HL Deb 25 October 1983 vol 444 cc173-240

5.41 p.m.

Debate resumed.

Lord Brockway

My Lords, we now revert to the debate on the Defence Estimates. My first word must be to recognise the importance of the maiden speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Lewin. It was with an authority and a detailed knowledge which must be considered by the Government and by all who accept his attitude towards defence. He will expect me to say that I differ from that attitude, but I appreciate the importance of the expression of that view in the House when we are discussing defence.

On 1st November, All Saints' Day, the first cruise missiles will be installed in this country. I think all the saints will turn in their graves. Incidentally, it happens to be my 95th birthday. I do not regard it as a very nice present. On Christmas Day those cruise missiles will have been put into operation: a devil's present to the season of peace and goodwill.

I challenge the Government in their claim that they have a mandate to instal either the Trident or the cruise missile. At the Labour Party Conference I stated that more of the electorate had voted in favour of parties opposed to the Trident and to the cruise missile than had voted for the Government. The figures bear out that statement. The total vote for the Government at the General Election was 13,012,612. The total vote for the four parties opposed to Trident and to the cruise missile was 13,123,967. That gave a majority at the General Election of 111,355 against the Trident and against the cruise.

If we add to that majority the votes for the Social Democratic Party, which was also against Trident, the majority against the Government at the General Election was 3,682,349. I do not want to exaggerate the significance of the comparatively small majority which was against both the Trident and the cruise missiles, but probably there were some who voted Conservative who were opposed to Trident and cruise. At the demonstration last Saturday we had a number of Tories against the cruise missile. I acknowledge that it may well be that many who voted for Labour, for the Liberal Party or for the Welsh and Scottish Nationalist Parties did not oppose cruise; votes at elections are given on broader grounds. But I submit to the Government that that analysis of the vote at the last election shows that the electorate of this country is almost equally divided on the question of the Trident and cruise missiles.

If one accepts that fact, the implications are very serious indeed. The installation of Trident and cruise missiles is an issue bound up with the whole issue of peace and war. If one is to have a policy which is so important, on that issue one must have national unity. We do not have that national unity, and the Government are behaving in an irresponsible way if they proceed with policies to which half the nation has shown that it is opposed.

I do not think we have yet realised the effect of this decision to deploy the cruise and Trident. Inevitably there will be an escalation in the arms strength of the Soviet Union. Today it has been announced that it will site missiles in East Germany and in Czechoslovakia. To any escalation by the Soviet Union the United States will respond, and thus we are entering on an arms race which will mount on either side and will mount to a very dangerous position, a point of possible no return, and end in nuclear war.

I am hopeful that that will not occur. There is a suggestion that the Soviet Union delegation will walk out of the Geneva talks. I think it unlikely to do so as more than a gesture, perhaps, for three days. I think the probability is that the discussions will go on at Geneva to seek some compromise on this issue. I urge Her Majesty's Government to exert the fullest pressure upon their Western allies at those discussions, just as I would urge those who are sympathetic to the Soviet Union to urge both, to seek in proposals which are made those which are acceptable, and not to pinpoint those which they feel they must denounce.

My Lords, it is not often that I agree with Mr. Heseltine but I agree with one of the recent statements which he made, and that is that the British Government should not allow this decision on the armed strength of the world to he decided by just the United States of America and the Soviet Union. There will very soon be an opportunity for the British Government to contribute their proposals for arms reduction in the world. That occasion will be the European Conference on Disarmament to be held at Stockholm in January. Today, the preliminary discussions for that conference are taking place at Helsinki. I urge Her Majesty's Government to do their utmost at the European Conference on Disarmament to make proposals which will really contribute to a solution of this problem.

When we last discussed this issue the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, for whom I have a great respect, argued that the peace movement in this country includes all parties and includes the Government. I would say this. If the Government are going to prove that, as they so frequently say, they are in favour of multilateral disarmament, they must reverse both their theory and their practice. Their theory is that the nuclear deterrent of the last 40 years has brought peace and that we must rely on it—a deterrent of fear and of terror. How can that be a security of peace?

What has happened during those 40 years? First, nuclear weapons have become far more deadly. The weapon which fell on Hiroshima killed, eventually, 200,000 people. The expert committee of the United Nations says that a nuclear weapon has now been made 4,000 times as destructive as the weapon which fell on Hiroshima. That means that one bomb could kill 9 million people, could kill the whole population of Greater London. But not only have weapons become more deadly: the likelihood of a nuclear war has become greater. Even the idea of limited targets—military headquarters, political headquarters—would now mean the death of millions. But no one who has any knowledge of warfare can believe that a limited nuclear war would remain so. Inevitably, as the security of both sides came to be endangered, full nuclear weapons would be used.

In conclusion, I want to say that the Government must also reverse their practice. They have continually opposed, at Geneva and at the United Nations, proposals for a comprehensive peace programme. That peace programme would involve the abolition of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction in two periods of five years followed by an indefinite period to proceed to general and complete disarmament. That proposal is still alive. I heard only two days ago from Mr. Olaf Palme that the committee at Geneva proposes to introduce that programme once again at the General Assembly of the United Nations. I ask Her Majesty's Government, if they are sincere in their demand for multilateral disarmament, that they will support that proposal when it is made.

Last weekend showed that there is an overwhelming desire in the whole world for peace. When Mr. Nixon was President he had the reasonableness to say this. He had proposed using nuclear arms in the Vietnam war. There was a vast demonstration outside the White House in Washington, and Mr. Nixon had the common sense to say, "I bow to the opinion of the people". I beg this Government—I beg all Governments—to bow to the opinion of the people of the world, which as never before is demanding disarmament and peace.

Lord Darwen

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I add something to what he has just said? He said that the Conservative Party had a contingent in the march on Saturday. He did not mention that the Liberal Party had a very much larger contingent.

Lord Brockway

My Lords, I welcome that fact very sincerely. I did not think it necessary to mention it, because the Liberal Party had already declared at the General Election that it was opposed to Trident and the cruise missiles.

Viscount Trenchard

My Lords, my first and very pleasurable duty is to add my congratulations to those of other noble Lords on the maiden speech of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Lewin. I was privileged as an itinerant Minister—of which he saw many in his long career—not just to know him and to see him at work over two years but to see part of his great contribution in the Falklands.

While it was a privilege to be with the armed forces as a whole—who took over and ran the show very efficiently showing they could do it without politicians—in particular I must take this opportunity of saying that the noble and gallant Lord's personal qualities in a time of stress were of the highest order that I have seen in a long life, through family background and otherwise, of meeting many great men. He had enormous courage and great calmness at moments when not all around him had the same. We are fortunate to have him with us and I hope that we shall soon see him in his true colours, with the non-contentious maiden speech behind him, joining the galaxy of five-star officers uninhibited perhaps by their past—whether their uniforms have been purple or dark blue or light blue or like me with some genetic light blue coming through and brown of a junior order, which is where I actually served! Let us welcome him to our counsels and hope that he will guide us with his great wisdom and his great qualities.

Even before three Statements have been repeated and debated, I think my noble friend Lord Cathcart had already made a very worthwhile point in relation to defence debates in this House. As a Minister in the past who has suffered, as my noble friend Lord Trefgarne will suffer this evening, from trying to do justice to some 30 speakers, I echo that the task is impossible. I hope that my noble friend the Leader of the House, Viscount Whitelaw, will ponder seriously the recommendations that have been made.

I want, in the briefest time I can keep myself down to, to talk mainly about a subject which my business background and my Ministry sojourn entitle me to speak about, which is the cost of defence. That is the subject specifically before my noble friend Lord Whitelaw at the present time. But before doing so I must just comment very quickly on a few of the main issues, since I follow the noble Lord. Lord Brockway. I have to say to him that general elections are about a number of things. I have to say to him that in the last General Election a vast majority voted against unilateral disarmament. I also have to say to the noble Lord that a recent poll by Marplan—I have always watched the Marplan polls with care, but they are in line with all other polls—showed that only 16 per cent. of the population in this country believe in unilateral disarmament. All opinion polls have shown over and over again that the population believe in keeping our armaments up and keeping a British independent deterrent.

It is not surprising that the population, or part of it, may be a bit muddled as to how to do that; and I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, say that he must take account of the speech made by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Lewin, and of his opinions on this subject. He expressed those opinions so much better than I have ever done in this House, and he drew the lesson that the important thing is that the public are not in favour of unilateral disarmament. He spelt out so clearly that if you do not keep in step with technological necessity in this awesome business and in your planning for 20 years ahead (which is what we are doing in the case of Trident) you are out of the nuclear deterrent business as an independent country much earlier than you realise. I agree with every word he said and I personally believe that the Polaris deterrent, under such a policy, would not last even the two years that was mentioned.

Of course there is always a political incentive to find a new and attractive way to limit costs in these things, and I have to say that there is too much wishful thinking on ways in which we could maintain our independent deterrent which are not in fact practical if you know even half the facts which Ministers were allowed to know, as opposed to all the facts which the noble and gallant Lord Lewin actually knew.

A word before I get into the cost of defence equipment on arms control and on the negotiations: we covered this very fully on 16th February and so I do not mean to repeat it. But I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, say that he did not believe the Russians would walk out of the negotiations. I do not believe it either; but I would go further and say that I would not mind too much if they did, because I believe they would come back. I should like just to put before the House, as a life-long industrialist, the impossibility of winning a tough negotiation with a tough opponent on a difficult subject when all the members of your own board—or indeed perhaps all the members of your own company—are for ever publicly disagreeing about what you should do in the negotiations, leaning over backwards to half-take the other company's point of view and slandering their allies. That example of a company in disarray can be matched on the other side of the negotiating table by a chairman controlling every peice of information, not informing his own public or the members of his company of any of the main facts of the situation and controlling every release of information.

My plea, incoherently put, is that we realise the difficulties, the shortcomings and the disadvantages of a democracy and still more of a set of democracies, in negotiating with a single-minded dictatorial Communist country. I do not believe that we are good at judging the position of our opponents. We are inclined to think of their position as being the same as ourselves, whereas they are not in such a position. We must not let democracy be a disadvantage in very tough negotiations.

In my opinion there has been too much speculation in the past year on the situation that might arise if nuclear deterrence were to fail. I have been prepared to join in that if for no other reason than to try to point out that deterrence is credible and because I believe that everybody with knowledge of the facts should indeed try to strengthen the credibility of defence rather than weaken it. But we are not talking in terms of deterrence failing: we are talking in terms of making deterrence work. We are not talking in terms of fighting wars with these awesome weapons: we are talking in terms of making sure a war never happens. I think that there is a failure in this conjecture, as well as the danger of taking the conjecture too far, to think in terms not only of the difference in viewpoint of the potential aggressor against the point of view of the democratic defender, but the actual position of the two possible sides. The democractic defenders want nothing: the aggressor is the man who wants something, and unless one starts from that point of view one finds oneself following a path and saying that if you ever use any weapon the enemy would reply—let alone a nuclear one.

This is not common sense. As regards the awesomeness of modern weapons being used to advantage, I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, that there is much in what Professor Howard said to support the view that the awesomeness and even the quantity of modern weapons are not in themselves likely to be a cause of war. I was privileged, among other Members of this House I think, to listen to a long discourse which he gave to an institute earlier this year.

In my view, it comes down finally, in this age of very awesome weapons in the hands—if they are in the hands—of democratic defenders, preferably widely spread, to the fact that a potential aggressor today can never believe that he will get away with aggression. To a high degree in the past, the belief that he would get away with it was the main, and is now possibly the only, cause of war.

Let me turn quickly to the costs of defence. Let us address our minds more to the 98 per cent. of defence expenditure, which it is at the present time, rather than to the 2 per cent. spent, as the White Paper reveals, on strategic nuclear weapons. Let us also turn our minds more to the cost over the next 15 years, or 17 years as it may turn out to be, of the main part of our defence, rather than to the 3 per cent. that Trident may cost. Admittedly, it will peak, but it will peak far below the level at which Tornado peaked. At 3 per cent. over that period of time it is an extremely good value piece of deterrence. I believe that the French are spending over 20 per cent. on their strategic deterrent.

So let us look at the 98 per cent. and let us realise, first, that in real terms it is a bigger budget than we had in the 'fifties, yet we have one-fifth of the number of ships and one-third of the number of aircraft that we had then. That was my observation at the Ministry of Defence of the main reason for what is sometimes rudely called by the media "Strife between services", although I regarded differences of opinion as being highly healthy and very responsibly expressed. But the main reason why, in my time at least, each service felt that it had too little was the enormous escalation in the cost of a single ship—although a much more powerful ship—a single aircraft or a single tank.

Chapter 4 of the 1982 White Paper spelled out the reasons in some detail and the possible means to contain this problem. I regret to say to the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, that the Sunday Times, in repeating only part of the answers that I gave to certain questions, left out all the area which was printed in the 1982 White Paper of the methods which I believe the Government still see—because they endorse that chapter in Chapter 5 of this year's White Paper—as the means to contain and reduce the cost escalation, which in the words of the 1982 White Paper has been running for most main equipments at between 6 and 10 per cent. per annum.

This resulted, and perhaps it made me just partly famous for a short moment in the Ministry of Defence, in a phrase of mine which is still used—the road to absurdity. It was not that everybody in the Ministry of Defence did not understand what had been going on before I ever got there, when they had the thankless task of educating yet another Minister. But in getting a businessman, they got one who wanted to quantify it. I did get it quantified and that is why it appeared in Chapter 4 of the 1982 White Paper. I think that Sir Frank Cooper, who was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, would be the first to say that when the discussions started on this matter he did not believe that it was anything like as high as that. I still believe that it was slightly higher than that. Anyway, that was the agreed figure and that is why we have one-fifth of the number of ships and one-third of the number of aircraft—albeit much more powerful ones.

Before returning to the main steps which need to be taken to contain that figure, let me very quickly say that I regard it as a red herring to suggest that a very significant increase in conventional strength in NATO in Europe can be made at low or moderate cost or addition to the defence budget, which can thus sufficiently raise the nuclear threshold. I am well aware of the number of learned documents that have been written on this subject in the past two years, but in my view they make two main errors. First, they appear to take the view that we can afford not to raise conventional defence in terms of numbers of tanks, aircraft and other things to parity with the Russians and yet we shall as defenders be relatively safe. Many of your Lordships are greater students of history in the military field than I am, but the aggressor with no sea between him and the rest of Europe. picking his spot for attack, has enormous advantages and I do not believe that anything far short of parity is likely to lift significantly the so-called nuclear threshold.

This does not mean for one moment that I am not in favour of strengthening our armaments, particularly by this method, which is the second possible mistake in the reasoning. It is suggested that if we use more clever conventional weapons we can increase significantly the conventional holding power. We should not under-estimate Russian technology, but we still have leads in certain areas. However, the main point that I want to make is that the idea that developing clever conventional weapons can be done cheaply is a complete non-starter. I speak as one who tried and tried again, in my two years at the Ministry of Defence, to do just that and at every point I found that it would cost enormously more, not less, than current nuclear weapons.

In view of the number of speakers to come, I must cut my remarks short. I want at this stage to say to my noble friend Lord Whitelaw that, as he well knows, he is sitting in the chair of nothing like the first committee to do the essential job of keeping down Government expenditure, and I am sure that those who have given evidence to his committee will have wearied him already with some of what I am going to say. But having been through the exercise prior to the Falklands, and prior to the 1981 White Paper, I have to say that it is seldom realised how long-term is the question of defence expenditure.

I believe—it must be so at the present time—that probably 95 per cent. of next year's budget is committed. The only items on which one can save in the short-term—and it is always a political need and a Treasury need to work on the short-term—are training hours, which in the past had a bad effect on morale and on efficiency, and we did too much of it until just before the Falklands; as well as fuel, ammunition for training, flying hours and so on. Then there are the new projects, the research and development, the seed corn not only of future ideas for defence and for the security of the country, but of future ideas for a large chunk of British industry—indeed, I go so far as to say that, unlike the majority of British industry, because, historically, research and development has been high in the defence industry over the last two decades we are competitive with the rest of the world, and additionally get a lot of fall-out into civilian spheres like the information technology world.

I do not believe that our companies would be internationally where they are if it were not for past research and development—all too low across the broad front of British industry and miles below our competitors, but with the one exception of the technical engineering and defence industries where we have been ahead. It would indeed be a tragedy if we again, as we did prior to the Falklands, cut research and development, the uncommitted new project expenditure, and in so doing hindered the recovery of British industry which is now taking place and which can take place, with a leading part being played by our engineering industry in that recovery.

I wish that more of the establishment of the City of London realised the degree of opportunity that lies before British industry today, but that is another subject. With our standard of living well below our industrial competitors', but with our productivity coming right by leaps and bounds and with our technology lead in this area, it would be a tragedy if we nipped our recovery in the bud, however important is a particular total Government expenditure target at a particular time. And it will fall on the comparatively small, uncommitted part of the budget.

6.22 p.m.

Lord Carver

My Lords, there is a great deal of interesting and, indeed, encouraging material in the paper we are discussing which calls for comment, but the debate has been interrupted by three Statements and a large number of your Lordships wish to speak. I shall therefore restrict my remarks to two subjects only. The first is the possibility of improving the capability of NATO's conventional forces by exploiting new technology and its relationship to the Government's nuclear weapon policy, the subject which the noble Viscount who has just spoken referred to as a red herring. That is in fact relating paragraph 412 on page 23 and the whole of page 24 of the paper to Chapter 2 of the paper. The second subject with which I wish briefly to deal is the vital need to provide a consistent financial basis on which to plan future programmes. It is really the principal first point which the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Lewin, made in his excellent and wonderfully clear maiden speech. It has also been referred to by the noble Viscount who has just spoken.

I would take as my text a sentence in the first paragraph of the paper, paragraph 101, which says: We cannot afford policies based on emotion rather than logic". I wholeheartedly support that. The noble Viscount who has just spoken has more than once accused me of being too addicted to logic in these matters. I am glad to have the support of the Government's Defence White Paper and make no apology for continuing to prefer logic to emotion or tradition.

Over the last two years I have taken part in an extensive Anglo-American-German study of how to improve NATO's conventional capability in the central region—that is, the area between the Baltic and the Alps. The British membership of the steering group of that study included the doyen of British war studies, Professor Michael Howard, and the current holder of the chair at King's College which he founded, Professor Lawrence Freedman. It also included Air Chief Marshal Sir Alasdair Steedman, whose last active appointment had been as British Permanent Representative to NATO's Military Committee. The Germans included a former chairman of that committee, General Steinhoff, and a former C-in-C of the Central Region, General Schulze, as well as Ambassador Pauls who had been his country's ambasssador both to NATO and to the United States. The large and distinguished American membership included General Goodpaster, a highly respected and experienced former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, and a galaxy of academics experienced in the defence field.

