§ Debate resumed on the Motion moved on Thursday last by Earl De La Warr—namely, That a humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign,
§ "We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."
§ 2.54 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Lord Carrington)
My Lords, at the outset of the debate I should like to say a few words about the appalling series of earthquakes which occurred near Naples on Sunday evening. When the disaster occurred, the Prime Minister and I were in Rome for talks with the Italian Government. We of course expressed the Government's deep sympathy and concern to President Pertini and to the Italian Prime Minister, Signor Forlani. I am glad to say that the Government were able yesterday to provide assistance to the Italian authorities in their relief operation.
Further supplies provided by the voluntary agencies are leaving today. I know that all your Lordships will wish to join me in conveying deep sympathy to the Italian people as they deal with the consequences of this dreadful tragedy.
It is very nice, if I may say so, to see the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, back in his place again, though it will not be quite the same to have a debate on foreign affairs without his participation. I hope that next time he will be able to join in your Lordships' deliberations.
I feel a little guilty that in the long Bill-ridden days of October and November I was not for the most part sharing your Lordships' hardship and admiring your patience. Though, I assure your Lordships, not lying abed, I have certainly not earned the battle honours and the scars which I see so obviously around me. It is all the more important therefore that this afternoon's debate gives me the opportunity to give your Lordships some account of what I have been doing while absent. I apologise to your Lordships should I have to leave before the end of the debate; I think your Lordships will know the reason why.
Eighteen months ago I first had the privilege of speaking to this House as Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, and I did not then make light of the risks of conflict and instability that were evident in the world about us. Since that time we have seen a super-power invade a neutral, non-aligned country, and we have seen 99 Iran and Iraq engage in a war that has cost them many lives and stopped the flow of oil by an amount equivalent to one quarter of Gulf oil supplies to the world market.
We are more conscious than ever that we live in a world of great uncertainty. One major area of uncertainty is surely East-West relations. The hopes for stability and détente that grew in the early 1970s were dealt repeated blows in the late 1970s, especially by the Soviet military build-up in Europe and by Soviet opportunism in the third world, above all in Africa.
But the invasion of Afghanistan nearly a year ago went beyond anything in recent experience. The first direct use of Soviet troops against a traditionally non-aligned state was bound to create a crisis in superpower relations, to present a challenge to lesser nations allied to the super-powers, and to shake the whole foundations of international trust and confidence. That was an attempt to impose a military solution on a political problem, and it has failed. Today, what we need is exactly the reverse.
The problem that has now been created is a military one, and the solution must be political. That is what we—Britain and our partners in the European Community—have proposed. There is more than one way in which this could be arranged. But two things are essential: That the Soviet Union withdraws its troops, and that the Afghan people are left free to choose their own Government and manage their own affairs. Those were two of the points in last week's resolution of the General Assembly, for which Britain and no fewer than 110 other members voted—an even larger number than voted for the earlier resolution in January. If those resolutions are complied with, a great stumbling block to better East-West relations will have been removed.
In the meantime, as I have said before to your Lordships, it is important that channels of communication with the Soviet Union should be kept open. We want political solutions, for which we must maintain political contacts. We also want to see good relations between the super-powers. We want confidence-building measures in the military field, and any other measures which will lead to a genuine reduction in tension in Europe. And I assure your Lordships that Britain will play its part. Because we are a European power, and because Europe is still the key area of contention between East and West, it is here that we should focus our main effort. The harriers that divide Europe have been with us for 30 years. It would be naive to expect that they will soon disappear. But they are far from impenetrable. We in Britain have perhaps, I think, tended to neglect the opportunities in Central Eastern and South Eastern Europe; and it is in our interest, economic and political, to put this right. This year my honourable friend Mr. Blaker, the Minister of State, has visited Bulgaria and the German Democratic Republic; and he has returned today from Czechoslovakia. I myself was in Rumania in March, and in Hungary and Poland in October. My conversations in all those countries were of interest and value to me, and I hope to the other party also; and I very much hope to deepen and widen such contacts.
My visit to Poland was arranged some months 100 before the events of the summer, but its timing added to its significance. We all know with what attention the British people are following developments in Poland. Our policy on this matter is very simple; it is that the Polish Government and people should themselves resolve the great questions that face them. Britain has no other thought than this, and hopes that that is true of every Government. I need not say how grave would be the consequences if the contrary should prove to be the case. My visit to Poland left me hopeful that the Government and the leaders of the free trade unions can work together on the problems that confront them. A peaceful and prosperous Poland is strongly in the interests of all of us, and we very much hope, therefore, that they will succeed.
Our hopes for greater security and co-operation in Europe are at the heart of our participation in the current CSCE review meeting in Madrid. We are glad that the meeting is under way at last. For nine weeks the Soviet Union and its allies resisted the desire of the majority of delegations for a full review of implementation. The majority held firm, and secured adequate time for review. We have insisted on this, my Lords, not to make propaganda but because we take seriously the aims of the Helsinki Final Act. It is a delusion to suppose that we can build the future without facing up to the past and the present. To combine amnesia with myopia is not a formula for gaining security or true co-operation.
Our aims for the conference are not confined to a review of past implementation. We are putting forward ideas on how the Helsinki Final Act may be better implemented in future, and we shall consider proposals put forward by others on their merits. We seek progress on military security, human contacts and the flow of information, and our approach, I assure your Lordships, is positive. Yet I do not believe that we can expect great strides forward at a time when barriers to the movement of people and ideas, which had been lowered, are being raised again by the East; and barriers are going up within Eastern Europe itself.
The recent setbacks to East-West relations make it more important than ever for us to have the military capacity to defend ourselves. I shall not dwell on defence policy, because your Lordships will have an opportunity to debate it next week, though perhaps I might put in a plea that the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, who is to speak after me, could, for the benefit and the enlightenment of the debate next week, explain to us exactly what is the defence policy of the Opposition. Today I simply remind your Lordships that the Government are taking action to maintain and strengthen our national defences and our contribution to the NATO alliance. We have negotiated agreements for the purchase of Trident and the basing of cruise missiles in the United Kingdom, and both will add to our security. Both are part of the response to the Soviet military build-up. The Government view arms control as one element in the search for greater security. We participate in arms control and verifiable agreements that all parties will have an interest in honouring.
Of course, our security rests in large measure upon the Atlantic alliance, and we welcome the election of Governor Reagan to the high office of President of the United States. We look forward to working with 101 his Administration. Governor Reagan's determination to restore the military balance with the Soviet Union is impressive, and it is clear that he will have strong support in Congress and among the American people. We welcome this, and we welcome his commitment to a strong NATO.
I am sometimes asked about differences of view on the two sides of the Atlantic. It has never been true, and I doubt whether it ever will be true, that there are no differences. But let us not lose sight of the fact that our difficulties stem from our strengths: from the strength of democracy, which permits disagreement, and the renewed strength of Europe, which has opened new perspectives. Today, the alliance no longer falls into simple divisions of leaders and followers. To an extent, therefore, the task of leadership is now shared, and this places a new premium on consultation. In the days and weeks after the invasion of Afghanistan allied consultation was, to say the least of it, ragged. There has been a determined effort to improve it since then, and it is essential that the momentum should not be lost as the reins of power change hands in Washington. It is encouraging to read the assurances by Governor Reagan and his advisers about the importance they attach to consultation.
One subject for consultation will be the Middle East, and in this I include the Arab-Israel dispute as well as the Gulf war. Of the various regional disputes which have been dragging on for many years, none should, or does, cause more concern to us in Europe than that between Israel and the Arabs. The activity of the nine countries of the European Community on the Arab-Israel question must, and will, continue. We have stated at Venice the principles on which we believe that a settlement must be based. M. Gaston Thorn, acting as chairman of the Council of Ministers, followed this up with the various parties to the dispute. Now, on the basis of this work, we need to clarify our thinking further and to enter a period of detailed and serious consultations with all those concerned—including, as soon as they are ready, the new Administration in Washington.
The Iran-Iraq conflict is of immediate and grave concern. It is difficult to foresee an early solution, though the elements of an agreement are there if the combatants decide to call a halt. The influence that Britain can exert directly is necessarily limited, but we shall assist in any way we can. In the meantime, we shall of course continue to work for a limitation both of the conflict and of the damage to our direct interests. We do not take sides in the Iran-Iraq conflict. We want good relations with both sides. But I cannot omit to say, nor should I, that we deeply deplore the continued holding of the United States hostages in Iran; and, also, that we seek the early release of the British subjects detained in Iran without trial and without consular access. In any review of the major issues in Britain's international relations an important place should be given to our involvement in international economic questions. We must neither exaggerate nor belittle our own efforts and capacities.
The Government are giving their full support to the international efforts to tackle the problems of developing countries in the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, at the United Nations and through 102 the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD.
We are maintaining a substantial aid programme, the fifth largest among industrialised countries. We shall continue to ensure that our aid is directed primarily to those most in need. Indeed, two-thirds of our aid goes to the poorest countries. At the same time, it is not our view that a solution to the strains and imbalance in the world's economic system can be simply accomplished through aid.
The report of the Brandt Commission has usefully focussed attention on different areas in which action is urgently required: action, for example, on population growth; action to encourage the development of the own resources of low income countries, through agricultural research and investment policies directed at self-sufficiency; and action to develop rational energy policies. In this context, a properly prepared North-South summit meeting could play a valuable part as a forum and a focus at the highest level. We have therefore welcomed the initiative to convene such a meeting in 1981 which has been taken by the President of Mexico—with whom I discussed the subject in August—and also by the Austrian Chancellor. Too much is at stake in the international economic field for us to put easy rhetoric in place of realistic appraisal. It would make no sense to undermine existing arrangements which experience has shown to be sound, but we shall continue to work with other Governments to adapt institutions and policies to meet the needs of a changing world.
Your Lordships will perhaps expect me to say a few words about the negotiations on Namibia which, we hope, are approaching their culmination. Following Dr. Waldheim's report to the Security Council on 24th November, the objective of achieving independence for Namibia during 1981 is rather closer to achievement. In his report, the UN Secretary-General has provided for a pre-implementation meeting to be held in January 1981. The meeting would involve all those concerned with the future of Namibia. Its purpose would be to secure agreement on the few points still outstanding in the negotiations on the implementation of the United Nations' plan. These include the composition of the military component of the UN force, and a date for the cease-fire. On the basis of his consultations, Dr. Waldheim has proposed that the cease-fire should take effect in March 1981.
I think these are promising developments and I hope that the meeting in January will lead to a successful conclusion to these negotiations, though forbearance, skill and willingness to compromise will undoubtedly be needed. These qualities, I think, have been shown by all involved in the consultations of the last few months, including the African front line states, SWAPO, South Africa and the internal parties. Above all, I would, if I may, commend Dr. Waldheim and his staff who have the difficult job of leading the parties to a final decision, and ought not now be delayed for long from carrying out the agreed plan. We shall, of course, use every influence that we have to support the UN Secretary-General in his task.
When I first addressed your Lordships in May 1979 on foreign affairs I stressed that the broad continuity of foreign policy which flows from one British Government to another is reassuring to our friends and allies, and discourages those who do not wish us well from 103 trying to exploit our domestic differences. In the year and half since then we have not neglected that kind of reassurance. But we have sought to go beyond it by conveying, or trying to convey, a clearer sense of what Britain stands for. So we have not only reaffirmed the country's commitments to its old friendships and alliances, and its attachment to traditional values and principles in the conduct of nations. We have also taken action, and put forward ideas, to shape our own future and the future of the wider groupings to which we belong.
By this I mean, above all else, the European Community. This is a forum in which we can achieve nothing if we are not accepted as a serious and reliable partner. Our neighbours know that we are now tackling our domestic problems with a determination that, in my view, has been lacking for many years. The new spirit of realism that is spreading through this country commands respect abroad. And that is fundamental to the way we are viewed by others. At the same time, our neighbours know that our domestic problems have not made us turn inwards. It is no accident that, in the last three months, the Prime Minister and I have had talks in turn with the President, Chancellor and the Prime Minister of France, Germany and Italy. These, and our other partners, constitute the framework for Britain in today's international affairs.
In a speech in Hamburg 10 days ago I suggested a programme for the Community. It was briefly as follows. In the short term, a restructured budget based on a reformed and slimmed common agricultural policy, strengthened expenditure policies in the non-agricultural field, and a lasting solution to ensure that no member state will ever again feel the burden of membership to be out of proportion to the benefits. In the medium term, a completed common market with free movement of goods, people and services made a reality, and with more measures which benefit ordinary people in their daily lives. But that is not all. The Community faces other challenges. There is, first of all, the challenge of enlargement. Next January, a little over a month from now, we shall welcome Greece as the tenth member. We shall work for the success of the negotiations with Spain and Portugal. Our aim is a Community growing not so much in size as in strength and influence and a Community growing also in quality. It is in that context that I have recently made suggestions for the improvement of the system of political co-operation among its members. The fact that this co-operation does not rest upon the Treaty of Rome makes it possible to be both bolder and more flexible in developing it.
I reject the view that European unity conflicts with Atlantic unity. All the nations of the European Community acknowledge—how could they not?—the importance of good transatlantic relations. The many links of culture, language and history which we in the United Kingdom have with the United States equip us to make a special contribution to Europe's relations with America. We are convinced that transatlantic relations will be strengthened rather than weakened as Europe comes to speak with a unified voice rather than a Babel of discordant tongues.
It has been this Government's consistent objective to work for a strong Europe acting in close partnership 104 with a strong America. The twin pillars of that alliance will provide the best support for a structure for peace. We are confident that this objective can be fulfilled. We are convinced that in it lies the surest way of safeguarding the vital interests of the United Kingdom. And we are determined to be second to none in working to achieve it.
§ 3.20 p.m.
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
My Lords, I certainly begin by saying that we are glad to see the Foreign Secretary with us again. It would not be fair on my part to say that I wish he had been with us during the long nights of the summer. I do not believe that any human being ought to be asked to sustain both the burden of being Foreign Secretary and the burden of detailed legislation in the House. There is a limit to human endurance. We are glad to see the noble Lord again, and everyone has listened with great interest to the important survey that he has given of the issues before the country.
I must add also that I must make an apology, as has the noble Lord, for the fact that I will not be here at the end of the evening, for the same reason as the Foreign Secretary. I also want to begin, as he did, with an expression on behalf of my noble friends and myself of our deep sympathy with the Italian people at the present time.
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
My Lords, I remember one of the last tasks that I performed as Foreign Secretary was to visit Turkey in the aftermath of a great earthquake, and one is moved by the courage with which people in these dreadful circumstances set to work to pick up their lives again. I think we can say with confidence that we know the Government will do whatever is appropriate and is in their power to help the victims of this terrible tragedy.
The Foreign Secretary was right to depict the general situation as one full of anxiety. At first sight there seemed to be depressing similarities with the decade of the 1930s. There is now, as there was then, a steady pile-up of arms and two unfriendly camps looking at each other in Europe. There is now, as there was in the early 'thirties, a worldwide recession. The danger of that is that the suffering it produces is liable to tempt Governments to violent and dangerous courses. I do not feel as one felt, say, in 1938. In that year all of us who can remember it felt that the situation had arisen where war was inevitable. I do not feel that to be the situation today; for if there are similarities, there are also great differences.
One difference is that, much as we may criticise the actions of the Soviet Government, I do not believe that when we face them we are facing someone such as we faced in 1938 who was unshakably resolved on war. When we deal with the Soviet Government I believe they are certainly difficult fellows to face across the negotiating table, but they are amenable to reason. It is a long job and requires constant repetition of argument if one is to get anywhere.
Secondly, we have now—as we had not then—an alliance with the United States. We have brought 105 together the democratic forces of Western Europe and the great power of the United States. How different the history of the world could have been if there could have been that identity of purpose in 1938 or, even earlier, in 1914. It seems to me impossible that any person who wants the world kept at peace could do other than welcome the fact that that alliance exists and want it to continue in full vigour in name and in fact.
A third difference—the results of which are more difficult to predict—is that today the countries that we commonly called the third world, the countries of Africa and Asia, play a larger and more complicated and self-conscious part in the affairs of mankind than they were able to do in the 1930s. That creates problems, possibilities and challenges for us.
In this situation, it seems to me that the task facing Britain and like-minded countries is first to keep the peace, to see that the anxieties that we face each month do not burst out into uncontrollable conflagration, and, having kept the peace, to use the time it gives us to make the world a more stable and a more just place. We are all familiar with the two old mottoes:If you wish for peace, prepare for waror, as some hopefully put it:If you wish for peace, prepare for peace".The truth of that is to be found in the motto of the International Labour Organisation:If you wish for peace, cultivate justice".A situation should be created in which there are more people in the world who believe that the preservation of the peace is in their interest and fewer who are in the state of such resentment against the injustice of society that they are ready to risk the peace of the world in order to alter it.
It is on those two themes that I want to concentrate: the keeping of the peace, the immediate task, and then the using of the peace for certain constructive policies that I have in mind. On the keeping of the peace, not long before his death Lord Mountbatten made an impressive speech at Strasbourg in which he described most graphically the horrors of nuclear war and what unspeakable folly it would be on the part of mankind if we managed to land ourselves in such a conflict. It was very significant that, having done this, he then addressed himself to the question: How do we avoid it? He said without any doubt or equivocation that the first step must be to preserve the present balance. I believe that to be true.
I was glad to notice—and this may answer the muted challenge that the Foreign Secretary made to me—my right honourable friend Mr. Peter Shore, when they debated foreign affairs yesterday in another place, said that we agree that the balance of military power must be sustained. He went on to say—quite rightly—that it can be sustained at a higher or lower level, and common sense requires that we seek to maintain it at a lower level if that can be done. Clearly we cannot, if we want the peace to be kept, allow military balance to be massively tilted against ourselves and our allies.
Perhaps I had better spell this out a little further. Those who argue in favour of unilateral disarmament have been speaking very plainly in recent months. Sometimes the view is put forward that one can believe 106 in both multilateral and unilateral disarmament at once. I think that the proposition is that we will seek for multilateral disarmament if we can get it; but if that fails, we will disarm unilaterally. I object to that not so much because I think it is wrong—though I do—but because I think it is impossible. The moment one says that and the moment the person with whom one is negotiating knows that one has said it, why on earth should he make any conceivable concession? If he knows at the end of the day you are going to disarm anyhow, he would really have to be angelic to meet you halfway. I am afraid not even the most optimistic assessment of the Soviet Government allows one to reach that conclusion.
I hope that I have made it quite clear to the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary and to the House what I believe, what my right honourable friend Mr. Peter Shore believes, and what any future Labour Government would of necessity act on. I hope that is clear. Having said that, it is important to notice that this is only the beginning of wisdom. This can only be the first step to say that we are going to preserve the military balance. To stop there is the course both of stupidity and despair. As Mr. Peter Shore pointed out, one has to search for the balance on a lower level if it can conceivably be obtained. I realise that the Government may wish to deploy this theme more fully in next week's debate on defence; but there are one or two things one ought to say, because one cannot divorce disarmament entirely from a discussion on foreign affairs.
The noble Lord the Foreign Secretary mentioned the conference at Madrid. I hope that next week we may be told a bit more about the details of the Government's attitude to multilateral disarmament. Indeed, I think it would be a good thing if the Government were to give in a White Paper, not merely to Parliament but to the country, a fuller explanation than we have had so far as to how they believe it could be attained, what their own proposals are and what progress they expect.
It is important to drive home into the public mind that we are genuine when we say that we do want multilateral disarmament. If that is not made clear, the kind of mood that despairs of the whole thing and leads people to say, "We'd better give up this business of armaments altogether", might become more widespread. So I hope that we shall hear a bit more in due time of the Government's attitude to disarmament.
Meanwhile I would say this; I am sure it is wrong to assume that all proposals about disarmament emanating from the Soviet Union are bogus. Some are a bit disingenuous but I think that experience shows that if you are patient enough you do get agreement with the Soviet Government on certain points. It took 10 years to get them to agree to the Austrian State Treaty. When it was agreed it was a very valuable achievement. Years ago the partial test ban treaty took a great deal of patient negotiation, but it was achieved in the end. The Madrid Conference itself, which springs from Helsinki and the Helsinki Final Act—and which contained some things we were not too happy about and some things which the Russians would never have agreed to in the first place—all these things demonstrate that it is quite wrong to appproach the Soviet Union with the attitude 107 of, "We are not going to be cheated: we know what they are up to". It is not as simple as that. The world is not absolutely divided into "goodies" and "baddies". So while I do not resile at all from what I have said about the need for this country to maintain its defences, there is also the need for patience and imagination in seeking multilateral disarmament and agreement, so far as it can be obtained from the Soviet Union, over as wide a field as possible.
I think, too, on the subject of arms that nations must consider whether we and our allies cannot have something more like an agreed policy about the sale of arms to smaller countries. It is inevitable, in a world where some countries have not the facilities to make sophisticated weapons, that they will want to buy them from those who can make them. There are circumstances in which it is right to meet requests of that kind, but it is true also that fighting and unrest is going on in the Middle East waged with arms supplied not only from the East but from different countries in the West. We ought to try to get an agreed view among our allies about the sale of arms. My noble friend Lord Noel-Baker drew attention long ago to the great evil in the world of the influence of private armament manufacturers: and a great evil it was then. Our problem now is not with the private armament manufacturers, but with the policies of Governments. To that also I hope the Government will give their attention.
The noble Lord referred to events in Iran and Iraq. I will not develop that because I know many noble Lords wish to speak and it is always a mistake, in talking about foreign affairs, to mention every subject. Sometimes, when you are Foreign Secretary you have to, because foreign countries complain the next day if you have left them out. I am subject to no such anxieties, but I would just add about Iran and Iraq that I hope it will never be forgotten what a grave outrage against international law the seizure of the hostages was. This is really elementary, and I hope that will be made very clear indeed to the Iran Government. Even now they are talking as if they were in a position of right and are entitled to work out a fair bargain. They have no business to be in that position at all.
Turning to the third world, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor yesterday gave an account of the growth of Western civilisation, or European civilisation as it is sometimes called. Perhaps a better term would be "Mediterranean civilisation" since it originated at the point where three continents meet, which was probably why it originated there, with the interplay of different cultures. We followed what the noble and learned Lord said with interest. I should like to add a further chapter to it.
In more recent centuries this civilisation of ours has brought into its orbit the peoples of Africa and Asia who at that time were less powerful and less well armed. European civilisation made those countries serve Europe's purposes as suppliers of raw materials and sometimes indeed as suppliers of soldiers, who were then brought into Europe's conflicts. By now that period of subjection to Europe is over and the participants in the surprising development in history, the peoples of Asia, Europe and Africa, look at each other and wonder quite what their relations are today.
108 For the long-term preservation of peace it will be of great importance to get proper relations between countries like ourselves, the countries of Western Europe and the United States on one hand, and the countries of Asia and Africa on the other. I believe it has been a general rule that when civilisations have put themselves in peril it has usually been because of the refusal of the most fortunate people to share what they had with the less fortunate. That is the situation today. We have made a complex civilisation, in which Europe led in the past and in which Europe is still the richest and the countries of Asia and Africa are poor by comparison. If it is not apparent that Europe recognises its responsibility to bridge that terrifying gap between the standard of life of Europe on the one hand and that of Asia and Africa on the other, we shall be creating an explosive situation.
I think that the peoples in the third world are concerned partly about their standard of life, over the dreadful poverty that still afflicts them and which is all the more striking by contrast with the relative prosperity of Europe. But they are concerned also with justice and with status, with feeling that they are no longer regarded as an inferior people.
One field in which we can demonstrate what we believe about that is Namibia. Whether Namibia proceeds to full statehood in the way that the United Nations has prescribed is going to be a test of the United Nations itself and of the good faith of the more powerful countries in the world. I welcomed what the Foreign Secretary had to say about that. It remains to be seen how helpful or unhelpful South Africa is going to be in the future stages of the negotiations. In some quarters the Government have been pressed to state very firmly what they will do if South Africa is obstinate and unco-operative. I would not try to put that kind of pressure on the Foreign Secretary. It is more prudent to go, as at present he is, seeking agreement. As he says, the signs are not unpromising, but the Government will have to have in their own minds the thought of what is to be done if the necessary measure of co-operation and goodwill is not forthcoming from South Africa.
As to the huge gap in the standard of life between ourselves and the third world, here I must be rather more critical of the Government than I have been in other fields. Quite frankly, the Government's replies to the Brandt Report have been 99.9 per cent. negative. They have often been skilful in pointing out the difficulties of the ideas in the Brandt Report. It seemed to me that they were more anxious to prove that it could not be done, than to examine what parts of it could be done. Meanwhile, there have been Government measures in the field of aid and the treatment of overseas students that are not really appropriate to the real situation in the world.
Because this cannot be denied. Whatever the good intentions of ourselves and other countries, we are not keeping pace with this problem of the gap between the standard of life of the poorer and the richer countries. The gap, if anything, gets wider. It is harder and harder to persuade the people of the poorer countries that the wealthy and rich countries of the world really do want to create a less unequal and a less unjust civilisation. I do not think that that can be denied. Whatever has been done, it has not so far 109 been enough. We have not been running fast enough even to keep in the same place. I ask the Government, therefore, to reconsider their attitude on these matters, to see whether they can come forward with something more imaginative and with more substance in it.
It is tomorrow that we are debating the Government's economic policies and I shall not develop that subject now. I will merely say that it is unfortunate that, since the Government's economic policies at the moment seem to be making us all poorer at home, that is having the result that we cannot even fully keep up with our defence commitments and we have a disappointing record in the field of overseas aid. It still comes to this. The Government regard it as more important to give income tax concessions to people with £10,000 a year and over, than to observe fully our commitments to NATO or to make more generous provision for the third world, and I think that they have got their priorities wrong.
However, if we are to go forward and, whether from a change of heart by the Government or a change of Government itself, pursue policies that enable this country again to become rather better off, that has to be done in the context of widening world trade and not of trade restrictions of any kind. For this, I accept that membership of the European Community must be an important part of our policy, and it must be membership without afterthoughts.
There are a good many things which we want to see put right in the European Community. But it seems to me that, if we go to them one month and say: "We want this put right", and if our partners are asking themselves: "What is the good of this? If we satisfy the British grievance this month, they will only find another one next month, because in the last resort they are planning to get out", we shall not get very far. I say again what I believe and what I think a good many of my noble friends believe as well.
I conclude by saying that I have spoken of keeping the peace, of matters of defence and armaments, of using the peace and of our duties and our responsibilities towards the third world. I believe that this country and its allies have the capacity and sheer physical wealth and strength to do what is necessary. We have yet to see whether they have the will and the imagination to do it. If the Foreign Secretary shows us that he has, he can be assured of support on this side of the House.
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, I am glad to see that we shall, today week, be discussing defence and I propose to reserve my detailed comments till then. Today I propose, with your Lordships' permission, to devote my quarter of an hour to an investigation of our general philosophy of defence, which I continue to think is something which we ought to consider from time to time. Later in the debate, my noble friend Lord Banks will give the Liberal view on foreign policy generally and will, no doubt, comment on the excellent speech of the Foreign Secretary, whose remarks on Europe, more especially, I was delighted to hear.
As I see it, the main purpose of British defence is—pending disarmament or some agreed limitation of armaments, to which we must work always with the 110 greatest enthusiasm—to help prevent the outbreak of war, by making it clear that it would result in no advantage to any potential combatant, thus discouraging all from ever starting it up, or by their actions rendering it inevitable.
The alternative, to my mind, is a policy of no defence—sometimes called a policy of unilateral disarmament—or, not to put too fine a point on it, a policy of surrender. That is a policy which, in spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, said, and even, possibly, what the shadow Foreign Secretary said in another place, seems to me to be in grave danger of being accepted by the Labour Party. In fact, it has been, because they have passed by an enormous majority a policy of what they call "unilateral nuclear disarmament". As I see it, that is indeed a policy of surrender, for it is not distinguishable, in practice, from a policy of unilateral disarmament. Why?
