HL Deb 21 February 1979 vol 398 cc1870-905

5.35 p.m.

Lord NOEL-BAKER rose to call attention to the Final Document of the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Disarmament; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: I do not claim that the Final Document was a masterpiece of English prose. I do not say that it was a model of what John Stuart Mill might have called logical ratiocination, but I do say that the historians of the future—if there is a future and if there are historians—will say that the Final Document is the greatest State paper of all time. In this short debate, I shall try to justify the bold assertion in 15 minutes flat—or as nearly flat as good fortune may allow.

I start by referring to the words with which the document begins. In the past, it says, nations relied on armaments for their security, but today the accummulation of weapons constitutes much more a threat than a protection to the future of mankind. The time has therefore come, it goes on, to end this situation, to abandon the use of force in international affairs, and to seek security in disarmament.

The document sums up the conclusions of the most remarkable international debate which I believe has ever taken place. It involved 20 Heads of Government—presidents and prime ministers—including those from Britain, France, Italy, Western Germany, India, and Canada; 26 vice-presidents, including Mr. Mondale who, like our own Prime Minister, delivered a magnificent oration; 54 Ministers of Foreign Affairs. One hundred ministers of senior rank spoke for 100 nations from all the continents. The document sums up their unanimous conclusions against which no single speaker uttered one word of reservation. The speeches were all long and carefully prepared. I heard them, and I spoke with many of the speakers. I believe that there has never been an international declaration which has such high authority behind it as has this Final Document. It is therefore of sensational importance that the document should say that armaments today constitute much more a threat than a protection to the future of mankind. Later in the document it elaborates this theme. It says that each new increase of armaments—and new increases are taking place still today—does not strengthen international security, it weakens it; it leaves less security than there was before the increase was made.

The document speaks with anger of what it calls the waste of vast resources on the unproductive and spiralling arms race. It speaks with contempt of the policy of the balance of power. It says that stable and enduring peace can never be founded on a precarious balance of deterrents, still less on a doctrine of strategic superiority. It speaks with regret and consternation about expenditure on military research and development. Have noble Lords really reflected on what is happening with military R and D? World expenditure by the Governments this year on military research is 25,000 million dollars. No such expenditure has ever been made on any scientific research before. More than half the top scientists and technologists in the United States are working in military R and D. I do not doubt the number in Russia is just as great, and we are not very far behind. We have all the ultimate weapons. Our Christmas Island H-bombs were better than those of the United States; we have the nerve gasses, the fire weapons, the biologicals; and yet in 1978–9 we are spending £782 million on military research. What would that mean for social justice if it were used for houses, pensions and in other ways? What would it mean for human betterment if we were spending £782 million on scientific research for peaceful ends?

The document says that, thanks to R and D, the real issue now at stake in the UN work on armaments is that of the survival of mankind. Let us not skulk that thought. Let us remember that the greatest scientists and some of the greatest soldiers—President Eisenhower—have told us that it is true. Let us remember that the Final Document repeats this warning of total annihilation of mankind no fewer than seven times. We shall assume a grave responsibility if we skulk that thought. Faced with the risk of total devastation, the final document proposes a policy of total change. It says that partial measures of disarmament will do some good. It puts forward a long list of such partial measures, but it says that they are not enough; and on almost every page it urges that disarmament must be general and complete—and it defines what it means by "general and complete". It says that after the disarmament has been carried through, Governments should have at their disposal only those non-nuclear forces, armaments, facilities, establishments, as are agreed to be necessary for the purposes of internal security only, for the protection of the personal security of citizens, and in order that Governments may maintain and provide manpower for a United Nations peace force.

That concept of total, general and complete disarmament is very British. Lloyd George put it forward 60 years ago. I worked on his proposals. He put it forward in Part 5 of the Treaty of Versailles—the total disarmament of Germany so that she should be incapable of aggressive war. Robert Cecil put forward the same idea at the League Disarmament Conference in 1932. He proposed that every nation should be made incapable of aggressive war by the abolition of the weapons of offence and the drastic reduction of military manpower. President Hoover and President Franklin Roosevelt took up his proposal, and it came within an ace of full success. Forty years after Lloyd George, a British Foreign Secretary, our colleague whose passing we so much regret, the late Lord Selwyn-Lloyd, proposed in the General Assembly of the UN the reduction of armaments to the level at which there would be no possibility of aggressive war. He gave an alternative definition—the same as that of the Final Document. He said that armaments should be reduced to the level at which Governments had only what was needed for internal security purposes alone.

Faced with total devastation, the Final Document proposes total change; and, of course, it proposes that the vast resources released by general and complete disarmament shall be re-allocated to development instead. It proposes that 400,000 million dollars a year, now being spent to prepare the final war, should be used, instead, for human happiness and welfare, for abolishing the poverty, the hunger, the preventable disease, the illiteracy, which we all deplored in another debate two weeks ago today. Is there any rational man who must not want this policy if it could be achieved—general and complete disarmament, and the abolition of world poverty? Reflect on the last three decades of our arms race, with its inflations, its crises and its wars. Inflation is a serious problem for Britain: elsewhere, it is a catastrophe. In Turkey, inflation today is 70 per cent., and 20 per cent. of all the workers are unemployed. Incomparably the most important cause of the inflation is the world expenditure on arms. Another factor helps to make the economic chaos in which we live, a fact of which I have spoken already, that we have made science the prostitute of war.

Reflect on the wars of the arms race! Who can think of Indo-China, North Vietnam, South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia without a sense of nausea and shame, a veritable cataract of cataclysms, each worse than the one that went before. And the gravest dangers may still lie ahead. For a century, our number one strategical requirement has been Middle Eastern oil. In 15 years from 1963 to 1977 the Middle East spent 133,000 million dollars on what they called defence; and today it is one of the least safe regions in the world. Reflect on Iran! In five years from 1973, the Shah spent 27,950 million dollars on armaments—£14,000 million. If he had spent it on schools and hospitals and houses, then Iran would be a bulwark of stability today. But he spent it on tanks, on missiles and on aircraft—and he is in exile, his generals have been shot, Left-Wing rebels have great quantities of arms and the future of Western oil supplies is very seriously in doubt.

Who can look at that record without wanting the policy that the final document proposes? I am sure that every member of the Government must want it; but perhaps they have doubts, as some noble Lords have doubts, whether in the real world it can be done. On Sunday last on television I caught a line from Shakespeare: Our doubts are traitors And make us lose the good we oft might win By fearing to attempt".

The new Disarmament Committee, now sitting in Geneva, needs a leader; it needs a government who will put forward the practical treaty clauses by which the policy of the final document can be made to come to life. I wish our Government could be that leader; I wish that they would put forward the practical proposals. No other government could have such influence as ours; for we have demilitarised the greatest empire in world history and our influence is correspondingly immense. Let the Government remember Shakespeare: Our doubts are traitors And make us lose the good we oft might win By fearing to attempt".

Let them cast away their doubts; let them not fear to attempt; let them win the good that will bless our nation and all the other nations, too!

