§ Debate resumed on the Motion moved on Wednesday last by the Duke of Norfolk—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".
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Young)
My Lords, it is a great honour to open today's debate on the humble Address. May I say right away how much I personally welcome the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, to this House, and wish him well in this new work as Leader of the House of Lords. I should like not only to thank him for his kind remarks about myself yesterday but to take this opportunity to say particularly to the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, and to the noble Lord, Lord Byers, how deeply I appreciated what they said about me. I should like also to thank the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, for his exemplary and unstinting 39 work in this House as spokesman on foreign affairs and defence. I know how much your Lordships appreciated his deep commitment to this House and his strenuous efforts to keep us fully informed on foreign affairs and defence. I also much look forward to the maiden speech by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Cameron, which I know will be listened to with the greatest of interest by us all.
It is a daunting task to address your Lordships on a whole range of foreign affairs questions only nine days after taking up office in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. This is particularly the case when I know that at least four former Foreign Secretaries and even more former heads of the Diplomatic Service sit in your Lordships' House.
One thing I think has become clear since we last debated such questions. It is that foreign affairs have been the subject of close attention by the electorate throughout the United Kingdom. The election campaign which ended two weeks ago was exceptional: exceptional because for the first time since the war international issues figured prominently. The reason for this was clear. The Labour Party was offering the electorate not just some fine tuning of our position on foreign affairs but a radical departure from the broad consensus which had existed over the last 38 years. As a result, the campaign saw a continuing debate on defence and foreign policy—a debate in which the record of the Government over the last four years came under close scrutiny.
The result, which is known to us all, was a victory for common sense and a resounding endorsement of a responsible and balanced policy. The electorate clearly saw the dangers behind the proposal that we should withdraw from the Community. They saw through the irresponsibility of a defence policy which sought to take advantage of the NATO umbrella, while refusing either to carry out NATO policies or to make a full contribution to its strength. We therefore go forward with the immeasurable advantage of knowing, first, that we have the backing of the electorate; secondly, that the nation's affairs are in the hands of a Government who have successfully seen the country through an exceptionally difficult period, not least of world recession; and a Government who are re-establishing the economic strength of the country, without which we cannot hope to have a real influence in the world; and thirdly, that there will therefore be a continuity and credibility in British foreign policy which I believe will enhance this country's voice in international affairs.
There is no area of foreign affairs in which consistency of policy and length of experience count for more than that of the European Community. At the same time, nothing has been more damaging to Britain's reputation in the Community than the uncertainty in the minds of our partners sown by the knowledge that the major opposition party is committed to withdrawal. I am glad to see that a note of doubt has crept into recent Opposition statements. Your Lordships' House can derive some comfort from the fact that on this issue the Opposition Front Bench in this House has always been at pains to distance itself from colleagues in another place. Indeed, we may have been witnessing a complete change of policy. This 40 would be understandable enough, given the result of the election. I hope, however, that the sterile debate about whether we should be in or out can now be abandoned, and replaced by a creative discussion of how we can develop the Community.
The first step is for the Community to set its internal house in order. The major challenge it faces is to find a more effective way of managing its finances. But, as the Statement that we have just heard has made clear, we are concerned not only with the budgetary arrangements and financing of the Community; there are many other important subjects on the agenda. The gracious Speech made reference to the admission of Spain and Portugal. The Community brings together those who believe in the great European traditions of justice and democracy, and it is both right and proper that democratic Spain and Portugal should achieve admission at an early date.
The Community has still not fully opened its internal market. The German presidency has been assiduous in focussing attention on this vital area, but, as the European Council last week concluded, much work needs to be done. We have still not made the progress that we should make in removing barriers to trade and services. For example, the United Kingdom wants to achieve genuine liberalisation of insurance, and greater competition in European air services.
We must not forget the voice of the Community in the outside world. The Community is increasingly respected and listened to. It is expected that there will be a Community view on any major international issue. Political co-operation has come a long way, but we must develop further the habit of close consultation. At Stuttgart the Heads of Government signed a solemn declaration, one of the major objectives of which was to strengthen and develop European political co-operation precisely in order to give more weight to the European voice in world councils. Noble Lords will not need reminding of issues where the Ten have already been able to play a constructive part. I am thinking in particular of the Middle East, and of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, and the follow-up meeting in Madrid. However, there are still large areas of policy on which the Ten could harmonise their views, and thereby ensure that European interests are more fully taken into account.
Just as the electorate resoundingly reaffirmed British commitment to membership of the European Community, it also endorsed our commitment to our Allies in NATO. It is possible for a medium-sized power such as the United Kingdom properly to ensure its own security only by doing so in co-operation with others. But it is not simply in the spirit of taking, but also of giving, that we see our membership of NATO. We recognise that NATO has successfully safeguarded security for 35 years—the longest period of peace this century—and that it has provided, and will continue to provide, a shield for the democratic freedoms and liberties which we enjoy.
The United Kingdom also makes an important contribution to NATO. We have 55,000 ground troops in the British Army of the Rhine. On top of that, RAF Germany makes a distinguished contribution and we are responsible for a significant part of NATO's anti-submarine capability in the 41 Eastern Atlantic. We also, of course, have a British nuclear capability which is committed to NATO, and which, as they all recognise, contributes to the overall strengthening of deterrence. Those contributions make clear that we in Britain accept that there is a price that we are willing to pay for the preservation of Western freedom. That is why we are committed to implementing in full the existing NATO target of 3 per cent. real growth in defence spending in each year up to 1985–86; and there will be additional provision for costs associated with the Falklands. The Government reject totally the idea that we might back away from our commitments to the Allies and try to free-ride at United States expense. I believe that the result of the General Election showed that people had listened to the arguments during the campaign, and accepted that.
NATO's strategy is one of forward defence and flexible response. We must be seen to be capable of meeting any form of attack—conventional or nuclear—with an adequate response. That does not mean that we need to match the Warsaw Pact weapon for weapon. But at the same time we cannot allow a significant imbalance to develop in any major category of weapons.
However, the policy of deterrence alone cannot be the whole answer. What everyone would like to see is a reduction in the level of armaments, leading to a stable balance of forces at the lowest possible level. The most pressing need is to secure a reduction in the number of nuclear weapons while maintaining our security. The category of nuclear weapons in which the most worrying imbalance has built up is the long-range, land-based, intermediate nuclear missile. We want to eradicate this whole class of weapon, but so far the Western proposal to do this has proved too far-reaching for the Russians. We have also offered an interim agreement of balanced numbers at a level higher than zero. Again, there has been a most disappointing response. The first cruise missiles will be deployed at the end of this year, unless the Russians come to an agreement in Geneva that would make that unnecessary.
However, in the gracious Speech it was made equally clear that the numbers finally deployed will depend on the outcome of the Geneva talks. The beginning of deployment does not mean the end of the negotiations. The fact is that the deployment of cruise missiles in this country can be halted, or reversed, at any time. So we shall be ready to go on negotiating. President Reagan has already proposed an interim agreement which would produce a balance at reduced levels, with the United States limiting its planned deployments to whatever global total the Russians agreed to come down to on their side. There is therefore plenty of room for progress in this negotiation, if the Russians show a greater seriousness of intent than they have so far. The ball is very much in the Russian court.
Similarly, in strategic weapons, we should like to see early progress in the talks between the United States and the Soviet Union. We warmly welcome President Reagan's recent announcement relaxing the limit previously proposed for missile launchers. This is a move which brings the United States and Soviet positions closer together on an important element in 42 the package. The Americans are continuing to press for radical cuts in warhead numbers of ballistic missiles. They have proposed specifically to reduce the number of such warheads by one third, to 5,000 on each side. President Reagan has also re-emphasised the need to reduce the destructive power of strategic forces. All that gives the clearest signal that the United States President is serious in his wish to move the negotiations forward in a constructive way.
Arms control agreements will work only if both sides have complete confidence in them. That means that they must be balanced and verifiable—that they must be recognised by both sides as enhancing stability. It is this last point that shows why one-sided disarmament would not work; it does not enhance stability for one side to throw in its hand and hope that the other will follow its example. We can only negotiate successfully with the Soviet Union on the basis of strength. The result of the election showed that the British people understood this argument.
We want progress in arms control negotiations. There is no lack of Western initiatives to bear witness to that. On INF, START, MBFR, on chemical weapons, on a conference to negotiate confidence building measures in Europe, there are Western proposals on the table. We are ready: we now need the Russians to negotiate with the same sense of conviction and urgency.
Arms control is only one element in East-West relations. We want a better climate overall. We are committed to a dialogue to try to bring this about. The Russians must accept the need for restraint in the conduct of international relations. They cannot expect us to overlook, for instance, their invasion of Afghanistan, where about 105,000 Soviet troops continue their savage operations against the Afghan people, and where a fifth of the population has fled the country. Neither can we overlook events in Poland, or the flagrant abuse of human rights that goes on in the Soviet Union.
The Government would also make clear that if the Russians can adopt a new approach, and show greater restraint in their international conduct, a better, more constructive relationship with the West is available. Until then, we must make sure that the Russians do not cut themselves off in self-imposed isolation; that they do not actually come to believe their own propaganda. We must maintain an adequate dialogue between the two sides for each at least to be clear where the other stands. As I have said, we shall be looking for signs of greater Soviet flexibility. A willingness on their part to agree to a substantial concluding document to the CSCE Review Conference in Madrid would be a useful indication and first step.
We cannot effectively improve East-West relations or make progress on disarmament without a close partnership between the Western allies. There are, of course, links of history and common culture which bind together Europe and the United States in any circumstances. There is our common belief in democracy and in liberty. But the ties of common language and the many close personal ties across the Atlantic have given the relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States a special status.
43 My generation grew up seeing at first hand during and after the last war the importance of that relationship for this country. I believe it is most important that we should pass on that experience to the post-war generation. Our societies on both sides of the Atlantic are naturally changing. It is our task to encourage the young to keep the relationship as close as it has been.
All Western Governments recognise the leading role that the United States Government must take in Western affairs through its sheer economic and military weight. We therefore keep in the closest touch with the Government of the United States. We do not hesitate to make clear when we think that our interests are being adversely affected by United States policies. Such instances have arisen. For instance, we are still concerned about extra-territorial aspects of the Export Administration Act which is to be renewed later this year. It is simply not acceptable to us that companies operating in this country should be subject to legal contraints from abroad.
But disagreements of this kind are insignificant when measured against the importance of our relationship with the United States. What the pipeline dispute last year showed was a shared belief that our overall common interests on both sides of the Atlantic are strong enough for us to find amicable solutions to problems. The Government are firmly committed to a close and productive relationship with the United States. It is something we shall do all we can to sustain and develop.
The Community and security were central to the debate during the general election campaign. But there are many regional issues on which we must make progress. Where possible, we shall play our part in helping to tackle such problems through the United Nations where our membership of the Security Council gives us a particularly important voice. But there are two areas in which I should like to see early progress.
First, the Middle East. We cannot help but be acutely concerned about the continuing tension in the Middle East. There is a clear and urgent need to reach a comprehensive and just settlement, one which reconciles the rights of all sides in the area, including Israel, to live within secure and recognised boundaries, and the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. I believe that the proposals put forward by President Reagan in September 1982 are still the most realistic basis for the start of negotiations. It is only regrettable that both the Israelis and the PLO have been unwilling to grasp this opportunity to make some real progress towards peace.
Britain, with its close links of history and trade in the Middle East, can play an active and influential part along with our European partners to assist the parties concerned, and the United States, in the negotiating process. We also attach the highest importance to the early restoration of the full territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Lebanon.
In southern Africa, too, there is both a need and an opportunity for progress. We shall play a full part in the Contact Group to help to bring Namibia to long awaited independence. We are watching with concern 44 the growing insecurity in southern Africa. This only emphasises the need for a Namibian settlement, which would make an important contribution towards greater stability.
We should not exaggerate the influence we can bring to bear on regional questions. None of them is an instance where Britain alone can solve the problem. But we have a worldwide network of friendships through the Commonwealth, and we can influence events in partnership with the rest of the Ten—a fact that underlines the political significance of our membership of the Community.
There are also issues which are more specifically the concern of the United Kingdom; our responsibilities towards our dependent territories. I should like to reaffirm in clear terms the commitment made by successive Governments to respect the wishes of the people of Gibraltar as provided for in their constitution. We shall continue to support and sustain them in the economic difficulties which they face as a result of the restrictions imposed by Spain. We look to the lifting of these through implementation of the agreement reached with Spain at Lisbon in 1980.
I should also like to reaffirm our commitment to Hong Kong. The question of Hong Kong's future is a vital one for the people of that territory. Our commitment to their future well-being is clear, and I should like to remind them, and your Lordships, that our aim is to seek a solution which is acceptable not only to the British and Chinese Governments, but also to the people of Hong Kong. Talks on Hong Kong's future with China are taking place through diplomatic channels in Peking.
I cannot predict how long they will take, but I can assure the House that we are proceeding as quickly as we can. There have been a good many rumours about what is or is not being discussed. Your Lordships will not expect me to comment on these. You will I am sure accept that the talks must remain confidential if they are to be successful. The Government certainly do not regard the outcome of the talks as pre-judged by anything that is said outside them.
They are taking place against a background of co-operation and good relations between China and the United Kingdom. A special impetus was added by the Prime Minister's visit to China last year. Britain will be participating in China's offshore oil programme, and talks are continuing on British participation in China's first nuclear power station project. Similarly, co-operation between China and Hong Kong continues to expand. Given these friendly links between Britain and China and our common interest in Hong Kong's future stability and prosperity, common sense demands that we and the Chinese Government make a success of the talks. I believe that, with good will, a satisfactory negotiated settlement will be reached.
I should like to refer briefly to our responsibilities in the Falkland Islands. The Government remain fully committed to the defence of the Falkland Islands. We shall maintain whatever defensive forces may be necessary for the islands' security in the face of external threat. We shall also promote economic development to ensure that the islanders have a viable economic future. To that end and to rebuild the islanders' way of life through our rehabilitation 45 programme, we have allocated £46 million from aid Votes to the islands, of which over two-thirds will be spent over a period of six years on development based on proposals in the report of Lord Shackleton's economic study of 1982.
It is a matter of regret to the Government, and to your noble Lordships' House, that as yet there has been no formal announcement of the cessation of hostilities from the Argentine Government; and that our moves to restore trading and commercial links have not been fully reciprocated. Our hope remains that we shall see progress towards normalisation on both those fronts.
Apart from Argentina, we enjoy good relations with the other countries of Latin America and would like to see them developed further still. As an instance of this, and an echo of the links between this country and Latin America, noble Lords will be aware that celebrations are taking place in London this week to mark the bicentenary of the birth of Simón Bolivar. It is worth recalling that this week is the anniversary of the Battle of Carobobo (which, in case your Lordships have forgotten, took place on 24th June 1821), in which Bolivar's British Legion played a decisive role. We are happy to have in London for the celebrations distinguished representatives of six Latin American countries whose independence Bolivar helped to secure. We also have an active modern relationship. One example of this is that British bankers are playing an important role in the negotiations to reschedule the foreign debt of a number of Latin American countries.
Underlying all the international problems of recent years, and exacerbating many of them, has been the world recession. The last few years have been a period in which the growth plans of even the most successful developing countries have withered. The leaders of the major Western industrialised countries have of course been aware of the size of the problem, and underlined their concern most recently at Williamsburg. But I have been struck by the growing level of concern among British people in general about the state of the economies of developing countries and the effects on the poorest groups.
We are conscious of our responsibility in this area, and will continue to support proposals for changes in the services provided by the international financial institutions. We shall also maintain what I believe to be an imaginative and well directed aid programme within the resources available. But clearly the most important contribution industrialised countries can make to the world economy is the restoration of sustained growth in their own economies. This is the only way in which the flows of trade and investment which developing countries most need can be generated.
The Williamsburg summit promised no easy path to such a recovery. But there was progress in agreeing co-operation to carry forward the achievements made so far. Our moderate and sensible economic policies were generally endorsed. The overall spirit was one of optimism that recession is being beaten, and the emerging recovery sustained.
Our priorities are clear. We are determined to ensure our security and promote our prosperity in close partnership with our friends and allies. We shall 46 work for better East/West relations and for arms control agreements which are not only advantageous to both sides but are the best way to maintain peace.
With the election behind us we can face the world with confidence and optimism. The last four years have shown Britain playing an increasingly effective role in foreign affairs. I believe that the continuity which the return of this Government has ensured will enable us to play this role in the future with even greater energy, conviction and imagination.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for her speech—the first that she has made in her new office—and for her outline of Government policy on the more acute problems which face the world at this time. Like the noble Baroness, we are looking forward to the maiden speech which is to be made by the noble Lord, Lord Cameron.
This is the first speech from the Front Bench which we have heard since the election. We now have a reconstituted Government, a new Foreign Secretary, but the same Prime Minister, and she will now have her hand on the tiller even more firmly than before. We shall therefore be concerned about the Prime Minister's policies and attitudes, and she will have no doubt about the rightness of her own policies at home and abroad. It is good, of course, to have firm government, but how the Prime Minister's policies develop in a dangerous and uncertain world is of the first importance to us all.
I am sure the whole House will agree that the Government's objective should be the achievement of stability which can lead to real détente and sympathetic co-operation with the third world, and, above all, that the Government should be working to ensure success at the START and INF talks in Geneva which have been referred to by the noble Baroness.
The gracious Speech itself refers to arms control. Our view on this side of the House is that disarmament should be at the top of the agenda and we believe that this country should be playing a full part in the negotiations. I shall return to this matter later, and my noble friend Lord Bishopston will speak more fully on defence when he winds up on this side of the House.
There have been recent summit conferences of the first importance at Williamsburg and at Stuttgart. The results of Williamsburg—and here I cannot share the optimistic views of the noble Baroness—were a major disappointment, taking account of the state of the Western economy and the appalling fact that 32 million people are out of work in the seven largest industrial countries. That does not encourage me to say that the economic policies are a roaring success.
There appeared to be no movement away from the doctrinaire monetary and fiscal policies which have created this unemployment, and it seemed clear that this present Government, that Mrs. Thatcher and Sir Geoffrey Howe, did nothing whatever to move away from this rigid stance at Williamsburg. We were told that the objective would be to create new jobs, but the recommendations in the final declaration of Williamsburg leave the Western economies in the same kind of deadlock which has led to our present 47 situation. President Mitterrand tried hard to obtain a Bretton Woods-type monetary conference, and this appears in the communiqué, but Sir Geoffrey Howe and others were as unhelpful as possible to President Mitterrand.
One had the feeling that Williamsburg was a "set piece" where nothing much was expected to happen. It was a dismal performance and it was made worse by the reaction of the conference generally, including the United Kingdom representatives, to the plans put forward by President Mitterrand and Mr. Trudeau to help the developing countries. The rest appeared to decide that hope for the third world depended on growth in the industrial countries. They referred, of course, to the UNCTAD Conference at Belgrade, and we shall have to see what comes out of that.
But we on this side believe that President Mitterrand's initiative was the most promising aspect of Williamsburg; we hope that the international monetary conference which is accepted in the communiqué will be held soon; and, most of all, we trust that the Government will go to this new conference with a determination to work for a long-term agreement of the Bretton Woods type. It is unbelievable that, with the depressed state of the world economy, with the numbers of unemployed which I have mentioned, the Western countries of the world cannot agree on a joint economic policy which will help to stabilise the Western economy and bring the figures of unemployment down. The economic implications of this will obviously be debated fully in this House next Wednesday, but I would say now that we cannot have international stability unless we get agreement on the Western economy first.
The gracious Speech refers to "a substantial aid programme". I was surprised to see that privatisation is creeping even into the aid programme. If this is true—and Mr. Timothy Raison has said that a special conference with the CBI is to be called soon to see how private industry can make larger contributions—then I am very suspicious of the Government's developing policy on aid. Private industries are of course involved overseas and their investment may be helpful, but they are no substitute for Government aid. It is quite wrong, and indeed damaging, for the Government to pass their responsibilities to private firms with a view to saving on public expenditure. We shall need to look very carefully at this development over the coming months.
By the way, it is worth noting while we are considering overseas aid that the Overseas Development Administration is under severe pressure by the Government. It is responsible for scientific and special units which deal with the handling and storage of tropical products and other matters, and although it consumes only 1 per cent. of the aid budget, its work in the aid programme is very much greater than that. It is to be drastically cut down, and the Foreign Affairs Committee of another place has been scathing in its exposure of these changes. The Select Committee comments that two new unorthodoxies underlie the cuts; namely, that private is good and public is bad, when there is a choice, and that cost-cutting equals efficiency—and, of course, Members of all political parties are on the Select Committee in another House. 48 This is a very serious trend. It makes the commitment in the gracious Speech to "maintain a substantial aid programme" look very feeble indeed.
Already today we have had a Statement, repeated by the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, on the Summit at Stuttgart. Again, this has not gone quite as we would all wish. On this occasion we fully realise that the Government had a difficult task on hand. They were claiming £650 million, and it was clear at the Council of Foreign Ministers—the first to be attended by Sir Geoffrey Howe—that the omens were poor. Stuttgart produced a rebate of £450 million for Britain, substantially short of expectations. We must be glad that that settlement was reached, but we must also remember that it is provisional. As always, the core of the problem is agricultural expenditure.
The new Commission figures released last week show that the CAP will cost the EEC 30 per cent. more this year than last year and that this will cost £240 million more to run the Community. There are obviously very tough negotiations to come, both on the CAP and on the issue of "own resources". We must all hope that these will succeed in producing an acceptable package.
Over the last few years—virtually since we became members, 10 years ago—the Community has been bedevilled by these annual sessions of haggling and failure to agree, especially on agricultural spending. This has done no good to relations within the Community itself. It has affected the Community in many ways. Perhaps I may say at once that I was never personally persuaded that Britain's deliberate withdrawal from the Community would be in our long-term interests, and it is becoming clear that the policy of the Labour Party is now in the course of revision.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, I am interested to note that some noble Lords opposite are laughing. I can prophesy that the policies of this Government will be changed substantially over the next three or four years if this country is to survive in the difficult world in which we live, but I shall come to one or two of those points a little later.
