§ 5.56 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney rose to call attention to the approach of the nuclear holocaust; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this Motion, it is first necessary for me to show that the nuclear holocaust is approaching. As this is a Private Member's Motion, I am not altogether surprised that these Benches are no more crowded than they were for the previous occasion. But I hope that as a result of our debate this afternoon it will be decided that this subject should be debated on an official Front Bench basis, with a Motion from one of the Front Benches.1270
§ I wish in my heart that it were not the case that I believe that this terrible event is coming nearer. Like the rest of us, I have lived with nuclear weapons since 1945. At one time I thought there was reason to hope that the atomic bombs dropped on the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States Air Force would not only he the first but also the last.
§ Over the years, that hope has gradually been diminished and is now very nearly extinguished. Even so, for many years, while I marched with many others to and from Aldermaston, I thought that we were seeking to protect unborn generations in the future. It is only recently that I have been forced to the conclusion that the holocaust which will extinguish humanity is likely to come in the lifetime of most people now on earth.
§ I say "likely to come" because I do not believe that inevitability has yet been reached. It is very close but, as I shall suggest before I conclude, there are actions which the Government can take, once they are convinced of the imminent danger, and these actions might at least give humanity a chance of avoiding the final catastrophe.
I am not alone in believing that the developments of the past few years, which I shall outline, have shortened the general expectation of the life of humanity. Herman Kahn, the American expert and no friend of peacemongers, has said that the years we are now in are those in which nuclear war is likely to come. The Year Book of the Stockholm Peace Research Institute states that the nuclear balance is becoming increasingly unstable. The American Department of Defence has abandoned the concept of deterrence and is now arguing that a nuclear war can be fought and won. The fact that American scientists are advising the precise opposite does not seem to deter them. In fact, the word "deterrence" is now used to cover a nuclear war-fighting policy. As Caspar Weinberger puts it:
If you have developed the ability to take out their missiles you have achieved a degree of deterrence".
That is not the sense in which the word "deterrence" has been used throughout the world. Neither is it the sense in which the Government themselves now use it.
Questioning the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Air Force in Congress revealed that the old policy of mutally assured destruction—or MAD—had been abandoned. General Davis said that it had now been replaced by "Counter force". Asked what it meant he said, "war-fighting". Pressed further, he said:
The enemy must be engaged and defeated by conventional or nuclear weapons".
Alexander Haig says that NATO plans to fire a nuclear warning shot at the other side. IF NATO does that, it will be the end of the world; but they plan it all the same. The American Ambassador to France says that NATO's theatre nuclear weapons give America the opportunity to attack the Soviet Union from Europe while keeping the United States out of strategic nuclear war. Our role as nuclear sacrificial lambs was never made more clear. No wonder France does not commit its nuclear weapons to NATO and refuses to have American nukes on French soil. And so I could go on.
§ It can no longer be argued that America is committed to a deterrent policy. It is committed to a 1271 war-fighting policy and is piling up nuclear weapons of high accuracy with a view to arriving at a position in which every Soviet nuclear weapon can be put out of business in one pre-emptive strike. For example, General Allen says that the United States must have first-strike capability whether they use it or not.
§ What is the Soviet reaction? It is to build up their own nuclear forces, if possible to parity. In some areas they are ahead—for example, in land-based missiles in Europe. But the truth is that as a predominantly European power—essential areas of the Soviet Union are in European Russia—the Soviet Union recognise that they could not survive a nuclear war. Hence the constant proposals of various kinds. But there is another and more sinister possibility. The United States distinguishes between having a first-strike capability and the intention to use it. But the Americans always assume that whatever capability the Russians have they will be prepared to use. However, the Americans are, after all, the only people who actually used the nuclear weapon in war, so one can imagine the Soviet Union thinking on that.
§ From the Soviet point of view, all this could not be more alarming. They can no more distinguish between capability and intention than could the Americans were the boot on the other foot. The Soviets are therefore in great danger of being forced into what the Americans call a "use it or lose it" situation. It is rendered even more precarious by the adoption by the Americans of the Airland Battle concept, which is now the official doctrine of the American Army, according to General Otis who is American Commander in Europe. This policy, which Robert McNamara has described as suicide, envisages the immediate in-depth use of nuclear and chemical weapons. Furthermore, all new nuclear weapons that America is developing and ordering have a counter-silo capability.
§ In these circumstances, in which deterrence is obviously not working, the Soviet Union are likely to be forced to consider the possibility of pre-emption. In turn, the Americans in emergency would turn to the possibility of anticipating this pre-emption with their own first strike, because they have immense technical superiority. Of course, that technical superiority would be of no value in a second strike position. The position is therefore developing very dangerously indeed.
§ We are up to our necks in this with our purchase of the Trident D5 with its counter-silo capability, which must help to provoke the Soviet Union into a "launch on warning" posture. Once that happens it will only be a matter of time—and not a very long time at that—before the holocaust is upon us and all our hopes and dreams are at an end.
§ A surprising and sad development of the past few years has been the degree to which the Government have become a monkey dancing to the tune of president Reagan's organ-grinder. For anyone who wants chapter and verse on the terrifying nature of the Reagan Administration in this respect, I commend an information paper issued last month by the Labour Party. In case it should be thought that such observations are anti-American, may I point to the growing number of United States citizens who are determined to replace their dangerous Government 1272 with a democratic President. It worries thinking Americans as well as anyone else that the relationship between this country and the United States has deteriorated to the point at which it bears some similarity to the satellite status endured by members of the Warsaw Pact in relation to the USSR. If anyone doubts that, I commend to them a letter from Robert J. Wolfson, a distinguished American professor of economics, published recently in the Guardian.
§ We cannot be surprised if the Soviet Government prefer to wait now in the hope that after the American presidential election they will be able to talk to someone who really wants agreement and is not simply concerned to pretend about peace while preparing for the ultimate war.
§ I am here only considering one of several risks of nuclear extinction. Two others are, first, war by accident. There are many false alarms of Soviet attack. In time of emergency the tendency to treat alarm as reality would be very great. The same temptation applies equally on the Soviet side. Indeed, it is probably worse, because they are technically less advanced. Secondly, there is the possibility of a nuclear war arising from a super-power involvement in such conflicts as that between Iraq and Iran. I say nothing of the general process of proliferation as a result of which several more nations are on the verge of becoming nuclear, if some of them are not already.
§ It is time for the Government to assert an independent initiative. I am glad that the Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister is coming here next week and that Sir Geoffrey will be visiting Moscow. I hope that in these discussions we shall begin to speak for our own people and forsake our position, which is all too like a ventriloquial doll sitting on the American knee and parroting NATO slogans. I hope, too, that the Minister in reply will reject that role.
§ I have tried to approach this grave problem without resorting to any position which could be identified as being peculiar to that of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, of which I am nonetheless proud to be a member. I have tried to suggest nothing which it would he impossible for any rational and sane person on this or on that side of the House to consider as something which should be looked at.
§ I ask the Government to do two things. I ask them, first, to recognise the gravity of the situation and to appreciate that neither our people nor any others have ever in history been faced with the possibility—even the probability—of nuclear annihilation. Secondly, having appreciated the unprecedented nature of the peril in which we stand, in which it now seems unlikely that our civilization will reach the second millennium and may end much earlier—having appreciated that—I ask that the Government in this pre-crisis time, this breathing space, to call a meeting or meetings of all parties. In this way all the most experienced minds may get together to discuss the dilemma which we are in.
§ Old arguments about unilateralism and multilateralism have no relevance to our present perils. The survival of this nation and of mankind itself is at stake. We must see whether our people still have the combined wisdom out of which to distil policies and proposals which may yet lead us out of this valley of the shadow of death—the death of the species to which we belong. I beg to move for Papers.1273
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Lord Birdwood
My Lords, the noble Lord who initiated this debate is to be commended for his sincerity. The whole debate is founded on sincerity, and the question which it begs is founded on delusion. What little contribution I can make I hope will introduce reality. It seems to me that all the issues and all the arguments can be thrown aside but for one. What is such a pity is that this is the one issue on which there will be no meeting of minds.
Unpalatable though it may be, the reality of deterrence—and I recognise that the noble Lord has spotted a discernible shift in the meaning of the word "deterrence"; I am using it in the old sense—is that holding and maintaining in balance numbers of nuclear warheads is not unstable. The truth of the matter is that this situation is inherently stable and that the existence of numbers of these weapons available to both super powers is at the heart of this stability. Of course, no sane person can morally defend this satanic arsenal. There is nothing honourable about the bomb. But Pandora's box is open; we cannot close it. The thermonuclear genie is out of the bottle and we cannot put it hack in.
In defence of my firm conviction of fundamental stability underpinning the deterrence principle, I have to make just a few short points. The first is that because these armouries are huge, the achieveable damage is virtually infinite. I hope that nobody seriously suggests that this fact has escaped the notice of the political masters of the dominant groups. It never fails to surprise me—and again I concede that the noble Lord who initiated this debate would not join in what I am going to say—how the people who speak for peace and one-sided disarmament feel that they alone hold the copyright to a true understanding of the consequences of these weapons. That is simply not the case. The consequences are equally understood by the individuals who command the use of these devices. In fact I would propose that, because they are in a position to unleash the awesome power of nuclear war, they are that much more likely to have a sharp perception of the horrific potential.
