HL Deb 29 February 1984 vol 448 cc1279-340

3.17 p.m.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos rose to call attention to the Government's handling of foreign affairs and disarmament negotiations; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. May I, at the outset, extend a very warm welcome to the noble Earl, Lord Stockton. His presence here will enrich our company and our proceedings, for he brings with him a wealth of wisdom and experience and he comes here with the good wishes of noble Lords in all parts of the House. We wish him years of happiness and good fellowship here.

I am sure the House will agree that this is a good moment to have a debate on foreign affairs and disarmament. Our last full discussion took place during the debate on the Address on 23rd June of last year. But since then grave events have occurred and great changes have taken place, and it is upon these that I shall seek to concentrate.

There are periods of relative calm and periods of tumult in international affairs. There are times of reasonable stability and times of flux and change. During the last few years, the period has been one of sharp change and recurring crises, both great and small, and there are wars and outbreaks of violence in which hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and wounded.

I think it goes without saying that the chief objective of British foreign policy is to help to reduce tension in these dangerous areas, to work hard for a more peaceful world and to reduce the disparity between those areas which are rich and those areas which are poor. These sound like pious hopes, but they must be our clear objectives, none the less, and we must pursue them with vigour.

The four main pillars of British foreign policy—and these have been constructed at different stages since the end of the last war—are our membership of the United Nations. NATO, the Commonwealth and, since 1973, the European Community. Each of these pillars is important to us. Indeed, Britain played a primary role in the creation of the first three—the United Nations, NATO, and the Commonwealth as it has developed. I believe that our membership of the four is important. But if each of the four has its value, each also has its obvious fragility; and the break-up of any of them would have serious consequences for the world.

There is a tendency in some quarters to decry the Commonwealth as being of little value. I take a different view. The Commonwealth is not a tightly-knit group of like-minded countries with united policies. It has 48 members—nearly one-third of the world's independent sovereign states—and about 1,150 million people from every continent, with different interests and views. In an uncertain world, the Commonwealth can be an agency for good. I should like to pay a tribute to the Commonwealth secretariat and to Sir Sonny Ramphal for their assiduous and constructive work.

At this moment, the most shaky of the four pillars to which I have referred is the European Community. I have always been unwilling to believe that the Community could break up in failure. Over the past few years, however, the Community has lurched from crisis to crisis against a background of bickering and recrimination. On 20th February the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Mr. Ian Stewart, indicated in another place the Government's concern when he said: We all recognise that the Community has reached a crossroads and must take important decisions about its future".—[Oficial Report, Commons, 20/2/84; col. 573.] These decisions, as we know, are about financial reform, the common agricultural policy, and the accession of Spain and Portugal, among others, We should recognise now that the accession of those two countries, however desirable, must have severe budgetary consequences—not least for our own country.

The Foreign Secretary has rightly called on his EEC partners to unfreeze the rebate of £475 million. The Community is on the verge of bankruptcy. We shall appreciate the observations of the noble Baroness on the action the Government propose to take at this critical time. Sensible financial reforms are essential if a crash—which would reverberate throughout the world—is to be avoided. The French Finance Minister, M. Delors, has now made certain specific proposals for reform with much tougher powers to control spending. We shall be interested to know the Government's reactions to these, their specific proposals for reforming the CAP, and their view of the farm price review proposals.

The handling of these negotiations over the next few weeks is therefore of the utmost significance to the foreign policy of Britain. The summit meetings which are to be held on 19th and 20th March clearly assume very considerable importance. Perhaps the noble Baroness can say whether there has been any improvement in the prospects for success in those talks since she repeated last Wednesday's Statement in this House.

As I said, this country played a major role in setting up the two other pillars, the UN and NATO—and all parties subscribe to their aspirations and objectives. We believe that great value can come of initiatives taken in the Security Council and other UN agencies—and I will return to that point in a moment. The existence of NATO relates to what is still the central problem of our foreign policy; namely, the confrontation or the relationship (as the case may be) between East and West in Europe.

For a number of reasons of which we are aware, and which we have also debated previously, relations between the West generally (and the USA in particular) and the Soviet Union have deteriorated badly over the past three or four years. Given the increasing build-up of nuclear armaments on both sides and the break-down of disarmament talks, this has become a matter of acute concern. In addition, strains have been imposed on the Western Alliance, and we can cite a number of examples: the Siberian pipeline issue, Grenada, and US policies in Central America are some of the contributory causes of this mutual impatience and irritation. The rhetoric from Moscow and Washington had become far too strident, and there were times when our own Prime Minister somehow felt that she had to join in this orchestration.

But, mercifully, events have dictated a change of direction. We must hope that common sense on both sides will take advantage of the new opportunity which that change presents. The death of President Andropov and the accession of Mr. Chernenko may not result in any fundamental change of policy, but it does reduce the tension at least for a period of time. President Reagan's more temperate and reasonable speeches—even if they do have electoral undertones, and that is nothing new to us—are also helpful. The Prime Minister's visit to Hungary and to President Andropov's funeral in Moscow were further welcome evidence of a desire for improved relations. And improved relations leading to realistic talks there must be if the world's problems are to be tackled. I will deal chiefly with one of these because it is the most dangerous—namely, the Middle East.

In Lebanon, the tragedy continues to unfold and it is not easy to imagine how it may end. President Assad of Syria has had a small triumph and President Reagan a limited setback. We must feel deep sympathy for the unhappy people of Lebanon of all creeds and sects. Their hope for peace is that a new balance of power—a new mix of the parties, reflecting more accurately the religious divisions within the country—can be arranged in a new and fairer political compact.

In this, a good deal must depend on Syria and on President Assad's intentions. President Gemayel has managed to stick it out beyond what one thought was possible, and perhaps the Minister can give us an up-to-date assessment. Is there any hope for the Saudi-Arabian initiative? Is partition of the Lebanon becoming inevitable? Would she agree that last May's agreement between the Israeli and Lebanese Governments and the American plan for Arab-Israeli peace are now a dead letter? Are we, or are any of our friends, proposing some new initiative through the Security Council? It is a complex and rapidly changing scene, but it is one in which this country has played a part, and the Government's intentions will be of great interest in this debate.

But as the House is well aware, a more cruel, protracted, and potentially far more dangerous, war is being fought in the Gulf between Iraq and Iran. It seemed for a long period to be of secondary consequence but it is fraught with unpredictable results. The casualties have been enormous, and now that huge new armies are in the field it is said that casualties will be on the scale of those suffered in the First World War. Already about one quarter of a million people have been killed; 200,000 Iranians and 50,000 Iraqis. The war has gone on now for 41 months.

The dangers are that if the Iraqi forces crumble under the weight of superior manpower, the Jordanian Air Force will intervene and bomb Kharg Island with its oil installations; and if that happens, Iran will try to close the Strait of Hormuz leading to the Gulf, through which nearly one-fifth of the non-communist world's oil still flows. Mr. Caspar Weinberger has said, It would he essential for all to make sure that the Gulf was not closed".

The United States has had a naval force in the Gulf for some time. That force was engaged in a small demonstration of firepower two days ago. The United Kingdom sent two warships there last week, and the French also have warships there. The question is: what action would the United States take, and what will the United Kingdom propose to do, in the event that the strait is closed? Is there not a very real danger that the United States and other countries, including our own, could be dragged into the Iran-Iraq war? This could result in a confrontation—so far prudently avoided—between the United States and the Soviet Union and her supporters in the Middle East.

In the light of this developing danger, I would ask the noble Baroness to tell the House what the Government's policy is in this area. In what precise circumstances would the British warships which are there be used? Short of that, what other action do the Government propose at this time in that crucial area? Is there not a case for discussion with the Soviet Union about ways and means of controlling this war and other potential outbreaks in the Middle East? A glance at the map shows that the USSR have as much interest in the region as the United States have in Central America or the Caribbean. It is inconceivable that we should drift into a dangerous involvement. I hope the noble Baroness can reassure us and define our policies clearly. In my view, what is required is a positive initiative to restore stability over as much of the Middle East as possible. We should like to be told that that is the Government's clear objective and that they have plans to seek to discuss and to resolve the problem.

I must apologise to the House for failing to give adequate attention to a number of other areas which are of concern but it would make my speech too long and the debate too complex. I should like to refer however to Namibia for we have heard with great interest of the Lusaka agreement to monitor the ceasefire along the Namibian border. The communique said that it was "an important and constructive step" towards the eventual independence of Namibia. There are some big obstacles and doubts to be overcome and there is bound to be a good deal of suspicion among African countries about the bona fides of South Africa, and we understand that perfectly well. But I think that the Contact Group deserves our thanks and congratulations, especially the American Assistant Secretary of State, Dr. Chester Crocker, who has worked hard and long to achieve this agreement. This is our first opportunity to refer to this in the House and we shall be glad to have the Government's reaction. May I also briefly welcome the return of the British mercenaries from Angola. That has removed an obstacle which stood between improving British—Angolan relations.

I turn now to the Falklands. We believe that the election of President Alfonsin presents a new opportunity to reopen talks about the future of the islands. We understand that exchanges between the Government and the new Argentine Government have been taking place. We are glad that the noble Baroness was able to visit the Falklands and perhaps she will give us some indication of the nature of the exchanges and of her impressions generally. It would in our view be a cardinal error to insist that sovereignty should be placed at the top of the agenda when there are so many other matters which need to be dealt with urgently. Indeed, we are informed that the Argentine Government may be prepared to open talks without a detailed agenda and without preconditions. I shall be glad if the noble Baroness can comment upon that possibility and on the likelihood of the removal of the 150-mile exclusion zone. We also hope that the Argentine will formally announce that hostilities between our two countries are at last at an end. These two necessary measures seem to us to be a starting point which will clear the decks for realistic talks. The important thing here is that we should do everything possible to ensure the success and permanence of the new democratic Government of President Alfonsin in the Argentine.

I turn now to another matter which was mentioned in an exchange during Question Time a few minutes ago: namely, the financial relationship between North and South; between the developing countries and the West and Japan. The huge debt burden of the third world has now become an urgent factor in world affairs, requiring an early solution. If that is not resolved all kinds of unpleasant things may happen, such as revolutions and a destabilisation of areas which are now relatively peaceful. There has been a curious turnabout in these financial relations. For four years up to 1981 the poor "South" received 28 billion dollars per annum more than they were paying to the rich "North" by way of interest and capital. In 1983, following the near collapse in Mexico, it turned round with the "South" paying the "North" 11 billion dollars per annum. That seems to be an impossible situation. It makes no sense. The developing countries require to become net borrowers as soon as possible. The United States and the West should be running surpluses for the developing countries to borrow so that the developers can buy goods from abroad. I think these matters are of urgent importance. We believe that this huge debt should be restructured as soon as possible from a short-term, high interest basis to a long-term, low interest basis.

Finally, the Motion refers to disarmament. I think the House will agree that the Government should continue to make a determined effort to secure arms reduction in spite of the setbacks. The Soviet walk-out of both the START and INF talks at Geneva following the start of the deployment of cruise and Pershing was a great disappointment because there is no doubt that some progress had been made on all the issues involved. The talks were not fruitless, barren talks as the pessimists believe. The objective should be to get them restarted as soon as possible. The expectation was raised in the Stockholm conference that START might be reconvened fairly soon. Harsh things were said by the Russians and by the Americans when the talks broke down, but things have changed since then. There is a new mood and a new opportunity, but this must be grasped quickly and decisively. Perhaps there is an argument for combining the talks on START and the INF into one negotiation. The Minister's reaction to that possibility would be of interest. I know that Mr. Richard Burt, the United States Assistant Secretary of State, tends to oppose this, but there is also the case for simplification.

We must not overlook the fact that two sets of talks are proceeding; namely, the MFBR talks in Vienna and the United Nations Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. There appears to have been an encouraging response from the Soviet delegate to the United Kingdom plan put forward by Mr. Richard Luce. We warmly welcome the United Kingdom initiative and should be glad to have the views of the noble Baroness on the Russian reaction. I have read that the Soviet Union has accepted the principle of a committee to inspect facilities for the production of chemical weapons but wishes to curtail the right of automatic inspection. We hope that further progress will be made, ending in the total abolition of what can only be described as diabolical weapons. My noble friend Lord Mulley, who will he winding up for this side of the House, when Secretary of State for Defence played an important part in initiating talks on the abolition of chemical warfare weapons. We shall await with interest to hear what he has to say about this problem.

Both East and West know that there are no winners in a nuclear war. Both have stockpiles which would destroy civilisation a hundred times over. The additional pile-up on both sides is a total waste of scarce resources in a world where millions are starving. The World Bank estimates that today there are 570 million people who are undernourished; 800 million who are illiterate; 1.500 million who have little or no access to medical services; and 250 million children who do not go to school. Every year 15 million children die of starvation. Amidst these terrifying statistics official development aid amounts to 20 billion dollars and world military spending to more than 450 billion dollars. Those are the facts of life that we and other countries should be pondering. The nuclear winter which would follow a nuclear war would leave no survivors. The chief task of world leaders is to get together to reverse this grotesque and evil competition. It is a bleak and terrifying prospect that the world faces.

There is an obvious limit to what this country can do. In terms of resources we are not the power that we were 100 or even 50 years ago. But one senses at this time that there is a need and a call for leadership, and effective leadership does not necessarily imply call for huge resources. One does not have to be a super-power to give a lead. The policies of the West now must be co-ordinated and I believe redefined. The moment is right for a new approach to the problems of East and West. Our hope is that Britain will play its full part in their solution. I beg to move for Papers.

3.39 p.m.

Baroness Young

My Lords, I, too, should like to start by adding a warm welcome to my noble friend Lord Stockton and wish him many happy years in your Lordships' House.

The House will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, for introducing this debate on foreign affairs. In the time available I must be selective in what I say. I shall therefore first concentrate on arms control in the context of East-West relations and then say something about the situation in Lebanon. I also want to tell the House of my impressions after visiting Grenada and the Falklands. I shall not be referring to the European Community in my opening remarks, but will do so when I come to wind up the debate, and try to answer points raised on this and other matters.

In recent years much of the substance of East-West relations has, for better or worse, been dominated by arms control negotiations. These negotiations provide an important vehicle for contact between the Soviet Union and the West. But they also form an essential element of Western defence policy as a whole. It is central to that policy that we should seek to limit the level of defences which the West must maintain by reaching balanced and properly verifiable arms control agreements.

Our approach, therefore, to nuclear arms control talks has focussed on the closest co-ordination among the NATO allies about the positions being developed by the Western negotiators. The United States has consulted us over the START talks about strategic weapons; and above all it has consulted us about the negotiations on intermediate range nuclear forces, where the interests of the Europeans have been most directly involved. The START talks, which are intended to limit and reduce the very large arsenals of strategic nuclear weapons held by the superpowers, had made some progress before, regrettably, the Russians walked out. The talks have been assessed by the chief United States negotiator in the following terms: There has been real progress. Both sides have responded, in varying degrees, to the other's concerns. The United States has offered to explore trading areas of respective interest and advantages to narrow our differences". In the Government's view the obvious need now is for the Russians to return to the negotiating table.

In the other nuclear arms talks, about intermediate range forces, the obstacles have been even greater. Here, too, the Russians decided to withdraw from the talks. So far the Soviet Union has clung inflexibly to its unacceptable demand for a total monopoly in Europe of longer-range INF missiles. In the absence of Soviet agreement to eliminate this class of weapons, we and our allies have been obliged to deploy Pershing II and cruise missiles. This was essential to ensure effective deterrence on which all our security depends. I hope that the West's display of determination will show the Soviet Union that we cannot be bullied into weakening our defences, but equally we are determined to find a way of resolving this issue. As the Government have made clear before, the deployment of INF missiles in the West can be halted or reversed. It can be done just as soon as the Soviet Union agrees on a fair and balanced settlement which warrants such action. The door to an agreement is open if the East is willing to enter. But agreement cannot be reached if one side refuses to talk.

The position looks a little brighter for the talks on mutual and balanced force reductions, in Vienna. We welcome the decision by the Soviet Union and her allies to restart the negotiations on 16th March. There have for a long time now been two major obstacles to progress in these talks. First, the East has consistently underestimated the size of its forces. This means that it has rejected the need to make larger reductions than the West to reach the agreed goal of 900,000 ground and air forces on each side. This is not a dispute about trifles. The East's unacknowledged superiority amounts to well over 150,000 men—some 15–20 per cent. of its acknowledged forces. We cannot afford to ignore this discrepancy. Secondly, the East has been reluctant to agree on effective verification measures. But the new Eastern proposals in this area last year, although still faulty and inadequate, appear to be a step in the right direction. The talks resume on 16th March. I hope that the verification proposals of both sides can then be explored in much more detail. That might offer hope for real progress at last.

I found it heartening that Mr. Gromyko decided to attend the opening of the Stockholm Conference, known as the CDE. Initial presentations there have shown a considerable divergence of views on the substance. But all have shown an interest in building on the confidence and security building measures in the Helsinki Final Act. This is encouraging. NATO's 16 members have tabled detailed proposals. When the other participants have done the same, the negotiators should be able to get down to more detailed talks.

The Conference on Disarmament, which resumed its work in Geneva on 7th February, also has a significant role to play in arms control and disarmament. My honourable friend Richard Luce addressed the conference on 14th February. He put forward there the latest in a series of British initiatives on the verification of a total and world-wide ban on chemical weapons to provide new impetus to the negotiations. This is a matter to which we give particularly high importance. In general at Geneva the Government intend to continue to play an active part in reaching agreement for practical measures of arms control.