The study's report was published in May and many of your Lordships received copies of it. In reviewing it the Economist said this: Defence thinkers are second only to economists in squabbling among themselves. It is therefore startling when two dozen of them can agree on anything; it is doubly startling when the group includes such powerful intellects as Professor Michael Howard, General Sir Hugh Beach, Professor Lawrence Freedman, Mr. William Perry and General Andrew Goodpaster; and downright astonishing when the agreement had to do with nuclear weapons. Yet it has happened". That unanimous report by a body of 26 very experienced military and academic people from three different countries said this: Our present reliance on possible early use of nuclear weapons threatens to undermine the two main purposes of the Alliance—the need for credible deterrence of adversaries and effective reassurance of our own peoples. We find ourselves in strong and unanimous agreement that the Alliance should now move energetically to reduce its dependence on such early use". The study went on to conclude that by applying modern technology to non-nuclear weapon systems it would be possible to inflict a degree of damage and destruction on the Warsaw Pact's land and air forces, both front line and follow-up, almost equivalent to that for which NATO now relies on nuclear weapons. A more recent study by the American Brookings Institute, in association with the International Institute for Strategic Studies in this country, came to almost identical conclusions.

The Defence White Paper, in its references to this sort of approach, gives the impression, as the noble Viscount who spoke last did, that the possibility of producing weapons of this nature lies far ahead and would cost a great deal: that it is a nice idea beyond the timescale of current equipment programmes. But that is not the conclusion to which our study came. Our so-called workshops included technical experts who went into these practical matters in great detail.

Our report concluded that these advanced conventional technologies have been designed, many have been tested, and others are being tested. A few are already in production in Germany, France, this country and in the United States. We calculated that the new technologies to provide a capability to suppress Warsaw Pact air bases and to interdict Warsaw Pact choke-points could be acquired and deployed by 1986 and that those to provide a capability to disrupt Warsaw Pact follow-on forces could be made effectively available by 1988. These dates of course depend upon NATO Governments taking a decision now to put their money on this sort of approach instead of adopting the cautious, noncommittal, discouraging line of the White Paper—the same sort of line that the noble Viscount took.

The total cost worked out in detail in the experts' paper came to 10 billion dollars—that is to say, £67 billion at the current rate of exchange, which is less than the Government's own estimate of what the Trident programme is going to cost the British Government alone. But the steering group, fully aware of the hazards of estimating in this field, doubled that figure and qualified its accuracy. Even then, at £13 billion, it represents one and a half times the cost of Trident; but the expenditure would of course be shared among all the NATO nations in the central region. the lion's share undoubtedly falling on the United States.

This is the point at which it reflects the policy of NATO and the Government on nuclear weapons. The study fought shy of facing the issue of what nuclear weapons systems could be dispensed with if NATO developed those conventional systems which can do equally well, in physical terms, the job for which NATO currently plans to use nuclear weapons. But it is obvious that it could mean dispensing with the great bulk of what are called theatre systems. The snag is that the savings that it would produce would be almost entirely within the United States' budget—that of both the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy.

But it would confer on NATO Governments and commanders a tremendous military advantage. At present, even the most hawkish enthusiasts for nuclear weapons accept that the decision to be the first to use them is not one to be taken lightly; and that it will not be taken, if it is taken at all, until NATO's conventional forces are on the point of being unable to cope with the situation. Using them would be very much a last resort—a phrase we heard used a good deal in relation to this subject during the election campaign.

Both the British submarine ballistic missile and the planned United States cruise missiles in this country were then described as being weapons of last resort, giving the impression that they were intended only as retaliatory weapons. But that was the very opposite of the argument put forward for Trident in the Government's paper of July 1980 entitled, The Future UK Strategic Nuclear Deterrent Force. I will remind your Lordships that that argument was that an independent British strategic nuclear strike force was needed to convince the Russians that, in a situation in which NATO's conventional forces were facing possible defeat and they might think that the Americans would hesitate to use nuclear weapons for fear of escalation to attack on their cities, they would have no doubt that we would certainly use ours regardless of the consequences. That is a first use and hardly to be regarded as a policy of last resort. It merely illustrates the muddled thinking that there has always been, under all Governments, over the real purpose of our so-called deterrent force.

If there are, rightly, inhibitions about initiating nuclear war, there should be no inhibitions about using the sort of weapons which the study proposed and which are referred to in the White Paper under the heading, "New Technology". They could and should be used on targets such as airfields, bridges and choke-points as soon as the first hostile acts had been committed by the enemy. They would be weapons of first, not last, resort: surely much more effective as a deterrent, because more certain of being used, and better value for money, than the whole arsenal of theatre nuclear weapons and our so-called independent strategic deterrent.

I therefore suggest to the noble Lord who is to reply to this debate that he draws the attention of his right honourable friend the Secretary of State to the report of the study, of which there are several copies in his ministry, and persuades him to think again about Trident and our whole nuclear weapon policy, so that he can divert the money due to be spent on Trident to new technology non-nuclear weapon systems.

I shall be told, of course, that I am being unrealistic; that the unfortunate Defence Secretary, like so many of his predecessors, is now locked in mortal combat with the Treasury and that he will be lucky if he can save existing programmes from the axe, let alone start new programmes for which no provision has been made. I recognise that we are once more in one of those go-stop situations in defence finance with which I and the other ex-Chiefs of Defence Staff in this House (all of whom, I am glad to say, are speaking in this debate and are present in the House at this time) are unfortunately only much too familiar. But the adoption by NATO of the sort of weapon systems proposed would not involve this country in a heavy research and development or production effort, unless we wished to duplicate what has already been done or is being done in America. It consists largely of converting delivery systems, now associated with nuclear weapons, to the delivery of new types of conventional warhead.

NATO would undoubtedly be faced with a difficult argument about how they were to be paid for and manned, and whether or not European members of the alliance should share in their development and production. If they did wish to share, the latter would probably put up the cost and extend the gestation period; but our share of the financial burden involved should be significantly less than the cost of the Trident programme.

What is certainly needed in this field of defence finance is consistency in setting financial targets. I have a nasty feeling that the Treasury is up to its old game of pushing down the base from which it calculates the 3 per cent. annual increase in real terms to which the Government are committed until 1986, although the wording of paragraph 503 of the paper, which reasserts that commitment, contains a loophole through which there might be some weaseling out of the commitment, I fear. It states, not that the Government are committed to implementing it but to planning to implement it.

That wording was also used in the previous Defence Secretary's paper, entitled The United Kingdom Defence Programme: The Way Forward, published in June 1981. Paragraph 2 of that paper stated: the defence budget for the next two years (1982/83 and 1983/84) will reflect further annual growth at 3 per cent., in full implementation of the NATO aim. The Government has now firmly decided to plan to implement the aim in full for a further two years—1984/85 and 1985/86—and the programme will be shaped accordingly … the intention will be provision for 1985/86 21 per cent. higher, in real terms, than actual expenditure in 1978/79. In a setting of economic difficulty, and given the Government's determination to hold down total public expenditure, there could be no clearer or more concrete demonstration of resolve to maintain our vital priorities and our Alliance contribution". I would ask the noble Lord who is to wind up this debate to give the House an assurance that that commitment will be implemented; that is, that the provision for 1985–86 will be 21 per cent. higher in real terms than the actual expenditure in 1978–79. Any fiddling with that commitment by readjusting the base from which the 3 per cent. annual increase for the next two years is calculated could mean savage cuts in those years.

As has already been pointed out by both the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Lewin, and the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, anyone who has experience in this field knows that short-term cuts of this nature not only produce chaos in the equipment, building and other programmes—perhaps forcing even further reductions in the front line strength of ships, aircraft and army units—but almost always provide the wrong answer. That is because so much of the defence budget is tied to things which either cannot be cut at short notice or result in compensating payments which negate the economies they are intended to produce. I would ask the noble Lord to give that assurance, and also to assure us that the Government intend to plan to implement the 3 per cent. increase beyond 1986.

6.38 p.m.

Lord Thomas of Swynnerton

My Lords, like other noble Lords, I wish to congratulate the noble and gallant Lord. Lord Lewin, who, of course, has the great distinction of having presided as Chief of the Defence Staff over the first victory won by this country using all three Armed Services since 1945.

It is also a pleasure to follow the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, whose careful account of his recent studies and activities will be read, I am sure, with great attention by many others other than myself. He was quite right to point out to us that a declaration made by an alliance which has nuclear weapons not to use such weapons first would have much greater credibility if the conventional forces available to that alliance were much greater than they are now to us. Yet that argument still does not cope satisfactorily with the point put very forcibly in the White Paper on page 8: Experience teaches us to be wary of Soviet undertakings of this nature". The Soviet Union has in fact broken many statements of that nature, which the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, suggests it is desirable for us all to make, over its period of international activity since 1917.

Like my noble and gallant friend Lord Cathcart I found this White Paper readable and realistic—two "Rs" which are not always found in White Papers emanating from Governments. Like him, I also thought that we should represent to those responsible for debates on these matters that a one-day debate on defence in the year is an inadequate amount of time to be made available considering the consequences of the White Paper and the the points actually raised and also bearing in mind the large number of noble and gallant Lords who are able to make such distinguished and experienced contributions to our debate.

I particularly liked paragraph 410 in the White Paper relating to the unremitting growth of Soviet strength during the 1970s at a time when the West was practising the kind of self-denying restraint, even almost one-sided disarmament, during the era of detente. I also liked the passage in paragraph 104 where the Government point out that one purpose of these armaments is the aim of the Soviet Government to bring pressure on Western Governments and public opinion so as to gain one-sided advantages for themselves. Of course, the Soviet leaders have made clear over many years that one purpose of the build up of their armaments is to exert that sort of pressure, remembering the famous statement of Clausewitz that the best sort of victory over a country or a city is one which is won without having a shot fired.

As an admirer of Spain I was also particularly pleased to note in paragraph 111 of the White Paper the reference to Spanish membership of NATO. That is a great achievement for our diplomacy and one to which more attention should have been paid, and no doubt would have been had the actual act of adhesion not occurred in the middle of the Falklands war. I cannot believe that I am alone in thinking that, in the long run, Spanish membership of NATO will enable us to create the ground for a permanent and satisfactory settlement of the Gibraltar question.

I also liked the passages dealing with nuclear disarmament which point out that in the 1970s not only did we exercise restraint whereas the Russians did not, but also reminds us of the fact that the introduction of cruise and Pershing missiles derive from a specific request by Chancellor Schmidt to try and introduce weapons to counterbalance the Soviet introduction of the SS.20 and the Backfire bomber. Any suggestion now that it is we who have ignited the new series of armament impositions in Western Europe is of course mistaken.

There are two points I wanted to make in partial criticism of the White Paper and to suggest that in fact there are basically two chapters missing. The first chapter has been referred to in passing by a number of noble Lords. That would cover such questions as cost in the future and possible future collaboration in consequence. In paragraph 113 the four main roles of the British contribution to NATO are well, if conventionally, spelled out. Paragraph 114 reminds us that we must also expect to have out-of-area commitments as a result of our Alliance responsibilities.

There are however three other roles, which would make eight roles for the Armed Services of this country. We have commitments arising from remaining imperial commitments such as, in the first place, the Falklands, and there are quite a number of others. There is the police style operation such as we now see in the Lebanon, and it cannot be expected that this is the last time we shall collaborate on such actions as an international police force designed to protect civil order in a friendly country, either through the United Nations or ad hoc as in this instance. A third role is our own domestic policing in Ulster. Therefore, we have eight roles.

It seems obvious that by the end of the 1980s the combination of these undertakings will become increasingly expensive and this is evident in relation to other allied Governments. I suggest that this is the time, bearing in mind that weapon systems, as the noble Lord, Viscount Trenchard, pointed out, take 10 years to get under way, to begin to see whether we could not arrange some new form of defence collaboration with, in the first instance, our European partners or, if that turns out to be impossible, directly under the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. I should prefer the first and even a new examination of the possibilities of a European defence community—under the umbrella, of course, of NATO.

The possibilities of tactical collaboration should also not he discounted. After all, in the Caribbean, which is an area in most of our minds today, we, the French and the Dutch all have difficult, odd surviving imperial commitments and it is entirely appropriate that we should seek such collaboration.

The second missing chapter in this White Paper would seem to be one which might have been devoted to the question of what is the nature of the Soviet Union, whose threat is naturally the main subject behind the whole of the document. Anyone reading the White Paper, or listening to this debate for that matter, would suppose that we are dealing, in dealing with the Soviet Union, with an old-fashioned military empire; no doubt of great force, but not one which has the very specific characteristics which we have come to recognise that the Soviet Union has, and has had for the last 60 years since 1917.

There is of course a purely military element in the Soviet threat, but there is also—and there is room for doubt and discussion on how far this is important—an ideological element. It is desirable for a paper e of this nature to recall that the leaders of the Politburo are not only the leaders of a large country—the largest in the world, with many internal problems, some national problems and economic problems—but they are also conditioned to looking upon themselves as the high priests of an international cult; a cult which gives their system a legitimacy. The cult is, of course, Marxism-Leninism and underpins the totalitarian imperialism which they have driven forwards with particular energy in the last 10 years.

A historian of Rome wrote recently of Byzantium: Every religious act was meant to strengthen the state against its temporal enemies, internal as well as external. And every political act was meant to sustain the true faith in a world filled with unbelievers and heretics". This seems to me to be a good summary not only of what happened in Byzantium in the sixth century but of how the Soviet leaders align their ideological responsibilities as high priests and their military designs as leaders of the Soviet empire. Perhaps Her Majesty's Government believe that the military is more important; perhaps they believe that the priests play a lesser part than I have implied, but at all events I think some comment might have been helpful in a paper of this importance.

I think that other sections in this unwritten chapter might have dealt with such questions as whether Her Majesty's Government think that the economic problems within the Soviet Union are likely to be in the future a stimulus to international adventure. That may be likely in many countries, although not perhaps in Russia. Are these economic problems which are evident in both agriculture and industry likely to make the Soviet Union more anxious to accept the real disarmament which so many noble Lords have thought desirable, and indeed possible, even though such disarmament arrangements as have hitherto been made are, as the White Paper notices, of a pretty modest ambition and character? It is difficult after all to feel that the ABM treaty, the partial test ban treaty and SALT 1 make very substantial contributions towards the reduction of armaments or indeed towards world peace. During the course of the SALT 1 negotiations and also during the SALT 2 negotiations, this very new era of what I refer to as totalitarian imperialism got under way.

I should like to know what Her Majesty's Government think the role of defence is in the Soviet economy. Is it a real embarrassment or is it a motor of great technological change and of terrific importance, so that we perhaps overestimate the economic difficulties which we might suppose it causes that Government? I should also like to know how her Majesty's Government view the fact that the Soviet Union, which has always since 1917 been able to count for assistance on foreign Communist parties, front organisations, excellent propaganda and spies, has in the last year or two also begun to be able to count on the valuable services of a number of surrogate states and indeed recently, so it seems, a number of surrogate international terrorist organisations. Cuba is of course far the most important of the surrogate states with something like 70,000 armed men in different parts of the world at the present time. That is of great importance as far as our interests in the third world are concerned, which go beyond merely Commonwealth interests to long-term commercial ones and security ones also.

As for terrorism, no doubt most of the better known terrorist organisations of the world such as ETA, the I RA, the red brigades in Italy and the PLO have indigenous roots, but there is mounting evidence—as was seen in the last year in the Pecci trials in Italy in respect of one of the red brigade men who turned Queen's evidence—that the Soviet Union should be looked for at the back of more than one—if perhaps not all—of these organisations. It certainly does not seem as if there is very much that is indigenous in the recent activities of the Basque terrorist group, ETA, in Costa Rica.

These are some of the questions that I should like to have seen raised in an extra chapter of this White Paper. Perhaps it would have been more appropriate to ask the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to write such a document rather than the Ministry of Defence. But as noble Lords will be aware, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office does not have the responsibility of placing an annual White Paper before your Lordships to consider, a fact which I have often thought is a pity since it would be persuaded, therefore, to conceptualise its ideas. Although I have no doubt that my successor in addressing your Lordships, the noble Lord, Lord Caccia, will be able to conceptualise his ideas, as will all those distinguished ex-heads of the Foreign Office and other diplomats present, it is always of assistance if a Government department is called upon in a statutory way to make a conceptual approach. If nothing else, it enables it to think through at leisure what its priorities are.

6.56 p.m.

Lord Caccia

My Lords, even though encouraged by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, I must say straight away that I shall not attempt to answer the questions which he suggests should be the subject of a White Paper by the Foreign Office. Indeed, it is somewhat audacious for someone not immediately involved in defence to intervene in this debate on Defence Estimates. At the same time, I think that the noble Lord. Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, is right to say that we should from time to time in this debate do as the White Paper itself does, and as the noble Viscount. Lord Whitelaw, who introduced the debate did, and look at the purposes for which defence is undertaken. On that I may perhaps be allowed also to poach on Clausewitz. Your Lordships will remember his well known saying: War is nothing but the continuation of politics by the admixture of other means.". Perhaps one might say of defence so far as the United Kingdom is concerned that it is nothing but the attempt to achieve political aims without war. On that basis, what are the threats to those aims and how can they be most briefly stated?

In shorthand these aims are, I suppose, peace and freedom; not "Better Red than dead"; not peace with dishonour, but peace with a degree of honour for those two purposes. Where are they challenged? As the White Paper cogently points out, mainly by the Soviet Union. In the few remarks that I shall make before sitting down, I can promise only two things; first, that they will be short, and, secondly, with due deferrence to the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, I shall not ask any questions.

Looking at the Russians first as the main reasons for defence expenditure, I ask what have they themselves laid down as the main purposes of their policies? They have said for a long time—indeed from the beginning—and repeated it consistently since, that the true and proper object in determining policy is to take account of the balance of force. I think that we should be very imprudent not to accept what they themselves have said is their view of the proper basis of their foreign and external policies.

Having said that, let us look at one particular issue at present debated. That, of course, is the stationing of cruise missiles, which has been mentioned by nearly every speaker. Looking at the way the Russians have conducted themselves during this period and up to the point when the decision is to be taken for their deployment, I am hound to say that I cannot imagine anybody who has been involved in foreign affairs being unable to write the script for the way that they have conducted themselves. It seems to me as plain as anything could possibly be that, if they wished to try to prevent the installation of these missiles, they would have done and would be saying all the things that they have in fact said and done.

Should we then in any sense go towards meeting them? The most persuasive argument for doing so was presented this afternoon by the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, saying in effect that they have made some concessions, that if we try to narrow the gap only a little by further concessions on our part, perhaps an agreement could be reached. Surely that is exactly what the Russians are aiming at. Even if they were to break off the negotiations temporarily now, I do not think that would make the slightest difference to the possibilities of reaching a firm agreement with them later, and an agreement much more consonant with our own purposes and interests. Among other things such firmness would show them that we cannot in fact he pushed around by the kind of attempts which they have been making in the last months, on which I think we are bound to congratulate them on having got as far as they have. I do not want to congratulate them by going any further.

The second aspect of defence which was raised by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Lewin, was that defence is there to protect ourselves against the unexpected. To a certain degree even the Falkland's campaign was unexpected, and therefore I greatly welcome what the Government have said about the expenditure which they intend to incur to give ourselves flexibility to deal with any such incidents which may occur in the future. I said to begin with that I would not question the Government on these or other issues tonight. So I shall sit down, merely urging them to stick to the purposes which they have proclaimed in the White Paper.

