HL Deb 30 January 1984 vol 447 cc521-42

7.49 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether, having regard to the latest scientific view that nuclear war might well terminate the human race, they will advocate an agreement on no first use of nuclear weapons between NATO and the Warsaw Pact and seek the withdrawal of all battlefield nuclear weapons on both sides.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. It has been suggested to me that in view of the extraordinary absence of interest in this most vital of all subjects on the Government Back-Benches I should withdraw the Question for another occasion. I do not intend to do so because we have represented here the Cross-Benches; the Alliance is represented; our own Back-Benchers are the most representative of all; and our own Front Bench is fully represented as well. I am happy to welcome to the Chamber, even if the Government side of the House is without Peers, the right reverend Prelate. That, on this most vital of subject s is a welcome sight.

It is perhaps particularly unfortunate that there is such an absence of attendance on the Government side, because this Question is intended to try to cross some bridges and to stretch out to see if we can discover some common ground on which we can all join in the search for peace. I hope that one of the results of this debate may be that, if the Government will not initiate a debate themselves—I welcome the attendance of a single Government Back-Bencher now—perhaps the Opposition will make an official debate on this subject. It might possibly be the subject of one of our new five-hour debates.

This Question is intended to be constructive. It is an attempt to discover points of possible agreement. The urge to do so is the same as that which is sweeping the American and Soviet people at this time. The discovery now beginning to be widely accepted is that nuclear weapons are much more dangerous even than had been thought; the realisation that even a minor nuclear exchange could result in the extinction of life in the northern hemisphere if not on earth itself. This realisation has caused people to start to say, "Is there no way in which we can all get together to try to bring this thing to an end?" This Question is a minor step in that direction.

There is a growing conviction that, unless the spread of nuclear weaponry can be halted and brought under control, all our plans and hopes for the future are meaningless; that children brought into the world today can have no expectation of any life worth living and would be best born dead. Almost everyone throughout the world claims to be looking for peace in his own way, but all the time the weapons proliferate. Attitudes range from the pacifists on my side to the "Star Wars" fanatics on the other. I believe that the time has come for us all to settle for something less than we want in the long term to secure a short-term agreement.

I suggest that by common consent there are far too many nuclear weapons in the world for the health of mankind and that our first attempt should be to secure a nuclear freeze. If we could stop overkill and yet more overkill, if we could achieve an intermediate aim—that it is enough for both sides to be able to kill everyone on the other side, say, twice over; there is no need to be able to do it eight or ten times over—then we could save millions of dollars and roubles and be safer and not less safe at the end of the process.

Some of us would want to go further—right down to nil. I should like this country to be rid of nuclear weapons altogether, but I know it will not happen in the lifetime of this Government. So for the present I am content to suggest a course of action which this Government might conceivably embrace, rather than to propose what I know, however mistaken they may be, would be unacceptable to them. If I say, "Let's get rid of all nuclear weapons", I know that my noble friend Lord Soper will immediately agree with me, but who else? Millions outside this House, but precious few inside it, even if they were present, to be converted by my poor eloquence, but as they are not here, I can only hope that the cold words of Hansard will be read by some who are not present tonight and that they may perhaps think on these things.

On the other hand, if, instead of saying, much as I might wish to do, "Let's get rid of all nuclear weapons", I say, "Nuclear weapons are dangerous"; "They are not proper weapons of war"; "They must be reduced"; I am using the words of Lord Mountbatten, of Field Marshal Lord Carver, of distinguished Soviet and American generals and admirals and perhaps even of some Members of our Conservative Government—certainly of many Conservatives inside and outside Parliament.

An agreement to be rid of nuclear weapons altogether may be a distant aim, but an agreement to halt their growth with a view to gradual reduction ought to be immediately possible. This must be accompanied by the abandonment of increasing sophistication. A reduction which consists of withdrawing 100 old weapons in favour of 10 new ones, each 50 times more lethal than those withdrawn, is no reduction at all, although both sides have boasted of such so-called reductions. On the contrary, whichever side does it and whatever they may claim, increasing sophistication, so far from bringing security nearer, makes the possibility of nuclear war the more likely.

This Question explores two possibilities—only two. First, a no first use agreement—I hope that tonight we shall have some clarification of the Government's position on this, as my noble friend will explore when he participates in the debate from our Front Bench. The Government's position on this does not seem to be entirely clear and I hope that we shall have some clarification. The idea of a no first use agreement does not eliminate danger; it is simply a proposal to reduce danger. It is only a first step, but if we do not take such steps, if we continue to confine ourselves to talking peace while multiplying weapons, we are bound to end in disaster. We must negotiate real reductions and real withdrawals—verifiable reductions and withdrawals.

It is time that this country took an initiative and said that we are ready to reach a no first use agreement with the Soviet Union in respect of all nuclear weapons under our command or on our soil. Is that too difficult? Are the Government willing to try? I look forward to hearing from them. Are they ready to move in that direction? From some things that the Foreign Secretary has said it seems to me almost that they were. I should like to hear tonight—I am sure we all should—precisely what is their position on this matter.

I also hope that the Government may be prepared to say that British forces in Germany will abandon all battlefield nuclear weapons. They are particularly dangerous because they are in the front line, as it were, and we should only have to say that to have initiated a safer situation. The argument in favour of first use of nuclear weapons is that the Russians have a massive conventional preponderance. It is not true. NATO has more manpower and much more reliable manpower.

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

No, my Lords.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, if the noble Lord looked up his facts, he would be confirming and not shaking his head. NATO has more manpower, and much more reliable manpower, than the Warsaw Pact. Above all, the Soviet army in Europe could only rely on its allies in a defensive war. There is no chance of East Germany invading West Germany and the Soviet Union would not dream of trying to do so, because the East Germans, the Poles, the Hungarians and the Czechs would be most uncertain allies in an aggressive war, and the Russians might easily find themselves in an Afghanistan situation. This is not to say that the Warsaw Pact countries would not effectively defend their own borders. It is time Mr. Shultz was contradicted. Europeans will not tolerate having Americans interfere with their boundaries, and if they were to try it they would find that they, too, had allies who could not be relied upon to fight on their side. So the two super-powers must recognise the limits of their authority. At present it must be said that the Soviet Union seems to be more realistic on this point than the multi-voiced Government of the United States.

