone on repeating that false old slogan for decade after decade, and always it has led to more andmoreand more ferocious conflicts like the Second World War, like this ghastly war in Ethiopia today. I hope that the Government will go to the assembly in New York with the resolution to act on John Stuart Mill's principle that only a great remedy can bring a result against this greatest of all evils that mankind has ever known.

If, as the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, proposed, they can bring about a 50 per cent. reduction in nuclear weapons in this year, as President Carter has proposed and President Brezhnev has accepted, and if they can follow that by total abolition of nuclear weapons by 1980, I believe they will make a revolution in the temper of international affairs. I believe they will strike a decisive blow against the surging violence that is spreading around the world today. The Mafias and gangsterism; the hijacking of aircraft; the political terrorism of Western Germany; the kidnapping of Italy and France; I believe that all these things stem from the Governments' acceptance of a commitment to the total, indiscriminate violence of nuclear weapons. If that total, indiscriminate violence is permissible to the public authorities of the civilised nations of the world, then to sick minds any form of violence will seem permissible in protest against an unjust society or, more simply, for personal or commercial gain.

If the Governments of the Commonwealth could act together, if the Government could bring India and Canada to share the lead, I believe they would exercise an enormous influence in New York. We sometimes say that without our great navies and armies of the past Britain has less power that it used to have; but Britain has a great deal more influence because it transformed the greatest Empire in world history into a Commonwealth of equal, self-governing nations who retain their links with us today. The Commonwealth could be the greatest force in international affairs. If the Commonwealth will stand for the proposals made by President Carter and President Brezhnev, and will use the great influence of their many delegations to sec them through, I believe that they will lead New York to the breakthrough of which the Foreign Secretary has spoken; to the beginning of the general and complete disarmament which alone can save mankind. If the Government do this they will earn the gratitude of every nation, and they will go down to history with the glory which they will deserve.

8.35 p.m.


My Lords, may I first add my sincere gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, for instituting this debate in order that we may hear what the Government are thinking of putting forward when we come to this May assembly. May I also express, I am sure on behalf of the entire House, our appreciation to the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, who has done day-to-day probably more in working out things of peace than any other man in London. How glad we are that he is a Member of this House, and how happy we are in what he has said and what it may lead to.

It might well be said that all I can do is to second—or third—the proposition put forward by the two noble Lords who have spoken in this way, but in point of fact I should like to declare an interest. I happen to be one of those people who, while his pre-eminent interest is in the things of peace, has gradually become convinced—because I was a combatant in the First World War—that, despite all the sincerity in approaching the matter in another way (I agree about the sincerity), for 31 years the situation has got worse and worse. What I am emphasising, and the only reason I am saying it instead of just repeating what has been so truly said, is that I do not believe anything will happen until some nation or some group of people really decides that they are going to be the proponents of nonviolence as of now, regardless of the consequences. Otherwise we will go on for another 31 years of sincere effort and sincere failure.

I am perfectly well aware that to speak in that way is to raise in certain noble Lords' minds the thought, "Well, now we are just going to hear some pacifist claptrap". Let me just say that, except for the fact of the centrality of Christ himself when he spoke about loving your enemies and doing good to them that despitefully use you, and when he on the Cross said, "You are forgiven because you do not know what you are doing", I am one of these people who believe that it is entirely through military issues that this thing can be argued and not through pacifist issues and pacifist arguments, and I am not quoting another pacifist. My quotations are entirely military.

As your Lordships are aware, the first three centuries of Christianity and the Church were pacifist. Then there came the time when Constantine in the 4th century made the Christian religion not something to be persecuted but promoted. As a result of that, there was a Church which was right in the middle of the State, and they had to get round the dilemma, which they did by saying that Christians could now take part in what was called a "just war". They defined a just war as a war in which the end justifies the means.

Even in our own lifetime we have known what we mean by just wars. Through the centuries I think you could argue the case that there have been just wars, controlled wars, and thereby things that happened for the better by reason of slaughter. Perhaps it is best described, and at least most shortly described, by Mafeking, which is in the memory of a few people still in this House. Mafeking, where the town was occupied by the British and the attack was from the Boers. They were both law-abiding Sabbatarian people, strictly expressing Sabbatarian views. For instance, they never fought on a Sunday. War stopped on Saturday at midnight and it did not start again until Monday because you must not break the Sabbath day by fighting with each other.

The Household Cavalry, who were inside Mafeking, got so bored with the proceedings when nothing was going on, that they started playing polo. The Boers came in with a white flag to BadenPowell—later of the Scouts—who was in command, and said how grieved the enemy were that the Sabbath was being broken by the Household Cavalry playing polo on a Sunday. The letter is still extant from Baden-Powell to the Boers assuring them that there would never be any more polo played on a Sunday. Can we have a better description than that of what was a just war, a controlled kind of a war?

