HL Deb 03 May 1983 vol 442 cc45-67

5.30 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, I beg to ask the Unstarred Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. I should like to begin by reading the Question. It is: To ask Her Majesty's Government why they have been reluctant to reveal the growth of American nuclear and other bases in this country and whether they now agree that it is urgent to establish British operational control over nuclear weapons at all such bases. The Question is framed in a manner which I hope will maximise support. It in no way attempts to go to the position which some of us might like to follow, and that is to get rid of nuclear weapons altogether. The Question does not even go to the point of saying that the cruise missile and the Pershing II missile should not be deployed at all. However, many of us—and a larger number than those who believe in total nuclear disarmament—would at least go so far as to say that Pershing II and cruise missiles should not be deployed and would only exacerbate the nuclear tensions which now spread over Europe.

The Question goes only a very small way indeed, but it goes to a point which I believe will gain the support of all those speakers who are to take part in this short debate with the possible exception of the noble Lord, Lord Belstead. However, I hope that even he may say that such is the moderation of the Question put to him that the Government are looking at it with great care and that they are in negotiation with the American Government with a view to re-asserting British control over nuclear weapons in our own area.

Therefore, it is a modest question, a question which will not only unite every member of the Labour Party, but will, I believe, carry with it the spokesman on the Liberal Benches, who, in my view, is now a spokesman for peace. He has his own ideas, but whatever may have been the case in the past, today the noble Lord is a man who, in his own way, is seeking peace as indeed are most of us. I believe also that I shall carry with me in this Question the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. And, of course, we shall have Labour support. Indeed, I think that on this occasion the Front Bench will have no difficulty in going the whole way with me, though they would probably regard the Question as not going far enough and would like it to go a good deal farther. So should I; but I shall endeavour to restrain my noble friend on this occasion from dismissing this as a small and insufficient measure, on the grounds that on this occasion what we are really trying to do is not to castigate the Government but to bring them with us, to put forward something which I believe all patriotic Conservatives would say was close to their heart—namely, the reassertion of the power of this Government in their own territory, if not over the face of the globe. I am pretty sure, too, that we shall carry many Cross-Benchers with us.

Therefore, I think that we shall have a majority of the House, but I am not sure whether we shall carry the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, with us. Experience shows that one should not be too optimistic about that. However, we shall hope that, by the end of the debate, such will be the power, not of what I say but of what noble Lords who follow me will say in support of the Question, that the noble Lord will give us an answer which, if not in the complete, immediate affirmative will be of such a character as to lead us to believe that there may be some hope, whereas at present there is little but despair.

In this Question I have referred to the reluctance of the Government to reveal the growth of American bases in this country. I shall demonstrate that apparent reluctance in a moment. But it occurs to me that it may be not so much a case of reluctance as—I was going to say of ignorance; but in my new-found policy of conciliation with the Government I shall not say that. I shall suggest instead that it is a question of lack of knowledge, which I shall describe in a moment.

In a previous debate I referred to the American military presence in this country as being that of a country within a country. Of course one country does not always know what is going on in another, even when that country's military and intelligence network exists within the borders, the waters, and the air-space of the host country.

The pattern of American military presence in Europe was established first in Germany. Of course the Germans during the war and immediately after it were not told what was going on and nobody thought that they should be told or expected that it was proper for them to be told. But that pattern appears to have been followed throughout Europe. Indeed, it is understandable that it was followed throughout Europe. After all, the American forces landed with our own in France and advanced throughout Europe and established their methodology of operation throughout the whole of Europe and, indeed, in their bases—mostly air force bases, but many other bases as well—in this country at that time.

It is not clear that the American military and communications complex draws any sharp distinction between its role and behaviour in an ex-enemy country and its similar presence on the territory of European countries which are now seen as forward bases in the struggle against the Soviet Union. There is, in fact, no fundamental difference in the methodology deployed by the American network in Germany, England, Belgium or Holland.

The nearer one comes to Soviet-controlled territory, the more apparent is the American presence. But apart from that, the policy is for the United States forces to be self-sufficient—to have their own communications network, their own food and entertainment, certainly not to live off the land of the host country; and for the presence of thousands of servicemen to be as inconspicuous as possible. It is a far cry from the wartime intermingling depicted in the film "Yanks"—something which I remember well from my own service days, because I worked with the Americans on and off from the time of the Eagle Squadron in the Royal Air Force until the end of the war in Europe.

Let no one imagine that I am remotely anti-American; on the contrary, experience has given me much admiration for that country. I must say that I cannot admire their political system as much as I do our own, with all the faults that I discern even in our own—faults with which, on some other occasion, I shall probably bore your Lordships, but certainly not tonight. As much as I dislike and, frankly, am afraid of the present Government of the United States—and I think that there are many Americans who share that fear—this does not remotely mean that I am in any way anti-American or that anybody who discerns danger in the American presence in this country becomes anti-American. Not at all. We believe that we are speaking for the best in America, because there are many Americans who are, as I shall demonstrate by quoting in a moment, concerned with current developments of the American industrial military complex, as are many of us in this country.

First, I deal with the apparent reluctance to disclose the extent of the American military presence. In June 1980 the Foreign Secretary disclosed the existence of 12 American bases. In another place Mr. Cryer pressed for this disclosure of back-up and communications bases. The matter developed, but before I proceed, I would point out that in their own way these back-up and communications bases are just as important as the forward operational bases. Mr. Pym, then Defence Secretary, listed another 38 such bases. A month later another three emerged, making a total of 53 disclosed in 1980. But in November of that year another 10 operating bases were found, and finally this year the total went up to 75.

It is known that there are even more than this. A map and a list were published in the New Statesman—apparently, it was a Soviet military map—so the department of the noble Lord was pressed still further, this time without result. But according to Mr. Duncan Campbell, who is the authority on the subject, writing in the Observer, the list is still incomplete. The Government's admissions include small, unmanned communications relay stations but omit many important manned sites. The Minister may say that it is only the "titches"—the minor ones—that have been omitted. That is not actually the case. Some minor bases have been included and some rather major ones have been left out. All in all, it seems that there may be twice as many as even the much larger number now admitted—in other words, somewhere between 100 and 150; certainly not fewer than 100, and a far cry from Mr. Pym's original dozen.

