§ ADDRESS IN REPLY TO HER MAJESTY'S MOST GRACIOUS SPEECH
§ Debate resumed on the Motion moved on Wednesday last by the Lord Bethell—namely, That a humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament".
§ 2.58 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Lord Carrington)
My Lords, in a sense I feel as though I am being read a first time because I think I should apologise to your Lordships for my infrequent attendances in this House. I can only say in defence that in recent months, partly because of the British presidency of the Community and partly because of a very large number of international conferences, I have been almost continually abroad. To those of your Lordships who have been rather more static—and rather more fortunate—and who mistakenly have envied my journeyings, I would only say that it is very agreeable to come back home. I would just make one further apology, and that is that a very long time ago the visit to this country of the Indian Foreign Minister was fixed and I am afraid I shall not be able to stay later on this evening for the end of the debate, but I will stay as long as I can.
My Lords, the events of recent months have reminded us, if we needed reminding, that life—and foreign affairs—is complicated and sometimes dangerous. All of us want Britain to be able to contribute to the utmost to making the world safer, fairer and more prosperous. But we certainly cannot achieve nearly enough by ourselves. The problems are too many and too great. That is why we devote so much effort to co-operation with other countries—above all with our allies in the North Atlantic Alliance, our partners in the European Community and our friends in the Commonwealth. We have made efforts, and I believe successful ones, to improve the methods of consultation among the NATO allies and among the 10 members of the European Community. Progress may at times seem painfully slow, and your Lordships will know from bitter experience that committees are not always the quickest way to reach a decision, or the best way to design a horse.
But co-operation remains the only realistic approach to the great majority of our foreign policy objectives. This is particularly true in the areas that I should like to concentrate on this afternoon. A speech of a general kind in a debate like this should not cover all the world; with your Lordships' permission, I will not, and I will be as brief as I can in the light of the very large number of speakers in the debate this afternoon.
The Community is central not just to our wider political and economic interests but to all of us in our daily lives. This fact is reflected in the Government's priorities in foreign policy. It is also borne 108 out by a large number of ordinary British people—businessmen, bankers, farmers, consumers, trade unionists and members of the professions—who have seen at first hand the benefits which Community membership brings us and the potential which it offers.
For the first time since we joined the Community we had last year a surplus on visible trade with the other members. The tariff-free market of 300 million people, represented by the Community and its European associates, now takes 60 per cent. of our exports and is crucial to the welfare of the British people. The increasing American, Japanese and other investment attracted here by access to that market is helping to expand our industry and provide employment.
What a pity, I think, that the Labour Party did not stop to think of this before opting to withdraw from the Community. Because, my Lords, make no mistake about it, wanting to leave the Community is a sort of national death wish. We must get on with the essential job of developing and improving the Community, a job which all our partners agree is vital, because our future economic strength and prosperity depend upon its successful completion.
As your Lordships know, Britain at the present time holds the presidency. That does not, of course, mean that we can bring about dramatic changes. But it does give us an opportunity, and a duty, to try to move things forward. My right honourable friend the Lord Privy Seal has recently reported in detail in another place on the course, under the British presidency, of the negotiations on the review of the Community's policies and budgetary arrangements agreed on 30th May 1980. We are determined to reach a genuine and lasting solution.
We would like to make decisive progress at the European Council later this month. Whether we succeed depends on others as well as ourselves. But it is not in anyone's interest that the necessary decision should be delayed. We shall also, as the gracious Speech makes clear, press hard for improvements in other areas of Community activity. We have made it absolutely clear that we mean to reach agreement as soon as possible on a new common fisheries policy; to strengthen the internal market by removing non-tariff barriers to trade and by liberalising the service industries such as insurance and air transport; and to bring the negotiations for the accession of Spain and Portugal to a successful conclusion.
The increasing strength of the voice of the 10 members of the Community in international affairs is a further demonstration of the weight that can be brought to bear by partners and allies acting together. We have tried, during the British presidency, to get this co-operation better organised. A new report was agreed here in London last month, which consolidates past progress and makes a significant step forward.
First, it strengthens the commitment of the ten partners to work for joint views and joint action in their foreign policies. It confirms formally that political aspects of security matters—as distinct from the military questions of defence itself—will continue to be discussed in political co-operation. Thirdly, the London report reinforces the procedures and machinery of political co-operation, in line with the suggestions I made in a speech in Hamburg about a 109 year ago. I am confident that what has been decided will strengthen the ability of the Ten to work together, as they have already with considerable success in the meetings on Security and Co-operation in Europe, and on other important matters such as the Middle East and Afghanistan.
For nearly two years now the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan has cast a blight not only upon that unhappy country, but even more importantly on the entire relationship between East and West. The Soviet Union seems to hope that the world will forget. That is an illusion, as resolutions of the General Assembly of the United Nations have shown twice already, and will show a third time, I do not doubt, when the vote is taken in New York later this month. The problem of Afghanistan is one of those where the members of the European Community are trying jointly to promote peace.
To end the occupation and continuous killing, the flattened villages, the 2½ million or more refugees, the anti-personnel mines which strew the hillsides and blow the feet off women and children as they try to escape from the fighting—to end all this, the Ten have suggested a two-stage conference which would enable Afghanistan to resume its independence and nonalignment—two-stage, in order to get over the difficult problems of representation while ensuring that no decisions are made behind the back of the Afghan people. These proposals, despite the chilly Soviet reaction, remain firmly on the table. Progress on this subject would both offer the Afghan people the prospect of an end to their nightmare and do immeasurable good to East-West relations.
There is, of course, another small Asian country which has been invaded by a far stronger neighbour: Cambodia, now occupied by Vietnam. The Foreign Ministers of the European Community and of the ASEAN countries agreed, when they met recently in London, on the need for the Vietnamese forces to withdraw and the people of Cambodia to be able freely to elect a Government of their own choice.
The fact that these problems exist, as I have often said, does not remove the need for lines of communication between the East and West. This is not my view alone. The American Secretary of State and the Soviet Foreign Minister met twice in New York in September and are to meet again in Geneva early in the New Year. We hope that the dialogue will have good results. There is scope for progress if the Soviet Union is ready, as the West is, to show restraint in its international activities.
That brings me to the important events that have been taking place in Poland. The situation there is a complex one, with political change and economic crisis occurring at the same time. At the specific request of the Polish Government, Britain, in cooperation once again with its Western and European partners, is providing food and other economic assistance. We are glad that the Polish Government and Solidarity, and also the Roman Catholic Church in Poland, are continuing to pursue agreement through negotiations. We wish them well. The most important requirement, now and since the crisis began, is that Poland's internal arrangements and the solutions to its economic problems must be decided by the Polish people themselves, without external interference of 110 any kind.
But in East/West relations the question of arms control and disarmament remains at the centre. It is there, above all, that we would like to see some real progress—both because practical steps, even if small at first, could be of value in themselves, and because they could help build the confidence that will be necessary to the larger steps which we hope will follow.
One result of the meetings between Mr. Haig and Mr. Gromyko in September was agreement that negotiations on theatre nuclear forces should begin on 30th November between the United States and the Soviet Union. Britain is co-operating actively with its allies in the consultations which are taking place in NATO in preparation for that time. We hope that the Soviet Union is doing the same.
The seriousness of the problem is obvious: the negotiations must be no less serious. This will require an objective approach to the question of which types of equipment on either side should he included in the negotiations. It will require an approach based on balance; it is not good enough for the Soviet Union to call for a moratorium which, coming into force after several years of Soviet deployment and before NATO has begun to modernise its theatre nuclear forces, would merely perpetuate the present imbalance.
NATO is willing to accept equal ceilings at the lowest possible level. We are ready to look again at our deployment plans in the light of progress in negotiating Soviet reductions. The ideal outcome would be a zero level on both sides. This would involve the Soviet Union dismantling and destroying all its relevant long-range theatre nuclear missiles, so that NATO could agree not to proceed with its new deployment. Whether this ideal objective is achieved, or whether the two sides may have to settle for something less ambitious, at least at the outset, will depend entirely on how far the Soviet Union is prepared to go.
These forthcoming talks to set limitations on theatre nuclear forces are not the only positive prospect in the field of arms control. In their two recent meetings, Mr. Haig and Mr. Gromyko also discussed the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks. As your Lordships know, the British Government have always supported the SALT process. I hope that negotiations about reductions will get going early next year. There will then be two major nuclear arms control negotiations taking place in parallel—about theatre nuclear forces and about strategic systems.
§ Lord Molloy
My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord will allow me to intervene. I am most grateful to the noble Lord because he has made a very important point in mentioning the SALT agreements—I think that that is vital. I also believe that what he has said about the Soviets reconsidering is absolutely correct. But is it not a possibility that, if the Americans should also show some initiative to recommence the vitally important SALT talks—as has the noble Lord—that, too, could make a contribution to returning to sanity in this troubled world?
§ Lord Carrington
My Lords, actually, that is precisely what I said. I have said that Mr. Haig and Mr. Gromyko did meet and have decided to do precisely 111 that. I think that it is extremely encouraging and that all of us should wish these talks well. They must inevitably take place between the United States and the Soviet Union because they are the possessors of these weapons.
The third area of arms control where I hope for progress is that of confidence-building measures in Europe. This is one of the security matters on which the Ten are co-operating very closely. The CSCE review conference resumed recently in Madrid. The British delegation, working jointly with those of our partners and allies, will make every effort to reach agreement on holding a conference about new measures to build confidence and security in Europe. But such measures should satisfy four basic criteria, otherwise I doubt whether they are of all that much value. They must be mandatory; they must be verifiable; they must be militarily significant; and they must be applicable to the whole of Europe up to the Urals. If they meet those criteria, such measures can do a great deal for confidence in Europe. By increasing their knowledge of military activities undertaken by the other, each side can reduce the risk of miscalculation and surprise. So there are very real openings in negotiations about multilateral arms control, and the West is determined to exploit them.
I can well understand those people in this country and elsewhere in western Europe who are worried about nuclear weapons. I welcome the renewed debate on the subject. But unilateral disarmament, as I argued in a speech in Luxembourg last month, would not only reduce the incentive for others to negotiate but would also reduce the risks facing a potential aggressor, and I think that that would make war more likely.
It would be tragic to undermine the peace which we in Europe, despite our political divisions, have enjoyed for over 36 years. We all want to maintain and strengthen peace. The question is how best to do it. My answer I hope comes not just from the heart but from the head as well: we should continue to deter aggression and should work untiringly for balanced, verified and multilateral arms control.
The year 1981 has produced little good news from the Middle East. We have seen the tragic death of that great and courageous man, President Sadat. There has been fighting in the Lebanon, and continuing conflict between Iraq and Iran. And all the time the Arab/Israeli dispute has continued to fester, a constant threat to stability.
The Ten are committed to co-operate actively in the search for a settlement through negotiation in the Middle East. Their policy, set out in the Venice Declaration last year, insists on guarantees for the security of the State of Israel; and it places equal emphasis on justice for the Palestinian people and their right to self-determination. The Ten have also taken a close interest in the eight points proposed recently by Crown Prince Fahd of Saudi Arabia; the presentation of these points by a leading Arab country represents an important and constructive step.
Acting on behalf of the ten members of the Community, I visited Riyadh last week to explore with the Crown Prince and his colleagues the common ground between the Venice principles and the eight points. I 112 was encouraged by those discussions.
Britain and her partners in the Community have expressed their firm support for the Egyptian Government and people and their belief in the need for continuity and stability in Egypt. They also welcome the Egypt/Israel treaty and the agreement on the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Sinai. We believe that it is in the interests of all parties in the Middle East that this agreement should be implemented smoothly and effectively, and that there should be no renewal of tension in Sinai. We are therefore exploring the possibility of participating in the Sinai Multinational Force in a manner consistent with the established policies of the Ten.
When I addressed your Lordships in the debate on the Address a year ago, the negotiations on Namibia appeared to be approaching their culmination. The hopes which I expressed on that occasion were subsequently disappointed. Indeed, I need not remind your Lordships that there have been times during the past year when the prospects for a negotiated settlement have seemed bleak. In saying once again this afternoon that the outlook seems more encouraging, I therefore speak with even more caution than usual.
We are dealing with a tense and delicate situation. The mission from the five western Governments, which has just visited Africa, has made an encouraging start to our renewed efforts to secure the implementation of a settlement based on Security Council Resolution 435. But the way ahead is fraught with difficulties, and we must all hope that no further upsets occur to throw the negotiations off course.
In September the Foreign Ministers of the five contact group nations met in New York to try to give new impetus to the Namibian negotiations, following exploratory contacts which were carried out in Africa by the United States Government. We formulated proposals for a set of constitutional principles as suggested guidelines for the Constituent Assembly in Namibia. During the past fortnight these proposals have been presented to African Governments by officials of the Five.
Although we have yet to hear their considered views, I am encouraged that the parties and Governments concerned have received these proposals in a positive spirit; and the Five hope to complete this phase of negotiations before the end of the current year, and then to move on to the second phase, in which we shall tackle other difficult issues which have hitherto obstructed agreement to the implementation of the United Nations plan. By this procedure we hope to build up in stages the confidence needed for all concerned to give their agreement.
The path towards a negotiated settlement is never a very easy one, either for the Governments of the front line states and Nigeria, or of South Africa. The former have shown great patience and moderation, and it would be a mistake to underrate the problems which the negotiations pose for South Africa.
I have spoken today of the importance of co-operation between nations. Close and harmonious cooperation among the Five has made a very valuable and vital contribution thus far to the search for a settlement. Close co-operation between the Five and the front line states and South Africa is no less vital. We 113 shall continue to take the very fullest account of the real and understandable concerns of all these Governments. With continued flexibility and statesmanship of the kind which has opened the way for renewed negotiations, it should be possible to begin implementation of the settlement plan in the coming year.
If I have dwelt this afternoon on a limited range of subjects, I have done so because of the large list of speakers. There is no lack of other topics on which I might have expanded had time been no object. I might, for example—and I shall for a very short time—have talked about relations between the developed and the developing countries. Indeed, I might have made it a major theme. I have been much concerned recently with this subject.
I accompanied my right honourable friend the Prime Minister to three Summit meetings in recent months: the Summit of the seven industrialised countries in Ottawa, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Melbourne, where Zimbabwe, Belize and Vanuatu were welcomed as new members of the Commonwealth; and, most recently, the Summit of certain developed and developing countries at Cancun in Mexico.
These meetings have helped to clarify the very difficult problems concerning the economies of the developing countries. There was movement towards a meeting of minds. The search for solutions will, I hope, have been stimulated. I certainly welcome the consensus reached at Cancun on renewed efforts to launch global negotiations in circumstances offering the prospect of worthwhile progress.
We all hope that the cordial—and it was cordial—and constructive—and it was constructive—atmosphere at Cancun will set the tone for the future. We shall continue to work for this, bilaterally through our aid programme and in co-operation with our partners in the Commonwealth and in the Community.
Noble Lords will, I think, have noticed how the thread of co-operative effort has run through the various subjects on which I have touched this afternoon. From the Tower of Babel to the present day cooperation has not been very easy. In many fields the effects of economic recession make it more difficult than ever. But the rewards of success and the penalties of failure have never looked greater. There is an old Cornish story of a rich and powerful city which was swallowed by the sea because its inhabitants grew idle and complacent, and neglected the dykes which held back the sea. The story goes that on a clear day at sea you can still hear its bells.
I think that we, too, would be foolish to forget that it is by co-operation, above all with our allies in NATO and our partners in Europe, that we must work to keep Britain safe and prosperous. We shall work for a strong Europe, acting in close partnership with a strong America. While we can achieve this, I can see no reason to fear that the bells will toll for us.
§ 3.26 p.m.
Baroness Liewelyn-Davies of Hastoe
My Lords, this debate on the gracious Speech is taking place against the most sombre background that we have seen for many years. With his usual clarity and forthrightness, the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary has presented your Lordships with a very complicated picture 114 indeed. We very much welcome his reference to cooperation and agree with him in knowing how difficult it is to achieve. I do not propose to follow the noble Lord down the primrose path of discussing the Labour Party's attitude to the EEC, though perhaps I may say that I think the whole House considers that his own presidency of the Council of Ministers reflects great credit on this country.
Although we on this side of the House do not accept the noble Lord's approach to world problems in all its aspects by any means, we feel real sympathy for him when he talks about co-operation, confronted as he is by a row of implacable bodies of people with whom he has to deal: the PLO on the one hand, the Israelis on the other; the moderate Arabs and the Fundamentalists; the extraordinarily conflicting views of his American colleagues, from the President, through General Haig to Mr. Weinberger, and many others. He must also have some rather implacable bodies within the Cabinet, when he has time to attend it. To crown it all, the Daily Telegraph last Saturday accused the noble Lord of "trying to be too clever" and of "straddling it both ways". So we feel for him.
However, the truth is that the fundamental dilemma of the noble Lord and the Government in planning their foreign policy is that at the moment there is a bigger gulf between this country and the United States than there has been at any time since the Suez disaster. The Government have somehow to synthesise the conflicting views on the Middle East and, at the same time, to allay the terrible anxieties created by the absurdly conflicting American statements about NATO's policy on nuclear warfare.
We, on this side of the House, also believe that the Government will have to try to persuade our American friends to follow policies in Central and Latin America, in parts of Africa and in their whole approach to the third world which will ease the way to social justice and peace, instead of, as so tragically often happens, exacerbating an already dangerously explosive situation. For instance, the tragedy of El Salvador, where more than 30,000 men, women and children have been killed by security forces in the last months, cannot be allowed to go on. The whole situation there is adding to the pressures on Nicaragua and Grenada, even Guatemala and Honduras. We cannot be indifferent to the records of countries' attitudes to human rights. In this country, together with our allies, we have committed ourselves to concern over human rights in Eastern Europe under the Helsinki agreeemnt. We can at least now welcome with pleasure the appointment in America last Friday of an Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, and we very much hope that this new appointment will improve their approach, especially in Central and Latin America.
Like the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary, I have tried not to make what our late lamented colleague Ernest Bevin used to call a tour d'horizon. I have tried to concentrate on the essential issues. There is not time today to discuss our relations with, for instance, the Argentine, or Chile, but we on this side of the House have profound anxieties about the Government's attitude towards those countries and the sale of armaments to them. The immensely important question of the North-South dialogue, our attitude 115 to the Brandt Commission, and the appalling and increasing poverty of the third world are fundamental to our whole approach to world problems. Like the Foreign Secretary, one could have talked endlessly about that tonight, but my noble friend Lord Oram, who is so deeply knowledgeable on these subjects, is speaking later, and I shall not take up the time of the House myself.
We welcomed the cautious optimism of the Foreign Secretary on the question of Namibia. Again, one could discuss that almost endlessly, but we are very much encouraged that the Governments of Nigeria and Angola seem encouraged by the new discussions that are taking place. So for the moment we wish them well, and we do not discuss them in detail. For myself, I should have very much liked to bring before your Lordships in some depth the fascinating subject of China. It is extraordinary that neither in the gracious Speech nor in another place has there been a reference to one of the largest countries in the world with I billion inhabitants. However, whatever happens in our present world situation, China will inevitably play a crucial role. Today I cannot do more than urge the Government to continue to extend building links, economic, political and social, with the people of China, and to use the marvellously inventive, stoical and original Chinese contribution to the world as a whole.
We welcome very much the practical and immediate help that the Government have given to Poland, and we hope that they will continue with Government assistance. Poland is a nation to which we owe much and which suffered perhaps more than any other in Europe through the last war. We salute the gallantry of the Poles. But, as I have said, there is such a full list of speakers that I want to concentrate on what I think is the most urgent need of the day, and that is the Anglo-United States relationship and its approach to the problems. I do so without being in any sense anti-American.
The world desperately needs America. We need her skills, her resources, her spontaneous generosity, her vitality, and that is one reason why we have to consider our approach to the Middle Eastern problem now. As with the noble Lord, of course the whole House deeply deplores the tragic assassination of the brave and indomitable President Sadat. Whatever may be the situation now, Camp David was one of the most hopeful developments there had been for a decade, and it is to the great credit of Israel as well as of Egypt.
The noble Lord the Foreign Secretary has said that he considers that the Fahd plan really marks a departure in Arab thinking and shows a will to negotiate a peace settlement, and that is of immense importance. He also said that he believes that the later statement by Prince Fahd on point 3 of the plan shows a willingness to recognise the existence of the State of Israel. He said that not in the House today but on television on Sunday. My Lords, it is absolutely essential for the peace not only of the Middle East but also of the world in general that we should somehow achieve a basis of negotiation which will be acceptable both to Israel and to the Arab world. But, my Lords, this will be very difficult, and, as the noble Lord himself said, it will take a long time.
116 The whole House will, I am sure, welcome the assurance that he also gave on Sunday that he will meet Yasser Arafat only if that meeting ensures ultimately the acceptance by the PLO that Israel will exist in safety. The Israelis could not embark on negotiations without that ultimate guarantee. I shall not weary the House—
§ Baroness Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe
I think, my Lords, that the House would perhaps prefer that I should continue my argument. I shall give way a bit later. I do not want to go through the whole Fahd plan point by point. Many of those points will not be acceptable in their present form to your Lordships, as they are clearly not acceptable to President Reagan. I cannot myself see Israel ever accepting Jerusalem as the capital of an Arab Palestine, nor can I see them giving up the strategic Heights of Golan, nor can any of us approve any plan which leaves a limited Israeli State menaced from all sides by missiles provided by the Russians, often through Colonel Gadaffi, which could destroy all the main cities of Israel.
One of the difficulties in dealing with the PLO is that no one knows which PLO we are dealing with. The umbrella organisation which contains politicians like Mr. Arafat is also the international terrorist organisation which has committed many terrible, brutal crimes. It is essential to try for a solution, but we must understand that President Reagan and the world must have cast-iron guarantees about Israel's future safety from a responsible representative of the PLO backed by the Arab nations.
The Foreign Secretary, as President of the Council of Ministers of the EEC, who wish to further the new moderate Arab approach, can only, it seems to us, act through co-operation, as he said himself, with the United States. If, as we have heard, the Saudis may table a resolution at the United Nations embodying their Fahd plan, we believe this could only invite a U.S. veto which would help no one, and would put the Western Alliance gravely at risk, and we hope that the Government's advice will be very much against such a course. Like this country, Israel has had good Governments and some which have been less attractive, but that does not detract from their right to exist as a nation. I am sure that all parts of the House agree that we shall never get a solution to the Middle East problem—a problem which is now threatening world peace—which is not based on that premise.
My noble friend Lord Peart will of course be dealing with the defence aspects of this debate, but our whole future foreign policy is affected by these uncertainties. The whole House will know that Russia is actively afraid of a global nuclear war which no nation can win, and when people are afraid they tend to act desperately and irrationally. No one on this side of the House excuses for one moment the Russian aggression in Afghanistan—or now the latest incident of the nuclear armed submarine in Swedish waters—but we must realise that the Russians as well as the Europeans are deeply worried by the increasing belligerency of 117 American pronouncements and their lack of a coherent foreign policy. This is highly dangerous. Those of us who lived through the experience of two world wars and the policies that went before know that thinking and acting as if nuclear war is inevitable could well make it so, and that is what we must avoid.
That is the seriousness of General Haig's "demonstration" nuclear strike argument. Mr. Weinberger of course contradicted it immediately, but we have all heard on the radio and television and seen in the press the argument that it was just an old point for discussion among the NATO cognoscenti and that General Haig's mistake was in introducing it to the unsophisticated public. Your Lordships are an exceptionally well-informed body of legislators, but I doubt if many of us had previously fully grasped the implications which escaped from those remarks. Yet on Friday, in spite of Mr. Weinberger's denial, the Minister of State at the Foreign Office said in another place that if conventional means of stopping aggression seemed likely to fail, NATO "would be obliged" to consider recourse to nuclear weapons. "It is an essential part of our strategy", he said.
The Government have for months been desperately trying to convince the people of this country that we are hopelessly outnumbered by Russian theatre nuclear weapons and must therefore agree to Trident, cruise and the rest. But if we are so outnumbered, it must be madness to make a nuclear "demonstration" which inevitably could only start a nuclear exchange which no one could survive, least of all Europe. The Foreign Secretary referred to the coming discussions on theatre nuclear weapons and forces generally. Part of the problem, to put it starkly, is that, to an American, theatre nuclear weapons mean nuclear missiles that, if fired from Russia, cannot reach the United States. But to Europe, theatre nuclear weapons may well be strategic ones. We must resolve these contradictions urgently.
The whole House welcomes the Foreign Secretary's mention of the disarmament discussions between Russia and America. We hope very much that they will be successful, but I think the House also feels very strong anxiety that NATO is not to be represented there. A leader in International Herald Tribune on 27th October stated:There is an inherent imbalance in the nuclear relationship between the United States and its European allies. The European governments do not sit at the table at which the United States and the Soviet Union negotiate over strategic weapons, yet the Europeans know that they are as much at hazard as the Americans or the Russians. The Reagan administration has been addressing the Russians in the aggressive idiom of the American conservatives, without much concern for another very attentive audience in Western Europe".That is very true, and I think the whole House will agree that one of the great tragedies of this decade was the failure of the SALT II treaty. Our great hope now must lie in a real attempt, as the noble Lord said, at world disarmament. We do not have to be rigid militarists, multilateralists, unilateralists or to belong to any one particular category. Our essential need is to find a coherent policy on how the world is to survive, and the first essential is to have real nonproliferation treaties followed by real disarmament.
I have tried to be brief in view of the great number 118 of speakers to come, and I conclude with this thought: this marvellous twentieth century world has made stupendous advances in communications, satellites, fabulous photographs of outer space and, thank God! life-enhancing advances in medicine. International co-operation in medicine has eradicated smallpox, one of the great scourges of man since earliest times. We must now, at what may be nearly the eleventh hour, try to control our social, economic and strategic resources so as to move towards eradicating war, particularly local wars which can and will so easily escalate into the ultimate disastrous nuclear confrontation.
§ 3.46 p.m.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, the general direction of our foreign policy must clearly be conditioned to a large extent by the behaviour of our principal and acknowledged adversary, the Soviet Union. I have always thought that the objective of the Russians—while seeking such outposts as they can acquire without risking any general hostilities, and safeguarding of course, if they can, their glacis, as it might be called, in Europe—is not to overwhelm the anti-communist West by military means (because any kind of general war, even if it were a non-nuclear war, would probably be counter-productive) but, rather, to undermine our free societies from within and, if possible, to produce a situation in which a discouraged United States would withdraw her troops from Europe and then make, if they can, suitable arrangements with pro-Soviet régimes in western Europe resulting, of course, in Soviet hegemony over the Continent.
That is not to say the Societ Union is unprepared for war, even a nuclear war if it should come. In all kinds of nuclear weaponry they are admittedly at least the equal of the West, and on the conventional side they have at the moment a considerable preponderance. I do not think, for instance, that the recent manoevres in the Southern Baltic were solely concerned with Poland but were, maybe, rather designed to show with what ease the Soviet Union might be expected to occupy Denmark and unblock the Skagerrack. Maybe the stranded Soviet submarine off Karlskrone had something to do with this also, though what this ancient and thin-skinned vessel was doing there with several Hiroshima-type nuclear torpedoes or mines on board, no one may ever know; but it was clearly up to no good.
Anyhow, somehow or other I have always thought that we—that is, the West—must consequently reduce this general preponderance if we are to have any success in arms limitation. During any efforts to increase our relative strength, at least in the conventional field, which I believe is essential, there is admittedly a danger that the Soviet Union may seek to force the issue, though, as I have said, I very much doubt if it will. We must therefore have contingency plans to cope with such a threat, and it must be admitted that totally contradictory statements by American leaders on such vital matters, to put it mildly, do not help. What our own policy should be in the circumstances I leave, however, to our new spokesman on defence, my noble colleague Lord Mayhew, merely adding that unless we can shortly emerge from the world recession, the chances that the Soviet Union may be able to divide the West and consequently 119 win the third world war without fighting it will be so much the greater.
Whatever we may think of Soviet intentions there is, however, one area in which a clash between the super powers may take place whether or not they want it to happen, and that, of course, is the Middle East. We must surely applaud the efforts of our Foreign Secretary to prepare the grounds on which some general negotiations must eventually start between Israel and her Arab neighbours. I have heard it said that the European Economic Community should not seek to intervene in any way in this fatal quarrel; that only America has the power actually to operate the area. The Europeans, so it is said, even though they might contribute a frigate or two to some rapidly mobilisable force, or a few platoons to act as observers in Sinai, should leave the actual handling of these desperately difficult issues to our friend, and indeed our great protector, the United States.
Well, I can of course understand the irritation of the Israelis, but I believe that such feelings on the part of the American Administration, if they exist—and there is, I am afraid, some evidence that they do exist—are misguided. I think that the American Administration should recognise that on a matter in which they are rather heavily committed to one side the services of a body which is perhaps less committed may be valuable. Whatever your Lordships may think of the Fahd plan, to which, as we know, the Israelis object on various counts, but notably because it fails to mention specifically Israel, it will certainly be regarded by many as an advance on previous Arab attitudes. If the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, is ever able to extract from Yasser Arafat some assurance that he does not regard Israel as a blank space on the map, which should eventually be occupied by Arabs, but on the contrary comething which exists and must be reckoned with, he will undoubtedly have been of the greatest use to the United States.
In any case, more and more, and not least I believe in America, in a general way the feeling is growing that, very broadly speaking, there must be some solution based on self-determination for the Palestinians in Gaza and on the West Bank involving close economic relations with Israel; that the resulting entity should be placed under international supervision, at least for an interim period—as indeed most people would think should the Holy Places; and that the frontiers of Israel itself should be absolutely guaranteed, if possible by all the major powers. I hope that the pursuit of what I believe is an eminently desirable goal, which, as the noble Baroness, Lady Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, has said, will probably take a very long time, will not be held up by differences of opinion on whether it should come about in a general way in the context of Camp David, or possibly represent some new initiative. After all, Camp David is still in operation—as such Camp David was a very good thing—and presumably will be until such time as the evacuation of Sinai is completed. Moreover, as I understand it, individual talks on a Palestine settlement are still in progress between the Egyptians and the Israelis.
Of course there are great obstacles to progress in the general direction that I have indicated, one no doubt being the feeling that once the evacuation of Sinai is 120 completed in April next, the Egyptians may press for what, for the Israelis, might be unacceptable concessions. Here I believe that we can only rely on the ability of the Americans to induce their friends not to go back on a signed and ratified agreement, whatever their fears, which, if they did, most people would regard as a fatal error.
Whether the Community should take part, apparently along with some members of the Commonwealth, in a supervisory or observation force in Sinai is something on which I should not like to dwell at present. It is a very delicate matter, and I do not believe that the Foreign Secretary could possibly go further than he has gone this afternoon. I believe—unless I am wrong—that the matter is to be taken up shortly by the Minister of State in Washington. We can only hope for the best.
In a quarter of an hour one can refer only briefly and quite inadequately to vast problems, but in this period of British chairmanship of the Council of Foreign Ministers, one of these must certainly be the future of the European Economic Community. I know that here—as I think the noble Lord said—the principal objective of Her Majesty's Government is to try to secure some definite settlement of the vexed question of our contribution to the budget (which, incidentally, this year seems to have shrunk to very manageable proportions) and, even more importantly, to arrange, if possible, for the beginning of some reform of the common agricultural policy. We wish them well in both those efforts which, unlike the official Opposition, I am sure that they would not wish to prejudice by vague hints of withdrawal if they do not get their way. It may be, for instance, that the lady who is now French Minister of Agriculture will take the view that there is "no alternative" to the present common agricultural policy, but I trust that, no doubt with the support of some other members, a satisfactory compromise will eventually emerge, as it really must, after all, shortly emerge on the fishing question.
But to my mind, at any rate, one thing now stands out a mile—as it has always stood out—and this is the chief point that I should like to make. Little real progress will be made in the direction of closer unity among the members of the Community, if that is what is desired—and in this phrase I include political unity, dear to the heart of the Foreign Secretary—until, and unless, there is a more general acceptance by all the parties concerned of what might be called supranational rules, or at least supranational conventions.
I do not know whether the Foreign Secretary has read the recent report of the Commission on this subject, which presumably reflects the views also of our own two commissioners, Messrs. Tugendhat and Richards, who in no way can be said to be impracticable people with their heads in the air. Among other things, the report recommends a much more extensive use of qualified majority voting in the Council of Ministers; considerably greater powers for the Parliament; and a reversion in some respects of the Commission to the position that it occupied before its reduction in 1962 to a largely advisory body, on the initiative of General de Gaulle.
Those are not revolutionary proposals. They could be adopted without pain by the member states. If they were adopted, there is no doubt that the Com 121 munity would be enormously strengthened and the standard of living of all of us, but more especially of course the poorer members of the Community, would be substantially increased. So would the weight which the Community would acquire in the great game of international politics. Instead of about 1 per cent., I think, of the collective GNP, the European budget could then represent perhaps 4 or 5 per cent. of the collective GNP, and common industrial, transport, regional and social policies would become living realities. Britain would naturally also be a member of a European monetary fund and, incidentally, more and more experts are beginning to wonder why on earth Britain is not already a member of the European Monetary System.
In brief, under such a reinvigorated Community there would be possible all kinds of useful developments which are now impossible under the present system, in which harassed national Ministers, backed up by a host of eager national officials, all intent on getting the better of their foreign colleagues, spend months and years trying to arrive at compromises, which they can then represent in their national Parliaments as victories. It is not a very rational system on which to run a Community.
In what, as the noble Baroness said, Mr. Bevin used to call his "Tourdorizon", I have not even mentioned such grave matters as Afghanistan, Cambodia, Poland, China, Greece, Namibia, Madrid, Cancun, or United States policy in the third world, notably central America. On all those problems, save perhaps the last two, the Government are no doubt doing what they can in association with their 10 colleagues in the Community. On Cancun, we Liberals tend to side rather more with the previous, than with the present Leader of the Tory Party. On the last matter, that of United States policy in central, and indeed Latin, America, while recognising the great difficulty of criticising our great ally in yet another field—and there are quite enough fields of contention already where we are not seeing eye to eye with America—we nevertheless admire the way in which M. Mitterand has made clear his own policy as regards, for instance, the situation in El Salvador and Latin America generally.
In conclusion, and though I know that there will be a discussion of it on an unstarred PQ on 25th November, I cannot refrain from alluding briefly to the sad and mingy compromise on the budget of the Overseas Service of the BBC, which was recently reluctantly approved, on Government insistence, in another place, without the opportunity of a debate in this House, where it might well have been defeated. As we know, the Spanish and Italian services are to be suppressed, and the French service to Europe reduced by half, to say nothing of the disappearance of the broadcasts in Portuguese to the great market of Brazil. The transcription service will still have to be paid for, though it seems at a reduced rate, which is something. All this, my Lords, in order to save £1½ million revenue! The Government's claim that they are actually assisting the BBC in all this because a comparatively large sum is going to be spent over the next 10 years on increasing audibility is, to be frank, absurd, since unless the BBC is to become inaudible such sums will have to be expended anyhow.