To jump the decades and come to our present situation, what about this at the other extreme, which is our real situation? Two Congressmen in 1974 asked the President of the United States what he would do with the Russians, and was America ready to meet the Russians. The President then said, "I have only to pick up that telephone and say the code word and 70 million Russians, men, women and children, will be dead in half an hour". He was not just being ridiculous. He knew that they had 8,000 nuclear weapons, 5,000 of them in submarines which are at present facing round outside Norway, outside in the Mediterranean, facing to the South, outside in the Indian Ocean and outside in Siberia—5,000 nuclear weapons waiting for the word. All they have to do is to fire them together—and they are ready to fire at this very moment—and he was therefore quite justified in saying that he only had to say a word down the telephone and 70 million Russians would be dead within half an hour.

It is against that background that I think all noble Lords would agree with the late Eminence Pope John when he said, "It is impossible to conceive of a just war in a nuclear age". It is indeed impossible to conceive of a just war in this nuclear age, and that washes out that whole approach. Nor, I would say, is it claptrap to talk in pacifist terms, and again I am not quoting from a pacifist. I quote from Sir Basil Liddel-Hart, the best known defence correspondent in journalism who died about four years ago. Sir Basil, who was the defence correspondent of The Times, in a book which he wrote shortly before his death spoke about the situation: Anyone who talks of winning a nuclear war is a menace to his country and to all humanity. To make non-violent resistance a national affair would be an extremely difficult task. The most important thing is to educate people and convince them that it is a workable policy. The more Governments realise their incapacity for military defence, the more they will begin to take nonviolent military defence seriously". Here we have a situation where we go on and on; it might come to a crisis and then we should have to win, yet that great military correspondent was saying that nobody can win. At present we are spending £6,000 million a year preparing for a war which nobody can win, and here is a famous war correspondent recommending the way of the Cross. This is the test of the situation. Here is Saint Paul, whose poetic prohecy at the time of the Bible has turned into prosaic possibility, for Saint Paul declared We preach Christ crucified. To the legalists a stumbling block; to the philosophers sheer folly; but to them that believe, whether legalist or philosopher, a Christ who is the wisdom and the power of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men". We have arrived in an outside world, something completely different; we have gone back to that particular moment where the weakness of God and the weakness of this approach is more satisfactory then spending £6,000 million a year preparing for a war we might have to fight but which anyway we would lose.

Everybody knows that the situation is getting worse, all despite the very sincere things that are being said. Things have been said about Helsinki, but what happened there? That was supposed to be the solution, but since then there has been one meeting after another about what they meant at Helsinki. The SALT talks have been referred to and of course the two middle letters of SALT mean "arms limitation"; and one of the SALT decisions, after infinite labour, was that there would be no more nuclear bases, since when the number of nuclear bases in the world has quadrupled.

Now we are to have this Assembly and I, like everybody else, wish it all the best, but I hope that possibly the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, may contain a passing sentence about what the Government intend to do. Of course, the Government will do their very best, but at the same time they are advertising that when the May Assembly is over there will be an exhibition to sell more armaments here in this country. There have been enormous Press and media references to the wonderful things that will come out of it, but almost no reference at all to the fact that as soon as it is over we shall have an exhibition designed to sell more armaments.

Do we yet realise—yes, with our minds we realise; but do we with our guts realise—the situation? For example, what about the over-kill that is going on? The figures are quite well known. The United States now has 30,000 nuclear weapons, the total combined yield of which is 600,000 times the power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The United States could destroy the whole of Russia 30 times over and Russia has enough bombs to destroy the whole of the United States 20 times over. Why this over-kill capacity? The answer is the military industrial complex. In other words, it is money and not the appalling nature of the enemy that is causing the enormous build-up. It is money.

The three biggest armament firms in America are Rockwell, Monsanto and Lockheed. In 1948, Rockwell's annual turnover was 95 million dollars and in 1975 it was 4,943 million dollars, well over £2 billion a year. That is one firm. Mr. C. A. Thomas, head of Monsanto, was himself appointed adviser to the National Security Council, which determines the foreign and military policy of the United States, and since then Monsanto has a turnover of 2,700 million dollars, more than £1,000 million. That is one armament firm. Mr. Louis Ridenour, vice president of Lockheed, gave the game away when he said: We dump our motor-cars long before they are out of order and our economy would have collapsed if we had not done so". He went on: Out rocketry programme is doing fine fulfilling a similar function. We send up rockets and they never come back, and that is why we should build new rockets all the time". It is money, money, money—not fear of Russia. It was no mere cynic who made the following remark; it was no less a person than a deputy assistant at the Defence Ministry in the United States: The NATO doctrine is that we will fight with conventional weapons till we are losing, then we will fight with tactical nuclear weapons till we are losing, and then we will blow up the world". That was said by a man who at the time was Minister of Defence, and it is perfectly possible that we all know him. We mumble about deterrents, but is it really any deterrent? Eight years ago China was spending £6 million on the discovery of how to turn nuclear power into war-like purposes. Last year China spend £600 million on the same exercise. No sooner did China do that, India, on the edge of China, had to stop spending whatever amount was being spent on the people dying of starvation in the streets and began spending tens of thousands of millions of pounds to come level with China. Then there is Pakistan, which is even more impoverished than India, but because India now has nuclear weapons, Pakistan has to get them, and so it goes on and on.

We say we will never use nuclear weapons first. How many people know that shortly before he resigned as President, General Ford said they would use them first and were retaining their right to use them first Indeed, it was the Warsaw Pact who tried to bring in a Bill by which everybody would sign a document saying they would never use them first, yet it was our side who refused to sign the Bill. That came from Russia, but we would not do it. Why? The answer is money.