My first question to the noble Lord is this. Was this concealment or was it lack of knowledge, or was it both? Was the Government's disinformation on the point intentional, or did they not know? The Minister has claimed that American bases in this country are committed to NATO but, for example, he omitted from the list the Oakhanger tracking station, which is one of the seven stations which cover the United States, Air Force secret military and spy satellites. Over 1000 million dollars was committed to improve Oakhanger and its fellow stations last year.

What about Liverpool Port?—described as a major installation by the Americans who are much more open about these matters than we are. If one wants information about what the Americans are doing in the United Kingdom, it seems that one either has to go to America for it or to the Soviet Union. In either country one can get much more complete information than any of us have been able to extract from Government Ministers on this, point.

Of course, it is the lives of our people who are either to be preserved, as some people would say, or threatened by the existence of these bases. So either way it is important for our people to know what is going on in their name what the Government are permitting and, their reluctance to reveal has been intentional, why it is that they have refused to tell our people—who, after all, are the people in the front line—what apparently the Russians know all about and what apparently the Americans know all about.

As I say, what about Liverpool Port?—which is unlisted here, but which is described as a major installation by the Americans. What of six other unlisted terminals? What about Prestwick? Is that now going ahead or has it been abandoned? Did the Government know about that or not? I think that we are entitled to know.

I now turn to the second part of my Question, that of operational control. If we are charitable—and, as I have made clear, I am in a charitable mood tonight—and we assume that the Government believe their own denial of the existence of most of the American bases in this country to be the reality and the truth at the time, that is even more alarming from the point of view of controlling nuclear weapons. For if the Government are unaware of the extent of our peril, how can they control it?

This illustrates a point which I think any staff officer could explain to the noble Lord the Minister: that political control without operational control is ineffective; that operational control is the executive arm of political decision-making, and that without it political orders may well be just whistling in the wind. Let us suppose that during the recent expedition, or sadness, in the South Atlantic we had not exercised effective operational control over the submarines which were deployed there. Let us suppose that the submarines instead of being under British control were under some foreign control, perhaps American. Would there have been a sinking of the "Belgrano"? The Prime Minister would not have been able to give the order. Some of us may believe that that would have been a highly beneficent outcome and that a peace might have been secured if that had not occurred, without the loss of life which followed.

I believe that any Member of this House who has any military experience whatever would agree with me that, if you want to be effective, you must have operational control and that political decision-making is not enough in time of tension and, certainly, in time of war. One must be certain that one's orders will be obeyed, and that an order not to fire will be regarded as absolutely sacrosanct and to be obeyed as much as an order to fire.

Surely that must be the first essential if we have any regard for the safety of our own people. I charge the Government with being careless with the safety of their own people if they will not exercise their own control, if they will not go to the Americans and say, "If we cannot have control over cruise missiles in our own country, then the price we exact for that is that they will not come here".

I want to say why, if we did not have cruise missiles, I do not think that that would be a disaster, or something about which we would be sorry. I believe that it would be a very great benefit to everyone if we never had them at all. The danger of the cruise missiles, and especially of those under foreign operational control in our country, is that they are cheap, small, and impossible to verify. Not only could they not be detected by Soviet satellites, they could not even be checked by the Government, for the Americans enjoy untrammelled rights to bring in what they like and do as they please within their own bases.

As the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, has pointed out, privileges which the Americans rightly enjoyed in simpler wartime and post-war years have been extended into a period in which they have become not a protection but a horrible danger to the host country. Those words are mine, not Lord Carver's. But the point I make is that the situation is different today from what it was in the wartime and post-war years, which is the point that the noble and gallant Lord—I am sorry he is not here this evening—will agree that he has made time and time again. I freely admit that the noble and gallant Lord does not go so far as I should like on many of these issues; but that is also true of many noble Lords who I believe will be speaking in favour of the general line of this Question later in this debate.

What is more, the introduction of cruise missiles—for of course they will be matched by the Soviet Union—means the end of verification, because indeed—and I do not think that the noble Lord who will reply to the debate will disagree with me—verification of these small weapons is almost an impossibility. The question of where they are—and they can be moved about—as to whether they are loaded with a nuclear warhead or a conventional warhead are questions impossible of verification. If this is so—and I believe that it is—certainly they are impossible of verification by satellite, which is the customary method of verification now employed in respect of all the missiles currently deployed—then arms control becomes impossible and we are on a straight road to Armageddon.

It is no good talking about cruise not being a first strike weapon. Now it is true that the so-called demonstration shot, which NATO chiefs are alarmingly so fond of, would probably be launched by Pershing 2 missiles, or perhaps even by a battlefield weapon, rather than by cruise, but it would be just as fatal. Furthermore, surprise—which is the essence of first strike—can be achieved militarily in two possible ways. First, as in the case of the Pershing, by speed of attack and quickness of arrival, before the defence can be deployed. But it can also be achieved, as anybody knows who has ever studied these matters, by concealment, by the evasion of detection. That could not be achieved by Pershing, but it is the main characteristic of cruise.

Therefore, the question of whether cruise would, or would not, be used in a first strike capacity is a military decision. It has nothing to do with the characteristics of the weapon itself. There is nothing in the slow but evasive approach of the cruise weapon which makes it inherently a second strike weapon. It is 10 times more accurate than the Soviet SS20, and it is impossible to tell by surveillance whether or not the cruise is carrying a nuclear warhead. This means that deterrence is at an end. This is a nuclear war fighting weapon, because you cannot deter by something which your prospective enemy can know nothing about. He therefore can only respond, and that means nuclear war.

Cruise, as distinct from Pershing, is not a ballistic missile. It stems from the old German terror weapon, the V bomber. Like it, it is a small, pilotless, self-guiding airplane. It is about 15 feet long. It can reach most parts of the Soviet Union from here, and it can carry a nuclear weapon 15 times as lethal as the Hiroshima bomb. One of them could kill a million people and render the whole of Moscow or Leningrad uninhabitable, full of dead, or dying, men, women and children. It is extremely accurate, and it is designed to explode within a few meters of its pinpointed target.

It can be launched by air, by submarine, by ship, or from a land-based vehicle, say a lorry. The cruise missiles fly close to the ground, and although subsonic are difficult to detect by radar. For that very reason they are subsonic. If there were time I could describe to your Lordships the method. Did I understand the noble Lord to say there is time?

