HL Deb 30 November 1982 vol 436 cc1173-98

5.5 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. The Bill follows both in form and in content a similar one introduced without progress in another place earlier this year by Mr. Benn, Mr. Robin Cook and others. In form, it returns to the Preamble as the traditional means of setting out its purposes. This has some advantages over the more modern method of an Explanatory Memorandum, in that, for example, it becomes a part of the Bill and is available to anyone who wants to know what the purposes of the Bill are.

In content, it seeks to recover the traditional sovereignty of our people operating through Parliament. That sovereignty has been eroded since the war, not least by the existence in this country of forces and weaponry under the ownership and/or control of a foreign government—that of the United States of America. In case it should be said that this is an anti-American Bill, let me say that although I do not welcome the presence of the armed forces of any other country in the United Kingdom, if there have to be such forces, then I very much prefer them to be American.

I have for long been deeply in love with the American people. I worked with the first American combatants to come to this country during the war—the American Eagle Squadron of the Royal Air Force. As I was a fighter controller at that time, it was once my duty to exchange on the radio telephone the last words that a young American pilot said to anyone on this earth. More recently I have travelled more than once to the United States with my wife to enjoy the wonderful American hospitality. Last week I committed the offence—I trust that I shall not repeat it—of absenting myself from the closing stages of a debate in which I had spoken in order to spend the remainder of the evening in a Thanksgiving Day celebration with a number of students from Wake Forest University of North Carolina staying in this country. So, there are no anti-American motives behind this Bill.

Quite apart from personal feelings, the huge growth of the peace movement in the United States in recent years—and even more so in recent months—means that many Americans, perhaps even a majority, share our horror at these weapons and will be glad to see them barred. I am quite sure that no American Government would tolerate within the borders of the United States such weaponry under anything other than its own sole control. They are absolutely right—as are the French and the Soviet Governments—in taking, as they do, an identical view about the paramountcy of national sovereignty in the nuclear age.

National sovereignty must include control over weaponry deployed within the area of its jurisdiction or it is worthless. In the nuclear age this is more, and not less, essential and it is the recovery of national sovereignty in this vital respect that this Bill seeks to bring about.

It is important to note that the Bill does not seek in any other way to inhibit or discourage the presence of American forces in this country. Under the Bill we will not have foreign nuclear, chemical or biological bases, but it is not sought to amend in any other way the Visiting Forces Act which permits the presence of American servicemen here.

There is another way in which the Bill may not be unwelcome in the United States. I understand that the Appropriations Committee of the Senate is seeking to reduce the United States defence budget by 12 billion dollars. If, as a result of this Bill, cruise is cancelled in this country and other nuclear bases are closed, a number of American servicemen will no longer be required here. This will make a substantial contribution towards the savings which Senator Stevens and others are seeking.

I hope that noble Lords will not be inhibited from supporting the Bill because it seeks to implement an aspect of Labour Party policy. Labour's programme for 1982, which I have here, says on page 247: We will close down all nuclear bases, British or American, on British soil or in British waters as a direct contribution to the creation of the European nuclear weapon-free zone. We shall oppose the siting of American ground-launched cruise missiles or neutron bombs in Britain. We oppose the storage, research and production of chemical or biological weapons and call for the withdrawal of all forward stocks of chemical weapons. And so it goes on.

I will now turn to the Bill itself. It is, An Act to prohibit by law the siting of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons under the ownership or control or joint control of foreign countries within the United Kingdom, the British Isles or British territorial waters or British airspace or bases; and for purposes connected therewith. The Preamble asserts that this country, should adopt a non-nuclear defence strategy, and ban chemical and biological weapons. It asserts, that decisions about peace and war should be vested in a Government answerable through Parliament to the electorate of the United Kingdom . . . and that Sovereignty and Parliamentary democracy itself are endangered by the presence in the United Kingdom, the British Isles, British territorial waters and British airspace of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and bases under the ownership and control of foreign countries, in that these weapons and these bases could be used in such a way as to endanger the peoples of the United Kingdom and world peace and that it is desirable that they should be prohibited. As to the Bill itself, Clause 1 is the main clause. It provides, in effect, that nuclear, biological or chemical weapons or bases may exist in this country only under sole British control. It also prohibits such weapons in British airspace or waters. It makes it an offence to operate such weapons. Clause 2 provides for a penalty in the event of contravention. Clause 3 provides for enforcement and Clause 4 amends the Visiting Forces Act accordingly. Clause 5 defines nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Clause 6 provides for commencement to be in the hands of the Privy Council. I would particularly draw your Lordships' attention to that clause. This is a very cautious Bill; some might say it is too cautious. It establishes the prohibitions but leaves it to the Privy Council to decide when the prohibitions shall be enforced.

It is widely agreed that the launching of a nuclear missile from this country would probably precipitate the end of our nation, of its people, its Government, its Parliament and everything else, as Lord Mountbatten pointed out so trenchantly not long before his tragic death. It is my hope, therefore, that your Lordships will agree that a decision of such importance cannot continue to be allowed to contain within it an element of uncertainty. All noble Lords with any experience of the matter will know that confusion is ineradicable in shared control, not only in war but even in manoeuvres. Indeed, the situation is worse than I have said. American missiles in this country are not subject to the dual-key control which is widespread on the Continent. That means that operational control is solely in American hands. There is only what is called "political control", which, in an emergency, could mean no control at all.

The Foreign Secretary has referred to "joint decision", and Mr. Hayhoe said in another place that the arrangements are exactly the same as they have been for 30 years. That is even more alarming, for 30 years takes us back to the immediate post-war period, and in January 1948, according to the official historian on the subject, Margaret Gowing, Britain gave up the right to withhold consent or even to be consulted. That this was done by a Labour Government is no reason for the present Government, in the conditions of today, to place this country in a position of unparalleled subservience, in which America can decide to consign Britain and its people to the ashcan of history—if there is any history in the post-war world.

The present ghastly situation stems from the days of the Berlin blockade of 1948, when American bombers were brought to this country with no reservations about control. Originally they were conventionally armed, but in time they were equipped to carry nuclear weapons and they were still out of all British control, as indeed they still are and as will be the cruise missiles, which will probably be the actual means to our end if they come here.

The Soviets have made it clear that the demonstration nuclear shot of the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, which he referred to in this House on a previous occasion, will precipitate Doomsday, as might even a trial run of a cruise missile. Even back in the 1950s, Ernest Bevin was worried about all this, but all he got was an agreement that could terminate the whole arrangement at will. While the bombers stay, control over use remains American; and it was not until Mr. Attlee, as he then was, raised the question again that an undertaking was secured from President Truman when it seemed likely that the bomb might be used in Korea. That undertaking was never put into writing and was soon repudiated. However, in 1951 the noble Lord, Lord Franks, then our ambassador in Washington, secured an agreement that the use of atomic weapons by Americans from British bases would be a matter for—here I quote— joint decision in the light of the circumstances at the time. That is where the words "joint decision" which were used by the Foreign Secretary come from, and Mr. Hayhoe was right in saying that they were 30 years old.

When Winston Churchill went to the United States in 1952, he persuaded the Americans to make the assurance public, for what it is worth. There are now over 100 American bases and facilities of all kinds in this country, as the Government will, I think, shortly be forced to admit, having at first disclosed the existence of only the 12 major bases. There are, in fact, 21 air bases in use or in reserve, seven nuclear weapons stores, 17 other dumps and stores and 48 communications and intelligence bases. All these are known to the Soviet Union and appear in their military maps of this country. Perhaps Mr. Prime helped in that.