We comfort ourselves with the fact that it is mainly between Russia and the United States of America. Eight nations now have nuclear power. Palestine has nuclear power; Egypt has nuclear power; and, last week, the Americans sold millions of pounds worth, both to Palestine and to Egypt. Money, my Lords! Ronald Ellis, our own representative for arms export, said on the 20th August last year: We will sell to anyone who wants to buy". Amin, I suppose, would be one good man. It is the military-industrial complex that is the issue. This is the real enemy. It was no less a person than General Eisenhower, President of the United States, who was so horrified by the military/industrial complex that he declared: I think people want peace so much that, one of these days, Governments will have to get out of their way and let them have it". I am here to suggest that it is never going to be done by Governments, because Governments are being controlled by the money power; and, having been controlled by the money power, the situation goes from bad to worse. It is about time the people stepped in and did something about it.

It is only when you speak in those terms that you find things are even worse than that. A year or two ago a professor of economics of the State University in California wrote a three-volume book pointing out in infinite detail the extent to which America and NATO had rearmed Russia; that over 60 per cent. of their capability in war has been inspired or interpreted or built up by what America has done and what NATO countries have done, for money. This is the situation. He produced it in a book. He reduced it to a small book to make it more popular, and, having done that, that book is called National Suicide. For the sake of Hansard I am going to repeat that you can get National Suicide from KRP Publications, 254 Cann Hall, Leytonstone, E.11, and can read page after page proving absolutely and for ever that we have rebuilt the military power of Russia.

Or, if you want to come down to cases before going away from that point, what about one of our own? I was so horrified by that book that I repeated what I have just said to a man who is in business and asked him, "Is this possibly true?" He said, "After all, Rolls-Royce are making aeroplanes". I wrote to Rolls-Royce in November of last year, and Rolls-Royce replied—and I am quoting from a director of that company: Rolls-Royce does not manufacture aircraft but it does produce gas turbine engines for civil and military aircraft. … One of these engines, the Viper, has been installed in two different types of Yugoslav military training and light combat aircraft for many years … the same type of engine is to be used in a combat aircraft being developed jointly in Yugoslavia and Rumania". His letter went on: The company more recently received a contract from the People's Republic of China under which the Chinese have a licence to build a Rolls-Royce Spey engine with technical assistance from Rolls-Royce. This will also he used in a combat aircraft by the Chinese armed services". There you are, my Lords—right down to cases; miles short of nuclear warfare.

If there is going to be a fuss about Hong Kong and the Chinese attack, our young soldiers are going to be killed by Spey engines which have been introduced, and Rolls-Royce have people in China at the present moment helping them to produce them more successfully. Or, miles short of nuclear warfare, if there is a limited kind of warfare between Russia and its satellites and our country, our young people are going to be killed by Viper engines which have been produced for them by Rolls-Royce. When you come to that point, I say "I'm not going to play"; and an increasing number of people are saying, "I'm not going to play". I am not going to have my young sons going into the Army to be killed by Rolls-Royce Viper engines and Spey engines. This should be known. That book by the famous Anthony Sutton mysteriously disappeared from the bookshops of America, and yet somebody said it was the most concealed piece of terrifying truth that had ever happened. How many people in our country are aware that it is Rolls-Royce which are providing the implements of warfare, in and through all the sincerity, which I do not doubt, of other people? It is just part of it; it is just part of our life.

I have quoted in this House before the Caborro Basse Dam, Mozambique. One of our big banks was putting out millions of pounds to build the Caborro Basse Dam, and the water from this dam was going to flow into South Africa, thereby keeping apartheid going. Three rather idealistic young men, not churchmen, said, "We will go and buy a share in the bank and that will allow us to go and protest about the business being done". When they got up and protested on their one share each, they were told that they could not bring it up at the annual general meeting; but the chairman of the international section of this bank took the three young men into a room and said, "You young men must understand that international trade is now so intertwined that if you bring principle into it there will be no international trade". This was not a backroom boy of the Stock Exchange; this was one of the directors and one of the sub-chairmen of one of our largest banks saying, "Where profit is concerned, to hell with principle!" When we talk about the vandalism in our world, I will tell your Lordships where it comes from: it comes from the top of the tree, and not from the bottom of the tree—"The trade of this world is now so intertwined that if you bring principle into it there will be no international trade".

Remember, we will never declare war. Remember that the thing is now so precipitate that you cannot get Parliament together to decide whether to go to war. The result is that they have handed it over to NATO; NATO have handed it over to the President of the United States of America; and, well, we know what he is going to do. He is going to kill 70 million people in half an hour without consulting us at all. If this should ever happen, if we in this country should wake up one morning (that is, if we did wake up at all) to find that, because America had acted with nuclear power without consultation, we, representing the West, the Church consenting, had killed 70 million Russians, 95 per cent. of whom would not know what the war was about, to prove the superiority of Christianity over Communism—if that should ever happen—I hope to God that no young man dares to join the Established Church, or is such a fool as to join the Established Church! Where principle is concerned, well, let them become Quakers or let us pray for another Pentecost. We have come to the end of the thing; and I also to the end of my words—and the end of my words are not finally negative. But it is against that terrifying background that I must say this word.