My Lords, there is perhaps a means of saving something 122 from the wreck. If the Government will put all their weight behind the proposals of the Commonwealth Consultative Group on Student Mobility, which were approved at the recent Commonwealth Conference in Melbourne, they might enable the BBC, more particularly by developing its system of "study tapes", to play an important part in the effort to counter to some extent the dire effects of the recent huge increases in the fees payable in this country by overseas students, and notably overseas students from poorer countries. These proposals indeed represent an initiative that deserves encouragement, and I hope that the Minister who is to wind up this debate will give us some assurance in regard to it.
All I would say finally is that we live in an increasingly dangerous age in which almost anything may happen, and we ought, therefore, above all things, to have a foreign policy which as a nation we can all hold to and believe in. The preservation of our free society, which is bound up, after all, with other free societies, must presumably be our principal aim, and however much its signatories differ on some issues, and however much we may differ on some issues from our great ally, there is no doubt that our membership of the North Atlantic Alliance is essential for this purpose. It is desperately sad, therefore, that the Labour Party has now formally adopted a policy manifestly inconsistent with the maintenance of the alliance. That may be denied, but I am sure it is a fact. We can thus only pray that Providence will somehow provide that the Labour Party will never be in a position to put such a policy into effect.
§ 4.2 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of Durham
My Lords, I should like to start by expressing warm appreciation of the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and also much appreciation of his recent work in the Middle East. With great temerity I want to enter into the realm of Middle East politics because during September I had the great privilege of being a member of a small British Council of Churches delegation which spent three weeks in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel and Egypt. During that time we had an opportunity to meet political leaders in all the countries, as well as religious leaders; and many people in many walks of life, including a midnight assignment with Mr. Yasser Arafat. We also visited four camps for Palestinian refugees, two in Lebanon, one in the West Bank and one in Gaza.
I would entirely endorse the honesty of recognising that there can be no peace in the Middle East until the Palestinian issue has been settled, but during the course of our journey we gained the distinct impression that a very modest settlement would suffice. The Palestinians want some land, but there is no question of all the Palestinian refugees going into it. It seemed to us that the main reason why they want some land is that it will give them an identity, and this is what they desperately need.
We believe also that, given sufficient guarantees, they are not really interested in being a military presence in the area. In fact, Mr. Arafat went so far as to say to us at this private meeting that he would look forward with perfect equanimity to a West Bank state 123 being a demilitarised zone for some 10 to 15 years provided there were United Nations guarantees of its security against Israel.
We also felt that the threats, frequently bandied about, of Soviet domination in a West Bank state were unreal, because they are not really in accordance with the character of the Palestinian people, who are primarily business people like entrepreneurs. In fact, a symbol of Palestinian initiative was in a refugee camp in downtown Beirut—a shop selling (believe it or not) chromium-plated hat-stands. I do not therefore believe that the creation of a Palestinian state need necessarily be incompatible with Israel's very real security needs. Indeed, I believe one ought to throw back at Israel the question: Can Israel's long-term security needs be met without a generally acceptable solution to the Palestinian issue?
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has referred to the PLO as being a necessary part of any negotiations, and here I believe that, again, he is on indisputable ground. As I said, we met many Palestinians and many Palestinian sympathisers of all ages. We were guarded on a terrifying car journey across Beirut to meet Yasser Arafat by young Palestinians armed to the teeth. In another context, we were guarded by an aged Palestinian, 75, also armed to the teeth and a former member of the Eighth Army. They come in all shapes and sizes. We met members of the PLO who were distinguished professors in universities, and we met many ordinary people. But we met none anywhere who believed that anybody apart from the PLO could at present represent Palestinian aspirations.
We believe that there is responsible and intelligent leadership, some of it in startling contrast to the rather swashbuckling image presented by Yasser Arafat himself. Of course, he is playing a part. This is perfectly obvious when one meets him; and one realises that he has to face enormous problems. He is dependent upon Syria. He has got to contain his own extremists, and therefore he has to make extremist noises from time to time. At the same time he is also trying to project a more responsible image, and this, of course, is an image which one finds vigorously denied by Israel, who believes that naïve visitors like ourselves are hoodwinked when we meet the Palestinians. But certainly to us Arafat gave the impression of being a realist who knows the weakness of his own position and yet, in the end, relies on long-term Palestinian determination to survive and win.
Much play has been made in diplomatic circles of the one card that Mr. Arafat holds—namely, his refusal at present to recognise Israel—and, of course, he has good grounds for believing that when that card is played such Arab unity as there is supporting him will begin to disintegrate. Yet it is even more clear that nothing is going to persuade the Israelis to negotiate with the PLO unless the first move towards recognition comes from the PLO itself, and even then the main effect of such recognition is likely in the first instance to be on the United States rather than on Israel. So the question we met again and again, and I am sure the question which goes round and round in the Foreign Office, is: How can one break this stalemate and what pressures can be brought to bear on either side to take the first steps towards negotiation?
124 Israel will act only if it can be put under moral and political pressure to respond to some gesture from the PLO; and I suspect the PLO will act only if it is assured, first of all, that it is not going to be abandoned by the international community and if, secondly, its leaders feel that the value of its one card is diminishing. That, I believe, is what is already happening, because whatever Arabs say publicly there is, I believe, a de facto recognition that Israel is here to stay; and when we pressed Yasser Arafat about whether it might be possible to change the clauses in the PLO charter which give such offence to Israel, he replied, very reasonably, that an organisation cannot change its charter at the drop of a hat, but that there were plenty of hints in statements made by him and others in the organisation that at least there was the possibility of recognising Israel there.
For example, there is the 1974 statement from the PLO about forming a Palestinian state in some part of Israel—which implicitly, at least, recognises that Israel is there and is going to stay. When we discussed with him the Saudi plan, he observed that it had "interesting possibilities". There has been a tendency to play down the importance of hints of this kind and to look for copper-bottomed guarantees of the kind which alone will satisfy Israel; but I believe that the tendency to play down these hints has the effect of boosting the value of Yasser Arafat's one card, the card of formal recognition. Supposing that, instead, our policy was to take these hints seriously, to draw out their implications, to emphasise the de facto recognition of Israel, might this not force Mr. Arafat to play his card before it became worthless? I realise that there are many subtelties in this sort of thing which such a suggestion ignores. I am an ignoramus, really, in foreign affairs but I offer this suggestion for what it is worth and wish the Foreign Secretary every success in his endeavours.
Before I sit down may I add a few words on another major issue, the issue of nuclear disarmament, first welcoming the noble Lord's expressions of urgency in this matter. I feel that some comment on this issue might be appropriate from these Benches in view of the many Christian voices which are raised on it and the fairly large level of Christian participation in bodies like the CND and other organisations overseas. In a fortnight's time I have the daunting task of acting as chairman of an international hearing to be held in Amsterdam under the auspices of the World Council of Churches. This will enable 18 leading Christians from every part of the world to cross-examine experts from the political sphere, from the defence and military spheres, from the scientific sphere and also the theologians, on the whole issue of nuclear warfare. As in most World Council of Churches' conferences and hearings there is much participation from members of the third world—the World Council of Churches spans East and West—and on the panel sitting beside me will be a Russian archbishop, a Hungarian bishop and the leader of the Baptists in the Soviet Union; and we shall be cross-examining experts from the Soviet defence department.
I mention this merely to illustrate the deep concern about this whole field that exists within the Christian Churches. My hope is that this hearing may help inform Christian thinking at a high level of technical 125 expertise and may help to develop Christian attitudes on a world-wide basis at this very crucial stage. I want to assure Members of your Lordships' House that we shall be attempting to he genuinely open. This is not a propaganda exercise; but anyone who attempts to plan something of this sort immediately becomes aware of the enormous pressures being brought to bear from almost every part of the world. I fully appreciate the nervousness expressed by Her Majesty's Government about any sort of movement which might imply a weakening of resolve by the Western powers, but I have to say that from a world perspective this just looks like an unwillingness of the nuclear powers to consider anything which might actually begin to put the arms race into reverse.
So would it not be possible, instead of concentrating on the threat of such popular movements—a threat which is real enough—to see the present tide of opinion as also providing us with an opportunity for slightly more courageous political action than has been seen in the past? It would be a tragedy if the debate on nuclear weapons were to become too polarised between the intransigent disarmers on one side and the equally intransigent defenders of the status quo on the other. There are many reasons for the expressions of deep concern now being broadcast, but I believe that one of them is the growing disbelief that negotiation can produce any worthwhile reduction in nuclear weapons. Looking back to the moral debates which took place on this subject in the 1960s, there gradually came to he among many Christian people an acceptance that for a time one could live with these weapons in the belief that we were moving towards a gradual reduction and eventual removal of them. But what we have seen is that time has only created more problems and more dangers and will go on doing so. That is why it is imperative to demonstrate now that negotiation can be effective.
That is why I welcome what the noble Lord has said about the negotiations beginning at the end of this month and the others later on. I would throw in one question and ask what has happened to the trilateral negotiations for a comprehensive test ban treaty which seemed to be going so well in the summer of last year but now have virtually disappeared from sight. Why has there been no progress? Is it true, as I was told only last night, that one reason for the lack of progress is Britain's intransigence over the precise numbers of detection devices? If so, it seems to me to be a tragic absurdity that one should hold up a really hopeful treaty over a numerical matter of this kind. If it is possible to restore the credibility of the multilateral disarmament process, then I believe that much of the tide of emotion that we are now witnessing could be harnessed to this process; but that without some visible results soon I fear that frustration will simply grow.
§ 4.19 p.m.
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, perhaps it is appropriate that I should follow the right reverend Prelate in this debate because I want mainly to talk about the subject to which he referred in the second part of his speech and I want to approach it from perhaps a different angle. In the precious time at my disposal in this important debate I want to comment on what seems to me a dangerous phenomenon in the thinking about these matters in the West and to reflect a little on the impact 126 which that thinking is having not only upon our relations with our major ally, the United States of America, but also on the cohesion and resolution of the Western Alliance as a whole. I have returned only this morning from a visit to the United States, where I was able to speak with a great spectrum of people in the Administration, and I have to report that there is very considerable concern in the United States about this problem and about the health of the alliance and that it is not, in spite of certain things said in your Lordships' House today, entirely or principally a matter of the Middle East.
I listened with interest and sympathy to the remarks of the noble Baroness on this subject; but there seems to me to be in the United States more of a feeling of disenchantment, of irritation and confusion about the defence policies of western Europe than about some of their other foreign policies. I would ask the House to understand that the confusion about western policies is not all in western Europe. There is great feeling of confusion and unease in the United States as well. One of the reasons for this is that we are witnessing at the moment in western Europe the growth of a movement called a peace movement and subscribed to by a great number of sincere people whose openly declared aim is the dismantling of certain elements of the defences of the military establishments of the west. In doing so they are creating—whether knowingly or unknowingly—feelings of suspicion and unease about the United States of America. Indeed, to hear some of the speeches made in the course of this campaign, one might be led to believe that it was the United States that was the major threat to world peace and not, as I believe, the Soviet Union.
All over western Europe this phenomenon is beginning to have its impact: in Belgium and Holland; and perhaps most in West Germany where the Government are under constant stress from this kind of pressure. In this country—with which we must be directly concerned—the movement has already led one of the major political parties into a policy of unilateral disarmament with, as has already been said in the House today, overtones of mutualism and anti-Americanism.
Nor does it help if every policy decision, comment and remark by any American leader is dissected, distorted and misrepresented, because in that way propaganda is made for those who wish to further this process of the dissolution of a partnership and an alliance. Let us be in no doubt that this entire effort is being ruthlessly and indeed predictably exploited by the Soviet Union and other foreign powers as well.
The Soviet Union is waging a massive and expensive propaganda campaign of which the peace movement, whether it knows it or not and whether it likes it or not, is an extremely powerful instrument. It is clearly necessary in my view for the Governments of the West and this Government in particular to meet this problem head on. It is no good compromising with it or hoping that it will go away. I believe that there are a certain number of things that we in the free world should do. First, we must ensure that the peace movements, and those who gather around them, are constantly and relentlessly exposed to public examination. These movements are not entirely idealistic and benign; nor, with great respect to the right reverend Prelate, are they always based upon 127 Christian ethics and upon Christian motives.
I believe that whatever their motives may be, it is possible to argue very powerfully that, so far as our safety and our survival are concerned, they are dangerous movements. They may not accept that characterisation. Indeed, that may not in all cases be their motive. Nevertheless, the end result of their policies will be one of great danger for the West. Let us allow of no deception in these terms "unilateralism" and "multilaterism". One hears nowadays in much of the propaganda of the peace movements a blurring of this distinction. One has even heard the curious phrase "unilateral multilateralism", or "multilateral unilateralism". We should not allow this to blind us to the fact that unilateral nuclear disarmament—and it is one of the tenets of the policy of the campaign for nuclear disarmament and many of the other peace movements—means only one thing: it means unilateral action by this country and the West without necessarily any immediate concessions from the Soviet Union.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I must tell the noble Lord that what he has just said is quite untrue. It is not the case that "unilateral disarmament" means what he says it means. I shall hope to say later to the House what it does mean.
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, I shall go from this House today enormously encouraged if the leader of the British section of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament will assure us that he does not support unilateral nuclear disarmament by the United Kingdom. If he will do that in the course of his own speech—to which I shall listen with great care—I shall go away much reassured.
My Lords, I would add one other point about the way in which I believe this threat—because I believe it to be that—should be met. This Government and the Government of the United States have fully documented evidence of the extent to which alien political influences are exploiting the peace movements in western Europe and, more recently, in the United States of America. I believe that Governments which are responsible for the safety and security of the West should not be mealy-mouthed or over-fastidious about this. If—as I am led to believe—they have that evidence, then they should release it. This is a war—and it is a war—of information and communication. The Governments of the West must win it.
The second point that I believe we must take seriously—and here I come closer to the right reverend Prelate and the noble Baroness—is that we must now restore the credibility of multilateral arms control negotiations. We must not let people believe that the only way, or indeed the best way, towards disarmament is unilateralism. Nor must we, as the right reverend Prelate said, polarise. That is not a battle between unilateralists and pacifists on the one hand, and power-mad military hawks on the other. There is a middle course. There is a real need to control the arms race. This is understood by most of us, not just one side of the political spectrum. We must prevent acquisition of unnecessary weapons. We must subsequently reduce military stockpiles to safer and more sensible 128 levels. As the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said in his extremely distinguished opening speech, we must now embark upon serious arms control discussions with the Soviet Union.
There are many areas in which progress can be made. We can make progress on strategic arms limitation; we can make progress on mutual and balanced force reduction and on the reduction of theatre nuclear forces. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, dealt with that at some length. We can make progress on the permanent demilitarisation of outer space. As the right reverend Prelate said, we can make progress on the comprehensive test ban treaty. I would ask him not to diminish lightly the difficulties faced by a Government when they require these treaties to be verified against a potential enemy who has not proved himself to be notably trustworthy in the past. Any agreement we arrive at must be balanced and it must be verifiable. There must be no unilateral concessions—no concessions of any kind—without real and substantial concessions by the Soviet Union subject to effective verification.
I know that this is not a novel point, but can we really trust a country which, while openly talking about the implementation of nuclear free zones in Scandinavia, nuclear free zones in western Europe and in Europe as a whole, sends a submarine armed with nuclear weapons into the territorial waters of a neutral country? We have had previous examples of unilateral concessions. There was a time when the United States Administration gave up its plans to build the B1 bomber. That was because it hoped that the Soviet Union would respond in kind. It abandoned plans to deploy the neutron bomb—the enhanced radiation warhead—hoping that the Soviet Union would respond in kind. There was no response at all from the Soviet Union, except the daily build-up of its SS.20 missiles targeted on targets throughout western Europe. And now, of course, the concentration of the Soviet Union and of the peace movements is on the cruise missile—the modernisation of our theatre nuclear forces.
I may say that I have had some grave doubts myself about the military and strategic effectiveness of the cruise missile, but many of the arguments advanced by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament have convinced me, though not in the way that they would like. I think we shall all recall the unilateral disarmament—for that is what it was—of the 1930s and where that led us; and that is where it will lead us again in the 1980s if we are deceived by the attractions of this kind of pre-emptive surrender.
The third and final point is that we must—and this is almost a truism and certainly will come as no surprise from me—maintain strong and credible defences in the West throughout this period of disarmament and arms control. In our own country I believe that we should even now look again at some of the decisions that have made been in the defence field. One of the things that I have learned in the United States, as a result of the decision of the United States to develop the second generation of Trident missiles—the D.5 instead of the C.4—is that if Her Majesty's Government also decided to acquire that system the cost would be very much greater, substantially greater, than any figure we have yet heard in your Lordships' House. If this were an appropriate place to make 129 bets, I would make a bet that, sooner or later, the Government will have to cancel the Trident programme. I only hope that they will do it before we have reduced our conventional forces to such a level that, when we do come to cancel the Trident missile, we shall have neither, in their view, an effective nuclear deterrent, nor, in my view, an effective conventional deterrent. I urge the Government to look once again at this very serious problem.
Much of the confusion that exists in the western alliance, both in the United States and in Western Europe, springs from a defensive strategy which we have held to over the years and which in my view, lacks to a very large extent any military credibility at all. If a defence or deterrent policy is to have full credibility, we must have strong conventional forces as our first line of defence. In this, I think especially of our fleet and the extent to which it has been put in danger by some of the recent Government decisions.
Finally, before I sit down, I wonder whether it would be possible for Her Majesty's Government to impress upon their friends in Washington, and to collaborate with them in declaring a moratorium, if not a permanent self-denying ordinance, on the public discussion of military and strategic options. What we need is a strong, coherent and consistent political strategy to defeat the threat to freedom, not a series of futile pointless arguments about first strike, limited war, demonstration shots et cetera. I want, however, to say in passing, and I hope that the noble Baroness will not mind my saying it in her absence, that I was somewhat surprised to learn—if, indeed, that is what she was saying—that she was not aware that NATO strategy rests upon the possibility that, in certain circumstances, NATO will be the first to use nuclear weapons. That has been at the basis of NATO strategy for 25 years, and if anyone has not realised it then we are in a greater state of confusion than I had presumed. We must now join with our allies in having no public conflict about these strategic options. So long as we are clear in our attitude to the Soviet Union, that we shall resist any aggression with any means at our disposal, that is all that we need to say.
To sum up, I welcome the Government's robust line on defence and foreign policy. I hope they will continue to give the United States Administration their wholehearted support when the present United States Administration is attempting to recover the leadership of the western world which, for a few years, it abdicated. I urge them to reconsider some of their own military strategies and the policy decisions that flow from them. But most of all—and I return to this with no apology—I urge the Government to meet head on this growing movement of appeasement and surrender which is called by its supporters the peace movement. It is not a peace movement. As I have said, it is a movement of appeasement and surrender to a ruthless enemy. It is not yet a large popular movement. There has been a tendency to exaggerate both its size and its influence. It is still a vocal and strident minority. And, indeed, those of your Lordships' House who follow public opinion polls will have noticed a recent important one, in which a large proportion of the people of this country opposed any form of unilateralism and opposed any idea of a withdrawal from NATO. But encouraged and exploited from outside it can grow. It is a move 130 ment that thrives upon fear—fear of war, fear of death, destruction and annihilation.
To recognise those fears and to understand them is important. But to exploit them is cruel and irresponsible. I believe that our Government must demonstrate with the other Governments of the West that those worst fears, the very real fears that lie in the hearts of many idealistic and sincere people, especially young people, in the world will be realised only if we surrender to threats, succumb to blackmail and render ourselves defenceless in the face of a determined and ruthless enemy.
§ Lord Noel-Baker
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him to consider that, in much of what he has said, he has himself contributed to the false idea which he says the Soviet Union have, that our disarmament movements are unilateral. Will be accept my assurance that the overwhelming majority of the campaign, which is having sweeping success, stands for the general disarmament of the final document of the first special session of the United Nations General Assembly in 1978, which is multilateral disarmament, the disarmament of East and West and the demilitarisation of the world, which is so urgently required?
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, as the remark was put to me, before I sat down, perhaps I may say once again, as I said earlier to the noble Lord, that in so far as any political movement is aimed at multilateral disarmament under effective international control, I am one of its strongest supporters. If, in moving towards that, it wishes, first, to make unilateral concessions by this country or the West, without comparable concessions from the Soviet Union, I am resolutely and violently against it.
§ 4.39 p.m.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, the House listened with the greatest interest and, I think, sympathy to the Foreign Secretary's account of his journey to Riyadh as President of the European Council of Ministers. He is a doer, our Foreign Secretary, and a goer, and that is good. The countries which have been locked in conflict in the Middle East for a generation can only benefit, if they choose to do so, from the proffered assistance of those whose interest in them is justified on historical, political and economic grounds. The chairman of the European Council of Ministers certainly meets all those tests, and we should wish him well in what he is doing.
I am not going to give a tour d'horizon either. I intend today to concentrate on one thing—the current disarray in NATO, and the same subject as the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, was just speaking about. What is happening is serious, but it is not unprecedented. From time to time, the Atlantic alliance is rocked by a crisis of confidence between the United States on the one hand and the European allies on the other. Thus it was in 1945 when both British and French Governments found cause to embark on their independent nuclear programmes. Thus it was the MLF crisis of 1963, in the events leading up to the French withdrawal from NATO in 1966, in Henry Kissinger's "year of Europe" in the early 1970s. And thus it is again in the 131 dual-track crisis of 1981.
This crisis has not arisen out of what some may see as the hair-raising bellicosity of President Reagan, nor out of what others see as the sudden vulnerability of a new generation of West European simpletons to Mephistophelian Soviet propaganda; nor even has it arisen out of what all mayagree is the reckless sensationalism of the press in hailing each slip by still inexperienced politicans as the crack of doom. It arises, on the contrary, out of a gamble by the NATO Governments. They gambled in taking the two-track decision without public or parliamentary debate, and it looks as though they are losing.
We in West Europe face two kinds of Soviet military threat: those which are common to us and to the United States and those which we face alone. Both have many ingredients, but perhaps the most important ingredient of the threat we face alone is the fact that for 20 years we have had 700 or so Russian rockets targeted on us which cannot reach America. Negotiating bodies for various kinds of arms control have come and gone but none has considered the SS4s and the SS5s or their successors, the SS20s.
Our Governments behaved as though it were better not to talk about them: let it be as if they did not exist. Time and again the matter was raised in the House of Commons, in this House, and in the press, 10 years back. It usually went without answer from Governments of both colours. Occasionally it was brushed aside with a, "Later", or a, "It does'nt matter". This seemed ominous then and it seems regrettable now.
After all, nothing more was needed than that some government, or governments, somewhere, should put a simple proposal to the Russians that instead of replacing their obsolescent SS4s and SS5s with the modern SS20s they should come to an agreement with the West to start altogether removing and destroying nuclear weapons and delivery systems in a balanced and verifiable manner. Mr. Brezhnev, it is true, had made a relevant proposal in 1968 but he invaded Czechoslovakia a month later; so it, not unnaturally, fell out of sight. President Carter, it is true, had already made an analogous proposal about the intercontinental missiles in 1977, which he feebly dropped after the Russians attacked it as a "cheap manoeuvre".
That last problem of course was common to the United States and Western Europe. But our own solely European problem remained, and it was never resolved. It was instead aggravated and compounded by the two-track decision of December 1979. This was something to make hearts sink. Instead of asking the Russians to take the SS20s away and destroy them, NATO announced that it would, four years from that time, start building up its own new force to balance them. It would also seek disarmament talks. But the cruise and Pershing II missiles would be deployed anyhow. And that is what "two-track" meant. The decision was made without debate in Parliament, just as the decision to buy Trident was, and it was made without informing the public in advance. Let us remember that for the first time in 20 years it will put Moscow at the mercy of thermonuclear missiles with a four minute flight time and that they will be 132 better able than the ICBMs to penetrate the Moscow ABM screen which is permitted by SALT I. The Russians have something to worry about.
Let us also remember that at the time when that decision was taken the present Government were already in power. At first they showed a disposition to claim that the two-track decision was inevitable because the Russians had been asked to take the SS20s away and had refused. But that was a mistake. They had not been asked. In facing us with the SS20s the Russians faced us with a fait accompli. In facing them with the two-track decision we faced them, right back, with another fait accompli. And that is exactly how the arms race began, has continued, is continuing and will continue until disarmament negotiations are resumed.
So it was not surprising that a new generation should take to the streets when they were informed that for the first time American nuclear missiles under sole American control were to be stationed in our country. When it has been pointed out to the Government that this was likely to be the effect of the new policy unless they put the new missiles under the dual key arrangement, as American missiles were put 20 years ago, they have answered that the Americans would charge us for that and we could not afford it.
It has been a chapter of errors—our own, European, errors—and we are paying for them. But the effect has been much increased by the ineptness and confusion of the present American administration. They have their problems. They have to operate a constitution by no means adapted to the rapid world-wide communications which have grown up in the last 200 years. One can sympathise with them, but their apparent ignorance of European feelings and their bickering among themselves may endanger more than the solidarity of the alliance.
Soon, after the full year which it will have taken this American administration to get its act together, we shall face two new sets of talks, as they were outlined by the Foreign Secretary just now. The first will be in Geneva on limiting what NATO circles have, with callous folly, been allowed to call "theatre nuclear weapons". To ordinary Europeans, these are of course strategic nuclear weapons of annihilation. The second set of talks, not until next March, will be the new strategic arms reduction talks, START, which will supersede the old limitation talks, or SALT. The new name is good.
Now, can the American administration do anything useful between March 1982 and July 1983 when their constitution will impose the resumption of electioneering? Will a year and a bit be enough? Again, can they do anything useful in the absence of Britain and France, independent nuclear powers, in the absence of the two Germanies and of Poland and the Low Countries, where immeasurably the greatest concentration of destructive power in the history of the world is now seen? Can they get anywhere without considering chemical, and conventional, arms as well? More and more delivery systems in the West are dual purpose—that is, nuclear and conventional. In the East, there are perhaps two dualities—nuclear and conventional and chemical and conventional.
But there is one place where the hopes of mankind may for the moment reside. That is the Arms Control 133 and Disarmament Agency in Washington under its present director, Mr. Eugene Rostow. Mr. Rostow is more experienced than his President, or his Secretary of State, or his Secretary of Defence. He has seen disarmament attempt after disarmament attempt roll by to oblivion and sometimes obloquy, and he has learned. And he is going back, he says, to first principles. Good. The signs are that he may be turning at last to the solution which a careful few have advocated for a quarter of a century and which Lord Mountbatten so ringingly endorsed in his famous Strasbourg speech. In Mountbatten's words:To begin with we are most likely to preserve the peace if there is a military balance of strength between East and West. 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 reduction of nuclear armaments. I believe it should be possible to achieve greater security at a lower level of military confrontation".If this approach, minimum deterrence, is what emerges from the forthcoming super-power talks, then we can be grateful to the Reagan administration for something which far outweighs all the bickering and incoherence of recent months. If it does not, then I suggest that we shall have to face up to the daunting contention that a disarmament to make the whole world safer can only be obtained through negotiations in which the whole world is involved. So far, we have been too lazy to face that. But I cannot believe that mankind will, for another generation, remain intellectually too lazy to avert its own extinction. The two-track decision and the fears it has generated have had a very dramatic effect on politics in this country, in West Germany, in Italy and in the Low Countries; I mean last month's enormous demonstrations.
Your Lordships know those towns, mainly new towns in England, whose civic pride is such that they put up signposts only to their own achievements. "Industrial Estate East", "Municipal Car Park", "Industrial Estate West", and so on are shown, but meanwhile the long-distance traveller is peering vainly for places altogether further afield and altogether more interesting. However, the signposts to those places have been superseded by municipal self-congratulation. CND is like that. "To a British initiative", they proclaim; "To the expulsion of American nuclear bases from Britain"; "To a nuclear-free zone, if not in Europe then, lo! at least in Manchester". But we must drive further; we are looking for the signposts to a world initiative, to a world nuclear-safe zone (since nuclear-free is not the same as nuclear-safe), to minimum deterrents, to chemical disarmament and to conventional disarmament.
Yet I do not blame CND. It is not the marchers in the street who are lazy. The continuing outrage against human kindness, against the will to peace, against the use of human and natural resources for good, against our very hope of continuation, is colossal. CND's short-range signposts are certainly a natural reaction. I do not believe that more than one in a thousand of the half million who demonstrated last month want to give the Soviet Union an advantage, let alone want to live under its system. The rest just want to be freed from the threat of nuclear war. The initials "CND" stand for "Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament" and that is what it was, at first. I 134 remember this vividly because I went on the first Aldermaston March and I edited the first two issues of CND's newsletter. Only later, at the first national conference of the campaign, was a resolution adopted—it came from the grandly named "London Region", which the noble Lord, Lord Soper, will remember—which introduced the qualification of unilateral disarmament. So then, of course, many of us had to leave, just as 20 years later we had to leave the Labour Party when it adopted the same myopic panacea.
What separates CND from the rest of mankind? We all—well, almost all—desire disarmament. We all agree that the arrival of nuclear weapons makes it more urgent than ever before. But most of us want to go straight towards the desired goal, to a disarmament not only, or unconditionally, or unilaterally by this one or that of the six or seven nuclear powers in the world, but by all, and that other countries should renounce. Only the CND and its counterparts in other Western countries insist on the capricious preliminary detour called "unilateral disarmament".
Would it not be possible for CND to drop those words "unilateral" and "unconditional" and so on, which form no part of its name? If it were possible, what a great release of political energy there would be for real disarmament. There cannot be unconditional disarmament in one country; that is against the essence of the nation state. But agreed disarmament among many countries, that there can be. The first requirement is political will and any political will which is siphoned off for partial or unrealistic solutions reduces the will for real disarmament.
I started by mentioning a number of crises which had afflicted the Atlantic alliance in the last 30 years. I pointed out that we are in the middle of one now. But, as one picks one's way out of each crisis of confidence, one must be careful not to sow the seeds of the next. Is there by chance another one already in the offing? I fear that there is and I have already hinted at it. It was raised by Mr. McNair-Wilson in the House of Commons last week and again by my honourable friend Mr. MacLennan and was handled gingerly, but in a way that spoke volumes, by the Foreign Office Minister who answered the debate, Mr. Douglas Hurd. It is quite simply this: why do we West Europeans allow the Americans to negotiate over our heads about the removal, or not, of weapons which stand (or will stand) in our countries?
Some say we must allow them to do this because the Russians would never allow the Poles and East Germans to sit with them on their side of the table if we sat with the Americans on ours. But is that really a problem? Do we have to disfranchise ourselves for fear of embarrassing the Russians? I cannot believe it. The soil is ours; the risk is ours; the remedy must be ours, too; our Parliaments and peoples must this time be allowed to know what is proposed before decisions are taken and must approve those decisions. There is no need to elaborate further: clearly the sad procession of crises could only too easily be succeeded by yet another, as public opinion latches on to what is happening, or is going to happen.
My Lords, I have spoken often about disarmament in this House. It is not mere blinkered persistence on my part which makes me do so again—and from this 135 Bench. It is the fact that, once again, it is the burning issue of defence and foreign affairs. The SDP will do what is in its power to obtain real disarmament in the world and in the meantime to ensure that our weapons procurements and our defence policy in general are such as befit a country of our size and one in our position. We must never be provocative nor ever less than firm in the protection of our interests, while we work as best we can to achieve the improved security at a lower level of cost and risk which only real and mutual disarmament can bring us.
§ Lord Kaldor
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down may I ask for one point of clarification? Would he extend the strictures which he made concerning unilateral nuclear disarmament also to the renunciation of the first use of nuclear weapons—not the possession of nuclear weapons but the first use'?—because I think that is a very important distinction and it is important to know where people stand on this issue.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, if I understand the noble Lord aright, in answer to him I would say, no, I would not join with him in denouncing a strategy which involves, in certain circumstances, the first use of nuclear weapons, unless and until he and I are able to get the countries of Western Europe to raise enough conventional troops and weapons to do without it.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ Earl Cathcart
My Lords, today's debate in response to the gracious Speech has been allocated to foreign affairs and defence, and it is only right that pride of place should be given to the many international problems which confront us and that defence must naturally be—and hopefully will remain—a subordinate part; but so far in today's debate every speaker has concentrated on this vital subject of disarmament. That, and also the number of men and women who parade in the streets in support of the CND, show the grave anxiety which exists in this country today and, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham has said, we need to get some success in the field of disarmament, which we can all understand, at a very early date. May I also say that the right reverend Prelate's experience in Amsterdam will be quite fascinating and we shall watch what might come out of it with great interest. The problems of defence are giving rise to urgent discussions and many of the cornerstones of our defence policy are being subjected to doubts and anxieties, often, as the noble Lord. Lord Chalfont, has said, amid much confusion of thought and misappreciation. Therefore, because this subject has already been covered fairly widely in the debate so far, I propose to speak only very briefly. I am not going to attempt to discuss the many new aspects announced by the Minister of Defence in his still recent Defence Review. But in saying that I must make the point that in my opinion we need to hold a purely defence debate in your Lordships' House in the near future, if not to discuss defence matters as a whole, then surely on some of the more important problems thrown up by that Defence Review, such as, for example, security and defence of these islands or the protection of our vital sea routes.
136 The gracious Speech referred strongly to the importance attached to the preservation of peace and, as we have heard this afternoon, that is agreed by everybody; but where some of us differ is as to the way to achieve a sound and lasting peace. Nobody doubts the sincerity of those who strive for peace by whatever means, but one must doubt the soundness of the method proposed by some. I firmly believe that a long-term satisfactory peace can only be achieved across the negotiating table with agreements properly supported by safeguards on both sides. As my noble friend Lord Carrington said in his Churchill Memorial lecture, a part of which he has repeated again today, unilateral disarmament will remove the Soviet incentive to negotiate seriously.
A very large group of men and women, to whom the last weekend truly belonged, are our ex-servicemen and women and their families, who know at first hand the horrors of war. I was privileged on Saturday night to attend the Royal British Legion's Festival of Remembrance at the Albert Hall. Outside the main entrance to the hall as we assembled there was a demonstration with banners which read "Action for Peace and the implication was that the very large number of ex-servicemen and their families who filled the Albert Hall were there to glorify war. In fact, of course, the exact opposite is the case. The ex-servicemen are there to remember the countless thousands of their comrades who were killed or maimed in the struggle to preserve peace and decency, and who strove to provide the chance to establish a better world. Their Festival of Remembrance was a reminder that we must all endeavour to ensure that this sacrifice was not in vain. The Festival of Remembrance in the Albert Hall is just as much action for peace as the presence of demos on the pavement outside. Thus, both are sincerely striving for the same objective, but neither group can easily follow the other's method.
The gracious Speech referred to several disarmament negotiations which are either currently taking place or are scheduled to begin shortly. Success in these negotiations cannot, and indeed must not, depend solely on the skill of the various negotiating teams, but rather success can only be achieved if the leaders of the national Governments concerned have the will to negotiate and the confidence to negotiate with all the countries present at that negotiation. But this sense of mutual confidence is far easier to prescribe than it is to achieve. In a recent Starred Question at the end of the last Session the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, suggested that Her Majesty's Government should, by taking an initiative, break the deadlock at the mutual balanced force reduction negotiations in Vienna. Certainly progress in these negotiations has been slow. They have been conducted for eight years, so far with very little to show. Perhaps these particular negotiations which deal with conventional forces, are waiting for some movement in the nuclear disarmament field before they can proceed.