All this talk of holding off conventional war by first use of nuclear weapons is nonsense. There can be no conventional war between the super-powers because the ballistic missiles are there in the background and the constant threat of total destruction is always present. The real danger lies in the loose use of the word "deterrent". In reality there can be no such thing as an offensive deterrent. The real deterrent is a shield and not a sword. American admirals testifying before Congress committees recently are now using the word "deterrent" to mean fighting a nuclear war: "counter-force" it is called. And General Davis, who commands the United States Army Air Force, described mutually assured destruction and deterrence as synonymous. That was the policy: it is no longer the policy because he says it was abandoned two years ago in favour of "counterforce", or war fighting with nuclear weapons, which again he says is synonymous. That is what the head of the United States Army Air Force now says is United States policy. It is no use the noble Lord prating about our relying on deterrence when people who are in command of the so-called deterrent are using the word in an entirely different sense from that in which the noble Lord uses it. As Caspar Weinberger, the American Secretary of State, said—he also uses the word "deterrent" to mean a nuclear attack—and I will quote him, if I may: If you have achieved the ability to take out their missiles you have achieved a degree of deterrence. So, while I have no doubt that the noble Lord means something defensive by the use of the word "deterrence" the Americans mean no such thing; and they are the people with their fingers on the trigger. And the Soviet Union knows that.

So the situation is very dangerous. The Russians are being forced towards a launch-on-warning policy and if they once adopt it, that will be that, because there is no certainty on either side and mistakes have been made and, unhappily, will be made in the future. It is time to act for peace, and I hope that the noble Lord who is to reply to the Question will answer it with that in view.

8.6 p.m.

Lord Gladwyn

My Lords, I propose to make what I call a model speech of four minutes, expressing therefore in tabloid form the general thesis I have been developing over many years now. President Reagan says that a nuclear war cannot be won and must not be fought. He forbore to say this in 1981, and his language almost led one to suppose the opposite. But assuming that this apparent change of heart really represents the view of the Republican Administration, what follows? It follows logically that if by any chance we have to fight, we cannot fight with nuclear weapons. That is presumably what it means. If so, although we need not make any declaration to that effect, we must at least act on the assumption that we should not have first recourse to such weapons even if we were in danger of defeat, because if we did we should only be more absolutely and finally defeated.

So to avoid the possibility of defeat in a war which, even if unlikely, is, as things now are, obviously possible, we must strengthen our non-nuclear defences as recommended the other day by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, himself—our strategic nuclear weapons being retained as a deterrent to the use of any nuclear weapons by the adversary. By "we", I mean members of the Atlantic Alliance acting collectively, since the European members of the Alliance could not defend themselves successfully alone in a war with the Warsaw Pact forces.

All that the Atlantic Alliance consequently really needs in the way of nuclear weapons is the assured and evident capacity (mainly submarine) to inflict entirely unacceptable damage on the adversary in reply to an admittedly unlikely nuclear first strike on his part. What exactly that capacity should be is for the Alliance itself to determine, but it would certainly be much less than the present enormous nuclear build-up.

We could, for instance, without any real danger now unilaterally withdraw our so-called "tactical" nukes from Germany, no doubt suggesting that the Russians should do the same on their side of the line and perhaps shortly "freeze" the number of deployed Pershing IIs and cruise missiles. We could also, without any danger, abandon the MX (as recommended by the Democratic Party in the United States) and the Trident projects while, if thought necessary, increasing the deterrent contained in the United States submarines, devoting the money so saved to a strengthening of our conventional armaments.

If we adopted this broad policy, START and the INF talks, and even the negotiations on MBFR in Vienna, might gradually but successfully wither away. For the Russians could have as many nuclear weapons as they liked. It would not matter because, given our own power, they could not possibly use them. In other words, we should abandon the whole idea of a "balance". In the nuclear game, equality is an absurdity and superiority is an even greater nonsense. In modern conditions this largely applies to the conventional game as well, provided always that we have the sense, the will and the intelligence to provide ourselves, at no very great expense, with the latest modern arms and technical devices.

There is admittedly a danger logically that, owing to our improvidence in not re-arming conventionally before now, the Russians might risk a war, or one might happen accidentally before we have taken the necessary precautions. But this is unlikely for many reasons and, anyhow, if it does occur we can only defend ourselves, conventionally, to the best of our ability. It is the only thing we can do. In practice, short of a collective death wish, we should have no other choice.

8.10 p.m.

Lord Soper

My Lords, I should first like to thank my noble friend for raising again this incomparably important issue, and I should like to say how much I admire his persistent efforts to make this matter of the termination of the human race a matter from which there can be no escape from thought and to which there must be some responding action. It is for that reason that I am all the more grateful for the prelude to the questions which he asks in this debate.

There is no doubt at all that we are presented with an unprecedented threat. We of the Christian faith ought not to be so much surprised at this apocalyptic reference, for it has been part and parcel of a good deal of the Christian heritage. As your Lordships know, it is embedded very firmly in the records of the Book of Genesis, where, in chapters 6 and 7, there is a dress rehearsal of the termination of the human race, though, mercifully, there was no first night. This was an apocalyptic consideration, but it has a radical difference from the contemplation of this terminal condition today, and it is worthwhile explaining something of that difference.

The story of the Flood, whatever may be the impressions that people have of its strict validity, is one which stems from certain beliefs in the activity of God, who explicitly says in the sixth chapter of Genesis that everything living that he has made he will destroy. The actual job was a very inferior and a very difficult one to carry out, because even those who endeavoured to turn this myth into some kind of explicit description found themselves facing impossibilities. The intention to destroy everything in the Flood still left the marine world unimpaired, and there was nothing said about the insect world, which must have been a comfort to those who were in the Ark.

But in order to recognise the difficulty of facing a terminal condition today, it is imperative to recognise in the first instance that we have statistical and exact information as to what it will be like. There are not a few atolls in the Pacific where the first stage of such a complete holocaust has already been experimented with, and the evidence is incontrovertible. It is that backcloth, and not the backcloth of some intervention of the Almighty in putting an end to his creative activity, that I believe justifies the sort of debate in which we are now involved. I could say, as a parson who stood in many a pulpit trying to convert timber, that I am a little daunted by the prospect of trying to convert dimpled leather in your Lordships' House. But I shall do my best because I am an evangelist, and I make no apology for saying that I believe there is no middle course that I can take, except to face and to confront what is implied in this Question.