There is a movement starting. Some people are saying: "Not yet one more movement!" But yes, one more movement. It is called Mobilisation for Survival. Your Lordships may be a little more interested when I tell you that it has on its staff in America and various places the President of the Fellowship for Reconciliation, the President of the World Council of Churches, the representatives of Pax Christi, which is the Roman Catholic Church, the Episcopal Bishop of New York; and I will tell you that they started on Hiroshima Day last year and that they are now growing very rapidly in Australia, in Chile, in Finland, in Great Britain, in Greece, in Germany, in Holland, in India, in Italy, in Kenya, in Mexico, in Norway, in Switzerland, in Tanzania and in Zimbabwe. I repeat all that in order to let your Lordships know that it is not a tiny little society. In Japan they are hoping to get 1 million signatures before the May conference, to say essentially that none of these people is going to have anything to do with a war, if and when it comes off.

I am proud to say that in my own Church in the North, in the middle of August, 280 ministers signed a document to say that they will have nothing to do with the next war, against the background of these remarks, if it comes off. We are hoping by May, which is our small Church Assembly, to have 500 ministers who are just not going to play at all. This is happening through Mobilisation for Survival in these places.

I would end by reminding your Lordships of the remark of Victor Hugo when he said that there is one thing mightier than armies: an idea whose hour is come. This is the idea whose hour is come; and it is slap in the middle of the Bible and right in the very centre of the Cross. Here we are a religious establishment which opens every time with Christian worship. Another man has said that wars will only cease when men refuse to fight. That is not a passing remark. There was the Vietnam war; and 95,000 young men, Americans, refused to fight and Kissinger was out. In terms of Eisenhower's remark, the Government had to stop because the people would not listen to them any longer. These were 95,000 young men. If you can get a million Japanese and 95,000 young men in all countries saying that they are not going to play, then there might be a new situation.

My Lords, the request, therefore, is whether the Government will investigate Mobilisation for Survival and see whether there is not a new initiative and a new way through, and not just (however sincere) another conference.

9.2 p.m.


My Lords, I join with others in thanking my noble friend Lord Brockway, for giving us this opportunity and for opening up this discussion on what we, the British or British Government and, indeed, this House should be contributing as input into the special assembly. It is a great privilege for me—and it is the first time it has happened in this House—to follow the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker. I may say that it was a great privilege for me to follow George Macleod. I followed him often enough in the Aldermaston marches.

Having spent half my life opposing nuclear armaments, as such, I must on this occasion restrain myself on that subject. I do not criticise the rhetoric of nuclear disarmament in the United Kingdom draft programme. We have been refining the rhetoric—as somebody else has remarked, a great deal of it is extraordinarily familiar—for the past 32 years, ever since Bernard Baruch, when the U.S.A. had the monopoly of the bomb, offered the United Nations the choice between the "quick and the dead". I ought to say of this rhetoric how much more convincing it would be if Britain, having demonstrated the capacity to make the bomb, had announced it when our moral gesture would have been meaningful and as an example in nonproliferation.

Some of it, I must say, does not sound too convincing in this week when the Minister of Defence in a war game—and it is a war game; the children play it on boards on the kitchen table—deploys the comparative strengths of the NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries without emphasising the fact that Europe is a nuclear minefield. There are 7,000 tactical nuclear bombs on the NATO side and about 3,500 on the Warsaw Pact side. The US-supplied tactical nuclear weapons in Europe have a combined explosive capacity of 460 million tons of TNT—35,000 times greater than the Hiroshima bomb. That is in Europe alone.

Throughout the world the United States has 22,000 tactical nuclear weapons and probably 9,000 stragetical nuclear weapons; and the Soviet Union, in the horsetrading which we call the SALT talks, are negotiating on the same orders of magnitude; and while they drag their feet, they go on increasing their capacity. I would remind your Lordships that "tactical" in this connection with nuclear weapons means that in a Third Phase Alert, like the one with which Nixon terrified his allies, operational decisions are left in that case to junior commanders, right down to battery level. That is to say, this is not a question of that gentleman who could destroy 70 million people from the White House. This is, by this stage, getting down to operational level, even to the point of whimsical decisions.

Now we are faced with neutron bombs and Cruise missiles and, no doubt, now or presently, Soviet variations of the same devilry. The neutron bomb, which that unlikely Dr. Strangelove, my noble friend Lord Shinwell, has learned to love, is designed to destroy all life and, as my noble friend Lord Brockway has pointed out, to leave all property intact. I remember the proper derision with which the UN "Atoms for Peace" Conference 20 years ago greeted the cynical talk of "clean bombs" and "humanitarian bombs". Now we have the neutron bomb, which of course is the cleanest and kindliest.

I hope that the British proposals for conventions on weapons of mass destruction means by "radiological weapons" the neutron bomb—because that is what it is—a radiological bomb. I put this to my noble friend the Minister: I hope the proposals will be more specific about biological weapons. Although we are supposed to have outlawed them, and we have signed all kinds of conventions, I should like to see it repeated that these conventions will outlaw for ever biological weapons. I would remind your Lordships that these can be easily reactivated. In the last War the Allies had—and I know this as a positive fact because I was involved in discussions—among other things an extremely virulent form of botulin to serve the same purpose as the neutron bomb, to kill off all life so that the attackers could advance into a graveyard.