My Lords, 60 years ago at the ending of the First World War I had a strange and wonderful experience. On November 30th, 1918, I was still at the front after four years of war. On January 1st, 1919, one month later, I was in Paris at the Peace Conference, a secretary to the commission that drafted the Covenant of the League of Nations. I had a sudden radiant vision of new hope. Let the Government give the youth of every country a vision of radiant hope! Let them make youth understand that they can leave behind our centuries of blood and sorrow and that they can be the people of a glorious world for all mankind!

5.57 p.m.


My Lords, I would not attempt a philosophical response to the eloquence of the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, for what he has called security in disarmament; but I do pay respect to his 60 years' experience and I had already discovered that he was a member of the 1919 Peace Conference. May I add that I am quite certain that if I am alive in 60 years' time I shall still be unable to make that kind of speech without resort to notes. I feel that we should congratulate him on that astonishing ability.

I, too, found this an impressive document which ranged very far, including outer space, through many pages. I have to say that I felt the resolution was at its best when it was advocating specific steps. I should love to believe that, as they say, general and complete disarmament under effective international control was an attainable objective within the foreseeable future. I am afraid that I believe that to suggest that we are on our way towards it is not only a delusion but possibly even a dangerous delusion. As the noble Lord said, the document itself, right at the outset, sadly recognises that very little progress has been made. In paragraph 4 they say: Unfortunately the objectives established on that occasion "— that is, looking back 10 years to 1969— by the General Assembly appear to be as far away today as they were then, or even further, because the arms race is not diminishing but increasing and outstrips by far the efforts to curb it". Some might say that this was defeatism; but I would prefer to call it realism.

I must say that I believe that those who wrote this document overstate a strong case when they say, as they do on one of the seven occasions the noble Lord referred to, in paragraph 18: We must halt the arms race and proceed to disarmament or face annihilation". I recognise that increasing armament inevitably increases the possibility or indeed the likelihood of war; but I do not believe it is right to say that it is inevitable. This spoils a case by over-stating it. The noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, and I were addressing ourselves to a limited area of arms control negotiations in this House last night; and we have to recognise that all the time, pain and grief that has gone into the SALT negotiations to achieve very little on a very narrow front is not reassuring to the possibilities of disarmament on the scale that is being advocated in this document.

Turning to one or two more detailed points, may I start by looking at what the document calls one of its fundamental principles in paragraph 26. They talk about the importance of refraining from the threat or use of force against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of any State. I cannot help wondering whether that is wholly consistent with what the paragraph goes on to say: or against peoples under colonial or foreign domination seeking to exercise their right of self-determination and to achieve independence". I am not sure that these two are wholly consistent. In paragraph 34 what is meant by: the respect for the right to self-determination and national independence "? Some of us would have grave doubts if that means President Amin. Is that something that we should respect? I would have thought that it at least poses a question.

The document is at its best and its most realistic when right at the outset there is reference to the gradual but effective process of disarmament. But then in paragraph 10 they refer to the political will and the need for international machinery. I would have suggested that it may well be that the existence of what they call appropriate international machinery could well precede political will and indeed make political will possible. I grant you, my Lords, that it is the chicken and the egg argument but it seems to me that the likelihood of the political will existing, unless the appropriate international machinery already exists, is slim indeed.

Then on much the same theme, paragraph 110 refers to the key to the whole problem. It says: Progress in disarmament should be accompanied by measures to strengthen institutions for maintaining peace and the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means". Surely the whole possibility of having the state of what the noble Lord called "security in disarmament" must depend upon the creation of what that paragraph refers to. This is absolutely fundamental. It has to be said that there is no such body which commands the kind of international respect referred to, and I should not have thought that our experience quite recently, for instance in the Southern Lebanon, was wholly reassuring in this respect. With the best will in the world, the United Nations achievements there have not given the kind of security which these people have been seeking.

The document very rightly draws a distinction between deliberative and negotiating machinery. Of course, one is always a little worried in dealing with a United Nations document which talks about setting up additional machinery because there seems to be a great deal of machinery threshing around already. I hope that what is meant by this is to make existing machinery work better, and resisting the temptation to create more and more agencies which is so often what these kinds of bodies do. However, here again they show welcome recognition of reality in paragraph 85 when they refer to the principle of undiminished security of the parties with a view to promoting and enhancing stability at a lower military level.

Certain specific suggestions are put forward as to how this may be achieved. For example, in paragraph 106 the concept is advanced of sponsored peace studies, programmes for education for disarmament and peace studies at all levels. I understand in view of the earlier assertions in the document that the prime targets for disarmament should be the nuclear Powers; I wonder whether it is really sound to say that in order to promote expertise in disarmament the proposal is that fellowships on disarmament should be set up with the specific target being in the developing countries. If they are going to be consistent and say that the primary targets are the nuclear Powers, then the places where those fellowships are needed are in the developed countries.

In paragraph 33 they put forward the entirely practical and sensible proposals for nuclear weapon-free zones. This is something which we can applaud and agree with. However, two paragraphs earlier, this document refers to a very vexed question which again we were discussing last night: the matter of verification. It is no use pretending that people trust each other in this matter of disarmament, because I am sorry to say that they do not. I said last night, and I say it again: if one agrees to a level of disarmament but declines to allow the people with whom one is agreeing to verify that one is sticking to that agreement, it seems to me inevitable that people are going to say: Are they genuine in their desire to achieve this disarmament?

This leads me to plead for a strengthening of paragraph 118, talking about the kind of bodies which might be set up, when it says: In so far as possible decisions on substantive issues be adopted by consensus". I would have thought that it was absolutely necessary that decisions should be by consensus because in the disarmament game if one person opts out one is in trouble for everybody else. I have to confess that I prefer the recognition of reality when in paragraph 94 the document suggests that the Secretary-General should initiate studies on the relationship between disarmament and development, rather than some of the perhaps rather over-hasty assertions. Here I recognise what the noble Lord is saying, but it is not, I think, wholly something that can be accepted without question, that all the money spent on armaments could usefully be spent on some other things. That is a very attractive doctrine but the fact is that very many economies have been built on money coming from the sale of armaments. It is also true that a great deal of the more dramatic research which has been achieved throughout the world has been achieved on the back of military contracts. That may be regrettable, but it is true. Therefore, I find myself saying that this document advances many good ideas and this has made the whole elaborate and laborious process of all the leading statesmen, to whom the noble Lord referred, worthwhile. I doubt whether it is today what we might call "a productivity bonus ", but I hope it has been beneficial.

I should like to end by re-stating what perhaps may sound rather a "square" position: it seems to me that disarmament only becomes real if you are negotiating from a position of strength. Unilateral disarmament, in so far as it hides an economic weakness or a reduction in armaments in the face of economic necessity, tends then to look like dressing up that economic weakness in a kind of hypocritical pose of universal benevolence which I believe deceives no one—or possibly deceives only ourselves.