Earlier this year I had the privilege of attending a very short and formal session of the MBFR negotiation in Vienna. The forum which I observed has without doubt all the ingredients of success, since each country in both NATO and Warsaw Pact alliance is represented by skilful negotiating diplomatic teams. What is lacking so far is the will and direction from all the Governments concerned to achieve the perma- 137 nent success hoped for. As the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, told us in his reply to that Question, the main stumbling block in these negotiations has been the data problem, that is, the problem of agreeing on the strength of existing force levels to the satisfaction of all parties involved before discussions begin on equitable force reductions. That is typical of the sort of problems that arise in these disarmament situations.
There is also the problem that confidence in these reductions cannot be achieved until adequate measures of verification can be established. But even while these talks have been going on the Warsaw Pact has dramatically increased its preponderance in tanks and aircraft and, on the sea, in submarines. This has been clearly outlined in every successive annual Statement on Defence produced by both major parties during the past eight years or more. It is for that reason that I agree with the Government that at this stage we cannot take action which weakens the current defence posture of NATO, and that we must maintain our policy of deterrence.
There is currently much discussion about the use of nuclear weapons and the decision to opt out of their use. We certainly all wish that this awesome weapon had never been invented. But it has been invented, and the ability to make it and to deploy nuclear weapons is now possessed by several nations and is no longer a monopoly of the few. We must accept this fact. And the discussion is aggravated by the highly complicated theories on the strategic and tactical use of this frightful weapon and the political implications of how and where it may he deployed. These problems are bedevilled by such theories as flexible response and General Haig's warning shot over the bows. The fact remains that the weapon exists, and as long as both sides have it the threat to use nuclear weapons must remain an essential part of NATO's deterrent until a sound and accepted disarmament treaty has outdated it. I must repeat again what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham said. We must have a success in these important nuclear disarmament negotiations in the fairly near future because the people in all countries are getting extremely anxious about the situation.
Finally, on a purely defence aspect, the gracious Speech referred to increased expenditure on defence which would be put to the most economic and cost-effective use. Does this represent an upward adjustment to the recent Statement on Defence? Will it be allocated to any particular aspect of defence or any particular weapons system? I very much hope that my noble friend the Minister, when he replies to this debate, will feel able to expand on this aspect of the gracious Speech.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
My Lords, I think we all have reason to be grateful today both to the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary and to my noble friend Lady Llewelyn-Davies for the distinguished and impressive speeches with which they began this debate, setting out, though from different viewpoints, the major issues that we have to weigh up when we debate foreign affairs. I noticed that my noble friend Lady Llewelyn-Davies laid special stress on the problem of proper relations and understanding between this country and 138 the United States, and the various misunderstandings that have sprung up of late.
Some of those have been concerned with the Middle East. It appears to be the view in some quarters in the United States that the Foreign Secretary was perhaps over-zealous in his championing of the Saudi peace plan. I would say this myself about the Saudi peace plan. I think it does to some extent represent an advance on previous Arab pronouncements. But it is still true, if one reads through the proposals, that everything which is of a kind to reassure and encourage the Palestinians is stated in the most firm and unambiguous terms. Everything that might possibly encourage the Israelis is guarded, implicit at most, uncertain and of a nature to which no country could possibly pledge its security.
I hope, therefore, that the Foreign Secretary will bear this in mind in his future handling of the matter and remember that the anxieties which Israel feels about this whole question are not merely the product of obstinacy. Critics can, I think rightly, attack a number of positions taken up by the present Prime Minister of that country. But even when one has made all those criticisms it still remains true that in the argument between Israel and her Arab neighbours, Israel, if things go wrong, stands to lose everything: that is not true of any of the Arab states. Israel's need for reassurance, therefore, is greater than anyone else's.
I think it is fair to say that this matter is perhaps a little better understood at present by the United States Government than by the British Government or by the European countries. I hope that they will make every endeavour in the further handling of this matter to keep in step with the United States, because although I do not write off what Europe can do in the Middle East, it is quite certain that unless we work in harmony and understanding with the United States we cannot produce any result there.
The other areas in which there have been misunderstandings between ourselves and the United States recently have been over defence and in what circumstances certain weapons might be used. I think that part of the trouble arises from the fact that, whereas this country is a Crown Republic, America is a constitutional monarchy and the relations of Ministers, one to another, as one can see from Mr. Kissinger's account, do not represent the ordered and firmly understood relations of one Minister to another: they represent the manoeuvrings of courtiers to get greatest influence with the monarch. That is why occasionally the remarks of first one American Minister and then another are a little difficult to add up. We must be patient and wait until something clear and definite emerges, as I am quite sure in the end it will.
A good deal of the misunderstanding has been due to the fact that people will make what seem to me totally unnecessary predictions about the possible nature of a future conflict. For example, is it possible for there to be a nuclear conflict in Europe that does not spread to the rest of the world? If there is a nuclear conflict, will it destroy the whole of mankind or only some of us? Is it, therefore, necessary or desirable to have any methods of defence against nuclear attack? I say that those kinds of predictions are largely unnecessary 139 because I do not believe that anyone knows the real answer.
However, one or two factors do stand out quite clearly. First, a nuclear conflict between the countries of NATO and the Warsaw Pact would be an appalling disaster. How appalling, it is quite idle to argue. It is quite clearly something which we must avoid if we possibly can. Secondly, such a conflict is not in the least necessary in the nature of things. Mankind has not tied itself into the type of knot in which it had tied itself by 1938 where conflict was inevitable. I do not believe that we have done that or anything like it. I believe that it can be averted provided it is clearly understood that there is not to be aggression in the plain and simple sense of the invasion of the territory of one country by the forces of another. We have managed to make that quite clear with regard to NATO countries. The Soviet Union understands very well that she cannot with impunity invade a NATO country. She finds, however, that she can with impunity invade certain other countries, and unfortunately has done so. It is very important, therefore, for the preservation of peace that NATO remains united, strong and coherent and it is perfectly clear that aggression cannot be committed against her.
Let us consider what has happened in the years since the war. There have, I am sorry to say, been several occasions on which communist forces have invaded the territories of neighbouring countries: South Korea, South Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and various parts of Africa. There has been no instance where a communist country has had its territories invaded by communist forces, except where the aggressor was the Soviet Union itself against its own allies. It may not be considered tactful, with disarmament negotiations looming up, to mention this matter, but I am quite sure that what I have said is true and that it is important, and that in the last resort it is actually reassuring.
If we continue to make clear to the Soviet Union that we ourselves are capable of resisting aggression, that aggression will not occur. That will give us the time and opportunity to create gradually a surer basis for world peace than the one which rests on the balance of terror and the balance of power at the present time. However, upset that balance and we cannot be at all sure about what will happen.
The Soviet Government sometimes invites the West to give an undertaking that if there is a conflict with conventional weapons it will not use nuclear weapons. Why should we be put in that situation? We have no intention of starting a conflict. If a conflict occurs at all it will occur because there is aggression from the East. If there is aggression from the East I know of no rule that says that the aggressor is entitled to lay down in advance what weapons may or may not be used against it. If we do not want nuclear conflict, let us all refrain from aggression. We in the West have done that and can continue to do it. It is important that the Soviet Union should understand that. I think that if it is said plainly enough, and if we act in a way that shows that we mean what we say, then the aggression will not occur. That is why I think in the end that what I have been pointing out is reassuring—the possibilities of keeping the peace are there.
It is true, of course, that beyond the prevention of an 140 immediate outbreak there are the long-term problems of resolving the basic causes of dispute and unrest in the world. But it is only if we can keep ourselves free from immediate attack that we shall have the time to get down to those longer-term problems. We have now approaching an opportunity for effective talks on multilateral disarmament. I do not think that we should talk as if all the efforts on multilateral disarmament have been failures or that, if they have, it is our fault: it is not. I remember very well that one of the principal things that I was engaged in when Foreign Secretary was the building up of the nonproliferation treaty—a temporary measure, but one of great value in its day and, of course, the platform on which the SALT talks were built, because it contained an undertaking by the great nuclear powers to get together to endeavour to reduce their nuclear armaments. We sweated away and got that treaty signed, and the part played by Great Britain as a country in between the great nuclear giants and the non-nuclear countries, was crucial. But no sooner had we got that than we had the invasion of Czechoslovakia. We had attempts, genuine heroic attempts, by President Carter to get a bit further along the line, and then everything was put back again by the invasion of Afghanistan.
It really cannot be suggested that if there has been failure, the balance lies equally on both sides. I stress this because a good deal of the propaganda for unilateral nuclear disarmament rests on the assumption that really it is six of one and half a dozen of the other between East and West. It is not so when there is made every possible criticism of NATO. It is true that we have striven farther and more consistently to get peace and disarmament than the Soviet Union, and we do not help the process of disarmament by pretending that the facts are other than they are. We now have this chance of real multilateral disarmament negotiations.
Having carefully considered what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham said, it still seems to me to be an unavoidable conclusion that anyone who, at the present time, encourages the Soviet Government to believe that they have only to wait and the West will disarm unilaterally is damaging the prospects of genuine disarmament in the forthcoming negotiations. I do not think that one can get away from that. It is not a question of what their motives are; none of us is particularly fitted to judge the other's motives. I am talking about the plain result of their actions. There is no doubt at all that propaganda for unilateral disarmament is the actual enemy of genuine multilateral disarmament.
I have suggested—I think more than once in what I have said—that beyond this immediate problem, great as it is, there is the problem of trying to make the world generally a more peaceful place, and that, of course, means making it a more just place. In a few weeks there is to be performed in London at the National Theatre a performance that occurs only very rarely—a performance of the whole great trilogy of the Oresteia which was first played to a human audience in the year 458 BC, and is liable to come on in this country about once every 10 or 15 years. I have therefore decided that I had better go to this performance because I am not sure whether I shall be in a position to do so when it happens again.
141 What is one of the morals of that gigantic story? It is that where injustice is committed, injustice becomes almost a personified force, like the avengers of blood, crying out for the injustice to be put right; and that this will go on and on until the concept of the rule of law and justice is substituted for vengence and blood feuds. We live in a world which is full of inherited blood feuds. One of them is racialism, and the theatre of that is South Africa. The existence there of this 100 per cent. racial tyranny is a constant threat to the peace of the world. In the longer term, there is a different kind of injustice, an injustice that nobody deliberately wills but which exists none the less—the injustice of the unequal division of the world's wealth between what is commonly called North and South. There also lies one of the great threats to world peace.
Therefore, we must apply ourselves, first, to an active, concerted policy, through the United Nations, not against South Africa but against apartheid—an attempt to make it clear to South Africa that there is still a chance for her to join the comity of civilised nations, but if she does not do so the result will be disaster. When I first began to talk about this subject I thought that that might be something that would occur midway through the next century at the earliest. I see now that disaster in South Africa is a great deal nearer than that. That is one thing that not only us but all the European powers and the United States have to try to understand, and come together against.
The last point I wish to make is that, of course, we must turn the discussions at Cancun on the North-South problem into something which has more body in it. The noble Lord the Foreign Secretary said that the discussions were "cordial and constructive". I am quite willing to believe that they were "cordial"; it is not so difficult to be cordial, particularly in that kind of climate. On the evidence, I could not honestly accept the noble Lord's word "constructive", but I am very willing to believe that he may be right and that more may come of this. We must earnestly hope that it does.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Lord Carver
My Lords, I welcome the statement in the gracious Speech that the Government will increase the resources devoted to defence, and make the most efficient use of them; and that they will continue to work for better East-West relations, for an early and successful conclusion to the Madrid meeting, and for specific, equitable and verifiable measures of arms control. Both these important groups of objectives are affected by NATO's and the Government's policy regarding nuclear weapons. There are aspects of these policies which I believe work against their stated objectives, both that of the most efficient use of defence resources and also that of better East-West relations and arms control.
On a previous occasion in your Lordships' House I urged the noble Viscount who is replying to the debate to persuade his right honourable friend the Defence Secretary to apply the same incisive logic as he applied to his defence cash problem, to NATO's nuclear strategy. It is perhaps too much to hope that he will reconsider the Government's attachment to Britain's independent strategic nuclear strike force, and I shall not weary your Lordships with a repetition of all the 142 arguments that I have produced in the past against that. I would only express my surprise at the remarks that the Defence Secretary was reported to have made, first, in Hong Kong about the advantages for Britain of going for the more modern Trident system, and then those that he made at the nuclear planning group meeting at Gleneagles about the relevance of President Reagan's rather confused statement about the justification for Britain's independent force. From both those it would appear that he has joined the "more the merrier" nuclear weapons school, but I hope that I am mistaken.
The two aspects of NATO's nuclear strategy to which I hope he will persuade his NATO colleagues to apply more logic and a deeper consideration are, first, the arguments for insisting on a balance of nuclear weapons stationed on land in Europe. I would draw his attention to Professor Michael Howard's letter in The Times on 2nd November. His own Defence White Paper admitted that the cruise missile is not a military counter to the SS20 in the sense that it can knock it out or counter its effects in any way. As Professor Howard pointed out, one must take into account in this matter the ballistic missile submarines, both American and British, which are earmarked for the support of the Supreme Allied Commander Europe and whose function, as I see it, is exactly that which was described in a letter by a previous Chief of the Defence Staff in yesterday's Times, which he described as being the purpose of the modernised theatre nuclear weapons.
I would welcome the statement by the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary that the approach towards the conference at the end of November will be objective, and I believe that, if it concentrates a bit on what these weapons systems are actually designed to do rather than on merely talking about certain figures which are snatched out of the air, it has more hope of success. Therefore, I hope that he will persuade the Americans not to take such a rigid position over this that there is no hope of success at that conference.
Like the noble Baroness, Lady Llewelyn-Davies, and the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, I find it strange that we are not attending that conference ourselves. Apart from the fact, that, like all other European NATO nations, we are potential targets of the Soviet Union's systems, for quite a long time we have ourselves provided, in the RAF Vulcan force and in our own ballistic missile submarines, when they are given the role of supporting SACEUR—as they always are in Government statements—these theatre nuclear weapons systems; and I think it shows how hollow is the claim that having an independent nuclear force gets you a place at the top table when these matters are concerned, that we shall be back in the nursery with the others.
The second, and, in my opinion, the most urgent one for review is NATO's reliance on the concept that it threatens to use, and might in the event actually use, nuclear weapons of some kind—battlefield, long-range theatre or even strategic—in an attempt to stave off defeat in operations which, up to that point, had been carried out by conventional forces only; in other words, to consider nuclear weapons as compensating for inadequacy in conventional forces and to train and accustom its forces to the idea that we would in those circumstances initiate a nuclear war which we hoped would be limited.
143 As I have said many times before, that is an irrational and suicidal strategy. Even if one could rely on limiting nuclear war—and an impressive list of knowledgeable people think that is very unlikely, including the previous US Defence Secretary—whatever limits one might be able to hold it to, on the assumption that the other side would reply in kind, we should inevitably finish worse off than the enemy—and all of us, of course, including the enemy would be very much worse off, if indeed we were there at all, than if we had never fired one. That results from the facts of geography and the relative strengths of our forces. It remains true, even if you apply it to the absurd concept of a demonstrative one-off shot which Mr. Haig mentioned the other day. He should not be blamed; he did not invent that theory. It was one of the silly ideas running around NATO in the time when the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary was Defence Secretary and I was Chief of Defence staff, and if my memory serves me right he thought it was as absurd as I did. One must assume that the other side would answer back in kind, even with a demonstrative shot, and it would not necessarily be in such a limited fashion, and it would be criminally irresponsible to make any other assumption.
In an interview on BBC Radio 4 on 22nd October, Mr. Caspar Weinberger, the American Defence Secretary, said:We've never contemplated first use. It is widely known and we have said that we do not ever engage in first strikes; that our forces and our whole strategy, our whole basis for constructing all of these things, is simply to have enough of a retaliatory response"—a retaliatory response, my Lords—to deter the Soviets from ever starting".His subsequent firm repudiation of the absurd idea of a demonstration shot seems to show that he at least has thought through his position. The question I would ask the Government is: Do they agree with his repudiation of a first strike and would they be prepared to make the same categorical statement? If so, what would then be the objection to accepting the Russian suggestion for a formal, "no first strike" agreement? That would greatly help forward arms control and significantly improve East-West relations.
But just dropping that concept by itself is not enough. NATO must accept the logic that its conventional forces must be improved. It must take this problem seriously and not just talk of marginal improvements to its existing forces. I am not suggesting massive increases in the standing forces—that would not be practical for both financial and manpower reasons. Nor do I suggest that the sort of cheap solutions being bandied about by some of the nuclear disarmers under the title of alternative strategies would be effective as deterrents to war; to contain a military adventure if the deterrent failed, or to defeat a major conventional attack. But there is something in what they suggest. The type of forces they envisage, formed from reserve manpower, would be a very valuable addition to standing forces to the type that NATO now provides; but the respective roles of standing and reserve forces, particularly of the continental countries, need to be completely re-thought, and the organisation of the 144 reserves in particular redesigned. Just increasing the money to be devoted to NATO's forces as they are organised today will not make the most efficient use of resources. The gracious Speech said that the Government will continue to play an active role within the North Atlantic Alliance. I hope that that active role will be to initiate a major review of both its nuclear and its conventional strategy, tactics and organisation.
There are two other points on which I seek assurances from the Government. First, that the Defence Secretary will not be diverted from the resolution he expressed in his paper, The War Forward, by pressure from those two rather strange bedfellows, the naval lobby and the civil service unions. The second that, in discussions in Madrid and elsewhere about confidence building and similar measures which are intended to apply to Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals, there will be no attempt to exclude the United Kingdom and its surrounding waters. We are in Europe, and can only be defended as an integral part of Europe. If progress is to he made in this field, as I fervently hope it will, we must ourselves accept its application to us and to United States forces stationed here. I hope we may have assurances on those two points.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, if I do not follow immediately upon the powerful argument of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, it is simply because I feel there would be something vaguely indecent in a former private soldier in the Royal Corps of Signals challenging a Field Marshal on a matter of defence. I therefore propose to return to the main theme of this debate, which is foreign affairs, because that, as is well known, is the province of the amateur. The Foreign Secretary, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, rightly claimed credit for himself and his colleagues for the very considerable improvements that have been made in consultation between Britain and her European allies, and rightly pointed out that such consultation and co-operation was an essential part of moving towards a more peaceful world. Unfortunately, as he admitted, and as the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, emphasised, we cannot at the moment see quite the same closeness of view and intimacy of co-operation with our major ally the United States, and the reason is not merely that it is easier to hop to Brussels than, even with Concorde, to hop to Washington.
I am rather closer to what I believe to be the core of the Foreign Secretary's view of the Middle Eastern crisis than many of my friends in Israel. I profoundly believe that, unless there is a solution of the Palestinian problem, there can be no peace in that area, and for that reason Israel is itself under threat so long as that problem continues. On the other hand, I think it vain—and I am sure most noble Lords would think it vain—to imagine that a peace settlement of any kind in the Middle East can be reached without the cooperation of the United States of America, which has the greatest influence with all the major countries in the region with which the West has any serious contact at all. Therefore, we are obviously in something of a dilemma. This of course is increased, as the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, from his experience reminded us, by the difficulties inherent in the nature of the 145 American governmental system in reaching agreements and in holding to them.
But it seems to me possible—and I say this with great deference to the Foreign Secretary—that we may be a little too surprised too frequently to find ourselves out of step with the United States, and this suggests that our ability to follow the way in which thinking and policy-making in that country are directed is a little less than perfect, and it is, I think, no reflection on the devoted and talented group of diplomats who at present staff our embassy in Washington. We have recently been able—those of us who have leisure—to read the volume of some 600 or 700 pages which contain the remarkable despatches from wartime Washington written by Sir Isaiah Berlin for submission by the then Ambassador, Lord Halifax. There one can see that at a moment of great importance and crisis, the most critical period ever in Anglo-American relations, we not only had a Cabinet Minister on the spot as our negotiator but also he was able to employ the services of Sir Isaiah and some colleagues who were able to make contacts with the deep currents in American opinion more easily than is possible for those who are confined to the diplomatic round. I would, with all humility, suggest to the Foreign Secretary that if there are more surprises, if we find our relations still frayed, something of that kind might possibly enter into the Government's thinking.
I accent this American alliance because I think it has been shown in the course of this debate on both sides of the House that we attach, not merely in relation to the Middle East but also in relation to our own defence and the defence of Europe, enormous importance to the way in which we can work out agreed policy, over defence if you like or disarmament negotiations, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, suggested, with the United States. I would emphasise therefore—while largely following the line which the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, took in his analysis of the peace movement, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament—a point which comes home very much to one if one reads, as I have been reading, the comments in the Soviet press and hears those on Soviet radio about the progress of this movement and sees what it is that is accented. We there find none of the talk which has been echoed, perfectly understandably, by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, and is frequently echoed from CND platforms, about nuclear weapons being the death of all mankind, and no appeal to the superior interests of humanity. We find a consistent and persistent attempt to denigrate the United States in the eyes of its European allies.
I do not, partly for reasons where I follow the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, believe that the cruise and Pershing missiles would be an important major additional deterrent or threat to the Soviet Union. But I also do not believe that getting rid of those missiles or preventing them being deployed is the primary purpose of the peace campaign. Its primary purpose is to dissolve the alliance, and that has been—and understandably if one thinks of the Soviet Union's history and the weakness of its ramshackle empire—throughout the post-war period the primary aim of Soviet policy. We find, for instance—and I owe these quotations to the BBC; I often feel that what the BBC listens to is much more interesting than what it actually says— 146 on Soviet radio that:Protests are growing in Britain against attempts to dictate to Britain from across the Atlantic".We find a few days later that those statements, possibly ambiguous, by American leaders become Washington's proclaimed intention, to turn Europe into the scene of a nuclear war. And here I cannot follow the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham in his compliments to the sincerity of that campaign. I find myself, after studying it more closely, very close to the position which was outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont; it seems to me that it is disingenuous because it claims to be pushing forward a universal solution to a universal horror but in fact is always balanced against the immediate and direct interests of this country and its allies.
I find as an historian that dates are sometimes useful. I would recall noble Lords to Question Time in this House on 27th October when the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, asked the Government about their attitude to the proposed Nordic nuclear-free zone. On the same day, the Soviet Commentary on Foreign Affairs devoted itself to the alleged pressure of western Governments on the Nordic countries, and on Sweden in particular, to form part of the nuclear North Atlantic defence programme, and the broadcast concluded:Today there are no nuclear weapons in the region, but what about tomorrow?"Tommorrow" was 28th October, when a Soviet nuclear-armed submarine appeared in Swedish waters. Rarely can a rhetorical question—and I assume it was a rhetorical question—have met with such a swift, conclusive and convincing answer.
The last time the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, and I met was yesterday when we both listened to a remarkable lecture, which I hope noble Lords will have the opportunity of reading in print, by Professor Michael Howard, entitled, "The Causes of War". That is an important topic which has largely been overlooked in our discussions about the admitted burdens and horrors of nuclear arms. I think Professor Howard satisfied a highly critical audience of historians that wars have very rarely—hardly ever, perhaps never—resulted either from accident or competition between weapons systems. They have arisen because one power, fearful of the growing power of another, has decided that its interests are better served by going to war than by remaining at peace. On the whole, as Professor Howard showed, even those statesmen in history who have not come down to us as tremendously balanced or as pacifically-minded, have hesitated, and often hesitated for good, before plunging their countries into war, and that long before the invention of what we euphemistically call weapons of mass destruction.
I profoundly believe that the same logic operates in the case of the leaders of the Soviet Union. I do not share the view that we are in danger of a nuclear attack, either pre-emptive or as a result of earlier actions by ourselves, and as the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, made clear, if it needed to be made clear, we are certainly unlikely to be the aggressors. What we have to fear—the only thing we have to fear, and this is why I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, and not with the Field Marshal, about not saying 147 anything about the first use or any use of any weapon—is that the Soviet Union might consider that the alliance split, the countries having given up methods of retaliation, it was possible for them by pressure, by diplomacy, by the twisting of arms, to get their way, and suddenly finding that they faced an obstacle, to go to the last resort of war. That is why I, like the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, and I believe other noble Lords who have spoken, do not regard the greatest danager of war today as being in the SS20s. Indeed, the noble Lord said how expensive the propaganda campaign in Europe was; one SS20 costs between 10 and 20 million dollars, and one can do a lot of propaganda for that sort of money. Therefore, I think that we have to come to this kind of agreement; that the danger that exists will be a danger only if we are ourselves apparently divided and disarmed; and the danger comes not from the Soviet Union, it comes from within.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Lord Soper
My Lords, in considering the various topics set out in the Queen's Speech, I would commend to your Lordships that there is no debate in this House that the issues involved in defence are incomparably more important and ultimate than any other considerations to which we might give our attention, and already have done. Here is a matter of life and death. Here is a matter, in the opinion of many, which involves a terminal condition, possibly, for the human species—and I say that carefully, not on my own authority, which is marginal, but on the authority of people who seem to know a very great deal about it. Indeed this is an apocryphal debate, and if matters of life and death are involved, and if apocrypha are introduced, then in one sense I am entitled, or at least under some compulsion, to speak as a would-be Christian. It is on that theme that I would intervene in this debate at this time.
I am sure that the House will agree that it is not sufficient for the Christian Church, or the Christian country, so called, on Armistice Day to sing,O God, our help in ages past",which contains the lines,Sufficient is Thine Arm alone,And our defence is sure",and then to endeavour to support the divine arm by the panoply and multiplication from our own human armoury. Here is, in my judgment, an issue which burkes no final compromise. I do not believe that it is compatible with the claims and beliefs of the Christian faith to embark upon programmes or intentions which involve the deterrents of terror and all the accompaniments, beastly and terrible, of modern war.
That has been a problem which has for long since been resolved in my own mind, I hope not inadequately. I claim no infallibility in these matters, not from a study of various documents in what we call the Bible, not in the so-called scientific evaluation of history as presented by the Marxist, not even in the authority vested in the Vatican. What I believe, however, is that it is high time that, in the light of the evidence which is available, whatever other compromises and issues are still sub judice, we no longer delay making up our minds as would-be Christians 148 as to the fact of war and its total incompatibility with the profession of the Christian faith. I do not want to break even a gentle lance with my Lord Prelate of Durham, but I should have thought that we have had enough conferences already, and that if we have not yet made up our minds, it is high time we did, and perhaps we have not much time left.
It is no sufficient answer to do what the Marxists sneer at, and quite properly sneer at: our attempt to garland the fetters under which we suffer, and to pour holy water on activities—baptism even by hosepipe— which of themselves are immediately and fundamentally contradicted by the spirit and teaching of Jesus. That is why I try to be a pacifist, and that is why I would approach the question of defence in the light of what I am compelled to believe as a cardinal principle of the Christian Church. Though I am very much unworthy to profess it, and to recognise the many differences that exist among decent-minded Christians as to the proposition, I feel it only proper, if I can do it humbly, to present in your Lordships' House an answer other than those which have hitherto been proffered.
There are two areas in which to obey the Christian gospel can be envisaged, and they are very different. In many respects it is possible personally to follow out the teachings of Christ by his grace. If you lie, you can tell the truth. If you are a thief, you can stop thieving. It is therefore within the personal ambit of people very largely to follow out the teachings of their faith. But the moment that we envisage the world in which we live and become parts of it, as inevitably we are, then a very different set of circumstances prevails. This is the world of inevitable compromise. This is the world in which our own intentions are necessarily involved in the practices of others. It is in that world that the Government are endeavouring to pursue a policy, and I note in many respects sincerely endeavouring to pursue it, which is complicated and difficult, and one in which it would be impertinent for anybody to say that the clear injunction of, say, the Sermon on the Mount can immediately be carried out in the Councils of Europe and in the affairs of the world in general. It cannot so be.
But there are two areas in which I believe this particular dilemma can at least be faced and, in large measure, can be resolved. To my astonishment I noticed that the word "disarmament" does not appear in the Queen's Speech, but I believe that the issue of disarmament is the way in which a practising Christian can in fact fulfil what he believes to be his honest duty and at the same time recognise that he lives within a context which prevents a hundred per cent fulfilment of that duty. Therefore I would attach what I have to say now to three areas in which I believe that disarmament has to be envisaged, two of which I consider are ineffective, while the third that I profess is the pacifist one, which I would seek to argue as cogently as can in a very short time.
I do not believe that multilateral disarmament is a policy. It is an ambition. It might be an achievement; of course I hope that it will be. But psychologically (if I may use that word) I am quite sure that multilateral actions are the fruit of unilateral initiatives. I am sure that this is true. To wait for some bright morning, when automatically, inevitably and simul- 149 taneously, everybody hitherto in contention will say that they have had a vision in the night and that they would like to agree on propositions to which they were totally opposed, say, last evening, is not the way that it happens. The sorry story of the multilateral attempts over the last 20 years has not produced the proximity of peace. In fact I should have thought that the condition at this moment is far more serious and deadly and terminal than it has ever been—
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Lord whether he can name a multilateral disarmament negotiation which has taken place in the last 20 years?
§ Lord Soper
Yes, I can, my Lords. For instance, I can indicate the programme that was offered by the Soviet Union for inspection and reduction of armaments. That was in, I think, 1957—
§ Lord Soper
Well, in the last 20 years, No, I am not in any position to give the noble Lord a particular answer, but I should have thought that this is by no means a denigration of the argument. What I am saying is that in principle what has happened is that every attempt that has been made has in fact produced only a more serious condition than that which preceded it.
§ Lord Kennet
Surely the noble Lord will admit that his inability to answer is due not to his ignorance, but to the fact that there have been no multilateral disarmament negotiations in the last 20 years.
§ Lord Soper
My Lords, I think that we are becoming semantically rather confused. I am talking about attempts which have been made consistently on both sides to arrange for meetings, as a result of which programmes of disarmament could be envisaged and could in fact be undertaken; and I am perfectly sure that that has happened over and over again.
What I would continue to say is that just as I am satisfied that multilateral disarmament must be preceded by some unilateral act, so I find myself increasingly troubled by the prospect of unilateral nuclear disarmament. I walked around, sat down and got temporarily arrested in CND years ago, and any reduction in the fearsome weapons from which we suffer or are about to suffer today is entirely agreeable to me; in fact, it is my earnest desire to see these things happen. But what bothers me is that you do not necessarily create that kind of moral fervour and dynamic when your sttitude to war is very largely compounded of a fear of the terrible results of the 150 nuclear threat without at the same time generating a moral sense of abhorrence of the whole process of war itself.
I do not share the general attitude of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, to Russia. I think he is playing cowboys and Indians, as some other people seem to be doing, saying that there are the "goodies" and the "baddies". May I interpose a comment on that? When I visited Leningrad some time ago I was taken into a great hall. On one wall of that hall was a huge ceramic map of the world. I looked at it—it was a very fine piece of ceramics—and then I suddenly discovered that there was something wrong with it. These rascals had put Russia in the middle of the world, whereas I knew very well that Great Britain is in the middle of the world with Russia on one side and America on the other! But it looked much neater that way, and it gave a good deal of support to the proposition, which might appeal to many a Russian today, that he is surrounded. It looks much more like a surrounded empire from that standpoint.
Furthermore, may I interpose one other comment? I wonder whether your Lordships know that the Russian Orthodox Church now issues a magazine in English. Up to about four years ago it was issued only in Russian and therefore I could not read it, I could just look at the pictures; but now I can read it. Alongside the strictures, with which I do not necessarily disagree, I think there is an increasing number (there must be from the articles I read in that publication) of ordinary people in Russia who would earnestly desire the very things that we desire and which we believe they are prevented even from understanding. I believe the bamboo and iron curtains would be impenetrable so long as disarmament in the West were nothing more (excellent as that would be as a process) than the elimination of certain forms of horrific warfare. They might indeed stimulate further experiments in bacteriological and other kinds of warfare—who knows? In any case, nobody tells the truth about arms; it is an impossible thing.
Therefore, alongside the faith which I venture to profess I would also add my conviction that the pacifist argument is the only one which can in fact generate such moral response among the millions of people today throughout the world who are anxious and yearning for the opportunity to put an end to the fear which now haunts them. If this is an impossible solution, then I believe that the Christian faith has been a delusion. I cannot believe that, and, therefore, whatever the risks involved, I must make my testimony, as I do again today, to the value, to the necessity, of the renunciation of the use of violence as a means of social change. I believe it could evoke a response hitherto unknown among the peoples of this world who are now in the suffering and agony of the prospect or experience of warfare and its dreadful consequences, which, as I say, in the opinion of many people who seem to know, has now reached a terminal stage even for the human species itself.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ The Marquess of Salisbury
My Lords, I do not feel qualified to follow the noble Lord, Lord Soper, on the moral issues involved in pacifism and armaments races, but I must say that I would feel much 151 happier about his argument if we had not seen this massive build-up of Soviet arms over the past few years. If he is right in saying that if we disarm others will do so, I would have thought that we would have had some response from the Soviet Union before now. Meanwhile, I would have thought that if we followed his proposals we should be subjecting ourselves to the possibility of being taken over by the Soviets and of the Christians in this country being subjected to the same pressures that they receive within the Soviet boundaries.
I do not know what Christian church he was referring to in the Soviet Union, but I understand there is an official church, which is frowned upon in some areas, as well as an unofficial, perhaps underground, church which is still persecuted. It seems to me that if we followed his argument the same might happen here. I much prefer to stand up and fight for the Christian principles such as I have been brought up to believe in. I know that even in our Church the words "church militant" are no longer popular, and have been omitted from the more recent editions of the Prayer Book, but I still believe there is a great deal to be said for standing up and fighting for what you believe in.
I had not been intending to speak about that side, and I wish to confine the rest of my remarks entirely to the position of the black African states in Southern Africa and to their relationship with the Commonwealth and the United Nations, in the context (in spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Soper, said) of what I regard as Soviet expansionism. To my mind the Soviet aims in Africa are twofold: first, to cut off the communications of the West; and, secondly, to make inaccessible or more difficult essential raw materials. In both cases this involves removing the white presence, or at least the control of the whites, in South Africa itself. So far as the second consideration is concerned, if we cannot get essential raw materials the whole of the industrial West will be brought to its knees. If we can get them at an increased price, we have only to consider the position in which we found ourselves as a result of the recent massive rises in oil prices. If you coupled that with further increases in the price of raw materials, our economic positions would be parlous indeed. So it is in relation to that that I should like to look at the position of the black states.
The Russian presence, either directly or indirectly, has increased in Africa quite considerably over the past years, and obviously at the same time the white influence has been eroded. We now have a position in which we have Cuban mercenaries in Angola and in Mozambique, and I now understand that there are said to be several hundreds more in Zimbabwe. I wonder whether the noble Viscount who is to reply can give us any further information on this. Clearly this is establishing a frontline base for the Soviet bloc, and it does not very much matter what happens behind because they are able to impose their influence as a result. So the line attacking the West, as I see it, has moved steadily southwards.
