HL Deb 25 February 1981 vol 417 cc1082-114

4.50 p.m.

Lord Chalfont rose to call attention to the national and international implications of the decision by Her Majesty's Government to acquire the Trident missile system while seeking to make reductions in other planned defence expenditure; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. I am sorry that the noble Viscount, whom I wish well in his relatively new appointment, has had to work so hard for his living today. I think it is a little tough to be expected to reply to two debates in one afternoon, and I am most grateful to him for taking the trouble to do so.

Before I deploy my main argument, I want to make my position clear on two counts. The first is that I do not question either the seriousness or the sincerity of the attitude of the Government towards national security and defence policy. Within the unavoidable economic constraints imposed upon them, I believe that the present Administration are genuinely anxious to repair the damage that has been done over the years to our national defences. The second point is that nothing that I may say today should be construed as—

Lord Peart

My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord: who has neglected defences? Which Government is the noble Lord talking about?

Lord Chalfont

I was not actually making a political point, my Lords. In my view, successive Governments have shamefully neglected our defences. I am not directing blame at one side or the other. I wonder whether I may now continue with my speech.

The second point is that nothing I may say today should be construed as any kind of support for unilateral nuclear disarmament. I proceed from the assumption that nuclear weapons will continue to be a part of Britain's military arrangements well into the next century; and for reasons which I have no time to elaborate today, I believe it to be prudent and sensible in the dangerous world in which we live that this should be so. My underlying concern is, and always has been, that this country should have the best and most effective defence arrangements available. Indeed I believe—and perhaps this might explain to the noble Lord, Lord Peart, the reason for my earlier remark—that the defence of the Realm should be the first charge on the resources and responsibilities of any Government; and I do not believe that it has always been so.

In this context, I am sorry that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, is not in his place today. I know that he had intended to speak in the debate, but unhappily there has been a death, not in his family, but very close to it, and therefore he is unable to be present in your Lordships' House. I suspect that he would have taken a very different line from the one that I am going to take. However I am sure that most of us would agree that no debate on defence in your Lordships' House can be really complete without a contribution from the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton.

I do not intend to become enmeshed today in the arguments, important as they may be, about such matters as theatre force modernisation, the neutron bomb, civil defence, and certainly not air defence, which has already had an extremely good airing this afternoon. My concern in this short debate is a single one: the wisdom of a decision at this time to acquire the Trident missile system as a replacement for the Polaris fleet. I do not say unequivocally that the decision is wrong. The arguments surrounding it are complicated, highly technical, and very often, rightly and understandably, based upon secret information. What I do say is that the decision might turn out to be the wrong one. If it does, the consequences not only for our national security, but for international stability, might well be disastrous. Most important of all—and this will be the main thrust of my remarks—I suggest that there is no need to take the decision at all at this moment; and indeed not for another five or possibly 10 years. In seeking to support that proposition, I should like to consider the problem under its main aspects—strategic, economic and political—and then briefly to propose to the Government an alternative course of action.

I shall in the course of my remarks be asking a number of specific questions, which I hope the Minister can answer when he replies to the debate. They are questions to which his department presumably provided answers before the Trident decision was taken. First, let us be clear what it is we are discussing. The Trident missile system, now known as Trident I, (or C4) in its present form, is a submarine-launched ballistic missile with a range of between 4,000 and 5,000 nautical miles. Each missile can carry up to eight MIRVs, or independently targetable reentry vehicles; that is to say, independently targetable warheads. Therefore, it differs from the Polaris in a number of important ways. First, it has a much longer range; almost twice as long a range. But the most significant difference is in the fact that it has independently targetable multiple warheads and that confers upon Trident an important capability which Polaris does not possess. Polaris is basically an area weapon, suitable for striking at large targets, such as cities or industrial complexes. Trident, on the other hand, is designed to strike specifically at pinpoint targets, such as enemy missile sites or higher command headquarters. In short, it has been designed to fit the current American strategic doctrine which calls for nuclear missile systems to have a war-fighting capability as well as simply a deterrent capability.

This is where I have my basic reservation in the strategic context. In my view it is doubtful whether anyone can ever fight a nuclear war in any credible sense of the word. Nevertheless, there are a number of powerful arguments which can be advanced to support the American deployment of Trident. They are complicated, often esoteric, arguments and I do not intend to deploy them here, partly because there is not time to do so, but more importantly because none of them is remotely applicable to the British case. There is, I submit, no conceivable contingency in which it would be necessary for the British independent nuclear striking force to be able to attack Soviet missile sites or other hardened pinpoint targets of that kind. Indeed, if in this country we demonstrated the ability to do so, it would take us into new dimensions of strategic confrontation and strategic analysis. It would raise profoundly important difficult problems about civil defence, ballistic missile defence, and crisis management which do not arise in the context of a counter-city missile system such as Polaris.

The only sensible role, it seems to me, for a British independent deterrent is to confront the Soviet Union with the strong probability—and though with a certain degree of uncertainty being left in its mind—that if it took military action, not of any specified kind, which threatened the United Kingdom, but which might not necessarily attract American retaliation, one or more of its major cities could be destroyed by British retaliation alone. That is the principal requirement for an effective British deterrent—a system which, even after a Soviet attack on the United Kingdom, is capable of retaliating against Russian cities; in other words, the doctrine of assured destruction. In my view there is no other doctrine that is remotely applicable to the United Kingdom acting independently. All that "city bashing" analysis might sound rather macabre, but I am afraid that nuclear strategy is a macabre business. This is what Polaris was designed for and what, in practice, it could still do if the worst happened.

Let us look briefly at the military economics of the decision to acquire Trident as a replacement for Polaris, because I believe this to be perhaps at the heart of the whole argument. The Government's own assessment of the programme is that it will cost between£4,500 million and £5,000 million at 1980 prices, over a period of 15 years. Rather more than half of that cost would fall in the 1980s, and according to evidence given to a Select Committee in another place, £700 million of that is likely to be committed between now and 1984, with about £4 million being spent this year and between £50 million and £100 million next year. The Government have calculated, and indeed have stated in one of their publications on this subject, that the total cost represents about 3 per cent. of the total defence budget between now and 1995, or about 5 per cent. of the equipment component of the defence budget.

I suggest, my Lords, that we must look at those figures with very considerable reserve. In the first place, there are few cases in the recorded history of modern warfare of an equipment programme being completed at its estimated cost. In many cases the escalation has been uncontrollable—and the noble Viscount has already mentioned in your Lordships' House this afternoon the case of Tornado, which has already exceeded its estimated cost—and I see no reason why Trident should prove to be any exception. Polaris cannot be taken as a precedent since it was a unique bargain-buy from the United States—a thing which will never happen again, I suggest.

Furthermore, another important point is that unless I am mistaken (in which case I hope the noble Viscount will correct me) these costings are based on the procurement of four submarines, each of small diameter—that is, something like the 30-feet diameter of the Polaris submarine—and each equipped with 16 missiles. Already, again according to evidence which has been given to a Select Committee in another place, the Ministry of Defence is considering substantial modifications to this programme, including the possibility of a five-boat fleet instead of four; a 40-feet diameter submarine of the American Ohio class instead of the 300-feet Polaris class; and possibly equipping each of these larger boats with 24 missiles instead of 16.

Admiral Sir John Fieldhouse, when giving evidence, was questioned about this, and he modestly said that there would be a substantial difference in cost if any of these variations were adopted—and indeed there will be. So one of the first questions I should like to put to the Minister when he comes to answer is: Is it true that the estimated cost given by the Secretary of State in his paper is based on a four-boat fleet; what other variations to the original Trident plan, as set out in the Defence Open Government Document 80/23 of July 1980, are now being considered; and has the Ministry of Defence made any estimate of the cost difference which would be involved in any such variation?

But even if the answer to that should be that the Government stick to their original costing, we are still dealing with a very substantial element in the defence budget; and I have to say that the suggestion that the Trident programme will cost only 5 per cent. of the equipment element of the defence budget is, quite frankly, misleading. A more relevant calculation, and the one that should have been made, is the proportion of the defence budget which is dedicated to the production of new equipment over the next 10 years. If noble Lords will look at the Statement on the Defence Estimates for 1980, there is an extremely illuminating table on page 88—it is Figure 22 on page 88—which looks forward 10 years to the deployment of equipment resources in the defence budget. On this basis, assuming that defence spending rises by, let us say, something like 3 per cent. a year, and assuming that the proportion of it dedicated to the production of new equipment remains more or less constant, Trident will be consuming not 5 per cent. of the resources dedicated to new equipment but, by the end of the 1980s, between 30 and 40 per cent.—and that is a calculation based upon figures produced by the Ministry of Defence itself.

I think it should be easy to deduce from this that there are a fairly limited number of options open to the Government in their defence plans for the coming decade and beyond. Either (these, I think, are inescapable facts) the defence budget itself will have to increase at substantially more than 3 per cent. a year (which in the current economic climate I would have thought unlikely) or the proportion of the budget devoted to new equipment will have to be increased at the expense of other elements in the budget (and the only other major element in the budget is expenditure on personnel, which is approximately the same as the equipment Vote; they are each something of the order of 40 per cent. of the defence budget). Alternatively,—and this seems to me by far the most likely outcome—other equipment programmes are going to be cut back or abandoned. It seems to me that this is inescapable logic, and I think we should face this issue rather more squarely than has so far been the case.