6.12 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, for raising this important subject this evening. We all know the distinction, the eloquence and the sincerity with which he has espoused the cause of disarmament over the years, and nobody will deny the importance of the subject in the world of 1979. I should like to begin by saying that, like the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, my noble friends and I do not support unilateral disarmament. We believe that in point of fact the peace has been kept—however precarious that peace may have been—by the existence of a balance between the East and the West, between the major powers: a balance in nuclear and conventional weapons. We believe that we cannot afford to allow our forces, the NATO forces, to be outstripped.

The peace between the major powers has lasted for some thirty years, but I do not deny for a moment that peace based on a military balance, and on an escalating military balance, must inevitably be dangerous and precarious. While an imbalance would have been even more dangerous, we have to recognise the danger in the present situation. We cannot but be alarmed at the arms race in nuclear weapons and at the prospect of a possible spread of nuclear weapons. We know also that the strategic balance of the world has been disturbed by the emergence of China on to the world stage. So while we cannot support unilateral disarmament, we do support, and support very strongly, all efforts to achieve general military disarmament. Greater security at a lower level of armaments must be the immediate aim and I should like to praise the role played by Her Majesty's Government in the Special Session and in the preparation for the Special Session at the United Nations, in seeing, with our allies, that constructive proposals were put before that body. In this connection, I am aware, as indeed the House will be aware, of the part played by the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, in this field.

When we debated in this House this Special Session before it actually took place, I expressed the view that any progress made would no doubt be peripheral to the main core of the disarmament problem, but nevertheless it would still be important. The main arena for disarmament negotiations would clearly be the SALT talks, the Vienna talks; and so it has proved. I must say that I feel that less was achieved in the Special Session than I had originally felt was possible. Nevertheless, there was a high-level and widespread debate—a discussion involving Heads of State and Foreign Ministers, to which the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, has referred.

There was also an agreed Final Document: It certainly was not clear at all times that there was going to be one. I would not go so far as to say that it is the greatest State paper of all time, as the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, did, because I must confess that I find it in places vague and in places platitudinous; but I think that by general agreement the most positive feature has been the reform of the composition of the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament in Geneva—or rather its replacement by a more widely representative Committee on Disarmament. The ending of the co-chairmanship of the United States and the Soviet Union has paved the way for France to take part. I think we must welcome that, and it is good to know that in the meetings already held by that Committee France is playing a part. Provision has also been made for China to play her part, and while that has not happened yet, one understands that the Chinese are keeping closely in touch with what is going on in that Committee. I hope that the Committee may be able to further the prospects of achieving a comprehensive test ban treaty and a ban on chemical warfare.

The possibility of nuclear weapons becoming available to more countries remains a serious threat and a constant anxiety. It is, of course, mentioned in the Final Document, but I think it is clear that more positive action will be necessary than is there envisaged. This is a matter which cannot be put aside with expressions of hope for the future: it is something which requires to be dealt with in concrete terms.

I was sorry to read in the White Paper dealing with the Special Session that certain non-aligned States have opposed a study on the world-wide build-up of conventional weapons. After all, the wars we have had since the end of the Second World War have been conventional wars and not nuclear ones. The Final Document tends to play down the importance of conventional weapons, though we all recognise the signicance of nuclear ones. Of course, I understand that nations insist on the right to have a proper means of defence. I understand, too, that developed countries—the countries which produce the arms—would have economic problems if they were suddenly to cease to do so; but I think we tend to rely too much on the sale of armaments abroad. Certainly we on these Benches feel strongly that the trade in arms must be restricted.

In view of the difficulties of finding other occupations for the people who are at present involved in that trade and the difficulty of ensuring that countries have a proper access to weapons they need for their defence, it is clear that this matter can be dealt with only by international agreements and control. I hope that the United Kingdom will continue to press for that. Of course, the United Nations Special Session was not binding on any of those taking part, as General Assembly resolutions are not binding. It was not a negotiating body coming to final grips with the problem, and trying to set up regulations which were immediately to be enforced. So that although there are many fine sentiments in the Final Document, as we have heard—the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, has examined some of them this evening, and, certainly, the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, extolled them earlier on—it remains to be seen how many of them will be translated into action.

I wonder whether there will be a monitoring conference, which bears a relation to the Special Session similar to that which Belgrade had to Helsinki. Will the Disarmament Commission of all nations of the United Nations, which I understand is to meet for four weeks in the year, fulfil that role? Clearly, much will depend on what actually happens in the SALT talks, in the Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions talks in Vienna and to a lesser, but nevertheless important, extent in the Disarmament Committee. Soon we should have SALT II—perhaps next month. Whether or not it will go through Congress, is a question to which we cannot yet see the answer.

As noble Lords have already stated, this matter was debated in this House last night when the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, asked the Government whether they were happy about verification, happy about proposals generally for SALT II, and happy, in particular, about those dealing with theatre nuclear weapons. The noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, was, on the whole, reassuring in what he had to say, and in a speech on the very same subject yesterday, reported in today's papers, so was President Carter. But I must say that after reading the report of last night's debate, I am left with a feeling of unease about the position with regard to theatre nuclear weapons in Europe, though since that subject was discussed last night I shall not pursue it further this evening.

Then there are the Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions talks in Vienna. So far as they are concerned, the mills certainly grind slowly. When we had our last debate, there was a prospect of advancement; there had been, at last, encouraging signs on the Warsaw Pact side, but I think that we are still waiting for a Western initiative in response. I hope that it will soon be forthcoming and will not be long delayed. But these talks deal with very complicated matters and take a very long time indeed to move forward.

To sum up what I have been saying, we have to maintain a balance in arms between East and West. We cannot afford to be outstripped, because that would lead to an even more dangerous situation. Yet we must recognise the appalling dangers of the arms race and urgently seek a controlled reduction in armaments. I hope that, encouraged by the United Nations Special Session, this will be achieved in the negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union in Vienna. But I do not underestimate the importance of what can be achieved by the Committee on Disarmament in the fields of chemical warfare, nuclear tests, nuclear proliferation, the trade in arms and confidence generally.

6.24 p.m.


My Lords, this is a short debate and time is getting on, so I shall therefore speak very briefly indeed. There does not seem to me much necessity to develop our case, after the monumental speech which we heard from my noble friend Lord Noel-Baker in opening. The noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, said that he was speaking as a realist. The point I want to urge tonight is that we have now reached a stage in international affairs where disarmament is realistic. Over many years, those of us who have advocated disarmament have been called idealists and have been rejected as such as not being practical. We are now in a new situation. We have had a Special Assembly of the United Nations, at which all the Heads of State have spoken on behalf of their Governments, and as a result of that discussion the Final Document, which my noble friend Lord Noel-Baker has analysed was accepted. It is true that the Assembly of the United Nations is not decisive as an executive body, but it has been followed by the committee in Geneva which is under the instruction to carry out the proposals which it made.