My second point is paradoxically simple but underlyingly deeply complex. Nobody has fought a nuclear war. Each day that passes I believe—and I speak for myself; I do not speak for my Front Bench—slightly diminishes the option that they will. The other camp will argue that the very existence of these weapons means that they will be used. We have already had cited an example that they twice were at the end of the second world war. I counter that by proposing, on the contrary, that the existence of these weapons in substantial numbers is tantamount to a guarantee that they will not be used. Theories about nuclear war are thick on the ground. I feel I have read most of them. I welcome them all, and the more chilling in their forecasts the better. But I believe that for the first time in history we have the intellectual luxury of theories for which there will never be a practical test.
My third point about inherent and increasing stability derives from the fact that communications between the super powers are unrecognisably more open and richer in content than ever before. Setting aside political rhetoric, the dialogue between NATO 1274 and Warsaw Pact interests is continuous, detailed and sophisticated. Lastly, I believe that the situation is now more stable because of the technical change in delivery systems. In some part this echoes a speech that I made here defending the Trident system. Twenty years ago our response to confrontation crises had to rely on our bomber forces held on runway alert. We have heard of the danger of hair-trigger responses. Those bombers were the very stuff of hair-trigger response. With our capabilities now controlled by submarines invisibly patrolling the deep oceans, the stability of deterrence is enhanced and not diminished.
In a sense, by focusing on the stability of nuclear deterrence I have shown my hand too early, because it is the one central issue with which I can never hope that the one-sided disarmers will agree. Without their belief that it is fundamentally unstable after all, they have no argument. I wanted to achieve two things by taking part in today's debate. The first was to emphasise this belief of mine that for a variety of reasons nuclear deterrence when mutually practised is stable now and getting more stable.
But the one-sided disarmer comes in two strengths. The real vintage stuff supposes that the conscience of ideologically antagonistic nations is somehow alerted by sacrificial self-denial. This is simply rubbish. I do not think that it is particularly dangerous rubbish but it is rubbish. A far more insidious, subtle and better argued case comes from those parties in the shape of the no first use concept. It is persuasive, honourable and does not ask for NATO to throw down its arms, and it is very, very dangerous. I propose to demolish it.
Like all nuclear jargon, no first use needs a little explaining. It is that a firm undertaking should be given that the West, and the East for that matter, should in no circumstances whatever be the first to use nuclear weapons. This proposition has often been urged by the Soviet Union, though its military tactical doctrine and training actually stress pre-emptive action. It is a theme which has been vigorously taken up by some Western commentators. The first article in this month's Scientific American is an elegantly argued case in point. I am not talking about first strike, which is the idea of a massive pre-emptive operation. That is not a NATO option and could never be.
Another misconception is that NATO has a policy of first use. That is not so. NATO has a policy of not accepting the conquest of any of its homelands. The scale and the nature of the armouries, as I said a little earlier, are such that both sides now dispose of effectively boundless physical force. This fact changes fundamentally the significance of any military operations between them. It sets quite new and intellectually very difficult problems.
Classically, the professional military aim in major war has been to deprive the adversary of effective capability for further action, but this has become an unattainable aim. The only possible purpose of the defender's operations at any level—conventional as well as nuclear—must now he to induce the aggressor to desist by placing plainly and credibly before him the prospect that further aggression will be met, not by surrender but by resistance at a level which will sooner or later cost the aggressor more than he can afford to pay. Given the two-way fact of boundless force, the aggressor could have embarked upon aggression only 1275 on an assessment that the defender was afraid to use his capability and would prefer to lose rather than do so. The longer and the more resolute the resistance, the more pressure on the aggressor to recognise that his initial calculation was mistaken and that for his own survival—which is ultimately just as much at risk as that of the defender—he must back off.
NATO clearly recognises this central idea, the aim of inducing an essentially political reappraisal, not pursuing the mirage of military victory as the centrepiece of its nuclear planning. The concept is without question an uncomfortable one, turning, as it fundamentally does, upon intention, judgment and resolve, rather than clear-cut physical force.
We have to recognise, however, that no other concept of military resistance can be available. The risk of escalation is sometimes cited as a key argument against first use. It is inherent that escalation is always a possibility and never a certainty; but the risk bears upon both sides and both must reckon with it. That arises with any act of resistance at any level, since escalation begins with the first warlike act. If the existence of this risk is regarded as an overriding argument, it tells against any use of nuclear weapons, not just against first use, and indeed against any Western military resistance at all. The logical inference would be that the only rational policy, in the face of a nuclear capable potential aggressor, is pacifism and willingness to take all its consequences. The seduction of no first use is a notion of honour; the reality is that we are saying, "Whatever you take, you keep."
I hope that I have not overstayed my welcome. These are complex arguments, occupying brilliant men; but other issues must wait for other days. For example, cruise. The possibility of splitting Europe away from the United States, so an adversary would confront not one but two super powers, is for another debate on another day. I will wind up by merely using the same phrases that I used to close my defence in the debate on Trident three years ago. In a perfect world there would be no armies; in an imperfect world of a sort there would be all the defence funding that we needed for total security. In the real world, we have made a real choice—I think it is the right one—but our leaders must never lose sight of what such choices are: they are the choices between different keys to the doors of hell.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, a number of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, will be warmly welcomed on these Benches—not least what he had to say about a declaration of no first use. He will forgive me, however, if I take a slightly different line in the very few comments that I propose to make. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, has stated that the point of inevitability had not quite arrived; but in fact the wording of this Motion:To call attention to the approach of the nuclear holocaust",and a number of the arguments and comments which the noble Lord himself made in his speech, strongly suggest that the holocaust is inevitable.
I want very briefly to argue on the contrary: that the holocaust is by no means inevitable but that the propaganda of CND supporters, by exaggerating the 1276 likelihood of nuclear war, and by increasing distrust between the super powers, certainly does bring the holocaust nearer. I think it is common ground on both sides of the House that nuclear war would produce unimaginable horrors and perhaps end civilisation. Of course this has been common ground between members of all political persuasions for 30 years and more, long before the establishment of CND. Indeed, what is so surprising is that so many CND supporters seem to have woken up to the danger of nuclear war so late. Many needed to be jolted by the cruise missile programme into appreciating the danger at all, and during the 1960s and 1970s, when the problem was already acute, many of the present CND supporters were comfortably asleep.
Where the disagreement comes is not about the horrors of nuclear war but about whether they can be avoided; and, if so, how. The Motion, as I say, strongly suggests that they cannot be avoided; and it is true that tension and distrust between the super powers is very high; and it is true that they are armed to the teeth; and it is true that the prospects of arms control and disarmament are poor at the present time. But it should he said again and again that for all their foolish actions and statements, both the United States and the Soviet governments sincerely want to avoid nuclear war. There cannot be any doubt about that whatever. Nobody who has the chance of going, as I have, quite recently, to Moscow and Washington or to meet Soviet and American spokesmen in London, can fail to see that that is the absolute truth. And indeed mere common sense suggests it. Why should Soviet leaders or American leaders not strive their utmost to save themselves and their families—to put it at its lowest—from the ordeal of a nuclear holocaust? It is common sense and every well-informed person knows it. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, if directly challenged, will agree that the Americans genuinely wish to avoid nuclear war. I am not challenged. I am sure that is true. No one doubts it.
East-West relations are strained at the moment, but they are not as strained as they have been on occasions in the past. They are not as strained as they were in 1963 at the time of the Cuba crisis. The world was much closer to war then. It was nearer to war in 1949 when the Russians closed the road and rail access to West Berlin and then started buzzing our planes in the air corridor. East-West relations were worse last year than they are this year. Today, moreover, both sides have got a much clearer understanding of what each side can and cannot do without provoking a violent reaction on the other side. The Americans know better than to promote liberation in Eastern Europe. The Russians know better than to threaten Berlin. There has also been an improvement in hot line communication and in confidence-building measures to lessen the chances of misunderstanding and accident.
Of course, the nuclear capacity of both sides has reached more horrifying levels than ever before. Of course, we live in dangerous times. But nuclear war is by no means inevitable. What could make disaster certain, however, is the belief that nuclear war was inevitable. If either the Soviet or the American Government came to believe that, then indeed we would be doomed because once war is held to be 1277 inevitable, the arguments for getting one's blow in first are irresistible. That is why propaganda that exaggerates the likelihood of war is so irresponsible and dangerous. CND is not only guilty of this, but it is guilty of a worse crime: of encouraging the Soviet delusion that the Americans are seriously contemplating a first strike against them. The Russians do fear this. I had that put to me earlier this year in Moscow by a very high Soviet official. For the reasons given, it is nonsense; but it is inflammatory nonsense, and those who propagate it do no good to the cause of peace.
The Soviet and American governments are manifestly anxious to avoid nuclear war. The great danger is that neither really believes that about the other side. Those who exaggerate the likelihood of nuclear war or encourage the Russians to believe the Americans intend to attack them, inflame suspicion, raise tension and bring the nuclear holocaust closer. I am bound to say—I say it with great regret—that I am afraid that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, and his CND allies are guilty on both counts.