Security is one of the essential conditions of a sound approach to East-West relations. But to create lasting stability, security has to be based on a modicum of trust and confidence. To establish this we need a broader understanding with the Soviet and East European leaderships, both about our common interests and the issues which divide us. That is why Western Governments wish to achieve not only just and verifiable arms agreements but also a more constructive relationship with the individual countries of Eastern Europe.

A sound and durable Western policy means having no illusions about Soviet behaviour; and it means offering no compromises on the values which form the bedrock of our way of life. In our dealings with the Russians we shall continue to make it clear that we utterly reject the specious arguments which they put forward when justifying the invasion of Afghanistan, or their pressure on the Polish Government to suppress the free trade union, Solidarity. We shall also draw attention to the long and tragic record of abuses of human rights in the Soviet Union. The sentences passed last year on a number of Soviet citizens are reminders of the lack of confidence on the part of the Soviet leadership in the capacity of their system to absorb differing voices in any way but by suppression.

If progress is to be made, an important part of the West's strategy must be to work towards establishing a new confidence between East and West. It means a recognition that we have a common interest in peace and security at a lower level of weapons. We have to minimise the dangerous risks of misunderstanding by establishing more direct contact with the Soviet leadership and by adding new dimensions to the range of discussion. Past exchanges have perhaps been too narrowly focussed on arms control, which simply cannot sustain the weight of relations between East and West. What we wish to do is to discuss the whole range of questions, both bilateral and multilateral, between East and West. Regional issues, which are unpredictable enough without any additional element of East-West confrontation, must be part of this exchange. We agree wholeheartedly with President Reagan's comment in his address of 16th January that a durable peace requires both East and West to work together to defuse tensions and regional conflicts.

If we can extend the range of our discussions with the Soviet Union, this will not only he important in itself. It should also help to establish the mutual understanding which is an essential ingredient in achieving progress in the various arms control talks. With regard to Eastern Europe, our policy must be to respect the specific and unique characteristics of each country. We accept legitimate Soviet security concerns. But what we can never accept is that Soviet security interests should deprive neighbouring countries of their right to choose their own political systems and allies. Our relations with the countries of Eastern Europe will depend on the degree to which we can establish common interests and concerns with them.

As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister explained during her recent visit to Moscow, it is against the background of our awareness of the need to breathe some new life into East-West discussions that the Government have developed their contacts with the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries in recent months. The Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary had a useful meeting with Mr. Gromyko at the opening of the CDE at Stockholm. They agreed to have a further meeting later this year. The recent visit of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister to Budapest provided an opportunity for a valuable exchange of views with Mr. Kadar and other Hungarian leaders. She was able in particular to emphasise the genuineness of the West's wish to achieve progress in the field of arms control. The Prime Minister's meeting at Moscow with Mr. Chernenko was also of importance. It enabled her to put these views directly to the new Soviet leader.

We shall try to achieve steady and sustainable progress in East-West relations, but progress will be gradual and undramatic. It will depend on whether the Soviet Union is ready to respond positively. We have made it clear at the highest level to the Soviet leadership that we are ready to make a start.

A satisfactory relationship between East and West must be founded on good relations among Western nations. NATO and the transatlantic alliance form the very foundations of our national security. I am therefore sure that your Lordships will wish to join me in congratulating my noble friend Lord Carrington on his appointment as NATO's Secretary-General in this, its 35th anniversary year. NATO is of course a success story and has prevented war in Europe for an unprecedented period this century. But NATO's crucial role in safeguarding our way of life has apparently been forgotten by some people in Britain and Europe, who lose no opportunity to spread anti-American calumnies.

There are bound to be differences of view between the free nations of Western Europe and the United States. In many areas we are commercial rivals. Economic problems are generally soluble, or at least manageable. There will be occasional differences on other issues. These need addressing—not ignoring—and at an early stage in each case. Our fundamental aim must be to ensure that ephemeral disputes are not allowed to undermine the joint commitment to European security or the wider objectives we share with the Americans in the world at large. The stronger the transatlantic relationship, the more secure the peace will be and the greater our prosperity.

It is now almost 40 years since the end of the Second World War. During the war some eight million Americans served overseas, a large proportion of them in Europe. They saw Europe at first hand and got to know us. Through the North Atlantic Treaty the United States and Canada became—and they remain—committed to the defence of Europe. But we need to bear in mind that the new generation of Americans did not share the same experience of fighting against a common enemy; and we have in Europe a generation that has grown up without the direct experience of war. I cannot emphasise too strongly that the transatlantic link remains a fundamental cornerstone of both our and the United States Administration's foreign policy. It is not something that we can take for granted.

As your Lordships know, the Government have been working closely with our American allies and the other multinational force contributors in a joint endeavour to bring peace to Lebanon, to bring an end to the bloodshed there. The latest turmoil is one more sad twist in the tragedy which has inflicted so much suffering on that unhappy country for almost nine years. Earlier this month the Government decided to redeploy our contigent of the multinational force from its exposed base in southern Beirut. It remains close at hand, and no final decision on its future has been taken. We can be proud of the role that our men played during the year our force was in Beirut. Its contribution was a valuable one, both patrolling the streets of the city and guarding the ceasefire commission. Together with our partners in the multinational force, we helped to provide a breathing space for the Lebanese people to attempt to reconcile their differences.

Sadly, that opportunity was missed. But it remains very much a British and Western interest that stability should be restored to Lebanon. A Lebanon in perpetual crisis will continue to attract the attention, and sometimes active intervention, of other countries in the region. While that happens the prospects for establishing a comprehensive peace in the Middle East as a whole will be even more remote; and the risk that the situation could any moment escalate into a major crisis will remain.

That is why the Government are continuing their efforts to help achieve a peaceful solution in Lebanon. We have been active at the United Nations in support of our long-standing belief that the United Nations should be still more deeply involved in peacekeeping in Lebanon. We have proposed a number of practical ways in which the United Nations could make an immediate contribution to restoring stability in Beirut. We have also suggested that the existing United Nations force in southern Lebanon—UNIFIL—could be given an expanded role in maintaining security in that part of the country. We support the French draft resolution in the Security Council, on which a vote may be taken later today. This would authorise the establishment of a new United Nations force in the Beirut area to replace the multinational force.

In Lebanon itself efforts continue to establish an effective cease-fire and open the way to a resumption of the all-important reconciliation talks. Saudi Arabia is playing a key mediating role. We hope for positive results from the meeting today in Damascus between President Gemayel and President Asad.

Our partners in the Ten share our concern to do everything possible to help restore peace in Lebanon. Some of them—France, Italy, Ireland and the Netherlands—already contribute to UNIFIL in south Lebanon. After their meeting in Paris on 27th February, the Foreign Ministers of the Ten called for an effective cease-fire agreement and the resumption of reconciliation talks between the parties in Lebanon. They also expressed support for the despatch of a new United Nations force to Beirut. I can assure your Lordships that we and our partners in the Ten will continue to urge all parties concerned to show the flexibility necessary' for progress. But ultimately only the Lebanese can settle their differences; only they can make the concessions and the compromises necessary to rebuild their shattered country.

I should now like to turn for a moment to Latin America and the Caribbean. As your Lordships will be aware, in the last few months I have been able to visit a considerable number of the countries in these regions. In Mexico and Central America, in particular, I was able to gain a valuable insight into the problems of Central America. I came away, as many visitors do, with the clear impression that the roots of the armed conflict and political turmoil which plague the region are indigenous. But I am equally convinced that the crisis has been deepened and exploited by those who have sought to secure their own political ends at the cost of peaceful democratic development and regional stability. For those reasons a lasting solution will be neither quick nor easy. But my talks with the leaders in the region gave me the opportunity to reaffirm the Government's support for the Contadora initiative. The plan put forward by the four Contadora countries offers a prospect for a political solution. They are now working to translate the plan into action. We would wish them success.

We have received an invitation from the Government of E1 Salvador to send official observers to the presidential elections to be held on 25th March. I can now announce to your Lordships that the Government have decided to accept this invitation. I am pleased to say that Sir James Swaffield and Dr. David Browning have agreed to take on the appointment as official observers. We have made clear to them that they are expected to reach their own conclusions in the light of their experience in El Salvador. I hope that all your Lordships will share my complete faith in their integrity and objectivity.

In 1982 the Government sent two observers for the National Assembly elections in El Salvador. They produced a most competent, informative and impartial report. The object of sending observers again is to obtain a similar report, without prejudging in advance the standards or conduct of the elections. Therefore, I hope that no one will cast doubt in advance on the integrity and capacity of anyone undertaking this service on behalf of the British Government, which should contribute to an understanding of the affairs of the Central American region and of these important elections.

During my visit to Belize I had an opportunity to examine how Britain and the West can contribute towards preserving the stability which that country enjoys. Development assistance, trade and investment were all the subject of discussions during my visit. I also made a point of meeting members of the British forces in Belize, who, as I am sure your Lordships will agree, are doing a splendid job. Our position on the garrison has not changed. We want to see as soon as possible conditions under which the garrison can safely be withdrawn.

The Guatemalan Foreign Minister has stated that it is Guatemala's intention to pursue her territorial claim by peaceful means. But Guatemala still refuses to recognise Belize's independence. We are no longer a party to the dispute, but since independence British officials have been observers at the talks between Belize and Guatemala about the dispute. If both parties wish, we shall continue that. But Guatemala has to recognise that we cannot negotiate on behalf of an independent Belize.

In my visit to the Caribbean in January I was able to give some personal impetus to the approach embodied in the communiqué from the Commonwealth heads of government meeting—after Grenada, reconstruction not recrimination. From my talks it was clear that many other countries share that view. I was struck by the gratitude of the Grenadians for the speed and effectiveness with which we have provided aid. The £1 million interest-free loan which the Government announced recently is largely for capital aid, and a major part of our technical assistance programme is being devoted to much needed police training. These measures are part of the British contribution to bringing Grenada back into the democratic fold. But Grenada is only one of a large family of Commonwealth Caribbean states. We want to see peaceful development throughout the region. Our aid and support are given with that end in view.

My visit to the Falklands was a unique and invaluable experience. I was there for six days—three spent in Stanley and three in Camp where I visited nine settlements. Including the public meeting I held in Stanley, I believe I met nearly one-third of the population. My purpose in going to the Falklands was two-fold; first, to learn from the islanders themselves how they viewed the economic future of the islands and to learn of their concerns, and, second, to explain the British Government's thinking on the dispute with Argentina. Your Lordships will want to know that I discussed many of the issues raised in your Lordships' House in the debate on the Falkland Islands before Christmas—in particular, land tenure, economic developments, including the fishing limits, and the new airfield. On the last, I was able to reassure the islanders of the value of its civilian use as it will be large enough to take wide-bodied jets.

As for the future, there is no doubt that the islanders' confidence is fragile. In talking to the islanders, I reaffirmed our intention of seeking realistic means of achieving more normal bilateral relations with Argentina and of rebuilding confidence while not in any way compromising our commitments to the islanders. I said clearly that we were not going to negotiate sovereignty. Many of the leading islanders endorsed our wish to see the development of more normal commercial relations between Argentina, the Falklands and Britain. They also said that they would welcome better relations between the Falkland Islands and Chile and Uruguay such as had existed before the war with Argentina.

I would like to conclude by saying something about the diplomatic service. It has become fashionable in some quarters to knock the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and to relay, for example, myths of luxury-living in embassies. In my eight months in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office I have visited 18 countries. I shall be going to another three over the next three weeks. Whenever possible, I have met and talked to all the staff and their families in our posts and seen at least some of their accommodation. I have been struck by their professionalism and dedication and by that of the wives of diplomats, whose contribution should not be overlooked. Our people throughout the world are continuing the finest traditions of British public service, often in the most trying and dangerous conditions, as in Beirut, where one of our diplomats was wounded not so long ago.

Our troops have been redeployed from Lebanon—and rightly so. But the diplomats are there even now. In some places I have visited our girl secretaries live in flats behind iron bars for their own safety. In some countries, our diplomatic families have armed guards on their homes all the time. I could go on. The point I wish to emphasise is that the reality of the situation is often quite different from the picture painted by some of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's critics.

Our diplomatic service is a valuable asset. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as a whole, now has 1,400 or 17 per cent. fewer employees than in 1968, whereas the demands for Foreign and Commonwealth Office services have continued to climb. Between 1968 and 1981 there was a 281 per cent. increase in Britons travelling abroad, many needing and getting the sort of help our consuls were giving to the lorry drivers last week. Since then, the number of countries covered by our posts has increased from 136 to 164, and the total cost of the diplomatic service is less than one-third of 1 per cent. of Government expenditure. Many of its operations cannot be assessed by cost-benefit analysis. Those which can, like the commercial service, show good value for money. The overseas commercial service costs some £60 million a year. But, according to a 1982 report from independent consultants, based on exporters' own figures, information provided by diplomatic posts through the export intelligence service generates an extra £1 billion worth of exports each year.

Let us not, however, denigrate those aspects of our posts' work which cannot be analysed in this way. The Government's foreign policy is based on the fact that Britain is a predominantly regional power but one with global interests. The promotion and protection of those interests means that we must retain an active and efficient diplomatic service, confident of the support of the people it serves. It is in the interests of us all that it should get that support.

4.5 p.m.

Lord Mayhew

My Lords, I believe that my noble friends would wish me to begin by associating these Benches with the warm welcome already given to the noble Earl, Lord Stockton. It seldom can be said with greater truth that a new Member has added distinction to this House. We join in the warm welcome that has been offered to him. We also agree with the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition that he has put down a timely Motion for debate. The breakdown of the arms negotiations, the crisis in the Middle East, and a certain loss of authority by the United States Administration have placed greater responsibilities on the European members of NATO and on the United Kingdom in particular.

We are glad to see some signs that the Government have become aware of this. We welcome the more positive statements on East-West relations by the Prime Minister. We welcome her successful visit to Hungary. We applaud the recent clearer statements by the Foreign Secretary on the Middle East, and in particular his insistence that a settlement there requires not only provision for the security of Israel but provision for self-determination for the Palestinian people. It is a pity, however, that the Government did not turn over this new leaf a little earlier, particularly in relation to a number of things to which the noble Baroness, Lady Young, has referred.

I have in mind, for instance, the Geneva negotiations on INF. I suppose that if I criticise the United States position in those talks I shall be accused of "anti-American calumnies". That was a phrase of the noble Baroness that struck me. I hope that, perhaps when she comes to wind up, the noble Baroness will explain, first, that she is not denying that the United States Government have made serious mistakes in recent years, notably in Lebanon, and, secondly, that British citizens have an absolute right to criticise any foreign government if they wish. In connection with the United States Government, they have at least as much right of criticism as American citizens, who exercise that right with proper vigour.

On the INF talks, it is plain now, I think, to the great majority of opinion, that the Americans made serious misjudgments. All of us remember their saying—it was repeated in this House by the noble Baroness herself—that the Russians would become easier to deal with as the date for deployment approached. We said on these Benches that that was nonsense. It has proved to be nonsense. The Americans are also, I think, open to criticism for sticking too closely and rigidly to the original bid of zero option. The British Government are open to criticism for not showing a greater degree of independence.

We now see that the gap between the Russians and the Americans was bridgeable during those negotiations. A small degree of positive and independent action by the British Government, a demand for just a few conditions before accepting cruise missiles in this country, might have bridged the gap and made all the difference. It was a great chance missed. Now, as I think was indicated in the speech of the noble Baroness, it seems that there has to be a prior improvement of the political climate before there is much chance of getting agreement on nuclear disarmament. We need a bit of political disarmament before we can reasonably hope for nuclear disarmament. As was indicated, the British Government have in mind—and I praise them for this—an expansion of contracts, not only with the Soviet Union but also individually—an interesting point—with the other countries of Eastern Europe.

Having returned recently myself from Moscow and having had a dialogue with Soviet communists, I certainly agree with the Prime Minister and with the noble Baroness, Lady Young, that dialogue is likely to take a long time before producing results. The Prime Minister spoke of years; personally, having met Soviet communists on and off since before the war, I would myself think in terms of decades. A lot depends on how the dialogue is conducted. Simply meeting Russians and setting out one's political views can be useful, but there are limits to it. You get the impression that Soviet Marxists label your views Left or Right, plus or minus; and, like computers, then simply accept the pluses and reject the minuses.

I hope, therefore, that the Government, in their search for wider contacts with the Soviet Union and the East European countries, will not overlook the value of non-political contacts as well. It is not naêve to see some value in cultural exchanges with the Soviet Union. I have not met a Russian yet who did not respond positively to the idea (which is profoundly un-Marxist) that great works of art, literature and music reflect values that hold good for all people and all times. That is a base from which to work in the long term, and I hope it is something the Government will bear in mind.

Of course, it is meetings between the political leaders that are most immediately needed. The Prime Minister showed the way in Hungary, but why not Moscow? Why should not Mr. Reagan and Mr. Chernenko meet? There is a need for extended formal and informal talks. Why should the parliamentarians of East and West not meet? We all know that the Parliaments in Eastern Europe are a travesty of democracy, but many of the parliamentarians are also influential members of communist parties.

On my trip to Moscow with my party leader we proposed, after consultation with the Conservative Party and the Labour Party, that parliamentarians from the seven Western Union Parliaments should start a dialogue with parliamentarians from the seven Parliaments of the Warsaw Pact. How the communists will reply, we have no idea; but it seems to me that this initiative is one worth supporting, and I hope very much—though it is a parliamentary and not a Government initiative—that the Government will give it a fair wind.

I have to say here, at the risk of being accused of "anti-American calumnies", that dialogue in Washington as well as in Moscow has become difficult. In both capitals you meet spokesmen who are friendly, well-informed and intelligent, but they have some strange weaknesses in common. Americans and Russians both tend to be obsessed by those weapons systems in which the other side has the edge to the exclusion of the weapons systems in which they are themselves in the lead. They also tend to be preoccupied with the niceties of nuclear balance and to ignore the whole question of the vast nuclear over-kill which they both have.