Our own British Government, at the Special Assembly, put forward quite radical proposals. They do not go as far as many of us would desire, but, if carried out, they would make a very great contribution towards disarmament. President Carter has gone much further. He has declared immediately for a reduction of nuclear weapons by 50 per cent. and has even said that if the SALT talks succeed, as, happily, it now seems they will, he will reduce nuclear armaments to zero, and he is the head of the most powerful industrialised nation in the world. President Brezhnev of the Soviet Union has gone even further, and has stated not only that nuclear warfare should end, but that all the stocks of nuclear weapons in the world should be destroyed. These are the statements of the two great Powers, between whom there is the greatest confrontation.

Are they sincere? Do they really mean what they say? If so, there is great hope. I have had a letter from our Foreign Secretary, Dr. David Owen, to which he has allowed me to refer publicly, in which he recognises the sincerity of Brezhnev, making his proposals for disarmament from the Russian side, equally with that of President Carter. Therefore, we are now in this situation. If Governments are to be believed, if they are sincere in the proposals that they make, if our own British Government are sincere in their radical proposals made at the Special Assembly, which will come before the Geneva Committee, then we are now at a stage where great progress towards disarmament is practicable. We have now become the realists. It is those who are still in favour of greater armament who are the illusionists—illusionists because, if we go on building armaments as we have them today, war will mean the destruction of the whole of mankind.

I want to say to the Government that I have been terribly disappointed that the media and the Members of our Government have not placed greater emphasis upon the decisions which were reached at the Special Assembly and the opportunities which have now been provided for by the Geneva Committee. Even in our quality papers, there have been hardly any reports of the proceedings of the Special Assembly from which one has been able to learn what happened there. In the speeches of the representatives of our Government, no emphasis has been placed upon the importance of a subject which could save mankind.

I believe that the Government are making a very great mistake, not only from the point of view of not realising present hopes but also from that of underestimating the desire of the people of this country, and of the world, for peace. If our Government were to go to the country and say, "These are our proposals and plans. We put them at the forefront of our Manifesto so that the people may endorse the hope for disarmament and for peace ", I believe that the response of our people—because they desire peace, as do all the peoples of the world—would be great.

The noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, said that because of mutual suspicion the proposals for disarmament are difficult to implement. The verification of disarmament by another side is the answer to that point. We have now reached the stage whereby, by means of inspection by satellite and the proposals which the Soviet Government themselves have accepted for inspection, verification that other Governments are carrying out their promises can be obtained. I say to Her Majesty's Government and to my noble friend Lord Goronwy-Roberts, whose sincerity on this issue none of us doubts, that I trust that our Government will be able to go to the people of this country with a disarmament programme which will give some hope that the recommendations of the Special Assembly will be carried out.

6.35 p.m.


My Lords, this has been a great day in the House of Lords. We have discussed this afternoon two of the major problems facing mankind: the problem of over-population and the problem of disarmament. I suppose that the cynics might describe today as "Do-gooders Day" in the House of Lords. It is a reflection of the state of our times that "Do-gooding" is cynically observed. We have been asked to face what I regard as the major issues, outside the day-to-day conflict of party differences. The future of mankind has been debated in this House.

I was in Germany last week, and found that the major preoccupation in the newspapers and on television was the American television programme "Holocaust". Young people were turning to their parents and saying, "We didn't know", and the parents were excusing themselves by saying, "We didn't know". Young people were asking, "What did you do in these circumstances?" and again the reply came back, "We really didn't know about these things".

This afternoon we have been asked to address ourselves to two questions from which we cannot hide—two questions which we must face if mankind is to survive. After all the speeches which have been made, this sounds like a cliché, but it is true. This is an important debate and it enables me to pay my own personal tribute to Lord Noel-Baker, who initiated it, for his great constancy and consistency in pursuing the ideals of peace and disarmament. When we consider the history of this matter, which Lord Noel-Baker retold so eloquently to this House, I believe that many of us will have grown weary of well-doing. But Lord Noel-Baker has stated the case for disarmament and for peace as eloquently as he did 60 years ago.

My own credentials are these. I went to my bookcase the other night for some books to prepare for this debate, and I came across one which had the insert "This Prize is Awarded for an Essay on Peace and Disarmament." I won this book 50 years ago in a schoolboy's competition. I was brought up in the peace movement. When I was 15, I assumed, with some optimism and hope, that there would be a dramatic change.

Alfred Nobel wrote in 1876: I should like to invent a substance or a machine with such terrible power of mass destruction that war would thereby be made impossible for ever". We have invented that machine, but we have not accomplished what Alfred Nobel assumed would be accomplished. He assumed that if we created a destructive machine of such power, we would turn away from its use. He assumed, as some of the speakers today have assumed, that if you build up sufficient power you will guarantee some security and peace. It has been a story of conflict and war over the centuries, with one side hoping to be stronger than the other. The British Council of Churches said: If a process of arms reduction begins, States wish at all times to avoid being left in a position of relative military inferiority vis-à-vis all possible combinations of adversaries. It is impossible for all States to be stronger than all other possible combinations". But still we pursue that objective and multiply our arms to achieve it.

I admire the speech that was made by the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, at the Special Session; I admire his patient devotion to securing arms reduction, and I hope he will be encouraged by this debate today to carry on with his efforts. He made the statement at the United Nations: It is a sad fact that our world, riven though it is by poverty and by social and economic injustice, devotes 6 per cent. of what it produces to military expenditure. We manage collectively to spend over one billion dollars a day on armed forces and armaments—a figure which is equivalent to the combined incomes of the poorest half of the world's population. This is double the world's expenditure on health and larger than its expenditure on education". That statement was made by the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, to the Special Session and I know that he feels deeply about this matter.

I would not suggest that we can disarm completely unilaterally. I do not think the public would accept it. I do not think that it is a policy that would command any substantial support at the moment. Personally I am a pacifist, but I would not suggest for a moment that that policy would get acceptance. We have a great deal of education to do on this subject of disarmamament; we have got to get people behind the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts; we must get him to feel that he is supported by a large number of people in this country, and give him courage.

During this Special Session two countries spoke quite dramatically: Canada announced, through M. Trudeau, that his country is phasing out nuclear armed planes and replacing them with conventional weapons aircraft. He went on to say: We are thus the first country in the world with the capacity to produce nuclear weapons that chose not to do so". The Indian Prime Minister said that he challenged all nuclear Powers to follow his lead in renouncing nuclear tests for both war and peace. These were statements made by Prime Ministers at the Special Session. There will always be risks involved. I listened to the debate last night on strategic arms limitation and the nervousness that there was about our inability to inspect and control. There will always be risks in taking dramatic actions but there are even greater risks in carrying on with our present business of building up and multiplying arms. I hope that as a result of this debate today we shall feel encouraged to do a little more.

Our own Prime Minister, addressing the Special Session, said: We are here to talk about, and I hope commit ourselves to, a real disarmament programme". He proposed a further Special Session in 1981 to check the progress made, following this year's gathering. His concluding words were: And when the time comes, let us render that account not in fine words we have spoken, but in action we have taken". I hope that in 1981 our Government will be able to announce a substantial contribution to that end.

6.44 p.m.