The American communications network in Britain is independent of both the Post Office and of our miliary communications system. Not all of it is geared to NATO. Some of it is exclusively for the use of the United States. Much of this so-called protection is protection of the United States and not protection of Britain. But, of course, by having this huge mass of material, including sonar devices for monitoring Soviet submarines, we open ourselves up to the possiblity of a pre-emptive attack which would otherwise have no purpose. There are spy bases, spy plane bases, radio listening posts, telephone tapping units and satellite communications, much of it, as I have said, uncommitted to Nato. The Americans have long enjoyed an open invitation to do as they please in this country, and they have taken advantage of it to an extraordinary degree.

For all of this, throughout this frightening saga, there has been little or no public discussion or parliamentary information. Only recently, determined work by Duncan Campbell and others revealed that plans, which might well result in the sacrifice of the British people, have been made behind their backs by successive Governments. Of course, the Government do not see it in that way. They think that they are protecting our freedoms. But it is no part of freedom to give to another nation the power to commit our own people to enforced suicide. The present American set-up here is now huge. It makes unconvincing, to say the least of it, the idea that there can be any effective British political control over this massive country within a country, when there is no operational control whatsoever.

Before I close, I should like, if I may, for a moment to refer to the brave women of Greenham Common. These percipient ladies have realised that, by the neglect and duplicity of successive political leaders, the people of this country have been placed in a position of extreme peril—a peril the extent of which has been concealed from the electorate. To bring cruise missiles here would be to turn the danger of the mass murder of our people into a virtual certainty. That the attempt should be made to silence the best of our women by using an Act of 1381 to put them in prison is a terrible scandal. They do not deserve the abuse of them by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, as "cut-price Delilahs".

I think that I have taken up as much time as I should. Let me then conclude what I have to say about the purpose of this Bill. It is a very serious Bill which brings us all to a situation which we do not care to contemplate. It is repugnant enough to contemplate one's own death. To contemplate the death of one's nation is something from which it is natural to turn our heads. But if we are to die as a nation, the thumb that turns down must be ours. It must not be that of a friend with a better chance of surviving the nuclear suicide pact. The destiny of our nation must be in our hands, and in our hands alone. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Jenkins of Putney.)

5.25 p.m.

Lord Mayhew

My Lords, I think the main objection to this Bill is that its provisions are wholly incompatible with Britain's continued membership of NATO. But I should like to begin, if I may, by clearing up one point arising out of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins. As I read Clause 1, it prohibits nuclear weapons which are jointly controlled by the United States and Britain. The noble Lord will correct me if I am wrong. But this being so, it is quite plain that, although the noble Lord objects—and I quite understand his objection—to the idea that our sovereignty might be infringed by having weapons in this country over which the United Kingdom Government have no control, he is still going to get rid of these weapons even if they are jointly controlled by the United States and the United Kingdom. So we should have no doubts about this. The noble Lord is proposing that these weapons should be removed, not because there is no joint control; he is proposing that they should be removed whether they are jointly controlled or not.

Why is the Bill incompatible with Britain's membership of NATO? One sees it argued often that Norway, Canada and one or two other countries make reservations about the stationing of nuclear weapons on their soil. But, of course, there would be no comparison at all between the attitude of those countries and the attitude of this country, which is, to speak frankly, far more important to NATO politically, militarily and strategically, than Canada, Norway or those other countries. And not only that. Unlike those other countries, Britain already contributes to the NATO nuclear deterrent. Our Polaris fleet is assigned to NATO. It is under command, targeted and deployed by SACEUR. And we already contribute to NATO's nuclear deterrent in giving bases and other facilities to United States strategic nuclear submarines, which also are part of the NATO nuclear deterrent. For Britain to do a U-turn, and to withdraw this co-operation in the NATO nuclear deterrent, would of course have an impact, politically and militarily, out of all proportion to anything that Norway or Canada might or might not do in their own fields. Therefore, we would have to face a considerable disruption if we were to turn about and withdraw this co-operation.

The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, says that we put ourselves at risk of pre-emptive attack by stationing these weapons on our soil. The reasoning seems to be that the Russians are more likely to attack with nuclear weapons a country with nuclear weapons stationed on it, than to attack with nuclear weapons a country with no nuclear weapons stationed on it. The reasoning seems to be that the Russians are more likely to attack a country which could launch reprisals, than one which could not launch reprisals. It may be true. Who is to say that it is not true? But it is not self-evident. Common sense might suggest exactly the opposite. But my point whether it is true or not, is this: how can Britain now claim to share in the protection of NATO without sharing the risks of NATO membership? The whole basis of any alliance is the sharing of risk. By definition, collective security implies the collective sharing of danger, and if we pull out our allies will ask themselves: why should we extend our friendship, our trust, our co-operation and our protection to such a selfish and unworthy ally as Britain?

It is difficult to predict what the reactions of the Soviet Union would be if we pushed out all the American nuclear weapons. But it is certain that they would try to widen in some way this very promising rift in the alliance, perhaps by a soft line of congratulating us on our great gesture for peace and giving us preferential treatment in trade or diplomacy over the French, the Germans or the Italians. Or perhaps they might take a hard line and increase pressure on what would have become the most isolated and the weakest of the major NATO countries. But even if they did nothing we can be quite sure that tensions would rapidly grow within the alliance and that Britain's position as a member of NATO, of the nuclear planning group, of the Euro-group, of the NATO Consultative Council, would become impossible. If they did not resign, the senior British NATO commanders would be replaced.

The summary I make is that if Britain unilaterally renounced nuclear weapons there would be only one practicable and honest course which we could take. That is the course recommended by CND: to leave the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. That must be the logic of it; it is the only outcome. I was rather surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, did not draw this conclusion from what he was saying. He did not make it clear to us whether, in his view, the consequences of his policy would be that Britain should leave NATO. As we see it, this is the only practicable and honest course.

Therefore, BAOR and the Royal Air Force, Germany, would be withdrawn from the Continent. I imagine that the British garrison in Berlin, although it is not of course committed to NATO, would also be withdrawn, because Britain cannot maintain her communications throughout East Germany without the support of her NATO allies. The British Navy, without air support from NATO's land bases and from American carriers, would give up its reinforcement role in the Eastern Atlantic. The entire alliance would unquestionably be disrupted. We cannot foresee exactly how the Americans, the Germans and the French would react, but what is certain is that in order to fill the gap which we left they would not put their hands in their pockets and increase their own conventional forces.

Thus, the two certain things which would follow from the policy which the noble Lord has suggested to us would be, first, a sudden and dangerous lowering of the nuclear threshold in Europe and, secondly, a marked increase in the political and military power of the Soviet Union. These are the two things which it should be the first aim of any responsible British defence policy to prevent.

5.33 p.m.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, the military argument has been set out with such force by the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, that I shall not follow him along that line. It is my object, approaching the matter rather differently, to persuade your Lordships that although we may, I believe, be confident, in spite of these prognostications of doom, that Britain is not going to be consigned to the ashcan of history, the ashcan of this House would be an appropriate place for this Bill to find its last rest.