The final objective is South Africa itself. The ostensible reason for attacking South Africa is the existence of apartheid. Whatever view one has about apartheid—and we all have very strong reservations about it—I think it is only right that we should consider 152 what the alternative is as it has developed in other states where white influence has been minimised, and should ask ourselves whether this will not happen in South Africa as well. I think I am right in saying that in every case where black Governments have taken over the standard of living has been reduced for the general run of the inhabitants. The services—education and the medical services—have all deteriorated; and, worst of all, the maintenance of law and order has become very weak indeed. So much so that very serious troubles have arisen.
In spite, in many cases, of grants in aid, it has been impossible for these countries to make any progress, or even to feed themselves, although in colonial days they were able to do so. I am forced to the conclusion that they were better off under our Government than they are under their own today. If we look at what is happening, we shall have to try to work out how best to help these people. They are always asking us for money, but the money does not seem to go very far. We have been pressed and threatened to give more and more, yet I think that all we do is to stave off starvation. What we ought to be going is ensuring that the money is spent on capital investment to improve the general economy. But there is at the moment, as I see it, no sign of this happening and at the same time as all this goes on the condition of the people continues to deteriorate. Is it right that this should continue? I would submit that we ought to be giving aid but ensuring that it is properly spent—and that involves supervision of the expenditure and supervision of the work being carried out on the spot. To my mind this means inevitably that there must be white participation in some form. I do not think that it is unreasonable to suggest that we should see that our own money is being spent properly rather than see it go down the drain and being constantly asked for more in a never-ending run.
I have said that these Governments have not been very successful. We also ought to consider the competence of their leaders. Perhaps I could give two or three examples. Let us take Zambia. When President Kaunda was anxious to restore order in a certain village where there was a sect led by a woman called Anna, he found the simplest way was to round up the whole village, put them behind a fence and set fire to the lot. This is not a very equitable way of behaving. In Tanzania there were massive murders some years ago under the leadership of President Nyerere. This was his method of dealing with opposition. More recently we have had the record of events in Uganda—first, the deplorable régimeme of Amin, which was replaced, with the aid of Tanzanian troops, by the present régimeme of President Obote. I am told that conditions there are terrible and the behaviour of the Tanzanian troops unbelievable. President Obote's oppression, if not worse than, rivals that of his predecessor. A friend and neighbour of mine, who was out there on a mercy mission, told me that the general cry is: "We would rather have Amin back".
My Lords, this is not a happy state of affairs but this is what has come out of the granting of freedom to these states. It seems to me that we ought to take a much firmer line. As I understand it, Her Majesty's Government—and this goes for whichever party is in power—have consistently said that we must do nothing 153 to exacerbate the situation. But by doing nothing we let things drift and all that happens is that we are asked for more and more money to support these rather unsatisfactory régimes. I would suggest that we should attach strings to the money that we give and have a return for it. The reaction of the blacks politically, and perhaps fiscally, comes through the Organisation of African Unity and is to go on bullying and cajoling the West to provide more money and threatening to go over to the Soviet bloc if they do not get it—not that they get very much out of it; for the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said in Moscow that this country alone supplies more in the way of aid for the third world countries than the whole of the Soviet bloc put together.
It seems to me that we ought to stand firm and insist that if they want the money, we have a right to see that it is properly spent, that they behave themselves and look after their subjects in a way that we will find acceptable. The numbers of complaints in the press here when there is some small incident affecting the blacks in South Africa is unbelievable; but nothing is ever said about far worse things which happen further north in that continent.
This brings me to a consideration of their relationship within the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Conference seems to he an opportunity for banging the big drum and asking for more and more from this country coupled with abuse of our behaviour. Surely the time has come for this to stop. We must ask whether the Commonwealth in its present form is a worthwhile institution, whether, so far as we are concerned, it has any merit at all, and whether it would not be better for us in this country to bring it to an end. We have a similar problem with the United Nations where of course we are dealing with a bigger organisation. There we have an amalgamation normally of the black and red blocs who band together to attack the whites; and anything that they can do to do then down will be, they think, to their advantage. This is very different from the concept under which the United Nations was originally constituted. Its aim then was to maintain peace; the aim of the bulk of the members now seems to be: "What can we get out of it? What can we think of next to ask for?" They do not bother at all about whether there is peace or not.
We alone cannot deal with the Soviet bloc—we can take part with the West in standing firm together and resisting unreasonable demands—hut we are in a position to do something about the African bloc. I would suggest that the time has come to reverse the policy that we have pursued to date; to take a firmer stand and to see how much more pressure we can exert in return, rather than waiting to be hit ourselves. I hope that we shall see a much firmer attitude in the future.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ Lord Shinwell
My Lords, will the noble Marquess forgive me if I fail to follow him on a subject in which he is a notable specialist? For myself, I am just a novice, perhaps an interested spectator. I would rather refer to a habit I formed many years ago from which I am reluctant to depart. It is that when I respect a person, and particularly a colleague, who is subject to harsh criticism, then, even if I disagree with him, I am inclined to rally to his support—and I refer, as I suppose 154 colleagues will anticipate—to our distinguished Foreign Secretary. I hope that he will not be unduly embarrassed by my observations. After all, I have known many Foreign Secretaries in my time. Although I have had respect for many of them and was intimate with some of them, politically, of course, nevertheless have been fully aware of the complications of an international character in which they were involved. A Foreign Secretary is not unlike a Minister of Defence. He is full of anticipation, particularly at his starting point. All he discovers are the intricacies, and the complications and that problems exist.
In the case of a Minister of Defence, he is always unpopular for the simple reason that the British character, although occasionally aggressive, is on the whole compassionate and there is no desire to enter into confrontation with the people of any other nation. If they can remain outside the conflict, they would prefer it to going inside, even if this means facing the consequences. The Foreign Secretary has been exceedingly industrious since he occupied his distinguished post. There have been many ramifications, negotiations, discussions and, if I may dare say so, a great deal of wishful thinking; of hoping for the best, of expectations. But he must never make the fatal mistake of allowing himself to succumb to the blandishments of the senior people in other countries who are seeking to use him to their own advantage. A Foreign Secretary must be like an ambassador: as dishonest and cautious as it is possible to be in the interests of his own country.
I have a complaint to make—I make no bones about it. We are having a debate on the twin subject—they are correlated or course—of foreign affairs and defence. It is bound to lead to something in the nature of a dialectical jungle. There are variations in opinion; alternative suggestions about strategy and the use of weapons. We are familiar with this kind of situation. It would have been far better to have allocated two days, one on foreign affairs dealing with our commitments, obligations, hopes and expectations, concerning ourselves in relation to every other country on earth, and another day when we could discuss defence.
Here I venture to ask a question. I was about to say "at the end of this debate", but I would rather use the term "of our deliberations" because there have been excellent speeches but sometimes no debate, no argument one way or the other. At the end of our deliberations the question may appropriately be asked What contribution have we made to the security of the United Kingdom? That, I maintain, is the primary consideration. We can be as friendly as we like or as we are able to be. We may seek consensus through negotiations with other countries. But primarily, and indeed deliberately and emphatically—and one ought not to be afraid to say it—we are concerned about the interests of the United Kingdom, the security of our people and our country.
What contribution have we made in that direction? There have been suggestions about the alternative use of weapons, of strategy in war, or conventional war, to which I venture to make this observation. From such study of history as I have made—no doubt it is similar to that of many of my colleagues in your Lordships' House—of the Boer War, the First World 155 War and the Second World War, I have discovered that the right course of action in war, if one is seeking security, is to use every kind of weapon available and to use every possible friend and ally at the same time.
I hope that is clearly understood. I have said it not to be pointless but to direct attention to what surely is obvious to all my colleagues: namely, if we were faced at any time with aggression by the Soviet Union or any other country—whether conventional or nuclear—we would require all the vehicles, facilities and weapons at our command and every friend. Why do I mention that? It is because one aspect that we cannot afford to regard is the strength, resources and friendship of the United States of America.
I would say to our distinguished Foreign Secretary that if he has to make a choice some day or other—and it may come soon—either as regards the world situation, the Arabian situation or the Middle East situation, or the possibility of Russian aggression, he must, above all, consider for how long it will be possible to maintain the strength of loyalty of the United States of America.
I am well aware that there is a considerable resentment about some of the activities to which the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, referred, and so did other colleagues, going on in the United States, probably on the Irish situation. One can understand that. Anybody who has read Irish history, who has read about absentee landlords, or the persecution, evictions and all the rest of it, must realise that the bitterness that was created in the past still remains. After all, we forced thousands of the Irish to emigrate to America. They recall the events associated if not with themselves, with their forebears. The bitterness is there.
I would disregard it. Why, my Lords? In the interests of our alliance that must remain. Irrespective of differences of opinion, resentment or bitterness, that must remain but we must associate that sentiment with a situation which confronts us in relation to other countries. I would say this to our distinguished Foreign Secretary: Despite all his efforts since he occupied this distinguished position, he has not—and I do not blame him—been an unqualified success. Certainly not in the Middle East; certainly not as regards Afghanistan; certainly not regarding any other part of the world in which he has been associated. He has tried, he has endeavoured and he has done his very best, but he has not been an unqualified success. That, my Lords, is why we have to return to the subject of defence. If we cannot succeed by consensus, if we cannot succeed by negotiations, if we cannot succeed by convincing those generally opposed to us to become more friendly, then we must have regard to our defence situation and strategy.
I will not enter into alternative weapons that may be used in the event of war, aggression, as so many others have entered into this aspect. I am sorry to have to say this in the presence of my colleague, my noble friend, Lord Soper. I have the highest respect for him. Not for a moment would I doubt his integrity and sincerity, but I disagree with him completely. I set aside any possibility of acceptance of the concept of unilateral disarmament. I do it for this reason—I have said it before and I repeat what I have said—that we must 156 first come to some conclusion about the proper definition of "unilateral disarmament" and how it is to be carried into effect. That has never been seriously considered. When people talk about unilateral disarmament, they simply say, "We will abolish our weapons and that will set aside our potential enemies." It would do nothing of the sort, even if we could abolish our weapons; and the idea of abolishing those nuclear weapons that have been created at enormous expense is just futile. When it came to the crunch, we would reject the idea at once, in spite of demonstrations.
Here I would venture to interrupt myself, having mentioned demonstrations. Reference has been made to these and it has been said—I think by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, and others—that we are afraid of these demonstrations, of people gathering in great numbers, protesting about the use of nuclear weapons and about the horrific consequences, as if we are not well aware that if those weapons were ever to be used we should be destroyed. That is acceptable. When I say that it is acceptable, I mean that we cannot avoid it and we will take what comes to us.
I remember the First World War, and I also remember this. Before the First World War, there were demonstrations all over the country. Mr. Asquith had to endure them. Lloyd-George had to put up with them, and so did the first Liberal Cabinet and those in authority. Not only did we have demonstrations; we had industrial strife, and that is something more. The International Socialist movement, consisting of the United Kingdom, Germany, France and a few other countries in Europe, decided unanimously that if war came there would be a general strike. But the war came and there was no strike; nor were there any more demonstrations. I would advise that we disregard efforts of that kind. We can understand them, but to allow us to be sublimated by demonstrations and manoeuvres of that kind, however sincere they may be, would he a blunder and that must not happen in this country.
I want to put a few questions on the subject of defence to the Minister who is to reply. First, there must be no unilateral disarmament. Multilateral disarmament, Yes. We have had it before. We had the 1957 White Paper, for which the noble Lord, Lord Duncan-Sandys, was responsible, when we departed from conventional strategy and decided to accept the nuclear weapon. We have now come back to both conventional and nuclear, as the case may be, depending on the circumstances.
Is the Minister satisfied—I may not be here later tonight to listen to his reply, but I hope to read it tomorrow—that our strength in the West is satisfactory? Is he satisfied that, in the event of any aggression by Russia, or by any of its satellites—it may well be that if there is conflict it will emerge from the satellites, rather than from the Soviet Union itself—we are in a position to contend with it, to handle it and to defeat it?
What about the position of our Navy? There has been talk recently of some change of attitude about the Chatham dockyard and, maybe, the Portsmouth dockyard. These may be only press rumours, but we ought to know. I said in the last defence debate that we would have various reviews before we come to any definite conclusion. I gather from what I read, and 157 from what I sometimes hear, that there is some reviewing going on at the present time. Indeed, the position can never be conclusive. We ought to be always reviewing, to try to understand our strength and to improve upon the position. That is essential.
Moreover, I should like to know something about the strength, training, prestige and loyalty of our territorial forces, because if we are faced with aggression we shall have to rely upon our territorial forces. We do not have adequate manpower outside the territorial forces, if we require it. We ought to know what is the position. We ought to know a little more about training. Is it effective enough? Are the exercises that we have recently read about effective? These are the kind of questions that ought to be asked in a defence debate. These are the kind of questions which, if effectively and properly answered, may satisfy us that we have taken the right direction.
Finally, I want to deal with the Russian situation. I am by no means opposed to negotiations with the Russians to continue the SALT discussions, except that I do not trust them; that, even if they verified every incident, I would still distrust them. But what I do believe is that if the Soviet Union is concerned, and unduly concerned, and disturbed by the economic situation, with the shortage of foodstuffs in agriculture and the like, and if it is, in any way, affected by underground movements—not necessarily in Moscow or Leningrad, but in the country as a whole—and is worried by what is happening in Poland at the present time and what the consequences may be, there is no reason why we should not take advantage of the situation and enter into discussions with it. Whether we should succeed, I am not able to say and neither is anybody else. But we should make the effort.
In short, our policy was, and should continue to remain, to build up our military strength with all the facilities and resources at our command. That is the primary consideration. We should enter into negotiations with every other country or nation or body of people who are ready to negotiate. That is the second point. In other words, use our strength for the purpose of deterrence. I know that there has been a lot of humour used about the word "deterrence". We are told that it will have no effect at all. But it has had an excellent effect over the past 35 years and it should continue to be used.
Therefore, although I would not regard our deliberations today as making any effective contribution to our security and to the defence of the United Kingdom or our allies, or to making our allies more friendly with us than they appear to have been recently, as long as we rely on the defence aspects—and I agree that we have to discuss foreign policy and do the best we can in the way of consensus rather than confrontation, wherever the opportunity presents itself—and continue to emphasise the fundamental necessity of creating a defence organisation which can promote some measure of security for our country, then our debates are worthwhile.
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ Lord Weidenfeld
My Lords, I concur with those noble Lords who consider that perhaps the gravest and most pressing issue before us right now is the creeping crisis of confidence within the western alliance— 158 the relations between Europe and America in which we play such an important part. This relationship is now endangered at several points—defence, crisis management of troubled areas, North-South dialogue and world trade; endangered not so much by fundamental differences, but rather by the mounting misunderstandings and mutal misreadings of moods and thoughts which, when brought into the open, now find their expression in shrill tones ranging from petulance to passion. At the very root of this problem lies the simultaneous ambivalence of Europe's attitude towards American leadership and America's bafflement at Europe's apparent volatility.
It is clear to the regular visitor to Washington or New York that Americans—Government, media, public—feel that they can never do right by their European allies. When America is inward looking, as she was in the aftermath of Vietnam and Watergate, she is accused of sluggish indecision and urged for signs of military assurance. When a new Administration, pledged to reassert American power, tries to catch up and modernise defences and deterrents, it is suspected of bullying, haste and militance.
Of course it may be true that the Reagan Administration is taking longer than some of its predecessors to assemble a functioning team and formulate new policies, but then those who are most censorious do not themselves seem to have conclusive views or a record of determined leadership. In all contentious spheres, America has, we must admit it, most at stake as the main paymaster and provider, and possibly the most effective mediator. To an unjaundiced eye today—now—the American Government are actually moving slowly but surely towards a centrist position in defence, where its two-track policy of rearmament and negotiation is clear and sincere in human rights and towards an increasingly even-handed approach in most areas of the world.
Of course it is understandable that in those areas closest to its backyard the United States should be a bit more sensitive than elsewhere. But are we not, too? When our press and politicians find fault with United States policy in the Caribbean or El Salvador—justified criticism—we tend to forget how much we resent it when American commentators, from the pundits of the Washington Post to the drawing room anarchists of New York's Village Voice, berate us, with a minimum of hard fact and a maximum of sentiment, for our nefarious policies in Ireland.
What vex Europeans so much are the discordant voices from Washington on what theatre nuclear weapons deployed in Europe might achieve, what gruesome scenarios might ensue. What embitters Americans is that from this side of the Atlantic hostile critics should dive, like eager frogmen, into a sea of printer's ink and serve up time-worn concepts as new, menacing thoughts. Much of what Secretaries Weinberger and Haig, or President Reagan, have said, or are supposed to have said, are in fact restatements of 15-year-old NATO notions of graduated deterrents and flexible response. Claims that America is reckless in its bellicosity are particularly wounding to those who realise that there is perhaps no other democratic Government in the West, our own included, which has so many built-in constitutional safeguards curbing the executive's power to rearm.
159 If we are to understand the Reagan Administration's stress on pace and intensity of military spending, we must realise that in the seven lean years after Vietnam, from 1973 to 1980, Congress severely slashed practically all requests for defence spending. In 1973, the Senate cut some of the Navy's plans by 73 per cent., the Air Forces' spending plans by 22 per cent. In 1974, Congress halved requests for AWACs and cut ballistic missiles by 30 per cent. In 1975 and 1976, it slashed most areas of defence by half and even the urgent MX and naval missile programmes were cut by over 40 per cent. Yet in the same period the Soviet Union added vastly to its conventional forces and to its nuclear armoury, not to mention the whole area of civil defence.
A more subtle and serious danger represents the state of mind and morale among many Europeans who are distancing themselves from the American defence position. The first degree of alienation is the notion of equidistance. "Brezhnev equals Reagan" said a huge placard at a Bonn demonstration. "USA equals USSR. Both mean war" was the echo in Amsterdam. When Mr. Denis Healey came back with Mr. Foot from seeing the Soviet leader he bracketed together in a television interview the invasion of Afghanistan and the pressure on Poland with American policies in El Salvador and Angola. This is injurious, insulting as well as inexact. Responsible and highly articulate public men who are only too well aware of the complex nuances must not make crude comparisions.
There is much more space given in our press to what American leaders may have said in an on-or off-the-record context than the corresponding utterances from on high in Soviet Russia. For instance, I have not noticed many references to remarks made last July by the Soviet chief of staff, General Ogarkaw, and other Soviet military experts to the effect that the Soviets pursue a war-winning and not a purely defensive strategic doctrine in the nuclear field. Nor have I seen recently any extensive comments on President Brezhnev's recent interview with the editors of Der Spiegel in which he said, among other things:To eliminate mobile rockets we would have to resort to massive strikes against all those areas in which we assume these rockets are placed".The peace movement in Europe has come as a sudden shock to the Americans. I think there is some distinction between those pacifists who conscientiously object, who are unconditional in their secular faith and sectarian fervour, and those who construct a rational case anchored in erroneous facts and figures, those to whom the United States is an equal or greater menace than the Soviet Union and who brandish specious statistics which show that America's nuclear armour already exceeds that of her opponent. I think it is to those people that we in Europe, and in the United States, must prove by word and deed that they are mistaken, that the cause of multilateral disarmament, with our policies of simultaneous re-adjustments of our defence and purposeful negotiation, is a just one. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, that European Governments and political parties who hold this view should give the task of political enlightenment and information top priority. They must prove to the young that the multilateralist case 160 is no less sincerely peaceful, no less idealistic, than the creeds of unilateralism and the campaign of nuclear disarmament but perhaps in the end more positive because it is more likely to lead to arms control disarmament and the maintenance of peace.
I have no doubt that at the very root of the peace movement lies spontaneity and passionate sincerity, but I have equally no doubt that this movement which now spreads through Europe and beyond into the United States is also fuelled by the Soviets who obviously derive the most priceless benefits. The Soviet peace offensive is gathering momentum in Europe, but nowhere more forcefully than in Germany. President Brezhnev will soon make his third state visit to Bonn in an unconventionally short time. I think Herr Schmidt deserves the fullest support of all his allies, not only in a battle of wits with the Soviets but in a struggle for the soul of those young Germans who, born after the Marshall Plan, which ensured their parents' material recovery, and after the Berlin airlift, which reinsured their political liberty, now seems to lack badly a sense of historical perspective. It must have been a black day for the alliance when surging crowds of young Germans hurled abuse and other missives at an American Secretary of State within shouting distance of the Berlin Wall.
Let there be no mistake. There is a great deal to criticise in America's policy, and we in Europe, and especially in Britain, have the right to criticise. We make our views strongly felt, but only within the family circle and in the role of unshakable and reliable friends of our American partner. There is probably no troubled area in the world where the need for a meeting of minds and concerted action is greater than in the Middle East, and especially the Arab-Israeli conflict. There the peril of lingering resentment and disharmony between America and Europe loom large.
Noble Lords have paid tribute to President Sadat. Alive or dead, he is a symbol of courage and risk-taking for the sake of peace. Camp David was a turning point and an historical achievement. It could still outlive him if both the protagonists and those standing in the sidelines so wish it. Camp David is neither dead nor moribund but is gravely endangered. The United States, Egypt and Israel still abide by it. I think historians may disagree over whether it could have been more successful sooner had the moderate Arabs been really moderate and the even-handed Europeans been really even-handed at the very outset.
To graft the Venice Declaration, as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, proposes, on to Camp David requires almost superhuman skill. I fear the Saudi peace plan is the kind of heart transplant that defies all human ingenuity—and that regrettably includes his own. The eight-point plan as it stands asks one party to make sweeping and fundamental concessions which are explicit in exchange for one implicit reference to its right to survival. I shall not dwell on the various commentaries, the interpretations or the abusive references in the postscript to the plan—of criticism of American aid to the Jewish State, Israeli arrogance and the dogmatic insistence on Palestinian primacy among the problems of the Middle East. Of course, to an optimist the implicit Saudi avowal of Israel's right to exist is in itself a great step forward from the rhetoric of Jihad, the Holy War, which was only quite 161 recently loudly re-proclaimed by the Saudis, or from the dismissive tag of Israel as being "the Zionist entity". But it is still light years behind UN resolutions 242 and 338 or even the Rogers' plan, all of which allowed for flexibility in negotiation.
The Saudi plan has the imprimatur of Price Fahd but with some of the tone and voice and style of Yasser Arafat. It may be a landmark in the history of Arab intransigence—and I do not wish to belittle it—but it is a long way from the basis of a proper working document for peace and I do not think it is a substitute for Camp David, which, given pressure on all parties concerned, could still lead to a gradual but ultimately lasting solution of the conflict. I really do not think we need to be too reverential in our response to Saudi statecraft. I admit that the Saudis have made some positive contributions in the past, not least in helping America to arrange a ceasefire in Lebanon, but quite frankly the Saudis, under their mantle of moderation, have often concealed confusion, bigotry and fear—fear that made them often the paymasters of dark destructive forces and enemies of peace and promise.
Nobody, neither the Europeans nor the Saudis, has brought the PLO to accept unequivocally Israel's right to exist. Time and again—and only the other day—Yasser Arafat reversed his attitude with a vengeance within hours of making a conciliatory gesture in Tokyo. It is one thing to regard the PLO as one of the parties eligible to participate provided they abjure terrorism and back down from their destructive covenant; it is quite another thing to declare that they are the sole legitimate representatives of all Palestinians with a claim to an independent state wedged between Jordan and Israel. Autonomy, independence, self-government, even sovereignty must be made compatible with the security of the region as a whole and I belong to those who still believe that the ultimate hope lies in a territorial compromise in the West Bank and Gaza and a confederation with the rest of historic Palestine, which is the Kingdom of Jordan.
The Americans have not basically changed their stance on the PLO, nor I am glad to see has the right honourable lady the Prime Minister, who stressed the PLO's link with terrorism at a press conference in Kuwait. If the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, wants to crown the last few weeks of his European chairmanship with a notable success he should seek to redress the rather bad relations between this country and the state of Israel; relations which in the opinions of many there and here are at their lowest ebb since Mr. Heath was Prime Minister in 1973 and are not much better than in the aftermath of Israeli independence in 1948.
I will not go into the reasons for this at great length; there is no time for detail, except to say that often the tone and style of policy is almost as important as its substance. Fortunately for the improvement of Europe's relations with Jerusalem, the arrival of President Mitterand in France may have created new and hopeful opportunities. With their customary sense of style the French have made it clear that they want to redress relations with Israel without substantively departing from a policy of friendship with the Arab world. On the morrow of his victory President Mitterand sent one of his closest political advisers to Jerusalem to lay the groundwork for a visit by his foreign minister and his own presidential visit early 162 next year. To the funeral of General Dayan they sent their most highly ranking Cabinet member, Gaston Deferres, thus honouring a comrade in arms who lost his eye fighting in the ranks of the British Commonwealth forces. The French have been careful to avoid slamming the door on Camp David and they have conveyed a greater impression of Israel's security interests than others. They were the first Europeans to offer to take part in the peace-keeping forces in the Sinai within the framework of Camp David.
This brief, this frame of reference for such peacekeeping forces, has been carefully laid down in the Camp David accord. If we are to take part surely we must do it within the letter and the spirit of this brief? We must realise that this brief and these procedures are part and parcel of a negotiated agreement of compromise which resulted in the return of two-thirds of Sinai and the balance of the rest. If we are unwilling to accept this brief and these premises and the spirit of the agreement, surely we cannot begrudge Israel her right of veto?
The noble Lord the Foreign Secretary has striven very hard throughout his presidency—and indeed throughout his tenure as Foreign Secretary—to turn stagnation into flux, but I think he would only succeed if he could restore a true even-handedness and perhaps distance himself from prejudiced counsellors, those still living in the past for whom the primer for the Middle East is the White Paper of 1939 and the unchanging image of Israel, that Crusader Kingdom in the Middle Ages, washed away by history within three generations.
The Foreign Secretary has a grave personal responsibility just because he stands out as an experienced statesman in this phase of the story of Middle East peacemaking; just because he stands out as one of the most forceful of the European policy makers. It is not too late—he can do much to stop the process of denigration of Camp David, to halt the drift of our relations with Washington. American disenchantment must never become American disengagement. I urge the Foreign Secretary to do his best to influence Europeans not to deny Egypt, Israel and the United States a chance to regain the momentum of the Camp David peace process. By so doing he would not only further the cause of peace but cement relations between Europe and America and strengthen the western alliance.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Derby
My Lords, the gracious Speech contained this reference to an essential part of foreign affairs:My Government attach great importance to the Commonwealth and the United Nations and will continue to play an active part in both organisations. They will join with other countries and responsible international organisations in efforts to resolve the economic difficulties of both developing and developed countries.We have an illustration of this in the Melbourne Declaration issued after the Commonwealth Prime Ministers Conference in September of this year, which commits us to a common approach in our battles of the 1980s with world poverty and hunger with the member nations of the Commonwealth. Let me quote briefly from its final communiqué:We, the heads of Governments, drawn from five continents, representing a quarter of the world's entire population, having in mind the gross inequality of wealth and opportunity currently 163 existing in the world and the unbroken circle of poverty in which the lives of millions in developing countries are confined, assert our unanimous conviction that there must be a determined and dedicated action at national and international levels to reduce that inequality and to break that circle".I hope that involves a rejection of the point of view expressed by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, both about the conference and about aid. We all know something of the distress of Uganda and other African countries, but freedom to make our own mistakes as we govern ourselves is a precious possession of all men, both black and white. There is of course, no caricature without facts, but caricature is far from being the whole truth. Very many people concerned with world development welcome the initiative taken by our Prime Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, at the recent Mexico Summit Conference, which set about tackling this task of reducing starvation and proverty in two important directions. It is most understandable that in his splendid review the noble Lord was able to mention this subject only in passing.
The first important direction is in the support given to the proposal made by the host nation of the conference and two of our EEC partners for an energy affiliate to be set up with the World Bank. We know that a Commonwealth oil importing country like India is at present having to spend up to 40 per cent. of her total export earnings of foreign currency on buying the oil supplies she needs for her energy requirements. It is most urgent that she should be able to borrow funds to pay this rapidly escalating bill which is starving her own economy of the investment funds it needs. It is vital that financial resources should be made available to increase research and development not only into new sources of oil but into alternative sources of energy and fuel. Possibly the Foreign Secretary raised this vital initiative for an energy affiliate in his talks in Saudi Arabia last week. The Prime Minister supported it at the Mexico summit, assuming, as she said, such a policy would attract additional funds which would not otherwise go to the World Bank, particularly from the oil surplus countries.
The second important dicretion that many people welcome is the support the Prime Minister gave for urgent action over global negotiations on matters of trade and food policies. But there is already an opportunity, an immediate opportunity, for the Government to act on their declared conviction that trade is essential to the developing nations' strategy for overcoming their poverty. The opportunity is in the Multi-Fibre Agreement which must be renegotiated by the end of next month. The EEC Council of Ministers will meet next week to determine their policy. Under the current agreement textile imports from the poorest developing countries declined in real terms over the last four years, while imports into the United Kingdom from Japan and the United States and other industrialised countries rose by 37 per cent. It cannot be said, therefore, as is often alleged, that the loss of jobs in the British textile industry is due to cheap imports from the third world. The EEC and our own Government therefore must stand up in some way to the United States and Japan and urge them, first, to moderate their exports to the 164 EEC of synthetic fibres, and, secondly to lower their own tariffs on imported textiles to the same level as that of the EEC.
We are aware that the EEC has declared itself in favour of a policy of differentiation in imports from developing countries. There is need for urgent support of the claims of India and Pakistan for preferential treatment for their imports into the EEC. In a report to the Commission on the Multi-Fibre Agreement the Conservative European M.P. for Lancashire, Mr. Michael Welsh, urged it to take a political initiative for the flow of trade in textile and clothing products without passively accepting the actions of the multinational concerns. In using their power with their EEC partners to take important initiatives on the multi-fibre negotiations, Her Majesty's Government would give a clear and encouraging sign of their determination to make their actions harmonise with their statements in support of trade with the developing countries. If they were to take urgent action at the present time, the result might be quite encouraging.
In conclusion, there are four questions that I should like to put briefly to the Government, and the answers could meet the very different concerns of both the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, and the noble Lord, Lord Stewart. First, I have referred to the Prime Minister's support for global negotiations on matters of trade and food policy. Twenty-one out of the 22 countries at the Mexico summit gave their support; only the United States of America stood out. Is it possible for the Government, with their own pledged commitment, to do something to open the eyes of Mr. Reagan's Government to the necessity of changing its mind for the world's sake?
The second question is: At the Summit the Austrian Government made a proposal, which was not even discussed, but it remains a vital one. It is that 1,000 million dollars should be spent on helping the developing countries to plan for action to make themselves sufficient in energy and food. Is there some initiative that the Government can take to secure that this proposal is discussed, or can they produce a better one?
The third question: We have an aid budget of around —1,000 million; —180 million of this has been given to help British firms secure contracts in Mexico and in India. The Brandt Report made a very important point about mutual self-interest. But is there a policy here to enable third world firms to secure business contracts, so that people there can benefit directly?
The fourth question is a more general one. Could the Government do something to help people here, in the Commonwealth, and the EEC to grasp the desperate nature of this world problem? It is pinpointed in the present time in Africa. The President of Nigeria told Cancun that the average African today is in the unenviable position of getting along with 50 per cent. less food than 10 years ago. Average food rations have fallen below the vital minimum. That is parallelled elsewhere. How hollow complaints sound in this country about falling standards of living.
I should like to conclude by quoting a sentence from a distinguished American theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr. He was not the kind of sentimentalist which the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, rightly implied that some Christian teachers are. He wrote: 165Not infrequently, the source of unity in a national community, the root of its collective self-consciousness, is provided by the experience of facing a common foe. Every national community has a common foe at the present time in poverty and starvation".That was part of the message of the Brandt Report. Here is a source of world unity as we come to face it together, and some dynamic is required behind our facing it; and it is vital that the Church militant, to which the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, referred, should seek it and help the nation and the Government in it to seek it.
§ 7.9 p.m.
§ Baroness Jeger
My Lords, I intervene briefly to refer to one aspect of foreign policy which is especially a matter of concern and responsibility to the British Government. We may not have as much clout as we would wish in Afghanistan or El Salvador. Certainly alone we cannot be effective in solving the drastic problems of the Middle East. But I refer to the question of Cyprus, without apology, because this is a matter of foreign policy which is especially the concern of Her Majesty's Government.
I was present at the celebrations when Cyprus became independent, and I remember with great pleasure how the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, then Sir Hugh Foot, presided over those proceedings. I must admit that the hopes of many of us were clouded with some doubts, but I do not think that any of us foresaw that there would be such a tragic and dishonourable outcome. The treaty of independence was signed by Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom guaranteeing the independence and territorial sovereignty of the new country and providing for two British sovereign bases to be established there.
I shall not take up your Lordships' time with history. My concern is for the future. I want to ask the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary what action he is taking to resolve this tragic and dishonourable question. I say "dishonourable" because all three guarantor powers broke their undertakings: the colonels' Greece; Labour Britain; and Ecevit's Turkey and it is a bitter irony that tonight Ecevit himself is in prison for criticising the Turkish Government, and suffering a fate to which he condemned many people when he was prime minister of Turkey.
I say that it is tragic because of the human misery caused to the people of this sad island—people of all communities, old people who fear that they will never see their homes again and that they will never see again the olive trees that their ancestors planted or the cottages which they built. There is another very serious aspect. Anyone who has spent as much time as I have done on this sad island, will realise that there is growing up a generation of young men and women who are totally cynical as they see the continued occupation of their country and the meaninglessness of international law. They feel that there is no reality in the United Nations' decisions or resolutions; and no significance in the guarantees of other powers, sadly including the guarantees given by this country.
However, I should like to express a word of gratitude and appreciation to the work that the United Nations forces are doing in Cyprus in conditions of considerable difficulty. Their humanitarian work and 166 their contribution to keeping comparative peace in that island is really beyond praise. However, one often gets the impression—and I know that the people of Cyprus get this impression—that the United Nations and the guarantor powers, including ourselves, just seem to hope that this question will go away. The favourite alibi, and we have heard it often in this House and in another place, is that the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities must work out this problem between them and resolve their differences with the United Nations holding the ring. But I submit that that is not the reality of politics. It is certainly not the reality of the situation in Cyprus.
The arguments are not between the communities in Cyprus; they are between Nicosia and Ankara. We are dealing with a problem of invasion and occupation. There are not many Turkish Cypriots brought up in the comparatively democratic régimeme of the British even in colonial days, who are sympathetic to the totalitarian régime at present in Turkey. Not many of them welcome the Anatolian settlers who have been exported to them and they certainly do not welcome the Turkish soldiers who harass their daughters.
I take your Lordships' time briefly today because I believe that the moment is right for a new initiative. This is not—and I emphasise this point because we have been deluding ourselves for a long time—a parochial, communal problem: it is an item on the international agenda. There are two reasons why I think that we should take a new initiative. The first reason is the new Government in Greece which I am sure your Lordships will not be surprised to know that I welcome warmly. Mr. Papandreou has pledged himself to work for an independent and demilitarised Cyprus with the return of the refugees to their homes. I am glad that he has promised to open the Cyprus files and to reveal the responsibility for the 1974 tragedy.