My Lords, I shall start my speech with a quotation: It will be the largest ever international gathering on disarmament and it can focus world attention, stimulate Governments to rethink their policies and give new impetus through progress in arms control and disarmament". That was the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, speaking in this House on 21st February 1978. I should like to ask him—I am afraid he is not here at the moment—whether he feels that that was carried out.

I was in despair this morning on reading the Hansard report of the debate last night on the Question tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. After those questions and answers in this House, I really feel that there is not the mood for disarmament in this place at the moment. There was such hatred shown, such disbelief and distrust of other Governments, especially the Soviet Union. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said that they had broken their promises several times. Of course, we must get verification if we are to have SALT and disarmament; of course we must get verification on whether it is being carried out, but that can be done in a friendly discussion so that we do not have this awful feeling of distrust the whole time. If that sort of discussion was going on in the Soviet Union about not trusting America and having to do certain things in case America is not carrying out its promises, we should all be absolutely flabbergasted, but that happened last night in this House.

I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, for this debate. I look upon him as one of the great statesmen of this country. We have heard a statesmanlike speech tonight, and compared to him I find that most people are pygmies in politics. If only we had more people like him there would be no question of danger of a Third World War. This document which we are discussing tonight is a wonderful document so far as it goes—absolutely wonderful and a great hope to mankind. Any Minister of any government who does not try his utmost to implement it is criminal to mankind.

The United Nations Special Session was hailed by people throughout the world, and I think it took place because of the pressure of the ordinary people in their organisations throughout the world. To the ordinary people the nuclear Powers looked as though they were leading humanity to destruction, and I believe that the united wish of millions of ordinary people can in the end in all circumstances make itself felt and heard. I took part in CND marches. At first we were a few dedicated people, but that movement grew and grew throughout the world among the ordinary people and when one visited other countries—Scandinavia, Greece, the Mediterranean countries—again and again one saw somebody wearing the CND badge and one felt that the people of the world were becoming more and more united under the cause of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. I believe it was the grass-root peace organisations, which played a tremendous part, which rocked the United Nations into initiating a Special Session on Disarmament in which all countries were welcome to be present. All these peace organisations, even the World Peace Council, formerly proscribed, went to Washington to discuss peace and disarmament.

Alas!, almost at the same time the whole thing was unheeded by the military. During that period when the Special Session on Disarmament was taking place a meeting also took place of the NATO chiefs in Washington discussing increased expenditure on arms. Then the neutron bomb loomed up and the usual cycle of those who do not want disarmament begins to take place. Tension is built up, the cold war is brought on again, the card of the Soviet threat is once more played. Yet in 1978, in the autumn, not very long ago, Mr. Brezhnev is calling for the stopping of this crazy madness of spending so much money on armaments, and saying, "Let us get round a table and talk sense". What happened to that? When I mentioned it in your Lordships' House, the Minister, in replying to me, said I was trying to lower the guard of Britain.

I am not mentioning Mr. Brezhnev and the Soviet Union because I am a Communist and so according to some people must follow the supposed dictates of the Soviet Union, but because what he was saying, and many enlightened people in the West, too, were saying, seems absolute sense and the only hope for man—get round a table and discuss. Just imagine what a Third World War would mean to the Soviet Union. What happened to them in the last war, what enormous destruction they had to bear. Do you think the Soviet Union wants another war? According to last night's debate in this House, it was almost implicit that the Soviet Union is not for peace, not for disarmament at all.

Up to date no President of America has said that Soviet armament has outstripped the West, only that the gap may be lessening. If that is happening, is not this the moment for getting round and discussing how to stop things going any further? Is it not the psychological moment now to discuss and discuss and discuss? Instead the trend is to improve the horrific mass destruction weapons that already exist. The neutron bomb which I have mentioned is the latest new device so far, and I am told that our present weapons are being redesigned so that they can stand up to the neutron bomb, which indicates that people are thinking of using the neutron bomb if there was another war.

Finally, is it not essential to the cause of world peace to put an end to selling arms to other countries? This makes the policy of reduction of armaments absolutely meaningless. More and more armaments spread throughout the world will make for greater insecurity, not security. What is now happening in the Far East could be far more dangerous for the whole of mankind if we sell the know-how for more destructive weapons to anyone. Should not we aim to scrap these weapons instead? Let us build up a vast trade with the under-developed world in peaceful goods, agricultural implements and machinery, in which this country is so far ahead of most other countries in the world. The worldwide movement for disarmament is not just a movement to defend the world, not just a movement for survival, but is at the same time and above all a movement for creating new life for the people.

6.55 p.m.


My Lords, about twenty years ago I was talking to Julius Nyerere shortly before he became President of what is now Tanzania. I asked him what he hoped an independent Africa could contribute to world society. I believe Julius Nyerere to be one of the great thinkers and statesmen of our age. His answer was pertinent to this debate. He said he hoped to see an African continent in which there would be no need for armies or navies or air forces, because the people of Africa were one people and would have no need to attack each other, and would see no reason for the preservation or development of weapons of war. Only last week I was talking to President Nyerere whose hopes, of course, have been dashed.

Many noble Lords would consider that it would be an accurate description of this change to describe it as coming up against the realities of life, as though the conditions in which President Nyerere and other African leaders are living today are immutable and unchangeable. We have been arguing from this side that that is not so. I have no doubt that President Nyerere himself would agree with us. He and his people have been caught up in conditions which have been created from a whole variety of social, economic and political factors. But I start with this story becase I want to introduce into this debate, for a very short time, an element which has not been touched on by former speakers; that is, the alarming and tragic increase in armaments in the Third World. I do not have time to analyse why this has taken place; I simply state that it has and support that assertion by these figures.

In 1967 81 per cent. of the world's armaments were concentrated either in NATO or Warsaw Pact countries, and 6 per cent. in Third World countries. Ten years later, in 1977, only 71 per cent. were concentrated in NATO and Warsaw Pact countries and 14 per cent. in the Third World. I regard this as tragic. I can see some reasons for it. The colonial period did not leave the newly independent countries with any experience of peaceful internal security. They had been ruled autocratically and even brutally. The independent countries were frequently left without the means to maintain order within themselves. The colonial countries were the artificial creations of the European powers, leading inevitably to the possibility of border disputes where tribes overlapped a number of borders where economic units had been divided between separate countries and so on. And, of course, the newly independent countries that have come into world society since the end of the Second World War have the long example of our industrial world as regards the building of armies, navies and air forces, and frequently as regards the organisation of para-military police forces. We must certainly not forget those merchants of death, the military salesmen, who are constantly pressing their wares upon those who can certainly ill-afford to buy them and the use of which must lead to still greater tragedy within Third World countries.

However, I must tell my noble friend, Lord Noel-Baker, that he must not despair at the apparent apathy of Members of this Chamber and the sparsity of numbers interested in participating in this vital debate for humanity. He must not despair at the depressing sight of the empty Benches opposite, at the lack of speakers opposite or at what I may be permitted to call the somewhat stereotyped speech from the Front Bench opposite. There has always been a struggle between those who believe in a peaceful world and those who believe that a peaceful world is somehow unnatural and that therefore we must engage a large part of our economic resources in building up weapons of destruction. He must not despair for his words go much further than this Chamber. I believe, from my own experience, that in the continents of Europe and America and in the Third World itself the younger generation—the generation that was not born at the time of the dropping of the first atom bomb—has heeded and is heeding his words and those of my noble friend Lord Brockway, and today is taking a different attitude towards the wasteful use of resources in the armament industry.

