§ Debate resumed on the Motion moved yesterday by the Earl Cathcart—namely, That a humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament".
§ 2.55 p.m.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, our debate today is about foreign affairs and defence, but before turning to those two matters I should like to wish both maiden speakers well—first, my noble friend Lord Eden of Winton, and secondly the noble Lord, Lord Moran. We shall look forward to hearing what they have to say.
In both foreign affairs and defence there is a need for two qualities: determination to pursue our objectives and the capacity to react to changing circumstances. The Government's record over the past 18 months shows both these qualities. I shall concentrate on my own sphere of responsibility. My noble friend Lord Trefgarne will wind up the debate.
I am sure that the whole House will wish to join me in the strongest possible condemnation of the brutal assassination of Mrs. Gandhi last week. We were all deeply shocked and saddened. India has lost a leader of the highest quality; Britain has lost a trusted friend. I know that there has been a great deal of indignation and distress—rightly, in my view—about the outrageous reaction of a tiny minority of irresponsible people in this country who have gloated over Mrs. Gandhi's murder. I know that I speak for all of us in this House in condemning such despicable behaviour. At the same time we wish Mr. Rajiv Gandhi well as he takes over in difficult circumstances. Mrs. Gandhi's death is also a blow to the Commonwealth; her wise and constructive contribution will be much missed when Commonwealth Heads of Government meet next autumn in the Bahamas. Mrs. Gandhi would have wished that meeting to be a success. This Government's firm commitment to the Commonwealth will help to ensure that it is.
Some of your Lordships may have spent part of last night or this morning watching the American election results. President Reagan has been re-elected by an overwhelming majority. I warmly congratulate him and Vice-President Bush. We now look forward to working with President Reagan's second administration in the same constructive way as we worked with his first. There will of course be differences, sometimes sharp differences, between us. But these will be discussed in the frank manner that characterises our relationship. We shall continue to make plain our view about the urgent need for a reduction in the size of the United States budget deficit, about high United States interest rates, about the need to contain protectionist pressures and about the extra-territorial outreach of United States jurisdiction which leads to serious conflicts of interest between us, particularly at 28 present over civil aviation matters. All these issues are manageable but they need serious attention. It is an old joke that we are two nations divided by a common language. The truth is that we are two nations united by common aims and values. We can for example agree about the importance of strengthening the common defence, even if not about how to spell it.
With the American elections now behind us, I wish to look at two areas in particular in which the United States role is vital. The first is arms control, which must be seen against the backcloth of East-West relations. The West must continue its efforts to achieve peace and security at the lowest possible level of armaments. The United States have already given a lead on this. President Reagan's speech to the United Nations General Assembly in September could not have been clearer: speaking about the proposed arms control talks in Vienna, after the Russians had backtracked from their own proposal, he said:I hope we can begin these talks by the end of the year or shortly thereafter".He also spoke personally to Mr. Gromyko in September about his sincere wish to make progress. So there can be no doubt where responsibility for the present stalemate rests. In all the various arms control fora—the Conference on Disarmament, MBFR, CDE—the story is the same: constructive Western proposals, with their emphasis on balance and verifiability, are met by Soviet intransigence. It is the same obstinacy which keeps their troops in Afghanistan five years after the invasion. We know that progress over arms control will be slow and difficult. But we shall persevere, and we look forward to working with the new United States administration on arms control issues.
Arms control depends on a sustained political dialogue between East and West. Only this dialogue can create the necessary mutual understanding and confidence. This will inevitably be a long haul, and the US role will be vital. We welcome their recent proposals for regular consultations with the Soviet Union. But Europe too has a distinct contribution to make and enjoys certain advantages, not least of geography. In the past year we have exchanged views with Ministers from most Eastern bloc countries—including Mr. Gromyko, who will visit Britain in 1985. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said yesterday, Mr. Gorbachev will visit London next month, when he heads the Soviet parliamentary delegation. He will be the most senior Soviet Politburo member to come here for many years. Some of our European partners are also active in promoting contacts and dialogue. Even where the Soviet response is disappointing we must keep trying to break down the barriers.
A second area where the outcome of the US elections must have been eagerly awaited is the Middle East. Two years into his first administration, President Reagan made an important statement on the Arab-Israel dispute. We hope that the region will be high on the agenda for his new administration. There is never an ideal time to tackle the basic problems of the Middle East. But progress is urgently needed over Lebanon and over the West Bank and Gaza. In Lebanon, it is essential that Israel should act on its declared intention of withdrawing, provided that 29 satisfactory security arrangements can be made for Israel's northern border.
As for the Arab-Israel dispute, the two fundamental principles of a settlement must be Israel's right to security and the Palestinians' right to self-determination. The parties themselves must reach agreement. It is neither possible nor right for any outsider to seek to impose a solution. But the West as a whole can urge moderation on both sides, and the United States have great influence to bring to bear in favour of a just and lasting settlement. We shall continue to play our part, as is shown by the visit which my right honourable friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary paid to Lebanon and Israel 10 days ago.
I now turn to Central America, and in particular to the efforts which the European Community has made in this area. The Contadora process has been beneficial. We hope that final agreement can be reached. The San José meeting in September, attended by the Foreign Ministers of the Ten, showed practical European support for a peaceful settlement in that region. We have underlined the importance of promoting democracy and human rights. Community aid will be increased. Regional projects are planned. Britain is also active in this part of the world on her own account. We have the Belize garrison. We have re-opened resident missions in Managua and San Salvador. I have visited Mexico, Belize, Panama and Costa Rica—and President Monge and President Duarte have visited Britain. We hope to increase our bilateral aid to the region. This is in addition to our existing commitments in the Caribbean, where we are actively supporting regional co-operation and maintain bilateral assistance worth between £25 million and £30 million per year: I have first-hand experience of the Caribbean after two visits since taking office, and I shall be in Trinidad and Barbados next week.
I turn now to the political aspects of defence. It cannot be said too often that NATO is the foundation of our security. The Alliance is as solid today as at any time in its 35 years of history. Its cohesion was again demonstrated by the successful initial deployments of Pershing II and cruise missiles. Here was proof of that determination which I stressed at the beginning of my speech. But my other maxim applies equally to defence: we must be flexible enough to adapt to new circumstances. The threat is changing, partly because of new technological developments. Both pillars of the Alliance—Europe and America—must be strong.
The European contribution is already substantial, and we in Britain have given a lead so far as defence expenditure is concerned; our total contribution is second only to that of the United States itself. American critics of European performance should remember that of the available forces, Europe provides 80 per cent. of the combat aircraft, 85 per cent. of the tanks and 90 per cent. of the manpower—3 million men. So the burden is shared. This is no cause for complacency; there is more to be done by all members of the Alliance. But equally, it is no cause for transatlantic recriminations—expecially in the form of Congressional amendments. Our aim must always be to make our deterrence credible, and that requires us to work together.
30 At their recent meeting in Rome, the Foreign and Defence Ministers of the Western European Union took an important step towards assuring an improved and more cohesive European contribution to the common defence in the Atlantic Alliance. If I say little about this now, it is only because we had a full debate on the subject last week, immediately after that meeting. The Government welcome the declaration that was made in Rome. We have no doubt that WEU has an important role in European defence. It will help strengthen the alliance, which remains and must remain the forum in which decisions affecting the security of all the allies are taken.
Threats to peace and to our interests do not occur only in Europe. Britain has particular defence responsibilities outside the NATO area. Apart from the Falklands, to which I shall return later, we have made contributions to peace-keeping forces in Lebanon and Cyprus, to naval deployments and to minehunting operations in the Red Sea. We also provide military assistance and training to over 70 countries outside NATO. All this reflects Britain's widespread commitments and responsibilities. But these efforts are also an important contribution to the protection and promotion of general Western interests throughout the world.
Membership of the European Community is central to our foreign policy. The Fontainebleau summit was a great step forward—not only because of the lasting correction to our budgetary contribution but because the CAP will no longer swallow an ever-increasing proportion of the Community budget. This will mean that there is more scope for the development of the new non-agricultural policies which Europe needs.
Considerable progress has been made in the enlargement negotiations. Success here is essential; it is not just for the sake of the economic prosperity and democratic commitment of Spain and Portugal. Accession by Spain and Portugal will create new opportunities for existing members. It will also cement the democratic foundation of Western Europe, which is the bedrock on which all other achievements are built. That is why Britain will make every effort to help overcome the difficulties which remain, so that Spain and Portugal may join the Community on 1st January 1986.
Now the time has come to look at the future development of the Community. The first priority must be to fit the Community to meet the challenge of the future. The completion of the internal market as envisaged in the Treaty of Rome is essential to enable our industry and our people to benefit from the dynamic effects of a single market. The impact in terms of more investment, more jobs and greater prosperity would be very great. We shall continue therefore to make proposals to do away with the barriers that exist.
There is so much the Europeans can do together; and in the process we shall grow together. We can co-operate more over research and industrial development: Airbus, ESPRIT and JET are examples of what can be achieved. We can collaborate over the new technologies which will change the lives of all Europe's inhabitants. We can have more cultural interchange. All these co-operative efforts, and the 31 habit of European thinking which they engender in each member state, are some of the many ways to progress towards the ever-closer union which we want. Throughout the process our commitment to Europe will never be in doubt.
Our bilateral contacts with West European partners are excellent. Already this autumn we have had a state visit by President Mitterrand, and a summit meeting with Italy. A meeting between the Prime Minister and Chancellor Kohl had to be postponed because of the arrangements for the funeral of the Indian Prime Minister. A further meeting between the Prime Minister and President Mitterrand is due to take place at the end of this month. Such meetings are valuable, not just for the possibilities they offer for increased understanding and for bringing views on important issues closer together, but also because of the commercial and industrial possibilities which are often identified in the course of them. We believe that industrial collaboration in the civilian and military fields could be developed more between partners in the Community. Some progress has been made along these lines in the recent meetings. I have already given some examples of joint civil projects. In the military field our collaboration with Germany and Italy over Tornado is the biggest existing project; for the future, we and four other European governments are looking in detail at the possibilities of constructing together a next generation of European fighter aircraft.
The gracious Speech mentioned the Falkland Islands. We have two policy aims, different but compatible. The first is to retain steadfast in our resolve to fulfil all our commitments to the islanders. The second, no less important, is to seek more normal bilateral relations with Argentina. Our first aim requires us to maintain a military presence which is sufficient to defend the islands against any further act of aggression by Argentina. The garrison is of the minimum size necessary for this purpose. The first runway at Mount Pleasant airfield should become operational by the spring of 1985, the completion of both runways should be by the spring of 1986. That will permit a rapid reinforcement. It should enable us to reduce the forces permanently stationed on the islands. But—and this is perhaps more important in the longer term—the airfield will also contribute significantly to the future economic development of the Falklands. This is in line with the recommendations of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. We hope that the predominance of its military role will be only temporary and that in time its function will be primarily civil; and already there are some small but encouraging signs that the islands' economy is beginning to recover from the effects of the invasion.
In pursuit of our second aim we have worked hard to improve our bilateral relations with Argentina, on the understanding that the question of sovereignty was excluded. The Argentine Government's attitude at the Berne talks in July was intransigent, and President Alfonsin's subsequent remarks have not helped. But we still wish to make progress towards the restoration of more normal relations.
At the United Nations General Assembly last week we reaffirmed our two aims. We voted against the Argentine resolution, which yet again failed to take 32 any account of the right of the islanders to live under a government of their own choosing. The result was good. Sixty-three countries, including two-thirds of the members of the Commonwealth and all our Community partners, declined to vote with Argentina for this resolution. The resolution was passed, but it is, of course, not binding on member states. Nor will it in any way affect our determination to stand by our commitments to the islanders.
The gracious Speech mentioned two other dependent territories for which we have direct responsibility. Over Hong Kong there has been great progress. The draft agreement initialled in Peking on 26th September is a credit to my right honourable friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary and reflects the hard work of the British and Chinese negotiating teams. After two years of arduous negotiations we have succeeded in reaching agreement on a detailed package which should provide the basis for renewed confidence about the future of Hong Kong. That confidence should in turn continue to underpin the prosperity of the territory. Your Lordships will have an early opportunity to debate this issue in full when the people of Hong Kong have had an opportunity to express their views on the draft agreement.
As for Gibraltar, we shall continue to work for early implementation of the Lisbon statement. My right honourable friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary has had a series of meetings with the Spanish Foreign Minister, and will see him again soon. The Lisbon process remains the best way of managing all our differences with Spain over Gibraltar. It will mean, among other things, the restoration of direct communications in the region, and it explicitly confirms Britain's commitment to the people of Gibraltar.
A foreign affairs speech which touches every possible topic is like a guided tour on which the bus stops too often. In either case the impression left is blurred. Before concluding, therefore, I shall mention only two other subjects. The first is Cyprus. I visited the island in October 1983 and made clear to Mr. Denktash that we should take a very serious view of any so-called declaration of independence. I said that such a move would make a solution to the Cyprus dispute much harder and would naturally be condemned. Events have proved me right. But the United Nations Secretary-General is making untiring efforts to bring about a resumption of intercommunal talks. He has our active support and we have urged both sides to show flexibility. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister had discussions with President Kyprianou on 24th September and my right honourable friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary met the Turkish Foreign Minister on 27th September. We shall continue to support the United Nations Secretary-General's initiative, which we see as the best way forward.
The second subject is Ethiopia. We have all been horrified by the pictures on our TV screens and by the news of the terrible sufferings of the people of Ethiopia. The appalling drought has led Britain and the European Community to respond quickly to this pressing need. I am proud to remind the House that RAF aircraft were the first to be flying supplies into the 33 drought-affected areas. Bilaterally we had already allocated this year a total of £36 million of aid for drought relief in Africa. In addition, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs recently announced over 6,000 tonnes of British bilateral food aid for Ethiopia and a further £5 million for Ethiopia and other African countries. As for the European Community, after a British initiative the Development Council met yesterday in Brussels, attended by my right honourable friend the Minister for Overseas Development. It agreed to send £35 million worth of help to Ethiopia and other needy African countries. This includes 200,000 tonnes of cereals.
The Government have set clear objectives in the areas of foreign affairs and defence, and we have worked hard to achieve them. We understand the need for Britain to work with her allies and friends. That is why we base our foreign policy on NATO and the European Community. That is why we attach such importance to the Commonwealth. The Government are proud of their achievements in defence and foreign policy, and will continue to fulfil all their commitments and shoulder their responsibilities.
§ 3.17 p.m.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, I join the noble Baroness, Lady Young, in saying that we on this side are also looking forward to hearing the two maiden speakers today. We are very grateful to the noble Baroness for her wide-ranging speech, which touched upon the main foreign policy issues.
As the noble Baroness indicated, our debate is overshadowed by the tragic death of Mrs. Gandhi and I join with the noble Baroness in condemning the small group in this country who appear to gloat over the event. We welcome people who settle in this country, but when they do come we think they should use our streets to better purpose. The future of India as the world's largest democracy—something of which Mrs. Gandhi was very proud—is of acute concern to us and to the whole world. The House has voiced its sympathy and I will do no more today than express the hope that Mr. Rajiv Gandhi will succeed in the truly enormous task of resolving the complex internal problems of his great country.
I propose first to deal with the four islands which were touched upon by the noble Baroness. Indeed, over the past fortnight some of these matters have been raised in the House both in statements and by way of Questions. Three of the islands are mentioned in the gracious Speech and I do not propose to go into great detail. It would be wrong, however, if I did not follow my noble and learned friend Lord Elwyn-Jones and congratulate the Foreign Secretary upon the Hong Kong settlement. There were obvious limitations to what could be achieved in practice, and the agreement is probably as good as Britain and Hong Kong can expect to get. As my noble and learned friend said in the House on 25th October:At the end of the day . . . much depends on the good faith and honour of the Chinese Government and ourselves, which will be at stake in the coming years".—[Official Report, 25/10/84; col. 298.]We of course look forward with great interest to hearing the views of the Assessment Officer on the reactions of the people of Hong Kong. His report will, 34 I understand, be published towards the end of this month. As the noble Baroness said, we shall be able to discuss this when the House debates the draft agreement in due course.
Gibraltar has also been referred to several times, and the noble Baroness has mentioned it today. We have discussed it previously in the context of the accession of Spain and Portugal to the Community. The Statement on the Foreign Affairs Council on 24th October said:Considerable progress was made in the negotiations on the accession of Spain and Portugal".—[Official Report, 24/10/84; col. 212.]The noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, then said that the Government regarded it:as inconceivable that the restrictions presently in force, particularly on the land border, can remain in place after Spain joins the Community.—[Official Report, 24/10/84; col. 215.]I think that we are right in this debate to press the question of Gibraltar a little further, as, if it is not settled, we assume that the Government will not agree to Spain's accession. That could lead to a fresh crisis. We understand that there have been talks with Spain on Gibraltar during most of this year and that the Community is thinking in terms of a seven-year transitional period. We also read in some newspapers that Spain is preparing to implement the 1980 Lisbon Agreement.
On 4th November the Sunday Times said that the United Kingdom had made important concessions in order to achieve agreement. The noble Baroness was very interesting in what she said today, but she gave no indication of these concessions. I think that the House would wish to know precisely what has been offered or conceded in order to facilitate a settlement. That is of considerable importance to us and to the people of Gibraltar.
The third group of islands is, of course, the Falklands. Here the efforts to achieve constructive negotiations, as the noble Baroness said, have come to a dead end. It is very much in the interests of the Argentine and ourselves to find an amicable solution. It is regrettable that the July talks between the two countries collapsed. They collapsed, as the noble Baroness said, on the issue of sovereignty. But it is wrong, and it is foolish, that more than two years after the conflict, the exclusion zone is still in being and on the Argentine side a state of hostilities still exists.
President Alfonsin has launched his diplomatic initiative in the United Nations, and received a good deal of support from quarters which are not unfriendly to this country. But he has also said that the Argentine would use "only peaceful means" in the mission to recover the islands. There must, of course, be a recognition on both sides that some compromise at some stage is essential. President Alfonsin must not forget that the conflict was started by a cruel and stupid military junta but that it was also the Government of the Argentine at the time; and our Government must understand, notwithstanding what the noble Baroness has just said, that they can now deal with a reasonable and benign democratic leader. The success of the new Government is important both to South America and to ourselves, and the way that President Alfonsin deals with the Falklands problem is a crucial factor in that success.
35 It should in one sense be much easier to reach a satisfactory settlement here and on Gibraltar than in the case of Hong Kong. I know that there are deep feelings, but there are also long-term financial, defence and foreign policy implications, and I hope that the Foreign Secretary will apply his mind and his energies to seeking a solution to this problem with the same determination and resilience with which he approached the question of Hong Kong.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
My Lords, am I to understand that the noble Lord is saying officially from the Front Bench opposite that he is prepared to consider compromise on the question of sovereignty because the same thing also applies to Gibraltar? Are we to understand that the Labour Party is prepared to think in terms of compromising sovereignty in the Falklands and in Gibraltar?
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, I would remind the noble Lord that Governments which he supported and of which he was a member at one stage, and previous Labour Governments as well, were prepared to talk in reasonable terms with the Argentine over a period of 25 or more years with compromise in mind. If a settlement is to be achieved in future, both sides must be prepared to make some compromise. I hope that the noble Lord will accept that as inevitable sooner or later.
As I said, we have a considerable interest in achieving a settlement. If I may say so in further answer to the noble Lord, I think we should have a full debate on the question of the Falklands and the Argentine as soon as we can. There are so many nuances to this problem and so many details to be examined, including the matters raised by the noble Baroness on expenditures in the Falklands, that this can be done full justice to only in a full debate.
The noble Baroness referred to Cyprus. I am glad that she did so because it is, strangely, not mentioned in the gracious Speech. We do not have the same direct responsibility there as we have in respect of the other three islands, but we do have a considerable interest. One newspaper described Cyprus in a headline last month as:An isle in distress and no saviour in sight".Mr. Perez de Cuellar has taken an initiative here, and I should like to pay the warmest possible tribute to him as a most constructive and hardworking Secretary-General of the United Nations. I think that he is a man who deserves the highest praise. But Mr. Denktash is not an easy man to move, and he is buttressed by another military government in Turkey.