In the Prime Minister's letter to President Carter at the time of the Trident decision it was declared that the new Trident force: … should not prevent or emasculate continued improvement in other areas of our contribution to NATO". However laudable this sentiment may be, I do not see how, in logic, it can be so. Mr. Michael Quinlan, the Deputy Under-Secretary of State for Policy and Programmes at the Ministry of Defence, gave long and (as it was characterised) brilliant evidence to a Select Committee in another place. He was repeatedly challenged on this point, and on each occasion he had to admit—indeed, he was frank enough to admit—that Trident would result in the fact that squeezes elsewhere in the budget may be more severe". That is the Deputy Under-Secretary himself, "Mr. Trident", talking, and he makes it quite clear that if we buy Trident there is going to be an effect on other equipment programmes.

The Government's gloss on this is: To suggest that Trident pushes anything aside is no more accurate than suggesting that any other large project pushes anything aside". Of course, but it is Trident that we are concerned with, not any other project; and Trident is a very large project indeed. We may make comparisons with Tornado, but I should like to make some other comparisons. The Trident programme is equivalent to the cost of 24 Invincible class cruisers; it is five times as great as the total estimate of the development and production costs of the Sting Ray torpedo; and it would buy 5,000 MBT-80 tanks for our armoured divisions.

I think the Government, with all respect, will do us a disservice if they fudge this issue. I ask the Minister: Is not the Trident programme bound to have an enormous effect on other non-nuclear equipment programmes? Is it not bound, in logic, to reduce substantially our military capability in such vital areas as the air defence of the United Kingdom, already debated this afternoon, our maritime capability outside the missile fleet and our contribution to the defence of Western Europe? I would be grateful if the Minister, when he replies, would address himself frankly and in detail to these questions, which are causing great concern to those of us who are by no means unsympathetic towards the efforts of the Administration to improve our defence capacity.

Before I move on to the last section of my remarks I should like briefly to dispose of a curious concept which arose in the course of evidence given to the Select Committee in another place and which has since gained some currency in circles where defence matters are discussed. It is the suggestion that if the Trident programme were to be cancelled or modified the money allocated to it would not necessarily be available for other defence purposes. I am not quite sure what this bizarre proposition is meant to imply. It seems to suggest a Lewis Carroll kind of world in which somebody somewhere—the Prime Minister or the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or both of them—say to the Defence Ministry, "If you decide that the Trident missile system is essential to our national security, you may have £5,000 million to buy it; but if you decide that something else is more important, you cannot have the money for it". Clearly this is nonsense, and in any event it seems to me that it is an irrelevant issue. The point is that if the Government buy Trident the defence forces will have to do without a large number of other things which, presumably, they would still be able to have if the Government did not buy Trident. I hope that we can get away from this curious argument that, if we do not have Trident, the £5,000 million is going to be spent on something as yet unspecified.

Why, noble Lords may ask—and I certainly ask—have the present Government, which is made up of extremely able men and women, presumably with access to the most sophisticated professional advice and the best intelligence, decided to exchange at substantial cost the perfectly adequate Polaris for the unnecessarily complicated and expensive Trident? There are four arguments which are commonly advanced for doing so. The first is that in the 1980s and beyond the Soviet Union may be able to defend its cities against our Polaris missile and so make the Polaris deterrent ineffective. I regard this, in the timescale in which we are discussing these matters, as so remote that it almost qualifies for the category of science fiction. It may be, as some people have suggested, that the Soviet Union, having abrogated a solemnly signed treaty on anti-ballistic missiles as part of the Strategic Arms Limitation Agreement, will construct a system of area and point defences using such advanced techniques as lasers and charged particle beams which would make the present Polaris system ineffective. In theory it is possible.

Let me say at once, that whatever they may develop, I believe it inconceivable that the Russians or anyone else could develop a ballistic defence system so perfect that they would take the risk of inviting nuclear retaliation. If one warhead from one missile from one submarine got through those defences it could obliterate the whole of Moscow and practically everyone in it. I do not believe that anyone is going to rely upon a ballistic missile defence system to justify the launching a nuclear war. But even if—a very unlikely contingency—a perfect ballistic missile defence system could be constructed, the answer may not be bigger and better ballistic missiles at all; the answer might be a different kind of strategic weapon system, for example, the cruise missile.

The second argument is that developments in anti- submarine warfare might make it possible for the Soviet Union to destroy our Polaris fleet because a Trident force, as your Lordships know, can operate, given its range, in a much larger expanse of ocean than Polaris. I think it right to say that at present—and there is a great deal of science fiction going on about this, too—it is virtually impossible for the Russians to detect or to trail our Polaris fleet in its patrol area. But if it is true that dramatic developments might take place in anti-submarine warfare and that they might make the Polaris force vulnerable because of its restricted area of deployment, the answer may not be necessarily submarine-launched missiles with longer ranges. It might be necessary to change the launching mode altogether. It may be necessary to put launching platforms in the air or in space or on some other kind of mobile launcher.

The third argument is that, quite apart from doubts about penetrating ballistic missile defences, the Polaris missile would simply cease to be functional after a certain period. There is a good deal of knowledgeable talk about the shelf life of rocket motors, and it has been suggested that the United States might not be prepared to provide replacements for Polaris after their own Trident fleet is operational. I question very seriously the validity of this argument. As the Ministry of Defence well knows, the United States has not yet taken a final decision about the future of its own Polaris fleet. Two of the submarines are being dismantled, three are being converted to attack submarines; but five will remain operational as missile-firing submarines.

In this connection, I should like to put my next specific question to the Minister. Has the United States Government been asked if it would be prepared to provide the resources or technology to keep Polaris in operational service? And, if so, what was its reply? My own information is that there was no reason why, given a reasonable degree of co-operation from the United States and the scientific resources of our own Atomic Weapons Research Establishment, Polaris, with improved Chevaline warheads, should not remain perfectly functional until well into the 21st century.

Finally, we come to the argument that the Polaris submarines themselves, the boats, will cease to be seaworthy. The original estimate of their life at the time of the Nassau agreement was 20 years. This has since been stretched by all Ministry of Defence assumptions to 25 years and many naval experts believe that 30 years is not an unreasonable calculation. But even if we need new boats, does that mean that we need a completely new missile system? Why can we not build new boats and install the Polaris missiles in them—a project which would be substantially less expensive than Trident? In fact, it would cost only little more than half as much as to acquire the Trident system.

I must bring my arguments to a close although many of the most complicated of them have to remain untouched. My firm conviction is that the case for Trident has not been proved. I could, if there were time, advance a number of alternatives. Many of them according to the Government's own publications, have been discussed at the Ministry of Defence; but they have been abandonded—I think, prematurely. The most obvious alternatives involve cruise missiles, possibly delivered from aircraft. There is, in passing, an interesting proposal from the United States which would not only enable us to prolong the life of our independent deterrent at lower cost but enable us to prolong the useful life of the Vulcan bomber; and I hope that the Government have examined that possibility too.

My own preferred solution is a prolongation of the Polaris system with the construction in due course of new submarines. This is something which would obviously need a great deal of supporting argumentation which I have not the time to deploy at the moment. I do not ask for any U-turns or sudden reversals of policy. Far from it. My most serious reservation about the Trident decision is that it has been taken prematurely. The present Polaris fleet of "R" class submarines has been in service between 10 and 12 years. "Resolution", the oldest submarine, was commissioned in October 1967 and "Revenge", the latest, in December 1969. Even on the most conservative forecasts of hull life, replacement need not begin until 1993 or, more realistically, in my view, until near the end of the century. Polaris was in service six years after it was first decided to acquire it; it took six years to acquire. Even with the increased lead times which may be involved in the Trident system, I submit that there is no need to begin a replacement programme, even if the need for it can be proven, until 1985 or possibly 1990. It seems to me therefore that by far the most prudent course for the Government would be to continue with the Polaris system for another five years at least before implementing the Trident decision.

By that time a number of factors affecting the strategic environment of the 1980s might be clearer than they are today, and the intervening period could be spent in repairing our seriously eroded conventional force capability and, even more important, in evolving for this country a defence policy relevant to the rapidly changing strategic context of the 1980s. As the Prime Minister will be able to confirm when she meets the President in Washington tomorrow, the Reagan Administration in the United States has not yet made firm decisions about such matters as the MX missile system, ground-launched cruise missiles, SALT 2, ballistic missile defence—all programmes and possibilities which will affect us vitally when those decisions are made. Furthermore, by 1985, if the Government's economic strategy succeeds, as most of us profoundly hope that it will, the economic climate may be more conducive to these substantial increases in defence spending.

The Trident decision is, in my view, fraught with many dangers. It has provided ammunition for people in this country whose interests it is to see that this country is weak and undefended; and they are using it ruthlessly. I believe, furthermore, that it is perpetuating outdated and irrelevant strategic concepts. The noble Viscount spoke of the "trip wire" concept and said that we had clung on to it for too long. The Trident decision may well mean that we shall have to go back to it. If we have this vast and complicated nuclear weapons system at the expense of our conventional forces, that is indeed the "trip wire" posture.

This whole thing is a classic example of the built-in momentum of technological innovation in military equipment. The unfortunate tendency for all Governments—not only this one or any other British Government—is to acquire new, advanced and complicated weapons systems because they are new, advanced and complicated, and then try to evolve strategic doctrines for how to use them. It has been done over and over again. It was done with the Minuteman in the United States, and I believe that is being done with Trident. I hope that the Government might even now decide to take time to think the whole problem through again. When the strategic context of the 1980s and the 1990s is analysed, it may well turn out that they will be convinced that a British Trident force has no part in it. I beg to move for Papers.

5.22 p.m.