American and Soviet spokesmen also share a tendency to fasten on the most provocative statements and actions of the other side and to overlook the other ones; sometimes, it seems, almost welcoming evidence of misconduct on the other side because it fits into the stereotype picture which they have of the other. I am not saying it is half of one and half the other. Exposed to democratic processes, the Americans are far more accessible to reasoned argument and new information; but it produces a problem on both sides. Yet, as the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, said, we must nevertheless make every effort to get negotiations started again on disarmament and arms controls; if possible, merging the INF and the START talks; if possible, at least freezing deployment of nuclear weapons (including cruise) at the present levels.

A major weakness of the process so far has been the lack of collective European input into the negotiations. After all, the stationing of missiles on the territory of Europe is not a proper matter for bilateral negotiations between Americans and Russians. It is neither appropriate nor, as we have seen, does it work.

The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, turned to the Gulf, and was no doubt disappointed not to have an answer from the noble Baroness on the question which he raised. Earlier this week we read that American naval vessels had already fired warning shots in the Gulf, and it is disturbing that they did not wait for a serious pretext: for example, an attempt to interfere with shipping. They did not wait for that. In the nuclear age there is no place for peacekeepers who appear to be trigger-happy.

It is also not clear whether, while the United States continues its unconditional support of Israel, any military intervention by them in the Middle East can help being counter-productive. The Gulf States, understandably, are afraid of Iran. But, equally understandably, they are afraid of allying themselves with the United States. They know all too well that without lavish American arms and money the invasion of Lebanon would never have been possible. They have seen Americans at one time taking turns with Israel in bombing and shelling their fellow Moslems, and they hold the Americans responsible, quite fairly, for the continued control by Jewish people of the Moslem holy places in Jerusalem.

Undoubtedly the Americans can assemble, if they wish, vast and overwhelming naval and air power in the Gulf, but if the Sultan of Oman, the ruling families in Kuwait, or the UAE, side with the Americans, how long will they last? How long did Sadat last? How long did Gemayel last? It is a deadly serious problem for European countries, including the United Kingdom, because if European countries do not quickly form a collective independent policy on the Gulf they will be dragged in there one by one by the Americans, just as they were dragged one by one into Lebanon, and with the same disastrous results. When she comes to wind up I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to reassure the House on this point.

What is the position of British naval vessels in the Gulf? Are we going to join with the United States? Are we discussing this with our European partners? What steps have been taken to establish a collective European view on this extremely dangerous subject?

The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, spoke on disarmament, and I agreed with him, but I have to say that I agreed with him because he did not set out the disarmament policy of the Labour Party. I am afraid this is a traditional practice of the Opposition Front Bench in this House. We would have liked to hear an exposition and defence of the Labour Party's disarmament policies: some reference, perhaps, to the statement of Mr. Kinnock that he would in no circumstances authorise the firing of a nuclear weapon, even in retaliation. There are two questions here. There is first the question: is it right to refuse to use nuclear weapons in any circumstancs? But there is a second question: if it is right to refuse in any circumstances, is it also right to announce this fact publicly in advance? I mean, almost certainly if I found a burglar in my house and I was carrying a gun in my hand, I would not use it. But nor would I tell this to the burglar. I would see no great advantage in that.

It is not as though Mr. Kinnock is a pacifist: on the contrary, he is in favour of strengthening our conventional weapons. In other words, he is prepared to send British troops into action armed with conventional weapons against an adversary armed with conventional and nuclear weapons. That not only increases the danger to our forces of being attacked with nuclear weapons since there is no problem of retaliation but also ensures that the sacrifices they make are quite in vain. This is because any adversary has only to drop a single, small, nuclear weapon —perhaps as a demonstration—and the British forces will immediately surrender. Mr. Kinnock seems to have given no thought at all either to the responsibilities of military command or to the waste of public expenditure involved in building up conventional weapons which can neither deter nor be used effectively.

I wish that we could have heard a defence of the Labour Party's policy from the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn. If one is talking about disarmament, as he did, and nuclear disarmament, as he did, then it is very relevant if one has already told the person with whom one is negotiating that one will never in any circumstances use nuclear weapons. It means that the negotiations automatically collapse. The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, should have explained to us in full these very important factors in his party's policy. In the meantime, the speeches of Mr. Kinnock confirm once again the view expressed often on these Benches, that the Labour Party is not to be trusted with the defence of this country.

Finally, it is obviously impossible to sum up this vast subject. However, I think that my noble friends would want me to end by stressing—at the risk of being accused of "anti-American calumnies"—that we are deeply disturbed by an apparent lack of judgment and patience in recent times of the United States Administration. We look to the Government to build up the collective influence of the West European countries within the NATO alliance. We deplore the fact that the Brussels summit in March will be mainly devoted to questions of Community finance. Even if they reach agreement on that, if the Community leaders have not brought effective collective influence to bear on the problems of arms control and the Middle East, they will have failed in their most vital responsibilities.

4.23 p.m.

Lord Brockway

My Lords, the international scene is a little brighter today than it was when we last discussed foreign affairs and disarmament. There is the beginning of a thaw in the icy cold war between the West and the East. This is illustrated by the Prime Minister's visits to Budapest in Hungary and to Moscow in the Soviet Union, and the discussions which took place there. It is also illustrated in the new tone of the speeches of President Reagan in America and it has been illustrated in a large part of the speech which the noble Baroness has delivered today. I am going to plead that this thaw be deepened so that within a reasonable period of years there can be sunshine on the international scene.

The conference at Stockholm gives great opportunity to advance in the cause of peace in the world. It is true that it is discussing only European problems; but Europe, after all, is the centre of the confrontation between the two great powers. One hopes that the Security Council will be dealing with the problems of the Middle East, will be asking for a withdrawal of all foreign troops from, for example, the territory of Lebanon, and for the substitution of a United Nations peace-keeping force serving there.

The Stockholm conference will last for two years and will provide a tremendous opportunity for the progressive discussion of the problems of peace and disarmament. In my view the Government have had a tendency to concentrate their attention at Stockholm merely on the monitoring of military activities in the areas of the two sides. I hope that when that problem has been dealt with, the Government will encourage the pressure—which will undoubtedly exist—for the Stockholm conference to consider more fundamental issues of peace in the world. It may be an opportunity, despite other failings, to renew discussions with the Soviet Union on the proposals which they have made. They made radical proposals. They were not regarded as sincere by many in the West; but surely at Stockholm they can be put to the test? They have proposed a nuclear-free Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals. Why not put them to the test and seek to bring about a result which all of us would welcome?

There has been one recent development which we should all welcome: that is the real possibility now that an international convention may be reached on the subject of chemical weapons. Later I shall be criticising the Government's policy, but I want to recognise now the positive role which our Government have taken in developing the possibility of a convention on chemical weapons. That has been made easier by the Soviet Government's agreement about verification. It is enormously urgent that that convention should be pressed forward because of the likelihood of new binary weapons being produced in the early future if chemical weapons are not declined.

It is difficult today to remember that less than six years ago all the Governments of the world, including the Governments of the United States and of the Soviet Union—and supported strongly by the Labour Government which we then had in this country—agreed at a special session on disarmament in the United Nations to radical proposals for disarmament in the world. They agreed to the abolition of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction; the progressive abolition in a planned way over years of even conventional weapons, leading in time to general and complete disarmament except for weapons necessary for internal security and as contributions to the United Nations peace-keeping force. And finally—a recommendation which many of us particularly welcome—they agreed that the money gained from the reduction of military expenditure should be used for development and for ending poverty in the world. I should like to say that many of us appreciated the references which our leader made to the need to end poverty in the world.

That special session on disarmament was only six years ago. Is it impossible, within a similar time, if the present thaw is made into sunshine, that again we may have a situation in the world which gives us the hope of six years ago?

A special session of the United Nations asked the committee in Geneva to implement its recommendations, and a majority of that committee supported a proposal for a comprehensive disarmament programme of two stages in which nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction should be ended, and in which there should be progress in ending conventional weapons, and an indefinite stage to go on to realise the final proposals of the special session for general and complete disarmament, and all through that process the transference of military expenditure towards ending poverty in the world.

The second session two years ago was disappointing, but it referred those proposals to the committee in Geneva. That committee has now been renamed the Conference on Disarmament. The United Nations has recently expressed some disappointment in the progress made. My first criticism of the Government today is that at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva they have played an obstructive role. Seven weeks passed before that conference could come to an agreement about procedure. That was due to the fact that the United Kingdom and the United States of America, with the support of some, but not all, of the western countries, objected to a working committee being established to discuss the problem of nuclear weapons.

The United Kingdom took the view that nuclear weapons could not be separated from conventional weapons, and also referred to the fact that bilateral discussions were going on between the United States of America and the Soviet Union. The United Nations General Assembly has urged the tremendous importance of getting on with task. Finally, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, after seven weeks of obstruction, had to give way and allow that working committee on nuclear weapons to be established.

It is not merely on the issue of nuclear weapons that the delegates of our Government have played an obstructive role. They have done so on the working committee on outer space. The majority of that committee wanted definite negotiations in order to prevent warfare in outer space. The United Kingdom wanted only an examination of the subject. The United Kingdom delegation also obstructed the working committee on compulsory test bans. The United States and the United Kingdom both wanted a mandate limited to verification. The majority of that committee wanted actual negotiation. Because there has been this obstruction on all the working committees, the Geneva conference has not been able to proceed with its fundamental object, which was a comprehensive programme for disarmament.

I must not only criticise the policy of the Government at the Geneva conference but at the United Nations itself. In December when the United Nations first committee was considering disarmament, its recommendations automatically endorsed by the General Assembly, the British delegation on 18 occasions abstained on votes related to disarmament, and on 29 occasions actually voted against proposals brought there in favour of disarmament. I give first some instances of where the British delegation abstained.

The British delegation abstained on the proposal for a nuclear weapon-free zone in south Asia. It abstained on the prevention of an arms race in outer space. It abstained on a proposal to support the United Nations World Disarmament Campaign activities. It abstained on a proposal for the denuclearisation of Africa, including condemnation of South Africa for its pursuit of nuclear capability. It abstained on the prohibition of the development and manufacture of new types of weapons of mass destruction. It abstained from support of Disarmament Week. It abstained on a call for contributions to the United Nations peacekeeping forces. It abstained on the prohibition of chemical and bacteriological weapons and of new developments prejudicing an international convention. It abstained on the convention to strengthen the security of nonnuclear weapon states against the threat or use of nuclear weapons against themselves. It abstained finally on a freeze of the production of nuclear weapons for nuclear weapon-free zones.

Its actual votes against disarmament proposals at the United Nations included the following: a condemnation of nuclear war as contrary to conscience and reason. Our delegation voted against that! It voted against a convention for the prohibition of the use of nuclear weapons; against a freeze on the manufacture, delivery and deployment of nuclear weapons with appropriate verification; against the no first use of nuclear weapons; against the prohibition of nuclear weapons; against the need for negotiation to curb the naval arms race; against the establishment of an inquiry into ways and means of implementing the collective security provisions of the Charter of the United Nations.

Because of the attitude of the British delegations at these conferences Great Britain is getting a name in the world for standing against disarmament. Just look at the majorities which there were against us! I just run down two pages of the report: for a motion 155, against none, 9 abstentions; for a motion 119, only two against, the United States of America and the United Kingdom, with 26 abstentions; for another resolution, 117 in favour, none against, 29 abstentions of which we were one; another resolution, 94 in favour, three against, 35 abstentions; another, 108 in favour, 17 against and 16 abstentions. Another was 147, none against and 6 abstentions.

When in the General Assembly of the United Nations there are these overwhelming votes for disarmament proposals and, persistently, the United Kingdom delegate votes against them, inevitably we gain the reputation in the world of standing against disarmament. I appreciate that there is this fundamental difference between the Government and many on these Benches. We are in favour of a comprehensive disarmament programme leading step by step to general and complete disarmament. The Government are against because they take the view that these matters should be discussed in bilateral and multilateral negotiations on separate issues. The fact is that the Government delegates themselves are voting against disarmament proposals on these separate issues.

My appeal to the Government is to look at the whole of their policy in these respects. If the present thaw in international relations is to move in the direction of co-operation instead of confrontation, I urge that the Government must change their policy in these respects.

4.42 p.m.

Lord Home of the Hirsel

My Lords, I should like to echo the welcome given by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, and by my noble friend Lady Young to the Earl of Stockton. The House will understand that after some years I am a little bit rusty on the title, the dignity and honour of an Earl. But this I do know, that my noble friend has built up a bank of knowledge and wisdom on which this House will be very happy to draw. I hope that he addresses us on many an occasion.

I concur, with respect, in the description of the four pillars of British foreign policy which were given at the beginning of his speech by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn. But as I want to concentrate on disarmament and confrontation I will only divert what I was going to say into one observation in relation to Europe. I have always, from the start, thought that in our negotiations with the European Community the political side of Europe was more important than the economic, more important than anything, because if one has, as we have, a NATO Alliance, it will not be complete unless there is a political understanding of the political objectives, the foreign policy objectives, of the members of that alliance. I hope, therefore, that we shall overcome the economic difficulties about mountains of food and the rest, and that the political unity of Europe will be confirmed.

It is easy to respond to the eloquent and sincere advocacy by Lord Cledwyn that that part of the British foreign policy which is directed to disarmament and to the question of confrontation should carry conviction. Neighbourliness is, after all, of the essence of democracy's understanding of international living. My shorthand reaction to his speech takes three forms: first, for many years we have pursued the formula of mutual balanced and verifiable disarmament. It is the only formula which is equitable and it is NATO policy as well as the policy of the British Government. Secondly, it takes two or more to make an agreement. Thirdly, there are few areas of international politics in which, in my experience, it is easier to fall into the temptation of wishful thinking.

I therefore want to try, if I may, to place the prospects of the future in the perspective of experience. We now have the benefit of hindsight, but your Lordships will recall at the end of the war the democratic allies who were victorious in the war against Germany acted upon the assumption that Soviet Russia would share the common interest of collective security and in the police force which would control law and order. There was no evidence whatever on which to build that conclusion. Neither the policy of Russia under the Czars nor the policy of Russia under the communists had given any indication that they conducted their foreign policy in terms of the ethic of neighbourliness and partnership; none whatever. At the Yalta Conference, in fact, Stalin had given notice that he intended to establish and control a cordon sanitaire in Eastern Europe and that he intended to pursue the philosophy that the revolution was justified and, if need be, could be supported by force. We ignored those plain signals because we wished it could be otherwise. In our zeal we were historically, dangerously wrong.

I do not know whether the noble Lords, Lord Cledwyn and Lord Brockway, remember Stalin's definition of power. I quote: Power has not only to be seized; it has to be held to be consolidated; to be invincible". That has been the theme of every single Soviet leader since Stalin. Your Lordships who recall the inaugural speech made only a week or two ago by Mr Chernenko will remember that his first requirement in that speech was the invincibility of Russia's power.

Hundreds of thousands of words were spoken at that time and have been spoken in recent weeks between the death of Mr. Andropov and the accession of Mr. Chernenko. Two would have sufficed: "no change". There has been no change over the years in the directive of Russian foreign policy. In particular it was suggested that Mr. Chernenko, being a disciple of Mr. Brezhnev, would adopt the latter's policy of detente. What was Mr. Brezhnev's description of detente, spoken in the context of East-West relations? I quote again: Detente is just another aspect of continuing confrontation and struggle which may well have to be intensified". "Confrontation", "struggle"; no democratic statesman could use those words in the context of detente. Lord Cledwyn could not use them; Lord Brockway could not use them. British foreign policy must perforce pursue detente. But to believe that Russia will change her interpretation of detente to accommodate our definition of detente, I must put into the category of wishful thinking. It simply will not be so.

Considerable hopes have been raised, and echoed in this debate, about the prospect of renewed dialogue. Of course, it will be welcome. The noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, is quite right—very welcome. But may I remind your Lordships of the fruits of the years when, under the Governments which were headed respectively by the noble Lord, Lord Wilson, and my noble friend Lord Stockton, dialogue was conducted on a close and continuing basis with the Kremlin? There were, in fact, very few agreements at all on disarmament. There was a test ban treaty, very valuable; but it was not disarmament; there was no disarmament involved in that. There was the nonproliferation treaty, very valuable; it prevented others acquiring new nuclear weapons. But it left the existing nuclear powers, including Russia, in exactly the same position as they were before, in possession of those weapons.

During those years, the Americans concluded SALT I and an agreement not to place weapons in space. But valuable though those agreements were, they did nothing to affect the deployment of arms, either nuclear or conventional, on this earth. We argue that it would pay the Soviet Union to switch a large chunk of investment from the military to the civil. There is no evidence whatever to think that the Politburo is thinking in those terms. All the Russian actions in this context of confrontation and of armaments have been totally consistent for 35 years. It is the policies and actions of the West which have varied, and, very often, to the confusion of the Russians themselves. Their purpose has been, and is, to build within the power structure because (whether we like it or not we are working in the power structure now in the world) a balance favourable to the Soviet Union and to create as many options as possible. Afghanistan and Ethiopia are only two, but very topical ones, to extend Russia's influence in the world.