The United States appears to be ambivalent about Turkey, and I shall be glad if the Minister when he winds up will comment on its reported compromise formula. This, I understand, proposes that the President of Cyprus should be a Greek Cypriot but that all executive power should be vested in a prime minister and a deputy prime minister; that each of these two should have a right of veto; and that the two posts should alternate between the two communities. It goes on to propose that the 38 per cent. of the island now held by the Turks should be reduced to 30 per 36 cent. That does not seem to us to be very satisfactory, and I shall be glad to have the Government's reaction and some indication of the way that they see things developing on the Cyprus front.
I shall now turn as briefly as I can to the other main issues. As the noble Baroness said, one of the problems of these debates is that their scope is so wide that it becomes quite impossible to deal with everything. As she said, the Foreign Secretary has recently returned from a visit to the Middle East. We have noted that he restated in Saudi Arabia the substance of Security Council Resolution 242, as did the noble Baroness today. Chancellor Kohl in Israel and President Mitterrand in Jordan have said the same thing. The Foreign Secretary appears to have had encouraging talks with Mr. Peres and Mr. Shamir, and we hope that this visit, with the others, will lead to a relaxing of tension.
The withdrawal of foreign troops from the Lebanon remains a central obstacle, although the negotiations are continuing. President Mubarak of Egypt is reported as saying that new peace initiatives in the Middle East are probable after the American presidental election. I would, however, repeat what I and others on both sides in these debates have said; namely, that no permanent solution in the Middle East can be expected without the participation of the Soviet Union as well as the United States. May I assume that that is accepted by the Government? The "back-yard factor" is as relevant here as elsewhere. The Soviet Union has in fact suggested the reconvening of the Geneva Conference. I hope that that is something that Her Majesty's Government and the new Government of the United States will also consider.
The impression that one gets is of considerable movement and activity in the Middle East generally at the present time. Jordan's new parliament has met; Egypt has rejoined the Islamic Conference Organisation; and Syria appears to be tending towards a more co-operative stance, although its direction is unclear. In addition to that, the Israeli cabinet is, I believe, debating the details of possible withdrawal. Over and above all this, however, the gnawing concern of Arab countries is the continuing Gulf war, where losses have now reached the terrible total of about half a million men.
Perhaps the noble Lord, when he replies, will give us information about the current safety of British tankers in the Gulf at the present time. His comments on another matter will also be greatly appreciated by us; namely, the complaints which are being made about the supply of arms by this country to Iran. It is said that Britain's role in building up Iran's naval forces has dismayed our allies in the Gulf and elsewhere. A clear statement of what exactly we are doing and why we are supplying arms in the context of a cruel, dangerous and unnecessary war must be made by the Minister at the end of this debate.
We join the noble Baroness in congratulating President Reagan upon his election. We recognise that the policies and attitudes of the new American Administration will again influence events in many parts of the world. These policies are of the first importance to us and to our allies. We reaffirm our friendship with the United States, both within NATO and outside it. We have had our disagreements with 37 them on several issues over the last few years. This has not ruptured the alliance but it nevertheless causes concern. In central America and Southern Africa it has not always been possible to go along with United States policies and attitudes.
The harsh public argument between Washington and Moscow has, thankfully, become more muted over the last few months and there are the beginnings of a possible negotiation, as was shown by President Chernenko's interview in the Washington Post three weeks ago. We hope that President Reagan will follow this up as he settles down to his second term. We also hope that the Government will encourage him in this constructive pursuance of détente. In this context again Mr. Gromyko's visit to this country next year can be very helpful. More immediately, we must welcome Mr. Gorbachev's visit to this country in a few days' time. As the House is aware, he occupies a most important position in the Soviet Government and it will be useful for the Prime Minister and others to have talks with him.
The primary objective is to work for a resumption of the Geneva talks. No one expects either side to make concessions in advance, but both have already made some public proposals. As the noble Baroness has said, President Reagan's speech in the United Nations in September was a constructive start. I agree with what she said about the need to sustain political dialogue. My noble friend Lord Boston will deal at greater length with this matter, and with defence generally, when he winds-up.
But it is a topsy-turvy world and a foolish one in which massive expenditures on arms proceed relentlessly side by side with the starvation of millions of people. The noble Baroness has spoken of the Government's actions in Ethiopia. Of course, we warmly welcome these, as we also admire the marvellous reaction of the British people. The pictures on television and people's reactions to them have spurred Governments in turn to action. However, the warning has been there for a very long time. As my noble friend Lord Oram said last week—and I am sure he will enlarge on the problem when he speaks today—the famine in Ethiopia on 27th April last year was discussed in the debate on the second Brandt Report. But I am bound to say, and anyone who reads the debate must agree with me, that there was little appreciation of the problem then and an inadequate reaction by the Government to that problem.
We have in this House discussed the role of the IMF and the World Bank on several occasions. The House will recall that the second Brandt Report called for an enlargement of the role of the IMF and of its resources in an effort to resolve the current balance-of-payments debt and banking crisis. The availability of money at low rates through the IDA—that is the lending agency of the World Bank—is only one important factor. I do not like quoting my own words, but as I said in the House then, only 18 months ago:Practical assistance is needed to assist the underdeveloped countries not only to develop their own resources but also to process their own resources … massive drainage schemes and major agricultural development suited to soil and climate are probably the most important needs of some of the poorest of all. The experience of Ethiopia in recent months … should have made that plain to the whole world".—(Oficial Report, 27/4/83; col 962.)38 That was said on 27th April 1983. If East and West gave a tithe of the attention to this problem that they give to piling up armaments, the problem would be resolved in a measurable period. I hope the Minister can tell us that the Government are planning in the long term as well as the short term.
It is good to know that the development Ministers of the Community, and that included Mr. Timothy Raison, met last week to co-ordinate all the countries' contributions. I hope they will take a long-term view of the problem in Africa generally as well as recognise the need to give important short-term assistance. I think the gracious Speech contains the right words but prompt action is needed as well as words.
The gracious Speech also referred to Namibia and says that the Government will work for a settlement there. This is taking a very long time. We note that Dr. Chester Crocker has been talking to Mr. Botha and other South African Ministers over the past few days and that the withdrawal from Namibia of Cuban troops on the one hand and South African troops on the other was on the agenda. If this can be achieved then the road to free elections is clear. I hope that the Minister can give us some information on the prospects following these talks.
Another election has been held in the past few days in addition to the one in the United States. That took place in Nicaragua. All the accounts of what I have read in the press seem to be agreed that the Nicaraguan elections were free and well organised. I wonder whether the Minister agrees with that conclusion from the information that he has received from our mission in Nicaragua. The United States may not have an affection for the elected Government of Nicaragua but I hope that they will not seek to interfere with it, either directly or indirectly. That would be a most serious step to take. It would indeed damage the understanding between the United States and her friends.
This brings me back to the big news of the day; namely, President Reagan's re-election for four years. As I have said, the importance of this event and of his administration's policies cannot be overestimated. In the Middle East, in Southern Africa, in Central America of course, in East-West relations and the hope of disarmament and détente, the attitude of the United States will be crucial. We are America's friend and ally but we are not puppets of America and at the start of the new administration we should make that perfectly plain. We look forward to a period of fruitful co-operation with the United States and to "that greater atmosphere of trust between East and West" mentioned in the gracious Speech. The main task of foreign policy should be to build up this trust. But it will take time and a great deal of quite and sensible diplomacy to achieve it. I urge the Government to use all their energies to that end.
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him a question relating to his remarks about Cyprus? Is the noble Lord aware that less than a month ago Mr. Denktash told me that he had accepted in full the proposals made by Mr. Perez de Cuellar in New York and that it was President Kyprianou who was proving intransigent and would 39 not move away from the position that he took up at the beginning of January?
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord for the question, but I feel that he and the House would agree that it is not a question for me but is one for the noble Baroness, who met Mr. Denktash, and the noble Lords, who are in possession of all the facts. I am sure that they will take what he says into account.
§ 3.39 p.m.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, the parties of the Alliance wish to be fully associated with everything that the Minister of State and the Leader of the Labour Opposition have said about Mrs. Gandhi. We also welcome the two maiden speakers in this debate. I shall speak briefly about Nicaragua, since I returned from Nicaragua this morning. I had not intended to deal with it because I had believed that Lord Chitnis would be devoting his speech in this debate to it. Somehow, however, he does not seem to be here, and I know that he would want me to give a short account of what we saw in that election. There were five Members of both Houses of this Parliament present for the election, of whom three were an all-party group who went on behalf of the Human Rights Committee of both Houses of Parliament. We were guests of the Nicaraguan Government, among some hundreds of invited observers. There were also present, according to the figures that we were given, 1,040 journalists from all over the world.
As to the voting and counting itself, and the mechanics of the election, which we were perfectly free to observe in our hundreds, what we saw was a highly practical, well-prepared and completely serious system of voting and counting. The opinion of all the Members of the British Parliament who were there was that it was, in every respect, as good as our own in this country, and in one or two minor respects, very surprisingly, even a little better. There is no question of any malpractice. What we saw was, in effect, a malpractice-proof system. The Nicaraguan authorities had the help of Sweden in setting up the system, and they had the help of France in the electronic machinery needed for it. I regret very much that our Government did not see fit to agree to my proposal that we should at least send some paper to help them with the election.
There remains the question of the campaign beforehand. Was it, or was it not, conducted under reasonably free conditions? There were disorders. They were disorders of a nature which would attract attention if they were to happen in this country, where they would be regarded as disgraceful, but would not if they were to happen in, shall we say, Italy. They were disorders on a scale which is quite normal in elections in the European Latin countries—no worse than that. Were the opposition parties free to campaign? Six opposition parties took part in the elections. Indeed, on the present state of the count, they obtained 35 per cent. of the votes. The elections were not as free as they would have been in an ideal situation. If you have been a one-party state for four years and suddenly decide to hold free elections—that is exactly what 40 happened—obviously, it will take the opposition parties more than four months to catch up, in public knowledge and support, with the government party. This is how it was. The government party was aware of these difficulties. The Nicaraguan Government gave £25,000 to each of the six opposition parties that were standing, in order to help them to make their views known.
It is a pity, I think, that the British Government did not, in the end, agree to send official observers to the elections along with Holland and Sweden, and as they have done to the Salvadorean elections. If they had, these observers would have seen what hundreds of us saw, and this would have helped the Government help the United States Administration to understand that these elections were not a farce, as it has claimed. I hope that our Government will study the secret paper of the National Security Council in Washington, leaked to the Washington Post and published this morning, which describes the forthcoming campaign of the Administration to persuade us in Europe that these elections were a farce, through the means of their embassies here.
The first section of the Queen's Speech is concerned with national security. I should like not to speak to that under the rubric introduced by Lady Young when she said that we agree with the United States on the need to strengthen our defences, if not on how to do it. Just over a year ago in the debate on the Defence Estimates, I invited the House and the Goverment to consider Star Wars, or, to give it its more correct name, the strategic defence initiative of the United States. The idea was launched by President Reagan in March 1983 in a now world famous speech which he made without consultation with his allies and even without consultation with his own Secretary of Defence, although the latter has loyally defended it since and has even managed to commend its "moral nobility", of all things.
President Reagan, as we know, is a romantic. In his speech, he showed to the full the lineaments of a romantic in a white tower. He proposed that a system of defences against ballistic missiles should be researched and developed, so perfect in its efficacity and in its extent that it would—and the words are his—"make nuclear weapons obsolete". Using every sort of new and foreseen technology, a series of beams and other effects, launched from every thinkable environment, and a series of armed satellites, under the command and control of another series of satellites, provided with sensors and data processors of a fineness as yet only dreamed of, would be devised. It would be capable of destroying Soviet ballistic missiles not only when the re-entry vehicles enter the atmosphere, not only between the time when they leave their delivery "bus" and the time when they reach the atmosphere, it would be capable of destroying not only the "bus" itself in mid-trajectory but even the boosted missile on its upward course.
The amount of information that would have to be handled, and the very small number of minutes or even seconds for handling it, means that this would be an automatic system. There can be no question of human, let alone political, judgment: this could only be automatic war. Since March 1983 many voices in the United States, including some in the Adminis- 41 tration, have outlined some smaller and perhaps more credible plans for ballistic missile defence. To some of these there might be no objection. But—and the House and the Government should note the significance of this—President Reagan has not altered his original idea. He repeated it in its extreme form in one of his two debates with Mr. Mondale during the campaign. It is to be the Great Protective Bubble itself. In this debate he even retreated so far into his ivory tower as to say that he would give the technology to the Russians so that they could erect the same sort of shield against the United States. This is the President of the United States, and the President of the United States makes policy.
We should therefore look at what has been happening in the United States. Research contracts are being let. More than 240 companies tendered for a recent batch of 10 or 12 contracts. But that was not enough for the Strategic Defence Initiative Office. They wanted to get an even wider swathe of industry involved, so they postponed the closing date for tenders. These first contracts together will be worth only about 12 million dollars. The House will remember that the President is asking for a sum of 26,000 million dollars over the next four years. The idea behind this has been expressed by the chief scientist of the Strategic Defence Initiative Organisation, Gerold Yonas, as follows:A limited set of options could be counter-measured by the Soviet Union".That is a limited set of US options. He is therefore apparently seeking a more or less unlimited set of options which could not be counter-measured by the Soviet Union. One of the biggest challenges facing the Strategic Defence Initiative, say its administrators, is to maintain public and congressional support as well as that of the allies. Well, yes!
Now what will the Soviet Union do? They cannot but see all this as an attempt by the United States to use its greater wealth and greater technological base to achieve something going on for a first strike position—the ability to wipe out all Soviet retaliatory capacity in one swoop. God knows, the American military industrial complex often enough fears that the technically inferior Soviet Union is going to reach this position. We do not have to rely on speculation about what the Russians think. Academician Ronald Sagdeyev, who is the director of the Space Research Institute of the USSR Academy of Sciences, has said:The aim of the US programme aimed at setting up a space-based anti-missile defence system is to create conditions under which the USA could prepare a first strike and avoid retaliation".Unfortunately, this is not just the usual black propaganda. It is a natural fear.
One's reaction to all this can only be weariness. We have heard it all before. Twenty years ago, the Soviet Union told the United States that ballistic missile defence was very virtuous: who could deny a country the right, indeed the duty, to use all possible means to defend its territory and its population? Prime Minister Kosygin himself used to say this.
The United States at that time painstakingly explained the virtues of mutual assured deterrence and pointed to the fears that would arise in NATO if the Soviet Union developed what would appear to NATO 42 to be part of a first strike posture. Now it is the other way round. The Americans want new and virtuous ballistic missile defences and it is the Russians who fear a first strike. Maybe if the world lasts another 20 years we shall see the boots change feet yet again.
Shooting down a missile in space, sorting out the armed re-entry vehicle from a host of different kinds of decoys, will be difficult and infinitely expensive. There is of course an exception to this—that is, if you are prepared to destroy the missile before it starts. Then it gets, relatively, easy. But this is the pre-emptive first strike, which is a despicable and horrific idea not even discussed as a policy among thoughtful people.
But we might ask ourselves how much difference there is between taking out a missile on the ground and taking it out 1,000 feet from the ground, before you, or rather your equipment, know where it is going. There is a difference, of course; but shooting it down at 1,000 feet cannot be called defence by whoever does it, since at that stage your equipment would not know who it was defending. That action would have the effect of depriving the Soviet Union of retaliatory capacity as surely as a disarming first strike itself; and, of course, vice versa, were the Soviet Union to expand its anti missile capabilities in the same way. Let us note in passing that the system would be under political control only if it were to be used as an adjunct to a first strike. In any other circumstances, it must be designed to launch itself.
The Government—our Government—are at present content to say that all this is only research and that when the research is finished will be the proper time for European governments to make their views known to the United States. This is nonsense, and to say this is to relinquish for ever any possibility of affecting developments. Can anybody seriously think that when the United States military industrial complex has digested a research programme of 28,000 million dollars, and when employment, lucrative consultancies and all the well-heeled, well-blinkered paraphernalia of Pentagon contracts is established in hundreds of congressional districts across the United States, that complex is going to sit back and let its Congressmen and Senators say that it was all a mistake in the first place, has led nowhere, and should now be wound up?
To put it more bluntly: if our Government think all this is a good idea then they are quite right to keep silent about it, because it will happen. If they think it is a bad idea, they must urge—and urge now—that 28 billion dollars should not be spent on finding out how to do something that ought not to be done. Research into the indefensible is itself indefensible. I shall not spend any more time talking about the technical aspects of this; they do not matter very much. What matters are the strategic, political and economic factors.
Strategically it is pointless. Mutual assured deterrence will continue. The most perfect anti-ballistic missile defence in the world will not catch bombers, or long-range cruise missiles, or ballistic missiles lobbed at short range by submarines, let alone mines or suitcases. I have already pointed out that, in so far as it serves any purpose, it will tend to be indistinguishable from a first strike posture.
43 We come now to the political questions. Who is supposed to be covered by the "great bubble"? Obviously the United States. But President Reagan has more than once said that the allies of the United States would also be covered. Canada, my Lords? Yes; we can imagine that. What about Western Europe? Mark first of all the geo-political absurdity that Norway and Denmark are to be protected; Sweden is not. Turkey and Israel are to be protected, but a missile headed towards Syria—and such a thing is not unthinkable in the future—is to be carefully let through; and so on.
Let us think for a moment of the political effects upon Europe of the deployment there of endoatmospheric re-entry vehicle interceptors. We have the word for it of James Dobbins, the American Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, that the United States Government have,explained to our allies that our research efforts in SDI are designed to address the threat of shorter range ballistic missiles to their territory, as well as inter-continental ballistic missiles".That means they would be deployed here to shoot down the SS.20s aimed at us as well as the ICBMs aimed at America.
We are already putting up with the Pershing IIs and the cruise missiles to offset or counterbalance the SS.20s. The Soviet Union has a faint but real possibility of adapting the SAM. 12 so that it can shoot down the Pershing IIs. How long is all this to go on? Are the governments of Europe expected to welcome the political effect it will so obviously have on ordinary people? Would NATO survive it? Indeed, it is already clear that the governments of Europe do not welcome it. Mr. Genscher has said for West Germany that he is not at all in favour of it, and Mr. Fabius has called not for "Star Wars" but for "Star P ce", which is a good enough headline. Public silence from London, or nearly!
The United States has assured us, and we can readily agree, that the present research programme will not breach the ABM Treaty. But deployment of a ballistic missile defence system of this sort would tear it up, and possibly some other treaties too, beginning with the Non-Proliferation Treaty. There is no question of this. And I have to say that in this part of the House we defend treaties, and if our allies look as though they are going to break them we ask them to desist from breaking them. If the Government send no message, let this House send a message, and let that be it.
The disgraceful argument is even beginning to be heard that a deployment of this kind in Western Europe would not infringe the ABM Treaty because—wait for it!—the treaty covers only strategic missiles and the SS.20s are not strategic. I say "disgraceful" because it is a nationalistic argument. It involves the unspoken statement that a nuclear weapon landing on the USA is strategic and one landing somewhere else is not strategic but tactical. Well, all of us here happen to live within range of the SS.20s, and I submit that makes them strategic. Mr. Weinberger not so long ago got the Pentagon to stop calling nuclear weapons which could not hit the US, "theatre weapons". Here is another case for his benign blue pencil.
44 The last, and by no means the least important, clutch of arguments against SDI is the economic one. Seven thousand million dollars a year on research. What will development cost? Five times that? Let us say so. Then what would procurement cost? We can all extrapolate from experience on that one. The Government of Ethiopia tell us that there are 6 million people there in danger of death from starvation; the world financial system is crumbling because we have still not found a viable way to spread self-sufficiency from the rich north to the poor south. The very budget deficit of the United States itself, as Lady Young said (or nearly), is one of the main constraints on the development of rational and morally defensible economic arrangements for the world.