When I was a member of the Select Committee of the House of Commons which went to investigate the question of the invasion of Cyprus, it was too soon after the downfall of the colonels for those files to be opened, so we were not able to see the full complicity of the fascist régimeme in Greece with the invasion. We were not even allowed, though a Select Committee of an honourable House, to go to Ankara at all. Therefore, there is a great deal more which must be revealed and I am glad that we seem to be getting nearer to a point where we can get the full facts for history.
Cyprus has been littered with disappointments and darkened by many false dawns. Every time a window has been opened it has been shut before there was any useful result and the dialogue has been allowed to run into the ground. Dr. Waldheim said on 12th September:A settlement is long overdue. I and my special representative may find it necessary to make special efforts and present some new ideas to sustain the momentum of the negotiating process".I must ask: What part is the United Kingdom playing in these new ideas, in these special efforts, or have the United Kingdom Government washed their hands of this whole question? The second reason why I think that this is the right time for us to take some initiative is, as the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary reminded us this afternoon, the British presidency of the Community. The noble 167 Lord the Foreign Secretary said that one of the intentions and possibilities was to improve negotiations between NATO and the EEC, to increase the strength of co-operation and to work together for joint views on foreign policy. What joint views regarding Cyprus are being worked out? What actions are being taken? What conversations are being held with the present Turkish Government about their continuing occupation of Cyprus?
It seems to me impossible to sustain a situation where Turkey, Greece and Cyprus are all, to some degree, members of the EEC. It cannot be possible that fellow members of the EEC can suffer the occupation of one territory by the troops of another. Maybe the EEC should be spending more time on this problem because maybe this is a soluble problem; certainly it is a problem which concerns all its members.
Moreover, I think that if the EEC were to take some constructive initiative as regards this problem it might have some effect on the decision of the present Greek Government to pull out of the EEC. A large influence on this thinking among the socialist party in Greece about the uselessness of the EEC has been its total failure to deal with the Turkish invasion of a fellow member—the invasion of Cyprus.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, I hope that the noble Baroness will give way. Turkey is not a member of the European Community.
§ Baroness Jeger
My Lords, Turkey is in the process of doing so. I said "to some degree or other"; that is because I realise that there are negotiations about association going on. However, I think that the question of the EEC must come at the top of the agenda. I appreciate the concern that the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary has shown and the discussions which he has been having about the general question of tension in the Middle East. But, of course, Cyprus is part of that question. It is the Middle Eastern policies of the great powers that has made a football of Cyprus throughout history, even before Richard I used it as a victualling post on the way to the Crusades. The people of Cyprus have never been left alone to work out their own future.
But if we are to try to work out, and use these few hours today to think about, aspects of British foreign policy, it would not be a bad thing for us to concentrate just for a little while on that particular question of foreign policy which is more within our hands than some of the other larger questions which we have discussed. That is why I do not apologise to your Lordships for raising this particular point.
It might well be asked, why one should take your Lordships' time talking about a little country, half the size of Wales. But I do so because it is a symbol—not only to us here, not only to the people of Cyprus, but to the people beyond the island itself—of good faith or of lack of good faith, of the viability or of the failure of the United Nations, of the authority of NATO, of the credibility of the EEC and of the reality or otherwise of international law. If we could get this question sorted out honourably, I think that we should have taken a big step forward towards ensuring that in one small 168 part of the world at least the principles of international good faith have been fulfilled.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ Lord Murton of Lindisfarne
My Lords, I wish to address my remarks to the political problems which we face in the Antartic and the sub-Antarctic, and the decision which has been taken to withdraw from active use in 1982 the ice patrol ship HMS "Endurance". I am aware that these matters were covered fully in an excellent debate initiated in June this year by my noble friend Lord Buxton. Nevertheless, it would be unfortunate if interest in something which is happening 8,000 miles away at the other end of the globe should be overlooked because of other considerations nearer home, however important and even grave the latter may be.
Inevitably, any discussion of this subject must begin with the Falkland Islands. Historically, Great Britain has been in continuous occupation since 1833, and her sovereignty from that time has remained undisputed, with the single exception of Argentina, who bases her claim to the islands on the dubious premise that she is the lineal successor of the Spanish Empire. In fact, it is doubtful whether the Spaniards ever settled those islands at all. Over the years the Falklands have had considerable strategic value for Great Britain, and in both the First and Second World Wars the Royal Navy used both harbour and base for the replenishment of fuel and other supplies. If one likes to think back, in December 1914 Admiral Sturdee with his battle cruisers demolished the squadron of Admiral von Spee off the Falkland Islands. That was 67 years ago and I suppose to most people nowadays it is just a memory in the shadows of the past. But it has probably been forgotten that in the Second World War, in 1942, naval operation Tabarin was mounted to deny a possible German occupation of the Graham Land Peninsula. Moreover, after the Battle of the River Plate in the last war the hospital at Port Stanley received British wounded seamen and our warships repaired to that base for replenishment and restocking.
In my view, it would be foolish indeed to dismiss this part of the world as now having no strategic importance. We are, after all, still a great maritime nation, and should we not be able, if necessary—and I pray it may never happen—to counter any perceived Soviet threat in the South Atlantic? After the last war interest was renewed in the sub-Antartic regions and in the Antarctic itself. In the beginning this was chiefly concerned with scientific studies and with conservation. This somewhat abstract and altruistic approach to the one remaining area of the globe which had continued virtually untouched by man was not to last for long. By the early 1950s both Chile and Argentina began to lay claim to parts of the British section of Antarctica, and it was found necessary to warn off those countries by sending Royal Naval vessels to patrol the area.
A treaty signed in 1961 by 12 nations brought some political stability to this area of increasing importance. The problem is that the emphasis in this region has shifted from the claims of little more than national prestige to that of hard economic fact. The interest lies in the product of the surrounding seas and also what lies under those seas.
169 First, I deal with the product of the seas in the form of fish. Last December there were 170 Russian and East European trawlers in the Scotia Sea between the Falklands and the British dependency of South Georgia. The Russian fishing fleet is known to have taken 240,000 tons of fish in one season around this British island. I wonder what the catch was elsewhere among the island dependencies, which lie in an are some 1,500 miles long.
Apart from fish there is the harvesting of krill, a minute crustacean in swarming myriads, once the food of whales which, alas!, are almost gone. Krill is an extremely valuable source of protein and it would be possible to harvest up to 100 million tons of it each year. What a boon that would be to the underdeveloped countries.
Another exploitable product of the sea is alginate, a seaweed-based chemical for use in food processing; and I make the same comment again—how useful this would be to the undeveloped countries. The greatest attraction, however, is the possibility of oil. Traces, in the form of gas, have already been found in the Ross Sea, and the Antarctic continental shelf in both the Ross and Weddell Seas is thought to be the most promising area for exploitation.
The interest of the world at large in the Antarctic is indicated by the fact that a further nine nations have signed the original 1961 treaty during recent years, making 21 in all. Meanwhile, Argentina continues to press her claims to the Falkland Islands. The recent argument put forward is that they form part of the Argentinian continental shelf. That proposition would appear difficult to accept, bearing in mind that the Falklands lie some 350 miles from the Patagonian coast. The argument, no doubt, is coloured by the thought of oil. For good measure, Argentina has now extended her claim of sovereignty to include two parts of the Falkland dependencies; namely, South Georgia, which is 800 miles south-east of the Falkland Islands, and, to the south, Sandwich Islands, which are still further to the south-east and even more remote from Argentina herself.
What is a more difficult diplomatic situation is that within the chain of islands which comprise South Sandwich an Argentinian military mission is now sitting on Southern Thule Island without the permission or the consent of the British Government, and has been so doing for some considerable time.
Meanwhile it has been reported in The Times of 23rd February this year that Argentina has announced her biggest offshore oil strike near the Patagonian coast, and that Argentina's latest concessionary licensing block for oil exploration, termed Magalenes Este, covers an area which extends to within 96 miles of the Falkland Islands themselves. Proposed drilling in this area would straddle the assumed international median line between Argentina and the Falklands. The Times of 18th May this year stated that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has taken the unprecedented step of publishing a notice, in the form of an advertisement in the International Herald Tribune newspaper, warning oil companies with threats of legal action if the latter take up Argentinian tenders in disputed waters. Apparently the Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed this most unusual step, adding that it was believed that this was the first time that the press had 170 ever been used to advertise a diplomatic démarche. I suggest that this action can be likened to a form of latter-day Agadir. Using an advertisement rather than the presence of troops and guns.
Against the general background of uncertainty in the region it seems improvident of the Ministry of Defence—one presumes with the tacit acceptance of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office—to withdraw the Royal Naval Ice Patrol Ship HMS "Endurance" from Antarctica in 1982 as part of the wider decision to reduce the size of the active fleet. The Admiralty bought this 2,600-ton vessel from a Danish shipping company in 1967. She was originally the "Anita Dan" built in 1956 for use in the Baltic sea. Strengthened for operating in ice she was converted in 1968 by Harland and Wolff at an original cost of £1.8 million and sent to southern waters as a guard vessel with duties also for undertaking hydrographic and oceanographic surveys and to act as required as support ship for the British Antarctic survey.
HMS "Endurance" carries two helicopters and is armed with two 20 mm guns. She has a complement of 13 officers and 106 men, including a small Royal Marine detachment. There is also accommodation for 12 scientists. Her commanding officer acts as adviser on defence matters to the Governor of the Falkland Islands, and this little warship provides a naval presence in southern waters for six months in every year. Her last refit was as recent as 1978—in Chatham, incidentally. It has been estimated that the withdrawal of HMS "Endurance" would save between £3.5 million and £4 million annually. As two distinguished experts have writted in a recent letter to The Times, this seems a remarkably high figure. They point out that the British Antarctic survey runs two ships (one nearly twice the size of "Endurance") besides two aircraft, five Antarctic stations, and a large headquarters in Britain for about £3.25 million.
I am not in a position to know the real costs of maintaining HMS "Endurance", but what I do believe is that this is a most unfortunate decision. "Endurance" is our only polar naval vessel, and no soft-skinned warship of whatever size or power could go where she goes, nor carry out the detailed charting and other work which she undertakes in those perilous seas. Is it wise psychology, with increasing diplomatic pressure by Argentina over its claim to British territory, that we should withdraw our guardship at this present time? Will this not be a severe blow to the morale of the Falkland Islanders? Is it sensible, with the increasing commercial exploitation of these southern seas, to have no naval presence to protect British interests?
Could this decision not be interpreted by all other involved nations as a sign of declining interest in the Antarctic by Great Britain? Obviously there call be no such intention. But the best and most obvious way to prove it, in my view, is to reverse the decision to scrap HMS "Endurance". Failure to keep this little ship in being as part of the active fleet may prove in the long run to be a mistake much more costly than the sum of its annual maintenance.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Lord Chitnis
My Lords, like every noble Lord who has gone before I shall be as brief as I can because 171 when your Lordships debate defence and foreign affairs at the same time it makes for a long day. At the start I would like to say how much I support those of your Lordships who have suggested that on similar occasions in future years we should have separate days for the two subjects. But it is interesting when the two subjects are mixed together to see the difference between those who look at the world longitudinally and those who look at it latitudinally. People who look at the world in terms of East and West seem to me, on the basis of today's debate, to have enormously difficult problems to solve, but on the other hand do seem to have the luxury of starting from a rather simple set of certainties.
For example, the United States is, roughly speaking, good, and the Soviet Union is, roughly speaking, bad. Those who look at the world in terms of North and South find that it really is to them somewhat more complicated than that, and that such certainties, at least in the case of the United States, can be questioned. I found this when I again visited Central America this summer, an area mentioned by both Front Bench spokesmen from the Opposition in today's debate but not in fact by the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary when he made his rather selective selection of subjects which he wished to mention today. I can only assume that he did not mention the area because he was leaving it to the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, to justify in detail and at length the Government's policy in that part of the world.
I went there because of what the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, said in reply to an Unstarred Question of mine earlier this year. I was so surprised at what he said, particularly about Nicaragua, which was so much at variance with what others outside this House were saying about the situation in Central America, that I thought I should go and see for myself. I do not think that the cause of Nicaragua is best served by those who say that the Sandinista régime there has established heaven on earth. But those who appear to think, as some sections of the Foreign Office do, that the Nicaraguan Government is irredeemably Marxist are equally wrong. Our allies in the EEC—West Germany, France, Holland and Belgium—certainly do not think so. As far as I can make out from recent editions of newspapers I cannot believe that our Foreign Office is that much more skilled at spotting communists than people in those countries.
What one finds in Nicaragua is an honest attempt by well-intentioned people to improve the lot of a nation which has spent a generation under a very nasty tyranny. A lot of what they do is good—for example, the literacy campaign organised by a Catholic priest, the improvement in the distribution of wealth which is supervised by a Minister who is a member of the Liberal Party, and the establishment of medical attention for all. Some things one can argue about with the Government there, as I did with the Conservative or Christian Democrat member of the three-man Junta there, such as the precise balance between the public and private sectors. There are some things done which no Member of this House would want to defend, such as the way that the Opposition sometimes finds itself subject to harassment and even worse by 172 the authorities. But three things struck me forcefully as a result of my visit there.
First, what the Nicaraguans are trying to do is under continuous threat because the United States cannot reconcile itself to the fall of its great ally President Somoza, and insists on penalising that country for trying to escape from the over-close links with America which Somoza represented. I notice in the Queen's Speech that it is said that the Government will give active support to enable Afghanistan to resume her independence and non-aligned status. My Lords, that is all that Nicaragua wants. In so far as Nicaraguan circles are full of rumours about American or American supported military intervention in their country, I do not develop that argument today in this House because I know perfectly well that were the Americans so to behave the reaction from the Government in this country would be exactly as it was to the action of the Russians in Afghanistan.
Secondly, while there are some things done in Nicaragua which no one would defend, anyone who equates such incidents of human rights violations as there are, such as the closing down of Opposition newspapers, with the situation elsewhere in the region where thousands are being tortured and murdered—and this the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, seemed to do in his speech in April—is being advised by those who lack any sense of proportion, and indeed any moral judgment.
Thirdly, if the Government do not believe what I say about what is going on in that part of the world, then I can only appeal for them to reopen our embassy in Managua, or establish some kind of British presence there, so that our evidence can be based on first-hand information rather than second-hand information laundered through Washington. After all, if the impoverished Nicaraguans can afford to have an embassy here, surely we can afford some kind of resident diplomatic presence there.
But also I want to talk on this occasion again about the problem of El Salvador, which I visited at the same time. It is, I am afraid, worse than ever, and anyone who goes out in the early morning, as I did, to hunt for the bodies of those murdered overnight, or who has seen the conditions under which some refugees live, or who has thumbed through the photographs of dead bodies kept by the Archbishop's human rights office, will support that view. The usual line of the Government here has been to deplore the violence on both sides and express general hopes that the problem can be resolved without themselves volunteering to do anything specific about it.
Three things occur to me about this. First, at the very time that I was in Central America the newly-appointed French Foreign Minister found time to be there too, and it was then that he and the Mexican Government issued a declaration about the situation in El Salvador. The declaration recognised the representative capacity of the FMLN/FDR alliance, called for it and the Salvadorean Government to negotiate together, and made other constructive suggestions.
Secondly, at the outset of the debate the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, rightly made a considerable point of the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, was currently President of the Foreign Ministers of the Ten, 173 and the Foreign Secretary himself referred to that fact and said that in that capacity it was his job, his duty, to "move things forward". In that capacity one wonders whether he could do something in leading a European initiative about the situation in El Salvador. If he were prepared to do that, there is one recent development on which he could build, namely, that the Frente have declared their willingness to enter into negotiations with the Salvadorean Government. This is important, as it represents something of a shift in the Frente's position and gives mediators an opportunity which should be grasped.
Thirdly, I guess that being even-handed in the condemnation of the violence in El Salvador, which clearly the Government would like to be, is no longer an option there. The scale of the killings, mutilations and torture conducted by the Government of El Salvador and their agents is not denied by anyone in that country, least of all by the American Ambassador, Mr. Deane Hinton, who received me and was able to update my already considerable figure of Government-tolerated assassinations. However, that did not mean that Mr. Hinton was any less a supporter of President Duarte's Government, which he clearly thought it was the job of American advisers and arms to maintain.
Bluntly, therefore, I think it is necessary for the countries of the Ten to be prepared to act in Central America independently of the United States. I do not think it will do, as the Government said it did in a Written Answer to a Question last month, to go along with the scheme, invented by President Duarte and supported by the Americans, for elections to be held in El Salvador in March next year, whether or not there is a ceasefire. This Government, with their Zimbabwe experience, know that better than most. To hold elections without a ceasefire would be to produce, literally, a bloody farce.
It may be that the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, is thinking, at least departmentally, that this is nothing to do with him. But the situation in Central America does have some implications for British defence policy. I suggest he should recognise that at least some of the unilateralists who are marching over western Europe are doing so because they have become uncertain whether our nuclear arms are there to defend our free Western society against the drab totalitarianism of Communism, or whether they are there to preserve the freedom of America to behave like an interfering bully whenever it feels it has a divine right to do so, just like the Russians. It is to avoid joining in that debasement of what I consider to be western ideals of freedom and democracy that I hope the Government will take an opportunity to reassess their policy in Central America.
§ 7.43 p.m.
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs
My Lords, I wish to say a few words about Ireland. There has been not only the reference in the Queen's Speech to close relations being maintained between the Governments of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, but also last week an important meeting took place between the Prime Minister and the Irish Taoiseach. That meeting was followed by a communiqué and summary of the joint studies, and I understand that a full account of those documents will be published tomorrow in London and Dublin. I know I speak for many 174 members of your Lordships' House when I say how pleased and relieved I am that the secrecy concerning the joint studies is now over and that the anxieties arising from that secrecy will therefore come to an end.
First, I wish to say how happy I am that the initiative conceived by Mr. Haughy to create a new framework in which to build closer relations between the two islands has now been truly consolidated, for surely it must be right that when there is so much at stake in the way of lives, property and happiness in Northern Ireland, the two sovereign countries immediately concerned should strive to create such a structure, a structure in which to replace the confrontations and misunderstandings of the past with consultation and renewed understanding. I feel sure that the foundations for this have now been laid and that the building work will proceed at a pace acceptable to the people of Northern Ireland. I was in Dublin last week and the people I spoke to there seemed well aware of the necessity of keeping progress to a level which would not unleash undue repercussions in the Province. They seemed satisfied with the content and general tenor of the meeting, but of course anxious that further ground should be covered as soon as possible.
I wish briefly to make a few comments about the issues that were under discussion. First, I very much welcome the setting up of the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Council and the planned programme for which it will be responsible; but I hope very much, indeed, that the work of this council will be conducted in the open and will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny because, as I said, discussions carried out in secret about Northern Ireland's future cause real panic and consternation to the people of Northern Ireland. I further welcome the proposed plan that, at an appropriate time, an inter-parliamentary body will be formed, drawn from both Parliaments and encompassing members of any newly-elected Assembly which might be established in the North, thus involving Northern Irish political representatives when the time is right.
Secondly, I should like to comment on the proposal for an all-Ireland court. I think it would be generally agreed that security co-operation between North and South is as good as it ever can be, given the present circumstances. But there is far less satisfaction here in Britain about the legal remedy available to deal with fugitive offenders. As is well known, when terrorists escape across the Border into the South, the only legal weapon open to the authorities on either side of the Border is the unwieldy and largely unworkable Criminal Law Jurisdiction Act. The arguments used by the Irish Government for rejecting extradition—a system which, from the British point of view, could clearly solve the problem—are of course complicated by political and constitutional considerations. So this creates renewed interest in the proposal for an all-Ireland court, which would mean the setting up of a single court system to try offences, irrespective of the part, of the island in which they were committed. This arrangement would, I understand, have the agreement of both parties in the Irish Dail, and I very much hope that in the months to come progress may be made towards such an end.
Thirdly, with reference to cross-Border co-operation, I very much welcomed the commitment to renewed initiatives being taken in the economic sphere. Sadly, 175 the experience of the North-South electricity inter-connector blown up in 1975 represents a rather discouraging precedent for the establishment of the so much needed energy pipeline bringing Kinsale gas across the Border. However, concern will again be focussed on the desperate need—from the Northern Irish consumers' point of view—for installing both gas and electricity links between North and South. On the subject of the Border, the communiqué also spoke of a commitment to reinforcing and building on the work already done under EEC auspices in cross-Border studies and co-operation.
Fourthly, I find it very encouraging that, on the citizenship issue, arrangements for granting voting rights at parliamentary elections to British citizens resident in the Republic are well advanced and that the necessary legislation will be introduced soon. This would seem to clear up that astounding anomaly where Irish citizens resident in Britain have the right to vote in British elections whereas Britons resident in Ireland do not have a reciprocal right.
So, my Lords, a start has been made to change old attitudes and build a framework for future co-operation, a framework to give Anglo-Irish relations a forward look. Each Government have contributed something; the Government in Westminster have acknowledged that the future of Northern Ireland is not only a United Kingdom concern but an Irish one too—the Prime Minister declaring her Government ready to join in promoting arrangements which might help to reduce tension between, and reconcile the peoples of, the two parts of Ireland. For his part, Dr. Garret FitzGerald is fighting a veritable crusade to reform his own country's restrictive practices in order both to modernise Southern Irish society and make the South a more agreeable partner for the North, a place which they need no longer find both alien and alienating. As we all know, Dr. FitzGerald is trying to bring about this radical change without the comfort and support of a solid parliamentary majority, and in doing so he is indeed putting his head on the block. We can but admire his courage.
So far as the two communities in the North are concerned, I hope the SDLP may use this new departure to help them re-establish their position with the Northern Catholics, an electorate who are showing alarming signs of moving their allegiance to the Provisional Sinn Fein, a party whose way of showing its respect for the democratic process is to offer a ballot paper with one hand while brandishing a gun with the other.
As for the Protestant community, I know that am speaking for all of us when I say how much I hope, and indeed pray, that this community, the great majority of which is made up of moderate and reasonable people, will not heed the prejudice and bigoted response of some of their leaders, but that instead they will see this new initiative as a means of understanding, and that they will add their contribution to the changing of attitudes to which the Republic and Britain are now committed. Surely, my Lords, they owe us this; for it must be true to say that nowhere else in the Queen's realm would one political group be allowed to impede the restoration of law and order because they are determined permanently to exclude another 176 political group from participation in the running of that state. Furthermore, what material benefit can this union with Britain, to which they so passionately cling, continue to bring them? The economic plight of Northern Ireland is very grave—a situation which is undoubtedly aggravated by the absence of political institutions and the dangerous security position.
As I have said, direct rule is a system imposed by the wishes of the majority community, a system which, as I see it, has as its major justification the point that it should be effective, that it should succeed in containing the security situation and administering the Province within the guidelines of wisdom, justice and humanity.
But with the insuperable obstacles being put in the way of direct rule we wonder how long it can continue to provide this effective and justifiable system of government. It is for that reason that I most earnestly hope that the work of the new Ango-Irish Council will be constructive and positive, and that the loyalists will in effect try to safeguard their rightful place in Ireland by giving the new initiative a chance, by giving the politicians a chance to take over from the gunmen; for otherwise I feel most sincerely that time is beginning to run out.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Baroness Airey of Abingdon
My Lords, I venture to speak this evening on the subject of Poland, which was briefly mentioned earlier this afternoon by the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary, and which I think could come under the headings of both defence and foreign affairs. Some of your Lordships might have had friends, comrades in arms, during the war, and you might feel pity for the plight of their country at the moment. I speak on two accounts from a personal point of view, and I shall not keep your Lordships long on this matter.
My husband, Airey Neave, was imprisoned in the north of Poland in a very unpleasant prison camp in a place called Thorn, and with a friend of his he made what was perhaps a bad choice, to try to get across the border into Russia, where we still had an ambassador Sir Stafford Cripps. They believed that they only had to get into Russia to be safe. They had a very difficult journey through Poland, and my husband often told me of the tremendous bravery and gallantry of those people who helped them. In a state of total exhaustion they knocked at the door of a little cottage and found a woman with a newly-born baby. The woman offered them part of her meagre supper. My husband told me of that woman and of those others who did not betray them. He told me of their bravery, and he felt much indebted to those poor people who helped him on his way. He was caught again, which was, I think one of the luckiest things, and although he was interrogated by the Gestapo, he managed to prove that he was a British officer and so get back for punishment in his own camp.
I should also like to tell your Lordships that I worked for the exiled Polish Government at the time of the Warsaw uprising in 1944, when the city was massacred by the Germans, while the Russian army stood back and did not go to the help of he people.
It would be very tempting for me to make an impassioned request, but tonight I am asking only for 177 the most prudent help. Negotiations of the greatest urgency are about to take place between the communist Government, the Church, and the leaders of Solidarity. I believe that the greatest advantage would be achieved if a settlement could be arrived at among those three. At the same time I believe that it is our duty to give moral support. It would not be for the first time that Soviet leaders have been sensitive to world opinion.
Practical help is also needed in a time of great hardship. We have already given considerable help in food and loans, as we were told in detail in answer to a Question from the noble Lord, Lord Caccia, who was speaking on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood, in October of this year. But yesterday's meal is no consolation for tomorrow's hunger. This morning I read that the Polish Government are to apply for membership of the IMF. I do not believe that the IMF could reject Poland, since Romania and China are already members, and last week Hungary applied for membership. If the application were successful there would be considerable conditions, and perhaps disciplines, but I believe that it would be to the advantage of Poland's economy. At the same time I hope that Her Majesty's Government can hold out the hand of friendship with encouragement and all possible practical help, so that Poland might have a chance to work out her future for herself.
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of London
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, for emphasising our responsibility for the preservation of human rights. The matter that I wish to raise might seem small compared with some of the great issues that have been debated today, but it is not small for those who are directly concerned. I wish to speak about one aspect of the proposed patriation of the British North America Act 1867; namely; the effect that it would have upon the aboriginal peoples of Canada. I appreciate that the matter was the subject of an Unstarred Question in 1979 in this House, but the Answer, that was then given by the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, did not seem to me to give the reasons for the interpretation of the law which is maintained by the Government. On my own account I feel justified in raising the matter again, and I am encouraged to do so by the Anglican Church of Canada.
Before I develop my point may I make it clear that neither I, nor the Church here, nor in Canada, has any desire to hinder or delay the achievement of a constitutional settlement satisfactory to all the peoples of Canada. However, we feel that we have a moral obligation to draw attention to the concerns of the indigenous peoples of Canada, whose representatives have consistently relied upon reasoned argument in presenting their claims. Their three organisations represent 1,325,000 people. The National Indian Brotherhood represents 300,000 status Indians. The Inuit Committee on National Issues represents 25,000 Unuits, who are Eskimos, and the Native Council of Canada represents a million Metis and non-status Indians.
From 1763 onwards, until 1876, the affairs of these people were the subject of a series of solemn treaties with the British Sovereign, which gave them certain 178 rights, including that of self-government. The real point at issue is what effect the British North America Act of 1867 had upon those treaties? In 1979 the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, said that the Act:transferred to the Government of Canada, with their Sovereign I should say, all the principal effects of government in Canada, including, most importantly, the administration of the treaties…and for that reason, the Minister said, that the Government could not decline to act in response to a request from the Canadian Government to approve legislation in the form in which it is presented.
My Lords, those who have given legal advice to the organisations representing the native peoples question this view. They draw attention to a considerable number of treaties negotiated with the Indian nations both before and after confederation in 1867, most recently in 1956. They say that prior to the Statute of Westminster in 1931 the Canadian Government had no inherent treaty-making powers, and that, in negotiating these treaties, it was acting on behalf of the Imperial Crown—not, that is, on behalf of the Crown in Canada. Although the Statute of Westminster of 1931 conferred treaty-making powers, it made no reference to the Royal Proclamation by George III in 1763 or to subsequent Indian treaties, and these, indeed, continued to be negotiated as hitherto.
The advice relied upon by the Indian people's organisations points to the fact that Westminster retained obligations and responsibilities in respect of Canada after 1931, which the Canadian Government are only now proposing to "patriate". They draw attention to the fact that the purpose and effect of Section 91(24) of the British North America Act 1867 was to prevent the transfer of Indian affairs to the Provinces without the prior consent of the British Parliament. They maintain that such a transfer would have effectively defeated the trust because the Crown would thereby have been prevented from exercising any residual matters affecting Indian welfare.
They point out that no such restraint was placed upon the legislative powers of the Canadian Parliament in respect of any other section of the population, that that restraint was restricted to provisions for the Indians, and they maintain that such exceptions can be explained only by the continued fiduciary role of the British Crown. The legal advice their organisations have received draws attention to the fact that the Indians enjoy a privileged status under the existing constitution. Section 91(24)certainly imposes no obligation on the Federal Government to recognise Indian claims to self-determination: but it does provide some safeguard in that it prevents their assimilation by the provinces, a process which would probably sound the death knell for Indian culture".The representatives of the aboriginal peoples draw attention to the almost total absence of recognition and protection of the rights of aboriginal nations in the proposed constitution. The indigenous people of Canada are asking that their aboriginal treaty and self-government rights might be entrenched in the proposed Canada Act; that they be accorded full status as delegates at constitutional talks; and that amendments of those sections of the constitution dealing with their rights be made only with their agreement. It is clear from early documents, such as the 1837 Report of the Select Committee of another place on the Aborigines of the British Settlements, 179 that Britain did accept her role as protector of the rights of aboriginal nations from encroachment by the settler Government.
It is because of this special relationship that the Indian and Inuit peoples are appealing directly to Britain for support; and I am glad to say that we in the diocese of London have been happy to arrange accommodation for some of their delegates who are here now. The Federal Government has said that the position of the native peoples will be a matter for discussion once the new constitution is in force. As, however, the constitution elsewhere provides that federal proposals may be subject to veto by any two provincial governments, the Indians and Inuits fear that the limited protection they enjoy at present will quickly disappear when proposals to implement general intention are put forward.
The question, my Lords, is, therefore, whether Britain has a residual fiduciary role—or, rather, whether the British Crown has. The Government have simply stated that it does not, but I believe that as a matter of justice the argument put forward, temperately and reasonably, by the organisations should be answered. If it can be shown that such a role continues to exist, then it cannot be argued that to concern ourselves with the rights of the native peoples would be contrary to the Second Statute of Westminister of 1932. As I say, the Indian people have pressed points with temperance and reasonableness, but that should not lead us to underestimate their feelings.
Apart from their concern for the preservation of their way of life and culture, which they have sought to maintain in the face of very considerable difficulties, for the Indians a treaty is a most solemn matter. It is sacred. It is made by a person to a person, and carries with it personal obligations; or, in the words incorporated into the treaties themselves, it is to last,as long as the sun rises, the grasses grow and the rivers flow".I would suggest that, generally speaking, the world today has something to learn from the obligation which an Indian sees he is bound to by a treaty.
My Lords, I conclude by saying that, whatever the legal position may be, I believe that we must demonstrate by fuller consideration and by a fuller answer that we have the interests of the Indians, the Metis and the Inuits at heart, and it is for this reason that I raise the matter again. I ask your Lordships to accept that we have a moral obligation to do so.
§ Lord Mottistone
My Lords, before the right reverend Prelate sits down, would he possibly consider whether the North American Indians, whose interests he clearly has closely at heart, have consulted with the Maoris of New Zealand, who seem to have sorted out their problems a great deal better and whose original position, perhaps I might suggest, was very similar?
§ The Lord Bishop of London
My Lords, I am afraid I cannot answer the noble Lord's question but I will endeavour to find the answer as soon as I can and, if the answer is in the negative, try to see that it becomes the affirmative.
§ 8.8 p.m.
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
My Lords, I am unable to follow the right reverend Prelate in the important matter that he has just raised. My own impression, after seeing the Indian reservations both in Canada and in the United States, was that they had both been treated rather shamefully in the past, and I fear that nearly all colonisation has ridden roughshod over the rights of indigenous peoples who were there before the Europeans arrived. So I sincerely hope that this matter will be more adequately dealt with when, as seems likely, we come to consider the "repatriation" of the 1867 Act.
I entered the list for the debate today in case something was said from these Benches with which I might disagree. I did this in no perverse spirit, but I thought that since within the ambit of this debate there is the Common Market and nuclear disarmament, those were two issues at least which might excite a little controversy on these Benches. But it has not happened that way. It has been a most comfortable afternoon, and I think we are all grateful to noble Lords who have contributed such well-informed and excellent speeches to a wide-ranging debate.
Of course, the Common Market was referred to by the Foreign Secretary almost within minutes of his opening speech, and he gave a good deal of information to confirm our belief that Britain should remain in the European Community. I am very saddened indeed at what is happening in the Labour Party on this issue. Some of the voices that have been heard in the past strongly advocating membership and strongly defending our position there are no longer heard inside the Labour Party; they have gone elsewhere, in despair.
I welcome what the Foreign Secretary said when reaffirming the Government's conviction about adherence to the European Economic Community. It has not always been that way. I recall that 10 years ago Mr. Heath when he was Prime Minister had to rely upon over 60 dissident votes in the Labour Party to get his Motion through the House of Commons. When Mr. Heath said that he wanted a free vote from a free Parliament, he got a free vote on his own side but it was a little too free for him and he had to rely on those of us on the Opposition Benches who defied a three-line whip in order to carry the Motion for the completion of negotiations on the Treaty of Rome.
I had hoped that our membership of the EEC was now a stable feature of our politics in the world and of our association with other European countries. Those who are talking about withdrawing from the EEC within the first year of the next Labour Government probably do not realise what they will be undoing and what the consequences of that will be. What has been built up, and is being built up still in Europe, has taken 20 years of patient negotiations, sometimes impatient negotiations, to achieve a basis upon which this valuable co-operation should take place. I believe that it will be a bad day for this country if this issue is going to return to the field of controversial politics with a possible danger that Britain might wish to undo what was done during that time. On that subject, I offer only one suggestion to the Government. Cannot they do more to ensure that the work and significance of the European Economic Community 181 are more widely publicised and that better information services are given on this subject? If they cannot do any better, then why not give more money to the European Movement who can conduct this kind of information service from very long experience?
The Foreign Secretary referred to the fact that we had kept the peace for 36 years. If we can keep it for another four, that will make it 40 and that will mean 40 years of no major European war—the longest period of peace in Europe for 200 years. That is something, I think, to be satisfied about. We know from history that to talk about peace-loving nations is all nonsense. They are not at all peace-loving nations; they are warlike nations. History is strewn with bloodshed, with war, aggression, cruelty and devastation. If we can preserve peace in Europe for 40 years, it is an historic achievement and the Foreign Secretary was quite right to refer to it.