First, if you take away from the British Army of the Rhine its second strike nuclear support—which, presumably, you have to do if the Labour Party's policy is carried out—then you will have to bring it back to the United Kingdom, because neither the Americans nor the Germans would agree to accept this hole in our defence. We should thus have to withdraw the British Army of the Rhine and the tactical air force.
If you do that and if, in addition, extrude the Americans from all their bases in this country—because that is what you would have to do; they have nuclear arms and nuclear bombs at those bases—and send them back to America, and you bring the British Army of the Rhine and the tactical air force back to this country, what will be the effect? The inevitable consequence is that you disrupt NATO. If you disrupt NATO, then Western Europe is indefensible and, therefore, the policy of unilateral nuclear disarmament is equivalent to a policy of surrender. I am very sorry that the Labour Party is, apparently, hoisting the white flag alongside the red. I think it is a policy which will not be accepted by the people of this country, when they understand what is up—if they do.
To get back to my own definition of "defence", that has certain logical consequences, if you follow it with attention. The first is that we must follow this principle ourselves. However much the Russians should be pressed on human rights and Afghanistan—as they should be—there are circumstances, surely, such as the prospect of losing all control of their so-called glacis in Europe, which might induce them, whatever the disadvantages, to risk a war, just as there are circumstances, such as an immediate threat to our oil supplies in the Gulf, which might induce the West, and more especially America, to do likewise. These are facts of life which no one can disregard.
But another consequence of my definition is that unless the alliance's defences, both nuclear and conventional, are adequate, and are seen to be adequate, the present adversary might still, in the event of some crisis being provoked elsewhere in the world, decide to risk a war on the assumption that the West would not use nuclear weapons in Europe on a first strike and that, if so, victory in Europe, at any rate, would be likely. Or he might argue that, owing to an understandable reluctance on the part of the Americans to employ their strategic weapons on a first strike, a 111 limited exchange of nuclear weapons in Europe might be acceptable. Either possibility is perfectly real. Neither is certain, for the disadvantages of any war—and here I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Stewart—from the point of view of the Kremlin, must be obvious. But, since these possibilities exist, we must do our best to guard against both; the question is, how best?
Naturally the best way—here again I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham—is by negotiation, both on nuclear and on conventional weapons. Both are now bogged down, and probably will be, until progress is registered on Afghanistan, if not on human rights. Even in the absence of progress, again I agree that the balance is the thing. The proposed installation of United States cruise missiles, for instance, in Western Europe should go some way towards rectifying the nuclear balance, anyhow in Europe. At least it could be used as a bargaining counter. It might also be good if the new Republican Senate in the United States did not insist on any very substantial changes in the already agreed SALT II treaty. But it is in conventional weapons that the gravest imbalance still prevails, and that therefore, surely, is where the real danger lies.
Until fairly recently, as we all know, the accepted wisdom has been that even a three to one "conventional" imbalance, such as now exists, more or less, could, given nuclear parity, be tolerated since we could, if necessary, always use the nuclear weapon on a first strike. This policy, as I have said for many years, is becoming increasingly "incredible". No doubt the Soviet Union does not want a war, but we must think about what would happen if deterrence failed to work. That is what defence is about.
Admittedly dropping nuclear bombs on the advancing tanks and on the facilities serving them could hold up a push, but it is pretty obvious that the Soviet Government would not simply call it off in that event and sue for peace. It would immediately reply in kind, thereby not only disrupting our own armoured formations but also knocking out our airfields, and more especially our communication centres, and no doubt many ports, thus effectively damaging our lines of communication. We should, for our part, by our own nuclear action also have disrupted the Soviet lines of communication, but these could probably be restored more easily than corresponding action in the West. Therefore, the only way to prevent eventual defeat in such disastrous circumstances would be to generalise the nuclear war, involving appalling and quite unacceptable damage on both sides. In other words, a first strike nuclear policy by either side really makes no kind of sense. Here I agree entirely with the late Lord Mountbatten and, indeed, if I understand what he says, the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman.
It is of course unfortunately possible that for their part the Russians might make a nuclear first strike from the word "go", or even out of the blue—before it. This is what their military textbooks, if you consult them, and notably the late Marshal Sokolowski, say must be done in the event of war, though it is by no means certain that the Politburo would follow their example. Indeed, the possibility of a first strike has been quite recently flatly denied, in an interview with, 112 I think, the Herald Tribune, by no less a person than General Mikhail Milshtein in Moscow, who presumably speaks with some authority. If, however, such action is taken, then there would be no alternative but for the Atlantic powers to retaliate by means of their tactical or theatre nuclear weapons in Europe in so far as these had not been already knocked out by a Russian unheralded strike. And that is presumably what these weapons are there for. They have no other purpose, as I see it. Whether the Americans would employ their strategic nuclear weapons in retaliation may be doubted, unless the Russians themselves had generalised the war. So the result of a Russian nuclear first strike in Europe would probably be much the same as if we for our part had struck first; namely, a horrible and totally unprofitable stalemate.
If a nuclear war is therefore unlikely, unless the whole of the human race has gone completely mad, what then should we do to avoid a possible defeat in a conventional war? Well, apart from pressing on, within the limits of the possible, with SALTs II and III at Vienna, we must surely so construct our defences in Europe as to demonstrate that the East has small chance of breaking through, save by employing nuclear weapons to which, in view of the comeback, it is most unlikely that it would ever have recourse. After all, we might learn something from the recent apparent failure of the Iraqi tanks to make a quick breakthrough in Khuzistan. At the moment, our forces are in no position to hold a determined Eastern conventional offensive for more than a very limited period. Nobody doubts that. But if we set our minds to it we could, in a comparatively short time and without undue expense, so deploy the necessary anti-tank and anti-aircraft purely defensive weapons and devices of the most modern character as to make it plain (a) that a conventional war would not result in a Soviet victory but at the best in a kind of ruinous draw; and (b) that a nuclear war, even if limited to Europe, would be mutually suicidal—thus, with luck, avoiding either.
We read in the papers that the Germans are complaining that they have not got the skilled men to operate all the sophisticated modern defensive arms that are now becoming available. Perhaps this is also true of ourselves and of the Americans? If it is true, it is high time that we set about enlisting and training the necessary men, upon whom, so it would appear, our whole defensive system will increasingly depend. Possibly the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, will tell us what the position is when he winds up on Wednesday, but perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, who is to wind up today could tell us whether it is true that the Germans are going back on their obligation to increase their defence expenditure by 3 per cent. per annum, or rather whether they are maintaining it, despite the grave financial disadvantages, from their point of view, of so doing.
In the face of this fearful conventional imbalance, what do the Government propose to do? It seems odd, to say the least, but it is a fact that the Government's immediate reaction is to spend £5 billion, and in all probability very much more, over 10 years or so in order to renew and strengthen our strategic nuclear force. The only logical justification for this must be to discourage the Russians by making it apparent that 113 if they attack in Europe they will be in danger of subjecting some of their chief cities, if not Moscow, to separate British nuclear attack.
This is really the point. If the Americans, concerned with the safety of their cities, are not prepared to take such action in the event of war, it must be obvious that we should not be so prepared, either. If, however, the Americans are prepared to make a first strike, then our own force adds little and is obviously otiose. The fact is that the attitude of the West on this crucial issue can only be common. We in the United Kingdom simply cannot be expected to put our cities at risk entirely on our own, a fact which I believe is now becoming increasingly apparent, even to the French. Therefore, though our Polaris force can go on, as we know, for many years, for what it is worth, in its second strike capacity—perhaps for 10 or 15 years—our £5 billion to £10 billion would just be money wasted instead of being used for purposes which really could be instrumental in avoiding any kind of war.
All the more so since, whatever the Minister of Defence may say, the money for the renewed strategic nuclear force can, in the long run, only be raised at the expense of the Vote for conventional armaments which will therefore not be stepped up, as they should be, but actually cut down. Apparently, as a first step in this direction, and contrary to his recent solemn assurance, the Secretary of State for Defence has now accepted a cut of no less than £200 million in the 1981 estimates, thus violating our NATO obligation to increase defence expenditure annually by 3 per cent.
What the effect of this will be on the Americans and even on the Germans remains to be seen, but it can only be deplorable. So we can only hope, and we must go on hoping, that on reflection the Government will not spend the £5 billion to £10 billion on Tridents but will devote some of the money so saved to maintaining and indeed developing our conventional defences. Let us hope, also, that the new American Administration, rather than spending many more billions than that on putting their land-based ICBMs on underground railways to guard against a Soviet first strike—which probably only exists in the fevered imagination of nuclear strategists—will spend at least some of the money on strengthening and improving the morale of their forces in Germany; in making all available ships and aircraft immediately seviceable instead of being in mothballs; and in bringing the powerful American conventional forces into first-rate order.
There are welcome indications that the Americans may be prepared to do exactly this—always supposing that their European allies do not now rat on their solemn undertaking to increase their defence expenditure by 3 per cent. per annum. Together with serious negotiations on SALT and at Vienna—dependent though these are, of course, to some extent on Soviet behaviour—this would be a constructive move worthy of an American Administration which, it seems, are determined to make America both feared and respected.
Madrid (with which my colleague the noble Lord, Lord Banks, will be dealing later in the debate) seems to be proving that the Soviet Government, unfortunately, have no intention of giving effect to the famous Helsinki "basket" on human rights—and I must say 114 I never imagined that they could or would. Nor have they any present intention of leaving Afghanistan, though as we must hope it may be possible to reach some agreement on that if the West keeps up its pressure and refrains, in the absence of agreement, from propping up the obviously ailing Soviet economy.
But détente is not the only basis for some kind of international order resting, if not on East-West understanding (which may well be impossible) at least on some kind of East-West coexistence, a mutual tolerance, a sort of Zusammenleben as the Germans say, involving, among other things, a joint declaration never to have recourse to nuclear weapons in any circumstances at all. This sort of solution will not be reached by the pursuit of a will-o'-the-wisp—namely, the conversion of the Soviet Government to liberal principles—but rather by demonstrating at once a determination to frustrate Soviet efforts to divide and rule and a willingness to negotiate arms limitation on perfectly equal (I repeat, perfectly equal) terms. Unfortunately, such a resolute policy may well call for sacrifices of which the Western democracies may not be capable. Certainly the present mood of this country is not very encouraging. What we want, therefore, is a Government who will tell the people what the dangers are and how all classes must forgo immediate gain, and even suffer some loss, in order to avoid them. It used to be said that vulgus vult decipi (the people love to be deceived) and it would be fatal to play into the hands of the unilateral disarmers by squandering money on an inoperable strategic deterrent and at the same time alienating the Americans by weakening—or at least not further strengthening—the Air Force, the Royal Navy and, above all, perhaps, the British Army on the Rhine. The Prime Minister may—and I personally expect she will, if not explicitly—make a few more U-turns in her famous monetary policy: but on conventional arms and on the 3 per cent. increase she really should not turn. No doubt she sees herself as Britannia—no harm in that. Unfortunately, Britannia no longer rules the waves, and if only for that reason it is high time that she discarded her Trident for a serviceable sword.
§ 4.4 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Derby
My Lords, my starting point is the one paragraph in the gracious Speech which made reference to world development policy. The Queen said:My Government recognise the serious economic problems that affect both developed and developing countries and will continue to work with other countries and international organisations in seeking to alleviate them".That sentence gives modest reason for encouragement, but there are two features of the Prime Minister's speech in the debate in another place last Thursday which enlarge this encouragement.
The first feature is the expansion of the Youth Opportunities Programme, seemingly irrelevant to this particular debate, but only seemingly so. In introducing this in another place on Friday Mr. Prior called it "a new deal for the young unemployed". The associations of the name "new deal" convey ideas with vision about them; an awareness of adaptability to demanding circumstances. I have no wish to criti- 115 cise the Government's general economic policies or their consistency over them, but here is a flexibility to be commended. Could not the same flexibility take the place of the distinctly negative action over world development that the Government have taken so far? The North-South conference to be held next year and the Government support of it, to which the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has referred, is of course to be put in the positive side of the balance.
The second feature mentioned by the Prime Minister is the enlightened and courageous stand taken to resist those who seek to protect some of our industries, such as the textile industry, against imports from third world countries. A particular mention was made of a tariff placed on Indonesian textiles. By imposing a quota on imported textiles worth £4 million, we lost export orders to Indonesia of £150 million. The Prime Minister said:We cannot afford to lose the world markets on which so much trade and so many jobs depend".—[Official Report, Commons; vol. 499, col. 31.]The Prime Minister has shown herself ready to learn from experience.
The main central lesson of the report of the Brandt Commission has in fact been learned and, in accordance with it, the Government are refusing to protect our industries against those same industries in other countries which for various reasons are more competitive than our own. There is encouragement in that. The Prime Minister went on to say:Nations overseas are applauding our new strength and resolve".—[col. 41.]She has her evidence for this, for sure, but which are the nations? Do they include the underdeveloped ones?
A second lesson of the Brandt Report is:That progress will only be made nationally if it can be made globally".Where do we find determination by the Government to improve, not just the employment prospects of young people by the stability of the world of tomorrow in which young people will be living, by using other means than armaments and diplomacy? I accept the defence provision and would not question the necessity for it, but armaments can no longer be our sole defence.
The Prime Minister said:We are the only major industrial nation self-sufficient in energy. Rising revenues from North Sea oil will give us the opportunity to promote real growth in the economy".—[col. 41.]Would not growth in our own economy be served by growth in the world economy? The Government's answer is, of course, yes. But would not growth in the world economy be served, if only within the commonwealth of nations, if some Government measure, as well as offering shares in that wealth to British people, offered preferential terms as well for poorer commonwealth nations to buy a proportion of their oil from this country and so cut their expenditure on energy imports? Here I endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, said about the poorer nations and our treatment of them. To quote again from the report of the Brandt Commission:The economies of the North need to regain economic vitality, but their intimate dependence on world markets makes it impossible for them to do this by trying to put their own house in order while forgetting about the rest of the world".116 If we speak of a new deal for our young unemployed at home, we look to the Government to work for a new deal for our young people in a world of greater justice and stability. As the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury said in a recent reference to the Brandt Report:I fear we are in danger of subjugating the international imperative to the domestic imperative, and if this is so, then it may prove to be a very dangerous and foolish mistake".The General Synod of the Church of England tried to persuade the Government not to make that mistake when, on 14th November, it passed the following resolution:That this Synod deplores the reduction in official development assistance to poorer countries and requests Her Majesty's Government to restore cuts already planned, and to make substantial progress in reaching the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent. of the gross national product in support of a development programme".That motion was passed by 263 votes to 2.
In passing that resolution the Church of England registered a major concern over the Government's policy laid down in the Queen's Speech. Although it is proposed to cut the defence budget by £200 million it is still Government policy that public expenditure on defence should increase by 2½ per cent. in real terms next year. Defence is still made the one exception to the overall policy of cutting public expenditure, while Brandt argues persuasively that overseas aid contributes more to international stability and to the rule of law than expenditure on tanks and guns. Yet, our aid programme for 1981–82 is to be cut even further, according to the speech made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on Monday night.
Why, in a time when the interrelationships of the third world, of Europe and of North America are so important, is the Development Education Fund not restored? The bishops of the Church of England, the Church in Wales and the Scottish Episcopal Church urged the Government 18 months ago to retain it. The reason for their attitude was, and is, that without a strong body of opinion in Britain that understands why aid should be given, future aid budgets will inevitably be cut far more severely than any possible savings from abolishing the Development Education Fund. Yet the declared policy of the Government in their election manifesto of 1979 was this:Britain has a vital interest in bringing prosperity to poorer nations. The next Conservative Government will help them through national and international programmes of aid and technical co-operation, and by the encouragement of voluntary work".Not only do the present cuts in Government aid exceed the total amount of funds collected by voluntary agencies, and therefore diminish the fruits and labours of countless voluntary collectors at a single stroke, but the cutting of the Development Education Fund takes away that financial support for voluntary work, such as that done all over the country in One World Week.
In summary, two features of the Prime Minister's statement after the Queen's Speech gave cause for at least measured encouragement. The Government are ready to be flexible and to learn. But these three further features cause great dismay: their failing to support the poorer commonwealth nations with our oil; their cutting aid to the undeveloped countries; 117 their ending of the Development Education Fund. Both this country and the world need from the Government greater conviction and stronger action in the area of world development.
§ 4.15 p.m.
Lord Home of the Hirsel
My Lords, if the right reverend Prelate will forgive me, I will not follow him in the detail of his speech on the possibilities of helping the developing world. He made a powerful argument for free trade, with which I agree. When monies are scarce, as indeed they are, it is not possible, I think, for the Governments of the West to do as much as they would like. I know exactly where I would deploy the monies available, if I had them. I would deploy them in agriculture to produce more food for the developing countries, and in the infrastructure of communications. I remember Mr. Nehru telling me that the mistake he had made in India was premature industrialisation before the agricultural base was firm. I think that is a guide which we might follow if and when we are able to increase the funds we are able to deploy in the third world.
Like so many of his predecessors, my noble friend Lord Carrington felt obliged to devote much of his review of the international scene to the tensions created by the continuing trend in Soviet Russia's foreign policy to expansion of her sphere of influence, and, secondly, to the priority she is giving to rearmament, devoting as she does something between 11 and 14 per cent. of her budget to military purposes. Much as the leaders of the western democracies would like to concentrate on the organisation of détente, and hard as they tried at Helsinki and at Belgrade to pin down the Russians to the substance of it, little or no progress has been made up till now. Indeed, the situation is in many ways worse than it was.
I would like, if I may, to read to your Lordships Principle 2 of the Helsinki Final Act, to which the Russians subscribed after lengthy negotiations, word by word negotiations in that meeting. It reads as follows:The participating states will refrain from any intervention in the internal or external affairs falling within the domestic jurisdiction of another participating state, regardless of their mutual relations".By her takeover of Afghanistan, Russia broke that pledge which she had freely signed, and so too she has gone back on her signature in a number of cases on human rights.
The reason for the inquest at present being held in Madrid is not that the West obtains any pleasure or satisfaction from putting Russia in the dock, but because business as usual is clearly impossible so long as solemn existing agreements are treated as scraps of a paper. For example, the next business on the agenda in the context of the Helsinki agreement is a conference on security in Europe. That, as all of us would agree, is highly desirable. But unless the Soviet confirms and carries conviction that she stands by her pledge of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other countries, how can anyone trust her word on a matter so literally vital as national security? Unless she changes her ways there is no basis for international confidence.
118 That is the dilemma in which time and again she places the democratic peacemakers. I spent a number of years trying to negotiate with the Russian leaders comprehensive disarmament, as did the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham. I will illustrate the difficulty to your Lordships in this way. Everyone is familiar with the concept of mutual and balanced disarmament—as fair a principle, I think, as anybody could devise. At one Geneva Conference when I was asking the Russians to accept disarmament on that basis, they insisted that there should be taken out of the formula the two words "mutual" and "balanced" before they would proceed to talk. It is a hard slogging business and, in fact, the only agreement of substance that there has been with the Soviet Union since the war is the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, on which I shall say something in a moment because I think that it does perhaps provide a precedent.
It is against that backcloth that some people in this country would announce that Britain would abandon her nuclear deterrent weapon, and would do so before negotiations have been joined. The majority of such people are high-minded and honourable, but before they push their case too far I should like to put forward one or two arguments which I hope they would consider. Perhaps they will remember that the Government of the Soviet Union are not moved by any moral or ethical considerations whatever. There would be no quid pro quo for a unilateral disarmament by Britain. Russia would simply pocket the concession and jack up the price of détente to our remaining allies. That would be neither a service to the democracies nor a service to peace. Others may acquire nuclear weapons, particularly if Russia blocks comprehensive disarmament for a long time. I do not think, apart from the reasons that I have already given against unilateral disarmament, that Britain should put herself in a position where she could be blackmailed by an irresponsible subordinate power. If the British deterrent is to go, let it be as part of a universal treaty in which the guarantees for security in the aftermath of disarmament are signed and sealed and observed.
After two world wars where the enemy was a first-class power, I think it is unnecessary to argue that anything less than the combined resources of Europe and America could not deter or, if necessary, hold aggression. The noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, made exactly the same point. It is not a question of either Europe or the United States—it is both. But, to give strength to the whole, Europe's economic base must be strong and the political cohesion of Europe demonstrable to a point where it will carry conviction.
My concern today is not with the United States—I believe that they will recover economically and that they will pull their full weight in the NATO alliance. My concern is with those who would now pull us out of the European partnership. I should like to pose two questions to them. Do they realise that if they were to succeed, Britain would be outside the external tariff of the Community? When 49 per cent. of our exports go to the Continent, surely that is hardly good business? Do they realise also—and this, I think, is of greater importance—that Britain would be outside the councils, and no party to the decisions taken by those who conduct European affairs? That could not be of service to ourselves or to Europe or to peace. I 119 hope that when people talk about withdrawal, they will consider these facts of the matter—we would be outside the external tariff and outside the ministerial councils of the continent of Europe.
If we can hold the NATO forces at a point which convinces that the risks of aggression are too high; if we can forge the economic and political cohesion of Europe; and if we can persuade the Russians that there can be no progress on détente—which they profess to desire—unless they honour agreements which they have signed, then I think we have a chance of making progress. For the Soviet leaders and the Soviet nation are faced with increasing difficulties and strains. On the other side of the Communist hill there is a lot of hardship and a lot of difficulty for the Russian people and it may be, therefore, that, faced with these events, the Russians may be willing to get down to the business of disarmament because to do so would pay them a handsome dividend in economic terms.
I happened to sign the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty with the Soviet Union. They signed that treaty because they were afraid of the reaction of the Russian women and of fallout affecting generations of Russians yet unborn. In other words, they signed because Russian people were affected. I think that they might sign a disarmament agreement because Russian people are now being badly affected by the virtual collapse of much of the economy of the Soviet Union. At any rate, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, who put it in the following way: war is not inevitable, and we should persevere with patience and imagination. That must be right. It is not in the nature of the democracies not to try to negotiate détente.
In weighing in the balance the chances of peace and war, I must agree with my noble friend the Foreign Secretary that the area of greatest danger on any count is the Middle East and the Gulf. The Iraq-Iran war has stirred the already simmering pot. Russia signed an opportunist treaty with Syria while the Iraq-Iran war was going on, with the result that there is an embryo alliance being formed between Libya, South Yemen, Syria and the Soviet Union. That simply adds to the division in the Arab world and causes great anxieties to the Gulf States, and it does so, what is more, at a time when, if there is to be a negotiated settlement with Israel on the basic problems of the Middle East, there must be Arab unity. So this new possible alignment if Libya, South Yemen, Syria and the Soviet Union is a danger and is causing great anxiety in the Middle East. I doubt if it will last. I think that Syria will feel acutely her isolation from the rest of the Arab world and will recognise that Arab unity is essential if the great problem dividing the Middle East—that is, the Israel problem—is to be settled.
However, the situation emphasises the urgent need for active diplomacy to prevent that whole area degenerating into chaos, the repercussions of which, because of oil for one thing, would of course reverberate all over the globe. I shall not elaborate on this because undoubtedly we shall return to the matter before long. But I am quite convinced that Europe as such—and my noble friend the Foreign Secretary made this point—can help to point the way to a settlement, and 120 Europe should now be doing some of the preparatory work against the day when a new President of the United States gets into the saddle. I hope, therefore, that time is not being lost. The matter is too urgent to allow any time to go by without preparing a plan which could help to solve this very obstinate problem.
My noble friend has much on his plate to test his skills. I am sure that they will not be found wanting, and I wish him every success in the months to come.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Lord Ritchie-Calder
My Lords, I should have liked to follow the right reverend Prelate on the question of aid to developing countries, but I am impelled to follow the noble Lord, Lord Home, because his theme is, I hope, my theme but with a different emphasis. I was very gratified to read in the Queen's Speech the statement:Despite events in Afghanistan and Cambodia, they"—my Government—will continue to seek more stable East-West relations and will continue to work for effective measures of arms control".I hope this meant, and I am sure it did, that the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs—whose uncommon sense I for one have learned to respect—will take a pragmatic view of the precarious situation in which the entire world finds itself and break the stereotypes and forget the clichés. I was encouraged by his statement today, to which I responded, in the sense that he was talking about matters which are now at least matters for open discussion, and not simply the old hackneyed stereotypes, as I have called them. Recriminations—mutual recriminations—may be justified, but we have reached a point when frank exchanges should not mean just slanging matches, but genuine attempts to get each other out of the morass of suspicion and mistrust in which we find ourselves.
I had a great deal of sympathy with what the Foreign Secretary had to say about the Madrid meeting and, in fact, appreciated the points he made. I hope that now that we have broken the log jam we shall speak frankly to the Russians, make clear to them what we regard as their shortcomings and make it clear quite that we expect the Helsinki agreement to mean what I took it to mean when I discussed it in Moscow and in Helsinki at the time. I took it to be the Russian desire as much as our own. Misunderstandings—indeed, one can add different adjectives to it—which have arisen have, in fact, embittered the situation and caused great and very deep suspicion.
As I have said, the situation that we and the Soviet Union—indeed, the whole of mankind—face today is precarious. It is past the eleventh hour, and I should like to believe, together with my noble friend Lord Stewart, that in fact the next world war will not happen. With our efforts we hope that it will not happen. But it is past the eleventh hour; it is now six and a half minutes to twelve. Six and a half minutes is the time it would take a cruise missile deployed in Europe to reach the heartlands of the Soviet Union. I do not propose to talk about limited nuclear war, tactical weapons or theatre weapons, because to the Soviets the cruise missile or the Pershing is a direct threat to the USSR itself. There is no question of confining it 121 to the agreed limits of a theatre or a battlefield. It is regarded as a threat to the heartlands of the USSR. We can quite properly say the same sort of thing about the SS.20—six and a half minutes to doomsday; for the responses to either would escalate into a nuclear holocaust.
I do not want to get into the numbers game. I have been trying to resist it for the last few years because with nuclear overkill already stockpiled, sufficient to kill every man, woman and child one hundred times over and reduce our planet to a radioactive desert, with 10,000 nuclear weapons already deployed in Europe, on both sides, making Europe a nuclear minefield, quantities become irrelevant in their immensity.
What has made the unthinkable the more likely is not simply what we recognise, what we have watched accumulating before our very eyes—this vast stockpile; it is not the quantities; it is the qualitative changes—the satanic ingenuity of the new refinements—which have nothing to do with parity, but with getting the edge on the other fellow, and which gives rise to the illusion now being fostered—let us be clear about this—by the numbers men in the United States of a winnable nuclear war with the cynicism of "acceptable casualties". Millions and millions of people will die, but that is acceptable!
It has been claimed that the deterrent has been effective because the super powers have realised that, in fact, a nuclear war would be a suicide pact—at least since the Cuban missile crisis, when the super powers were horn-locked like struggling stags on the edge of an abyss. After that rehearsal for doomsday, I used to quote to my students in Edinburgh the remark made after the disengagement, "People say 'Who won?' I say 'Reason won'". I would ask them who said that, and without exception they would say "President Kennedy". It was not; it was Khrushchev. He had looked into the abyss. In that sense the deterrent becomes invalid if either side delude themselves that a victory is or could be possible.
Let us look at the deterrent itself at this moment. The Brookings Institute has recently reminded us that since 1945 and the first atomic bomb there have been 142 wars in the world, with 32 million people having died. All that the deterrent has deterred is the deterrent—so far. In the last few weeks, without any mandate from anybody and with no responsibility except to the human race in general, I have had opportunities for discussions in Moscow and I have been taking part in a Pugwash meeting in Austria on how to avert a nuclear war. I would remind your Lordships that Pugwash—whose distinguished numbers include the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman—is that quite remarkable movement fostered by leading scientists on both sides of the Iron Curtain to discuss the implications, originally, of the atomic bomb, but the discussion is now extended to all aspects of science and its possible misuse or, we hope, beneficial use. This particular occasion was unique, when scientists (again from both sides of the Iron Curtain) met with the media men to discuss the management of crises: how to avert a nuclear war; crises so often fostered by the media, either by misunderstanding or by misrepresentation but, indeed, still feeding the fires and the fuels of crisis.