What can be the justification for pouring more and more wealth into the next stage of the arms race? Let us not forget that weapons are the only thing made by man which not only do not produce wealth, which not only consume wealth, but which are held with loving care and paranoid suspicion in case they should ever be needed to destroy wealth. Think of the waste of qualified young people whose minds could have been turned to the good of their fellows.
This thing is arms race for ever more. If it is carried through, there is not the faintest hope of the Soviet Union ever coming back to any disarmament table with the United States. On the contrary, they will, as the United States would, and as we would if we were in the same position, devote all their energies to outflanking the system, to increasing the penetration power of their own strike force, and in the end presumably to building a system of the same sort themselves. President Reagan has already put his foot down on the accelerator of the arms race harder even than President Kennedy did. We have seen the effect of President Kennedy's decisions. They it was that provoked the Russian decisions that provoked the counter-decisions of President Reagan's first term. We have also seen unprovoked Russian decisions—going into ASAT and beam research and dubious radars, for instance, to which all this (that is, the SDI) is, in a sense, a response. But is President Reagan to be remembered as a president who screwed the arms race forward twice, once in each of his two terms?
The project has few friends in this country who are unconnected with the arms industry. Whitehall is against it; the armed forces knew nothing of it in advance and are properly sceptical. They know what their own needs are, and this is not among them. The Prime Minister, true enough, has said a quiet word in the right direction: she has said that she favours negotiation preceded by restraint. That is good as far as it goes, but that was many months ago and this giant wagon of cloistered make-believe and indolent profits is still lumbering forward. Let the Government say now, audibly, to Parliament and people, and to our valued ally the United States, that this is folly and we will have none of it. We do not want arms race for ever more. We want restraint and resumed negotiations; not piecemeal here-and-there adjustments, but real arms reduction negotiations across all types of weapons. We want that and we want it now, and if the Government will not say that, then let public opinion in this country and in other West European countries 45 hear it said from these Benches, if not others, in this House today.
Mr. Reagan has to choose between disarmament and the Strategic Defence Initiative. Although he has embraced both and committed himself to both, he cannot have both. And if he chooses the Strategic Defence Initiative, none of us will have disarmament. The Government must help him understand this. There is perhaps no one in the world better placed than the Prime Minister to do so.
§ 4.1 p.m.
§ Lord Eden of Winton
My Lords, I welcome the references to the European Community which are contained in the gracious Speech and I shall, with your Lordships' indulgence, concentrate on them for a few moments.
The paragraph which refers to the European Community appears in the first part of the gracious Speech more generally devoted to foreign affairs and to defence, but it could as well have appeared in the later section on economic affairs and employment. I believe that there can no longer be doubt about the economic importance of Britain's membership of the Community. More than 43 per cent. of our trade is with Community countries and that is likely to grow when the accession of Spain and Portugal is achieved in 1986. Even so, as my noble friend has made clear, the full benefit in terms of economic growth and the creation of new jobs will not be realised until the Common Market has been fully achieved.
I was encouraged by the remarks of my noble friend in this respect. As she said, action is now required to harmonise standards and to prevent their use as barriers to trade whether within or beyond the Community; to see the early establishment of rapid and co-ordinated customs procedures which are proving to be both so costly and so irksome; and to make progress in liberalising trade in services which has been lamentably slow, to the considerable disadvantage of our banking, insurance and transportation industries.
The Commission's own priorities have been made clear: to achieve progress in the conservation of energy and the security of supply of the essential raw materials; to give special emphasis in research and development to information technology and biotechnology; and to work for more effective environmental protection. However, as your Lordships will not need to be reminded by me, the Community is about more than improving the market opportunities in goods and services: it has political objectives as well and these are acquiring increasing importance.
The problems which beset us in this country also affect others in the Community. The anxieties which we have here are felt also elsewhere in Europe. Recent events have made us all aware of the ever-present menace of the terrorist, of the destructive influence of mass protest and violence on the streets and at our place of work. By the pictures of starvation in Ethiopia we have had brought home to us, quite literally, the enormous disparities between North and South and the blessings of our own environment. Through them we have also been shown a new dimension in suffering and resignation beyond the power of most of us to 46 comprehend. Yet still other emotions are aroused by the growing stockpile of nuclear weapons, the faltering and seemingly interminable attempts at arms control and the continuing distrust between East and West. These experiences are common thoughout the Community and it is well that there should be closer co-operation between member governments in working for solutions.
It is this co-operation—now to be extended to defence—which justifies a degree of optimism about the future. But if we are to get results, if we are to meet the legitimate expectations of our people, the Community needs to get a move on. In giving the Community a fresh impetus Britain, as a full member, has a vital part to play.
We were recently honoured by the state visit of the President of the French Republic. I cannot, however, accept the strictures implied in the comments attributed to him as reported in The Times of 24th October, when he said:Britain is in Europe, not in America. It is a member of the Community, and its interests are more and more oriented toward the Continent".As a statement of geographic fact, that cannot be faulted. As an assertion of economic reality, it cannot be denied. But in so far as it seeks to imply that Britain has a choice between Europe and America it must, in my view, be wrong. For Britain has no such choice. There is nothing exclusive about membership of the Community. In terms of our political interests and the defence of freedom, we cannot be either "in" Europe or "in" America. We are "in" both.
There is no reason why the special relationship between Britain and America, which we rightly treasure, should not grow into the special relationship between Europe and America. There is no conflict in recognising that the protection of our far-flung interests and the preservation of our ties with the Commonwealth must rest upon the foundation of Community strength. There is no sense in seeking to isolate the defence of Europe as though that can somehow be secured apart from the defence of freedom everywhere. That is the emphasis which Her Majesty's Government will, I am sure, be giving to the Community now that the next steps forward have been made possible by their resolution and persistence in negotiation.
In these troubled and anxious times the Economic Community and the growing co-operation between its governments stand forth as beacons of hope. With our common heritage and culture, our shared respect for individual liberty and our commitment to democracy, for Britain to work—as the gracious Speech now pledges the Government—for the further development of the Economic Community is to lead us into a crusade in every way worthy of the best in our past and promising widespread benefit in the future.
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ Lord Brockway
My Lords, my first happy duty must be to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Eden of Winton, on his maiden speech. It was uttered with conviction, with knowledge and with an ability of argument which really made it quite distinctive. He is a relative of a former statesman of this country, and the ability of his argument showed that there is 47 something in inheritance. Even those of us who differ from his views deeply appreciate the ability with which he expressed them.
During the last three months, on a mission of peace I have visited Japan, India and Sweden, and on the whole I have been encouraged by what I have heard and seen for two reasons. The first is the attitude of government representatives. In Japan I saw the Foreign Secretary; in India I saw the Foreign Secretary as well as the late Prime Minister; and in Sweden I saw the Swedish, American and Norwegian members of the Stockholm Conference. Unfortunately, the British representative was not available. From all of them I gained the same impression. They all insisted that there is now an attitude of friendliness, of co operation, among the representatives at the Stockholm Conference—that there is something approaching trust. They all argued—I think with profound correctness—that if the problems of the world are to be solved the first necessity is the development of a psychology of trust. We urged them to go on from monitoring military activities on the two sides, both East and West, to deeper proposals regarding nuclear weapons and disarmament. They replied that the first necessity which was likely to bring about agreement in monitoring military activities was to create the attitude of trust, and they were happy about the progress being made in that direction.
I felt that the climate in international relations was changing. That has been accompanied by important developments elsewhere, including the progress which is being made at the conference on disarmament in Geneva towards an international convention banning chemical weapons. It has been shown quite startlingly in the new attitude which President Reagan has shown in America; and his meeting with the Foreign Secretary of the Soviet Union, Mr. Gromyko, was an indication how he realised in his election campaign that he must begin to show a conciliatory attitude. If I may say so, this new attitude has been expressed in many ways in the speech in this House which we have heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Young.
I want to urge the Government to take advantage of this new climate in international affairs in three ways. First, I want them to do all they can to ensure that the negotiations for the international convention banning chemical weapons are successful. Secondly, I want to urge this upon them. When the Soviet Union said that it would not first use nuclear weapons, both the Government in this House and Lord Carrington as the new head of NATO said that they were in favour of no first use of conventional weapons or of any weapons at all; and the Warsaw Pact have issued a declaration saying that they would be in favour of a treaty banning the first use of any kind of weapon. I beg the Government to seize this opportunity of gaining a treaty which would ban the first use of all kinds of weapons. If we ban the first use, I am not sure that it would happen at all.
Thirdly, I want to urge the Government to support the proposal for an international agreement that there shall be no further testing of nuclear weapons. The support for that all over the world is tremendous. If the Government are really in favour of moving towards disarmament, surely they must support that.
48 However, I want to go further than that. If there is this better climate in international affairs, I want to appeal to the Government to reverse their own policy in very many respects. At the United Nations the Government vote again and again—they have done so more than 20 times—against any proposal for disarmament. They even abstained on a proposal urging the ending of the testing of nuclear weapons which insisted on verification. They even abstained on that issue.
At the conference at Geneva, which was asked by the United Nations to discuss a proposal (which was supported by the majority of the old disarmament committee) for a comprehensive peace programme, the decision was reached to divide the subject into different workshops. On the majority of the committees which have been considering proposals involved in that programme, the American and British Governments have been in a minority against the majority of the non-aligned and communist countries. At Geneva they are baulking the proposal for a comprehensive peace programme. I urge the Government, if they are really serious in their desire for multilateral disarmament, to change their policy in those respects.
The second reason why I came back encouraged was my realisation of the strength of the peace movement in the world. It is now growing to such an extent that I am confident that within four years it will be so powerful as to be able to influence governments decisively, and even change the nature of governments. We are now seeking to obtain a common agreement between all the major peace movements of the world, West and East, North and South. We are asking also for a world peace conference in 1986, much broader that has yet been held, and in a non-aligned country so that it is not under the pressure of West and of East. In the next four years I expect the peace movement of the world to become so strong as to be able to realise the hopes of disarmament and peace for which many of us have struggled for so long.
§ 4.22 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester
My Lords, as the first speaker from these Benches during this new Session of Parliament—and, if I may say so this afternoon, the only one left on these Benches who is proud to be a Macmillan bishop—I should like to thank the Minister for her comprehensive and perceptive speech, and to assure her and Her Majesty's Government that we share their concern for peace and justice, and for the solution of so many of the problems which confront them in so many different parts of the world.
We greatly welcome the pledge in the gracious Speech that Her Majesty's Government:will work continually for a greater atmosphere of trust between East and West.Indeed, I would make bold to say that there is no more important sentence in the Speech, for it indicates that the Government are ready to take a global view of their responsibilities and to recognise, as each year goes by, that most of our present-day problems are global problems and can only be tackled by effective and sustained international co-operation. We are grateful to the noble Baroness for promising that the 49 Government will persevere in achieving this greater atmosphere of trust.
The disaster in Ethiopia, which has belatedly caught the imagination and concern of the world, has deep-seated and long-term causes which will not be met by emergency relief, essential though that is. Moreover these causes—war, drought, and poverty—are at work throughout all the poorer countries of the world, and the destitution and poverty involved can be removed only by governments acting together for the common good. The means to this end in many cases exist; the will, not only of governments but of individuals, is what has so far proved inadequate.
But few of us can fail to have been moved by the widespread and rapid response to human need once it had been brought home on television to people so dramatically and vividly. We are all grateful for the speedy help which has been forthcoming from this country, about which the noble Baroness gave us details. I hope that the nationwide response to this emergency, at a time of no little difficulty and uncertainty in our own affairs, will encourage Her Majesty's Government to believe that they have public support to give bold and imaginative leadership involving additional aid to help grapple with the problems of growing malnutrition and stark and ghastly hunger among the poor of the world.
The efforts of voluntary societies must never be underestimated. If their funds are limited, their ability to prick the conscience of the well-off nations is essential. But they would be the first to admit that the situation is so complex, the causes so deep-rooted, and any solution so long-term, that only intergovernmental action can hope to deal with it.
I know that many members of the Church of England and of the English free churches are grateful to His Eminence Cardinal Hume for undertaking an arduous journey to Ethiopia to see the situation for himself, to judge the effectiveness of the work of Christian agencies, and to assess the long-term implications for both church and state in Britain and mainland Europe. Some of your Lordships will have seen the photograph of the Cardinal receiving a cheque from the Archbishop of Canterbury just before he left. I hope that the significance of that picture was noted in all parts of the British Isles. It reflects church relations in 1984 in a way that not everybody has yet understood.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations went out of his way 10 days ago to praise the work of nongovernmental organisations, but he emphasised that despite their efforts the whole world must continue them and expand them if we are to avert a human tragedy of the gravest dimensions. He singled out the world food programme, the work of UNICEF, the Food and Agricultural Organisation, the World Health Organisation, and the United Nations Disaster Relief Office as the key agencies in the United Nations emergency programme. He stressed the work that had been done by these agencies on a long-term basis and warned that their remaining resources were rapidly diminishing.
The United Nations efforts in Ethiopia have not received a lot of publicity. During the past two years UNICEF aid has exceeded £20 million. This aid went 50 towards primary health care, and they have committed themselves to almost as large an amount during the next four years. The world food programme has covered the cost of emergency food shipments to Ethiopia. The World Bank released this year two million dollars for the transportation of emergency supplies, and the High Commissioner for Refugees has a 20 million dollar programme for displaced persons in Ethiopia.
The work of these United Nations agencies is, in my judgment, by far the most important aspect of the work of the United Nations in the modern world. The world food programme has promised 128,000 tonnes of food for Ethiopia this year. UNICEF estimates that nearly half-a-million tonnes will be needed over the next 12 months. The World Health Organisation is tackling health needs and sanitation in those areas where thousands of nomadic people have congregated just looking for food.
I am glad that the gracious Speech makes it clear that the Government will continue to play a constructive role at the United Nations; that they will maintain a substantial aid programme and that they will encourage investment in the developing countries. Television has undoubtedly alerted the Western world to this present crisis, but the issues are too complex to be dealt with by sporadic outbursts of compassion.
That is why the United Nations has issued clear and prophetic calls for international commitment to a long-term programme of relief and reform. I share the hope of the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, that when the Minister replies he will be able to assure the House that the Government's constructive role at the United Nations will include responding creatively and energetically to the call for commitment to a long-term programme of relief and reform.
In an earlier passage in the gracious Speech there is an important undertaking by the Government to,contribute to arms control and disarmament negotiations".This is important not only for the future peace of the world but also for the eradication of the global scandal of poverty. In the first Philip Noel-Baker memorial lecture last year Professor John Ferguson, then chairman of the United Nations Association in this country, after detailing the horrifying number of millions of people who do not have safe water to drink, who suffer from hunger and malnutrition, who are illiterate or who are blind, went on to quote General Eisenhower's familiar words:Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in a final sense a theft from those who hunger and who are not fed, from those who are cold and are not clothed".Professor Ferguson went on to say that as a Christian he shuddered each time he read the parable of the sheep and the goats, because by that parable the nations are under judgment according to whether they have or have not fed the hungry. No excuses were allowed in the Gospel story and he said that there can be no excuses allowed in today's world. We must not say that "we first have to make the world safe for democracy" or "we have to deter the Communists" or whatever. If we have not fed the hungry we have turned our back on the Lord who told the parable in order to challenge the hearts and minds of his hearers.
51 We all know in our hearts that we must not acquiesce in world hunger and world poverty, but we need a bold, imaginative and consistent lead if words are to give place to action. Dare we hope that a Government who say that they will work continuously for a greater atmosphere of trust between East and West, that they are committed to playing a constructive role at the United Nations, to maintaining a substantial aid programme and to contributing to arms control and disarmament, will surprise the world and delight the members of all parties and of none by giving the issues of world hunger and world poverty a higher priority than ever before?
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ Lord Moran
My Lords, as this is my maiden speech, and as I am well aware that in your Lordships' House there are many who have long and distinguished records in the field of foreign affairs, I ask for your Lordships' indulgence. I am glad that this, the first debate I am taking part in in your Lordships' House, was opened by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, who, as I well know, has played a very notable part in consolidating our relationship with Canada.
I have a life-long belief that British foreign policy must be rooted, and be seen to be rooted, in British interests, which may seem to your Lordships to be too obvious to be worth saying. But the widespread criticisms of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the last year or two—criticisms which have saddened many of us who have spent our fives in this service—suggest that the office is not always perceived as putting British interests first. It is accused of sometimes being too ready to make bad agreements rather than have no agreement at all, of being too ready to see the other fellow's point of view, and of perhaps not having sufficient gut feeling for the welfare of the people of these islands.
Is this criticism fair? I think, by and large, it is not. After all, the Foreign Office and the Diplomatic Service can reasonably claim to have helped to maintain in the past 40 years the greatest of all British interests, which is the preservation of peace and the security of these islands, set out in the gracious Speech as the Government's first priority. It has done this by its work inside and outside NATO and in the conduct of East-West relations.
At the other end of the scale, the Diplomatic Service makes a vigorous effort to open doors for British businessmen, to increase British trade and promote investment, both inward and outward, and has done this often with marked success. When there have been setbacks in this field they have not always been the fault of the Foreign Office. For example, in Canada we used to sell large numbers of small cars such as Hillmans. Now, apart from a few Rolls-Royces, the only car we sell in Canada is the Jaguar. That is not because Canadians would not like to buy our small cars but because we cannot sell them at a price which is competitive in Canada. We have priced ourselves out of the market.
In my last years in the Diplomatic Service I had the good fortune to represent this country in Portugal and Canada, two countries with which we have a particu- 52 larly close and long-standing relationship. I learnt from that experience how much we owe to our friends, how important it is to us to keep our old friendships in good repair and never to take our old friends for granted. I was in Canada at the time of the Falklands crisis, and I shall never forget the way in which not only the Canadian Government but Canadian citizens right across the country came to our help at that time. One realises that when the chips are down one knows who one's friends are.
But British representatives overseas sometimes find that the ground appears to be cut away from under their feet by what is going on at home. For example, if one is trying to persuade an industrialist overseas to invest in this country, with all that that means in terms of economic benefits and the creation of new jobs, it does not help if the previous night he has seen on his television screen lurid scenes of clashes between British workers and the police or, unbelievably, the picketing of a children's hospital such as Great Ormond Street. Some of us have felt on occasions that we are like forgotten centurions on Hadrian's Wall while Rome is obsessed with its internal battles.
The climate of opinion in this country is quite different from that in most other countries. In my 39 years' service I served in a good many countries, and in most of them articulate opinion and certainly the press tend to be 100 per cent. or even 200 per cent. in favour of the national position. They cheer unreservedly for the home team. But that is not always so here. Articulate opinion here tends to regard itself as too sophisticated to take that sort of line, so support for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in backing British interests is sometimes half-hearted, which does not prevent the Foreign Office from being blamed when things go wrong.
Some of the criticism of the Foreign Office may, I think, have been justified, but a lot of it, I am sure, has been wide of the mark. I suppose that some of it arises because of the problems that we have with the Community, because the Foreign Office is very much identified with the Community in the public mind. But of course the most intractable of those problems, like the budget, the common agricultural policy and fisheries, are problems on which the Foreign Office was not faced with a clean sheet but which arise from the unsatisfactory terms on which we originally joined and which, as the noble Baroness has explained in her speech, we have been trying to put right over the years. Indeed, when one considers where we started from with these problems, one is reminded of the Norfolk man who, when asked the way to Norwich, replied: "If I wanted to go to Norwich I wouldn't have started from here."
Also, the public have the impression that every now and then there are unsatisfactory compromises or concessions at the expense of British interests, and this tends to damage the image of the Foreign Office. Negotiations in the Community are of course tough, prolonged and sometimes disagreeable, and the Diplomatic Service, like most of the British people, consists, I think, mainly of reasonable people and perhaps reasonable people do not always make the best negotiators. Having come into the service in the days of that great Foreign Secretary, Mr. Ernest Bevin, I sometimes feel that some of today's trade union 53 leaders might contribute more to British interests if they were to go out and tackle some of the more difficult problems in Brussels, and try to bring back the bacon from there.