The problem today, the only problem, I think, in terms of world peace, is the problem of Russian intentions. This is really the basic disturbance in the mind of the world today. We have little confidence in what they say; we feel that we have to go by what they do; and what they do deepens our concern about their purposes in the world. I know that it seems unbelievable that the two major powers, the only two with the capability for total nuclear war, should both firmly protest their innocent intentions and yet appear to he unable to convince each other of their sincerity. Not only do they fail to convince each other but they fail to convince the world that the two super powers are bent on keeping the peace. I think that a great deal of the failure to get an understanding in the world today is due to the fact that, whereas in the West the debate is open and free, in Russia it is not. The Russians can listen to all that we are saying to ourselves and to others about our policies, exposing our weaknesses, to our casting doubt on the intentions of other political figures in our public life. They can intervene and distort what they hear; hut we cannot get behind the shield of silence which is imposed on the Russian people.
The noble Lords, Lord Chalfont and Lord Weidenfeld, referred to the way in which the Russians have a close interest at the present time in the unilateral nuclear disarmament peace campaign. There is no peace campaign that we know of going on in Russia today. The peace campaign that was permitted in East Germany alongside the demonstration in West Germany was a campaign for the nuclear disarmament of the United States. It was turned against the United States and not against nuclear arms generally. I felt a great deal of sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, when he said that many people found the discussion on the technical side of nuclear war and strategy extremely confusing and probably the simple elements of the conversation were lost sight of in consequence.
I feel that if you have allies you must stick to them, because a country like ours is badly in need of them whenever we are in trouble. Whatever the differences which arise between the United States and ourselves, they should be capable of discussion and of settlement within the alliance and should not be allowed on either side of the Atlantic to begin to question the validity of 182 the alliance itself. That is most important. Neutrality, to this country, would be equivalent to laying down our arms. A nation of our size and history cannot go neutral without the surrender of its position in the world and of its position in relation to our allies. But with all the disturbance that there is in our minds about this, we should be mistaken if we concentrated unduly upon our fate in case of war—and certainly if we neglected attempting to remove the causes of war. There are things which are quite near to hand for us today which I think would lessen tension and probably lay the foundations of peace later on if not in the immediate future.
I suppose it would be in a spirit of levity that I might suggest that international sport probably is one candidate to he looked at as a possible source of discord and of international conflict, but I mention that in passing only to lighten an otherwise rather dull discourse. The main thing is the question of population pressure and poverty.
I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, did not leave himself more time to deal with the recent conference in Cancun. I agree with my noble friend Lord Stewart of Fulham that the Foreign Secretary's account of the conference, I thought, seemed to he more satisfying than the reports that we have had from elsewhere. We were told that it was a disappointment; we were told that nothing much had come out of it; that it had been a gathering of heads of state but so little coming out of it. However, something has to come out of some of these conferences before very long if we are to avert the biggest disaster in the world to come, which is the growing pressure of population on resources and all that that may mean in political pressures and sources of conflict. I sincerely hope that more attention will be given to this.
The population explosion is more dangerous than the nuclear bomb. It is more inevitable, and the extent of it is likely to be far more devastating. My noble friend Lord Stewart of Fulham said that if there was a nuclear war it would be idle to discuss whether there would he any survivors, who would be left, and whether it would destroy the whole of mankind. Of course there would be survivors. But one cannot say who will survive the mass starvation and deprivation that is likely to come as a result of continued poverty and deprivation due to the population explosion.
More must be done to relieve the so-called third world of the despair which confronts it at the present time. That is one of the positive measures which Her Majesty's Government could take and which we can all feel offers some hope for the future. It is rather more exciting than dwelling too heavily upon the fate of mankind from nuclear war. It may never come. I do not believe that it will. The stakes are too high. But nevertheless one has to be on guard against untoward happenings in a world in which the human factor is as fallible as it ever was and can make the same mistakes in the future as in the past. The whole of the course of humanity can be changed if the West would only surrender some of the luxuries in life that it has in order to ensure a minimum standard of living for the millions elsewhere who, after all, are human beings like ourselves.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Lord Gore-Booth
My Lords, some time ago in your Lordships' House it used to be a pleasant coincidence that I seemed constantly to be talking immediately after the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby. This pleasure I have missed for some time. I am so delighted to resume this relationship of succession. Note the deferential touch, my Lords.
I should first like to say just a few words—and I hope I am only going to say a few words—about the progress and the background of the European Community. I do this because there have been a considerable amount of rather snide attacks on the Community from various sections and it is perhaps useful to underline one particular aspect of the Community which is not often noticed. By that I mean the political point of the existence and work of the Community. When the meetings to establish the Community were being conducted in Paris, there was one point which was constantly emphasised which has rather fallen out of fashion. I hope to re-create it slightly.
From the point of view of many of our European friends—and indeed from our own when we were discussing the formation of the Community—there was expressed the view that one must never forget the political strength and importance of the Community. It came into being just at the end of World War II and there was a great emphasis by our European friends that one of the main purposes in establishing an economic Community was the political importance which such an institution would have.
The argument—and I am sure that it was absolutely right—was that if you are going to set up a Community at all, and if you want it to last, it is extremely important that it should have a proper organisational framework. You cannot do that easily and expect it to survive unless you give it an expressly political importance, title, and body. This will give it, as it were, some form and substance whereas if you simply take an economic action and then leave it at that you will not succeed because that operation will pass away with the completion of some economic or commercial matter or whatever may be the task.
If you insist that your new body must have a constitution with rules and something that can be seen to exist and then does good work, then you will guarantee to it a life which will get past the very difficult early stages and will become an institution and something which will go on, one hopes, indefinitely. That indeed—and I can assure your Lordships that this is right because I was present on the occasion—was the spirit behind this idea of the nature of the Community as an important political as well as economic body. That was something that would guarantee its long and—let us hope-unending future.
So I hope that all those who may come in contact with the Community and be interested in the history of it, or the purpose of it, should know the situation. That is why I proclaim it again today. This was the view of the founders of the Community. They were right in both respects of the idea and form of the Community. It remains with us now and, to my mind, grows in importance, in impressiveness and experience. For that reason, I have always since the earliest days supported the Community and tried to persuade people who were against it as some kind of sinister 184 capitalist offensive that it really is something of a bequest by the founders of it to the future. It seems in these days to be coming more and more generally accepted as not only an important but highly constructive and acceptable international body. I hope so much that this feeling for the Community, which has been growing slowly, is now fully established and that there is no more effort to say that it is something that should be got rid of. I am sure that that is almost perversely wrong. In spite of the idea that the Community should be dispensed with—given all the benefits that we get from it, as well as the payments that we have to make to it—it is, none the less, something which is very much of a positive nature constructed in our century.
The other subject on which I propose to talk for a moment—again, following the noble Lord's example—is the Soviet Union which, naturally, has also been discussed very much this afternoon. When the Soviet Union attacked the small, impecunious state of Afghanistan, there was an immediate revulsion against this piece of imperialism. If, again, one follows the historical precedent and then the following events, one is immensely struck, first, by the sheer lack of necessity for any such attack at all, and the Russians killed by order of their Government in Afghanistan have died for nothing. The purpose was a purely destructive one.
The Russians have settled down rather miserably in Afghanistan, disliked by the people, unable or unwilling to accomplish very much and so we get this deadlocked position in what is, as I have said, a small country up in the mountains where the Russians, as they found at once, have nothing to gain and a dislocation of the community has been caused. The Russians lose money, the Afghans have lost lives and a destabilised situation has been created in that part of the world. All the news that comes in—and there is not very much of it—indicates that there has been a destabilisation of a cold-blooded nature created in that part of the world.
I hope that most of your Lordships will agree with this analysis—there will be few who will not—because what was done by the Soviet forces was, in fact, a piece of destruction to apparently no purpose, and not even a very useful military purpose, for the Soviet Union. It is easy to say that amount. The question then is what the rest of what I will firmly call the free world can do about the situation. The free countries of this world did what they could, short of doing what they could not do, which would have meant an old-fashioned outbreak of hostilities.
The question which it would be perfectly right for your Lordships to ask now is this. All right. There is no disagreement with that. But what do you suggest that we do? On that, I have no concrete suggestion, except that all the free world must go on insisting that the Russians go away. It is not a promising prospect in one way, but no nation, however obstinate in temperament, likes being nearly ostracised by the free world. It is a wearing experience. It means that all kinds of privileges which the Soviet Union, by its sheer size and status in the world, could acquire and enjoy if it was prepared to behave in a civilised manner, are denied to it.
Practically the only thing we can do, and we should be very persistent in doing it, is to make the Soviet authorities—and, after all, it cannot be the Russian 185 people, whatever anybody says—aware that while they are not quite the only Government and country out of step, they are pretty nearly so, and that in all kinds of ways this deprives them not simply of material things, but of all kinds of amenities and facilities in the world. We must show them that what they have done is to put themselves not into isolation—because that would be exaggerating matters—but on to a position in which a great country should not be put.
After all, bringing the matter down to a very human level, all of us who have met Russians, who have read Russian literature and who have had anything to do with Russian civilisation, know that their Government, in earlier years, was a cruel one which could not last for ever, but that the people of that country are marvellous human beings and the one thing they would really like is to be in the great world again. I do not say that this is a practical programme which we can achieve, but I believe that the only way to make any kind of dent on the Russian consciousness, and to keep hope going among the people who would like a somewhat different kind of beautiful country than the one that they are issued with at the moment, is to make this part of a conscious process. I shall not take up your Lordships' time by suggesting how, partly because this can be worked out only by experience. But I think that anybody who has lived for some time in this world has a feeling deep down that one of the things the Russians would like is to get back again into a world in which liberated Russians—and I mean liberated socially, not militarily—and all the rest of us can live together in peace and security.
§ 8.39 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, will forgive me if I do not follow him down the interesting paths which he has been outlining to us. My reason for not doing so is not that I should not like to do it, but that I have a lot to say about nuclear disarmament, a matter which has been raised several times, and a number of points which I should like to make. Since I do not want to take up too much of your Lordships' time, I had better not get diverted on to anything other than that.
However, I should like to say that the gracious Speech asserts the Government's intention of continuing to play an active role within NATO. One could wish that it was a less expensive role. As the Parliamentary Select Committee on Foreign Affairs has pointed out, the high percentage of NATO's budget borne by the United Kingdom is neither just nor reasonable. Meanwhile, we must welcome the pledge to work for a successful conclusion of the Madrid meeting on the Helsinki Final Act. There are points in the gracious Speech which I believe that noble Lords on all sides of the House will welcome with enthusiasm. The enthusiasm may be more hopeful in some cases than in others. Nevertheless, let us not put aside any point on which we can be in agreement. The Times said on 28th October that the Government had decided some time before:to engage the nuclear disarmers in serious debate".The Times went on:The movement is a growing force in the country. It is no longer on the fringe. Nor is it the creature of one political party. It contains a wide range of serious and worried people who feel a 186 fundamentally honourable desire to protest against the arms race. In it there are churchmen for whom the appalling moral problems of nuclear deterrence are paramount. There are pragmatists who believe that political and military problems could be handled differently. There are young people who simply cannot understand the world in which they find themselves and there are also of course those with political causes to promote, including communism".I can hear a "Hear, hear!" to that from some quarters of the House, if not to the rest of what The Times has to say.
I have taken the liberty of quoting it at some length—I hope your Lordships will forgive me for doing so—because, as has been said, I am chairman of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and I wanted to clarify some of the issues which have been touched on during the course of this interesting debate. It may be that the Foreign Office decided to conduct the debate at a serious level, as The Times said, but this has not been generally true. The Secretary of State for Defence has unleashed from his department a series of attacks on CND, not for its policies but on its credibility. In this he has followed a pattern which the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has also explored. Another member of the Government, Mr. Nicholas Ridley, wrote to a constituent recently as follows:I was horrified to infer from your letter of the 21st that you support the Peace Movement. This is, as you know, organised and financed by Russia. I must make it clear that I will have no part in this".That is not really the way to deal with this serious subject.
The noble Lord, Lord Soames, said in this Chamber that CND and its supporters are "wittingly or unwittingly playing the Russian game". This is more or less what the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont—he will correct me if I am wrong—said to us this afternoon. That would only be true if the Russian game is peace, and of course that is what we want to put to the test here in Europe. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has always treated nuclear war with the seriousness that it deserves.
I am glad to say that the day before yesterday, on Sunday, Mr. Peter Blaker, the Minister of State for Defence, did something to rescue his department from the rather low level contribution it has made to this matter so far and tried to fulfil The Times promise to treat the matter seriously in a debate which took place at the Bristol University Union on Sunday evening. Replying to the motion "That this house would unilaterally abandon the nuclear deterrent" he attacked CND, and me, vigorously but not unfairly. He apparently rejected the smear material, which was available to him from his own department which has circulated such material, and he attacked a CND pamphlet for alleged inaccuracies. That was entirely proper. If errors are proven we shall correct them. But the speech of the evening was given by Colonel Jonathan Alford of the International Institute of Strategic Studies who also opposed the motion. I think he made a considerable impression and was responsible for the fact that the motion was only narrowly carried.
But perhaps the important revelation on this occasion was the amount of common ground which now exists between nuclear disarmers and more traditional opponents of Government policy. Colonel Alford gave the authority of the Institute of Strategic 187 Studies to the view that nuclear war cannot be limited or controlled. The technical reasons for this belief have been spelled out with authority in a booklet by Dr. Desmond Ball, just published by the institute. Dr. Ball writes the impenetrable prose which seems to come naturally to defence experts, but his conclusion is clear enough. He says this:Rather than devoting further resources to pursuing the chimera of controlled nuclear war, relatively more attention might be accorded to another means of satisfying the objectives that limited nuclear options are intended to meet. This is likely, in practice, to mean greater attention to the conditions of conventional deterrence".The message that both the late and sadly lamented Admiral Lord Mountbatten and Field Marshal Lord Carver have been trying in vain to put over for years—I make no party point on this—is precisely this point which now has the authority of the Institute of Strategic Studies: that there is in fact no such thing as a limited nuclear war; a flexible response is nonsense. The Labour Party, as I said, was similarly deaf to appeals on this point in the past, but my party has since grown wiser. I was very glad to have the support of my noble friend Lady Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe from our own Front Bench earlier this afternoon. I look forward to further support when my noble friend Lord Peart comes to speak later in the debate.
Is nuclear war likely? Lord Mountbatten thought that it was. And if that was so a couple of years ago, then perhaps today it is even more likely. Lord Mountbatten said, and I quote:The world now stands on the brink of the final abyss.Today we are even nearer the edge. It really is four minutes to midnight. I have suggested that a quotation from the Strasbourg speech should be inscribed on the plinth of the statue which it is proposed to raise to the memory of Lord Mountbatten. I proposed this quotation:In the event of nuclear war there will be no chances, there will be no survivors—all will be obliterated".In this Chamber the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter—I am sorry he is not here this evening—suggested that a more appropriate inscription would be the Latin tag:Si vis pacem, para bellum".But Lord Boyd-Carpenter had not done his homework, because in the same speech Lord Mountbatten condemned this very quotation. He said, and I quote:'There are powerful voices round the world who still give credence to the old Roman precept: if you desire peace prepare for war. This is absolute nuclear nonsense and I repeat—it is a disastrous misconception to believe that by increasing the total of uncertainty one increases one's own certainty".The Government claim to believe that nuclear war is unlikely, though some of their actions seem to belie that belief. Why spend a fortune on Trident? Why house cruise missiles? "Oh", say the Government "this will make war even less likely".Si vis pacem, para bellum"."Nuclear nonsense", says Mountbatten. And Field Marshal Lord Carver, although less immediately alarmed than was Lord Mountbatten, strongly shares his other belief that tactical or theatre weapons cannot be used without triggering off "an all-out nuclear exchange, leading to the final holocaust". That was Lord Mountbatten. Now here is, if he will 188 forgive me for quoting him in his presence, the noble Lord, Lord Carver:To initiate nuclear war would not redress or restore the situation. It would be an act of unredeemable folly".The noble Lord said as much to us again this afternoon.
In other words, the noble and gallant Lord rejects totally the strategy that the West has been relying on for 20 years; readiness to be the first to use nuclear weapons against a conventional attack. He rejects it as thoroughly, if less alarmingly, than did Mountbatten—although the words are softer, the meaning is the same. If we use this weapon in any form we are finished. It is not a weapon of war in any sensible use of the word; it is an instrument for the annihilation of civilisation and perhaps even humanity itself. The noble Lords, Lord Kaldor, Lord Gladwyn and Lord Zuckerman, reached similar conclusions and now we have the authority of the International Strategic Institute.
The idea of a limited war makes the holocaust more likely and President Reagan's recent statement has brought us closer to the brink. There is therefore a growing opinion that nuclear war is likely and that a limited nuclear war is impossible. Unfortunately the people with the power—the American and British Governments—believe the opposite; that nuclear war is unlikely and that a limited nuclear exchange is possible. Or do they? Whether they do or not, their actions say that they do and that is what counts. We are in grave peril. Unless we change course, war by accident or design or by proliferation or by miscalculation is bound to happen. The growing disarray of the American Government is the opposite of reassurance.
None of the authorities I have referred to was or is a unilateralist. I never tire of saying this but people seem to be curiously deaf because whenever I say it somebody always gets up and says that I have not said it. But I say again that none of the people I have quoted in support of the preliminary case that have argued here this evening is a unilateralist. In other words we are pretty well agreed about our diagnosis, but we have no common prescription. Neither, for that matter has the CND itself when it comes to detail. What we in CND share is a conviction that the escalation will not cease unless some act of de-escalation is taken and we believe our own country is well placed to take that action. That is what we mean by unilateral nuclear disarmament; we mean the precipitation of multilateral discussions by an act of reduction or by a first act of refusal to escalate.
Take Trident—our first unilateral action would be a refusal to replace Polaris. On that we are all agreed. Our second, a refusal to house the Cruise missiles on our soil. Simultaneously we should be extending the nuclear-free zones in Europe, for the rejection of the nuclear weapon is not a British phenomenon—it is a European one. The conviction is widespread in Europe that we are the theatre in which the destruction of our species will be the subject of a pilot experiment.
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, will the noble Lord give way for one moment? When I was making my speech he intervened to say that he was going to say something about the policies of CND, and indeed he has 189 done so. I have listened very carefully to what he has said, but I am still in need of enlightenment. I have in my hand a pamphlet published only a few months ago by the CND and written by a member of its national council and I should like to ask the noble Lord whether he agrees that these quotations represent the policy of the CND. The first is:CND's immediate policy is for Britain to abandon nuclear weapons and to refuse to house the nuclear weapons of foreign powers based on our soil and in our waters".The second quotation—and perhaps this is the one to which I should like the noble Lord to address his reply—is:CND supporters have a job to do to see that the arguments for British unilateral nuclear disarmament are carried into every party and trade union branch and on to every shop floor".
§ Lord Sandys
My Lords, I think it is the custom of the House that the question should not add at any length to the speech concerned. I quite appreciate that the noble Lord is asking a question embodying quite substantial quotations, but he should not make it over long.
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, I intend to make it no longer. I have made the quotations which seem to me to speak for themselves and I ask the noble Lord whether this pamphlet represents the official policy of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament?
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, so far as 1 could judge from the quotations which the noble Lord made I could not offhand see anything to disagree with in the first quotation. In regard to the second, I am not quite so sure because it was rather interrupted. So far as I heard it 1 agree, but I should like to qualify that by saying that I would rather read it in the morning. So far as I could tell I did not see anything to disagree with in what the noble Lord said. But I do not know that any statement by a particular member on a certain occasion is necessarily to be regarded as the policy of an organisation. We have things like annual general meetings, we have documents which set out our policies formally, and I feel sure that noble Lords on both sides of the House will agree with me that if one takes a statement of any member of the Conservative Party or of the Labour Party and asks whether that represents the policy of his party one might find oneself in some difficulty in replying offhand.
If I may return to what I was saying, the nuclear-free zone is not a new concept. It is one which stems from Hugh Gaitskell and the Rapacki Plan way back in the 'fifties. It is not a way-out concept of a mad professor but the considered proposal of a Labour Leader who was thought to be rather on the right of the party. A Nordic nuclear-free zone is under way; a Balkan nuclear-free zone is planned. The rebellion against nuclear suicide has been heard in Bonn and Brussels and elsewhere as well as in Hyde Park and, if I had time, I could quote President Brezhnev on the same point and I hope on some other occasion to be able to do so.
Those who oppose unilateral nuclear disarmament assume that it means immediate one-sided nuclear nudity of the West, including the United States, coupled with instant withdrawal from NATO by Britain. It 190 must be admitted that CND in the past has contributed to this misunderstanding. Like the Tory Party and the Labour Party, the Peace Movement is a "broad church". Like the political parties, we know what our aims are but we have different ideas about how to achieve them. We still have in the ranks of CND—and I hope we shall have them as long as the movement exists—complete pacifists who oppose not only nuclear weapons but all weapons. The noble Lord, Lord Soper, is an impressive speaker for this point of view.
I was going to say something about the nature of nuclear war but I think I have taken up enough of your Lordships' time.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, I hear some enthusiasm for that part of my speech, if for no other, but I think noble Lords will admit that I did have rather a lot to reply to and I hope therefore you will bear with me for another few minutes.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, is it not a fact that if the policy of the CND movement is as described by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, it cannot he reconciled with a desire to stay in NATO?
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, I was going to deal with that at some length as a matter of fact because the next item on my notes is the question, should we secede from NATO, and, the noble Lord having encouraged me to do so, I will spend just a few minutes on that point. Personally, I think not. There are some people who think that we should, but in my own view our membership of the nuclear-free nations in NATO—and there are now quite a number of them—would give us the collective right to take part in discussions with the Warsaw Pact countries, designed to bring about a lowering of the number of weapons and the achievement first of a balance at the lower level, as Lord Mountbatten put it, and finally of a nuclear-free Europe.
I will not trespass further on your Lordships' patience this evening. Above all, we say that the nuclear weapon is a moral outrage and that to use it or to threaten its use is barbarism. Not only for the sake of survival but for the standing of humanity. A creature deploying the nuclear weapon is not entitled to call himself homo sapiens.
§ Lord Zuckerman
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down may I put one question. I understood the noble Lord to say that it was the policy of the United States Government and of the British Government that there could be field warfare in which nuclear weapons are used. Knowing full well that there are many people who say that could be, I would like to know—and I am sure your Lordships would like to know—whether any Government has stated that policy as explicitly as has been implied in the noble Lord's statement.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, we must take Government's statements at their face value. We have the position at the moment in which as far as our own Government are concerned, as Lord Carver has 191 pointed out, for 20 years our policy has been based upon the proposition that we should be the first to use the nuclear weapon, that we should respond to a conventional attack with nuclear weapons. What has happened recently is that Mr. Haig has been excessively honest and has blown the gaff". This is what has set the cat among the pigeons. Therefore, we are in the position that both the American and the British Governments are committed to a flexible response policy, which many people, I believe including the noble Lord himself, view with great suspicion.
§ 9.2 p.m.
The Marquess of Ailsa
My Lords, I hope the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, will forgive me if I do not follow him in the realms of nuclear disarmament. Recently I had occasion to visit the Horn of Africa, Somalia in particular. I would like to say at the outset how very much I welcome Her Majesty's Government's decision to continue the BBC external broadcasts in the Somali language. During my stay in that country I had very great evidence brought to me of the respect and regard in which this service was held and the great concern being caused by the thought that it might have to cease. I am delighted that this is not to be the case.
This service, I think, is of importance, as in that part of Africa there is at the present moment a great deal of unease. This unease has been brought about by the alliance between Libya, Ethiopia and South Yemen. The border war between Ethiopia and Somalia continues. Great concern is caused as apparently there are 2,500 South Yemeni military technicians including at least 25 trained pilots on loan to the Ethiopian Government. The Somalia Government are anxious to get new supplies of tanks, antiaircraft equipment and other sorts of equipment for the purposes of defending their borders. They do not wish to attack anybody. They feel certain that there is a deliberate policy to try and destablilise that part of Africa. Again this is where the importance of our external services come in. They are subjected currently to very strongly Moscow orientated radio broadcasting; this works trying to stir up insurrection and armed resistance within the country.
There is a great desire in Somalia for closer and stronger links with this country, diplomatic and commercial links. They feel that we in Britain have a better understanding of their situation than other people do. They had a very unpleasant experience with the Russians, whom they expelled in 1976. This experience has made them somewhat wary of the Americans, with whom they have agreements regarding the use of the harbour at Berber and the runway at the same town. I understand this is the longest runway in Africa. But they feel that we—if I may use the words "we British"—have a fuller understanding of their problems and their desires for independence.
They are a small country and do need help. I understand that now the relations between Somalia and Kenya have been resolved amicably, and I wonder is there any other reason why further friendship and relations should not be forthcoming from this country? Finally, I must say how impressed I was by the effort made by our embassy staff in Mogadishu to put on an 192 excellent show at the International Trade Fair carried out in that city last month. With a very small budget our embassy put on a very creditable and praiseworthy stand, small but exceedingly good, and certainly far better than those put on by other western countries.
§ 9.6 p.m.
My Lords, it is, I think, understandable that when it is decided in your Lordships' House to discuss these interrelated subjects of foreign affairs and defence the main thrust of many of the speeches should be the East-West confrontation, because of course the pre-eminent danger at the present stage of world history is that the relationship between the two separate worlds, the communist East and the capitalist West, should be so mismanaged as to lead to a nuclear catastrophe.
But while it is understandable that our debate should deal largely with the hostility of those two worlds, it is all too easy to forget that the third world and the international management of its affairs can be as crucial as is the direct confrontation between the other two worlds. I have a lurking fear that, just as the First World War began not on the frontier between the western allies and the German empire but in remote Sarajevo, and just as the flashpoint for the Second World War was the Polish Corridor and not the Western Front, so it could be that the Third World War could begin, shall we say, in Central America, or in Southern Africa, in the oilfields of Iraq or as a result of some miscalculation among the warring factions in South East Asia. The whole of the third world, has, in recent time, since the Second World War, emerged from its political colonial status. It is now struggling to emerge from its economic colonial status and this second struggle is no less difficult and no less important for the future peace of the world than was that earlier struggle for political independence.
If we are to avoid dangerous eruptions in any of a hundred danger spots throughout the third world, much attention has yet to be given and many resources have yet to be provided to ensure a greater measure of stablility in the poor countries of the world. It is on that subject that I wish to make a few observations this evening.
We have just had at Cancun in Mexico a summit meeting purporting to deal with this mind boggling task. Various estimates have been made in the debate today by the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary, by my noble friend Lord Stewart of Fulham and by my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby about the effectiveness or otherwise of that summit. I have no doubt that Cancun was a failure. It was wrongly conceived and it was bound to fail in view of its mere two days of discussion and the impossibility of it reaching any conclusions. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that it did more harm than good since it dashed the high hopes aroused by the Brandt Commission's Report and negated a great deal of the constructive public discussion to which that report had given rise. I say all this, let me confess, with the benefit of hindsight because as we approached Cancun, I, too, had high hopes that it might achieve something, but I believe that it is better to learn from mistakes than to pretend that they were not made.
I believe that in the Brandt Report there is not only a brilliant analysis of the world's economic ills, but 193 also many wise recommendations which unfortunately have not yet been acted upon. But I now say that the recommendation that there should be a summit conference was, in my judgment, a mistake. Indeed, I am beginning to wonder whether we have not had a surfeit of summitry in respect of third world problems. Have we not had too much consultation and too little action?
Let us consider what has been happening since the summer of this year. We had the Ottawa Conference in July—a meeting of representatives of the seven richest nations of the world; we had the Paris talks on aid to the poorest countries; then the leading statesmen of the Commonwealth countries went off to Melbourne and we had the Melbourne Declaration; and finally we had Cancun itself, the most expensive and least productive of the lot. In less than six months we have had a great deal of top level flurry and top level wise words, but one cannot but ask: What practical action will result? Will one child be saved from death by malnutrition as a result of summitry? Will one unwanted birth be prevented? Will one more school place be provided or will one more home be built? Those are the areas where action is required and surely we must assess our conferences in terms of the action which results.
The basic trouble, as it seems to me, is that when the leading statesmen of the world meet together, as they have constantly done in recent months, then the supreme diplomatic necessity is that all should be seen to agree. There must be a communiqué at the end of the week, noble in its sentiment, diplomatic in its phrasing and all too often soporific in its effect. This means that the participants spend much time in working out the lowest common denominator of their respective positions, and we find at the end of the day that the world has decided to move forward at the pace of the slowest and the most reluctant participant.
From our British point of view the sad thing in these recent conferences is that it was the British delegation, or sometimes the British-American delegations, which have been seen to be the most reluctant, least progressive, most selfish and least imaginative, and I suggest it is time that we begin to change all this. In some articles that I have read it has been suggested that at least the whole Brandt exercise has been good from an educational point of view, and that public realisation of the needs of the third world has now been heightened. I myself believe that to be true.
It is suggested too—and there is some slight evidence for this—that there are signs of a softening of the attitude of the British Government since the time when they issued that cold, dismal and complacent White Paper as their first reaction to the Brandt Report. It may even be that attendance at Cancun had some beneficial effect on the Prime Minister's mind. For instance, I have seen it reported that after a talk with Mrs. Gandhi at Cancun Mrs. Thatcher was heard to say that she now realised that India's problems were much, much worse than our own. What a great discovery for her to make! Desirable though it is that the Prime Minister should have reached this new level of understanding, I cannot but think that attendance at Cancun must have been a most expensive method of her enlightenment.
My plea, therefore, is for more action about third 194 world problems and less high level discussion. We know the problems; we know the facts. They have been analysed a hundred times. The Brandt Report was but an amalgam of other analyses which have been made over recent decades. The question is, when will we take action that the facts and the analyses clearly show to be necessary? Can we not take action according to the dictates of reason rather than in desperation when we reach the brink?
Two years ago the Brandt Report clearly stated the urgency of the problem facing developing countries like India as a result of the oil crisis. No action was taken, until we hear on the radio this morning, two years later, that the crisis has become desperate and that the IMF is now taking unprecedented action which will be very much more costly than it would have been two years ago. How many times have warnings been given, as again they were given in the Brandt Report, about the growing indebtedness of developing countries, and how a default by one of them could set a chain reaction going throughout the financial world?
Now we read, as I read in The Times of yesterday, of the difficulties facing the Export Credits Guarantee Department in its operations in the Sudan. This morning we hear on the radio that that country is facing a desperate economic crisis, leading to the dismissal of all its Ministers. Can we not realise that the world's unpreparednesss to meet these economic disasters is as much a folly as being unprepared to meet a military attack? Mass malnutrition and disease are surely as much a threat to the world's stability as would be a Soviet invasion of a neighbouring country. Is not apartheid, as my noble friend Lord Stewart said, or, as my noble friend Lord Houghton said, is not the population problem potentially as explosive as a hydrogen bomb? Is not mass famine as potentially catastrophic as a situation of hypertension in the Middle East? The difficulty is that all these massive problems are endemic and relentless. They go on and on, day by day, killing thousands here and thousands there, not by the explosion of a bomb but by the slow death of deprivation. Only occasionally, when these problems are at their dramatic worst, is the public imagination seized and action taken by statesmen.
One such occasion we shall all recall was when the boat people of Vietnam were at the peak of their dramatic difficulties. Then it was that we were proud of the action which our own Foreign Secretary took. Then it was that our TV screens revealed his compassion in the face of that crisis. He went there, he saw, and he acted. The message I should like to leave with the Foreign Secretary, through the Minister who will conclude this debate, is that I hope he will be seen to realise that the crisis which became so vivid in the case of the boat people is but part of a crisis which is with us every day, even though it is not on our TV screens every day.
Then thousands of boat people died, thousands were made homeless, thousands were without food and water, and that was an enormous tragedy. But in the third world at large it is not thousands: millions are suffering unnecessary deaths; millions are homeless or living in hovels; millions are hungry and starving, and millions are without proper water supply. Just as we welcomed the Foreign Secretary's initiative with the boat people, we need his well-known compassion and 195 well-known statesmanship on a really major scale. I suggest that he is in a position to give the lead, both as British Foreign Secretary and particularly through his presidency of the European Council of Ministers. We know that there in Europe he will find some powerful allies in this cause.
It is my hope and belief that he is big enough to meet that challenge. But if he is to accept that challenge there is no mistaking the fact that he will face a number of very difficult tasks. He will need to persuade his own Government that the aid programme should be increased rather than decreased. The Government's present proposal is that official aid as a proportion of GNP should decline from the 0.4 per cent. that it was in 1978–79 down to 0.33 per cent. in 1983–84. I suggest that that trend must not only be halted; it must be reversed.
Moreover, the Foreign Secretary, if he is to make this cause his own, faces a battle about the nature of aid. He will need to resist the advice which recently led to one-fifth of the whole aid programme being devoted to one single steel works in India, and he will need to listen to the contrary advice which believe he also received to the effect that that kind of aid is not what India needs. India needs rather the means of developing her rural economy with a vast proliferation of small-scale projects capable of alleviating the lot of the poor.
It was disturbing, too, that after Cancun, the Prime Minister put her signature to a similar mistaken project in Mexico, justifying it as a continuation of well-established tied aid principles. It is the development needs of the third world countries which must have priority, and I hope the Foreign Secretary will fight hard to ensure that our aid programme is administered by those criteria and not the new ones which are creeping in.
Finally, the Foreign Secretary will have to listen, I suggest, to the advice of his colleague at Brussels, Mr. Gaston Thorn, the President of the European Commission. On the eve of Cancun, Mr. Thorn spoke out in forthright terms against President Reagan's wrong-headed approach to third world problems. President Reagan had suggested that the best way to help the third world was to build a strong domestic economy in the industrial countries. I cannot do better to end my contribution to the debate than to quote the words of Gaston Thorn and commend them to the Foreign Secretary:It does not take a lot of thought and argument to realise that the poor countries are going to die before we see the last of the crisis, and that their death is going to mean ours. Who in this day and age can believe that one-half of the world will flourish while ignoring proverty, hunger and death in the other?I can but echo Gaston Thorn's question: Who indeed?
§ 9.26 p.m.
§ The Marquess of Headfort
My Lords, I wish to speak about Hong Kong and, in particular, its relationship with the United Kingdom. Hong Kong's stability rests on what have been called three legs of a tripod: its relationship with the United Kingdom, its relationship with China and the will of its own people to survive and prosper. During his maiden speech in this House on 20th October, the noble Lord, Lord Kadoorie, spoke most clearly of the excellent relationship 196 between Hong Kong and China and of Hong Kong's position to benefit from the merging of China's interests with those of the West.
Of the will of the Hong Kong people to survive there can be no question. Hong Kong's people are famed for their industriousness, entrepreneurs and their adaptability and skill. Together they have created a prosperous, healthy and stable society on a barren rock with no natural resources other than themselves, the country's people. The relationship with Britain is well-founded in constitutional and emotional terms. Nevertheless, recently, from a Hong Kong point of view, it has been seen to be perhaps a little more fragile than the other legs of the tripod. In Hong Kong, the strength of Her Majesty's Government commitment to the territory has been called into question, despite Ministers' reaffirmations of it. That is because a number of United Kingdom policies which are reasonable and understandable from a United Kingdom point of view, are seen from Hong Kong to be directed against the territory. The clearest example in recent months has obviously been the British Nationality Act. This is not surprising, in view of the fact that an Act of Parliament which takes away from citizens of the dependencies one form of citizenship and gives them another is bound to raise questions about the motivation of Government, however well-meaning that may be.