§ Lord Kaldor
Before the noble Lord sits down, may I just ask him one question? I am sure he is quite right in what he says about America, speaking about Americans in a generic term; but unfortunately the President of the United States has made statements—perhaps quite some time ago—to the effect that America can conduct and win a nuclear war. On another occasion he said that it can and will win a nuclear war in Europe—in other words, without affecting the United States. Given the fact that the President of the United States is a responsible official—
§ Lord Kaldor
Would the noble Lord agree that dangerous developments do not arise simply as a result of the efforts of those who want nuclear disarmament, but by irresponsible statements of people like the American President.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, of course—as I said in my speech—both sides make the most foolish and unhelpful statements. When one speaks with leading people in Moscow or Washington they both have the same characteristic: they both fasten on the most stupid and provocative statements made by the other side, and entirely ignore the rest. The job of peacemaking when you are in Russia is to tell the Russians that the Americans do not intend it, and that these stupid statements do not reflect American opinion; when in Washington your task is to tell the Americans that the Russians are not as bad as the statements made by so-and-so at such-and-such time would seem to indicate. That is the task of peace-making. The opposite task of telling each super-power that the other super-power is preparing for war is a different matter altogether.
§ Lord Carver
My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew. I do not share the feeling of impending doom which oppresses the noble Lord who moved this Motion. I have always felt that the oft-quoted phrase of Lord Mountbatten,We are on the brink of an abyss1278 is an exaggeration. Nor do I share the noble Lord's wish to see the total abolition of nuclear weapons. If that were achieved—or we thought it had been—we should have returned to an era in which the major industrial powers could think of going to war with each other as an acceptable means of continuing their policies. The results of that in this century have been bad enough. Another European war—even without nuclear weapons—could be even more destructive then the last two. In any case, we cannot return to that era because everybody now knows how to make nuclear weaspons, and even if you thought you had totally abolished them you could not prevent their return once war had broken out. You would have lost the general deterrent to war which I believe their existence does provide: you would have made war more likely with no guarantee that if it erupted they would not again make their appearance.
I agree with the noble Lord who believes that there are far too many nuclear warheads about: far more than are needed for that primary purpose of deterring war; and that the two trends which have led to their being over 20,000 warheads in the hands of each of the major nuclear powers are dangerous and should be eliminated.
The first trend is the pursuit of counterforce strategies: that is strategies designed to knock-out the enemy's nuclear delivery systems. They demand two things: first the capability to strike first—there is no point in hitting the enemy's delivery platforms after they have fired; and, secondly, a superiority in quality, quantity, or both, which can ensure that the first strike is almost 100 per cent. effective against all the enemy's systems. Those prerequisites are not only highly destabilising and dangerous, but the search for such superiority is—and always will be—vain. It is technically unattainable and merely encourages the other side to engage in the same hopeless race.
The second dangerous trend is to try to redress the opponent's superiority in conventional forces by the use of nuclear weapons against them. Even if this is only intended to be a threat—which, in the event, NATO would not implement—it is dangerous and has led to a proliferation of weapons for every arm of the service. It is dangerous because it encourages politicians and military men to assume, first, that it can compensate for inadequate conventional forces and, secondly, that as soon as things begin to go wrong, the resort to nuclear weapons would provide an effective defence. It might have done when the other side could not answer back in kind. But ever since the Soviet Union has been able to do so at every level, it has become a potentially disastrous self-fulfilling strategy.
Over the past few years these realities have become increasingly apparent to a large proportion of the public, including those who have been directly involved in defence matters. But the Government appear to ignore them. They give the impression of complacency: of thinking that, having won a general election, having decided to go ahead with Trident, having accepted the first instalment of cruise missiles—and let some of their vehicles out for a short night-time drive—it can sit back and leave things as they are: that there is no need for NATO to re-think its nuclear weapon policy.
1279 It would be a tragedy if that view were to prevail; for this year provides a unique opportunity for Her Majesty's Government to take the lead in persuading NATO to put its nuclear thinking-cap on. The Americans are distracted by the American Presidential election. There is general agreement in NATO that something must be done to put East-West relations on a more sensible and realistic basis, responding to the call made by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, in his Alastair Buchan memorial lecture last year. The omens for progress in Stockholm at the resumed MBFR talks at Vienna, and at those about chemical warfare at Geneva, are not unfavourable.
If the Government consider that the sort of views I have expressed today—and have often done before in this House—are confined to their political opponents, a few defence academics and retired senior officers, I draw their attention to a recent study carried out by the British Atlantic Committee. Its report, "Diminishing the Nuclear Threat" was published in January, and I hope your Lordships will bear with me if I read four short extracts. The first is on page 11:The present weapon arsenals are far in excess of the needs of deterrence. There is no security requirement for weapons to include 'every rung of the nuclear ladder'. The concept of controlled, step-by-step escalation is impractical nonsense in an unpredictable and largely uncontrollable and chaotic situation. The world would, in fact, be a safer place if some of these rungs were removed now. They merely encourage theories of nuclear war-fighting. The West possesses too many weapons systems and means of delivery for the task it is trying to achieve. So too does the Soviet Union.".Turning to page 18:The contradiction contained in flexible response is now emerging into the spotlight of public opinion. An increasing number of people are unhappy with a defence policy over-biased in terms of vast numbers of nuclear weapons which are incapable of use in large numbers, and have little practical significance".On the same page, it is stated:It is now time to question—And on page 25:
- (i) whether the West needs slavishly to match the Soviet nuclear armoury at every level. The complaint that one side or another should not be allowed to have a 'monopoly' of some particular nuclear weapons system is particularly illogical and has little to do with deterrence;
- (ii) whether the forward location of nuclear warheads any longer makes either military or political sense. From their present dispositions, the Warsaw Pact could destroy many of these delivery systems in quick time. The weapons themselves would present the Allies with the dilemma of 'use them or lose them'.".It is arguable that confining all cruise-missiles to carrying conventional loads would be a considerable step to clarifying the whole position as to what weapon might be nuclear and what might be conventional. In a significant number of cases there is no way of telling. This is a neglected and deplorable situation. We would suggest that there is an outstanding need for full examination of this problem which seems to have been largely ignored.".Those views are not the views of the loony lefties, pink pacifists or even maverick field marshals, but of a group chaired by the noble and gallant Marshal of the Royal Air Force, Lord Cameron of Balhousie, and consisting of three retired generals, one of whom was the former commander in chief of NATO's Allied Forces Northern Europe, the former Permanent Under-Secretary and the former Chief Scientist of the Ministry of Defence, the former assistant director of the International Institute of Strategic Studies, and the committee's director of studies. Could you have a body of more unexceptionable qualifications to express views on this important issue?
1280 I beg the Government to take this matter seriously and to study the important proposals which the British Atlantic Committee report has recommended. The first is that,NATO should move towards a strategy in which the first use of nuclear weapons is no longer an essential part of the deterrent".What better time could there be for Her Majesty's Government, for a change, to take the lead in NATO in this, the 35th Anniversary of the Alliance, which owes its existence to the initiative of that great British Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, and the year in which another notable British Foreign Secretary assumes the post of Secretary-General. I urge them to try and persuade the alliance to ask itself, and the Americans who own most of them, just what all its nuclear weapons are for; and to reduce them to only those needed as a general deterrent to war and as a deterrent to the use by the Soviet union of these dreadful weapons—for dreadful they undoubtedly are.
§ 6.43 p.m
§ Lord Brockway
My Lords, listening to this debate one is tempted to spend the short time in which one can speak in commenting upon, and answering, points that have been made in previous speeches. Because the subject is so serious, I thought carefully about how best to use my time. I have come to the conclusion that the most constructive contribution one can make is to look at the proposals which have been made for containing and for ending nuclear war, and to ask, in respect of many of them, what is the view of the Government.
First, there is the proposal for no first use of nuclear weapons. That has very wide support in the world today. It is supported by the majority of nations in the United Nations General Assembly and is also accepted by the Soviet Union. The Government rejected it. However, in doing so, they said that they were prepared to support a proposal which would not only mean no first use of nuclear weapons but also no first use of conventional weapons. I would urge strongly upon the Government that they emphasise their willingness, and I hope the willingness of the West as a whole, to declare positively that they are against the first use, not only of nuclear weapons, but also of conventional weapons, and to put it in the form of a treaty making it an absolute object of Government policy.
Secondly, there is the proposal for a nuclear freeze—that there should be a complete freeze on the present strength of nuclear weapons, their research, their development and their delivery systems. Again, the Government have said that they are against the proposal, no doubt because the West is stronger in nuclear weapons and the East stronger in conventional weapons. If the first proposal that I have made of a united declaration against the first use of any weapons was accepted, that argument would no longer stand. Again. I suggest very strongly indeed that the Government should reconsider their attitude to that proposal.
Thirdly, there is the proposal for nuclear-free zones in northern Europe, in central Europe and in south-eastern Europe. The proposal in the north has, I hope, been postponed only because of the defeat of the Labour Government in Norway and a less radical 1281 government in Denmark. The proposal in West Germany was an issue there in the last election. So far as south-east Europe is concerned, Greece, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Romania are all in favour of the proposal, and only Turkey is against. Those proposals are now on the agenda of real politics. If they were established and, as proposed, corridors made between them, the whole pattern of Europe in relation to nuclear weapons would be changed. If the Government are seriously concerned about containing the danger of nuclear war, surely they should be supporting those proposals.
Why has the proposal of the Soviet Union that the whole of Europe should be free of nuclear weapons from the Atlantic to the Urals not been taken more seriously? First, sometimes on the Benches opposite there is expressed a disbelief in the sincerity of the Soviet Union putting forward that proposal. If they are not sincere, why not call their bluff? Why not, at the discussions at Geneva, put the Soviet Union to the test as to whether or not that proposal is serious?
Next, there is the proposal for the non-proliferation treaty, which has been signed and which has been in operation—a proposal by which the nuclear powers would not supply non-nuclear powers with nuclear weapons or attack them. There is now general cynicism about that proposal because the treaty includes a clause stating that the nuclear powers will reduce their nuclear weapons, and instead of doing so they have increased them immensely. If the Government wish to see the non-proliferation treaty carried out, I ask that they, with the other nuclear powers, should carry out their guarantee as well.