I have one practical suggestion to make. There have been in the past limited exchanges between the Diplomatic Service and the home Civil Service, and occasionally with private industry. I believe that there should be much more extensive exchanges, not only between the Diplomatic Service and the home Civil Service but with nationalised industries, with private industry and even perhaps with local government and the media. I think there would be enormous advantages in both directions. For diplomatists, it would give them first-hand knowledge of some of the domestic problems of this country. Imagine, for example, someone who had served in East Yorkshire and seen for himself the deserted fish docks in Hull, who knew why they were deserted and what that meant in human terms—how much more effective he would be in dealing with fisheries problems in London or in Brussels.
On the other side of the coin, I think that, like some other countries, we have tended to become more inward looking in recent years, to take less interest in what happens overseas and perhaps to be a little insensitive to the concerns of our overseas friends. In a country as important as Canada, there was while I was there no staff correspondent from the BBC and during most of my time there was no staff correspondent from any British newspaper. I do not suppose it ever occurred to those who put up the notices at British airports saying, "UK and EEC passports this way and others that way", that our friends from Canada, Australia and New Zealand would think it odd to see those notices, which obviously suggested to them that we did not regard them as "family" but put them in the same class as the Libyans or the Albanians.
I think that exchanges of the sort I have suggested would be valuable both in our political interest overseas and in our commercial interest. I believe that foreign policy should aim to have the broad support of the British public. I do not argue that we should be like the Japanese and pursue our economic interest to the exclusion of everything else, but I think we should be realistic, that our policies should be based on facts and not on vanity and that we should construe British interests widely and generously. I believe that they should at all times be in the forefront of our minds.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ The Earl of Cork and Orrery
My Lords, in case I hear no audible sounds of approval at the end of my speech, I will make sure of some at the beginning, first of all by adding a word of congratulation and welcome to those expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, to my noble friend who sits behind me, Lord Eden of Winton. Now we have had another greatly distinguished speech from the noble Lord, Lord Moran. Those of us who remember his father may perhaps wonder what he has been doing all this time, because I think I am right in saying that the late Lord Moran died about seven years ago. I believe the answer is that the present Lord Moran, when his father died, was British Ambassador in Portugal, since when he has been our High Commissioner in Canada, thus 54 setting the seal, the climax, upon a career of public service which began, I believe, with service as an ordinary seaman in HMS "Belfast" about 41 years ago. Now he is here and, with your approval—of which I have no doubt whatever—I inform him that he is greatly welcome among us.
§ The Earl of Cork and Orrery
He has made a remarkable speech, which it would be almost an impertinence of me to comment upon, because here we have had a speech from a master of his subject and also a master of the art, if I may say so, of making speeches. If these two noble Lords have spoken in a manner which is customary for them and typical of the kind of speeches they make, I for one hope very much that we shall hear them often in the future.
When we talk of defence and foreign affairs in the same breath—and why should we not, because one is a part of the other?—I confess to a faint feeling of foreboding of calamity, and of calamity that will be brought to pass, if it comes to pass at all, by the hand not of an enemy but of a friend. It was with this somewhat dispiriting thought in mind that I addressed myself to the possibility of speaking in this debate and doing so before I had heard what was to be said in the gracious Speech itself. And lo! when I did hear the speech a phrase quite near the beginning struck me like a ray of hope.
If your Lordships will forgive me for a moment or two, I will explain those two things: the foreboding and the hope. A remarkable event has occurred since this occasion last year, in that the Labour Party has aligned itself firmly and unequivocally with the CND, pursuing, I suppose, its relentless determination to leave unhammered no nail in its electoral coffin. But we should not suppose from that that the nuclear argument is over, and if anyone is in any doubt as to what I mean, I should perhaps explain that the "suicide note" is contained in their recent document, published I think in August, called Defence and Security for Britain. Thus—and I quote:Labour will, on assuming office, decommission Polaris from service"—not Trident, which is in the future, but Polaris, which has been with us ever since the great days of my noble friend Lord Stockton and which has been approved by all governments, including Labour governments, ever since. This document also states:We are also committed to the unconditional removal of all United States nuclear weapons and nuclear bases from British soil and British waters.These, the document explains, include cruise missile bases, F. 111 bases and nuclear missile submarine bases. As if that were not clear enough, they explain it thus—and this is my final quotation from the paper:Labour will therefore take appropriate action to ensure that the United States Government removes its nuclear weapons and nuclear delivery systems from British territory and British territorial waters.That in effect means the end of NATO, which is nuclear or nothing, and also, the British electorate being what it has shown itself to be, the end of Labour Governments, quite possibly for ever. Nonetheless, it would be a mistake to imagine that the nuclear 55 argument is now over. The possibility that leaders in the Labour Party may once again find it expedient to change their minds need not, I think, worry us too much.
But there remains another argument which I cannot myself go along with, much as I should like to do so. I refer to the line of argument which says: "Unilateral nuclear disarmament is dangerous and wrong"—with which I entirely agree—"What is required is multilateral nuclear disarmament." What I am about to say is unfamiliar, and perhaps unacceptable, but I believe that this latter thesis—that of multilateral nuclear disarmament or mutual disarmament—is as dangerous as the former, or very nearly so.
Unilateral nuclear disarmament will leave us faced with no choice at all, other than to do as we are instructed by the Soviet Union. Mutual nuclear disarmament will leave us with just sufficient strength, just sufficient option, to resist what we are told to do and, the immense superiority of Russian power being what it is, it is likely to end in destruction, death and ruin for the world. Therefore, we are stuck with the nuclear situation, with the balance—if it remains as a balance—of deterrence. It is not an agreeable thought. This is the one thing that we want to get rid of, we mostly think. I believe this to be so. It will not always be so. Sooner or later, every climate changes, and in time this one will change, too, even if it takes 100 years. We have to live with it, and we have to make the best of the job while we are doing so.
The great obstacle that we are up against in doing so is one that has been mentioned several times this afternoon; that is, the lack of trust between the opposing sides. It is no good flying into a rage every time the Russians behave like Russians. You may say that we do not trust them and they are untrustworthy. But it is as well to think a little before we do this, because, as I indicated a sentence or two earlier, Russians are Russians and they will behave as such, so it is not reasonable to expect them to behave as though they were Englishmen. Their standards are not our standards, and we dislike them. In some cases we may think (though we are possibly mistaken in this) that we are entitled to despise them. We should accept them and know that we have to live with them.
It is no good describing them as evil. I remember that years ago I was engaged in some disagreeable transactions with the Japanese. Although I and my friends heartily disliked what we knew of the Japanese treatment of prisoners, I doubt whether at that time we ever thought of them as evil, and I certainly do not think so now. We did not like them in that connection, but they were different. Their standards were not our standards. In some cases they were higher, and in other cases they were lower. We have a similar situation now, and we have to live with it. Trust is what we have to engender. But trust is a two-way thing. We cannot simply decide to start trusting the Russians. Our part is to make the Russians trust us. This lack of trust of us by the Russians is just as great an obstacle to peace, or even to détente, as is lack of trust the other way round.
I come now to my foreboding, and it turns out that it is one which, as appears from his speech, is shared by the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition. There is 56 on the American side an organisation called the Central Intelligence Agency. I have referred to this before, and I shall probably refer to it again. In doing so, I say that I believe this to be the most dangerous organisation now operating in the world. It is also one of the most useful and the most important in its function as a gatherer of intelligence. This is a proper activity, which it no doubt does extremely well, and it is of great benefit to us.
But it has another characteristic which is probably unique in any body of this kind—I do not know, but I suspect this to be so—and that is that it has an executive capacity. It has money and it has power, not only to gather intelligence but to put that intelligence to use. This appears to me to be totally wrong, because, as we all know, it can and does frequently initiate military adventures and activities. In this executive field it is very often quite sensationally inefficient and disastrous. I shall not particularise about this, and noble Lords can probably think of examples of their own.
But your Lordships will perhaps remember reading a few days ago in the newpapers, after the Brighton bombing, that it had been said in Russia that the planting of the bomb had been instigated by the CIA. A wilder statement would be difficult to find, but the significance of it is that anybody should have thought it worthwhile to say and to print it, because it indicates that the CIA has itself attracted a reputation which will allow some people in the world to believe that. How can you get a reputation of that kind unless it is deserved?
I repeat something that I have also said before. My personal candidate for the Nobel peace prize, if I ever get a chance of speaking up—come to think of it, I believe that I do have a chance—will be anybody who can persuade a President of the United States to withdraw the executive function and support from the CIA. Here is the ray of hope that I spoke of at the beginning of my speech, for right at the beginning of the gracious Speech there is the statement (as has been quoted two or three times already) that the Government will continue to work for increasing trust between East and West. If I may venture to say this to my noble friend Lady Young, I think that here is an opportunity which is right handy. I need not press the matter any further than that. But the world will be greatly indebted to her and to anybody else, and people will sleep very quietly in their beds and be more confident in the future, if they can be certain that the CIA really does stand for Central Intelligence Agency and not for Casey's Instant Armageddon.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs
My Lords, without allowing myself to go into lengthy congratulations to the two maiden speakers, I should nevertheless like to take this opportunity to say how very much I admired both of their speeches—the more so as both noble Lords spoke on the subjects of the European Community and the Foreign Office, which are very close to my heart. But, for my own part, I should like to touch on one aspect of foreign policy which was referred to in the gracious Speech; that of close relations between the Governments of London and Dublin. I do this both 57 out of a genuine concern and also following my membership of the Kilbrandon Committee, which was set up to consider the New Ireland Forum report from Dublin.
There can be little doubt that the maintenance of good relations between Britain and Ireland has a very high priority for, after all, so much depends on those relations being founded on mutual trust and close understanding. This, in my view, has never been truer than at the present time, when the complexities of the Northern Irish situation have evolved in such a way that it looks more and more as if the way towards their solution can only spring from a joint commitment between the two governments, working more closely together towards the attainment of that objective. Indeed, I believe it to be true that moments of change in the affairs of every nation are often brought about by various different elements in a situation coinciding. I believe that constructive movement forward is often governed by a combination of events, but there is always the risk that those moments are ignored and the danger that the opportunity is thus missed and that the opportunity of the combination of events is not seized upon.
To use the metaphor of the jigsaw, one could say that those pieces of a particular problem which were fitted together previously become displaced. May I use the background to the Falkland Islands conflict as an example, for is it not true that in 1980 some of the pieces representing a solution to that problem were beginning to fall into place but that this was not seized upon, with the tragic consequence of the Anglo-Argentinian conflict which at the same time had the effect of upturning the jigsaw and displacing the pieces previously in place?
Again using the jigsaw metaphor, may I briefly explain how I think that some pieces have been fitted into the Anglo-Irish jigsaw which makes it now so vitally necessary to press on and find more pieces to fill the remaining gaps. To do this, I should like to refer to the Kilbrandon inquiry, upon which, as I have already said, I had the privilege to sit. The introduction to the report attempted to present the realities of the present situation. It made clear that over the years both Britain and the Republic of Ireland have tended to treat Northern Ireland as a place apart, low on the political agenda of both countries, with Britain obliged to share the responsibility for any failures of the Stormont system which prevailed for 50 years, since it was she who retained sovereignty throughout that period. On the other hand, the Republic of Ireland, although having fervently beaten on the nationalist drum, have at no point made a consistent effort to come to terms with the Unionist identity in Northern Ireland.
Now, in 1984, the report makes clear that most nationalists, whatever the strength of their aspirations, do not regard a unitary state of Ireland as a practicable proposition in the foreseeable future. At the same time, there is no doubt that a majority of them first demand substantial change within Northern Ireland, involving concrete recognition of their identity; and, secondly, lack confidence in the system of law and order at present prevailing there.
From the Unionist side, the report stated that whatever nostalgia some may retain, most of them no 58 longer regard as practicable any return to the Stormont system, although their reluctance to accept substantial change is based on the fear that any change will eventually lead to increased demands for change. Finally, the report described the sinister background to it all in terms of the cost in lives and limbs and the economic and social consequences of the past 15 years of violence—violence which still has strong roots. Indeed, it must even be accepted that the perpetrators of violence have now strengthened their position by using the social and economic ills to establish a political base among their community in Northern Ireland. They have thus proved that the present status quo serves them well, and a political adjustment making that status quo less vulnerable is what they most fear.
The Kilbrandon report, having established the background realities, then went on to examine the practicalities of any proposals made by the New Ireland Forum report or by the reports from the two Unionist parties in the north who brought them out simultaneously. The role of the inquiry was thus to use those reports as agendas for discussion and, through its own recommendations, to take that discussion one step further forward. This process also had the merit of questioning and challenging long-held attitudes, positions and assumptions.
Without going into the findings of the report I should like to give one or two examples of how, in its response to the New Ireland Forum, it focused on areas in the administration of the Province where some change would be to the benefit of all the people in the Province, from both traditions. First, when examining the Forum's three frameworks for a new Ireland, the report rejected the unitary state because there is not consent for it. Secondly, it rejected the framework of federation because of the south's neutrality and the north's membership of NATO. Thirdly, it conceded that the proposals on joint authority provided real scope for improvement in the present administrative arrangements in the north and outlined what many of those improvements might be.
Secondly, the report ruled out alternatives such as independence for the north, full integration with the United Kingdom and repartition—options which have often been under discussion. Thirdly, the inquiry identified the common position of all the Northern Irish political parties in calling for a Bill of Rights for the Province and went even further in suggesting a simultaneous Bill for the south. Fourth, under the all-important heading of law enforcement, the inquiry examined new methods of controlling terrorism, proposing ways in which Dublin and London should co-operate in presenting a common front to the terrorists. These proposals included changes in the criminal justice system, making it more acceptable to the Catholic minority community without jeopardising the confidence of the Protestant community; proposals as to how the RUC should be expanded and should have a strengthened police authority while at the same time the UDR should gradually be run down, with reciprocal rights of "hot pursuit" in border areas. These, and many others, were suggestions as to how present law enforcement could be strengthened.
59 The inquiry brought out many other proposals, some more radical than others, as to the degree of Dublin's involvement in solving the northern problem; but the underlying motive was the wish to break old moulds and to question long-held attitudes and positions. This brings me back to my first point, which was that the right timing creates opportunities which must not be lost. I believe that the realities of the present Northern Irish situation, together with the slightly shifting attitude of its peoples, coinciding with the Dublin initiative, seem to provide a vital opportunity to seek progress. It is important to recognise that the changes needed to create that progress would not be made in response to paramilitary pressure but in response to the overtures of a friendly government and the expressed concern of the constitutional parties, both nationalist and unionist, in the whole of Ireland.
May I therefore end by urging the Government to seize the opportunity presented to them by the present combination of these circumstances. May I urge them to continue with the discussion opened by the New Ireland Forum report from Dublin. May I also urge them to put Northern Ireland, as Dubin has, higher on their political agenda and, reinforced by greater co operation with Dublin, to make a concerted effort in the present to defeat terrorism and to achieve the peace and stability which the people of Northern Ireland so ardently crave.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, perhaps I may begin by adding my congratulations to those of other noble Lords on the two maiden speeches by the noble Lord, Lord Eden of Winton, and the noble Lord, Lord Moran. They were distinguished contributions to the proceedings of your Lordships' House. I am sure that they will be the first of many such contributions from both noble Lords.
In other circumstances, I should have liked to follow the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, down his "Star Wars" road. He delivered an eloquent and well-informed exposition of one side of the argument but, like all one-sided arguments, his remarks contained a number of doubtful assumptions and some tendentious propositions which could be refuted without too much trouble by somebody who takes the opposite view. However, I must resist the temptation because events have unfolded in this country in 1984 which must cause even more grave disquiet than "Star Wars" to anybody concerned with the survival of liberal democracy and free political institutions. A police officer has been killed in the heart of London by a gunman using a foreign embassy as a terrorist base. There has been an attempt to murder the Prime Minister and most of the Cabinet—an attempt which killed or maimed a number of innocent people. And an industrial dispute is being used as a pretext by extremists to bring down the elected Government of this country by a systematic, violent and organised assault on the fabric of our society.
A debate on foreign affairs is not the time to analyse the phenomenon of industrial violence, although I hope that at least some noble Lords may be disposed to do so in tomorrow's debate. All I would say is that 60 eight years ago I made a speech in your Lordships' House in which I called attention to subversion and extremism in this country. At that time what I said was dismissed in some quarters as scaremongering and union bashing. Yet anyone who has a moment to glance through that speech now may agree that most of the worst fears it reflected have been realised. Today, I want briefly to bring into focus another facet of this pervasive threat to freedom and order. It is the subject of a significant undertaking in the gracious Speech, in which it is said that the Government,will make vigorous efforts to combat international terrorism".The emergency of international terrorism as a major threat to Western security can be demonstrated to anyone who is not yet fully convinced of it by a few vivid statistics. In 1969—less than 15 years ago, when records of terrorist incidents were first systematically collated—there were 200 incidents. By 1979 this figure had risen to 650. In 1983—last year—there were 800 terrorist incidents, and the number is still rising. In fact, since 1968 there have been 8,000 terrorist attacks, resulting in the deaths of 4,000 men, women and children and the wounding of 8,000 more.
There is one other figure even more significant than those. Of all the terrorist attacks recorded since 1968, nearly two-thirds of them—61 per cent.—have been directed against targets in North America and Western Europe. Of the remainder, 31 per cent. have taken place in the Middle East and in Latin America. None has been directed against targets in the Communist world. The targets are Mrs. Thatcher, the Pope, American generals, and Western ambassadors—not the leaders and representatives of totalitarian régimes.
The simple conclusion to be drawn from this is that international terrorism is nothing else than a form of low-intensity warfare conducted against the liberal democracies of the West. I assume that it is no longer necessary to spend too much time demonstrating that this war on democracy is waged by a network of international terror. Its sponsors, its paymasters, and its suppliers of arms, training and equipment are states which have a clear political interest in destabilising and demoralising the West. This is not to suggest that every terrorist act which takes place in the world is centrally planned and organised: to suggest that would clearly be ridiculous. It is true, however, that there are a number of countries which exploit, encourage and support political terrorism wherever it will further their aims.
At the centre of this network—and I have said this before in your Lordships' House and say it again now—is the Soviet Union, which, usually through the medium of its clients in the Middle East, provides the training and the finance. It is now fully documented that until the Israeli invasion of the Lebanon, the PLO were being trained in more than 50 camps in the Communist bloc, 40 of them in the Soviet Union itself. The links between the PLO and the Baader Meinhof group in Germany, the Red Brigades in Italy, the Basque separatists in Spain and the other terrorist organisations of the world are now so fully documented that no one any longer even bothers to discuss them or deny them.
Perhaps the most important traffic from our point of view is that with the IRA. Although the IRA has 61 had exchanges of equipment and training with many other terrorists groups all over the world, its most significant link is with Libya. There are regular training programmes held in Libya for the IRA. It is almost certain that McMahon—one of the murderers of Lord Mountbatten—was trained in Libya. And, if anyone is still in doubt about the Libyan connection or believes it to be a fevered figment of the imagination, let me provide two brief quotations.
After the IRA bomb outrages in London in 1976, the official Libyan news agency carried the following announcement:These bombs which are convulsing Britain and breaking its spirit are bombs of the Libyan people. We have sent bombs to the Irish revolutionaries so that Britain will pay the price of her past deeds".Although Colonel Gaddafi tried to play that down at the time, much more recently—after the murder of the policewoman in April of this year—Gaddafi himself said of the IRA—and again I quote directly from a transcript of his remarks:This is a just cause and we are not ashamed of supporting it with all the means we have".The fact is that there is a network of violence—an international league of terror—and the IRA are a part of it.
I submit that it is a matter of very great urgency that the governments and peoples of the free world should now understand the real nature of the threat which confronts them. Time is not on our side because there are three separate developments which, taken together, may move terrorism into a new dimension and bring death and destruction into all our lives on a scale which we have not yet begun to contemplate.
The first of these is the increasing involvement of governments in the sponsorship of terrorism. There are now at least four countries in the Middle East engaged in state-sponsored terrorism—most of them, direct or indirect clients of the Soviet Union. This means that terrorist groups can be provided with training, logistical support and safe sanctuary on a scale which they could never hope to achieve on their own. What is much more important, they can now deploy weapons of a sophistication and destructive power which they would be incapable of manufacturing on their own. The hexagon bomb which caused the appalling destruction at the American embassy in Beirut was supplied by one of the Arab states to which I have just referred. The people who detonated that bomb could never have begun to construct it for themselves.