Hong Kong values its connection with Britain not because its people wish to settle in the United Kingdom, but because the very stability of the tripod depends upon it. The amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, on Third Reading of the British Nationality Bill in your Lordships' House, to stress the Britishness in the title "British dependent territories' citizens helped to allay fears in Hong Kong that Britain wished to loosen its ties with Hong Kong. It is a pity that the earlier amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, at the Report stage, to give British dependent territories' citizens the status of British nationals, and which would have emphasised the Britishness of Hong Kong so much more strongly, was narrowly defeated.
Similarly, Hong Kong people are watching with interest the negotiations over the Multi-Fibre Arrangement. Naturally, Hong Kong manufacturers are aware of the political pressures in European countries for greater protectionism, but that does not mean to say that they condone it. They firmly believe that the main hope of developed countries for true growth and prosperity lies in the ability to expand their own overseas trade, particularly in the third world and among developing countries, but it is possible for trade to grow only if the exporting potential of these countries is in turn allowed to develop.
Hong Kong is a market of great potential for the United Kingdom. Other than its people, it has no resources of its own and must import all that it consumes. In 1980 British exports to Hong Kong were valued at £559 million. Its 5 million people, many educated in the British tradition, with increasing prosperity and an expanding free market economy, will form an even more ready market for British goods than they have in the past. Important though Hong Kong is as a market in its own right, it is even more important because of its connection with China. There 197 lies a market of not 5 million, but 1,000 million people, keen to learn from the West and to do so through Hong Kong. The potential for the export of British expertise, services and goods is enormous. Against that background Hong Kong is most concerned that the British Government are not seen to take the lead in the Multi-Fibre Arrangement negotiations, or elsewhere as an arch exponent of protectionism, the very doctrine which could do so much to damage the economy of territories such as Hong Kong.
I have said that policies developed in the United Kingdom as a result of internal circumstances here can have a dramatic and, I am sure, unintended effect upon the dependent territories and our friends abroad. A clear example is student fees. Few would argue that there was no need to change the policy whereby foreign students paid a more realistic level of fee for their university education in this country, particularly as many could well afford to do so. But caught up in this net are many others in places such as Hong Kong, who have traditionally, over the years, sought to maintain their links with the United Kingdom by coming here for secondary and tertiary education. The figures speak for themselves. From January to September 1979, 4,067 students arrived here from Hong Kong. For the same months in 1981 the figure has been cut by more than half, to 1,942. Over the same period the numbers going to the United States of America and Canada have increased from 4,186 to 5,571.
If the trend continues, there is no doubt that the regular flow of Hong Kong students to this country will be reduced to a trickle, and the result of this in both political and business terms could be most damaging. The fact is that Her Majesty's Government still have prime responsibility for the welfare of our dependent territories, and the political link, as I have explained, is an important factor.
The fact that this link has not been recognised in the execution of policy on student fees is something which Hong Kong students find it hard to understand. Furthermore, as they seek their education elsewhere it is natural that when they enter business on their return to Hong Kong, as many of them will, their education in other countries and the familiarity they will have acquired with other countries' practices and goods will have a substantial effect on the pattern of trade which develops over the future decades.
What Hong Kong parents and students are looking for is some recognition of Britain's responsibility in this respect. We are not talking about a large sum of money, and any contribution in terms of scholarships, loans or grants for the dependent territories would help demonstrate Britain's continuing concern. The Government of Hong Kong has already instituted a loan scheme to help students coming to Britain to meet the high fees they face here. Surely it would be possible for Her Majesty's Government to enter into some agreement with the Government of Hong Kong for a joint contribution towards a scholarship fund which would stem the flow of students away from this country.
One of Hong Kong's problems is that it is now, in international terms, seen to be a very successful place, and that there are undoubtedly many other places more deserving of direct assistance from the United Kingdom. But the arguments I have put forward 198 are about something less tangible. They concern the sensitivity of people in Hong Kong about the British commitment in the long and short term. Small gestures such as the one I have suggested over student fees would do more than any number of ministerial assurances to put their minds at ease, and it is in such areas as this that I believe Her Majesty's Government should be more sensitive to the needs of dependent territories.
My Lords, if I may refer once again to the outstanding maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Kadoorie, in your Lordships' House on 20th October, I should like to conclude by asking, with him: Why alienate the goose that has the potential to lay so many golden eggs?
§ 9.38 p.m.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, in foreign affairs debates it is not always possible to stay in one part of the world, and I think i should like to concentrate my few remarks on an area nearer to home than Hong Kong. The Middle East during the last few days has seen certain movements forward, and, as is usual in the affairs of men, this forward movement has been counter-balanced by moments of confusion and muddle. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, making what, with respect, was one of the best speeches I have heard on the Middle East, showed how the Palestine Liberation Organisation has matured and altered since the irresponsible days of Ahmed Shukeiri, George Habash and even the earlier era of Yasser Arafat himself.
This maturity has been matched and overshadowed by Prince Saud al Feisal, and here I quote what I think is probably one of the most important quotations to come out of the Middle East in the last weeks, months or even years. The quotation is:There would not be any negotiations between Palestine and Israel unless they mutually recognised each other and that is the important fact".My noble friend Lord Beloff also pointed out that he acknowledged the importance of recognising the Palestinians, and, with his contacts in Israel, this is a very important thing to have happened.
My noble friend Lord Carrington made a statement last Sunday on "The World at One" I think it was, in which he said:It is no good ignoring reality just because you do not happen to like some aspects of the PLO. It is not going to go away".That, my Lords, is pure realism. Now let us look at some of the sideways shuffling and backwards steps—
Lord Paget of Northampton
My Lords, would the noble Earl allow me to intervene? When he says that one should look at the PLO and realise what they are, I agree with him. They are a society of assassins and they have not ceased in their assassinations. They carried out 12 in Europe last year as well as training, in their training camps, the would-be assassin of the Pope. Why did the noble Earl say they had changed?
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, they probably learned their assassination from Menachem Begin, who was hanging British sergeants while his colleagues were liberating concentration camps. They have changed in a responsible way, as was demonstrated by the speech 199 of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham.
Let us now look at the sideways shuffling steps— "Cool it. Mr. Carrington should be more circumspect in his adjectival pronouncements". General Alexander Haig's manners in this case seem to be lacking, but that I do not think matters. But lack of understanding of the world; that is the dangerous part. It is very dangerous for an American Secretary of State not to understand. Another extraordinary American quote made to a Guardian reporter by an insouciant Pentagon official commenting on an Israeli spy plane over a Saudi military base: "They operate there a lot of the time".
President Reagan and General Haig first showed some interest in the Saudi plan, but one can only assume that Mr. Begin and the Israeli lobby got on the telephone and ruled it out of court with such soothing statements by people like Mr. Sharon as, "In reply to eight points, eight new settlements". In other words, eight new sets of expropriation—which is another word for eight new thefts. Thank goodness that the European Ministers understand, as do the major oil producer (and probably the Gulf States as well) that settlement depends on mutual recognition of past wrongs and future rights. It is very depressing to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, say nothing on the PLO other than the hackneyed Zionist propaganda on its terrorist origin. I need not repeat about Mr. Begin. It has been said before.
To go back to the statement by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, at the weekend, we do not have to like things to acknowledge that they exist. Of course, the PLO has done some horrible things. Of course, the Israelis have done some horrible things. The Israeli Air Force the other day killed several hundred civilians in Beirut. All of these are horrible things. What one is asking for is the recognition that both sides have a strong case because of injustices done to them to try to make sure this can be settled by negotiation and by peaceful means. Camp David might not have had to be replaced by something new and even President Sadat might not have been assassinated if he had been able to persuade the Israelis not only to evacuate the Sinai but also to put meaning into the autonomy talks. Egyptian and Israeli Ministers flying between Cairo and Jerusalem discussing whether or not the Palestinians can have street-cleaning or mosquito-swatting powers without the participation of those Palestinians is a cynical waste of time and money.
Until both the Americans and the Israelis recognise the strength of Palestinian feeling, Israel will only survive as a client state of the USA. That description, "client state of the USA" is not mine; it is by the diplomatic editor of the Jerusalem Post on the BBC the other day. That is an unhealthy and unsafe method of survival. Israel's long-term safety must rest on consent; and until that client relationship is ended the Arab-Western relationship can never be really healthy.
We are all frightened—and justifiably so—of Russia. I have recently been reading the biographies of both Peter the Great and Catherine the Great. Their cynical aggression was no different from that of Brezhnev in Afghanistan: and the behaviour of Peter the Great to Charles XII of Sweden was very similar 200 to that of the Russian submarine which went with nuclear weapons up to Karlskrona. Catherine the Great's action on the Polish Constitution will be totally and utterly familiar to the situation of General Jaruzelski and Mr. Walesa. President Reagan is right, therefore, that we must not let Russia have the opportunity of meddling and stirring which the present Arab-Israeli dispute provides them with.
The noble Lord, Lord Oram, pointed out that wars start on peripheries. That is so valid. This particular area is the most volatile of all the peripheries. Islam and communism are real enemies but this Arab Israeli dispute tends to push them together. The Americans can put them asunder by putting real pressure on Israel to make generous but secure peace with the Palestinians. Israel must not be allowed to go on getting away with norms of behaviour as shown by her bombing of Beirut and the Iraq nuclear power station. No one else does. What would happen if we went and sent the RAF to knock everything out of a power station in Dundalk? The world would be up in arms at our irresponsible behaviour, and quite rightly so.
The U.S. Administration would be advised to think the whole Palestine problem through. If my noble friend can hot things up rather than cooling them down, and if he can get the message across he will have really deserved our thanks. Then perhaps the Americans might think of a better response to the events in the Middle East than chucking arms at Egypt and Saudi Arabia and sending its air force on a 12,000 to 15,000 mile round trip to drop bombs in the sand.
Mr. Secretary Haig has got to understand as well that the Middle East is nearer to Europe than the United States and that it concerns Europe just as much as, if not more than, the United States. Above all, the danger of misunderstanding leading to war is very great at the moment. Therefore, the European view, as expressed at Venice, is utterly vital. It is very necessary that the American Administration listen to it.
§ 9.47 p.m.
§ Lord Ardwick
My Lords, I do not intend to follow the noble Earl's speech, which is just as well as I take a sharply different view of the PLO from that which he expressed, having met them two or three years ago in Syria and the Lebanon. However, I am quite sure that what the noble Earl said will be dealt with adequately by my noble friend Lord Paget of Northampton who is to speak next but one.
A few days ago one of my noble friends suggested to me in a moment of morbid self-doubt that the problems of nuclear war should be left to the younger generations, and that those of us who have already achieved the allotted span face an earlier and more certain fate than nuclear destruction. The argument would have some strength if it was only our individual lives that were under threat from nuclear war. However, there is much more endangered than that. The civilisation that we and our ancestors have built over many generations is at risk. So, too, are the lives of our children and our children's children. Thus, the moral and emotional concern of even the older generations about the nuclear threat remains profound.
201 I was reminded that two of my noble friends, who even by the liberal standards of this House are getting on a bit, remain almost ardent crusaders for disarmament. I refer, of course, to the noble Lords, Lord Brockway and Lord Noel-Baker. On more than one occasion I have seen them deeply move the Labour Party Conference which normally does not show an excessive veneration for age. I should not forget that the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, who is their senior, and has a rather different approach, showed again today that he still has a zealous interest in the problems of deterrence and defence. I shall say more about the first two noble Lords in a minute or two.
One must ask why the young people of Europe are showing such passionate concern now about the nuclear threat under which they have lived all their lives; why the unilateral movement, which flourished in Britain as nowhere else in the late 50s and the early 60s has been reborn and, to the dismay of many people, including myself, has been accepted by the Labour Party Conference, though I must point out that the Labour Party is still in favour of NATO.
There are many reasons for the current wave of protest. It began, I think, in a generalised fear of civilian nuclear power as a source of deadly pollution and as an example of the risk which western man is taking with his environment. Then came the realisation that the world was becoming an increasingly violent and dangerous place; that the Middle East, already unstable and the scene of more than one local conflict, might drag the super powers into a war which could be fought in Europe, and perhaps in Europe alone, and could develop into a nuclear war.
There was an increasing realisation, too, that the hopes of halting the nuclear build-up were not being realised and there was danger of a new wave of nuclear competition. To that add the confused and hawkish rhetoric of American politicians; add, also, the great economic depression and the despair of so many young people about the prospects of a career and a family life. There has been, too, the decline in hope for a future life; the realisation, believed by more and more young people, that all the life we shall have is this one and it could be bleak, brutish and brief.
So we must be patient, understanding and tolerant of this movement, not only out of charity, but also for reasons of expediency, for its very idealism, especially if harnessed by the unscrupulous, could contain dangers for us all. I was glad to see that the Foreign Secretary did bring patience and reason to the nuclear protest, acting, as he was acting, not only as our Foreign Secretary, but also on behalf of the European Community over which he presently presides.
Just over 20 years ago, I was deeply concerned with the nuclear problem. I had become editor of the Daily Herald, then Labour's own paper, and the Labour Party was torn apart by this controversy. I decided, rightly or wrongly, that the paper must back Hugh Gaitskell 100 per cent. He fought and fought against unilateralism and the policy was reversed. Yet Gaitskell's powerful logic, coming up against the deep emotions of the pacifists and humanitarians in the party, made very few converts. What it did was to rally the majority who then shared our multilateral views. Those humanitarian emotions, those pacifist emotions, 202 were later channelled into protest about Vietnam. Now the nuclear fear and the nuclear protests are bubbling up in the children of the Aldermaston marchers and their counterparts across the Channel.
What are we to do? We cannot leave the case for NATO and the case for the deterrent all to reason. The logic of deterrence is an extremely difficult subject. Look, my Lords, at the correspondence that is now taking place in The Times between a professor and an Air Marshal. The weaponry and the delivery systems require formidable study and the diplomacy on the control of arms is no easier.
I should at this spot like to say a kind word for the pamphlet which the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, has written on the subject of disarmament, which is a very good effort not at a popular explanation, but at a general explanation for well-educated people. It is something of that kind which is required at various levels. I do not think this is at all a party matter. That is why I take the opportunity of saying a kind word to one who, regrettably, is no longer in our party.
There is a further difficulty, as we have heard quoted tonight. The case for the deterrent is a flawed case. It has contradictions which the unilateralist intellectuals are not slow to point out. Indeed, they have been pointed out by one of my noble friends tonight. We must recognise, I think, that a belief in NATO does not imply that it is perfect. Indeed, there has been criticism here tonight of NATO strategy by people who are fervent believers in NATO. So those of us who are driven by logic to accept the deterrent must admit the imperfections of our case in order to show that nevertheless that case rests on a very solid base.
The base is that the possession of the deterrent leaves us not secure but far less insecure than we should be if we renounced it. There is no such thing as security in the world today, and there never will be, so let us stop pretending that there is. Our aim must be the lowest degree of insecurity which is attainable. The high intellectual arguments of what Aneurin Bevan rightly classified as a constantly developing problem, the discussion of weaponry and of nuclear and conventional diplomacy, are not enough.
Many people who are deeply concerned about the existence, the development and the growth of nuclear weapons are not by any means unilateralists, but they have until recently only been able to register their concern by joining movements for unilateral or for European nuclear disarmament. What is needed, I think, is a world-wide movement for disarmament, a movement that expresses disgust with the waste of resources on defence and horror at the prospect of war while recognising that no one nation and neither of the great military camps will take the risk of unilateral disarmament.
That brings me back to Lord Noel-Baker and Lord Brockway who were joined by Lord Bruce of Donington in a letter to The Times on 5th November. This letter I thought was extremely interesting. It criticised those, and I quote:… who pretend that everyone who advocates disarmament is ready to leave the West defenceless against the ravening zealots of the Kremlin. Ih reality the great movements of anti-arms race protest are organised by people who want to demilitarise the whole of world society, East and West alike".The letter gave a noble objective, but if this body, 203 the World Disarmament Campaign, is to be politically effective, surely it needs not just to focus on the next Geneva conference or on anything so large as world disarmament. It needs some narrower and immediate political objectives, the kind of objectives that were detailed by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, in his speech: objectives such as SALT, mutual force reduction, comprehensive test bans and the demilitarisation of outer space. I should have thought that a serious disarmament campaign would be very much concerned about those immediate objectives.
Now the campaign, Lord Brockway assures me, has the support of the churches in Britain. It has had considerable success in Europe, so he says, and I was as surprised as was the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, to learn from Lord Brockway that the European movement 204 is not a unilateral movement but is a world disarmament movement. I had got quite a different impression. So, apparently, had the noble Lord. But I must accept the assurances of the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, who knows more about these things than I do. It is just beginning in France, he says, and the United States.
This campaign I think must take very great care not to weaken Western will and Western diplomacy and thus hinder the disarmament which is its own very aim. If it is going to have its intended effect, it must inspire not perhaps a movement but the same kind of feelings in eastern Europe. It may seem impossible at the moment, a ridiculous dream. Nevertheless, only a few years ago who would have predicted that the Solidarity movement would have the strength and endurance that it is now manifesting?
§ 9.59 p.m.
My Lords, I believe the English have an enviable reputation for magnanimity in victory; for being quick to forgive their enemies. Unhappily, they also have the reputation for being even quicker to forget their friends. That is the burden of my brief observations. I wish to speak on two subjects only: first, the BBC External Services and, secondly, the Canadian constitutional question. I in no way wish to pre-empt the admirable Motion tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Byers, for the 25th November, save only to say one thing and to ask one question of Her Majesty's Government, of which I have given (albeit rather short) notice.
My noble friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs only this afternoon stressed most strongly in the context of the European Economic Community, that,partners and allies must be seen to be working together",and yet in the face of this principle there is thrown by the Foreign Office or the Treasury—I know not which —the edict eliminating the Spanish and Italian services; services which your Lordships well know are mightily respected and will be much missed in those countries. My question is this: Did Her Majesty's Government discuss with the BBC their revised plans prior to their recent announcement of such plans, and in doing so give the BBC the opportunity of saving the sums involved in other ways?
Turning to the Canadian constitutional question, again I have no intention of pre-empting the substantive issue which almost certainly will arise in the United Kingdom in a fairly short time. However, I respectfully suggest that all noble Lords can only welcome the considerable measure of agreement that the Prime Minister of Canada has managed to achieve. Notwithstanding that, I believe that there is in the agreement the seeds of terrible divisions within Canada in the future, for two reasons. First, any constitutional agreement in Canada that does not have the agreement of Quebec must surely give comfort and encouragement to the separatist movement in Quebec. In other words, I suggest that Prime Minister Trudeau is in danger of doing for M. Lévesque, the Premier of Quebec, precisely what M. Lévesque has been unable to do on his own, namely, take Quebec out of the Confederation of Canada. This is no groundless fear; it is a fear held by many who know and love and who care for Canada.
Secondly, I come to the question of the first nations of Canada, and in so doing may I say that I agree in its entirety with the wise words of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London. I beseech your Lordships to consider carefully the point which will be made more than once again in the future, that there remains to this day what I must call a passionate reality, namely, in the lights of the North American Indians, a most sacred residual responsibility to them, residing, not only in the people of the United Kingdom but in the person of the Crown as well.
My Lords, this is the wrong time to develop that theme. There will be other opportunities. However, I am ashamed and am provoked to point out to your 206 Lordships that the Canadian Indian delegations have enjoyed the most courteous hearings only recently at the highest official levels in France, in Germany, and even today, in Holland. Yet in this country from the Foreign Office the delegates of the Indian nations, some of our oldest allies, have received nothing other than a Whitehall two-step and run around. I cannot believe that the day has come when good manners in our foreign relations have to be learned from our neighbours across the English Channel.
I ask my noble friend Lord Trenchard this final question, of which again I have given notice: Can Her Majesty's Government demonstrate when and in what way the duties and obligations arising by virtue of the treaties signed by this country with the Canadian Indians were assigned to Canada, and whether the consent of both parties to the treaties was sought and obtained at the time of the assignment?
§ 10.6 p.m.
Lord Paget of Northampton
My Lords, I will not attempt to follow the noble Lord. Indeed, at this late hour I shall confine myself to one single subject, assassination. It is one that we have suffered from much in these last years. Assassination is political murder. It is a phenomenon connected with, and probably indeed an aspect of, absolutism. The Moslem system is absolutist. The prophet and his successors hold absolute authority temporal and spiritual, but it is modified; it is modified by the proposition that the order must not be sinful. "Sinful" is not defined. In the words of the Koran,No obedience must be given to a creature against the Creator".In practice the alternative to obedience in the Moslem world has been assassination. Of the four righteous caliphs who have succeeded the prophet, three were murdered, two by Moslems with the approval of Moslems. The Moslem dispensation is and always has been absolutism tempered by assassination, and unless we understand that we do not understand what the Middle Eastern problem is.
Of course political murder is not new. It did not come with the Moslems. The Assassins did not invent it, they merely gave it their name. They also laid down the principles, which are still followed by the assassination states: form gangs of trained and dedicated assassins, small, determined; win a territorial base; then blackmail the kings, the ministers and the prelates from whom you desire to levy your tribute.
For 300 years the names of the assassins are recorded in the Role of Saints in the Assassin castle of Alamot. In Persia and Syria the Assassins for 300 years obeyed their Imams and held the Middle East to ransom. The Crusaders knew them. Saladin paid them tribute. The Franks refused, and Conrad of Montserrat, the King of Jerusalem, was murdered, Richard narrowly escaped, but it is recorded that Richard said then, "It is contrary to the honour of a knight to negotiate with assassins". And I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, that I feel that it was also contrary to the honour of a Peer of the Realm, a Secretary of State 207 of Her Majesty, to deal or negotiate with assassins. That group of assassins were finally destroyed by the Mongols who understood the situation; they summoned them to a conference and assassinated the lot. That is the only method that has ever worked. Since then throughout the history of the Moslem world, in India, Africa and Persia, assassin states have arisen and it has never been possible to negotiate or appease. They have had to be destroyed. We destroyed one part of the Stern. Nobody ever dealt with them successfully. Now there are two, one of which is Libya.
Libya is a kind of aberrant sport. Libya ought never to have been a state. It exists only because of the irresponsibility of the United Nations. It is a tribal base of an eccentric millionaire assassin who employs assassins internally, externally and imperially. His latest victim has been that very great man, Sadat. I do not believe that this state should be allowed to continue to exist. It ought to be destroyed and we shall not have peace until it is destroyed. It ought to be joined on to Egypt which is the nearest area capable of administering it.
The PLO on the other hand is a far more typical assassin state or assassin organisation. It is quite remarkable how it has followed the rules laid down by Alamot: first, the formation of the gangs dedicated to kill; secondly, the territorial base formed in Lebanon and now being sought in Israel; thirdly, their castles, in their modern form refugee camps, fortified and levying tribute on UNRWA. That has been the set-up.
Lebanon was tolerant, charming, liberal and civilised. It has been destroyed because it admitted the assassins. During 12 years—this is the latest record—there have been 281 assassinations in Europe carried out by the PLO; 85 per cent. of their victims have not been Jews: they have been people whom the PLO wanted to terrorise and punish. In Israel they have killed 750 and wounded another 3,500. They have consistently and continuously trained terrorists for outside terrorist bodies including the Irish, including—and in his confession he has given an elaborate account of it— Agca, the attempted murderer of the Pope. There is an example of a PLO trained assassin within the last two years.
I do not know what on earth the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, was thinking about when he said that there are signs that they had changed. I see no sign of it. There has been no departure from their consistent role as an assassin state of a type which we have known for 2,000 years and which has been continually recurring in the Moslem world. Now the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, wants to inject this assassin state into Israel. I am not so impressed by the iniquity of this proposal, although I do regard it as iniquitous, as I am by its sheer ineptitude.
The noble Lord went to Riyadh as president of the Common Market seeking—he said today—peace on behalf of the Ten, and I think that elsewhere he has said, "this European contribution to the peace of the Middle East". It reminds me very much or my old friend Dick Crossman when he set out to discover a 208 third force—Europe—which was to have a policy of its own between East and West. The trouble was that Europe was not a force; it was not a unit that could defend itself; it had to be defended by the Americans. Now it is not NATO. It is the Common Market; it is not an army, it is not a unity; it does not have the unity of a farmers' co-operative.
As the president of Europe the noble Lord proceeds to have a foreign policy for the Middle East. It is a sort of naive folie de grandeur. There at Riyadh, he discovers the Fahd plan. It is not a new plan; there is not a new thing in it. It has been rejected, and very obviously rejected, by Israel. It does not want an assassin state within its borders. Consider what happened to the Lebanon. Israel does not want it to happen to them; Israel is not a Rhodesia. Israel is not going to surrender its nationhood to please the noble Lord. The plan has been rejected by Egypt, who does not want an assassin state on both its borders and who is already terribly injured by the loss of perhaps the greatest man of our generation. It has been rejected by the United States of America because it cuts clean across Camp David. It has been accepted only by the noble Lord.
What is the effect of this performance? Israel is outraged, not just Mr. Begin. There is not a single party or organisation which would look at this nonsense. The result is that the noble Lord may well have sunk Camp David. Sinai has not yet been surrendered to Egypt, and Mr. Begin, frightened by this performance, and a good many of the Right-Wing in Egypt may be having very many second thoughts as to whether they dare surrender Sinai in face of this new threat. It has certainly disqualified Britain as a force to see fair play in the Sinai evacuation, because no one in Israel will believe in Britain again.
The noble Lord has irritated Egypt. Egypt went to Camp David because Sadat realised that the Fahd policy was entirely impracticable and must be rejected. He has infuriated the United States of America. Reagan had worked enormously hard for the solution; by an astonishing effort he succeeded in getting permission from the Senate to supply aeroplanes to Saudi. At this point the noble Lord the Secretary of State—no, the president of the Common Market for the year— without consultation produces a European plan which he cannot possibly deliver, and which cuts clean across all that American policy has been working for. Of course, the Americans were furious. It was not unforeseeable that they would be. The dressing down that Secretary Haig gave "Mr. Carrington", as he described him, was singularly well deserved, and wants saying. Not since Suez have relations been as bad with America as have been produced by our Secretary of State's efforts.
Let me return to my quite single point. You cannot deal with assassins. That is the experience with one assassin state after another in 2,000 years. You cannot appease assassins. They must be exterminated. Until one develops that kind of will, there is no peace in the Middle East.
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, he suggested in his remarks that it was below the 209 dignity of my noble friend Lord Carrington, as a Peer of the Realm and as Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, to treat with assassins. May I ask him how he reconciles this view with the fact that a far greater man even than my noble friend, some 2,000 years ago in Palestine, had no difficulty whatsoever in treating with murderers, thieves and adulterers?
Lord Paget of Northampton
My Lords, the remarkable man, or perhaps God, to whom the noble Lord refers had one great advantage which the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has not: He was not responsible for government.
§ 10.22 p.m.
§ Lord Vernon
My Lords, it is always stimulating to listen to the noble Lord, Lord Paget. I shall not follow him on the subject of political assassination but instead devote my remarks, as some other noble Lords have done, to the North-South dialogue and to the implications of the recent Mexico Summit. In view of the lateness of the hour I propose to omit what I was going to say in general terms about the Summit and to concentrate on two particular aspects which the world leaders discussed and one aspect which they did not discuss but which they should have done.
The first concerns the world food supply. The seriousness of the present situation is not fully appreciated. During the 1960s and 1970s, due largely to the green revolution, world food supply grew by an average of 2½ per cent. and was therefore able, by a small margin, to keep ahead of population growth. It is perhaps significant that peak production of food was reached in the early 1970s, and in the five-year period 1975 to 1980 the rate of growth had fallen to 2.1 per cent.
Moreover, although in the world as a whole there was during the 1970s this modest margin, it did not occur in Africa. Food production in Africa has been growing at the rate of 2 per cent. while population has been growing at 2.9 per cent. As the population explosion in Africa really gets under way—and it has only just begun to do so—this gap between indigenous supply and demand will become far greater. For instance, it has been estimated that cereal imports to the Continent which were 7.3 million tonnes in 1975 will rise to 16 million tonnes in 1990 and 30 million tonnes in the year 2000. I say "will rise", but of course the African countries do not have the foreign exchange to pay for such imports. Moreover, it is not just a matter of availability. In a country such as Tanzania, which hovers on the verge of famine, there are no adequate storage facilities and the system of distribution is almost non-existent. There is in fact a complete breakdown in the whole administrative machine, and what goes for Tanzania goes for a number of other African countries as well.
Of course, we should encourage these countries to be more self-sufficient, as the Prime Minister and others have said, and of course Africa can grow more food given the necessary inputs and irrigation. But let us be under no illusion. Time is getting short and massive capital and human resources will be required if a catastrophe is to be averted. Even in Asia, where the green revolution has had its greatest effect, only a 210 temporary reprieve has been won; and green revolutions do not happen every decade.
The second of the themes discussed at the Mexico Summit concerned energy. Energy has many connotations but I shall be considering only that source of energy provided by timber. At present, the forests of the third world are being cut down at a prodigous rate. It is happening in India and Nepal, Brazil, South East Asia and Africa. Part of the reason for the destruction is the wish to cultivate the land cleared in order to grow cash crops, a self-defeating object when the ecological balance is upset in the process. But the principal reason for deforestation is the need for cooking fuel. Indeed, with the exception of dung, there is no other fuel available for cooking in most of these countries.
When I was in central India earlier this year, I drove about 30 miles from the local capital city of Jabalpur to visit some very poor and backward villages. What struck me most forcefully on the way there and back was that the only traffic I encountered was an endless stream of bullock carts carrying wood from the forest to the town. Every day the carts penetrate more deeply and every day, because there is no adequate replanting programme, the reserves of forest are further depleted. According to an article in the Guardian on 15th October, forest cover in the upper catchment territories of the Ganges in India and Nepal has been reduced by 40 per cent. in the past 25 years. In the result, the Ganges flow has declined by 18 per cent., soil erosion has increased alarmingly and the silting up of the river bed has aggravated the risk of monsoon damage which already causes hundreds of millions of pounds worth of damage every year.
Surely this is an area where not only should the third world countries help themselves by massive programmes of replanting, but we in the wealthier countries can do much with our expertise in forestry management to help them. We could do so at a relatively low cost.
Many people do not seem to realise that trees are like babies. It is not enough just to plant them or to bring them into the world. You have to look after them and care for them until they are old enough to stand on their own feet. I should like to ask the Minister to state, when he replies, or perhaps at a later stage—he will have so many questions to answer—whether any of Britain's annual expenditure on overseas aid is directed specifically to forestry projects, and whether the Government will not consider whether more could be done in this field.
Finally, the most important action of all which these countries can take to make the living conditions of their people more tolerable is to curb their rate of population growth. This point has already been referred to by both the noble Lords, Lord Houghton of Sowerby and Lord Oram. I have previously made speeches in your Lordships' House about population and I shall not inflict another one on your Lordships at this hour of the evening. I shall say only this. The present world population of 4.5 billion will reach 6 billion in the next 18 years and will thereafter climb to 12 billion early in the next century unless something dramatic is done to stop it; and nearly all of this growth is taking place in the third world.
Every single problem which these countries face, whether social or economic, whether it concerns housing 211 or employment, or food, or energy, is intensified a hundredfold by the relentless pressure of population on resources. It is as if we in this country, with a population of 60 million, were told that within the next 18 years we would have 90 million people to look after. That is the measure of the problem.
It is not a hopeless situation. China, Sri Lanka and other countries have already shown what can be done to keep population growth within manageable proportions, given the necessary determination. But, generally speaking, the seriousness of the crisis does not appear to be appreciated by world leaders, as evidenced by the fact that the subject was not even discussed at the Mexico Summit. Can the Minister tell the House the reason for that omission—bearing in mind the attention that was drawn to it both in the Brandt Report and at the Ottawa meeting in July?
In a speech to the World Fertility Survey in July, 1980, Mr. Patrick Jenkin, Secretary of State for the Social Services, as he then was, said this:When one ponders the daunting problems of north and south, of rich and poor, so clearly delineated by the Brandt Commission, I am driven to the view that control over the rate of world population growth is the most crucial need of all. It is the key to the future of mankind".Those were prophetic words. If I felt that Mr. Jenkin's views were shared by the Prime Minister and by the other world leaders, I would have more confidence in the future of mankind in the 21st century than in fact I have.
§ 10.34 p.m.
§ Lord Brockway
My Lords, my first words must be to express appreciation to the Chief Whip and his colleagues for the compliment that they have paid to me in asking me to conclude the debate today, following 34 other Back-Benchers. During the day a number of my noble friends have come to me and have expressed regret that a man of my age should have had to sit through the debate today and make his speech at this late hour. That is rubbish. I am a young man, and I appreciate the compliment that the Chief Whip has paid to me in thinking that I could speak last.
My Lords, I think this debate has indicated one thing quite clearly: that there ought not to be a single day for discussing both foreign affairs and defence. Indeed, even in foreign affairs we have covered Afghanistan, human rights in the Soviet Union and in other countries, Namibia, Cyprus, the Middle East and hunger in the third world, and each of those subjects deserves a different discussion. And when to them is added the intricate problems of defence, inevitably we have the confused debate which has taken place today. Do not misunderstand me: nearly every speech today has been of value extraordinarily detailed in information. I have been most deeply moved by the speeches of my noble friend Lord Oram and my noble friend Lord Vernon about hunger in the third world; but the Minister would have an impossible task in seeking to deal with all the problems which have been raised in this complicated debate. I should have liked to discuss so many of those issues. I make reference to only one, and that is the Middle East, to pay my tribute to the contribution which the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has made towards a 212 solution of that problem.
My Lords, I have given notice to the Government that tonight I intended to put a question on an issue which is likely to become of urgent importance within the next few days. That issue is the reviewed strategy of the United States Government in Central America and in the Caribbean. With the Minister's permission, in view of the late hour I will not put that question to him tonight, but perhaps he would be willing to write to me in answer to it; or perhaps the Government will make a public statement on a question of which we have little knowledge now but which, in the next few days, will become one of the most important issues in the world. I do not know whether the Minister would consent to my withdrawing the question tonight under those circumstances? He indicates that he would. I thank the noble Viscount very much.
I want to recognise the sincerity of members of the Government when they say that they are just as deeply concerned about the danger of nuclear war in the world as we are. I accept that, but I believe their view as to deterrence by arms strength is deeply and tragically wrong. It is quite true that since the Second World War—36 years—there has not been a world war. It is perfectly true that that fact may be partly due to a realisation by both sides of what a nuclear war would mean. But, on the other hand, during these 36 years armaments have mounted and mounted, becoming more and more destructive and, at the end of it, the danger of a world war is today greater than at the beginning of that process; and one rejects entirely the view that deterrence by arms strength can bring peace to the world. What is the situation at the end of it over the fear of a nuclear war? A recent poll showed that 57 per cent. of the population of this country think that a nuclear war will take place during their lifetime; and they have reason for that view.