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Belstead)

No, my Lords.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

No? If that is so, I shall restrain myself, because there are other speakers in the debate. However, my Lords, I understand that the normal limitations which are placed on these debates are not very closely, firmly and heavily upon us this evening for one reason or another. As I was saying, cruise is about 15 feet long and it can carry a weapon of most horrible lethality. Plans for a supersonic model of cruise are well advanced; but in my own view these plans, like most nuclear plans, are a complete waste of time, because already on both sides we have more than enough overkill to destroy each other several times over.

The United States now proposes in its present plans to deploy some 3,000 air-launched cruise missiles capable of eliminating the USSR by themselves a thousand times over, and several hundred sea-launched cruise missiles as well. That is as well as the quite unnecessary hundreds of land-based cruise missiles they plan for Britain and the rest of Europe. This brings me to the point I mentioned earlier. If the Government were to decide that they want a dual key arrangement on these weapons or they will not have them, and if the Americans were to say, "All right. No cruise", then the fact that they were not coming here would not decrease our power to resist. On the contrary, it would increase our safety.

The plan to fill Europe with these things is the act of a madman, and if they come our civilisation is doomed, and perhaps the expectation of life of a child born today is not greater than my own. We have not the right to deprive our children of a future. It is useless to prate that the nuclear weapon has kept the peace. That point is unprovable. But even if it has, the cruise weapon will bring that peace and our world itself to an end too horrible to be encompassed in the mind of man.

There is no secret in the fact that I, like the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, should like to get rid of all nuclear weapons; but in this Question I am putting a much more limited objective. In doing so I think I am speaking, as I said at the beginning, for a large number of people who have not, as yet, come with us all the way on nuclear disarmament. I am not looking for a whole loaf tonight: I am not even asking for half a loaf. A nuclear freeze, I suppose, would be a reasonable half-loaf which would carry many people with us. A nuclear freeze would gain me not only the support of all the Labour Party, but of the SDP and the Liberals, some Cross-Benchers; certainly the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman—who has expressed himself most trenchantly on this issue recently in the Spectator—but perhaps even some of the Conservatives. There are Conservatives against the bomb—thank God!

I believe that the balance of argument on this issue has in recent months undergone a subtle change, and that the Government (who were on the attack) are now on the defensive. That is demonstrated by the unnecessarily vigorous nature of the polemic they are currently deploying against CND. Rather than to attack the CND in terms of personality, the Government would do better to ask themselves why these arguments—not yet the total argument of unilateral nuclear disarmament—which see the peril of the nation, clearly are now gaining such widespread support throughout the country. Is it not that the nuclear weapon has undergone a subtle change, and that if it ever was a deterrent it is no longer so? It has now become something that unless we stop it, or pull it back to the point at which it was a deterrent, will lead to the destruction of us all.

I am asking only for a crumb and it is a crumb which all those I have mentioned I believe would welcome. It must surely appeal to patriotic Conservatives. It is merely the reassertion of the power of the Government to control our fate. I do not want cruise missiles here at all. I shall give every possible support to the Greenham Common women and everyone else who seeks to oppose their arrival. Even those who are opposed to these methods surely will say, "Let us have this issue out within our own borders. Let us be the people who decide what is to be our own fate". Even in respect of the nuclear weapons already here—not only the cruise which are coming; we already have plenty of American nuclear weapons here—we must surely exercise our right of physical operational control to ensure, to support and, if necessary, to enforce the political control which we are said to enjoy.

Will the Government now agree that it is urgent to establish British operational control over all nuclear weapons in this country? That urgency is an aspect of technological advance in the nuclear age, an aspect of the increase in the horrifying power of nuclear weapons and of human ingenuity in the means of delivering destruction and death. We have to change our operational systems to cope with that technological advance or we shall be destroyed.

The Government must move in this matter. If they do not, much support will be withdrawn from them. It is no good arguing that arrangements made in earlier and simpler times are adequate for today. They are not. We are in peril, and if the Government do not recognise it and decide that our fate must be firmly in our own hands, they will not deserve to retain their support in the country.

6.5 p.m.

Lord Mayhew

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins opened by saying that he would speak in a conciliatory and non-controversial manner on two very narrow issues—the issue of the number of American bases in this country and the issue of dual safety-catches on missiles. For several minutes the noble Lord stuck to his good resolutions; but, as the speech developed more familiarly, we had an attack in the broadest way on the American bases, on missiles and on cruise missiles in particular.

I propose not to follow the noble Lord on the broader questions, but to make a few comments on the two specific questions that he raised. I am very glad to follow him, particularly because of his kind tribute to me as a man of peace—a tribute which will give me much to think about—and also because he and I were members of Labour Governments which warmly welcomed the presence of American nuclear bases in the country. When I think back I am quite sure that Clem Attlee, Ernest Bevin and Nye Bevan, Hugh Gaitskell and James Callaghan, all those who warmly welcomed these American bases, would say today that they were right so to do. The nuclear presence has been successful, in as much as we have never come within a remote distance of ever having to operate from the bases. I am sure that if they were here tonight they would say that the problem has not changed as we have not changed our minds. What has changed is our Labour Party. That is what they would say and they would be right. That has been the essential change in the situation we have today.

The Labour Party is in opposition, it has no control over its extreme Left and therefore it commits itself to the removal of American bases within the lifetime of a Labour Government, if one is elected. It does not oppose of course the Western nuclear deterrent. It can see completely that unilateral nuclear disarmament in the West would concede military supremacy worldwide to the Soviet Union, and the Labour Party does not want that. That is perfectly clear. What it says is that the West needs a nuclear deterrent but that Britain must have no part in it. That is the Labour Party's position. It is hard to see how one could devise a more illogical and morally ambiguous defence policy than that.

There are of course non-nuclear nations in NATO; but, unlike them, Britain has contributed to the Western deterrent by providing these bases in the past. To withdraw them now, to throw more responsibilities on to our allies, to incur—quite rightly—their resentment and mistrust, would divide and weaken the alliance and that is certainly not acceptable to my noble friends and me on these Benches. If it is morally right for the West to have a nuclear deterrent, why is it morally wrong for the British to help in it? That is a question we should like to hear answered from the Front Bench tonight.