Next, there is the proposal for ending all nuclear weapons in this country and the American bases, which is termed "unilateralism". The Labour Party is now committed to that policy at the next election. Therefore, that policy is now on the agenda of real politics. If those proposals were to be carried out, the effect, not only in Europe but in the world, would be tremendous. One should realise today that this is not only a unilateralist proposal, but that the movement is becoming international and that in other countries as well the same demand is being made.
Lastly, I want to refer to the comprehensive disarmament programme which was endorsed by the first United Nations Special Session on Disarmament in 1978. That proposal is still alive. The United Nations has asked the conference at Geneva still to make proposals about it. Its proposals are that nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction should be destroyed in two periods of five years, that during that period there should be a planned reduction of conventional weapons, and that that should be followed by an indefinite period during which conventional weapons as well as weapons of mass destruction are destroyed, leading to general and complete disarmament.
A fourth proposal, which I particularly welcome, is that the billions which are now spent upon armaments should be transferred to ending poverty in the world by development. These are not just idealistic ideas; they are now being seriously considered. The United Nations General Assembly has asked that progress in implementation shall be reported next year, and in 1282 1986 there will be a third session in which these proposals will be discussed.
These are not just Utopian, impossible ideas; they reflect a growing opinion in the world which is becoming so powerful. It is strong here in Britain, but it is even stronger in Western Europe. The movement for nuclear freeze is sweeping America, and the Democratic Party has now guaranteed to support it. The Conference of the Non-Aligned Nations of the World, representing three-fifths of the population of the world, declared its first two objects as disarmament and development. As a result of the proposals which the Soviet Union are making, the whole atmosphere of the world on this matter is changing. My conviction is that within the next five years the movement for peace in the world will become so strong as to be able decisively to alter the policy of governments and even the nature of governments themselves.
It is in that belief that I take the view that, serious as the present threat is, if we can get through the next two or three years, there is the hope of ending nuclear weapons in the world and of beginning world disarmament.
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ Lord MacLeod of Fuinary
My Lords, in the time at my disposal I want to say only two things. The first is about the challenge of the Gospel to all active Christians in the nuclear age, and the second is about the tragedy of Trident. First, the Christian's only answer to the dangers of holocaust is for our country to adopt the way of non-violence—the way of unilateralism—now. We are a Christian country in the sense that we cannot legislate in either this House, or in the other place, without opening with Christian prayer. Yet as soon as we mention unilateralism and non-violence, good Christian folk say, "But that is all very foolish and that is all very weak". They forget, surely, that the Gospel says:The foolishness of God is wiser than men and the weakness of God is stronger than men".We have reached the age when the acceptance of that is the only Christian way. It is not pacifism.
The best defence correspondent that the London Times ever had was Sir Basil Liddell Hart. He was no pacifist, but when the nuclear age dawned he wrote:In a nuclear age the phrase 'pursuing victory' becomes totally absurd. Anyone who talks of 'winning the war' is a menace to his country and to all humanity".He went on:To make non-violent resistance a national policy will be very difficult. The most important thing is to educate people and to convince them that it is a workable policy".For centuries the Christian Church justified Christians taking part in war if the end justified the means. That is the origin of the phrase, "the just war". But it was no less than the late Pope, His Holiness Pope John, who said:It is impossible to conceive of a just war in a nuclear age".Thus politically and theologically Basil Hart and Pope John declare that non-violence is the only answer left. In the Bible it is there in the words of St. Paul:The way of non-violence to them that perish is foolishness, but to us who are saved it is the power of God for it is written: 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent'".1283 Who are the wise? Who are the prudent? The legally-minded require a sign and the Greeks require wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, which to the legally-minded is a stumbling block and to the philosophers, sheer folly. But to them which are called, the non-violent crucified Christ is the wisdom and power of God because,The foolishness of God is wiser than man: and the weakness of God is stronger than man".In a nuclear world non-violence is the only way for the active Christian.
Secondly, it is in the light of that that I would remind you of the tragedy of Trident. What is Trident? It is an American weapon system based on submarines. We have undertaken to buy four of these submarines. First, the four submarines are to be made in Britain, but the ammunition is to be stored in America where they are working out what happens inside the submarines. The size of the submarines is shattering. They are 500 feet long and they weigh 14,500 tonnes. They are not like the kind of submarine we visualise. On the submarine there will be missiles 43 feet long and 7 feet in circumference, and there will be eight warheads in each missile. Each warhead, if fired on a town, will carry the consequence of a bomb for that town ten times the size of the bomb used on Hiroshima.
There is also a new way of firing the missile. Each missile will rise into space for 600 miles, and then it will automatically release the warheads and they will go on for the hundreds of miles until they come to the point which has been chosen. The error as regards the distance and the error as regards the accuracy, are met by the fact that when these warheads, which have been fired independently from the missile in the air, hit a town, they will in fact be only 100 yards away from the place which was sighted. The "degree of error" in each explosion is only 100 yards. The biggest major difference that Trident will make will be that it ends the theory of deterrence—as has been several times referred to this evening—the theory of the arms race being for deterrence, because now there will be an immediate and single first strike.
It is in Scotland that these four submarines are going to be based. The Clyde is the place, and Scotland loathes the prospect, because the first strike method is equally the method that Russia may use, as has already been said, and they may aim first of all at the Clyde. Naturally, and rightly from their point of view, they will do so, and that will be the end. But we also hate it for lesser reasons. The tourist industry and all connected with tourism regret that that most popular area in Scotland for tourists is being inadequately worked and, for the sake of security, being cut in two. It is true that when we had only the smaller kind of weapons there were 290 acres which were disallowed for people to go on, but since the Trident came along they are working out that 2,900 acres of Scotland will be put out of business, and a well-known road will be put out of business, for security's sake.
On another issue, it is claimed that the new activities will at least lessen the unemployment situation in Scotland. But if you go into the details, which I have not time to do, it is the opposite of the truth. As one single instance, there were 4,000 men employed when 1284 we were making the armaments in Scotland, but these interior parts of the submarines are now going to be made in America, and as soon as Polaris is finished with there will be only 40 men working instead of 4,000. But come Trident, and these armaments will now be made in the United States.
The greatest horror is of course the cost. It may take some seven years before the new complex is completed, and the latest estimate of the cost will be £8,000 million—£8 billion! This can fairly be presented as £1,000 million a year added to the nation's expenses. In the present state of our finances this can only be raised by withholding cash in local and immediately needed peaceful places. For instance, we all know the need for council houses, and if we did not use this money for Trident we could build 300,000 houses. Worst of all, if we knew what the situation was in the third world—and we know that every 15 seconds somebody dies of starvation—and instead of using the money on Trident we used it in the third world, we would save thousands of lives of women and babes which are at the present moment being lost through hunger.
My last point is that there are in this country vast numbers who do not go deeply into the issues involved. They say simply, "The nuclear situation is appalling, but we must remember that Russia is atheist and the West is Christian, and if we do not do something now then Communism will take over from Christianity. So let us go on arming, and let us use Trident". But let us suppose, I am asking your Lordships finally, that we did this. Suppose we did use the first strike and in fact succeeded in hitting 16 towns killing thousands of people in each of those towns. Let us suppose that the world did not come to an end as a world.
Let us suppose that we recognisably, by attacking four different towns, were to kill something like 100,000 men, women and children. Suppose Russia then packed in and peace was declared on our behalf. Do you suppose that in that event any young Russian man, or any young Russian lady, would be such damned fools—and I intend the phrase "such damned fools"—as to even consider what Christianity was about, when in fact we had demonstrated to them that, in defence of Christianity, we had been prepared to murder 100,000 men, women and children? They would have nothing to do with it. No, non-violence is the only way and non-violence is the way of Christ.
May I finally suggest that if Britain continues to keep Trident then we should approach the right reverend Prelates who conduct the worship for us daily and ask them to consider the prayer that they use every day, which was used again today.
It reads:Prevent us o Lord in all our doings by thy most gracious favour and further us with thy continual help that in all our works (begun, continued and ended in thee) we may glorify thy holy name and by thy mercy attain everlasting life.I say, with all respect, could the right reverend Prelates consider the possibility, as long as we are still with Trident, of releasing the use of that prayer?—because if Trident is in the midst that prayer is a nonsense.
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Putney in the course of his speech 1285 expressed the fear that this country was becoming, under the present Government, in effect in the same relationship to America as the satellites of the Soviet Union are to the Soviet Union. It seems that his own action this afternoon in initiating this debate goes far to disprove that. Can we imagine in the Romanian, Polish, Czechoslovak or Bulgarian legislatures, either house of them, a debate being initiated in which honourable members proceeded to make attacks on the policy of the Soviet Union, such as my noble friend made on the policies of the United States and make similar attacks on the policies of their own governments? We know this cannot happen. I do not make this as a debating point because I think it is one of the most vital considerations.
When we compare NATO, on the one hand, and the Warsaw Pact, on the other, we are not simply comparing rival groups of powers. We are comparing also different systems of belief. Although one can make plenty of criticisms of some of the countries in the Atlantic Alliance, by and large the Atlantic Alliance is an alliance of free countries where we can have a debate like this, where we can express our opinions, and where, from time to time, we can change our governments. On the other side, in the Warsaw Pact countries, they cannot do that and it is considered to be an article of faith that they should not be allowed to do that.