In Moscow I met, not the decision-makers—I do not 122 flatter myself that my discussions had anything to do with changing the course of history; certainly not the points that we were discussing with those who have the decisions to take—but the policy makers, those who put up the options on which decision takers take their decisions. Those Soviet policy makers evaluating the situation are scared. They are as scared as I am, and as scared as we all should be.
I have to use, particularly after what we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Home, the word "scared" with some hesitation. There are people who I know will think, "Good. Now we've got them." They are scared because they are rational human beings like ourselves. They are scared by looking at the world in which they indeed have little influence on events, and I mean not only the policy makers but the advisers on whose advice the decisions are made. I can only say that if anyone takes this as an encouragement to feel that the Russians are at this moment scared to the point that they are running scared, then I think we shall be making a disastrous mistake, because we know what happens when people who are scared react to scares.
I want to reinforce strongly what my noble friend Lord Stewart said. What we have to do now, and I am sure of this beyond anything else I could either feel or believe, is to get together with the Russians, who are in this state of mind as a result of circumstances and not of doctrine, and say that we are no longer discussing this question on an ideological level. The fact is that the world is as much out of kilter to them as to us.
We must say, and say clearly—and I did, I may tell you—what we feel about things like Afghanistan. But we should ask ourselves also what are the circumstances in which they are behaving irrationally, or may be behaving irrationally. I am quite convinced that the invasion of Afghanistan had nothing to do with getting to the Gulf. I am equally sure that they did not believe what they were saying when they were talking about the threat from Pakistan, the CIA, or China.
What they were looking at—and I believe this to be absolutely true—was what was happening in Iran in terms of Ayatollah Khomeini. They were facing a factor which is a new element, which I want to stress in this debate on foreign affairs, and that is the spread of militant Islam. This is a factor we have completely underestimated because it has never occurred to us before. We have talked about Arab unity, but that is a different matter. This is something quite unpredictable, which the Russians fully appreciate even if we do not, and that is the question of infectious eruptions.
They were not going into Afghanistan as a move towards the Gulf. They certainly were not going in simply to fight the forces which they say were being put in. It was in fact a firm lesson, as they saw it—and they were wrong, in the circumstances—to their own Islamic republics in the Soviet Union, which again we have not appreciated. They had their own internal problem. It was supposed, I believe it to be true, to be an attempt to say, "This far, and no further if you are thinking about the Ayatollah's Islamic irresponsibility."
In these circumstances—and I think I am entitled to say this anyway—from the sort of discussions I had it is up to us now to get together with the Russians, and not on terms of a slanging match. I am all for spelling out this and asking for the answers to that 123 but we and they are in a common predicament, and we should at this moment be trying to think not just in terms of formal diplomacy, not just in terms of negotiated treaties, but of getting together with the people in the Soviet Union who are in fact as worried as we are. They may not be the decision takers but they are certainly the decision makers. I think the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, will bear me out when I say that in terms of influencing the policy makers, or the decision takers through the policy makers, it is possible by getting at the thinking people who are influential in the sense that their opinions matter in the Soviet Union.
I would reinforce the hope of the Foreign Secretary in opening this debate. We are now moving into a period of freer and franker discussions not just at summit level, not just at these elaborately prepared and, with difficulty, negotiated agreement situations, but at the levels at which people of goodwill—and I am not saying piously, but with reason behind their goodwill—can in fact get together with similar people in the Soviet Union, which is possible I assure you, and discuss with them the kind of problems that we are discussing here today, because it is all part of the same picture. They are no stronger than we are in their convictions about what is their future.
I would only say that in the kind of discussions that I was having, and in the matters that were being raised, it was not a question of who was going to negotiate about Syria or build up a bloc, it was in fact anxiety about Iraq and Iran in which they found Russian guns confronting American guns. This is a very good argument, if I may say so to my noble friend Lord Stewart, why we should look strictly at what we are doing in the sale of arms, because one of these days we shall find that that has got out of control.
The other big problem which they are deeply concerned about is proliferation. There is no way in which they can control the maverick bombs—what they were calling in these discussions the "Who-done-it bombs", because it was not the Russians or the Americans who did it. Proliferation might trigger it off. To them there is no part of the world which does not present a potentially dangerous situation. You may say they are looking at these parts of the world in order to go in and stir it up, but I can assure you that they are just as worried about the unpredictable as we are.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ Lord Gore-Booth
My Lords, I rise today with a rather special humility in that I have neither been active in foreign affairs for some little time now nor active in your Lordships' House. Therefore, I am very conscious of what a little rustiness can easily do to one, and I apologise in advance in case I get myself in any way puzzled or even slightly incoherent, but I hope that that will not be the case.
We all listen always with the greatest respect and attention to the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, who has just spoken to us. We greatly admire his knowledge of Russian affairs and his personal relationships with Russian officials and others. But I must start what I have to say by simply saying that when you are professionally together with Russian people talking 124 about serious matters two things in the end happen. The first is that if, like me, you like Russian people very much, you continue to be enchanted by them, impressed by them and have many happy memories of whatever the meetings may be.
But then somebody invades Afghanistan. If you are professionally in the business you begin to learn that this is liable to happen at any time. It has, as I have just recited, happened now, and you go back to the beginning and you say, "Where can we go from there?" One has just seen the whole Afghanistan situation. There was no reason for the Russians to go into Afghanistan—it was not dangerous and it had a very strong defence, as the Soviet Union have now discovered—and there was really no excuse for their performance there.
When I listen to my good friends, including my noble friend Lord Stewart of Fulham, with whom I have an extremely happy and constructive relationship, I always find that at the end of the case being presented—and it is always presented extremely well by both my noble friends Lord Stewart and Lord Ritchie-Calder—at a critical moment something goes wrong. It goes wrong because the Soviet Union breaks its word, whether small or large, and there is a reason for that, and perhaps my remarks may have some use in this context.
I believe that most people have not tried to deal with Soviet officials and others by getting to the bottom of the Soviet faith and system. At the end of the Soviet revolution and the end of the First World War, the Soviet Union itself became, as it were, a faith, something sacred which on no account could be yielded in any direction and within any context. I am sure that noble Lords here will have had their successes; indeed, I have had a pleasant agreement as opposed to just a pleasant discussion with Soviet officials. But on anything which in any way effects the security of or belief in Soviet communism—No. That has shown itself to be the case time and again and, in a military sense, it has shown itself with some success in various parts of the world.
In a fine debate in your Lordships' House about a year ago we were able to demonstrate how, as the history of Europe moved on, we lost Hungary and several other countries. As each one was lost, people would say, "Perhaps they overdid it a little"; perhaps in Czechoslovakia. Or, "A slight mistake was made somewhere else". But the process goes on and on and nobody is able to say, "I am sure that never again will this process continue". With the greatest respect to noble Lords who have spoken in a slightly optimistic way—I would not accuse them of being very optimistic; that would be very unkind—I must remind them that one always comes up against the question, "Where will we see the next use of force and the occupation of other people's territory?"
Having said that, I would not want to leave my remarks there. If one studies some of the literature coming out of the Soviet Union, speaks to some of the people leaving that country and reads material written by and about the people who live bravely on in the Soviet Union under the name of dissidents, it is clear (if one looks at the world from an intellectual and non-party point of view) that all over the world there is a gradual decline in faith in Soviet communism. In my view this is in some ways a more important 125 feature of the world than the further accumulation and threatened use of bigger and more frightful weapons.
I remain, in this extremely difficult and frightening world, with the feeling that the human race will at some time and in some way say, "No, we are not going that far". This is not a religious faith, but an instinct, a feeling that the people who have already stopped here and there will ultimately get the idea of stopping altogether. This may be far too optimistic a view, but in some ways I feel there is a greater understanding by people who used to be devoted allies of the communist bloc, who feel they have gone away from the direction of democracy and want to go the other way. I believe there is hope not of them just coming back to where we are now but of beginning to come to their senses and trying to resume a relationship—no doubt a difficult relationship.
As to what we should do in this situation. If what I say is so, then no doubt we should not seek to abandon what the Government have righly done, which is to lose the fear we all had just after the Second World War of upsetting the Russians in any way. I praise the Government's evident decision—rightly, it has not been announced as such—to take up the Soviet Government or officials where they can and where some threat is sounded. This is extraordinarily difficult unless one makes a regular practice of reading Russian publications. Unfortunately, I can read only Russian periodicals in English, but all the time one must follow that practice and make sure that the Russians understand what we think of some of the things they say about us. We have been much too slack in the past in picking up Soviet nonsense when it is spread among our people, especially among those who are only too prone to believe it, usually because it is convenient to do so.
On that side of the argument, I strongly urge the Government to continue their good practice of letting our people know what others who are not particularly friendly are saying about them; that at least gives one a chance of being in the picture. A mistake people often make in this context is in believing that the Russians never listen to anything. That is absolutely wrong. In fact, they are a most studious people who read everything they can get hold of, and while some of them disregard it, there are studious types among them who note very carefully what we are thinking; therefore what we and our allies think of them is important to them. This process must go on all the time.
When considering the nature of Soviet psychology, it is necessary to realise that, despite their aggression—and let us remember that they are always committing aggression—in the eyes of the Soviet Government and their groups, they must not lose any ground from a psychological point of view. It is an absolutely sacred cow—a better animal could be thought of—to make entirely sure that there is no deviation on any point. Therefore, despite all the persuasiveness of the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, or anybody else, there is behind all this not a person or two who will be convertible, convincible or whatever, but a kind of iron religion which it is the top priority of the Soviet régime to protect, whatever anybody else may try to do. This is not necessarily to be described as vicious; 126 it is just a fact; and it is a very inconvenient fact for the rest of the world.
I shall now quote for a moment from something that Mr. Brezhnev said in a speech the other day when talking about the invasion and over-running of Afghanistan. He said—and this, I have to admit, I have seen from translation—that that involved a very awkward decision. Soviet officials do not say that, at least not in the way that we do; battles are not lost, other arguments are never lost. There is a continuous, advertised line of success, and it is very significant indeed if a Soviet official says that a decision was very awkward, or whatever it may have been. As was mentioned a short time ago, that means that among even the Soviet hierarchy there is these days some fear, not necessarily that they are going to lose a battle—they are not—but that something about the theory and practice of Soviet communism is wrong. It is wrong judging from what has been said by many people in that country—brave people, who are dissidents and so on. If the information that I have picked up here and there is correct, there is more and more opinion in the Soviet Union that there is something deeply wrong with the system.
I must in no way try to mislead your Lordships. What I have said does not mean that shortly something will suddenly happen; it will not. However, it is of great importance to know that a great deal of Russian thinking, chatter, and so on is moving in a direction at least of mistrust about what is obviously a cruel and unprogressive system.
Perhaps I could add one more piece of evidence about the way that this goes on. When the Soviet troops went into Afghanistan there was no briefing, as it were; no effort to persuade. There was a kind of blank, and nobody knew anything. What was more—and this I think is more significant—in such Soviet newspapers as one was able to see no attempt was made to convince anybody that there was any justification at all in what had been done. Speaking as an ex-public relations officer, I must say that the very few efforts in Soviet propaganda to Soviet people were totally nugatory, if not amounting to nothing at all. In other words, in this particular situation the Soviet Union had no faith that its propaganda had any meaning at all for Russian people. As I say, I must certainly not try to exaggerate this point; it would be very misleading to do so. However, one way and another one discovers feelings of fear and insecurity, feelings that in the end Soviet communism is not going to be a satisfactory way of life, nor a satisfactory philosophy, nor indeed satisfactory to progress.
I should like to make just one remark of a totally general and personal kind which I did not make at the beginning of my speech because it seemed logical to follow the Soviet Union question. With great humility I wish to express great admiration of the conduct of our most difficult foreign affairs these days by the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary. If you live partly at home and partly abroad, you see there, if I may say so, an excellent touch, whether it be in what the noble Lord says or in what he does, and this is enormously reassuring in these difficult days. I hope that it will not be considered offside if I say that I think that I am far enough away now in time from my former occupations to be able to state that diplomacy at the high level is a 127 remarkably fine art. It is an art that can be pursued successfully in difficult times only if the captain and his official team have an excellent working relationship and a great skill together. It is a pleasure to watch this in progress when one is no longer occupied oneself.
§ 5.6 p.m.
My Lords, may I say first that the noble Lord who has just spoken need not at all apologise for not having been in the House recently. Like so many others, I believe that he is most welcome here, and we acknowledge his service to foreign affairs over so many years. In the gracious Speech Her Majesty the Queen mentioned future visits to countries overseas: Norway, Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka. Wherever Her Majesty travels she impresses people with her knowledge of the countries she is visiting and with the great interest that she shows in all that concerns the various countries. The Queen has visited the Republic of Indonesia and has received here the President, President Soeharto. He is an elected President.
I was very pleased when the right reverend prelate the Bishop of Derby mentioned Indonesia, because I wish to concern myself with that country in my speech today. In March 1967 the present President was made acting President. Since then he has been elected—I emphasise "elected"—in 1968, and has been re-elected in 1973 and 1978, in each case for terms of five years. On each occasion he has formed a new cabinet. He is supported by a very distinguished man in Adam Malik, who was elected President of the 26th General Assembly of the United Nations in 1971–72. Adam Malik was also a member of the Brandt Commission. He has written a book, In Service to the Republic, which points out the views of Indonesia and her aims for the future. Indonesia is the world's largest archipelago. It has six main islands, and 30 smaller groups, and has an estimated population of 137 million.
Besides Java, I have visited Sumatra, Sulawesi, Bali and East Timor, now known as Timor Timour. On 17th August this year Indonesia celebrated 35 years of independence, and I attended the ceremony. I must say that I was most impressed. I had visited the country many times since 1945, when I went there to work for the Red Cross and to try to help with the rescue of prisoners of war. As I say, the independence ceremony was very impressive. It included many young children from all parts of the archipelago. They sang songs, and in the evening there was an outstanding performance of dancing. The performance depicted the various types of dancing from the many islands, including Timor Timour.
Indonesia is potentially a very rich country. Mention has been made of Russia and the way that she has dealt with her development. Indonesia has done exactly the opposite. She has agriculture to feed her population and she has, too, what is known as food crop farming with produce for domestic consumption. Her exports include oriented estate agriculture. This includes rubber, coffee, palm oil, tea, sugar, tin and crude oil, the latter being the single most important export-earner.
In the last three years natural gas has been exported, also pharmaceuticals, fertilisers, cement and textiles. 128 Indonesia's largest trading partners are Japan and the USA. The former is particularly interested in oil and forestry products. It is very interesting that there should be this trade with Japan, because it was Japan which came in when it was called the Dutch East Indies and devastated the whole country, leaving it in a very bad way. Now, of course, there are numerous Japanese factories going up in the country, and practically every car is supplied by Japan.
Indonesia is affected by OPEC, and the International Tin Agreement operates a tin buffer stock with a view to stabilising prices in the world tin market. In February 1977 an agreement was concluded with the ASEAN countries, and, as your Lordships know, there is an ASEAN preferential trading agreement. Indonesia gives tariff preference on import to 266 commodities which include soya beans, formic acid and pig iron, for example. There is an Indonesian language now, which unites the country, known as "Bahasar Indonesia", so communications between the islands is easy. English has been taken as the first foreign language. Last year—and I am mentioning last year with an emphasis—600 students came to the United Kingdom. In Jakarta there is a splendid British Council, and they have many branches in various islands.
Unfortunately, the good will is being undermined by the EEC because of the high level of unemployment in EEC countries in the textile industries. I understand—I do not know whether I am correct in this—that the Government, as a member of the European Community, cannot act unilaterally on issues of external trade; that under the Treaty of Rome the Community should abide by the decisions made by the Community as a whole, and that negotiations are conducted by the Commission on the Community's behalf. As a result of action taken by the Indonesian Government on textiles, we have, as the right reverend Prelate said, lost at least £160 million to £200 million worth of exports.
As an example, I should like to raise the question of British Aerospace. Early in the 1970s there was a successful arrangement with the Indonesian airlines for the purchase of HS 748s, and this has been lost. However, the Dutch, who are members of the EEC, have now signed a contract for eight aircraft with the Ministry of Communications. It seems rather odd to me that we cannot do the same, as they are also members of the EEC. British Aerospace had anticipated further purchases of another 12 aircraft. The contract would have been worth approximately £60 million, starting with two years' production of the 748s at Manchester, where there is unemployment, which would have a factory of 7,500 people.
A survey was made at Reading in regard to jeans, blouses and trousers, which are the items causing the main difficulties so far as textiles are concerned, and it was found that less than 4 per cent. came from Indonesia and only 14 per cent. came from this country, Britain. If we are going to have difficulties in selling any more things to Indonesia, it is rather extraordinary to balance that against the £10 million, approximately, which we would lose by letting in their textiles. For example, they wanted 500 metres of Bailey bridges, but this has been cancelled. So I sincerely hope that good relations with the Government will not be 129 soured by the textile trade dispute, which in my view has been built up out of all proportion to the value of the goods in question.
Furthermore, I should like Her Majesty's Government to recognise the present position in East Timor, now known as Timor Timour. Whatever happened in the past, the population now seems happy and settled. I had an hour's talk with the International Red Cross and with the Indonesian Red Cross, and they seemed to be satisfied that adequate arrangements had been made for the present population. This was also confirmed by the Catholic Relief Services. After 500 years of Portuguese occupation, only 8 per cent. of the people could read and write; and, although many were not actually starving, they were certainly undernourished. In the main town of Dili, for example, there is practically no piped water. In fact, the hotel that I stayed in had no water laid on at all, and this was supposed to be one of the best, if not the best, in the town.
The Indonesians left a Portuguese governor and a deputy governor. Neither of them could speak the local language, but the governor has now married a very attractive Javanese girl, so he should be getting on quite well with the local language. The deputy, who was then in the East Timor Army, was sent to Mozambique. When he found that he had to be a guerrilla he managed to get away; he came back and he is now living in Timor Timour again as a civil servant. There was a public exhibition showing what the present Indonesian Government plans in the future, and work by voluntary organisations. My Lords, 8,000 people attended; I walked around without any difficulty, without any police or military escorts, and I was asked to present the prizes for various competitions. Most of them were won by children, because they can now read and write.
Finally, I met about 24 persons—five Portuguese, two Chinese shopkeepers, members of the Roman Catholic, Moslem and Arab religions, and the local people—with no officials present, so I was able to converse quite freely about the situation. I hope the Government will take action with regard to the textile situation in view of the fact that the EEC countries seem to be opting out and are not having to pay in the way we are doing at the present time. Also, I hope that the noble Lord might consider that we should back the fact that Timor Timour should be acknowledged as part of the Republic of Indonesia.
I have felt the need to put these points forward because I have been trying to draw them to the attention of the Government and several Ministers, and none of my letters has received any success. I think we need all the friends in the world we can get. We need to encourage students to come here; we need to understand the Brandt Report, and act upon it; and I hope that, perhaps, following my speech, we may get a little better understanding of the position in Indonesia. If we want to maintain peace in the world, I think it is essential that we should be friends with as many countries as we can, especially in the Far East, and up to this moment the Far East has not been mentioned in this debate.
§ 5.19 p.m.
§ Lord Weidenfeld
My Lords, for over 30 years the 130 Sovereign's gracious Speeches have with almost ritual regularity affirmed our pledge to Western unity—an affirmation so sincerely felt and manifest that it required no commentary. Today, my Lords, this affirmation is perhaps as urgent and as meaningful as ever before, because I fear that Western unity and the alliance are in worse shape, and that America and Europe are wider apart, than the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary may have suggested.
When M. Gaston Thorn, president-designate of the European Commission, said, on Governor Reagan's victory, that he hoped that the United States would now embark on a rediscovery of Europe, I submit it is equally important and urgent that the European Nine should reappraise the new mood of the United States. Both America and Europe should resume a searching dialogue and I think that, before West speaks to East or North argues with South, West should talk to West.
The American elections are a great watershed not merely in the fortunes of the United States, but, I think, in the history of the Western Alliance. The violent swing of the pendulum was not so much a swing from Left to Right, from party to party, from one economic panacea to another, but fundamentally a swing of moods—a swing away from the traumas and post-mortems of Vietnam and Watergate, from the torment and torpors of self-abasement, from the era of inquest towards a new sense of self-assertiveness, a desire to redress the years of weakness, a readiness to probe anew the adversary's intentions and the loyalty of friends. The pendulum has still not come to rest, and it is perhaps partly up to us in Britain and Europe as the oldest traditional ally of the United States to help her find an equilibrium rather than let her settle for either excessive militancy or sullen isolation—or both.
The President-Elect shows every sign of fielding an impressive team of candidates for Cabinet office and senior counsel. In the realms of diplomacy, defence, intelligence, he can draw on men who are experienced, weighty and meticulously informed about the world at large and Europe in particular. If they share a common philosophy, I think it is their belief in the balance of power as the basis of all international relations. The restoring of a military balance with the Soviets, the recovery of respect for America's position in the world, the reassurance of her allies: these are the things which will be the priorities. And one of the main themes, a sort of Leit motif, of the Reaganite "brains trust" has been the perception that most of what has happened in the world in the last few years has been a symptom of American weakness and of Western erosion of willpower.
The perception is that the Soviets' "Long March" to greater power and influence along the milestones of South Yemen, Ethiopia, Angola, Cambodia and Afghanistan is less the sign of some premeditated Grand Design than well-timed, opportunist coups, all springing from what a Washington geostrategist has aptly described as the provocation of weakness—Western weakness. The new American leaders ascribe equally such signs as there are of a certain estrangement and shifting attitudes on the part of European governments to American and Western weakness rather than to an irreparable aliention from the concept of Western unity. The handling in Europe of such issues as Iran, the Olympics boycott, the selective embargoes of trade 131 with Russia, the contrasting reactions to the continued occupation of Afghanistan—they all have fed already existing grievances.
Washington analysts, in private and in print, think that they can sense a change. Such opprobrious terms as "appeasement" and "Euroneutralism" have crept into Washington parlance. Europeans have been accused of arguing that détente is divisible, which means that you can do big business with Russia in Europe while Russia destabilises parts of Asia. Attempts by Germany and France to break the East-West log jam by visits to Mr. Brezhnev or Mr. Gierek were coolly received; and it has been quickly pointed out that while these initiatives brought Europe little comfort, they undercut the American position and partly rehabilitated Russia's image. After all, were not the German elections largely fought on Ostpolitik and détente?—yet on the morrow of Dr. Schmidt's return, the East Germans doubled, trebled and quadrupled the entrance fees to their own walled country. It might be asked, what good did President Giscard's sortie to Warsaw do, now that his friend and interlocutor, Edward Gierek, has disappeared so unceremoniously? A French politician, not of the Left, argued that the President in the Fifth Republic should not so much stand above parties as represent them all, and as there are between 25 per cent. and 30 per cent. Communists and Communist sympathisers in France, perhaps the foreign policy of France should be at least one-quarter to one-third pro-Russian.
It is not only the allies; the neutrals of Europe also seem affected by a certain subtle change. One neutral Foreign Minister of Western leanings tossed the notion of a new political, emotional and intellectual equidistance from the power blocs into the air; and another neutral Foreign Minister caught the ball and mused that European neutrals should join the non-aligned nations of the third world.
Governor Reagan's advisers concede that much that went wrong in Europe's relations with America is due to the zig-zag course of President Carter's diplomacy; that perhaps an unsteady stewardship caused a certain malaise which was but reinforced by first-hand meetings between Europe's leaders and the President.
If we are now to enter into a crucial dialogue with our most powerful ally, this country, both by itself, and as a component of Europe, has an important role to play, for it has four inestimable advantages. By an accident of geology, we are oil producers and, soon, oil exporters on a notable scale. By accident of geography we are not contiguous with the Soviet empire. By our own merit, we have evolved the stablest political system in Europe, and though we may have a lively political scene, there are not here, as there are elsewhere, hundreds of thousands of organised men and women who, in spite of their intermittent disenchantment, look ultimately to the Soviet Union as their second fatherland. By tradition and history, we have a close special relationship with the United States which I believe, as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said earlier, should not clash with our European loyalties, but indeed should be brought as a tremendous asset into the common pool.
To carry on this dialogue, we have an outstanding spokesman in the Foreign Secretary. He commands 132 the respect of both sides of this House and of the country. He is a convinced European, a loyal Atlanticist; he is, above all, a pragmatist—flexible and fair. His achievements in Southern Africa, Brussels, his reassuring visits to many Commonwealth and third world capitals, mark him as one of the few real statesmen wielding influence today. If I presume to express my sincere appreciation of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington's skills and achievements at length, I may perhaps be forgiven if I urge him for the sake of his role and value as a bridge-builder and spokesman for Western unity, to reappraise and reconsider the Middle East policies of Her Majesty's Government and of the European Community. I refer especially to the initiative which stems from the Declaration of Venice.
It cannot be an accident that the gracious Speech puts the Arab-Israeli dispute before the war between Iraq and Iran. Both these two tragic conflicts obviously endanger world peace, but it is typical of the European sense of perspective to put a desperately lethal and dangerous war which threatens the lifeline of Western economies on a par with, or even after, a dispute which, while still bristling with anguish and frustration, has gone a tremendously long way towards a settlement. The progress in the Arab-Israeli war is thanks not to the European Community nor the Arab League, but to the courage of President Sadat, Premier Begin and President Carter, all building on the patient spadework of Henry Kissinger, the advocate of gradual disengagement and step-by-step diplomacy.
The Gulf War may yet spread further and spell disaster throughout the world. Should mediation there not be the first priority of Europe, which is so vitally affected? Of course, strict neutrality must be the order of the day; a neutrality which comes quite naturally to those of us who, with a certain side glance at the irresponsible régimes, feel that our antipathies are equally engaged. This war between two Moslem states with Moslem partisans on either side belies the view so commonly expressed in European Chancellories, that all roads to war and peace in the Middle East lead to the Arab-Israeli conflict. I would say that if that conflict did not exist, if Israel herself had never existed, it might well be argued that the Gulf War would have been even more vicious and violent than it is. Syria and Libya, for instance, might now be on the battlefield but for the inhibiting presence of the Israeli army and air force in place.
The Venice Declaration has been cooly received in Washington, and is still regarded as counter-productive. Even the most cautious commentators have had harsh words for it. As Henry Kissinger put it in his statement before the US Senate on 31st July:The energy crisis has undermined the political unity of the democracies as some allies, pursuing preferential arrangements in energy, have been tempted to pay in the coin of allied cohesion. Separate approaches on such vital issues as the Arab-Israeli dispute demonstrate disarray and complicate the pursuit of peace. Undertaken for the purpose of easing the pressures in the Middle East, such approaches in fact do the opposite. For, if once the premise is accepted that oil producers can impose political terms, radical forces will see to it that the political price will escalate with the price of oil".Of course some European Governments would stoutly deny the nexus with oil. President Giscard said his peace efforts had little to do with oil supplies, and Dr. Genscher stated that: 133Even if the Arabs were to export nothing but water we would still pursue this policy".This tempts one to ask the question: Why, if oil is really not at stake, has not the EEC put the righteous claims of Kurds and Armenians on the agenda?
From the outset Venice has based itself on two premises, both more than mildly offensive to the United States. One was that America was too busy electioneering to cope successfully with the Arab-Israeli negotiations, and thus needed the help of the Nine. In fact, the United States was active throughout this year, her envoys shuttling back and forth between Egypt and Israel exhorting both, and especially Israel, to make concessions.