There are a number of reasons for this. The first is its extraordinary constitutional confusion. The Bill says in the Preamble that, it is a fundamental principle of Parliamentary democracy that decisions about peace and war should be vested in a Government answerable through Parliament to the electorate of the United Kingdom". This is of course true. But it does not mean that Parliament, that the legislature, is the appropriate body to decide the methods by which the Government go about defending us, whether these be in the military, the diplomatic or any other field. These have always been regarded as part of executive government. What we mean by "responsible to Parliament" is that if the executive fails in its duties, then Parliament is in a position to replace it. A Bill, therefore, which attempts to restrict the capacity of the executive to decide from time to time what may be appropriate measures seems to me to fly in the face of British constitutional practice.

But the Bill also contains an extraordinary set of political assumptions. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, has perfectly correctly reminded us—he read the appropriate quotation—that the purpose of the Bill is already enshrined in the official policy of the Labour Party, which is to get rid of Britain's nuclear defences and those defences which our allies maintain on British soil. But, if that is the case, the necessity for bringing up this Bill must then rest on one of two assumptions. Either the noble Lord has given up any expectation of the Labour Party winning the next election—because if they win the next election the Bill will be unnecessary—or he is so profoundly mistrustful of the leaders of his own party that he believes that, having won the election, they would abandon the policy to which their party has committed itself. I do not know which of the horns of the dilemma the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, would now like to grasp, but at the end of our debate perhaps he will tell us which it is.

I come, then, to the way in which I think we should look at the Bill. We should look at the Bill—to some extent I overlap here the territory already covered by the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew—in terms of its likely consequences and its obvious intentions. As the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, explained, there is no Explanatory Memorandum. But we could get somewhere if we were to look at possible alternative Short Titles for the Bill. At present it reads: "Foreign Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Bases (Prohibition) Bill". Suppose we said, "Soviet Union (Enhancement of Strategic Position) Bill". This seems to me to be an exactly adequate reflection of the consequence. Or suppose we said, "United Kingdom and her Allies (Promotion of Discord) Bill". That seems to me to get somewhere nearer to the heart of its intention.

One obvious reason may strike us, in spite of the professions, repeated by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, of his affection for the American people—which perhaps does not altogether extend to the American Government. It seems very curious that the words "chemical and biological" appear in the Short Title of the Bill. So far as I know—no evidence has been produced to the contrary—while it is perfectly true that there are American nuclear weapons in this country and that there will be others if the cruise missiles are stationed here, there is no suggestion that our allies maintain here either chemical or biological weapons, both of which would be in violation of international accords to which they and we are signatories. Therefore it seems to me that the words "chemical and biological", which bear no relation to any facts, can have been put there only in order to stir up prejudice.

We should perhaps look at the Bill not on its own. There is occasionally a curious tendency in this House for exponents of the CND case to suggest that none of us reads the newspapers or listens to the radio—except that most of us probably cannot maintain the kind of intelligence service which enabled the noble Lord to pick up a passing remark of mine on an obscure radio programme at 10.30 in the morning. But most of us manage to follow the news and we shall be aware of three very important developments—two of them perhaps being rather more important than the Bill now before your Lordships. The first and most important of these in a way, as the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, has reminded us, is the recent conference of CND, which has for the first time advanced directly, away from a mere prohibition of nuclear weapons to suggesting withdrawal from the alliance. It has also—I believe for the first time on such a scale—suggested that the appropriate way to proceed is by means of so-called direct action; that it is not now considered likely (and I have referred to this before) that Parliamentary means will suffice to bring about what CND require.

The second important item of news is the threat made by the official Soviet news agency today, to which the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, referred. Clearly, this threat is not to be taken at its face value, and I do not suppose that even the Russians expect it to be taken at its face value. It is a part, like CND, of the constant pressure upon Western Europe not to install missiles in answer to the SS20s trained upon it. It is a part of a sustained campaign—through political means, through organisations and through propaganda of various kinds—to dissuade us from following the policies which our respective Governments in NATO believe are the right policies for our defence.

The third is, if you like, a little postscript to the CND conference and the Russian warning. It is the Bill now before us, which is, I believe, to be taken in that context. It is important to recognise—and this brings me to the last remark I wish to make, in taking up something that was said by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney—the extent to which the propaganda for unilateral disarmament in this country is not only widespread, and not only very professionally conducted, but is also totally mendacious either in statement or in implication.

Many noble Lords will have received, as I did, an illustrated document from some people calling themselves, Physicians Against Nuclear War. What this document told us, although some of us knew it already, was that to have an atom bomb dropped on one would be extremely unpleasant. I hardly need to consult a physician, even a physician who is against nuclear war, to know that atomic weapons are horrible, beastly things. What these people try to do through this suggestiveness is to make us believe that the right way to prevent catastrophe is to adopt a policy of unilateral disarmament. That is what I call dishonesty by implication. Although it will hardly affect people of the sophistication of your Lordships, when this kind of propaganda is directed at the young, at feather-brained prelates or at scatter-brained ladies, the results can be devastating.

One of these results is Greenham Common, to which the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, also referred. I agree with him; that I do not share in the attempt to turn the ladies of Greenham Common into the 11,000 virgins murdered along with Saint Ursula by a pagan ruler; they seem to me to have been more leniently treated than some camp followers in previous centuries. After all, we have records from the Trojan War and, as I have remarked in relation to Delilah, from the wars in the Bible, of women who plant themselves for various reasons outside military bases. In this case, it is even more deplorable because many of these ladies would appear to be ladies with families of their own. To neglect their families in order to prosecute a cause which is directly against the best national interest does not seem to me to call for sympathy; it calls for a mixture of bewilderment and despair, which is how I always end up when I hear speeches made by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, although I shall be speaking in the same general direction as all noble Lords who have spoken so far after the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, I should first disassociate myself from the contempt with which the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, has spoken of persons who are sincerely, although we may think misguidedly, worried about the horrors of the modern world. I do not believe that contempt for protest is going to get us anywhere in this matter. On the other hand, I believe that the Bill should not be passed for two reasons, which I will state briefly because they have been stated already in slightly different words.

The first is that the Bill would constitute a very major change in our foreign policy and defence policy. It would constitute by far the biggest change there has been since we ended the Second World War. It is not customary under the British constitution—whether rightly or wrongly, I know not which—to effect major changes in foreign policy through legislation; perhaps least of all through legislation introduced by a Back-Bench Opposition Member in the Upper House. But legislation is legislation and, if the Bill were to go through, which it cannot, it would be breaking with our past in that formal constitutional respect as well as in content.

As to the content of the Bill, I agree very much with what was said by my noble ally Lord Mayhew on the question of joint control. When introducing his Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, himself stated in so many words that it would preclude any nuclear base or weapon in this country that was not under sole British control. In the past there have been nuclear weapons in this country which have been under sole British control, some which have been and are under joint political Anglo-American control and others which have been under joint physical Anglo-American control; I refer to the Thor missiles beginning in 1959. All of those would be outlawed under this Bill, except the first class of missile under sole British control.

Let us not disguise that the effect of that—and I do not believe that anyone is very inclined to disguise its effect this afternoon—would be that we would pull the plug on NATO; that we would pull the plug completely and finally on NATO as we know it. There are two points here. First, if we were to do that, it would be franker of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, and his friends in this Bill to admit it just as France admitted it when, under President de Gaulle, she expelled all foreign nuclear bases from her country, all American command posts, and all the rest of it. France did not go about doing that with primary legislation which said, "We are still loyal members of NATO all the same." France was perfectly frank and left the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation while remaining a signatory to the North Atlantic Treaty. It is quite open to this country to do the same. Let us make no bones about it; that is what we should be doing—leaving NATO.