Only last night in the corridors of this House I was talking to a Minister of a Third World country who at one time had been an official of the United Nations. He said to me: "Five years ago I was trying to impress my colleagues in the United Nations with one single fact: that the expenditure of 1 per cent. of our armament bill would be sufficient, in itself, to provide clean and abundant water for the peoples of the entire world. It is that at which my country is aiming. It is that which I believe must be the spirit that is expressed through debates like those which take place in the Special Assembly". It is that spirit which I find in our own country among the young people, in Third World countries, on the Continent of Europe and on the Continent of North America.

Therefore, I ask my noble friend Lord Noel-Baker to remember that his life has not been spent in vain and that there are people who have listened to him and who have been affected by what he has had to say. We now have the prospectus—the document on which this debate is based. It is now our responsibility to put that prospectus into practice. One of the central challenges of the rest of this century is to look not just at the waste and the danger of armaments but at the causes of conflict. I am proud to be associated with what I believe is the first school of peace studies in any university in the world, at the University of Bradford in our own country. It has begun to inspire other studies. We know that the lead has been given for many years by the Scandinavians; it is now coming here and it is spreading elsewhere, not least because of the words that have fallen from the eloquent lips of my noble friend Lord Noel-Baker.

I should like to add my tribute to the contribution that my noble friend Lord Goronwy-Roberts has made to the debates at the United Nations. I simply ask him to summon all his strength to make sure that those fine words that he and our Prime Minister spoke at the Special Assembly are translated into action and that the Government associate themselves actively with those forces of peace which they will find ready to be led, not just in the conventional debate between East and West but throughout the much larger population of the Third World countries.

7.8 p.m.


My Lords, as the perpetual beneficiary of my noble friend Lord Noel-Baker I want to repeat, as I always do, my permanent tribute to his persistence, as has been cited already, and above all to what I think was one of the finest speeches that I have heard in the House. Coming at a moment, as has been said, when there seems to be an apathy or a failing in well-doing, I am sure that my noble friend Lord Hatch of Lusby does not need to ask him not to lose hope. He made a most inspiring speech which we all appreciate.

Like my noble friend Lord Brockway, I find myself in some great difficulty because we are now being proved to be the realists, the people who really knew what they were talking about over these years. Everything that we have said as regards nuclear armaments has been proved to be true. We have not produced a deterrent; we have produced a balance of fear, a balance of terror, and the one thing that we know that we cannot tolerate in the world today—it is something so deplorable that we should not—is continual fear; fear which is robbing us of all our capacity to do permanent and durable things which mankind, as we were discussing in an earlier debate, must take into account. We are talking about a noble document. I agree with the final document. It is less than generous for us to treat it merely as a piece of grammar analysis or, indeed, as a piece of rhetoric. There things have become embodied because people have been saying them, working on them, realising them and reorganising them as durable truths. The frightened people of the world are the frightened politicians of the world, because that is where the trouble lies: they are afraid of being caught with their pants down. I usually agree with my noble friend Lord Taylor of Gryfe, but I do not agree that we should not go for unilateral action. If we are prepared to take unilateral action—anything on our own—it is a demonstration of our confidence in our cause, in the fact that we believe the way to security is to reduce capacity to destroy.


My Lords, just for the record, I want to make the point that I believe in taking unilateral action, but I do not believe it is right to have complete unilateral disarmament at this stage, as public opinion is not running in that direction.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord very much. Together with other noble Lords present, I was involved in a campaign for nuclear disarmament, which was in fact unilateral nuclear disarmament. Twenty years on I still believe that if we had been successful then, we would have changed the whole world situation. I mean it. We knew then that we could not afford it. The one thing we could have done was make a virtue out of necessity and say: "We are in a position to produce this, to do anything that anyone will claim to be able to do, and we can demonstrate that we are capable of doing it." At that moment we might have exercised a tremendous amount of influence and anticipated and promoted the non-proliferation pact.

I ask for some degree of belief and faith in what has already been said about the genuine nature of the mass of the people whom we are talking about in the world. We are to believe that they want to live, that they want to exist, that they want their children to grow up and that they want to have fulfilment of themselves and their families. All that is at risk. Why? It is not at risk because we are disarmed. It is at risk because we are armed. If anyone wants to look for security in arms, let him go to Marrakesh now and talk to the Shah of Iran. What did he think he was building up with all those billions-worth of the very latest arms? The United States and everyone else who sold him arms believed that he should be well equipped. The guns of Singapore are once again pointing the wrong way. What are we talking about when we try to find our reassurance in something which is completely unreliable because we do not know what the nature of changes will be? In the present circumstances we do not even know what the pattern of our international relations will be. We hang on tenuously to our belief but we are not quite sure. We arm those beliefs and pretend they are our protection.

Today what we are talking about is the ultimate of our discussions in the present-day world; that is, we are being presented with a picture of what we can do as a rational nation. We are talking through the words of great men who, if they have the courage to go through with their suggestions—and I approve of great men, especially my noble friend Lord Goronwy-Roberts—will make those suggestions reality. Then we could practically change overnight—certainly within the next 20 years—the whole character of the world situation. I speak from 30 years' experi- ence of going round on the opposite side, seeing what can be done about the nature of poverty and human development. We could do it. Today we are talking about the costs of armaments and, above all, the diversion of human ingenuity into creating the instruments and weapons of destruction, instead of that intelligence being directed towards something that will find a positive answer for the real world around us.

Apart from that, as has been said, there is the fact that the developing countries of the Third World are now spending such vast amounts relative to their budgets. In fact, they are crippling their capacity to aid themselves. We are not simply afraid that someone will drop a bomb; we are afraid that if we withdraw our armaments industry we shall have more unemployment, et cetera. Noble Lords must realise that most of the arms which we build today are multi-structural weapons; they are transports, carriers, missiles and so on, with all the electronic devices to make them possible. The Disarmament Committee under the chairmanship of my dear friend, and the dear friend of many of us, Mrs. Alva Myrdal of Sweden, looked at this problem five years ago in order to discover the effect of the redirection of the military-industrial complex into genuine peacetime production. I could draw up a prospectus for tomorrow in which one could find the answer to the industrial problem. On the other side, we would not use so much of the resources which now go into the massive armaments. As my noble friend Lord Noel-Baker said, this is a magnificent document; we want to give it substance and meaning. Above all, we must have faith in that document and refuse to recognise malpractices. If we believe that we can say, "This is the wise thing to do", then these are the things we ought to have the courage to do. And do them.

7.19 p.m.