As I was saying, the disagreements are far from being resolved and we must hope that substantial efforts are made to tackle them between now and the end of the year. I thought that the Observer summarised them well in its leader last Sunday, when it said:Beyond the immediate bargaining … the Community must urgently restructure its finances to achieve a more realistic balance between revenue and expenditure, between industry and agriculture and"—the main sticking point—between different national contributions. It is manifestly unjust that Britain, a relatively poor member in terms of income per head, should be expected to pay more than any other country save West Germany".The House will appreciate a comment on these matters before the end of the debate next week.
The noble Baroness was good enough to give us a tour d'horizon and to deal with a number of the world's difficult areas. She referred specifically to 49 Namibia, in which, on this side of the House, we have been interested and upon which we have had several debates. I remember the noble Lord, Lord Carrington—who I am glad to see in his place—about three years ago saying that negotiations were approaching their culmination. I know that the noble Lord did his utmost, but things are worse now than they were then, although there has been some activity over the last two or three weeks.
The Organisation of African Unity has condemned the linkage between Namibian independence and the withdrawal of Cuban troops insisted upon by the United States and South Africa, and the United Nations Security Council passed a unanimous resolution pressing South Africa to implement independence and giving the Secretary General three months to use his good offices to achieve this. We are, of course, glad that the Government supported this resolution and we hope that it will have some early effect. Namibia is in a parlous state; its economy is largely in ruins and all the evidence is that hopelessness and helplessness pervade the country. South African obduracy towards Namibia and her policy of reprisals against her neighbours will, if they continue, bring a terrible reaction. If black Africa ultimately calls on Russia for help, then South Africa really will have communism on her doorsteps. It does not need a great deal of imagination to envisage the dangers which would ensue from that. Therefore, I hope that the Government will continue to bring pressure to bear through the United Nations and especially upon the United States, because there is no doubt that South Africa has been far more intransigent under the present United States Administration than it was under its predecessor.
Things have not improved in the Middle East, to which the noble Baroness referred. The precise thing has happened there which could happen in Africa: Russia is playing a greater military role in Syria and the United States have a presence in the Lebanon. No foreign troops have been withdrawn and no settlement has been reached between Israel and the Palestinians. It would be helpful if we could have the Government's reaction to these grave developments and be told whether any initiative by us or by the Community is under way, as there is a very real danger of a drift towards war in the Middle East.
I generally agree with what the noble Baroness said about Gibraltar and about Hong Kong, and we hope that the negotiations about the latter will come to a successful conclusion. As regards the Falklands, "Fortress Falklands" is an unhappy necessity, but the time must come—and the sooner it comes the better—when talks will have to start again, because the burden of sustaining "Fortress Falklands"—necessary though that may be in principle—is one that this economy cannot bear for an indefinite period of time.
However, whichever we look at, it is our relations with the Soviet Union—and by that I mean the relations of the United States and the West generally with Russia—which are of paramount importance. The noble Lord, Lord Home, recognised that in an important speech which he made in the House on 9th November. Let me make it clear, lest there be any doubt, that on this side of the House we are fully in support of our membership of NATO. Relations have 50 deteriorated more rapidly since the Afghanistan invasion and the developments in Poland. We must hope that the Pope's historic visit to Poland, his own country, and his talks with Marshall Jaruzelski will bear fruit and that a modus vivendi can be achieved there.
Both the Soviet and the United States leaders have been making aggressive speeches in recent months, and commentators have said that the result of the general election in this country means that Britain will support hardline attitudes towards Russia. I am bound to say that there was not very much of a nod towards détente in the gracious Speech. This does not appear to augur well for the future. But there were also some snippets of commonsense in the speeches of the leaders of both sides. For example, Mr. Chernenko, who proposed Mr. Andropov for the presidency, said in a speech a few days ago that:There is no more important task than safeguarding and strengthening peace and the principles of détente should be constantly upheld".Then President Andropov himself spoke of "peaceful competition with capitalism".
Of course, we know that Soviet foreign policy will not change, whoever is the leader of the Soviet Union. Russia will do everything to preserve her system and her boundaries, and extend her sphere of influence wherever and whenever possible. I do not tend to gullibility. Russia also has massive economic problems, and I believe that she no more wants a nuclear war than does the West. The point may well have been reached now—a stalemate, an impasse— when both sides may be ready to talk on a realistic basis. But a refusal to explore all possibilities on ideological grounds would be a fearful mistake. The noble Baroness said that Russia must not cut herself off from the West. I would agree, but add that we must not cut ourselves off from Russia.
This is why the START and the INF talks are so crucial. There have been some encouraging new signs of flexibility on both the US and Soviet sides. The leader of the US delegation, General Rowney, has said that he had been given a lot more latitude and that he was rather more hopeful than previously. Both sides appear ready to count warheads and not missiles. This is a substantial step forward. But the implications of failure at Geneva are extremely grave for everyone—East and West alike—and I hope that the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, whom we congratulate most warmly on his new appointment, will tell us how those talks are proceeding in Geneva. Are we satisfied that they are going well? Could he say particularly whether the newspaper reports that British and French nuclear deterrents are now becoming a major obstacle to agreement on intermediate nuclear weapons in Europe are true?
There is one point in the gracious Speech which needs further clarification. It refers tothe deployment of cruise and Pershing II missiles by the end of 1983.Are we right in thinking that if agreement is reached in Geneva this policy in relation to cruise and Pershing will in fact be revised decisively; that if there is a satisfactory agreement in Geneva then there will be no Pershing or cruise? The noble Baroness sought to clarify these words; but what I am asking her is 51 whether she conceives the possibility of a settlement which would make Pershing and cruise unnecessary. I understood that to be Government policy. That is the point that needs to be explained fully in the light of the words in the gracious Speech.
This country has an obvious practical and political interest in these talks, and at some stage both we and the French may wish to join in them. They certainly should not be allowed to fail before we have participated in them, not only because of our current nuclear capability but also because a breakdown in the talks would then mean the definite deployment of cruise and Pershing missiles on our soil. We must not be treated as if we had no stake in the matter. Before those talks are allowed to break down we must have British representatives sitting around that table. I hope that the visit by the United States defence Secretary, Mr Weinberger, to this country at the present time will give the Government the opportunity to clarify these matters.
Convention permits me to say today that I disagreed profoundly with what the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, said yesterday about chemical weapons. We certainly welcome the Government's action in urging the UN Disarmament Committee in Geneva on Tuesday to give top priority to attaining agreement on a treaty banning chemical weapons, especially in the difficult but vital areas of verification.
I read the Prime Minister's speech in the other place yesterday, and I am bound to confess that it left me with a slight feeling of unease. The Prime Minister's weakness is that her undoubted determination can all too easily drift into obstinacy, and these may be decisive moments in history. They are times which certainly call for firmness; but they also call for understanding. They call for realism; but they also call for flexibility. They are times which call for courage; but they also call for imagination.
We wish the Government every success in their conduct of foreign affairs over the next few years and hope that they will make a significant and, where necessary, an independent contribution. We must not be tied to the United States in every detail. Of course we are the friends and allies of the United States but I do not want to believe, as is hinted at in the gracious Speech, that we are subservient to the United States. We are not yet a colony of the United States. We are an independent country, and we are a far more valuable ally to the United States if we proffer the right advice—the advice we believe in—at the right moment. We hope therefore that the Government's policies will be a success, and that they will contribute practically and constructively to the preservation of world peace.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, if I may I shall take up the remarks of the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, on the subject of defence, and particularly on the subject of the INF talks at Geneva, which it is generally agreed are extremely urgent and important, and on which we on these Benches have some strong criticisms to make of the position of the Government.
52 I heard the noble Baroness say that the Government's defence policies had been resoundingly endorsed by the election. I suppose we have to assume that she was referring to the general election which has just taken place, but, of course, that was the election where the Government lost support; where 70 per cent. of the electorate either voted against the Government or did not care enough about it to turn up at the polls. To call that a resounding endorsement of the Government's defence policies is stretching words. If we are to conclude anything from the election about the defence policies of the different parties, it showed a moderate decline in support for the Government's defence policies, a drastic collapse in support for the Labour Party's defence policies, and a resounding endorsement of the defence policies of the Alliance. That is the only possible numerical deduction to be drawn from the election results so far as the parties' defence policies are concerned.
The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, raised an important point when he pointed out that in the Queen's Speech there is a change of policy by the Government on the matter of cruise missiles. Until then the policy of the Government was that they would deploy cruise missiles if no agreement was reached at Geneva. This is a bad enough position in which to be in any case, because if you say that you are going to deploy cruise missiles if there is no agreement, you are saying that you are going to deploy cruise missiles no matter how negative the attitude of the United States during the negotiations. I shall come to that later.
But now the Government now go further. In the Queen's Speech they say that the Government,stand by the NATO decision … to begin the deployment of cruise and Pershing II missiles by the end of 1983. The numbers finally deployed will depend upon the outcome of the Geneva talks".That is to say, what is at stake is not whether or not missiles will be deployed. That is conceded by the Government; missiles will be deployed. What is at stake now is the numbers to be deployed; and that is a new and profoundly damaging change in the attitude of Her Majesty's Government. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne—whom we congratulate on resuming a role in international affairs—will answer the criticisms that the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, and those of us on these Benches make on that point.
The significance of this whole crucial subject is that the solution is in British hands. Because we are members of NATO that does not mean that we have lost the freedom to choose whether or not to deploy these missiles. If we decide to deploy them the other participating European countries will follow our example and they will be deployed: if we decide not to deploy them, similarly our example will be followed and the cruise and Pershing missile project for Europe will be abortive. This gives us great influence at Geneva if we wish to use it. On these Benches we say that if the Government use their influence aright there is still a good chance of reaching agreement in these crucial talks.
After all, in military terms the distance between the Russians and the Americans in these talks is far narrower than is often thought. We know that the Americans would settle for no cruise, no Pershings, and no SS20s. We know that the Russians would settle for no cruise, no Pershings, and 162 SS20s. That is the 53 Andropov offer. That is to say, in military terms, at its widest the difference between the two sides is precisely 162 missiles—496 warheads—and that is less than 2 per cent. of the combined stockpile of nuclear warheads of the superpowers. Less than 2 per cent., my Lords!
Without cruise and Pershings NATO still has the capacity to destroy the Soviet Union many times over: without SS20s the Soviet Union still has the capacity to destroy Western Europe many times over. Noble Lords may have seen in Tuesday's edition of The Times a speech by Admiral Robert Falls, who is chairman of NATO's military committee. He said he supported the Geneva negotiations, but he went on:Western politicians tended to forget the importance of submarine-launched missiles which had an enormous deterrent capability and which should force leaders to think again about the need for new ground-launched systems".That is not the statement of a retired admiral or a retired military expert. It is the statement of an admiral in a highly responsible position inside the NATO machine.
Like many other experts he dismisses the argument that there is some particular characteristic about cruise and Pershing that makes them indispensable. This is not so of course. Since the zero option—which President Reagan has described as an ideal solution—dispenses with cruise and Pershing II, any argument that they have some special indispensable characteristic obviously falls.
The conclusion must be that the military issues at stake in these talks have been vastly exaggerated. They have been exaggerated by the unilateralists. They have been exaggerated by the Russians. They have been exaggerated by a number of NATO's own military advisers and they have been exaggerated by the British Government.
The importance of the talks—and they are of vast importance—is wholly political; because if these talks fail undoubtedly there will be an increase in tension between East and West. There will be great strains within NATO and there will be great strains inside NATO countries. In Germany there may even be a threat to law and order. There will be an intensification of the arms race, and no doubt the deployment of yet more sophisticated weapons by the Soviet Union. Conversely if these talks succeed they could open the way to further agreement on strategic weapons in the SALT talks. They could even lead to a genuine period of détente and certainly they would unite NATO. They would reduce divisions within the NATO countries and they would increase the moral leadership of the United States.
These are tremendous prizes. They are political not military. It is hard to exaggerate them. Yet what do we see at Geneva? We see the Soviet and the American negotiators, obsessed with the military factors, using endless time and ingenuity to try to define an exact balance, showing themselves quite prepared to forgo an agreement because of what seems to them to be an undue reduction in their own useless nuclear overkill or an insufficient reduction in the useless nuclear overkill of the other side. That is the position. It is a dangerous and absurd charade. Yet the British Government are in a position to put an end to it. They hold the cards. They could put an end to it. And they 54 are doing nothing. And worse, in one respect they are positively obstructing an agreement, because in the balance sheet of warheads between East and West the Government are refusing to allow the negotiators to take any account whatever, either in the INF talks or in the START talks, of the warheads of the British missile submarines.
Polaris is assigned to NATO. It is actually under command, targeted and deployed by the Supreme Allied Commander. Is it really unreasonable of the Russians to wish for the Polaris warheads to feature in the equation? The Government are not being asked to abandon the British deterrent, but are simply being asked to allow it to be counted in. In the talks in Vienna on getting a balance of conventional arms, it is agreed by both sides to add 50,000 troops to the Western side on account of the French contribution. The French troops do not belong to NATO, but there is an informal, under-the-counter, common sense agreement by both sides to add 50,000 troops to the Western side to make some allowance for French troops. Why should we not do this in the INF talks in Geneva? Why do the Government refuse even to do that much and remove this obstacle to an agreement?
It is easy to see one reason why the Government are reluctant. If allowance is made today for the 192 Polaris warheads, allowance will have to be made tomorrow for the 896 Trident warheads. This is the trouble and is one reason why the Government are obstructing the talks at Geneva. Because it would then become embarrassingly clear to everyone how this misbegotten Trident project would give a vicious upward twist to the nuclear arms race worldwide. We know already that this subject has become a major obstacle to agreement in Geneva and yet, rather than abandon Trident, Her Majesty's Government are willing to put the Geneva talks at risk.
Finally, there is another way in which the Government are obstructing agreement in Geneva. It is plain that both sides must make concessions if agreement is to be reached. The Government are not bringing effective pressure on the United States to make concessions. The Labour Party—I think the Government and we on these Benches are agreed on this—make the mistake of saying that in no circumstances will we deploy cruise missiles. That takes the pressure off the Russians to make any concessions whatever in these talks. They were open to criticism on this. They were criticised and the British people agree with the criticism. But the Government are making exactly the same mistake in the opposite direction. The Government are saying that we will deploy if there is no agreement. We will deploy no matter how negative the American position is in the negotiations. This is again a disastrous attitude which is obstructing the possibility of agreement.
There is no law which says that, because we are allies of the United States, when we see them about to make a wrong decision on some issue of vital importance to Britain we should automatically follow their lead. There is no law which says that the Prime Minister can quarrel as often as she likes with our European allies, but never with President Reagan. We are in danger of following the United States too slavishly in their defence policy. We are in danger of becoming the East Germany of the Atlantic Alliance.
55 The Government explain that what we need is NATO unity and NATO resolve to induce the Russians to negotiate seriously. Those who have negotiated with the Russians—I include myself—know that that is exactly what they say themselves. When two sides say that they will be resolved and united until the other side makes a move, one gets deadlock, which is what we have now. The Government say that the balance is in favour of the Soviet Union, so that it is for them to make the first move. The noble Baroness said that the Americans have made generous concessions and the Russians have not replied. But all these things are what the Russians claim in reverse.
Plainly, to analyse the rival claims is extremely complicated and indeed it needs technical skills in many ways. Those who bitterly distrust Soviet communism—and I count myself as one—are sorely tempted to take the Western statements as they stand. But the fact is that closer study does not bear them out. Not all the Soviet arguments in this debate are just propaganda, and these arguments have not yet been properly presented to Western opinion. For example, it is not true that the Soviet Union has a monopoly of intermediate range weapons in Europe. It is not true that it has an overall nuclear lead. It is true that the zero option would require the Russians to make drastic reductions and the West to make no reductions at all. It is true that the modified zero option, to which the noble Baroness referred, has precisely the same effect on the balance—substantial Soviet reductions and/or substantial increases in Western nuclear capacity. It is true, on the other hand, that the Soviet Union with its SS20s has replaced its intermediate range weapons, the bulk of which were more than 20 years old. It had an enormous technological case for modernising. If we had been in its position, on technological grounds we would have modernised.
Finally, it is true that it is methodically withdrawing and dismantling its old intermediate range weapons as it has been deploying the SS20s. The Soviet Union was plainly foolish to deploy the SS20s in the provocative way it did; I do not deny that for one moment. But close and objective examination does not show either that the Russians set out deliberately to upset the balance or that the Americans have made generous negotiating offers and that the Russians have not reciprocated.
So the conclusion that we on these Benches would draw is not just that NATO should show unity and resolution but that it should show much more plainly than it has done so far its commitment to reaching an agreement at Geneva and its willingness to negotiate flexibly for that purpose. As for Her Majesty's Government, no one expects them to make new public statements now while negotiations are going on, but their duty is plain: to make clear privately to the United States, first, that we do not wish these talks to fail because of our insistence that British nuclear warheads are not to be counted in the balance. Secondly, we should make it plain that unless the United States shows greater flexibility in the negotiations Her Majesty's Government will not find it possible to deploy cruise missiles in this country. If 56 that is done, we believe that the chances of success at Geneva are very much greater.
In conclusion, I am sorry to have taken so long. I have concentrated on this subject because we on these Benches feel it to be critical and urgent. There are many other issues on defence on which, as the Parliament proceeds, we shall seek for answers from the Government. For example, we find it deplorable that the Government should be prepared indefinitely to base the defence of Western Europe on the threat of the first use of nuclear weapons. We shall be discussing that situation later in the debate. We also think that the Government should develop and deploy the remarkable new range of defensive weapons in Europe. We believe we have the economic capacity in the West to build up the strength of NATO until we can deter and, if necessary, defeat a Soviet conventional attack without recourse to nuclear weapons at all. We deplore the Government's rigid opposition to the idea of a battlefield nuclear weapon-free zone on the central front. We deplore their refusal to contemplate a mutual and verifiable freeze on the production and deployment of nuclear weapons; and we deplore their persistence in the lunatic project of Trident.
The election showed that the Conservative and Labour parties take extreme views on nuclear weapons, as in almost every other field. The Labour Party say: "We should wash our hands of anything to do with nuclear weapons, even while the Russians keep theirs". The Conservatives went to the other extreme and put forward policies of extreme dependence on nuclear weapons—of a massive build-up of nuclear power—and of an indifference amounting almost to obstruction to proposals for arms control and disarmament. On these Benches we accept that, while the Russians have nuclear weapons, NATO needs a nuclear deterrent. We accept that Britain is a loyal member of NATO and should be prepared to make a contribution to that NATO deterrent. But we oppose the crazy build-up of nuclear overkill, and we believe that the Geneva talks can and must succeed. In these respects we utterly condemn the policy of Her Majesty's Government.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Lord Cameron of Balhousie
My Lords, it is a great honour for me to have become a Member of your Lordships' House, and I pledge myself to do all I can, within my limited capability, to help the work of this famous and great House. I am deeply grateful for the welcome I have received from all sides of the House.
I recognise that a maiden speech should be non-controversial. I must say that I am deeply tempted to get into controversy after some of the speeches that I have just heard, but I will stick to being non-controversial except to say that I stand in support of Trident D5, of the deployment of IBM, cruise missiles and Pershing. I also stand on the question of "no first use" being a tactic which we shall have to maintain for the time being, but that is for another day and I shall now continue to be totally non-controversial. I am also very conscious of the time factor, and I am keeping my eye on that strange machine which is looking down on me.
57 I am deeply pleased that the gracious Speech from the Throne spoke in warmest terms of NATO and our defence effort, and I have listened with great interest to what the noble Baroness had to say about our NATO commitment and about our other commitments. This afternoon I should like to speak a little about the scenario and the factors affecting the development of defence policy, and how this policy is formulated. Nowadays, I suggest, we cannot take just a European view of defence. We cannot talk about the Channel, the Rhine, the Elbe or even the Volga, to a certain extent: we must be talking about the Amur River, and all points East. In other words, we must be taking a global view.
The Soviet threat was touched on in a speech made yesterday, and I will not follow through on that now, but I should like to approach it, if I may, from a different angle. It always seems to be that all the problems are on our side; but that is just not so. The Soviet Union has its problems, and they are very large problems indeed. The economy has been touched on this afternoon already, and I do not need to dwell on that because your Lordships all know the record. Agriculture is virtually a disaster area. Centralisation and bureaucratic systems have meant that agriculture has been stifled. There is dissidence. Yesterday I was speaking to one of my academics who has been travelling in the Soviet Union and Bulgaria, and he brought this point home to me very clearly. The dissidence is religious and otherwise. In the case of Islam, the growth is to 50 million-plus, particularly in the East, and out of a population of 275 million that is a very large percentage. Also, many of the 50 million Islamic people do not speak Russian, and many of them have had to be banished from the Afghanistan front for that very reason. That is something which the Soviet Union must he very worried about.
Then, of course, there is Poland, and what is going on at this very moment in Poland and in Afghanistan. The Glacis states or the Brezhnev doctrine states (whichever way you like to refer to them) are restive. There is very little doubt about that. They are watching Poland extremely closely at this very moment, and if Poland gets into difficulties and goes sour I have no doubt they will want to follow it and we could be in for a disastrous situation. I fear there is an historic danger for a nation lashing out to take its eyes off the domestic problem in certain circumstances, and I fear that could happen in this case.