The second closely-connected development is the constant improvement in the technology of destruction. As long ago as 1976 the United States National Advisory Committee Task Force on Disorder and Terrorism warned us all of the possibility that terrorist groups might begin to make use of weapons of mass destruction. They said at the time that it would be difficult for terrorists on their own to manufacture nuclear devices. What they did not foresee was that less than 10 years after their report, international terrorists might have behind them countries whose leaders are known to have been seeking for some time the capacity to make or to acquire nuclear weapons.
It is not only against the nuclear terrorist that we now have to guard. Chemical and biological weapons 62 are not so difficult to manufacture as nuclear weapons. There have already been several cases in the United States of extremist groups being detected experimenting with chemical and micro-biological agents. When the Symbionese Liberation Army—the group which abducted the notorious Miss Patricia Hearst—was finally tracked down by the American security forces, among the equipment found at their headquarters was a whole library of handbooks on chemical warfare; on how to construct and how to use chemical weapons.
The third development is the emergence of the suicidal terrorist. In the past the terrorist has always placed self-preservation very high on his list of priorities. Indeed, as our own experience of the IRA has demonstrated, the archetypal terrorist is a cowardly creature whose idea of a hard target is a department store at Christmas time and whose favourite weapon is the delayed-action bomb, detonated long after he is safely back in his bolt-hole. But now from the Iran of Ayatollah Khomeini there has emerged the Shi'ite fanatic—a kamikaze-type killer for whom death in the pursuit of the Jehad, or holy war, is a guarantee of eternal glory. It was these people who carried out the suicidal attacks in the Lebanon against the American marine base and the American embassy. If they are ordered to do so in pursuit of the aims of Islamic fundamentalism they will repeat those deeds in any part of the world with weapons provided by their political masters for whom the export of the Islamic revolution by any means is an article of faith.
We are then, in my view, faced with a threat more immediate than that of conventional attack or strategic nuclear devastation. We should be devoting as much attention to it as we do to these more familiar dangers. Terrorists are at war with us and we must declare war on the terrorists. The most urgent need is for those countries which are the targets of terrorism to co-operate, closely, continuously and systematically. Edmund Burke once wrote:When bad men combine, the good must associate, else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.Together, the Western democracies have the military and economic power as well as the technological expertise to operate far more effectively than we can ever do separately. We must improve the collection, collation and exchange of intelligence on terrorist organisations. Advances in information technology now make the instant exchange of information—what is called real time intelligence—between data banks in all the countries of the Western world a relatively simple matter.
I believe that we should now consider the establishment of an international counter-terrorist organisation, pooling the experience and techniques of organisations like the SAS and their counterparts elsewhere in the free world. We must take collective diplomatic action to isolate and quarantine from the civilised world those countries which sponsor terrorism or give sanctuary to those who practise it in any form. It is, to me, simply astonishing that we are prepared to rub shoulders in the United Nations and other international meeting places with countries whose governments send bombs to the IRA, give 63 training to assassins, and shelter to hijackers of aircraft and murderers of children.
I am aware that Her Majesty's Government are already giving great attention to this problem together with the governments of other democratic countries. I do not suggest for one moment that nothing is being done. But I suggest that we, the citizens of this country, need to experience a greater sense of urgency. I should like to see the setting up of a really high level interdepartmental task force to consider this problem and to co-ordinate anti-terrorist activities. As part of this we need to abandon our apparently defensive and reactive approach to terrorism. We must not wait passively for the next murderous incident and then simply pursue—not often successfully—the people who have perpetuated it. We must embark on a policy of preventive and pre-emptive action; and this applies to the IRA as much as to any other organisation in the league of terror.
Whenever our intelligence organisations detect preparations for a terrorist attack we should move swiftly and ruthlessly to neutralise the terrorists before they can strike. If, at times, this involves problems of national boundaries or national sovereignty, that may be something we shall have to accept. Those who harbour and give aid and comfort to murderers cannot expect to hide behind the niceties of civilised international behaviour.
I expect that to some people all this may seem draconian and hawkish, but the only alternative is to wait—and we may not have to wait too long—until there is some quite appalling act of terrorist violence in this country or in the country of one of our allies; an assault on our lives and on our senses beside which the bombs at Harrods, Hyde Park and Brighton will pale into insignificance. It will be a little late then to look for the terrorist; indeed, he may have already died with his victims.
This is a war that we can win but which, I fear, we look more and more like losing. In my view, there must be no sanctuary, no freedom of movement and no mercy for the terrorists. If anyone should protest that we are adopting the standards of the terrorist in order to defeat him, I suggest that there is a limit at which forbearance ceases to be a virtue. I remind your Lordships that the pages of history are littered with the chronicles of civilisations which died because they were too civilised to defend themselves.
§ 5.26 p.m.
§ Lord Thomas of Swynnerton
My Lords, like other speakers I, too, congratulate our two maiden speakers today. In particular, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Moran, on his important description of the difficulties of being a British official during a time of relative national decline. Those of us who had previously admired his life of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman were not surprised by his literary qualities, but we could be excused if we were surprised by his eloquence. We look forward to hearing him again.
Trade, tourism and terrorism, to which the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has just devoted such an effective, timely and important speech; environmental problems; the relation of our ethnic minorities with 64 their own relations in poorer countries; Europe; the fact that we still, though not a super-power, have major global responsibilities; the fact that we are, as it were, the geographical hinge of freedom lying between Europe and the United States—all these things make an agile and determined foreign policy an essential part of Government activities.
My noble friend Lord Young of Graffham, in a maiden speech a week or two ago, alluded to the increasingly hostile world in which British traders have to operate. We know that in order to change that increasingly hostile world in a way that we should wish, to our benefit and to theirs, towards encouragement of free trade, towards respect for contracts and the establishment of good bases for investment, our own economy would have to recover more than it has as yet done. Nevertheless, even now we know that we are expected, and we ourselves expect our Government, to support the idea of good government in other countries: that good government which alone in the long run, as we all know, can prevent such tragedies which are now being seen in Ethiopia from occurring, to which reference has naturally been made.
All these aspects of our political life make it surprising that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is not required, and in fact does not wish, to prepare annually a statement on foreign policy rather on the lines of the annual White Paper on defence. Such a paper would relate the smaller questions, and the bigger ones, to the larger purposes—Henry Kissinger's phrase—against which all foreign policy is played out.
It might even be that if such a White Paper were annually prepared the Foreign and Commonwealth Office might sustain the case that it should have a larger annual budget than the £600 million which it now receives; and it might even sustain an argument that there should be more than one Minister in the Cabinet to discuss foreign and international affairs—as, after all, noble Lords will remember used always to be the case when there was a Secretary of State for India, for the Commonwealth and for the Colonies a relatively short time ago. Furthermore, we all know that to have to put things together in some conceptual form always helps us to keep our priorities in the right order; and, who knows, this might assist the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to have an even wider, and even wiser, range of foreign policy decisions.
Let me explain what I mean. It is obvious that during the next Session noble Lords from all sides of the House will put a bewilderingly large number of questions to my noble friend and her colleagues on subjects as various as, for example, the reason why the Government seem to have greater partiality than was previously expected for multilateral rather than bilateral aid, whereas all the evidence is that multilateral aid is more difficult to monitor. Other noble Lords will wish to question the reasons for the major diplomatic defeat which we (that is to say, the West) have met in UNESCO in allowing it to get into the state in which it now is, whether or not we remain within the organisation at all.
Other noble Lords will wish to press my noble friend even further on questions of the relation between the European Community and defence than she most 65 gratifyingly went in her speech today. Still other noble Lords will perhaps suggest that the character of the war in Afghanistan merits a greater international or United Nations investigation than it has received. Some noble Lords may remember that after the war—at the time of the Greek civil war, for example—there was a United Nations commission on the Balkans which drew attention to the atrocities perpetrated by the Communists, including the kidnapping of children, and which was of importance in bringing that war to the successful end that actually occurred.
Still other noble Lords will press the Minister on such questions as whether the conventional wisdom which used to apply in the Middle East—that if the Arab-Israeli quarrels could only be resolved the major source of Middle East troubles would be out of the way—should be re-examined. All these important questions will no doubt be put, and they will be courteously and expertly answered. But I suggest that it would be easier for the Government to give answers to all these and other questions if they did that against a coherently worked-out—conceptualised—foreign policy, which they would put forward annually in this and in another place.
This paper could also discuss and go further into the questions of what the Government hope to achieve in the future—not what has happened in the recent past, but what they would like to see occur in the immediate, and perhaps in the long-term, future. For example, we are members of a large number of international organisations. How do the Government see some of those evolving in future? What, for example, is our policy towards the Commonwealth? We are members of this, and the gracious Speech alludes to the importance of that membership. Do we wish to expand membership of the Commonwealth so that it will one day embrace all ex-colonies or ex-dependencies of the British Empire? Do we want perhaps to use it in order to promote our other foreign policies—our disposition in favour of free trade, and our expectation that representative government is the best bet for most societies? Surely we should strive to give this important association a specific purpose. Furthermore, we could debate whether the Commonwealth might not itself consider expelling members which became Marxist, as Grenada did last year and in the months before. That certainly might save a recurrence of that particular type of crisis, which caused such heart-searching 12 months ago.
Then there is the question of Europe. The noble Baroness referred to the future development of the European Community, as indeed does the gracious Speech. But what exactly in the gracious Speech does "development" really mean, and what does it really lead to? Let us assume, for example, that we have done all the short-term things which the Government would like to do; that we have in fact achieved the united Common Market, including a common market in services. Let us suppose that we have brought in successfully Spain and Portugal. Let us suppose that, indeed, we have done as the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, suggested should be done in that context, and let us suppose that we have resolved the question of Gibraltar. What then would happen? What will our aims be within the European Community? This is a long-term and important question, and one to which 66 we should address ourselves. What we want to be certain about is whether we can continue to partake of the benefits of an increasingly politically self-conscious Common Market and customs union without at the same time creating within the European Community an even larger national state at the Brussels level, of which we have had such bad experiences in our own national lives in the twentieth century.
Then there is the question of the Soviet Union, to which a lot of attention has been paid during the course of this debate, not least by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, who seemed to me in some of his remarks to be suggesting that the Soviet Union was more like a misunderstood whale than an adversary—a large enterprise, certainly, but with very inadequate jaws for dealing with the rest of its neighbours. This would suggest that he has abandoned the view that the Soviet Union is interested in imperialism as well as in ideology. We should like to see in such a Government White Paper as I am suggesting some consideration of how the Government see the interrelation between ideology and imperialism in the Soviet Union.
We should like to know whether, in welcoming Mr. Gorbachev next week and Mr. Gromyko next year, the Government feel that they, and indeed any other foreseeable Soviet leader, can be expected to think of the West in a different way from that which they have in the past. Hitherto we have all assumed that the Soviet Union looked on other states which were not a part of the Soviet world as, in the first instance, capitalist states anxious to attack them, and, in the second instance, states which are in a transitional stage, on their way to becoming Soviet states of their own; and with those states (that is to say, with us) the Soviet Union would not naturally be able to make any firm agreements, since, after all, agreements in the Soviet ideology are mere halts on the route—short-term arrangements, to be altered when the correlation of forces, as they put it, becomes favourable to Moscow. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has given a different picture of the Soviet Union. That is the picture which we are more accustomed to think is valid.
These are some of the questions to which I feel the Government might well devote attention in a White Paper on foreign policy. There are other, even more important, even more difficult and even more interesting questions, and it is upon some of these that I suggest and hope that the noble Baroness might persuade her colleagues in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to brood in future.
§ 5.41 p.m.
My Lords, I too should like to pay tribute to the two maiden speakers tonight: the noble Lord, Eden of Winton, and the noble Lord, Lord Moran. Being myself a recent maiden speaker, and without the quite clear experience that these two speakers have, I am full of admiration for the forceful and elegant way in which they delivered their speeches. I look forward, as I am sure do all of your Lordships, to hearing the noble Lords again.
I was puzzled first by the very brief reference in the gracious Speech to the amount of aid which was going to be maintained. I considered it slightly ambiguous. I did not quite understand what maintaining substantial aid really meant. I can only put the very best 67 interpretation on that and assume that at least we are going to maintain the level of aid to the third world which is already current but which, as your Lordships are well aware, is well below the amount of aid which, with other countries, we pledged to the poor countries of the third world early in the 'seventies.
The situation that we are facing in sub-Saharan Africa at the moment is horrifying and mind numbing. Many noble Lords have drawn to our attention the horrors of Ethiopia. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, said quite rightly—and nobody would disagree with her—that the British Government and the European Community have reacted quite properly and with great energy to this crisis. However, as has been referred to by other speakers, this crisis has been developing for many, many years. The crisis is not isolated or confined to Ethopia. It is a famine or hunger which stretches, or which will stretch right down the eastern coast of Africa. It is already being felt in Somalia. It is being felt quite severely in parts of Kenya, in Tanzania, in Mozambique, in Zambia and in Zimbabwe. We are now seeing only the tip of the iceberg.
There is no particular devil-given curse on this part of the world that they should suffer these disasters. Indeed, climate population and other factors, which are often put forward as causes of these horrors in this part of the world, are only a small part of the problem. I have been visiting Africa now for 15 years. I am fully aware that other of your Lordships have a much greater knowledge of Africa than I and have seen the development of this part of the world over a far longer period. However, over 14 or 15 years I have seen a very marked and dramatic deterioration of the standard of living of people in these countries, which are some of the poorest countries in the third world.
I cannot help thinking that the main cause of the problem is that the developed world has not yet reached the frame of mind where it can see the problems of the third world as separate from the major problem which the west is facing, which is the east-west confrontation. Many countries in that part of sub-Saharan Africa were at one time coloured red on our map. They were part of our Empire. Many of these East African countries have been granted independence by us. However, I think that many of them are only now realising that they have had only a half-independence: they have been given an independence with, as it were, an umbilical cord which still ties them to a kind of conventional wisdom, and an economic structure which has limited their development since independence. I feel that with the enormous problems which confront us in the developed world, we have not recognised that we have failed to adjust our own system of dealing with the third world. Because of this, we have failed to give them a chance to be able, peacefully and along the lines which we would seek, to develop into democratic or near-democratic countries where we could observe a peaceful and improving status for the inhabitants.
The figures which we have are absolutely staggering. Like some of those used as euphemisms in elections and so on, figures are often beyond our comprehension. We are told by the aid agencies—and the figures do not vary very much—that in the developing world 68 500 million people are suffering from some degree of hunger or hunger-related illnesses. These are mind blowing figures. These kinds of figures come into the realms of the horrible fantasies of the number of people killed by atomic bombs in atomic warfare. 800 million people live in abject poverty. That is the kind of poverty which is totally unacceptable to humane thinking people the world over. We are told that 15 million children die in infancy in these countries. It is very hard to comprehend 15 million people. That is a figure equivalent to that of the larger part of the population of a country like Norway or Sweden. We are told that these figures will increase if radical and constructive thought is not applied to the problems of the third word.
If we go on obsessively thinking about our own problems and maintaining our own structures in the developed world, if we continue to think in terms of the economic theories of the time of independence of these countries, I am quite sure that these figures will grow to the extent where governments will fall. It will then be impossible for us to combat infiltration from sinister forces interested only in destabilisation and other things which we fear.
So we are now faced with the obviously very real and sympathetic view of the British Government. They say that they will maintain substantial aid to the third world. But what kind of aid will that be? Aid, so far as I have observed it in the sub-Saharan African countries, has been very, very insignificant in terms of its effect on the inhabitants of these poorer countries. On some of the very poor countries its effect has been almost non-existent.
It seems to me that, apart from food aid to which I shall return in a moment, aid is concentrated on too many sophisticated projects, on too many sophisticated schemes and on to many grandiose schemes. These are schemes which are way beyond the scope of many of these countries to operate themselves. Many of the schemes entail imports of expensive equipment which is far too sophisticated. There are expensive schemes for prestige purposes, such as airports, and so on. In the agricultural aid we see schemes for irrigating large parts of countries such as Kenya, where the plan is to grow cash crops rather than food crops. This is one of the great and continuing problems of these African countries where the land that is used to grow food to feed people is gradually diminishing. Those developing their land are being pushed into smaller and smaller areas and are being forced to grow crops that will, in theory, bring in foreign exchange with which to buy food. This represents a thinking that really has to be altered. We have to go back to considering whether it should not be a priority to create some kind of stabilisation by encouraging the countries themselves to train their people to develop their land, to grow the crops and to grow the food that will feed them so creating a political stability from which it is possible to bring them into a more compatible relationship with the industrialised world and enable them to play their part in the kind of problems that we have to face.
I speak to many Africans in prominent positions. They are amazed, when dealing with very right-minded and very proper officials of official agencies such as the World Bank and the International 69 Monetary Fund, at the kind of questions that they have to answer. They are amazed at the fear of Communists behind every acacia tree. Most of these people, in countries like Uganda and Tanzania, are concerned with developing their countries. In the case of Uganda, which has been through a complete destruction of its infrastructure, their only wish is to get on to a stable road, a road to recovery. They find it curious that we should have concerns so far removed from the basic concerns of the people of those countries.
It is certainly possible for the countries of East Africa to grow enough food to feed all their people and to reduce the potential horror that now faces them. Ethiopia should be a lesson to the world. It is a lesson that has arrived late. Many people have been crying the warnings about Ethiopia. Unfortunately the reality of the aid that is now being given and the philanthropic gestures that have been made—and our country has been in the forefront of this, which is not out of character because we are a compassionate people—is that very few of the starving people will actually receive the food being sent to them. The reason is that they do not have the capability of moving it. You can parachute in food; you can bring in food by aeroplane. But, unless you have the runways, the roads and the infrastructure, there is no way in which you can distribute that food in time.
Even as I speak, many children, middle-aged people and old people are dying. This is because of a lack of imagination, of the inability to use our imagination, in the shadow of greater problems that obsess us. We have to divorce the problems of the Western world, the East-West confrontation, from the problem of hunger in the third world. A future which benefits the populations of these countries, which, in the long run, keeps them in a relationship with us and which gives us a prospect of partnership with them, can only be achieved by a radical rethinking and a radical new approach.
My hope is that it will not take an increase in these abhorrent and extraordinary figures of misery that we hear from Africa today before we realise that we must get round the table. If we cannot get round the table with the United States, we must get round the table with Europe. A noble Lord in his maiden speech mentioned that we must be part of Europe and part of the relationship with the United States. We must use our imagination and create the right environment for producing a result that will be a lesson and an example to the rest of the world.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Lord Caradon
My Lords, I should like to congratulate the two maiden speakers with us today and to turn to the subject raised earlier by the leader of my party. It is an important question relating to the whole future of world policy for dealing with disputes and dangers. It is the question of the tradition and the role of the United States. We have read in the papers and listened today to accounts of the triumph of the President of the United States. In sending him, as I am sure the House would wish, our congratulations on his triumph, I should like to express the hope that his second term will be far more effective and far more successful than the first. I believe that it is of first 70 importance to the world that the United States should look back on its previous policies and decide to think again, that the United States should decide that it is necessary not merely to persist and pursue what has been said before but to take a new look at the principal disputes and dangers in the world, and to think again. I hope it may be.
I shall look for a minute or two at the main disputes of the world, as I know them from my own personal experience, to see what hope might exist of a change of attitude by the United States Government, and indeed by our Government, because our Government in these matters so frequently have merely reiterated the American view. I can perhaps take first the Middle East, where, way back in 1967, we all voted for a unanimous resolution. Since then the United States has been pouring vast sums of money in the direction of those who have been carrying out policies directly opposed to those agreed at that time. It has been going on for many years. There should surely be a review. The whole matter should be looked at again. There should be an endeavour to find a better way than merely subscribing money to defeat the purpose we have approved.