My Lords, I am so convinced of this that I will repeat those two purposes of the Soviet Union—within the power structure to build a balance favourable to the Soviet Union and to create as many options as they can to increase their interests in the world and, if necessary, to create those options, as they did in Czechoslovakia and in Afghanistan, by force. One more item there is in the disarmament equation. I am astonished that it has not been mentioned today—at least, I do not think that it has—and that is verification. Verification is essential to any kind of disarmament and the Russians have always dismissed it as irrelevant. I remember conducting one of the disarmament conferences in Geneva. Mr. Gromyko would not sit down at the table so long as verification was in the formula. I had to say to him, "I don't mind. I will take it out of the formula so long as you understand that I will repeat every ten minutes while we meet that verification is the purpose of our exercise as well as the other conditions on disarmament". But they have never admitted verification; they have always dismissed it, and there is no evidence yet that they have changed their minds.

Having taken account of these facts of life as they have been, I find it impossible to accept under this heading—although one might criticise Her Majesty's Government in other ways—implied criticism of Her Majesty's Government's foreign policy as it applies to East-West relations and to the question of disarmament. Is it possible, from the Russians' past record, to forecast their future attitudes? My reading is this. Prophecy is not a man's strongest suit. Still, I am going to try. She will return to a disamament forum but she will not commit herself to any action until after the United States elections. She will not agree to any scheme which in her judgment could prejudice what she names the invincibility of Russian power. She will not close any of her options for expansion overseas. In other words, she will continue to occupy Afghanistan and Czechoslovakia and to preserve her cordon sanitaire.

What fields, therefore, of opportunity does that leave? What area for negotiation is there between East and West? I believe that it is likely that there will be a reduction in the number of inter-continental ballistic missiles, reducing the overkill. It will not go far to reduce the overkill but it will make a start. That must be welcome because the overkill is enormous and unnecessary. A possible attempt could be made to reach agreement on a balancing of the number of warheads in the cruise-Pershing-SS.20 complex, although it is a complex. It will be very difficult to arrive at an answer but it is a possibility. Thirdly, a likely refinement and improvement of measures to control troops and weapons when they move and, therefore, to eliminate the risk of error. All those things are worthwhile, but they are far short of some of the hopes that have been expressed today.

My Lords, one more agreement I think is possible, and that concerns chemical warfare. That, too, will be immensely welcome and valuable. But although I forecast with some diffidence these kinds of agreement with the Soviet Union, I must enter this caveat. They have never said a word about verification; and that is essential in any disarmament obligation undertaken in a disarmament agreement. I am not surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, and others are impatient. He will remember Mr. Ernest Bevin who, in frustration, said: "'It 'em'ard and they'll respect you". I can understand that, having negotiated with the Russians over many years; but I think that we can get away from that now. I think that the Russians will try every means they can to scare the democracies into unilateral concessions. We must expect that. But also we must sit down to negotiate. I do not think that we need to "'it 'em"; but I think that we want to be firm, that the formula of mutual, balanced and verified disarmament is the formula in which NATO believes. Once the Russians understand that, then I believe they will begin to come our way.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I make it clear, first, that I am not impatient and under no illusions whatsoever about the attitudes of the Soviet Union. But I must correct him on one point. I made it absolutely clear in my speech that I did not believe that the change of leadership in Moscow indicated a change of policy. What I believe is that it reduces tension and gives us, and the West generally, an opportunity to resume practical disarmament negotiations. This was the basis of that part of my speech.

Lord Home of the Hirsel

My Lords, I hope that I did not misrepresent or misunderstand the noble Lord on that. I would agree, of course, that these contacts should be made. It is the results about which I am a bit sceptical in the short term.

5 p.m.

Lord Caradon

My Lords, I hope that it will not be impudent for me to add one word of welcome to the noble Earl, Lord Stockton, because I once had the privilege of working under him and he showed me very great patience and kindness at that time, as indeed did the noble Lord, Lord Home, and also others on my side of the House under whom I worked. I am very glad to add that word of welcome from these Benches.

This afternoon I want to speak on a specific though limited subject which I believe is extremely important: the evil of delay. I went back in my mind to three issues of foreign policy on which there has been a disgraceful delay. Three unanimous resolutions of the Security Council were taken years ago on Namibia, Cyprus and the Middle East. As I say, they were taken unanimously; yet nothing has been done to give effect to them. That is a fact of great consequence. It means that the rest of the world distrusts us because even when we come to a decision after laborious effort we do nothing about carrying it out. I believe that can create a spirit of disgust that we are not willing to do what we know we should do.

It is some 20 years ago now that agreement was reached at the United Nations on the future of Namibia, leading up to a series of unamimous resolutions to the effect that Namibia should be free and should have the opportuntiy to hold its own elections with a military force provided by the United Nations. Yes, we voted for it; we supported it; but when it came to the test we have not been prepared—with the Americans and others—to insist that it should be carried out.

One cannot add up all the results of these matters—the numbers of people who have been killed as a result of the pressures, the violence and bloodshed which have arisen from our own failure to act on what we said we believed in. It must be said that at the moment in Namibia there seems to be the possibility of some advance towards the purpose which was set decades ago. On the other hand, we must on past experience believe it to be perfectly possible that the South Africans, supported by the United States, will continue to obstruct the purpose which they have long viewed with disfavour. So I take that first example of our failure to support our own words and our own vote.

In another issue, long ago there was a unanimous resolution on Cyprus. I myself had some interest in the matter, and on behalf of the British Government I signed the treaty guaranteeing that Cyprus would not be divided. What have we done to carry out that guarantee? What action has been taken? When I meet people from Cyprus, from the North and the South, I realise that there are children growing up on both sides of the line who have never met those on the other side. When I first knew them they were on friendly terms but now there is antagonism which has been created by our own failure to do what we promised to do.

Of the three examples that I have given, I would most certainly put the Middle East at the top of the list. I do not forget the day when I turned to my right in the Security Council and, to my delight, saw that the Soviet Union representative was voting for the British resolution, making it unanimous. That was in 1967. We look back now to that date and think of the bloodshed, the suffering and injustice that has taken place in the interval because we have not been prepared to carry out what we voted for. We have not been prepared to back our vote with the necessary action.

Consequently, it is not only Namibia, Cyprus and the Middle East which have suffered so much from our failure. I say "our failure" but principally it has been the failure of the United States, and we go along with the inactivity. I believe that we look back now with shame, because we were not prepared with our allies to insist that the necessary action should be taken to give effect to what we believed in and what we had voted for.

As a result, I believe that the dissatisfaction and distrust over the United Nations is largely our own responsibility. If we say to the people of Cyprus, "It is wrong that your beautiful island should be cut in two"; and say to the Namibians, "Long ago you had the right to make your own decisions on your own future"; and if we say to the people of the Middle East, "It is utterly wrong that you should suffer in the way you do, with thousands dead and so many people hopeless in their outlook now"—it is useless if we are not prepared to give the backing to our own votes and to our own wishes.

If we are prepared to accept the American lead which is contrary to our own judgment, as I believe we often are prepared, then we are putting at risk the whole procedure for peaceful settlements and the whole method laid down for the settlement of disputes and for the provision of a peaceful outcome. Therefore I believe it is well in the course of our discussions, with all the other matters we have to consider, for us to stop and consider whether we have done our duty. And, if we have not, we should surely make up our minds to do our duty in the future.

5.8 p.m.

Lord Greenhill of Harrow

My Lords, I share with you the very great pleasure at being present at the introduction of the noble Earl, Lord Stockton, this afternoon. It is appropriate that he should enter the House on a day when we are discussing foreign affairs, of which he was such a master.

Before commenting on some points which have already been made in this useful debate, I should like to make some general remarks on the handling of foreign affairs by Her Majesty's Government. I hope your Lordships will not think that the remarks I make are unduly platitudinous or pessimistic, and I hope you will agree that they are worth making.

At no time in our history have there been so many intractable international problems on the world agenda. These problems have remained unsolved for many years and, sadly, are likely to remain so. It is also true that, so far as this country is concerned, these problems are increasingly engaging public attention, and rightly so. This wider discussion of those matters must be welcomed. Discussion should of course be well informed—and I think the Government can help in the discussion of these matters, and can help to ensure that they are treated with seriousness in the media. I suggest that in this difficult situation the Government should at all times act in a patient, persistent and professional manner.

Why do I insist on patience? The problems now before us—disarmament, East-West relations, the Arab-Israel question, the European Community, the divided countries of Germany and Korea, southern Africa, the Falklands, and so on—are not matters which are likely to be susceptible to solution by ingenious formulae put together at summit meetings by presidents, prime ministers or diplomats. Their solutions will be worked out step by step over years, and indeed in some cases over decades. The Prime Minister was absolutely right to emphasise this when she returned from Mr. Andropov's funeral, and the noble Lord, Lord Home, has this afternoon given some very appropriate and apt quotations from Soviet speakers which indicate the great depth of the problem.

Of course, I agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, when he said that we should increase and maintain contacts at all levels with the Soviet Union. But I would say from my own experience that in these contacts the United Kingdom representatives do not always make the best of their opportunities. The Soviet Union visitors and delegation people are extremely well briefed and extremely clear on the points that they wish to make. Those Members of the House who heard Mr. Arbatov on the television, or even more frankly at Chatham House, will realise how carefully they prepare their case for presentation to influential British audiences. I hope, therefore, that any persons here who participate in these contacts, to which the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, has drawn attention as regards the possibilities, will take the greatest trouble to brief themselves and to argue aggressively from the position of strength which, indeed, they have.

The noble Lord, Lord Home, referred to how little has been accomplished in international agreement on East-West affairs since 1946. In the nuclear field, the test ban treaty and the non-proliferation treaties are limited and useful successes. But nuclear disarmament is of course an unbelievably difficult area, and I am constantly surprised at the confident ignorance with which Members of both Houses, and journalists, address themselves to these matters, which require not only a knowledge of the present situation but an understanding of potential future scientific developments.

It is only by exercising great patience that these profound problems can be mastered. Governments and people must, I believe, sadly reconcile themselves to this disappointing fact. But if you are willing to exercise patience in the hope of eventual success, you must also, necessarily, keep down the tone of the discussion and dialogue. All governments, from time to time, have been guilty of undue stridency and unwise levels of what I believe is called megaphone diplomacy. Members have rightly welcomed the recent improvement in this respect in the East-West argument, and may it continue and extend to other areas of dispute, not least to Ireland.

I spoke also initially of persistence, which is just as important as patience. However unpromising the prospect, I believe that international problems must be constantly and continuously worked at. Time is not the great healer. Problems usually get worse, not better, if neglected. The Falkland Islands was for many years swept under the rug, only to burst out in a savage war when least expected. Other examples will occur to Members of the House. A solution in Rhodesia, for example, was certainly delayed by an unwillingness of Governments of both parties to attempt solutions at what were misjudged to be unpropitious moments. At one time it looked as if Hong Kong would suffer similar treatment, but, happily, that possibility seems to have receded; and I hope that that is also true of Gilbraltar.

I would therefore urge the Government never to give up trying to find solutions to many of these obstinate and apparently insoluble problems. Sometimes, progress can be made unexpectedly by a fortuitous coming together of events, and we must always be ready to take advantage of that. The introduction of the noble Earl, Lord Stockton, this afternoon should remind us that that is very much what happened with the test ban treaty. It was he who identified, in the language of the exchanges between Khrushchev and President Kennedy, the key which eventually unlocked the problem.

The third point which I made initially was that Her Majesty's Government should be professionally equipped to play a constructive part in the solution of these international problems, and I should like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for the tribute that she paid to the Foreign Office and to the diplomatic service. By "professionally equipped", I mean that those who are handling our international affairs must have the knowledge, political and economic, and the resources, to do so. I spoke in the House some years ago about the need for a profound and continuous study of Soviet affairs. At that time, those studies were being allocated inadequate resources. I understand that this has now been largely remedied and that in this and in other fields of future planning there is good contact between the Foreign Office and appropriate academic institutions, as well as other influential sources.

It is, for example, impossible to make a constructive contribution to the problems of the Middle East without specialist knowledge of its history and of its culture. Both this country and France, for example, possess this knowledge and should jointly use it. We must, however, give the Americans credit for their attempts to make progress in the Middle East. You may criticise what they have done, but they have sincerely tried and it is not yet at all clear that they have failed. Their lack of success is, I believe, due in some small part to the fact that some of them currently involved in these Middle Eastern matters have not the sympathy and understanding which at one time characterised the Middle East experts in the United States State Department, who had a tradition going back for three-quarters of a century. In short, I believe that if this country conducts its foreign policy patiently, persistently and professionally, we can play an effective role in the world.

Of the questions immediately before the Government, the problems of the European Community are probably the most urgent in the short term and possibly the most important in the long term. It would be presumptuous of me to suggest what tactics it would be most effective for the Government to employ in the coming fateful meetings. They should know best how to play their hand in the light of the confidential meetings which have taken place over recent weeks. However, many of us who have spent some time in recent years in the activities of the European Communities Select Committee of this House are constantly struck by how ill the Treaty of Rome meets the requirements of the expanding membership, and how different are the political and economic conditions of Europe compared to the times in which the treaty was conceived. Whether it is sufficient to limp along, tinkering with the existing machine, or whether a new Messina Conference is necessary or possible remains to be seen. For myself, I am inclined to believe that a radical overhaul will in the end be necessary if the potential of Europe is to be mobilised to take its proper place in the world. This will become a more live issue if the coming council meetings fail in their purpose.

Two other questions to which I wish to refer relate to one aspect of nuclear disarmament and to the use of the United Nations. Public attention is rightly focused on the question of nuclear disarmament, but it is one thing to focus attention calmly on these difficult matters and it is quite another and a destructive thing to spread unjustified alarm by ignorant and wild exaggeration. I believe that negotiations on these matters will indeed reopen relatively soon. It is important that they should do so in a responsible atmosphere. I hope that those who are tempted to trade on the fears of the public will ask themselves whether that is the way to reach sensible international agreements.

Lastly, ought the Government in their approach to foreign affairs to give a more central place to the United Nations Organisation? The answer, I believe, must clearly be, yes. There are some signs that the Government are willing to do so. The organisation has obvious limitations in the super-power confrontation but it has a greater future in the management of third world disputes. I should like to draw the attention of the House to a very perceptive lecture given last summer on this subject at the London School of Economics by Sir Anthony Parsons, our former representative in New York. He points the way to a more useful future for the organisation, putting emphasis on the use of the Secretary-General's good offices. I know that the Secretary-General's efforts have been rebuffed in the Gulf War, but I hope that there can be greater international and European support for what he is trying to do there and in the Lebanon.

Finally, the Foreign Secretary carries a very heavy burden. It is a great pity to my mind that we have departed so far from bi-partisan foreign policy. To have done so has been to weaken our influence with real friends and potential enemies. There are however still substantial common elements between the Government and the Opposition. Is it not possible for this common ground to be extended?

5.25 p.m.

Lord Stewart of Fulham

My Lords. I want to begin by making one remark which is not connected at all with the rest of what I have to say. It is this. I was gratified to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Young, say what she did about the work of our diplomatic service, and their wives, abroad. From my own experience I want to confirm very heartily what the noble Baroness said.

I join with everyone in welcoming to our counsels the noble Earl, Lord Stockton. It is particularly appropriate that we should be debating foreign affairs on the day that he joins us. One of the things I remember most clearly about him in another place was his great wisdom and balance when speaking on foreign affairs. He would, I believe, have passed any test that the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, might have set about showing realism towards the Soviet Union. He took great care never to speak provocatively, never to throw away opportunities for agreement. And he did, of course, achieve the partial test ban treaty. That was an exemplar of how we must behave in our relations with the Soviet Union: without illusions, without provocation.

On the matter of disarmament, what has happened recently, as I understand it, is this. The British Government took an initiative about chemical warfare. In its reply the Soviet Government spoke of its willingness to consider on-site inspection of the means of chemical warfare. This was a remarkable, if limited, advance. It comes nearer to verification than we have ever come before. I should like the Government to inform us about their counter-move to that reply. The way in which the Soviet Union spoke implied that they expected their move in this respect to be appreciated, and that there would be a helpful response from the West. How do the Government visualise these negotiations about disarmament in the context of chemical warfare proceeding from that point? We should like to know the answer to that question.

The Soviet Union's admittedly helpful response suggests that, despite the walk-out of some months ago, they have not permanently, or for any long period, closed the door to negotiations on disarmament. I do not believe that it will be so very long before the discussions about the SS.20s on the one hand and cruise on the other are resumed. We may be able to find some formula of numbers which, it seems to me, we were near to finding at one time in the past. It may be possible to achieve that formula in the future.

I accept the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, about the attitude of the Russians to the whole matter. The Russian view of powe —although I agree that it is a Russian view—is not peculiar to them, and it is not new. It is 23 centuries since the spokesman of the Athenian Empire coined the famous phrase: In the gods we believe and of men we know, but by the law of their nature they rule wherever they can. Human beings have largely behaved along that line ever since.

It is true that the Russians will not agree to any settlement that prevents them from being invincible. But could we expect them to? We ourselves would not accept anything less than invincibility. That does not necessarily involve the power to win a struggle aggressively against the other side; but neither Russia nor the West will voluntarily put itself into a position in which it is liable to be conquered or, to put it the other way round, in which it is less than invincible. But what they can do is get to a situation in which each can say with confidence, "We are still secure"; but both can do so with less expenditure on weapons. That is of more advantage to us than it is to the Soviet Union because we have to pay attention to the demands of a democratic electorate wanting to see money spent on areas other than defence. I believe that in their country the Politburo are occasionally worried along those lines—but, of course, criticism there is never so outspoken.

I believe that we shall be able to make some progress in disarmament but it is on the condition that we do not at any time or in any way give the Russians to suppose that we are toying with the idea of unilateral disarmament. If the Russians believe that that is what we are likely to do or are going to do, they will not consider it worth while making any concessions whatever. We ought to have that in mind throughout negotiations.