7.3 p.m.

Baroness Vickers

My Lords, first, I should like to congratulate the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Lewin. Having been to the Falklands, I know how much he was respected on all sides—civilian, Army, Navy and Air Force. I agreed with most of what he said, including the question of the Trident, and I shall give some figures a little later to try to prove my point. I am glad that the noble and gallant Lord mentioned the Merchant Navy, and I should like to say that I have just recently received a reply to my Question for a Written Answer: To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are yet able to make a Statement on whether ships and units which took part in the Falklands campaign will be able to include the campaign in their battle honours". There is a very satisfactory answer: they will be able to do so. That includes the Merchant Navy, and I am sure that it will give great pleasure to all—the men themselves, as well as their relations.

I should like to say to the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, that I agree entirely with what he said. In the other House we used to have debates on two days running for defence—I think that the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, will remember—and foreign affairs. Then we had three separate days for debate on the various services. It gave us time to have a considered opinion and to go into far more detail than we are able to do here.

I should like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Brockway—who I always admire because he is so consistent; and I always listen to what he says—that people are very fickle. It was not so very long ago that probably the same people were cheering Hitler. If one has seen the recent films on this matter, one will realise that thousands and thousands of civilians fell to the Hitler regime and the atrocities that it carried out upon the Jews.

What disappoints me is that this happens to be One World Week, and we do not seem in the United Nations to be getting at all nearer to one world. I realise that the United Nations was formed with the idea that there should be peace on earth, and it is so sad, in particular at the present time, that there are so many various small battles going on, it seems to me, in most parts of the world. I have worked for the United Nations and for the United Nations Association in this country. I think that all the people who have worked so hard—most of them are still doing something—are disappointed that we have got only a little way towards securing the peace of the world.

I welcome the fact that the Royal Navy will be increasing its ships. There are to be four more new T.23s. The fact that we live on an island makes us very vulnerable to submarines. Should there be an attack—and we know that the Russians have a vast number of submarines—we could be made to surrender through starvation, because our merchant ships would probably not be able to get through at all.

It is stated in the NATO estimates for 1982 that the United Kingdom spent 5.1 per cent. of its GDP on defence, and that is more than any other European NATO country. But I should like to see more being spent on the Navy. Personally, I am not very happy about having all the Army on the Rhine. I think of the Maginot Line in the last war. As we know, the Russians have a far larger number of conventional weapons than we have, and there might easily be great difficulty in holding back the Russians. Therefore, I should like this point to be considered.

I agreed with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, when he wrote that the British people as a whole do not understand their maritime dependence and that lack of understanding breeds indifference. Therefore, I should like again to mention the Merchant Navy, which has done a marvellous job. But one name has been left out—the "Rangatira"; I do not know whether the noble Lord can look at this point and see whether the men of this ship can be included in future plans. Recently the ship came back to Devonport. It had been a floating hotel for thousands of British troops. The Royal Navy locally gave the crew a special welcome, and then, unfortunately, they were told that they were probably going to lose their jobs. I should like to know what is to be the future position of the people who carried out this gallant service—and not just those on this ship. Are they going to be out of a job in the future? When they were complaining about difficulties that they were finding, they remarked that there were 13 foreign ships working in the area in question. The threat facing them is a very bad reward for their hard work.

I should like to turn to the question of the Royal Naval dockyards. The discontinuation of mid-life modernisation of ships and the extension of normal refit intervals—which means that there is going to be more time between the refits—following reduction in the capacity of the dockyards cannot but contribute to the unreliability and non-availability of the reduced destroyer and frigate fleet. This work is now becoming a highly technical job and that fact exacerbates the effects of any cuts. Many very highly skilled teams are being axed. If they are cut below a certain level, they will not be able to function as a team.

The task of CED is a daunting one, since it appears that during the last couple of years the dockyard system has been steadily going downhill. I should like the Secretary of State for Defence to look into this problem, and I hope that he will do so as a matter of urgency. As some noble Lords may know, I have previously mentioned this question of dockyards, both in the other House and in this House. The Secretary of State must consider reorganisation in the future. Are we to have the existing civil dockyards? Or will there be the possibility of a uniformed fleet base? I would prefer, personally, to see the reorganisation of the dockyards on a civilian basis. But action should be taken swiftly. Uncertainty about the future is unsettling for employees, industrial and nonindustrial, and also for the enrolment of apprentices.

I wish to refer to the recent demonstrations against the deterrent. Recently, there have been interesting films on television—Flashback, The Winds of War, and The Battle of the River Plate. These have opened our eyes to the awful fighting in the trenches and the ghastly nature of warfare in both World Wars, particularly the first. In the First World War, over 8 million servicemen, 908,000 of them British, were killed. There were 21 million wounded, over 2 million of them British. More than 6 million civilians were killed, 30,633 of them British.

In the Second World War, 15 million servicemen were killed. Of that total, 379,762 were British. I was able only to obtain the figures of British wounded. The number amounted to over 400,000. The nearest figure I could obtain for civilians killed in the war was between 26 million and 34 million, 65,000 of them British. Between 1939 and 1945, the Russians lost 75 million servicemen and between 10 million and 15 million civilians.

The number of prisoners of war in the Far East amounted to 162,000 together with 75,000 civilians. I was in India in 1945 trying to prepare hospitals for civilians and for those wounded who might not be able to return home straight away. We were working in Bangalore and waiting for the war to end. When the bombs were dropped, 190,000 Japanese—my figure is not the same as that of the noble Lord, Lord Brockway—were killed. The Japanese surrendered at once. So not only were prisoners of war saved, but the lives of hundreds of thousands of servicemen were also saved. Those servicemen were ready to enter Malaysia, or Malaya, as it was in those days, the Philippines and Indonesia and eventually would have gone into Japan if they were to finish the war with ordinary weapons. It was very difficult to think about dropping the bombs but, at the same time, literally millions of lives were saved.

There were 50 Japanese working for me in my Red Cross stores in Indonesia. The manner in which they have built up their country is not to mitigate the awful time that they experienced. It was not the end of the world for them. But it will possibly be the end of the world for us if we cannot achieve agreement on the deterrent. At the moment, the deterrent is holding the peace.

I regret that there have been a great many religious and racial wars. I tried to get the figures for the number killed in the Crusades but they do not appear to be available. In the Hundred Years War, casualties were divided between gentry and footmen, which I thought an interesting distinction. The consequences are horrifying. Every effort should be made to ensure that the United Nations makes people aware of the effect of these small wars all over the world.

I wonder whether your Lordships listen to Alistair Cooke's radio broadcast, "Letter from America". The programme is always telling. He described how a number of Russian and American children were asked what they knew about past wars. They knew about the bombs dropped on Japan and were opposed to war. One of the Soviet children remarked that all of them belonged to the same human race. That perhaps gives some hope for the future.

On the side of a white Ministry of Education van in Belize there appears in bold red letters: A nation's might is not how well its army can fight but how well its people can read". If all the people of the world could read, there would perhaps be better understanding. I hope that there will be support for the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Lewin, who is the most recent person in command to go to war for this country. It is knowledge that we badly need in guiding us in the future.

7.16 p.m.

Lord Stewart of Fulham

My Lords, every debate on defence by your Lordships is dominated by the consideration of nuclear weapons. Wherever we start the argument, we come back to it. This cannot really be avoided. During the General Election there was talk, as there has been since, of providing this country with what is called a non-nuclear defence policy. I should like to look for a moment at what that means. If it means that either this country by itself or the alliance to which it belongs as a whole should forswear nuclear weapons altogether and be armed solely with conventional weapons, then, faced by the Warsaw Pact armed with both kinds of weapon, it is simply a recipe for helplessness and for defeat. There is no way of avoiding that conclusion.

Alternatively, it might mean something very different and more difficult to argue; namely, the doctrine that is sometimes expressed in the phrase "no first strike". We decide presumably, that we shall have nuclear weapons but that we shall not be the first to use them and that we shall, in the manner so eloquently described by the noble Lord, Lord Carver, build up the efficiency of our conventional weapons to the point where we could safely say that we did not need to rely on nuclear weapons for first strike. But we have no guarantee, if we do that, and if we are able to hold back an attack by the effectiveness of our conventional weapons, that the enemy will not resort to the nuclear weapon. The only thing that would prevent him doing that is the knowledge that we were in a position to retaliate.

It is therefore not a way (the advocates of first strike do not suggest, I think, that it is) of providing yourself with conventional weapons instead of nuclear weapons. You have still to have both kinds if you wish to feel that you have any security against ultimate defeat. I have felt, although I should like to study more carefully the points of the noble Lord, Lord Carver, that to get yourself into the position of no first strike and to persuade your allies to do it would require considerable time, would prove expensive and would raise questions of manpower that might even call in question whether this country could continue to manage without national service in time of peace. So there is not an easy way out there.

Can we try to solve this fearful overhanging threat of nuclear weapons by bargaining about them, by seeing whether at Geneva, and ultimately in other fora, we can by agreement reduce the amount of nuclear weapons on either side? Let us remember how the present situation in Geneva arose. A few years ago the position in the worldwide balance of the Atlantic Alliance and the Warsaw Pact was that the Warsaw Pact had a very considerable preponderance in conventional weapons. In worldwide nuclear weapons, indeed in nuclear weapons as a whole, there appeared to be, as far as one could judge, a rough balance. It was at this point that the soviet Union decided to try to achieve for itself an immense preponderance in nuclear weapons in Europe. That was the significance of the introduction of the SS.20. It was a very serious invasion of the balance. It was not surprising, therefore, that the decision was made that either we could reach agreement with the Russians for them to go back on this policy or that we should ourselves provide Western Europe with weapons comparable to the SS.20s. That is the position which we are in now.

I hope that the Government will take heed of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, who put forward ideas that I think the Government ought to consider as to how they might be able to reach agreement even now on this matter, although I would not myself be too hopeful. However, one criticism of the Government throughout has been valid and that is that they have never told us enough about their views of this bargaining process. We and the nation as a whole have felt cut out of a bargaining process about something that is of very great importance to us. But one thing at least is certain: you will not get anywhere in that bargaining process if the Soviet Union and its allies imagine that you are going to give up the struggle anyhow.

I was disconcerted to hear the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of my own party, express the view that we could keep the independent deterrent but simply to use as a bargaining weapon, then going on to say that if he headed a Government he would in any case, by the end of the lifetime of one Parliament, decide to get rid of that independent deterrent. It seems to me that we can say on the one hand that we are keeping this to use as a bargaining counter, or on the other hand that we are, as a matter of principle, going to give it away at a certain time, but I do not see how we can say both. If the other side know that we are going to get rid of it anyhow, it has no value as a bargaining counter. That principle runs through the whole argument. It cannot be too often stressed that unilateral disarmament means, by its nature, unconditional disarmament—that you disarm yourself irrespective of what the other side does. That makes pretty well impossible any real bargaining process between you and the other side, because you have nothing to bargain with and the other side know that if they wait long enough they will get what they want without making any concessions.

Therefore, there is no escape as the world now stands from the fact that we have to live with the existence of nuclear weapons and we have to proceed by a process of multilateral bargaining and diplomacy to try to reduce the immense financial burden that these weapons are on all of us, and the terror and danger that they hang over the head of all mankind. Shall we be successful in that? I do not know, but I do not think that it is impossible. The financial burden and the burden of fear must be very great on the rulers of the Soviet Union as well.

It is true that the people of the Soviet Union have not the information, nor the means nor the power to express their views about the matter in the way in which people in this country can, if they wish, express their views. I do not think that there is any doubt that the Soviet Government must be deeply worried about the fearful expense and the fearful danger that they run by the continuance of the nuclear balance at its present level. If, therefore, we continue to be sufficiently resolute and sufficiently unprovocative, we may in time be able to get results—and that is what we must work for. In the meantime, it will be expensive.

As the debate has brought out, we have other things in the defence field on which to spend money. One view that has been expressed is that the policy known as "Fortress Falklands" is invalid as a long-term solution. I think that that is probably so. The only trouble is that it is the only possible one at present as a short-term solution. The only alternative again is surrender. Such a policy is going to cost something and therefore, may I respectfully suggest to leaders of the Conservative Party that they do not go to their party conference holding out a reduction in taxation as if it were one of the "goodies" that is just around the corner for the British people. Because if they mean what they say about defence, that is unlikely to be so—unless, of course, they are going to say, "Any extra expense we are put to over defence has got to come out of the health service, out of pensions, out of the social services", and so on; that is to say, it has got to be paid for mainly by the poorer people of this country. That is not the way in which to rally a nation for defence.

I have said it before and I make no apology for saying it again: we are up against the very serious fact that defence is expensive, and it may very well be more expensive. It is the Government's job to drive that lesson home to all classes in the community and particularly to those who are rather better off and can help to bear a greater share of the burden. However, I hope that they will think that over carefully before talking too readily about the possibilities of reductions in taxation.

There is one other point that I should like to make. I do not believe that armaments races are themselves a cause of war. They are an alarming symptom of a disquieting international situation. A sudden and spectacular fall in the barometric pressure is followed by a storm, but it does not cause the storm. Both the storm and the behaviour of the barometer are caused by disquieting atmospheric conditions. Similarly, the growth of armaments and the danger of war result from an unsatisfactory international situation—does my noble friend wish to participate? I thought that he was going to do so, but I see that he is doing the opposite.

We have to consider side by side with the actual means of defence—the weapons. nuclear, conventional and so on—the kind of diplomacy that is likely to prevent the alarming fall in the barometer or, if one prefers, the alarming rise in the temperature which moves one to actual conflict. The things that we can do in that field are limited and humdrum, but they are worth doing and we must go on doing them for a long time.

It is fashionable nowadays to speak of détente as if it were an experiment that was tried, had failed and was a loss. I do not believe that to be so. We were able for a time to get a period of rather better understanding between the Russians and ourselves than we have at present. That did not result in our having to make any disastrous and unrequited concessions. Somehow or other that period has changed. We are now in a period of very harsh language and hostility.

We must remember what can be salvaged from detente. First, I believe that it is a good thing wherever possible to have contacts between citizens of the East European countries and citizens of the West, as regards learning, education, the arts and so on, because I believe that every contact between the citizens of a tyranny and the citizens of a free country will in the end work to the advantage of the free country. I think that repeatedly experience has shown that.

We must remember that the processes started at the Helsinki Conference were meant to be continuous. Recently they have been continued at Madrid, although not in very cheerful or encouraging circumstances. But we must go on with that sort of thing. Particularly we must go on making use of the opportunity that that gives us to put before the Soviet Union and the other countries of Europe the idea of human rights as we understand it; and I think—and this involves such a matter as the British Overseas Service on the wireless—we must always be prepared to put our case as effectively as we can to the world as a whole and make it clear what we believe in and why it is that there are differences between us and the Soviet Union. This can be done reasonably, patiently and without abuse. At the present time nothing is more useless than to engage in purely abusive words with the Russians. It gets us nowhere; it does not improve the general atmosphere.

I myself am not pessimistic about the prospects for peace in the world, but I think that there are two situations which might lead to an outbreak of war between East and West. One would be if the Soviet Union and her allies were to get the idea that we had neither the power nor the will to resist, beginning by a throwing away of nuclear power which would indicate that we were not in a position to resist any longer That could lead to war. The other, which is less likely but not impossible, is if the Russians themselves should believe that they were to be the victims of an imperialistic attack. We may feel that it is absurd for them to entertain such an idea, but I believe that there are a number of people in important positions in Russia who still believe, or elect to believe, that that is a possibility.

If one looks hard enough it is not too difficult to find plausible evidence to support it. We must avoid doing things that give any support to that conception. That is why I say that we should avoid expressions of pure abuse. To advocate from time to time our belief in human rights is one thing; to be merely abusive is another. This will be a long process; but I think we must recognise that the whole job of getting the world out of its present snarl of nuclear weapons into a peaceable position will be a long process. It can be compared in history to the way in which, after the Crusades—which the noble Baroness mentioned—and one or two adventures of that kind, in the end Christianity and Islam found that they could and must live side by side. Later on in history the two great divisions of the Christian Church—Protestant and Catholic—after attempts to overthrow each other's ideologies by force, came to the conclusion that they could and ought to live side by side. In the end, I think that East and West will find that that is so, though I must confess that I am not at all sure I shall be here to see it.

7.33 p.m.

Lord Hill-Norton

My Lords, it would be strange if I did not add my congratulations to those which have already been expressed on the impressive, clear and forceful maiden speech made by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Lewin; and I do so with pleasure. I had not felt that I needed reinforcements in your Lordships' House, but I am delighted to have him on board.

As your Lordships might expect, I have some observations to make on the maritime aspects of the White Paper before us today. However, I wish that there were time to deal in detail with the closely related subject of the alarming decline in our whole shipping industry and the serious industrial and economic effects of it. I hope that we may have a chance to debate this separately on a future occasion.

Today I wish to devote much of my time to the seriously neglected subject of the defence of the United Kingdom base, correctly identified in Command 8951 as the second of the four pillars of the Government's defence policy, although quite astoundingly it is not mentioned at all in the context of land forces in the passage beginning at paragraph 313 covering this vital area.

I deal first and briefly with what I regard as some crucial maritime points. I note in paragraph 113 of the White Paper that the four main roles for which our armed forces are deployed and provided as a deterrent to war—and all war, not just nuclear war—remain unchanged since they were formulated in The Way Forward a couple of years ago. I am sure that they are right. I am glad to see that the White Paper acknowledges that threats to Western security interests outside the NATO area still remain matters of concern, but I am bound to observe that neither NATO nor this Government have done much to remove that concern.

I must at once again question the ability of the United Kingdom armed forces to meet our responsibilities to the "Fourth Pillar", as the White Paper describes it, of the total deterrent—that is to say, to maintain a major maritime capability in the Eastern Approaches and the Channel—and to take effective military action against further threats in distant waters. I wish that I could share the optimism which the Lord President the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, expressed in his opening speech in this regard. I believe that the points I am about to make lend substance to my serious misgivings, and I believe that your Lordships may well agree.

First, the United Kingdom is already about 40 per cent. under-subscribed to our NATO naval force levels. Both SACLANT—the Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic—and the Commander-in-Chief Eastern Atlantic (a British officer whose last appointment was Vice-Chief of the Naval Staff) asked for 60 more escorts only last April. Moreover, the statistics given in paragraph 330 are open to misinterpretation, though I am bound to hope not deliberately. The statement concerning the front line force of destroyers and frigates reads: Numbers are expected to decline to about 50 later in the decade". It would be much more accurate were it to say: Numbers in 1990 will be about 40, mostly obsolete and unreliable". Your Lordships may agree that to describe what is actually said as misleading somewhat understates the case.

I should very strongly like to support what the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, said about the dockyards and to add something to it. A dockyard support system must above all be flexible. In normal peacetime circumstances it must be able to respond to the unpredictable at no notice. For example, it must be able to deal with collisions, accidents of one sort or another, fires, damage caused either by accident or by the sea. This sort of capability obviously becomes more probable, or its need becomes more probable, as the force ages, and both will have a "knock-on" effect on the normal peacetime orderly refitting programme of the Fleet; If you superimpose an operational burden on that pattern, the system is likely to crack just when you need it most. It is my belief—a belief which is share by all professionals—that the dockyards are being, and have already been, run down below a level which would enable us to compete with even a relatively minor operation such as that of the Falklands campaign.