However, I should like now to turn to some of the Soviet mischief that is going on around the world. This is particularly in Africa, but they are also taking a glancing blow at Vietnam, where much is going on and where the Chinese are deeply tempted to make another pre-emptive strike. One discusses occasionally with the Chinese what their policy is. But so far as Africa is concerned the Cuban surrogates, we know, are there is very large numbers. The East German surrogates are operating as well—in Angola, the Horn of Africa, Aden, North Yemen and also spreading into South Yemen—de-stabilising local situations and also altering the global strategic balance. There is a great threat to European and United States minerals—bauxite, uranium, platinum, gold and many others—in these various countries. Nations just do not seem to be able to appreciate that if these supplies of 58 minerals are cut off in these various areas, industry will grind very quickly to a total stop. This applies particularly to some of the smaller nations in Europe. South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Angola are parts of Africa where these minerals are being dug out and they are of great strategic importance to the West.
The Persian Gulf is another area of mischief. On the future of oil, I believe that the Soviet Union will, for a short period, have to get oil supplies from the Gulf until such time as the Siberian Sea supply comes on tap. To get the Siberian supply going needs Western technology, so they will be looking to the Gulf for their oil supplies. Of course, this is also a vital United States interest and they have declared it as a strategic area which they will defend if necessary. However, it is a long way from the United States.
They search for bases. They talk of Diego Garcia and of putting the rapid deployment force onto ships and keeping them in the area. But it is very hot in that part of the world and it is not a place in which to keep marines for long periods. The United States is in a particularly difficult strategic situation there. What would be the rules of engagement if the Soviet Union were to move up to the oil wells of the Persian Gulf? It is a very difficult problem for the United States, and it is one on which we must have a great deal of sympathy when discussing the issues with them.
Next there is the position of Iran. To be kind, one might call it an Islamic shambles. The Soviets are withdrawing aid and help, in the form of doctors, et cetera, back to the Soviet Union, and the Tudeh party has, generally speaking, been driven underground. Soviet forces are on the borders of Iran in some strength, with tactical air forces and divisions which are quite capable of moving into Iran if the situation so demands. They may have that opportunity and they are ready to take it.
On Afghanistan. I need say nothing. The Soviets are having a very hard time indeed. But I would remind your Lordships that the airfields in Afghanistan are only 30 minutes' flying time from the entrance of the Straits of Hormuz. Your Lordships know as well as I do that there are hundreds of tankers pouring in and out every day through those straits, so they have a strategic domination of those straits if they so wish. So that Afghanistan, plus Iran, and that part of the strategic area which is in Soviet hands, would present a very grave difficulty.
The noble Baroness mentioned the Lebanon, Syria, Israel and the PLO. The opportunities for mischief there are absolutely legion and I believe that the Soviet Union is taking them. As regards South America and the Indies, there is a Caribbean ring closing on the United States and they are deeply concerned about it. We must be very sympathetic towards United States policy so far as South America and the Caribbean ring are concerned. Bases are growing up there and the United States is very worried about them.
The noble Baroness touched on the question of United States/United Kingdom relations. On a recent visit to Texas, I was deeply distressed to find how United States/United Kingdom relations have deteriorated. One must work as hard as one can to improve them and be more sympathetic to United States policy around the world. I wonder where the United States 59 may deploy in the next few years. It may be South America or it may be the Far East. But the point is: can we be absolutely certain? This is the key point—I shall come back to it, if I have an opportunity of speaking at a later date—in the question of whether we can rely on United States support. I do not believe that we can expect it of them. Will they be totally devoted to NATO for the rest of time? Possibly we should remember that forces from NATO will be deployed to the Persian Gulf should an emergency arise there, and we could suddenly be left on our own.
I fear that the West has no co-ordinated policy when compared with the Warsaw Pact. One remembers, first, the difficulties with Poland and the lack of policy then. One also remembers the oil crisis of the last few years, and such a crisis will occur again. There is also the pipeline to Europe. I feel that there is a need for some institutionalisation. Summits, yes. It is very good news when the leaders go and talk and a very favourable atmosphere is developed. But when we come back into the fog of politics locally, some of the great decisions which are taken are inclined to run into the sand. We need a Western strategic planning staff which is capable of following through some of the decisions that are taken at the summit.
Finally, the much-quoted Clausewitz said:War is the continuation of policy by other means.Let there be no war, because, in the nuclear age, policy must not fail.
§ 5.26 p.m.
§ Baroness Elles
My Lords, your Lordships will wish me to congratulate most warmly the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Cameron, on his most impressive and well-informed maiden speech. This distinguished member of the Royal Air Force, who reached the highest rank of Marshal, is, of course, known not only as a man of action but as an outstanding thinker, and many of us in this House will welcome the fact that he is not only an outstanding thinker, but an outstanding Christian thinker. I know that many of your Lordships will always wish to hear, with the greatest interest, not only impartial speeches such as this noble and gallant Lord has made, but even more partial speeches in the future.
I should also like to take this opportunity, speaking from the Back-Benches, to congratulate my noble friend Lady Young on her new appointment and to thank her most warmly for the very wide and far-reaching speech that she has given us this afternoon. In the gracious Speech, two or three paragraphs have been devoted to foreign policy and defence, and they are very concisely written. But the speech of my noble friend has shown the very wide responsibilities which this Government have in playing a leading part in world affairs. For this reason in particular, I am sure that all Back-Benchers would wish to express their thanks to my noble friend for that first speech on foreign affairs from the Front Bench.
The gracious Speech contains one sentence to which I should like to draw particular attention. That is the sentence which states:My Government will work constructively for the development of the European Community.60 Whatever statistics may be used by the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, I think most of us are firmly convinced that the people of this country have totally rejected any question of withdrawing from the European Community. However, although we now have the full support of the British people in retaining that membership, it will be a challenge to the Government to make sure that that support is not gainsaid or let down, because the people of Britain have seen what happens in the Community when we do not use our full strength, our full force of argument, in arguing not only for British interests but also for those of the Community as a whole
Earlier this afternoon, we heard a Statement by the Government on the Stuttgart meeting of the European Council. One noble Lord—I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Kennet—questioned why we should go on referring to the British rebate. But the whole point is that it is the British people who have had to make an inequitable contribution to the budget of the European Community.
This Government, and particularly our Prime Minister, have shown courage in daring to take this up in confrontation with other member states, not only for the benefit of Britain but also, in the long run, for the benefit of the Community. The situation was quite intolerable, not only for Britain but also for other countries which will be coming into the Community and which would have been very seriously affected by the way in which the financial structure of the Community budget is set out. I have only to mention Portugal, one of the poorest nations in the Community, having to make a net contribution to the budget.
So we should be grateful to our Prime Minister for having taken such a strong stand at Stuttgart. I hope not only that her negotiations for this rebate will come to a speedy and successful conclusion but also that her strictures on the way in which the financing of the budget of the Community has been handled in the past will be heeded, so that a more equitable distribution of contribution and receipt will be put into operation with all possible speed.
I would sound only one note of caution. It is often said that just by reforming the common agricultural policy all problems will be solved. We know that this is not true. We know that the agricultural industry of this country has increased its productivity by nearly 30 per cent. since our membership of the Community, because of the common agricultural policy. We know also that we are now living in a part of the world—perhaps the only part of the world—which can claim to be self-sufficient in food supplies. That is not only good for the consumer; it is also essential for the security of Western Europe. Therefore, in our enthusiasm for trying to restructure the Community budget do not let us cut out much of the good which has been achieved by the common agricultural policy. This would be a great mistake.
I hope that the Government will view with great caution any major reform of the common agricultural policy, which has proved to be of benefit not only to the farmers but to the people of Western Europe as a whole. Those of us who lived through the last war recall what food shortages meant to families; we know 61 what a great benefit it is to live in a part of the world where there are no food shortages.
Furthermore, let us not be bedevilled by the agricultural export policies of the United States. These must be negotiated across the board. Let us also remember that the United States subsidise their farmers—although in a different way—to an almost equal amount as does the Community. Therefore, it is not for the United States to say that the Community is unfair because it subsidises the farmers in the European Community when they themselves are spending about the same amount on subsidies for their own farmers. I hope, therefore, that the Government will negotiate through the Community with the United States of America and will reach a satisfactory solution for the handling of surpluses which will not be detrimental to either of us.
There are many areas of policy to which the Government will be able to contribute. Just the headings which were read out in connection with the Council meeting at Stuttgart give an indication of the very large number of matters which are now handled through the Community as opposed to individually on a nation by nation basis. I should like to single out one or two of those headings. We have only a short time in which to speak during this debate, since there are many speakers. At this point I should like to apologise to those noble Lords whose speeches I shall be unable to hear, as I have an official engagement later this evening.
One of the aspects of the Community upon which my noble friend Lady Young touched is the internal market. There are some issues which could be solved quite simply, such as the passage of goods across frontiers. It is not generally known that the cost as it stands, and as it has always been, is between three billion and seven billion dollars. The estimates vary enormously. This sum is wasted on account of inefficient practices when crossing frontiers within the Community. This is the kind of problem which our Government should look at. They should look at customs administration and see how these sums could be reduced. This would be an enormous contribution to the general economic structure of the Community. It is, perhaps, a small point but in financial terms it is a quite considerable amount.
One other aspect upon which I should like to touch is development. I do not believe that any speaker so far has dealt fully with this aspect. Living in a part of the world which, thanks largely to the CAP, is virtually self-sufficient in food supplies and which has not experienced food shortages for decades, we should use our vast experience—particularly the United Kingdom, whose Government have vast experience of administration—to take a more positive lead in policies which relate to the feeding of the millions who are starving and to the economic and social development of so many countries, known not only as the LDCs but, alas, as the LLDCs—the least least developed countries. Having just come back from the Pacific, one has been made only too painfully aware of the enormous difference in standards of living between one island in the Pacific and another. In the case of one small country, Western Samoa, their annual expenditure is something like 60 million dollars but their exports amount only to about 11 million dollars. 62 The gap is evident. The cost of energy alone amounts to something like 15 million dollars a year.
These are the kind of problems with which these small countries are faced. It is incumbent upon us to find practical solutions to help them. There will be an opportunity to do so through the negotiation of the Third Lomé Convention. We must now try to encourage more practical if not ostentatious projects for the development of rural areas in many parts of the world. Enormous deficits, amounting to something like 530 billion dollars, have been piled up, not only because of the increased cost of energy and the low price of commodities but, I regret to say—I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, who is objective in these matters will agree with me—partly as a result of the interest which has accumulated on loans to developing countries. They find that they are in an impossible position. They can pay back neither the interest nor the capital. Therefore, we need to look again at the policies which we direct at developing countries in order to get them out of this very clear financial difficulty which, unless a new policy is evolved, will only perpetuate and worsen their present financial and economic condition.
The implementation of Community aid has often been the subject of criticism—justifiably so if one reads the reports of the Court of Auditors. There are some pretty scandalous allegations in those reports. However, the Community could and should provide the necessary mechanism to encourage the free flow of private investment. The noble Lord was a little surprised about the use of private investment, but it is what many developing countries ask for. The only difficulty is that there is no proper mechanism between Community countries and recipient countries so that the position of the private investor is guaranteed. He fears non-repayment or confiscation of property. Furthermore, the recipient should be protected. The Government could contribute, within the Community, to a proper mechanism whereby a free flow of investment could be created, both the investor and the recipient being protected at the same time. This is very important for the development of our assistance to less developed countries.
Our concern for the well-being and future prosperity of the less developed countries is based not only upon self-interest or even upon humanitarian grounds. It is also based upon the long-term interests of the defence of global democracy and the guarantee of human rights. Those of your Lordships who have studied in depth the problems of human rights know that it is only in democratic countries that human rights can be fully guaranteed and protected. I believe we have a duty—as, indeed, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Cameron of Balhousie, mentioned—to outline the dangers of the Soviet presence throughout the world. One has only to go to the Pacific to learn of the Soviet fleets on the fishing grounds of many of those small islands. They have not declared a 200-mile economic zone because they would be incapable of protecting it. yet we allow the perpetuation of Soviet or Cuban infiltration into that area of the world. It is in the long-term interests of world freedom that these matters should be considered, and they can best be considered within the framework of the Community.
Finally, since peace has been one of the main 63 objectives of successive Governments since 1945, and since it is the main objective not only of foreign policy but also of defence policy, I am thankful that we shall be remaining in the Community. This, to me, is the greatest peace movement which has ever been known in European history. For the first time we have within Western Europe an area which is no longer subject to internal conflict. It is now unthinkable that any of the 10 member states should fight one another. Not one of them wishes to be an aggressor. Therefore, it is idle to talk about unilateral disarmament. It is idle to talk of anything but multilateral disarmament, so long as there is an aggressor. We have proof that there is an aggressor. We know about Soviet and Cuban troops in Afghanistan and elsewhere. I draw your Lordship's attention to just one fact which is the symbol of aggression. Until it is eliminated we must always be afraid of the Soviet Union. Until the Berlin Wall is destroyed there will be no freedom for Eastern Europe or freedom from fear in the West.
§ 5.40 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester
My Lords, as the first speaker from these Benches I should like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for her comprehensive speech and to wish her every success and happiness in her important new post at the Foreign Office—at the same time joining with other noble Lords in thanking her for her service to the whole House during the last Session, when she was our Leader. I have a feeling that she would probably echo the views of the noble Lord the Chief Whip, who was overheard to say in my diocese, although not in my presence, that the Bishops can on occasions be more cross than any Cross-Bencher. Be that as it may, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, will be ready to accept that because Christians of all denominations have a deep concern about international affairs—including relations between North and South as well as between East and West—we on these Benches will look to her to take a global view of the responsibilities of Her Majesty's Government.
On 9th May—the day upon which the Prime Minister announced her intention of going to the country for a fresh mandate—a debate was held in another place on hunger in the world. Mr. Timothy Raison, the Minister for Overseas Development, described the alleviation of world hunger as:a priority objective to which the Government attaches much importance".That was a positive and encouraging statement in a discussion on a new item in the European Community's budget for 1983, which is entitled "Special Programme to Combat Hunger in the World".
Thirty-three years ago Robert Schuman announced in the French Parliament his famous "New Idea" for pooling natural resources and for founding the European community. How splendid it would have been if the gracious Speech from the Throne had announced to this Parliament a new idea about the alleviation of world hunger, which the Government profess to have as "a primary objective". It would have reassured us all that the Government do have a global vision to match the challenge of the times. Let 64 there be no doubt that many people in our country, especially in the Churches, will go on searching in the Government's policies of the coming years for that reassurance that global problems such as world hunger will not be left by the wayside while Britain strides past on the other side.
The life of this Parliament will witness a further massive increase in the world population. I believe that during this comparatively short speech it is likely that 1,000 or more children will be born across the world—770 of them in developing countries. Willy Brandt, in his introduction to the report Common Crisis, wrote:Every two seconds of this year, a child will die of hunger or disease".Before such children have the chance of eating sufficient to survive, as the United Nations report on food and agriculture has put it,it will be necessary to break the vicious circle of unemployment, low food production, low productivity and low income, which strangles such a large part of mankind".In their election manifesto the Government proudly stated:We came to office determined to make a succcess of British membership of the Community. This we have done".As your Lordships know, the gracious Speech affirms that the,Government will work constructively for the development of the European Community".I hope that in welcoming the pledge which this Government have made, your Lordships will look to the Government for a similar determination in seeing that the European Community makes an equal success of its "Special Programme to Combat Hunger in the World".
This programme has three main provisions. First, there are some 50 countries now preparing national food strategies, and the programme offers Community support for financing them. Secondly, the aim of these strategies is to increase self-sufficiency in food rather than to provide food aid—except in real emergencies. The programme will assist in financing schemes to improve production, marketing, storage and the transport of food. Thirdly, structured projects and programmes will assist regional groups of countries which face common difficulties—such as soil erosion. irrigation and drought.
The gracious Speech confirmed that the Government will continue to give their full support to the Commonwealth, and Her Majesty told us that she herself looks forward to being present at the meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government in New Delhi in November. Your Lordships may recall that when they met in Melbourne in 1981, the Heads of Government of all the Commonwealth countries. including of course the present United Kingdom Government, affirmed theirstrong and unanimous conviction that all men and women have the right to live in ways that sustain and nourish human dignity".They also asserted that,The gross inequality of wealth and opportunity … and the unbroken circle of poverty in which the lives of millions in developing countries are combined are fundamental sources of tension and instability in the world".This led them to declare as their unanimous conviction that 65there must be determined and dedicated action, at national and international level, to reduce that inequality and to break that circle".The Secretary-General of the Commonwealth delivered a sober and challenging address in London only two days ago in which he declared that interdependence is not a slogan but a stark reality, and one that may yet produce a better world. The burden of his remarkable speech at the Overseas Development Institute was that it will not do for the North simply to say or to imply to the South, "Recovery is under way; have patience; things will get better for you also". The Secretary-General declared:Real recovery will remain impossible for a few countries if the prospect for the majority is one of continuing malaise. There can be no true and sustained recovery in Western industrial countries unless it is pan of a process of world economic recovery, and this means at the very least some restoration of the third world's lost purchasing power".I found it interesting that the Secretary-General pleaded for something akin to a new Marshall Plan. He urged that we should take as seriously the real threat to international instability that could come from economic disorder every bit as much as from military action.
In her foreword to the Conservative Party Manifesto, the Prime Minister wrote these words:Our history is the story of a free people—a great chain of people stretching back into the past and forward into the future. All are linked by a common belief in freedom and in Britain's greatness. All are aware of their own responsibilities to contribute to both".She asked for a new mandateto meet the challenge of our time".There is no greater challenge in our time than the problem of world hunger and world poverty. As a result of the general election, in which some of us took no part, the Government have received a mandate from the people of this country to meet this challenge. We look to the Government to develop such a partnership with the Commonwealth and with the European Community as shall ensure their success in this field.
May I presume to say in conclusion, my Lords, that we on these Benches will pray for such success, will pray each day as we use those hallowed words with which the proceedings of this House have begun each day for so long:We thine unworthy servants here gathered together in thy name do must humbly beseech thee to send down thy heavenly wisdom from above to direct and guide us in all our consultations".
My Lords, before the right reverend Prelate sits down, is he aware that there will indeed be a debate on world hunger in this Chamber, introduced by my noble colleague from the Cross-Benches, Lord Seebohm, on Wednesday, 13th July? I hope that the right reverend Prelate will feel that he can then contribute even more than he has done this afternoon.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord very much. but unfortunately I shall be in York.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ Lord Caradon
My Lords, I should first wish to thank the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Cameron, for his contribution today and for the thoughts he gave us on co-operation between our country and the United 66 States, and I should wish to revert to that question presently. I should also very much like to refer to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, who has taken this very responsible post in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. We lost Lord Carrington to our great dismay; we may say that from all parts of the House. I should also like to make reference to the noble Baroness's predecessor, the previous Minister of State, Mr. Douglas Hurd, who I thought had a very good grasp and understanding of international affairs. Our sadness at losing him will, I trust, be compensated—indeed overcome—by our great respect for the noble Baroness who has taken this enormously responsible position at this time. I wish her well.
I thought yesterday that I would wish to take some part in this debate when I looked through the Speech which we were studying and I saw that the only references to any overseas territories there included were to the Falklands, Gibraltar and Hong Kong. This seemed to me a rather narrow view of the world, and I thought it would be well that we should turn our attention to other territories in which we have a special British responsibility. I thought of Southern Africa, I thought of Cyprus, and I thought principally of the Middle East. I am glad that in the debate today there has been reference, from the noble Baroness herself and otherwise, to these three areas in which we have indeed an outstanding British responsibility from which we cannot escape. It was in the case of Namibia, in Southern Africa, that a mandate was given by the League of Nations to this country and handed on to South Africa. What we see happening there now is the possibility, as has been expressed this afternoon, of actions being taken which will alienate all Africa, and are rapidly doing so, and that we are failing in our responsibility to counter the claims of Southern Africa. And I suspect that the influence of the United States of America has had something to do with it. I fear from my study of the United Nations debates and the votes and the vetos that the United States is showing an undue support for South Africa in this matter and has deliberately delayed the carrying out of the independence of Namibia, which we hope to see, by reference to the Cuban troops in Angola. This is a diversion, a delay which has prevented the carrying out of the clear, unanimous decision of the United Nations.
Then, in reference to the other matters that I want to point to in the three areas of special British responsibility, there is the question of Cyprus. We see that lovely island now cut in two, when we the British undertook—I do not forget that I signed the treaty myself on behalf of Her Majesty's Government—that the island would never he divided. We have failed to live up to a clear responsibility and, month by month, year by year, we see discussions going on and leading nowhere. We have a responsibility; we gave our undertaking, and we have utterly failed to carry it out.
But most of all we are concerned—surely we must be—about the situation in the Middle East. There again we have a British responsibility. It was our country which abandoned the Middle East at a critical time—an act of shameful retreat from an obligation. Since then, when we go back over the years and look at the situation now, what has happened is that we 67 have seen the destruction of a people; their land is being taken from them, their water is being taken from them, their country is being colonised. They are being driven out, they are being treated without any regard to human rights, with brutality. Very soon we shall get to a state where there will be no redress; it will be complete; a people will have been destroyed—destroyed largely with American money, the amount of which is increasing as the colonisation goes forward. I noticed that the matter was not referred to this afternoon, and, of course, I am not exactly aware of what took place, but I believe that at the recent meeting in Stuttgart it was decided—was it not?—that the European objection to further aid to Israel in present circumstances was withdrawn, an indication that we go along with the Americans in enabling the people of Palestine to be, as I say, destroyed.
In Southern Africa we see action being taken, I believe under American influence, which is leading to the alienation of all Africans, and action is being taken in the Middle East at this time which is leading to the alienation, as I believe will be inevitable, of the Arab world and the Moslem world. In Cyprus, as I say, too, we have another example of a refusal by our country to carry out its clear obligation.
If one puts these three examples together one has a situation in which the United Nations is involved. On every issue that I have mentioned there has been a unanimous vote. On Cyprus there was a unanimous vote at the General Assembly—a difficult thing to obtain—calling for a retreat of Turkish troops from Cyprus. That was many years ago, but no action has been taken. In the case of Namibia there was another unanimous vote, and that has been obstructed and denied. In the Middle East we took a unanimous decision in the Security Council long ago, in 1967, in which we called for the withdrawal of Israeli troops. There has been no action taken. On the contrary, far from withdrawal we are now getting invasion, not only of the Lebanon but also invasion of the defenceless West Bank, Gaza and the Golan.