Lastly, I should like to say only that we on these Benches—and here comes a paradox but do not be alarmed, my friends—ardently desire the termination of NATO. We desire it at the same moment that we can see the termination of the Warsaw Pact and all the bilateral treaties betwen the Soviet Union and its allies in Eastern Europe. That moment does not happen to be now, beginning on 30th November 1982 with a piece of primary legislation commencing in the British House of Lords. It will happen in the future, we hope, but let us not tie the hands of any future British Government nor, indeed, of any future British people electing a British Government, by passing statutes on an inappropriate matter.

5.50 p.m.

Lord Hill-Norton

My Lords, it seems to me that this Bill is fatally flawed in both purpose and substance. As for the former, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, and any other noble Lords who may support the Bill must know quite well that it has no chance whatever of reaching the statute book in this Parliament. Indeed, it must be my own earnest hope that it would also fail in any future Parliament. Thus, its purpose can only be to seek publicity and act as a propaganda vehicle for the rather small minority of our countrymen, and I believe of your Lordships' House, who support the mistaken notion of unilateral nuclear disarmament for Britain. For, let there be no misunderstanding, the passage of such a measure would be the first step down that slippery slope, and it would be totally disastrous not only for the defence of our realm, which must always be the first charge of Her Majesty's Government, but for that successful deterrence of Soviet aggression which not only lies at the very heart of the North Atlantic Alliance, as the noble Lords, Lord Mayhew and Lord Kennet have just said, but has kept the peace in Europe for a generation.

As for the flaws of substance, they are too many to describe, certainly in a debate on Second Reading. I might start with the first dozen words of the Bill. Who, may I inquire, supposes—and I quote from the Bill—that, it is necessary that the United Kingdom should adopt a non-nuclear defence strategy"— apart from the unilateral disarmers? Not I, nor the overwhelming majority of those who understand politico-military affairs; not the Government; nor have all the previous Labour Administrations during the last 20 years, nor the majority of the electorate who elected those Governments, which the Bill goes on falsely to imply have not been consulted. Indeed, apart from the sponsor of the Bill and those few who may support it, I can think of no one except our only potential enemies in Europe, the Soviet Union, who would agree that the United Kingdom should adopt a non-nuclear strategy.

To take the Bill, at least for the moment, at its face value, let me deal with the explicit statement—and again I quote from the Bill: these weapons and these bases could be used in such a way as to endanger the peoples of the United Kingdom and world peace". The last three of those words are too absurd to require comment from me. But it is the earlier sentence which contains the fundamental fallacy in both the Bill and the unilateralist case. The notion seems to mean, if it means anything at all, that if we caused the removal of the nuclear weapons and their bases which belong to the United States or which are jointly controlled from this country we would instantly become safe from nuclear attack. This is simply not true.

The United Kingdom has been a prime target for Soviet nuclear attack, and probably the first and most important target in Europe, ever since the Russians acquired nuclear weapons. As an unsinkable aircraft carrier and the absolutely key staging post for the supply of NATO land and air forces in Europe in peace, and for their reinforcement and resupply in times of tension or actual hostilities, across the Atlantic, we shall remain the top priority target, whether there are foreign or national nuclear forces based in our country or not. That is the bleak fact. No amount of unilateral disarmament talk, whether it is sincere or otherwise, will have the slightest effect on that terrifying prospect. Indeed, so far from removing us from the Soviet target list, the measures proposed in this Bill would enormously enhance the probability, indeed turn it into a virtual certainty, that we should be destroyed by a pre-emptive nuclear attack even before conventional hostitilities were joined in Europe, if we allowed deterrence to fail.

A truly essential component of that deterrent to all war, not just nuclear war, lies in the cruise missiles, to which the Bill does not expressly refer but which we all know it is all about. They are to be deployed in our country, in Germany and Belgium, in Holland, in Italy as part of an allied, not a national counter to the appalling threat of the Russian SS20 missiles, which can destroy not only this country but the whole of Europe, even from the Eastern side of the Urals. The NATO twin-track decision, as it is called, of 1979 made it absolutely clear that, if the Soviets were to dismantle those SS20 systems, cruise and Pershing missiles would not be deployed by NATO next year. It is important to remember that those new systems will not add a single warhead to the allied inventory because they only replace older systems now deployed. That decision and its offer still lies on the negotiating table.

What has been the Soviet response? I am sure all your Lordships know, but for the record I must say that, so far from agreeing to dismantle their SS20 systems, each of which has a triple warhead, is mobile and carries reloads, they have continued to deploy more of them since 1979 at the rate of about one a week, until there are now 400 of those SS20 systems targeted on Europe as I speak. Does that arrogant, even brutal, response augur well for the suggestion of nuclear disarmament?

The one and only thing that will stop them from being launched against us, if the Soviets choose to do so, is that allied deployment of a deterrent nuclear system of the cruise or Pershing type to which I have just referred. And we, of course, as loyal and dependable allies—this point has already been made—must play our part in that deployment. We cannot, as President de Gaulle wished to do, and indeed often did, eat á la carte in a matter so vital as allied deterrent strategy if we wish the alliance to survive.

Let me look for a moment at some other indicators of a likely Soviet response to such a unilateral gesture as this Bill proposes. In June 1979 President Carter proposed to President Brezhnev an immediate freeze on the production and deployment of all new nuclear weapons. Brezhnev refused. Carter proposed that the SALT II Treaty and all its terms should be immediately implemented without waiting for ratification. Brezhnev refused. Carter proposed a 5 per cent. annual reduction on each side for each of the five years the treaty was in force. Brezhnev refused. Carter offered an immediate implementation of a comprehensive ban on testing all nuclear explosives, whether for peaceful or weapons use. Brezhnev refused. This was all immediately prior to the offer NATO made in relation to the linkage between the SS20 and cruise missile deployments which I have just described. Much more recently President Reagan proposed the so-called "Zero Option", to do away now with all the intermediate range nuclear weapons on both sides. The Soviets rejected that proposal as too radical.

Her Majesty's Government took the lead years ago in seeking to ban the production, much less the use, of bacteriological and chemical weapons, to which the noble lord, Lord Beloff, has referred, and have actually done so in this country. Yet it is well known that the Soviet forces in Europe are fully equipped with such weapons and are trained to fight in their hostile and inhuman environment. Within hours of his assumption to supreme power in Moscow, Andropov said: We shall never disarm unilaterally—we are not naïve". That seems to me to put the matter in a nutshell. Does any of this suggest that there is any realistic possibility whatever that the hopes of our naïve unilateralists might be fulfilled?

What are those hopes? I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, has no wish to bring about the repeatedly and publicly proclaimed desire of the leaders of the Soviet Union to dominate the world by communism, although I cannot say the same for the 15,000 avowed communists who are members of the CND. However, one may just suppose that the rest of them hope, to put it in its starkest terms, that unilateral disarmament in this country or in Western Europe would lead to a more pacific attitude on the part of our enemies. Surely your Lordships must regard that proposition in the light of the facts I have mentioned, and many others I have not, as too obviously absurd to be entertained by serious people. To be more blunt, unilateral disarmament means precisely what it says: the abandonment by us and our allies of our nuclear weapons without any simultaneous or corresponding reaction by the Soviets. Multilateral disarmament, on the other hand, of which there is no hint in the Bill, means the phased reduction of armaments on both sides, subject to effective verification. Of that I am, and I dare say most of your Lordships are, a warm supporter. The two concepts are not only as different as chalk from cheese but they are mutually exclusive. To pretend otherwise is a deliberate deception. I have no hesitation in asserting that it is being practised daily by the CND.