These are vital differences and they are vital to the question of peace and war because a country that has no democratic rights is a more militarily dangerous country than one which has. It is possible, it is comparatively easy, for a dictatorship to supply its people with information about foreign countries, so arranged as to build up a certain way of feeling about those foreign countries. It is not challenged. There is no press that can challenge the picture it draws.
In this country we can all study many organs of the press, many channels of opinion and find different opinions expressed about all the countries in the world. It would not be easy for a British Government to weld the British people docilely and simply into an instrument for war. To get the British people into a situation where they would be prepared to wage a war it would have to be able to make its case with a great mass of argument. That is not true of dictator powers.
We ought not to forget in the whole of this argument that it is an argument, I would not say, as the noble Lord. Lord MacLeod of Fuinary, put it, between Christianity and atheism, but it is also an argument between people who believe in freedom and people who do not. That is of considerable importance. We should keep it in mind all the time.
I noticed too that my noble friend made more modest demands on disarmament than he has done before. He urged the Government first to realise the gravity of the situation. I hold no brief for the present Government, but I think I will give them credit for having done that. They have been aware of the frightfully dangerous world in which we live.
Secondly, he suggested an interesting proposal that we should have—I hope I have it right—a general conference of people of all parties and opinions on this subject. It would be something that has not been done before under Government auspices and I suppose one 1286 might try it. However, I must say that I wish it could be done on the other side of the Iron Curtain as well. It might produce some interesting results. But what would happen as soon as such a conference began? Inevitably the arguments about whether disarmament should be unilateral or multilateral would be bound to spring up. I could not follow my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Putney when he said that we must put them aside as out of date.
The moment we start to argue about the defence issue we come up against this proposition. Do you believe it to be right, as CND does, for this country to remove all nuclear weapons, British or American, from its own shores, not to make or to possess them and, finally, to break away from the North Atlantic Alliance? Those are serious propositions. One could not enter into a discussion on disarmament and foreign policy without that question being raised and it would have to be answered. The point I want to make is that, as long as it is considered a possibility that Britain might do that, we will get nowhere in international negotiations about disarmament. I have made this point before, but is is so true and I make no apology for raising it again.
As long as we give the Russians the impression that we are even likely to disarm ourselves unilaterally, why should they start making concessions in an international disarmament conference? If what they want us to fall into their lap, why should they exert themselves to get it? If, therefore, we are to have the kind of all-party conference that my noble friend has proposed, we ought surely to to decide that from the start we rule out this unilateral solution because it will lead us nowhere.
There is much else to be discussed, as has been apparent from the debate today. That has been part of its value. But among those who reject unilateralism there are a number of differences of opinion. The views expressed by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, and the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, and many others and one's views about first strike and what weapons it would be sensible to have, and so on, are topics that one might reasonably discuss, but it must be on the assumption that we shall not deprive this country of the power to defend itself.
I would particularly commend to the Government the point made by Lord Carver about the number of possibilities that seem to be opening in the disarmament field at present. I am among those, of whom there seem to be several in this House this afternoon, who do not take a pessimistic view about the prospects for world peace. I believe that recently there have been signs of a greater willingness on both sides to consider practical measures for disarmament. We would all of us like to see the Government making a more spirited approach and doing more to take a lead in NATO on this part of the question. That view all of us, whatever view we hold on the unilateral matter, would agree with.
Finally, I want to make the point that weapons do not go off by themselves. If we want to prevent the destruction of mankind that is really saying that we want to prevent the outbreak of war. If all the nuclear weapons disappeared overnight it is still possible for mankind to invent them all over again. Our first parents insisted on eating the fruit of the Tree of 1287 Knowledge and we have been paying for it ever since: or, to put it in the mythology of another nation, the demigod Prometheus, who brought down fire to man, was considered by some to be a benefactor, but he was punished for it because with fire came technology and with technology came weapons and all the other clevernesses for which mankind does not yet have a matching wisdom. That situation we are in, anyway. If we wage war, sooner or later we shall do it with the cleverest and most diabolical things that we can think of. The real problem therefore is the prevention of war itself, and that is a matter for foreign policy.
I would not venture now to try to repeat the speech that I made three weeks ago in the foreign policy debate. I shall make only one point that I made then. A general and broad rule is that, if you look over all the danger areas of the world—the Middle East, Cyprus. Africa, and all the rest—and if there is a firmly declared United Nations resolution on the topic, it should be the aim of British policy to use all its influence to get that resolution put into effect. It will not be easy. In some cases it will be impossible, as Britain by her own, single action cannot sway the whole counsel of the world. But that is broadly the way we should approach it if we want to get down to the job of making war less likely, which is, I think, the only way in which we can hope to make the holocaust improbable.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ Lord Milford
My Lords, when I first read the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, on this debate, the word "approach" simply struck me with terror. So many people do not realise what position humanity is in. I wish that many outside people could have seen that phrase of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins; I think that it might have woken them up to the reality of what is happening. But I am sure that the holocaust can be avoided—but not by the arms race deterrent or by any increases in more and more accurate and sophisticated weapons; it can be avoided by politics. Politics is the real answer to stopping this holocaust. We must find a political solution—not a solution with weapons—to what is happening in the world today; and it rests with the British Government and with the American Government as much as with the Soviet Union—or perhaps more—to find a political situation. That is the task that our Government should be holding as priority No. 1. Meanwhile, they should stop playing second fiddle to President Reagan, allowing us to be the launching pad for his missiles in any war that he may start. Let the British Government cease to underwrite every Reagan speech planning the cold war even more and more.
America and Britain must realise and acknowledge that the Soviet Union walked out of the conference recently because America sent, and the British Government welcomed, the cruise missile while that conference was on. I think that this justifies what the Greenham women have been doing about that cruise missile. Surely, that action of bringing in the cruise missile while the conference was on was an incredible affront to the Soviet Union. You cannot blame them for walking out. Every chance of a conference and meetings between East and West to discuss objectively and constructively how to rescue mankind from the 1288 prospect of a holocaust must be welcomed and supported wherever it crops up.
In September last, a meeting of scientists against nuclear arms was held at which were 31 top scientists from 14 countries, including 10 from the United Kingdom, five from the USA, and, alas! only one from the Soviet Union—and that was because the others who wanted to come from the Soviet Union had trouble with visas. Incidentally, that trouble was not from the Soviet authorities, but from the British authorities stopping them coming in. The agenda of that meeting, which lasted three days, included examination of the theory of deterrence. We hear in this House again and again the word "deterrence" and how we hide behind that word. Those scientists examined the theory of deterrence and the increased danger of war through new technology and more sophisticated and accurate weapons. We in this House have heard so much about deterrence, one of the chief arguments behind the need for an arms race.
"Deterrence", according to the dictionary, means "to prevent by fear". This surely leads to inherent instability, because new developments on one side lead to a state of inferiority on the other. That leads, again, to the arms race going a stage further. It has now been considered by President Reagan that a nuclear war can, in fact, be won—which leads him at all costs to seek superiority. This, again, leads to the arms race and increases instability. It also leads to the incentive for first strike and a quick nuclear attack.
The drive for nuclear deterrence is very dangerous, besides being a very heavy burden upon natural and world economies—which leads to new increases in tensions. But when it leads to the development and deployment of new, more accurate, types of nuclear weapons, as the Reagan administration are now doing, could not this force the Soviet Union to have to follow suit, to retaliate?—which means more and more of an arms race.
I am trying to express the point that the arms race is completely irrational for peace. Our only hope is, first, to stabilise the present situation, and then to deflate it. We must quickly reverse the present intensifying hostility and mistrust and seek negotiation and agreement wherever we can; we must freeze the armaments race to gain time to build confidence; we must work all out to improve relations and detente. Let us have more cultural exchange and co-operation wherever possible, set up joint international projects, and create more economic ties and trade between East and West. There are political aims to help destroy mistrust and hostility. America, and its unquestioning follower. Britain, must admit that the danger of a holocaust is absolutely real and could be even imminent, if they do not seek a political solution instead of arms, arms, arms! If they seek a political solution, the whole nation will solidly back them. Could we not take a lesson from Papandreou of Greece, who suggested that we rested for a few months to consider the situation calmly?
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Lord Soper
My Lords, it so happens that this debate coincides in time with the flurry of re-interest in the question as to whether the clergy should involve themselves in politics. I suggest that a reading of the 1289 Motion before your Lordships today is sufficient to repudiate anything of the nature of this opposition which has surfaced again, rather lamentably I think, for the Christian Church has been up to its eyes in questions of last things, Armageddons and Apocalyptics. It is sufficient, I think, just to mention this relationship of organised Christianity with these temporal matters to finish off in any necessary form this rehabilitation of what is nothing more than heresy. However, it is not on that point that I wish to speak. I share with my noble friend Lord MacLeod the pacifist position. I do not believe I need do more than say that I still hold it, and hold it with a fervour which seems to me to increase with the years.
What I would prefer to do is to ask the indulgence of your Lordships for a few comments on the moral philosophy which belongs to the Christian faith and which I believe has an immediate and radical application to the problems that have confronted your Lordships this afternoon and this evening. One of the effects of a secular age has been that more and more people fail to understand the reality of evil, whereas we have been convinced about it for long enough; it is the second strongest thing in the universe. We have taken the precaution also of recognising our moral philosophy that to personalise evil is the only way to make sense of it: that is why we deal with Satan and the Devil. However, it would be presumptuous of me to dilate upon that theme, except to say this: in the question as to whether a future war can be prevented, it is imperative, as I believe, to recognise that the failure of the Christians or the peace-makers to act is all that is necessary in order to secure the prevalence and the victory of evil. Evil is not inert: it is dynamic. And the dynamic evil of the arms race precludes, in my judgment, any comfortable thoughts that things are more stable than they were—I would suggest that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, demolished that suggestion thoroughly—and, furthermore, that we are becoming more reasonable, because of course the whole process of warfare tends to destroy reason rather than to suggest it and to ventilate it.