I feel some anxiety in the matter. A week or two ago—not long ago—there was a resolution in the United Nations about the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Southern Lebanon. The necessity for withdrawal is very widely approved and agreed in the world. I recall that I felt some shock, when reading of that resolution, to find that it was vetoed by the United States. It seems to me when we agreed and voted for the proposition of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war, and after all the suffering, bloodshed and miseries that the invasion of the Lebanon has caused, that the action of the United States in vetoing a resolution, very widely supported by pretty well the whole world, is an indication that the review that I speak about, the necessity to think again, is very great today in the Middle East.
I think also of the situation in regard to Southern Africa, and in particular Namibia. There again there was a unanimous vote that Namibia should be free, should be allowed free elections; the United Nations should provide the means and the security to enable those elections to go forward. That happened years ago, a decade ago, but it has been prevented. How was it prevented? By the insistence of South Africa that before freedom could be considered for Namibia it was necessary to settle the problem of the Cuban troops in Angola. Consequently the decision of the United Nations, supported by everyone, has been frustrated, deliberately frustrated by the United States supporting the view of South Africa that the question of Angola must be considered first. So there is another example of the attitudes of the United States in the past, which we hope may be reviewed and changed without delay.
It was not so long ago—a day or two ago, was it not?—that I read of a resolution in the United Nations condemning the regime of apartheid in South Africa. To my sorrow, but scarcely to my surprise, the resolution, which was so widely supported in the United Nations, led to the United States refusing to vote. We do not have to look very far for other examples.
71 Cyprus is a case in which our country took a positive position as a guarantor of the Cyprus solution which had been arrived at. There has been an attempt. It is continuing now, and good luck to it. I agree with and support what has been said in praise of the Secretary General of the United Nations in his endeavours. Not so very long ago it was proposed that the very substantial financial aid which is given to Turkey by the United States might continue to be given, by all means, but that a condition might be laid down that a start at any rate should be made in order to resolve and deal with the dispute which divided the island. A part of Varosha, near Famagusta, which had been in the hands of the Greeks should be allowed to go back as a start—no more than a start—towards some settlement. No! The decision of the United States was that the money would be paid to Turkey with no conditions at all.
We will remember in this country, and certainly in this House, that these decisions in regard to the Middle East, in regard to Namibia and in regard to Cyprus—all of them 10 years old—have been frustrated by the refusal of the United States, backed by the United Kingdom, to carry out decisions which we had ourselves recorded. Ten years later we have failed to carry them out. That is the situation.
Again, quite recently we had the opportunity to see how the world could agree on the law of the sea, backed by many more than 100 countries. The United States came forward, having taken a full part in the 20 years of preparation of this magnificent result of international negotiation, and said,"No, it must not happen." No one can quite see what can happen now, but the refusal of the United States to participate in this world endeavour is a setback of very great proportions.
Then, again, we see what is happening in regard to UNESCO. It may have many faults but it has achieved considerable successes. Would it not be better to work to improve any failures that there have been? No, no. The United States attitude is that it would be better to refuse to contribute, and in fact to bring the agency to an end.
I say these things because it is very important that, in a new situation, we in Europe and we in this country in particular should surely make it our main effort to work as closely as we possibly can with the United States Government to review all these problems—the Middle East, Namibia, the law of the sea—and see if it is necessary that we should preserve the negative, frustrating attitude which has dominated the discussion of these important subjects. It is important to look back and to realise that in the four great issues I have referred to there has been failure, due to the reason which I explained: but it is even more important to think about the future.
I suppose the Middle East is the most dangerous area of the world. There is a movement on behalf of the Sovet Union to have a world conference on the Middle East. Many people, certainly including myself, believe that it is not necessary to have a world conference. One has the Security Council of the United Nations available now, where all concerned can participate. Why should it not be possible to move 72 to the organisation which was created in order to deal with these dangers? Why should it be that we are doing nothing about it? Why should it be that the United States refuses to take the matter to the Security Council, and refuses not only the world conference but to allow this main danger in the world to be dealt with by the organisation which was set up to deal with exactly those dangers?
So I put it to your Lordships that the day of the great triumph of President Reagan must surely be a day when all his friends should be prepared to work with him and his great country, and through the United Nations Organisation, not to take decisions and do nothing for 10 years but to tackle the problem in a sensible way, without delay, and end the decade of drift and delay which has placed us in a much greater danger than most of us are prepared to recognise.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Lord Reay
My Lords, as a delegate to the Assembly of the WEU and present at the meeting of that assembly in Rome on 29th October, following the joint meeting of the Foreign and Defence Ministers of the seven member states of WEU—incidentally, the first occasion when there has been such a joint meeting; and incidentally, also, unfortunately on the same day on which the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, introduced this subject for debate in this House—I should like to say something about current intentions to use WEU to a greater extent as a means of increasing European defence co-operation.
There are two questions. Is a greater measure of European defence co-operation desirable, and, if so, is WEU the proper means to set about this? What can be achieved by a greater measure of European defence co-operation? There is at present great duplication of effort in the field of weapons research and development. This in turn leads to an excessive number of models of equipment being brought into service by different member states, usually produced by their own national industries. That in turn leads to an alarming contrast in the degree of standardisation of equipment between, on the one side, the NATO countries, and, on the other side, the Warsaw Pact.
So the possibility exists to achieve financial savings and greater efficiency by more co-operation in arms research and production. Of course, I appreciate that there are obstacles, in particular perhaps those posed by the competition between national arms industries for export markets, which leads to a tendency to be secretive. Nevertheless, in my view this is a problem that should be tackled.
Secondly, there is a value in European countries developing the means to discuss security questions which arise outside the NATO area—something which has often proved to be extremely difficult in NATO. Thirdly, it is important from the point of view of the Americans that the Europeans are seen to be taking steps to improve their collective defence. It is wrong to suppose that the Americans will see such activity as indicating a desire on the part of Europe to break away from NATO. On the contrary, the Americans are much more likely to be provoked if Europe does nothing.
73 But I would go further than that. I think that the Europeans should discuss among themselves what they will do if the Americans eventually require Europe to take over more of its own defence. It would be reckless to assume that we have seen the last of all attempts to initiate the withdrawal of United States troops from Europe as a result of the defeat of the Nunn Amendment in the United States Senate last summer. I do not foresee the end of the United States nuclear guarantee, all the less so for as long as Britain and France retain their own credible, independent nuclear deterrents. But I can foresee a United States request that Europe should shoulder a greater share of the responsibility for its own conventional defence, even perhaps 100 per cent. of that responsibility. In that event it would be much better if this contingency has been planned for within a European institution and if such an institution had had an active existence for some years before it was required to organise a replacement in the field.
As for the question of the appropriate institution, I point out that WEU only emerged after the EEC had failed—most recently when the Genscher/Colombo plan (which proposed security discussions within political co-operation) was objected to by the Danes, the Irish and the Greeks. That meant that something else had to be tried and WEU was the natural alternative: first, because it consists of the 10 states of the Community less the three states who held objections; and secondly, because it is fair to say that it has always been primarily an institution with defence functions.
According to the ministerial decision reached in Rome, foreign and defence Ministers of the member states of WEU will now meet together at least twice a year. The intention, according to the declaration issued in Rome, is for the Ministers to hold comprehensive discussions and to seek to harmonise their views on specific conditions of security in Europe including among other things, defence questions; Europe's contribution to the strengthening of the Atlantic Alliance; and the development of European co-operation in the field of armaments, in respect of which, in the words of the declaration,WEU can provide a political impetus"—in other words, it is not intended to abandon or replace other existing institutions such as the Independent European Programme Group—and the Ministers may also, in the words of the declaration:consider the implications for Europe of crises in other regions of the world".In my view this is all progress in the right direction, but I should like to say something on the question of additional members, before leaving the subject of WEU. It is natural that, as WEU appears to be developing a more vital role for itself, other states should express the wish to join. First, I should like to point out that, under Article XI of the modified treaty, the initiative lies with the member states and not with the states wishing to accede. Article XI provides that the:High Contracting Parties [the member States] may by agreement invite any other State to accede to the present treaty on conditions to be agreed between them and the State so invited. Any State so invited may become a Party to the Treaty by depositing an instrument of accession with the Belgian Government".74 In other words, there is no provision for states to lodge an application to join. This, of course, is unlike the provisions of Article 237 of the Rome treaty establishing the European Communities. I think that the member states should think very carefully before they issue any invitations to accede to the treaty. Indeed, they should go further and make it clear without delay that they do not intend to issue any invitations for the time being, at least until they have established what WEU can do with its present membership.
All of us can think of good reasons why this or that country would make a good member of WEU, but experience with the European Community has shown that no one wishes to cause disappointment to what is represented as the expectant population of an applicant state, and so one country joins. Thereafter no one wishes to offend the second country to apply by refusing its application, when the first country has been accepted, and so on. The result is that the right to apply to join becomes, in effect, the right to join. Yet the revival of WEU is only taking place because the larger grouping of the European Community failed for the purpose for which it was required. So WEU should have been warned.
I should like now to turn from the WEU to the European Community. In this respect I should like to follow my noble friend Lord Thomas of Swynnerton in expressing thanks to the noble Baroness for what she had to say in her opening remarks on this subject, which I thought was very encouraging. I should also like to echo what my noble friend Lord Eden of Winton said in his most excellent and concise maiden speech, with every word of which I think I agreed. I thought that he implied—and certainly I should like to suggest—that the settlement of the budget dispute has now given this country an opportunity to play a greater role in the leadership of Europe and, I would add, not leave all major initiatives to the French and the Germans.
There is plenty to be done in Europe, but of all things the most important seems at the present time to be to try and make a reality of the internal market. The supposedly common market suffers from internal barriers of every kind. There are barriers—irremovable, of course—of language. There are barriers imposed by the existence of different currencies with fluctuating rates of exchange (reduced in scale now for those who are members of the EMS) and by the payment of monetary compensatory amounts. There are barriers to the practice of services such as—as my noble friend Lord Eden of Winton said—banking and insurance, which are of such great importance to this country. There are barriers to investment.
There are frontier barriers. A director of a large and well known Dutch transport company, Van Gend en Loos, talking earlier this year to a meeting organised by that most enterprising informal group in the European Parliament known as the Kangaroo Group, described how a lorry making a round trip from Rotterdam to a North Italian town would normally be expected to take about 60 hours, of which no fewer than 12 would be spent at one frontier or another.
The speaker described these stops as being the most demoralising experience which a driver can have, and 75 one which incidentally encourages tampering with the tachograph—the instrument which records details of the journey. I am sure it is demoralising for the driver. But think also what a cost this implies for industry and so for the consumer, and what a restraint on the free operations of the market! Earlier this week Christopher Tugendhat estimated that the cost represents about 5 to 10 per cent. of the pre-tax value of traded goods. The director of the Dutch company reckoned that these stops could be reduced from 12 hours to 2 hours.
The noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, certainly appears to feel the need to make progress in this field. Writing in the October edition of Europe 1984, he says:We waste untold resources owing to the fragmentation of our market, which results from the maintenance of barriers to trade and investment between Member-States. Frontier delays alone are estimated to cost £7b. a year to the Community's taxpayers".Since tax checks constitute the major impediment at frontiers, the Government should continue to press either for the adoption of the 14th Directive on VAT or for some other similar system which avoids delays caused at the frontier by the need to collect the tax. The Council should follow the Commission proposal to replace over 70 documents relating to crossing frontiers with a single Community document. The practice of gauging the contents of fuel tanks is also ridiculous; the duty-free allowance should be higher than the capacity of standard fuel tanks, not lower.
A large amount of harmonisation of legislation has been necessary and will continue to be necessary; but perhaps the time has come to put more emphasis on the need for a recognition of each other's standards. In many instances what is good enough for the consumers in one of our member states should be good enough for the consumers in another. As the Commission says in its communication to the Council of 13th June this year:Mutual recognition of regulations and inspections and various forms of administrative co-operation could reduce the need to harmonise legislation".I believe that the Commission is right when it says that we now need a decisive break-through; that:instead of selective measures spread over years, what is now important is to gather our forces for a comprehensive effort that will bring a quantum leap like the establishment of the Customs Union in the 1960s.".A great deal of the goundwork has been done; many proposals are on the table. Procedures have even been improved. There is now a special council concerned with the internal market, which enables packages of decisions to be taken together, and the longer term goal always to be kept in mind. No new policies and, most attractive of all, no new resources are needed. On the contrary, the aim is to release resources by removing constraints.
Increasingly, sectors of our industry—and not only our industry—are realising that national markets are too small. This is perhaps particularly true in the field of high technology where many new products have no viability if the limit to their sales is determined by the size of the home market. But as the resolution adopted at the CBI conference earlier this week demonstrates, there is a general urge throughout British industry to be able to operate freely across national frontiers in Europe. At a time when people in Europe should 76 increasingly be concerned about the greater success of the United States and Japan, their higher growth rates, their stronger currencies, their lower unemployment, and the threat that they will out-distance us in the development and application of new technologies, surely it must be right to devote greater political drive and conviction to the task of freeing Europe's market from the multitude of restrictions that hamper its development and thereby impede the growth and competitiveness of British industry.
However, perhaps we ought to ask ourselves whether there is not something wrong with Europe's decision-taking procedures if so many of these proposals have lain for so long on the table, have been so generaly regarded as being desirable and yet have still not been put into effect. Is it not perhaps possible that the whole system of decision-taking has become immobilised under the weight of national safeguards and, on top of that, under the increasing consultation requirements that a democratically-elected European Parliament is able to exact both from the Commission and the Council?
But if that is the case, should we not seriously examine recent proposals for a new European treaty, rather than label them as "federalism", as implying "union", and so dismiss them? We claim that we are pragmatic, but pragmatism requires an open mind. It is dogmatism, not pragmatism, to reject a proposal without examining it to see whether it has any merits, particularly when there is a prima facia case for supposing that new action in the field concerned may be required.
I would therefore humbly suggest that the Select Committee on the European Communities of this House should give thought to the question whether it might not examine the Spinelli proposals for a new draft treaty. I am sure that parts will be unworkable, but parts might be an improvement on the present state of affairs. It is at least plain that the Community's decision-taking processes are slow, secret, cumbersome and frequently, after immense effort, produce absolutely no result at all. In such circumstances the onus of proof surely lies, not with those who propose changes, but with those who believe that things can go on as they are.
After all, if it is true that membership of the Community is of general benefit to all its members and to the Western Alliance as a whole—and the Government tirelessly repeats that that is the case—then it is inconsistent not to face squarely and energetically the problems involved in developing the Community further. For if Europe does not make progress, if its members lose heart, if they cease to believe in Europe's possibilities for co-operation, then that would be the beginning of the end for Europe—not just for Europe as a collective grouping, but for the individual states of Europe. For a Europe that degenerated into a squabbling group of nation states, obsessed by its own quarrels, would be the despair of its friends and would probably be deserted by its friends, even by the United States, and would be the delight, and ultimately the prey, of its enemies.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, so long as the unit of Government in this country is that of a nation state, 77 foreign policy has a primary objective of safeguarding the interests of the citizens. Some of us consider that the nation state is an anachronism; nevertheless, we are dealing with foreign policy as it is today. The crux of a debate on foreign policy is surely the definition of what is in the interests of the citizens of this country. We are no longer a great power. We no longer impose our will by gunboat diplomacy. Nevertheless, it sometimes seems as though we are not aware of the degree of influence which at least potentialy is still ours in many parts of the world through the United Nations, through our membership of the European Community, and I believe above all through our membership of the Commonwealth.
However, those of us who travel around the world are constantly distressed by the declining influence of Britain in events which are taking place in other parts of the world but which vitally affect both Britain today and British society, which we are leaving to our children. In many cases we find that countries like Holland and Scandinavia are now regarded with greater confidence than our own country. We have to ask ourselves why this is so?
It is most unfortunate that this debate on the gracious Speech has been preceded already by suggestions of cuts in our Foreign Office. Today Britain has 67 consulates in the world; in 1965 we had 128. We are told that the cuts may affect the BBC external services, the British Council and our membership of international agencies. Also, we have not yet heard whether those cuts are going to involve still further reductions in overseas aid. I suggest that in all these cases we are cutting our influence in the world and. through the cut in our influence, reducing the defence of the interests of the British people, which is the first priority of any British Government.
In that priority surely the first interest is that of security. Is it not the case that the security of the British people depends essentially upon the preservation of peace? I would suggest that in looking at the manner in which the Foreign Office and the Government as a whole are defending peace that we can divide that as follows. On the one hand, the political and diplomatic activity; on the other hand, the military activity. I would also add, thirdly, development, to which I shall come later. I do not intend to deal with the military side of the preservation of peace, which I am sure will be dealt with by other speakers and which I might add, in parenthesis, I wish had been separated into two debates, one on foreign policy and one on defence.
On the political side, is it not the case that if we examine the foreign policy of this Government we are appalled at the cynical and timid lack of principle which inspires our Government in their actions? It reminds me of the words of Edmund Burke:The convenience of the business of the day is to furnish the principle for doing it".Where do we find principles in the activation of foreign policy so far as this Government are concerned? Why was it that the Government sent observers to the Salvadorean elections but not to Nicaragua? In the speech from the noble Baroness why did they ignore the whole issue of Grenada and its relation to our comunications, our relationship and our friendship with the United States?
78 My noble friend Lord Caradon has vividly analysed the weakness of the Government—the virtual abdication of this Government—in face of their responsibilities in promoting the independence of Namibia. But what action did the Government take when the South Africans invaded Angola? Was this not a great contrast to the actions and attitude taken by the Government to other invasions in the world? And yet we have a special responsibility in South Africa because the power which is now there was originally power which was handed over by British governments. The craven attitude that the government took to the anti-apartheid refugees who took asylum in the consulate in Durban is an apt commentary on their double standards regarding their whole attitude towards apartheid in that country.
Take the Philippines. What are we doing in the Philippines? Are we not supporting the military, oppressive, dictatorial rule of President Marcos? Are the Government not even trying to persuade the Commonwealth Development Corporation to provide funds for a plantation scheme which will be imposed by the military against the wishes of the peasants there, and which will involve the forcing of those peasants against their will into the new scheme? Why are we providing money out of our overseas aid fund—our pitiful overseas aid fund—to a country like Turkey? Is that one of our democratic friends? It would seem too often as though the foreign policy of this country resembles the monkey dancing to the tune played by organ grinder President Reagan.
I now come to the issue which for two years has constantly stood between myself and the Front Bench opposite: the question of the "Belgrano". There will be other opportunities to go into the details of this matter, but whatever it may seem to us there is no question whatever that in other parts of the world the issue of the "Belgrano" is seen as another facet of the old concept of perfidious Albion.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, I am very happy to do so. I have just returned from the Falkland Islands. There is not the slightest shadow of doubt that the sinking of the "Belgrano" was operationally necessary, and it saved several hundreds if not thousands of British lives. That is why it was done. The arguments afterwards about what course it was on seem to me to be totally immaterial. The noble Lord opposite seems totally impervious to the effect that it had on British lives. That was the important thing, and no other issue mattered.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, I would simply suggest to the noble Earl that he looks at the casualty list for HMS "Sheffield", which was sunk two days later than the "Belgrano" and in retaliation for that attack. We know that it has taken some two years to smoke out a whole series of misleading statements made by Members of the Government, and particularly by the Prime Minister. When these misleading statements have been revealed, and admitted now, it is 79 clear that both Parliament and the public have been misled, and if not misled deliberately then through a lack of information which ought to have been obtained.
The whole incident has been described in the words of Walter Scott:O, what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive!It is now revealed in a Question asked in another place just last week that the Prime Minister did not know for 22 months, until March of this year, that what she had been stating regarding the course that the "Belgrano" had been taking over the 11 hours before she was sunk was incorrect. However, she stated it to the House, and she stated it on television in public. This is yet another instance of expediency replacing morality.
I believe—and I think that many Members of this House would agree with me—that development throughout the world is an essential part of the security and of the interests of the people of this country. The right reverend prelate the Bishop of Rochester in a most moving speech this afternoon spoke of the global scandal of poverty. How have the present Government met this challenge? We know in bald figures that the amount of overseas aid has been reduced during their term of office from over 0.5 per cent. of our GDP to something under 0.3 per cent.; a matter which was the subject of criticism by our allies in the developed world in OECD only about 10 days ago. Can the noble Lord who is to wind up tell us specifically whether the cuts that have apparently been agreed in the Foreign Office budget are to include still further cuts in our overseas aid budget; an overseas aid budget which, we were told in another place only last week, is to be depleted by the amount that we are paying for the imediate famine in Ethiopia?