We are now getting a state of affairs in which the United Nations can meet and, with difficulty—it is not easy—take a unanimous decision on Africa, Arabia and Cyprus, and for one reason or another, very often I believe on American insistence, no action is taken and we leave it to lead to another conflict. I think this is extremely serious, and so does the Secretary-General of the United Nations, who refers to the sacred obligation of the permanent members of the Security Council, for instance, to work for settlement. We are not doing that. The Security Council is now a place ony for insult and veto. There is no attempt to find the peaceful settlement which the United Nations was created to provide. Therefore, we now have a state of affairs when the international organisation is prevented from carrying forward its policies and the Secretary-General says that we are perilously near to international anarchy. Those are his words. If the decisions of the United Nations are to be frustrated and opposed, then the United Nations is ineffective. Many people are critical of the United Nations and its failures. It is now the Western world which is 68 contributing mainly to those failures and to the refusal to act.
I do not forget listening one day to another unanimous vote being taken in the United Nations. It was on the recommendation of the ambassador from Malta that the riches of the deep sea bed should be the common heritage of all mankind. I remember the gasp that went up when we saw that the vote was 99 to nil. That was in 1967 or 1968, and ever since then three men have worked in order to put this wonderful concept into effect, not only concerning the riches of the deep sea bed but also navigation, fish, and the law of the sea. What a thrill it was to hear that at Montego Bay in Jamaica. at a world conference earlier this year, there was a declaration of the work of the three men who had worked 15 years for it—the ambassadors of Malta, Sri Lanka and Singapore. Three Commonwealth ambassadors did most of the work. More than 100 countries came that day to support the concept of a new law of the sea. The United States said "No". They wanted the riches of the deep sea bed to be available for private enterprise. The United Kingdom, I am sad to say, consequently abstained.
Now the nations of the world are working to establish a new law of the sea and a new institute to carry out the original concept. But they are being opposed, not by the Russians but by the West. I think that this is a serious development in the world.
We are finding the United Nations. I believe under American pressure, being rendered useless and powerless. Therefore, I believe it is very necessary for us, in looking at the conflict areas of the world, with all the dangers that now exist, to decide on our own clear policy and to be determined to carry it through.
§ Baroness Gaitskell
My Lords, may I say a few words about my noble friend's speech? He was my boss when I was at the United Nations, and I am very interested in what he had to say. But he seemed to me to get several matters very wrong about the present situation in the Lebanon. He attributed all the failures to the United Nations. That is not true. As a matter of fact, he is just as anti-Israel as he has always been. He has always been anti-Israel, from years and years ago, when I was at the United Nations as the delegate.
There is one point I want to make about what is happening with Israel at the moment. Whenever Israel makes a move it is for peace and not for war, as is the case with the others. Any other country that tries to do something is always trying to have war.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, according to the rules of order my noble friend Lady Gaitskell has every right to ask my noble friend Lord Caradon a question before he sits down.
§ Baroness Gaitskell
Therefore, my Lords. I ask my noble friend why he is taking such a harsh line about Israel. That is a fairly good question. I should like him to tell me why he takes the worst attitude towards Israel when Israel is trying to do something that is good and is at least trying not to make war but to make peace.
§ Lord Caradon
My Lords, I do not think we can carry this very much further at the moment. I would just remind my noble friend that when we were together at the United Nations we worked to achieve a unanimous resolution—a resolution which was welcomed by all concerned, including Israel. It was a unanimous resolution which I believe provided the right answer for the Middle East: a withdrawal of Israeli troops for the security and the peace which must be obtained on the basis of equality between the rights of the Palestinians and the rights to security of Israel.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, I am not going to intrude in what appears to be a private fight on the other side of the House and I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, for not following him down the very interesting paths which he trod. It is possible, as we have already heard, to have dissenting views about some of the things which he said. I certainly hold some dissenting views but this is not, for me at any rate, the time to express them.
I want to concentrate on one other aspect of the gracious Speech. However, before doing so I offer my warmest congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Balhousie, on his maiden speech, which seemed to me to be all that one would have expected of someone of his distinguished service in the Royal Air Force, and someone who has never hesitated to express in a forthright way his views about international affairs. It was as a result of one such speech that he received the supreme accolade of being described by the men in the Kremlin as a drunken hare—a nickname which has since passed into the usage of this country in the formation of an extremely interesting club of which both the noble Lord and I are members. I congratulate him most warmly on his speech and very much hope that we shall hear him often in your Lordships' House.
Secondly, may I apologise (as I already have done) to the noble Baroness the Minister of State and the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, for the fact that unfortunately I shall not be able to be here at the end of the debate because of a long-standing engagement. This is the first time in nearly 20 years in your Lordships' House that I have asked for this indulgence. I hope that your Lordships will not mind extending it to me.
I wish to follow a point which is given prominence at least in its place in the gracious Speech. It was given greater prominence today by the noble Baroness in her speech. It is the important question of arms control and disarmament, a subject on which I have a certain amount of personal experience. I should simply like to offer two reflections on this subject and the remarks which have been made about it today by the noble Baroness. Arms control and disarmament is an immensely complicated subject. It is one that requires a welding together of a number of qualities. It requires strong political direction, rigorous intellectual analysis and a high degree of technical understanding. These are not easy matters. Arms control and disarmament 70 are not matters which are susceptible to quick fixes or solutions by slogan or prescription.
I would make this comment about successive Governments. It is not directed at either side of the House. I think that we tend to be prepared to deploy all these thingsߞour intellectual, political and technical resources—in the field of defence and foreign affairs but to regard arms control and disarmament as a poor relation which can do with something less than our best efforts. The Government and the Prime Minister, for example, get advice on defence and foreign policy from great departments of State, which in my own experience provide a very high level of professional and technical advice and intellectual expertise. But, from my own experience, arms control and disarmament is usually left to a very small number of officials in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, often committed and enthusiastic but lacking relatively in real weight and influence. It is a subject which, oddly enough, gets only part of the time of one very busy Minister, whereas several Ministers are giving their full time to such other matters of foreign and defence policy as concern the Government. The result of this, I believe, is that, although our influence in foreign affairs is as great now as it has been for many years, as the noble Baroness said, I suggest that our influence on international negotiations on arms control is considerably less than it has been for some time.
I recently paid a visit to Geneva, to the negotiations which are going on there, in a purely private capacity. I spoke there to officials, journalists, delegates and representatives of the various countries involved. One of the things that disappointed me, and impressed me enormously, was the number of people who said they were sorry that the British presence and influence in these talks was not as great as they would have expected and not as great as it had been in the past. I think that the reason for this, if I may offer one, is that our effort in this very important field of arms control has become bureaucratised. It lacks really strong, persistent, coherent political direction. I ask the Government—obviously without expecting an immediate answer—to consider the possibilities of making some changes in this field. It is a field that is not only important now but is likely to become even more important in the years of this Government's tenure of office.
First, there is a real need for many more resources to be devoted inside the Government machine to the formulation of intelligent policies for arms control and disarmament. For example, it would not be too much to expect that there should be a Minister in the Government who was charged full time with analysing these problems, separately from the other problems of foreign policy and defence, and helping in the formulation of the Government's policies in this field. I believe that this Minister or senior figure in the Government should have two roles: one to co-ordinate the formulation of the policy and to bring together the very real requirements and concerns of the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign Office, the Treasury and other external departments like the Department of Trade and Industry in the creation of a coherent arms control policy, in the same way that we have the formation of a coherent foreign policy (which I believe we do have) 71 and a coherent and intelligible defence policy (which I also believe that we have).
My reason for suggesting that something of this kind should be considered by the Government is really contained in my second point on this subject. In addition to being a very complicated, difficult and highly technical subject, arms control and disarmament is an integral part of our national external policies. It is not an alternative to defence policy; it is a part of it. It seems to me that the policies that we adopt in the ever-widening field of arms control must be as firmly linked to our national and collective security policies as are our military arrangements. They are really two sides of the same coin.
The trouble about not approaching this problem with the seriousness that it deserves is that we tend to be, both as a nation and also perhaps as a Government, seduced by superficially attractive ideas, like, for example, the one that one frequently hears about abolishing nuclear weapons from the face of the earth. Everyone nods, agreeing entirely with that sentiment. But if they thought about it for a while it may not seem, as formulated, to be quite such a desirable idea. We must consider nuclear disarmament in the context of general disarmament. We should have gained nothing if we succeeded in abolishing all nuclear weapons from the face of the earth, and keeping them abolished, if at the same time the peace of the world could still he threatened by those who were prepared to use chemical or biological weapons or even just massive conventional forces in the aggressive pursuit of expansionist foreign policies. We must be careful about the prescriptions that seem so attractive on the surface.
This is really part of a plea for a new approach to the real problems of arms control and disarmament. I conclude by asking the Minister when he comes to reply to the debate whether he will assure the House that the Government, having won the argument about defence and unilateral disarmament in the country—I hope that this will not offend the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew—will not now be seduced by suggestions which I would characterise as creeping unilaterism. Some of those suggestions were reflected in some of the proposals that have been aired in your Lordships' House today. The first is the suggestion that there should be a unilateral decision not to deploy the cruise and Pershing missiles which form part of the theatre force modernisation programme because this might prejudice the negotiations in Geneva. There is an equally strong argument—and I put it to your Lordships now—that one single and simple way of ensuring that there is never any progress in the INF negotiations in Geneva is to take unilateral decisions not to deploy our own missiles in the West. There will then be absolutely no pressure or no incentive whatsoever for the Soviet Union to negotiate.
The noble Lord, Lord Mayhew—to whose arguments I listened, as I always do, with attention and respect, because he argues cogently and persuasively—knows perfectly well that the argument that these missiles form 2 per cent. of the total stockpile is a massive irrelevance. He knows as well as anybody that the arguments for the deployment of these missiles are nothing at all to do with the military 72 arguments. They are arguments about the decoupling of the United States guarantee. He will recall that the first proposal for these deployments came not from the Americans, but from the Germans and from the West Europeans as a whole—
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, I should like to explain that all those who support the zero option—and I believe that I could include the noble Lord among them—automatically dispense with cruise and Pershing. This suggests very seriously that if one supports the zero option, one cannot think that they have an indispensable decoupling role to pursue.
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, I have already listened to the noble Lord's arguments very closely. I am simply intending to indicate, as briefly as possible, that I disagree with almost all of them.
If I may, I want to come on to another suggestion, which is the counting of the British independent nuclear deterrent in the INF negotiations, or in some other arms control negotiations. Again, the noble Lord well knows that there is a great difference between the two great stockpiles of weapons which exist on each side and the possession of a national nuclear deterrent of last resort. The noble Lord may not agree with the possession of that deterrent, but it really is not good enough to suggest that the British nuclear deterrent can simply be lumped in with the stockpiles of nuclear weapons on each side.
We are also asked to contemplate the idea of a nuclear freeze. If people examine this proposal closely, they will see that it is not at all a measure of arms control; it is quite the reverse. It is freezing not only the present high level of nuclear weapons, but legitimising a situation in which the Soviet Union has a great superiority in many categories of those weapons. What we must do is reduce the level of nuclear weapons. We must go in for a measure of nuclear disarmament. The nuclear freeze is another slogan and another aspect of creeping unilateralism.
But perhaps most important—I am sorry to have gone on for so long, though I was briefly interrupted—and worst of all is the proposal for a declaration of the non-first use of nuclear weapons. This is an argument on which one could spend much time. However I shall make only one point, which is as follows. If you possess a nuclear deterrent which is designed to dissuade a powerful and potential enemy from using his conventional forces against you, then to say that you will never be the first to use it seems to me to destroy not only the credibility of that deterrent, but its very reason for existing. Quite frankly, apart from not being worth the paper that it is written on, a "no first use" declaration has only one effect; that is, to create in the mind of a potential enemy the belief that he might conceivably be able to get away with aggression, whereas the position which we hold at the moment makes it abundantly clear to him that he cannot.
Having said that, I should like to conclude by saying that with their resolute and unequivocal approach to 73 defence policy, which I say again, it seems to me has now been endorsed by the electorate (whatever may be the arguments for a reform of the electoral system), the new Government now have a very clear and unique opportunity to give a lead in securing a peaceful world at lower levels of arms and military equipment, especially nuclear weapons. This is not the irresponsible one-sided disarmament of the so-called peace movements—which are now, ironically, taking part in a massive propaganda exercise in Prague—but real, carefully thought out measures of arms control and disarmament, balanced, verifiable, and designed to add to our security rather than to undermine it. I hope that the Government will seize this chance.
It was President John F. Kennedy who said,Let us not negotiate from fear, but let us not fear to negotiate".The Prime Minister has always said—and the noble Baroness has repeated it today— that when we are negotiating with the Soviet Union we must negotiate from strength. It seems to me that the present Government, with their allies, have now shown that they are seriously determined to achieve and maintain that strength, if the time ever comes to defend ourselves. I think that we should now just as seriously ensure that we are prepared when the time comes to negotiate.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
My Lords, in an attempt to weigh up numbers of votes, numbers of seats, and so on, there has been some dispute as to what the verdict of the electorate actually meant; but I think one can say that, whether or not one likes it, it is true that as a result of the election the Government are now in a stronger position to resist propaganda for unilateral nuclear disarmament, and they are also in a stronger position to go ahead on the assumption that membership of the European Community is now the permanent choice of this country. No matter how one weighs up the figures, and no matter what might be one's own predilections, I do not believe that one can avoid either of those conclusions.
On the question of unilateral nuclear disarmament, one of the striking features in the election was that those who are most committed to it never attempted to argue the case. After all, the distinctive feature of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is not that it wants peace—many people want that—but that it believes that unilateral nuclear disarmament by this country would be a step towards peace. Yet if one looks at any of the advertisements which CND put out one finds that no attempt was ever made to put that proposition forward and to argue it. The reader was simply invited to believe that peace was a desirable thing. He was asked to consider the lives of children in the future and, having done that, to vote in the way that CND wanted him to vote. There was no attempt at all to argue the case, and, quite naturally, the electorate has remained unconvinced.
Therefore, on these two questions—disarmament and Europe—the Government must unavoidably feel a certain degree of self-satisfaction. My earnest hope is that this will not turn into a period of exultation. I say that because on the question of armaments and relations between East and the West, in particular, it is always necessary to maintain a position of careful balance, avoiding either surrender, on the one side, or 74 arrogance and exultation, on the other. I suppose that we ought not to worry too much at the spectacle of Mr. Kenny Everett telling a Tory meeting, "Let's bomb the Russians", because, after all, we were told by the Prime Minister herself that it was a joke. It was good to have from so high a source an assurance that it was a joke, because otherwise no one would have supposed that the remark was humorous. We may now dismiss that.
What is more disconcerting is the use by the Prime Minister herself, on two occasions, of a description of the Russians as "our sworn enemies". That, it seems to me, is exactly the frame of mind that we must avoid. We have every reason for disliking Russian policy, for having fears about it. There is, for instance, the state in which the people of Poland stand, so obviously and desperately wanting their freedom, with all of them—the Government as well as the people—knowing what is the obstacle that stands between them and their freedom. There are also the unhappy people of Afghanistan, with their homes destroyed, their entire lives turned upside down. Those, and many other things, give us good reason to dislike and fear the policies of the Russian Government. But we must realise that for a long time to come—for as far as most of us in this House can see—we must endeavour to live with that Government in a quite literal sense—
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
—and not to engage in a process of mutual destruction. It is always much easier in politics if you can have an absolutely clear issue of, "This is right and that is wrong". One of the things which upheld people very much during the terrible periods of the last war was the fact that there have been few cases in history where the conflict of right and wrong was so plain. However, when we look at the problems between East and West today, we know that when we have made every criticism that can rightly be made of the Soviet Government, we still have to live with them. We have still to accept that considerable parts of the world are influenced by the Soviet Government and are more disposed to work with them than we are. So we have to keep our defences resolute, on the one hand, and our minds and our temper under control, on the other. That is not always easy.
I was glad to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Young, use the phrase about keeping a dialogue going with the Soviet Union. I hope that she will cherish that idea and that we shall hear more thoughts, addressed in more concrete language, from her in the future. Although she is not present at the moment, I would like to send the noble Baroness my personal good wishes on taking up an important job at the Foreign Office. Many things were said to me when I first went there. I recall being told by someone always to remember that two-thirds of the human race are awake at any one time. That is one feature that distinguishes work at the Foreign Office from work at a home department. Knowing what the job can be like, I wish the noble Baroness well. I express similar wishes to the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne.
I have mentioned that the Government could also feel a certain amount of self-satisfaction over the fact that the idea of coming out of Europe obviously did 75 not commend itself to the electorate. The Government might even feel more inclined towards self-satisfaction as a result of the recent summit. Although the verdict must I think be a very mixed one, we have to accept nonetheless that the Government achieved a considerable British refund, if one may use that expression. It is, however, still not clear to me whether the payment promised to us will undoubtedly, without question or further condition, be made, or whether the carrying out of it requires the consent of the other members of the Community, including the French.
The French have made clear that their consent will not be forthcoming unless we are helpful over the future size of the Community budget. The accounts in the press do not make the issue absolutely clear. Have we got this sum of money absolutely and unconditionally? Or does it depend on our attitude towards the European budget in future? If it does depend on something else, one must earnestly hope that the Prime Minister is not in what I might call her more Boadicea-like mood when this issue comes to be discussed.
The European Community must not be regarded simply as a sort of exercise ground to demonstrate the undoubted skill, courage and determination of the present Government. It would be churlish to deny to the Prime Minister any of those qualities. It is, however, a great mistake to regard the Eueopean Community as mainly an exercise ground for them. It is a place where we have to make concessions as well as to score successes. I hope that this will be borne in mind as the months elapse between now and the more critical Athens summit.
Another factor that entered into the election was the Falkland Islands, to which reference is made in the gracious Speech. I remembered that it was the anniversary of the battle of Carabobo because I once possessed among my treasures a matchbox containing soil from the field of Carabobo presented to me when I visited Venezuela some years ago. This is a memory of the very cordial relations that at one time existed between the countries of South America and Great Britain. If we are to achieve some day something more satisfactory and lasting than fortress Falklands —although I accept the necessity for that policy now—we have to get the goodwill of other Latin American countries which is not perhaps so far away as that of Argentina whose goodwill is a long way away. That may help us in the end to get a more reasonable solution to this problem. I hope that the Government will pursue that aspect of the matter with care and diligence.
What we have to do and to spend on the Falklands reminds us that we are still the possessors of a colonial empire. I am afraid that we sometimes begin to think that because we have no longer a Colonial Secretary and a Colonial Office we have no colonial empire. We have. It is not so large as it used to be but its needs tend to be pressing. There was recently a letter in The Times newspaper concerning Pitcairn Island, drawing our attention to things that could usefully be done to help the real needs of the inhabitants. It is interesting that comparatively little expenditure would he required to make a great deal of difference to their lives. I hope that when the Government are spending, as they must, 76 a great deal of money on the Falklands, they will have a look round their colonial empire generally and see where else expenditure could usefully be deployed to remind people in very remote parts of the world that their connection with us still means something to us. It certainly means something to them.
Another part of our colonial empire is Gibraltar. Here, two questions arise. The decision on the naval dockyard there was not at all welcome to the Gibraltarians. The attitude of the British Government has been that the arrangements since made are satisfactory and will help to maintain the standard of life of the people of Gibraltar. I think that I am right in saying that a large number of people in Gibraltar of all shades of political opinion are by no means happy about them. They feel that there is more help that the Government could give. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, may be able to say something about this at the end of the debate.
When it comes to the actual point of the admission of Spain to the Community, what will Great Britain require? It ought to be an understanding that fellow members of the Community do not make claims on each other's territory or, at the very least, even if they make them, they are made in the most theoretical manner possible and do not take the form of any kind of harassment of each other's territory. We should make sure, before agreeing to Spanish entry into the Community, that Gibraltar will not be subject to harassment and that Spain will behave towards her as a good neighbour and a fellow member of the community.
Whatever problem one discusses, one always comes back to the question of whether we have enough money to meet it. We find that we cannot carry out our responsibilities to our colonial empire properly without the expenditure of money, that we cannot contribute to the problem of North-South and world poverty without the expenditure of money. Can it be afforded? This surely depends on whether we and the other industrialised nations of the world can bring into use the resources that we undoubtedly possess. Learned economists of all schools of thought can talk themselves blue in the face. but they cannot alter the fact that the spectacle of the industrialised nations, with millions of people not working, saying at the same time that they cannot afford to alleviate world poverty, does not make sense.
There must be some way in which the industrial resources of the advanced countries of the world can be used to help the needs of the poorer. Occasionally successful efforts have been made in this field. The situation needs to be tackled far more seriously than it has been. I echo here what was said by my noble friend our Leader, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, about the comparative uselessness of the Williamsburg Summit. We must have a summit somewhere that will wake up the leaders of the wealthy countries of the world to their responsibilities and the possibility of using them to remove the grossest forms of world poverty, and thereby make the extension and securing of world peace more probable.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Lord Gisborough
My Lords, I must first apologise because I have a duty in the North tomorrow morning 77 which will mean that I shall have to leave immediately after speaking in order to catch an aeroplane. I should like to say a few words, within the scope of defence, about a subject that seriously threatens the successful defence policy of NATO.
My noble friend Lady Young said that there should be no significant imbalance in any one category of defence. The Warsaw Pact forces have a very serious and dangerous advantage in the field of chemical warfare. The Russians have continued, and still continue, to develop increasingly modern and lethal varieties of chemical agents, even since the United States stopped developing their chemical agents in 1969, and have anything up to 30 per cent. of their front line ammunition with chemical warheads and considerably greater tonnage of better chemicals than the United States have stocked in America. They have reportedly supplied the Vietnamese with toxins which have been used on the Khmer Rouge troops and villages, and Soviet forces are reportedly known to store these agents in bulk in Afghanistan.