I am also astonished to see that the role of ships taken up from trade to support future naval operations, as they so magnificently supported those operations in the Falklands, is scarcely mentioned in the White Paper. Their availability is simply not discussed. The availability of reliable British crews to man them is not mentioned. This would be understandable if the Defence Estimates were to be considered in isolation, but surely it is absurdly unrealistic to omit them from the total defence equation.

Who will ensure that merchant ships of the type required for defence purposes are available and suitably equipped to meet all our emergency and contingency plans? Who will fund what is needed? Who is responsible for the availability of the crews? The trend in the rapid decline of the British merchant marine is already alarming economically. Your Lordships may well agree with me that it is just as alarming politically and militarily.

Now, if I may, I shall return to the physical defence of our homeland, without the security of which not only would the whole of the rest of our defence policy be as nothing, but the heart would be torn out of the whole of NATO's deterrent posture in Europe, and consequently our ability to fight should deterrence unhappily fail. The relevant passage in the White Paper implies that there is no threat to the United Kingdom on the ground, and the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, is on record only a fortnight ago in saying that such threat as there is does not require any large-scale land forces under arms. I profoundly disagree.

There is, without any shadow of doubt, a grave threat from the Soviet special raiding squads, previously called diversionary brigades, and known by them as SPETNAZ. These exist in considerable numbers; they are specially trained; they are thoroughly briefed on their target areas; they speak fluent English; and they have been taught about our habits and customs. Many of them are known to be targeted on our home base. These alarming facts were confirmed this month by the defecting General Suvarov in a statement published in the International Defence Review.

Their purpose, my Lords, is straightforward. It is to disrupt the whole domestic machine of our country, including power systems, the communications networks, airfields, air defence and naval installations, command and control systems, oil and gas installa- tions, and other essential services such as sewage and water. There can be no doubt whatever that they are trained and equipped to do it, just as our SAS and SBS are trained and equipped to do it—and actually did it in the Falklands—and as the Argentine similar forces are trained and equipped to do it, and would have done it in Gibralter had it not been for an alert Spanish Government.

It is my contention that the land forces left available in this country for mobilisation, after earmarked and committed billets have been filled up in Rhine Army and RAF Germany and in the Fleet, are entirely inadequate to deter such attempts by these special raiding squads, or to defeat them if they are made. Ministers have given highly misleading answers to those who share my views and have asserted that there will be as many as 100,000 troops left in the United Kingdom for its direct defence.

I assure your Lordships that this is not true. Even were the numbers so large, which I doubt, over half of them are highly-skilled technicians fully engaged in supporting the teeth arms of the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force and the Army from their home bases. Of the remainder there will almost certainly be no more than 10,000 or 15,000 bayonets at the very most available for any manoeuvre force to cover a front 800 miles long and 200 miles deep. You do not have to be a field marshal to realise that that is not enough. Taking that with the need to guard a relatively small number of absolutely key points, for which the new home service force has been raised—and I applaud the Government's action in doing so, and congratulate them on the success with which it is going—what is left is not enough.

I have publicly recommended and am vigorously promoting with a few friends the idea that defence begins at home. We need to blanket the country, of which more than half the surface area is almost entirely empty. I am sure those of your Lordships who have flown over the country in a helicopter or a light aircraft will agree with me, but the public are not aware of it. There are very large open spaces even in the home counties. What is needed is a third line force, armed perhaps with personal weapons, based on their home village, to perform the historic role which has been going on in this country since Saxon times of watch and ward. Such a home defence force could fill the rung which is now missing at the bottom of the ladder of deterrence. It would enormously reassure our NATO allies, who are astounded that we have no such force when every other European partner has.

Nor could such a force possibly be called provocative or militaristic or escalatory, as nearly everything which improves our defence is called by constant critics who frequently masquerade under any label as long as it contains the word "peace". Your Lordships may not all be aware, perhaps that the two most successfully neutral nations in Europe each has such a force, and has had for centuries. In both Sweden and Switzerland this force amounts to no less than one-tenth of the adult population. To save Ministers' private secretaries trouble, you can find these figures in The Military Balance.

I believe that we need perhaps half a million volunteers, or one-hundredth of the population, to re- create the home guard to do this job, spread the length and breadth of the land. I also believe that there would be absolutely no trouble at all in obtaining such a number, and I have some reason to believe this, too. Its cost would be trifling in the context of a defence budget of £15.7 billion. I can confidently assert that it would cost about £120 million spread over five years to do the job. To put that in perspective we spend £12 milllion a day on cigarettes in this country.

Let us take the subject of home defence seriously. It is our homeland: it is our home base. We rely on it, and so does our alliance. NATO could not function without this unsinkable aircraft carrier. It is plain that at the moment, on the evidence of the White Paper and ministerial statements, the Government do not share my view. I hope to persuade them. There will, of course, be no more important new money. There will, of course, be no more men or women for the regular forces. Therefore, the only way that we can deter this very real threat, it seems to me, is by creating a third tier of volunteers such as I have briefly described. They would be entirely in support of the regular and territorial forces. They would equally entirely be at the disposal of Parliament, to be called out in a time of crisis or rising tension. But the time to do it is now. It will be no use starting to fill sandbags when the clock strikes half-past eleven in any future conflict.

7.49 p.m.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, because of the late hour and in the interest of brevity I am afraid that I shall have to leave some of the courtesies which are normally expected and very much enjoyed in this House of complimenting noble Lords on their speeches, particularly the speech of the noble Lord who has just sat down. However, it would be most wrong not to congratulate my noble and gallant friend Lord Lewin on his outstanding maiden speech.

I had hoped to set a little time aside to deal with some aspects in reply to the accusation that we only have to press on with disarmament—this arises out of the speech from the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham—and that we must trust the Russians and their Soviet system. If we set an example, it is argued that they will follow. The noble Lord, Lord Stewart, said that detente had worked. I wonder whether it was not during a period of detente that we set an example and abolished Porton Down and both chemical and biological warfare. That set an example. The Soviets doubled and redoubled their output in both those fields of warfare.

One hoped that Helsinki would stick. Most of the points made by Helsinki, including the interchange of visits between Western Europe and the East have been stopped, or sabotaged by the Soviets.

The anti-ballistic missile treaty of 1972, whereby new systems would not be introduced either by America or the Soviets, has been also disregarded. SALT I: although it was not ratified, the Americans agreed that they should abide by it if the Soviets did the same, and the Soviets did not. SALT II: very much the same applied and in every case the objections of the Soviets to making progress in nuclear disarmament occurred because we wanted on-site inspection. They have categorically refused this on every occasion.

There was a time when the Americans thought that by electronic surveillance and the use of satellites they could overcome that problem and probably check what the Soviets were doing. That has not proved possible.

They have started encryptographing their telemetric signals. I have no time to develop that argument, but I ask those who are wishful thinkers in this field—several Peers have referred to this—to look at page 53 of the 1st October edition of the Economist, which set out some of the examples where the Soviets have been wriggling round agreements made in the past, or, in the case of strategic missiles, deliberately disobeying everything they had signed and agreed with the USA. Let us press on by all means. The USA has been strangely reluctant to publicise these actions by the Soviets.

I want to concentrate on the economics because as more and more sophisticated equipment costs more and more, there is increasing pressure on defence funds. This happens under every Government. Equally the regular service with its military salary contains a very large proportion of married people of a young age, therefore, there is the responsibility for wives, married quarters and the schools that follow on. All this makes a trained regular a very expensive person indeed. I endorse much of what the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, said. It is brought out by economics as well as other factors that one gets eight trained territorials for the price of one regular. Of course, one would wish to have as many regulars as conceivably possible, but eight territorials, particularly in the home defence force, might allow one regular to be redeployed in the teeth services. That seems wholly desirable.

My noble friend who is to wind up feels as I do, that the need for reserves in this country, which every other Western European country has in greater depth, is of paramount importance. I hope that when he winds up he will give us hope that the speed at which we are building up our reserves, and perhaps starting new reserves, can he hastened.

It is nearly four and a half years since the Tory Government came to power in May, 1979. There have been continued pressures on defence funds despite stringent economies. There has been an increasing Soviet threat which has needed further expansion. We have been very well served by our Defence Ministers in this House. The Library prepared statistics for me. It is a sad fact that in this period of four and a half years we have had three different Secretaries of State for Defence; five different Ministers of State. We have had seven Under-Secretaries. This is a very large Department with both civilian and uniformed personnel. There are 650,000 people in the employment of the Ministry of Defence. It is an expensive department, the second or third in the total Government budget. It is not as big as the Health Service, which has 828,000; that is the largest, well out ahead of anything else. The department employs 650,000 civilians and uniformed manpower. Therefore, it is difficult for a Minister to pick up the threads and complexities, both of equipment and manpower, in a few months.

The longest serving Minister—and without impugning any others, I would say perhaps the most successful—Mr. Geoffrey Pattie who has been there for 53 months, the whole period. He is the only one who has been in office for that length of time. He knows his stuff. He knows his way about. He is deeply respected not only in the Ministries but overseas as the Minister in charge of defence procurement. Experience does count, especially in the case of Ministers in service departments. I earnestly hope that they may have longer service.

I should like to pay a compliment to my noble friend Lord Trenchard, who was the second longest serving Minister in this period of four and half years. He did just over two years—25 months. My noble friend who is to reply has done four months; the same as six others who have also served four months. That is hardly time to find one's way around a Ministry and to visit outside departments. I hope he will stay there for a long time and be successful in his job.

If the Prime Minister ever has time to read our debates I implore her to leave good Ministers in our armed forces in position for a time so that, with the help of the staff and the uniformed people serving in Ministries, they can try to control expenditure and squeeze, probe and press for every economy. There must still be room in a force of that size for some economies.

Now a word on the Falklands: £624 million, as the noble Lord. Lord Stewart of Fulham, said, spent in 1983–84 on the Falklands is a lot of money. Three thousand regular personnel is a lot of people. We must hope that with the new elections in the Argentine on Sunday, at the end of this week, a new democratically inclined government will come to power. I hope this Government will, through their diplomatic channels, press our allies and our friends to move towards some sort of settlement. Surely there must be friends of ours and neutrals in north and South America who can help to bring about a settlement and a formal cessation of hostilities.

I should have thought that by our building of this huge new airfield in the Falklands, which is very necessary for our forces there, America may be encouraged to take a greater interest. She is rightly countering the current subversion in Central America created by Soviet arms and manpower and furthered by Cuban training and Cuban infiltration. One hopes that they will help win this difficult subversive battle in that part of the world. If they do not, troubles may spread northwards towards Mexico, and that is why the USA is taking such an interest.

But these troubles may also travel south into Panama. The Panama Canal is a very vulnerable waterway linking the US Pacific and Atlantic fleets. If the canal is denied to our main allies they would have to travel 12,000 miles round Cape Horn to reinforce either their Atlantic or Pacific fleets. It is a long way round Cape Horn and in that context the Falklands may be a useful place in which they could take an interest.

I have been urging the Government to comb and recomb—I had a helpful letter from my noble friend recently concerning the 3,000 regulars thought to be necessary in the defence force of the Falklands. I was glad to learn from that recent letter that out of the 1,800 inhabitants 100 people have applied to join and are being incorporated into the local defence force. That is a small proportion, six in every 100. I hope the inhabitants will feel grateful for the tremendous contribution that this country is making to their defence and to the stability of the area, and that a higher percentage will volunteer to come forward for defence. I am sure there are a lot of tasks which can be done and which would release some of the regulars.

I would ask my noble friend within the Ministry of Defence—and I do not have time to expand on it too much—to consider whether we should put volunteers under contract for two or three years' service in the Falklands. There are lots of jobs which could be done. There is the Rapier, manned 24 hours a day; there are those squadrons; there is the radar and the radio network. There are lots of other jobs which could well be done there. There must be many unemployed and, perhaps, people of medium age living in our cities and in our suburbs who have a desire for the outback. One has only to see the number of young people who want to go and have a look at Australia, and to work there for a bit to realise that in our noisome society there are people who like loneliness. I wonder whether we could not make use of that feeling and recruit perhaps a thousand people to help reinforce the regulars, and release some of them.

I now come to another theme—the agile combat aircraft. Here is a big project, an imaginative project, which can be done only on a European basis. This is an aircraft to succeed, or to reinforce in some ways, the Tornado, and this agile aircraft, the ACA should be available in the 1990s. It has to be international, it has to be produced on an international basis. So far, Germany and Italy have agreed to join in developing one or two experimental aircraft and flying them to see whether they meet the needs. France is hesitating. The Minister of Defence was out there on 21st September asking them to come in and join us. I would not wait too long for France. They behaved in the same way with the joint Anglo-French Jaguar. Whenever they could sell the F2000, or even the F4000, they preferred to sell a wholly-French aircraft rather than a half-British aircraft. Do not wait too long. Let us get on with the job with our other Western allies.

The cost of this aircraft has been greatly exaggerated. It depends greatly on how many are sold and on spreading development over a large number—and on spreading the tooling costs as well. It is estimated that the world market, for a very advanced aircraft of this sort would be for about 2,500 aircraft in the 1990s. It is assessed that this aircraft ought to get 15 per cent. of the world market and that means another 350 export. There would be 500 wanted between ourselves, Germany and Italy. If France joined in she might want a further 200. But as a result of a joint international venture of this sort and our exports, this aircraft would be cheaper than the F15 and the Mirage, and comparable in price to the F16.

We need something, my Lords. We cannot rely in the 1990s on Lightnings, which are already very long in the tooth, or the Phantoms, already over 20 years old, or the limited number of the air defence version of the Tornado. Without such a project the United Kingdom would slip right out of the market for military aircraft. We would be lost. The free world would have to rely on the USA or on France if she could afford to go it alone—and I do not believe that she could do so for long. And I doubt whether Germany or Italy could replace us. The repercussions on our aerospace industry and on jobs, mainly in sophisticated engineering, would be considerable, and, incidentally, on our balance of payments at a time when our oil may not be quite as productive as it is now.

Ten years ago Saudi Arabia bought £100 million worth of Lightnings. This sale achieved £1,500 million—15 times the original investment—in fees for technical and flying training, in spares and back-up. Some 700 United Kingdom firms were concerned in supplying services or providing goods on this one contract. The repercussions of keeping in this game are very considerable on jobs, and certainly are very considerable for our technological base. I do not have time to expand much further on this. I would just say that the main firms concerned in the aerospace industry have such confidence in this project that they have already put £35 million of their own money into it, straight off the bottom line; and the Government have with imagination backed it pound for pound. These firms are prepared to put in another £65 million to get this experimental aircraft flying, and the Government, I hope, will match it. I would ask the Government to give this every encouragement and to support it to the maximum extent. If we do not do this, we are going to drop out.

Incidentally, as the noble Lord said earlier from the Cross-Benches, one of the lessons of the Falklands was how our armaments industry was able to react quickly and produce the spares and adapt the aircraft, the ships and the like to meet the needs which arose. If we do not have military aircraft manufacturing ability we shall never again be able to mount that sort of operation. I urge my noble friend to continue with his encouragement and support.

8.7 p.m.

Lord Gladwyn

My Lords, since we last discussed defence there has been an incident which undoubtedly increased East-West tension and even seemed to bring rather nearer the grim prospect of war. Hence a general sense of unease which has encouraged the "Peace Movement" with its unthinking and dangerous calls for unilateral nuclear disarmament. More particularly in America the shooting down by the Soviet air force of a Korean airliner seemed to be proof positive of inherent Soviet aggressive tendencies. Certainly the official Soviet excuse for this dreadful act, namely, that an airliner with 260 passengers on board and a United States Congressman was on a spying mission deliberately organised by the CIA, is obvious nonsense. On the other hand, it is conceivable, and I only say conceivable, that the airliner was shot down by mistake at a moment of panic.

Whatever the truth, the incident demonstrates the fragility of detente and the consequent apparent necessity of reaching agreement on arms limitation generally which might restrain the seeming rush towards a dangerous confrontation. Nor is there much reason to suppose that the airliner incident was further proof of Soviet aggression. However regrettable, it cannot legitimately be held to be in any way the equivalent of, for instance, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. What, then, is now the prospect of an arms limitation?

At the moment, there is a strong tendency in the West to assume that the INF talks in Geneva must fail because the Soviet Government will not accept the so-called "Zero Option", it being then necessary to install the full complement of cruise missiles and Pershing IIs in various centres of Europe in the hope, if not the belief, that the Russians will then change their minds. Like my noble friend Lord Mayhew, I find this an unreasonable attitude. In the first place, it is surely only right that the British and French nuclear warheads should be included in the calculations governing, as I see it, both INF and START. For they are both intermediate and strategic, either actually pledged to NATO or possessed by a member of the North Atlantic Alliance.

Nobody is suggesting that these weapons should be in any way reduced but only that they should be counted. In the second place, the Soviet Government can hardly agree to destroy all its SS.22s. The security of the West would not be seriously imperilled if the Soviet Union retained a number of these modernised weapons, any more than Soviet security would be imperilled by the installation of at least a certain number of cruise squadrons, if not of Pershing IIs. It is a bargain that we should be seeking, not a complete climb-down by the Soviet Union.

What, then, should the governing criterion be at the back of people's minds in all these talks? Surely to insist on "equality" is nonsense, certainly so far as nuclear weapons are concerned. There really is no point—indeed it is the height of absurdity—for one side to possess more, and even very many more, warheads than are required for totally obliterating the adversary. In other words, always supposing that neither side has the ability to wipe out all the adversary's corresponding weapons on a first strike (which for various reasons seems impossible) it follows that the only sane criterion, pending general and verified disarmament, is the possession by each side of an assured capability of inflicting entirely unacceptable damage on the opponent on a second strike: that is to say, after the enemy or adversary has been so foolish as to initiate nuclear action. How large that capability should be is really therefore for each side to determine, but presumably the submarine-based missiles on both sides, which could for the most part, of course, survive a first strike, are even now fully capable of providing a pretty capable deterrent to any first use of nuclear weapons by the adversary.

If we pursue this argument a little further, we must surely conclude that it really does not matter very much if the Russians have rather more nuclear warheads than the Western allies, and notably the Americans. I repeat: all we want, for our part, is the recognised ability to inflict unacceptable damage on the Russian homeland if they should by chance be so foolish as to destroy targets in Western Europe by nuclear means. It looks as though, therefore, we should have some cruise squadrons for this purpose in Western Europe, always assuming that if Western European targets were indeed the subject of attack, the British and French nuclear forces would inevitably be deployed also against targets in the Soviet Union. Since the SS.22s are mobile, the cruise missiles, which are equally mobile, can hardly be regarded as "counter-force" and hence potentially "first strike" weapons. If so, we must, when they are installed, calculate what sort of damage they would be able to inflict on a second strike against non-military targets. If the Russians adopted a similar criterion it is, at any rate to my mind, obvious that, for instance, 120 or even 100 SS.22s would be more than enough. If they are reasonable, that should be their calculation.