But I want to deal particularly with what the noble Lord, Lord Macleod of Fuinary, referred to. I want to deal with the horrendous traffic in conventional weapons now running at 18,000 million dollars a year in sales. In the 1930s we used to write about the merchants of death, the private arms traders. They even had faces, like Sir Basil Zaharov. Today these arms traders are the middlemen or are in the black market arming the IRA and the hijacker. The trade is now in the hands of Governments. Goverments are the merchants of death. The largest is the US Government authorising over 10,000 million dollars a year in the sales of weapons of death. I still shudder when I recall that my own Party in Government in 1964 simultaneously appointed a Minister for Disarmament and a Government arms salesman.

Now, as the noble Lord, Lord Macleod of Fuinary, has pointed out, we have great arms fairs in this country to which the buyers come to buy our "super-duper" weapons of destruction. How cynical can we get? We are gunrunners. I draw your attention to the Statement on the Defence Estimates. We actually boasted in that that overseas sales of defence equipment and associate services covered a wide range: These sales continue to make a substantial contribution to the country's balance of payments. The equipment sales in 1978–79 are expected"— this is a boast— —to reach £900 million". For the past few weeks we have seen what this indiscriminate arming means in the Horn of Africa, where American and Soviet arms—and I am sure some of ours—are being used by both sides. One thing you can never guarantee is whether countries will switch their alignments. We have seen that Egypt is to receive offensive aircraft and weapons; but of course Israel will have to get more sophisticated weapons as well. Vice-President Mondale in the United States, in deploring the arms trade, said: If we sell half a billion dollars in arms to Saudi Arabia, including 1,000 Sidewinders and over 1,000 of our most sophisticated weapons like the Maverick bomb and the precision-guided anti-tank weapons, we then have to give economic and military aid to Israel to preserve that balance". What absolute nonsense! No child at the kitchen table playing at war would ever think of that nonsense.

Iran is now a great military Power, no longer just arming to offset the Soviet arms delivery to Iraq, which was the original excuse for supplying them. When OPEC increased the oil prices, Iran bought weaponry—2½ thousand million dollars of weapons including 1,200 British Chieftain tanks. That is a pretty grim adjustment of the balance of payments. Sales to Kuwait in that same year, sanctioned by the US Government, rose in that one year from 18 million dollars to 366 million dollars. In the same year, Saudi Arabia tripled its arms purchases to 1½ thousand million dollars of imported hardware in a military budget of 6 billion dollars. Of that trade Britain has got a substantial share.

A friend of mine who was a "big shot" in the United States military-industrial complex is alarmed by one aspect of the trade. He does not frighten easily but he is frightened by this point. He says that his customers are now getting sophisticated weapons which the United States Services themselves have not got in use. It is no longer military surpluses or "discontinued lines" that are being sold. Foreign customers on the level of Iran and Saudi Arabia, with all their wealth, are now subsidising the research and development of the arms companies, with the Pentagon eventually getting the spin-off. An interesting aspect of cost-benefit in the arms trade I should have thought, but have the Americans forgotten what happened when the gun-runners sold the latest Winchester rifles to the Red Indians? Perhaps they do not watch late-night movies.

The military budget for the world today now totals three hundred thousand million dollars a year, with the poorer countries who can least afford it paying the most per capita for defence. There is another consideration which I ask your Lordships to listen to, because it is far too serious to be ignored: that is the growth of armed para-military forces and, as we know to our dismay, the growth of guerrilla forces. "Para-military", in the context I am using it, implies allegiance to and dependence on the Government in power. The obverse is represented by the guerrillas dedicated to the overthrow of whatever régime—they can be substantial, often foreign-based, "liberation armies", they can be the Maquis, they can be the urban guerrillas or a multiplicity of armed factions, often—as in Ireland and the Lebanon—in conflict with each other. This kind of violent activity is now global and is often a form of interventionist policies, delivered and augmented in many cases, with arms provided. The resistance movements of war situations with patriotic intentions, as in occupied Europe during the War, have now become a means of organised subversion, with the planting of mercenaries and so-called "experts", often with supplies of arms from Governments deliberately unfriendly and providing of course the richest market for private gun-running. This is the fact of the situation which the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, referred to as "indiscriminate violence". This indiscriminate violence is due to the fact (he said this and I repeat it) that we are now in a world where the cynicism of Governments—of our directors, our rulers and people who are supposed to be our "wise men" has in fact betrayed the younger generation.

I want to point out that this question of "para-military" is becoming a very serious matter. Professor Maurice Janowitz, a friend of mine at Chicago University, has been quantifying the paramilitary forces, with particular reference to the developing countries. He has found a remarkable increase in the past decade. Excluding the armies of Nigeria and Egypt, which expanded and have remained on a wartime footing, the regular armies of the nations of Africa increased from 313,000 in 1965 to 463,000 in 1975, an increase of 48 per cent. The para-military forces of those nations increased from 134,000 to 327,000144 per cent. In Asia, the figures for the regular military show an expansion from 7,397,000 to 9,729,000, or 30 per cent.