It is true to say that there is disagreement between the British and the American officials on the evidence of use in Afghanistan, but evidence of use of non-persistent gases would anyhow be difficult to prove after the delay of witnesses being able to leave Afghanistan. However Mr. Richard Burt, a senior United States Government official, told the Senate Armed Services Sub-Committee that the use of chemical weapons in Laos, Kampuchea and Afghanistan has been repeatedly confirmed through first-hand accounts by those who have been its victims and by those who have been its perpetrators. There is also the evidence of the 19-year-old Anatoly Sakharov from Saransk who brought out a detailed account of the chemicals being used in Afghanistan when he ran away and was captured by the guerrillas.
Most of the copious Soviet notes on chemical defence make the point that chemical warfare will be used in the next war, and it is usually phrased in such a way as to anticipate and excuse Soviet first use. Such use would, of course, bring abhorrence against the Soviet Union, but they believe that a NATO Warsaw Pact war must be decisive. If they win they need not worry about the opinions of others; if they lose their social system is finished anyway. Thus, the Soviets train their troops with active use of chemicals, albeit diluted, and have whole specialised decontamination units. They firmly consider that chemical weapons are part of conventional warfare. They gain experience in their use through proxies in South-East Asia and Afghanistan.
British troops have very effective anti-gas suits—the best of the NATO forces—and could fight in chemical warfare conditions. But just as ours are the best, so other nations have less good to very poor anti-gas equipment and training. Thus, while we might hold our NATO front, other parts of the front might quickly crumble under chemical attack and our army could be totally outflanked and, at best, forced to withdraw at top speed. Furthermore, our troops and all NATO troops would have to fight with the very clumsy gas protection equipment while the enemy need only put on their suits when they decide to employ gas. Also after every few hours our suits and 78 equipment would have to be changed, presenting a very large supply problem.
Meanwhile, NATO has no chemical weaponry on the Continent with which to reply and what there is in the United States is old equipment that has not been modernised since 1969. Thus Warsaw Pact troops would not need to fight in their restrictive and hot gas suits.
In the event of another Cuba-type crisis, the Russians would certainly take into account their overwhelming advantage in alone possessing available and modern chemical weapons when assessing whether or not to roll forward their totally offensively trained armies. They could well argue that a quick push to the Rhine would succeed with chemical warfare and that this would achieve their political objective without much risk of tactical nuclear repost. As such an attack would in fact almost certainly result in nuclear response, one can argue that their total superiority in chemical warfare is a grave danger to the risk of nuclear war.
I believe that if NATO had some chemical ammunition itself, then the advantage the Warsaw Pact enjoy, and with it the temptation in an emergency to "have a go", would be greatly diminished. The intention of NATO to keep a small defensive stock of chemical weapons might or might not encourage the Soviets to agree to disband their stocks. But as their stocks could quickly be replaced in or before a state of hostilities, a NATO deterrent stock would actually be a better guarantee against chemical warfare than both sides having none at all. However, it would be wrong for NATO to try and match the Soviet stocks—it would be wrong even for them to have half as much. But if we had perhaps a quarter of the total Soviet tonnage, they could not possibly look upon that amount as an offensive threat to themselves. They would however know that, if they started to use theirs, we could bring to bear on any one front enough chemical ammunition to nullify their battlefield advantage in that area, denying them that tempting advantage which they now possess.
No one in NATO wants to use chemical warfare, least of all the troops. NATO troops would be the ones to suffer most. But those who oppose the stocking by NATO of even a small deterrent stock must realise that not only could this influence Moscow's decision as to their chances of success in an attack, but the lack of it puts our own troops—and only ours, not theirs—in dire danger from this ghastly form of warfare, and increases the likelihood of nuclear war.
§ 6.48 p.m.
My Lords, I am very glad to follow the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, in this debate although I perfectly understand, as he explained, that he has immediately to leave. However, I say that because he and I had the opportunity just over a year ago, as members of a parliamentary delegation, to visit China. Indeed, it is on that subject that I would like to say a few words this evening. I choose that subject because I believe that in an increasingly dangerous world it may well he that the Chinese nation will prove to he one of the most effective forces for the main-tenance of peace in the world, and yet in our debates —and today 79 is no exception—the very existence of China is often ignored.
I was glad that the speech by the noble Baroness the Minister of State included a passage about Hong Kong in the context of British/Chinese relations and I felt that what she had to say was helpful in this connection. However, before speaking about China's potential role in international affairs and the consequences, as I see them, in respect of British/Chinese relations, it may be helpful if I say something about the internal situation in China, simply because in any nation external attitudes are necessarily conditioned by what is happening internally. I believe that it is a folly to ignore China as we so often do in our debates, if only because a quarter of the population of the whole world lives in the People's Republic of China. That surely is a major factor, whether one is thinking militarily or economically, or in both senses.
Therefore, speaking of the internal situation in China, if I were to choose one word to apply to the contemporary scene there, it would be "change". Important changes are taking place there, and I suggest that it behoves us to try to understand what those changes are. As we know, since the crucial culmination of the Chinese revolution in 1949 many changes have taken place; but I believe that the present era of change is a most fundamental one. In my view, what is happening is the formation of a new kind of socialist economy there, one which avoids the state centralism of the Soviet model and gives much freer rein to local and individual initiatives in economic affairs.
Yesterday we heard the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, suggest that what is happening in China is a reversion to capitalism. I believe that he was very mistaken in his assessment of the changes, because I believe that the Chinese are moving towards a socialism which is still firmly socialist but in which the operations of the market have a significant role to play. What is quite certain is that the Chinese people, under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, have put firmly behind them the costly aberrations of the Cultural Revolution. They now characterise those 10 years in their history, from 1966 to 1976, as the "wasted years".
I believe it to be the case that the Chinese Government and people are determined to modernise their economy, and the early signs are that they are finding the right methods and that they will succeed. If they do, I believe that China wll indeed become a third super power in the world, side by side with the Soviet Union and the United States. It will be a super power, not mainly in terms of armaments and military strength but, much more important, in its political influence world-wide.
That is why I believe that we should take note in our foreign policy of what is happening in China and ensure that British-Chinese relations are at their best. Because in my submission just as China has embarked upon a constructive attitude to its internal affairs, so I believe that will be reflected in its constructive attitude to world problems. Therefore, it is highly important that those who speak—and this will include the noble Baroness—and who negotiate on the world scene in our country's name, should constantly have in mind 80 the need to take China fully into account and to build a proper relationship with that country.
I should like briefly to take up three issues to illustrate my point. First, as the noble Baroness mentioned, there is, of course, Hong Kong. That issue has to be resolved by 1997 when sovereignty of the New Territories will undoubtedly need to revert to China. This may seem a very long way ahead, but it is not too soon to start resolving it. Indeed, I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, when he comes to reply, can comment on the report that one has read, that Mr. Deng Xiaoping has warned our Prime Minister that China will announce its own decision in this matter unless Britain reaches agreement about Hong Kong by the end of next year. I wonder whether the Minister can enlighten us further on that point?
My second illustration concerns Taiwan. The continuing supply of arms by America to Taiwan is, in my view, one of the more dangerous elements of American foreign policy. There are already signs that this policy is turning China away from the cordial relationships which Presidents Nixon and Carter developed during their period of office. In my view, Britain must use its influence to bring these dangerous arms' sales to an end. In his speech my noble friend Lord Cledwyn said how, in proper circumstances, he believes we should show an independence from our American allies and I believe that this is one illustration of the need for Britain to have a distinctly different attitude to this question from that of the United States.
My third illustration of the need for a careful consideration of China's role has occurred quite recently—indeed, a week ago. I refer to the proposal by Mr. Andropov for a nuclear freeze by all five nuclear powers, which of course includes China. That proposal was very promptly rejected the very next day by the Foreign Office as being merely a rehash of earlier Soviet proposals for a nuclear freeze on an East-West basis. Surely the implication of that abrupt rejection was to discount the significance of China in these matters. Even if the ultimate conclusion about the Soviet proposal is that already taken by the Foreign Office, it was surely wrong to reject it out of hand, as it was so promptly rejected, and thus to imply that China has no role or significance in nuclear affairs. Because of course it has.
China has a role to play; it has a case to argue. Because if the outcome of the Geneva talks is, as we all hope, a reduction of SS20s in the European theatre, clearly China needs a firm assurance that those weapons will not be redeployed on the Soviet Union's eastern frontier. It is for that reason that I regretted the attitude of the Government to that particular proposal which was put forward a week or so ago.
In these remarks I have not attempted to enter into the major question of East-West relations as normally conceived or as has been dealt with by other speakers. I would simply underline that if we are to avoid nuclear war, one day—and we hope it is not too far distant—the statesmen of the super powers, both East and West, will again need to turn their thoughts to detente. All I am seeking to say in this connection is that the People's Republic of China may well have a vital role to play in seeking détente.
§ 6.59 p.m.
My Lords, I should like to say to my noble friend who opened the debate today that, after leading the House so well, I wish her equal success in her new role. There is so much to be done for the world as a whole by her department. Many people need help. Many are dying of starvation, and many live in daily fear of local wars. In particular, I think that the chores of some women could be looked into by the department—and I am thinking of the women who have to walk miles and miles to get water and who have to carry the pots on their heads. There is nothing worse than seeing these women, who age very quickly, having to do this. If only we could install a few pumps, it would be a great help. I am delighted we have a woman in the Foreign Office. Women are very good at looking at more detailed matters. Also, of course, women have to be diplomats, particularly married women; otherwise, their marriages would not be a success.
I want to say a few words about the Commonwealth, which was mentioned in the gracious Speech, and by the noble Baroness. The Commonwealth could be a powerful organisation for helping to keep the peace in the world. Something we all desire. I should like to have a meeting of those in charge of defence ministries of the 47 Commonwealth countries. In the recent Falklands war we had splendid support from Australia, New Zealand and Canada, and also financial support from Jersey and Guernsey and many other of the smaller islands. At one time in Victorian days we had the Pax Britannica. I should like to think that we might work to a type of Pax Commonwealth to try to keep the peace of the world.
In regard to the small dependent territories I should like to suggest that there should be a meeting of them in the near future. This is not a new idea. It was raised in the other House in April of last year. I have recently been to a meeting which was arranged by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. These territories would like to have a consultative body on the lines of the Commonwealth conferences. They want to play a bigger part in the Commonwealth. They admit that they are most unlikely ever to be independent. But they should like to meet to discuss perhaps reorganisation of some of their constitutions and to discuss their various problems.
I should like for my third point to discuss the House of Commons Committee on Defence report, HC 154, on the Defence of the Falkland Islands. The committee in its recommendation is concerned—quite rightly—to establish the size and type of the garrison and communications required to deter further Argentinian attempts to invade or to attack the islands. The committee, and much of the evidence before it, was concerned with the need to deter any invasion and to interpret and stop raids of commando type.
In considering future defence—and it is worth considering that for many years we shall have to have deterrence—it may be easier than is at present thought. As a people the Argentines are capable of a remarkable degree of self-deception; but nothing conceals the fact that the highly motivated Argentinian army, with the full resources of the 82 country behind it, was beaten by a much smaller force brought from some 8,000 miles away.
No Argentinian Government—whether civilian or military—is likely to take that particular course again. But they will still have territorial claims. They have them against Chile and Uruguay. Chile stood firm over the Beagle Channel, and so Argentina turned to the apparently soft option of the Falklands. It does no service whatever to the cause of peace with Argentina to talk now of negotiations about the sovereignty of the islands. There is no middle road, no lease-back and no sharing of sovereignty.
The Argentine Government does not keep its word, and I suggest cannot be trusted over territorial disputes. We have to accept this, and Argentina has no right to the Falklands. The claim was built up for internal political reasons. Thanks to our splendid army, navy and air force the islanders are free to live an independent life.
I should like to mention the question of a new airport. The Cape Pembroke site at Port Stanley, where the existing airfield was built, was never suitable except for its proximity to Stanley. It is unsuitable for expansion. It would be cheaper to start again at a much better site being considered at March Ridge near Fitzroy, even though it would be 30 miles away from Stanley. One of the disadvantages of the present airfield which does not appear to have been mentioned to the committee is that Cape Pembroke is swept by salt spray and can be very foggy. Civilian jets are not protected against salt, so charter aircraft would be likely to be unwilling to stop the night in the open airfield unless a hangar was provided. This would cost, I understand, from about £2 million to £4 million at Stanley. It would be totally unnecessary at March Ridge.
When completed at March Ridge an airfield would enormously reduce the cost of keeping a garrison. The noble Lord, Lord Stewart, is not here now, but he once supported me in debate on the question of Belize, and comparison can be made with the costs of keeping the garrison there of 1,400 men at about £25 million a year. A new airfield at March Ridge capable of accepting loaded wide-bodied jets would be a very good help and have real civilian potential.
Stanley was really known as the end of the run. I suggest that it is not. There is a market for British Caledonian for charter and also scheduled flights to the Falklands, either connecting with feeder services from Southern Chile or flying to Punta Arenas. Chilean companies, I am informed, are interested. There is no close link between Southern Chile and Patagonia and Europe at present, and the services are expensive and inadequate.
The Falkland Islands are within easy reach of Montevideo; and Brazil—I am sure everybody is pleased to know—has recently granted military refuelling facilities. The committee asked a number of questions about the potential of hovercraft of the naval and military type. The former commander of the Royal Naval hovercraft unit, which was withdrawn in 1971, might be asked for his opinion as to hovercraft, which can give very rapid reinforcement capacity in the heavily indented coastline. For example, they normally cross the isthmus of land at Goose Green instead of going round the south end of Lafonia.
83 It is clear from the evidence of the senior naval officer that he is short of security patrol vessels. Six laid-up trawlers were requisitioned from Marr trawlers and accompanied the task force. Late last year Mr. Man was suddenly asked to collect them from Gibraltar. These ships I understand are available, and they are fast and seaworthy. They would be, I am informed, ideal patrol craft and could relieve the frigates of many duties. There is an urgent need for other things which could be provided quite simply. For example, the installation of a freezer. At the present time meat has to be imported from the United Kingdom because there are no adequate services for the killing of lambs as the methods they use there do not conform with the EEC regulations. Therefore, the troops at the present time are not allowed to eat the local meat.
The Falklands' situation in the South Atlantic could be considered. When we abandoned Simonstown, the Falklands could have replaced this base by giving long-range air surveillance of the shipping routes in the South Atlantic as well as being a naval depot. In World War 1 the Falkland Islands were available as a naval base for South Atlantic operations, providing bunkering facilities for the Royal Naval squadron which defeated the German fleet following the earlier unfortunate battle of Coronel.
In World War 2 the Islands were again available as a naval base, including for the repair of ships after the battle of the River Plate. There were 1,000 men of the British Army stationed there in World War 2. At the time, the "Ajax", the "Achilles" and the "Exeter" were able to go from the River Plate to the Falklands for repair to enable them to return to England.
One also has to take into consideration the fact that Panama is now an independent country and could easily close the canal to any ships, should it wish to do so.
Aircraft based on Ascension island and the Falklands can patrol the whole of the South Atlantic and the southern approaches. I understand, too, that the Falklands are considered to be an excellent battlefield training area. We know, too, that the Russians have quite a large fleet in the South Atlantic.
Apart from being the static gateway to the Antarctic, the Falklands Islands Dependencies' sector is an advantageous area for us for the future. The islanders have always been extremely generous to us. During the Second World War they sent £50,000 to His Majesty's Government. They also supplied the Red Cross and many other funds with £30,000-worth of goods.
We have neglected this colony for many years. They have proved now and in the past that they have been very loyal to us. I hope that in the future we shall see that they are given their full rights as British citizens.
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness. We have followed each other over the years in a Chamber other than this and although we have found ourselves in disagreement with each other from time to time, it has never been 84 acrimonious disagreement. Therefore, to avoid any possibility that at this late stage that might break down, I shall not follow the noble Baroness into her remarks about the Falklands. Instead I shall concentrate upon that compassionate element which she has always brought to the affairs of what used to be called "colonies"—an element in the Conservative Party which I thought we had almost lost sight of. I was very glad to be reminded by the noble Baroness that it still exists.
As the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, said in a remarkable speech earlier, the gracious Speech is wrong in a number of important respects. Before I detail how I see those mistakes in the area about which we are talking tonight, may I first welcome the presence of the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw—if I may presume to do so. He and I, too, have known each other for a number of years and I do not recall much acrimony between us either, although there has been some profound disagreement from time to time. One of the disagreements that I have with him at the moment, if he will accept what I say, is that I am sorry he found it necessary to come here as an hereditary peer. Opposition to hereditary peerage is found not only on this side of the House but among distinguished Conservatives including the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, who on one occasion voiced Conservative policy as having put the hereditary principle behind it and said he hoped never to see it again. People have changed their views from time to time and people have also changed their position. The noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, was here, then he was there and then he was here again. The noble and learned Lord Chancellor himself was here, then he was there and then he was here again. Mr. Benn succeeded in depriving himself of a peerage. These are great examples from both sides of the House and—who knows?—the noble Lord, Viscount Whitelaw, may yet turn out to be the first non-hereditary Viscount. But that remains to be seen in the future.
I shall now put these lighter matters on one side and turn to the gracious Speech. I felt that the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, had a very profound point when he said that the actions of the Government over the past four years had put the United Nations at nought. I was reminded of the Prime Minister's statement, possibly made in the heat of the hustings, when she referred to the Soviet Union as our "sworn enemy". This is a deterioration—and a serious deterioration—in the position of this country in the world. It is a serious deterioration in the nomenclature of diplomatic exchanges. Deteriorations in diplomatic exchanges are sometimes followed by something even worse. We ought to be rather careful that we do not easily slide into the position of dividing up the world too easily into "us" and "them"—"them". the enemy who is always wrong and "us" who are always right. The gracious Speech goes rather along that path. It is a dangerous path and in these dangerous times it is a path which ought to be avoided.
The Government say:They will modernise the existing independent nuclear deterrent with the Trident programme and will maintain adequate conventional forces".85 They continue:They stand by the NATO decision to counter existing Soviet systems and to begin the deployment of cruise and Pershing 11 missiles by the end of 1983".I should like clarification on that. We have not hitherto heard any suggestion about deployment of Pershing II missiles in this country. The House is entitled to have an assurance that that is still the Government's policy. God knows, it is bad enough that apparently—unless things go a good deal better in Geneva than the Government seem to think they will go—we shall be lumbered with cruise—an extremely dangerous weapon. There has been no suggestion until now that Pershing II will also come to this country. The suggestion has been that it is to come to Europe, but I should like to know whether this putting together of cruise and Pershing II is an actual change of policy or whether it is a mishap. Is Pershing II to come to the United Kingdom? If so, many people, not only on this side of the House, will say that this suggestion should be resisted.
The noble Baroness, Lady Young, opened this discussion so ably. I am glad to see her in that role, though sorry—if the noble Viscount will forgive me for saying so—that it was consequential on her relinquishing another role which she certainly graced. In the course of her remarks she complained about the loss of human rights in the Soviet Union. But she seemed to be unconcerned or possibly even unaware of the fact that human rights are violated in other parts of the world—for example, in Chile, which apparently is to be our new found friend in the southern part of the American continent.
Trade unions are to be encouraged in Poland, but apparently plans are to be made to repress them and to introduce Government intervention against trade unions in our own country. These organisations which we see and which the Government see as the standard bearers of liberty in Poland are to be watched very carefully to make sure that they conform to new Government regulations in our own country. It seems to me that the Government have a double standard. For example, they bring to trade unions here at home and in Poland double standards, and also to human rights in the Soviet Union and human rights in Chile. The reason one worries about double standards is not only because they are wrong in themselves but because they are a preliminary to the nomenclature of conflict, in which all the right is seen to be on one side and all the wrong is seen to be on the side of the enemy.
Last July, in a defence debate, the noble Lord, Lord Murton, said that I could not he as gloomy as I seemed to be. Today I am even gloomier. Since then the United Nations have published Risks of Unintentional Nuclear War—not intentional but unintentional—and their assessment of the position is certainly not much more cheerful than mine. Certain conclusions are to be found on page 107—and perhaps for the sake of the record I should remind the House that UNIDIR, the publisher of this book, is also the Institute for United Nations Disarmament Research and operates under the United Nations. It is an official United Nations body. I attribute the scepticism on the face of the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, to his newness to his office and not to any disbelief in the book which I am holding in my hand.
86 The United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research says here:2. The system of deterrence is generally drifting towards becoming unstable.3. The assumptions of rationality underlying deterrence strategies are not justified in every situation.4. The NATO concept of deterring conventional aggression by the threat of a selective nuclear strike is constantly affected by doubts about its credibility and reliability. This concept also seems questionable because a limited nuclear war in Europe might destroy what it is supposed to protect. These doubts are supported by the Soviet refusal to accept the concept of limited nuclear war.5 The NATO concept of extended deterrence (United States nuclear guarantees for European allies) also suffers from problems of credibility thus aggravating the risk of miscalculation".So it goes on. If I were to read on I would succeed, not in making your Lordships more cheerful but in making you even more gloomy; so I will leave it at that. I believe there is good reason for gloom, and that if we avoid the gloom we run into danger.
For some time I have tried to persuade my own side, on the nuclear question, that they should face what I call the time factor. Indeed, I submitted a paper to the Labour Party Sub-Committee on Defence, asking them to consider how long it might be possible to live with the nuclear weapon. The paper did not get published, but that is not the fault of the committee because the general election came rather earlier than we expected. The paper was written on the assumption that it would be prepared for October, so we found ourselves in July with a document which never saw the light of day. But as it did not see the light of day then, I propose to give your Lordships the benefit of some part of it in this debate this evening.