Lord Gladwyn

My Lords, I must begin by saying that like the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont—to whom we are so grateful for raising this matter today—I am in no sense a nuclear disarmer; very much the contrary, as my noble friends are aware. But unlike my noble friend, I believe that the proposal to go ahead with Trident is fundamentally and inherently wrong. I shall try to persuade your Lordships that is the case in the quarter of an hour—not more—available to me now.

Since the war we have made a number of very great mistakes. Most have been due to our instinctive feeling that our splendid victory over Nazi Germany entitled us still to act as the great power that we were before that fearful struggle drained us of much of our strength. Spending large sums, which we can ill afford, on the renewal of an allegedly independent strategic nuclear deterrent is the latest of these tragic errors. I only hope it will not prove to be the worst and the last. So first of all I shall once more try to demonstrate that Trident is either superfluous or inutilisable, and then I shall attempt, along with the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, to show that, even if thought to be useful, it necessarily involves a highly dangerous diversion of funds from those conventional forces on which our security primarily and increasingly rests.

If in the early 'nineties, when Polaris is phased out, absence of progress on disarmament or on arms limitation (which God forbid) results in the continuance of NATO with the Americans of course in the lead, it is obvious that we shall still be relying for our protection on their nuclear "umbrella". In the event of some major crisis, this will either work or it will not work. If it does work as a major deterrent—or even, in the worst possible event, as a weapon of war—it is clear that Trident—if in existence—will not have contributed much in either respect. That is obvious. But if the American umbrella does not work, then it must be equally clear that Trident will not work either. What is sauce for the goose must obviously be sauce for the gander.

In their justification of the project which they published last year, the Government do indeed admit, in effect, that Trident could only have an independent role—even as a deterrent—if we were left without American support. In other words, if US forces had been withdrawn from Europe, NATO had consequently been wound up, and we had been obliged for our defence to rely entirely on our own resources. In such distressing circumstances, it seems to be the Government's view (unless I have got it wrong) that we should have to inform the Russians—presumably still the only adversary in sight—that, if they did not cease any aggression, a Soviet town—or several Soviet towns—would be destroyed by volleys fired from our undetectable submarines—no one disputing the fact, as the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has said, that Trident must necessarily be what is called an "anti-city" weapon. My Lords, you have only to consider such a proposition for a moment to see that it is impossible, a fantasy—

Lord Chalfont

My Lords, will the noble Lord give way? I think there was a slip of the tongue and it would be unfortunate if it found its way into the Official Report. He said that Trident was an anti-city weapon. I think he meant Polaris.

Lord Gladwyn

My Lords, I said that Trident would be an anti-city weapon. Does the noble Lord say it is not an anti-city weapon? It is my view that it probably would be an anti-city weapon, but I may be wrong. Anyhow, one only has to see that the threat which is made to employ Trident in whatever capacity is impossible to imagine. The Russians would in no way be "deterred" by such a threat, for they would know that, in view of the inevitable and total consequent destruction of our country, no sane democratic ruler in Westminster could possibly ever carry it out. Certainly the existence of Trident—as indeed the existence of Polaris—and the possibility of its use on a second strike would deter the Russians from bombarding the United Kingdom by nuclear means, or even threatening to do so; but in the presumed absence of any American support, there would be no need for them to threaten anything of the kind. For in that event, we should, to all seeming, be quickly starved out by a naval blockade even before the Russians reached the North Sea, as they no doubt would unless they were—most improbably—held up by the use of German "tactical" nukes which, in view of the come-back, would reduce the Continent to a shambles.

But should it still be thought that we ought to have some strategic deterrent when we are left on our own, then, as the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, I think suggested, there are all kinds of ways and means of thinking what kind of nuclear deterrent we might have. Even a few cruise missiles would probably do. The possibility, as I think the noble Lord said, that even one or two missiles would reach the Soviet Union in the event of a first nuclear strike by them would make such a strike unprofitable as well as, for the reasons I have already given, quite unnecessary.

The second argument, though not mentioned by the noble Lord, is that unless we have Trident—and this has often been said by the Government—the French, by the early 'nineties, will be the only Western European nuclear power. But if they were, it would not make the faintest difference to the issue of any battle joined in Europe without US participation. For the arguments against the use of the Force de Frappe in such circumstances are precisely the same as those against the use of Trident. What it comes down to—this point I insist on—is, whether we like it or not, if the Americans really do clear out, and in the absence of some general settlement, we shall all have to come to terms with the Kremlin and have Governments which are prepared to do just that. For though the consequences of any such development would be horrible to contemplate, they are at least considerably better than national obliteration, even granted that—by that time for the most part in Paradise—we might hear that a large part of the Soviet Union had been obliterated too!

There are admittedly many knowledgeable and intelligent people prepared to rest the case for Trident as a valid deterrent chiefly, if not entirely, on the mere fact of its existence, no adversary ever being quite sure whether it would in any given circumstance be employed or not. Powerful enough to wreak enormous damage on the Soviet Union, "Mirved" and hence largely unsusceptible to ABM; undetectable it is hoped, though in ten years' time nobody knows what will happen; in any case maintainable at no great cost, Trident, it is suggested, will, like its French equivalent, hang as a vague threat over the heads of the Politburo and by this very fact, with luck, dissuade them from indulging in any hostile act in Europe or, for that matter, elsewhere, since it is only too likely that some conflict arising in, say, the Persian Gulf would quickly spread to Europe. A vague threat would seem to be enough. Trident, according to this way of thinking, might even be responsible for avoiding World War III.

I am conscious of the fascination of this type of argument, though for the reasons I have given I entirely dispute its validity. Besides, it comes very close to the Duncan Sandys argument of 1957 which, owing to primary reliance on our nuclear deterrent, resulted, as many of us would think, in an excessive and even disastrous rundown of our conventional forces. It comes very near to that. And it is precisely here that we find the chief reasons why, even assuming the vague threat has any validity, it cannot carry conviction. For unless you believe that the mere possession of Trident will in itself prevent war, you must feel that our conventional forces are an essential part of our defence which cannot be pruned beyond a certain point without grave danger to our nation. And if you do have this last belief then you must either feel that we are so rich that we can both afford Trident and fully meet our obligations under NATO or you must go along with what, in spite of their protestations to the contrary, I fear will almost certainly be the Government's position in a few years' time: namely, considerable further cuts in expenditure on defence, notably in BAOR, together with a prospective failure to go ahead with the production of the Centurion tank, or replacements for the Harrier and Jaguar aircraft and many economies for the Navy as well.

It is true that some cuts are disguised by rather mysterious accounting difficulties—more acceptable, it would seem, to Mr. Nott than to Mr. Pym—but the trend is nevertheless obvious and what will happen next year if the recession continues is anybody's guess. Or, rather, it is hardly a guess. What will happen is that the Treasury, still heading the fight against inflation, will insist on yet further cuts and that the Government, wringing their hands, will agree that deflation must take precedence over defence. It would not surprise me at all if there were then talk of repatriating all or part of the BAOR regardless of the fact that there would be nowhere to put it in this country and that there might be no alternative to many of our present excellent soldiers joining the ranks of the unemployed. Yet during all this period we should be increasingly pouring out money to feed the most sacred of all our most sacred cows. What I cannot understand is why the Treasury, so keen normally to contest any item of defence expenditure, never batted an eyelid, it would seem, when the little matter of £5 billion (and probably much more) was approved by the Cabinet. It is also somewhat surprising that the Chiefs of Staff were apparently so innocent as to imagine that a Tory Government would shoulder this huge financial burden and at the same time never indulge in cuts in defence expenditure that might normally appeal to a Labour Government.

Anyhow, as things are, I suggest that what is obviously necessary is a decision to cancel Trident while it can still be done without considerable financial loss—on the understanding, of course, that the Treasury, in view of the resulting large economy, would no longer press for further cuts in our conventional defences and would certainly raise no objection, inflation or no inflation, to our carrying out our obligations to increase our real defence expenditure by 3 per cent. over the coming three years. Unless that is done it is evident that the present situation, which is pretty miserable, will get steadily worse as regards defence. Noble Lords will perhaps have read the conclusions of the Sunday Times defence correspondent's article appearing in the 1st February edition of that paper. I quote it: It is one of the facts of life in the Rhine Army these days that lack of fuel has forced some soldiers off the firing ranges, to pass their time instead playing games like "Mastermind"—with questions and answers quarried out of ancient encyclopaedias by the regimental sergeant major. The British Army, once NATO's praetorian guard, thus risks turning into an immobile indoor force more expert at parlour games than war games". It seems to me that the risk is indeed a grave one and the remedy stands out a mile.

Lord Home of the Hirsel

My Lords, no two people have done more than my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing and the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, to alert the country to the need to maintain forces and weapons which are necessary to give us security. I think those of your Lordships who have listened this afternoon to the two debates will realise that we have had a very educative time, and that they have given us a lot to think about.

The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, talked about the defence of the Realm as being the first of the duties of any Government, and I have heard him say many times, and always agreed with him, that in this dangerous world the first thing we have to do is to measure the offensive capacity of the enemy and then to mobilise that strength in manpower and weaponry which will carry conviction to that potential enemy that the risk of starting a war is too high. That is deterrence.

As I understand the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, he is not questioning this afternoon—indeed he said as much—the need for a British nuclear weapon, but he is asking whether Polaris, which we have, could not continue to be effective for 10 to 12 years. He has given reason which clearly reveal that he has made a deep study of this matter. I have talked before in this House about my own reasons for supporting an independent British deterrent. I must use "shorthand" just to repeat them, because this is a short debate. My reasons for retaining a nuclear capacity are these: we have got Polaris and we may have Trident, and as long as we have them we should not get rid of them unilaterally but they could be part of an international plan of disarmament. I see no point in our getting rid of our nuclear weapons until that can be part of a generally agreed scheme. I would not wish, either, even though I am a friend of the French nation, to see the French the only nuclear power in Europe; and unless there is disarmament I agree with my noble friend Lord Caccia, who was here earlier in the afternoon, that nobody in military affairs has foreseen anything more than five years or so ahead.