In one way I agree more with, or I am more sympathetic to the philosophy of, the Government than many of my noble friend on this side of the House in that when the Government have said that their overseas aid budget will be governed by political, industrial and commercial considerations plus helping the poorest people in the poorest countries, I am inclined to agree with them, on condition that that principle is put into practice in an equitable manner. I do not disagree with the aid and trade provisions, provided that they are not simply used to further the private interests of companies in this country. I would point out that there is one current contract which is certainly dubious—that for the provision of Westland helicopters to India—which I understand many officials of the Overseas Development Administration were strongly opposed to. There are certainly dangers that, following this policy, the Government tailor their policy to favour those voices which are closest to Government ears.
Even on these grounds the Government are showing themselves to be very inept and ineffective in carrying out their policies. I pointed out only about 10 days ago, when British Aerospace had the opportunity of a tender for the replacement of civil aircraft in Zimbabwe, that because the Overseas Development Agency and the Department of Trade and Industry refused to put in money to match that of the Dutch 80 Government, the contract is almost certainly lost to the Dutch firm Fokker. In this case, in civil terms this is not the use of the trade and aid provisions in a constructive way which will assist both employment and production in this country and attack poverty overseas.
Finally, I come to the issue of Ethiopia, very cogently and movingly referred to by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester. The central theme of the Bishop's speech was that it is not enough simply to respond to a crisis when it has occurred. It is our task and the task of the Govenment to take precautions before such a crisis arises in order to avoid that crisis. Those of us in the field of overseas aid know that the Government have been warned and warned again, over at least the past two years, of the impending disaster not just in Ethiopia but in many other parts of Africa, and told that international aid must be mobilised before famine struck the people of these countries.
I quote from the Reverend Dr. Charles Elliott, the former director of Christian Aid, whom many noble Lords will know as a distinguished academic and a respected churchman. He accused the Government of using the starvation danger in Ethiopia for political means. He was speaking of the British and American Governments, and he said:Their long hostility to the régime caused them to refuse to release adequate funds or food. They thought that if there was a major catastrophe it would probably change the régime again"—as it had done under Haile Selassie. I consider that to be a most grave charge against the foreign policy of this Government.
The Overseas Development Administration was asked for its comments. This was the comment of its spokesman:The Government has been quite open in making it clear that political factors are one of the considerations that it takes into account alongside development factors in its regular aid programme.".This smacks very closely of the use of starvation as a political weapon. I suggest that this is no way to further the interests of the British people now living in what is a global village. In fact it has been best summed up in Shakespearean language:Th' expense of spirit, in a waste of shame".
§ 6.47 p.m.
My Lords, although I may perhaps be out of order, I should like to extend warm congratulations to the two maiden speakers, and particularly to my noble friend Lord Moran (who I am afraid is not here at present), and to say how splendid it is to welcome an ex-diplomat as a colleague to your Lordships' House.
I should like to deal this evening with two areas which, though geographically and ethnically separate, have much in common: Uganda and the heart of the Middle East—Lebanon and Israel. Both these areas were formerly areas where British influence was predominant—Uganda in the days of the Protectorate and Israel in the days of the Palestinian Mandate. Both are now going through dark and difficult days, and both look upon Her Majesty's Government, among others, to help them emerge from darkness into light. Furthermore, both are bedevilled by tribalism and 81 factionism, and from this stems much of their ills. Finally, and most important of all, both areas are mentioned in the gracious Speech—the Middle East directly and Uganda by implication in the context of the Commonwealth and our overseas aid programme.
I start with Uganda. As I see it, there are two black spots in Africa today. One is Ethiopia, about which we all know a great deal, and the other is Uganda, about which very little is known, partly because this area is largely closed to foreign visitors, even to diplomats. Her Majesty's Government have never made a statement on it, and indeed the problems of Uganda have never been adequately discussed either in your Lordships' House or in another place.
Let me mention my own involvement. I served there from 1969 to 1971, and I have kept in touch with its problems ever since. I can say without any fear of contradiction that some of the finest Christians I have met in the world have been Ugandans, and many of these, sadly, are now dead as a result of army killings. Therefore, while I cannot claim to be wholly objective, I hope very much that your Lordships will not accuse me of exaggeration or distortion, because that would be an unpardonable crime to commit in a speech of this kind.
The tragedy in Uganda is surely all the greater in view of its former glory. As some of your Lordships know, British expertise and dedication, coupled with Ugandan skills, raised this country in the days of the Protectorate and indeed in the early days of independence to a level which was probably unparalleled in Africa, and the great institutions like Makerere University and Mulago Hospital set a standard of excellence which I do not think has ever been reached anywhere else in Africa.
Now, sadly, much of the country is in the grip of terror and despair. One of the saddest things of all, which a Ugandan friend of mine said to me the other day. is that Uganda is now a country without laughter. Those of your Lordships who know Africa as I do will know only too well that the element of laughter is inseparable from Ugandan society. It bubbles up, effervescent, in the most appalling circumstances.
Your Lordships will remember that this topic was raised when I asked a Starred Question on 16th October. Perhaps I may say here, in apologising for the length of my first supplementary, that I can assure your Lordships on the Benches opposite that I have learned my lesson the hard way. On that occasion the noble Lord the Minister, replying to my Question, said at col. 876:across the country there has been some improvement in the human rights situation in recent years".Of course, we all hope very much that he is right and I cannot say categorically that he is wrong; but I have over the past few months consulted very many sources and the conclusions I have reached point in a very different direction. These sources include Ugandans now in Britain and they include two former Presidents, many lawyers, doctors and others of great eminence, and of course refugees coming straight to Britain from Uganda. Then there are Britons who come to this country after service in Uganda. There is an independent paper called Munnansi. Strangely enough, it is still functioning and it provides some very remarkable 82 details about what is going on. Then there are reports of organisations like the Minority Rights Group and Amnesty International—excellent bodies which, as your Lordships know, are dedicated to an objective and balanced assessment of the situation, totally without bias.
Finally, there is of course the report of the official of the State Department, Mr. Abrams, which reached the British press in August. Your Lordships may remember that he alleged that there were the most appalling atrocities going on, including killings of up to 100,000. His conclusion was that these terrible killings and violations of human rights were increasing in severity rather than decreasing.
From a study of all this evidence, I have reached three broad conclusions. The first is that, although there may well be some upturn in the Ugandan economy—indeed many people coming from that country speak on those lines—the army nevertheless continues to commit the most appalling crimes, particularly widespread indiscriminate raping, looting, arson, abductions, forced starvation and attacks on defenceless civilians, even in hospitals and refugee camps, quite apart from torture of the most vile and abominable kind and imprisonment in army prisons in conditions of unspeakable filth and degradation.
The point I should like to make is that the information I have received about this is very recent indeed. It appears that the army is now embarking on widespread raping. I have heard of mothers being raped in front of their children and children being raped in front of their mothers: in some cases the raping of children is accompanied by vile mutilations. It seems that the victims of these army attacks are for the most part not guerrillas at all but innocent civilians, although it is true that some may perhaps have harboured guerrillas in the past.
My second conclusion—again contrary to what appears to be the view of Her Majesty's Government—is that the Ugandan President is unwilling rather than unable to bring the army to heel. My third conclusion concerns the British military training team. The noble Lord the Minister has said that this team has brought about some improvement in the human rights situation. I have no doubt at all that our British military training team has instilled in the Ugandan army the best traditions of British military discipline, but that is quite a different matter from stopping them from committing these appalling atrocities.
I realise only too well the difficult position that Her Majesty's Government are in. Uganda is a sovereign state and we cannot interfere in its internal affairs, but I would put to your Lordships three suggestions. The first is that Her Majesty's Government should face facts fairly and squarely: in other words remove the telescope from their blind eye. Secondly, we should protest in the strongest possible terms to Uganda. The noble Lord the Minister on 16th October expressed our concern. But is not concern totally inadequate? Should there not be outright condemnation on the lines taken by the Americans? And, if our own protests are unavailing, as they appear to be, could we not enlist the support of the Americans, the EEC and the United Nations?
83 Next, I would suggest that we must give absolute priority to the restoration of security throughout the country. Of course Her Majesty's Government have a substantial aid programme, as the Minister told us, of £7 million. I know from my own experience how valuable such aid programmes can be, but when perhaps more than half of a country seems to be in a state of destitution, as in the area north of Kampala, for example—and I have seen photographs, which I think are entirely genuine, of village after village which has been deserted—surely security must be re established.
Finally, may I draw the Minister's attention to a letter of protest which was signed on 20th October and delivered to No. 10 Downing Street by a number of very senior Ugandans? It was excellently drafted, I think, although of course I cannot associate myself with every word of it. Its main recommendation was that Her Majesty's Government should see their way to persuading President Obote to call an overall tribal conference representing all the elements in the country. At any rate, I hope very much that this document will not find its way into one of those dusty Whitehall cabinets which I remember so well from my diplomatic days.
So much for Uganda. Let me now deal as briefly as I can with one or two salient aspects of the Middle East, which is in fact my real stamping-ground. We last discussed this matter on 22nd June on an Unstarred Question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. On that occasion the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, said that the turmoil in the Middle East was "hydra-headed" and "polycentric". I would add yet another description: "multi-factional". Hydra-headed?—look at the PLO. Look at all the different branches. There were six or eight when last I checked up: there may be five now. As one head is lopped off, another springs up. Multi-factional?—look at Israel, with its 15 political parties. Look at Lebanon, with something like 12 or 13 ethnic and political groups.
Let me turn first to Lebanon. It seems to me that the country is like an exhausted swimmer trying desperately to reach the shore but constantly being beaten back by waves. The shore, of course, represents peace and security. Has not that been happening? We keep on feeling that peace is near; yet there are fresh outbreaks of violence. For example, there was the recent Druze attack on the South Lebanon army, and so on. Indeed, when one thinks that there have been something like 154 short-lived cease-fires since the present troubles started in 1975, one realises how menacing are those waves, how distant that longed-for shore.
There are two stabilising elements in the situation. One is that President Gemayel is trying to bring the Maronite militia to heel. He is forcing them to close their port of Jounie, from which they receive most of their supplies. The second is that the Shia themselves, who represent the largest religious group in Lebanon—over 1 million of them—seem to be a generally stabilising influence, and their leader, Nabih Berri, has established quite a useful dialogue with the Maronites. As for the occupying forces, the Syrians, it seems, are set to stay, and the Lebanese are adjusting themselves to that. The Israelis we hope and expect to 84 withdraw, and this is greatly to be desired by the Israelis themselves, in view of the fact that they have suffered something like 600 casualties since their occupation started.
Finally, and I hope briefly, I must turn to Israel. Having criticised Her Majesty's Government for their policy over Uganda, may I give the warmest possible welcome to the speech made by the Secretary of State in Israel not long ago, urging the Israeli Government to abandon their policy of settlements in the West Bank. I can assure your Lordships that these settlements are crushing the Arab population, stifling them of their land and depriving them of their water. There are, in fact, about 200 settlements now, containing something like 23,000 Israelis. Whereas formerly these settlements were built on barren land—and, indeed, they are still now being built on barren land—some are apparently being set up in name only. In other words, it appears that they are designed to separate and contain the Arabs.
It is very significant that no Arab may dig a well without a permit, and if he gets a permit his well is limited to 30 feet. On the other hand, the Israelis in their settlements may dig as many wells as they like and tap all the best water. That is not the end of the story, because 30 new settlements have been approved, and those will perhaps be built in the next two years. After two years, as your Lorships probably know, Shimon Peres, the present Prime Minister, who is undoubtedly dovelike and wants to achieve some sort of reconciliation with the Arabs, will be succeeded by Shamir, who is undoubtedly a hawk; and Ariel Sharon, who is also in the Government, is even more hawklike.
May I conclude by referring your Lordships to a play by Dodie Smith, written, I think, 20 or 30 years ago, called Dear Octopus? Her concept of the octopus was an animal whose tentacles stretched out to embrace the different members of the family, and I have seen in the Arab world (as I expect your Lordships have seen elsewhere) many of these octopuses, or I should perhaps say octopodes. That is still possible. The octopus must be a benign, warmly embracing creature. It must not be a stifling creature, as happens at the moment. There are signs that both the Israelis and the Arabs are working in that direction, and that the octopus may change its character. I know that Her Majesty's Government will welcome this development and do all they can to further it.
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, one of the advantages of the debate on the gracious Speech is that one can refer both to things which are in the Speech and, if one prefers it, to things which have been omitted, and that gives the House a latitude which it does not always enjoy. I wish to start by referring to something which I regret was not in the Speech, and that is the failure to make an unambiguous declaration that it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to give notice of their withdrawal from UNESCO. The case for this was made very eloquently, as many noble Lords may remember, by the late Lord Vaizey, and we must all mourn his untimely passing during the Recess. If he 85 had been here to put the case, I think I would have found some other issue.
However, the reason for wishing that Her Majesty's Government would follow the American example, and set an example to other European countries, is not so much the corruption which is now proved beyond peradventure to surround the whole of this institution, and one about which only cosmetic changes have been proposed. It is not even the fact that it flies in the face of all the principles of international organisation, which should be concerned primarily with activity in the appropriate field, but which in this case spends more than four-fifths of its budget and retains more than four-fifths of its personnel in Paris. It is not, as I say, primarily even for these reasons, though they might well give government cause to think; nor is it the element of expenditure involved, though one could add that £5 million, which is roughly the cost of membership to the United Kingdom, could be very well spent in direct assistance to developing countries in the fields in which UNESCO, in its origin, was intended to work, and particularly in the field of education.
For instance, many of us on all sides of the House have deplored the effect of changes in the level of student fees upon our reception of Commonwealth students. The sum of £5 million devoted to bringing students from the developing countries of the Commonwealth would be better than £5 million spent on the salaries of people in Paris who, if they come from the developing countries, ought surely to spend their talents and education, which are in short supply in their countries, in their own countries rather than in the fleshpots of Western Europe.
I think the real reason is that we have to show in dealing with international institutions that we are serious about them; that if they are fulfilling their basic functions—and all of them have their weaknesses—then it is clearly, as has been said in the gracious Speech, the policy of Her Majesty's Government to support them. But when one has an institution originally set up to assist cultural communication between different countries, for which by now many other and more efficient channels exist, and to contribute to the furtherance of literacy, education and knowledge, and when one finds that it spends its time on programmes which have nothing to do with these original purposes—either the propagation of the so-called new information order, which is to confirm the kind of censorship on the press which makes it so difficult to find the truth about, for instance, the situation in Uganda, to which the noble Viscount referred; or the so-called peace initiatives, which turn out to be merely vehicles by which the views of the Eastern bloc get further resonance—it seems that we are not being serious in our attitude towards the rest of the world, in particular the developing countries, if we say, "It can't be helped; it's only £5 million; it's awkward to draw out; some people may misinterpret this". That is not good enough. I would urge my noble friends on the Front Bench to convey to their colleagues in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, in particular to the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, both of these views and the arguments which were stressed a few days ago—I am sorry he is 86 not in his place today—by my noble friend Lord Blake in a letter to The Times.
I turn to the wider issue which has been raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, and the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, in his very interesting speech; namely our general responsibility towards development—because UNESCO is a failed example of assistance towards development. Our failures, as many noble Lords have reminded us, are much more long-term, much more eventually deleterious, than even the current famine to which our attention has been called so powerfully. However, I find myself in disagreement, not for the first time, with the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, and also, regretfully, with the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland.
My disagreement arises from the view which was expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, that if one says that there is a political aspect to assistance towards development it means that one proposes to use starvation as a weapon against existing governments. Such an accusation is outrageous and is also wholly misconceived. There is, nevertheless, a political element. One of the problems of development, of these countries being able to supply their own resources, is precisely the lack of political stability in countries such as Uganda or Ethiopia, the latter with its two, three or four civil wars in progress. Furthermore, many of the decisions which have been taken have been political decisions by newly independent or only recently independent governments.
I disagree with the suggestion of the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, that in some way the West, or the aid-giving countries which are in the West, because the Soviet Union gives little except expendable bullets, has forced upon the developing world projects which are too large or too sophisticated for its own good. But it is not the West which has insisted upon these massive projects—upon building airports or creating new national airlines. It is the governments of those countries which have given priority to these requests, as against the patient and determined kind of reform, at a fairly basic level, of their agricultural systems which, where it has been tried, has proved to be remarkably successful.
If one considers, as we have been reminded by recent tragic events, the contrast between India's success in meeting the pressure of population upon food and the failures in African countries, despite the fact that there were, and must always be, climatic and other difficulties, one sees that politics cannot be avoided. The problems of Ethiopia are not only due to lack of rain; they have also been created by a government which for 10 years has neglected the real needs of the country, which has been involved in measures of oppression against its minorities and which has given priority to junketings of various kinds instead of to famine relief. Although there are few countries in Africa or, thank God!, in any part of the world which can be compared with Ethiopia, there are sufficient incompetent governments to make the problems with which we are dealing not problems wholly of nature's cruelty—although nature is cruel—and not problems of lack of technology, because the technology is there and in countries like India is being successfully used, but problems created 87 because of the lack of administrative skills and political common sense.
The reason I attach the importance that I do to the use of UNESCO's £5 million or of other money which can be made available for the provision of further and higher education, particularly in technical, administrative and entrepreneurial skills, is because it is the only way to prevent the kind of appeals which are now being made to us. We know, for reasons which other noble Lords have given, that they will not suffice to save the lives which have been put at risk. It is right to say that we need new thinking, but that new thinking must encompass administration and economic policy and must link closely with our own ideas about the right way forward.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ Lord Ardwick
My Lords, I am tempted to follow the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, to UNESCO. There has been no stronger critic of the New World Information Order than myself. I have suffered on several UNESCO committees when trying to knock some sense into some pretty dense heads. Nevertheless, I cannot go along with the noble Lord in his desire for us to withdraw from UNESCO, simply because it would cause so much dismay to so many Commonwealth governments and Commonwealth citizens who, in my experience, have a certain kind of esteem for the organisation. It would be wrong to leave them exposed to the Eastern Communist nations. However, I shall not go down that path. Instead, I wish to follow the noble Lord, Lord Reay, with whose speech I almost completely agreed, down the path into Europe.
A few days ago I tried to bring a set of questions on our European connection to a more cheerful conclusion by suggesting that we were at the stage where life could begin again at Brussels: life with all its difficulties, including, I implied, the common agricultural policy. My contribution was not very clear and the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, was somewhat mystified. However, we had already spent so much time on the question that I let it go. I shall try to explain now. I cannot do better than to use the words of the most gracious Speech:Following the agreement at Fontainebleau on the fairer sharing of the community's budget burden and on the overall control of Community spending, my Government look forward to the further development of the European community.Fontainebleau was the landmark which I had in mind. What the Government have in mind is indicated in the following words:They will continue to press for improvements in the Common Agricultural Policy and for completion of the common market in goods and services. They will work for the early conclusion of the negotiations to enable Spain and Portugal to join the Community, and to conclude a new agreement to succeed the Lome Convention".The noble Baroness who opened the debate expanded a little on those words. All that is admirable and a very tall order, yet I am still disappointed.
I had hoped for something more specific, some distinctive British contribution to the development of the Community after the negative years of self-protection, necessary and justified though that self-protection was. I had hoped that the state visit of 88 President Mitterrand might have presented an opportunity or at least created a mood in Britain in which an initiative might be launched. But the mood was not created. Great efforts were made with the meeting in the Royal Gallery. An audience of both Houses was collected. Speeches were made by Speakers of both Houses in their robes. There were banks of flowers, and the learned clerks—dressed as if for a wedding—ushered people to their seats. And then, somebody failed to provide either a written or an oral translation of the French President's speech—or even a copy of his words in French. The acoustics in the Royal Gallery are impossible and the amplification was of poor quality. Even some of those of us who delude ourselves that we understand spoken French lost a large part of the speech. The only mood created was one of bewilderment and regret.