What I said in that paper was:It is unfortunate that there can be no agreed timescale on nuclear weaponry for it is the lack of any such consensus which makes risk assessment infinitely variable".Officially, the Government take the view that multilateral talks can continue indefinitely while the weapons pile up and proliferate, and are constantly modified and made more accurate and sophisticated. Their spokesmen say that nukes have kept the peace and are unlikely to be used. On the other hand, their insistence on first use and on civil defence does not accord with the infinitely long timescale predicated by their primary position. At the other extreme, the women of Greenham Common feel that nuclear extinction is imminent and would be made virtually certain by the installation of cruise missiles in this country. One does not spend Christmas under canvas without a sense of urgency. Their timescale is of the order of five years or less.
On the question of nuclear war, neither party has committed itself to any estimate of a timescale: yet it is vital that we should do so, for our conclusions depend upon our assumptions about the amount of time our civilisation can co-exist with nuclear weapons. If it is possible to live with nuclear weapons permanently, then none of us need fear at all; but if, as all the experts seem to believe, our future is shortening all the time, then our policies must change to coincide with the fact that for the first time a stop is seen in the development of human civilisation.
A Labour Party document, Labour's Programme 1982, suggested that our horizons are closing in all the 87 time, and this is in accordance with what the Labour Party has said publicly. If I may quote:Recent events have set in motion a series of political and military developments, the momentum of which threatens to carry Europe into a nuclear holocaust".This is the official Labour Party statement. The events are then listed in the statement, and the possibility of nuclear war by accident is also referred to, as is the breakdown of the non-proliferation treaty. No assessment is made of the time Europe has to try to avoid being overtaken by the holocaust, and although the words are urgent they are to some extent offset by the fact that they are placed towards the end of a whole list of policies. I feel that if the party really believed in the urgency of their own words and were convinced that the holocaust was almost upon us, so that we had little chance of implementing the rest of our programme because European civilisation was about to come to a terrible end, then we would give the methodology of avoiding nuclear war an absolute priority, which it does not currently enjoy in the programme of any party, including my own.
This brings us to the real difficulty of the problem—and this is my final word. It is that just as an individual cannot conduct his ordinary life on the assumption that he will die within the next few hours (even when it proves to be the case), so an organisation such as a political party cannot conduct its affairs on the assumption that within a year or two there will be no affairs to conduct, even if that is all too likely. Nevertheless, I think we ought to make some attempt to assume a constant timescale, for our failure to do so leads us to assume different timescales to suit different occasions.
On another occasion I will take your Lordships even further into the rather gloomy prospects towards which I have taken you this evening. The situation is grave and must be faced, even though I do not believe that Job was never a very popular individual—and I doubt whether Cassandra was ever "one of the girls". But the truth of the matter is, of course, that in both those cases-and even in the case of Jeremiah himself—many of their prophesies came true, and if those who were around them at the time had taken more note of what they were saying they might have avoided some of the disasters. It is my hope that, in saying some of these things and drawing your Lordships' attention to the reality of the dangers which we are in, we may yet avoid the consequences that I shall venture on a future occasion to draw to your Lordships' attention once more.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Lord Boothby
My Lords, the noble Lord who has just spoken talked a bit at one time about trade unions, and I should be very interested to know the answer to one question. Is he in favour of Solidarity, or is he in favour of suppressing it by means of martial law? It would be interesting to know his views on that.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, I am in favour of solidarity. I am in favour of Solidarity in Poland. I am also in favour of solidarity in the United Kingdom.
§ Lord Boothby
My Lords, I rise to speak very briefly on only one subject—not foreign affairs, because they have been well covered, but defence, because that is what the last election was really fought about. The Labour party asked the British people to lay down on their backs once again in this century and surrender to tyranny, and the British people this time, thank God, said, "No; not again. We won't do it". That is why the Labour Party suffered such an annihilating defeat. The British people just rose and said, "We will not be betrayed".
My mind goes back to a brilliant book that was written in the 1930s, with every word of which I agreed. One of the authors was Mr. Michael Foot, and it was entitled Guilty Men. I never thought that I would live to see the day when Mr. Michael Foot would himself be the guiltiest of all, because that is exactly what he is today. That is why he has led his party to destruction, and that is why I believe it will be many years before the Labour Party can recover.
I speak as an Independent, but on this theme with an impeccable record in the 1930s, because for four critical years in the fight against appeasement, which led to the surrender at Munich, the betrayal of Czechoslovakia and the Second World War, Churchill could rely on only two supporters—the late Brendan Bracken and myself. Otherwise, the House of Commons was solidly behind appeasement. The country has had enough of it. The people have learned their lesson at last. Whatever anyone may say about the present Government, they are not an appeasing Government and the Prime Minister is not an appeasing Prime Minister. She knows what she wants to do and she does it. She may not always be right, but she has resolution, she has courage and she has stamina. That is what this country is looking for at the moment and it is what it has never really had, unless it was faced with crisis.
I have seen it faced with three appalling crises which threatened its existence. The first was in 1917. I am old enough to remember it very vividly. We were saved on that occasion by one man, on the authority of Lord Balfour downwards—David Lloyd George. The second supreme crisis was in 1940. Again, we were saved by one man—Winston Churchill. Now I think we have recently passed through another crisis, which was minor in comparison with the first two but which might have developed very seriously indeed. I refer to the Falklands crisis, and we have not yet been told the full truth about that.
It is almost inconceivable to me that the "Invincible", the essential spearhead of our assault force, and without which we could not have sent the expedition to the Falklands at all, had actually been sold. It is sad and almost incredible when you come to think of it. After that, we had the spectacle of modern British men-of-war being set on fire and sunk by a single missile. Since then, I have been told on very good naval authority that our frigates and light craft have been found to be extremely unsatisfactory, and most of them are having to he largely reconstructed, which does not say very much for British naval constructors, or indeed for the naval staff.
Just to reminisce for a moment, it might be worth my telling your Lordships that, after the First World 89 War, Lord Jellicoe told me that when he was Controller of the Navy in 1912 he visited Kiel every year and watched the high seas fleet being built. He probably knew more about the high seas fleet than any other officer in the British Navy and he was very well aware, when he had to fight them at the Battle of Jutland, that, ship for ship, they were superior to ours in armour, in gunnery and in armour-piercing shells.
In case people think—and there is a case for thinking it—that Jellicoe was too cautious by nature, that view was really confirmed by what happened when Lord Beatty took over as Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet. He sent a message to the Admiralty to say that he was so appalled by the report of the projectile committee on our shells at the Battle of Jutland that he did not himself propose to seek fleet action until he had new shells for the fleet.
I now come to the terrible 'thirties, the period of the guilty men. I hope never to go through such a nightmare again, because we were absolutely alone then. The country was solid for surrender to Hitler. I spent an hour-and-a-half alone with Hitler. He told me exactly what he was going to do, and he did it. I came back and told the Prime Minister who said, "I am sorry. I don't believe a word of what you have said". He flew to Berchtesgaden and then followed the surrender at Munich and the disaster of the Second World War, which could easily have been avoided.
What I feel about the election is that, if all goes well, we have four years ahead of us in which to put our defences in really good order, and the first thing I would say is that we must concentrate above everything else on sea power. This country was built up on sea power in the reign of the Tudors. Actually, it was built up on the fishing fleets, with which I have had something to do in the course of a long life. I have watched this whole process, because next year I shall have been—and it is my only claim to fame—a Member of one or other Chamber of the British Parliament for 60 unbroken years. Nobody else has done that. So I remember pretty vividly those days.
I have been dismayed since the war to see how we have withdrawn the British naval presence from one place after another, bringing instability in its train. We have withdrawn from the Far East, from the Chinese station, from the Persian Gulf, from the West Indies. And now we propose to withdraw from Gibraltar and close the Gibraltar naval dockyard, which means not only great suffering for the British citizens of Gibraltar but that for the first time since the Tudors reigned over this country we shall have no British naval presence in any part of the Mediterranean. That is not very good. I think Mr. Heseltine, who is the key Minister in this Government, ought to start off by looking at the position of sea power, because we still depend ultimately on sea power for our existence.
In conclusion, I turn to my second point, which is nuclear war and nuclear weaponry. Britain is the linchpin between the United States and Western Europe. If we fail or drop out, NATO will fall to pieces and, with it, the whole of the defence of the West. We are the essential linchpin. Our nuclear forces must of course always be subject to negotiation with the Russians. If the Russians see that we really mean business, they may well be prepared one day to do a 90 deal. But they do not think that we are prepared to do a deal. They think we are decadent.
That is what Hitler said to me when I had my interview with him just before he took power. I said to him, "You look, Herr Hitler, as though you are sorry for me". He said, "Yes, I am sorry for you, because you are a citizen of a great Nordic country which was once a great world power but which has gone decadent. I know, because I have seen your leaders".
If the Russians think that we have gone decadent, for which they have good reason in view of some of the speeches which have been made in this country lately, nothing will stop them. They are very shrewd and very determined. But now they may think that we mean business. Therefore, they may call a very different tune. Nobody can sustain indefinitely the present nuclear race without ruining the world. So I simply say that we should stick together and act together with the United States in all nuclear matters, under a single command, under the joint direction of the President of the United States and the Prime Minister. They are at one, and are in communication. It is not a question of which finger is on the trigger. We want a cast iron nuclear force which is just as strong as the Russian nuclear force. It is not nearly so strong now. If we do not have it, the NATO alliance will fall to pieces. After that, the Russians are within five or six days' march of the Channel. They need not even use nuclear weapons to get there. Then we shall face another crisis, just as great as that which we faced in 1940.
Therefore, I feel reassured by this election. It gives us four years. If the Government assure us that they will be firm and resolute on the question of defence, and if they make it clear to the Russians and to the United States that that is our intention, and stand firm, I believe that we may save the world from destruction, and also ourselves. I think it was the late Lord Fisher who once coined the phrase:Time and the ocean and some guiding star In high cabal have made us what we are".I thought at more than one moment during this century that that trio had abandoned us. Now I think we are getting it back again, and for the first time during the past 30 years I am full of hope.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Lord Briginshaw
My Lords, in some ways it may be appropriate to pause for a moment. I want to follow the custom and courtesy of your Lordships' House by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Balhousie, on his maiden speech. I wish to take advantage, with the permission of your Lordships, of this very thin House where every Member of it is literally on duty. I wish to take advantage in this sense. It is almost classic, after my experience of your Lordships' House, to give advice, not necessarily patronage, to those who come here for the first time. What do you do? How do you handle the circumstance in your Lordships' House in which we are now: a thin House at the tail end of a debate? So much has been said with which perhaps you agree and which you do not wish to repeat. Perhaps, however, something has been said which you want to contest, but time works against you. How do you put it together and cover it in a contribution which will not weary your 91 Lordships at this time of the evening? Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Balhousie, will be kind enough at some stage to read how I handled it and then say what he wants to say afterwards. I do it out of courtesy, in accordance with the traditions of your Lordships' House.
One treats with respect and courtesy—particularly in view of the remarks I have just made—what has already been said today in response to the gracious Speech. Nevertheless, one cannot but feel a sense of dèjá vu. Deep down there is a considerable assetion of common ground. I suggest that a majority of noble Lords in all parts of your Lordships' House have said in their contributions that they are in favour of peace. That is common ground. Perhaps we are even united on that point. They agree that the present arms race is stupid, costly and dangerous. This probably reflects the real situation among world statesmen.
When one analyses speeches made in this House it is instructive to seek to find what noble Lords take as the common point and—if I may use the phraseology—the main thrust without massive repetition or timewasting. The real situation reflects one common ground in this House and among world statesmen. Some noble Lords say that defence justifies or at least exposes the present situation. Indeed, they have done so during the course of our debate. That point I have to record in the shortest possible compass against the background of what I have said.
I am my own man in these circumstances and I personally cannot accept an ultimate universal situation—an ultimate universal suicide—and leave this as it is without seeking to emphasise in this debate that the obvious path to be pursued is open. We will assert that we are doing all we can at Geneva. We can only justify my short intervention in this debate by me having brought these factors in; maybe by treading a path in delay and in urging the Government once again to carefully examine every chance of accommodation in all discussions on a descaling of the lunatic arms race to which I have referred.
There are so many differences and barriers in getting forward to the main objective of descaling and removing many of the contentions of speakers on all sides of this House in this debate this evening.
§ 7.52 p.m.
The Marquess of Ailsa
My Lords, I must at the outset welcome the gracious Speech. I must say also that I will diverge from the main topic of tonight's discussion, which is defence, and go far more into the area of foreign affairs and into a specific area of foreign affairs—that relating to the Horn of Africa. This area does have a bearing on our defence. As some of your Lordships will well remember, a short while ago we were discussing the possibility of the Soviet Union and her allies having an influence in that area. Certainly in my view it is vitally important that Her Majesty's Government takes steps to ensure that our interests are held in that area.
In this vein, I must say at once that I very much welcome the far more positive approach that has been taken by Her Majesty's Government to that part of Africa. As your Lordships know, the Horn of Africa 92 involves Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan, and is neighboured by North Yemen and South Yemen. Then one goes down into the Indian Ocean and the islands of Madagascar and the Seychelles. If we wish to keep supplies coming to us, we must do our best to ensure that there is stability in that area.
I am delighted to say that the progress of Her Majesty's Government to date has contributed to stabilisation. This time last year the Ethiopians launched an attack on Somalia. That attack was contained, but only contained to the extent that the positions today are the same as they were last August. There are two armies looking at each other. They have more or less a static understanding that they will not fight each other—but they do look at each other; there is a conflict there. The United States undertook to supply—and I understand is supplying—certain weapons to Somalia. If one asks the Somalis, they will say that these weapons are insufficient—but then, when at war, when does one have sufficient weapons? However, at least the air is static. The country itself is basically stable. There is disagreement with the Government of President Mohamed Siad Barre but I understand that he has managed to secure enough support and that people really wish him to govern them. There are dissidents but most of those which exist are financed by Libya or are outside bodies; they are not internal dissidents.
I will return momentarily to Ethiopia, bearing in mind that Ethiopia is a country which has declared its Marxist doctrine and is not ashamed to follow that doctrine. But even the Ethiopians are doing their best to make their country habitable and stable. As your Lordships know, they had problems earlier this year caused by drought. I understand that these problems are being overcome. There are minor problems—mainly in transport—in getting the supplies to the required places. They have more problems caused by dissident Tigreans and others who will kidnap or capture those whose task it is to distribute the aid—but they manage. I now understand that according to the forecasters, rain is expected at the end of next month. If that comes, a lot of their problems will dissolve.
I turn now to the Sudan. Recently, President Nimeri was re-elected for his third term of office. Your Lordships may remember that under the auspices of Colonel Gaddafi of Libya, there was a move to overthrow President Nimeri. Fortunately, this attempt was dealt with very firmly by that Government, and President Nimeri is very much in control. He has a very strong and stable programme for his country, his desire being to cure the economic problems within two to three years and to widen the democratic procedure and representation within that country, primarily by a programme of regionalisation.
I believe this has even been carried into southern Sudan where, yet again, one finds Colonel Gaddafi financing and encouraging those who would not agree with this process. Colonel Gaddafi seems to have an enjoyable time of causing disruption and dissatisfaction in Africa—especially in those parts of Africa that border his country. I have already mentioned Sudan, where he has made repeated attempts not only to overthrow the established Government but also to destablise that country.
93 We also have Chad, where the same kind of activity is going on. Colonel Gaddafi, as I think some of your Lordships are aware, has occupied parts of Chad, claiming them as his own; apparently he found the territory on a road map and that was sufficient ground. For whatever reason, he would like to cause trouble. One of the problems is that that reason causes instability, and it is always funded or augmented by those under Soviet influence. So he is able in promoting his own cause to promote the cause of the Soviet Union and its allies. I would just mention that only recently it came to light that North Koreans, who I gather are now far more acceptable in African countries and countries of the Indian Ocean, and to members of the Soviet Union itself, are now taking their place, in many cases are forming the defence forces, and certainly are in control and have high office in a number of these countries.
While at the outset I was saying that I was very pleased and delighted with our present Government's positive approach, one of our struggles in the Horn of Africa, and it applies to a great many other parts of the third world, is to win the hearts and minds of the people within those countries. It is not enough just to give them aid, to stave off aid from somebody else. It is that they wish to be free and we must enable them to be free. We must win their hearts and minds. We can only do that if we take a very positive attitude towards them and the many problems which beset them.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ Lord Ardwick
My Lords, the Prime Minister has won a famous victory, in terms of seats if not in terms of votes, but even though she has secured the positive backing of less than one-third of the electorate she has an impregnable majority and can look forward to four or five years in power to complete the task she began in 1979. What one hopes is that the Government will avoid exercising what the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack once defined as an "elective dictatorship". Of course this philosophic insight was not vouchsafed to him during the lifetime of the previous Tory Government but that of the last Labour Government, which, like all recent Governments, rested on a minority of voters.
The term has some political utility because it may remind Governments of their need to convince and to satisfy a wider constituency of the nation than the one which voted them into power. The Government should never forget that 60 per cent. of the actual voters were against them and that their best hope of success lies along a path nearer to the centre than the one which they have been prescribing. I may say that there is nothing in the gracious Speech to justify that hope, but, as has been explained elsewhere, the programme looks sharper than it might have been if there had not been a legacy of unfinished Bills from the last Parliament.
Now the Government have a new lease of life the question is how they will use it. We have a fair idea of how they will manage economic, industrial and social policy. There will, alas, most probably be dogged, dogmatic, uninspired continuance of the excessively austere policies we have suffered since 1979. The temptation for the Government to stay on course will 94 be all the greater since those policies are now being met with a faint whiff of apparent success, a modest increase in output on the deplorable figure of 1982. But the Government must surely be prepared for a new beginning in foreign policy, and probably taking a fresh look at defence policy, too. Since the departure of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, we do not seem to have had very much of a positive foreign policy but have been bumping along from day to day.
Now we have a new Foreign Secretary, a virgin Foreign Secretary, whose head has been bent over the moneybags and his medium-term finance strategy over the past four years. We must now hope that he will evolve a medium-term diplomatic strategy. The right honourable Lady to whom he owes his appointment has a sharp eye for the immediate national interest and a sharp tongue to pursue it, too, sometimes to our great advantage. But it is doubtful whether she or the Government have given much thought to the longer-term interests of the country and of the North Atlantic Alliance.
The right honourable Gentleman may be a beginner at traditional diplomacy, but he could not have served a better apprenticeship to the new diplomacy than his years at the Treasury. The course of world affairs today is largely governed by the course of the world economy. Sir Geoffrey has been involved in the international scene, in the IMF, the OECD and also the European Community, as a member of the Council of Finance Ministers, and he played quite a prominent part during the recent problems in the European Monetary System, of which we are a member, although we do not belong to the exchange rate mechanism. On the international monetary side he has won a fair reputation for his patience, his courtesy, his phlegmatic temperament and the gift he has shown for conciliation. What he has not shown in his previous task has been any gift of imaginative leadership, any vision of new horizons; his talents are different from that.
Today, my Lords, I intend to say nothing about the Middle East, Latin America or Africa, but to confine my remarks to the North Atlantic Alliance, the OECD and the European Community. Even as it grows in size, the European Community faces a developing weakness of will and of resources. The OECD fulfils its purpose too modestly, as the three members which have reduced inflation in their budget deficits—Germany, Japan and Britain—have resisted all appeals to lead a faster escape from recession by expanding their economies. They have, naturally, fears of the reflationary effect on prices and on the balance of payments.
The North Atlantic Alliance is today more solid on defence than it was, but only at the governmental level. Below that, the doubts remain, as, justifiably provoked though he may be, President Reagan exercises his simplistic rhetoric and continues an arms policy which looks as though it may increase the risks rather than reduce them. Certainly the cost of it magnifies the economic difficulties of the Western world by the interest rate policies which the United States must continue in order to cope with the consequences of its huge budgetary deficit.
The Williamsburg Summit was lost to British public opinion, coming as it did when they were deeply 95 concerned with the general election. Inevitably, the communiqué was used both to defend and to attack the Government's policy. I shared the disappointment of my noble friend about its lack of will, its lack of concern for the millions of unemployed and for the financial and economic problems of the Western world. Nevertheless, the Financial Times accorded it two cheers, and that was one more than it was given by most of the other serious commentators. There were some welcome decisions—for instance, the commitment to halt protectionism and to seek resources for the IMF to help the developing nations through their debt crises. There was the recommendation for coordinated intervention to check erratic movements in currencies. There was a recognition of the need to promote convergence and greater exchange rate stability.
Behind these rather cumbrous phrases, there was a good deal of change of thought and even change of ideology. What would be even more welcome would be some definite progress towards these desirable objectives, and one would like to know with what energy the Government propose to get these policies implemented.
Williamsburg was followed by the Stuttgart conference of the Community Heads of State. This conference got nowhere and asserted nothing except a pretty generous rebate for the British contribution. I should like to add my words to those of my noble friend and to put again the question which I put earlier in the day. I did not quite understand the answer then. Is the refund absolute or is it still dependent on some future agreement?
Where is Europe going? In the gracious Speech, reference was made to the constructive role that the British Government will play in the development of the Community. What are the Government going to do? How do they intend to be constructive? My impression in recent years is that this is not a pro-European Government at all but rather a Government not opposed to the Community provided it does not cost too much. I suspect that this Government want a minimum Community; a mere free trade area operating an attenuated CAP but capable of political co-operation. I hope I am wrong in that suspicion.
The idea of the Community is based on solidarity and on a developing Common Market leading to closer political links, with the stronger economies transferring resources to the weaker ones and the stronger regions coming to the rescue of the weaker regions. Do the Government really share such ideas? What will be the attitude of the Government to the scheme for youth employment which was mentioned earlier? What attitude will they take towards the renegotiation of the Lomé Convention? Does fashionable Conservative theory decry the kind of concept on which the Community's regional and social funds are based? I ask this question because I suspect that the doubts are felt not only by some British Conservatives but by Conservatives in other countries. Indeed, Governments which have boasted about their niggardliness at home are going to find it very easy to resist pleas to exercise generosity abroad. What chance does the Community really stand, I wonder, of substantially increasing its revenue to cope 96 with its developing needs? What has happened to the communautaire spirit?