Surely the evidence before your Lordships today is that we are in a more perilous position than ever before, and for a number of quite practical reasons that should be adduced, the first being that with the proliferation of arms, the likelihood of one of them exploding either by cause or by accident must necessarily increase. We have an unprecedented condition in which the world is becoming more dangerous every day and, inasmuch as evil feeds upon the inactivity of those who are required to produce some counter force, I believe that we are in greater peril than we have ever been. It is that which makes this particular Motion not only ominous but, I think, entirely relevant.
What I wish to do in a very short time is to say something about the way in which we can act in the condition in which we find ourselves. I would commend to your Lordships once again that whatever the merits of multilateral agreement, it falls short of a second requirement of moral philosophy. I believe that nothing can be called "good" unless it contains not only the question and the essence of collaboration but the essence of initiation. You cannot say that a deed is good if you are only prepared to accept it as 1290 good if other people are totally willing or comparatively willing to do the same thing. This is a question that continously makes me feel that we are on the wrong track if we hope that somehow, by some kind of multilateral agreement, we shall achieve the kind of peace-making programmes which will save us from the holocaust. It is not like that; and therefore I wish to suggest as practically as I can what, for me, is the outcome of the kind of question which is posed and the kind of issue which is raised so eloquently and so forcefully by my noble friend.
I would commend to this House that what is required at this moment is to break through the vicious circle of mutual distrust—the "cowboys and Indians" relationship between America and Russia and the attitude that you cannot trust the other man and so you have to be prepared for his perfidy. I believe that nothing can break into this circle now so efficiently and so immediately as some kind of initiative action on the part of this country, which might not be particularly dangerous with a ten-times overkill—that is a prudent addition to the argument—but which constitutes that moral value which otherwise I do not think is present in our negotiations with one another.
I would ask the Government whether they are not prepared to test out a reduction of armaments in certain fields; and I share with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, the view that it is just as imperative that this should be done in the field of non-nuclear weapons as well as in that of nuclear weapons. I would ask the Government whether they are not prepared to make this gesture. We have taken incomparable risks for war, over and over again. Would we be in any greater danger if prudence is part of our argument? Certainly we would be in greater consort with the moral principles if we were prepared to say that, whatever our fears and whatever the lack of liberty, shall we say? on the Eastern Front as compared with the so-called profferance of liberty in the world of America. If we were prepared so to act, might we not create a new spirit where that new spirit is already latent? I share with my noble friend Lord Brockway the recognition, which comes to me from various quarters, that the world is in a condition of ferment today as regards peace and war; but it is not the same as it was a few years ago. There are more and more people who are earnestly looking for an opportunity to express their desire for peace and their attempt and their desire to work for it.
As I have said, this is a risk; but I would return as I finish to the essence of what, for me, is the sort of message that the clergy ought to be offering and in many cases, thank God! are offering in this particular crisis. What is required, if we are to break this vicious circle, is for Christian people and others and for governments, and particularly this Government, to make a gesture which is unilateral and does not depend on whether the other fellow responds—which is, if you like, testing out what after all is the final commitment to our moral philosophy as we believe it: that all things work together for good to them who are prepared to love God and to do what He wants.
That is a faith. It is a faith which does not require me at this moment to go into the arguments which I have deployed time and time again in your Lordships' 1291 House for pacifism. But it does, I think, give a practical aspect to the problem of what you do to avoid the approach of a nuclear disaster, apocalyptically final. It gives me no comfort and it does this House surely no credit to think. "We are getting along pretty well so far, so let us not change direction." I believe that we need to change direction; and the way in which it can be done practically, and perhaps to begin with on a fairly modest scale, is to take the risk of practical, independent, unilateral disarmament and see what happens.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Lord Bishopston
My Lords, we are all very grateful to my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Putney for again giving the House the opportunity of debating and considering the matters of grave importance which he has put before us. Although the title of this debate conjures up prospects of massive extermination, my noble friend has given us a ray of hope with his claim that he thought that inevitability had not yet been reached, although he thought that the holocaust was very close.
The Motion on the Order Paper calls our attention to the approach of the nuclear holocaust. It ends:and to move for Papers".If the holocaust does come in our direction, I am not sure that moving for Papers will be of very much benefit to us. But the point is that tonight we have had a number of suggestions from all noble Lords who have taken part, which we hope the Government will consider. I intend to be very brief tonight because the most important speech is the one which we expect from the Minister—not in quantity but in quality—in the way he responds to the many ideas which have been put forward.
Apart from the brinkmanship with which we are faced, with the two major powers escalating nuclear weapons to terrifying proportions, there are the prospects that extermination could come by accident, and this point has been raised by noble Lords. The Korean airliner disaster, about which we still know very little, could have had a nuclear dimension which could have led to immediate reaction and escalation leading to who knows where; for, in the event of an emergency and the absence of knowledge of what is happening, fear can lead to panic with massive effects. Despite what the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, said about the sophistication of communications and so on, the world was terrified when the Korean airliner situation took place, because no one really knew what was happening, and we still have very little information even today.
Another danger is that coming from the use of nuclear weapons by smaller countries. My noble friend Lord Brockway has mentioned the non-proliferation treaty; and, after all, if the major powers have nuclear weapons why not the lesser powers, whose leaders are sometimes less predictable and who, in a desperate situation, may use them? I often think that the Falklands could have been a situation where, had the weapons been held by the Argentines, one does not know what they would have called for from the nuclear armoury at a desperate time. Unlike conventional weapons, which are selective and of limited use, the nuclear potential is far-ranging in its 1292 destruction, with prospects of nuclear retaliation and escalation leading to a major conflict if the major powers intervene.
The British Government have said that they reserve the right to the first use of nuclear weapons. But in the last debate on nuclear weapons, there was no denial from the noble Lord the Minister that General Rogers of NATO was wrong when he claimed that in an emergency we could be in a nuclear situation after a few days. That is the extent of the under-preparedness of the conventional role which would require us, according to NATO and the British Government, to go nuclear very soon, with frightening prospects.
The trouble is that Britain—rightly a member of the defensive alliance—is not in command of its own future. There was a debate on American bases in Britain on 3rd May 1983 and there was some argument about how many U.S. bases there are. This matter was raised again recently in Question Time, when a definition was called for about bases, installation sites and facilities, and also about the extent of the control and the power of the strategic weaponry which has passed from British control. It would be very helpful if the Minister was able to clarify some of these points, because there has been some doubt about the figures.
The Government remind us of the 1952 agreement regarding dual control, agreed when weapons were far less dangerous than they are today. The Government refuse to demand dual key, because they say the cost would be too high. But one wonders what will be the cost of life and resources if, by accident or by intent, an error is made which could have widespread and devastating consequences not only for Britain but for mankind.
We read in today's press that farmers have been considering life after the bomb. They were told that they would have to defend their grain stores with guns against hungry townspeople. The comments include the fact that livestock might survive an initial blast outside the immediate vicinity, but would soon die for want of food or water or from intestinal bleeding caused by radiation. If that is true of animals, it is certainly true of human beings; and one wonders what will be the consequences if we do not take action to ensure that the world does not go on escalating as it has in the past.
My noble friend Lord Jenkins of Putney, who is sometimes thought to be implacable in his stand, has on several recent occasions, despite his strong views, sought to meet those who reject his case. There would be more hope for peace if the leaders of the great powers and our own Prime Minister were to seek to dispel the cold war attitude and to consider the merits of alternative proposals. I am sure that we are grateful to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, and others tonight, who have called for a lot of rethinking.
One of the worst prospects which may lead to trouble is for all of us to say that we have preset conditions and positions and we do not intend to move from them, because we are in a very fast changing situation. One of the most important points made by my noble friend was that the old arguments about unilateralism and multilateralism have no relevance in our present perils. How true that is, and we have to 1293 face a situation which changes almost daily. How true that is, also, when new opportunities appear above the horizon demanding fresh thinking and new initiatives.
A number of points have been put to the Minister tonight, including the need to get rid of parity. If we have enough weapons in the world to destroy it 10 times over, it will not be safer if we have enough to destroy it 11 or 12 times over. The logic is that you can still deter with far fewer weapons than we have now, so disarmament, probably a freeze, is one of the points which we need to consider in order to break the vicious circle. Finally, this independent thinking is vital, too, when the new Soviet leadership is settling in and is obviously having to consider future policies. It is certainly vital at a time when the United States has other considerations, and when attitudes there may be more inclined to the electoral sector than to world security. This is a vacuum which Britain can fill.