Let me say immediately how gratified I have been at the measured way in which my noble friend has presented a case for some progress, and I would thank God if that were possible. Therefore, I heartily support his intention so to move as to create less of the tension which now prevails, and to use such measures as he advocates as, if you like, the bellwethers of subsequent and more impressive measures whereby this haunting and dreadful prospect of World War Three can be avoided.

I turn, therefore, to the way in which these particular measures, if they are to be expressed in fact, can be undertaken. But I should be unfair to my own convictions if I did not remind myself, and dare to remind this House, on the question of a no first strike, that it depended on a time lag of something like 20 minutes between the emission of one instrument of attack and the retort of a similar instrument on the other side, but it has now been reduced to three minutes. It seems to me that that gap will probably close almost entirely, so that there will be practically no opportunity of calculating whether you will use a first strike or act simultaneously in response to the strike which you anticipate from the other side.

Furthermore, though it is imperative that we should endeavour to provide some basis upon which there can be further consultation on the viability of battlefield weapons, yet I have a suspicion at the back of my mind that any reduction of nuclear 'weapons on the battlefields of Europe might well result in a greater threat from the superior non-nuclear weapons that are now in the possession of the other side.

I say these things because the whole problem is beset with innumerable and complex difficulties. What I want to add is that I believe there is ample opportunity at this moment for a new kind of approach. I do not believe that the multilateral approach will do. After all, multi-lateralism is an aspiration; it is not a programme. Multi-lateralism is what happens when certain conditions have been fulfilled. I press upon your Lordships the uncomfortable truth that multilateralism depends on malice, and not on co-operation. It works because it assumes that we dare not interpret the situation in terms of unilateral action, because the response from the other side will be a malevolent one.

In fact, it is impossible to consider the whole programme of multilateral disarmament except on the basis that you cannot trust the other side, and I hope your Lordships will agree that the one hopeful thing about such a speech as we have just listened to from my noble friend is that it indicates the imperative need for a new approach to the whole question of how you reduce the tension and how you persuade people that perhaps an action which you take unilaterally may not find a response merely in the vicious counter-attack and the occupational opportunity that follow those who are prepared to abandon their own positions.

I am a unilateralist because, theoretically as well as pragmatically, I believe that we can radically change the present situation only when a risk is taken for peace, as hitherto all risks for peace have been regarded as subservient to the risks of war and to the belief that deterrence is the only effective opportunity that we possess of preventing the holocaust which we fear. I know that the whole question of unilateralism is a difficult one, and I am by no means of the conviction that at the moment this country is prepared for unilateral action.

But that should not deter me, and I think it should not deter this House, from considering that, after the melancholy story of the various programmes that have been advocated and the various treaties that have been signed but not implemented over the last 30 years, on the principle that multilateral action is the only method whereby we can disarm effectively and peacefully there is ample evidence today that the situation, far from improving, is very much worse. And with every new piece of mechanism for destruc- tion there is the increased probability of a mistake; and the irretrievable nature of many of those conditions should give everybody pause for the most serious and concentrated thought.

It is against that background that I make no apology for concluding with my own strengthened conviction that it is impossible to treat this question of mass violence as if, by the elimination of certain of its methods, we shall proceed to an elimination of its basic nature. I am a pacifist and I shall state my attitude to pacifism. I have done so before and I do not intend to ask your Lordships to listen for very long to the declaration again of my own faith. But here is that faith in simple terms. I appeal to my prelatorial friends to bear with me as I endeavour to sketch what, for me, is the imperative Christian message that lies behind the pacifist case which I adopt.

The Christian Church was born out of the pentecostal experience. The pentecostal experience was the granting to a group of willing but very largely unworthy (or, indeed, totally unworthy) and very largely unprepared Christians of the ability to embark upon the programme which they had learned from Jesus in the spirit in which he had taught them. Historically, the early Christian Church was a pacifist Church. There is no contention about that. If indeed it be argued that the early Christians made a mistake in not embracing the pacifism which they did in fact embrace, I find that to be theologically impossible to reconcile with the pentecostal gift. I do not believe that the early Church made a mistake. I believe that in its opposition to pacifism the Christian Church has been making a mistake ever since. I say that, I hope, humbly but I say it with conviction, though I do not for one moment imagine that at this moment I may be able to change the minds of many people.

Yet alongside my belief that we ought to embrace every opportunity set forth in this brief debate by my noble friend, it becomes in my judgment increasingly imperative that we should look once again at the basic nature of what we profess to be the faith of this country. We should recognise that the first country, the first community, which is prepared totally to renounce the arbitrament of violence may be the one community which can break the vicious circle in which we are now imprisoned.

I make that conviction known, and I thank your Lordships for the kindness with which you receive it. I hope that this particular Motion will set a great many wheels moving and that it will be a further attempt to create a new disposition to look for peace, perhaps in quarters where hitherto we have not dared to look for it, and to see it against the sombre backcloth that if we are to survive we have not very much time.

8.23 p.m.

Lord Brockway

My Lords, I regret that I am speaking when my name is not on the distributed list. Some mistake took place. I did give notice just after 10 o'clock this morning that I wished to speak. I do not criticise the Chief Whip's Office. All of us who have experience of it are amazed by its efficiency.

I want to applaud my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Putney for initiating this debate. Sometimes irritation is expressed that so frequently he raises the issue of nuclear weapons. I believe that a future historian, if he lives, will describe his efforts as alert realism. Today there are two great dangers in the world: first, the danger of a nuclear war which could destroy all mankind and, second, the fact that 30 million people, 17 million of them children, die every year in the world from hunger or medical neglect. In continually raising the issue my noble friend is bringing before this House the most important issue that there is in the world today.

If a disease broke out in the world that threatened all life, all governments would co-operate to seek to end it. Any nation which was first in doing so would be generally praised. The nuclear weapon is a disease, just as real as any disastrous germ could be. But there is this difference. The disease would occur against the intentions of man. The nuclear weapon is being created by man's decision and by governments' determination. It has been said more than once today, and perhaps it will be repeated tonight, that the nuclear build-up by the two super-powers on each side has been an instrument for peace. I cannot imagine any argument which so destroys the very purpose of peace as that argument. How can an argument of deterrence by fear and by terror possibly be an instrument for bringing about peace in the world?