I have one final point. The gracious Speech promises that in addition to Polaris we are to deploy cruise missiles plus Trident, but the Government strongly support the United States' proposals for reductions in nuclear forces. I am no believer in one-sided nuclear disarmament. I am not even a creeping unilaterist. I do not believe in going naked into the council chamber. However, I wonder whether it is propitious to march up to the negotiating table so fully panoplied as we propose to be.
There is also the cost. Is it really covered by the financial provisions for our defence effort that are envisaged? Can such a programme plus the maintenance of our conventional obligations to NATO and our commitment to the Falklands remain within the prescribed cash limits? What is to be done if the Alliance decides to raise the nuclear threshold to pursue a policy not of no first use of nuclear weapons but of no early use and to ask for an addition from us to conventional defences? Is our defence programme sufficiently flexible to cope with that sort of situation?
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
My Lords, like other noble Lords I welcome the appointment of my noble friend Lady Young, whose concern for international affairs and whose good judgment will be very valuable at the Foreign Office. Likewise, I welcome back my noble friend Lord Trefgarne, who now appears to be doubling on defence and foreign affairs to which he has contributed so much in the past.
In a splendid speech yesterday the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, said that the medicine was the same, and as night watchman from the Back-Benches I make no apologies for speaking on the same subject that I have spoken on many times previously, namely, British relations with Latin America. I must therefore apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, for not following him down the defence track although I will touch on one aspect that he mentioned in the latter part of his speech. I should also like to say how much I agreed with the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, who was the first British Foreign Secretary ever to visit Latin America. That was an important landmark which has only been emulated by my noble friend Lord Carrington. I hope that we shall see a repetition in the future.
I particularly welcome the proposal in the gracious Speech that Her Majesty's Government will promote trade and co-operation with developing nations and encourage the flow of British private investment. Nowhere is this more necessary than in Latin America, where short-term conditions are complicated by debt but where the long-term future continues to be very promising given the high quality natural and human resources available in that great continent. Britain once occupied a very important position as a major trading partner but this has declined in recent years and continues to do so.
As my noble friend Lady Young said, this year is the bicentenary of the birth of Simon Bolivar and celebrations are taking place here this week to mark the event. It is less widely known that Simon Bolivar drew much of his inspiration for his campaign of 97 liberation from his visits to London. As a result, much goodwill exists and we must capitalise on this and develop it. Having said that, I must say that it seems to me that it will be difficult to do so if we go against the mainstream of political thinking in the Americas. It is possible that one of the few things on which members of the Organisation of American States are agreed is that the Falklands dispute must be resolved by negotiation between the parties. This is echoed even more strongly at the United Nations and will be again when the General Assembly meets later this year.
This leads me to that part of the gracious Speech concerning our obligations to the Falkland islanders. Here I must disagree rather strongly with my noble friend Lady Vickers. I think it behoves us to consider the nature of these obligations and whether they can be reconciled with the ever increasing cost. Whatever may be the supposed obligations, economic reality may show that these can be discharged in ways other than those currently envisaged and that overall British interests are not necessarily best served by "Fortress Falklands".
During six long years, from 1939 to 1945, we fought for freedom. Then, not long after, we incorporated the Germans as staunch allies in the Western system. Surely it is not too much to hope that after a small conflict in a remote island we can re-establish sensible relations with Argentina. Of course, their invasion was crazy and our retaliation inevitable, but there can be no lasting peace in the South Atlantic, and therefore no real security for development in the Falklands, unless we involve Argentina and other neighbour states in Latin America in these deliberations.
Obviously a declaration by Argentina of the cessation of hostilities is an essential prerequisite to the re-establishment of a sensible dialogue, but unless anything unforeseen occurs—and one can never ignore surprises, not just in South America—elections will take place within six months in Argentina and that immensely rich but temporarily impoverished country will return to civilian rule. It is vital to realise that the Argentine claim to the islands will be sustained equally strongly by whatever Government may take office in Argentina, and this will always be so. The claim, whether it has any validity—and this has been questioned by speakers this afternoon—must be tested in future by discussion and not by combat. In some ways this dispute is not unlike Panama, where the United States was able to work out a satisfactory solution for the Canal Zone. It is therefore essential that we consider more objectively what are our real interests in South America and what are the long-term interests of the Falkland islanders, as opposed to their perceived wishes in the aftermath of conflict.
I suggest to Her Majesty's Government that "Fortress Falklands" will fail to produce the stable situation that we all seek in the South Atlantic, and stability is essential for investment in the admirable proposals included in the Shackleton Report to make any sense. Therefore, no time should be lost in re-establishing diplomatic relations with Argentina with a view to discussing the future together.
On the broader front—and this follows very much on what Lord Stewart of Fulham said—I believe we should take the opportunity of the Simon Bolivar bicentenary year to launch a new initiative in Anglo 98 Latin American relations. We should return to the principles of Canning and Castlereagh, whose vision created the predominant commercial position that Britain held in Latin America at the end of the last century, and develop policies that will bring us back to the same position by the end of this century. But we shall fail to do so if we remain in a position of latent hostility, which the present defence proposals for the Falkland Islands must represent to the nations of Latin America. There has been no serious initiative towards Latin America since the "Alliance of Progress" 20 years ago. But economic circumstances and the terms of trade have changed radically since that time.
Any new initiative must consider our Latin American friends as partners in a joint endeavour to develop trade and investment. Goodwill exists in Latin America and may well exist here, but present United Kingdom policy does not really reflect this intention. Latin America remains a continent of enormous potential for British interests, and the future must lie in working together in partnership and not in conflict. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will consider these matters carefully in the months to come.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, at this very late hour your Lordships will not expect me to take up so many of the very interesting points made in this excellent debate. I agree almost entirely with the excellent and, indeed, statesmanlike speech of the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos. I found myself in substantial agreement with almost all his points—aid, Williamsburg, the Middle East, the Falklands, détente and even arms limitation. I hope that none of my colleagues on this side of the House will take that against me. It did so happen that it was the case on this occasion.
I should like to elaborate on one essential point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick; namely, Europe. We really must soon make up our minds whether we want to be part of a genuine European union—which is to say a major political factor in a world of super-powers or not. For the time is approaching—and it certainly cannot be delayed beyond the end of this year—when, unless this choice is made, the existing Community will very likely begin to break up, if only because it will otherwise run out of funds, some members just not being prepared in such circumstances (that is to say, of no political advance) to provide the necessary means of subsistence. That is the danger.
Stuttgart turned out to be a sort of holding operation. At least the vexed question of the British contribution to the budget was settled for the time being (I repeat that I think it is only for the time being) on lines which could probably have been agreed some time ago had our Prime Minister not been so insistent on demanding a far greater rebate—up to, I think, £800 million. A "solemn declaration" of a very vague nature, and full of reservations, which might possibly be interpreted as an intention to achieve increasing European unification, was also agreed. Since what might be called the core, the centre, of the Community—even the French—would no doubt have preferred this to have been rather more positive in tone, the original draft must have been severely emasculated, chiefly, I am afraid, by the United 99 Kingdom delegation. In any case, as we all know, it bears very little resemblance to the famous Genscher/Colombo Plan.
The declaration is, of course, full of good intentions. The Community must, we read,regain its dynamism to intensify its action in areas hitherto ineffectively explored".It restates, and confirms, some of the existing commitments under the Treaty of Rome. It opines that,the construction of Europe must be more clearly oriented towards its general political objectives",including,more efficient decision-making procedures".With an apparent reserve on the part of Denmark, it lays down as an objective the,co-ordination of the positions of Member States in the political and economic aspects of security",which might, I suppose, conceivably involve steps towards the common production in the Community of certain modern armaments, and even meetings of the Defence Ministers affected, although this of course is by no means certain. And it confirms the existing machinery for political co-operation.
But when it comes to the actual provision for carrying out all these good intentions (paragraph 2.2.2 of the document, which in itself is feeble enough), there were reservations on the part of the United Kingdom, France, Denmark, Ireland and Greece, which seems to imply that those countries at any rate cannot even accept that the council should take.every possible means of facilitating the decision-making process … including, in cases where unanimity is agreed, the possibility of abstaining from voting".There were reservations even on that.
Needless to say, Denmark made a number of other reservations to any passage in which political co-operation by Governments is even mentioned. She even seems to object to the proposal to,promote convergence of the state of economic development of the Member States".to say nothing of,strengthened co-operation among the judicial authoritiesof these states. Unless we are prepared to go ahead without the Danes (and, I am afraid, probably the Greeks as well) it is obvious—and I would ask the Minister to confirm this assumption—that even the most embryonic and tentative political union can hardly be achieved in those circumstances. The pace of the convoy—if it really has to be a convoy—must necessarily be the pace of the slowest ship.
It is when we come to the actual "declarations for the minutes", as they are called, made by individual Governments on the occasion of the signing of the Solemn Declaration, that we get to the nub of all the verbiage. It emerges from the declarations that the members who wished to abide by the famous Luxembourg Compromise—which of course provides for the application, whenever judged necessary, of a national veto—were the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Greece. Those who favoured a reversion to qualified majority voting, wherever this is referred to in the Treaties, were Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. Those who felt that treaty provisions for voting should in principle apply, except 100 that voting would be "postponed" if any member believed its essential national interests should be defended, were Ireland and France.
I do not know what may happen at the end of the year, but it seems quite possible that by then the French, faced with some collapse of the Community, unless they agree to do so, may come along with Chancellor Kohl, in which case we really should be in a minority with what is called the "periphery" of Denmark, Ireland, Greece, and perhaps eventually Portugal, or even out on a limb with the Danes and the Greeks.
Apart from these overriding political considerations, the great problems that simply must be solved before the Athens summit are economic, and they are formidable enough. Naturally, the chief problems are the new budget, which will probably have to take account of the needs of Spain and Portugal—difficult enough—and the future of the common agricultural policy, which at the moment I think accounts for nearly two-thirds of all the available common funds.
So far as I understand it—and perhaps the Minister, who has just left the Chamber for a moment could confirm my impression—the present British attitude is that in no circumstances should the Community's income be increased (for example, by raising the percentage of the contribution provided by VAT) and that if, as would seem to be inevitable, the Community is on the point of running out of cash, the budget should simply be balanced by considerable cuts in the provision which it now makes for agriculture, the rebate to the United Kingdom of some £437 million also being made available out of existing funds. I hope that the Minister will tell me whether or not that is in fact the present position.
I must say I should imagine that this tough line will eventually have to be modified. As I see it, the French may be compelled—and indeed one must hope that they will be compelled—to accept at least some sacrifices which could result in a smaller accumulation of surpluses. But if the Community is not to break up in disorder, that might well be in return for our being content with a rebate of less than £437 million, and in return also perhaps for Anglo-German agreement on some raising of the VAT contribution, say from 1 per cent. to 1½ per cent. Indeed, if the Germans and Italians were given some satisfaction on the political issue, that might well be the outcome; and of course we ought to join the European Monetary System, and perhaps agree to some extension of the powers of the European Parliament as well.
All this may, I admit, be wildly optimistic. But confronted with the really appalling disadvantages, from our point of view, of a collapse, or even a serious deterioration of the EEC, any apparent financial reverse that we might seemingly suffer as a result of such a new deal is really quite trivial. At the moment Mrs. Thatcher is represented on the Continent as "La Dame de Fer"—I have just come back from Paris, so I know how she is popularly represented—who, while sitting on a lake of oil and consequently being very rich, is nevertheless intent only on saving sixpences, paying no attention whatever to the cause of real European unification, other than co-operating in the European Council and the Council of Foreign 101 Ministers, where she sets out to see to it that British interests prevail.
This is of course a gross caricature—I should not describe it otherwise—but I can assure your Lordships that the feeling exists quite strongly on the Continent. If towards the end of the year there should also be some world banking crisis—God forbid!—which is predicted by some experts who are by no means alarmists, it really would be necessary for the Prime Minister to seek to change her European image. I say that because it might then be apparent to even the meanest intelligence that only by much closer co-operation with our European partners could we have any hope of avoiding at home a calamitous situation, with which even our Falklands Britannia might find it almost impossible to cope.
As I said at the start of my brief remarks—I hope that I have not spoken for too long—it would, I believe, help if even now the Government made it abundantly clear that nationalist opposition to increasing European unity is disastrous, and that, on the contrary—let us face the fact—a measure of supra-nationality is essential if European union is ever to be achieved. It is all very well for the Government to say that a majority of the nation is in favour of staying in the Community; no doubt it is. But the real problem is how to keep the Community together if it should show signs, as I think it may, of flying apart. This does not mean we should be dominated by foreigners, any more than that they would be dominated by us. It simply means that certain decisions must be taken in common by means that shall somehow ensure that they are not held up. In other words, no member country will be victimised, and all will benefit. We can only pray that this truth will become evident, even to the Government, before the end of 1983.
§ 8.37 p.m.
§ Lord Bishopston
My Lords, I am pleased to see the new Leader of the House in his place. Like many other noble Lords, I was associated with him in the other place. I am also pleased to see the new Foreign Affairs faces on the Front Bench. I should like to pay tribute to the work of the noble Lord, Lord Belstead. He often pursued his brief with some competence, even if the essential agreement was not already there. I wish also to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Balhousie, on the occasion of his maiden speech today.
The debate is rightly taking place in the context of foreign affairs and defence policies, which are of supreme importance to our future wellbeing, as well as to the future of mankind. My noble friend Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos opened for the Opposition with a wide-ranging speech, which I believe achieved its aim in putting the foreign affairs and defence situations in perspective. I shall try to avoid going over some of the points that he made. I shall try to detail aspects which need wider consideration and seek clarification of Government policies, some of which are of vital concern to mankind itself. We have had a very good debate, covering a wide canvas. It has included the Brandt Report, the third world, human rights, natural resources, fish, the defence budget, the EEC, NATO, and much else, and I am sure that for this we are indebted to my noble friends and other noble Lords.
102 During the election campaign there were many questions about party policies in the next five years. That rather gave one the impression that defence was a static situation and that one could ask what would be done by a party in five years' time, based on existing problems. But of course all these things are on-going. Recently we have had the United States proposal for the East-West hotline to reduce the risk of war through a joint military communications link, so as to avoid accidental triggering. The proposal came from Caspar Weinberger, the Defence Secretary, and I am sure that it is welcomed. But it is also an indication of the terrible dangers about which the Government have been warned by many of us over a period of time. Indeed, as nuclear weaponry escalates, so the dangers also grow, and the Prime Minister might well pay heed to some of these fears.
In the current negotiations in Geneva another problem is the USSR's demand that the British and French nuclear deterrents be counted in the deal for a balance of intermediate range nuclear weapons in Europe. We must also welcome the Soviet proposals for a five-nation nuclear freeze, which again needs genuine study. We in the United Kingdom must welcome the steps taken by the Government on the banning of chemical weapons, having regard especially to the problems of verification. In all aspects of defence, verification is one of the most difficult problems. The issue of chemical weapons was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, and by the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, in moving the humble Address in reply to the gracious Speech yesterday.
The proposals in the gracious Speech with regard to cruise and Trident surely contravene the requirements of the non-proliferation treaty and could put into doubt our sincerity on other vital aspects of current negotiations. I was glad that my noble friends Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos and Lord Caradon mentioned the United Nations. This is very important. It sets the background of our needs in international affairs. According to the gracious Speech, the Government,will play an active and constructive role at the United Nations".We welcome that assurance. The Falkland Islands issue last year showed the weakness of the United Nations in several situations where the role of an arbitrator and the need for conciliation arose. It is true that the authority and the influence of the United Nations are no greater than member states are prepared to allow it or to concede to it. But we need to strengthen the United Nations. peace-keeping role. I believe that Her Majesty's Government can give a lead in this direction. One would like some comment in addition to the brief reference that appears in the gracious Speech. We hope that the gracious Speech means that, and also, even more. that the Government will show how it can be helped to become a wiser world authority in such situations as the Falklands last year and others that may arise from time to time.
Some reference has been made to the fact that the new Foreign Secretary was formerly the Chancellor of the Exchequer. My noble friend, Lord Ardwick, made this point. I should like to deal in more detail with some of the defence-spending aspects. Until the Falklands situation arose. the constant cry of the Government was to ask where the money was coming 103 from. The last Government defence White Paper referred to the four defence commitments of the Government. Now, as pointed out tonight, we have another. It is a top priority because we alone are responsible for it. I refer, of course. to the Falklands situation. The Government took the action that they did to ensure the return of the Falklands to British sovereignty. Under that policy, we are now committed to unlimited spending for an unforeseen period of years. We are indebted, I am sure, to the Select Committee which has been examining the future defence of the Falkland Islands for its contribution to future policy-making. I believe that the House needs an opportunity in the near future to debate this matter in greater depth and in a more comprehensive manner before we are committed to some of the proposals and developments that the Government have in mind.
I refer to the report of the Select Committee on the basis that the Falklands commitment is another on top of an already fairly heavy defence commitment in the existing four roles of which we are aware. I undertook myself the long and arduous flight to the Falklands and spent a week there earlier this year. as did other noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, who commands, I am sure, our admiration for the manner in which she stood up to the rigours on board a Hercules transport aircraft over many hours. We were all soon aware of the achievements of our forces during the campaign and since. Meeting people and seeing the sheer professionalism of our forces gives one a fair idea of the perspective and an awareness of the problems and the possibilities in the south-west Atlantic.
I was interested to hear the comments of the noble Viscount. Lord Montgomery of Alamein. I believe that the Falklands has to he examined within the context of Latin America and the south-west Atlantic because there may be other aspects of interest for us.
The introduction to the Select Committee report expresses the views of the Members—I think rightly—that.the more permanent defence dispositions for British Forces have to be established at the end of a long supply line in the face of extraordinary weather conditions, and with minimal infrastructure upon which to build.The report goes on to say:The main thrust of the British defence effort. must remain in NATO and it is important that the commitment in the South Atlantic does not indefinitely absorb an unduly large part of scarce defence resources. The scale of the commitment is such that it is not at present basing a significant impact on the capacity of HM Services to fulfil other tasks but will. if continued at present levels. represent a substantial burden on the defence budget and the economy".I mention that not necessarily to deplore this commitment but to have regard to the problems that this added commitment will make in relation to our present commitment in other places. We are also told in paragraph 135 that.the estimated annual running cost of £ 175-£200 millions for the Garrison will remain a major burden which will contrast markedly with the level of expenditure on the defence of the Falklands before April 1982.We need to have a perspective with regard to the Falklands and our obligations there. 1 do not doubt the need for adequate defence of the Falklands; but I also 104 see the need for adequate civil expenditure there. To spend enormous sums on keeping a defence garrison there while the living standards of some of the people may not be as good as they should be, seems rather a contradiction. I believe that these aspects must be considered in relation to other defence costs.
It is easy and often tempting to consider defence in isolation, ignoring all other aspects and obligations in much the same way as we used to play with toy soldiers years ago or as the present generation plays with electronic war games. The noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Balhousie, urged us to see things as the East and West see them. That is an important point to make.
But defence needs must be set against other obligations and other costs at home and abroad. Her Majesty's Government are giving defence the highest priority. They have a duty to be frank about the consequences not only within the defence budget itself but also in respect of other spending. It has been stated that our defence obligations inside and outside NATO are such that no other European nation has to bear, with the strategic nuclear, the theatre nuclear and the conventional aspects. There is. too. the added defence commitment for which Britain is solely responsible—the maintenance of the Falklands commitment which. over the next three years, may add £1,860 million to the defence bill and form part of the £50 billion defence bill over the next three years. I wish to stress again that I am not opposed to our obligations in the Falklands. I wish, however, to draw attention to this matter for reasons to which I shall come.
We are pleased that the gracious Speech states that the Government.will work vigorously for balanced and verifiable measures of arms control".This is essential but not easy. Verification cannot be easy and progress will continue to be slow. We need to think of alternatives to help the process along. The gracious Speech goes on to say that the Government.strongly support the United States' proposals for reductions in nuclear forces".It states clearly that, at the same time, the Government will deploy cruise and other missiles depending upon the Geneva talks which all of us hope will be successful and mean that the situation that we fear may not arise. It is also stressed often by the Government that being members of the nuclear club gives us the right to put our knees under the negotiating table. This is a strong point in favour of nuclear weapons. But, of course, we are not at Geneva, and we have to rely upon the United States to speak for us. Although one recognises the value of the United States as our allies, there are certain aspects which cause concern to people of all parties. not only here but in Europe as well.
We should like to know what action is being taken to reduce nuclear forces and to advance arms control. as the Government anticipate in the gracious Speech. There have. of course. been many occasions at the United Nations when the Government have voted, often in the minority, against some aspects of policy which they stand here day by day and advocate as being part of their policy. and that is causing a degree of cynicism about the Government's real intentions.
105 In my view, being in the nuclear club has at least two disadvantages. One is that if some countries have nuclear potential then other countries, some too poor even to sustain their populations, will also want nuclear weapons, with the danger of their independent use against our country and other Western countries. The Government's insistence on going ahead with cruise and Trident has caused grave concern to many people of all parties, both here and in Europe. Indeed, one has only to read the Official Report of this House and of the other place to realise that Members on all sides have concern about the increasing commitments of the nuclear escalation and the effect that it may have upon our conventional capability.
There is also the problem, which has been mentioned from time to time, of the dual key control of cruise: and the Government's refusal to insist upon such control rather belies the Prime Minister's claim that the United Kingdom will not be pushed around. It may have been true of the South-West Atlantic, but here on our own soil many have misgivings about missiles being not under our control but under the control of the United States alone. I am sure that we should like to see much more evidence of this sturdy independence, of standing up for British interests—and all with good reason.
A most important factor is the cost of Trident, as indicated by Members on both sides of this House and the other place. There have been some very strong critics indeed. After all, £10 billion for Trident is a great deal of money on top of' all the other defence obligations. What we fear is that such a huge commitment to Trident will result in the cutting of conventional defence to unacceptably low levels, giving us little option in any emergency but to go nuclear right from the start. I believe that that is a real danger, and many others share that view.