I believe that world peace is in a Russian roulette situation. We do not know which chamber is loaded to blow mankind to extinction. The only chambers which can ensure peace and mankind's survival are the conference chambers, and the East and the West must wake up to the dangers or mankind may not wake up at all. I believe that my noble friend has given us an opportunity to consider these matters afresh, and we hope that the Minister will respond suitably.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces (Lord Trefgarne)
My Lords, I have listened with great interest this evening to the points that have been made in the course of this debate and, in particular, to the words of the noble Lord who opened it. I cannot help coming to the conclusion that the noble Lord is using the Motion to express his own well-known views. Nothing wrong in that, you may say. Others have also held that view. The late Lord Russell made similar predictions almost 25 years ago and tied them to calls for unilateral disarmament by Britain. Over the years since then to the present day the so called peace movement has waxed and waned, but its forecast of impending doom has remained the same. Without wishing to sound in any way complacent about the dangers of the nuclear age, I believe that this message is as unhelpful and misguided today as it was then. I shall try to explain why.
The Government need no reminding of how horrendous a nuclear war would be. That is why all our defence and disarmament efforts are geared towards the prevention of war—any war, nuclear or conventional. That is why, in common with every Administration, Conservative and Labour, since the end of World War II, we pursue a strategy of detterence. Deterrence may not be an attractive way of keeping the peace, but it has worked. We have enjoyed peace with freedom in western Europe for nearly 40 years, sometimes in the face of considerable difficulty, and it is my firm belief that we can continue to enjoy the peace we all cherish, provided that we maintain our resolve and do not allow ourselves to be panicked by forecasts of inevitable and impending nuclear holocaust, or seduced by the siren voices of the one-sided disarmers—the voices which tell us that all we need do to remove the threat of attack on this country is to cast away our nuclear arms into the ocean in a 1294 gesture of one-sided disarmament. There lies the road to disaster.
Anyway, since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 there has never been an occasion when the use of nuclear weapons has been remotely likely. The Cuban missile crisis demonstrated the need to prevent war happening by accident, misunderstanding or miscalculation. The super powers responded to this need by negotiating a series of measures to ensure that such an event never occurred.
In 1963 the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to establish the "Hot Line" direct communication link. This was a limited but practical step which has proved its worth. This facility was used during the Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973 to prevent misunderstanding. In 1971 a further agreement was signed to improve the link, making use of the greater reliability made possible by advances in satellite communications techonology. Since last summer, the United States and the USSR have been discussing possible further improvements to their communication links, including the "Hot Line".
During the SALT talks the United States and the USSR reached a further "Agreement on measures to reduce the risk of outbreak of nuclear war". This covered three main areas: first, a pledge by both sides to take the measures each considers necessary to maintain and improve its organisational and technical safeguards against accidental or unauthorised use of the nuclear weapons; secondly, arrangements for immediate notification should a risk of nuclear war arise from such an incident, from detection of unidentified objects on early warning systems, or from any accidental, unauthorised or other unexplained incident involving a possible detonation of a nuclear weapon; and, thirdly, advanced notification of any planned missile launches beyond the territory of the launching party and in the direction of the other party.
In 1973, a further agreement on the prevention of nuclear war was reached between the United States and the USSR. The main areas covered by the agreement are the general conduct of both countries towards each other and towards third countries, and mutual consultation in the event of the risk of nuclear confrontation. Your Lordships may recall that the United Kingdom and France also have bilateral agreements with the USSR specifically intended to prevent the outbreak of accidental nuclear war, and have "hot lines" for communications.
I have dealt with these various agreements in some detail because it is frequently argued that accidental nuclear war is possible or even probable. These agreements have been carefully evolved to ensure that that is unlikely in the extreme. We hear a lot about computer errors causing false alerts, but people overlook the fact that there are rigorous cross-checks of all such data and, moreover, that any decision to use nuclear weapons would be taken only at the highest political level. They could never be used automatically in response to an early warning system alone. "Launch on Warning" is of course another fallacy used to scare people. I can say quite categorically that the NATO Alliance does not have a policy of launching nuclear weapons purely on early warning evidence, nor do we—or, for that matter, the Soviet Union—need any such policy. This is one of the many advantages of 1295 having strategic deterrent weapons at sea on submarines which are virtually invulnerable to attack.
Before moving on to answer other points which have been raised this evening, let me briefly deal with the other main argument deployed by the so-called peace movement as evidence that nuclear war is becoming more likely. This is the assertion that the deployment of increasingly accurate weapons makes possible a nuclear war-fighting strategy and that NATO is thereby aiming for a "first strike" capability. This is utter nonsense. We have made it consistently clear that no one stands to win a nuclear war. Our purpose is to deter any attack upon us, be it conventional or nuclear.
As to the second point, a "first strike" is one in which one side launches its weapons in a surprise attack to destroy all those of its opponents. The risk of undertaking such an attack on fixed land-based missiles would be massive. Any miscalculation or technical failure would result in catastrophic retaliation. But in addition must be considered mobile systems such as the 378 SS20s which the Soviet Union has so far deployed, and the very large submarine-based missile forces of both sides, which are virtually invulnerable to any pre-emptive attack. In these circumstances, any attempt at a "first strike" attack would bring not just national catastrophe but national suicide. Such an attack would be incompatible with NATO's defensive strategy. NATO therefore has no such capability, nor is it seeking it. The alliance has pledged never to use any of its weapons in Europe except in response to attack. NATO threatens no one.
May I turn now to some of the specific points which have been raised. The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, asked me about the possibility of a no first use declaration. At the North Atlantic Council meeting in Paris in June, as at the summit in Bonn in 1982, each member of the alliance pledged that none of its weapons—that is, nuclear or conventional—would be used except in response to an attack. We must face the fact that the Russians have a preponderance of conventional forces. In deterring war of any kind NATO must ensure that the Russians do not come to believe that they could embark on war in Europe without the risk of escalation to nuclear war. This uncertainty makes for effective deterrence. This does not mean that NATO is committing itself to any decision in principle to use nuclear weapons first at any given stage of the conflict. It simply means that we think it would be wrong in the interests of preventing war to volunteer to renounce the option.
The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, also asked me about the position of the United Kingdom with regard to a nuclear freeze. But a freeze at INF, particularly at current levels, would be unacceptable, given the massive Soviet superiority in this type of weapon. At the strategic level, the United States Administration has made clear its desire to go well beyond mere limits of strategic systems at their current level and to make significant reductions. We support their efforts to achieve radical cuts in the existing strategic arsenals. A freeze would reduce the incentive for the Soviet Union to negotiate such cuts. It would also take a long time to negotiate, particularly the verification arrangements. Even then some elements of a freeze could not 1296 be adequately verified. The negotiations would distract attention away from the urgent task of negotiating reductions, which would be a far more effective way of maintaining peace.
The noble Lord asked me, too, about our general policy towards nuclear weapon-free zones. We support the creation of nuclear weapon-free zones where they would enhance security in a region, where all the states in the region agree and where nuclear weapons are not already a feature of the existing security arrangements in that region. We have demonstrated this by our support for the Latin-American nuclear weapon-free zone established by the Treaty of Tlatelolco.
The noble Lord also referred to the problems of proliferation. Preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to further countries is essentially a political problem which must be tackled by diplomacy and international co-operation. There are now 121 parties to the 1968 non-proliferation treaty. International efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons in recent years have concentrated on making the safeguard system of the International Atomic Energy Agency more effective. As the director of the agency has pointed out, there has been an impressive drop in the number of states acquiring overt nuclear weapons capability: three between 1945 and 1955, two between 1955 and 1965 and one in the period 1965 to 1975. but none between 1975 and 1982. But proliferation is more likely to occur in states which remain outside the NPT. The relatively few nuclear facilities which are not covered by IAEA safeguards agreements are in India, Israel and South Africa, none of which has become a party to the treaty.
I thought that the speech of my noble friend Lord Birdwood was quite excellent. I agree with almost every word of it. My noble friend has clearly studied the matter in considerable depth. I hope that he will contribute again, and soon, to our consideration of this topic.
I turn now to the speech of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, who raised the question of improved conventional defence and referred to recent publications on the subject. This is a matter in which NATO Ministers take a great interest and which occupies a good deal of discussion time at NATO meetings. NATO's strategy of flexible response requires a balanced triad of forces and the strengthening of the conventional component is particularly urgent. The alliance is therefore examining ways to make the most effective use of available resources and of exploiting NATO's technological strength. This will include greater co-operation and co-ordination in defence planning, research and development and production, improved co-ordination of NATO infrastructure planning, examination of the potential offered by emerging technologies, and restriction on the transfer of military relevant technologies to the Warsaw Pact.
It is important to stress, however, that any changes in NATO's plans which emerge from the exploitation of new technology will be firmly rooted in the alliance's strategy of flexible response. The noble and gallant Lord will already be aware that the greater proportion of the United Kingdom's defence budget is devoted to conventional defence.
1297 The noble Lord, Lord MacLeod of Fuinary, had some harsh things to say about Trident. Trident is, in effect, a replacement for the ageing Polaris fleet. Like Polaris, it will be four boats, each with a maximum of 16 missiles. Trident has the capability to carry more warheads, but we have made it clear that we do not intend to use the full capability of the system.
The noble Lord referred also to the cost of the Trident programme. As my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence announced in the House of Commons the other day, the latest estimate of the cost of the Trident programme is now £8,729 million. This estimate was prepared as part of this year's re-costing of the defence programme on which further details are to be given in the 1984 Statement on the Defence Estimates.
Trident will on average absorb 3 per cent. of the total defence budget over the period of its procurement and 6 per cent. of the equipment budget. That was broadly the position when the decision to procure Trident was announced nearly four years ago; and 55 per cent. of the cost of the programme will be spent directly in the United Kingdom. The noble Lord, Lord MacLeod of Fuinary, suggested that Trident was to be a first strike weapon. I can assure the noble Lord that that is absolutely untrue. A first strike plays no part in our thinking on nuclear weapons and is quite inconsistent with our policy of deterrence based on the possession of a minimum force consistent with that purpose.