The second implicit premise was that while the United States were granting the Israelis preferential treatment, the Europeans were more even-handed. This assumption is certainly not true. America may have a healthy respect for Israel as a strategic asset, perhaps a strong sense or moral responsibility, and perhaps a more consistent sense of the inviolability of Resolution 242 than others; but she has equally a deep regard for Arab aspirations within the framework of regional security. Those who have followed closely the tripartite negotiations of Camp David cannot possibly have failed to notice that on the whole America has tilted towards the Egyptian stance. Egypt, as well as Israel, has received massive help through economic aid and arms, and the American armed forces have recently held joint exercises with those of Egypt, and not with those of Israel, very much to Israel's regret.
Venice has downgraded the decisive role of the United States as the main power behind the settlement; it has downgraded the position of President Sadat as the one Arab leader who could prove that recognition, normalisation and peace bring tangible results. Two-thirds of Sinai, the Sinai oil, the Suez Canal, are firmly in Egyptian hands; the rest will follow. Venice has downgraded the notion of Israel's security, for although Israel is specifically asked to withdraw behind largely indefensible borders, assurances for her survival are at best facile, impractical, bland and open-ended.
Above all, Venice has stressed the role of the PLO as a valid negotiating partner, and this introduces two major points of disagreement with the United States. The right honourable lady the Prime Minister said at the time that the Nine were not trying to undermine the Americans. She said:We are trying to supplement what they are doing, and Europe would always be in partnership with the United States".Yet President Carter specifically asked the Europeans not to involve the PLO in peace talks. The Nine's emphatic insistence to the contrary scarcely suggests that they are working in partnership with the United States, and so as to re-emphasise his disagreement, President-Elect Reagan said on the morrow of his victory, and not only during the hustings, that the PLO was unacceptable as it was a terrorist organisation.
Now I know, my Lords, that the initials PLO are perhaps the most emotive three letters in the political alphabet of today. I defy anyone to enunciate them with cold dispassion and that higher impartiality given to sages and saints. But in the context of the present stage of the peace negotiations, the PLO's conduct and credentials must be thoroughly scrutinized. Born of anger, homelessness and frustration, this movement 134 claims the right to speak for all Palestinian Arabs. Its leaders are not democratically elected, and we know that even in the most advanced democracies, the most articulate and vociferous are not necessarily the most representative members of the community.
Politically, the PLO is a microcosm of inter-Arab rivalries, each section reflecting the goals of a different Arab power. Some of its militant cadres have an indigenous Islamic philosophy, others draw their inspiration from the Communist East, and most of them have at one time or another received arms and training from the Soviet bloc. Once trained, they have become the trainers of others. There is scarcely a subversive political group of importance operating in the world that at one time or other did not pass through one of the PLO's farflung training camps. A mere recital of these affiliations would take too much of your Lordships' time; but there are proven links with the IRA, the Baader Meinhof, the Red Army Brigade in Italy, their namesakes in Japan, the Polisarios of the Sahara, terrorists of El Salvador and the Monteneros of Argentina. What binds them together is a total rejection of Israel's right to live.
From time to time, Mr. Arafat makes gestures of moderation, but usually retracts these within the week. Whenever the European supporters of the PLO discover a new sense of responsibility, respectability and pliability, the PLO's supreme command removes by word or deed all doubt of a real change of heart. To suggest to Israel that before there is such a radical change of heart they should sit down at the same negotiating table for formal talks, seems unrealistic.
The major point of difference between European and American viewpoints is the question of the Palestinian West Bank state. Let me say that I belong to those who, while deeply sympathetic towards Israel, believe emphatically in the righteous claim of Palestinian Arabs to achieve ultimately a viable sovereign state within the territory of historic Palestine. And I would wish to underline each of those qualifying words: ultimately, viable, sovereign.
"Ultimately" means we must not be precipitated, and must go through the various stages of autonomy of the West Bank of Gaza foreseen in the Camp David accord. "Sovereign": the Arab of Palestine is perhaps the most culturally and economically advanced member of the Arab family of nations, and deserves full statehood. But this state must be viable, must have space, and have the absorptive capacity to resettle at least one part of the Arab diaspora—though in the final settlement a large part of that diaspora must find its integration in the Arab world.
A Palestinian West Bank state must logically be united at the very outset with the land on the East Bank, with Jordan, for both formed part of that historic Palestine that was the mandate of the League of Nations. To implant, on the other hand, a small, radical Arab state run by the PLO in the Middle East in that very dangerous part of the region between Israel and Jordan, is asking for certain trouble; and even if it were possible by threat and persuasion to make Israel accept such a solution (which I personally do not think it is) it would mean sowing the seed of a conflagration so vicious and terrible that it might even burst the limits of conventional warfare.
A radical small state would be a springboard for 135 rival powers and scheming neighbours, either acting for themselves or as proxies for a super power. Even if it started with good intentions, fathered by moderate West Bank Arabs, and god-fathered by moderate sheikhs and princes, it would easily fall prey to radicals who, sooner or later, would goad its leaders into seeking enlargement and compensation at Israel's expense. From the outset, it would try to turn the Arab minority in the Israeli heartland into Sudeten Arabs.
By contrast, a larger West Bank—Jordanian Commonwealth would possess the territorial flexibility, manoeuvring space and capacity to absorb more people and allow a system of military safeguards, zones of demilitarisation, joint patrols et cetera that would ensure its own security, and that of Israel. Already the majority of the population in the Hashemite Kingdom is Palestinian, as distinct from Bedouin, and historically the Jordan has always been a river, and not the frontier of Palestine.
Now if these are all caveats and deeply-felt objections to the European initiative and the Venice Declaration, what should Europe actively do that is truly constructive and would help bring about a new cohesive Western strategy in that region? I submit that we should first of all come down wholeheartedly once again in favour of Camp David and back the Governments of Egypt and Israel, allowing the Americans to exercise their mediating role without those innuendoes of scepticism and criticism—sometimes muted, sometimes open—which certain European governments have emitted from the very start and transmitted to those in the regions who were, and still are, uncertain about their stand. Europe should use its considerable influence with any Arab state that is genuinely interested in peace, especially the Saudis, to make them take a new look at the Camp David peace process.
Above all, they should reason with the King of Jordan and make him come back into the foreground of events. It is within a Jordanian framework, with Jordanian participation and with Jordan's resumption of her primary role in the affairs of Palestine that I think the prospect for a quickening pace of the talks and the possibility of new variants of procedure and scope may become more real.
As for Israel, she must not only be exhorted but encouraged to move. Israel is a democratic country and, as in all democracies, Government, Opposition and public opinion are engaged in a lively, soul-searching debate of life and death issues. There are many powerful voices for imaginative, fresh moves in the direction of autonomy. General Dayan and General Weizmann, above all the Opposition leaders, Peres and Abba Eban, have recently come forward with very positive views.
There are quite a few moves of the Begin Government that some of us cannot endorse, but I for one do not indulge in that fashionable political bloodsport of Begin-bashing. For whatever mistakes Mr. Begin may have made in strategy and tactics, he must be credited with having taken gigantic risks for peace. And I believe that just as he has put his trust in the President of Egypt, and in exchange for an outstretched hand of peace made important concessions, a future Government of Israel can and will do the same with Palestinian Arabs sincerely ready to offer peace and 136 recognition.
I think that the Foreign Secretary, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, should not be deterred by the fears and doubts of many moderate régimes in the Arab world. Above all, he should not take King Hussein's hesitations for the final answer. The sands of the Middle East are forever shifting and I believe they would shift as and when America's and the West's military and moral credibility are once more in the ascendant. After the provocation of weakness, the lure of strength and steadfastness may sway many who stand aloof today to co-operate tomorrow.
A cohesive European-American alliance and harmony of views on the Middle East could lead to real progress very soon. In this connection, I should like to welcome the accession of Greece to the Community, a Mediterranean country with close links with the Arab world and with Israel. There is a slight anomaly that might perhaps soon be straightened out: Greece has, I think, embassies in all Arab countries but no ambassador in Israel. This dates back to Greece's reluctance in the early 1950s to offend Egypt, where there are so many Greeks. Now that Egypt has fully-fledged diplomatic relations with Israel, Greece would, I think, benefit by putting herself on a par in this respect with the rest of the European Community.
So, in conclusion, my Lords, the resolving of our differences of views with the United States over the Middle East must be a major task in that West-West, European-American dialogue which is so urgent and so vital. A new harmony in the West may benefit America but it would also greatly strengthen Europe. European Governments would no longer have to look over their shoulders for substitute policies of mutual reassurance, Relations between the individual European countries would be more trusting and balanced.
The prospect of a new spirit of understanding in Europe would be a great boon for those of us who are still fighting—and fighting on several fronts—for the European idea, for an idea of Europe which is not the Europe of Charlemagne, bounded as it were by the Federal Republic and France, with England on the periphery, but one where all her members work together, debate and decide without the intercession of a directorate of two or three. Europe is the home of pluralism. A good European can be a Socialist, a Liberal or a Conservative, a Federalist or a Gaullist; but a good European must be a free European, and a free European is an Atlanticist and a true patriot of the Western World.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Lord Saint Brides
My Lords, like others of your Lordships, it is possible that I may not be able to be present during the closing moments of this debate, and if that happened I beg the indulgence of your Lordships. May I also say what a privilege it is for me to take part in this debate—the same debate as the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, under both of whom I served as an official; and also as the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, an old colleague and former chief of mine in India and elsewhere, to whose thoughtful speech we all listened just now with admiration.
During 1980 I have visited Washington three times 137 and Moscow once. In both capitals I met Government officials and discussed world affairs with them, including especially how they saw this country. Their overall attitudes, needless to say, could not have been more different one from the other; but on one point the Americans and the Russians spoke in similar vein. Each of them emphasised to me from their respective viewpoints the importance which they attached to what Britain decides and does in the present international situation.
In Washington, the hope was expressed that we would accept the stationing of theatre nuclear weapons on British soil and also deploy some of our naval forces to support the Americans in building up a position of naval Western strength in the Indian ocean. It was clear that the Americans hoped for and would value our support in both these respects, not only for its own sake but also because of the encouragement which they thought it would give to other members of the Western alliance. As we all know, the British Government responded promptly, helpfully and robustly.
In Moscow, a Soviet official asked me why it was that the British attitude to his country was so much less friendly than that of other Western European countries. His question was intended rhetorically but, to the extent that his question is valid, the answer, or a main part of it, seems to me to be that because of our history and tradition we in Britain are by instinct and tradition inclined to range ourselves against any one power which aims to dominate the whole of Europe—and if this is not the long-term objective of the huge and disproportionate Soviet military build-up in Central Europe, then for what earthly reason has it been undertaken?
I quote these two super-power angles on Britain because both imply a recognition of the importance of our geographical position, of the high quality of our armed forces, of the force of our example and, I would add, of the depth and sincerity of our commitments, once given, and of our known physical and moral staying power, once aroused.
The other similar feature of these two estimates of Britain given at opposite ends of the political spectrum was that, interestingly enough, both countries seem to take us and our continuing influence in world affairs more seriously than, in recent years, we have sometimes seemed to take ourselves.
At Harvard University and elsewhere in America during visits last year and this, I found it hard to explain to Americans how it is that some British people of recent years should have begun to take, as Americans see it, such an unreasonably humble view of our role and importance. No doubt the old challenges and opportunities which were created for us, as it were, automatically when we ruled much of the world, have disappeared, and with them the special sense of responsibility for and concern with what happened overseas, which was so much part of British national life. But the true alternative to having a special sense of concern, based on ownership and control, was not to give up all sense of involvement, not to give up all concern, but rather to develop a new and up-to-date sense of concern based on recognising the new opportunities and the new challenges thrown up by our new situation. In a sense, perhaps, the American statesman Dean Acheson, whose famous dictum about 138 Britain the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor quoted yesterday, was saying to us, "Be careful, in adjusting to the drastic changes which have taken place in your old situation, not to miss the opportunities which are inherent in your new one" or, in other and homelier words, "Don't let the baby disappear with the bath water."
There were moments towards the end of my service as a British diplomat when I felt that the British people, so to say, in respect of the tasks which they set us, were in the position of someone who has a Rolls-Royce or a Range Rover in his garage, but takes it out only to creep cautiously around the suburban streets and never lets it stretch itself on a long, fast run across country. But if, as was claimed at one time, our diplomatic service, with its recognised skill and ability, was too high-powered a machine for the use which was currently being made of it, the remedy was surely not to substitute a machine of lower quality, but to use the existing one with more boldness and more imagination. In the last year or more, this step has happily been taken, and we have seen over this period to what notable successes in the international sphere and on the international stage greater boldness can lead.
Britain has inherited from the past not only an effective diplomatic service, but also in many countries a position of special closeness on which much can be built. First and foremost among these countries is the United States of America. They include also the Commonwealth. Commonwealth countries today comprise nearly a quarter of all the membership of the United Nations, and thus form a sizeable part of the whole third world.
We and they share a heritage of mutual knowledge and basic goodwill which extends far beyond the sphere of governmental action into the professions—law, medicine and education; into trade and industry—and Britain has played, and still is playing, a major part in many less developed countries in the injection of capital and technical know-how; and into the realm of ideas. For example, in America the public television channel would hardly exist without the splendid British cultural and dramatic programmes which it buys and shows.
Our closeness with all these countries is sustained by their, and our, common use of the English language and by a growing eagerness on both sides, in this age of mass travel, to maintain and multiply private human contacts. For example, it has been estimated that in summer, at any given moment, there are more than 100,000 Australian visitors in Britain alone every year. The sheer size and variety of this area of mutual contact across the world provides us with continuing opportunities which are the envy of our competitors, including some of our partners in Europe.
In the fields of banking and insurance—to take only those two—the City of London has always known how to use and further those opportunities to mutual advantage and to the great benefit of our invisible exports. In the cultural and educational fields, we owe a good deal to that under-rated institution, the British Council, which has been pegging away solidly and steadfastly for years now, helping to perpetuate British influence and to spread it to the younger, rising generation in more than 100 overseas countries. 139 The British Council does this on a mere half of the money which the French and the West Germans spend each year on their similar operations.
As your Lordships will remember, not very long ago it was fashionable in some quarters here in Britain to decry our continuing options and advantages in those countries where once we ruled as a rather disreputable collection of encumbrances which we should shed as quickly as possible, while rushing headlong into Europe. Latterly, thank goodness, such negative and self-diminishing thoughts and views have been on the wane. We are lucky to have at present in charge of our international affairs, if I may respectfully say so and join other noble Lords in saying this, a Secretary of State who was himself once a head of mission in a Commonwealth country, and who, on the basis of this, and of his subsequent experience in Government, in banking and in industry, knows better than most what an invaluable springboard for future constructive and mutually profitable effort our post-imperial heritage in fact provides.
If I may descend into detail for one moment, I should like to quote books as an example of what valuable results judicious and imaginative action, financed at low cost to the British taxpayer, can achieve in an overseas market. Nearly half of all the books produced in Britain are exported. Of this large exported part in 1978–79, the bulk—£125 million-worth—were educational books, especially English language textbooks. Under the aegis of the British Council in the years leading up to 1975, there was spent on library development in Nigeria about £300,000 of taxpayers' money. In 1978, Nigeria alone bought British books to the tune of no less than £23 million.
In its education policy paper dated last April, the World Bank said:The availability of textbooks has been found to be the most consistently positive determinant of academic achievement";which in plain English, or perhaps I might be allowed to say in English English, means that textbooks are the best aid to better education. During the next five years the World Bank accordingly expects to provide several billion United States dollars for further educational development, much of which will doubtless he spent on books.
Britain has evolved over the years a particularly effective aid scheme, the English Language Book Society, which enables students in poor countries to buy essential textbooks at a reduced price. This scheme also helps to ensure that the textbooks which they buy are British ones, as opposed to textbooks subsidised by other Governments, some of them not always friendly to Britain. In the current year the English Language Book Society scheme has had to be reduced, because of the cuts in public expenditure, by 50 per cent. As a result, no new titles are being added to the scheme and its effectiveness has been reduced.
This has happened just at the time when it would be prudent to build up this scheme, so as to help British publishers to secure a share of the new markets which will be opened up as a result of the World Bank's new policy. The taxpayers' money which has been saved is not especially large—it is less than £1 million—and for the reason I have given the economy that has 140 been achieved could prove to be a false one, if it is continued into future financial years. I hope very much that when the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, comes to reply to this debate, he will feel able to say that the matter can be looked at again when the time comes.
May I say in conclusion that, from my own recent observations in America, in Australia, in Pakistan, in India and, indeed, from another angle entirely, in Russia, I believe that those who know and study us elsewhere in the world—and the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, was perfectly right in saying how closely the Russians study us—are accustomed to a Britain which is up and doing, and found it strange and sad when Britain for a time seemed to turn inward and to want to discard the role in international affairs which it had once played with such drive and purpose. Of late, we have gone a long way to recover that drive and purpose and have achieved some signal successes as a result. I salute those responsible, and I urge them to widen still further the area in which Britain is up and doing. If they will do so, I believe that great gains can still be made.
§ 6 p.m.
§ Earl Cathcart
My Lords, although today's debate in your Lordships' House is devoted to foreign affairs and defence, I propose to discuss defence policy only briefly because the details of our defence arrangements can be more fully discussed next Wednesday in the debate allocated specifically to that subject. However, the strong emphasis in the most gracious Speech on the importance which Her Majesty's Government give to the effective maintenance of Western security and the importance of defence is certainly very welcome. The need to contribute fully to the North Atlantic Treaty was clearly defined.
One always hopes that defence, even in peacetime, can be very largely an all-party subject, but at this moment more than at any other time there is a need to debate this matter fully. Therefore I hope that many Peers from all sides of the House will take part in the debate next Wednesday.
The importance of the need to debate defence derives from a number of currently relevant reasons: first, there is the ever-growing military might of the Warsaw Pact forces, and in particular the threat which Russia now presents. These are well known and have often been vividly outlined in our debates, especially by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. Secondly, there is the forecast reduction in our defence spending announced on Monday, at a time when all the portents point the other way, which will undoubtedly adversely affect our operational capacity. Thirdly, there is the series of confused motions passed at the Labour Party's conference at Blackpool. I realise that those policy decisions were not taken with the unanimous agreement of everybody in that party, and I hope they will be the subject of still further debate within it, because, as they stand at present, they have caused very considerable anxiety within the alliance to which we belong.
The noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, in giving his own views on defence policy has brought them very much more in parallel with Government policy—that is, to maintain military balance and to negotiate disarmament from strength. Nobody can argue with that. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to 141 persuade the whole of his party to come into line with his ideas on defence policy. I hope too that those noble Lords who agree with the motions passed at Blackpool and who will be taking part in the debate on Wednesday will answer a number of questions. We all wish to know the answers to those questions. How can you vote overwhelmingly to stay in NATO and at the same time agree to oppose British participation in any defence policy based on the use, or threatened use, of nuclear weapons? How can NATO, which is a defensive alliance, hope to withstand a full-scale military assault by the Soviet Union, with its vastly superior manpower, without resorting, or at least threatening to resort, to tactical nuclear weapons, even at the risk of escalation? The fact is that that assault has not occurred, thanks entirely to the effective defence posture of our NATO allies.
To vote to stay in NATO but also to vote for unilateral nuclear disarmament is to opt out of NATO by the back door. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, described this as a policy of surrender. How can the West negotiate disarmament from a position of weakness, as would be the case if the NATO allies were to follow the recommendations of the Labour Party conference and reduce the level of armaments and defence unilaterally—I quote "to the absolute minimum"? If this Labour Party policy were ever to be adopted by the British, what sort of allies would it make us, and what guarantee would we have that a satisfactory world disarmament could ever be negotiated?
Surely the way to achieve disarmament is by confidence, by a slow process of diplomacy. That is exactly how the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, described it. We must act with patience. The difficulties of this process are clearly apparent in the current conference on European Security in Madrid and also in the lack of tangible results in Helsinki.
But what, I wonder, is happening in Vienna in the mutually balanced force reduction conference—MBFR—which has scarcely had a mention today? Is this conference still going on? One never hears about it in the newspapers. Does it still meet? And, if so, how often and with what results? Perhaps the Labour Party conference at Blackpool could be forgiven for not knowing of its existence and therefore for supposing that unilateral disarmament was their only hope. I should be most grateful if my noble friend Lord Trefgarne who is to reply to the debate could tell us something of MBFR's current work and achievements.
To turn to our defence posture overseas, 35 years ago when the NATO alliance was about to be formed Europe was in a thoroughly unstable situation. That we have had 35 years of peace and security is, as I have already said, entirely thanks to the effective defence posture of NATO, which we are all a bit inclined to take for granted. But 35 years ago we were still thinking in terms of preventing a possible European war. The intercontinental ballistic missile was barely on the drawing board. Now, with Russia's vast ocean-going fleet and the aid of the satellite communications, it is a global matter.
Our security and interests are not confined purely to Europe. The flow of raw materials of all kinds, so vital to the West, may be at risk. Indeed, Herr Rolf Friedemann Pauls, who was Germany's permanent 142 representative to the North Atlantic Council for four years until he retired in September of this year, has said, and I quote:The security of the NATO allies is now mainly threatened from outside the Alliance area".I read in today's paper that Her Majesty emphasised this point in her speech on her visit to NATO yesterday. It is easy enough to say that there is no possible scenario in which this country could possibly be directly threatened and to vote to reduce our defence commitments to the absolute minimum. But in history the unexpected always happens, and the voids created by our weakness are instantly filled by Russia. This is what the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfield, described as "provocation through weakness".
Since 1965, when we decided to withdraw from the Indian Ocean, a belt of insecurity has developed which stretches from the Pacific to the Mediterranean, if not to the Atlantic: Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq, now at war with Iran and heavily equipped with tanks and other arms by Russia; Syria, also heavily equipped with arms by Russia; the Arab-Israeli conflict, which has been referred to; and finally Turkey—an ally strong in manpower but with hopelessly outdated equipment and currently many internal problems. By an unfortunate coincidence, this broad band of instability extends the full length of Russia's southern boundary. As we all know, Russia thrives on instability.
Meanwhile, Russia now has extensive dockyards and a naval base in Aden, which was formerly a British base. We read in the Daily Telegraph on 17th November that the inhabitants of the island of Socotra, a former Royal Air Force base, are being forcibly moved out to make way for a new Soviet naval base there. Thus, Russia can command the approaches and exits to the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf without any opposition, and indeed from these bases she can command the whole Indian Ocean. Their warships regularly visit all the harbours from Lourenco Marques northwards and they can operate with ease from their established bases. It is true that ships of the Royal Navy still visit the Indian Ocean but it is one thing to mount a goodwill visit and quite another to be operational.
The distance between Australia and the eastern coastline of Africa is only slightly more than the distance across the Atlantic. It may be impractical to think of NATO extending her influence to the Middle East and perhaps to the Indian Ocean even though the security and stability of that area is of vital importance to all the NATO allies, but there is in my view an urgent need for the West to establish sea and air bases astride the Indian Ocean, not unilaterally but in concert with other non-communist and friendly powers, in order to counter the Soviet influence in those parts; and to do so is only what the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham described as restoring and maintaining the military balance in that area.
Unfortunately, such a policy would lead to greater defence expenditure. Perhaps that could be mitigated by a redeployment of the NATO effort or perhaps by the establishment of a separate defensive organisation in conjunction with other interested powers and in parallel with NATO. This situation beyond the NATO area gives rise to unpalatable problems which I hope I 143 have not exaggerated. The problems are there if the money is not, and they cannot be swept under the carpet; they must be fully debated and considered, and perhaps there will be time for that in our debate next Wednesday.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Lord Noel-Baker
My Lords, I regret that owing to a long-standing engagement I shall be obliged to leave the Chamber soon after I sit down. I offer my apologies to noble Lords who will speak later in the debate. My Lords, two stories that are true. A friend in Europe, a former Minister, the other day asked his army chief of staff whether it was really true that NATO had prepared a plan for war in which a hundred million people would be killed on the first day. "A hundred million?" replied the general, "A hundred million—ridiculous! Forty million at the most". Not long ago the noble Lord who was then our Minister for Civil Defence spoke to the nation on radio. I quote the verbatim text of what he said. Speaking for the Government, he said:We reckon that in the kind of nuclear attack which we think we must expect there would be, if it happened tomorrow, 15 million survivors. Forty million of us—four out of every five—would die".The arms race has made 1980 the most dangerous year in human history, and 1981 will be more dangerous still. The most urgent task of statesmanship today, which overrides policy in all other realms of human affairs, is to make a worldwide treaty by which the nations all disband the great forces that now impose such burdens on the peoples; which will abolish the vast stocks of weapons intended to make us safe from the perils of war but which in fact now threaten the very existence of mankind, and to reallocate the resources so released to world development, human happiness and welfare.
I find no urgency in what the Government are doing to pursue that aim. They seem content to drift along with the arms race, adding to its danger with more money and new weapons every year. By far the gravest action of this kind that they have taken is their decision to replace our Polaris weapons with Tridents purchased from the USA. They admit that it will be fabulously costly; £5,000 million is the estimate they offer and, if past experience is a guide, it may be twice as much. Is it necessary for the policy which we profess that we pursue deterrence, avoidance of a nuclear war. I submit that our Polaris weapons are fully adequate to deter the Russians from any thought of aggression that they might have against us.
In an earlier debate I described to your Lordships the full power of our Polaris weapons. Let me recall the facts. We have four submarines that can launch Polaris weapons from the North Sea. Each submarine has 16 missiles. Each missile has 10 warheads; each warhead is of 50 kilotonnes yield—50,000 tonnes of TNT. Hiroshima was a city of 400,000 souls. The first atomic bomb, of 12 kilotonnes, wiped it out; 140,000 people perished and in a circle more than four kilometres across every house and every structure was levelled to the ground. Russia has fewer than five hundred towns with 100,000 people. I believe 144 that Polaris is amply adequate for many years ahead to provide deterrence, if deterrence is what we now desire.
What are the technological advances of the Trident? They are three: range, yield and accuracy. The Polaris range is 4,600 kilometres; Trident's range is 7,400 kilometres. Is that margin of 2,800 kilometres greater range of any significance to deterrence? I submit that it is not. With 4,600 kilometres of range Polaris can reach not only Leningrad and Moscow, not only the Urals, but 900 kilometres beyond the Urals. It can reach Omsk and Stalingrad and the Caspian Sea to the south. In that vast area our Polaris weapons, 640 of them, 640 warheads of 50 kilotonnes each would create a damage far beyond anything that the Kremlin could judge to be acceptable.
Is yield significant? The Trident carries missiles with eight warheads of 100 kilotonnes each, twice the yield of the Polaris warhead. But does that matter? Professor Rotblat tells me that the blast effect of 640 Polaris warheads of 50 kilotonnes would be 87 megatonnes, 87 million tonnes of TNT. That would do damage far beyond anything the Russians might judge to be acceptable.
Let me remind your Lordships that this year's Memorandum on our Defence Estimates said that, while our nuclear strength was modest compared to that of the two superpowers, in absolute terms it is immense—"immense" is the word the Memorandum used. And it said that each of our submarines carries more explosive power than all the munitions of the Second World War. If your Lordships recall how our bombers reduced the towns of Germany to rubble, you will see what that portentous statement means.
Is accuracy more significant than range or yield? I think it is not. If 640 warheads of 50 kilotonnes were exploded in Western Russia there would be such total chaos, such radioactive pollution, such universal devastation, that it would not matter at all whether specific targets were hit. The advantage of Trident in accuracy is considerable. Its CEP, the average error from the target, the average distance which it strikes away from the object it is meant to hit, is 500 metres. The Polaris CEP is 900 metres, almost double. For fighting war that might be of great importance. For deterrence such as I have described it is of no significance at all. I conclude that, while these detailed points may help to support the case I seek to make, that case is very simple. Polaris for many years ahead could inflict on Russia damage which the Kremlin would judge to be unacceptable.