Those figures take account of the South-East Asia war and the India-Pakistan war. The increase of para-military forces was from 3,770,000 to 5,904,000 or 74 per cent. The Latin-American figures, for regular military forces increased from 605,000 to 639,000, or 6 per cent. The para-military figures increased from 232,300, or 32 per cent. The reason I am stressing the para-military question is because the para-military are in fact people who either carry arms legitimately—that is, they have authorised arms—or they have access to them; so we then have vast internal forces increased in many cases, in some places even by the security guards of firms and so forth.

I suggest that this is releasing into the system of every country the most fantastic availability of arms. If we look at what the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, was saying about the "indiscriminate violence" we realise that here we have all sorts of possibilities which, to me, are quite terrible. What I am really saying is that there should be, and must be support of the high purposes that David Owen has expressed to my noble friend Lord Brockway. In addition to these high purposes, in addition to any purposes, we want to work out the military aspect.

I think that at this on-coming conference we have to get to grips with this widespread availability of arms, this traffic, this trade in arms. We shall never be able to achieve anything in this world until we stop this arms race. The United Nations Committee for Development Planning, with the support of the Economic and Social Council in 1976, said that the greatest single obstacle preventing the achievement of the goals and targets of the international development strategy was defence spending, and called for an unflagging emphasis on the need for reallocation of resources from defence to development. In 1980 when the United Nations declares a new international strategy for the third development, an international disarmament strategy should also be declared, making specific provision for the linking of those two strategies. I share with my noble friends Lord Brockway and Lord Noel-Baker an optimism about what is going to happen in the next few months, but you will only make that meaningful for us and for the people of the world if you persuade the misled, misdirected, wrongly inspired developing countries, who in imitation of all we are doing have seen the need for vast expenditure on arms, that this new economic order to which they are so strongly committed can only be achieved by an end to the arms race.

9.24 p.m.


My Lords, this noble House would be very grateful once more to my noble friend Lord Brockway for raising this matter of the utmost importance, and also for the opportunity of listening to my noble friend Lord Noel-Baker, holder of the Nobel Peace Prize and one who has for so many years at such high levels exerted himself in the cause of peace and disarmament. To hear both my noble friends Lord Brockway and Lord Noel- Baker speak tonight brought forcefully to me how much I and an entire generation owe to these two truly noble Lords for the action and the doctrine which they propounded in the crucial years of the 'twenties and' thirties.

The Government warmly welcome the United Nations special session on disarmament, which will take place from the 23rd May to the 28th June this year. Like all meetings of the General Assembly, the special session will not be empowered to take decisions binding upon Governments. But it will be the largest ever international gathering on disarmament and it can focus world attention, stimulate Governments to rethink their policies and give a new impetus to progress in arms control and disarmament. The possibilities of this special session are immense and many of us feel an optimism that at long last at least a beginning on significant disarmament and arms control may commend itself to the nations of the world.

The United Kingdom has played a vigorous part in the work of the preparatory committee for the special session. We joined with other Western States in putting forward on 13th December 1977 a draft for the Declaration on Disarmament, which will be a part of the final document of the special session. Of course, there is a copy in the Library of the House. This Declaration on Disarmament states the principles which we consider should govern disarmament negotiations, so as to give the nations of the world a clear commitment to this most vital work. The preparatory committee now in session in New York has begun the drafting of this declaration using as their basis the various texts put forward, including our own.

We have also, with other Western States, made suggestions in the preparatory committee on ways in which the international machinery for the discussion and negotiation of disarmament agreements can be improved. The conference of the Committee on Disarmament in Geneva is the principal multilateral organisation for such negotiations, and it has done useful work. But we favour certain changes to increase its effectiveness and to bring it into the United Nations family.

In particular, we want to see China and France involved in disarmament negotiations. There is also a need for arrangements to enable States which are not members of the conference to participate in its work. Other improvements are also for consideration. In addition, we favour increasing the role of the United Nations in disarmament and propose to make appropriate suggestions at the right time. Of course, the conference is not an agency of the United Nations, and I am not suggesting that the change which some people have in mind should proceed in quite that direction. Nevertheless, I repeat—and the noble Lord, Lord Banks, made a valid point on this—that we favour increasing the role of the United Nations in disarmament, and propose to make appropriate suggestions at the right time.

However, perhaps the most important document to be adopted by the special session will be a Programme of Action on Disarmament, setting out the measures which are needed in the next few years. This programme can be a valuable catalyst to progress. It should be ambitious and comprehensive, but, at the same time, coherent, clear and, above all, practical. The record of the 'twenties and 'thirties, and of the early decades after the Second World War, is strewn with emotional slogans and adjurations, when in fact what has been necessary is two things; first, hard work by experts to make these ideals practical, and, secondly, goodwill, not by one Government or one country only but across the board and across the world. When I sometimes hear my own country pilloried, although I know that it has set an example of willingness not only to proclaim these principles, but to work hard at the expert level to make them practical, I must confess to a certain impatience.