I have drawn attention previously in this House to the report of the experts committee on nuclear weapons which was presented to the United Nations General Assembly a fortnight ago. What did that report say? It stated that there are now over 1 million weapons in the world carrying nuclear warheads. It stated that a nuclear weapon has now been devised 4,000 times as destructive as the bomb which fell on Hiroshima. That bomb killed 65,000 people immediately and 200,000 later on. Now there is a bomb 4,000 times as destructive as that. The report of the experts also said that the explosives with nuclear weapons are now so great that three tonnes could fall on every man, woman and child on earth. When these are the facts about the new armaments that are available, is it any wonder that people in this country, people over the whole of western Europe, people in far distant Australia and New Zealand, are now coming to the conclusion that man cannot live with the nuclear weapon? The General Assembly of the United Nations has asked every Government to distribute the facts which the 12 international experts have reached regarding nuclear weapons. When I put a Question in this House as to whether the Government would do it, the answer was that they will consider a summary in the newsletter about arms control. How many people read it? A few hundred, a few thousand, perhaps? But these facts ought to be known because these facts will determine the whole future of mankind.
213 I go on to say this. I do not believe that the ending of nuclear weapons is enough. In the last war, 50 million people died by conventional weapons. Therefore, our campaign today must not only be a campaign against nuclear weapons; it must be a campaign for world disarmament.
The people of this country are still ignorant of the great opportunity there is today for world disarmament. Three years ago the General Assembly of the United Nations on Disarmament made four major recommendations. The first was ending nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction. The second was the phased abolition even of conventional weapons over a period of years. The third was that that should lead to general and complete disarmament in the world except for what was needed for internal security and as a contribution to United Nations peace-keeping forces. They made a fourth recommendation which will appeal to my noble friends Lord Oram and Lord Vernon: that the expenditure on military equipment should be used instead to end poverty in the world.
Those were the four recommendations. Our Government were committed to it, as were the American Government, the Soviet Union, everyone. They have appointed a committee in Geneva to seek to implement those recommendations. I am deeply disappointed by the proceedings at Geneva. I find it very difficult to find consistency between what is said from the Front Bench opposite about disarmament and the action of British representatives on that Geneva Committee. They have even opposed any working committee to consider nuclear arms. They have actually said that until 1990 the present discussions, bilateral and multilateral, between the super powers should be allowed to go on. They are rejecting entirely the recommendations which were made by the United Nations Assembly three years ago. Fortunately, on that committee the unaligned nations have a majority of one. They formed their committee of 21 and have accepted the principles of the treaty which the World Disarmament Campaign has proposed to the Geneva Committee to carry out the recommendations of the United Nations General Assembly, to submit to the renewed United Nations General Assembly on Disarmament next year.
The issue of disarmament in the world will then become the greatest political issue on the world scene. Everyone will be discussing it. We are not relying on the super powers who in the Security Council would have the final word of endorsing what the General Assembly will say. But we are creating in the world today a movement of which the media and politicians have at this moment no understanding, a movement in this country, a movement all over western Europe, a movement extending to Japan and Australasia. Beginning now are negotiations with the peace committees in the communist countries. I am confident that in the next decade we may be able to create in the world such a movement that the words of General Eisenhower will be fulfilled. He said:Some day the demand for disarmament by hundreds of millions will become so universal and so insistent that no man, no nation, can withstand it".We are now seeking to create that kind of movement in the world. We are succeeding in doing it. I am 93, but I expect to live to see the foundations of that 214 new world order, ending poverty, ending arms and giving the opportunity to every child on earth to live to the full fulfillment—physical, mental and spiritual—of which they are capable.
§ 10.50 p.m.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, I am sure that we are all grateful to the Chief Whip for his wisdom in inviting the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, to wind-up this debate from the Back Benches. It is plain that the later the hour, the greater the vigour and passion with which the noble Lord speaks. We are all extremely appreciative that he could give us his speech tonight, no doubt shortly before moving on after this debate to some other disarmament discussion in some other place. He is indefatigable. May I say, as a former very old colleague of his, how delighted I am to follow him in this debate, and how deeply all of us admire his amazing vigour and sincerity after so many years of campaigning.
On the other hand, there are one or two things that we might disagree with in what he said. The fact that the nature of war is now so far more appalling than it was 36 years ago, the appalling lunacy of the arms race, the unthinkable nature of nuclear war if it should take place, does not automatically mean that the danger of war breaking out is greater than it was 36 years ago. For instance, there are those of us who had to live through the time of the Berlin blockade. I really believe that if my former honourable friend, the noble Lord, considered carefully the relations between East and West immediately after the war, he might come to the conclusion, as I do, that, in theory, though war has become infinitely more horrible today, it has also become somewhat less likely than it was just after the war.
How glad I was that the noble Lord, like other noble Lords before him, criticised the idea of holding a single debate on foreign affairs and defence. The number of different countries and different subjects that have been referred to in speeches that, frankly, bore no relation to each other has been most remarkable. And yet there were one or two general trends in the debate. I believe there was a great consensus, among those with different views on nuclear strategy, that it would be in the interests of peace if NATO could close the gap in its conventional strength in Europe today. This was mentioned by a number of speakers.
I must say that I have always found it strange that we accept so easily the assumption that there must be some gap, some inferiority, in the conventional forces of NATO, compared with those of the Warsaw Pact countries in Europe. This lies at the heart of our nuclear dilemma. It lies at the heart of the problem as to whether one should renounce the first use of nuclear weapons, because it is impossible to imagine NATO contemplating the use of nuclear weapons, except in the event of impending defeat by conventional Soviet attack.
Why, then, do we assume so readily that we cannot create conventional forces able to deter and, if necessary, to defeat a Soviet attack? Since we would be on the defensive, we would not have to match the Soviet Union man for man, or tank for tank. The Soviet 215 Union is handicapped by a number of extremely dangerous factors from her point of view. She has to deploy a great proportion of her conventional strength in the East against China; her lines of communication through Poland and other Eastern European countries are extremely vulnerable; she has severe economic problems and food shortage. Why then, in Heaven's name, can the NATO countries with their greater population, with their more advanced technology, with their stronger industrial base, not match the Soviet Union in conventional arms in Europe? A great deal could be accomplished if we could do that.
The answer, of course, is that I believe that we have not had in the past the political will; we have not had the political leadership; we have looked to get security on the cheap through nuclear weapons; and we have had an excessive reliance on the credibility of nuclear weapons which is beginning to erode. It is not really a matter that NATO has not spent a lot of money and is not now spending a lot of money. On the contrary, the United States, I read this week, is about, over the next eight years, to spend £100,000 million on nuclear weapons: £100,000 million on nuclear weapons over the next eight years. I find it hard to believe that Europe's security would not be improved if some part of this incredible sum were to be spent on giving the NATO troops in Europe the anti-tank, anit-submarine, anti-aircraft weapons of the latest pattern that they require: hardening the airfields, hardening supply depots, doing all the other things which are needed to close the gap in conventional power between NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries.
And what about the European allies in NATO? They might begin by spending the same proportion of their gross national product on conventional weapons as we do in this country. As for ourselves, we should be spending a bigger proportion of our defence budget on conventional as against nuclear weapons. It is an extraordinary misjudgment of the Government, it is a grotesque misjudgment, that in fact they are doing exactly the opposite—that their policy is, on the contrary, to spend a greater proportion of their budget on nuclear weapons compared with conventional weapons. They build Trident and at the same time they cut the planned frigate and submarine fleet and close Chatham—and even withdraw our guard ship from the Antarctic, which the noble Lord, Lord Murton of Lindisfarne, very reasonably complained about. In this way the Government reduce our capacity to sustain conventional war in Europe and they cut NATO's reinforcement capacity in such a way that NATO is pushed into a commitment to use nuclear weapons if the reinforcement capacity is not there. After the five days in which a reinforcement capacity becomes obligatory, NATO gets pushed into a commitment to the use of nuclear weapons. Perhaps I should not press the Government too hard on Trident. The gossip is that they are going to scrap it.
§ Lord Mayhew
Perhaps not yet, but I hope the noble Viscount has studied very carefully the Financial Times' 216 financial assessment of the Trident project. Perhaps he could say when he replies whether that financial analysis of the Trident project which was published in the Financial Times last week corresponds with the Ministry's figures; namely, that you have got to put another billion pounds on to the £5 billion because of the new Trident which the Americans have gone for and which we shall be obliged to go for—Trident 2—plus another £3 billion for inflation and the rise in the pound, making, according to the Financial Times, £7 billion. Perhaps the Minister would comment on these figures when he comes to reply. My judgment is that the Government will not hold course on this because of the spiralling cost and also because of the technological point which I raised briefly and a little clumsily with the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, at Question Time. Perhaps we could have an answer on this one, too.
Both the United States and the Russians are busily building a capacity to put into space laser weapons. Everyone agrees that if this becomes practicable it is revolutionary. The Secretary of State for Defence—the only comment I have seen him make on this—says that this is not likely before the end of the century, but I put it to the noble Viscount that if we do not get Trident until, say, 1993 or 1994, if this weapon is deployed by the end of the century it will have exactly six years of life. Perhaps he will comment on this. What is the Ministry's view about the deployment of space-based laser weapons? It must have a view, and if it goes ahead with Trident the view must be that it is not on; but let him say so. We know that the Americans and the Russians are working on it very hard.
Of course, my noble friends and I are opposed to the Trident project and have been from the start, even when it was £5 billion only. We know the Government argument very well, that the Russians might be deterred in certain circumstances by the possibility that Britain might decide to go it alone: that it might launch a strategic nuclear weapon against the Russians without the support of the Americans—indeed, in face of the strongest opposition from the Americans, because that would be the case. It is a very far-fetched scenario and much too far-fetched, in the opinion of my noble friends and myself, to be worth the vast cost and to justify the diversion of effort from the conventional forces of this country.
Of course, a much better way of getting a conventional balance in Europe would be to persuade the Russians at Vienna to agree to mutual and balanced force reductions. That is the best way of doing it, but meanwhile I warmly agree with those noble Lords who say that, to raise the nuclear threshold in Europe and to lessen the likelihood of Soviet aggression, we must try to narrow the gap in conventional forces in Europe.
There was consensus on one or two other things that I think I have no time to go into, except that I was very much impressed by those noble Lords who attacked the growing habit of equating the Soviet Union and the United States as creators of tension in world affairs. This technique of force equivalent is a well-known communist propaganda technique. In the old days one used to say, "Well, the Russians have got the KGB", whereupon some bright Leftist lad would 217 reply, "Ah, but we have MI5", and that was considered a good argument. Today I am not sure whether we have got MI5, or had at that time; it may be that the Russians had MI5 at the time. The noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, made a most trenchant attack on this and of course it is ridiculous. The United States is well open to criticism in El Salvador, but to equate that in any way with Afghanistan is of course a load of rubbish.
More helpful still in trying to lower the chances of nuclear war in Europe would be success in the forthcoming bilateral disarmament talks. I agree with the many noble Lords who raised the question as to why they are bilateral. It is surely extremely anomalous and unsatisfactory when these discussions are primarily about the deployment of nuclear weapons in Europe that none of the countries of Eastern or Western Europe should be participants in the discussions. That cannot be right. It is not that the Americans are providing the weapons at all. As one noble Lord said, we provide the bombers and the Polaris submarines are attached to a European role. We are entitled to he in these discussions, and when we recall to mind the somewhat erratic record so far of the United States Administration in foreign and defence policy, it is hard to believe that in negotiations about the deployment of nuclear weapons in their own countries the West Europeans could not speak with at least as much wisdom as their American allies; and it is equally difficult to believe that they have not got the right to do so.
I suspect that the noble Viscount will reply, "Well, there is the NATO consultative council". Of course there is, and it is important and has done an important job. But could we be told what the role of the NATO consultative council will be in the later stages of the negotiations? We can be sure, I regret, that the Soviet and American military advisers during these negotiations, heavily armed with technological arguments, will be warning their political chiefs of the disastrous consequences of agreeing to proposals of the other side.
Suppose the Americans do appear during these negotiations to the Europeans to be temporising or to he pitching their demands too high. What right of intervention have the Europeans got? Do the Americans have the right to break off these negotiations without the agreement of their European allies? It seems to me that a decision to break off negotiations ought to be a collective NATO decision and not an American decision taken alone. May I express the warm hope that the Americans and the Russians will bear in mind, which has not always been borne in mind in past disarmament discussions, that an agreement between East and West could be in the interests of both sides even if at the margin it suited one side better than the other.
I believe this is the spirit in which both sides should go into these discussions because what is at stake in these talks is not just the deployment or non-deployment of cruise missiles and SS20s, and it is not just the overall count of warheads on each side; what is at stake is the whole concept of disarmament by agreement. The talks could be an historic turning point and we want the Government to do everything in their power to make them succeed.
§ 11.7 p.m.
§ Lord Peart
My Lords, I read the Queen's Speech most carefully and I have listened with great interest to this debate, but I am still uncertain as to one fundamental point: How can the Government hope to achieve the objectives stated in Her Majesty's Speech by the pursuit of those policies which we have heard outlined today?
We are all in agreement on the vital importance of the search for peace. In the Bronowski Memorial Lecture given on 23rd October Nicholas Humphrey cited opinion polls carried out in the past year which show that nearly half the adult populations expect a nuclear war within their lifetime and that fewer than one in ten believe that they and their families will not be killed. I believe these are appalling statistics.
Already within its European theatre NATO as well as the Warsaw Pact has the capacity for overkill. Excluding short range battlefield weapons and intercontinental systems, the Warsaw Pact is estimated to have 2,004 warheads available for delivery on Europe, and NATO 1,168. Of course, President Reagan may believe that it would be possible to have a nuclear war limited to Europe, but many are less sanguine, including the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and indeed also Mr. Brezhnev. The theory of flexible response which unfortunately holds sway among NATO strategists is, in my opinion, deeply flawed. Not only does it invoke the spectre of a preemptive strike but it has also undermined the hitherto fundamental assumption that nuclear war is unthinkable. In a letter to The Times on the 3rd of this month Professor Michael Howard wrote:The belief that the Russians can only be deterred from attacking us by the installation of precisely matching systems—ground launched missiles must be matched by ground launched missiles—is politically naive, I think to the point of absurdity".Yet when my right honourable friend Mr. Foot returned from a visit to Moscow, where President Brezhnev reaffirmed his readiness to negotiate on reducing the number of SS20 missiles in Europe, he was greeted with scorn and derision.
I can only reiterate the call made by Mr. Heath recently for a genuine determined attempt to reach agreement on arms limitation with the Soviet Union. This echoes the statement made to Mr. Foot by the head of the CPSU delegation in Moscow that:it is necessary to start serious international negotiations promptly. Not mere preparations for negotiations and not negotiations about negotiations but serious negotiations directed to eliminating the danger of war and to reducing armaments".Mr. Heath also suggested that the resources saved by such a reduction in the level of armaments should be diverted to development. We on this side of the House would like to give our unequivocal support to this proposal. After all, there are 500 million severely undernourished people in the world—how could we do otherwise?
I believe that Britain ought to be using her influence in the NATO alliance to a much greater degree than in the past towards the opening of SALT III negotiations to include European nuclear weapons. But we cannot hope to make progress on limiting European strategic systems if, at the same time, we are expanding the British system from 96 Polaris warheads to 300 Trident warheads—the noble Lord who 219 spoke for the Liberal Party mentioned this and I agree with him in what he said—as well as welcoming 160 cruise missiles on to British soil.
Trident, we were originally told, would cost around .5 billion; a frightening figure in itself given the state of the economy and the cuts that will have to be made in other areas to compensate. For example, the defence budget as outlined would keep 23,000 German civilians in jobs while causing the closure of British shipyards. It is rather ironical. Now we are being asked to countenance the expenditure of anything up to .9 billion on Trident II which is more accurate and more destructive than the C4 system. It will have up to 14 warheads compared with eight in the C4 and three in Polaris. Let us be quite clear about this: Trident II is a first-strike weapon, unlike Polaris which was designed only to be used in the last resort. I think that the purchase of Trident II is not only economic madness, but would also result in our becoming a direct threat to the Soviet Union which would surely create the very situation we are trying to avoid. I ask the Government: is this really "an efficient use" of resources?
Our allies are unhappy about the reduction in our conventional forces that will follow from our commitment to Trident. At a time when many NATO countries are beset with doubts about the basing of cruise and Pershing missiles in Europe—in West Germany, for example, Chancellor Schmidt's pledge to allow 96 cruise missiles on German soil could conceivably affect him politically in an adverse way, while in Holland and Belgium there is serious risk that the 48 missiles destined for each country will never be deployed—Britain's insistence on an independent deterrent is threatening to undermine the alliance. There is uncertainty among our allies about the entire British doctrine of nuclear independence. A Dutch source was quoted in the Guardian on 20th May as saying:it does rather suggest that the British do not believe in the long term reliability of the Americans in the question of nuclear deterrence".In this situation our unqualified acceptance of cruise must appear somewhat contradictory.
We can only proceed with Trident at the expense of our conventional forces, but it is the disparity between East and West in conventional armaments which is, in my opinion, the most worrying aspect of the existing military balance. I believe that it is ridiculous to suppose that the Soviet Union believe that they could launch even a limited nuclear attack on Europe without suffering instant and devastating retaliation; but a massive conventional attack from that quarter is, I fear, a less remote possibility. Britain's contribution to NATO's naval forces and maritime air effort, particularly in the eastern Atlantic, has been unique, and yet it is the Navy that is to bear the brunt of the Government's cuts, despite the fact that the Americans have said that it is unlikely that they will be able to fill the resultant gaps in NATO's forces much before 1990. Indeed, Mr. Weinburger, the American Defence Secretary, was highly critical of Mr. Nott's plans when they were announced in the summer, fearing that the Royal Navy would be incapable of independent action 220 and even more reliant on American support beyond coastal waters.
I am not a unilateralist. I cannot help but heed the warning of Dr. Andrei Sakharov who has stated that the "massive one-sided campaign", as he has called it, in the West against the deployment of nuclear weapons in Europe is in danger of giving the impression that totalitarian strategists would be able to capture the West with their bare hands. But I have every sympathy with those who can see no other way out of the horrific situation we are in. It is policies, such as those adopted by this Government and by President Reagan—whose decision to go ahead with the production of the neutron bomb has brought us one step closer to the unthinkable—and the way in which those policies are presented to the public, which are swelling the ranks of the unilateralists. Could any other cause have produced a turnout such as that which we saw at the CND rally? I do not agree with them, but I admire them for their views and their ability to convey their views to a wide public. I fear that this Government are turning what should have been a rational debate on the defence of this country and of Europe —whether by nuclear or other means—into an emotional battleground from which we shall all emerge as losers.
Therefore, I hope that this debate will be a milestone, because I believe that many of the speeches that I have heard today have been of an exceptionally high standard. The only fault about the debate is that we have had two debates in one. We should have had a debate on defence and the other debate separate. I think that that would have been better. I am sorry that the Government have treated the House in this way.
§ 11.17 p.m.
§ The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Viscount Trenchard)
My Lords, a number of noble Lords have made the point that foreign affairs and defence encompass a very wide area and that one day's debate of 37 speakers does neither justice to the debate —indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, suggested that it should be called a deliberation or a series of deliberations—nor, as some sympathetic noble Lords opposite have pointed out, does it give the Minister answering the debate any real possibility of answering the many very important and very interesting contributions.
However, I would draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that, first, it is the practice of this House to allot only the one week for the debates on the Queen's Speech; and, secondly, to the fact that there are separate occasions, both in the foreign affairs field and in the defence field—and there have been several of them this year, and I am sure that there will be more in the defence field—to debate all these questions in more detail, and separately.
Faced with the 35 contributions, I shall try to ensure that where specific questions have been asked which I do not answer—and this will be the majority—letters will follow. I have already nodded to the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, in relation to one specific question. I shall also draw my noble friend's attention to all the important speeches in the foreign affairs area that have 221 been made since he had to leave the debate. Therefore, I must start by apologising for not having time—and it would be a mistake to hurry—nor perhaps the credentials to go into such vitally important subjects as the North-South problems, raised by the noble Lord, Lord Oram, and by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby, except to say that we believe that there were more positive results in the sidelines of the Cancun conference if not in the main conference itself, and that initiatives of various kinds are likely to be launched, and we shall certainly support them. Nor will I have time to comment on the difficult position of Cyprus, where again in letters we shall make clear that we believe there is more hope than the noble Baroness, Lady Jeger, suggested.
A quick word in passing to my noble friend who raised the position of Poland again and paid tribute to the magnificent qualities of the Polish people, to whom we owe so much in our struggles in the last war, and I certainly endorse what he said. I was in contact with the Poles when they were fighting in our armies, and I endorse her sentiments completely. In so far as I am qualified to say so, I think their problems in the economic field may well benefit from joining the IMF, if indeed that organisation is prepared for them to do so. I think even other economies, including our own, may have benefited at points in time. But, as my noble friend said earlier, what we believe about Poland is that its future must be left to the people of Poland to decide.
I may, or may not, have time at the end to go into more specific answers which I have here. In the meanwhile I should like merely to say on the foreign affairs aspects that I believe there was a considerable degree of support, and on the whole very little criticism notwithstanding the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Paget, for the many important endeavours of my noble friend the Foreign Secretary. I particularly noted the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, who was, as we are, so insistent that we place immense importance for the future development of this country and of peace, and of everything else, on making the EEC work. Therefore, I believe that there is no need for me to underline any further the masterly review that my noble friend engaged in when he opened this debate.
I believe we should not underline the small differences of emphasis—some very fairly stated by the noble Baroness, Lady Llewelyn-Davies, as opposed to, in my view, badly overstated by the noble Lord, Lord Paget—which the press allege to exist between us and our allies in areas like the Middle East. The USA and Europe both desperately need peace in the Middle East, as the Middle East itself needs it. It would be impertinent for me to add anything to what my noble friend has already said, and of course he is well aware of the need to work in close co-operation with the USA. In President Reagan's words, Prince Fahd's proposals, I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Paget, were welcome as a beginning point for negotiations in due course.
The noble Baroness, Lady Llewelyn-Davies, referred to China. I just wanted to say to her that my noble friend said to me as she spoke of that great country which he had not mentioned as such, that he very much agreed with the points she made. Although there are major differences between the systems that exist in China and those in the free democracies of the western 222 world we are pushing forward with all points of contact wherever possible in the hope that those differences may become smaller as the years go on.
I think it would make the best use of my remaining time to concentrate on disarmament and defence, as they fall more within my area, and as to cover all areas would be an impossible task. That, I am afraid, means that I have to return to the most oft-repeated subject during the day, namely, the main division between the major power blocs of the USSR and her main allies and the NATO pact forces. Plenty of reference has already been made to the situation in Afghanistan, Vietnam, Cambodia, past events in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, and I would add just a reminder of the Berlin wall. These matters have merely underlined again that, while there may be differences of view between our allies in NATO about the situation in some parts of the world, there is no room for doubt about the big divide between those two main blocs. There is a broad divide between our systems, our aims and our practices. My noble friend reminded the House that we have now reached the astonishing figure of over 2½ million Afghanistan refugees in Pakistan and Iran, to which we must add the boat people of Vietnam and all the other results of aggression around the world.
The noble Baroness, Lady Llewelyn-Davies, suggested that the Soviet Union had been very much afraid of the West for a long time. I can only reply that with the armaments they have—and they know what they have and what we have—they really have no need to fear whatever. And it can only be a total misunderstanding of democracies, and the restraints of democracies on any rulers with aggressive ideas, if they fear anything from the West. While democracy has its problems, it ensures that rulers cannot be potential aggressors on a grand scale, or at least it makes it extremely difficult.
I have felt it necessary to stress this great basic difference again not in any way to suggest that progress cannot be made on disarmament, because the Government believe very strongly that progress can and almost certainly will be made, for reasons to which shortly I will draw the attention of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham. It is not for that reason that we want to stress the basic difference. It is to stress the absolute practical need to consider the balance of armaments—and the underlining words are "the balance of armaments"—and the need for the broad equality of deployment of armaments of the nuclear kind. If we were dealing with two power blocs with equal aims and practices and free democracy at one end of the world and the other, then perhaps the case for a lead example to be shown, as the unilateralists ask us, might be at least a fair request. Even then, in a human world it would be human prudence for the leading party to seek reciprocal measures pretty quickly.
But we do not start with two equal blocs, as the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, spelt out so very clearly, and which the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, mentioned from a historical point of view. We start with different aims and different practices, and the Government are therefore certain that peace and freedom for the time being, and at the present, must continue to be based on deterrence, and that deter 223 rence requires not an exact balance, which we have never advocated, in each and every form of armament, but an adequate degree of balance. I believe that credit has to be given to the judgment of the military and civilian experts in the defence sphere in the free world, as to what is actually a safe degree of imbalance in any area. In the short period that I have been at the Ministry of Defence I am entirely satisfied that it is everyone's aim to achieve only the broad degree of balance required, and to achieve it at the lowest possible level.
I shall not have time this evening to go into the question of laser weapons raised by the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, but of course these have been studied from every possible angle, including, if satellites of the required size one day can be floated in space, just how vulnerable those satellites would be. Give some credit to our very conscientious and peace-loving experts and to the advice that they give.
The Government believe in the urgent need for multilateral, practical and broadly verifiable arms control and disarmament. I think that when I was not in the Chamber the noble Lord, Lord Soper, made reference to the Queen's Speech not using the word "disarmament". I shall check that in Hansard. But of course a reference to the Queen's Speech shows that, apart from the immense priority with whichmy Government regard the security of the nation and the preservation of peacethe next paragraph goes into the various places where East-West negotiations and relations are going on, and specifically states our determination to follow those up, notwithstanding the invasion of Afghanistan. Indeed, my noble friend made that quite clear in his opening address.
It is the balance of deployment that must be studied, and there can be no doubt that in recent years the balance of deployment, particularly within Europe, has moved heavily in favour of the Soviet Union by the massive deployment of missiles targetted on Europe, which cannot reach the United States of America, but which can reach the whole of Europe, even when they are withdrawn from Western Russia and stationed behind the Urals.
This is often called the theatre nuclear area, a term I do not like. I prefer the medium-range area as a better title. My noble friend in introducing this debate has made clear that we are now on the threshold of the start of negotiations to bring this whole area under a greater degree of control, and he has further made clear that we are aiming high, and that the zero option as the ideal long-term aim is within our sights. I must say this to the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, and to another noble Lord who raised the point. I do not believe that the ageing, nearly obsolete and almost out-of-service Vulcan should give us a direct right to discuss the details of the disarmament moves with the United States of America. The United States will be increasingly providing the replacement for their own bombers and our Vulcans, and must enter into detailed discussions with the other power which now has these huge numbers of modern medium-ranged weapons; namely, the Soviet Union. The idea that this is being done without reference to a Europe that is grumbling 224 is once again an exaggeration of the free press that we have in the democracies of the western world.
There are two groups and committees where these matters are discussed, and very recently the Nuclear Planning Group issued a communiqué endorsing the plan for the modernisation of the theatre nuclear weapons. There is no possibility that the United States of America, within NATO, can disregard the views of its allies; nor has it ever shown any intention so to do. I think this is perhaps the point at which to say that this is often suggested in relation to the situation after the cruise missiles may have been sited in up to five countries within the NATO Alliance. This also is not a realistic outlook. Apart from the fact that I have answered in this House, as my right honourable friends have often answered, that the use of bases in this country is the subject of joint decision in a time of crisis, this must be pretty obvious in relation to bases stationed in the middle of this country and surrounded by the RAF Regiment.
I do not for one moment believe that the United States of America will cease to be what it is at the moment—the main pillar of our defence and of the alliance—and that it will not act in liaison and extremely responsibly. But if noble Lords believe that at some future date it might not, then I ask them to consider the reality of the situation rather than to continue to harp on the idea that the United States of America can act, or will act, entirely unilaterally.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, will the noble Viscount be so good as to give way? The point is not that anybody suspects the United States of America of not consulting the British Government about these matters; the point is not that anybody suspects the British Government of not consulting the RAF Regiment about these matters; the point is the suspicion that the British Government do not consult the British Parliament about these matters. Can the noble Viscount give us any hope that in the forthcoming negotiations Parliament will be consulted and the public will be informed before the decisions are taken over our heads?
§ Viscount Trenchard
My Lords, I am not clear as to what decision the noble Lord is referring. The decision that NATO has taken and both Parliaments have discussed, and have had plenty of opportunities to debate, is the modernisation of the theatre nuclear forces, and I will deal at this juncture with the point raised by the noble Lord who has just intervened in relation to the arrangement in 1979, because I think he tended to suggest that it had only recently become a policy of the alliance that either we should go for equality of deployment of theatre weapons or even phase them out and reduce the SS20s. It was made clear in 1979 by NATO when they took the decision that they would have to modernise their theatre forces if the USSR, who by then had been placing SS20s for two years, were not prepared to stop and remove them. The disarmament talks, as part of the 1979 initiative, were always an integral part of this decision.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, perhaps the noble Viscount will allow me one more bite at the cherry. He has said that the British Parliament has had plenty of opportunities to discuss the 1979 two-track decision. 225 So it has after it was taken; but it did not have the opportunity to do so before it was taken. Will the Government give Parliament the opportunity to discuss the next important round of decisions on disarmament and on deployment before they are taken?
§ Viscount Trenchard
My Lords, in a democracy, no Government can continue if they take decisions which they cannot get ratified by Parliament. I will not give the noble Lord a promise that we will not negotiate either in principle, or in certain areas, in military detail which will probably never be released until full and detailed explanations have been given in Parliament. But there is no risk here—no flouting of parliamentary control. Governments have to measure the opinion of their Parliaments and of their countries and they have to act. They cannot discuss everything and every possible plan in Parliament before moving it.
If I may move on—and I am conscious that I am already in trouble on time—perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, that Answers to Parliamentary Questions have often made clear that we take a full part in the work at Geneva of the committee on disarmament. However, we do not believe that the committee could make any progress without prior agreement among the nuclear weapon states. That enables me to say to the noble Lord that there is a distinction between apparent moves—sometimes they are real—made in public at many-nation negotiations and real moves, very often, as I have just said to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, explored in smaller gatherings between those concerned before they reach the main formal theatre of negotiations.
The Government feel that the opportunities for control and reduction of armament are perhaps better—and I want to say this to the right reverend Prelate—than they have been for a considerable time. The economic pressures on both sides to reduce are a powerful aid to this movement. The resolve of NATO and of our American allies, in particular, to continue to defend freedom and to ensure that the balance is not tipped dangerously against us has produced a veritable flood of proposals from the USSR. Many of them, including that which I have already mentioned, in relation to the withdrawal of the SS20 to positions where it could still strike Europe, must come under the heading of propaganda. Nevertheless, we believe that NATO firmness, NATO agreement—contrary to what the noble Lord, Lord Peart, said—and the economic pressures, together with the natural instincts of mankind (we are all on the side of peace) which have been echoed in the debate today, lead to a better opportunity to make perhaps gradual but real progress than has existed for a long time.
I have to return for a moment to deterrence. I think I have already said that the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, and my noble friend Lord Beloff, from quite different points of view have clearly put the totally different position of the potential aggressor compared with the potential defender. In these arguments, of which there were quite a lot today, on the question whether in any circumstances the allies might be the first to use a nuclear weapon, I think my noble friend Lord Beloff put it clearly when he said that the aggressor need have no worry provided he does not aggress. 226 There has been too much selective quoting—and it has been selective—of certain comparatively minor differences between our free societies, where statesmen are questioned by Parliament and speak off the record. There has been too much emphasis on small differences in off-the-cuff answers. Perhaps for the purpose of deterence and uncertainty this may be no bad thing. But there is little real difference. I listened very carefully to Lord Carver's quotation of Mr. Weinberger on the BBC. Different words were used for "possible first use" against "first strike". No one is planning a "first strike"; that is technical jargon for a preemptive strike.
I suspect that, in off-the-cuff remarks, Secretary of State Haig might wish he had not said the word "plans" and had talked of "possibilities" in some very unlikely circumstances. The possibility of first use, as many noble Lords have said, is there and has always been there. The existence of this possibility is an extra reason why an aggressor will not aggress and why there will be no war and no first use. The aggressor will calculate the situation at any stage before starting and I hope that he never will start, and he will not if he does not doubt our will and our strength. But if he were to start, he will still calculate at every stage. For that reason we do not fully agree that, while there are great dangers, excalation would be automatic. Should an aggressor miscalculate or believe that he could blackmail or occupy Europe with conventional forces or de-couple the USA from Europe at a fast rate, should we say that in no circumstances we would use a nuclear weapon first? I think a number of noble Lords have answered this question clearly in the debate today.
I must continue quickly with the clock showing I have been speaking for half an hour, but there have been two interruptions. I must choose as the only other points that I have time to raise those raised by the noble Lords, Lord Chalfont and Lord Mayhew, which cover the Trident costs and also Lord Mayhew's question: "Why do you not increase the conventional armaments?" I am not going to go into the detail of the Financial Times articles but our cost estimates for Trident at 1980 prices—if you add inflation you get different ones as you go on—amount to around 3 per cent. of our total budget over the 15-year period. This is barely any different from Polaris costs or indeed from our earlier strategic deterents.
Although costs will alter, and the D5 option will open up other possibilities, it will remain a much smaller part of the defence budget than the Tornado programme, where we do not have to cost any new airfields in with the weaponry. I have said in this House before that if we were to double our conventional forces, and the support that would be necessary for them, and expect the whole of NATO to do the same, this would not achieve parity. It would also greatly exceed 5 per cent. of GDP, even if other nations did the same. And may I remind the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, that the USSR is coming up to 14 per cent, of their GDP. Notwithstanding all that he said about the forces that the USSR may feel it necessary to keep in the East. even if we were to double the size of our conventional effort we would still be at a disadvantage, and while the cost would not be double the defence budgets of the allies, it would involve 227 about a 60 per cent. increase. But by doing that you do not enable yourself to get rid of nuclear weapons. You are still vulnerable to nuclear blackmail.
Although the overkill may be thought in many quarters to be very large indeed, as has been said today, if you listen to the detail of the future methods of antiballistic missiles, and of the vulnerability of bases, you find that the plans that we are making today, both in the strategic and in the theatre areas, are no more than are necessary to maintain the same degree of deterrence at the turn of the century as we have today.
I must end this hopeless task of winding-up at this stage. We agree with the Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Neil Cameron to a much greater extent on cruise missiles than either the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, or, in this context, Professor Howard. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, remains the odd man out of the defence chiefs in relation to the extra value of our independent deterrent. Let me just quickly say this, in order to remove any misunderstanding. The gracious Speech, in talking of increased defence expenditure, refers to a 3 per cent. increase. It is not a new figure. We are not about to propose a greater percentage: it is the same percentage. It shows how careful one must be in writing gracious Speeches. I apologise, my Lords. One of these days I will sum up in a more adequate time. There are so many things and so many answers that I wanted to give to all your Lordships. I shall simply have to resort to letter writing and I shall do that as soon as I possibly can.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned until tomorrow.—(Lord Sandys.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.