Pershing IIs seem to me, as I believe they seem to my friend Dr. David Owen, to constitute a rather different problem. There is no doubt that the Russians fear them much more than cruise, if only because—if some reports are true, and they seem to be quite credible reports—these weapons could with extreme accuracy in a few minutes destroy, even with conventional warheads, some of the Soviet vital communications centres on which their famous C3I systems—which is an ugly military shorthand for command, control, communication and the dissemination of military intelligence—largely depend. Some may say: "All the better: go ahead with their installation as soon as possible". I should have thought, however, that it would be wiser to treat Pershing IIs as negotiating bargaining counters. I repeat that actual "equality" really does not matter. What is wanted is an arrangement whereby both sides feel fairly comfortable and in no way at the mercy of the other.

This brings me on to another aspect of East-West relations. If it is true that in the event of war each side will depend, and increasingly depend as time goes by, on immensely complicated C3I systems, what will happen if these systems are straight away damaged, if not put out of action altogether? For if they are, then there is reason to suppose that the whole system of command could become inoperable, to say nothing of the means of accurately guiding nuclear missiles, with the result that the two super powers could become the equivalent, as it were, of blinded Titans, indulging in a sort of wild slogging match, if only with so-called conventional weapons.

That this is not an absurd or unlikely speculation derives chiefly from the fact that, apart from the possible destruction of vital communication centres in Europe by conventional means—and notably, unless I am misinformed, on our side the PTT offices in Stuttgart and Verona—the very possibility of conducting any organised military operations would disappear and chaos would follow, if either side were in a position to shoot down the low orbit satellites on which C3I systems now very largely depend, as I understand it.

Unfortunately, the process leading to such a conflict has already started. The Russians are said actually to have begun a project for destroying such United States satellites while the Americans, using another method, are fast catching up. On the face of it, therefore, it now seems essential for negotiations to start for some agreement whereby such action on either side is effectively prohibited; otherwise both sides may be able to achieve a fatal facility at much the same time, thus heralding the advent of indiscriminate war. If I might, I would ask the Minister who is going to reply whether or not the Government agree with what I have just said. Perhaps he would be good enough to include that in his reply?

I would also venture to inquire of him whether the Government have by any chance read an extremely interesting article, published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies as Ade1phi Paper, No. 185, by Mr. Desmond Ball entitled Targeting for Strategic Deterrence. If so, would they also agree with Mr. Ball's conclusion, which I venture to quote: In the end, a better understanding of the realities of force employment policy might lead to the conclusion that the limited nuclear war-fighting option is a chimaera and that policies which depend on the ability to maintain escalation control of a nuclear exchange are ultimately incredible"? To sum up, the more one reads about the possibility or the likelihood of nuclear war, the more it seems to be a sort of nightmare from which we shall all eventually wake up. That does not mean that when we do wake up reality will necessarily be very pleasant. On the contrary, unless we in the West pull ourselves together, sacrifice some of our present standard of living, and prepare for a non-nuclear war with new modernised weapons and techniques, which were referred to by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, we may well before long find ourselves faced with the choice between oblivion and defeat, the latter in the circumstances being the more probable option. And he it said en passant that this moral really underlies the very entertaining and well-informed book on the Third World War by General Sir John Hackett and others, which has I believe already sold over 3 million copies.

But if we do so build up our inherent conventional military strength, then all the chances are that we shall never have to use it. Nor is it at all impossible, even economically, so to build it up, given the scrapping of Trident, and as soon as possible, a withdrawal of our forces from the Falklands. I know the case for keeping Trident, which was so eloquently set forth in the admirable maiden speech of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Lewin, but on the whole I must say, although one must never criticise a maiden speech, that on this point I greatly prefer the logic of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver.

Additionally, if we want the money for this purpose, the means for saving very considerable sums of defence are well set out in the recent very professional "Omega" Report of the Adam Smith Institute which, incidentally, emphasises the need for adequate home defence, that was so well elaborated on by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton. Unfortunately, besides, quite rightly, drawing attention to the need to strengthen the Navy and the RAF for the protection of these islands and the so-called northern flank, the report suggests that the necessary money should be found by halving the British Army of the Rhine and the tactical air force in Germany. It also favours an important, and not simply a token, contribution to the defence of the so-called hidden flank; that is, the oil routes in the Indian Ocean. Again, I should like to know whether the Government reject both of these proposals.

My conclusion is what many of my friends and I have been saying—I regret to say, unheeded by governments—for many years. I looked up the papers the other day and I found that I was making suggestions about the inadequacy of the "flexible response" as early as 1967, which is some time ago. Yes, we simply must act on the assumption that, if war should break out, the first use of nuclear weapons by either side is incredible—let me say unthinkable—and hence impossible. That being so, the West as a whole, as we undoubtedly could if we tried, simply must now construct a credible conventional defensive system and to that end abandon some of the more expensive and, as I believe, redundant nuclear projects such as Trident and MX in the United States.

Anyone who seriously doubts the compelling logic of this argument, more particularly the Government, is advised to read the recent masterly article by that first-class political brain George Ball in the New York Review, several copies of which I have taken the liberty of placing in the Library. It will be noted that Mr. Ball does not recommend any formal declaration by the West of "no first use" similar to that made some time ago by Mr. Andropov for the Soviet Union. All he does say, and the argument is irrefutable, is that we must now prepare, if necessary, to tight a non-nuclear war. The article is called "The Cosmic Bluff" and I believe that, were he now alive, every word of it would be enthusiastically endorsed by the late Lord Mountbatten. My final question therefore is: have those responsible in the Government actually read George Ball's article; and, if so, can we be told exactly how they refute his conclusions, if indeed they do?

8.25 p.m.

The Earl of Cork and Orrery

My Lords, I hope that I may be forgiven if, in the interests of saving time, I follow my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing in omitting most of the usual courtesies, and therefore do not follow very closely the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, which I greatly enjoyed. I agreed with almost everything, except the conclusion. I shall not even congratulate the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Lewin, on his maiden speech, because I think that it would be an impertinence for me to do so. Instead I would congratulate the House on acquiring a Member capable of producing so authoritative and admirable a speech.

The only other noble Lord that I must immediately mention is my noble friend Lord Cathcart, who produced an argument in favour of extended debates, or other debates, in addition to this one in the future. I wholeheartedly agreed with what he said and this suggestion should be given very careful thought. As he said, the All-Party Defence Study Group will no doubt give close attention to it and come up with a conclusion, which I hope it will do very shortly.

This debate is an annual fixture, but perhaps it contains a sort of trap. We have become so familiar with it that we may begin to feel that defence is simply a matter of being strong enough to persuade an enemy not to attack us, and to repulse him if he does. That is all very well for the Ministry of Defence, and it is all very well so far as it goes; but defence is a good deal more than that. It is more than the things with which the MOD is concerned: that is, the personnel and materiel of the fighting services and the management of the procurement executive. Therefore. I believe that there is a requirement for a much wider ranging debate—wider even than the ones which my noble friend described in his speech—and, if noble Lords will put up with me for a moment, I propose to embark upon a slight widening of the area of the debate.

Chapter 1 of the White Paper on Defence Policy states in paragraph 112: We have made it clear in successive Statements that the major threat to the security of the United Kingdom remains the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies, and that our membership of NATO provides the only realistic way of countering that threat. The second part of that statement bothers me. Is membership of NATO really the only realistic way of countering the threat? I do not believe that it is. We have learned the lesson of Canute. To hold back the red tide that might come flooding across Europe we have set up something more dependable than an armchair on the beach. NATO is our sea wall and the tide will not come flooding across that strand. But have we learned the lesson of Arthur Hugh Clough: …while the tired waves, vainly breaking, Seem here no painful inch to gain, Far back through creeks and inlets making Comes silent, flooding in, the main"? With these creeks and inlets the Ministry of Defence is not concerned, but we are and we know well that the means by which the Soviet tide comes flooding in silently are the insidious means of subversion, destabilisation and the proxy war. Over one-half of the world, at least, the Kalashnikoff is now as familiar a symbol as the Coca-Cola can, and where there is no actual fighting there is the struggle for hearts and minds. How are we doing in that struggle? The continuing existence and coherence of the Commonwealth as the successor to the British Empire provides, I suggest, a good enough answer for us, the British. In this field we might not unreasonably claim to have some experience and some skill and therefore to be qualified tactfully to offer advice. Indeed, we may be qualified to express our view on the crucial art of making friends and influencing people. Let us begin with the Americans, for they are already our friends. I believe that in the interests of peace it is high time for us to start trying to influence them in a rather more emphatic way than we do now.

I myself am unshakeably pro-American. It is vitally important that both as a nation and as a member of NATO we should continue to be so. And at this particular moment, in view of the events in Beirut, we should also feel deep sympathy for them and for their marine corps. But this does not mean that we should be silent when they say things which we feel would be better unsaid or that we should acquiesce in actions or policies that we find to be dangerous or rash. On the contrary, it is our duty sometimes to speak up and to do so, not in spite of the friendship and the alliance but because of them.

It is, apparently, an accepted principle that if any kind of communism should seem to be spreading to any country outside Western Europe or North America, the United States are entitled to intervene, if necessary by force. American interests are the touchstone. I sometimes wonder whether, if the touchstone were the peace of the world, rather than American interests, the result would always be exactly the same. It seems to me that it is rather as though a father were to say to his small son, "By God, I'm not going to have you beaten up by these bullies; I'll beat you up myself and put you in hospital so that they can't get at you". Is that unfair? I admit that it may be, but it is worth considering. I think that it is not altogether an unfair description of various things that have happened in the past in such places as Indo-China and even, conceivably, in Nicaragua. This is a gross over-simplification, but the principle seems to me to be fairly clear. Would your Lordships think that the people of Vietnam, Cambodia or Laos have been gently weaned away from the totalitarian to the democratic ideology, or would you suspect that all the time: Far back through creeks and inlets making Comes silent, flooding in, the main"? I remain absolutely and advisedly silent over the singularly inapt timing, from my point of view, of the American entry into Granada, almost in the middle of my speech.

I am periodically surprised by the apparent amazement of some of our rulers on both sides of the Atlantic when the Soviets perform some nasty but perfectly characteristic and probably perfectly logical action. The shooting down of the Korean airliner produced an instant reaction of almost hysterical abuse, name-calling and incredulity. What puzzles me is the incredulity: could anybody imagine such callousness, such barbarity, such total disregard of human values, life and truth? Yes, I can imagine it because I know what the Russians are like. I hope that President Reagan and Mrs. Thatcher do, too. Of course such things are barbaric and evil to us. To the Russians, on the other hand, they fall correctly within Lenin's definition of the dictatorship of the proletariat proclaimed by him in 1920: The scientific concept of dictatorship means nothing more than unrestricted power, absolutely unimpeded by law or regulations and resting directly on force"— a definition, incidentally, that provides for the slaughter of the supposedly dictatorial proletariat.

What worries me almost as much as anything is that our rulers here as well as in the United States should greet such happenings with all the appearance of surprise. I think it should be compulsory for every Minister of every NATO Government—indeed,every Government—to go and look at the Berlin Wall. You may think that you know all about it from descriptions and eye-witness reports, but to receive the full impact of its sheer human beastliness it is necessary to go and look at it with your own eyes and to reflect that it is the product of minds that see nothing wrong with it. Whenever I see it I feel that I want to go away and wash.

This obscenity will not last for ever; but for as long as it does last it behoves the rest of us to ensure that the ideas that it represents and embodies do not spread. They will not be stopped by force of arms because force of arms is the agency by which they do spread. Nor will they be stopped—on the contrary, in fact—by joining in a competition of vulgar abuse and "yahbooery" with the other side. This is counterproductive and alienates the lookers-on. Nor will they be stopped by the more violent means fairly frequently favoured by the American Central Intelligence Agency.

I think it is time for an authoritarian voice on our side of the Atlantic—I do not mean my voice— speaking quietly behind closed doors to express alarm at some of the activities of the CIA. This is not the occasion for describing such activities. They must occasionally astonish the world by the publicity with which they are conducted, but let nobody beguile us into thinking that those activities are none of our business. They are very much our business, because often they are the implementation of policies which are designed to destabilise this or that régime. Destabilisation followed by takeover is Russian policy, whereas NATO's policy is—or ought to be—exactly the opposite.

I confess that I have sometimes suspected that the CIA would consider that it had achieved its highest peak of success if it were to succeed in destabilising the USSR itself, a feat which would be comparable in its effects to the celebrated triumph of Samson over the Philistines in the temple of Gaza. The CIA is a fact-gathering body, an intelligence gathering body, but it is also executive. It has the power and the resources to put its own findings into effect. It is under no government or ministerial control and is answerable to nobody except the President himself. Nobody really is, except a congressional committee, and I do not know how far any committee is able to investigate the most highly classified proceedings.

The reason why we are entitled to complain about the agency is simply this: as long as the most powerful of the NATO Allies relies on an agency of this kind, which is autonomous in fact, autocratic in character and often immoral in method, it is in a poor position to convince the uncommitted nations that it is in some way superior to other people.

There is in this and in other European countries a growing tendency towards what is described as anti-Americanism. This must be nipped in the bud. It is wrong and it is dangerous. With this end in view we may reasonably tell our American friends what we see as the causes of this deplorable and dangerous trend. Let me emphasise at this point that in no circumstances, in my opinion, should we follow the line taken by Mr. Enoch Powell. What it means, as the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, has pointed out, is that we should take a less slavish line, or adhere less to American policy and actions, and that we should be more ready to state a line of our own.

When I quoted a verse of that celebrated hymn by Clough, Say Not The Struggle Naught Availeth, I cheated a little by putting it in a negative way; using it to underline a pessimism rather than an optimism. May I quote another verse in order to put the matter straight. And if in doing this, my words happen to reach the ears of any of my friends in Washington, I hope they will believe I intended it as a compliment: Not by eastern windows only When morning comes, comes in the light. In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly— But westward, look the land is bright".

8.40 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Earl, however much one may disagree with some of the points he has made. If the noble Earl will excuse me, I will follow one or two of his points in a moment. Before I do so, I must add my congratulations to those which have been expressed already to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Lewin, on his maiden speech. My congratulations are perhaps more on the form and style of his speech than the content. I myself have often admired speeches made in this Chamber and elsewhere by noble and gallant Lords who have distinguished themselves in the services. I remember very much a speech made by the late Lord Mountbatten of Burma at Strasbourg. If the noble Lord has not read that speech recently, perhaps he will do so and then we can look forward to hearing from him with even more enthusiasm than that with which we have greeted his maiden speech, which he delivered with such distinction.

I find myself in more agreement with the noble Lords, Lord Mayhew and Lord Gladwyn, than has been the case for many years. I do not know whether this is due to the clarification which Dr. Johnson said dawns upon those men who are about to be hanged. Perhaps when civilisation itself is about to be hanged, a kind of general clarification will gradually come over all of us and we shall then begin to find, for the first time in a very long while, that we see things rather more clearly than we have done when we have been without such recognition of mutual danger.

Lord Gladwyn

My Lords, if the noble Lord will forgive me, I believe Dr. Johnson said that it concentrated the mind wonderfully.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

Yes my Lords; Dr. Johnson did say that and I got the quotation wrong. I am most grateful to the noble Lord for correcting me. The threat has concentrated our minds and clarified them as well, and my point is made even more strongly with the noble Lord's kind assistance.

It is commonly supposed by opponents of the peace movement—by Government spokesmen, for example —and it has been expressed in previous Government documents, that to be pro-peace is to be pro-Soviet. The present document is rather less shrill in style than some others, and although there is an implication to that effect, it is not spelt out in such violent terms as those in which some Government spokesmen have indulged in the past. Clearly it is not the case, because if it were true that to be pro-peace is to be pro-Soviet then the converse would be that to be pro-American would be to be pro-war. It is important that both propositions are seen to be totally untrue.

It is not the case that to be pro-peace is to be pro-Soviet; it is not the case that to be pro-American is to be pro-war. What is sadly true—and the noble Earl touched on this point—is that the involvement of the American Government in various parts of the world—Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos—and their tragic commitment at the moment in the Lebanon and their activities in Central and South America and the Caribbean are creating a frame of mind in much of the third world in which the CIA is more feared than the KGB and the American marine is seen not as a guarantor of peace but as the mailed fist of greedy American capitalism.

It is a false picture, but there is an element of truth in it. Those of us who know America and admire Americans know that it is a complex society. The picture of America as a dominant force determined to establish itself wherever it goes is not the whole truth. But one can see that this is an aspect of the truth, and it is that aspect of the truth which will commend itself to people who find themselves at the sharp end of the Americans' attention

To them it appears that America is determined to prop up its satraps, and is even ready to undermine democracy at any point where the ballot box might produce a Government uncommitted to the rule of the dollar. In this situation it is quite pointless for either side to preach about freedom. That great anti-Soviet state, South Africa, has no more intention of allowing a free vote at the ballot box for all her citizens than has the Government of Czechoslovakia. Indeed, if your Lordships were forced to chose between being a black South African or a Yugoslav, East German, or Czech, or even a Pole, where would you find the most freedom? I have become increasingly convinced over the years that a society which allows 40,000 children to die of starvation every day while over-eating becomes the main source of illness in the wealthy West is not viable—and that such a society must destroy itself. In the nuclear weapon, it has invented the means of that destruction.

When distributing the blame for this situation, it is important to bear in mind that the West has always been the leader on the ladder to the holocaust. It was the pacifist West and not the aggressive Soviets who dropped the first atomic bomb. It was quite unnecessary and yet killed thousands of Japanese men, women and children. Those bombs could have been dropped in the sea with equal effect. But the actual killing and that which followed was part of the experiment.

I have studied this matter with some care because I was one of those people whose lives were supposed to have been saved by the dropping of that bomb, because we were going down to Burma. I was in the Royal Air Force at the time and at first I fell for the story. I have since found it to be untrue. That war could have ended without a single atomic death being on the Americans' conscience. The bomb was dropped on people rather than in the sea to demonstrate to the Russians who was boss. Not content with that, the American Government increased the power of their weapon and developed the hydrogen bomb—and killed more people in testing that.

The Soviet Union has never caught up except on the one point on which it has surpassed the Americans' missile strength; that is, in respect of land-based missiles of medium range—the SS.20s. The cruise missile of course is a response to that development. The United States' Government, in opposition to the best American military and political brains, want to be able to kill all the Russians several times over and by several different launching methods—air, sea, land, strategic, medium and battlefield. It is really quite lunatic and the Soviets are following in equal lunacy.

This morning we were told that, for the first time, the Soviets are stationing theatre missiles outside their own territory; in East Germany and in Czechoslovakia. Now there is reason to believe that these sites have already been chosen and that deployment will be simultaneous with the American deployment of cruise so that all that will happen as a result of the deployment of cruise will be an escalation of the nuclear level to the point at which the explosion may take place. I have no doubt that the populations of East Germany and Czechoslovakia are as unenthusiastic about this as are the people of Western Europe. Who wants to become a primary target for extinction on either side?