The other point about disarmament is that, important though it is, it is a symptom of the disease from which the world is suffering rather than the disease itself. I do not believe that armaments go off by themselves. I do not believe that arms races cause wars. Arms races and wars are the result of deep mutual fears and suspicions between powerful groups and at the same time, of areas of the world where poverty and injustice make conflict likely and, in effect, invite one powerful group or another to take a hand in that conflict. It is from those sources that wars can spring, and armaments pile up because of the possibility that wars may occur.

Although it is important to make whatever progress we can in the field of disarmament, we have also to look more generally at the problem of whether the world can be made a less suspicious and mutually hating place. It is certainly true—as the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow, pointed out—that it cannot be done by some quick formula put together at a summit. It will be the result of long and patient work. If we ask where that work is to be carried out, we must look for the answer to the four pillars of policy which my noble friend our Leader on this side of the House put forward.

It is interesting to note that those four pillars—the European Community, NATO, the Commonwealth and United Nations—are all of them groups within which we have to work. This illustrates that we have to get used to the fact that ours is not a country whose comparative size and power enables it by itself to influence and sway the movement of world affairs one way or the other. Any success we can have must come through sensible and patient work within the groups to which we belong.

Take, for example, the European Community. At the moment, when people think of Britain and the European Community, they think first of a quarrel between us about money. Although we have certain rights in that matter for which we must stand up, it is important that we see to it that the rest of the Community does not think of Britain exclusively as a country with a grievance about money. We have to consider the part we can play in causing the European Community to do rather more in a constructive way than it has been doing recently.

Is it possible, for example, to have any kind of European policy for moderate reflation and a pan-European attack on unemployment? This matter has been discussed in the European Parliament, but I do not consider that it has been given sufficient attention. It is something to which the British Government could make a contribution. The relevance of that to my general remarks is that if we become a country which makes a positive contribution to the European Community in making it a more constructive body, then we are helping to make the world a place less full of suspicion, division and hatred than it was before. It will be only one step in that direction, but one cannot over-emphasise the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow, that all progress here will be slow and will require patience and persistence.

If one takes another of the groups to which we belong, NATO, it is extraordinary to see the casual and almost flippant way in which some writers on both sides of the Atlantic have comment about the difficulties in NATO and the possibility of it breaking up. There are differences between ourselves and the United States at the present time. It has been suggested that some of them are due to the fact that American statesmen are worried about the electoral effects of what they say. We must never get into the position where, on the one hand, we blame the Russians because they do not have free elections and, on the other, blame the Americans because they do.

It is true that American statesmen, like our own, have an eye to elections. It is true also that there are certain matters on which we are in disagreement with them. It should he the business of the Government, in consultation with the European members of NATO, to see—not publicly but in private consultations at NATO—how far we can get the United States to understand better how some of their actions and words have caused offence, misunderstanding and the danger of a real split between Europe and the United States. This is a problem to which the Government must address themselves.

One feature of the Commonwealth—another of the groups to which we belong—is that it contains some of the richest and some of the poorest countries in the world. It is by, itself an exemplar of the North/South gap to which Her Majesty referred in her Christmas broadcast. Remembering the exchanges during Questions today, it is fair to say that the Government ought to take their duties towards the third world more seriously than they do at present. There is a very large gap between the 0 7 per cent. of GDP which we are supposed to he giving in aid and the figure of 0 38 per cent. which ultimately came to be mentioned from the Benches opposite during Questions today. We ought to be able to improve on that figure, and by that means try to reduce the number of places in the world where poverty and injustice are liable to provoke conflicts in which the great powers will take part. I am thinking particularly, for example, of Ethiopia.

The other group to which we belong—and in the end, it is the most important of them all—is the United Nations. Could we not—and I refer to a debate initiated not very long ago by my noble friend Lord Caradon—make known our adherence to the Convention on the Law of the Sea? That was a striking achievement by members of United Nations and it is a great pity that it has not come to fruition. I believe that our weight ought to be placed on the side of making that convention become reality. My noble friend Lord Caradon referred to other matters this afternoon where we have not taken with sufficient seriousness obligations we have entered into at United Nations.

I have tried to suggest various areas in which the Government could press on with the long but inescapable task of trying to make the world a more civilised place. It is in so far as we can do that that there will be some chance of achieving success in disarmament and some chance of preserving peace.

5.39 p.m.

Lord McNair

My Lords, I think I can promise at least to make the shortest speech so far, and I shall only speak about one small aspect of the Lebanese problem. Yesterday I attended a meeting of officers of some of the voluntary agencies who either keep in touch almost daily with their operatives in the Lebanon or, in some cases, have themselves recently come back from there. As this meeting was at the British Refugee Council we focused our attention chiefly on the Palestinian refugees, and particularly on those in the camps in South Beirut.

The first finding which I should like to convey to the House is that, contrary to some press reports, there has been, over the past few days and weeks, virtually no law and order in Beirut. This militia or that militia may be on the streets and nominally in control, but travel in any direction is extremely dangerous and the situation, to put it mildly, is explosive. Others have spoken, and no doubt more will speak, about the broader political problems of The Lebanon, but I want to concentrate on this question of the physical protection of the refugees. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that in that tragic country massacre is endemic. It is very nearly a field sport. I make that appallingly callous remark in the hope that in this way I can rivet the attention of the House to the precarious and perilous situation of those people whose only home is a hovel in Sabra, Chatila or one of the other camps. These are the survivors of September 1982, plus some who have gone back or moved in since.

Their safety was splendidly assured for several months by the presence inside those camps of Italian and French soldiers of the multinational force. I think the whole House will agree with me in paying a very sincere tribute to the magnificent job which the forces of those two countries, like our own, did in Beirut. But now the Italians have gone. I have been unable to discover for certain whether or not the French are still in the camps but the balance of evidence seems to be that they are not. At present the camps are protected, if at all, by soldiers of the Amal militia. However, I surely do not need to remind your Lordships that not long ago Amal and the PLO were on opposite sides, killing each other. In the ethnic and confessional kaleidoscope which is The Lebanon things can change very fast.

Therefore,—and this is the question I put to the Government—what can be done? May I say at once that I am fully aware of the deep concern of the Government, the Foreign Office and its Ministers, on this problem and I am very appreciative of their sympathetic reception of the various approaches we have made to the Foreign Office from the British Refugee Council. But what next? There is much talk of sending in a United Nations force. But talk takes time. May I therefore put this, my first question, to the noble Baroness who will I hope, by leave, wind up for the Government. Would it be quicker to renegotiate the mandate of UNIFIL, thereby freeing one or more of the battalions of that force? Might that be quicker than setting up a brand new force? That is my first question; but in view of what the noble Baroness herself said about today's meeting in the Security Council, I realise that her answer can only be provisional and hypothetical.

My second question concerns the team of United Nations observers which I understand has been in Beirut for about 18 months, following Security Council Resolution No. 516. We have not heard very much about them. I believe Sir John Thompson made some reference to them recently in New York. Would it be possible, perhaps as a stop-gap measure, for these observers to be given fresh instructions? Could they display themselves somewhat more visibly, perhaps in the camps or at crossing points on the Green Line? I ask that because it is certainly the belief of UNRWA and others that the mere presence of foreigners, of expatriates—even, for example, the admirable workers of organisations such as Oxfam or Save the Children Fund—has a very calming effect. They can sometimes defuse a situation and sometimes act as unofficial go-betweens with the commanders of the potential rivals. How much more effective would this be if there were a United Nations flag on top of the Land Rover? So my second question to the noble Baroness is: what is this small body of United Nations observers doing at present? Does she think that with fresh instructions it might do something more to reduce the danger which hangs over the Palestinian refugees at the moment?

5.48 p.m.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, I sympathise—which is not always the case—with the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, on one particular point; namely, that if a party uses its allotted day in our proceedings to raise a subject of importance it is imperative that the leadership of that party in this House should explain that party's policy rather than confine itself either to generalities, with which we all agree, or to criticism of Her Majesty's Government, which is their natural right and perhaps their duty.

It is a remarkable fact that of the four pillars which the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, enumerated—and correctly enumerated—as the basis of British policy, one of them, NATO, was in fact the creation of a Labour Government through strenuous and difficult negotiations which the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, will remember from the inside and which those of us who are confined to books have been able to read about recently in the remarkable biography of Ernest Bevin by the noble Lord, Lord Bullock. Yet this great Alliance, based on Bevin's perfectly correct belief that British safety depended on a close association with Western Europe backed by the might of the United States, has received extreme damage from the statements made by the present leader of the Labour Party. We must take it, I think, that in these matters he now speaks for that party since those who did give alternative versions of that party's policy, such as Mr. Denis Healey, have made the pilgrimage to Canossa, which I understand is the mediaeval name for Chesterfield.

It is important to realise that Mr. Kinnock suggested in the course of his interviews and discussions in the United States that Britain on the morrow of a general election, without consulting its NATO allies and without seeing what could be put in the place of what was to be abandoned, would immediately embark upon a totally new defence policy which, whether right or wrong, would hardly he compatible with the development of an alliance and fidelity to an alliance. Repeated statements have come, and came even during the general election, from the Labour Party that despite its unilateral commitment it was all for NATO. That is something which we now find very difficult to believe, and from quite a different point of view to the one which the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, and I have already mentioned.

The impact of statements of the kind made in the United States by the Leader of the Labour Party will be to give very considerable comfort to a growing body of opinion there which holds that Europe is not worth the effort which for nearly 40 years has been put into defending it. There are great movements within the United States in population and in economic interest and outlook. Not a single candidate who has any chance of success in the coming presidential election comes from a state near the Atlantic seaboard; near the areas from which understanding of and respect for Europe has come. I think that a basic change in American policy towards Europe is an appalling prospect. To give any comfort to those who feel that way—and they are entitled to feel that way—seems to me to be a blow against one of the four pillars which the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, commended to us. I therefore hope that when the noble Lord, Lord Mulley, winds up for the Labour Party he will perhaps enlarge on this point.

On the rest of our deliberation, I should like to make one observation from a slightly different point of view from that of my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel, which was based on his great experience. It is about the necessity of modesty in our aspirations in respect of dialogue with the Soviet Union. I do not dissent from anything that my noble friend said, although I should like to put it in a slightly different way. In the Soviet Union we face not merely, as he said, a country which is committed—indeed, as the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, said, all great powers are committed to this to some extent—to views about its own defence, or invincibility, if you like, but also one which has two other very important characteristics. One is that over what is now, after all, a period of 60 years it has shown that its economic and administrative systems are admirably suited to projecting energy into military preparations, and wholly unsuited to satisfying the consumer demands of its population.

Therefore, we have a country which from the military point of view is perhaps the equal of any in the world but from the economic point of view is heavily dependent on food produced in the West at various times and on technology produced in the West at all times. This must to some extent explain the other feature, which was so well illustrated in the months leading up to the death of Mr. Andropov and in our bewilderment in the days following his death: this ability to maintain a closed society. By all means let the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, the Leader of his party and others, attempt to penetrate that curtain; but everyone knows how difficult it is to get more than official reactions and the repetition in some form of whatever at any given moment may be the official view.

It is this closed society, with its military strength and its economic weakness—quite irrespective of its ideological claims and its interest in the propagation of communism—which presents a real dilemma to our statesmen. If they take it as meaning that we cannot get anywhere, they will be blamed for doing nothing; if, on the contrary, they take steps towards dialogue, as it is now fashionable to call it, they risk raising hopes which, if they are disappointed, would I think damage them, and indeed us, in opinion generally.

When one tries to think how things have changed since the NATO Alliance was created in the face of this problem, we should consider the change that has occurred in much of the world—and particularly in the areas that several noble Lords have touched upon, like the Middle East—which I think would have been unexpected 40 years ago. I mean the extraordinary resurgence of religious wars. What do we have in the Lebanon? We have a series of sects of the same ethnic stock, if you like, and the same language, whose members have been subject to the same cultural influence from outside, although to different degrees, and who are divided by religious divisions which in some cases go back to the fifth century and cover centuries in between. What do we have in the Gulf war? People say that we should take action in respect of that war and that the Government should make certain that we are not drawn in. Indeed, who could wish to be drawn into that? What kind of a conflict is it in which youngsters are sent in bare-handed to win paradise by treading across minefields?

It is these religious feelings—feelings of solidarity among groups in the light of their history and culture—that present us with a series of problems, all of which I think would exist even if the Soviet Union was not itself confronted with them, too, and even if the dangers of a confrontation between the super powers did not exist. It is, I think, the reflection of the behaviour of the Iranians, the Iraqis; if you like, the Palestinians and the Israelis—the picture of these deep-rooted clashes of will, most of which are regarded by those who hold these views as purely defensive, although not perhaps in the case of Iran—which makes me, and I think perhaps other noble Lords, so dubious about the kind of approach to our international problems characterised this afternoon, as so often in our proceedings, by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway.

It is all very well to read out the fact that 123 nations in the United Nations voted for this or that aspect of disarmament. How many of those 123 are at war with their neighbours? How many of those countries are the scenes of civil war? In how many is one part of the population oppressing another? We must not build up a fortress of paperwork to obscure the facts.

I would comment similarly on the criticism made of Her Majesty's Government by the noble Lord, Lord Caradon. It is perfectly true that there were three solutions of the three problems that he mentioned which were accepted by the United Nations Security Council, and in all cases quite a long time ago. But when it is said that someone should have done something about it, let us consider perhaps the simplest of the instances because it is the most isolated—Cyprus. Does it mean that the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, thinks that Her Majesty's Government, or the Government of the United States, should have gone to war with Turkey, if Turkey refused to remove the troops that she says she sent in because the Turkish element in that population was being denied its rights.

If we look at any of these instances, is it not clear again and again that when people say that one should do something, they are saying that some country or countries should spend blood and treasure in dealing with the problem? But in democracies people are willing to spend their blood and treasure only on objectives which they see as closely connected with their welfare or, in some cases perhaps, with their pride. It is not, I think, probable that there would be an enormous out-pouring of enthusiasm for a war against the Turks in order to restore the unity of Cyprus. I doubt whether people would be willing to declare war on Israel in order to produce a more satisfactory situation—and it would not be difficult to think of a more satisfactory situation—than exists on the West Bank.

We must recognise that a Government who are responsible to a democracy must be careful and must husband their resources to deal with those matters which opinion regards as most important, and, above all, must see the world as the tragic place that it is, and not enveloped in pink mists of sentiment.

6.1 p.m.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, like other noble Lords, I should like to welcome the noble Earl, Lord Stockton, to our House. I do so in particular for a personal reason. In 1960 his "wind of change" speech in Africa made my task much easier when in charge of Commonwealth and colonial affairs for the Labour Party. That speech was also a most notable contribution to the subject which I have closest to my heart in this House. In view of that I welcome the noble Earl very warmly.

I would pick out the theme of the wind of change as the one issue that I intend to dwell on this evening. We need another wind of change, and we need a wind of change in the thinking of Her Majesty's Government. It is surely in a debate on foreign affairs essential that we first of all recognise that, so long as the nation state exists, the foreign policy of any state has as its principal objective the protection of its citizens in their physical wellbeing, as well as their economic, mental and communal wellbeing.

I would add that further than that it is the responsibility of any government in devising their foreign policy to consider the interests of not only the present generation, but also our children and grandchildren; and it should be the object of any Foreign Office to use its imagination in order to visualise the kind of world that our children and grandchildren are likely to live in if certain policies are followed. It is on that theme that I wish to make one point, and one point only, to the noble Baroness who will wind up the debate for the Government.

In his opening speech the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, produced some startling and stark figures concerning world hunger and poverty and the deaths of millions of children every year through malnutrition. That is one dark backcloth to the world community in which we are living. I hope that when they appear in Hansard tomorrow those figures are read, and read carefully, by all noble Lords in this House. I shall pick out perhaps slightly different figures only to emphasise the point that the noble Lord was making. Two-thirds of the world's population live in the developing countries, and yet those two-thirds consume only 20 per cent. of the world's output. Eight hundred million people—that is, one in five of the world's inhabitants—are destitute and suffer from severe malnutrition. In addition, a further 500 million are living in the grip of dire poverty.

What kind of world is that to bequeath to future generations? What do we visualise will be the fate of our children and grandchildren living in a world with such widespread destitution and poverty and the consequences which inevitably arise in the form of political disturbance, social disturbance and very often mental disturbance?

Moreover, this is not an issue simply of charity; it is not an issue of emotion; it is not one of the old missionary fervours that I am now portraying —admirable though they were. It is an issue that is directly affecting not just the suffering people of the developing countries, but also the people of the developed world. I can do no better than quote last year's second report of the Brandt Commission, which had some very direct words to say to us. The commission felt that the crisis, is already a crisis of contraction: contraction of production, of employment, of trade, of credit, of aid, of economic growth. And it is a common crisis; it afflicts rich and poor; market, mixed and centrally planned economies; industrial and agricultural communities". That seems to me to be a direct challenge to any British Government, and a direct challenge to a British Government who claim that their foreign policy is defending the interests of the people of this country as well as their responsibilities in the international world.

I should like to give three brief examples of the way in which this country benefits from the overseas aid—even the declining amount of overseas aid—which the British Government provide to the developing world. Let us take first of all the United Nations development programme; a programme which was the brainchild of a member of our own community and which was for so many years conducted by David Owen with great skill, imagination and compassion. In the United Nations development programme Britain has gained a great deal more than she has contributed. Despite that, the present Government have cut the British contributions to the United Nations development programme by 56 per cent.—four times the amount of any other public expenditure cut. This is a cut in the supply of management and goods; above all, management, which is so essential to give developing countries the ability to become self-reliant, to become members of the international community.