I thought that the noble Lord was on stronger ground when he spoke about the need for dual control over these missiles. Here I should like to ask some questions of the Government. We know already the broad line of the Government's defence. It stands on the 1952 agreement which conferred joint political control on the Americans and the British over the firing of these missiles; joint political control not accompanied by joint physical control. The Government assert that joint political control is enough. But one or two doubts must creep in. I put to the Government that it was after 1952 that joint physical control was imposed on a series of missiles, such as the Thor, the Lance and the Honest Johns. If joint political control was enough then why did we have joint physical control over a number of missiles? I also ask the Government about the costs that they say this proposal would incur. The cost of actually technically safeguarding the missiles with dual safety catches is negligible. The actual cost of doing the job is not in dispute.

The Government take the line that we would have to buy all the missiles. On March 1st in the House of Commons the Secretary of State for Defence declared that it would cost us £1,000 million, the assumption being I suppose that, although the project would be a joint project, the Americans would pay nothing towards it. Is that the assumption of the Government? If so, it is simply ridiculous; and we should like to know the answer to that question. And we should like to know whether it has ever been discussed with the Americans. When I asked in a parliamentary Question about discussions between the two Governments on this issue, I was told, no; that since the Government took over they have not specifically discussed the question of the cost of putting dual safety catches on these missiles.

I suggest that they should discuss it with the Americans quite urgently. I think that they might well find that President Reagan will be willing to pay at least a substantial part—if not perhaps the whole cost—of this operation. Fortunately, it is extremely unlikely that the provision of dual safety catches will ever have any operational importance. But it has importance in the sense of raising questions of sovereignty, and raising questions of equality of partnership. I think that for the British it involves questions of self-respect and, in the case of the Americans, I think that common sense and courtesy would lead them to adopt this proposal. I think therefore that the Government need to answer some of the questions raised by the noble Lord. I think that they are wrong to dismiss this proposal out of hand, as they have done.

6.12 p.m.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, for putting down his Unstarred Question and for his initial good intention about being non-contentious and confining himself closely to it. I shall speak on an even narrower front then either of the noble Lords who have spoken so far; that is, solely about the joint control of the cruise missiles. I think that, beforehand, the House will not need me to repeat that I do not go along with Lord Jenkins's broader view of NATO's defence policy, which I conceive to be more or less the official view of the Labour Party at the moment; but that we on these Benches go along much more closely with a view which we think is better considered. That is the view expressed by the Labour Front Bench in this House and which we hope to hear expressed again this evening—the official Labour view being, of course, that Russia should become the only country with nuclear weapons in Europe. With this, we cannot agree.

Let us go back to the origins of the present difficulties about dual control of cruise missiles. Once upon a time there was an understanding between Britain and America about the joint decision to be taken before any strategic weapons were to be launched from this country. I think that the understanding grew up during the Second World War. I am not too clear about it and anything that the Government can say to help this afternoon will be good. But we know that there was an understanding because in January 1952 there was a joint British-United States communiqué which said: We reaffirm the understanding that the use of these bases"— that is, US bases in Britain— in an emergency would be a matter for joint decision". So there we have an understanding reaffirmed in a communiqué. It is not a very formal arrangement yet, is it? It is an understanding that we do not know about, reaffirmed in a communiqué which we can all read.

In February 1958, a slightly higher degree of formality was introduced into the arrangements. There was a memorandum. It was a memorandum on the supply of ballistic missiles by the United States to the United Kingdom, and it said: The decision to launch these missiles will be a matter for joint decision by the two governments". I do not know how a decision can be a matter for joint decision. I do not know whether that sentence is synonymous with the clear English sentence which would run: "The decision to launch these missiles will be a joint one by the two governments". Maybe that was just bad drafting or maybe it conceals a shade of meaning which escapes us. In any case, I think that the House should note that we have proceeded from an understanding, an unpublished understanding, through a communiqué to a memorandum—not a memorandum of agreement, not a treaty. That is what governs the matter at this moment.

The intrinsic question is not difficult to understand; it is not difficult to distinguish. I emphasise the fact that it is not difficult to distinguish because the Government always seem to give slightly the impression that it is difficult to distinguish and that those who are not instantly in agreement with their point of view are being slow to make the relevant distinction. It is not difficult to distinguish between weapons systems with one safety catch and weapons systems with two or more safety catches. On the one hand, are shotguns—well known to all of us, I think—which have one safety catch. On the other hand, are almost all the more complex weapons systems which have two or more safety catches. Once there are physically two or more safety catches on a weapons system—that is to say, once physical actions by two or more persons are required to launch it—the question arises: who shall those persons be?

We know that in the control of our own nuclear weapons it has always been two or more; we know that in the control of purely United States nuclear weapons in the United States, it has always been two or more. I do not think that the Government can possibly tell us if the cruise missiles are not going to require two or more persons to launch them, in any case. We are talking, of course, about the question of why one of those persons should not be British.

The Government are apparently frightened to permit the expected debate on all this in the House of Commons, no doubt because of the pressure for dual-key control of the American cruise missiles which they expect from their own Back-Benchers. In this, I think that the Government's credibility is at stake. This evening may, in fact, be the last occasion for them to say anything on the subject before a general election. So far, the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, and his colleagues have failed to answer, or have fudged the answer to, two main questions. The first is this: what will be the cost to Britain of a dual key for the cruise missiles without transferring their ownership to us? It is not compatible with sovereignty that, having lent our soil as a launching pad, we should be without a finger on the safety catch of these weapons.

The noble Lord, Lord Bestead, last failed to give me an answer to this question an April 21st, and, before that, on March 22nd. Since 1981, the Government have been maintaining or implying that it would be unthinkable for us to have a finger on the safety catch without buying the missile system. Indeed, they have been putting up a rearguard action on the dual key question ever since the SDP was founded.

The second question concerns authority in the United States to launch nuclear weapons, including the cruise missiles in Britain. If the President and Vice-President are incapacitated or absent, where does that authority devolve under the United States Constitution—to the speaker of the House of Representatives? That is not a fanciful question. There was confusion and panic when President Reagan was shot. This is a separate question. How far down the line does the President of the United States have the right to devolve this authority in the ordinary course of events—to the Secretary of Defense, to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to SACEUR, to another general, to a colonel, to a major? When I last asked this question here, the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, seemed to think this was a matter of etiquette and answered that it would not be appropriate to inquire.