Cruise has been rushed and a recent technical assessment, after examining the missile in detail, concludes that the acceptance of deployment of, an untested, unreliable bug-ridden system could turn out to be fatal to its hosts". That is the weapon which we are proposing to admit, and not even retain operational control over in our own country. This is madness—absolute madness. In another generation we would never have dreamt of allowing our sovereignty to be eroded to this extent. I have no doubt that the unreliability of the cruise weapon is likely to be even more true of the Soviet attempt to follow the same pattern. So altogether the consequence of this deployment will bring the holocaust nearer to us.

In 1954, nearly 30 years ago, I set up an anti-H-bomb campaign committee which was dedicated to the proposition that this country ought not to manufacture its own hydrogen bomb. At that time I said that our civilisation could not live with nuclear weapons beyond the end of the century. We had nearly 50 years to go so it appeared to be a long time ahead. Now we are getting a little closer; but instead of projecting myself another 50 years ahead I believe that on the present course we shall not survive the present decade. I believe that the situation is as grave as that.

There is just this possibility. The Americans have shown in Grenada that they cannot be trusted. Let the Prime Minister learn from her humiliation and tell President Reagan to put his cruise missiles anywhere he likes, but not in England's green and pleasant land.

8.54 p.m.

Lord Ironside

My Lords, first as one of his supporters let me join other noble Lords in congratulating the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Lewin, on his outstanding and very clear maiden speech. It has given us an opportunity of hearing a voice from the Navy at a time when ship design has been the talking point for some months now.

One of the main features of the new frigate programme is the way the ship and its weapons system is designed to be less manpower intensive yet at the same time will be a high performance fighting unit ready to meet the operational requirements of the Fleet around the world. The noble and gallant Lord has drawn our attention to this important aspect of our fighting services, as technology means nothing unless it is in the hands of skilled volunteers. He has demonstrated expertly in his speech how much we depend upon the high quality of the men who crew the ships and give them the fighting efficiency which they have. That is something which we are always inclined to take for granted.

From Cumberland to Coventry and from Chatham to Carlisle the men come to serve on the surface, beneath it and in the air, and I hope that we shall have the pleasure of hearing the noble and gallant Lord again in our future debates. If the Navy feels it is suffering from a tonnage gap in deploying ships in the defence of our shores then I am sure Parliament welcomes a peerage gain and voice which can close the gap and deploy weighty words in debates on our defence strategy.

The pace setter on the present defence scene is technology change, which means that the requirement process has been upset and it is no longer technology dependent. We have smart weapons whose IQ has advanced from 80 or 100 to something like 125 with an expectancy, I am told, of 150 in the near future. Not only are the weapons intelligent, they are much more accurate. Moreover, weapons systems have become much more reliable and are therefore a better deterrent and peace-keeping influence. As far as I can see, the only disadvantage of reliability is that weapons systems can now be sold off to the less skilled and less responsible countries which perhaps have more aggressive intentions and they can use them without having to invest so heavily in maintenance, training, hack-up and all the ancillary services. All they need is purchasing power, or borrowing power, and an end-user certificate from the supplier and friendly Government.

Defence technology is flourishing. There is no shortage of developments, such as in the areas of information and processing, stealth and intelligence, munitions and protection, motive power and vehicles, all of which cover the terrestrial dimension.

Space is a different matter, but I welcome the launching of Skynet IV which is expected to take place from the space shuttle in 1985. This shows that this country is looking to the possibilities in space and the launching of that communication satellite will provide total communications coverage for all our services in the world so that they can communicate hack to headquarters.

Yes, technology change has caused the revolution in defence but it has forced us to get back to the firm ground of very sound management so that the right technologies are selected and developed. Unfortunately, this means that the more developments there are to choose from the bigger the hit list becomes and it is easy to follow the success and failure stakes on the weapons scene merely by reading all the right magazines.

The message that comes out of the Defence Estimates is that the Government have a strong belief in the critical role that industry plays in technology development provided it is consulted early on how best to meet the requirements for the United Kingdom and its collective defence needs as well as for sales to third parties. The Government/industry, or defence customer/contractor relationship is beginning to develop along the lines which I think will find the best way of accommodating the very high price that we have to pay for bringing the new weapons and equipment into service.

I was interested in what my noble friend Lord Cathcart said about the form that our defence debates take and the way that he would like to see them develop in the future. But I was sorry to hear him relegate the question of research and development, and that is the same as saying industry, to an Unstarred Question status. I think that it should be included, perhaps on the second day of discussion, or even under its own heading.

The most recent decision to opt for the Type 23 Frigate has been taken in very difficult circumstances where the measure of capability has had to be assessed in detail to include such things as the sensing or detection powers beneath the surface, on the surface and in the air; hull profiling; quiet running for low sonar response, low radar response and thermal imaging; endurance and longer docking intervals; sea keeping; as well as three sorts of fire power: under water, surface to surface and surface to air; and a host of other considerations involving construction techniques and materials, with the Falkland Islands' experience as a vital guideline.

It has not been a simple decision, but the question asked by many people is whether we should have opted for the S.90s by Thorneycroft Giles with their less expensive, quicker to build, short, fat hulls. I think that there are two overriding factors that outweigh others in reaching the decision. The first is how these designs can be rated against the Russian Navy ships and how they will work with the NATO Alliance navies. The second is what they are like for the crews to live in, bearing in mind what I said earlier, that a ship is only as good as its crew and is the sailor's home for most of the time that he is in the Navy.

It is difficult for many of us to judge the situation expertly. While we are looking for the dream ship several solutions come to mind. I must admit that I am prompted to think more seriously of the S.90 proposal when I see that the wide bodied aircraft has come into service and that the nuclear submarine with all its middle-age spread is now a standard design. Has everything at sea, for example, got to be pencil-thin for good performance? I do not know, but I hope that the right decision has been reached. I believe that there is a very strong case for the S.90 solution in the light of potential sales to other countries who wish to buy less capability more cheaply and quickly. I think that the case is helped by United States studies of vertical launch missile systems with a heavier load, demanding a broader ship. But this is all still in the future. With our front line force of destroyers and frigates now numbering something like 59 and going down, to me it makes sense that we pay over the odds to get performance to match our opponent's greater numbers.

The decision has been taken in the face of the prevailing thoughts from various disciplines. There is even a call to go back to steam. There is this call for the broad hull. But let us not forget that the new Plessey Type 996 surveillance radar has been ordered for the fleet, the new lightweight Sting-Ray torpedo is here, the docking intervals of warships have been extended by new hull treatments and the use of what I call "fast paint", and there are many other advantages which I think justify the Type 23 choice.

I just want to say something else about the defence/industry relationship. The fixed price contract measures now operating seem to be directed towards the larger contracts where the R and D phase has established the design of the product or system—in other words, the point at which the production phase has been reached. This is understandable, but I think that the real difficulties lie in the R and D phase where fixed price contracts are just not acceptable to industry. There is a dilemma here for the Government. On the one hand they are accused of doing too much in-house work at their research establishments with the known disadvantages of industrial remoteness, no easy spin-off machinery and over-specification. However, I think that this does result in good user groundwork, provided it is done on time. With greater investment in industrial R and D, the necessary pre-development work cannot be done at a fixed price. Manufacturers are reluctant to do it in any case without the probability of follow-through to production, coupled with the role of prime contractor, so as to have proper management and control over component supply and other assemblies and subcontracting work.

This I think means that the Government must be more selective in the choice of contractor to ensure value for money at the early stages of a project and make wider use of industrial resources: for example, by calling on firms in the contract research and development field with their excellent rapport with industry and universities so as to project the particular skills which have a technical significance in defence. I declare an interest here, and I have seen that this has been done to some extent, but I do not think it has been done sufficiently. However, I am glad to read in the booklet of the Secretary of State for Defence on selling to the Ministry of Defence the following: In some instances the R and D establishments at present also take the lead in design but the intention is to transfer this responsibility to the relevant parts of industry wherever possible". I should like to see as much of this done as can be done.

I think that the deterrent business is becoming such a calculated one that industrial participation is absolutely vital at all stages, and I hope that the Government will continue to privatise more of their programmes and projects in the defence field.

9.6 p.m.

Lord Cameron of Balhousie

My Lords, I must apologise to the House for missing the earlier part of this important debate on defence. I am particularly sad and sorry to have missed the maiden speech of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Lewin. He is an old friend. We served together for some important years on the Chief of Staff organisation. I am sure that his wise words and considerable experience, which is particularly recent, will be of great use in the House in the future. I look forward to reading in Hansard the speeches I have missed. It is also a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Ironside, knowing his interest in research and development. If he stays to hear what I have to say, I hope that he will agree with me.

The hour is late and I shall be brief. In the time available I should like to speak on four issues: our deterrent posture, the no-first-use nuclear theory, the Soviet chemical capability, and, lastly, the sweep of new technology. I declare straight away that I am a Trident D5 supporter and will argue the case with anyone, but tonight perhaps is not the occasion.

But there are those in this House, we know, who advocate that we should get out of the deterrent business and use the money made available to improve our conventional forces. I think that the first point is this: would the money so released by this action all be made available for conventional forces? I think not, and I believe that the Chancellor would demand his cut.

But if it was, what would the £7½ billion being spent on Trident D5 over the period of 20 years get for us in the way of conventional forces? The air defence of this country costs more than that now, though without a deterrent it would have to be greatly increased, and rightly so. Our anti-submarine capability costs more than that now. It would also have to be increased, and rightly so. The Tornado programme costs more than Trident D5, and the whole of the money would purchase only around two extra tank divisions(if we could man them), and with the Soviets already having a 90 division superiority, could we really trade away our deterrent for such a small return? Conventional forces, though highly desirable, are expensive, and an increase could involve an element of conscription —and maybe that would not be a had thing.

I have been much associated with the Tornado aircraft, and have flown it. It is a great aircraft, but at no stretch of imagination could it be placed on the same basis of overall effectiveness as the threat posed by Trident. And think of the rejoicings in the Kremlin when Yuri Andropov hears that the British are giving up Trident and buying two extra armoured divisions also. The Soviet superiority would go down to 88 divisions, and I am sure that that would worry him!

But some ask, why a complex system like D5? Surely we could stretch Polaris, or use cruise missiles. Let me say that the Soviet Union at present has a SALT I limitation on anti-ballistic missile systems restricted to the so-called "footprint" in and around Moscow. But their R and D continues apace, and when the treaty expires, or the United States goes for an ABM system, they would quickly be able to deploy a defence system throughout the Soviet union, and we would need D5 to penetrate that system. Please take my word for it.

On cruise, it cannot really be assessed as a strategic deterrent system which requires a certain amount of certainty. It is a perfectly adequate system in the INF role, but in the strategic role its long flight time and its vulnerability in flight make it unsuitable. Cruise would also have to be put in a submarine if it was to be invulnerable to pre-emptive attack. It would certainly cost more than the Trident D5 system, because it is the submarine costs which are the greater part.

So let us leave it all to the Americans (shall we?) as some have argued in this House! But quite apart from the ethical issue here, how can we possibly really rely totally on the United States when goodness knows what political or international situation may have affected their strategy and their alliances? Surely a glance at central America is enough to convince one that it would be really totally unfair and unrealistic to place our reliance for the next three decades on guaranteed United States support. The events of the last few weeks, indeed of the last few days, are an indicator.

Lastly on the deterrent issue, we must not let our British force be included in the Geneva talks. As long as the Soviet Union has some level of nuclear weapons we must remain in the business. The French have absolutely no doubt about this situation, as M. Mitterrand made quite clear when he was here in London earlier. Would we be happy to see them as the sole European nuclear power? If, between the two big powers, the numbers went down massively and enormously and we moved into a totally different world—a far greater reduction than I can foresee, certainly within the next five years—then there may be circumstances when ours will have to be counted. But I cannot foresee that at the moment". The words are not mine; they are the Prime Minister's, but I agree with every word of that statement.

I should like to speak now for a moment on the fashionable theory of "no first use". We shall hear much of it in the days ahead; indeed there has certainly been much mention of it in the speeches that I have heard this afternoon. Personally I prefer the expression "no early use" or, "use as a last resort". The first use of nuclear weapons in a situation in Europe, in the sorry circumstances where our conventional forces are about to be overrun, is—and I hope will remain—part and parcel of NATO strategy.

Those who advocate "no first use" but who are not pacifists seem to imagine that we can have a nice, cosy conventional war. But what abut the 50 million dead of the last war and the very many millions brutally injured in Hitler's war? Have we forgotten all that so soon?

Since those days, and in the days ahead, the technology associated with conventional weapons has advanced and will advance the effectiveness of these systems to a degree. But the Soviets, as we have heard today, are also well up with these increases, and can give like for like. They would be fighting the sort of war that would suit them vastly. A "no first use" declaration would be a desperate temptation for them to try something. "No first use" is pure gimmickry, beloved by the analysts and others. Could we trust the Soviets, and could they, indeed, trust us? I do not think so.

On my third point, the Statement on the Defence Estimates mentioned that, the Soviet Union has a massive and growing chemical warfare capability". Perhaps I can enlarge a little on that bland statement. As the House will know, this country has no capability and has not had for some years. The United States is just beginning to react to some extent to the Soviet build-up. It is estimated that the Soviets hold over 300,000 tonnes of nerve agents in the USSR and in Eastern Europe. In addition, the Soviet armoury contains hydrogen cyanide, a lethal blood agent, and blister agents such as mustard gas and others. Their research and development in chemical weapons continues.

The Soviets have a wide range of delivery systems, including guns, bombs, rockets and aircraft sprays. They recognise that CW is especially effective in a surprise attack using non-persistent agents against heavy concentrations, such as troops in forward positions, airfields, nuclear bases and a variety of other targets. Soviet troops, down to the lowest level, are highly trained in chemical warfare. Each soldier has a respirator and a protective suit, and they have comprehensive decontamination facilities. Soviet armour is equipped with filtration systems to remove CW agents from the air. Tank crews can thus dispense with protective equipment.

I wish I could say that NATO forces were similarly equipped. The British are perhaps best off, but never being the aggressor and having to be prepared for a surprise chemical attack means fighting or, say, servicing aircraft in protective clothing, which is no joke. At present there is no real deterrent to a chemical attack except, of course, some nuclear response. But I could see the NATO authorities and heads of Governments wrestling with the problem of whether a chemical attack merited a nuclear response. There is no doubt that a surprise attack of this nature would wreak havoc among NATO forces. I believe it to be a likely Soviet tactic because installations such as airfields would not be damaged but could be used by occupying forces soon afterwards.

Surely the only real defence is to develop a deterrent capability of our own. We are all utterly revolted by chemical weapons, but we cannot just turn our back on the situation as it has developed. I can understand the lack of enthusiasm shown by the Soviets to negotiate a realistic treaty banning CW when they would he negotiating away a clear superiority of their own.

I finish by praying that the armed forces of this country have both the imagination and the financial support to take full advantage of the sweep of new technology. I hope that they will analyse carefully how new technology will affect the size, shape, strategy and tactics of our armed forces and, indeed, of the armed forces of NATO. I am sure that noble and gallant Lords will have read President Reagan's "Star Wars" speech of 23rd March. He looks to the day, not too far in the future, when ballistic missile systems in flight will be vulnerable. He stated that he was directing scientists to develop new technologies, to remove the threat of nuclear missiles…to be able to intercept and destroy intercontinental missiles before they have reached our territory or the territory of our allies. He was talking about lasers and beam weapons, and he was supported by a report of United States scientists last week. Many distinguished scientists in this country are utterly cynical about such technology being possible. Well, I have heard that all before. In my view, it is not too early to start thinking about what the achievement of such a capability would do to international stability.

My final words—and the content might surprise your Lordships as a result of what I have already said—are that as a Christian I am a man of peace; indeed, a consultant of the United Nations Peace Academy. I am for multilateral disarmament and balanced force reductions. I hope with all my heart that the START and INF talks in Geneva will be successful, but I fear that the psychological ground for peace has not yet been properly prepared. But since wars begin in the minds of men it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed. That is the real challenge that confronts us. I hope we are up to it.

9.21 p.m.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, it so happens that what I have prepared to say follows very closely on what the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, has just said. However, I should like to put in one separate remark before I come to it, and that concerns the Lebanon. Yesterday, at "Statement time", it seemed to me—I said it at the time, but I want to say it more clearly now—that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, on behalf of the Government, displayed a certain confusion about the purpose for which our small force was part of the multinational force in the Lebanon. Is it, on the one hand, to give general support to the present Lebanese Government, or is it, on the other hand, to help to keep the peace and to separate factions which might otherwise fight? We must realise that there is at least a potential contradiction between the two. The two aims could very easily come into conflict, and we must know why our forces are there, if they do come into conflict. For that reason I beg the Government, in common with a broad swathe of congressional opinion in the United States, to be precise, to be prescriptive. Why is it there? What are its orders? Parliament should know.

Overall, I believe that our purpose must be to pursue peace by all means, including the diplomatic means. In order to do this effectively we must remember what has happened in Lebanon. By far the most important thing that has happened there is that it was invaded by its two land neighbours. All the rest is relatively unimportant. Therefore, the restoration of peace obviously depends on those land neighbours going away again, clean out of the country, without conditions, and going away in the same order in which they came.

I turn now to what I mainly want to speak about, and that is recent developments in strategic and technical thought in the United States, and what they mean for us. It seems a long time ago since these Defence Estimates were prepared and published. Since then we have had the Scowcroft Report published in April, and the continuing body arising out of it. As a follow-up to this report it seems generally accepted that Midgetman is to be built and that mini-submarines carrying one or a few missiles each are on the cards as a future possibility. I should like to think that that might affect the decision about Trident. I should like to read to the House the key passage in this report. The Scowcroft Report noted that: although it believes that the ballistic missile submarine force"— that is, Trident— will have a high degree of survivability for a long time—a submarine force ultimately consisting solely of a relatively few large submarines at sea, each carrying of the order of 200 warheads, presents a small number of valuable targets to the Soviets". If that is so for the United States with a programme of 40 submarines, how much more so is it for this country with a programme of four?

The report goes on: the Commission recommends that research begin now [in the United States] on smaller ballistic missile carrying submarines, each carrying fewer missiles than the Trident, as a potential follow-on to the Trident submarine force". At the time Trident was ordered that report had not been prepared or published. What is wrong with Trident? I wish I had the skill and the time to follow all the points which have been made in favour of it by those noble Lords who were former defence chiefs who have spoken in this debate.

But our position is this. First, it is very expensive. Secondly, it constitutes an over-kill capacity for a minimum deterrent country like ours. We ought to be a minimum deterrent country. And Trident is against the new United States build-down proposals.

Thirdly, it is undisarmable. What has been ordered is a one-boat-on-station force. You cannot reduce that without abolishing the entire force, which amounts to unconditional, and possibly even at a given stage unilateral, disarmament; which is unwelcome to noble Lords on the defence side. I discount the rather pointless gambit of filling up the tubes so that you could not fire anything out of them. This would not only be wasteful of money already spent: it would also attract far too much Soviet inspection if it were to carry any conviction.