I remember that when we had to go and rescue President Nyerere in Nyasaland and send troops to quell a rebellion against him, I said to Lord Mountbatten—this was in 1964—"How many British expeditions have we sent overseas since the last war, and in how many cases has the situation been foreseen? "He said: "The answers are '48' and 'none'". These situations are not foreseen. We do not know how the situation is going to develop in the next 20 or 25 years: we have really no idea. But I am fairly certain that other countries will get nuclear weapons unless there is a universal scheme of disarmament. I am unwilling to expose this country to blackmail by some of the kind of gentlemen I see moving around on the world stage today.

My last reason for keeping the Polaris or the Trident is that—using the actual words which President Kennedy used when we made the Polaris agreement—if we were in a dire national emergency it could be a deterrent to an aggressor. I confess that I have some doubts about the noble Lord's proposition when he asks the Government not to take a decision about the nature of our nuclear deterrent now. I start from the premise that the weapon which we choose must be credible to the potential enemy. That is really the point. They must believe that we could, in certain circumstances, use it, and that the weapon would be capable of doing the job. Therefore, to fulfil that criterion it must be the best of its kind at the time.

In that context I recall that in 1971 we were advised that we ought to be thinking about replacing Polaris, because it would have to be phased out in the mid-1980s. That forecast, that forward estimate, was underlined when, I think I am right in saying, the factory producing the Polaris submarine was closed in 1976 or 1977. The Polaris weapon is now some 30 years old and it would, indeed, be very surprising if the American research and development programme had not come up with important improvements in design and performance since that time.

Indeed, I understand that that has happened. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, himself has said that there are improvements, and that the Trident is an improvement on the Polaris. It has a wider cruising range, it is quieter and therefore less likely to be detected and, as the noble Lord said, it can accommodate and fire a significant additional number of nuclear warheads.

I am not quite sure—I should like to think about it—whether I accept the distinction which he made about the Trident as applicable particularly to the military target, rather than to the city. I think that the Russians would be more impressed by the Trident than they would be by the Polaris. But, to my mind, there is a more compelling reason for going ahead with the Trident. If we were to stick to an obsolete model that is going out of production, we should be in danger of getting out of tune and out of time with the American research and development programme.

These weapons can change quickly. As long as we are in the business at all—and I agree with the noble Lord that we ought to be in the business for the foreseeable future, until there is disarmament—we must accept that we ought to be in a position to adapt our weaponry should the need arise. I understand the financial reason behind the noble Lord's proposition. I believe that monies will certainly have to be redeployed if the Trident is adopted. But in this case, when we are talking of this class of weapon, the second-best simply will not do and I do not believe that the Polaris now, at this time of day, is as good as the Trident.

I would stretch that. If the second possible attack from the Soviet Union were one with massed tanks, we must have the best weapon to deal with that, and we should have the weapon for which NATO is asking and which President Carter, unhappily did not phase into the ordinary weapons system. In other words, only the best in these circumstances will do. At another time—because one must be brief—I will join in argument with the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, about nuclear weapons. I think that he poses an alternative that does not exist. If there were to be a full-scale offensive by Russia with tanks on the NATO/Warsaw Pact front, that would be total war and they could be stopped only by the tactical nuclear weapon. Therefore, again, we must have the best.

It is depressing that in this House, and in Parliament, we have to be talking in a nuclear age about the balance of power. This situation could be ended very quickly—there is a way out—if a disarmament programme could be accompanied by the processes of verification. I understand that President Reagan said that yesterday and it is true. Meanwhile, we have to do our best to deter aggression. That is the point. I have been enormously interested in the case put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, and I shall be still more interested in the Minister's reply.

5.46 p.m.

Lord Carver

My Lords, I am sure that we are all most grateful to my noble friend Lord Chalfont for raising this issue. Nobody can speak on this subject with more authority and with greater clarity than himself. I find myself in almost total agreement with him, except that I think he believes that an independent strategic deterrent is a good thing for the United Kingdom, provided that it is not improved, and I do not myself believe that. I am largely in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn—certainly, in his conclusions, though I do not actually go along with him a great way in some of his military speculations.

I am glad to find that I am very largely in agreement with the reasons which the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, gave, although I think that his later arguments did not lead to the conclusion that we should have Trident. He said that we have Polaris and that is a reason for hanging on to a strategic deterrent. To my mind, it is a reason for hanging on to Polaris. He also said that he believes that the right way forward is multilateral international disarmament, but he does not believe that we should give up weapons and get nothing in return. I would entirely go along with him, though I would not go so far as total disarmament. I am not in favour of the abolition of nuclear weapons altogether, but I am in favour of a reduction in their number. I am not in favour of giving up our existing weapons in present circumstances and getting nothing in return, which is what would happen.

His third reason was that the French have an independent deterrent. To my mind, it is no more independent and strategic than ours and, in my opinion, that is a reason for our having nuclear weapons, but not for replacing our existing Polaris system with a Trident system. He then talked about the unknown and I will come to that. He made a very important point about the danger of proliferation and I will come to that, because I believe that that is where going forward with Trident is far more dangerous than not going forward. His other argument as to why we should have Trident will come out of what I have to say.

In my opinion, the Trident system—the replacement of the Polaris system—is both unnecessary and undesirable. When one says that it is unnecessary, one has to ask: What does it deter and what is its function? A great many arguments have been put forward over the years and I shall not bore the House by repeating them, except just to deal with the one which is used by the Government now, and which was used in the paper produced by the Secretary of State for Defence in July. It really is—and I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, was quite fair—that, although we believe that the Americans would use their nuclear weapons, yet we think the Russians might believe they might not, whereas the Russians would certainly believe that we would. If I may just quote from the paper, it says: The decision to use United States nuclear weapons in defence of Europe, with all the risk to the United States homeland that this would entail, would be enormously grave"— and then— Modernised US nuclear forces in Europe help guard against any such misconception, but an independent capability fully under European control provides a key element of insurance. A nuclear decision would, of course, be no less agonising for the United Kingdom than for the United States."— as the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, said, "what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander"— But it would be the decision of a separate and independent power, a power whose survival in freedom would be directly and immediately threatened by aggression in Europe. But if it were threatened in such a way as to provoke a riposte by the Russians, we should not survive in freedom. We should not survive at all. When one comes to the credibility of our threat, it must be no more credible in those circumstances—in fact, a good deal less credible than an American threat, because the Russians can obliterate this country without using their strategic forces at all.

The risk to Russia of a clash with the United States is enormous, vast and obviously unacceptable. As long as the United States forces are stationed in Europe and as long as the United States is seen to be committed to the defence of Europe, that risk must be enormous. And if the Russians were prepared to take that risk, they would not bring into consideration at all the additional risk of a riposte by us. No, the first priority of our defence policy is to keep the United States in Europe—not to insure against doubts about the United States.

It has been made clear by successive American Administrations from the time of the Kennedy-McNamara régime when they were assessing the consequences of Russia being able to retaliate against American cities—and it has been repeated more recently by Henry Kissinger and just the other day in Munich by Mr. Carlucci—that what the Americans want from us to make certain that they continue to support European defence is a greater effort in the conventional field.

When the noble Viscount was answering a Question the other day, he used the figures which my noble friend Lord Chalfont has used. He said that this would cost only 3 per cent. of the defence budget. And 5 per cent. of the equipment budget is the figure quoted in this paper. As the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, correctly stated, what really matters is the percentage of the new equipment budget. Figures were given in a memorandum presented to the Defence Committee in the other place by Dr. Ron Smith and Mr. Dan Smith which correspond very largely with the figures quoted by my noble friend Lord Chalfont: that on the assumption of a 3 per cent. annual increase in the budget, it could rise by the end of the 1980s to 41 per cent. of the new production part of the budget. And on a pessimistic assumption that there would be a 1½per cent. annual cut in the budget, which he arrives at by certain economic arguments, it would rise to 61 per cent.

I should not like the noble Viscount to think that I necessarily accept those figures, but when he answers I hope he will say what percentage of the defence new equipment budget he estimates that it will take. He surely cannot pretend that the Ministry of Defence is not at the present moment in great difficulty over its future equipment part of the long term costing. Today The Times has drawn attention to the problem of the Jaguar-Harrier replacement. Nor can he possibly deny that the Trident is, if not the principal cause, one of the causes of that difficulty in fitting it into a future defence budget which is assumed to be increasing, in real terms, at 3 per cent. per annum, but, let us not forget, starting from a much lower basis than the Ministry of Defence had reason to expect some years ago. It may be only 3 per cent. of the budget, but it is three per cent. wasted. It is 3 per cent. spent on something which is unnecessary, not upon what is necessary. The debate which preceded this one covered only one part of the air force's requirement and must demonstrate not only that there are areas of our conventional defence which need the money they would get—3 per cent.—but that they need more.

The noble Lord, Lord Caccia, used the same argument as he used before in a letter to The Times to refute my dislike of Trident. His argument is surely not for having a new system of ballistic missile nuclear submarines. It is for maintaining an adequate and flexible defence policy. There is nothing more inflexible than a nuclear strike ballistic missile submarine. Could it be used, for instance, for anything else than for attacking the cities of Russia? It could not.