In evading their duty to answer these questions, the Government like to claim that ground-launched cruise missiles are no different from the United States bombers and submarines that use British bases, concerning which arrangements have been accepted by all parties as satisfactory. But missiles are different in two ways: first, they cannot be recalled when they have been launched and, secondly, they are launched from British soil. The weapons carried by the bombers and submarines would not be launched from British air space or British waters. Thor was the only land-based nuclear missile we have had on British soil until now, and it was indeed under dual key.

If the Prime Minister does not decide for a June election, this House may, I think, wish to take up the suggestion put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, on 21st April that there should be a vote here. But if she does decide for a June election, then the Government must realise that, if they do not answer these questions tonight, their next opportunity for doing so will be when they meet an electorate, 92 per cent. of whom want the dual key.

6.22 p.m.

Lord Milford

My Lords, first of all. I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, for giving this opportunity for us to ask the Government several very important questions. With the smears of the Secretary of State for Defence flying about, I shall have to declare a vested interest, I think. First of all, I am a Communist because I want to be in the front rank of getting Socialism in this country. Secondly, I am a member of the CND and hoping to achieve the security of the British people through its policies.

The situation is very dangerous. There are mad cold-war warriors around: they could easily slip into disaster for mankind. At the risk of being labelled a "Kremlin stooge", while following what is happening—or rather, not happening—in Geneva, I remind myself that Russia has been invaded several times in recent history, suffering appalling loss. So the idea of security to them must be a tremendous issue—far more than it is for us—while Britain and America have been free from invasion in modern history.

These American bases we have been talking about mean that Britain will now be in the front line, holding back any war on American soil. Britain, by piling up more and more American arms and bases in this country, will certainly become one of the first targets if war breaks out. Our present Government welcome more and more deadly weapons in this country when enough already exist to blow mankind out of existence.

I went to Greenham Common at Easter and it gave me a very great experience. First of all, I have never been in such an atmosphere of open friendliness, with everybody treating one as a warm friend. Secondly, it was amazing how they kept to non-violence. Everything was greeted with the best of possible tempers and smiles. Thirdly, there was the bravery and the sanity of those remarkable women. I felt the whole set-up was giving a new dimension, a spiritual dimension, to politics. This is happening in every country and I think we have to learn from it. This is the hope for the future, because they are based on realism while at the present moment the leaders of mankind are madmen. So let us stop and come back to friendship and sanity.

Faced with this fast-growing movement, the Government's Secretary of State for Defence will not step into the arena and discuss and debate with those who do not agree with him. Instead he stays on the sidelines and throws mud like any street hooligan. It is imperative for mankind that the Geneva talks succeed in lessening the madness in the world.

As regards Geneva, there is one question which seems to be holding progress up, and I do not know the answer. I should like to ask the Government this question, and I hope the Minister will give us the answer. I am not trying to make any propaganda: I just do want to know the answer because the question is being asked by people up and down the country. It is the question regarding the French and British nuclear weapons. This seems to be holding up the Geneva discussions. Seriously and honestly, I do not understand why they do not count as part of NATO's total armament. Will the Minister explain once and for all, so that the country can know? We and France are part of NATO: we and they do not conceal that their weapons and ours are directed against the Soviet Union. Would it not be more honest to count them in when talking about parity in armaments on each side? Again, I am not a "Kremlin mole". I want to know the answers, because this really is holding up progress in Geneva which is so essential.

Geneva must be the beginning of total nuclear disarmament, the beginning of a sane world. If disarmament and peace were achieved, the world could look forward to new horizons of happiness, spending billions and billions on everyone's welfare, instead of on more and more appalling arms. Everyone knows this. I know it is a platitude, but we do not settle down to try and get it. I do not feel that our Defence Minister's antics depict him and the Government as having a sincere determination to obtain such a world.

6.29 p.m.

Lord Bishopston

My Lords, I am sure we are all indebted to my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Putney for giving us the opportunity to debate this life-and-death matter of nuclear weapons to be based on United Kingdom soil. He began by saying that there was a good deal of goodwill on this matter. In view of the limited terms of the Question, he said he did not seek to "castigate"—that was the word he used—on this occasion, but only to interrogate. It is also a good thing, and to the credit of our democracy, that we can debate these issues here, or, indeed at Greenham Common. Long may it continue, although, of course, we hope that we shall get some more answers to the questions which have already been detailed by noble Lords tonight.

As my noble friend has said, it is not a matter of whether one takes a unilateral or a multilateral line. The noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, teases—if that is the right word—my colleagues and myself, because he says that our views have changed. Of course, it is not the views that have changed but the circumstances, because nuclear weapons are now far more deadly than in 1952 when the agreement, which the Government say is adequate, was arrived at. We are concerned not only about the questions which my noble friend has tabled tonight, but also about the situation which may eventually prevent any weapons from being located on our soil. Of course, I refer to the Geneva talks and it may well be that the Minister will say very briefly what progress has been made there and what are the chances of the cruise weapons not coming here, as the Government anticipate, in December next. This is a matter of concern not only to us but to other members of the NATO alliance.

For some time, as we all know, members of political parties in both Houses of Parliament and in the country have shown a deep concern about the need for dual control of weapons based here. This concern is widespread, particularly among those who accept the basing of nuclear weapons on our soil. It is rather surprising that those who support Government policy are not more strident in their demands for the guarantees which have been demanded here this evening.

Britain, the Prime Minister says, should not be pushed around. She said that about the Falklands which are 8,000 miles away, yet here, in the control of events on our own soil affecting our own people, the same principle does not apply, because the distinct impression in this matter is that in any emergency situation the United States will be entirely responsible for our destiny. So we demand that the United Kingdom should not be pushed around and that we should control the nuclear weapons, if they have to be based here, because of the devastating effect that they can have not only upon the lives of millions of people here now, but upon generations yet unborn.

In the other place only last week my right honourable friend the Leader of the Opposition pressed, as he has done for some time, to have a debate on these issues as well as on defence and disarmament policy generally. We believe that, if the USA is to be in sole charge of the bases here, we need to know much more about the President's thinking on a number of issues and his commitment on major defence and foreign policy issues. This is not an anti-American sentiment, but clearly if the Americans are to have such control over our destiny we need to know more about their thinking and, what is most important, we need to be consulted on matters which will affect us.