There is one more strand in this tangled skein which I must mention. It is put about by the unilateralists, and forms perhaps the core of this regrettable Bill, that the horrors of nuclear war can only be averted by unilateral disarmament. Of course nuclear war is horrible, and even appalling to contemplate. Your Lordships will perhaps allow me to claim to know at least as much as, and possibly a bit more than, most people about the likely effects. It is my carefully considered view that unilateral disarmament, or even the first step in that process which the Bill seeks to take, would be the single action most likely to bring about that catastrophe which I, among many others, have spent at least the past 20 years seeking to avoid.

The facts of history are on my side. The failure of this country, and of our allies of the time in the 1930s, to arm adequately—indeed, most of us disarmed in that decade—against the threat from Hitler's Germany led inexorably and directly to the appalling horrors of the Second World War. Our actions then were closely analogous to unilateral disarmament now. I have no doubt at all that similar dire consequences would follow, although the inevitable results would be incomparably worse.

There is much more I could say about the philosophy of deterrence, about how nuclear wars might start, about the inability of dictatorships to understand anything but argument from strength, about Brezhnev's siren song on "no first use", about the moral issues, about the unravelling of NATO to which other noble Lords referred, which adoption of the Bill would inevitably cause and, above all, about our political will to preserve that freedom which lies at the very heart of our democratic way of life and the best means of demonstrating that will. However, I have spoken long enough and in terms which I hope will have made it clear to your Lordships that I could never vote for this Bill. I can only hope that the Motion for its Second Reading will be defeated today and that we shall hear no more of it.

6.5 p.m.

Lord Briginshaw

My Lords, there may be Members of your Lordships' House who will not like the content of the Bill—that is obvious from the debate—which the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, presents for Second Reading. It contains at least the undeniable words that, these bases could be used in such a way as to endanger the peoples of the United Kingdom". That is an undeniable fact. I regard the Bill to be particularly fortuitous at this time. It deals with matters in the order of supremacy over anything else affecting the lives and existence of the peoples of this country. It is certainly in the area of supreme test for all believers in the supreme Divinity. It gives me a further opportunity to pursue views that I put recently in your Lordships' House when, in the debate on the gracious Speech, we discussed defence and foreign affairs. I suggested, with other noble Lords, that the people of this country, with those of the world, face a most dangerous situation. I made a plea for a great effort to be made to break the deadlock among the nations with regard to the arms race—it is apposite to our discussion—and the very real threat to the continued existence of humanity.

Your Lordships may have seen the television appearance of ex-President Nixon with Charles Wheeler. It was most impressive, not because it said some sensible things but because it presented the acme of statesmanship in the circumstances to which I am referring today.

I said previously that at least we all have a duty to try to initiate a movement—I think I put it in just that way—in a crisis situation and to make an effort to get beyond the repetitive cliché. I hold the view that to some extent, in the meantime, this has happened. I now make a real plea for positive movement. I may be foolish but I thought I saw some movement in the speech of the Foreign Secretary, Mr. Francis Pym, which was reported in The Times of 26th November. No doubt your Lordships read it. He was speaking to the English-Speaking Union at Leeds on the previous day. He said that the British Government would review their refusal to negotiate with the Russians over Britain's strategic deterrent under terms which he set out. He accepted an overriding priority for the arsenals of the super powers to be cut. It seems unfortunate that he went on to reiterate a number of clichés. However, perhaps with Galileo I can say, "It moves". I would hope to see some specific detail which would more readily fit the sense of the word "positive".

In the meantime, we have before us for Second Reading a Bill which can at least present some opportunities for specific actions on the part of the Government in any replies that are given to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney. That surely could be a way forward.

6.11 p.m.

Lord Winterbottom

My Lords, I shall speak very shortly on this subject, and I wish to make only three points. First, one of the areas of discussion which I find quite mystifying is the distinction that so many people make, in that they consider the effects of nuclear weapons appalling while at the same time they accept conventional weapons as something with which we can all live. That strikes me as one of the main fallacies behind the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, who seems to have left the Chamber for the moment.

In my view war is terrible and killing is terrible, but we can kill people in many ways other than by nuclear, chemical or bacteriological weapons. In the Thirty Years War Europe was reduced to cannibalism and polygamy by musket and pike. In the 1914–18 war 15 million people, I think, were killed by conventional and acceptable weapons. In the 1939–45 war something like 50 million people, I believe, were killed either directly or indirectly by conventional weapons. It is not the synthetic fear of nuclear weapons which should concern us, but the fear of war in whatever form it comes. One of the reasons why I take an attitude against so many organisations which seem to think that nuclear war is immoral is that I believe that war and the killing of mankind by any means is immoral. However, that is only a side issue.

I wish to make two further points. First, I should like to support the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, in his speech. Secondly, I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, in what he said. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, pointed out that we simply could not escape from our situation. The United Kingdom is an island off the mainland of Europe based between the two super powers, the United States and Russia. We cannot move our country. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, seemed to think that it was extraordinary that we should have over 100 American bases here. Of course we have. We are the forward base of the United States in the power struggle. If we decided to disarm unilaterally we would in due course find ourselves as the forward base of Russia against the United States.

I believe that the United Kingdom is the rock upon which NATO is built. If our resistance to Russian pressure were to diminish, then in due course the alliance would cease to have the will to resist; the Americans would move back to the United States; and, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, said, we would find ourselves in a position of subservience to the Russian will. Then, after a long and bitter period of rule by a Russian bureaucracy—let us think of Poland at this moment—we would find ourselves the forward base of Russia against America and subject in due course to a nuclear war which might take place. We would be both red and dead, and that is something that nobody would wish to happen.

I should like to support in less courteous terms the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Beloff. I believe that this little Bill moved by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, is part of a far wider conspiracy. It is a determination by the Russians to destroy the will of the Western Alliance to resist the Russians' objectives. It is not something that has just happened today; it has been going on for some years. It was obviously apparent in the days of the neutron bomb, when the Russians were somewhat successful. All the nonsense about antagonism as regards nuclear power stations, and so on, is part of the main pattern. We can see it all this month: we have the CND conference; we have the Bill; and we have the little bit of paper from the Physicians of Britain. A conference took place in the Grand Committee Room, and I think I was the only Member of Parliament who attended. It was a complete nonsense. Nevertheless, we have a neat little printed piece of paper trying to back up the argument that has been put before your Lordships' House today.

This particular Bill is directed, not towards the interests of the British people but towards the interests of a wider conspiracy. For that reason I hope that your Lordships will reject the Second Reading of this Bill.

6.17 p.m.

Baroness Wootton of Abinger

My Lords, I had not intended to speak on this Bill but I think that my noble friend deserves a little credit for his intentions. The Back-Bench Bill in the House of Lords may not be an appropriate instrument with which to deal with the appalling dangers that face the human race. We have often spoken about the immorality of nuclear weapons against which my noble friend is attempting to make some movement.