My Lords, first I should like to join all those who have payed tribute to my noble friend Lord Noel-Baker who initiated this most welcome debate. His own lifelong devotion to the cause of disarmament has, indeed, been crowned by the award of the Nobel Peace Prize. I would add that as Special Adviser to the British Delegation at last year's United Nations Special Session on Disarmament, my noble friend lent a very special authority and prominence to the British contribution.

The Government warmly welcomed the first United Nations Special Session on Disarmament. I notice that the noble Lord, Lord Milford, asked whether I was satisfied that the expectations I fairly temperately made in this House last year had been met. Indeed to a fairly considerable degree I would say yes. This was an occasion for giving a new impetus to disarmament and for creating a more structured approach to the achievement of our ultimate goal of general and complete disarmament.

The Session was successful in promoting greater international awareness of the imperative need for disarmament for various reasons, not the least of which have been deployed by my noble friends Lord Taylor and Lord Ritchie-Calder in the closing stages of this debate. The Session stimulated governments, including our own, to review their arms control and disarmament policies and to come up with new ideas. It gave each State the opportunity to understand better the security preoccupations of others. This is a central fact to all discussions on disarmament. It was in our own view very helpful to international confidence and security that, at British initiative, nuclear weapon States gave the non-nuclear powers assurances about their security from nuclear attack.

The final document of the Special Session was in itself something of an achievement. For the first time the United Nations adopted a comprehensive statement about disarmament, and it did so by consensus, with no State dissenting. The reform of the Disarmament Negotiating Committee in Geneva, to make it more representative, was also a most welcome and tangible outcome of the Session. I am proud of the key role which the United Kingdom played in negotiating this result.

Following the Special Session and the reform of that Committee, as the noble Lord, Lord Banks, so well said, important results are already accruing. France is now taking her place, as he said, in multilateral disarmament negotiations, and China is attending the Committee as an active observer, with a view, I greatly hope, to taking up soon the full membership now reserved for her. We welcome the return of these two great countries to the international dialogue on disarmament. They have been too long absent from this vital discussion. The noble Lord was quite right to emphasise the importance of developments in Geneva as well as in New York.

Nevertheless, this first Special Session on disarmament did not of course achieve all that we in the United Kingdom would have wished. We are disappointed that the Final Document bears some of the scars of the difficult and detailed multilateral negotiations which produced it. It is not enough for any one country to have the right ideas—and I believe deeply that this country and its people have the right ideas about arms control and disarmament. But that is not enough. You are dealing with 148 other countries who will say the right things all the time, but when you sit down with them it is a matter of very hard discussion and even of bargaining. So it is a triumph that this final paper should have been produced by consensus, given the wide range of views, and even fears and suspicions, among the countries concerned.

It naturally lacks balance and it suffers in places, I agree, from a certain vagueness. It is not the clear and practical programme of action which the United Kingdom advocated as the first of a series of co-ordinated plans leading towards a world where no State need fear the level of armaments of its neighbours. It deals, for instance, somewhat superficially with two matters which, in our view, are crucially important; the prevention of the further spread of nuclear weapons and the need for international action by customer and supplier States—customer as well as supplier States.

Here I join my noble friend Lord Hatch, who reminded us of the alarming increase in armaments in Third World countries, who were spending more in the last year, I regret to say, than they have been receiving in aid. This is a terrible fact of life. However, the point I was making was that there is need for international action by customer as well as supplier States to curb the build-up of conventional arms throughout the world. We have strongly supported—and indeed have made a substantial contribution to promoting— the idea of zonal and regional action in this and in comparable fields of arms control and disarmament. I was very glad to hear the noble Lord refer to the possibilities of zonal action. He referred precisely to nuclear-free weapon zones, and there are variations on that kind of zonal provision. We have always been in favour of proceeding regionally and zonally wherever there is any prospect of success.

The true test of the Final Document will be whether it gives new impetus to real disarmament. I take the point about all the fine words, but conferences are made up of words, my Lords, of persuasion, of hard technical argument as well as political exposition. How do we translate those words into real action? This is the test. Eloquence is unilateral; action is multilateral.

It is early to make a proper judgment, but some signs are hopeful. At the 1978 UN General Assembly, the first since the Special Session, the first committee had a much more comprehensive discussion of disarmament than in previous years. Above all, the partners in the major current negotiations have been made even more aware than ever they were of the expectations of the world community. More than one speech last night touched on this in connection with the SALT talks. There is an expectation throughout the world that countries engaged in major current negotiations are expected to consult on, and bear in mind, the interests of humanity as a whole. I have no doubt at all that our partners in the Alliance are doing precisely that.

As I told noble Lords only yesterday, we are looking forward in the near future to the conclusion of a second Strategic Arms Limitation agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union. But I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Banks. There are implications here of direct importance to us in Western Europe and indeed to other parts of the world than the United States and the Soviet Union.

This agreement will involve more comprehensive limitations on the strategic delivery systems of both sides—I gave some little detail on that last night—and for the first time the dismantling of some delivery systems. We look forward to further reductions in these systems in subsequent strategic arms limitation negotiations. We ourselves are working very hard to achieve early success in our negotiations with the United States and the Soviet Union on a properly verified comprehensive test ban. We are part of a triad of triers to achieve a comprehensive test ban—the United Kingdom, the United States, the Soviet Union.

Good progress has been made and agreement has been reached on many issues. The treaty will ban all nuclear weapon tests and a protocol, which is integral to the treaty, will ban so-called peaceful nuclear explosions. There is quite a struggle over this with views sincerely held by both sides about this crucial matter, but we are in sight of success on this difficult question of PNEs—peaceful nuclear explosions. We hope the treaty will not only help to curb the qualitative development of nuclear weapons but also advance our non-proliferation aims by attracting the adherence of non-nuclear Powers, especially those which might be tempted to engage in nuclear tests.

We shall also, of course, be doing everything possible to accelerate progress in the Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction talks in Vienna. Reference was made to the Warsaw Pact proposals of June 1978. We welcomed them. We had been pressing for them for quite a time and, when they came along, we welcomed them warmly as a move towards our concept that the outcome of the negotiations should be parity of ground and air force manpower and that this should be expressed as a common collective ceiling on the forces of the two sides. We have responded constructively to these proposals but I have to say, encouraging as the situation has marginally become, that the Eastern proposals do nothing to solve the continued disagreement about the existing disparity between the forces on each side. One way of stimulating progress in Vienna has been suggested by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary; namely, that there should be a meeting at Foreign Minister level.

Some of the matters mentioned in the final Document will be considered in the new Committee on Disarmament, which began its first session on 24th January. I expressed at the opening meeting the view that the international negotiating body would be invigorated by the reforms agreed at the time of the special session. We think there will be scope for the committee to work on a wide range of significant tasks. In the immediate future we hope it will consider important aspects of a convention to ban the production and stockpiling of chemical weapons.

The House will be aware that this country has been a pioneer, a leader, in this field; it produced a very workmanlike treaty or convention to ban chemical weapons. The United States and Soviet Union have been taking the matter further, and while they continue their negotiations on other aspects of such a convention, we hope the committee itself will consider specific aspects of the matter, and in this connection the United Kingdom considers it would be valuable for the Committee on Disarmament to gain practical experience of ways of verifying that the production of chemical weapons has ceased.