Yet at the same time as the British Government have been cutting their contributions to the United Nations development programme, Italy has been increasing hers by 24 per cent.; and who is to say from the Front Bench opposite that Italy is a richer country than this country? Norway, Finland, and Canada have all been increasing their contributions by 19 per cent.; and, I repeat, we are gaining in this country more than we are contributing. We cannot afford to cut what is in practice an investment both in our present economic recovery and in our future economic health.

Secondly, I would give the instance of the International Development Association. I have already, on two occasions, congratulated the Government on the stand that they have taken on the seventh replenishment and the attempt that they have made to prevent the Americans from sabotaging this very important soft loan and grant to the international agency. Between 1982 and 1983, British procurement, direct and indirect—orders to Britain from the IDA—totalled 659 million United States dollars. That is what we gained. What did we contribute? We contributed 419 million dollars.

Again, I stress the point that this is investment in British economic health by giving greater purchasing power to our potential customers and bringing into the world economy the developing countries whose inhabitants at the moment simply cannot afford to buy our goods, as we heard in an answer to a question of mine this afternoon on the deficit on the balance of trade in manufactured goods. Yet, despite my congratulations to the Government for the stand that they have taken in the IDA negotiations in Washington over the last few weeks, the British contribution to the IDA has fallen from 17.3 per cent. of the total when the IDA was initiated to 8.3 per cent. at the last calculation, between 1981 and 1984.

Finally, what about the World Bank? We talk about the World Bank as one of the international aids to world trade, to the development of world trade and its expansion, in which we are directly, intimately and essentially involved. During the 37 years that the World Bank has existed, British suppliers have received over 2.8 billion United States dollars. We have contributed only 278 million dollars. Again, I simply make the point that aid to the developing countries, an increase in the purchasing power of the inhabitants of the developing countries, is in our interest as much as it is in theirs. This has been pointed out constantly by eminent figures including the former Conservative Prime Minister, Mr. Edward Heath.

We are still seeking a role. Many British people still feel uncertain about our role in the world. I suggest that we have an opportunity here, an opportunity in foreign affairs that is denied to many others. It is a special opportunity, a privileged opportunity. We are a medium sized power and we must recognise it. We are not frozen into the glaring match of the super powers. We are a member of the European Community which, if it is to survive, must look outwards, above all to its relations with the developing world. I hope that the noble Baroness, when she winds up, will have something to say about the progress of the new Lomé agreement. The last was insufficient. It is on this kind of international trading co-operation, but on a much stronger, more open and fairer basis than provided by the previous Lomé agreement, that the future depends.

Not least, I return to the point made by my noble friend Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos at the end of his speech. We are members of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth is not a tightly linked institution. It is an institution that embraces one-fifth of the world population, all the major religions, all the major races and every continent. Here, we have an opportunity to put into practice what we have heard so many leaders of political parties in this country profess in words—that they believe in international cooperation. Well, we have had it spelt out clearly now that international co-operation in the economic field, the diplomatic field and the political field is the only way of saving future generations from warfare and the probability of annihilation.

We are facing, as every member of this House knows, for the first time in human history, the total destruction of the human race. Other species have disappeared because they could not adapt to their new environment. We are living in a new environment. I suggest to the Government that they face that fact, that they recognise the special part that Britain can play along with other similarly placed nations in leading this world into a safer, more secure and happier place for our children and grandchildren.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, would he not agree that when many third world countries were under British administration 30 to 40 years ago they did not suffer the appalling malnutrition and all the other disadvantages that now afflict them, due largely, I am afraid, to socialist dogma? Many of them were cast off without the knowledge or the administration that could guide them. I object rather to the noble Lord accusing us of not being generous enough to third world countries. As he must know, the real trouble is that so much of our aid does not go to the people who need it. Some of it, I am afraid, goes to bank accounts in Switzerland. I am afraid that corruption is extremely widespread in some of the third world countries that I have visited.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, I shall reply only briefly. In the first place, it is not the case that malnutrition or death from malnutrition was by any means unknown in pre-independence days. We could argue this for a long time. However, the fact is that, in most of the third world countries, there is a long history, certainly dating back to the days of slavery, of oppression, malnutrition and dire poverty.

So far as placing the responsibility for bringing independence to colonial countries is concerned, I have already congratulated the noble Earl, Lord Stockton, on his appearance here this afternoon. It was under his administration, with the valuable aid, indeed the invaluable aid, of the late lain Macleod, that most of the colonial countries in the British Empire gained their independence. We supported them wholeheartedly because of our belief that it is an essential element of liberty for every people to have a full opportunity of participating in the creation of their own society. The noble Viscount has raised many points. I hope that these two answers are sufficient to satisfy him for tonight.

6.20 p.m.

Viscount Buckmaster

My Lords, my contribution to this wide-ranging debate so ably introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, is to consider Her Majesty's Government's policy towards the Lebanon, an area which has been mentioned by several speakers including the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn himself, the noble Baroness the Minister of State, the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, and other noble Lords. It is an area of great importance. I shall also mention the continuing violation of human rights.

It is the very greatest tragedy to me to see the disintegration of the Lebanon; the gradual change which has come over that land; a lovely, serene land; a land flowing with milk and honey, which has now become a land running with blood and tears. We must not be nostalgic. We cannot examine why this has happened. We must consider this evening how Her Majesty's Government can work to restore peace and sanity to this frightened and fractured land.

I will put to your Lordships four considerations. Some of them have been mentioned before, but others will be, I think, new to you. The first is the obvious one which has been mentioned in your Lordships' House; it has been mentioned in debates in another place; it has been covered extensively in the press; and it is, of course, the need for the Lebanese to settle their own problems, which can only be achieved by the withdrawal of the occupying forces and also by the establishment of a United Nations force.

In regard to withdrawal, I think your Lordships will agree that there seems little prospect of the Syrians withdrawing. They have said they are not going to go and indeed they will not go until they have achieved their aim of getting the world to recognise the Lebanon as a state with a Moslem majority. I shall refer to that later on.

As to the Israelis, they have made a partial withdrawal. We know that. But it now seems they are dug in behind the Awali River line, and I feel myself that they will take every opportunity to try to develop their position there. They are already training militias: they want perhaps to build up a little puppet enclave, rather like the enclave which was controlled by Major Haddad—who has now died—and I think it most unlikely that they will withdraw.

One must remember of course that there is great disunity in the Israeli Cabinet on what to do. Some of them feel that the Israelis should withdraw completely. There are others in the Israeli Cabinet who feel that Israel should withdraw from Sidon, and there are yet others in the Israeli Cabinet who feel that Israel should advance yet further. So much for withdrawal.

As for the establishment of a United Nations presence, I agree that it is essential—and the noble Baroness has mentioned this—but I put to your Lordships this consideration: if one assembles a force drawn from, let us face it, a rag-bag of nations with little understanding of the problem, little knowledge of the history, perhaps no knowledge of the language, one wonders whether such a force can be entirely effective. Let me make plain that I do not wish in any way to denigrate the work of the United Nations. They have made splendid achievements throughout the world with these peace-keeping forces. But it has been shown by the performance of the UNIFIL force—to which the noble Baroness referred—that they are not wholly effective. Indeed, they were totally ineffective in preventing the disastrous Israeli incursion of June 1982.

It is, I think, encouraging to note that the Syrians have now accepted a United Nations presence without reservation. And the Lebanese would like it. I saw in a recent press article that they would like the force to be established not only in Beirut but also throughout the Lebanon. I have pointed out the limitations of this UNIFIL force, but I must show the other side of the coin: they have done good work in suppressing banditry in certain areas and the UN presence has, I understand, been very effective in a disputed area such as the Golan Heights.

I fear that my second point will be somewhat controversial. It is that the American involvement in Lebanon has been wholly disastrous. I say this with great respect to my noble friend, Lord Greenhill. How can anyone justify the continual shelling of the Druze militia positions or the suffering and misery which is involved? And what has happened? It has not eliminated these batteries. It may have silenced them temporarily. Indeed, it has, but how many civilians have been killed? There was a recent report in the press which indicated that no fewer than 30 people had been killed in one village alone.

I would challenge your Lordships to find a single Arab in London who has any respect for the Americans and their ill-conceived and maladroit maneouvres in the Lebanon. I realise that we must go along with the Americans in most spheres of policy, but I suggest to your Lordships that if we associate ourselves too closely with them in their policy in the Lebanon we shall achieve nothing.

One must, I think, compare the American involvement recently with that of 1958. I could perhaps remind your Lordships that in 1958 the Lebanese Government called on the Americans to come in and stabilise the situation when these civil troubles first broke out. And they made a marvellous contribution to the creation of stability. Why? Because they refrained absolutely from any form of intervention. I have heard it on the best authority that not a single shot was fired. That I feel is a lesson which the Americans have not learned. It is a terrible lesson but it is this: that violence produces violence; fear produces fear; hatred produces hatred, and if the Americans have not learned this I fear the Israelis have not, either.

I am fully aware of the splended achievements of the State of Israel. I know there are a great many Israelis who want to establish a modus vivendi with the Arabs. I know that the presence of the Israelis in the Lebanon before they started their withdrawal had a stabilising effect. I am aware of all these considerations, but one must, I fear, accept that in their dealings with the PLO the Israeli Government have shown continuous and unrelenting hostility. It is indeed very sad that this great country with its wonderful humanist traditions throughout the whole of the period of these terrible conflicts has not shown one solitary shred of tolerance; not one tiny trace of compassion. How sad it is!

I could perhaps briefly remind your Lordships of this terrible incursion in June 1982 when in the first 14 days of the Israeli onslaught on Southern Lebanon no less than 14,000 people were killed. If I could mention this too, the Israeli independent paper Haaretz—I make no apology for mentioning this which I have mentioned before in your Lordships House—admitted that the total casualties inflicted by the Israeli forces on the Lebanese and Palestinians in Southern Lebanon on the first and second days of onslaught—that is, the 5th and 6th June 1982—exceeded all the casualties inflicted by the PLO on the northern Israeli settlements since 1967. If this is not a telling statistic, I do not know what is.

What is so sad, I think, is that the Israelis now appear to be determined to continue their policy of armed patrols and aerial bombardment. We have heard also—and I hope very much that this report is untrue—that the Israelis may be planning an onslaught on Palestinian positions in West Beirut. No less than two recent press articles have indicated that there is no sound evidence of such a Palestinian presence at all.

We must keep a sense of perspective about this matter. I can understand how the Israelis feel. While, of course, Her Majesty's Government have no power whatever to temper the violence of the Lebanese militia—the Shia, the Druze, the Christians and other militia—surely Her Majesty's Government can have some restraining influence on the paranoic tendencies of the Israeli Government towards the PLO?

My fourth point is that sooner or later Her Majesty's Government must recognise that Lebanon is no longer a country with a Christian majority. The present indications are that there is a majority of about 55 per cent. Moslems to 45 per cent. Christians. But there has been no census since 1942, and that was only an inadequate ration check before the country became independent in 1943. So we must not cling to the cosy concept of the Lebanon as a nice little Christian island. We must realise that the Moslems must sooner or later get their own way and have their own president because, as your Lordships will know, the president has always been Christian. We hope and pray that tolerance will continue, but we must realise that there is no longer a Christian majority as there has been ever since the year 640 A.D. when Saint Maroun established a Christian presence in the mountains.

So much for the Lebanon. Let me now deal very briefly with human rights. It was on 20th July 1983 that I asked an Unstarred Question in your Lordships' House. I remember that the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, made a most powerful and effective contribution in support of my Question. My Question concerned continuing violations of human rights in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Since then the situation has improved overall. It has improved, for example, in Latin America; in Argentina since the collapse of the military regime; and in Guatemala since the collapse of Rios Montt. But there are of course terrible happenings. Terror, torture and senseless slaughter continue in places like Chile and E1 Salvador, not to mention the continuing persecution of the Baha'is in Iran and also the dragging of schoolchildren from their schools to act as cannon fodder in this ghastly war against Iraq. I read in some of the papers that whole schools have been depleted of their students in this ghastly war.

The noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, in replying to my Question gave me an assurance that Her Majesty's Government attach the greatest importance to protesting against human rights violations and that we would raise our voice in the United Nations and elsewhere as regards this matter. I hope that the noble Baroness the Minister of State will be able to give me a similar assurance.

Finally, I should like to take up a point raised by other noble Lords this evening. I feel most strongly that Her Majesty's Government can still make a positive contribution to foreign affairs. During my service abroad, whether in charge of a post or in a subordinate capacity, I found that our presence has generally been welcomed; our expertise respected; and our views listened to. We have a voice. It can still be a powerful voice. It will be listened to, and it must be heard.

6.34 p.m.

Lord Soper

My Lords, I apologise to my noble Leader for the fact that I was not in my place at the beginning of the debate. I was required to take a funeral service, and when a week or two ago I put my name down to speak I could not of course have foreseen the occasion of that funeral service today. Strictly speaking, such services are unpredictable. However, I have been irresistibly attracted to this debate. Bearing in mind the comment that was made by my noble friend that the situation in which we find ourselves is apocalyptic, there can be no doubt, surely, in any noble Lord's mind that there is a paramount need that a government should apply themselves to the avoidance of such a catastrophe. I am perfectly content to believe that the present Government are concerned with disarmament as one way—perhaps the peremptory way—by which this apocalyptic situation can be reversed.

But there are three unassailable facts which for me at least govern any approach to this situation. The first is that the situation is getting worse: the "overkill" has increased: there is the probability that more and more communities, and perhaps individuals, will gain access to the nuclear threat or the nuclear weapon; and there is the manifest failure of the programme, which is characteristic not only of this Government but, I am afraid to say, of other governments as well, that broadly speaking can be called "multilateral".

Every evidence has been given this afternoon in your Lordships' House that the multilateral principle has not in fact worked. There have been marginal improvements in the situation when, as regards minor matters, countries hitherto totally opposed to one another have been prepared to come to a common agreement. But in broad and general terms, the world is a much more dangerous place today than it ever has been.

It is in the light of that ominous situation that I venture to try to say something about the essence of multilaterilsm, with which I disagree, and the need for unilateral action on the part of Her Majesty's Government, which has already been indicated by one previous speaker at least and which is representative of what the Leader of the Labour Party has quite unequivocally stated. I have no complaint that the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, feels that this point should be clearly understood.

I am totally in support of unilateral action. But first let me endeavour to say a bit about the nature of multilateral action, what it implies and what lies behind it. Surely it is inescapable that it polarises the situation as between combatants rather than endeavouring to provide some basis of conciliation as between potential friends. The essence of the multilateral position is that you dare not unilaterally take a risk of disarming, however much you desire so to do, because the effect will be to give an advantage to your enemy who will be determined, ready and willing—and necessarily willing—to take advantage of the action you take. In other words, it is another way of saying that so long as multilateral action is the mark of a government's intention, it necessarily resolves itself into the proposition, whether it is implicit or explicit, that the other fellow is the enemy. In the past few days that has further been exemplified when President Reagan offered some kind of olive branch to a country which he declares can only respond to his generous gesture by behaving itself better than it has been behaving. Lest your Lordships feel that I am partial in this matter, let me add that I read with some care the report of Mr. Gromyko's speech yesterday in which he says precisely the same about the United States.

My objection to multilateralism is that it is not a helicopter with an internal combustion engine; it is a glider and nothing better. It responds not to some inward and purposeful attitude, but merely to the vagaries of a wind that happens to blow in its direction, or not. It is in that regard that I respectfully suggest to your Lordships' House that the concept of multilateralism is not a policy; it is the effect of an aspiration. The evidence that seems to me to be incontrovertible is that it has not happened, that we are in fact in a more perilous condition than we were. Furthermore, when matters of verification are involved, when matters of invincibility are involved, the whole purpose that lies behind the multilateral attitude is that you have to deal in secret and on the suspicion that your enemy will take advantage of what you do, rather than assume that there can be some break in this log-jam created by unilateral action.

Therefore, I turn briefly to the advantages which seem to me to flow from an attitude which has already been voiced by the Leader of the Labour Party, and of which I thoroughly approve, that there are certain unmistakable possibilities that lie within the field of unilateral action however limited in the first instance it may be. If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, then the fear of consequences is not to be underrated. The concept today of the total capacity to destroy that lies within the nuclear field can be used in order to mobilise an opinion, and a conviction following that opinion, that something drastic, and something hitherto uncalled for or unrealised, is necessary in order to meet that recognisable and dreadful concept of total destruction in the nuclear field.

Secondly, there can be no doubt—and I do not know whether my noble friend Lord Brockway instanced this today, but he probably knows better than anybody else—that there is widespread conflict of opinion among young people where once upon a time there seemed to be a more or less placid acceptance of certain propositions. Speaking, as I was doing today, on Tower Hill, I have been increasingly concerned to recognise—and I am sure I am not deceiving myself—that there is a new mood among many young people who do not remember the past, but who are most anxious about the future. They do not belong only to those people who gather in places like Hyde Park; they belong to whole communities. The evidence of a world disarmament programme has already been a matter whereby they have expressed in no uncertain terms their desire and anxiety for a new beginning, a new way of approaching a hitherto insoluble problem.

There is need at this moment, and an incomparably greater need than ever before, that this log-jam should somehow be broken. The USSR lost 25 million of its inhabitants and must contain, as it seems to me, youngsters who are beginning to sense a freedom which is not the same thing as the Stalinist regime; and there is ample evidence—and nobody who has been interested in the Jewish problem will doubt—that there is improvement in the sense that more and more people in the USSR are beginning to find an opportunity to think for themselves.

Is it beyond the capacity of a government such as the present Government to recognise that the risk of taking unilateral action in the nuclear field might produce a very different result from that which is canvassed merely in terms of the old rhetoric, that if we did all that would happen would be that the Russians would rub their hands with glee and proceed to extort further concessions from people who are not any longer able to resist them with force of arms?