Fourthly, the Trident "buy" is incompatible with the new Scowcroft philosophy, which I have just read out, of single warhead launchers on a multiplicity of small platforms. Fifthly, it would of course be vulnerable to any Soviet answer to the proposed American ABM programme—a point which I think was covered by the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, at least by implication.

Sixthly, and lastly—and I do not want to labour this point—this country may now have more options of things to buy from the United States than when our Trident decision was taken.

The Scowcroft Commission is not the only event that has happened in the United States. There has been the so-called "Star Wars" speech. We know that it was made without any consultation with the allies, and I think many of us know that it was made without any consultation with the organs of government concerned in the United States itself. But the programme is running; we must face that. It has not fallen over like a pack of cards when exposed to the light of criticism. It is no good our sitting back and crying out in incredulity and disapproval.

Since then there has been the report of the Future Security Strategy Study. The chairman was Fred S. Hoffman, who is the chairman of a corporation called Pan Heuristics. Note that the director of research of that corporation is Albert Wohlstetter, and connoisseurs of these arcane fields will know that where Wohlstetter is to be found the wise man ignores at his peril. This study recommends a development programme which it holds would not break the 1972 ABM Treaty, or any other treaties. The development programme would not: by implication, presumably, deployment of what is to be developed would.

I should briefly like to quote to the House from the findings of this study. The Hoffman study said: Even prior to deployment, the demonstration of US technology"— this is in space-based ABM— would strengthen military and negotiating stances and options for immediate deployment and would play a significant role in deterrence. It could be a hedge against early Soviet Union breakout of the Antiballistic Missile treaty". Then it says: Such a programme would drive them"— that is the Soviet Union— to try and develop possible counter-measures, increase emphasis on their air-breathing forces and conduct research and development on new families of weapons delivery systems. It drives the USSR away from their preferred approaches of updating and proliferating existing strategic forces". I think that we must ask ourselves whether or not we think those are desirable aims, for those are the aims recommended. To me they are familiar had arguments. They say in effect that if we do not do it, they will; therefore we must do it and that will make them do it quicker.

First, there has been the Scowcroft Report and then the Hoffman Report. Thirdly, there has been the Defensive Technologies Study Team Report under the chairmanship of James C. Fletcher. This moves forward from the more familiar space-based lasers and particle beams which we have been reading about for some years, and recommends things which will be new to many of us—hyperactivity projectiles, shotgun projectiles, electro-magnetic rail guns, et cetera, all space based.

I give a couple of quotes again to obtain the flavour of it. It recommends space-based anti-matter beams, a proposal which comes from our old friend Rand. The report in question says: Anti-matter is now produced in some quantity at high energy particle accelerator facilities in the United States, Europe, and the Soviet Union. Technology for storing this anti-matter has also been developed". It continues to advocate the use of mass from extraterrestrial sources for shields and high-inertia platforms in space. That means simply not trying to shoot bits of the earth up there and build them together in space, but getting bits of the moon down and using asteroids which are near the earth, because it will be cheaper to do that than to build the vast boosters needed to lift the earth weight off. Another quotation: The group"— that is, the Fletcher group— concluded that extra-terrestrial materials may provide the required mass at costs competitive with, or significantly cheaper than, options requiring launch from the earth's surface". What is proposed is that we get the raw materials for space-based ABMs from the moon and from asteroids.

All this, it is also argued, would be rather hard to detect from the ground by the Russians, or anyone else, because it would he able to hide in the signals noise produced by the space junk which is already up there. I should note in passing that the Fletcher team included a sub-team called the Red Team, whose job it was to think what the Russians might do, and they thought that U.S. development of strategic defence of this sort would cause the Russians to redouble their efforts to build new and more efficient offensive weapons.

Next comes Dr. Keyworth, the President's science adviser. This is the fourth document concerned. He states that it is possible that a ground-based laser weapon will be available by 1990—in seven years. This document also recommends a multi-tiered array of weapons to attack Soviet warheads all along their flight path. Multi-tiered means in effect using all the systems I have just mentioned.

All these reports were wrapped up together in one bundle and forwarded by an inter-service group to the President. This group was led by Secretary of Defence Weinberger. The documents came before the President earlier this month, with four price tags on them—four recommended sizes of development programme—which ranged between 18 billion dollars and 27 billion dollars for the fiscal years 1985 to 1989.

Let us think now what is likely to be the effect of all this, if it is done, on the Russians. Either they will match it with their own corresponding ABM system or they will match it with an increase of their offensive systems, or both.

Let us now imagine the world in which the Russians have reacted in this way, and its effect on us. Let us also imagine a world where the U.S. have done this and the Russians have not yet done it. Would the U.S. system I have just outlined be able to destroy Russian missiles, including the so-called ICBMs, targeted on us in Western Europe? A factual question. (Of course, the Russians can hit us with their intercontinental missiles any day they want, not only with the intermediate range ones but also with the intercontinental ones and their cruise missiles in submarines, and many other delivery systems.)

If this U.S. system would not be able to destroy Soviet ICBMs targeted on us, would that not constitute an increase in the Soviet ability to use blackmail against Western Europe and to drive wedges between us and the United States? I think that increase would be a free gift to the Soviet Union.

If the United States system, on the other hand, were able to destroy the Soviet ICBMs in flight when they were targeted on us, at what cost would they be able to do so, and what nations might expect to enjoy that protection besides ourselves? All of NATO? Presumably, my Lords, hut let us now think around the world. Would there be a scramble among other nations to get under the United States' umbrella? Or to avoid getting under it? Lastly, to return to what I was arguing earlier, would the consequent Soviet ABM development put Trident out?

Scowcroft, Fletcher, Hoffman, Keyworth and the Weinberger package have gone to the President, and he will be taking decisions in the next few weeks about how to fund it. It seems to me that the case is now urgent for a greatly improved co-ordination and consultation mechanism between ourselves and Western Europe in general and the United States. Where is our input into this vast intellectual ferment in the United States, which is likely to be succeeded in a few weeks by vast expenditure which will change the entire geopolitical shape of the world? Where is it? Inquirers are told that our embassy in Washington, including its military section, has very good contacts with the Pentagon from day to day, and I do not doubt it. But these are the best and furthest-sighted brains which are to be found in the United States, working on something which has not yet scratched our consciousness. Are our best and furthest-sighted brains plugged in? I doubt it, and I believe the task is urgent.

Supposing it all goes ahead and supposing there is no disarmament, I have no doubt that in time there will have to be Anglo-French, or perhaps even Anglo- Franco-German, arrangements which will take over more of the NATO deterrent role from the United States than is done at present by the unco-ordinated British and French national forces. It is interesting to see that in recent days Mr. Chirac, who is a neo-Gaulist and Mr. Chevénement, one of the leaders of the French Socialist party, have adumbrated something of that sort.

I should like to touch briefly on another immediate and local problem: that is the deployment of the SS.20s. So often I have heard, and the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, said it again in this debate, that the SS.20s were introduced to meet Chancellor Schmidt's request that weapons should be introduced to counterbalance the deployment of the Soviet SS.20s. The text normally cited for this is his famous 1977 Alastair Buchan Memorial Lecture at the IISS. I have read that lecture again and again. I find no request in it to deploy forces to balance the SS.20s. I do not know how anyone else can find such a request in it. Chancellor Schmidt maintains he never made such a request. It is not in the commonly cited document, and I suggest we stop attributing it to him. If we do we may the quicker find out who it was who first made it. At the moment it is mysterious.

I agree with those—principally my noble ally Lord Mayhew—who say that we should not await the arrival of cruise missiles in glum apathy. We are still alive. The last minute is approaching, but we all agree that the last minute was to be the moment when changes could be expected if ever. Let us continue to do all we can to obtain them.

The Government will, I hope, have noticed the proposals of my right honourable friend Dr. Owen in a lecture last week to the RUSI. I do not expect the Government to say anything about them, either now or at any other time publicly, but I take this opportunity of commending them to the urgent and well-intentioned study of the Government as a possible solution at the last minute to this intensely difficult and dangerous matter.

In the long run everything depends on devising a disarmament procedure which shall be on the scale needed—the right number of countries, the right number of topics. I, for one, hope to live to see the day when officials round the world no longer say that they can only tackle these matters bite by bite. The situation is not bite-sized. It must be tackled in a way which is at its own measure.

9.40 p.m.

Lord Bishopston

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House for outlining the policy of the Government in respect of defence—a most important subject which has attracted a considerable number of speakers today, many with great authority. The maiden speech of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Lewin, was welcomed and will be welcomed on many occasions for the weight that we must give to his conclusions. It has been a wide-ranging debate. There has been the criticism of the noble Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, about some of the misleading answers of the Government and his concern about the maritime role; there was the very substantial speech by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, claiming the merits of the conventional role in preference to the nuclear, a study which we should be well repaid for reading later. There was the concern of my noble friend Lord Cledwyn and the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, especially about the dual control and on the conclusions of the Geneva talks. There was the idealism of my noble friend Lord Brockway and the independent voice of my noble friend Lord Stewart of Fulham, apart from the general concern expressed by many noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and others, on Trident.

I want to deal at this late hour with only two main points. Those concern the United Kingdom defence policy and costings, and that leads to the conventional role, and about the need for taking a overall view with regard to our defence commitments. In Command Paper 8288, The Way Forward, the Government identified the four roles in which the armed forces contribute to the collective deterrent. I believe that this point was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton. I think that we ought to examine the commitment of the Government with regard to defence. These four roles, as noble Lords will know, include the provision of independent strategic and theatre nuclear forces committed to the alliance; secondly, the direct defence of the United Kingdom homeland; thirdly, a major land and air contribution to the European mainland; and. fourthly, the deployment of a major maritime capability in the Eastern Atlantic and the Channel.

Again, in Command Paper No. 8758, it is confirmed that, These roles remain the priority for our defence effort and the modernisation of forces devoted to these tasks must still have the first call upon our resources". That is a very important statement which I think few will deny. While the Minister claims priority for these four roles, there are other obligations and responsibilities which are for Britain alone to fulfil. They include, as The Way Forward reminds us, threats to Western European interests outside the NATO area; the great deal of military activity in which we engage outside Europe, including Cyprus, Hong Kong, the Falkland Islands and Belize, and this activity ranges from peace-keeping operations such as those in the Lebanon and Sinai, through deployments and exercises to loan services and seconded personnel, training teams, sales assistants and other things.

The Leader of the House who was good enough to refer to so many issues, referred to only some of these obligations. Regrettably, he did not expand on these heavy commitments. It may be that the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, will go a little further in that direction. They are important if we are to get an overall view of our defence commitments and costings, a matter which is of concern to him, particularly at this time. The Government claim that the four roles mentioned remain their priority for our defence effort. This is hardly true when we have commitments which, like the Falklands, are ours alone.

Little has been said so far today about the Falklands. In the Falklands, Mrs. Thatcher rather foolishly made it very clear that it is our business alone and others should keep out of the confrontation between the Argentine and the United Kingdom. She has claimed great credit for having regained possession of the Falklands when really she should not have lost it. That really is the cause of the trouble, and will be responsible for an immense amount of costing in the future.

Of course, this costing commitment is going to be an on-going one for years to come, and, being our commitment alone, it will mean that either we must reduce our contribution to NATO and the four roles to which I have made reference or we must find other money and other resources. Of course, these factors have nothing to do with the rights or wrongs of the Falklands, which has been the subject of detailed debate over the past year or so. But they concern us if we accept, as I think we must, Falkland Islands responsibilities, because they involve other priorities of spending.

The Government have placed themselves in such a position by this mismanagement of our defence and foreign affairs policies that there is no sign of any negotiation with the United Nations or with other countries with regard to the future of the Falklands. This must mean that they have put the Falkland Islands at the top of their defence priority list. The fact is that even though the four roles are said to be top priority, if we alone have the Falklands commitment then no others will be responsible for it and that will inevitably come either at the top or pretty near it. So we hope that events in the Argentine in the next few months will help towards a solution.

Those who have undertaken the arduous 8,000–mile journey to Port Stanley can have nothing but praise for those who took part in the campaign and those who since, day by day, travel the Vulcan and the Hercules air bridge long haul to a destination which is only 400 miles from Argentina. I think the House should be told more about the policy of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the Falklands in respect of the Antarctic and the Latin American areas strategically and in other ways, for that might then put this commitment more into perspective. I think that would he most helpful for all concerned.

Of course, much remains to be done in respect of the proposals of the Shackleton Report, especially with regard to land ownership and land use as well as the overall development of the economy and the social structure there for the local population. It certainly is helpful for anyone who has been there to recognise the scale of the problem and the possibilities, and, of course, the cost of the great commitment.

In relation to our obligations outside Europe, I want to say a word or two about Belize, which has not been mentioned by the noble Viscount, if I am correct. That is another commitment which is causing concern both here and abroad, since the Government appear to take the view, according to reports, that our resources are not sufficient for the defence of Belize as well as of the Falklands, both areas being the subject of long-standing disputes. Guatemala poses a threat to Belize which, for geographical reasons, appears to be a greater threat than the Argentinians are to the Falkland Islands.

As in the handling of the Falkland Islands situation, Mrs. Thatcher may give the wrong signals to others about our intentions, and I believe that clarification is needed to avoid the consequences. We need to be told much more about consultations with others about the future of Belize and, indeed, about other territories of that sort. I noted the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, regarding the Falklands, his concern for an adequate maritime role, and his reference to paragraph 330 regarding the obsolete Royal Navy ships and the need for better quality and quantity of merchant shipping for defence purposes.

When the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, referred to the predictable path of discussions in these debates, I wonder how many of your Lordships would have dared to have mentioned in the White Paper debate of 1980 that if the Government were involved in a Falklands situation they would have to use vessels which were due for scrapping or which had been sold to other countries. If allegations of that sort had been made at that time I am sure any noble Lord would have been laughed out of your Lordships' House. But that was the situation, and one is frightfully fearful of similar situations arising in other parts of the world in the future.

So the Government's defence policy is a cause of great concern, as many noble Lords have said today, as regards various aspects, particularly fears of piling up an increasing nuclear commitment on top of so many other defence commitments not only within NATO, hut in other parts of the world. This is a major point to be borne in mind by the Government.

There are constant sneers and vilification of any who question, much less disagree with, the Government's policies; but there is increasing concern about the Government's intentions—concern felt not only by the general public but by some of their own supporters. I think we can recall debates in both Houses where former Defence Ministers of the party opposite have expressed their concern about cruise and Trident and about the enormous burden which defence is piling up for us. Last Saturday's great protest rally in London was clearly composed not only of those who support a unilateral nuclear weapons policy, but, indeed, of others from all walks of life whom the Government choose to ignore or, at least, to discredit.

But let us examine some of the aspects dealt with here today and widely outside Parliament. The matter of costs and the nuclear threat was raised by my noble friend Lord Stewart, who said that you cannot have tax cuts and high defence spending, and that if you do you have to make cuts in other directions. This year, Britain will spend nearly £16 billion on defence, which is almost 13 per cent. of public expenditure and is second only to our social security commitments, which may have to be cut in order to make allowances for defence. Although we appreciate the work of the parliamentary committees which look into defence spending, I believe that the point made by my noble friend Lord Cledwyn about a better monitoring of spending is relevant and urgent in the present situation.

Indeed, a number of Members of both Houses have questioned the deployment of cruise and Trident, not only in terms with which we are so familiar but expressing grave fears that, if we go ahead with these projects and our conventional capability is in question, we may be forced to go nuclear at an earlier stage, if not at the start of an emergency situation. No wonder that my noble friend Lord Brockway challenged the Government in their claim that they have a mandate for Trident, especially when their vote represents a minority of the voters in the country. But recent surveys have shown the concern of people about some of these factors in defence spending.

In a debate some time ago, I expressed the view that the possibility of direct confrontation between the super-powers seemed to be less of a threat than some of the comparatively minor incidents which could lead to major situations of international gravity and danger. The Korean aircraft incident caused grave concern, as we know, and the ignorance of the true circumstances, which naturally take time to be discovered and revealed, provided periods of great international tension, and indeed danger, even in this era of micro-technology. I think that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Lewin, said that after the Falklands experience the unexpected may test us yet again.

In this House in the last few months the Government have given the impression that fears about the dual control of weapons based here, and questions about safeguards concerning the control and use of other equipment, were quite unjustified because an agreement made years ago in very different circumstances for a very much less awesome weapon should be accepted without question. I believe that the fears expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, and noble Lords in other parties justify the Government in looking into this matter of dual control, especially as cruise is likely to be deployed here in the very near future.

There could be, and there have been, a number of deadly errors in equipment, including radar malfunction of the ballistic early warning system in Greenland, a false warning of a massive Soviet missile strike approaching the U.S., a collision of aircraft carrying nuclear weapons, the accidental transmission of emergency messages and, of course, hoax messages, too. The House and the country have a right to know more about the Government's thinking on these possible dangers, following the Korean aircraft incident which could have had grave repercussions indeed. With the deployment of cruise and Pershing near we need to know much more about the safeguards demanded by Members in all parts of the House. These are matters of urgent priority.

I want to deal with the conventional capability. Today noble Lords have been treated to a first-class, authoritative speech by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver. It was based upon a study of the opinions of a considerable number of international people, whose views need careful consideration. It seems to me that many of the claims during the election campaign about the unacceptability of the nuclear deterrent and the unilateral policies have failed because the public, who have a right to demand that this country is properly defended, expect either a nuclear or a conventional capability, and they have not been satisfied so far that the conventional capability is the kind of role which we should adopt. But I believe that the study which the noble Lord has mentioned will go a long way towards satisfying those fears.

We know that, because of the enormous technical and scientific progress which quickly dates weapons systems and renders equipment obsolete, there is a constant need for re-equipment and replacement at very much higher cost. Having spent over 20 years on aircraft design and space systems and having been a member of the North Atlantic Assembly—a very commendable body which helps people to realise some of the problems and potential of our NATO alliance—one becomes very much aware that the pace of change, which is growing considerably, will mean greater up-dating of equipment and much higher cost. This is a factor which has to be taken into account when we are involved in new equipment and modernisation.

The fact is that if we are hooked on to a system, whether conventional or nuclear, we are caught up in spiralling costs, with unlimited future commitments. If the nuclear capability makes too great a demand, in an emergency we must fear that it could lead to the early deployment of nuclear weapons—a prospect which we should all fear.

I want to say a word about the chapter in the White Paper concerning new technology and new tactics. This has important aspects which need much more study and publicity. I believe that this factor was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, who dealt with it in an authoritive way. The chapter refers rightly to the fact that, Exploitation of new technology is potentially one of the West's greatest assets, since the free world's capability for invention and innovation is much greater than that of the Soviet bloc". The chapter goes on to say: This could be of immense importance in an era when the pace of technological change is increasing so rapidly and when the implications for enhanced conventional deterrence and a consequent raising of the nuclear threshold are considerable". Those are important words. I wonder whether the time is not so far off, if not here, when the conventional roles, aided by considerable technological improvements, are such that the nuclear role is lessened, with fewer dangers and less cost, yet still with a formidable defence and deterrent capability. I believe, as I say, that we owe a great debt to the noble Lord, Lord Carver, and indeed to others who have pressed the claims of conventional deterrence.