But is our policy deterrence, the avoidance of nuclear war. The Government say it is. But their decision to purchase Trident, their force of bombers that carry nuclear weapons, their theatre nukes, gives their profession the lie. It seems more likely that they are preparing to fight a nuclear war. With that prospect, surely it is evident that the only path to safety lies in a worldwide treaty of the kind I have described, a worldwide treaty by which all nations shall abolish all their nuclear stocks. That is not Utopia. It is the policy to which the Governments were pledged by the final document of the UN Special Session of 1978. It is the policy of common sense, of common humanity, of common necessity in 1980 and 1981.
145 I believe the urgent efforts of the Government, above all of the Foreign Secretary himself, should now be given to ensuring that when the second Special Session meets in 1982 there shall be a draft world treaty which the Governments can adopt and which by progressive stages they can carry out in the following years, a draft treaty for disarmament, general and complete, by every nation, to be achieved by progressive stages, with reallocation of resources to world development as I have described.
Let me end by asking the Government whether they have really reflected on the cost of Trident, the true cost, what the economists call the opportunity cost: what you could do if you did not spend the money on Trident. What is the cost of our armaments today? The cuts in social services are the answer. Let me speak only of education. If I understand the figures—they are not wholly clear as I read them in The Times—education is now to be cut by something like £300 or £350 million. As the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, Mr. Fred Jarvis, said today, that is an enormous burden on the education of our young.
I am appalled by the poverty of our imagination in respect to education. We seem to be content to turn out the vast majority of our young people in their middle teens with a smattering of reading that will allow them to absorb the crime section of the gutter press, and with a smattering of sums. In the United States everybody stays at school until they have reached the age of 18. In Canada everybody stays at school until they are 18. In Japan 80 per cent. of all young people, four out of five, stay at school until they are 19; and 40 per cent.—two out of five—go on to higher education at a university until they are 22. Our proportion of young people who receive higher education is not 40 per cent.; it is under 3 per cent.
I believe that the Government should reflect that the true greatness of our nation 20, 30 or 40 years from now will lie not in Trident, but in the education which our young people receive. The Government are choosing the shadow and they reject the substance. It is a very dangerous shadow. They drift on with the arms race, and the Trident is a new step, an enormous step, in the quickening of the arms race that may engulf us all.
§ 6.31 p.m.
The Earl of Bessborough
My Lords, after that very moving speech—and we respect all that the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, has said and we greatly respect his sincerity—I am sorry that it is not possible for me to support him in his arguments in regard to Polaris and Trident nor in regard to disarmament. The noble Lord may not remember it, but we both worked together for the League of Nations before the Second World War—he before I. I greatly respect all that he did and I know how well he merited the Nobel Peace Prize. I remember, too, the discussions which I had with his right honourable friend, later the Prime Minister, Mr. Attlee, later Earl Attlee, about our hopes for world government. That has not happened. The United Nations has, in a sense, disintegrated the world rather than uniting it. We now have over 150 separate sovereign states, some of which cannot even achieve stability within their own boundaries. We have a long 146 way to go before we achieve world government or even Western European government in the Western European Community.
I have only a few remarks to make, but I felt that I should make them as a former—indeed the only one at that time—British Vice-President of the European Parliament. None the less, I felt, at short notice, that I should say something on the nature and future of Britain within Europe. It is a subject on which I make many speeches and I shall be making a major one at the Guildhall in Portsmouth on Friday evening when I shall range much wider than I shall this evening in order to save a little time.
However, I should like to say at the outset how much I appreciate what my noble friend the Foreign Secretary has done in regard to political co-operation in Europe and how far that has been improved since he became Foreign Secretary. I should also like to express how much I believe we should all welcome the speech of Her Majesty the Queen in Brussels on Monday; that of the Prime Minister in Bordeaux in September; that of my noble friend in Hamburg; and that of my other noble friend the Leader of the House Lord Soames to the Conservative political centre in Brighton; and indeed, Mr. Roy Jenkins's recent Churchill Memorial Lecture in Luxembourg. There is certainly a change in climate for the better in regard to Europe in this country and that makes me much more optimistic for its future.
But discussions of European issues should most certainly not be restricted to foreign affairs debates, for there is a European dimension in practically every major policy area. We come to appreciate that, in a highly interdependent world, the best way of influencing events in the world; of resisting the trends towards trade protectionism; of improving the economic performance of this country; and of making advances in, for example, energy research, is through ever closer co-operation with our partners in the Community.
Over the past year discussion of our relations within the Community centred upon the excessive British net contribution to the Community Budget. Negotiations about that were successfully completed through the Brussels agreement and I warmly congratulate the Government and my noble friend on what was achieved. However, it should not be forgotten that a contributory factor in producing this unacceptable financial situation was the lamentable lack, during the bleak years of the last Government, of political contribution by the United Kingdom aimed at developing new policy areas which would have been to the benefit of both Britain and the rest of the Community.
At the Labour Party Conference there was much talk of how Labour had tried to "reform" the Community and how, that having proved impossible, the Labour Party now has the moral duty to lead us into the wilderness. The Labour Government never achieved substantial changes in the Community because a substantial number of its Ministers had no commitment to making a success of our membership. The Community was a kind of sacrificial lamb to be offered up on the altar of party unity. I know that some noble Lords sitting opposite me at this moment would not agree about that and I know that they—especially the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham—made a tremendous contribution in trying to unite Europe. But, 147 unfortunately, not all of the noble Lord's colleagues went along with him. The Labour Party has, by and large—and, as I say, this does not apply to all its members—decided to ignore the realities of the modern world and the extent to which our membership of the Community is vital to our trade, our jobs and our investment.
Between 1973 and 1979, when the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, and I were members of the European Parliament, almost half the inward investment from North America to the Nine came to Britain. Is it really likely that, with the exception of oil investment, a substantial amount of investment would flow into this country from America and Japan if we merely had a self-contained market of 55 million people?
I should like to take this opportunity again to congratulate my noble friend the Foreign Secretary on his speech in Hamburg, and particularly on his pledge that Britain will be playing a more innovatory and positive role in the development of the Community. It is a welcome change that we have a Government who realise that the Community is an organic institution. Its policies and structure are not set in granite. We are a part of this living body and we can have a key influence on its development. We did have and have had a key influence in restructuring the budget, and I hope that we shall continue to have a key influence in that respect.
However, with due respect and welcoming their recent statements, I would remind the Government of the danger of an inconsistency of approach and of the need for political realism as to the future size of the Community budget. It is rapidly becoming a serious problem throughout the Community that there are now so many specialist councils of Ministers that co-ordination between them is difficult. For example, at the meeting of the European Council in June 1980 the Community Heads of Government expressed their unanimous agreement that there should be a major effort in Western Europe to cut our dependence on imported oil. Yet when the Community budget came to be considered by the Budget Council it was, among others, the energy section which was cut.
It is all very well for my noble friend, rightly, to call for the development of new policy areas. I welcome that call. But if his ministerial colleagues are not working in the same direction, we could end up Janus-faced before our partners. In his speech in Hamburg, my noble friend stressed that it was a fundamental objective of the Treaty that the member states should work to achieve the convergence of their economies. So far the role of the Community budget in that task had been negligible. Indeed, in some cases its overall impact had actually been perverse. He also said that the present ceiling on "own resources"—and this is perhaps the most important point that I am making this evening—was an essential discipline. However, I would seriously question how much of a contribution could be made to the convergence of European economies—especially after the disparities within the Community grow wider after the admission of Greece, Spain and Portugal—by a budget which amounts to no more than 1 per cent. of the Community's gross domestic product or less than 3 per cent. of the expenditure of Community Governments.
148 In conclusion, I know that considerable savings can be made in the operation of the common agricultural policy, but let us be realistic about the feasibility of cutting it back to a sufficiently small proportion of the budget to make way for other ambitious Community policies—for example, in the energy field, in developing a Community strategy for high technology industries, for transport infrastructure or for expanding the existing Community policies in the regional and the social sectors.
I am not suggesting a massive increase in overall public expenditure, but in my view there are many areas where close co-operation on a Community level could be more efficient and allow for savings in Government expenditure at national level. I would particularly stress this as being the case in the energy and research sector. At all events, how can the Community's own resources be increased to make the Community economically viable when the 1 per cent. VAT ceiling is reached, which will happen very soon? How shall we continue financing the Community? Perhaps my noble friends behind me who are at present members of the European Parliament may have something to say on that point. Many of my views have already been stated, either in this House or in The Times.
Therefore, while welcoming the Government's new, inspiring and positive strategy whereby Britain will play her rightful part in shaping the development of the Community, I hope that the Government will not delay their offensive by superficial parsimony or by being under-ambitious in their expectations of the fruits of closer European co-operation. Our future must lie in Europe. To put it in its most material aspect, 42 per cent. of our exports go there. We cannot get out of the EEC, but I also see a united Europe as more than that—as an ideal at which we must all aim.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ Lord Granville of Eye
My Lords, I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, that those of us who had the opportunity of listening to the speech of the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary were not only very pleased to see him back in the House again after his many journeys but were impressed with the review which he gave us in the area of foreign affairs. There is no doubt that he has re-established the name and the influence of this country in many of the capitals of the world, even when he has been accompanied by the Prime Minister and even when he has been dealing with the NATO chiefs in Europe.
The noble Lord the Foreign Secretary referred to defence, although I understand that we are to have a debate on this subject next week. I think that it was Stalin who asked, "How many divisions has the Pope got?" Nevertheless, I sometimes wonder whether we are seeing in this country something of the resurgence of some sections of the public opinion which we had in the 1930s, when we had the marches and the demonstrations in Trafalgar Square—they are occurring again—when it was taken up by the media in abundance, and when we had considerable infiltration of the universities and the campuses and when we had the protests. Of course, now the protests are against nuclear arms, American bases and even NATO. I wonder whether this begins to look a little like the 1930s.
149 It may be relevant, for my mind goes back to the 1930s when Hitler was rearming, and we knew it in this country. There were demonstrations here against almost everything. After the Stresa Conference there was a conference in Berlin in 1935—which I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, will remember—which was attended by the Foreign Secretary and the Minister of State at the Foreign Office in an endeavour to try to reach some kind of agreement with the new Nazi Government there in order to prevent the worst happening. On the final day, I believe there was a meeting in the Bundesplatz or at the Reichs Chancellor's house, and I think it was Goering who asked the British Ministers, "If France attacked Germany unprovoked, under the Locarno Treaty you are bound to come to our aid. Would you?" This was the question from Goering and Von Neurath to the British Ministers, all assembled.
The reply was, "We have been disarming. We have no continental forces. The Royal Air Force has not been enlarged." They said, "But under the Locarno Treaty, the three-power pact between France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, if France attacked Germany unprovoked you are in treaty bound to come to our aid. Is it because your public opinion is against rearming? Our London ambassador," who I think was Ribbentrop, "reported the activities of the Peace Pledge Union, the 'We won't fight' resolutions at the Oxford Union." I think it was in May, 1935, that Mr. Stanley Baldwin said, "I could not tell the country the truth about rearmament for fear that we might lose the election."
All this was thrown at the British Ministers who were there negotiating and trying to prevent a war in Europe. What the Germans wanted to know was that if we would not implement the Locarno Treaty to go to the aid of Germany if France, unprovoked, attacked Germany, then, if they marched into the Rhineland, we would do nothing about it. I believe that this began the whole process of German aggression in Czechoslovakia, and the rest of it. It is important that we should remember the effect that the various activities of public opinion in this country had upon German rearmament and its aggression in Europe.
There is one other point I would refer to. There is a good deal of opposition—it has been expressed at conferences and in the media—to the United States of America and armaments, and opposition to the American bases in East Anglia. I think that this is a dangerous attitude. We remember just what we owed to the Flying Fortresses and the American casualties, and to their D-Day equipment which enabled us to be victorious. As has been said by so many speakers, we still depend on the United States of America.
I can remember when Austen Chamberlain wanted to get a four-power pact for Germany, France, Great Britain and America. The American Secretary of State said, "If I agree to make an American commitment in Europe the isolationist opinion of the Middle West would have me out." These were the days when America dared not make a commitment in Europe because of the isolationist lobby. If the tremendous efforts that were made to try to get the United States, Washington, to make a European commitment had been successful, we might have prevented the Second 150 World War. But they are in it now, and anybody who believes that the security of this country can exist without the help of the United States of America is living in Cloud Cuckoo-land.
I ask one other question about this. It has been referred to several times. What are the Kremlin arming against? Why are they developing agressive weapons? Do they think that somebody is going to perpetrate another Barbarossa of 1941 when Von Paulen's army was frozen to death in front of Moscow? Do they really believe that the West has any notions of agression against the USSR? So why have they these offensive weapons?
The Foreign Secretary referred to the fact that there had been a change of government in Washington. We all hope very much that there is going to be the same co-operation from the United States of America with the rest of Europe, and that there is going to be no really radical change of policy. Several references have been made to 1932, 1933 and the crisis, the industrial recession of that time, and of course poverty and world recession have a great deal to do with the atmosphere and the climate of foreign affairs. I would conclude by saying that in 1932 we called a world economic conference of all the nations to try to deal with industrial recession, and I would suggest to the Government that the time has come to take the initiative and suggest this again.
§ Lord Noel-Baker
My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, may I ask him a question? He founded a good deal of his argument on the events of the 1930s. Does he recall that in 1944 Sir Winston Churchill said, "This war", the Second World War, "could easily have been prevented if the League of Nations had been used with courage and loyalty"? Does he recall that it was the betrayal of the League over Abyssinia which made the Second World War, and that that betrayal was carried out by French and British militarists and appeasers?
§ Lord Granville of Eye
My Lords, concerning the war and the crisis over Abyssinia, I agree that the attempt to try to solve it at the Stresa Conference with Flaudin and I think Paul Boncour, was a failure. While I recognise all that, what we have to recognise today is that if the aggressors believe that we are going to do nothing about keeping ourselves strong as part of an alliance, it will happen again.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Lord Bethell
My Lords, it was a measure, I feel sure, of the Secretary of State's concern for the continuing war in Afghanistan that led him to make this latter point in one of his fascinating tours d'horizon that we heard earlier this afternoon. He rightly indicated to your Lordships that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan went beyond anything in recent experience and is a great stumbling block in East-West relations, particularly in the context of the conference now taking place in Madrid.
I feel equally sure that it was only because my noble friend had to cover the whole world in his review of foreign affairs that he could not devote greater time to a description and analysis of this horrible Afghan conflict, and that he was unable to repeat the remarks 151 that he made on 10th October at Brighton, paying tribute to the courage and success of the Mujahedin resistance fighters presently taking on the Soviet Army in their country. I believe that it is the first great human tragedy of our decade. Since my noble friend the Secretary of State was necessarily only able to depict the bare bones of this tragedy, I should like to put a little flesh on those bones based on information, I say to your Lordships frankly, given to me mainly by the National Islamic Front for Afghanistan, whose representatives have recently been in New York, London, Paris and other cities of the Western world.
The death toll in that conflict among the military participants continues to mount, not least on the Soviet soldiers who, I believe, to a great extent unwittingly and unwillingly, are taking part in the subjugation of a foreign and non-aligned country. It is now estimated that more than 10,000 Soviet soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan, and the numbers continue to mount. I take no comfort or delight in this, other than that it illustrates the determination and resolve of the Mujahedin not to let their country die or fall under foreign occupation.
But I think it is not so much the military casualties that cause us dismay and shock in London today; it is the plight of the Afghan civilians. The information which is emerging from Afghanistan in recent days gives us pause for thought. I believe, based on the information newly available to us, there have been 250,000 civilian deaths in Afghanistan since the Soviet invasion. These people have been massacred by chemical warfare, helicopter gunships, tanks, soldiers on the ground—although not by many of those, because Soviet soldiers prefer to stay in their vehicles—and recently by booby traps dropped from the sky into populated areas so they can be picked up and maim or kill innocent civilians.
The aim of this civilian terror is quite clear and quite political. It is aimed at making huge areas of Afghanistan uninhabitable. The aim is to depopulate most of the Afghan countryside, and it is with this same aim in mind that the Soviet invading forces not only kill the villagers but also kill the livestock and destroy the crops. So if the villagers are not killed by the soldiers and gunships, they find they can no longer live in the villages because the food and shelter they need are no longer there. As winter draws on, the question of shelter becomes all the more acute; in a few weeks' time the temperature will be well below freezing point in many parts of Afghanistan.
The aim therefore is a military and political one, to flush the Mujahedin out of their villages and remove them from the areas where they are welcome and receive succour—as Mao Tse-Tung might have put it, to deprive the fish of the water in which to swim—so as to starve and freeze them out and force them into the big towns, because it is easier to deal with people in big towns, particularly if they are half starved and have no shelter. They can be more easily controlled, and there are already reports of young Afghans being taken away from Afghanistan across the border into the Soviet Union where they are being re-educated in classical Soviet style so that they may be turned into devout communist, pro-Soviet Afghans to serve the interests of the invading superpower.
152 They would, I fear, should this diabolical scheme succeed, be most effective mercenaries on the Soviet side. Many of us remember the courage and skill of the Pathans who fought with the British Army in North Africa during the Second World War, and therefore appreciate what a strong weapon these people could be if they fell, through mind and body, into the hands of the Soviet conquerors of Afghanistan, particularly in the context of the very strategic area in which Afghanistan finds itself, only a few hundred miles away from the Indian Ocean, that great goal of Russian, and later Soviet, foreign policy.
That is the picture of recent days. The offensive began, I am advised, some 10 to 14 days ago, a new offensive against the civilian population of Afghanistan. I very much hope that my noble friend Lord Trefgarne will be able to say a few words about this new offensive, a matter about which I gave his department notice earlier today. I would be interested to know whether, according to the best information available to my noble friend, there has indeed been a serious intensification. Our resources in this country are limited, as the Secretary of State pointed out in the context of the Iran-Iraq war. We are not in Afghanistan the power we were 100 years ago (and many people would say, "Thank goodness for that!") but there are certain things we could do.
First, perhaps we should try to consolidate the measures that were taken nearly a year ago in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; that we should at least maintain the, in my view rather mild, measures that were taken against the Soviet Union—the restrictions on technology transfer and the partial grain restriction from the European Community. But already, I am sorry to read, Canada is breaking ranks on this issue and is proposing to resume grain sales to the Soviet Union, this at a time when a new great offensive against the civilian population has been mounted.
I believe we could make more efficient use of the Jihad, the Muslim resistance against the Soviet invasion. I know it has been announced on the Western side that aid is getting through to the Mujahedin, but much of it is being diverted, is going in the wrong direction and is falling into the hands of people not directly involved in the fighting across the border. I will not repeat the remarks I made in a letter to The Times today, except to say that I believe the Government, with their allies and particularly in conversations with the incoming Government of the United States, could make sure that those who actually do the fighting receive the tools with which to finish the job.
Mr. Ahmed Gailani, head of the National Islamic Front for Afghanistan, said recently that if the Soviet leaders have sleepless nights, they think about the Mujahedin and not about who will or will not sell them wheat. I believe our Governments in the Western world at least have the duty to see that these unbelievably brave men do not lack the normal and necessary weapons with which they are trying to defend their country.
Thirdly, I believe we as a country should at least speak out against what has been happening in the last few days. There has been, it is true, the occasional article tucked away inside a newspaper, but there has 153 been very little national protest against this new mounting offensive. It is as if the war had gone on for nearly a year and become part of our daily lives, something that can be pushed to the back of our brains and consigned to the memory. Can my noble friend, when he winds up, say whether there has been any protest by the British Government regarding the new offensive against the Afghan civilian population? Have any comments been made publicly by a representative of the United Kingdom about these new and terrible events?
However, I believe that in this respect Governments are not the only ones who have a responsibility. To a very great extent it must also be a matter for the media to highlight what is going on in Afghanistan, to make sure that the war is not forgotten and consigned to the back of the mind. As the months have gone by we have seen that the Afghan tragedy has been referred to less and less in the press and television of Western countries.
Where, I wonder, are the stalwart war correspondents who used to get out into the thick of the fighting and report what has happened, and keep the people of democratic countries aware of these terrible conflicts? Where are the writers, the artists, and the cameramen who, decades ago, reported the bombing of Guernica, the London blitz, the storming of Iwo Jima, or indeed the final communist assault in Vietnam? It seems that there are not such men willing to go to Afghanistan, tell us the facts, and bring us back the truth in great detail, so that we can base our judgments as a people on what they give to us.
Based simply on the small amount of information that does come out through refugees, diplomatic sources, and those few journalists who take their courage in their hands and go across the border, it is I believe undeniable that something on the scale of the annihilation of a people is taking place as an act of policy, as an act of military realism by the Soviet armed forces in a country on their borders. It is the aim, simply, of my brief remarks this evening to make sure that this is placed on the record so that this act of terror against millions of people is not forgotten while it is still going on, so that the war in Afghanistan does not become the first forgotten national massacre of the 1980 decade.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Lord Chitnis
My Lords, it is possible that two or three years ago some apology or explanation might have been needed for justifying taking time in a debate on foreign affairs to talk about the situation in Central America in general, or in El Salvador in particular. But now, while quite naturally much of the day's debate has been taken up with talking about Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq, Poland and other countries closely involved in the relationship between East and West, there is, I think, a much greater appreciation in Britain that the situation in El Salvador has deteriorated to the point that in that country people are dying violently in enormous numbers.
In terms of violent deaths compared to the size of that country's population, the figures are appalling. In a country of less than 5 million people already this year, according to official Catholic sources, over 154 8,000 people have been killed in the violence there, the vast majority of them unarmed civilians. When I was talking recently in London to a British nun whom I had last met at a country mission station in El Salvador, she told me that she knew of many violent deaths which had been unrecorded by those sources, her own estimate being that more than twice that number had died. Whatever the precise figure, it is clear that enormous suffering is occurring in the civil war in El Salvador, and I believe that no apology is therefore needed for calling your Lordships' attention to it today.
In an oversimplified way the present régime is frequently promoted as a moderate Government trying to introduce reform to a country which has suffered years of an unjust social system and, despite its efforts, being harried by those who are unjustifiably impatient or, worse, extremists dedicated to violent revolution. But that is not so. After General Romero's dictatorial régime was overthrown in October 1979, there were grounds for hoping that a broadly-based coalition of democratic parties would be able to bring peace and justice to El Salvador. Socialists and Christian Democrats together, after years of exile or repression, joined together in a new reformist Government. But the blocking of their plans for a more equitable social system, and the continual brutal repression by the military of even peaceful dissent, forced the resignation of most of the civilian politicians involved.
I have seen their letters of resignation. They are a catalogue of dashed hopes. One says,All our efforts have been blocked by the vast power of the oligarchy and by the military plan that has been put into effect. We have been forced to submit ourselves to humiliations and threats, both subtle and blatant, on the part of certain commanders".A Christian Democrat writes,We have not been able to stop the repression, and those committing acts of repression go unpunished".And so they go on—the resignations of 39 senior civilian members of the Government. Those of your Lordships who, during his present stay in London, have met Mr. Ruben Zamora, the former Christian Democrat Cabinet Minister who has now joined the Democratic Front, will have had a moving insight into the tragedy of Salvadorean politics.
There are not in El Salvador two groups of extremists fighting it out while the present junta stands helplessly by. The junta is itself extreme. According to the Archdiocese of San Salvador, 80 per cent. of the killings of civilians is directly attributable to the security forces, with other killings carried out by Right-wing paramilitary death squards which, it is now clear, function at the very least under the protection of the armed forces. Yet during this year not a single Right-wing extremist has found himself before the courts.
But while years of repression have inevitably given birth to some extreme Left-wing groups, the majority of the people in El Salvador, I believe, find themselves supporting, and having to fight for, the Democratic Revolutionary Front—not a small group of Left-wing terrorists, but a broad-based coalition linking together not only guerrilla groups, but also Social Democrats, Christian Democrats, communists, trade unionists, peasant organisations, and middle-class professional groups. With the moral and political support of demo- 155 cratic parties throughout the world, including at least the Labour and Liberal parties here, they find themselves fighting a civil war for elementary social justice.
But even so, your Lordships might wonder why this situation should take our time today, even accepting my analysis of what is happening in El Salvador. It is because the analysis is not accepted by those in Government in the United States—not by Mr. Carter's Administration, and even less so by Mr. Reagan's advisers; and this accentuates the dangers of the situation. One of Mr. Reagan's senior advisers has been quoted as describing opponents of the present régime asFidel Castro's Soviet-directed, armed and financed marauders",even though the Democratic Front has never received any military assistance from any country at all.
The received wisdom in even the present State Department is that the present junta provides the best hope for peaceful reform in that country and that therefore it must be propped up at all costs—by political and diplomatic support, by massive injection of foreign aid, by sales to it of military equipment, and perhaps, even worse, by direct military intervention.
I would ask the Government to do all that they can to change that view. They will know that Archbishop Romero of San Salvador, just before his assassination in March 1980, wrote to President Carter opposing United States military aid to the junta. Several members of both Houses of Congress, Amnesty International, and several politicians of international standing have similarly protested. Cannot the British Government add their voice to those others to stop instruments of repression being put into the hands of those who know only too well how to use them to protect their own selfish interests?
And again, even if Her Majesty's Government dispute my facts, they surely cannot deny that they need accurate information about what they may think to be a more complex situation than I have been describing. Therefore, whatever the constraints on public expenditure, the insignificant amount of finance necessary to re-establish a mini-diplomatic mission in the Nicaraguan capital, the most obviously efficient listening post for discovering what is happening in the region, seems to me to be the minimum that the taxpayer is entitled to expect of the informed Foreign Office that he believes his taxes are buying. That to do so would be even more obviously useful, given the situation of Belize, is another, but equally important, story.
I make those points because, while it may be thought that El Salvador is far outside our sphere of influence, and that it is just another miserable place in a world full of misery, we may have some special experience to offer which is relevant. A notable feature of the last 12 months internationally has been the Zimbabwe settlement. There the British Government came to learn that those who had taken up arms against an unfair social system were not, despite their rhetoric, simply for that reason to be dismissed and opposed as Left wing, Marxist revolutionaries. They learned also the futility of trying to promote a non-existent, so-called, moderate centre. The prejudice removed and the talking started, there was able to be produced in Zimbabwe a Government, led by Mr. Mugabe, 156 previously thought of as a Red terrorist, who have made a mark even on their previous opponents as remarkably moderate, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has said in this House, deserving of our support.
We have learned that no service is done by writing off those who oppose a feudal social and political system as being beyond the pale. Is not our hand strong, then, in trying to convince the United States Government that this is even more likely to be the case in El Salvador than in Zimbabwe, given the impeccable democratic credentials of so many who make up the Democratic Revolutionary Front? Whether or not we have a direct interest, we have this relevant experience; but, in any case, it does the worldwide reputation of Western democracy no good at all if, through the actions of the United States, it finds itself anywhere militarily defending the indefensible.
My Lords, it is two years since I visited El Salvador, and then it seemed that nothing could be worse for the people there than the dreadul régime of General Romero. But there can be: what they have now is terror masquerading as reform, even more deaths and disappearances, appalling tortures and horrible mutilations, and all this aided by the military might and economic muscle of our strongest ally, with the prospect of that aid now being increased by the Reagan Administration. This British Government have not hesitated successfully to tackle the seemingly intractable elsewhere. If they could use the experience so gained to help resolve the tragic situation in El Salvador, then their already good record in foreign affairs would be splendidly embellished and the long suffering of the people of El Salvador ended.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, like some other noble Lords I have reason to be grateful to the noble Lord who has just spoken for various benefactions which he has dispensed. He will however forgive me if I do not follow him on the poignant issue which he has brought before us tonight. I have no doubt that all he has said will be very carefully studied by the Government. We have listened to a whole string of fine speeches, beginning with the two from the Front Benches. I hesitate to pick out any others, even the speech of my noble friend Lord Weidenfeld, because I might be thought to have a vested interest as he is my publisher, though in another sense a rival. But I think his speech will in fact be remembered for a long time to come by anyone who heard it or who reads it.