In recent debates in your Lordships' House not only has concern been expressed on all sides, but a lack of clarity, and indeed a vagueness, has been shown by Ministers about the policy of the Government. I believe that the time has come—in fact, it is long overdue—for the Government to be quite clear about their policy. With the Prime Minister—it may not be this Prime Minister; it may be another—going to conferences at Williamsburg and elsewhere, Parliament has a right to know about the issues being discussed and the policy issues which the Government are likely to pursue. So those who support Government policy ought to be no less demanding about the dual control and the other safeguards—matters on which there has been confusion and uncertainty from the Government for some time.

The issues have been of particular concern in Parliament, as is clear from the Official Reports of both Houses in the last few months. In this House on 18th January, the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, assured us that, The use of United States bases in the United Kingdom in an emergency"— including, of course, missile bases— was to be a matter for joint decision by Her Majesty's Government and the United States Government, in the light of the circumstances prevailing at the time."—[Official Report; col. 1286]. Later, in column 1288, he is quoted as saying: A dual key arrangement would entail the United Kingdom purchasing the missiles and supporting equipment, except the warheads, and manning them in the same way as we do the Lance missiles in Germany". So there will obviously be no operational control of these weapons.

On 1st February last in another place, the Secretary of State Mr. Heseltine said at column 133 of the Official Report, when asked about arrangements for the use of cruise missiles, that there would be a joint decision by the American and British Governments. He went on to say: There was no case for the additional strain on the defence budget that would have been imposed by buying the cruise platform systems, when they would be fully protected under the arrangements that were on offer". So, again, the Government stress that there will be no dual control, and presumably the actual firing will be done by members of the United States Army Air Force. We believe it is not enough to say that we hope, in the almost panic situation which could prevail at that time, that there will be no mistake, no error—because millions of lives could be at stake.

The Government tell us repeatedly that the arrangements have been in existence for 30 years, so we have no need to worry, and the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, reminded us that the agreement was made under other Governments. But, as I said a moment ago, the situation is far more dangerous than it was then, and the concern which I and my noble friends share about the consequences of the Government's policy is shared by many others. The arrangements which were formulated all that time ago were, of course, for subsonic aircraft and free-fall bombs and, as a Member of the other place said recently, they are wholly inappropriate for dispersed missiles with sophisticated triggers and targeting. These are the factors which are causing growing concern in the country.

As I said, the important point is that modern nuclear weapons and cruise missiles are far more lethal and their mechanisms are far more intricate and sensitive than ever before. That is why the Labour Party believes that the arrangements of 1952 are quite unrealistic and inadequate in this situation. A firing, whether intended or not, would invite massive nuclear retaliation. More concern was expressed in the debate in the other place on 7th February, and of course there has been widespread concern in the country, not only in CND but in the Churches, as well as at the meetings at Uppsala in Sweden only a few days ago between the Churches and the bishops of the United States. So there is growing widespread concern, and it is no good for the Secretary of State for Defence to suggest that those who doubt the Government's policy are to be considered sinister and fellow travellers, because that will not do.

In this House on 16th February, at column 329 of the Official Report, the Minister said that the estimated costs to the United Kingdom of providing 160 ground-launched cruise missiles with the dual key system would be of the order of £1,000 million of capital expenditure, with annual running costs of tens of millions of pounds. The fact is that the cruise missiles—which are, as I said, due to come here from December, unless some satisfactory arrangement can be arrived at in Geneva and elsewhere—would be dispersed around the country, with all the added complications of communications which that would entail.

The Minister should tell the House whether the views of Admiral La Rocque, a former high-ranking officer of the Pentagon, which were expressed in an ITV programme on 28th February, have been considered by the Government. He claimed that nobody in Europe could stop the USA from firing its nuclear weapons system from this country. These are the aspects which add to the concern of many millions of people. I would ask the Minister to answer another questions. If cruise missiles can be launched from any area of the United Kingdom, what real control will there be?

I believe also, on the issue of nuclear weapons and conventional capabilities, that another major fear in the minds of many people is that the enormous cost of nuclear weapons—of cruise, of the dual key arrangement, of Trident and maybe of dual key for Trident as well, plus the Falkland defence liability—will be far more than we can afford. This view has been expressed by noble Lords on all sides of the House, and indeed by honourable and right honourable Members on both sides in another place. The danger is that should we go nuclear early on, the huge cost of nuclear weapons would reduce our conventional capability to the extent that conventional weapons might be completely inadequate in any situation. That is the real fear which causes grave concern to so many.

The United Kingdom needs to know, in terms of the Question tabled by my noble friend, why the Government have been reluctant to reveal the American nuclear and other bases that there are in this country and whether the Government will establish operational control over nuclear weapons at such bases. Even more important, the Government need to have wise and meaningful defence policies and to come to agreement in international talks with the Soviet Union and with others about improved relationships so that conventional, not nuclear, weapons may lower the fear striking mankind. Success at Geneva and in other international talks which could result in the use of nuclear weapons or bases being unnecessary would remove the clouds of war which haunt mankind at present.

6.42 p.m.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I am surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, should ask this Question this evening for, far from being a source of anxiety, the presence of United States forces in this country is a source of strength and reassurance for the defence and security of our country. There has therefore been no attempt to conceal the facts, as the noble Lord suggests. The arrangements for the control of any use to which these forces might be put are wholly satisfactory, and that has been the case since United States forces returned to Britain after the 1939–45 war.

Western Europe is faced with Russian military power. The Soviet Union makes no secret of its readiness to use force and on more than one occasion it has shown that it will prevent by force any attempt by the people of Eastern Europe to recover their lost liberty. That is why Britain has been a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation since 1949. That is why successive Governments have regarded the alliance as the cornerstone of our defence. For over 30 years NATO has prevented aggression. The success of this policy of deterrence hinges on the determination of all the NATO countries to stand together, to treat a threat to one as a threat to all. Above all, it is vital that the defence of the United States is identified with the defence of its NATO allies. It is for this reason, strengthened of course by our cultural and historical ties and by our comradeship against tyranny in days gone by, that successive British Governments have welcomed the stationing of United States forces in Britain.