Just for a moment I want to look at what has happened during the last 40 years. I admit at once that the fact that the nuclear weapon is so destructive may have affected the thinking of both the Soviet Union and the United States of America, in that they have not resorted to war during the last 40 years. Forty years is a short period of time in history. What has happened during those 40 years? The nuclear weapon has become far more destructive than it was at the beginning. I have referred to this fact on previous occasions. Two or three years ago the United Nations decided to ask 12 of the leading experts in the world to report on nuclear weapons. They reported that a nuclear weapon has now been developed which is 4,000 times as deadly as the weapon which fell on Hiroshima. It means that one such bomb could destroy the whole population of Greater London. During these 40 years, therefore, instead of being an instrument for peace, the weapons of destruction have become more and more deadly.

But not only that. The danger of a nuclear war has become greater. The theory that a target can be reached with precision has led to the view, particularly in the United States of America, that a nuclear war might be fought and might be directed at only military targets. Even so, millions would be killed. But anyone who has any knowledge, anyone who has made any study of war must realise that, although a war can begin with limited objects, it does not end there. The Second World War began with the object of attacking only military targets. It led to the death of millions of civilians—London, Plymouth, Coventry in this country; Hamburg, Dresden and finally Hiroshima, with the deaths of 200,000 people.

Therefore, my Lords, I ask the Government to think very carefully about their view that the build-up of nuclear weapons on each side can possibly be a deterrent to war and an instrument of peace. I am begging the Government to make this issue, which is the most urgent issue in the world, a priority in their thinking. They are satisfied because for nine years now there have been bilateral discussions about this. Oh, what little progress has been made! We now have an opportunity at the Stockholm Conference, with some slight thaw in the tension between the two great superpowers really to take the initiative for decisive steps.

We have the fact that less than six years ago all the governments of the world, including the United States and the Soviet Union and this country, agreed that what was necessary was a comprehensive disarmament programme. That programme was prepared, ending nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction in two periods of five years; with reduction progressively of conventional weapons during that period, followed by an indefinite period moving towards complete and general disarmament, and all the time with the cost of military expenditure being diverted to ending poverty in the world. That proposal is still being considered by a United Nations Committee in Geneva. The General Assembly of the United Nations last December urged a renewal of urgency in preparing that proposal. It is not, alas, to be considered until the renewed Special Session of the United Nations in 1986, except that next year the United Nations General Assembly is again to consider the issue.

I want to appeal to the Government, realising the danger to mankind that nuclear weapons pose, to give this their first thought when they are thinking about international affairs. Unless governments begin to do so, by accident, by regional wars developing into world wars, by this belief that the first use of nuclear weapons can be effective against conventional weapons a real danger is posed, and I am asking the Government to give this matter priority, to rethink their attitude towards it, so that there may be hope at last that we may find some end to the danger of nuclear war in the world.

8.34 p.m.

Lord Auckland

My Lords, I must first of all apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, for having missed the first minute or two of his speech. My Lords, on the first part of the noble Lord's Motion there can be no disagreement. I believe the nuclear weapon is probably the most horrific thing of all time and there is no one in your Lordships' House, in the other place or anywhere else who would contest that view. I believe that my noble friends on this side of the House regard nuclear war with as much horror and abhorrence as do those on other sides of the House. I yield to no one in my admiration for the persistence and sincerity of the views of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, who I know had a distinguished record in the last war; and of those of his noble friends, notably the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, who has spent 90 years-plus in putting forward the views and the principles to which he adheres with the greatest of sincerity.

But there is, alas, another side to the coin. Those of us who have been in the services—I did eight years' national service in the Territorial Army well before nuclear weapons were properly developed—will take the view that of course everything ought to be done to concur with the Motion which the noble Lord has put down. However, we have to look for a few moments at the record of the Soviet Union. At the United Nations politicians from this country of all parties have sought as far as is humanly possible to do just what, or as near as possible, is suggested in the Motion. My noble friend Lord Home and other Foreign Secretaries and Prime Ministers, and indeed my right honourable friend Sir Geoffrey Howe in Stockholm, have been doing just this. But the record of the Soviet Union does have to be examined. At the recent Geneva Conference in December the delegates walked out of the talks on limiting intermediate range nuclear weapons in Europe. Mr. Andropov and Mr. Gromyko have been challenged many times on their own views of this, on the whole concept of nuclear weapons, and there is certainly no guarantee, so far as I am aware, from the Soviet Union that they would agree to the terms and the principles of the Motion as set down.

Mention was made of Western Germany. What about Eastern Germany? What is happening there? Do we know what is happening in Leipzig and in Dresden and elsewhere—what manoeuvres are taking place with Soviet troops and troops from the satellite countries? It grieves one to have to make this observation, but I believe that we have to face facts. Similarly, in this country we have a right—anyone has a right—to demonstrate peacefully against nuclear weapons. Alas, in Czechoslovakia recently a proclamation has been made that any citizen demonstrating peacefully against nuclear weapons is liable to imprisonment. Having visited Czechoslovakia and Romania, there are many people who live in those countries who would not share that view. There is no democratic assembly to make it possible for them to have this privilege, as we have in this country and, indeed, in the United States, Scandinavia and elsewhere.

The SALT talks in Helsinki—a city I have visited twice; a very beautiful city and an ideal city for talks of this kind—had a measure of encouragement. Of course, we look to the Stockholm conference. As the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, rightly said, and there is certainly no disagreement with him here, we look to the Stockholm conference for some shaft of light. But this whole issue is like a cricket match with a very good fast bowler but no batsman. It is superficial and, indeed, counter-productive to think that this admirable Motion can be achieved unless the Soviet Union and its satellites themselves show some kind of co-operation. We have had co-operation from this country and, I believe, in large measure from the United States. The challenge now is at Stockholm and the onus upon the Soviet Union to play its part on the field.