Since the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, has mentioned the religious problem without giving us much help as the how to solve it, may I indicate one factor about the Christian faith which I could have hoped that my ecclesiastical brethren might have been able to help me in claiming and asserting. The great troubles in the world today among religious groups are among those who savagely endeavour to prosecute their religious beliefs by force of arms. There is still within the Christian faith that pacifist witness which can probably do more to assuage these hostile and dreadful exhibitions of religious savagery.

I must make my final point, which I have made in your Lordships' House before, and I do not wish to abuse the opportunity: I am convinced that unilateral action in the reduction of nuclear arms could make the way clearer for such abandonment of other weapons just as heinous in their effect but not as widespread in their general application. It is in that field that I would ask the Government, since we have taken the risks of warfare and armaments so often and have brought ourselves finally to such a lamentable and cataclysmic condition, is it not time that we were prepared to take similar risks for the way of peace, and even to start modestly by testing out our so-called enemies by a display of unilateral goodwill? Is that not the opportunity for a civilised if not, as yet, Christian community?

6.45 p.m.

Lord Gladwyn

My Lords, like other noble Lords tonight I am indeed happy to speak on the occasion of the introduction to this House of the noble Earl, Lord Stockton, who was my revered chief in the late 1950s when I was Her Majesty's ambassador in Paris. We all hope that we shall shortly be able to listen to the maiden speech of this splendid figure who, even at the age of 90, is (I hear) keeping fully abreast of events! I must also apologise for the fact that inescapably I was called out of the Chamber for a few moments round about four o'clock. I therefore missed the concluding remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and many of the remarks of my noble friend Lord Mayhew, but I must say that I knew more or less what he was going to say. Indeed, even though I did not hear much of what he had to say, I naturally approve of it, whatever it was.

As regards the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, who has obliged us with this debate tonight, I agreed with a great deal of what he said. However, frankly, his remarks were extremely general, and most of them could be accepted by almost anybody in the House. What he did was to avoid the essential point. Are the Labour Party now, as indeed the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, and I think my noble friend Lord Mayhew suggested, really in favour of unilateralism as expounded, among other people, by the noble Lord, Lord Soper, and I think by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway? Is it a fact that they agree with what Mr. Kinnock said in the United States, which seemed to suggest that he was a unilateralist, or do they not? No doubt the noble Lord, Lord Mulley, will shortly tell us. I hope he does.

I also agreed with what I heard the noble Baroness, Lady Young, say about NATO and other things. Again, I found a great deal of what the noble Baroness said unexceptionable, but again I found it rather bland, and she avoided certain rather difficult points. Perhaps she will deal with them when she winds up. When she winds up, as I understand it, she is also going to deal with difficulties of the European Economic Community. When I last intervened on the subject about three or four weeks ago in this House, I think in reply to a question, I was pessimistic because from what I had heard even the officials were not making much progress, and everything was going to be left to a kind of miracle decision of the Ministers when they meet on 29th March, preceded by a meeting of the Foreign Ministers when they meet on the 24th.

But now, from what I hear, I believe the officials are making a certain amount of progress. What is rather hopeful is that the French are making a real effort to try to get some kind of compromise agreed under the direction of Mr. Mitterrand and his new friend, whose name I cannot remember, whom he has put into the Elysée. The difficulties remain appallingly great, and nobody can be very optimistic; but there is now at least a faint chance of success, and that they will get agreement at the end of the month.

If they do not, then I believe that Mr Kinnock's famous plan for "a new Messina" is, frankly, rather foolish. If you contemplate no agreement at the end of March, and therefore an incipient break-up of the Community, then inevitably there will be a reversion in this island to some kind of directed economy—perhaps under a new government of a socialist nature, who knows? But you will not be able to get any kind of a new deal in Europe. It will not happen. Even the political side will be difficult to maintain if the economic side collapses. I cannot believe that this simple idea of, "Let us have a new, fresh idea; a new deal; a new Messina", is anything but wishful thinking. It does not make sense. You simply must get over the difficulties with regard to the common agricultural policy, and our contribution, if you are to make any progress at all.

My own remarks, however, will be directed to only two matters—the Falklands and the Middle East. On the Falklands, I can really only repeat what I said in my last speech on the subject about a month ago. It is becoming more and more obvious that we shall have to start talking soon with the new Argentine Government, whose excellent liberal President has recently been making most encouraging and reasonable noises. Those talks should, of course, be limited—everyone agrees about that—in the initial stages, which might take some time, to matters relating to the liquidation of the difficulties consequent on the war and the resumption of normal diplomatic relations. They could then go on to consider how best economic co-operation could be achieved, on the assumption that by that time the exclusion zone will have been discontinued and trade will be moving freely.

But we should also agree, and agree here and now, that at a later stage, admittedly, in the talks there should be a discussion about the political future of the islands, or at least that a discussion about the political future of the islands should not be excluded from the talks. That would be all that would be necessary at the present time. If I might venture on this occasion to disagree with one remark of the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow, whose wise precepts I agreed with in general, I do not think we should invariably proceed cautiously and at great length when we tackle these important matters. Sometimes it is necessary to proceed immediately to try to settle the problem as soon as we can.

In support of this, I need hardly say that it is almost equivalent to a British vital interest that our forces now deployed in the South Atlantic should—with the exception, no doubt, of some token force—be withdrawn at the earliest possible moment. We should, in addition, do everything in our power to strengthen the present excellent regime in Buenos Aires and thereby avert any possible reversion to some kind of military or even, let us forbid, totalitarian administration. To this end it would clearly pay us—and I believe it would in no way endanger the way of life of the islanders—if we eventually contemplated some suitable elaboration of the famous "lease-back" idea.

Recently I heard on the radio, or perhaps the television, a gentleman who was said to be in close contact with President Alfonsin. I heard him declare that a lease-back of no less than 30 years would be perfectly acceptable, accompanied, it would seem, by some Argentine guarantee after the expiry of this period of complete autonomy for the islands, including the use of English, traditional education, driving on the left and I know not what.

Of course one can say, and I have no doubt somebody will say, what guarantees could there be that any such arrangement might not be torn up by some future Argentine Government? Yes, it could be, if such a Government, perhaps in the year 2016, were prepared to risk the presumed condemnation of the United Nations, American displeasure, possible unfortunate economic consequences and so on. But unless we are prepared to accept such a risk, such a very remote risk, [...] fear it means that we must contemplate an indefinite continuation of Fortress Falklands which, apart from ruining and weakening this country, might result in another war in much less favourable circumstances. It would be a ridiculous thing to do.

In the Middle East the situation has never been more dangerous and potentially explosive. As I said in reply to a question on a Statement the other day, I sincerely hope that contingency plans are now being worked out with the Americans and the French to cope with a possible conflagration involving nearly all the countries in the area. Perhaps when she comes to wind up the noble Baroness will tell us whether that is the case. This is certainly not an impossibility if the Iranians roll up the Sunni Iraqis, thus seizing the holy Shi'a cities of Karbela and Nejev—and, coincidentally, the Israelis and the Syrians come to blows. It must be evident that in such circumstances the Turks might intervene; even Egypt might be involved. There might, to say the least, be unrest in the conservative and Sunni Arab states to the south of the Gulf; and, above and beyond all this, our oil supplies might be endangered.

We need not assume, of course, that all this is inevitable. We must hope and even believe that the Ayatollah will not be able to achieve his aims. Here I would say en passant that I was slightly alarmed to read that we were engaged in supplying the Ayatollah with goods that might be useful in war, notably Rolls-Royce engines. I hope I have the noble Baroness's attention and that the Government can tell us that such reports are quite unfounded.

We might also perhaps, without undue optimism, assume that the Russians are almost as alarmed as we are by the prospect of complete destabilisation of the Middle East involving, no doubt, the emergence of some militant Islam and the spread of what the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, rightly called a religious war. I believe that there have been some recent indications that the Russians have told the Iranians that if the Iranians try to block the oil supplies in the Straits of Hormuz they cannot and will not be able to rely on Soviet support in the event of a conflict with the Americans. I do not know whether that is so, but that is what I read in the Press. For what it is worth, not so long ago I remember asking a Soviet official with whom I was in conversation what he thought might happen if the Ayatollah disappeared. His reply was to the effect that the Ayatollah's successor might be even worse! That is apparently what the Soviet view is.

This brings me to the only constructive long-term formula for the pacification of the Middle East that I can think of, improbable though this may now be. It is that the two super powers—whose real interests, apart from ideological reasons, would appear to be not too divergent—should make a real effort to come to terms. If, instead of being drawn into a purposeless and suicidal conflict, they were able—perhaps, if the Europeans were prepared to get together, with the Europeans acting as some kind of intermediary—while duly protecting their respective protégés on both sides (on one side the Syrians protecting their friends in the Lebanon, and on the other side the Americans protecting the Israelis in general) to restrain their protégés from making any really dangerous move, and if at the same time there were some perhaps tacit assumption that the Iranians must not be allowed to create some new Shi'a Iranian empire, far more potentially dangerous than anything dreamt up by his late Imperial Majesty, much might be achieved.

All this would postulate the emergence of some super-Kissinger, or possibly, on one side or the other, some rather less spectacular eminence grise. Of such development there is admittedly at present little sign, but stranger things than this have happened before in history, and it just may be a case of "needs must when the Ayatollah drives".

I shall not press the noble Baroness to give me any specific reply to these no doubt disturbing and even heretical suggestions; but perhaps her department might consider them in any planning paper which they may be preparing at the present time. In any case, along with my noble friend Lord Mayhew I am much looking forward to hearing what is the Government's policy with regard to the state of affairs in the Gulf. It seems to me and to other noble Lords to be highly dangerous.

7 p.m.

Lord Mulley

My Lords, I should like first to assure the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and the noble Lords, Lord Beloff and Lord Mayhew, that I shall in due course endeavour to deal with the particular points that they made about Labour policy. I would first say to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, that I do not think that it is any bad thing that my noble friend Lord Cledwyn has made a speech with which many people agree. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, that I agree with quite a bit of the speech that he has just delivered and, indeed, with his observations about the Middle East, for example, which were not very different from what my noble friend Lord Cledwyn has already said at the beginning of the debate.

I think that most speakers have made it clear that they feel, as, indeed, I feel, that we are doubly indebted to my noble friend Lord Cledwyn both for providing this timely debate and for the persuasive, eloquent and objective analysis with which he provided us as a basis for our debate. In speaking from this eminent position, although it is only a temporary position, I do so with pride but with very great humility because I think that this debate has illustrated the enormous reservoir of wisdom and experience that this House can call upon on almost any subject—and particularly so today when we had the very distinguished addition of the noble Earl, Lord Stockton, to our ranks. If I had to provide a text for today's debate, I would quote the noble Earl when, as Mr. Harold Macmillan, in 1957, 27 years ago, after Suez, he said: The time has passed when countries, however strong, can follow independent policies". I feel that in certain quarters it has taken a long time for people to recognise that we are no longer a great power but that, on the other hand, we have influence, working in conjunction with our friends and allies. My noble friend Lord Cledwyn indicated the four pillars—the United Nations, NATO, the Commonwealth and the EEC—on which our polices are and should be based. Before trying to deal with some of the other points that have been raised, I should like to endorse from my own experience of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the remarks of the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Young, when she spoke about the enormous amount of work that the officers of the Foreign and Commonwealth office do around the world—and particularly so when, these days, it often means the sacrifice of a career by the wives and the particular problems of children's education; so that it gets increasingly difficult to find people who are willing to take on the burdens.

I would say, too, that those who criticise the Foreign Service, and indeed the public service generally, are often found on the noble Baroness's side of the House and among her colleagues in the Government. She might well take the message away that it is not helpful when some of this criticism occurs. I should like to endorse the noble Lords, Lord Greenhill and Lord Stewart, when both, from greater experience than mine, went on record about this.

My noble friend Lord Greenhill of Harrow made the very important point that, probably, today we have problems of greater magnitude and difficulty than at any time since the war. He and the noble Lord, Lord Home, stressed the importance of patience. I think that I should exhaust the patience and indulgence of the House if I, myself, attempted (even if I were so competent) to deal at length with all the points that have been very properly raised in the debate. I hope very much that the noble Baroness the Minister will seek to give some further response to my noble friend's questions about the Lebanon. We would welcome the possibility of a United Nations force, and one hopes that her indications of what might be happening in that direction could take place. But I think that she should, if possible, give some indication of what role our forces in the area are still expected to play and, indeed, what is the purpose of, and what we expect to happen to, the Royal Navy currently in the Gulf.

I think that she may also want to say something to the very moving speech and to the questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord McNair, and to the points from his experience raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster. Certainly, as has been said, the Gulf has an enormously dangerous potential. I think that there is something wrong not only with the United Nations but with international relations at large that the Iraqi/Iran war has been going on for 41 months and that, frankly, there has been very little attempt by anyone to try to stop the enormous damage which has been done in that part of the world.

I think that the House was extremely grateful to the Minister for what she told us about her experience. I am sure that we were all delighted that she visited the Falklands; but I hope that she might be a little more positive in dealing with points that have been raised by a number of speakers about the possiblity of real talks and negotiations with the new government in the Argentine. Certainly, I feel that, while it is essential that the interests of the islanders should be protected, we should not continue to give them a veto on the course of all the discussions and negotiations. I think that what the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and others have said is of extreme importance because I do not believe that we can bear the enormous cost which is now being carried to build the "Fortress" and to sustain "Fortress Falklands", either in money or in military manpower.

Equally, we hope that she will say something more about the North-South gap to which my noble friend Lord Cledwyn referred in opening the debate and which was developed by my noble friends Lord Stewart and particularly, Lord Hatch at considerable length, pointing out the enormous problems that exist and the seemingly reducing interest and contribution that Her Majesty's Government are making to try to resolve this particular problem.

I agree very much with my noble friends Lord Caradon and Lord Brockway that perhaps we have not done as much as we should have done in the United Nations in supporting resolutions there. But I would say to my noble friend Lord Brockway that it is one thing to vote for or to table a resolution about disarmament and quite another—as I learned when I had the honour to represent this country in Geneva and in the United Nations in disarmament negotiations concerning the non-proliferation treaty—to translate good resolutions into practical, acceptable treaties and conventions. I may say that I think it was worth while but that it took me quite a long time to move from the preamble of the treaty, as I found it, to an operative clause, Article 6, dealing with the undertaking of the nuclear powers to engage in meaningful negotiations with the object of reducing their nuclear stockpile. Certainly, it requires a great deal of effort and patience to make progress.

On the question of NATO, I do not think that any of the noble Lords who have criticised my right honourable friend Mr. Kinnock can have been familiar—although the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, should have been familiar—with the fact that the Labour Party, not only through that great man, Ernest Bevin, was responsible in large part for its foundation following the Brussels Treaty but consistently at all our party conferences has supported our membership of NATO by very large majorities. There has never been any question of our withdrawing from NATO. That is quite apart from the fact that we happen to be at the moment its only power, apart from the United States, to possess nuclear weapons. France, although a member of the alliance, does not integrate her forces with the rest of the allies. Certainly all the other countries rely on the collective arrangements of the alliance for the use of nuclear weapons, and our own weapons are certainly extremely marginal. It is a matter for argument, indeed, as to what military contribution they make and whether in fact we should not or could not make a more positive contribution in additional conventional forces.

Lord Gladwyn

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. May I ask whether he really thinks that a policy which would effectively exclude all American atomic weapons and bases from this country and lay down that you will never use nuclear weapons even on a second strike would not provoke a withdrawal of the American forces from Germany and hence a break up of the NATO Alliance?

Lord Mulley

My Lords, I do not see the logic, frankly, as to why any statements by a leader in this country should cause things to happen in Germany. Equally, I could not understand the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, who had some concept of British forces fighting an enemy alone. The whole point of being a member of NATO is that it is a collective—I will certainly give way but I do not want to trespass too much on the time of the House—

Lord Mayhew

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. Since he has mentioned me, does the noble Lord agree with Mr. Kinnock in declaring that never, in any circumstances, would he authorise the use of nuclear weapons?

Lord Mulley

My Lords, that is Mr. Kinnock's view. It is not, so far as I understand it, the declared policy of the Labour Party. Certainly, speaking for myself, I would have some reservations about making a statement of that kind. What I feel is extremely important within the alliance is that there should be much greater consultation, particularly as between the United States and their European allies. It is a great pity that the Euro Group, which was developed by my right honourable friend Mr. Healey, is not able to work efficiently because of the absence of France. I am sure that all of us wish the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, well on taking up the arduous duties of Secretary General. I hope that at any rate we can all agree on this, even though we may disagree on some of the policies of the alliance.

As regards the Economic Community, I have always believed in our membership of Europe, even from the early days of the Iron and Steel Community; but I am bound to say I am extremely disappointed in the way that economic policies have been developed. Today, as I have said many times before, it is extremely odd that an economic community of mainly industrial countries should spend 90 per cent. of its time and three-quarters of its money on agriculture. I wish there was something corresponding to the CAP for industry and technology, because it is particularly in this field that the Community could have brought together a European capacity to compete with the United States and Japan. On the other hand, I agree with the point which was put very clearly by the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, that the political co-ordination of policies through the EEC has been an immense improvement and a great asset to all the members and to Europe's participation in world affairs, to our common advantage.

Finally, I should like to say just a few words about disarmament, and particularly I should like to congratulate the Minister of State, Mr. Richard Luce, on the speech that he made at the Geneva Conference on 14th February. When I went, it was only 18 members but I believe there are now 40 member countries working in Geneva, in conjunction, of course, with the General Assembly of the United Nations, on disarmament questions.