This Programme of Action on Disarmament is a most important document. Of course we are committed to the cause of general and complete disarmament; it is our policy. In the meantime, we must mobilise as much agreement as we can, on the widest possible front, and try to achieve a breakthrough—I believe that that was said by my noble friend—at those points where it is possible to make progress. I believe that there are a number of points where meaningful progress can be made.

That programme should, above all, be practical. It should call for the negotiation of specific, verifiable agreements. We have had too many suggestions from various quarters which have made an impact on the public mind, but when we have come down to the close negotiation and said, "That is fine, but of course it must be seen to be verified in practice", somehow the whole propaganda has dissolved in mist. There should therefore be negotiation of specific, verifiable agreements, whether bilateral, regional or multilateral. There should not be unilateral gestures or grandiose ideas that are unrealisable in these or any other circumstances.

The United Kingdom has prepared a draft for this programme of action. It is not a programme for the promulgation of disarmament at a stroke—overnight. It is a practical policy and a practical programme which, if we can get sufficient agreement behind it, will indeed transform the prospects of the world. We began by conducting a review of our own policies and those of the West. Then we discussed our ideas with a wide range of non-Government organisations and with distinguished personalities, many of them world experts in these fields and interested in disarmament, who make up my advisory panel on this subject.

The plan we have drawn up incorporates some of the useful ideas which have emerged from these discussions. We further discussed it with our allies in the Atlantic Alliance, our partners in the Nine and other Western States. We then put it forward in the United Nations on 1st February, with the support of a number of Western States as co-sponsors. A copy of this declaration also is in the Library of the House, but it has been very fairly discussed and quoted from by more than one speaker this evening. As for the declaration on disarmament, this is now being considered in the preparatory committee, together with drafts put forward by other countries. Our programme of action starts with a statement of the immediate measures for disarmament which are needed in the years following the special session.

We seek to tackle the problem of nuclear weapons from two directions. First, there is the co-called vertical proliferation aspect and the attempt to move towards a reduction in existing and nuclear arsenals. My noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder, who boasts an expertise of uniqueness in this field, has reminded us of the many possibilities of explosion by accident, let alone by design, that exist in the nuclear age. We are attempting to move towards a reduction in the existing nuclear arsenals—to thin out the minefield my noble friend so graphically described. This is a practical step. I believe that it will make sense to other countries—to the super-Powers and others—and encourage them to tackle the existing dangers in the nuclear field.

The main steps are a comprehensive test ban, in which we are engaged with the Russians and the Americans, and further agreements on strategic arms limitation. But it is also of vital importance to strengthen the curbs on the horizontal proliferation of nuclear weapons to other countries, and our plans set out a range of ideas for this purpose. In this context we have suggested that powers possessing nuclear weapons should reassure others and encourage non-proliferation by giving assurances, to increase the confidence of the States that have renounced nuclear weapons in their security nuclear attack.

In the conventional field we stress, among other things, the need for early progress in mutual and balanced force reductions and we call for a ban on chemical weapons, on which the United Kingdom put forward a draft treaty in 1976 which was very well received indeed by the international community. Here again, we see the evidence of sheer hard work. Our plan goes on to set out the preparations needed for the next generation of major disarmament talks, on subjects which at present may be too controversial or not well enough understood for successful negotiations. First, we propose steps to strengthen international security and build confidence between States, without which progress in disarmament will always be very difficult. I want to repeat that: to strengthen the feeling of international security, without which progress in disarmament will always be very difficult—I would say practically impossible. So long as people are afraid they are not going to disarm. The key to disarmament, as I have repeatedly urged from this Box, is confidence and security.

We urge the adoption in other areas of the world of confidence building measures—we have heard about these tonight—on the lines already in being in Europe flowing from the Helsinki Final Act. We believe that States in other continents might also find it reassuring to have advance notification of military movements and manoeuvres taking place in their regions and to exchange observers at manoeuvres—the strength of security and confidence arising from being shown what the other man is doing. This is a very sound principle of co-operation.

We call for more facts. Governments should publish detailed information about their armed forces and their military expenditure, and also the total annual value of their arms production and exports. Britain is calling for that. We have heard about British arms exports. They are minuscule compared with the massive operations of other countries; let us really keep this in perspective. They are also licensed and managed so as to achieve the greatest possible end result of a feeling of confidence and security in the regions to which they are sent. I could give many examples of this. I agree strongly with everything that has been said in favour of the abolition of the arms trade. It is not just in Britain that it must start. In fact the really practical significant proposals for starting to end this trade come from Britain and form part of the proposals we are putting forward at this special session this year.

We also suggest that preparations for future disarmament negotiations might be taken by a series of United Nations examinations, studies on key subjects, where more needs to be known and more widely known if progress is to be made. Once again it is this need for the data, the understanding, the expert grasp of what lies at the heart of this problem, so that having solved the theology of it you proceed to try to solve the scientific practicality of it. I agree with my noble and reverend friend that once we have the theology right we are more than halfway towards achieving the practical end. Indeed, I would say that we would not get to the practical end unless we were spurred on by the kind of conviction that he exemplified in his speech tonight. In particular, we favour a study of the world-wide build-up of conventional arms and how to reduce it.