8.42 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Norwich

My Lords, I shall be glad if your Lordships will allow me a brief intervention before we hear the measured response from the Front Bench of the Opposition and from the Government Front Bench. I have only two comments to make. The first is to say that I am so glad the noble Lord and my Christian friend Lord Soper spoke in such clear and measured terms from the Christian pacifist view. I thank God that in these islands of ours freedom, justice and open parliamentary democracy mean that not only citizens generally but Christians in particular can agree to disagree without rancour and without fear—as we saw in the recent debate in the General Synod of the Church of England when 100 people stood to take the unilateralist view and 360 people stood to take the multilateral view of recognisable step-by-step disarmament and less armament. But it was within the common purpose of that body of the Church to seek a way forward for peace.

The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, was very temperate in his phrase that he looks for agreement to reduce and halt growth. I believe that this is a feeling in which all of us believe. It is I think always good to hear speeches in your Lordships' House as balanced and as steady as we have heard tonight because I believe that there is a firm national commitment to peace. The difference is the way in which we should seek to find that peace.

My second comment is particularly about the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, which refers to the termination of the human race. Therefore, I was very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Soper, spoke in apocalyptic terms, because I believe that the Church of Christ has a responsibility not to be complacent but to proclaim the fact that when Our Lord said, the gates of hell shall not prevail against it", he was taking the long view and that the Church will be here when Our Lord comes again in power and great glory. I believe that there is strong theological hope in the fact that the human race will not be terminated, that Our Lord will come again and that it is the Christian Church's duty, whatever view about pacifism or not pacifism it takes, to lift the people's thoughts and minds to the hope of God's long-term plan for his world with the hints that one day there will be new heavens and a new earth where dwells righteousness. The task of every nation is to seek to work towards righteousness, freedom, justice and peace.

In that setting I look forward to hearing what the noble Lord on the Opposition Front Bench and the noble Lord on the Government Front Bench have to say because I believe that in our nation today the seriousness of this issue is so deeply understood that no longer do we speak as though one side or the other is only interested in peace. I believe that peace is a concern which the nations of the world have and for which the Church and country pray. It is a peace we look for which is a peace concerning justice and freedom. For those reasons I believe that tonight's debate is of major importance as we look forward together to seeking the way forward for our world.

8.47 p.m.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, I apologise to the House for not having put my name on the list for this debate. I was unable to do so as it is less than two hours since I landed at Heathrow and I was not sure that I would be here for the debate. I also apologise to my, noble friend Lord Jenkins of Putney for arriving a few minutes after he started his speech.

I wish to make only one short point. It seems to me, in taking up the theme which the right reverend Prelate has just enunciated, that there is one dimension missing from this debate; that is, the historical dimension. I think all historians would agree that tracing history from its beginnings we have been able to see a whole set of species which have disappeared from the earth, going back to the dinosaurs and Neanderthal man. They disappeared for one common reason: they were unable to adapt themselves to the new environment in which they found themselves. I suggest that that is the core of the issue which we are facing tonight.

This planet has seen developed since the end of the second world war a new environment in which many of the old nostrums of both the Christian Church and all other institutions of mankind have become quite anachronistic and in which we have not yet found the substitute to meet the threat which is contained in the words of this Motion: the termination of the human race.

I do not believe that any thoughtful man or woman would deny that the termination of the human race is a possibility today. Those who argue the multilateral case and say that since the war deterrence has prevented a new nuclear war, neglect the fact—which has been pointed out particularly by my noble friend Lord Brockway—that the destructive power of nuclear weapons has increased tremendously over that 40 years and is still increasing. What is more—and perhaps in some ways it is even more threatening—nuclear armaments of a much smaller nature are now becoming available to small groups and to individuals. In the 40 years since the end of the war, although, fortunately, we have not seen the nuclear holocaust that some people predicted, nevertheless, we have seen an ever-increasing menace to mankind in the growth and in the use of nuclear power.

I suggest that mankind has also been trying—and I think that the right reverend Prelate would agree—for hundreds of years, certainly since the Middle Ages, to find those institutions which can prevent the destructive impulses and forces within the human race from eliminating human kind, as is stated in the Question. We have not yet succeeded, but surely it is our responsibility to continue to seek new means. Referring hack to Her Majesty's Christmas speech, may I say to the right reverend Prelate that I very much doubt whether the accent that he put on nationalism and on the responsibility of the nation and the nation state is likely to be one of the means by which mankind is able to safeguard itself from the risk of final elimination because of its inability to meet the conditions of the new environment.

For some years it was my privilege to work with Jacob Bronowski—in fact right up to a few months before his death. As your Lordships know, he was one of the scientists who particpated in the various processes which resulted in the creation of the atomic bomb. To the end, he very much regretted that. He devoted the years after the war to using his power to try to undo the dangers that he had been partially responsible for creating. It is now our job to carry on that work, and it is the job of the Government. Surely, in addition to what is asked in the Unstarred Question of my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Putney, it is a major responsibility of the British Government not just to take an initiative such as that which is suggested here—and with which I wholeheartedly agree—but to educate the British people in the dangers that are facing them as members of the human race.

I remind the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, that the population of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in general are human beings. They have no more wish to see the destruction of the human race than we have here or in any other Western country. They are just as clear sighted about the danger to humanity—not just to the Soviet Union, the philosophy of communism or Eastern Europe—and the continuation of the human race. I suggest to the noble Lord who is to wind up for the Government that it would be a great deal more constructive and would represent a much greater contribution to the future of humanity if, instead of creating units to combat the propaganda of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the Government accepted their responsibility to open the eyes of the British public to the dangers that they and the entire human race are facing, and took this first step of giving a lead both to NATO and the Warsaw Pact in achieving a pledge which could be a first stepping stone to a general recognition throughout the world that it is the human race that is under attack and not any one nation or collection of nations.

8.56 p.m.

Lord MacLeod of Fuinary

My Lords, I also intend to be brief. I speak as a minister of the Church of Scotland and on behalf of nearly 400 ministers who have in writing declared themselves unilateralists. I am perfectly certain that I also speak in the name of at least an equal number of clergy of the Church of England who are in this position. Thirdly, I speak for the literally millions of people who are demonstrating and demonstrating—and if one adds all the demonstrations together one realises that millions are demonstrating in this country—simply so that the Government of our country may make a statement which is definitely our own statement and not just a silent acceptance of what the President of the United States says on all these issues, which we know to be terrifyingly more difficult than what is being said by the Russians.