We should remind ourselves sometimes of the essential silliness of the situation into which the human race is drifting—the silliness that all nations are spending more and more of their scarce resources on producing dangerous and extremely expensive instruments not in order that they should be used, but in order that they should not be used. It is against that silliness that somebody will one day rebel. My noble friend's Bill, which may not be an appropriate instrument for producing that result, is one little step in trying to break through that silliness.

6.18 p.m.

Lord Bishopston

My Lords, I appreciate the sponsor's motives in bringing this Bill to your Lordships' House, giving an opportunity to debate defence policy aspects and to seek clarification from the Government. Those who support Government policy will no doubt be equally grateful, for those who will the general policy have an even greater responsibility for examination of it than those who do not—or at least an equal responsibility.

Whatever our views, we shall all be affected by defence policies especially in the areas covered by the Bill—the nuclear, the chemical, the biological. The fact is that death and destruction do not discriminate between those who support or oppose the policies which cause them.

The growing strength of what is called the "peace movement" not only in this country but abroad is an indication of concern and in these matters of life or death the Government must always be accountable and be prepared to answer and to satisfy quite natural anxieties. Those anxieties should be no less among those who advocate and support the policies, though one may have reason to doubt it sometimes. I should have wished this evening that the debate had been a little more serious than it has been. The concern that there should be safeguards for the well-being of the United Kingdom and its people, and its interests likely to be affected by the use of such bases, is surely shared by all Members of Parliament and all members of the public, whatever views they may hold. There can be no justification for the attitudes often expressed by those who support the policies, as shown by some tonight, against those who have quite natural doubts.

I believe that the matter is timely. The subject of this debate is timely, for President Reagan's recent announcement about his plans to spend 26,000 million dollars on the MX investment on top of all other nuclear and other capabilities raises several questions about the overall defence policies of which they are a part. I hope that the Minister will take some time tonight to fill in the perspectives of that picture.

Mr. Andropov, the new General Secretary of the Communist Party in the USSR, has made a significant speech about multilateral and unilateral disarmament, which we must all study with great care. He has said that détente is not dead. Both he and President Reagan now have the opportunity to create a new understanding. I feel sure that noble Lords on all sides of the House will hope that the British Government will take initiatives in this and will give all the support they can to the achievement of détente. I thought it encouraging that the Soviet leader said: As to the nuclear strategic arms possessed by the USSR and the USA, the Soviet Union, as is known, agrees that the two sides should, as a first step on the way to a future agreement, freeze their arsenals and thus create more favourable conditions for the continuation of talks on the mutual reduction of these weapons. I think we all realise that verification must be negotiated as well.

Some defence policies are, of course, national; some are international; they are promoted either collectively or by member states of the alliance. In order that Members of the House may have the fullest information when considering the matter now before your Lordships' House, I believe that the Government should give answers to a number of questions raised, including one or two which I want to put, and should allay the doubts expressed. I am rather surprised that noble Lords opposite in particular have not used the occasion to ask questions which might satisfy the public, who have these anxieties about why they should support the policies of Her Majesty's Government. Perhaps I may help the Government by putting these questions in the hope that the Minister will be able to supply a few answers.

In the absence of joint control, what influence or means of intervention have the British Government? Precisely what control is exercised by the United Kingdom as to what weapons are sited and when they are used, and under what situations and circumstances can the bases and weapons be used in the future? Do the Government agree that in any situation where foreign Governments exercise influence and control in our territorial areas—and particularly if our security and vital interests are concerned—there should be the maximum safeguards? Will the Minister tell us what they are and when they were last reviewed? In the fast-changing situations which face us in defence, not only in NATO but worldwide, there is a continual need for review to update the safeguards which we ought to have. I believe that these questions, which have not been posed by noble Lords opposite, concern millions of people and it will certainly help the Government if they give answers to them.

The sites under consideration concern the use of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, some of which, as we know, have an instantaneous effect, and some of which can be used in ways not quickly or, indeed, easily discerned, but which are no less deadly to the population. This is an important question and I should like to know whether we can be given information about the proposals for the monitoring and the early detection of their use and their effects. Of course, we may be told that some of these bases were established under previous Governments; but bases established with safeguards thought adequate at the time—years ago—are subject to quite different circumstances due to the dramatic changes in policy, the growth and, indeed, the escalation and the terrifying techniques of new weapons systems.

These and other questions are more than ever relevant in the light of the report of President Reagan's announcement last week that his Administration intend to go ahead with the deployment of 100 MX intercontinental missiles. In case we are to be told that this does not affect the matter under discussion, the aspect which really must cause concern is the reply given by the Prime Minister when questioned about this proposal in another place only a week ago. She declared, in effect, that this was a matter for the President and not for us. So matters which can have a very great impact upon the lives and the wellbeing of millions of British people and people in Europe, apparently are not matters of concern where we should be consulted or where our views may be sought.

If the Prime Minister accepts that members of the Alliance can pursue their own defence policies without consultation and agreement with their allies, how do the Government know what changes in United States' policies are taking place and which, unknown to us, can put at risk the lives of millions of our people, who at present seem to have little or no control over things which may affect them? Indeed, they have very little knowledge of matters about which they ought to be concerned.

There is also concern that bases sited here but not under our control can be part of a remotely controlled international defence complex, with dangers not only for our general population, but in particular for those in the vicinity. One asks the question, when are operations "defensive" or "offensive"? I want to make clear at the outset, seeing that our membership of NATO has been a question of debate tonight, that the Labour Party has a defence policy which recognises Britain's need to stay in NATO. We had responsibilities for many years for the formulation of NATO, as noble Lords will know, and at successive party conferences, including the one held in October this year, the decision to stay in NATO was again endorsed. We believe that we need to stay in NATO because it will give us a chance to influence the policies where we see the need. Clearly, we believe, as we have always believed as a Labour Party, in collective security, and a Labour Government will discuss these matters and, indeed, others of concern to our people, with our allies. As we all know, timing of defence policy proposals is all important, and it is not easy to take matters in isolation without seeing the perspective of the whole.

In the light of Soviet leadership changes, in the light of recent US announcements, which have caused concern, there is surely an urgent need for the British Government to take a fresh look at our policies. This occasion provides the Minister with an opportunity to answer for the present position. But the greatest assurance surely would come from his telling the House that the British Government will be taking new initiatives with the East and the West before attitudes harden.

I believe that the House has had a useful debate tonight and, if the Minister can answer some of the questions posed and give some of the assurances sought, I believe that we shall have benefited by the time we have spent this evening in debating this most important matter.

6.30 p.m.

The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Viscount Trenchard)

My Lords, I ask the House not just to reject but to dismiss the Bill. I say that having taken note of the valuable contributions of many distinguished speakers. I wish to assure the noble Lord, Lord Bishopston, that I do not intend not to take the Motion seriously, nor do I believe the House has failed to take it seriously in every respect. I should like on the many other opportunities we shall no doubt have to follow him into the whole area, which we recently debated, of defence, and indeed of disarmament, where we are continually taking a fresh look. But I think his contribution went very much wider than this Bill and its inevitable results. I would point to one important factor in relation to his remarks at the end of the debate. If he will examine the full text of President Reagan's speech in which is mentioned the MX deployment, he will find that a very large part of it was devoted to making a success of disarmament, but from a position of strength; and I regret the media's habit of referring only to the areas of important speeches which appear sensational.