The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, was a Minister in previous Labour Governments. At no point in his speech did the noble Lord reveal why it is that he and his party are now apparently proposing to withdraw facilities offered to the United States for the past 30 years and so to withhold much of our contribution to the collective defence of NATO. It was left to the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, to say that the Labour Party has changed its mind. On the evidence of Soviet aggression across the world, that change of mind is I believe wholly irresponsible.

The noble Lord's Question also reflects allegations which are wholly without foundation. Those allegations are that the United States presence in this country is growing and that this is somehow being concealed by Her Majesty's Government. In his speech, the noble Lord went on to say that his assessment was that there are between 100 and 150 United States bases in the United Kingdom. The fact is that eight main operating bases are being used by the United States in this country. These are at Holy Loch, RAF Alconbury, RAF Bentwaters, RAF Fairford, RAF Lakenheath, RAF Mildenhall, RAF Upper Heyford and RAF Woodbridge. Over 95 per cent. of the United States forces personnel based here work at these main locations and at the three standby deployment bases. That fact alone gives, I hope, a proper perspective to this matter.

It is indeed the case that supporting these main bases there are a number of other facilities, but as the Government have made clear on a number of occasions, even taking into account such things as storage hangars, the total list is close to 60 and not between 100 and 150. This has been made perfectly clear in answer to Questions in another place. The noble Lord mentioned the Answer of 8th June 1980 when the number of United States bases was given.

The Answer made clear that there were other facilities. These were named in succeding Answers to Questions about bases not manned or facilities for storage or logistic support. I shall not go into detail about individual bases which the noble Lord ascribed to use by United States personnel, except to say that there is nothing in what the noble Lord suggested with regard to Oakhanger and Prestwick. They are not American bases. That the Port of Liverpool should be alleged to be a major United States terminal is one of the most extraordinary things that I have heard suggested for a long time. By no stretch of the imagination can an office at Liverpool which processes shipping documentation warrant a description of that kind. Indeed, of the bases named in some of the newspaper articles which have been published, no fewer than eight of the facilities listed were handed back by the United States forces long before they were indentified as such. The noble Lord will forgive me if I say that I sometimes wonder whether he and those who think like him have first thought up the number of 100 or more and then tried to justify it. I hope that what I have said will rectify the false allegations which have been made.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, on a point of accuracy, in view of what the noble Lord has just said, how does he justify the gradual revelation of the existence of more and more American nuclear bases? The Minister himself gave a figure of eight bases, whereas he knows that his noble friend has already admitted to the existence of over 70. How does the Minister justify this figure, first arriving at 12 and then finishing up with something approaching 100? Is it not the case that since the Government have been inaccurate in the past we can reasonably expect them to be inaccurate in the present?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I can easily answer that question. How delightful it is to take part in a debate when it is easy to answer a question. The answer to the noble Lord is, no. Turning to the second part of the noble Lord's Question as to operational control over United States nuclear weapons based in this country, this is a matter to which all post-war British Governments have directed their attention. This, I accept, is a matter of concern to noble Lords and I shall try to give answers to the questions which have been put. Arrangements for the control of American forces based in the United Kingdom were first agreed by Mr. Attlee and President Truman in 1951. As your Lordships know, that agreement was endorsed by Mr. Churchill and President Truman in further discussions in 1952. The understanding which these two leaders reached was summarised in a joint communiqué published at the time. The text reads as follows: Under arrangements made for the common defence, the United States has the use of certain bases in the United Kingdom. We reaffirm the understanding that the use of these bases in an emergency would be a matter for joint decision by Her Majesty's Government and the United States Government in the light of the circumstances at the time". This understanding has applied, although of course it has been looked at every time a new Prime Minister or a new President has taken office, throughout the period from 1951 and applies with equal force today.

All successive Prime Ministers and Presidents have reaffirmed the understanding, all judging it to be satisfactory. Most recently the arrangement has been reviewed by the Prime Minister and President Reagan in February 1981. The Prime Minister has said in another place that she is satisfied that these arrangements are effective. The understanding applies to the bases for all United States forces in this country, both conventional and nuclear, and it will apply to the 160 United States ground-launched cruise missiles, the first of which are due to be deployed here from the end of 1983 if there is no prior agreement in Geneva to abolish this class of missile.

If I may say this to the noble Lord, Lord Bishopston, who revealed that he was particularly concerned about it, this understanding means in effect that the use of nuclear weapons is subject to joint decision. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, made great play with the distinction he drew between political and operational control. It would be a matter for the elected Governments involved to make decisions of such awesome importance. That is why this Government, like its predecessors, believe that this understanding between the two Governments is of overriding importance.

Had we so chosen, cruise missiles could have been deployed here on a dual key system, whereby we bought and operated the missiles while the United States retained custody of the warhead. Previous Governments have not considered such measures necessary for the physical control of the United States Air Force F111 's, which have, of course, been operating from this country for many years, and during the whole time of the two Labour Governments. I would emphasise that there is no precedent for a dual key system except on the basis of ownership. The noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, and the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, raised this point recently and again this evening. I have to repeat to both noble Lords that a dual key system is the basis on which we operate the Lance missile and nuclear-capable artillery deployed with our army in Germany. It was the basis on which we operated the Thor missile system, which was stationed in this country in the early 1960s. But it is done on the basis of ownership of the launchers.

Against the background of our relationship with the United States and our confidence in the long-established arrangements governing the use of United States forces based in this country, we concluded that to apply different arrangements from those which already existed, which I have just outlined, would add nothing to the effectiveness of the cruise missiles as a deterrent force, and would divert substantial resources from the enhancement of our conventional and independent nuclear capabilities.

Lord Bishopston

My Lords, I appreciate the noble Lord giving way. I was about to intervene to make the point the noble Lord made, that under the 1952 agreement there was dual control of the Thor missile. Now, of course, the Minister says you cannot expect it on cruise because it is not owned by us but jointly owned. Surely, it we are allies working together in any emergency there is just as much case for us to have dual control in the present situation as there was previously in the case of Thor!