I just want to say this—and I am surprised that it has not been said already. The essence of the proposition that is before us is that the Government should say that we shall never be the first, and that all other nuclear-holding countries should never be the first, to use nuclear weapons. It is interesting to remember that in the parallel organisation to NATO on the side of Russia something like four years ago precisely that was said, asking that nations should sign a document to the effect that they would not be the first to use nuclear weapons. That was received with complete silence by America. In 1983, the year that has just gone out, again the Russians made the statement that they thought we should all sign a document to say that we should never be the first to use nuclear weapons, and again no word came from the United States of America and no differing word came from here.

Now we have the possibility in this proposal of making a first step, and we know that the Russians or the people on the Russian side will agree with us. Let us at least start with the idea that none of us will be the first to use nuclear weapons. This is a great opportunity and a great moment. It is surely for our Government to say this, and the matter is being prosecuted by the way it is being put forward here. It is not the final solution, but it is by far the most important first step towards a final solution that has been before us, and we know that the Russians are for it. That is my first point.

My second point is this. Innumerable discussions take place in people's houses about what we should do about nuclear war, and especially in Christian houses the conversation so often ends by someone saying that, after all, the issue is that the East or the Russians are atheists and our country is Christian, and if that is so, however terrible may be the use of nuclear weapons, we cannot afford to stand back because, after all, we might have to fight, and it would be a fight for Christianity and the continuance of Christianity over and against atheism. My second point is that I do not think enough people realise that under no circumstances can we make that witness.

For the sake of brevity, let us suppose that if a war came it would not annihilate the entire human race. Let us suppose that it is possible that one side might conceivably win and that our side might win. Let us just suppose that we had our win; and let us suppose that we won because one of our submarines—or some of the larger submarines that are now being made—could go to a position not far from the Russian border, surface from beneath the water and in 10 minutes deliver six different instruments of nuclear warfare on six different towns in Russia, and then submerge again under water. Let us suppose that after 10 minutes those instruments of nuclear warfare killed, in each of those six different cities in Russia, about 100,000 people, putting it at its lowest. In other words, we might win because they would give in due to the fact that in one day we had killed off, say, 600,000 women and children—leaving out the army altogether.

In that event, what would really be the situation if we so won the war? Do your Lordships suppose that there is one single young Russian who is such a damn fool as even to contemplate the thought of what Christianity is about if he knows that what Christianity is about is killing 600,000 women and children in the course of one day in six different cities? I am telling your Lordships that there is no chance or possibility of winning for Christianity, because if you won for Christianity by reason of nuclear war you would end by simply having the most astonishing understanding of what Christianity is about—killing off women and children by the hundred thousand.

It is for that reason that I plead and hope that the Government may take seriously the possibility that we should say—America being silent on the issue—"Yes, we agree; let us all sign up that we shall never be the first to use it". We shall then have taken one great step. If our Government were to take that step, they would be surprised at the number of people at these innumerable processions and protest meetings, and the number of clergy, who would say, "At last Britain is speaking in terms of the truth".

9.3 p.m.

Lord Bishopston

My Lords, I am sure that we are all grateful to my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Putney for having raised this matter. Perhaps it would be helpful if I were to read out my noble friend's Question, which is: To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, having regard to the latest scientific view that nuclear war might well terminate the human race, they will advocate an agreement on no first use of nuclear weapons between NATO and the Warsaw Pact and seek the withdrawal of all battlefield nuclear weapons on both sides. The key word there is "agreement", because my noble friend, who, with others, has sincerely advocated unilateral action in some ways is now putting forward this view of agreement on all sides. I think that this is a very good sign, and indeed several speeches of noble Lords here tonight have shown a certain relaxation from previously known situations. One of the most distressing aspects of the nuclear debate in the last year or two has been people taking sides and condemning others, without always accepting the sincerity of those who differ on matters of grave concern.

Let us consider the statement which the Foreign Secretary made in the other place on 24th January on the Stockholm Disarmament Conference. During the exchanges following the Statement there were various contributions which give new hope. For instance, Dr. David Owen, the leader of the SDP, suggested that, in order to add to confidence in the future, NATO might propose in Stockholm, a corridor in which we will withdraw battlefield nuclear weapons, which would be the best confidence-building measure that could be taken".—[Official Report, Commons, 24/1/84: col. 771.] The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, has tonight made a suggestion about the absurdity of parity in weapons, and indeed this point has been made several times.

With the disarmament conference in Stockholm—the CDE—in session, and with other talks pending, the subject is important. As reported at col. 769 of the Official Report, the Foreign Secretary said, on 24th January, that the aim of the Government, is to lower tension and reduce the risk of war by finding practical ways of improving mutual confidence and trust". My noble friend's Question might be said to be in that direction.

The Foreign Secretary helpfully detailed a number of proposals of the Government aimed to improve stability and promote confidence between the major powers. That is of course very desirable. My right honourable friend Mr. Denis Healey called the Foreign Secretary's Statement a "depressing account", and said that it formed a startling contrast to the Government's claim that deploying cruise and Pershing would get the Soviets talking and making concessions, whereas of course we know that they have left the conference table.

The Foreign Secretary went on to suggest that we could move to further stages of negotiation providing for the restriction of military activities and the reduction in force levels. Here again that could be said to be in accord with some of the comments made tonight by my noble friend, and indeed other noble Lords, who want a de-escalation of the situation.

It is true that the Soviets have been building up their nuclear forces, and so indeed have all powers. The surplus of longer-range international nuclear forces held by the Soviets was claimed by the Foreign Secretary to overshadow that of the United States by five to one. He stressed that it was of the utmost importance to press ahead with negotiations that we are trying to get under way. It would be helpful if the noble Lord the Minister who is to reply tonight would give us a little more information about the next stages of the Stockholm talks.

All of us want to end escalation and proliferation of nuclear weapons; but pending agreement, the major powers go on adding to the stockpiles and to the dangers, causing the participants to leave the conference table. The Foreign Secretary said that the five-to-one imbalance of weapons is in favour of the Warsaw Pact. The Government have sought parity when they know it is impossible to get parity. How on earth can we say that we have to increase our stockpile when it is five to one in favour of the Soviets, if those are the figures? Who in his senses would claim that, even if we doubled our stockpile, we should be safer for it and sleep more soundly in our beds? So why seek parity?