I will touch on some of the noble Lord's questions which touch on the Motion as I go along, but before I do so I must say that I noted that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, introduced the Bill under the guise of an appeal for the integrity of British sovereignty. I believe the House knows—and it has been made clear today—that British freedom and British sovereignty with it depend on NATO, on the American commmitment to NATO and on the American commitment to the defence of Europe. Without those things, to talk of sovereignty is really of no consequence. The peace and liberties which we cherish depend on them. The point has already been made that it is, in a sense, perhaps immoral to continue to depend on the United States for the defence of our democratic freedom while shirking any part in the areas of modern defence which require most moral courage. This is, perhaps, equalled only by the impracticability of keeping a strong defensive alliance while palpably showing distrust in our strongest ally.

Attention has already been drawn to the coincidence that this Bill has come up for debate on the same day as the Soviet Novrosti agency has launched a new propaganda campaign against NATO's INF modernisation plans. It also coincides with the meeting of NATO's Planning Group in Brussels. It has also been noted in the debate that, on Sunday, the CND conference endorsed a resolution calling for greater priority to be given to demands for a British withdrawal from NATO.

A word on the facts of the modernisation of the intermediate range nuclear force, which the Bill would prevent. The cruise and Pershing missiles constitute NATO's plan for modernising our longer range INF deterrent weapons. At present, we have the British Vulcans, which go out of service finally next year, and the aging American F-111's. These bombers, based only in the United Kingdom, represent NATO's only longer-range weapons in the INF bracket.

On the Soviet side, while the number of aircraft capable of delivering atomic weapons on Europe and the United Kingdom still exceeds that held by NATO, and while many of these aircraft are extremely modern, the Soviet Union have already introduced at least 320 SS20s—and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, may well be more up to date than I. The vast majority of these are certainly targeted against Western Europe. In addition, the Soviet Union still have some 275 of the older, but still effective, SS-4s and 5s. On the NATO side, we have no missiles that can reach Soviet territory within this category. In terms of warheads, the balance on a global basis in this category is, therefore, about 1,200 warheads to nil, or 900 to nil in Europe. In shorter range INF missiles, the balance is also heavily against NATO.

I will now refer to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Bishopston, on the question of the use of American bases in this country in a time of tension, and I am not prepared to add to the oft repeated statement—and he and his party and those who formed part of previous Governments know this perfectly well—that the terms of the agreement are clear and that the bases will be used in a time of tension only arising from joint decision. That agreement has stood for 30 years and will still stand. It is a significant one. But the idea that the United States would be able to maintain bases in other countries, including this one, other than on the basis of a close and voluntary continuation of the working of the alliance of the free democracies, is, of course, an illusion. We fully support the Americans in the talks designed to produce a reduction of arms in the area of these weapons, but the end result must be a balanced one. There can be no question of cancelling the NATO INF modernisation programme unless and until the Soviet Union really gets down to brass tacks.

In regard to chemical stocks, the United Kingdom renounced these weapons several years ago and has no chemical weapons. Neither are there any plans for the basing of American weapons in Britain at the present time. This in no way means that we are not extremely perturbed by the immense build-up in recent years of Soviet stocks of very modern and potent chemical weapons. The Soviet stockpile now consists of well over 300,000 tons of chemicals, much of which is stationed in forward areas, together with a variety of delivery systems. This is vastly in excess of America's limited national chemical capability, and thus we fully support the American decision to undertake renewed development in this area. Neither do we have any biological weapons, which are banned by the 1972 Biological Convention, of which the United States and the United Kingdom were depository powers.

Provided that the NATO defensive alliance works well together, and, both collectively and individually, where applicable, argues the case for multilateral, balanced and verifiable disarmament, then we will make progress. One-sided gestures, such as this Bill represents, will, in the experience of all of those who have negotiated with the Soviet Union—and I noted the speeches of my noble friend Lord Home and the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, in the foreign affairs and defence debate on the gracious Speech—achieve nothing. Indeed, they are likely to encourage the potential aggressor to miscalculate the will of the defenders and thus to undermine the deterrence on which the peace of Europe is based.

I would say to the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, that the awesome power of modern weapons, which cannot be "disinvented", means that aggression can, in our view, be totally prevented provided—and provided always—that our will is not doubted and that the alliance is not split asunder.

I should like to end my request for this House to dismiss the Bill with two quotations. The first is from Mr. Andropov, the new Soviet Leader, who in his second speech said: But let no one expect of us unilateral disarmament. We are not naïve people. The second quotation is that which I quoted in my speech on the second day of the debate on the Motion in support of the gracious Speech. It is a quotation of something said by Dr. Oleg Popov, of the Moscow Peace Movement until he fled the Soviet Union in July this year. I shall quote only a part of what I previously quoted: It has always been the position of the Moscow Group that both sides must take simultaneous steps to halt and then reverse the arms race: this clearly points to multilateral disarmament—not destabilising unilateral disarmament—as the only hope for the future". I suggest to the House that in rejecting the Motion for a Second Reading of the Bill it will automatically make clear to the United States of America how much we value its continued contribution to our peace and security. It has fought two selfless wars in Europe to defend us from aggression, and has not only sought no territorial gain, but has contributed enormous material wealth to the restoration of Europe. Bearing in mind the British nature and character, it is easy to build up criticism of the largest country in the free world. It is natural for free peoples to indulge in twisting the lion's tail, for the United States of America is today the lion of the free world. But in the Government's opinion the Bill is going altogether too far.

We should welcome the American preparedness to update the current forces, all based in one country, with modern weapons based ultimately in five European countries to help offset the Soviet dominance. This not only makes us less vulnerable; it makes deterrence credible. The alliance will prevent war until there arises a new generation of Russians with whom the people of the West manage to communicate. In the meanwhile, with support, NATO and the United States will secure some gain in multilateral and balanced disarmament. Against the quotations that I have just read I can only suggest that the Bill is at best a naïve irrelevance, and at worst a definite aid to the propaganda of the potential aggressors who continue to threaten the free world.

6.43 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, I have listened to the debate with great care, and although many hard and harsh things were said in it I managed to restrain myself from seeking to intervene at the time, and at this late stage I shall not even attempt to reply to every point that has been made, because many of the points have been the reiteration of familiar positions and have not in fact sought to reply to the points that I made when introducing the Bill. I therefore hope that under the circumstances noble Lords will understand if I seek to complete my reply without in turn being interrupted, and I hope that so far as I am concerned noble Lords will exercise the same restraint that I exercised when they were speaking.

The first speaker, the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, asked, so far as this country was concerned, what would happen supposing we took action that was seen by the present administration in the United States—though not of course by all the American people, not by a long chalk—as being hostile. What would happen to NATO under those circumstances? He suggested, quite rightly, that this country is not exactly Norway or Canada. But, of course, this country is similar to another country which is rather closer to us; it is similar to France. The noble Lord may recall that France succeeded in detaching itself to some degree—not entirely so—from NATO. It has, as I think wrongly, retained its own nuclear weaponry, but nevertheless it is the case that that weaponry is not attributed to, or associated with, NATO. However, there is still a connection.