My Lords, I come at these issues from a slightly different angle, and, although I may seem to approach the matter rather circuitously, I can assure the House that I will bear in mind the duties of a Back-Bencher, which are primarily not to speak for too long—
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, my noble friend Lady Gaitskell says, "Hear, hear!". She is well entitled to say that. She speaks more briefly than anyone else in the House, and that comment comes better from her than most people.
I well remember a great debate at the Labour Party Conference in 1935 on the rightness of applying 157 collective sanctions to Mussolini's Italy. Lord Noel-Baker referred to it by implication, although he was too modest to mention the noble speech which he himself made on that occasion. After 45 years I can still hear George Lansbury, the then Leader of the Labour Party, stating in memorable terms the traditional case for Christian pacifism. "Those who take the sword", he cried, quoting the Gospel, "will perish by the sword". Then he added, "There I will take my stand, and there, if necessary, I will die"; and the whole conference was overwhelmed with feeling. He did not prevail—Mr. Bevin prevailed—and soon afterwards Mr. Lansbury, the pacifist, resigned from the leadership of the party and Lord Attlee, as he became (Mr. Attlee as he then was and Major Attlee as he was still called in those days), with his notable record in the front line, took his place.
Since then the Christian pacifists have never failed to make their voices heard, and they have been listened to with respect in the Labour Party. But the official view, the view held by the overwhelming majority of the party since then, has been different; it has rejected pacifism. The official view—the view expressed by the leadership ever since those days—has recognised that, horrible though war is, in the last resort it may be necessary. That was the view expressed by Lord Attlee, as he became; by Mr. Hugh Gaitskell, always to be remembered with so much deference by all who admired him in those days; by Mr. Harold Wilson (Sir Harold Wilson, as he became) and by Mr. Callaghan. They have all stood for the idea of collective security: force in the last resort in defence of national survival, freedom and peace. In this connection it will be recalled that in 1957 Mr. Aneurin Bevan, who I think I am right in saying had never called himself a pacifist, accepted the need, in the last resort, for the hydrogen bomb. So that has been the official attitude; and when I say "the use of force", for the last 35 years, since 1945, that has meant the use of nuclear force in the last resort.
In these few remarks I propose to concentrate on the question of whether, morally, nuclear weapons can be possessed at all. I speak from a Christian point of view, but there are others with faiths which are held equally deeply and they will make the necessary adjustments. The first question is: "Is the possession of nuclear weapons morally tolerable?" Assuming the answer is, "Yes", the second question is: "Does a policy which involves these weapons effectively promote our own national survival and world peace?" If the answer to the first question is "No; nuclear weapons are never morally tolerable", then obviously the second question does not arise; there is no question of any policy based on them. But in these few remarks I am confining myself to the first question: Is it ever morally permissible for Christians, or anybody else who adheres to high ethical standards, to recommend a course of action which involves nuclear defence? I submit at once that there is no moral difference whatever between possessing nuclear weapons ourselves and being involved in a defensive system in which they are possessed by the Americans, for example. Any suggestion that we somehow evade our moral responsibility by letting the Americans, for example, do the job for us I view with contempt—not contempt for those who propound it (one should never express 158 contempt for fellow humans) but for their point of view, which I dismiss out of hand.
There is another ambiguity that I should like to clear up. Not long ago I attended a conference organised by a highly reputable religious organisation. Every kind of person was there: there were service chiefs, scientists, diplomats and theologians of every variety. One hypothesis proposed by an eminent theologian was as follows. "Suppose", he said, "I am reading the Bible to my small son and an armed robber rushes in and says that unless I hand over all my worldly goods he will shoot my little boy, and suppose "—this was in the example—"that by some rather curious chance he had brought his own little son with him. Is a Christian morally entitled to say to him, 'If you shoot my son, I shall shoot yours'?"
The issue aroused long and heated discussion, but afterwards I suggested to the theologian that it was unreal; no Christian would in fact shoot the other little boy if his own son was shot. The theologian admitted that he was propounding a policy of bluff; and there are some people—and I only mention it again because they are quite well-placed people—who suggest that we should have a policy which includes nuclear weapons, a policy which involves a very large expenditure of money, but should never intend to use them. I dismiss that also with what I can only call intellectual contempt. To make only the simplest point in this connection, in a democracy it would of course be known that we never intended to use them, and obviously as a form of deterrent they would be no good at all. So I am afraid there is no way out along that line.
Before that conference ended, I ventured to intervene and I argued, as I am arguing today, that there is no middle way, morally speaking, between, on the one hand, pacifism—which we all respect and which will be expounded with incomparable eloquence, I believe next week, by the noble Lord, Lord Soper—and, on the other, a policy of rational defence of our country, the free world and world peace. All through that day brilliant men and women were trying to discover some middle way which was not pacifist. Most of them said, "I am not a pacifist, but …" and then tried to find some way that did not involve a rational system of defence. I would submit that there cannot be a middle way. We must make a choice between a rational system of defence and pacifism. What the rational system is involves all sorts of technical considerations, strategic, diplomatic and economic considerations of every kind; but that is a starting point if you decide to have a rational system.
As a Roman Catholic, I have to face this fact, and others will face it with varying degrees of difficulty, so to speak. Very strong language has been used by Popes in recent times regarding the indiscriminate slaughter of innocent people—and no doubt the right reverend Prelate will be able to quote some statements just as firm that have been made by non-Roman Catholic Christian leaders. I will quote perhaps the clearest statement, one of many to the same effect, of the Popes:All warfare which tends indiscriminately to the destruction of entire cities or wide areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man and should be firmly and unhesitatingly condemned".159 That has been said and repeated; and one might find it rather daunting if one were a Minister of Defence trying to provide an adequate defence system that did not conflict with papal guidance. I say "papal" but it is also a great deal of other Christian guidance. Anyone who wishes to follow Christian guidance delivered from that eminence must pause long and examine his conscience assiduously before he can support any kind of reliance on nuclear weapons—whether we possess them or whether the protecting country, America, in this case, possesses them. I said earlier that there is no moral difference there. But papal and other Christian pronouncements have proclaimed with equal clarity the right, indeed, the duty, of national self-defence.
In the present world situation, if the Soviets possess nuclear weapons and we discard ours, we shall be placing ourselves at their mercy. We must assume in that case that the West, and no doubt other parts of the world, would be overrun by the Soviets. If anyone questions that, one is bound to ask oneself for what we have been spending thousands of millions of pounds on defence in the last 35 years. If the Soviets are really a relatively harmless people, who have no designs on the conquest of territories such as ours, then why are we involved in national defence? I respect the diplomatic language which is rightly used by those in responsible positions. One must say no word to inflame the feelings of other countries. But from the Back-Benches and at this time of night when the chances of being widely reported are perhaps not as great as one might wish, then one can speak more bluntly. The truth is that we have been arming ourselves ever since the war because of the Russian menace. There is no other reason. It is not because of the American menace or thoughts that we might be invaded by India or by any other country. There is just that one reason. If we discard such an effective element of our defence, then we are placing ourselves at their mercy and whoever has any influence at all in running this country—and particularly the Government—would be betraying the trust that people place in them.
We are faced with a difficult situation, with a dilemma. Some noble Lords will remember that I was once a university don and a university don is never happy until he has propounded a dilemma of some kind, even if he has to finish his lecture before providing the solution, as the noble Lord, Lord Kaldor, will recall. If we are following pronouncements such as those of the Pope, we cannot tolerate the possession of nuclear weapons; but if we are to be responsible to the people of this country for national defence and for the defence of our allies and world peace we must possess them.
I hope that the House will not think that I am quibbling if I point out that in the Gospels there are not a few apparent contradictions. In St. Luke, chapter 9.50, we read that Jesus said: Whoever is not against me is for me. But in St. Luke 11.23 is said what appears to be precisely the opposite: Anyone who is not for me is really against me. The right reverend Prelate will perhaps explain that particular contradiction. The fact is that no single test can ever contain the whole truth. As Mr. Baldwin once said: "There are many aspects of truth"—and although Mr. Baldwin may 160 have said some foolish things in his time, he also said some wise ones and that was undoubtedly a very sensible remark. We are faced in situations like this with aspects of the truth that have somehow to be harmonised. We cannot avoid the issue. The heaviest responsibility falls on the Government, but all of us in throwing our minds into the general discussion have our own share of responsibility. We must try to arrive at whatever course of action seems to us to harmonise all these aspects as well as we human beings can bring that about.
I personally am convinced that the course of action which this country has followed since the war in regard to nuclear weapons is broadly correct and it is being propounded now from not only the Government Front Benches but from the Labour Front Benches and the Liberal Front Benches—and I agree with it. But one cannot leave it there. Not even the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, who has rendered unique service to disarmament, can have shown a more passionate detestation of war and of the arms race than the Pope; although other Christian leaders have been just as emphatic.
The more we recognise in advance the depth of the difficulty of this moral dilemma that I have outlined, the more committed we must be to redoubling our efforts to bring these weapons under multilateral control and in trying to ensure that, if ever they are used, the indiscriminate damage is restricted as far as possible.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, I have been following the noble Earl's remarks with great attention. Is not the real dilemma not in the possession of nuclear weapons (which most are agreed that we should have in view of the present situation) but in whether we should find it in our conscience—or whether the noble Earl would do so, supposing he was leading this country—to use them on the first strike against aggression.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, the noble Lord has brought in the slightly technical aspect of "the first strike". I am not going to become involved in something as technical as even that. In certain circumstances, it would be our duty to use them. That is all I am going to say.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, that is the noble Lord's importation. I am making my own speech. The nobleLord has made his speech and was not here at the beginning of mine, so that he may not quite have got the gist of it. In certain circumstances—which it is not for me as a Back-Bencher to define—it would be our duty to use them. The noble Lord can make various grimaces, but the fact is that he probably did not hear what I said earlier. To me it is an absolute intellectual absurdity to suggest that one could possess weapons and not use them under any circumstances.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, I will leave the technicalities to the noble Lord. If he wants to take this further he can do so at another time. He has 161 prolonged my speech by a few minutes without any very good purpose. I may have brought him a little satisfaction, and as I am so fond of him I should like to feel that has happened.
So there we are. I say that in the last resort we may have to use them; in what circumstances is for the Government of the day to say. I would only say that this principle does not provide a foreign policy; all I have done is to indicate an obstacle to a foreign policy and explain in my opinion that we have to leap over that obstacle, painful though it is. There are people whose Christian sincerity is at least as deep as my own who would take a different view. The noble Lord, Lord Soper, is one who comes most obviously to mind. Each of us must reach his own conclusion in a very difficult moral situation. I have done that to the best of my ability and have testified to my convictions.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ Lord O'Hagan
My Lords, when I was elected to the European Parliament, I had to learn quickly and with humility how to cope with the wide variety of more intimidating and less intimidating public and private meetings which an elected representative is called upon to carry out. It has been a very valuable part of my education. Very soon after I was elected, I was asked to speak at a school for exchange students between different countries. After making a short address and dealing with questions, I talked to some of the pupils who had not made a comment during the meeting itself. A 15-year-old girl came up to me and said: "I am from Poland. Why was the turn-out in the European elections so low?" It was a humbling moment, first of all that in Devon there should be a girl from Poland learning English who spoke beautiful English. Secondly, that she as a Pole knew more about the European elections and the European Community than any other child or adult at that meeting.
I want to comment on what the noble Earl has just said. That introduction holds valid for my remarks on his superb exposition about the moral dilemma of the possession and use of nuclear weapons. For me, and for most people who look at the wider purposes of the European Community and remember the ideals and aims of its founders, that girl's question goes to the heart of the political nature of the European Community. From this country, Western Europe, free Europe, we all look to the sufferings of the Polish people and wish to urge on the brave men who are trying to organise free trade unions in that country; but we do not ourselves value the liberty and the security that the terrible nuclear weapons to which the noble Earl has referred has brought us or the prosperity which under the shadow of that protection has grown up since the war. This is because we are too familiar with it.
Although I am deeply attracted by the beautiful diction, elegant language, harmonious phrasing and the sonorous delivery of the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, his comments are profoundly dangerous because they are so well put and beautifully delivered. I salute the courage of the noble Earl who preceded me in putting the moral case for the retention and, if need be, in extreme cases the use of the weaponry 162 that modern technology has endowed us with. As he said, there is no middle way at all. When the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker (who is absent from his place now), said: "What is the cost?" he does not cost the alternative; and the fact that we are not like the Poles is a tribute to the effectiveness of the deterrent of those vile and beastly weapons.
When looking at the purpose of the Community and how we should seek to drive that purpose forward, we need to remember those people who are European, who are in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and all the other subject states who are wincing in the servitude to which the Soviet Union subjects them. All those people are Europeans, but they do not have the liberty that goes with the word "European", because we have the power to defend ourselves against the menace that oppresses them and they do not. So we must look at the European Community with the backdrop of a strong defence behind it. I was grateful to the noble Earl for preparing the ground for me as a harbinger in that way.
I hope that the noble Earl will not consider this to be offensive, but I, as a lapsed Protestant, was moved that His Holiness the Pope was prepared to receive members of our group when we were meeting in Rome because he felt—and he expressed it clearly in his address to us in English, which was deeply moving—that the political purpose of the European Community, and its contribution to peace, was something that he could see value in and was prepared to talk to us about. I remain grateful to him for taking up some of his valuable time in speaking to members of the European Democratic Group and receiving them.
We have heard from the Foreign Secretary today, in a speech of great interest, some of the good ideas and fine intentions that Her Majesty's Government possess, and that they would like to carry into effect in the European Community. I should like to compliment the noble Lord on that speech and also on his performance earlier today on the Jimmy Young Show, where maybe he had a wider audience than your Lordships' proceedings tonight, and where I can assure the House he was equally good, if not better. What I want to know, and what I suspect many of those in other member states want to know, is this: Are Her Majesty's Government determined that the flurry of good intentions and promises, and the wide range of great expectations that have now been created by the series of speeches that we have had from senior Ministers in recent days and weeks, to be translated into real effect, particularly during the second half of 1981 when this country holds the presidency of the Council of Ministers? There is six months of action from Britain when we are fortunate enough to be in that position.
I urge the Government to do this: I do not want them to stop making these good speeches. The eloquent words made by the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack yesterday in the Home Affairs debate were extremely appropriate, as well as the different departmental angles on the problem. All these things must continue; but let us make sure that the hopes now raised in other member states and round the world are going to be rewarded with action. For example, I was happy to read in the gracious Speech: 163My Government reaffirm their strong commitment to the European Community".I should have been happier still if it had gone on to say:My Government will ensure that the European Parliament meets in one place only by the end of 1981".That is one rather selfish consideration, which the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, and others may understand, which I feel deeply about. A very substantial part of the cost of the European Parliament—
§ Lord Ardwick
My Lords, I understand it but it is beyond the power of the British Government to give any such guarantee.
§ Lord O'Hagan
My Lords, I have great faith in the powers of the British Government to exercise persuasion over all the other governments, and I have even greater faith in my noble friend the Foreign Secretary. What I am really doing is taking this as an example that we must translate aspirations into effective action, because while greater efficiency in the machinery of political co-operation—which has the merit of being outside the treaty, as my noble friend said, and therefore easier to implement has merits which are self-evident to anyone who wants to see a concerted and effective foreign policy for the West as a whole, nevertheless it is policies within the Community which are going to secure prosperity and make the Community more acceptable to the individual citizens in each member state. Co-ordinated foreign policy is fine as a contribution towards world peace and co-ordinated action on Afghanistan—rather better co-ordinated, I suspect, my noble friend Lord Bethell and I would wish to see—certainly. But what we need to see is an extension of some of the things that Commissioner Davignan has been doing: a Community policy for textile industries that are in depression and a Community policy for steel industries that are in recession—because, just as 19th century liberal economic policies are no longer fully suitable for a complex modern state, so the original liberal economic policies dreamed up when the Community was founded in 1958 are no longer fully applicable in 1980 in the throes of a world recession. The Community can and does evolve. The basis of its economic theory ought to develop as the world challenge develops; and in order to deal with the threat from Japan and newly industrialised countries we must evolve Community strategies and Community policies to increase employment and maintain prosperity.
I do not wish to trespass on your Lordships' patience for very long. I should like to conclude with one or two comments about the wider purpose of membership of the Community. This is my only direct personal plea to Her Majesty's Government and I hope it will be echoed by both members of the Welsh duo who are going to wind up the debate. Membership of the Community is not solely about money. The EEC is not merely a financial organisation. It is part of the guarantee of liberty. I was so deeply grateful to my noble and learned friend yesterday for stressing in his comments the mutual dependence of the European Court on Human Rights and the EEC. I must say that I deeply congratulate the Government on their courage in renewing the right of individual petition. 164 I hope they will now back the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Wade, for the fourth time of asking—but that is another subject.
If we are going to get people to accept that the EEC is about freedom, Her Majesty's Government must stress this aspect in what they say. As well as the detailed comments on policy, which I applaud, and as well as the wider range of issues connected with foreign policy and the presence of Europe in the wider world, which I applaud, we must make it quite plain that the purpose of the Community when it originally started was to ensure that individuals remained free, that it is an extension of the guarantees of freedom and not a reduction in the possibilities of freedom, that membership of the Community is available only for genuine democracies and that once this country moved away from that we should not belong and were we to leave the European Community we should soon turn into a European Cuba or something of the kind. These deeper arguments must be deployed by the Government, because it is this absence of confidence in the security and stability which membership of the Community provides which needs to be met.
One last point: I was delighted that Her Majesty the Queen came to Brussels yesterday when I was there, to see the Commission and to see the Community, as my noble friend Lord Cathcart reminded the House. Her Majesty in her comments had drawn attention to the political value of our membership and I applaud what she has said; but I must put on the record how shocked I am by one or two comments that I read about by politicians who are losing an argument and who start to carp at the Monarchy. I feel deeply depressed about the political nature of some of the Members—I had better not say "of another place"—of the political establishment in this country. We have a wonderful system. I once heard the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor say that the Monarchy was the only part of the British constitution that is both dignified and efficient. I agree with him: you do not have to be a sentimentalist to say that. Therefore I must say that I am deeply depressed that some colleagues in my party feel that they are entitled to attack that most valued institution simply when Her Majesty the Queen makes the sort of constitutional statement that she made in the devolution dispute.
Let us put an end to that sort of thing—I had better not say what I feel about it. I am sorry to have taken up your Lordships' time. I have not commented in detail on many aspects of the Queen's Speech. I have tried to report back to the House on the impressions of someone who has become a temporary foreigner in the European Parliament. I rejoice to be here and to have listened to the debate. I hope your Lordships will forgive me for taking up your time.
§ 7.57 p.m.
My Lords, first of all I should like to say that one has to confine oneself to a particular subject at this late hour of the night. I am not going to intrude on the time of your Lordships for very long. I was interested to hear about the European set-up, but I am not altogether happy, as no doubt the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, will understand. For example, I am not happy that steps are being taken to pacify terrorism such as is experienced today from a super- 165 terrorist organisation, the PLO. After all, we should take things in their proper perspective. Your Lordships will not be surprised that I am referring to the Middle East and to one portion of the Middle East problem. I listened with very great interest to my noble friend Lord Weidenfeld, and while I have not yet had a chance to read the whole speech, in the main I would say that I can leave out a lot of what I would have said because of the excellent manner in which he spoke.
Here we have a question of perspective. Why are we not acting, as I think we should be, strongly to support the very important step that was taken by Egypt and Israel and America at Camp David? Why are we not putting our shoulders to the wheel there? What is the alternative to meeting and discussing problems without violence? We have been talking this afternoon about nuclear weapons. It was a horrifying picture that was presented in an admirable, but terrifying, way by the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker. If you want to avoid war, you meet at a round table where democratic people are prepared to come together. You will not get anyone other than these to sit down and discuss, and you certainly cannot expect a nation such as Israel to sit down with people who are determined to destroy it. Can there really be any argument about that?
How would we ourselves meet with a situation of that kind? Would we invite people who were prepared to destroy us? In such a situation, recognition of Israel is bound to be the factor on which negotiations can proceed. I sometimes feel that one has to continue repeating what one hoped would have been so obvious. We are encouraging the PLO. So-called moderates are assassinated. Where is the sense of it? It is too late for me to go into the details, but your Lordships can find them easily enough. But the moment an Arab moderate appears in the Middle East, or in Israel itself, he is assassinated. By whom? He is assassinated by a set of people whose objective is genocide. In order to obtain that objective, they even violate the child's charter.
I think that there were categorical statements made at the Venice conference. We are too often apt to say that everything depends upon Israel. The whole world has depended upon Israel. The whole of the religions of the world have been dependent upon Israel. In a few days' time, we shall be celebrating the destroying of idolatry by the Maccabees.
I see the right reverend Prelate opposite—we are all friends—listening with interest to this point. There would never have been a Christian religion, if it had not been for Israel. There would never have been a Mohammedan religion. There would never have been a monotheistic religion if it had not been for the wonderful bravery that was displayed by Judas Maccabaeus and his men. So what on earth is the matter with us? Where is the perspective with which we should be approaching this subject? It is so obvious to me, and I do not know why it is not obvious to other noble Lords on both sides of the House.
Here is the first liberation movement. I speak in fairly general terms. People have said that if the Israel matter was settled, everything else in the Middle East would be settled. Is that not nonsense? I ask your Lordships to look at the situation. Does anyone 166 suggest for one moment that there would not have been the fighting between the Iraqis and the Iranians, and all the rest of the troubles in the Gulf area, if Israel had not been there? Does anyone suggest—there may be some who will try, but I find difficulty in believing that they can—that if little Israel, which is not the size of Wales, did not exist, everything would be calm, collected and without difficulties?
If your Lordships refer to previous speeches which I and other people have made in your Lordships' House, you will find the information. Israel remains an example to the world. The roles of monotheistic leaders, in the spiritual sense, fit in with this situation, where this small nation—particularly after the holocaust it became very much smaller—should be eliminated. That is the real problem.
There is one aspect on which I want to touch for a few minutes. So far as I know, it has not been dealt with before in your Lordships' House. It is the question of Lebanon. What in fact does terrorism succeed in doing? There was a secret agreement, which I do not think has ever been referred to in your Lordships' House. I mention the matter to the noble Lord who is to reply because I think that it is our duty, if we are raising a subject, to make sure that the Minister who is to reply is aware of it.
There was an agreement called the Cairo agreement. When Jordan threw out the PLO, they went into Lebanon. The Christian people who had lived there in peace and who had created a remarkable state were massacred. If anybody wants to follow up the Cairo agreement, he will find valuable material in a book, written by Harald Vocke, called The Lebanese War. It is much too late to go into the details, but the fact is that not only did the Lebanon and the PLO enter into an agreement to allow the guerrillas to participate in Southern Lebanon in their activities against Israel but they required any action to be endorsed by the Lebanese army. But they never bothered to endorse it. Eventually another agreement was entered into—the first was in 1969—whereby they allowed even easier access to the villages. They turned the villages into fortified armed centres.
My reason for intervening in the debate is to draw attention to these matters. On a number of occasions I have pointed out what Israel has done. What has Israel done? It has never attacked anybody. It has been attacked. There have been four wars, none of which was initiated by Israel. I am sorry that there are so few noble Lords participating in this particular aspect of the debate on the Address. All that Israel has done, apart from what it has had to do to defend itself, has been to bring benefits to the whole world. Who can deny it? Israel has produced scientists. The Temple tolerated other religions; some of the monotheistic religions have been allowed to conduct some of their services in the Temple itself.
I should like the noble Lord who is to reply to take these views into consideration. Israel has no intention of carrying on war against anything other than the deficiencies of nature. Israel is about the third largest country in the world on the agricultural scene. It has taught nation after nation how to carry on its work, although many of them have been forced to remove their diplomatic representatives. Nobody can brush it aside and say that all this indicates anything other 167 than the efforts of a democratic state—culturally, scientifically. Meetings are held on human rights. If one considers the conferences which have been held one finds they have all concentrated on the peaceful and moral obligations of the world.
I could speak for a very long time, and I hope noble Lords will forgive me for already having taken up so much time. The fact is that the perspective is wrong and the approach is wrong. I appeal to all monotheistic religions to support Israel in its effort to carry on democracy and to carry it through in a reasonable and proper way.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Lord Ardwick
My Lords, the last two speeches have reminded me of one occasion when, within 12 hours, thanks to an aeroplane, I was able to be blessed by the Chief Rabbi in Jerusalem and then by the Pope in Rome—among the multitude, of course! The blessings had singularly little effect since I collapsed and almost died the next day.
I am not going to follow my noble friend down the road to Israel and the Lebanon but rather for a moment to join my noble friend Lord Longford in his excursion into moral philosophy. It reminded me of the time when I, as a good primitive Methodist from Higher Ardwick, found myself with four Jesuit priests and a bottle of whisky late one Sunday night in a theological college. I posed a problem to these Jesuit priests. I asked, "What should a tribe do if menaced by another tribe which possesses a weapon that could exterminate them? Should they fight in vain, or should they yield?" The priests said, "We think that in those circumstances they should yield". I then said, "But suppose they know that their captors will make them bear witness to false gods?" They replied, "That is all right, because that is not a human act, so they are not in sin". I said: "Yes, but suppose their children are going to be brought up, and perhaps for years, under this régime. Who knows how long it will go on?" They said: "That would be to deny the grace of God". So I said "Game, set and match! Pass me the whisky"—and we went to another topic.
The gracious Speech and the Government's defence of it left me gloomier than ever about the prospects of this country during the next few years. Yet there is one thing in it, one major policy as spelt out by the Government, which won the approval of most, though not all, Government supporters and of some Members of the Opposition: that is the positive policy towards Europe. Mrs. Thatcher said in Bonn that we are totally committed and the Foreign Secretary said in Hamburg, as he implied here today, that Europe is a fact of life to which there exists no real alternative. The Government are to play a more positive part in the framing of European policy; but if the Government are to carry conviction in Europe as a serious and responsible ally, it is not sufficient for that Government to act in the right way and to say the right things; they have to carry public opinion in this country with them.
Can the Government, with the help of Europeanists of all parties, arrest the drift of public opinion here into anti-Europeanism, and can they reverse it? The Government party was extremely cautious in the year before the election, and the half-heartedness of the 168 Labour Government, undermined as it was by the bitter anti-Europeanists within the party, did little to check the growing public antagonism. The election for the European Parliament gave the party leaders a splendid opportunity of going on television and leading the nation back into the European fold; but they did not accept it, and there were some good reasons for rejecting that opportunity. The Labour candidates were obliged by the Executive of the party to fight on a manifesto that was anti-European and a denial of the very policies that the Labour Government had recently followed. The new Conservative Government was of course preoccupied with the enormous new task before it. Moreover, one of those tasks, in which it had the support of the Opposition, was to rectify the great injustice done by the Community in fixing the size of the contribution made by this country.
But every legitimate demand for justice, I fear, has the unfortunate effect of confirming vulgar prejudice that in going into Brussels we fell among thieves who, not content with our cash, are after our fish and our oil too. Even when the great restitution was made, little recognition was given that the Community had acted justly, although admittedly under great pressure. This is the problem that faces the Government now, and indeed all of us who want to see the European connection develop. Every wise demand for the reform of the Community—and, God knows! it needs reform—requires an exposure of its shortcomings which must tend to spread further public disillusion. That is why it seems that some Conservative Members of Parliament have, formed themselves into a group for the reform of Europe. It solves their problem of how to be anti-European without loss of respectability—or how perhaps to be sceptical of Europe without loss of respectability. Constructive criticism is the deadliest of weapons, as every daughter-in-law knows.