How, may I ask the noble Viscount, do the Government propose to translate into actual forces those brave words of the Under-Secretary of State, Mr. Pattie, in Munich the other day, presumably about ourselves, as part of NATO, doing more outside NATO's area? It is not only unnecessary. I am sure that the Trident system is undesirable. It is undesirable because it means that less money will be spent upon conventional forces. It is undesirable because it encourages proliferation. The same arguments used in this paper could be used by any country. If I may quote them: An adversary assessing the consequences of possible aggression in Europe would have to regard a western defence containing these powerful independent elements that is France and ourselves as a harder one to predict and a more dangerous one to assail than one in which nuclear retaliatory power rested in United States' hands alone". But that could apply to everybody. It fuels the nuclear arms race.

We face a terrible dilemma. There is no doubt that the existence of nuclear weapons in the hands of the Americans and the Russians stops those two countries from fighting each other, and as long as both are committed in Europe it stops a war happening in Europe. But if they were used, or if only a tiny fraction of them were used, civilisation—and life, practically—in the Northern Hemisphere would cease to exist. What faces us is the challenge of trying to reduce the risks which are involved by this absurd and grotesque number of nuclear weapons held by the two sides while maintaining the existence of some nuclear weapons on both sides, which undoubtedly helps to preserve peace. We do not want to increase the numbers and the types and to add new weapons. We want to halt the arms race and then to begin to lower it. The recent statement of President Brezhnev, to which I am delighted to see the American Government have made a constructive response, could open the door to a more sensible attitude in the future.

Finally, may I give two other reasons why I think it is undesirable. First, it encourages the idea that we could go it alone. We could not. Secondly, the pressure to use it, if a war came, on a British Prime Minister would be so immense that that Prime Minister ought not to have it hanging over his or her head.

Lord Caccia

My Lords, I did not interrupt the noble Lord in the course of his argument because I thought it fairer that he should deploy the whole of it, but as he referred to me and to the previous correspondence which we had, may I be allowed to say that this particular weapons system is aimed at the 1990s. All I said was that I was confident that it would be idle to sit down now and predict what the dangers and risks of those years might be because intelligence appreciation would not be worth the paper that it was written on.

5.59 p.m.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

My Lords, may I begin by acknowledging the indebtedness of the House to the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, for introducing this momentous subject and for expounding his views so ably and clearly. I hesitated to put down my name to speak in this debate because I well realise my own ineligibility to speak on a subject so specialised as that of defence. However, after some painful consideration, I decided to do so because, for one thing, these matters concern us all crucially. After all, it may take experts to be on the airing end of these weapons; it does not take experts to be on the receiving end, and I feel that the voice of a mere layman might not be out of place. However, I undertake not to keep your Lordships more than a few minutes.

On Friday of last week I went to a meeting of the Friends of the Earth in my home town of Rye, at which there was a showing of the BBC film "The War Game"—the film which it has been thought inadvisable for the public as a whole to see on the television screen. After the showing we had an informal discussion and one of the audience said something to this effect: "I am here tonight, not because I imagine any great results could come from our small meeting, but because if I had stayed away and remained comfortably at home I feel I would somehow have been silently acquiescing in the policies which will lead to the things we have seen in this film, whereas I wish to dissociate myself from them and to be able to feel that should the worst happen at least my hands would be relatively clean".

I found that very impressive. It drew applause from the small gathering of 150 people and, since an accident of birth accords me the privilege of speaking in your Lordships' House, I feel it no less than my bounden duty to echo that thought. I, too, am one of the many wishing to dissociate themselves entirely from the manufacture and threatened use of these weapons of indiscriminate and enduring destruction and pollution: weapons such as were utterly condemned by the nations of the world in the Final Document of the UN Special Session on Disarmament in 1978. I do not believe that any cause on earth would justify their use. I cannot imagine that their use could bring any conceivable benefit. I do not believe that any end, however noble, could justify those means.

I am well aware that all of us think this with part of ourselves, but it seems to me that we are roughly divided into those who feel that we have no alternative but to defend our way of life by developing and stockpiling ever more terrible weapons, and on the other hand those who think that the relentless pursuit of this aim is actually increasing our perils to the point of global destruction; in other words, that the arms race itself is far the deadliest enemy we face. Those who think this way are not cranks, they are not defectors, nor are they unrealistic fools. Which is more unrealistic—to imagine that the arms race can continue indefinitely without a catastrophe, whether deliberate or accidental, or to attempt to break the vicious spiral by confidence-building gestures, even at some risk?

The people I speak of, who think this latter way, are mostly young. They hope that they have their lives before them but fear they may not: young people with whom I, as a teacher, have had much association and of whom the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, spoke with sympathy in the debate on defence in December last. Many are young parents, whose children's lives are before them. To them, surely, we have sacred duties: to preserve our way of life, if we can, assuredly, but we have a duty which transcends that. That is the duty to preserve life itself, of insuring our survival, our health, our children's health and the health of the environment. That is what is threatened by the arms race.

I appreciate the essential difference, so skilfully expounded by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, between the capability of Polaris and the capability of Trident. The fact that the latter is more closely designed to attack specific targets makes it more credible as a weapon of war and is thus bound to give a great impetus to the arms race. Have we no alternative? Can we not find a way round? Would it not be possible to halt the project as a confidence-building gesture? At all events we must hope and pray that Mr. Brezhnev's proposal of a summit meeting and of an extension of confidence-building gestures will be treated with the utmost seriousness by the West. But caution, if I may so phrase it, will be tempered with a degree of trust. Our own Government will be able to make a significant contribution towards solving what the Leader of the Opposition has rightly called the most important question in the world—the halting of the arms race.

6.5 p.m.

Lord Noel-Baker

My Lords, I must begin with a profound apology for having missed the earlier stages of this debate. It happened as a result of a foolish accident. My watch stopped; I was working on what I hoped to say and then found that I was lamentably behind time. I should like to express my warm agreement with the speech which has been delivered by the noble Lord who has just sat down. In a recent debate I tried to show that Trident would have no advantages over Polaris as a means of deterrent, if deterrence is a real policy at all. I examined the alleged advantages of Trident, its greater range, its greater accuracy, the greater yield of its warhead, and I think I proved to demonstration—reading my speech again it seems to me that I proved to demonstration—that Polaris would inflict such totally unacceptable damage upon any possible enemy if it were ever used, that nothing that Trident could add would increase its possible deterrent effect.

I quoted my noble friend Lord Peart, who said in 1977 as Leader of the Government in your Lordships' House—that is to say, with the approval of the Chiefs of Staff—that Polaris had many years of useful life before it and that the Government then had no plans to replace it. My speech provoked a letter from the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, who was good enough to send me from the Foreign Office a long and argued statement of the case against what I had said. I respect his arguments but in substance they came to this, that Polaris, however its life was extended, would not be useful after the early 1990s and that therefore we must have Trident to maintain our deterrent for a longer future.

That answer filled me with consternation because it meant that the Government were perfectly ready to drift on with the present arms race until the early 1990s—one would not spend £5,000 million for less than 10 years—and then to continue the arms race for another decade after that; that is to say, until the year 2000. It may be that mankind could continue with the present situation until the year 2000 without a nuclear war. It is conceivable, and arguing that view people quote the banned film "The War Game", which the BBC have never yet shown to the public on their programmes. They say that "The War Game" predicted that we should have nuclear war by 1980 and it has not happened. The 'fifties, 'sixties and' seventies were all dangerous, but with great respect they were not so dangerous as the 'eighties promise to be. I can only say, with my noble friend who has just spoken, that our greatest enemy is the arms race, and, if we drift on with it, it is as certain as anything in human affairs can be that in the end it will lead to the nuclear catastrophe it is intended to avert.

But I must ask the question: Is our policy really deterrence? I submit that, with the production of what are euphemistically called theatre nuclear weapons we have thrown the theory of deterrence out of the window. If I am rightly informed, the former Secretary of State for Defence, the right honourable gentleman who was until lately the Secretary of State for Defence, Mr. Francis Pym, has said that if need be we must use our deterrent. In speaking that phrase he was guilty, I submit, of a contradiction in terms. If you use a deterrent it ceases to be a deterrent; it becomes a provocation. In reality the General Staffs now are discussing not deterrence but the fighting of nuclear wars.

My attention was drawn last night to a remarkable lecture by a professor in Edinburgh University, Professor John Erickson, who has made a special study of the planning done by nuclear General Staffs. He told his audience that in their planning the nuclear experts of the General Staffs never use the word, "deterrence", at all; they speak of the targets to be destroyed. And they never speak of a limited war; they speak of the on-going situation which will follow the destruction of the first targets. In other words, they speak of later targets that must be destroyed after the first round has been completed. That way lies utter disaster. No one has ever begun to answer the case made by the late Lord Mountbatten that any use of nuclear weapons will lead to a general exchange of nuclear weapons which will mean the collapse of civilisation and, in all human probability, the end of the human race.

What is the present price that we are paying for the arms race? Have noble Lords reflected on it? Lord Trefgarne said in his letter to me that Trident was not an alternative to the social services that were being cut; it was essential to maintain our way of life and to enable us to have social services at all. I recognise this point of view. But, in point of fact, we are now seeing extremely damaging cuts on social services, and most particularly on education, in order that we may keep the arms race going, in order that we may make marginal improvements in aircraft and frigates which will probably never be used in any future war.