Worldwide military expenditure in 1976 reached 350 billion dollars (350 thousand million dollars). It is a grim and important fact that the share of the arms of the developing countries whom we all want to help, has increased from 6 per cent. in 1966 to 15 per cent. in 1976. Their total expenditure of 51 billion dollars is almost three times what they received in development aid. It is estimated that they spent eight billion dollars in 1976 on importing conventional weapons. I say that not to denigrate those countries but to point out an operative fact with which somebody has to grapple. It is no good going to them and lecturing them about what they ought to do. They have a firm feeling that their security depends on arms. Indeed, many of them feel that the attempts to impose non-proliferation of nuclear weapons or nuclear knowledge on them is some kind of conspiracy by the developed countries to keep this new knowledge from them.

All of these matters need very close study. We must go into the heart of the motivation of insisting on weapons at all. Developing countries understandably distrust the idea that importers of arms—they do not make them themselves—should be subject to special restrictions. The right approach to arms control—the control of the arms trade and its eventual abolition—must involve both suppliers and importers. A start can be made by deepening and disseminating the world's knowledge of the subject. That is the purpose of the examination, or the in-depth study, that we are proposing among other things in the programme.

Another study we suggest is on the strengthening of the security rôle of the United Nations in peacekeeping and the peaceful settlement of disputes, to enable it to anticipate and resolve international crises. I was much impressed by a number of speeches which drew our attention to the sheer violence that characterises our society these days. Can we perhaps, through the internationalisation of force, prevent the proliferation of violence by appointing the policeman to hold the baton and depriving everybody else of any weapon? That must be the aim. There must be a use of force which countervails violence. In that sense pacificist and patriot—not that pacifists are not patriots —can unite on a policy where the natural energies of men and the world are diverted to constructive uses.

The Organisation of the United Nations has not fulfilled the role in maintaining international peace and security which the Charter envisaged. As progress is made in disarmament—and it may well be made in certain areas on disarmament this year—the role of the United Nations in the peaceful settlement of disputes will obviously become increasingly important. Another new idea is for a study into the latest technology available for confidence building and the verification of arms control agreements. The United Nations, indeed the United States, have successfully used modern surveillance techniques in the Sinai Peninsula. We think that such techniques might be applied elsewhere in increasing confidence and in verifying arms control agreements.

This year of 1978 may, indeed, be a successful one in the history of arms control. We hope for agreement within a matter of months in our tripartite negotiations with the United States and the Soviet Union on a properly verified comprehensive test ban of unlimited duration. We applaud the efforts of President Carter's Administration to achieve a second Strategic Arms Limitation agreement with the Soviet Union, which could open the way to reductions in nuclear arsenals; and we are convinced that the United Nations Special Session can give a new momentum to arms control negotiations generally. A Programme of Action on the lines we are advocating, if adopted by the Special Session, would be a catalyst to action and achievement—a signpost of the way ahead towards a safer world.


My Lords, before the Minister resumes his seat, may I say that I put a whole series of questions to him which I shall not press at this stage. I can put them down as Questions for Written Answer. However, I should like him to answer one in particular because it is important. At the United Nations Assembly will Her Majesty's Government support the proposal that it should be followed by a world disarmament conference to carry out the recommendations in detail?


My Lords, indeed my noble friend might table a series of Questions for Written Answer, but perhaps the House will bear with me if I answer his question. Which Western nations supported the United Kingdom's Programme of Action? Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands and Norway co-sponsored the Programme of Action. That links with a question put to me by the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, as to whether the EEC countries have supported us in this. He will find that with the exception of France, Eire and Luxembourg, they have.

Will France and the United States be supporting our programme or be putting forward their own proposals? The answer is that we consulted France and the United States in the preparation of the programme. So far as we know, they have no plans to put forward drafts of their own for the Programme of Action. But, of course, France has made proposals on individual aspects of arms control and disarmament and I daresay that the United States might do likewise. At the moment the only Programme of Action is that of the United Kingdom supported, as I have said, by those co-sponsors.

The noble Lord also asked who will lead the British delegation. I am glad to say that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, as well as the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, plans to attend. I shall lead the delegation for part of the time. Our Ambassador at the United Nations, Mr. Richard, and our Ambassador to the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament, Mr. Ashe, will lead for the remainder of the time. He also asked about the size of membership of the British delegation. It is a little early to be precise about this, but our delegation will probably contain about 10 officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and our delegation to the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament.

Finally, my noble friend was anxious to know whether we would favour the idea of a follow-up world disarmament conference. Many delegations in the preparatory committee support the idea of a second special session in the early 1980s which would adopt a programme of action for the following years. This seems to be the most likely form of follow-up. Let us not disregard this possibility. If this process this year is effective in achieving what has been described by some Members this evening as a breakthrough, may it not be that the right follow-up is to have a repeat performance after a period of implementation, of verification, in say two or three years' time? It is worth considering.

My noble friend is always in favour of a world disarmament conference. By all means, it might be appropriate in due course after a series of progressive achievements by everybody implementing what has been agreed at successive special sessions. There are a number of other points put to me and no one, so far, has pressed me to reply to them with quite the friendly enthusiasm of my noble friend. I shall be glad to do so, though not necessarily this evening.