In the debate a year ago I reproached the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, for merely touching on Europe in his speech. Of course he had good reason for doing so, as I recognised. At that time we were all, quite rightly, concerned with Rhodesia, and inevitably the Foreign Secretary's remarks about Europe were swamped by his views on Africa. Now he has spoken fully and I am happy with almost all that he said. But the Government's efforts to win back public opinion, which they will have to make, will not be easy. The Community is in the midst of seven lean years. Who would have guessed on that joyous day of entry in 1973, that by 1980 the Community would have 7 million unemployed, that its economic policy would be in ruins, that its economic integration would be halted and that its faith in world free trade—a faith that is always weakened in adversity—would be questioned?
Even 18 months ago it was possible to hope that the dream so eloquently described by Mr. Jenkins and M. Ortoli might be realised. They believed—as in a wider context the OECD believed—that nations which tried to expand on their own would come to grief, yet a collective expansion could bring the benefits of prosperity in a framework of safety. Those were the days when the more prosperous powers were being encouraged, in vain, alas! to act as the locomotives pulling the poorer nations towards Cockaigne. 169 Nevertheless, amid all the difficulties, the commercial aspects of the Community have remained intact and the industrial policies are developing.
Today, however, the leading nations of Europe are pursuing economic salvation separately and are agreed that these restrictionist policies are the only way. Yet men must yearn for the time when chancellors can creep out and feel the sunshine of economic expansion once more. When that time comes, of course, there will be need for collective policies to ensure that it is not brought to a sudden end by its own immediate extravagances. There will have to be a co-ordinated but dissynchronous reflation; the reflation will have to be phased among the nations.
The Community is suffering a loss of prestige today, not only for the bureaucratic bumbling at Brussels, not only through the vain hopes of its Utopian pioneers, but also through extravagant propaganda. Think of all the nonsense that was talked about the powers that would be conferred, possibly by divine providence, on the European Parliament once it had acquired legitimacy by becoming a product of the democratic process. Does anyone believe today that those powers are within its grasp? Think of the overblown ambitions of that Parliament to redirect the European budget and the subsequent humiliation it suffered.
In this country we have had to put up with two exaggerated propagandist campaigns: that of the pro-marketeers and that of the anti-marketeers. One side depicted the Community as heaven, the other as hell. It is, rather, a purgatory where the nations may be cleansed of their venial sins of nationalism by learning the disciplines of co-operation.
There were always some of us who believed that the rewards of joining the Community would be political rather than economic, though on the economic side we should at worst break even and perhaps do even better. We have to adapt that a little today, for the conditions have changed. Economically, this is a bleak world and if we were outside the Community we should be exposed to its full rigour. Inside the Community the climate is a little less cold.
However, the important benefit is political cooperation, which my noble friend Lord Goronwy-Roberts described in the last debate on the humble Address as a "pearl without price". Political co-operation has never looked more essential than it does today. There has always been a concept of the United States and Europe as twin pillars of the Western world. Indeed the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary reminded us of that analogy today. In recent years we have had our doubts about the firmness of the completed pillar across the Atlantic. Now we are to have a new President, and, although reassuring messages are coming across the Atlantic that he does not intend to follow the hawk-like policies spelled out by some of his supporters during the election campaign, we must yet be in a position to say what we in Europe think, and we should be able to say it with one powerful voice. A member of the other place the other day ridiculed the political ambitions of the Community because it is not a defence community. I thought that was rather like reproaching the Pope for having no divisions.
Europe is the greatest trading community in the 170 world. It is a great civilian power but a power nevertheless with an important voice inside the councils of NATO. As the Foreign Secretary was saying only the other day, although there are differing interests among the members of the Community and even rivalries, one might add that, on our main interest—relations with Eastern Europe—we are as one. And the United States will learn that we in Western Europe are resolved to seek a relaxation of tensions—apparently a new way of saying détente in a non-controversial way—and a check to the arms race, but on a basis of our current armed strength and increasing solidarity.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Lord Auckland
My Lords, inevitably a debate on foreign affairs on the occasion of the gracious Speech has ranged far and wide, and that is surely a very healthy sign in view of the tremendous national and international problems which the free world, together with the world which is not so free, face today. My Lords, I should like to concentrate most of my remarks on an area which I do not think has been touched on so far; that is the Caribbean.
I was in Jamaica two years ago as one of the United Kingdom delegation to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference. The recent election in Jamaica has, of course, resulted in the election of a new Prime Minister, Mr. Seaga whom I have not met. The noble Baroness, Lady Llewelyn-Davies, who so ably led the delegation, and others, met Mr. Manley, who has now lost office. Of course, there is very great concern as to the way Jamaica, especially, is going. This must be of special concern because we are still responsible for that lovely island, and it is a source of great worry as to how far Cuban influence, and influence possibly from Eastern Europe, will spread, bearing in mind the immense contrast of poverty and wealth which exist on that island. I noticed, reading the Financial Times a day or two ago, that the Americans are pumping a certain amount of aid into Jamaica. I wonder whether my noble friend can give any indication as to what Her Majesty's Government's plans are bearing in mind the change of Government there, whether there are likely to be any meetings between our own Government and that of Mr. Seaga. I think the time has now come for discussions to take place.
The anomaly of an island like Jamaica, as those who have visited that lovely country more often than I have know, is that there is enormous mineral wealth in the form of bauxite—and we visited a bauxite plant when we were there—coupled with an immense amount of poverty, particularly around Kingston. So there is, I think, an urgent need to see what can be done within our own limited resources to give some aid, particularly now that there is a change of Government in the offing, or at least to have discussions.
The Caribbean itself has now turned almost entirely independent. Dominica has been ravaged by a terrible hurricane and so has St. Lucia—islands which have been very freindly and loyal to this country and are obviously crying out for a great deal of aid and reparation. We should also remember that Jamaica helped us a great deal during the war years. Many of her inhabitatns served with the Royal Air Force here and elsewhere. I think that in the Caribbean we have 171 a need for more consultations, if only to prevent further Cuban and other reactionary influence in that part of the world.
If I may turn for a moment to America—and I have given my noble friend notice that I was going to say a word or two about America—I was in San Francisco on a lecture and business tour last June. The enormous respect for and interest in this country remains, despite the fact that for reasons which will be obvious to your Lordships tourism has fallen off for the time being. Again there has been a change of Government, and the team which Mr. Reagan gathers around him will be of tremendous interest and importance to this country. I believe that Her Majesty's Government will wish to have meetings with the new President very soon after he takes office in January of next year. There has been comment made on the considerable amount of time it takes for the new President to be installed. Obviously, that is a domestic matter for that country, but in the interests of talks and negotiations it is a pity that we cannot take on negotiations sooner, because there is much that will have to be discussed between the two countries.
My Lords, I was particularly interested when my noble friend the Foreign Secretary mentioned his visit to Poland, and the visit of my right honourable friend the Minister of State to Czechoslovakia, as I was in Czechoslovakia three years ago on a parliamentary delegation. There is very great concern as to what is going on in these countries, the Comecon group. I do not know whether my noble friend has any information about what was discussed when Mr. Blaker visited Czechoslovakia? Can he tell us whether there was any discussion regarding trade? They, too, have problems with their economy—despite the harshness of the régime and the other problems—and I was wondering what kind of negotiations, if any, were carried on in that area, particularly as regards the chemical industry. Also, were any appeals made regarding the treatment of the dissidents there? It is, of course, a tragic situation for a country, a number of whose people fought with us during the war, especially beside the Royal Air Force, and of course, that is not a matter which should be overlooked.
Finally, I turn for a moment to the Commonwealth. I hope that we shall continue to establish strong trading links with New Zealand and that, as far as possible, without being over-protectionist, her dairy products and meat will continue to have reasonably liberal access to this country. Because, contrary to what is often thought, New Zealand has always recognised our need to be partners in the EEC. I believe that, although to some extent that has affected them adversely, they still take that view. I know that my noble friend has a formidable task in winding up this debate which has covered just about the entire globe. But debates of this kind in your Lordships' House can do a great deal to promote not only national but international unity, which is so very vital in these grave times.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Lord Segal
My Lords, the most ominous sentence in the whole of the gracious Speech is the one that states: 172My Government … view with grave concern the present conflict between Iran and Iraq and will continue to work with other Governments for an end to hostilities".Four days ago I was looking at the port of Aqaba from Eilat, two kilometres away, and counting the number of cargo ships laden with munitions for the war against Iran. There were 30 of them anchored off the port. More ships were coming up the Gulf of Aqaba, averaging three or four a day. Fortunately, owing to the congestion at the port, they were leaving Aqaba more slowly. One ship had painted on her hull in huge white letters "Palmyra Tigris Lines".
The whole scene was painfully reminiscent of Saigon seven years ago, when I counted one morning over 100 American cargo ships sailing in slow procession up the bends of the Saigon River to discharge their cargoes in the war against the Viet Cong. We all know what has happened to Saigon since then, and the immense losses sustained by the United States in men and materials during that tragic war of 30 years' duration. We can only guess, however, at the fate of Saigon's former 2 million inhabitants after the blow that freedom sustained in the Far East. The Foreign Secretary does not need to be reminded of the boat people he saw in Hong Kong.
But few people seem yet to realise how potentially dangerous is this war against Iran or how deeply are the Arab states committed to it. The fact remains that the whole of the world has so far been unable to stop it, and can only look on helplessly while the war, after eight weeks of fighting, rages more fiercely than ever. Those 30 ships at Aqaba today will only help to prolong it, for neither side can achieve a decisive victory. It is a fratricidal war between two Moslem states, where both sides are bound to be the losers and industrialised powers, as well as the poverty stricken countries of the third world, are bound to be the losers as well.
As yet no one can foresee the end of this war, and the chances of a ceasefire seem to be minimal. There is a fierce religious fanaticism in the defenders of Abadan who will not give up the fight until the last Iraqi soldier has withdrawn from Persian soil. One fact, however, stares us clearly in the face. The cause of the Palestinians, about which the whole world has heard so much during the last 30 years, has not been strong enough to maintain Arab unity. There is meeting today in Amman a conference of Arab powers, which has so far only revealed their basic disunity. The Libya/Syria alliance, which was proclaimed only recently, has already opted out of Amman. Vast damage has already been done to the world's oil resources, with a cynical disregard for the needs of the starving millions of the third world.
Where will it all end? How do we intend, in our attitude of strict neutrality, to continue to work with other Governments for an end to hostilities? After eight weeks of fighting has the Foreign Secretary the slightest idea? Do we leave it all to the EEC? Their Venice Resolution only aggravated the position. It incurred the wrath of both sides. What good has it done? What was expected of it? Was it launched at the request of Saudi Arabia to protect our good relations with that country and to ensure the sanctity of our contracts? Now, it would seem, we may have to await word from Washington, which cannot arrive 173 before 20th January. But the war in the Middle East might still be going on by then, for Ayatollah Khomeini will not acknowledge defeat, and the OPEC countries are too deeply committed already on the side of Iraq.
The lucky country amid all this fighting is Egypt, which has already made her peace with Israel. Next in line of good fortune are probably the Palestinians in Jordan and on the West Bank, who are lucky not to be living in Beirut or Baghdad. When I saw President Sadat in Cairo in April 1977, seven months before his historic visit to Jerusalem and a month before Mr. Begin came to power, we agreed that the whole issue was a crisis of confidence, that somehow both sides must be persuaded to trust one another, and that in the event of a future war both sides would be losers. He proved that overnight by his dramatic act of courage in flying to the Knesset three years ago. Since then, Egypt has been happier and more prosperous than she has been for many years. Both countries have sworn never to go to war with each other again, and the blessings of peace are boundless.
But what has happened to Egypt since then? She has been isolated by her Arab neighbours, who are now more divided than ever before. Not one country has come to her support, and we have done nothing to encourage a single Arab country to do so. Instead, this unnecessary war, to which we can see no end, has only revealed the utter impotence of the whole world in attempting to achieve a cease-fire. Today Yassir Arafat does not know which side to support. There is no doubt about his personal loyalty to the Ayatollah Khomeini; nor, equally, of his loyalty to the conservative Arab states which have consistently aided his cause, both financially and morally, ever since 1948. But the fighting, the destruction and the loss of life in this futile Gulf war have put the Palestinian cause into perspective, and revealed its utter impotence in promoting Arab unity. So long as hatred persists, it is hound to be a dividing factor.
Yet the fact remains that the countries of the EEC and the United States are all facing the same problem of world recession, and all must continue to work closely together or they will soon be out of step with each other. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, was completely right in his speech in our previous debate on foreign affairs when he stressed the fact that the OPEC countries still continue to be enriched beyond all reason while the rest of the world becomes poorer. His pleading evoked no response beyond the foreseeable replies of self-justification. For wealth is the will of Allah and no one must frustrate it.
Meanwhile the cost of oil continues to rise. We are caught in a cleft stick. If the world economises in its consumption of oil, then as a result the income of the OPEC countries will fall. So up goes the price of oil, so that their income is maintained. Surely a halt must be called somewhere, before the sparsely-populated OPEC countries become over-saturated with wealth and the rest of the world has become poorer. Ought not the non-OPEC contries somehow at sometime to get together and say that this policy has now gone on long enough, and that a ceiling has now been reached, or the price of oil will go through the roof?
174 As if this were not enough, there is always the shadow of Russia dangerously hovering in nearby Afghanistan. If we fall out with the OPEC countries, Russia will be hailed as their deliverer. In no time she could be astride the Gulf, and where would the world's oil come from then? Will industry slowly wither away through lack of oil, or is the world again to be plunged into another war, more devastating than ever before? The mind boggles at the thought. Is it really beyond the wit of man, and especially of our Foreign Secretary, to forestall such a catastrophe?
The fact must remain that not only will the collaboration of the United States be needed in tackling the problem of the Gulf, but also the active collaboration of Russia. She, too, faces the self-same problems of oil. How can the collaboration of Russia be secured after the sorry failure of all our attempts at friendly co-existence in the past? The whole future of mankind must now depend on our wisdom in finding the answer.
A perceptive discussion of this problem appeared on television the other day based on a book by an international lawyer, Dr. Samuel Pisar, called Of Blood and Hope, in which he deals with these issues in depth. He is all for trade and cultural collaboration with Russia. So indeed are we all. But that is not the whole of the answer. The more we trade with Russia, whether in disposing of EEC mountains of butter or American grain, the more Russia will have available to spend on her armaments against us, and heavens knows! she is spending enough on them already.
Far more important is our trading with her satellites. There we can scatter the fruitful seeds that may ultimately enlist her collaboration. The seeds of liberation are sprouting in Poland; they are ready to sprout in Czechoslovakia, in Hungary, in East Germany and in other countries behind the Iron Curtain. That is why our Foreign Secretary was so right to undertake his official visits to Hungary, Poland and Romania. The seeds there sown may slowly bear fruit, just as the Pope's visit to Poland seems to have done.
We need not feel dismayed if our initial advances to Soviet Russia are rejected, as they almost certainly will be. Such a policy for us is ethically and morally sound. Let us persist in aiding especially the satellite countries who sorely need help from the West. But, above all, let us seek to break down harriers wherever they exist. This is no less true of Berlin and the Iron Curtain than it is of Jerusalem and the West Bank, where we now have to guard carefully against the setting up of new barriers. Berlin has proved that barriers can be set up overnight, but take years and years, and cost endless human lives if ever they are to be broken down, and countries can learn to live peacefully together.
President Sadat has proved to the world that the will to peace can be forced on a country at a stroke, and walls of suspicion and hatred can be gradually eroded. His courageous act has so far not been followed by a single Arab state. Perhaps the risks have been too great, but the way since has been long and hard. However, I believe that it is the only way that can save the world from catastrophe, and the only way for us to follow. The bonds that bind all peoples together are far greater than the problems that divide them, and only by drawing these bonds still closer can we banish 175 suspicion and fear. There really is no other way; otherwise the future can only fill us with foreboding.
§ 8.59 p.m.
The Marquess of Ailsa
My Lords, I should like to say a few words about the Horn of Africa. The Horn of Africa is a very troubled part of the world. Its troubles have been and still are rather overshadowed by events going on in other parts of the world. The troubles in the Horn of Africa arise from political and natural causes—primarily the prolonged drought. That has affected the cropping and grazing of this area, bringing with it a disastrous loss of food and of livestock, thereby denying the inhabitants of this part of Africa the means of life and livelihood. I have heard today that as of this week some rain has fallen in that part of the world, but it is not yet enough to make a dramatic change.
But all these problems are aggravated by the political problems which beset this part of Africa, these being primarily brought about by the continuing conflict between the Somalis and the Ethiopians, again incurred and enforced by the Ethiopian occupation of Western Somalia, an area that through the ages has been traditionally occupied by the Somalis. Only about 100 years ago was claim laid to Western Somalia by the Ethiopians, and only as recently as 1954 was the adjoining portion, the Haud, made over to Ethiopia by the then British Government.
Since then, and since the creation of the Somali Democratic Republic, there has been continued unrest in this area, unrest that has at times led to war and has at all times increased and caused great misery to the Somali population of the district, who are even to this day subjected to bombardment and rocket attacks by aircraft and are having their livestock killed and their wells poisoned. The net result of all this is that there are now in the Somali Democratic Republic over 1,500,000 refugees, these being people who have been forced to fly from Western Somalia. This is placing an impossible and nearly intolerable burden on the Government of that country. There is aid coming from outside agencies but this is nowhere near sufficient to meet or even to overcome the burden that has been placed on the Somalis.
Currently the Ethiopians are getting support from the USSR in the form of aid, advice and materials. The Ethiopians are also getting military help from the Cuban army, and they have not hesitated to make use of all this aid to restore their authority in Western Somalia and to threaten the Government of the Somali Republic, certainly whenever it endeavours to give aid or succour to its fellow Somalis. Even as recently as last Monday there were bombardments taking place, air attacks by the Ethiopians on towns within the Somali Democratic Republic.
It is interesting to note that in its early years the Somali Democratic Republic sought and received aid from the USSR, and for many years their Russian advisers encouraged the resistance of the Somalis in Western Somalia to the Ethiopians. But as soon as the Government of the Somali Democratic Republic learned that Soviet aid and encouragement had been given to the Ethiopians they severed all connections with their Russian friends. Since that time the Somali 176 Democratic Republic has been virtually alone in its struggles on behalf of its fellow countrymen, with only very limited aid being forthcoming from this country and from America.
So at present there is turmoil in the Horn of Africa, with over 1½ million refugees, products of political and natural causes. Ethiopia, aided and supported by the Russians and Cubans, is acting in a totally inhumane manner to the Somali inhabitants of Western Somalia and continually threatening its neighbours, especially the Somali Democratic Republic. The concern of the Somali Democratic Republic is that all Somalis should be able to live as ordinary citizens wherever they so choose. Certainly the Somali Government has no territorial designs on Kenya. But this same Government feels that it is greatly in need of better understanding and assistance in regard to its problems in connection with Western Somalia.
I should like to think that Her Majesty's Government would take heed of the state of affairs in the Horn of Africa, if for no other reason than that it is some of the actions of our Governments in the past that have led to the creation of the situation existing in that part of the world today. I should also like us to show our understanding and concern for a country that has had the courage to cast off the Soviet yoke, and only desires to live and develop in peace.
§ 9.7 p.m.
§ Lord Banks
My Lords, the noble Marquess speaks of the problems of the Horn of Africa with a knowledge to which I would lay no claim, and I am sure he will understand if I do not follow him in discussing the problems of that troubled part of the world. I often think that our debates in this House are a little like the Grand National: those who complete the course are many fewer in number than those who are in at the start, and who are the winners is an open question.
The noble Lord, Lord Auckland, said that we have had a wide-ranging debate, and indeed many subjects have been touched upon: I should like briefly to comment on one or two of the matters which have been discussed. Many noble Lords referred to nuclear weapons and arms control, my noble friend Lord Gladwyn prominent among them. We have to take note of the resurgence of anti-nuclear feeling there is in this country and in the West at the present time. We have to take note of the resurgence of a fear of nuclear war, an increased belief in the likelihood that a nuclear war could happen. We may ask why there is this resurgence. Such a feeling would have been understandable in the early years after the war when we had not lived with these weapons for long and nobody knew what would happen and how nations would handle them. But today, after so many years of peace, why should this feeling be rising?
One reason is that people are conscious of the fact that the nuclear arsenals are increasing, not only in number but in the quality of the weapons themselves. People are also concerned to hear talk about survival in nuclear war. It is understandable that Governments should be anxious to promote civil defence—to promote the idea that they are able and ready to resist, to some extent anyway, nuclear attack—but the more the idea of survival in a nuclear war gains ground (or the idea 177 to which the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, referred, of a winnable nuclear war gains ground) the greater will be the misgiving on the part of ordinary people.
Again, many people realise—the Brandt Commission underlined this—the inevitable waste of resources which the arms race involves and they appreciate what could be done with the money if it were available. So the urgent need for disarmament has become apparent to very many but, as has been made clear in this debate, there are two roads to disarmament, one the unilateral road and one the multilateral road, and there are two comments I would make on that. First, we are entitled to say that those who want to follow the unilateral road, and who wish to do so with great sincerity, have no monopoly of morality; and, if I understood him correctly, I am able to quote the noble Earl, Lord Longford, in support of that proposition. If we believe, as many of us do—as I do—that to embark on unilateral nuclear disarmament would be to make nuclear war more likely, then it seems to me that we have a moral responsibility to oppose such a course and that our side of the argument has as much morality behind it as the other side.
Secondly, there is the danger of fudging the issue between these two ways of seeking for disarmament, and here I agree strongly with the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, when he says we cannot believe in both; we must make a choice; and he argued the point clearly. We on these Benches, while conscious of the feeling to which I referred at the outset, nevertheless are multilateralists. We believe that is the route towards disarmament. We believe that collective security demands the continuation of NATO with its nuclear forces so long as similar forces are arrainged on the other side of the Iron Curtain, and that nuclear forces, if we are to have them, must be effective, and for that reason we supported the modernisation of theatre nuclear forces in Europe.
We have challenged the continuation of the independent nuclear deterrent on the grounds that it is not, in our view, the best way in which we could make the British contribution to the general defence, a defence which includes nuclear weapons but not necessarily British nuclear weapons, but that is a separate issue. However, we are strongly in favour of working for arms control, and I agree again with the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, when he argues for the Government to make it abundantly clear, not just to people who think a lot about these matters in detail but to the public as a whole, that arms control and negotiated disarmament are in fact the aims of the Government; and I agree too with Lord Stewart's plea for an agreed view about trade in arms.
The depressing thing is that progress on all fronts towards arms control is partically nil at present. Arms control is being discussed in a number of fora, but not with very much progress at the moment. The main achievement of recent years has been SALT II, and I hope that we shall not have to abandon it. I hope that the new United States Government under President-Elect Reagan when he takes over will in fact be persuaded to seek the ratification of SALT II, so that we can proceed to SALT III, for I am doubtful whether we can proceed to SALT III without SALT II first being ratified.
The noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, referred to the conversations 178 in Vienna and the mutual and balanced force reductions that are being discussed there. I hope that before long there will be a preliminary agreement of some kind to be reported on from there. There is the question, too, of how we should link our discussions with the Russians on these issues with Russian behaviour in other spheres, over other matters. Should there be a linkage so far as arms control discussions are concerned? In my view there should not be a linkage; that is to say, though at times discussions may be very difficult because of conduct, we should not cut off discussions because of disapproval of Soviet behaviour. I think that to do so would be cutting off our nose to spite our face.
However, how far should this concept of linkage be applied outside arms control discussion in other matters? How far should we link our attitude on one matter with what we do on another? Of course it is very clear that if the Soviet Union did certain things, there would be a war. If there were a move across the Iron Curtain in Europe, and now, we understand, if there were a move into the Gulf, those actions would mean war.
But what about a matter such as the invasion of Afghanistan? There was a very interesting article earlier this week, or at the end of last week, in the Guardian, by Hella Pick, in which she went over the whole of the sanctions applied, particularly by the United States, and by the West in connection with Afghanistan, and showed how they had to a large extent collapsed, and how of course they had not been fully agreed in the first place.
Then there is the question of a possible Russian intervention in Poland, which has been mentioned earlier today in our debate. It has been made clear, both in this House today and by Dr. Luns, that there would be no military intervention by the West in that event. But what should there be? If it took place, how far should détente be interrupted? I have already suggested that arms control should carry on as far as is possible, whatever the circumstances; but what else should be done if that situation arose?
There is also the question of the behaviour of the Russian Government in, for example, Africa and Cambodia. How far should Western policies be adjusted to show disapproval, if that is what we feel? Then there is the Helsinki Declaration and the Madrid Conference in connection with it. Certainly we disapprove of any violation of human rights, but how do we express that disapproval? What kind of sanctions can, or should, be applied? Can we hope to change the Russian state in which, unfortunately, regrettably, and deplorably there have been violations of human rights since 1917? Can that be done from outside, or can it be only from inside, for example, by the Polish workers, by people co-operating in that way Is that the way it can be achieved?
I offer no solutions to those very difficult problems, no answers to those questions, but I believe that they call for the closest consultation between the Western allies; and I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, said about the need for unity in the West on these matters. I welcome the fact that in the course of his most valuable review of the world situation which he gave us earlier today the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, made it clear that such consultations were 179 going to take place, and that the aim was to be better prepared than we were at the time of the Afghanistan intervention for eventualities of the kind that I have been discussing.
I should like to say a few words about the EEC before I finish. As the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, has said, it is very encouraging to find the Government speaking out so strongly in favour of the concept of the EEC, as they have been doing recently; and I welcome, too, the remarks made about the EEC by the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, at the outset of the debate. I hope that his view on these matters will prevail with his colleagues in this House and in another place. The noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, pointed out that over 40 per cent. of our trade is with the EEC and that withdrawal would be highly detrimental to the position of this country economically. I think that it would be highly detrimental to this country politically.
Incidentally, we are now roughly in balance in our trade with the EEC. Of course, as many noble Lords have said this afternoon, there is much in the EEC that requires reform, and reform of the common agricultural policy is perhaps at the top of the list. But I agree very strongly with what was said by the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, when he pointed out that it was unlikely that this problem of 70 per cent. of the budget of the European Community going into agriculture will be solved unless there is an increase in the total of the budget. He put that very clearly, and I should like to support what he said. That point has also been made recently by the retiring President of the Commission, Roy Jenkins.
Another thing which Roy Jenkins has said to which I think we should give attention is the need to make more effective the supra-national character of the EEC. It seems to me that at the moment two trends are at work. One is a trend towards closer political co-operation, in which the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, is playing a leading part. I think that will have to go further than the creation of a secretariat. I think we must look forward to the days when in many negotiations one delegation or one person will speak for the Community as a whole. The more that can be done the better it will be. The other trend is a tendency within the EEC itself (because, of course, political co-operation is outside the framework of the EEC, but in the EEC itself) for a looser, more nationalistic association. I think that that tendency is to be deplored, for how often have the Commission put forward a sensible European solution which has been pushed aside in the Council of Ministers, where the national considerations prevailed?
I am not suggesting that it is possible at the present time to make enormous strides in the direction of the supra-national principle, but I feel that that is the direction in which we want to be going and that there is a danger that we shall slide back. I think we have to watch the point particularly carefully at a time of enlargement, when enlargement could be made an excuse for loosening the whole structure, which I think would weaken the Community and throw away the possibility of using it to deal with some of the serious problems with which we are faced.
I spoke a minute ago about increasing the EEC 180 budget. I would see that as a part of a co-ordinated attack by the EEC on the unemployment problem which the whole of the Community has, and I would see that, in turn, as part of a world-wide attack on poverty; what I would call a kind of global Keynesianism. For that reason I welcome what the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, said about the need for more enthusiastic support for the Brandt Report. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby, in the course of a speech with which I found myself in complete agreement, drew attention to some remarks that had been made by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury just a few days ago, when he said that it was difficult to maintain that Britain had given a moral lead in helping to implement the Brandt Commission Report on redistribution of wealth between the West and the developing countries. He went on to say—and I think the right reverend Prelate quoted this:I fear that we are in danger of subjugating the international imperative to the domestic imperative, and if that is so then it may prove to be a very dangerous and foolish mistake".We on these Benches would endorse that comment by the most reverend Primate. The Government now seem to be more committed to the concept of dealing with the Brandt Report, particularly since their support of the summit conference which is to be held to deal with this, as we were hearing again from the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary earlier today. I hope that the future acts of the Government will make it clear that they plan to avoid making what the most reverend Primate described as "a very dangerous and foolish mistake".