What is the cost in education, if I may speak parti- cularly of that? Last week Government education inspectors, men who serve Her Majesty's Ministers, reported to their Secretary of State that the cuts were producing lamentable results. They said that many schools have reached an unacceptably low standard, too few teachers, too large classes, not enough school hooks, inadequate teaching equipment. Education is the future greatness of the British people. If we damage the education of our young people now in schools, we are deteriorating our hope of greatness 20 or 30 years from now. But it is not only the schools. The other day on the radio I heard vice-chancellors of universities discussing what the cuts are going to mean to them. They spoke of some universities closing whole faculties for lack of funds, and one or two vice-chancellors spoke of the closure of some universities altogether. Universities are the instrument by which education can give us greatness in times to come.

I conclude by a reflection on a speech which I heard in your Lordships' House last night. The noble Lord reproached my noble friend Lord Brockway for his idealistic approach to world affairs. The word, "idealist", is used by people who style themselves realists as a reproach, as an accusation that the idealist does not face the harsh facts of a cruel world. But, with great respect, the approach of my noble friend Lord Brockway to world affairs is a great deal more realistic than that of the militarists who trust in arms, who say with the ancient Romans, Si vis pacem, para bellum, which is in effect what the Government are saying today if they rely on the arms race to maintain peace. That ancient Roman adage has been disproved by the whole of human history. Preparing for war has brought war. If you want peace, you should prepare for peace; you should organise the institutions that are required, you should build up the law by which the institutions will work. You should make people understand that their vital national interests are not in conflict with the vital national interests of other nations. They are common national interests which they share, which they can only promote by common action through their common institutions and their common law. I would end by saying, with my noble friend who has just sat down, that our greatest enemy is the arms race.

Our greatest hope is the final document of the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly in 1978. In my experience that was by far the greatest international conference that ever met. That document gave a categorical warning, seven times repeated, that another war might mean the end of man, that survival is the issue, with the assertion that, faced with total disaster, the nations must make a total change; that they must go in for the general and complete disarmament of all nations with any signatory power and that they must reallocate the vast resources so released to the ending of world poverty and the promotion of social justice in every land. That is really something, and that is the policy which can save mankind.

Lord Sandys

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, told the House that his watch had stopped. Unfortunately, no similar facility affords your Lordships this evening because we are in the course of a timed debate. The remaining three speakers will, I regret, have only approximately 12 minutes each, so that my noble friend will have sufficient time to conclude the debate.

6.21 p.m.

Lord Birdwood

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has made a most compelling case against the Trident system. When he wrote in The Times last August that A British nuclear strike force, to be credible, needs only to create a reasonable assumption in Russian minds that it could inflict intolerable damage to the population he was right of course. This is the thinking at the core of the principle of deterrence. Reading that article and others like it in the Economist and for instance, Nature persuaded me—until very recently—that committing ourselves to Trident was a serious and expensive mistake.

The problem is that these opinions, the anti-Trident lobby so to speak, are so expert. But so was the thinking which resulted in the decision to go with the Trident system. Daunted by the idea of disagreeing with anyone, I read whatever I could find to help me make up my own mind. I found that I had to concentrate on three questions. The first was money. Trident is hugely expensive and the forward projections of its cost as a percentage of our total equipment expenditure are foggy, to say the least. The Polaris programme could indeed be stretched out for a number of years and Chevaline seemed an alternative that a war-gamer could reasonably accept.

With the Treasury in hawkish mood, the Trident decision meant vicious cuts in other areas, and revoking conventional military commitments to the point of absurdity. Just as important, several British R and D programmes had to be mutilated or wiped out altogether. The "ready to wear" attractions of Trident are bound to harm the technology content of several key British companies. It also struck me that there is a disguised cost in Trident which has not been talked through; namely, the double burden of maintaining Polaris while Trident is at its most expensive stage. Would it were possible to switch off one weapon system and instantaneously switch on another. But it is not, and the overlap period will be one of the costliest defence adventures this country has ever embarked on.

Leaving cost on one side, the second issue I struggled with was whether Trident was, as it were, the right weapon system. Polaris was a true deterrent, contributing as it did to the philosophy of mutually assured destruction. It is appalling, but true, that the greater sophistication of Trident makes it a tool of battle rather than a doomsday machine. Nobody in this debate so far has explained why. It is a by-product of the very much greater accuracy implicit in the Trident guidance systems whereby it can be aimed and exploded within, I believe, an accuracy of 500 metres. That means that it can be used specifically against hardened targets—namely; battle command targets. It brings that much closer the idea of the winnable nuclear war. But we know that Soviet nuclear deployment has already embraced that thinking, so it is all too understandable that we, the West, had to respond in kind. Trident is part of that response as, indeed, is Pershing. It follows, though, that the idea of the winnable nuclear war has to be accompanied by a realistic Civil Defence programme. To have one without the other is a cruel deception of a nation's people.

Alongside the issue of Trident itself, I needed to be persuaded that there was any purpose in this country having an independent nuclear capability. Emotionally, one instinctively feels the symbolism of sitting at the top table. There is a distaste at the idea of cowering under skies filled with titanic forces over which we had no command. But that is emotional, and for the reasoned logic to support the independence position I had to go no further than Sir Neil Cameron's superb lecture to the Royal Society last August: "Defence in the 1990s". Quoting from that lecture, Sir Neil said: Deterrence of any kind, and especially nuclear deterrence, is above all about influencing the calculations of an opponent before he makes a move. The fundamental argument for an independent British strategic capability is to provide advance insurance against a Soviet calculation or miscalculation that when the chips were down the US might hold back". Sir Neil went on to say: Indeed it is more than an insurance; the real aim is not so much to give us a fall-back option if the Russians make the calculation but to prevent them from making it at all". It seemed as I read more and more expert opinion that one had to accept Trident as a concept. The logical steps towards the decision were inexorable. Take the first, the independent nuclear posture, and Trident is at the end, whatever the cost. Our counter-strike capability must be from under the sea. We have lost, if we ever had it, the ability to design our own missiles. Trident exists as a working system with a lifetime to take us through the next 25 years. It had to be that decision. If Trident has to be, it has to be at maximum strategic deployment at the earliest: with the experience of Polaris patrolling, we must exercise the option of the fifth boat without waiting.

At the beginning I said that there were three issues that I addressed. First, the cost; secondly, the aptness of the system itself and the third issue is for me the most important and yet the most personal. I saw the decision to buy Trident as an affirmation of British will. It is a terrible weapon and we must pray it is never used. But by embarking on it at all we have shown a determination of our own, we have shown our faith in NATO, and we have confirmed a readiness to react that will give pause for thought to tyrannies anywhere. In a perfect world there would be no armies. In an imperfect world of a sort there would be all the defence funding we needed for total security. In the real world we have made a real choice. I think it is the right one. But, my Lords, our leaders must never lose sight of what such choices are. They are the choices between different keys to the doors of Hell.

6.29 p.m.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, I shall not keep your Lordships for long. I was about to say—and I do say—that I so thoroughly endorse all that was said by my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel that I have very little to add to what he has said, except to underline a couple of points. However, having said that, I find myself completely in agreement with what my noble friend Lord Birdwood said with his very reasoned arguments and his very careful move towards the conclusion to which I, too, have come.

Before I underline certain points, I must apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, for not being present for his opening speech, except right at the end of it, because this debate came on earlier than I had expected. Therefore, I have to go on what I think he said rather than on knowing what he said. It seems to me that, while one respects the views of the disarmers, the fundamental matter that one must take into account is that the Soviets cannot be trusted today, and Heaven knows!, how can be we sure that they can be trusted in 30 or 40 years' time and in the intervening period? Therefore, as so many noble Lords have said, that forces one towards the concept of deterrent, and the question at issue is: what deterrent? I should have thought that history shows us so clearly that in order to have, what one might call—and what I think the noble Lord, Lord Home, called—sufficient and credible means of convincing one's potential opponent, one must, if one can—and we can—go for the best system at the top of the scale of power of counter-attacking capability.

Therefore, the question becomes: Does one agree with what I believe the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said, that the Government are wrong in plumping for Trident; or does one, like my noble friend Lord Birdwood has just said, decide that, although the balance of the argument is extremely difficult, in the end the Government are probably right? I do not envy the Government their position in trying to arrive at that decision, particularly in these days of recession when the money argument is so very powerful. I should have thought that the first of the three factors is long lead times. Therefore, whatever decision you make, if it is the wrong one you have a situation where you have, as it were, mortgaged the future completely. The second one is that, quite apart from the lead times, we are looking such a very long way ahead; we are looking well into the next century. So we must be as sure as possible. The third one is that I would be very surprised indeed if the Government do not have information of a sort that they cannot share with us—and thank God they cannot—on which, when it comes to the final argument, they can make their decision.

One thing that I have learned is that when one leaves the defence world, it is so soon that one is out of touch with the latest information on which the final decisions can satisfactorily be made. So my argument is like that of my noble friend Lord Birdwood: there are balancing arguments on all sides, but in the end I would have thought that the Government are probably right.

6.33 p.m.

Lord Peart

My Lords, this has been a fascinating and interesting debate. First, although I had a little argument with the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, I think that he made a first-class speech. He must remember that when he was Minister of State in the Labour Government of 1964 he was the Minister with special responsibility for disarmament. I do not know whether he achieved anything, but that is another matter. However, he made a powerful speech. The point he made was that the case for Trident was not proved, and that is how he wound up. I shall not waste the time of the House quoting every speaker—that would be wrong. We have had a short debate and a long debate, but we have had some fine speeches. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, also came to that conclusion. I do not see any Liberal present tonight; I do not know what the matter is, but they seem to have faded.

The noble Lord, Lord Home, in his own distinctive way, made a speech of which I nearly approve, but I am afraid that I support the point of view of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver. I am in no way a pacifist, but I believe that we must find the best weaponry. I think that the thesis of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver—which he deployed in a previous debate to which I have referred—is right. Acceptance of Trident would mean harsh cuts in conventional weaponry, which is so important. I was going to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, on this point before he went out. Despite what the noble Lord, Lord Home, put forward in defence of Trident, I think that Trident is a non-runner. Therefore, if necessary, we should come to the point of view which many people hold: that we must have another approach.