I believe that the question raised by my noble friend Lord Cledwyn needs an answer. If the Government are going to deploy cruise before the Geneva talks are completed. is not this some indication that the Government intend to have cruise anyway, whatever the outcome of the talks themselves? Is it still possible to wait a little longer to see whether we can get the assurances that we need?

Finally, I come to what the Government are concerned with—one-sided defence. I believe that the White Paper deals only with one side of our defence effort—detailing strategy, manpower, weapons, equipment and other resources—and deals only with the health, accommodation and other aspects relating to service personnel. But the fact is that in time of war everybody is in the front line. We could get to the situation, with the cuts in the health service and the running down of' other vital services, where in an emergency we should not have the resources which are necessary for our survival. That does not take into account the army of the unemployed, the 3 million who have no role in Thatcher Britain at the present time.

When the Government bring forward their proposals for civil defence I am sure they will be anticipating that some of the facilities now being closed and cut will be available in an emergency situation. I believe that these are some of the factors to which the Government should give consideration.

I believe that a tribute is necessary and justified to our service personnel who form the backbone of our services. We have to recognise, too, the role which can be played by the civilian population in an emergency. Therefore, the maintenance of our services will be vital in that situation. I hope that some of the comments I have made tonight will help to curb our defence costs and make the task of the Leader of the House, when he comes to deciding priorities, a little easier than it might have been.

10 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, in rising to reply to this debate I am more than usually aware of my inadequacies in the face of so much experience and expertise. I suspect that I am one of the few noble Lords on today's speakers' list who has never even served in the armed forces, let alone risen to the levels of distinction and gallantry of so many of your Lordships. I was therefore especially pleased that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Lewin, chose the occasion of today's debate to make his maiden speech. If it is not presumptuous of me to do so, I congratulate him upon it and express the hope that he will frequently intervene in our deliberations. He is indeed a splendid addition to what is already a great galaxy of talent on these matters—and I quite understand the reasons which have prevented the noble and gallant Lord from being in his place at this time.

My noble friend Lord Whitelaw has already described the essential elements of our defence policy and the rationale behind them. For my part, and before dealing with some of the specific points which have been raised, I should like to tell your Lordships of some of our plans for our reserve forces; this point was very much in the mind of my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing. Their role is vital. The Territorial Army, for example, forms 30 per cent. of our mobilised army in wartime. The skill and efficiency of these units has been repeatedly brought home to me in recent months when I have visited a number of their camps and exercises. I have no doubt whatever that next year's exercise "Lionheart" will again demonstrate the superb work of these men and women.

It is our intention to increase substantially the strength of the Territorial Army, for deployment both at home and in Germany, from its current level of about 72,000 to 86,000 by the end of the decade. The Territorial Army has recently received much new equipment: the Milan anti-tank guided weapon system, the Blowpipe air defence missile system, the 105 millimetre light gun for the field artillery regiments, and the Clansman radio equipment—and more new equipment is in the pipeline.

Another important measure has been the establishment of the Home Service Force. This new force is designed to appeal to those with some military background who are not able to undertake the full commitment required by the Territorial Army. A pilot scheme has now been running for just over a year and the early indications are very encouraging. Recently, I had the opportunity to meet some members of the force and to watch them training. I can assure your Lordships from my own observations that the Home Service Force is a well motivated and experienced body of men. It will be a valuable addition to our home defence capabilities and we believe there will be considerable scope for expansion from present levels. We are now examining the next stage.

I must not give the impression that only the Army has volunteer reserves. Although much smaller in size, the Royal Naval Reserve and the Royal Marines Reserve both have vital roles in war, which depend on the high levels of training achieved by these dedicated volunteers. The Royal Naval Reserve is being strengthened by the entry into service of two new classes of vessel. The new Fleet minesweeper will be a valuable addition to our mine countermeasure forces; keeping ports open would be a vital task in the event of war. The first ship of this new class—HMS "Waveney"—should enter service early next year. The second new class of vessel for the RNR is the 20 metre patrol craft, four of which are already in service. I recently went to sea with one of the first of these, HMS "Fencer", in service with the Wessex Division at Southampton.

The Royal Marines reserves play a major part in our defence plans; they will be deployed to Norway to take part in a major NATO exercise next year. All those who join the Royal Marines reserve must complete commando training to the same standard as their regular counterparts before the award of the green beret to enable them to take their place alongside the regulars in wartime.

The Royal Air Forces's volunteer reserve forces have two elements: the RAF Volunteer Reserve, which is a small, highly-specialised force; and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, which is an expanding force currently made up of six squadrons in the airfield defence role, as well as headquarters units in support of maritime operations, a movements squadron and a recently formed aeromedical evacuation squadron. The Royal Auxiliary Air Force has already doubled in size under this Government, and further expansion is planned. As well as forming additional squadrons for airfield defence over the next decade, we hope to form units involved in missile defences and helicopter flying. Other possible roles are being examined.

The commitment demanded of a volunteer reservist is considerable. Take the case of a soldier in the Territorial Army. To qualify for his annual bounty, he must attend an annual camp for a fortnight and undertake a further 12 full days' training. This is the minimum in addition to the regular drill nights. Such is the enthusiasm of the men and women who give their spare time to train for the defence of their country that many undertake far more than the minimum obligation.

Our defence strategy is, therefore, not in the hands of the regular formations alone, but is a responsibility shared by the general public as a whole, most obviously by its participation as volunteers in the Territorial Army and the other reserve forces. This was forcibly brought home to me when I attended recently a conference for commanding officers of London's Territorial Army units. They were eager to emphasise the importance of all employers being willing to release our part-time servicemen from employment for the necessary periods of training. I hope that the point will not be lost on the many of your Lordships who hold high office in our industrial and commercial companies.

The reserve forces are but one of the links between the service and civilian communities. The civilians who work in defence industries also have an important part to play in our defence strategy. The Ministry of Defence is by far the largest single customer of British industry. In all, more than 90 per cent. of our defence equipment expenditure is spent here in the United Kingdom, supporting no fewer than 242,000 jobs directly in British industry and another 193,000 indirectly. MOD procurement of non-equipment items supports a total of 160,000 jobs, and sales of defence equipment abroad another 145,000. At any one time more than 10,000 British companies are working on defence contracts, and the Ministry may place as many as 30,000 contracts a year through its headquarters purchasing organisation alone.

A particular example of the teamwork necessary in the defence of our interests was the performance of all those involved in the Falklands campaign last year. The skill and professionalism of our sailors, soldiers and airmen has rightly drawn high praise, but let us not forget the civilians who worked so hard, too. The contribution of our merchant seamen, for example, was vital, and their courageous performance was a credit to their traditions of dedicated wartime service. We should remember the tragic destruction of the "Atlantic Conveyor"; the inspiration provided by the "Canberra", and the "Queen Elizabeth II"; the humanitarian work on board the "Uganda", and many other ships of every size.

In the light of these considerations it gives me great pleasure tonight to be able to tell your Lordships that, as I announced to your Lordships earlier today in a Written Answer, Her Majesty the Queen has graciously approved the award of battle honours to ships and units of the armed forces and the Merchant Navy which took part in the Falklands campaign last year. Those of Her Majesty's ships, submarines and squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm, as well as Royal Fleet Auxiliaries and vessels of the Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service, which saw service in the South Atlantic between 35 degrees south and 60 degrees south from 2nd April to 15th June 1982 will be awarded the battle honour "Falkland Islands 1982". Merchant Navy vessels which were taken up from trade in support of the operation will also receive the honour.

In accordance with a longstanding tradition which dates back more than 150 years, the Royal Marines do not receive battle honours for any individual operation or campaign in which they have been engaged. Instead, the corps motif of the globe surrounded by laurel is the symbol of their outstanding service throughout the world.

Regiments which took part in the campaign will, in accordance with normal practice in the Army, be able to claim the theatre honour "Falkland Islands 1982" as well as individual honours for the engagements at Goose Green, Mount Longdon, Tumbledown Mountain and Wireless Ridge. After these claims have been considered by the Army Board, recommendations will be submitted for Her Majesty's approval.

Squadrons of the Royal Air Force which saw service south of 35 degrees south and north of 60 degrees south or took part in operational sorties south of Ascension Island will be awarded the battle honour "South Atlantic 1982". Full details of the ships and units concerned are contained in the Written Answer which I gave to my noble friend Lady Vickers earlier today. I am sure your Lordships will join me in welcoming the award of these battle honours as a permanent record of the singular achievement of the Services, and the invaluable assistance of the Merchant Navy in liberating the Falkland Islands and in passing our congratulations and thanks to the men and women involved.

May I turn now to some of the particular points that have been raised during the course of the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, in his opening remarks asked me particularly about the deployment timetable for the cruise missiles. The necessary preparations are proceeding at RAF Greenham Common in order to achieve NATO's aim of operational deployment of the first flight of cruise missiles in the United Kingdom by the end of the year unless an agreement can be reached in the arms control talks in Geneva involving the total abolition of all missiles of this sort, including SS.20s. Your Lordships will be informed when the first cruise missiles and launchers arrive. I should emphasise that the Government's determination to meet our undertakings given at the time of the 1979 NATO twin-track decision in respect of the deployment of cruise missiles in no way calls into question our commitment to a successful outcome to the arms control talks.

I think that every noble Lord will share the desire expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, to see value for the money that we spend on defence. I am happy to say that we are doing much in this area. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State has recently introduced a system of management information for Ministers and senior management. This will provide a solid data base on which to assess our activities, costs and performance, and to manage our defence resources positively. I have myself been involved in studies into the more economical conduct of our training. We are looking at more collective training involving the three services and at what the private sector can offer. Major General Groom has just completed a major review of Army training.

I know that escalating equipment costs and scrutiny of our procurement expenditure to ensure that we obtain value for money are major preoccupations for my honourable friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement. We frequently seek to collaborate in equipment production with our NATO allies, to pool technological and production resources and increase production runs, thus lowering unit costs.

The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, and a number of other noble Lords, raised the subject of the cost of Trident. I shall come to that in a moment. Perhaps I ought not to rehearse all the arguments as to why the Government believe that Trident is the right system for us, but we believe that it must operate to maintain a credible independent nuclear deterrent force.

As noble Lords are well aware—and indeed as the noble Lord, Lord Lewin, so ably explained—the Government have decided to replace our existing Polaris submarine force with the Trident force when the life of Polaris runs out in the 1990s. We believe that although, as has been correctly pointed out, the size of the British deterrent as a proportion of the strategic forces of the super powers is very small, that is to miss the main point. In absolute terms we believe that the British force is capable of inflicting potential damage which an aggressor would regard as unacceptable. One Polaris submarine is capable of delivering more explosive power than all the munitions expended in World War II. An aggressor knows that a decision on its use rests in European and not in American hands. It is this extra risk and uncertainty which an aggressor must take into account and which is such a powerful addition to Alliance security.

I was somewhat concerned to hear the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, paint a rather bright and humanitarian picture of the Soviet Union. I do not believe many of the nations represented at the CSCE conference in Madrid would have agreed with him. The totally inexcusable shooting down of the Korean airliner—which has been referred to by more than one noble Lord—is surely yet another reminder that Soviet attitudes have not changed as much since the invasion of Afghanistan and the suppression of Poland as I think perhaps the noble Lord would have us believe.

If I may return to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, there is just one point he made with which I omitted to deal, in particular about Belize. This was also in the mind of my noble friend Lady Vickers. We maintain a garrison of around 1,500 servicemen in Belize in order to assist in the defence of that country against external aggression. The garrison includes an infantry battalion, Harriers and Rapier missiles. The garrison will remain for an appropriate period to perform this task. Meanwhile, we continue to train and equip Belize's own expanding defence force, which already has troops deployed in operational locations. Of course, we consult our American allies on a number of topics, including the future of the garrison in Belize, but naturally details of these discussions must remain confidential.

I want to make absolutely clear the sincerity of the United States, which some people have questioned during the course of this debate, to the arms control negotiations in Geneva. In both the INF and the START talks the United States has put forward genuine and radical proposals for sweeping reductions in nuclear forces. The focus at present is naturally on the INF talks as the date for the first NATO deployments approaches. The United States, with the full support of its NATO allies, has put forward a series of proposals for reductions in the number of nuclear weapons on both sides. We continue to believe that the zero option—no missiles on both sides—would be the best outcome.

My noble friend Lord Cathcart was one of many noble Lords to suggest that there should be more opportunity in your Lordships' House to discuss defence. I am sure that in addition to defence in the NATO and United Kingdom context, we would need to bear in mind the need to debate our interests outside the NATO area. These remarks, I am sure, have been heard by my noble friend the Chief Whip, and will doubtless be considered in the proper way.

During his remarks the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, questioned whether the present Government had a mandate for any of their policies. I am not sure that I followed the detailed arithmetic which the noble Lord advanced, but I am conscious at least of the majority which we enjoy in the other place.

The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, also expressed a view, which he has expressed before quite properly in your Lordships' House, about the need, as he sees it, for a comprehensive disarmament treaty. I do not think that I need to deploy all the arguments that I have deployed to him before today on that question, except to say that we prefer a step by step approach in these matters.

The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, knows that I do not share many of his views in these areas, but I am sure that we all share his wish to reduce the number of nuclear weapons and to maintain peace. We do not trust the unilateral measures which have been ignored by the Soviet Union in the past; nor do we put much store by grandiose but hollow declaratory gestures. What we are striving for is balanced and verifiable disarmament.

The noble Lord mentioned the conference on disarmament in Europe. We wholly support this new initiative and are taking an active part in preparations for the opening of the conference next year. We sincerely hope that the negotiations in Stockholm will result in a reduction in tension and the enhancement of security in Europe.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, referred to the report of the European Security Study, Strengthening Conventional Deterrence in Europe, in which he was involved, and which was published earlier this year. This report is being studied with great interest in the Ministry of Defence. The report concludes that we could achieve a dramatic increase in capability in this decade at affordable cost. While the prospect is an attractive one—and who would not wish to raise the nuclear threshold?—we should be realistic about the potential. Analysis to date suggests that the report is optimistic, but we should remember also that our existing defence programme already contains many examples of high technology weapons which should be brought to fruition over the next few years. We are examining with our NATO partners the possibilities for the further selective introduction of high technology weaponry where this offers the prospect of a high pay-off within existing budgets.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, raised some powerful arguments in favour of the formation of a home defence force. As my noble friend Lord Whitelaw has already indicated, the Government attach very great importance to enhancing the defences of the United Kingdom home base to meet the assessed threat. I have already underlined the role of our reserve forces in this function. The question in considering the noble and gallant Lord's proposals is one of priorities, and it may be preferable to concentrate any extra resources on a further expansion of the Territorial Army and the home service force, rather than risk diluting our efforts by setting up yet another force.

I return to the speech of my noble friend Lady Vickers, who was one of many speakers who commended the Merchant Navy and stressed its importance. I have referred to the battle honours that are being awarded. The Government place the highest value on the contribution made by British ships in support of our forces in the South Atlantic. The Government's policy is that British ships are used for the Government's Falkland Islands task whenever possible. Foreign ships have been used only when no British ship was suitable and available, except in a very few cases when a high price differential was unacceptable in the light of the Government's general duty to obtain value for money. British shipowners have been given, and will continue to be given, every opportunity to obtain charters.

I am aware of the natural concern expressed by members of the seagoing Merchant Marine. I have met the general secretaries of the NUS and the MNAOA to explain the Government's firm resolve to continue to make the fullest possible use of British ships in support of the Falkland Islands. I am afraid that I have to tell my noble friend, however, that the "Rangatira" was not awarded a battle honour because she did not satisfy the criteria that I outlined a few moments ago.

I agree with my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing that the Royal Air Force will need an advanced agile combat aircraft in the mid-1990s and beyond to replace its ageing Phantoms and Jaguars. It is currently envisaged that such an aircraft would be geared primarily to the air-to-air role, but it must also have a good ground attack capability. A number of other European countries perceive a similar need for their own air forces. The potential for the collaborative development and production of a European combat aircraft is being considered. It is still early days, but the signs are encouraging. We are pressing ahead with the experimental aircraft programme to demonstrate in one aircraft a range of advanced technology which will be applicable to a variety of future combat aircraft.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, asked me about our position in the Lebanon. I am sure that all your Lordships will wish to join me in condemning the appalling bomb attack on French and American troops in Beirut and in expressing the deepest sympathy to the relatives of those who lost their lives. We have offered all possible help in the evacuation and treatment of casualties, both on the spot and at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus. As my right honourable and learned friend the Foreign Secretary made clear in another place yesterday, we have no present intention of changing the role or size of our force.

We remain resolved to support the Lebanese Government in their efforts to bring about a lasting reconciliation in the country, but clearly we need to consider the future of the MNF in consultation with our partners in the force. As your Lordships may already be aware, the Foreign Ministers of the four countries concerned will be meeting later this week.

Our troops are already making a valuable contribution by guarding meetings of the committee set up to implement the ceasefire. We shall continue to do all that we can to establish a lasting peace. Naturally, the safety of our own men remains at the forefront of our minds at this time. Your Lordships may be aware that General Sir Frank Kitson, commander of the United Kingdom's land forces, has today arrived in Beirut to review the position on the ground.

Our debate today has inevitably been overshadowed by events in the Caribbean and at the other end of the Mediterranean. But whatever the importance of these events in regional terms, or, indeed, the scale of the tragedy in Beirut, the fact remains that the main threat to the United Kingdom and the Western Alliance continues, as it has for more than 30 years, to come from the Warsaw Pact in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. In the last few years, that threat has significantly increased with the deployment of SS.20s in increasing numbers. Nigh on 700 warheads are now, at this very moment, pointing at Western Europe. Additional units of the same kind can be moved westwards from the far regions of Russia if required.

I emphasise again that this is a new threat which has emerged only in recent years. If that were not enough, now we hear that the Soviets are deploying yet more missiles of the latest kind to add to their monstrous arsenal. And all the while the Soviets profess their innocence and their peaceful intentions while they equip themselves not just for defence, as they claim, but to blow us all to kingdom come.

What other course therefore could the NATO allies have taken in 1979, but the one that they did? The announcement of the twin track decision eventually to deploy cruise and Pershing II missiles as a counter to this new and deadly threat, while at the same time pursuing with renewed vigour the search for balanced and verifiable measures of disarmament, could frankly not have been delayed a moment longer. To do so, would have allowed the Soviets, with their dismal record of aggression around the world, to build a superiority in these weapons which perhaps—who can say?—they might have been sorely tempted to use.

My Lords, the Government remain convinced that the only sure way for ourselves and the Western Alliance to maintain the peace is to convince the potential aggressor, by our deeds and our words, that if he attacks us we can and will respond so as to inflict unacceptable damage upon him. But I promise your Lordships that we shall never do so save in response to such an attack. But, in the meantime, I hope we have your Lordships' support. On behalf of my noble friend, I beg to move.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at twenty-seven minutes past ten o'clock.