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, we have had a wide-ranging and serious debate and the speeches without exception have drawn attention to the gravity of the problems which bedevil the world scene. When the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, resumes his seat, the House will have heard 26 speeches and many of them have been what I might call specialist speeches. The noble Lord, Lord Auckland, dealt with the Caribbeans; the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, delivered a very well informed speech on Indonesia; the noble Lord, Lord Chitnis, spoke about the stark and grim situation in El Salvador. It is hard to find a glimmer of light anywhere. We are, in the words of the hymn, "amid encircling gloom" and the world needs leading out of it. I should not be winding up the debate for the Opposition were it not for the temporary indisposition of my noble friend Lady Llewelyn-Davies. I know that the House will miss her contribution this evening and will be glad to see her return to her customary place on the Front Bench within a few days.
The noble Lord the Foreign Secretary gave an account of his stewardship at the start of the debate. I should like to pay my own tribute to him for his constructive and determined efforts. In the current depressing situation it is important to have a Foreign Secretary who is prepared to visit countries which have difficulties of a special character. He has made several such visits and we appreciate his willingness to do so and his tenacity. His recent visit to Poland was an example. He had the support of everyone in this 181 House and of the overwhelming majority of the British people when he said that the Polish people must have the right and the freedom to work out their own salvation without intervention from any quarter. That is a view which all of us share without exception.
There is some encouragement and hope to be derived from the fact that the free trade unions in Poland have made substantial progress, an advance that would have been unthinkable a few years ago. It is also true that the USSR has not intervened physically, and I hope that progress will continue to be made in a reasonable and non-provocative way in Poland. We certainly hope that the armies of the USSR will keep clear of Poland; their intervention would be disastrous and the consequences of a march into Poland by the armies of Russia would be incalculable. There is a need therefore for caution on both sides of the Polich border. The USSR will have realised by now that the indefensible war in Afghanistan has undermined the confidence which many Third World countries had in them. Any intervention in Poland would carry that process much further and would turn the clock back at least 25 years.
We understand that there are fears in the USSR. I had the privilege of leading a parliamentary delegation there, including Members of both Houses, about three years ago; and these fears were brought home to us in many ways: fear of the United States, fear of NATO, fear of encirclement as well as other factors; the kind of worries mentioned in the thoughtful speech made by my noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder. But the USSR must realise that disarmament, multilateral disarmament, is as important to them as to the rest of the world. Steady progress on disarmament is our best hope and a wrong step in Poland would destroy that hope for a long time to come. The USSR could make a very great contribution, a central contribution, by a phased withdrawal from Afghanistan.
I know that the House was very impressed by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, who gave a grim and graphic report of conditions in Afghanistan at the present time. It was depressing to hear; but the Russians must realise that their position in the world is undermined and their position as far as the Third World is concerned is extremely weak until they withdraw Russian forces from Afghanistan. But should they do that they will, conversely, make a great contribution to world peace and we shall see the possibility of stability in the future. Without it, we see none at all. We might then, if they do so, look forward to substantial progress on disarmament, and especially on nuclear disarmament.
There is unfortunately no reference to this in the gracious Speech. I think that it is a serious omission. In our view on this side of the House—and I think it will be shared by everyone else—the ratification of SALT II is essential if a nuclear arms race is to be avoided. There is one imponderable, and that is the attitude and composition of the new United States Administration which will take over on 20th January. The noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, in what I think was a remarkable speech, gave us a good deal to think about when he spoke about the new Administration being a watershed in world history. I am not sure whether I would go so far as that, but certainly 20th January is going to be an important date for the world.
182 My right honourable friend Mr. Peter Shore already suggested when the spoke in another place on Monday that Her Majesty's Government should, through the proper channels, impress upon President-elect Reagan and his advisers the crucial importance that we in Britain attach to the implementation of SALT II. We would wish to support that initiative. Perhaps the Minister will be good enough to comment on that when he comes to reply. I am bound to say that the catalogue of recent failures makes depressing reading. I shall summarise them very briefly. First, in August the United Nations Committee on Disarmament met in Geneva to discuss a comprehensive test ban treaty, the banning of chemical and radiological weapons and a programme for general disarmanent. No real progress was reported from that meeting.
Again in September the second review conference of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty could not even come to agreement on a final communiqué. That is very discouraging. The events to which reference has been made by noble Lords in this debate have created an aura of suspicion, fear and pessimism such as we have not known for many a long year past. This is one reason why the CSCE review conference in Madrid is so important. The bright sunrise of Helsinki has long since been clouded over by profound disappointment. But we must persevere.
I was glad to hear the positive approach which the Foreign Secretary made towards Madrid in his opening speech today. The meetings in Madrid must be used to reduce tension. It is the most encouraging thing that they have not in fact broken down. There was the long, tedious procedural wrangle whose purpose was to avoid discussion of the main issues. That is past, and I hope that they will now have a constructive discussion on the issues which concern this Parliament and the world at large.
It is worth remembering that the cruel, wasteful and pointless war between Iraq and Iran, to which so many noble Lords have referred, is being supplied with on the one hand weapons from the USSR and on the other hand weapons from the West. It is a sad commentary on international understanding, and it is an urgent reminder that we should be struggling for agreement on the supply of arms to other countries. The traffic in arms is no less immoral a thing when it is indulged in by governments than when it was carried on by private racketeers before the first world war—people like Sir Basil Zaharoff and others about whom we read so much years ago.
Many noble Lords have referred to Southern Africa. Here again the stance of the new United States Government will be important. Their attitude to South Africa and the settlement of the Namibia problem will be studied with interest. To save time, I will say only one thing about Namibia: free and fair elections are absolutely essential, and the sooner they take place the better. I understand that any possibility of a meeting is postponed until after the 20th January. That is understandable, but after that I hope progress will be made towards fair elections. One would have thought that lesson would have been well and truly learnt in Zimbabwe.
As to Zimbabwe itself—and curiously it has not been mentioned at length, if at all, in any speech so far—I think that Mr. Mugabe has built up a great fund of 183 goodwill for himself since he became Prime Minister. The House may recall that I spent some weeks in Southern Africa at the end of 1978. I will not bore the House with an account of that long, tiring and interesting experience; but I can say I formed the view that Mr. Mugabe has the ability and the qualities to lead his country well. He needs more assistance, and I hope that Britain will be a little less parsimonious towards that country. It is very much in our interests that economic stability is created in that country. The great need there is for stability, and they are going through a difficult time.
The old tribal hostility is rearing its head, as many of us feared it might, and a good deal of patience and skill will be needed if the democratic system is to survive in Zimbabwe and if white people, who are badly needed there, are to remain in the country. I am glad that Mr. Nkomo has decided to stay in the Government. The closest co-operation between Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Nkomo is absolutely essential for peaceful progress. They are both outstanding leaders of their people; they are both leaders of their respective tribes. They worked together to gain independence and it would be a tragedy, I believe, to Zimbabwe and to Southern Africa if they fell apart. Therefore, I believe it is the wish of this Parliament and certainly the wish of this House on all sides that there should be the closest co-operation and that the democratic system should survive.
It has become a habit in certain parts of the world to say that "they are not ripe for democracy", or that some other system is preferable. It has become fashionable in some quarters to say that a one-party state may be better after all. That is an indefensible position. There is only one just system of government and that is a democratic system of government; and the great contribution which this country has made to the world has been to establish democratic systems of government in various countries of the Commonwealth. The fact that the systems have broken down, in my view, is not something which should be taken in the course of nature. It is a tragedy, and one hopes they will revert to the democratic processes in due course.
I think it is very important that democracy should survive in Zimbabwe, because, quite apart from the merits of the case itself, it is very much in our interests as a country that Zimbabwe should be prosperous. Furthermore, the future of neighbouring States such as Zambia and Botswana and the old front-line states depends on prosperity and stability in Zimbabwe as well.
The need for assistance to Zimbabwe brings me to the Brandt Report, to which so many noble Lords have referred. Here I should like to know in rather greater detail what the Government propose to do about it. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby, if I may say so, spoke most effectively on the Brandt Report. This is one of the most important documents of our time and, like all really important documents, it makes uncomfortable reading. Documents which are uncomfortable to read are those which we tend to push aside because they create too great a problem for us. This is the danger. The House has debated the Brandt Report on one occasion and will, I hope, do so again; so I will not go into detail but will 184 quote something which I read yesterday—something which Willy Brandt himself wrote. He said this:The world is starting to recognise that peace is not only menaced by power rivalries and conflicts between extreme ideologies, but that the future of mankind is threatened just as much by mass starvation, economic collapse and ecological disaster. It is a dangerous illusion to think that fenced-off pockets of prosperity and security can survive indefinitely in an age when one-fifth of the world's population, concentrated mainly in the southern hemisphere, is suffering from starvation and malnutrition".My feeling, having read the report, is that we just cannot carry on as before. If that is the case, nothing will be done. Some new initiatives are needed.
The right reverend Prelate spoke of the need for greater conviction and stronger action, and I agree with him. I understand that top-level meetings on a regional basis, or according to the subject matter of the negotiations, are likely to be convened and the Foreign Secretary referred to the possibility of a meeting, instigated by, I think, the Mexican Government, to take place in Mexico early in the New Year. The Foreign Secretary referred to it as a North-South summit meeting. I think that the House would be interested to know a little more about it. I certainly welcome what the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said, and I believe that any constructive action that we take to implement the spirit of this report will repay us a hundredfold as the years pass.
I certainly would not argue with anyone who says that the basis of our foreign policy remains the Atlantic alliance and our membership of the EEC, although I attach importance to the Commonwealth connection and to the United Nations as well. I do not think we should forget those two organisations. Two noble Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, and the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, have criticised what they called the confusion or the lack of a policy in the Labour Party. In the light of what they said, it is important that I should read what my right honourable friend Mr. Peter Shore said in another place on 24th November, because there is a clear statement of policy. He said:We agree that the balance of military power must be sustained, and, of course, we shall remain members of NATO. That balance can be achieved at a higher or a lower level of armaments, and it is the lowest possible level that all sense argues for".—[Official Report, Commons; col. 361.]Certainly, there has been argument in the Labour Party and one hopes that in due course, and certainly well before the next election, there will be a clear policy. But I think it is invidious when noble Lords criticise confusion in other parties, when confusion exists as well in their own parties. Certainly the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, who is a comparative newcomer to politics, should go to the Liberal party conference and look over his shoulder and he will find that the confusion there, on the Left wing of the Liberal party, is at least as great as the confusion on the Left wing of the Labour Party.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, at least the Liberal Party did not pass by a large majority a vote in favour of unilateral nuclear disarmament. There was also a considerable majority in favour of the installation of cruise missiles in this country. The Labour party was totally opposed to anything of that kind.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, conferences of political parties tend to pass resolutions from time to time, and those resolutions are also changed from time to time. It is something within the recollection and the history of all political parties. But, as I said before, the noble Lord should look at his own party, should be concerned about his own party and should talk to his own leader. He will see that there is precisely the same concern there as exists among many of us in the Labour party. I do not object to the noble Lord criticising, and he is perfectly right to do so. But he ought to look at the balance of the argument before he begins to go too far along that road.
So far as the EEC is concerned, it is when one considers the alternatives to membership of the EEC that one realises how cold it would be outside. I agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, when he referred to being outside the external tariffs of the EEC and outside the ministerial councils of the EEC. It would be very cold out there. I am not quite sure, if we came out, where we would go; and I do not think, on mature reflection, that the great majority of the Labour party would agree to withdraw.
There are also the realities of the situation to be considered. The figures have been given before and I will give them briefly again. Well over 40 per cent. of our trade is with the eight other member countries of the EEC. In the first six months of this year, 43 per cent. of United Kingdom visible exports went to EEC countries; 41 per cent. of United Kingdom imports were brought by the Eight. It is a fact that the Commonwealth now takes only about 14 per cent. of total United Kingdom exports. Our aim must surely be to increase our exports to the EEC. If it is enlarged, then our opportunities will increase. We must work to change rules which we do not like. It is, however, dangerous to talk about pulling out of the EEC as if it were a simple and uncomplicated operation.
My noble friend Lord Ardwick made an important point in his speech when he stressed the need for full public discussion and information about the EEC. At present these discussions tend to take place in the stratosphere. They need to be brought down to the level of the ordinary man and woman in the street in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
It is reported in today's Times that Mr. Nicholas Ridley, the Minister of State, has been saying in the Falkland Islands that a possible transfer of sovereignty of the islands to the Argentine may be the subject of discussion. If this is correct, it implies a possible major change in policy. I assume that nothing would be done without the consent of the islanders, and I shall welcome the Minister's observations on his right honourable friend's comments.
I said earlier that we were amid the encircling gloom, but I must qualify that at the end of my remarks. There is, after all, some hope. There is hope in Madrid. There is light, if we have the vision to see, that it is by working for the aims of the Brandt Report, for SALT II and SALT III and for multilateral disarmament generally, that we shall be serving the best interests of our people. It is on these constructive measures that we in this country must concentrate. I believe that those are the vision and the objectives which the Foreign Secretary has in mind. They are certainly the visions which have animated 186 the Labour Party throughout the years, and we have not changed on that. If we move along that road, we shall be serving the best interests of the people in this country and of all mankind.
§ 9.48 p.m.
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, during our debate yesterday my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor referred, with his usual eloquence, to the position of your Lordships' House in our constitution. Whatever the future may hold for us, it cannot be gainsaid that your Lordships are peculiarly well qualified in the field of foreign affairs. We count among our number at least four ex-Foreign Secretaries, half a dozen or so former Permanent Secretaries at the Foreign Office or its predecessors, and very many former junior Ministers and retired Ambassadors or High Commissioners. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that our debates on this subject attain such a high standard and are so widely studied. And so it is today.
I will turn in a moment to the points raised in the course of this debate, but first I wish to stress some of the main themes of the Government's foreign policy. At the heart of it lies recognition that we live in a world which is increasingly interdependent. In economics, as in defence, we cannot and do not wish to take refuge from the realities beyond our shores. Our foreign policy therefore serves two vital purposes. The first is to ensure the safeguarding and promotion of British interests more and more in conjunction with our European partners by means of bilateral contacts and exchanges of every kind. The second purpose, no less important, is the maintenace of our contribution to the diplomatic arm of the Western alliance, which is of course the essential complement to the military. I venture to suggest that it is our experience and skill in the diplomatic field, at least as much as our nuclear and military posture, which reserves our seat at the top table.
Our relations with the third world are strengthened and extended by the many multilateral contacts which we maintain in the various international fora, notably the United Nations, the World Bank, the various Commonwealth conferences and, more recently of course, through the European Community, the Lomé Convention. I hope that your Lordships will agree that in the 18 months or so of this Administration these twin aims of our foreign policy have been adequately pursued and, indeed, many achievements recorded.
My noble friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary has undertaken—and continues to do so—a very heavy programme of bilateral engagements, and thus indeed it falls to me to inflict myself upon your Lordships so often in his absence. But whatever may be the skill of our diplomats, we cannot and will not overlook the need to ensure that any potential aggressor remains convinced of our ability to inflict unacceptable damage upon him should he choose to launch an attack upon us.
But I say again, as has been said so many times, that our nuclear capability, with the rest of the NATO nuclear capability, is designed to deter, and were we ever forced to use it, it would mean that our policy had failed. In other words, the aggressor would have calculated that the damage we could inflict upon him 187 was acceptable. It follows from that that if we were to allow our capability to be reduced either by obsolescence, or location or numerical strength, to a level below that minimum, we should render our annihilation more and not less likely. Clearly, therefore, it is our plain duty to maintain our military preparedness at an adequate level, and thus it is, for example, that we are now embarked upon the modernisation of our own submarine-based nuclear force.
I will turn now to some of the many points which have been referred to in this debate. I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I fail to reply to each and every point raised, but I will do my best. Indeed, I had intended at this juncture to make a comprehensive tour d'horizon of the arms control and disarmament scene—a number of noble Lords have raised that matter—but because of the lateness of the hour I will confine myself specifically to the question of the mutual and balanced force reduction talks in Vienna which several noble Lords have raised, including my noble friend Lord Cathcart, the noble Lord, Lord Banks, and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos.
Western participants put forward proposals in December 1979 for a simplified interim phase one agreement and a package of associated measures designed to break the deadlock in the negotiations. Counter proposals by the East in July of this year represent only a partial response to these proposals. The major impediment to progress remains the large discrepancy between Western estimates of the size of Eastern forces in Central Europe and the figures tabled by the East in the negotiations. The updated figures for our own forces, exchanged earlier this year, confirm the existence of this discrepancy, and the West is also awaiting a full response to its comprehensive proposals on associated measures.
The arms control and disarmament topics which have been raised tonight are of course of vital importance, and the tour d'horizon which I had planned but decided not to deliver is really a speech on its own. Your Lordships—and particularly noble Lords opposite—might think it appropriate to raise this matter in a special debate at some moment in the future. I should be very happy to answer it if that course were chosen.
I will now turn to some of the topics relating to the European Community which have been raised by several of your Lordships. Many of the problems which people associate with the European Community are in fact the problems of our own economy. The Community tends to serve as a scapegoat. Far from inhibiting us in dealing with our own economic difficulties, the Community provides a helpful framework which is both stimulating and stabilising. But there are Community policies with which we are not content. On these, the Government's approach, defending British interests effectively but mindful that the Community is itself a British interest, is paying off.
We inherited three main difficulties from the previous Administration: on the budget, on fisheries and on the common agricultural policy. On the budget, the 30th May agreement was a major achievement for the Government, representing a reasonable compromise which should bring Britain a rebate of about £1,570 million for the two years 1980 and 1981. We have 188 made progress towards agreement on fisheries though there are still difficult negotiations ahead in which we shall defend British interests vigorously.
On agriculture, in the 30th May agreement there was an important commitment on the reform of the budget structure, of which cutting the cost of the common agricultural policy is an essential element. All member states are party to this pledge. Britain is no longer fighting alone in the battle for reform. We shall be working with our partners for real structural change which will strengthen the Community. From a firmly established position as a full member of the Community we can participate in its evolution. Making a success of our membership is essential to the future security and prosperity of this nation.
Several noble Lords referred to other detailed matters of the Community. One point raised was the speech made the other day by Her Majesty the Queen at the European Community. Some people have suggested that the speech was not to their liking. But of course speeches made by Her Majesty on such occasions are drafted in accordance with the advice of her Ministers, and it is therefore not surprising that the policies of the Government on foreign affairs, including the European Community, should be reflected in them. My noble friend Lord Bessborough asked what would happen when the 1 per cent. VAT ceiling is reached. This of course is a Community problem to which the Community will have to find a solution. It will be for the Council to take action to curb the increase in the expenditures that are causing the problem.
Finally, on the question of the European Community, may I deal with the matter raised by my noble friend Lady Vickers about Indonesian textile quotas and the retaliation that has followed from those quotas, because this is really a Community matter. The British Government and the Commission have both made it clear to the Indonesian authorities that there can be no justification for the retaliation. The Community has acted in full accordance with the provisions of the European Community Indonesia Textiles Agreement. There are indeed 27 such agreements. Out of fairness to other developing country suppliers as well as to our own domestic industry, the Community has to be consistent and non-discriminatory in the implementation of its textile policy.
I will now turn to the question of aid and related matters, again raised by several noble Lords, including the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby. The Government recognise with concern the serious economic situation now facing the majority of non-oil developing countries. They have in general been caught in the trap of reduced export earnings following the general recession in the industrialised world and import costs that have risen sharply because of the recent increase in the price of oil. We recognise that it is the poorest countries which will suffer the most. They are less able than those in the middle and upper income groups to direct flows of private investment and finance to adjust their economies readily. Consequently aid should be concentrated on this group, and some two-thirds of the British aid programme is directed there.
It is a matter of regret that we have to reduce the aid programme from previously planned levels, but, 189 as your Lordships will be aware, the Government's first priority is to control inflation and it has not been possible to exempt the aid programme from the general expenditure cuts. Nevertheless, the programme remains substantial. It is the fifth largest in volume terms after those of the United States, Germany, Japan and France, all countries with stronger economies than our own, and we are well above the average among Western donors in terms of our GNP devoted to aid. In 1979 our percentage amounted to 0.52 compared with an average of 0.35. The gross expenditure in the current year is expected to amount to around £960 million.
I understand and sympathise with the disappointment expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Saint Brides, that this year's financial provision for the English Language Book Society, though substantial, is less than had been hoped. I am told, however, that it has not yet been necessary to refuse any sponsorship on financial grounds. I trust that British publishers will not fail to take any opportunities that may arise through the World Bank or other multilateral aid schemes to which the noble Lord referred.
Again on aid, my noble friend Lord Auckland asked about aid to the Caribbean and in particular to Jamaica. The British High Commissioner in Kingston has been in touch with the Government of Jamaica about their plans for dealing with Jamaica's current economic difficulties. We are considering what we, together with other donors, might do to help, but I am not yet in a position to make a statement. Following the severe damage caused by Hurricane Allen in August, rehabilitation aid totalling £1.7 million is being provided by the United Kingdom to St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Dominica. The greater part of this will be used to restore banana production.
My noble friend, Lord Auckland (if I may digress for a moment), also asked about the visit of my honourable friend Mr. Blaker to Eastern Europe. It is true that my honourable friend has just returned from Czechoslovakia. That visit provided, I am told, an opportunity for a review of international problems and of the development of our bilateral relations, including trade, which was the point raised by my noble friend. I understand that my honourable friend Mr. Blaker returned only today and I have not yet had a chance to speak to him personally about his visit.
Returning now to aid matters, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby also asked me about the Development Education Fund. At a time when funds are limited, it is better that the resources which are available should be used directly to help the developing countries, where they will be of most immediate benefit and that is why we felt that we could not continue support of this particular fund.
The noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, if I heard him aright, actually ended his remarks by complaining that we were making tax concessions to those with salaries above £10,000 at the expense of our aid and defence programme. But the noble Lord will have seen that the announcements last week were that the increased National Insurance contributions would certainly apply to those in the upper income brackets to which he referred.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby also 190 asked about the possibility of the supply of oil, perhaps on preferential terms, to some of the less well-off Commonwealth countries. The Government believe that it would cause unacceptable distortion to the market and be impossible to administer a two-tier price structure. Our policy is to ensure that the United Kingdom Continental Shelf crude oil is sold at world price levels; we aim, however, to follow rather than lead the market.
In his eloquent and moderate speech the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, argued persuasively the case for European support for the Camp David initiative. I think, however, that the noble Lord rather exaggerated the extent of differences between the United States and the European Community over the Arab/Israel problem. We are in constant and close touch with the United States and there is no question of Europe acting in competition with the Americans or cutting across their efforts. The United States agrees that Europe has a role to play. This role should be to nudge both sides—and I include in this both Israel and the Arab States who reject Camp David—towards acceptance of a settlement based on the mutual recognition of each other's rights. We recognise the important role to be played by Jordan in any settlement. But the Jordanians would be the first to point out that no solution can be imposed on the Palestinians, and that it is for them to determine what kind of relationship any Palestinian entity should have with Jordan.
The noble Lord, Lord Janner, referred to the Cairo agreement of 1969, which lays down the conditions for the Palestinian presence in Lebanon. I have no evidence to suggest that that was a secret agreement. It has been certainly well known to the Government all this time. Indeed, I think that I have referred to that agreement in your Lordships' House before tonight. Clearly the presence of the Palestinians in Lebanon poses serious problems for the Lebanese Government. This makes a settlement to the Arab-Israel problem which provides for the future of the Palestinians all the more necessary.
The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, asked me about the German defence budget. The FRG, of course, makes a major contribution to Western defence. The Federal Chancellor said recently that he was certain that at the end of 1981—just as at the end of this year—the FRG would be able to say that it had fulfilled its NATO commitments.
My noble friend Lord Cathcart also referred in his speech to the alliance's response to various out-of-area threats. Those are my words, not his, but I hope that he recognises what I mean. We naturally attach importance to consultations within NATO on worldwide events which might affect the economic, political and military security of member nations. There are obviously many possibilities of action in co-operation with or support of the United States or our other friends and allies.
We have welcomed the establishment by the United States of a rapid deployment force. This is a valuable contribution to deterring further Soviet encroachment and threats to vital Western interests. We shall contribute what we can to the protection of Western interests outside NATO's boundaries, though inevitably on a more modest scale: our main defence effort must continue to be concentrated on Europe.
191 As for NATO's specific boundaries, which was part of the same point raised by my noble friend, Article 6 of the North Atlantic Treaty prescribes certain geographical limits to the area within which an attack by an aggressor would require a collective response by the alliance. It would be unrealistic to suggest that NATO as such involves itself militarily beyond those boundaries. But the interests of the allies extend far beyond Europe, and allies who are in a position to contribute to the defence of these interests, including the United Kingdom, should do so by all the economic and political as well as military means at their disposal. As for the current position of United Kingdom defence expenditure, I hope that my noble friend will agree that that matter might best be explored in more detail next week, when my noble friend Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal will, I am sure, be happy to reply on those points.
The noble Lord, Lord Chitnis, asked me about the position—and, indeed, described in considerable detail the position—in El Salvador. We, of course, condemn acts of violence, whoever commits them. We are currently studying the text of the various resolutions circulating at the United Nations concerning human rights in El Salvador. On the question of representation in Nicaragua, which the noble Lord also raised, we are at present satisfied that our arrangements there are adequate, but we do, of course, keep these arrangements under constant review and will certainly make any changes which prove to be necessary.
The noble Lord, Lord Bethell—and the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, underlined this—referred to the terrible suffering inflicted on the Afghan people, and specifically to a new Soviet offensive. The Soviet Union's tactics in Afghanistan have been to deploy their forces in particular areas in strength to deal with local threats. They are continuing this tactic and so far there is no sign that this approach has been affected by the onset of winter. We have no evidence as yet to support recent press accounts of a new offensive.
Finally, I turn to the question of the Falkland Islands, about which the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, asked me. Your Lordships will have seen speculation in the press about Her Majesty's Government's policy on the Falkland Islands during the present visit to the islands by my honourable friend Mr. Ridley. My honourable friend has gone to the islands following exploratory talks with the Argentinians in April and my noble friend the Foreign Secretary's general discussion with the Argentine Foreign Minister in September.
Her Majesty's Government have no doubt about our sovereignty over the islands, but it remains our wish to secure a viable economic and political future for the islanders in accordance with their wishes. We have been considering how best to continue the dialogue 192 with Argentina with a view to achieving a solution of this difficult problem which would be acceptable to all parties. We have to explore all possible bases for negotiation. But no solution can be finally agreed without the endorsement of the islanders and of the British Parliament. My honourable friend is now consulting the islanders to establish their views.
My Lords, I opened my remarks with a reference to the words of my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor yesterday. My noble and learned friend in his speech yesterday also recalled the words of the late Dean Acheson who said 20 years ago that Britain had lost an empire but had yet to find a role. It is my belief that, whether or not that was right then, we now play a vital role within the Western Alliance and, indeed, as a senior and respected member of the international community. It may well be that in economic terms we no longer rank among the world's wealthiest nations, but for a variety of reasons—not least our membership of the European Community—we remain, and will continue to be, a powerful force for good in the world. I hope that your Lordships will agree that the present conduct of our foreign policy serves to maintain that position.
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend the Leader of the House, I beg to move that this debate be adjourned until tomorrow.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned until tomorrow.