Again, I am rather tired of this business about Russia. We do not hear so much of it now because the Olympic Games have not been held recently. But we cannot go on like this; we must negotiate with the Russians. Brezhnev must meet our people. It is no good thinking in terms of Communists under the bed in this country and elsewhere. We must reach an agreement. From this Box I have always stressed that the strategic arms talks are important. I hope that with the new Reagan Government there will be no going back, despite some of the bellicose statements that have come from the White House in the last few weeks. We must negotiate. It is no good continually piling up arms. There must be a case for stopping. I believe that if something was done at a higher level, we could advance along this path.

I do not want to make that impossible, but I believe that we should have proper and capable weapons. I do not believe in the thesis of my noble friend Lord Noel-Baker. I admire his sincerity. He quoted—as he has often quoted—the speech of the late Lord Mountbatten of Burma. But on the back page of that famous document it says: The real need is for both sides to replace the attempts to maintain a balance through ever-increasing and ever-more costly nuclear armaments by a balance based on mutual restraint. Better still, by a reduction of nuclear armaments I believe it should be possible to achieve greater security at a lower level of military confrontation". Then he went on to say: I regret enormously the delays which the Americans and Russians have experienced in reaching a SALT II agreement for the limitation of even one major class of nuclear weapons with which it deals".

Lord Noel-Baker

My Lords, I apologise for interrupting my noble friend, but I do not know what he was attributing to me when he spoke of my attitude. I have always stood for multilateral world disarmament and multilateral disarmament advocated in the Final Document of the Special Session of 1978, to which I have referred so often in your Lordships' House. May I add that with regard to Lord Mountbatten, he also believed in general and complete disarmament. If my noble friend will look at the document—

Several noble Lords


Lord Peart

My Lords, my noble friend has spoken and this is a short debate. By "attitude", I mean that I believe that we must have multilateral agreement. I do not believe in unilateral disarmament. I believe that that would be wrong for my country and for other reasons. Therefore, I shall conclude on that note. I do not disagree with my noble friend about his idealism; he has a point of view. I was simply highlighting what Lord Mountbatten said in that document.

Lord George-Brown

My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, this seems to be rather interesting and, with the indulgence of the House, I should like to pursue it. Earlier on my noble friend spoke about the importance of reaching an agreement with the Russians, and he hit the Dispatch Box in the old-fashioned way to show how much he meant it. Does he not realise that every agreement that we have made with the Russians has been used by the Russians to advance their strength while we observe the agreements?

Lord Peart

My Lords, that just proves that you must still try, and try hard to get negotiations and get them round the table. Otherwise, there is a bleak future for mankind.

6.40 p.m.

Viscount Trenchard

My Lords, I asked for the indulgence of the House in the previous debate. I ask for it even more in this debate, with the degree of knowledge of such formidable speakers as my wartime brigadier, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver. Nevertheless, I will enter into this with gusto. I think that one has to start an answer on behalf of Her Majesty's Government on the note that the noble Lord, Lord Peart, has just struck. Of course we want arms control and disarmament. I shall not weary the House with our record, but I have it here in terms of test ban treaties, non-proliferation treaties, in chemical warfare and biological warfare, at Vienna, Geneva, New York and Madrid, and in terms of struggling for arms control in a balanced way, for which the late Lord Louis Mountbatten asked. So there is no question about that. But as a newcomer to this game one is beginning to recognise the array of people who are not unilateralists, but who nevertheless use the phrase: "We must multilaterally disarm". That, of course, as the noble Lord has said, takes the other side as well.

The only other thing I should like to say on this general policy for arms control is that, as a newcomer coming to it and looking at the detail as opposed to the press reports, which obviously like everybody else I have read over the years, I think we must defend the record of the USA in seeking arms control also. So let us not spend longer with the unilateral arguments which have been raised today by the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, and to a degree by the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie of Dundee. If we were to follow the unilateral line we would be wide open—and I say "we" at this stage, meaning the alliance—to blackmail, and forced to surrender. So that we could have peace through surrender if you like it, but I believe that this country wants peace with freedom through strength.

I believe that the lessons of the build-up to the last war were not those of arms races leading to war, but were those of weakness inviting aggression. Hitler did not think we would fight and was advised that we would not do so; and he thought that if we did, we should not be able to put up a worthwhile resistance. We must never run that risk again. The Government believe in a balanced defence effort, which they decide within the framework of the alliance and as advised by all the leading experts: Services, scientific, civilian and the like. We believe indeed that we have that balance; and we believe that the Trident decision comes within that balance within the context of the alliance—which I shall describe in a moment—and that it is good value for money.

It is common ground to most of those who have taken part in the debate that the continuance of deterrence for the alliance is absolutely vital. Those who listened to the build-up of Soviet forces in the air field mentioned in the last debate would also have heard me say that the biggest section of procurement today in the Russian budget, which exceeds our own, is in fact 37 per cent. for missiles, followed by 27 per cent. for aircraft. With the huge preponderence of conventional weapons, which is well known and has been set out and was again mentioned in the previous debate, there is no doubt that the deterrence of our possessing these weapons, at least in balance with the USSR, is vital for peace with freedom.

I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, as the mover of this Motion, will bear with me if I leave the main thrust of his Motion for a moment and deal with the argument advanced by more than one speaker, that we should leave the really unpleasant part of modern defence, the necessary holding of counter-offensive options as a deterrent, and the unpleasant and attackable part, the part most easily exploited by the sensationalists with films like "The War Game", to the USA, and that our part in this is unnecessary.

The alliance is solid now and it will remain solid, but to keep an alliance solid in the defence of freedom we not only have to share the costs but share the responsibility for the awkward bits. We have to put in our share—and I am going to use the words deliberately—of the necessary moral courage to produce these weapons, to have them, and to base them in our country. I believe that members of an alliance contribute best according to their history, geography and capability. Our history in these weapons is undoubted. We were the co-inventors of them. Our geography is such that of the European nations I think it fits us better to retain the stake that we have always had in them. And capability follows with know-how of their making, of their use, of their basing, as we have at the present time.

We have considerable civil nuclear capacity, which adds to our capability. It is worthy of note that the USA have not only been prepared to offer us Trident on what we believe is a fair and good basis, but have clearly been keen to see us have it. It is also the fact that the alliance as a whole in Europe has been pleased to hear that we intend to retain it.

Lord Gladwyn

My Lords, before the noble Viscount leaves that point, would he agree that there will be equal enthusiasm in America and in our NATO allies for our having Trident if it is obvious that we have to cut down on our conventional forces as a result?

Viscount Trenchard

My Lords, I shall come to the question of cost and the part that Trident plays in our defence budget in a moment. The next point in relation to whether we should not leave it all to the Americans, is the point of having a second decision centre, of course acting in virtually every situation of which one can conceive at the moment in liaison with the USA. Nevertheless, the existence of that second centre of decision does have a bearing on the Russian perception of what reckless gamble, as the aggressor, they might decide upon.

It has a hearing on whether, in situations unknown, they could think they might gamble on a quick victory, either conventional or conventional aided by theatre nuclear weapons, and face the United States with the agonising decision: "It is all over in Europe. Now what about it?" The existence of two decision centres, one of them European—which is welcomed by the Europeans and the Americans—is, in my view, a vital extra feature of effective deterrence, in that it must cause the Russians to cut out a number of gambles which, with the superiority of their conventional forces at present, they might otherwise be tempted to consider. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, suggested that our continued possession, having been the co-inventors, was a cause of proliferation to other nations. I have to tell him that those who advise the Government—and I find it a commonsense view—do not believe that has any bearing whatever on that particular argument.

Lord Carver

I did not say that, my Lords. I said that going into Trident, which means increasing the number of warheads and producing a whole lot of new warheads, and bringing in a new system, encouraged proliferation. I did not say that keeping our existing weapons caused proliferation; in fact, I specifically said I was in favour of it.

Viscount Trenchard

My Lords, the Government still do not believe—for reasons which perhaps will become more apparent as I deal with the question of moving from Polaris to Trident—that the continuation of this country holding an effective independent nuclear deterrent will in any way cause further proliferation, though further proliferation is of course of concern to the Government.

I turn to the main thrust of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, and in doing so I shall come to the question of cost. If I have it correctly, the noble Lord in summary suggested that we were moving by the Trident decision to a bigger and different form of nuclear deterrent, that we could not accommodate the costs without serious affect on other parts of our defence and that there was an alternative of a cheaper kind available to us in prolonging Polaris. We do not agree on any of those points. First, we do not believe that in the 1990s and into the next century, which is the timescale of the decision we are taking now, the substitution of Trident for Polaris is either very different, in terms of its independent deterrent effect, or bigger. We believe this because the Soviet Union, with a massive spend on research and development, is improving its defences against penetration all the time and is spending enormous sums on anti-submarine warfare methods to find, detect and be able to destroy the launch vehicles.

The extra range which the noble Lord mentioned is indeed necessary to ensure the continued invulnerability of the launchpad of this deterrent through the 'nineties and into the 2000s because with that extra range the whole of the oceans are open to hiding our essentially counter-attack potential—if such a terrible event ever came about. This is not a first strike weapon; its greater accuracy and multi-warheads (its greater accuracy should perhaps not be overrated) are not intended to make it a first strike weapon. The sub-marine launchpad shows clearly that the possible British use of the Trident missile is required as a potential counter in an invulnerable base.