In other words, a great degree of refinement of association is compatible with the continued survival of NATO. It is not the case that if we decided to take the action that I am advocating in the Bill all hell would break loose tomorrow, NATO would collapse and the world as we know it would come to an end. My Lords, the opposite is true. If we sit around doing nothing, allowing the weapons to multiply, the world will certainly come to an end; and what I am suggesting to noble Lords is that they should address themselves to the reality of the situation that we are in today, instead of to the consequences which they see as following from the proposals that are made in the Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, asked what is the purpose of the Bill. It is, of course, to pave the way. It is to express in this House the type of policy which a Labour Government, when they come into power, will I believe follow. I suffer from no illusions that I am likely to carry the Bill tonight with a resounding majority in this Chamber. That is, to say the least, somewhat improbable. None the less, as my noble friend Lord Bishopston said from the Front Bench, that does not mean that it is wrong that these matters should be aired in this Chamber. It is entirely right that I should air them, even if a realistic contemplation of the nature of this Chamber renders it impossible for me to be optimistic about a Bill in which I have a very great faith.

I always enjoy speeches made by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, with his jokes, but I rather felt that he went a little too far—and not only on radio this morning. He really should not say things, on radio or anywhere else, if he does not mean them and does not want to stand by them. To do the noble Lord justice, I must say that I rather suspect that he does stand by them, because in fact he repeated the calumny in the House today and referred to the women of Greenham Common in the same sentence as that in which he used the term "camp followers". That is a dastardly calumny against a group of prescient and brave women; and the noble Lord should be ashamed of it.

But the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, goes so far in his opposition to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and everything about it that I sometimes wonder where he really stands. Not only does he say things which seem to be somewhat regrettable, at any rate to me, if not to him, but he also writes them. Quite recently he wrote in The Times: The most important aspect of the Labour Party today is that it is the prime vehicle for the propaganda of unilateral nuclear disarmament"— well, I hope that is true— with all that this implies for Britain's alliances. Why else would Lord Peart have been dislodged from his leadership of the Labour peers? I think that my noble friend Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos will be rather surprised to see himself cast as the head of a conspiracy, as being a part of this plan which the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, discovers.

I sometimes wonder whether in making these exaggerated statements, in seeking to blacken my noble friend—because, after all, he is the person who has replaced the noble Lord, Lord Peart—the noble Lord is not secretly on our side and is perhaps really in receipt of gold from Finsbury Park, the headquarters of CND. But so much for the noble Lord, Lord Beloff.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, reiterated his flat disagreement with my own view as to what would be the effect of the Bill, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, gave his own black and white picture of the world situation. He reiterated the statement as to the respective strengths of the Soviet Union and of the Western Alliance, which were a mirror image of how it seems in Moscow, where they see an entirely opposite situation with the huge armament of the West threatening the modest defences of the Soviet Union.

Of course, the truth of the matter is quite different. The International Institute of Strategic Studies and the Stockholm Institute would demonstrate that the truth is at the moment a rough parity—and not only a rough parity, but an enormous overkill—on both sides. So the piling up of more and more weapons creates greater instability and greater danger, and makes the situation more alarming; and that will be precisely the case if we fail to get control over the weapons in our own country, as is advocated in the Bill which I have ventured to introduce to your Lordships' House.

If I may make another point about the noble Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, he may recall that a little while ago he and I had a debate with some young people in a Northern university, and on that occasion, the noble Lord may recall, he was not on the winning side. The difference between the audience there as compared with this audience is that they were young people, university students; and the young people of this country, whatever noble Lords may say tonight, are not content to live under the shadow of the nuclear weapon, are not content to live all their lives in fear of being destroyed by nuclear weapons. Some action must be taken if the march towards extinction is to be arrested. This is a matter to which this Bill seeks to make a small contribution. I am grateful for the support which has been given by my noble friends on this side of the House. I could wish that it were larger but that which was made was effective and, indeed, most welcome.

I should like now to come to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom. Lord Winterbottom believes in the conspiracy theory of politics. He believes that, in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, we must either all be mad or bad, all fools or all scoundrels. There may be noble Lords who agree with this, but it is a lunatic proposition. It is not one which deals with the situation seriously. It is not one which would bring to mind the sort of people who actually belong to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. It is not one which takes into consideration that more and more people in this country—and the opinion polls will support this—are taking the view that the sort of policies which I am advocating in this Bill are the kind which will get us out of the mess which the present Government have got us into and seem quite determined to stay in. As my noble friend Lady Wootton said, the whole thing is completely silly.

The noble Lords wants me to give way. I said that I would not give way. I said, if the noble Lord will forgive me, that I had not sought to interrupt any other noble Lord and that, if noble Lords would restrain themselves, I thought it reasonable that I, in turn, should not be interrupted. But if the noble Lord feels that I have misrepresented him, then, nevertheless, I will give way.

Lord Winterbottom

My Lords, I was only saying that Lenin himself had a very clear view on this. He talked about "the army of useful fools" who were to be used for this purpose. I should like to draw the attention of the noble Lord to the fact that the army of useful fools has been mobilised for this operation.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, will the noble Lord repeat that?

Lord Winterbottom

My Lords, my Russian is not very good, but Lenin said that he could depend upon "the army of useful fools" for operations which would serve the purposes of the Soviet Union.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, I thought that what the noble Lord was saying was that we were all either fools or scoundrels. I thought he was going a little further in what he says now. But I can assure him that we are not useful fools and we are not scoundrels. He is totally mistaken in his estimation of the nature of the opposition. Because it is not widely represented in this House, noble Lords may get a wrong idea of the real distribution of opinion in this country. The distribution of opinion in this House is, frankly, totally unrepresentative of what happens outside. If the noble Lord will take a look at the opinion polls, he will see how young people feel, will see where they stand on these issues, and he may come to a different conclusion. It may be that, in humility, he may ask himself whether it can be true that all these people are wrong and he alone is right. Your Lordships must make up your own minds.

Finally, I bring myself to the reply of the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard. He said that the integrity of British sovereignty depends upon NATO. It depends on no such thing. The integrity of British sovereignty depends upon the integrity of the people of this country and upon the Government of this country carrying out the will of the people. NATO is an organisation which I wish to belong to. At no time have I ever said that we should withdraw from NATO. I do not say so now and I, personally, regret the vote that was taken by a small majority at the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament conference this week in favour of that policy. Here, I represent Labour Party policy; and the Labour Party is now, and always has been, overwhelmingly in favour of staying in NATO. That is the Labour Party policy and it is my policy.

It is totally untrue to say that because one wishes to make an internal change in the arrangements inside one's own country in order to exercise adequate control over the fate of one's own nation, this means automatically that we have to get out of NATO. We do not have to do any such thing. We have some influence in NATO. The ultimate objective that we seek in this matter is a non-nuclear Warsaw Pact and a non-nuclear NATO. That is what we seek: a method of getting rid of the nuclear weapon altogether from the face of the world. This is the only way that we are going to do it. It will never be done by constant multilateral discussions, while all the weapons continue to mount up. We have to break through the situation. We have to make a start somewhere. This Bill is one method of doing it.

The noble Viscount said that the peace had been kept for 30 years under the present situation. He rather reminded me of the man who jumps off a tall building with a parachute and, when he is at about the first floor, says. "We're all right so far!" That is the situation we are in. Unless some action is taken on the lines that I advocate here and which the Labour Party advocates in its policies, then I fear that our fate may be grave indeed.

We have 7,000 nuclear warheads stocked in this country. We are probably the most dangerous country to live in in the world in the nuclear age. It is my hope that, even if your Lordships do not feel able—all of you—to go through the Lobby in favour of this Bill, some of you may have sufficient doubt as to the validity of the propositions which have been argued against it to decide to abstain. I move the Second Reading of this Bill in the confident knowledge that it is a Bill which is truly patriotic and in the interests of the people of this country.

On Question, Motion negatived.