A number of noble Lords rightly stressed the importance of verification; there is no confidence unless there is a feeling that undertakings are in fact being carried out, especially in this field. We have invited relevant experts from the member States of the committee to visit the United Kingdom next month. They will visit a commercial plant producing phosphorous compounds and a former pilot plant for the production of chemical warfare agents. The latter is now in the process of demolition, in line with Britain's renunciation of chemical weapons. The purpose of these visits is to examine possible methods of inspection to ensure that civilian plants are not diverted to the production of chemical warfare agents and to show how an inspection can verify the destruction of production facilities for chemical weapon agents. We look forward to demonstrating in this way, in a practical way—translating our words into action—so that the difficult process of verification can be shown on site to be specifically possible. If it is demonstrated in regard to one aspect of arms control and disarmament, it may well lead to the evolution of a technique of supervision and inspection that can be applied to other areas.

Other aspects of the work are being actively pursued at present outside the negotiations I have mentioned. One important coming event is the United Nations conference in September which is to consider restrictions on the use of certain conventional weapons which are deemed to be excessively inhumane or indiscriminate in their effects. And preparations have started for the second Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in 1980. We hope this review conference, together with the work currently in hand in the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation, will help to identify further measures for pursuing the international transfer of civil nuclear technology while minimising the risk of weapons proliferation.

This is quite an issue, of course. The developing world is naturally anxious to receive the benefits of nuclear technology to develop its countries. I think the developed world—the nuclear world, if one cares to call it that—is prepared, wishes, to do that. At the same time, it is important to see that the transfer of this technology does not, in addition to making it possible to develop civilian programmes of a totally unexceptionable nature, become capable of being diverted into non-civilian, even military and possibily aggressive, purposes. We have a duty to approach this question of the transfer of nuclear technology in this balanced way.

We are also taking steps to implement the Final Document at home. The Government attach the utmost importance to the role of non-governmental organisations in disarmament, and we have shown that. I am the chairman of specially assembled panels in the Foreign Office on various aspects of disarmament, and my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary devotes a tremendous amount of time to disarmament and to the work of these panels. Indeed, it takes me all my time to prevent him from taking the chair away from me from time to time; it is a failing I am very ready to forgive because he is such an excellent chairman. There is plenty of energy and effort in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to engage the interest and contribution of non-governmental organisations in this great work. There are at present in the House tonight, notably my noble friend, people who have attended these meetings, which are fairly regularly held.

As to propagating news about our policies, we do our utmost, but we cannot tell the media what to print or broadcast. Ministers not only go out to the United Nations or to Geneva, or to Vienna for that matter, and pronounce. Reference has been made to a number of carefully prepared speeches I have made in these various disarmament fora, speeches which, I am glad to say, have generally been fairly well received by their audiences in those fora; but as to the lack of attention paid in our media to news of disarmament efforts, I cannot help that. If the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, is complaining that Government Ministers are not doing enough to inform people of what they are doing regarding disarmament, then I would point out that the channels of communication are not under our control. But we do our best.

Since the Special Session we have distributed more documents on disarmament to non-governmental organisations and to interested individuals. We now plan a regular newsletter to replace the annual publication in a White Paper of a collection of documents. I consider the new newsletter a much more effective and readable organ of information than a White Paper which simply puts together a number of documents. We are also about to publish a new edition of our Short Guide to British Arms Control and Disarmament Policy. Of course I cannot guarantee that any of these documents will be reviewed in the quality papers on any Sunday; all I can guarantee is that we shall publish them and disseminate them in their thousands. Beyond that it is not within the power of a democratic Government, or even of the Foreign Office, to guarantee the kind of propaganda the lack of which my noble friend complains of.


My Lords, would not the noble Lord agree that it is really rather more than this; that the complaint is that our Prime Minister and our Foreign Secretary, whose speeches would get into the media, are not giving the emphasis which many of us would desire to the issue of disarmament?


Certainly not, my Lords; I am partner (one might say) to every speech on foreign affairs, including disarmament, which my two right honourable friends make. I have a fairly considerable hand, I hope, in advising as to the content of such speeches. They are frequent and forceful. Given time, I could give a list of very impressive speeches made in the last year, including the speech made by the Prime Minister at the Special Session. Of course, they make such speeches all the time. I make no complaints that these are not taken up in the news media. I am merely answering my noble friend whom I thought was grossly unfair to Ministers.

Moreover, I should like to tell the House something which perhaps is not sufficiently widely known. I have the privilege and the responsibility of being the Minister who directs the work of what we call the Arms Control and Disarmament Department. It is a first-class Department by any Civil Service standards, manned by officials who are at once expert and dedicated. I cannot speak too highly of them; I only wish that I could name them. Noble Lords can forget the slogans about getting down to the techniques and the technologies; these people do this. In addition to the hard work of studying and of shaping proposals which have some hope of success, they have agreed, with my enthusiastic support, even to address meetings in various parts of the country, to explain what we are about in this vital field, and to answer questions. Their efforts have been extremely successful, but I have yet to see a public report of any one of those meetings. But I do not complain about that. What I am saying is that a great deal of work is done by Ministers, and I add, by officials. It is unusual to refer to officials, but I feel that I should, and that I should refer to this rather novel aspect of their work; namely, their readiness to take part in seminars, to speak at meetings, and to answer questions on this work.

I would sum up by saying that the Government are taking very seriously indeed the recommendations made by the Final Document of the Special Session. Despite its shortcomings, it remains the only generally agreed guide to the action that can be followed to promote our aim of general and complete disarmament. We shall continue to strive for precise, balanced, and properly verified agreements to lead us along the path to a safer and saner world.

7.45 p.m.


My Lords, I wish to thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate for their time and trouble, and I thank them also for the kind things that they have said. I would say to the noble Lords, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, and Lord Banks, that I have never been a unilateral disarmer, and that not one word in my speech tonight was in favour of that course. I want world disarmament; nothing less will do. I believe that the case for unilateral nuclear disarmament by Britain is much stronger today than it has ever been, and I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, whether, in his support for nuclear-free zones, he would go so far as to support a nuclear free zone for Western Europe, including Britain. I believe that it might be an admirable plan.

I thank my noble friend Lord Brockway for bringing out the truth that we are the realists today, and that those who so often appropriate the title for themselves, and who urge that great armaments will lead to peace, have proved throughout this century to be, as he said, the prophets of illusion, and of disaster, too. I wish to say a special word of thanks to my noble friend Lord Goronwy-Roberts for his sympathetic and constructive speech, for the fact that Her Majesty's Government put forward the goal of general and complete disarmament as the purpose to be promoted by the Special Session, and for the fact that he took me to New York. I thank him also for the great efforts which he makes in support of this noble cause. I would say to him that I hope he will persuade his great office, in which I have spent more than eight happy years, that great achievements may be within our grasp, and that our doubts are traitors. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.