The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, if I quote him correctly, said that equality is an absurdity. This view has been put forward by many people including our Churches. The right reverend prelate, the Bishop of Norwich suggested that we look again at some of our attitudes. People of all parties in the Churches have expressed grave concern about nuclear policy. They may not all agree but the concern is there and deep down. It would pay all of us to re-read some of those debates in order to know about the concern of our Churches and others on these important matters.

There is bound to be a stage when the West has a level of weapons, nuclear and conventional, and when the Soviets can be deterred by lesser forces strategically placed. According to the International Herald Tribune of 28th September, General Rogers, of the United States, NATO's supreme military commander has said that the West European forces could not last much longer than seven to 10 days against a full scale assault from the East. Faced with the prospect of a complete rout, he would be forced to ask permission to use nuclear weapons in the early stages of battle.

It is the fear of many of us that the amount of spending on the nuclear means that we shall be starved of conventional capability. I must be fair and say that General Rogers did not advocate that NATO adopt a "no first use" doctrine in nuclear weapons. He wants to keep that risk uppermost in the minds of the Soviet military planners.

However, that is rather strange when our Foreign Secretary made the comment—I should like the Minister to say more about this—on 24th January: NATO has repeatedly said that it will never use any weapons, nuclear or conventional, except in response to attack. That appears to be "no first use". Perhaps the Minister tonight can clarify that. It appears to be "no first use". I read it carefully because the Foreign Secretary was trying to clarify an earlier sentence. He added: A similar obligation is entered into by each member of the United Nations, and we believe that that is the right position".[Official Report, Commons 24/1/84; col. 775.] It looks therefore as though we shall not be the first to use nuclear weapons except in reply to an attack. It is, however, the cost in terms of resources of money spent on the nuclear capability that leaves us undefended by conventional weapons. One wonders whether we can have both. This question has been posed by noble Lords on both sides in previous debates as well as by Members of another place. One or two previous Conservative Defence Ministers have queried whether we can afford Trident and the conventional role. That is another aspect. One fears a situation in which we may be forced into a nuclear posture at a very early date. The Government insist that we shall use conventional weapons with the nuclear capability as last resort, when, as I say, General Rogers seems to say otherwise.

Lord Gladwyn

My Lords, will the noble Lord agree that if we are forced into a nuclear posture, it means committing suicide?

Lord Bishopston

My Lords, I am grateful for the noble Lord's support. That is the point I am making. One wonders whether we can afford both. An increasing number of people are coming to the conclusion that, with our technology and our designers and with the more much more lethal effect of conventional weapons, we are in a situation where the conventional role should be a sufficient deterrent. It is important to note that my noble friend in his Question tonight talks about agreement on all sides. It is not a matter of us doing it and not the others. He is asking the Government for an initiative. This is important if we are to avoid escalation which could lead to a holocaust. So our nuclear commitment is forcing us to spend more on nuclear weapons at the expense of conventional, and many noble Lords and Members of the other place seem to be of that opinion. The fact is that we have the conventional weapons which should have sufficient deterrence. If one could get agreement on that, it would be to the advantage of both sides. The height of the nuclear threshold depends on our conventional resources, and tactical nuclear weapons lower the threshold of an all-out nuclear war, which is the point that the noble Lord has been making.

The Government say that the issue is between those who believe in one-sided disarmament and those who do not. It is really between those who believe in all powers using the selectivity of the conventional role and those who believe in the blanket nuclear extermination where a so-called victor would inherit widespread devastation. The Stockholm talks provide a new opportunity for new initiatives, not least by the Government. I do not doubt that the Government will be considering what leadership they can show in that respect. I believe that the United States pre-election period, when our United States allies have other preoccupations, provides us with a period when we can rethink our policies to a relevance which can replace despair with new hope. I hope that our Prime Minister seizes this opportunity to fill this possible vacuum which may be with us until those elections take place.

I do not wish to be too pessimistic, but one cannot be too optimistic about the present position. All debates concerning defence concern life or death issues. From time to time Parliament rightly seeks Government Statements on national and international incidents and calamities because there is always a day after. If the greatest catastrophe which can befall mankind occurs—a nuclear catastrophe—there will be no Statement the day after, not even a "Today" or "Yesterday in Parliament"—only a deathly silence; and—if I may say so in the presence of the right reverend Prelate—a deathly silence made more terrible as we all stand to account for our stewardship in judgment before our Creator.

9.17 p.m.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, has drawn our attention to a particular facet of a subject which he ensures is discussed very regularly in your Lordships' House—that is, nuclear defence and arms control policy. I make no complaint of that.

However, I should like at the outset to dispel one myth. It is often maintained by opponents of the Government's nuclear defence policy that those who stand against gestures of unilateral disarmament somehow stand in favour of fighting a nuclear war. I believe I speak for every noble Lord when I say that I abhor the idea of a nuclear war and I believe just as strongly as does the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, that it would be cataclysmic. We do not need any convincing of the horrors of war. We do not believe, as successive British Governments have not believed, that we are moving towards the brink of a nuclear war with all its horrors. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, refers to the latest scientific view upon the effects of nuclear war. There is always room for speculation about the horrors of such a war, but I should like to stress that it is NATO's aim to continue to prevent any war, nuclear or conventional, between East and West. Where we differ from the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, is over the method to achieve this common aim.

Your Lordships have discussed on many occasions the foundation of British defence policy—that is, the strategy of deterrence which we follow by maintaining nuclear and conventional arms. The most important principle of this strategy is that any aggressor should be convinced that he stands to suffer losses greater than any gain he could possibly hope to achieve. Our emphasis is upon influencing the calculations of the potential aggressor. NATO is a purely defensive alliance. The NATO Heads of Government made this abundantly clear in the declaration issued at the time of their summit in Bonn in 1982 when they declared that no NATO weapons, conventional or nuclear, would ever be used except in response to attack—and that I think answers the point put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Bishopston, about the words of my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary the other day. This pledge has been repeated and renewed at successive ministerial meetings since the summit in Bonn, most recently in the Declaration of Brussels made by NATO's Foreign Ministers on 9th December 1983. They declared, quite simply: None of our weapons will ever be used except in response to attack". I cannot stress this point too strongly: we threaten no one.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me to interrupt him, I just want to clarify this point. In other words, is he saying that in the event of a conventional attack nuclear weapons would be used?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, yes, conceivably, but not necessarily. As part of our efforts to ensure that the strategy of deterrence continues to be effective, we have to consider how to deter the Warsaw Pact from any temptation to take advantage of its superiority in conventional forces in Europe. I do not propose to burden your Lordships with a long string of figures, but the overall trend is clear. As the International Institute for Strategic Studies has noted recently, the conventional balance over the last 20 years has slowly but steadily moved in favour of the East. At the same time we have largely lost the technology edge whereby quality would substitute for quantity.