There have of course been situations, such as the Falklands. when our having a nuclear capability has not acted as a deterrent: and we know that a nuclear capability cannot be used in many other such situations. So I stress, and my party has always stressed, that adequate conventional forces are absolutely essential and should not be reduced by an over-commitment to the nuclear potential. As it was, the Falklands campaign might not have succeeded, or might not have succeeded so soon. had it been a year or so later and some of the vessels and equipment used had been scrapped or sold—especially in the maritime areas. I was very interested in the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, who spoke about our maritime past. I am sure that we all hope we have a future in that role as well.
The Labour Party and many others are concerned about the dangers of reducing conventional levels so as to increase nuclear possibilities. If we have nuclear capabilities then technology and costs come into the matter very much. We shall have escalation. We have Polaris today. followed up with Trident: and then we shall have to keep up the escalation in order to keep up with the Soviet threat as we see it. That will cause real problems, particularly by way of financial burdens. Even Trident will need replacing very soon. I think the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew. about the potential for blowing the world up many times—a potential held by East and West—is surely one of the 106 gravest concern. It is no wonder that World Council of Churches and many other bodies are demanding that we think again, even at this stage, to see whether wiser counsels can prevail.
In my view, a country is strong not only in so far as it has weapons but also depending on its economy and its industrial potential. I believe that that point was also stressed by the noble Lord, Lord Cameron. The noble Baroness, Lady' Elles, and my noble friend Lord Oram. also made a relevant point about the needs of the third world, the Brandt Report and so on—aspects which ought to be taken into account. In my view, there are two kinds of defence spending. First, there is positive defence spending, which is money spent to try to reduce or to stop the dangers which arise and which cause us to spend money: and then there is negative defence spending, which is money spent to try to deal with a situation which has become out of hand and which could have been prevented much earlier. These, I believe, are aspects which must be of concern.
The advent of a new Parliament gives the Government the opportunity to take new initiatives both in foreign affairs, as my noble friend Lord Cledwyn requested. and in the defence held as well. The Government must not only claim that they have a mandate to go ahead with the mixture as before but must treat the situation as one where they have added responsibility and increased accountability to those who have given them the mandate which they claim they have.
I am pleased that there has been mention of the third world, because at a time when two-thirds of the population of the world go to bed hungry every night it is a challenge to us to use our resources constructively in the interests of all mankind. We ought to look at the defence policy not only in the terms of page 2 of the gracious Speech but also in terms of pages 3 and 4 as well, because these aspects, some of them economic. are also important to our security. The Government's policy on defence at the expense of all else is rather like a family shutting itself up in a house with maximum security devices to keep out the intruders, but at the cost of the means of livelihood of its occupants.
One is bound to ask the question: How strong is a country which devotes billions of pounds to defence at the expense of other vital services? How strong can it be when over three million people have no jobs whatever, no role in producing the goods or providing the services which the country needs in order to be more independent in times of emergency? One can ask: I low much freedom—the objective of defence is the right to freedom—will there be for those millions with no jobs, for those with poor living standards and for the many with no hope?
What essential garnering of vital national assets is there for any emergency situation when the gracious Speech anticipates the dispersal of vital services to privatisation? When the Falklands debate was going on here last year, at a time when the Government were commandeering vessels and other equipment for the Falklands, we were debating the Oil and Gas Bill, which set out to disperse our great national assets which. in times of emergency. ought to be under public control, if not at other times. What sense is there when £18 billion from oil revenues is being used not to 107 revitalise our industry and to strengthen our economy but to pay to keep millions idle while the Government say they have no answer to the problems created by their own policies?
The gracious Speech, on its non-defence aspects, adds gloom because of the failure of the Government to recognise that the greatest asset for defence is not only weaponry but the inherent values of its people. On defence policy, so vital to the future security of those it should exist to protect and enhance, there hangs over all the sword of Damocles, and not the protective shield to which the noble Baroness made reference earlier in the day.
The Labour Party believes in a strong, realistic defence policy in NATO, with each member country contributing to the limit of its ability and recognising the various means by which this can be achieved by mainly conventional means. I believe that people of all parties fear the policies of nuclear escalation which. as I have said, may weaken our conventional role and lead to the risk of dangers which are too terrible to anticipate. I believe that the time has come for the Government to pay heed to some of the fears which have been expressed by Members on all sides, both before the election and since. I consider that they have a duty to give the kind of assurances necessary—that they are genuinely considering all the proposals put forward—with the sincerity which we all demand.
§ 9 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces (Lord Trefgarne)
My Lords. I must say that I rise with more than my usual trepidation to draw together the strands of this debate, for I am only too well aware that I have far less experience in defence matters than many of those noble and gallant Lords who have spoken before me today. I feel particularly humble in the presence of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Cameron, who gave us the benefit of his brilliant maiden speech this afternoon. I hope that the noble and gallant Lord will speak again soon and often to your Lordships.
My first few days in the office that I now hold have, if nothing else, served to draw my attention to the many more areas of defence with which I am unfamiliar than those about which I can speak with any knowledge. But I start from the instinct, shared I believe by every noble Lord, to preserve this democracy in which over the years freedom has been hard won. The price of freedom is being ready to defend it. We do not need aggressive plans to do so and we have no aggressive intentions towards the Soviet Union or any other nation. We abhor the idea of war on whatever scale, whether conventional or nuclear. However, the greatest threat to our freedom today comes from the Soviet Union and its empire. It is to face that threat that we have been partners in the North Atlantic Alliance for over 30 years.
While the formation of NATO has undoubtedly helped to stabilise East-West relations, there have been reminders of Soviet willingness to crush dissent or promote expansionism—if they believe they can get away with it. In the 1950s revolt in East Germany and Hungary was brutally repressed, and in 1968 108 Czechoslovakia was brought to heel. More recently, as my noble friend Lady Young has already said, there has been the invasion of Afghanistan, occupied today by upwards of 100,000 Russian troops. These appalling events have taken place against a backdrop of continuous disregard for human rights and an unremitting military build up. not least in Poland. Soviet Defence spending is currently estimated to account for around 15 per cent. of her GNP—a massive burden on their economy.
The forces of the Warsaw Pact are being continually enhanced in both quantity and quality, although already their capability far exceeds what might be required for self-defence. The Soviet modernisation of their forces has been as dramatic in the conventional as in the nuclear field. Recent years have seen the widespread introduction of new tanks. self-propelled artillery and other armoured vehicles, and of aircraft with much greater range and payload than their predecessors: and the Soviet Navy has been forged into a major force. able to operate worldwide.
The twin pillars of NATO—defence and deterrence —must be strong, credible and visible. The impression we create in the eyes of the Warsaw Pact must be one of resolve and collective security. The Falklands campaign demonstrated the resolve of this country and its Government. The commitment to collective defence is shown by our forces in Germany, whose presence there is vital for the political and military cohesion of the Alliance. It is also shown in the multinational ACE mobile force which is ready to move to any NATO country threatened by rising tension. The American forces in Europe are another demonstration of that country's commitment to the Alliance. We must see their men and weapons here for what they are—a demonstration of the American commitment to the defence of Europe, not of a wish to turn Europe into America's battlefield.
In the late 1970s the Soviet Union began to deploy a new intermediate range nuclear missile—the SS20—more accurate, more mobile, and with a longer range than its predecessors. and each carrying three independently targetable warheads. It was against this background that NATO examined the requirement to modernise its own ageing intermediate range nuclear forces. The decision to proceed with this modernisation through the deployment of 572 cruise and Pershing II missiles in five countries in Western Europe, coupled of course with its parallel arms control component. was endorsed by NATO Ministers in December 1979.
But the problem and the need to find a solution to It had been recognised much earlier: as communiqués issued at NATO ministerial meetings during the previous Labour Administration had made amply clear. Indeed NATO's decision was supported by the Opposition spokesman on defence when it was debated in another place in January 1980. The 1979 modernisation decision was intended to reaffirm the common defence of Europe and the United States. What has changed in the past three and a half years to make the Labour Party change its mind? The number of SS20s targeted on Western Europe has trebled over that period. not in response to NATO's own intermediate range forces, which then as now consist of a relatively small number of dual-capable aircraft. 109 The only change in NATO's forces since 1979 has been the withdrawal of the British Vulcan aircraft, leaving only the US F111 s based in this country.
These aircraft are increasingly vulnerable to enhanced Soviet air defences and, relying as they do on a small number of major airfields, are also extremely vulnerable to pre-emptive attack. NATO has as yet no land-based missiles of a comparable range to the Soviet SS4s, SS5s and SS20s. Even if the full number of Pershing II and cruise missiles were to be deployed, they would still represent less than half of the number of warheads currently deployed on the Soviet missiles.
Preparations are well on schedule for the deployment of the first missiles in Europe at the end of this year—Pershing II missiles in Germany and cruise missiles in Italy and at Greenham Common in this country. The deployment programme as a whole will take about five years. and is planned eventually to include basing in the Netherlands and in Belgium, both of which countries remain firmly committed to the NATO decision. It is essential that we proceed resolutely towards deployment if the Soviet Union is to be persuaded to take the parallel arms control talks seriously and agree to remove the threat posed by her own systems. I emphasise that the West's purpose in the INF negotiations is the elimination of this entire class of missile: if an agreement is reached in Geneva after deployment has begun, then the missiles can be removed from Europe.
The West has demonstrated the flexibility of its negotiating position by agreeing to consider equal limits on missile warheads on either side: the Soviet Union has as yet demonstrated no such flexibility and continues to insist on preconditions which would preserve the current imbalance of forces and seek to divide the defences of the Western Alliance.
The NATO modernisation plan is a symbol of the NATO countries' collective responsibility for their own defence. If we have to deploy these new missiles then they will be a visible symbol to the Soviet Union of the American nuclear guarantee to Europe. They will sustain the policy whereby US nuclear forces have been deployed in this country for many years—and under successive Governments of both parties—and it is indeed part of the value of these forces that they should be American-owned and operated.
The noble Lord, Lord Bishopston, and indeed I think the noble Lord. Lord Mayhew, expressed concern about the arrangements for the control of the cruise missile force which is planned to be based in this country. This is an important issue and it is right that noble Lords should address themselves to it. Indeed, it has been discussed many times in this House and in another place. For that reason I will not rehearse again the detailed arguments in favour of the current arrangements. I would emphasise however that the presence of these forces in our country in no way limits our national sovereignty. The long-standing arrangements which have existed between the United Kingdom and the United States on the use of nuclear weapons and bases in this country to the satisfaction of Governments of both parties, will apply equally to cruise missiles. The understandings between the governments of the two countries have been jointly 110 reviewed in the light of plans to deploy cruise missiles and the Government have satisfied themselves that they are effective.
As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has said in another place:The effect of these understandings and the arrangements for implementing them is that no nuclear weapon would be fired or launched from British territory without the agreement of the British Prime Minister.".My right honourable friend's comments have been reflected by the President of the United States: and there can be no room to doubt the nature and effect of the understandings.
Before I turn to other topics, may I conclude by making quite clear to your Lordships that the Soviet leadership should be in no doubt of the resolve of the British Government to proceed with deployment if necessary. Unprovoked aggression was met last year by firm resolve when we despatched a task force to the Falkland Islands. Today we still maintain a strong garrison on the islands because the Argentine leadership has refused to give any assurances that it will not continue to pursue its unjustified claim by use of force. Argentina continues to rearm rapidly, and bellicose statements still emanate from her senior officers. For instance, as recently as on 14th June, President Bignone said:The Malvinas were, are, and will always be Argentine … although we suffered a military setback last year, Argentina continues with its 150 year long fight to recover the sovereignty seized from it by Colonialism.".So long as Argentina adopts this inflexible attitude and assumes that transfer of sovereignty is a precondition for negotiations then the Government have no option but to look to the defence of the islands.
In order to deter renewed Argentine aggression, our garrison is a balanced force with substantial air, land and maritime elements, and can be reinforced from the United Kingdom if necessary. The garrison maintains a constant vigilance and undertakes much realistic training and exercise activity. We are providing various elements of essential military infrastructure. For instance on accommodation, we now have two Coastel floating accommodation barges in position at Stanley and a third will be provided shortly. We have completed a number of smaller camps around the islands. These improvements in the standard of accommodation have allowed us to reduce drastically the numbers of troops billetted with the civil population in Stanley, and eliminated our dependence on expensive and inconvenient accommodation ships. We have also made excellent progress on an integrated air defence ground environment to enhance our air defence early warning capabilities. Many other projects are in hand.
My noble friend Lady Vickers asked particularly about the possibility and prospects of building a new airport. I can tell my noble friend that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence intends to make a Statement about that in the not too distant future, and I hope that that Statement will be satisfactory to my noble friend.
Relations between the garrison and the islanders are good. The civil and military communities continue to work together making the best use of resources and facilities. This is part of the continuing process of 111 returning the islands to a normal existence now that the initial tasks of rehabilitation and reconstruction are largely complete.
I turn now to some of the other points that have been made in the debate this evening. First may I pick up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, in his speech earlier this afternoon about the question of aid. There is no question of the Government abandoning their responsibilities in this area, but private flows of investment are greater than public flows of aid can he. As my noble friend Lady Elles said. private sector aid is greatly appreciated by many developing countries. indeed, it is only sensible to seek co-operation between ourselves and the private sector. On ODA's scientific units, to which the noble Lord referred, we are considering the report he mentioned and we shall be replying as soon as possible.
The Government do not believe that official aid is a panacea for the problems of developing countries. The policies of the developing countries themselves, their access to markets and the free flow of overseas investment, are much more important in aggregate. But we recognise that aid does have an essential part to play particularly for the poorest countries, although aid cannot be exempt from public expenditure considerations. We have therefore maintained a substantial aid programme. In the present financial year the net aid programme is £1,057 million, some 10 per cent. higher than in the previous year. thus representing an increase in real terms.
The noble Lords, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos and Lord Stewart of Fulham, also raised the matter of our relations with the Soviet Union. We have made it clear that a more constructive relationship is available if the Soviet Union is prepared to adopt a new approach. If Mr. Andropov and his colleagues are prepared to show restraint and to take practical steps to hack the Soviet Union's frequently expressed desire for peace and co-operation, we shall be ready to respond. However, Anglo-Soviet relations continue to be affected by international problems of recent years, notably Afghanistan. Poland and the Soviet military build-up; for example, there has been no official support for major cultural events with Soviet Union since Afghanistan and reduction of activity under technical co-operation agreements.
The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, also asked about the progress on Namibia. Progress there depends on discussions on regional security issues which are currently under way. We remain in close touch with the other members of the contact group and will continue to do all we can to find a solution and to bring Namibia to independence.
I was asked. too. about the position of the third party systems in the INF talks. The Soviet demand for the inclusion of British and French forces in the INF negotiations is not. of course. new. The reasons are not hard to see. It is only by counting in these forces that the Soviet Union can begin to justify its totally false claims that there currently exists in Europe a nuclear balance which the NATO modernisation plans would upset. It is a crude attempt to divide the allies and split the defence of Europe from that of the United States. All the allies are agreed that the small British deterrent 112 which provides the ultimate guarantee of our national security has no place in the United States/Soviet negotiations about land-based intermediate-range nuclear forces. Indeed it is a submarine-based strategic deterrent, and comparable Soviet systems are clearly excluded by both sides from these talks.
As regards the strategic negotiations—the START talks as they are called—the priority there is to get reductions in the large arsenals of the super powers. The British deterrent is only a few per cent, of the massive Soviet strategic forces, but we have not ruled out the British deterrent from strategic arms control. We have made clear that, should circumstances change and the Soviet threat to the United Kingdom be reduced substantially, we should be prepared to review our position.
The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, and 1 think one or two others, have asked whether the NATO Alliance will proceed with the deployment of Pershing II and cruise missiles in Europe irrespective of the outcome of the arms control negotiations in Geneva. The plain answer, of course, is, no. If the Soviet Union were to agree to the original and most radical option on the table in Geneva, the so-called zero option, there would be no need for deployment of any new missiles. If, however, the Soviet Union refuses to negotiate seriously, then deployment will proceed. I would add that, if the Soviet Union agrees to the terms of the interim proposals—that is. equal limits at as low a level as possible on missile warheads—that agreement would, by definition, involve the deployment of some NATO missiles.
I cannot agree with noble Lords that the best outcome of the INF. negotiations would be no cruise missiles, no Pershing II's and some SS20s. The noble Lord, Lord May hew may regard 162 SS20s as an insignificant factor, but, if he considers the catastrophic effects of just one such missile. I fancy he may wish to think again.
The noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, also referred to the remarks of Admiral Falls about battlefield nuclear weapons. Admiral Falls drew attention to the need for reductions in the nuclear arsenals of both East and West—an aim which this Government and the nations of the Alliance wholeheartedly support and which we are seeking to achieve in the arms control negotiations in Geneva. He also gave his unqualified support to the deployment, if necessary, of Pershing II and cruise missiles in Europe at the end of this year.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, before the noble Lord continues, may we get this clear? Will the noble Lord confirm that what he has said is that it is only the acceptance of the zero option by the Soviet Union which will persuade the United Kingdom and United States Governments not to deploy cruise and Pershing missiles in this country before the end of this year?
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, we are faced at this moment by a great imbalance in these weapons in Europe. There is no way that that imbalance can be allowed to continue. The noble Lord is quite right. Yes, unless it is the zero option that is accepted by the Soviet Union—a genuine, real and worthwhile 113 proposal—I fear the deployment of some cruise and Pershing missiles is inevitable.
I was dealing with the remarks of Admiral Falls. He also was referring to the so-called battlefield nuclear weapons. That is a matter which the Alliance is studying with considerable urgency. A review is taking place with a view to ensuring that the stockpile of NATO's battlefield nuclear weapons in Europe does not exceed the minimum requirement for deterrence. NATO is under no illusions that such short-range weapons could be used instead of conventional weapons to fight sonic kind of war limited to the battlefield in Europe. But we must also take account of the increasing Soviet capability in this area. It is too early to speculate upon the outcome of the present review, though I should like to make it clear that, if any scope were identified for reductions in the stockpile, these would be additional to the 1,000 warheads which have already been withdrawn from Europe since 1979 without any comparable response from the Soviet Union.
Finally, I must totally reject the charge that the United States is not serious about arms control. The United States' position in the INF negotiations has been developed as a result of extremely close and regular consultations between the United States and her NATO allies. It is in our common interest that the United States should receive our positive support and that we should together seek agreements which provide security and stability at all levels of forces all round.
On other matters, the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham—and I think his point was also echoed by the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick—asked me about the refund negotiated the other day to the United Kingdom, and the French position in relation to that. Like all member states, the French have agreed to the European Council conclusions which specify the amount of the United Kingdom compensation and say that it will be included in the draft 1984 Community budget. I can assure both noble Lords that there are no conditions attached.
The noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, also asked me about our commitment to Gibraltar. Successive governments have given an assurance that they would continue to stand by the people of Gibraltar and sustain and support them in the difficult economic circumstances brought about by the restrictions imposed by Spain. There will be no change in this policy. Our commitment to Gibraltar remains firm.
The noble Lord, Lord Oram, asked me about the position of the negotiations with the Chinese over Hong Kong and some reported views that we have heard about recently. We are sure that the Chinese share our view that nothing should be done to damage confidence in Hong Kong. The right course is to preserve confidentiality of the discussions and to avoid negotiating through the press. We certainly do not regard the outcome of the talks as prejudged by anything that is said outside them.
My noble friend Lord Ailsa drew attention to problems in the Horn of Africa, as be has done on a number of previous occasions in your Lordships' House. The Government's view is clear. The Horn of Africa is of strategic importance to us and our Western 114 colleagues because of its proximity to the Gulf and to other countries of East Africa. We also have considerable commercial interests in the area. Our policy is to promote British interests by helping to reduce the tensions in the area, thus enabling the countries concerned to concentrate on dealing with their political, economic and social problems free from outside interference.
One noble Lord—and I am sorry to be taking this point rather out of sequence—referred to the "no first use" of nuclear weapons. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, that such a declaration would do nothing to enhance NATO's security: indeed the reverse would happen. To declare that we would never resort to nuclear weapons would be to run the risk of inviting conventional attack, with the aggressors safe in the knowledge that there was no risk of nuclear weapons being used against them whatever the circumstances. But it is worth remembering that NATO has in any event made a far more worthwhile and sweeping pledge. As our leaders have repeatedly made clear, notably at the Bonn Summit last year, none of our weapons will ever be used except in response to an attack. This is our "no first use" policy. NATO is a defensive alliance and threatens nobody.
Time is marching on and I will miss out some of the things I was planning to say in the interests of not detaining your Lordships unduly. But perhaps I may just refer to one remark made by the noble Lord. Lord Bishopston, referring to the House of Commons Defence Committee's report on the future defence of the Falklands Islands, which I was dealing with just now. The Government, of course, have seen that report. We are studying it and shall be presenting our observations on it in the usual way before long.
This Government have gained international respect with their strength and resolve in a period of world political and economic difficulty. Our stature has increased and, with it. our influence in the world. The British people voted for a firm and positive approach to defence and foreign affairs. They voted for strong and resolute armed forces. CND described the recent general election as a "nuclear election". I agree with them. The people of this country were asked to judge the Government's defence policy. They were asked also to judge the alternatives offered by the others. And it cannot be denied that the election result has been a ringing endorsement of the Government's defence policy—an endorsement of a defence policy that serves to deter the Soviet Union from military adventures against us and our allies.
We are an independent people. With our NATO partners we intend to maintain our independence and freedom. It is a Government's first responsibility to provide for the security of its citizens. This Government have carried out that responsibility and intend to continue to do so with the decisive mandate which we have just won.
§ Lord Denham
My Lords, on behalf of my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor. I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned until Tuesday.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned until Tuesday next—(Lord Denham.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.