I wish also to take this opportunity to say that the campaign—encouraged by the CND and encouraged by fear, scare and muddle—which alleges that the United States might be planning a first strike is simply not true. The whole of the alliance and the whole of its very sophisticated strategic nuclear thinking is designed as a deterrent and as a clear threat that if the Soviet Union gambled in using its ever-increasing stock of nuclear weapons, we have the ability and invulnerability of bases in submarines to hit back.

Coming to the cost question, the statements which the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, quoted are correct as far as we know them at this stage. Over the 15 years, the capital costs of this system (the majority of it spent on the submarines, which we are well capable of doing) will come out at an average of 3 per cent. over the 15 years, peaking at 5 per cent. of the total defence budget. It is true that these estimates are at an early stage. They are based on a four-boat fleet.

I have of course read with care the evidence which the Controller of Navy gave to the House of Commons Select Committee which the noble Lord mentioned. I cannot give him cost variations for the different options on which the Americans are advising us at the present time and which we are studying. But our estimate on a four-boat force still stands where it was, at an average of 3 per cent. over the 15 years.

The running costs are on a par with those of Polaris. The Polaris capital costs at their peak were of the same order as a percentage of the defence budget—just under 3 per cent. as an average, on a much shorter period of years—as Trident is planned to be at the present time. One could go further back and talk about the days when Vulcan was a nuclear deterrent. What I want to make clear to the House is that this decision is to maintain and modernise the British independent nuclear deterrent and that it is not a new or even an extra expenditure. It is over a longer period of time, that is true.

When noble Lords have suggested that it is a much higher percentage of the cost of equipment, that is of course true. I shall read Hansard carefully as to the noble Lord's sums arriving at 30 to 40 per cent. of new equipment, which is not a section of equipment that is very easily discernible, but I am clear that they are wide of the mark.

Far more important is the question of phasing of equipment purchases. Of course it is true that at the peak of expenditure of a big and expensive part of our defence budget that particular project at that time will be absorbing a higher percentage of equipment. Thus Tornado will take about 9 per cent. of the whole defence budget at its peak, 20 per cent. of total equipment expenditure, and thus a higher proportion of new equipment expenditure. But those undertaking the long-term planning in the Ministry of Defence and the Services believe that in proper phasing those figures can be fitted in. One should point out at this time that it is not of course a question of displacing Tornado—a point which I think a noble Lord mentioned—because the timing is quite different, and Tornado will be declining when expenditure on Trident is beginning to mount. Therefore this phasing is vitally important, but it is planned. We are dealing with very long-term plans and phasing, with weapon systems that are designed and built with flexibility but with a view to lasting 30 years or more. In our view, the phasing-in of this programme at this time is vital. I would also say that I agree entirely with the remarks of my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel on fitting in with United States' timing and research.

The other suggestion regarding the cost aspect which the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has made, and other noble Lords have supported, is that we could maintain the Polaris deterrent much longer, and more cheaply, and that it would be effective. I think that I have dealt with the question of whether it would be effective. I am quite clear that all the experts are cetain that such is the development of weapons, in particular in the Soviet Union, that the extra range and the extra penetration ability are almost certain to be necessary to maintain the existing degree of deterrence.

Polaris is ageing. One of the boats will have had four refits. In replacing Polaris missiles we would be putting the technology of the 1960s into next generation, indeed next century, boats. All the experts have advised against such a course. We could perhaps get old United States missiles, but they would all need new motors. They would all need converting to the Chevaline attachment to be any good at all today. Spares of units would be needed and that would require the re-opening of old production lines. The best advice that I can obtain is that that course would be ineffective and probably as costly in the years up to 1995—indeed, probably more costly after that period—as equipping ourselves with Trident to last right through into the next century.

I think that those are the main points that I want to make in trying to answer the debate. It has been suggested that there are still other ways. I think the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, suggested that a few cruise missiles would do. A few cruise missiles would be a total waste of money. As the American modernisation of the theatre nuclear deterrent clearly shows, because of their vulnerability one essentially needs by far a larger number of cruise missiles than ballistic submarine-launched missiles.

I started as a new boy. Many people with better brains than I have have travelled the road before, asking, are there no cheaper ways? Why could we not do it this way or that way? After a while the faces of the very serious, dedicated and peace-loving experts who have worked on this question with secret intelligence and secret information, began to bear an impression which suggested that they found it hard to win an argument with an opponent who was not handicapped by a knowledge of the facts. Those who suggest that we can do it with cruise or Vulcan—I hope that the Vulcans will not fall out of the sky in the meanwhile—simply are not living in this world.

In conclusion I would say that the object of us all is to prevent war. Your Lordships' new junior Minister standing at this Dispatch Box lost two half-brothers and a full brother in the last war, during which 50 million people died. No war is tolerable. All wars must be prevented. But we have to live in this world, and it is no good talking about "we", thereby including the other party without his agreement. If any of your Lordships do have his agreement, the Government should be very pleased to talk to you. We must prevent all war, and to do that we must have options for counter-offensives. We must have them because modern weaponry, using the third dimension of the atmosphere and the stratosphere, can always get through, even though anti-measures are constantly being worked on. Because that is so we must have all the range of options.

We welcome the American option of cruise missiles. We welcome it because it will be based in five countries—and not entirely in this country, as their bombers and our bombers are at present. With the increasing vulnerability of air bases, just as it is vital to have the independent strategic deterrent positioned in more and more invulnerable bases, so it is necessary for the cruise missiles and the theatre nuclear weapons to have a wider spread of geographical bases. So we welcome both the NATO decision and the United States' intention to place these in five countries, at their cost.

This is an area of enormous Soviet superiority at the moment and, regrettably, there is an enormous Soviet increase in the number of weapons, the SS-20s and the like. So we need this balanced force. To say that exactly the right decision is always reached in the United States of America, in Britain, or anywhere else is obviously open to question, and as the noble Lord, Lord Caccia, said, the future always holds surprises and unpredictabilities. All I can say is that I am deeply impressed by the massive brain power of the humane, very peace-loving, people who have worked to plan an alliance defensive effort which will make sure that the last 35-year period of no European war will lead to there being no war between the Soviet Union and the West for 100 years or more; and then we shall get arms control during that period.

Lord Kaldor

My Lords, may I be permitted to ask the noble Viscount for clarification of the meaning of his words on a single but very important point? It concerns the meaning of the terms "first strike" and "second strike". In the first part of his speech he referred to the fact that the Soviets have a considerable superiority in conventional weapons so that our own defence could be ensured only by countering a Soviet attack using conventional weapons with nuclear weapons. That is my understanding of what he said concerning the importance of a second centre of decision-making. In the second part of his speech he said very emphatically that neither this country nor the United States envisages the use of nuclear weapons in any circumstances as a first strike weapon, as distinct from a second strike weapon. By that I understood him to say that they would not be used except in response to a nuclear attack, and would therefore act as a deterrent to a nuclear attack. I only want to know which of these meanings he intends. You can use the words "second strike" to mean using nuclear weapons to counter an attack with conventional weapons, or is the noble Viscount restricting it to mean a counter-attack to a nuclear attack?

Viscount Trenchard

My Lords, perhaps I can try to answer the noble Lord, Lord Kaldor, shortly. "Deter" is the operative word. Our intention is to deter war. To deter a potential aggressor from war we need all the feasible options. In that part of my speech when I was referring to certain weapons not being first strike weapons, I was referring to a suggestion made by, I think, Lord Chalfont that Trident, with its extreme accuracy, looked as though it was a weapon to take out the enemy's nuclear sites. I have pointed out that in fact it did not have that accuracy, and that it was in no way intended to change the nature of the British deterrent—submarine-based, an invulnerable base, so that they know we have got it and so that they know that if they adopt first strike we can reply to it. So far as concerns the use of nuclear weapons of different kinds within the various options, I can do no better than say that we have to have, and be known to have, the capability of using all those options if we are to deter the aggressor.

7.13 p.m.

Lord Chalfont

My Lords, I burdened the House at the beginning of this debate with a long speech, and therefore I would not wish to keep your Lordships much longer. Indeed, I would have closed matters in three or four minutes had it not been for the noble Viscount's most recent remarks in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Kaldor.

Lord Sandys

My Lords, I fear that the noble Lord will have only about six minutes. I hope he will restrict himself to that period, because this is a timed debate.

Lord Chalfont

My Lords, the noble Lord need have no fear; I shall do it in five minutes precisely. First of all, I would say that I must really contest the noble Viscount's statement—and I think I do so on the highest authority—that the Trident missile has not the accuracy and penetration needed to strike at pinpoint targets in the Soviet Union. That is what it is for.

I should like, finally, simply to thank the House for being so constructive and for allowing us to have such an interesting and, to my mind, valuable debate. I was interested to hear once again the film "The War Game" brought into play; and also, once again, to hear the late Lord Mountbatten misquoted out of context, as he now frequently is by those who want to create the impression that he was in some way a unilateral disarmer. He was not, and those who read his speech very carefully will know that he was not. What the noble Earl, Lord Mountbatten, was doing was to point out the horrors of nuclear war. The argument is about how we prevent such a thing happening. Some people think we can prevent nuclear war by acts of faith and by showing weakness in the face of a ruthless enemy. I believe we do it by showing resolution and strength in the face of that enemy; and the only difference, I think, between those of us who believe that is how we achieve that strength.

The noble Viscount who answered for the Government presented the official case admirably. He answered the unilateralists' argument. I fear, however, he did not answer mine. But I hope we shall be able to return to this on some future occasion, and as time is short I ask leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.