In the judgment of the institute, one cannot necessarily conclude that NATO would suffer defeat in conventional war, nor that the Warsaw Pact would see its advantage as being sufficient to risk an attack; but there has been sufficient danger in the trend to require remedies. We must be ready and able to resist atttack, or pressure based on the threat of the use of force. Our belief, shared by other allied governments, is that our efforts to deter any possible use of the East's conventional superiority would be hindered rather than helped by a declaration that NATO would never be the first to use nuclear weapons. We must instead seek to maximise the uncertainty in the minds of any who might contemplate an attack upon us—uncertainty about our response.

Our overriding concern is to do nothing that would make war more rather than less likely. We believe that for NATO to agree to a declaration of the no first use of nuclear weapons would increase rather than diminish the threat of a Soviet conventional attack upon the West. The knowledge that we might have to resort to nuclear weapons to defend overselves should be an additional deterrent to the Soviet leaders. There is no question, as is often wrongly alleged, of NATO automatically meeting a major conventional attack with nuclear weapons. The fact that NATO has not made a declaration of no first use in no way commits us to using nuclear weapons in any given circumstance.

But to renounce that option in all circumstances would be to diminish uncertainty in the mind of a potential adversary and thus simplify his calculations of the risks, if he were to be tempted into an attack. Paradoxically, therefore, a no first use declaration would in our view increase the risk of war. In judging the effectiveness of our strategy, including our refusal to make such a declaration, I take comfort from the conclusion reached by the IISS to which I referred earlier. They believe that the consequences for an aggressor would be unpredictable and the risks, particularly of nuclear escalation, incalculable. This conclusion is heartening and, I believe, a vindication of the present policy. But let us repeat that we already have a no first use policy: no first use of any weapons.

I turn to the call by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, for the withdrawal of short range or so-called battlefield nuclear weapons. Between 1979 and October 1983 NATO governments conducted an extensive study into the requirements for short and intermediate range nuclear forces in Europe. Their premise was that NATO should hold no more nuclear weapons than the minimum required for effective deterrence—a point referred to by several noble Lords this evening. The outcome of that study was a decision taken by NATO Defence Ministers to withdraw a further 1,400 warheads from Europe during the next several years in addition to the 1,000 warheads withdrawn in 1980. The effect will be to take the level of nuclear weapons in Europe to its lowest point for 20 years. This reduction will not be affected by any deployment of longer-range INF, since one warhead will be removed for each Pershing II or ground-launched cruise missile warhead actually deployed. The effect of all this is that, even if the planned LRINF deployment is implemented in full, five warheads will be withdrawn for every new one introduced. But that is not to say that we discounted the short range nuclear weapons in terms of their value as a deterrent. On the contrary, we believe that they continue to play an important role as part of the spectrum of response available to NATO.

I should like, however, to suggest to your Lordships that there is some danger of our accepting a further myth when we look at the figures of nuclear weapons, whether those held in Europe or the total figures of the super powers. The myth to which I refer is that which states that arms cause wars. As Professor Michael Howard noted in a lecture he gave early last year, if we are to look for threats to peace we should not look in the first place at armaments as such. We must look rather for those elements in international society who have the greatest incentive, and the greatest ability, to disturb the existing order. The greater that ability and the less the capacity of the defenders of the status quo to deter them, the more precarious peace is likely to be. The difficulties of judging the intentions of the Soviet Union are very great, but we can measure their actions. Some of these do not reassure us. I suggest to your Lordships that our response should be to ensure that no Soviet leadership could be in a position to doubt that the West might use any means at its disposal in the event of an attack. As long as there are no doubts on this score we shall maintain the present peace.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, will the noble Lord give way again? Why does he imagine that uncertainty in the Soviet mind is something which should be encouraged whereas in our own mind what we seek is certainty?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, because if the Soviet Union is faced with uncertainty, then surely it will think twice and perhaps long before it is so foolish as to launch an attack upon us. Indeed I hope, and indeed I believe, that in the end they will discard that option.

Lord Gladwyn

My Lords, it is not a question necessarily of an attack by the Soviet Union. War may happen by mistake. It is quite possible.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the noble Lord is no doubt right that a war could conceivably happen by mistake. That is why we go to such lengths to see that that cannot and will not happen. Several noble Lords referred to the conference on disarmament in Europe which has recently opened in Stockholm. I was asked about the British Government's position in regard to that conference. Time is getting late and maybe the best way I can reply to that request is to place in your Lordships' Library a copy of the speech which was delivered there by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. It runs to several pages. I have a copy in front of me, but I shall place a copy in the Library for your Lordships to study as you think fit.

NATO's deterrent strategy may not be an attractive way of keeping the peace but it has been shown to work over the last four decades. To abandon our security system now in favour of some alternatives which would be quite unproven would be immensely dangerous. NATO is a defensive alliance whose aim is the prevention of war and the preservation of peace with freedom. The course advocated by the noble Lord would not contribute to the achievement of that aim.

Lord Bishopston

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, may I say that we appreciate his co-operation in putting that statement in the Library on the matters that he mentioned. Would the noble Lord clarify, for the Government's sake and ours, his reply on not accepting on first use? Does this mean that we may use nuclear weapons in response to a conventional attack? If so, does not this confirm the alleged comment by General Rogers that we may have to go nuclear after a few days? I think it would be useful if he would clarify that.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I believe I was asked that question at an earlier moment during my remarks. Yes, the answer is that we might conceivably use nuclear weapons in response to a conventional attack, but not necessarily so.

House adjourned at half-past nine o'clock.