I agreed with a very great deal of the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham—hardly surprising coming from a man of such distinction and experience in these matters. He asked me in particular about some of the disarmament talks that are in progress and he ventured to suggest that all was not quite so gloomy as some other noble Lords had thought. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Stewart. On MBFR, for example, we agree of course that those talks are very important. We must avoid all war—both conventional and nuclear. In the unlikely event of war in Europe, the conflict would probably begin with a conventional exchange and reductions in central Europe could therefore lessen tension. However, any reductions must begin from an agreed base and he verifiable. The West's consistent aim is to seek security at the lowest possible level of forces. The East has now returned to the negotiating table of its own accord but there is no need, I think, for the West to hurry its review and to reward the East for its timely return.
With regard to CDE—that is, the Conference on Disarmament in Europe taking place in Stockholm—to which the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, also referred, we hope that that conference will eventually succeed in fulfilling its mandate by agreeing specific verifiable CSBMs, as they are called, to improve confidence and security in Europe. But it is not an arms reduction forum and cannot substitute for the START, INF or MBFR talks—all of which we shall be glad to see resume on a bloc-to-bloc basis with the Warsaw Pact.
In CDE, with its 35 participating states—which are, all of Europe minus Albania but plus the United States and Canada—it will be difficult to achieve instant progress, especially if negotiations are slowed by 1298 exhortatory appeals for general treaties of peace. Nevertheless, the United Kingdom together with its allies will persist in pressing for specific, confidence-building measures which will make a real contribution to European peace.
The noble Lord, Lord Bishopston, raised again the point about the number of United States military bases in this country. In fact, there are eight main operating bases—at Holy Loch, RAF Alconbury, RAF Bentwaters, RAF Fairford, RAF Lakenheath, RAF Mildenhall, RAF Upper Heyford, and RAF Woodbridge. More than 95 per cent. of United States forces personnel over here work at those bases and at the three standby deployment bases of RAF Sculthorpe, RAF Greenham Common, and RAF Wethersfield. Supporting the main bases are a number of operational support facilities, which brings the total number of bases and facilities to 64.
I have carefully reviewed the lists of 100 United States bases produced by journalists and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. I can assure your Lordships that they are spurious. They contain the names of locations which have never been associated with the United States forces, or were used by them but have long since been handed back, or are facilities such as petrol pumps which discharge duty-free petrol. As I have told your Lordships before, I cannot be held responsible for figures given by Ministers of a previous Labour Administration.
As for the figure of 112 installations quoted by the noble Lord. Lord Jenkins of Putney, as being that given to the United States Congress in 1982, it may be helpful if I quote the relevant passage in full. Brigadier-General Fillmore said that there were,six major, seven large minor, and an additional 99 locations providing housing, storage, communications and operational support".I stress the word "housing", as your Lordships will recall that I made it quite clear in my previous answer that the figure of about 60 U.S. bases and facilities which we have given did not include sites used solely for housing. I must confess to being at something of a loss to understand how the noble Lord can regard mere housing estates as military installations, but perhaps he was not aware of the precise picture. Your Lordships may feel that there is not much future to be had in counting storage sheds and radio aerials. The position is therefore as I have given it.
Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting the headquarters of the United States Air Force in this country. I would venture to suggest that the remarks of the noble Lords, Lord Jenkins of Putney, Lord Milford and Lord Bishopston, about American attitudes and American bases here do a great injustice to the dedicated United States personnel who are here for our defence. These Americans are evidence of NATO's collective wish to respond together to aggression.
I hope that I have covered the main points raised in the course of our debate. I have explained at some length why the Government do not consider a nuclear war to be inevitable, impending or likely. NATO's deterrence policy has worked with conspicuous success for nearly 40 years in preventing any war in Europe—nuclear or conventional. I would emphasise the latter because no-one should be under any illusion that so-called conventional war is somehow 1299 acceptable and that nuclear war is not. The appalling scenes from the Iran-Iraq conflict we have seen on our television screens in recent weeks show how horrific non-nuclear conflict can be.
But while we can point to the success of our policies in preventing war, let no-one imagine that this Government are in any way complacent. The dawn of the nuclear age brought a new, terrifying force into international relations. With it came the need for governments of nuclear powers to show a greater restraint and responsibility than ever before in dealing with international tensions. As I said earlier, at least since the Cuban missile crisis, there has never been a moment when nuclear war has been at all likely.
We have learnt lessons from that crisis. Nevertheless, much remains to be done. There are too many nuclear weapons in the world, but we are doing all we can to reduce their number while preserving peace and secrurity at lower levels of armaments. For example, NATO has taken steps to reduce the number of shorter range warheads in Europe. Since 1979, 1,000 warheads have been withdrawn and in October 1983 we announced a programme to reduce the stockpile by a further 1,400. The Government and their NATO allies remain committed to the search for realistic, balanced and verifiable measures of multilateral disarmament.
In an ideal world it would be easy to secure peace simply by casting aside the weapons of war. But we do not live in an ideal world. We live in a world where we and our allies face a threat from a country which has consistently and openly stated its total hostility to our Western values and freedoms, and which over the years has built up a vast military machine far in excess of its requirements for defence. Moreover, the Soviet Union has demonstrated its willingness to use its military power to gain its ends whenever it thinks it can get away with it. The Western Alliance has no choice but to continue for the foreseeable future to pursue the policy of deterrence to ensure that the Soviet Union is never tempted to imagine it could successfully use its military strength or the threat of force against Western Europe.
No one denies that there are dangers in these levels of military forces but the alternative suggested by the so-called peace movement would be destabilising and fraught with much greater danger. We cannot afford to relax our vigilance and must continue to maintain sufficient defensive forces to deter attack. The first responsibility of any government is the peace, freedom and security of their people. This Government, like their predecessors, consider that the policies of deterrence and multilateral disarmament are the best means of carrying out that responsibility. They have succeeded for many years. This has been the longest period of peace in Europe in recent history. Provided we continue to pursue them we can ensure that the nuclear holocaust does not become a reality.
§ Lord Bishopston
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I stress the point that I made no remarks which were critical of the Americans here? The Minister must know that the demand for dual key control, which is a view held by the majority of people in this country, is a way of ensuring that there is dual control in the most effective way.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, the noble Lord has left me a matter of 10 minutes to reply to this debate, he himself having taken up 25 minutes. But I do not even intend to take advantage of the relative restraint displayed by the rest of the noble Lords here, even to the extent that I have available to me. However, there are one or two things which ought to be said.
One of them is that I am most appreciative of the support which I have received from noble friends on this side of the House. The other point is this. I even went so far, although I have learned not to expect too much from the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, as to give him some indication before the debate that I would not seek to be controversial. His response to that has been somewhat regrettable. Instead of having a debate which sought to deal with fundamentals we have had from the noble Lord the tired old rehearsal of the position which we know the Government already hold.
We had the question of the number of bases. It was not my intention to raise that issue tonight, but as my noble friend did so it was perfectly proper for the noble Lord to respond. But his reply was entirely mistaken. The reality of the position is that both he and his noble friend ought to apo10gise for having described these figures as being false allegations and as having been thought up, whereas in fact, on the one hand, they are statements made in the House of Commons by a Minister of the Crown and, on the other, a statement made in exactly the same words by an American general. Therefore, to use this occasion, which, so far as most of us are concerned, sought to raise the issue up to the level which it demands, in order to knock down the arguments in that way, seems to me a matter which ought to be drawn to the attention of the Leader of the House. It is debasing the level of the debate and has falsified what most of us sought to do.
Let me try with my final words to bring the debate back to what we ought to be talking about. As far as I am concerned, and without departing for one instance from the views which I deeply hold about this terribly dangerous question, it is my desire to go along with anybody who recognises the danger and wants to move away from it. For that reason I very much regret that the noble Lord's response to what was suggested by the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Carver, was as inadequate as it was. While giving some appearance of listening to what the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, had said, at the end it was very clear that the noble Lord was not moving one inch. That is the sad state of affairs. It is my hope that although the debate has not achieved what I had hoped it would achieve, it will nevertheless be read elsewhere and the consequence will be that there may be some amelioration and some recognition by the Government of the danger we are in and some determination to move away from it; not to march blindly as the noble Lord appears determined to do. I cannot think that he has even read what has been said in the United States. I cannot believe that he has read the Congressional hearings. The American generals have made totally clear what their position is.
I do not want to put all the blame on one side. I have never wished to do that. But I ask the Government, 1301 through the noble Lord, to treat the situation with the seriousness it deserves and to consider the possibility that it might be desirable for the Government to move a little in their policy and even to go so far as to exercise just a wee bit of independence. As I said in my opening speech, the opportunity is here. The Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister is coming to this country next week. The Foreign Secretary is to visit Moscow. Those two actions will be of no value whatever if we merely go through the motions of repeating our known position on either side. It seems to me that we now have an opportunity—and it may be the final opportunity—to make some movement here and give some indication that we do have a strong desire for peace which we are prepared to carry out in action. I hope, therefore, that the Government will no longer go on repeating their position.
In this debate I have moved away from the position I hold. I have not uttered any of the fundamental beliefs which I possess on this issue in an attempt to try to find some half-way house and to make some movement. As far as I am concerned, that half-way house was enunciated by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver. The Government would do well to consider what he said and to move a little in that direction. With those words I seek your Lordships' leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.