I stress the importance of the "chemical" initiative that Mr. Luce appears to have made. While I think that in general the noble Lord, Lord Home, was right to say that it is important to have verification, frankly, it is not possible to have cast-iron verification in the chemical field because, even if someone has an inspection one month, in a few more months the country can develop an enormous chemical potential. Of course, it is even more difficult to achieve verification in the biological field. While one respects the insistence of the noble Lord, Lord Home, on verification, I would point out that he was Foreign Secretary at the time when his Government signed the treaty abolishing biological weapons. In fact, it is the only British disarmament initiative in foreign affairs which has succeeded since the war, and it was virtually the same draft that I had the honour to present on behalf of the preceding Government. As soon as the non-proliferation treaty had been concluded we began work in this field. It is interesting how long it takes to make progress, because I presented a paper in Geneva, roughly on the lines that Mr. Luce presented, on 6th August 1968.

As a result of our proposals in Geneva, U Thant set up a very distinguished working group in the United Nations in which, I am glad to say, the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, played a very prominent part. They presented their report in July 1969. At that time the Soviet Union was not keen to separate biological from chemical, and it was clear at that time that we could not get a complete dual treaty but later on they changed their minds. I am bound to say that, to start with, the United States was not enthusiastic; but aided by the unfortunate death of 6,000 sheep in Utah—for which I had no responsibility—through some experiments of this type, President Nixon gave the full support of the United States. In 1970 or 1971—the noble Lord, Lord Home, will remember—we had the signing ceremony in London in Lancaster House, which I was privileged to attend.

However, as has been said, the real difficulties arise over nuclear matters. None of us doubts the great sincerity and eloquence of my noble friend Lord Soper in proposing unilateral disarmament, but I am bound to tell him that, as I have said, while it is arguable that we in this country need to be a nuclear power, if we were just to give up nuclear weapons it would not, in my opinion, make very much difference to the total nuclear arms race problem. We are, at best, a purely marginal element. In any case—I hope that the Government will at least agree to this—if there is to be any reduction we must agree to our own nuclear weapons, if we retain them, being included in the Western total, just as, if the Soviet Union had nuclear weapons under the control of any other Warsaw Pact countries, we and the United States negotiators would expect them to he counted as well. It is not feasible to think that such nuclear weapons as we and France have will he excluded from any reckoning in these matters. But I share the hopes that have been expressed that we shall be able to get a resumption of both START and the INF talks, because unless we begin talking we shall not make any progress and I still believe that one day there may be a breakthrough.

The noble Lord, Lord Home, was right to urge us to be realistic, but I thought he went rather too far in suggesting that we went along with rather a closed mind about the kind of response that we might get from the other side. One of the disadvantages of having very elderly gentlemen in charge of affairs in the Soviet Union is that they have long memories. If one makes very strong anti-Soviet speeches, it may take weeks or even years to establish one's bona fides again and to show that one is genuinely seeking detente and a basis on which both powers can abandon or reduce their level of armaments without endangering their own security.

My noble friend Lord Stewart said we have limited powers, and that is true. But I believe that, in the disarmament and arms control field, we can—and indeed we must—play a prominent part. Not only does our own survival depend upon a check and a reversal of the arms race, but the existence of mankind is at stake as well. I hope that the noble Baroness will take back to her friends our full support for the initiatives indicated by Mr. Richard Luce in his speech, and urge her Government to give priority and paramountcy to arms control and disarmament policies, and to seize every opportunity that may come about to achieve some reduction in the arms race, which is a matter of grave concern to us all.

7.24 p.m.

Baroness Young

My Lords, we have had a most interesting debate and I think, at the end, we can all agree with the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, who thought that there were more profound problems facing the world today than at any time before. Before attempting to answer some of the many points that have been raised in the debate, I should like to wish the noble Lord, Lord Mulley, well, speaking for the first time from the Dispatch Box in this House.

I said at the beginning that I would say something in winding-up about the European Community—a very important subject that has been referred to by a number of noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, and the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn. British membership of the Community is at once central to the Government's economic policy, and to our foreign policy. That is why the "relaunch" of the European Community is a major British national interest. A confident, healthy Community would complement the economic progress we are making at home. The British people want to be in the Community. They want us to make a success of membership. That was clear from the last election.

I consider that the Stuttgart Declaration of June 1983 was a breakthrough. After years of drift, the Community at last embarked on a process of fundamental reform. Yet at Athens, in December, it was not possible to take the crucial decisions. Nothing has been lost except time—and on this occasion, for a change, time is on the side of those seeking reform, not those defending the status quo, because the Community is running out of money. Either it takes some hard decisions for its future in the next few months, or it will start to rot away. That would be a tragedy for Britain and for Europe. It must not happen. But as my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has made clear, she will consider recommending to Parliament an increase in the "own resources" available to the Community only if, first, decisions are taken to control agricultural and other expenditure; and, secondly, a fair and lasting solution is achieved to the problem of budgetary imbalances.

Both conditions are essential if we are to create a sound basis for future Community development. As regards budgetary discipline, the case is clear. It is that finance must determine expenditure, and not the other way about. Without strict discipline, policies are demand-driven. That is why we welcome the French proposals on budgetary discipline, which were referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn. We have made it clear that in this context political guidelines and statements of good intent are not enough. The guidelines must be embodied in the Community's budgetary procedures and must be applicable to all the Community's institutions.

We can see the dangers in the common agricultural policy. Farm spending has soared out of control, up almost 30 per cent. last year. The milk régime alone costs more than £1 million a working hour to finance. The surpluses being produced are a real waste of resources, bad for international trading relations, and very bad for the Community's reputation, at home and abroad. The Government have proposed a strict financial guideline to impose an external budgetary constraint on the CAP, which will force hard decisions (on price and less open-ended support) to be taken and to be sustained over time.

Our second condition is a lasting solution to the problem of budgetary imbalances. The Government want to place an upper limit on the net budgetary burden which each partner should be expected to bear, according to their relative prosperity. This time we are determined to settle the issue for good.

Solutions to these problems would open the way for a host of important developments, some of which were referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Stewart—enlargement to include Spain and Portugal; the completion of the internal market; greater industrial co-operation across national frontiers; greater political co-operation and influence in the world. These are the issues on which Europe should be concentrating for its future, and for the future of Britain. But time is short. There are European Councils in March and in June—which also sees the election of a new European Parliament. We hope for a breakthrough. The choice, I am afraid, may be a very simple one: development or decay.

Many of your Lordships talked about the very serious situation in the Middle East, and I share with both the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, and the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, their concern about the risks of a further escalation in the Gulf war. Indeed, the suffering inflicted on the civilian population of both Iran and Iraq is deplorable. I hope that both sides will refrain from taking any steps which will widen or deepen the conflict.

We have to recognise, however, that the influence of outside parties is very limited. But the Government have repeatedly urged both sides to end their pointless conflict. We support the efforts of the United Nations Secretary-General to open a channel for effective mediation. Both sides should make full use of his good offices. In accordance with our policy of strict neutrality, we have not supplied lethal military equipment to either side; and we have certainly not supplied Iraq with chemical weapons, as was alleged recently. Our missions in both Iran and Iraq are keeping a close watch on the welfare and safety of the British communities there. And the Government are keeping in close touch with friendly states on developments in the Gulf. Freedom of navigation there and through the Straits of Hormuz is of obvious importance to many countries. We all hope that it will be possible to find a diplomatic rather than a military solution, in consultation with our allies and other states in the region.

Lord Gladwyn

My Lords, there have been press reports that we have been supplying to the Iranian Government certain material, useful for the purposes of war, notably Rolls-Royce engines. May I ask the noble Baroness whether or not those reports are true?

Baroness Young

My Lords, I do not think I can say more than I have already made quite clear to the House: that we have not supplied lethal weapons of war to either side. It would depend entirely upon what purpose the Rolls-Royce engines were to be used for.

May I answer one question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos? He said he believed that the Government's objective in the Gulf was to secure stability in the region. That is certainly the objective of our allies. Contrary to the beliefs expressed by certain noble Lords, there are at present no Royal Navy ships in the Gulf. It would not be sensible to spell out the circumstances in which the use of force by Britain and its allies might become necessary to keep the strait open.

The noble Lord, Lord McNair, asked me two questions about the Lebanon. First, he asked about the role of the 50 or so United Nations observers who have been in Beirut since September 1982. One of the practical proposals we have put forward is that this observer force might be increased in both numbers and function. They might then play a valuable role in guarding key installations in the city. The noble Lord also asked whether it might be quicker to move contingents from UNIFIL in the south rather than negotiate a mandate for a new force. There would be no saving in time, since it would be necessary first to renegotiate the UNIFIL mandate to allow the force to operate further north.

I should now like to comment on events where I believe we have more reason for being optimistic—those in Southern Africa. It was the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, who referred in particular to Namibia. There have been hopeful developments in Southern Africa. We welcome the outcome of the trilateral South Africa-Angola-United States talks in Lusaka and the establishment of a joint commission to monitor the South African disengagement from Southern Angola. We are encouraged by the view of the parties that this meeting was an important step towards resolving the region's problems, including a Namibia settlement.

We note that the joint monitoring commission has held its first meeting in Southern Angola. We welcome this as further evidence of the seriousness of the parties to reduce tension in the area. It is obviously important that the disengagement should be satisfactorily completed. This will require good sense and restraint by all concerned. We hope that the improved climate will permit early progress towards resolving the problems which are still holding up a Namibia settlement. The political will to deal with them now appears to exist, and much of the credit for progress achieved so far is due to the United States. I am very pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, congratulated Mr. Chester Crocker for his help. Their officials have played a key role in recent developments. We support their efforts and we are ready to help, where needed.

The noble Lord, Lord Caradon, also referred to Cyprus. Perhaps I might say that, regrettably, the search for a solution to the Cyprus problem was recently made more difficult by the purported declaration of independence by the Turkish Cypriots last November. We made our position clear at that time. We deplored the Turkish Cypriot action and we want to see it reversed. We took the initiative in the United Nations Security Council, where we tabled a motion which was carried overwhelmingly. We also proposed that there should be consultations with Greece and Turkey as fellow guarantor powers. That resolution, as well as deploring UDI, also reaffirmed the Secretary-General's mandate of good offices. We believe that this represents the way forward towards a solution of the Cyprus problem. We welcome the fact that President Kyprianou has put comprehensive proposals to the Secretary-General and that Mr. Denktash has also made some proposals. We hope that they will lead to progress. The United Nations Secretary-General has been active and has recently met many of the parties. We are ready to do anything we can to assist him in his work.

It was left to the noble Lord, Lord Soper, to put the Labour Party's case for unilateral nuclear disarmament. All of your Lordships always admire the sincerity of the noble Lord, Lord Soper, even though some of us can never agree with him. The noble Lord spoke about the apocalyptic period during which we are living, but I would ask him to reflect that, thanks to the NATO treaties and to the nuclear deterrent, we have enjoyed the longest period of peace in Europe this century and the freedom which gives to the noble Lord the opportunity to express his point of view—as well as all those who share that point of view in Western Europe.

I feel that I must correct some of the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, about the American attitude to the INF talks. I find it strange that the noble Lord should criticise the Americans for adhering too rigidly to the zero option—for adhering too strongly to an option which could have meant the total abolition of a class of nuclear weapons. The noble Lord also said that the Europeans have not been consulted about INF. But consultation between the United States and its European allies on INF has been both constant and effective. The Europeans, who were the people who first wanted an allied counterweight to the Soviet intermediate range missiles, were consulted on each occasion before the United States moved to a more flexible position.

Lord Mayhew

My Lords, I know that the noble Baroness does not wish to misrepresent me. If she will read Hansard she will find that I was not complaining about consultation. I was complaining about the fact that we accepted United States missiles unconditionally, without using our influence to get a settlement.

Baroness Young

My Lords, I shall of course read Hansard very carefully. The last thing I would wish to do is in any sense to misrepresent the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew. However, we are talking about very serious points, and I should like to reinforce what I have said: that consultation between the United States and the Europeans in INF has been constant. The Americans themselves have been involved in the INF negotiations—not ourselves, or the Europeans. But consultation there has been. Not only the zero option but the more flexible position that was subsequently adopted by the Americans were the subject of consultation. Both positions were rejected by the Russians until they finally chose to walk out of the INF negotiations. Therefore what is really preventing the next move is the fact that the Soviets are not there.

The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, asked about the possibility of merging the INF and START talks. If both the United States and the Soviet Governments decided that combining the talks would increase the chance of progress, we should have no objection in principle, but neither government have so far suggested that combining the talks would help. In the absence of a desire for a merger by the two negotiators, bringing the talks together would only risk aggregating the two existing sets of practical obstacles to agreement.

Both the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, and the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, referred to the Soviet reaction to the British initiative on verification for a total and world-wide ban on chemical weapons. I was particularly grateful for what the noble Lord, Lord Mulley, said about the work of my honourable friend Mr Luce. The Russians have taken a step forward on verification at Geneva and this is welcome. We now look forward to further negotiations with the Russians at Geneva. As my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel said, proper verification—this is a most important point to which he drew our attention—is essential for meaningful arms control and disarmament agreements.

The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, went into some detail about the Government's voting record on disarmament issues. I shall not weary your Lordships with a defence on each point, because the noble Lord was so well answered on this matter by my noble friend Lord Beloff. The aim of the Government's policy is to achieve effective measures of disarmament. As my honourable friend Mr. Luce said earlier this month at Geneva, the Government's attitude is to look not just at the titles of General Assembly resolutions on disarmament but at their content. We want the reality, not the rhetoric. I share the wish of the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, that the CDE in Stockholm should move on to more substantial issues. The Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary said as much in his speech to the conference in January, but first we have to establish foundations of confidence, and that will take time.

The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, and the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, referred to the Falkland Islands. The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, asked about the possible lifting of the Falkland Islands protection zone. We do not envisage keeping the zone indefinitely but the Government cannot be rushed into lifting it prematurely. We need to be fully satisfied that Argentina renounces the future use of force. We have noted statements by the Argentine Government that they intend to pursue their claims by peaceful means. I will not follow the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, in his argument about future negotiations. I set out the Government's position on the negotiations in my opening remarks. As the noble Lord will be aware, we have put constructive proposals to achieve more normal bilateral relations with Argentina through the mediation of the protecting powers, and we have now had a substantial reply from the Argentine Government, which we are studying carefully.

The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, suggested that the British Government should put forward more initiatives in United Nations. Successive British Governments have recognised that our special position as a permanent member of the Security Council places us under a particular obligation to make United Nations as useful and effective as possible. We have never been reluctant to bring issues to its attention when we have considered it useful to do so.

A number of points were raised about the big issues of North-South and the developing countries. The noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, asked me about the renegotiation of the Lomé Convention. The pace of the negotiations, which opened formally on 6th and 7th October 1983, has picked up. Economic restraints and the demands of our bilateral and other multilateral aid programmes mean that we must be realistic about the financial resources which can be made available—but we are determined that the negotiations shall be brought to a successful conclusion. One of our main objectives will be to ensure that the funds allocated under the convention—including those for STABEX—are spent as effectively as possible.

The noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, asked about human rights. I should like to confirm that the Community has proposed that human rights be discussed in the course of the negotiations for Lomé. In general, I would like to assure your Lordships that a commitment to an improvement in human rights worldwide forms an important part of the Government's foreign policy.

I was asked also what the Government are doing about international debt problems. I share the concern expressed about the severity of these problems. I was able to see the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister last week about the recent economic conference of Latin American countries held in Quito. The Prime Minister saw hm, too. These meetings helped to demonstrate the Government's recognition of growing concern about the debt problem in Latin America and elsewhere in the third world and the problems these concerns could have for our relations with debtor countries.

I believe that we have had a very worthwhile debate on foreign affairs. Your Lordships' House gives us the opportunity to hear the views of many who are experts in this field. I was particularly glad of the support for my remarks about those who serve professionally in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, because we need the services of the best if we are to achieve the influence we would like to have in the world.

In concluding, I will return to the points made by my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel—who always has such wise judgments to put before your Lordships' House—when he counselled patience, and stressed the need for realism, and the need always to work with our friends and our allies.

7.44 p.m.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, I should like to thank noble Lords who have spoken in what has been a valuable debate. I should especially like to thank my noble friend Lord Mulley for his first speech from the Dispatch Box. We are, of course, grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for both her speeches. Her winding-up speech was particularly helpful and comprehensive. I should like to support the tributes which the noble Baroness and others have paid to our Foreign Service, with whom, like so many others in your Lordships' House, I had the privilege of working.

The object of my Motion and of the debate was to probe Government policies in areas of major concern. I must apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, for being briefly absent from the Chamber when he spoke, and I should like to welcome him back to the House after his recent illness. I understand that the noble Lord criticised me for not expatiating upon Labour Party policy. It is always interesting to listen to the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, but he is—as he would be the first to admit—an obsessive party politician and cannot seem to understand that it is the duty of the Opposition to oppose.

We have at the present time a Conservative Administration which will probably last for three or four years, and we are under an obligation day by day to probe here the Government's activities. That is my task for as long as I remain Leader of the Opposition in this House and it is the task of my noble friends. That is the way we do things in this country. I hope that I have adequately conveyed that message to the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, for whom I have great admiration.

As to the two noble Lords who sit on the Liberal Benches, I always listen to them with great respect because they are both expert in their fields. I have admiration for them as well, but today they have tended to tarnish two good speeches by their preoccupation with some petty party aspiration. We shall return to Labour Party policies at the appropriate time. As I have said, our present concern is with this Government and their actions. I am grateful to those who have helped to make this debate worthwhile. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.