Lord Belstead

My Lords, with respect, I do not think that the noble Lord has perhaps quite added to the light which is being shed on this subject, which is not an entirely easy subject. The 1952 agreement is the agreement which I have read out, and that in effect gives joint political decision. The arrangement with the Thor missiles, with respect to the noble Lord, was an arrangement for full dual key, because the Thor launchers were owned by the United Kingdom. What I have just been saying is that that is the arrangement for full dual key, and only that arrangement, based on ownership, has always been accepted both by the United States and those who are the allies of the United States. For that reason, unless we were prepared to purchase the cruise missiles, we should not be able to claim full dual key. We felt that this would divert substantial resources from money which we should otherwise be spending on our conventional and other nuclear capabilities. In these circumstances, the Government decided that the arrangements summarised in the 1952 communiqué should apply to the cruise missile force.

The 1952 understanding is of long standing: it is firmly founded in the close co-operation which we share with our staunch NATO ally. It has stood the test of time; it has provided a framework which successive Governments of both parties have found entirely satisfactory. And it is a symbol to a potential aggressor of the strength and cohesion of NATO measured by the mutual trust which exists between Britain and the United States within the Western Alliance. As such, it provides a significant contribution to the capacity of NATO to sustain its policy of deterrence.

I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, that those who would consider changing the arrangements should weigh carefully the consequences of their actions. The Soviet Union must be in no doubt as to the absolute mutual confidence and trust between the NATO partners, which has been the foundation of the alliance since its inception. There must be no room to doubt our determination collectively to stand together in defence of our common aims. After all, NATO threatens no one, but the NATO policy of deterrence has ensured the longest period of peace in Europe for longer than anyone can remember. Our deterrence strategy works precisely because the resources of the members of the alliance are joined together for the common good. The presence of United States forces in this country and in other parts of Europe is crucial to this. So we welcome the United States presence in Britain.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, I wonder if the noble Lord would allow me to ask him a question, which is asked in a most constructive spirit. Why did Mr. Macmillan buy the Thor Missiles?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I cannot answer that question, although I will no doubt look it up. But I do not think this takes our debate very much further. The fact of the matter is that Thor was under a dual key—there is no secret about that—because the launchers were owned by Britain. The fact of the matter is that the decision had to be taken by the Government at the present time as to whether they were prepared to purchase the cruise missile launchers. That would have taken a very large sum of money, and I have already given an assessment of it in previous Questions in your Lordships' House. And, for reasons which I have already deployed in my speech, the Government felt that it was not right to go for a dual key decision on cruise but to rest on the effective arrangements of the joint political decision procedure which is encapsulated in the 1952 Memorandum.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, it is very good of the noble Lord to be so kind as to give way again. May I ask him to clarify this point? I believe he is telling us—I hope he is not— that the trust between ourselves and the United States is worth so little that they will not concede a dual key arrangement unless we are prepared to buy the launchers from them. If that is the nature of the trust between us and the United States at this time it is not so good as it was during the last war, and it is not worth much.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, the noble Lord is not only capable of not following the argument I am trying to put forward, but I think the noble Lord is even capable of not listening. The last few minutes of the speech I have been submitting to your Lordships—before I gave way to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet—have been entirely directed to making the case that the joint political decision procedure rests upon mutual trust, mutual respect and mutual confidence. We need to be able to show the United States, Britain and all the allies in NATO that we have this mutual trust and confidence and to leave the Soviet Union, in particular, under no misapprehension that this mutual trust and confidence exists.

I ask the noble Lord to try, just for once, to stick to the facts of the case. In this speech, the noble Lord took it upon himself, in the third period of 10 minutes in what is supposed to be a short debate, to regale the House with a wholly inaccurate argument about cruise missiles being first strike weapons. I wonder whether the noble Lord has ever considered, just for one moment, that the huge number of strategic ballistic missiles held by the Soviet Union would make such a policy for cruise entirely impracticable—and that is to leave aside entirely the fact that the NATO alliance is a defensive alliance which has never, and will never, strike first at an enemy.

I said at the beginning of my speech that I expressed surprise at the terms of this Question and I remain of the same view, for it seems wholly to disregard all that NATO has achieved and all that NATO still has to do. The spirit of co-operation which brought the countries of Western Europe to stand together against the military threat from the Soviet Union has stood the test of time. This is due, not least, to the fact that the alliance is a free association of nations joined together to defend the liberties of their people. I repeat, it is an alliance based on mutual trust and mutual beliefs.

Today, while remaining strong and vigilant, NATO is also working for a reduction in forces both nuclear and conventional. In each of the three disarmament negotiations the West has put forward proposals for genuine and significant arms reductions and in each case we await a matching response which would show that the Soviet Union is also working for balanced reductions which would increase stability between East and West. But, perhaps most important of all, it is now up to the Soviet Union to decide whether any cruise missiles need to be deployed in Western Europe from the end of this year. The noble Lord, Lord Bishopston, asked specifically about this. If the Russians are prepared to dismantle their own such weapons, NATO would be very ready and only too happy not to proceed with its own deployment. We should then have taken a significant step towards an agreed reduction in arms; a step which would be vital to the cause of peace.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down would he be so courteous as to answer another question? Has he noticed that he has failed to address himself to the two questions which I asked, or has he a reason for failing to do so?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I did not mean to be discourteous to the noble Lord. The first question that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, addressed to me was: why is it not possible to have a dual key system without needing to have ownership, but by having some form of British presence in the line of command?

Lord Kennet

My Lords—

Lord Belstead

My Lords, the noble Lord will forgive me, I cannot keep bobbing up and down. I am replying to the two questions which he says I have not answered. In effect, I have replied to the question by going into great detail about the reasons why ownership underlies dual key.

The second question which the noble Lord asked was about authority in the United States to launch. If the noble Lord will acquit me of discourtesy, I answered that in the space of three long columns in Hansard on 23rd March.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, that was not the question I asked. I know that it is customary only to ask questions but may I repeat the question, with the leave of the House? How much would it cost us to have a dual key arrangement without buying the missiles? That is a different question. I should like to have an answer.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I have answered that question on more than one occasion in the past. We have not gone into that because the question does not arise for the reasons that I have given during the debate this evening.

Lord Milford

My Lords, may I repeat the question I asked? Why are French and British arms not counted in trying to get parity in Geneva?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, here again, I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Milford, because I know that that it is a perfectly genuine question. It is, however, a question that has been answered on many occasions in both Houses of Parliament. The short answer is that the talks in Geneva are bilateral talks between the Soviet Union and the United States and it does not do to change the rules in the middle of negotiations.

House adjourned at five minutes past seven o'clock.