I am not seeking to find out where the blame lies—I do not want to know. I simply want to put the facts on record so that never again when we have an eminent guest, accompanied by all the Queen's horses and all the Queen's men, will we fail to receive his communication. It may be true that the difficulties we experienced were shared by the press—because nowhere did I see an adequate account of M. Mitterrand's address. There were descriptive sketches but nowhere were his words given a run—if I may use a newspaper term. Afterwards came the ludicrous incident of the sniffer dogs and the small packet of explosives found in the garden of the French Embassy. That was news—and I fear that is all that most of Britain will remember about the French President's visit.
Sometimes I think that there is a poltergeist—some mischievous or perhaps even malicious sprite—that delights in upsetting Franco-British relations. Yet we cannot have good relations in the Community unless we have good relations with France. The heart of the Community is the Franco-German accord, and unless we too join hands with France and Germany, and unless we show some enthusiasm for the European idea, the day will surely come when we have a two-tier community with Britain in the second tier of progress and the second tier of influence.
The president, in spite of all his domestic problems, is I believe the leader of the Community today. I thought that he was holding out a most friendly hand to us. He recalled how the Community had created a free market, a common agricultural policy, a common external tariff, and the beginning of an industrial policy. None of these, he said, had been accomplished without a crisis; crises of legitimacy and of sovereignty, and institutional and financial crises. But now, said the president, the time had come to make Europe a genuine political reality, capable of asserting itself on the international scene.
The president then referred to European union—a word greatly feared in Britain because sometimes it is associated with federalism; with the abandonment of all-important national sovereignty. In Europe, in my experience, union means what you want it to mean—provided you mean some virtuous and co operative arrangement. The president maintains that union already has a concrete existence, and he believes that it would be good pragmatically to confirm its international existence: 89in a context of respect for the identity of each of the member states".I should like to repeat that because I think it pushes the federalist idea away somewhat:in a context of respect for the identity of each of the member states".What the president wants to do is improve (as the noble Lord, Lord Reay, suggested might be necessary) the Community's decision-making capability, to increase the responsibilities of its institutions, and to open new fields of co-operation—and so become a genuine political reality capable of asserting itself on the international scene.
The Western European Union is outside the institutions of the EEC. Nevertheless, its revival—sponsored by M. Mitterrand and others—is consistent with what the president has in mind. One of the immediate concrete goals is to repair Europe's losses to America and Japan of its high technology markets; losses incurred even though Europe is investing more than those two countries do in research. The reason M. Mitterrand finds for that is, insufficient co-operation among European firms—although the co-operation which does exist is already proving itself in the field of aviation and promises to develop in telecommunications. It has need to do so; there are no fewer than nine switchgear systems in telecommunications in Western Europe.
The French have long been perceptive of the threat to our high technology. Six year ago, M. Ortoli—one of the French nominees on the Commission and a most distinguished one—was warning of the problems we would all have in the great new electronic industries unless we got rid of internal barriers and adopted more co-operative arrangements. Surely the way is now open to create an industrial community in which nobody would gain more than Britain.
The European gesture I was hoping for was a signal that the time was approaching when we should become full members of the European Monetary System by joining the exchange rate mechanism—the ERM. It is now 15 months since a Select Committee of this House presented its report on the subject after seven months of intensive inquiry under the distinguished chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord O'Brien of Lothbury. The committee based itself on the fact that the Government have always said that they would join the ERM when the time was right—so those of us who served on that committee assumed that the Government have no fundamental and valid objection to joining the ERM.
The committee came to the conclusion that further delay in taking this step was no longer justified—although their report did not venture to suggest any precise timetable, as other aspects of policy and EEC negotiations were relevant.
It is almost 12 months since we debated the report. That debate was wound up by the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield. He thought that the committee had assumed too readily that the difficulties to which the special characteristics of sterling give rise had eased sufficiently. Those difficulties were that the value of sterling may rise and fall with the price of oil; that—like the Deutschmark—sterling is widely used in international finance and so is especially vulnerable to 90 large movements of the dollar; and this always leads to strain among the members of the ERM. So it does; but its members would rather suffer those strains in the mutually-protective environment of the ERM than alone in a cold and cruel world.
The noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, confirmed that the Government believed that membership should be achieved in the right circumstances and when the time is right. What on earth was he really talking about? In one breath he was saying that the difficulties were more or less permanent—at least until some time in the 21st century when the oil runs out and also the day when sterling has made its final exit from international finance. In the next breath, he went on to talk about the right time. I wonder whether the Government will tell us what they regard as being the right time. If they cannot do so in this debate today, then perhaps they can do so in one of our subsequent debates, because this subject falls within the scope of domestic policy too.
The question was asked again in this House a few days ago and an even less logical answer was given by the new Treasury spokesman, the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie. The noble Earl is a Minister with the clearest of minds and the clearest of prose. The fact that he talked non-sense—I use the word non-sense in its philosophic context and not in its pejorative context—can be attributed only to the ambivalence of Government policy. Is the truth, I wonder, that the FO wants us in and the Treasury keeps us out? Is that the answer? There are, of course, practical reasons for our being in the ERM—for the benefit of our traders; for its being a base from which to advance to the idea of a financial community, about which the noble Lord, Lord Reay, has spoken; perhaps for the opportunity of developing a common policy towards the dollar and the linked problem of interest rates; and perhaps for the whole EMS, solidly founded, to become a possible precursor of a world monetary system.
We are not only at a new stage in Europe, we are at a new stage in world affairs with the re-election of President Reagan. The sterility, or ambiguity, of policy in the pre-election year is all over and now we ask: what will the President become? What will he do about his deficit? What will be the effect on his booming America, so promising to world exporters? What will be the effect on interest rates and the dollar? These are riddles. He said today that we are at the beginning of everything, but he did not explain what the everything is. One thing we do know is that the more solidly-based Europe that President Mitterand calls for will be a better ally in a stronger position to survive or profit by the repercussions of any important changes in American economic and financial policy and a stronger counsellor on what may be the most vital subject of them all—the subject of arms control.
§ 7.32 p.m.
§ Lord Hylton
My Lords, 1984 has been a remarkable year for Anglo-Irish relations. As I believe the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, mentioned, we had Mr. Haagerup's report on Northern Ireland to the European Parliament. Since then there has been the Forum which brought together the four constitutional Irish nationalist parties. We have had discussion papers from all the Unionist parties and from the 91 Alliance Party in Northern Ireland. Last month a pamphlet was published entitled Northern Ireland—Untying the Knot. This came from the non-sectarian "Northern Consensus Group". It consists of business and professional people. All I shall say about the pamphlet is that it is well worth studying. Last week we had a considered response to the Forum from the independent inquiry chaired by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Kilbrandon, in which two other Members of your Lordships' House played a distinguished part. I am sure that the House will be grateful for the thought and effort that went into these documents. Indeed, if words could produce solutions, we would be home and dry by now.
I feel that what we now need is trust, as has been mentioned in previous speeches, and appropriate action. It is therefore fitting that the Prime Ministers of Britain and Ireland will be meeting in Dublin at the end of this month. It is obvious that security will take up a considerable part of their discussions, but I hope and pray that their agenda will not be limited to security matters.
I should like to see it stated that consent does not now exist for changes in sovereignty over Northern Ireland. The most recent elections there have made it utterly clear that there is no such consent, which both Governments agree is necessary, and that consent is unlikely to arise in the immediately foreseeable future. Here it is worth recalling that as far back as 1967 an all-party committee set up by the then Prime Minister of Ireland, Mr. Lemass, recommended that Article 3 of the Republic's Constitution should be amended to read as follows:The Irish nation hereby proclaims its firm will that its national territory be re-united in harmony and brotherly affection between all Irishmen".However, more is needed than just a negative statement that harmony and consent are not now available. I should like to see the two heads of Government discussing, first, friendship; secondly, citizenship; and, thirdly common services. These are large topics and I do not, of course, expect instant or complete agreement, but now is the time to start to work towards an early and comprehensive Anglo-Irish agreement. Perhaps I may be permitted to set out my hopes under each of the three heads just mentioned.
As regards friendship, Britain and Ireland are neighbours, with language, literature and many traditions in common. Our histories are intertwined and our peoples are interdependent. I believe that there are living in Britain now about 1 million people who were born in Ireland. Several further millions have significant amounts of Irish ancestry. Links between Scotland and Ireland are strong and very ancient. Both islands share similar values. Let us therefore make a declaration of our friendship and take the necessary steps to give it the fullest possible expression. I suggest that we need local and voluntary initiatives; for example, the twinning of towns and organisations or exchanges between schools and universities.
The two Governments should be specifically involved over citizenship. Already we have a common travel area, we have reciprocal voting arrangements for British residents in Ireland and for Irish people 92 living in Britain. It is possible for residents of the North of Ireland to obtain passports of the Republic if they so wish. We also have reciprocal health and welfare arrangements.
I should like to recall the proposed Franco-British declaration of June 1940, one line of which read:Every citizen of France will enjoy immediately citizenship of Great Britain; every British subject will become a citizen of France".Let us now build on this model and provide reciprocal citizenship between Britain and Ireland, with equivalent rights and duties, exercisable in both countries. The offer to France was made at a grim moment of war against the Nazi power. Today Britain and Ireland are both fighting terrorists, whose threats are as foul as those of 1940. Improvements in citizenship, building on what already exists, would show that we will not be terrorised, and would go far towards recognising the validity and the integrity of the two traditions in Northern Ireland.
I come now to common services. There is endless scope for co-ordination and promotion of tourism, industry and investment and the development of cross-Border co-operation in Ireland. Natural resources, transport and agriculture—one only has to think of the two seperate milk regimes of North and South—would all benefit from a common services organisation, which could in time be extended to cover the even wider concerns of the whole group of Anglo-Celtic islands.
We need friendship, common or dual citizenship and common services, but these things require some linkage. British and Irish civil servants have been meeting regularly over the years since the 1920s. Recently an Anglo-Irish inter-governmental council came into being at ministerial level. These meetings should, I believe, now be made complete by an inter-parliamentary council that would bring together this Parliament and the Parliament of the Republic in Dublin. Such a council could well operate in a similar way to a parliamentary Select Committee.
I realise that the noble Lord who will reply for the Government may not be able to anticipate the details of the summit meeting. Nevertheless, if he could say that the principal points that I have mentioned will be on its agenda, this would be most encouraging. I have suggested that we need a new and comprehensive agreement. I would suggest also that we need to face the past and to take responsibility for our history in a spirit of mutual forgiveness. In Northern Ireland the aim should be not just mutual respect between the two traditions, but, even more positively, parity of esteem and equality of status and opportunity for each, leading rather soon to the full involvement of both traditions in the processes of government. I trust that wisdom and success will attend the negotiators on all sides.
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ Lord Molloy
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, will understand if I do not follow him particularly in his very interesting submission. I should like straightaway to start by proffering my congratulations to both maiden speakers this afternoon on the quality, and indeed the delivery, of their speeches. I should also like to make my own personal comment on the sad 93 loss of Mrs. Indira Gandhi. I came to know her quite well, because I knew the Britisher who was her closest friend—Mr. Frank Harcourt-Munning, who was the founder of War on Want and who did so much for India immediately after her independence. He got to know Pandit Nehru and, of course, the young student in this country, Indira Gandhi. The world has lost a prominent statesman, India has lost a great leader and my country has lost a wonderful friend.
I want to make some comment, if I may, on the present inertia that the Government are showing over establishing sound and sensible relations with the Argentine. We cannot go on for ever talking about the "Belgrano", all that was lost, and so on and so forth. It is not a bit of good the Minister opposite pointing. This is going on because this Government are not capable of coming clean about anything. That is the truth of this situation. That is why we are not now making sensible overtures to a democratic government in the Argentine, many of whose members were appalled at the idea of the invasion. Many of the people who supported us then are now in government, and we are not doing much about encouraging them.
I am a very strong believer that commerce, trade and industry are great lubricants. They can help to bring both countries together. We have done that, have we not, with Germany? I cannot believe that on D-Day anyone would have believed that in two or three years' time the Germans would be trading with Britain. After the terrible happenings inflicted on the Americans by the Japanese, I do not think that they would have believed that in three or four years they would be trading with the Japanese, and so on and so forth. In so far as our trade with former enemies has been a good thing, our battle now is to produce better goods for the benefit of all mankind; so why on earth do we not get on with it and make sensible overtures to the Argentine Government?
I was also very pleased when the noble Baroness, Lady Young, mentioned the situation in Iran. I have made some study of this matter. I cannot go into it in detail. When I was recently at the United Nations I spoke to people who have been there and know precisely what is going on. It is terrible to learn what is going on. The mind can hardly take it in. As the noble Baroness said, hundreds—nay, thousands—of little children are being told by Iranian officers, who in turn have been told by the incredible man who is supposed to be their religious leader, that it is quite all right to run into anti-personnel minefields and be blown to bits. They are told that there is nothing to worry about because they will have the key of heaven in their hand—and my country cannot make up its mind whose side it is on! That is the most deplorable thing. It cannot make up its mind whether it is against a nation that indulges in such appalling behaviour. The noble Baroness mentioned the situation. I therefore fervently hope that the Government will take a new initiative in trying to stop the war.
I was very pleased, and indeed proud, when the noble Baroness mentioned the immediate aid that our country has given to relieve the dreadful situation in Ethiopia. We have all seen the pictures on our television screens. But, as we all know, it has been going on for centuries, year in and year out. It was Aneurin Bevan who, as in most things, seemed to have 94 the right answer, which he adumbrated in his brilliant book In Place of Fear. We all have something to be afraid of, whether it be cancer or that our loved one may be killed in an aircraft. We have all these terrible fears but we never seem to try to put something in place of that fear as Aneurin Bevan suggested.
I remember with regard to immigration that he was of the opinion that, if all the starving Indians and Africans somehow or other got here, the island would sink. That was not the way to do it at all, he felt. We should help them and allow them to develop. Our young people should go to Africa, India, Pakistan and other parts of the impoverished world to help them build up their nations. What was wanted were carpenters, joiners, electricians, quantity surveyors and others from our great professions in industry and medicine. We should send our young people to those countries rather than have those people come here. I believe that we have to do the same thing over Ethiopia. If we sent all the goods in the world, they would last for only a few years—perhaps half a decade—and it would all start happening again.
I am proud we sent the aid, but I hope that we shall go further and encourage other nations, through the United Nations and its agencies, to get the government and the people of Ethiopia to understand that the finest help they can have is for us to help to teach them so that they may have the ability to stand on their own feet and prevent such an appalling thing happening again.
I now turn briefly to the Middle East, which I consider to be the most frightfully dangerous flash point in the world. We have to find some way to stop what is happening there. It is no good us not having the courage to acknowledge that countries have been invaded. In 1939 we ourselves declared war on Nazi Germany not because of its horrendous behaviour towards Jewish folk but because it threatened to invade Poland, and we said, "You are not going to do this". It is to the credit of this nation that we did that. I do not for one moment say that we should invade Israel, but Israel invaded and is hanging onto lands that she conquered. We cannot on the one hand condemn the Russians for what they have done in other places—for example, in occupying Afghanistan—and say that it is quite all right for one of our allies to do the same. We cannot do that. There are tens of thousands of gallant Israelis who do not agree with the occupation of the settlements, who do not agree with one of their leading politicians who said just a few months ago that if there is any fresh move from the refugees of Palestine they will be all wiped out: men, women and children. That was heavily and marvellously condemned by the ordinary folk of Israel. It is these people to whom we should give our support.
I now turn briefly to the most terrible and greatest threat that mankind has ever faced in its history. That is the threat of nuclear war. Perhaps it behoves us now to look at this panic that we sometimes receive from the United States. There is a massive build-up of hatred, not so much against the Soviet communist system as against the great Russian people. One realises that we have been hard put to it by being attacked by the Spaniards. We all know that that upset Francis Drake when he was out playing bowls on 95 Plymouth Hoe. The Spanish wanted to conquer us. Then the Dutch wanted to conquer us. Then the Germans wanted to conquer us. The Russians have never behaved like that.
Those of us who landed on the beaches on D-Day and a few days before were very, very grateful that more than two-thirds of the massive Nazi Army, under Field-Marshal von Paulus, was being held down by the Russians. The great tributes which were paid at that time by our great Field-Marshal, Field-Marshal Montgomery, were generous, right and proper.
What then happened was a great shame and the fault lies overwhelmingly with the Russian Government of the day. It was this. The democracies were compelled to bring their soldiers, sailors and airmen home. The Americans and the British simply had to do that; the demand was enormous. When we did it, that meant that our forces were down to an absolute minimum, even before the defeat of Japan. However, there was no similar response from the Russian Government. It remained obdurate. It not only remained obdurate but it also constituted a real threat. The rulers and the people of Russia today must understand that. Therefore at the time I think it was very fortunate for my country and for the freedom of peace-loving democracies that we had a great foreign Secretary in the person of the former general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union (my union at the time), Ernest Bevin, who created NATO and I believe gained the respect of the entire world.
We have to explain these matters to the Russians, that it was their misgivings and totally unnecessary behaviour immediately after the Second World War which has helped to create the situation in which we are at the moment. We want to acknowledge and say to them, "Of course we realise and appreciate that you lost 20 million people in the last World War. Together with our losses, isn't that reason enough for us to get together like civilised human beings, even at this late stage of 1984 and in the last half of this decade, to try to build a safer world?" Therefore we have to ask both the USA and the USSR to re-establish contact. They are the only two powers that really count. They have committed their offences—the Russians in Afghanistan and the Americans in Grenada. The behaviour of the Americans in South America is deplorable, as the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, has said. One wonders whether this American election really counts. Is the president going to rule or are the CIA? These matters are very worrying.
Let me immediately say this in due credit to the Americans. I have just been there. I have seen on their television sets all these things that we complain of. I have seen television programmes criticising the CIA and showing pictures of what they are doing in South America. I have heard the commentators saying that this is being done in the name of America. So let us give the United States great credit that they are still a great democracy. Let them be complimented on that.
The terrible complement of nuclear arsenals on both sides simply means that we can destroy all humanity about 100 times over. I must ask the Government this tonight. Are they still of the opinion that in order to preserve our country we shall wipe out millions of Russians if they invade, and that we shall 96 wipe out millions of French, Germans and Dutch by using atomic weapons on the Russian armies? This is a very serious question that we have to have the courage to face up to. Frankly, it appears that this world has now reached the apotheosis of insanity. East and West are glaring at one another with mutual madness. I have tried to examine my soul deeply on this matter. I have considered the threat to my country—the threat to freedom—and I know all the arguments, that it is better to be red than dead, and so on and so forth. But the brutal truth is that we now have the capacity to wipe out all humanity a number of times over. Therefore we must really search for some formula to prevent that happening.
At the moment we in the West and they in the East are keeping a couple of Bengal man-eating tigers in place of a few watch dogs. That is the insanity that we have reached. If only we could find an answer to the problem that I have raised time and time again in this House: how can we really get a complete first-class system of verification? If I may say so, speaking parenthetically, I hope that the Government will give this some more thought. We all know that verification is vital but we have as yet had no propositions as to how it could be achieved, and we have not talked about it to the Russians. For example, will it mean that we will have technicians, military experts, technologists, and scientists from Russia in our country and in America on all the bases? Does it mean that we will have our people there seeing that any future agreements are carried out?
I hope that there is one little piece of idealism which this nation is good at introducing. I conclude with this idea. I should like the United Kingdom to declare a decade of friendship with all peoples so that we get people to talk and have Russians by their hundreds coming here, as the Americans already do. We should also visit their countries. Our youth should go to their countries. As well as visits by the Bolshoi Ballet and football teams, I should like to see such activities on a much more elaborate scale all around the world. I believe that if we can do this successfully we shall have made a great contribution to help mankind to ensure the support of civilised idealism. Unless we hang on to civilised idealism and get others to appreciate it, there will not be much hope in the world. But if there is one nation in the world that I believe can give a lead in that particular dimension then I think that it is the United Kingdom.
§ 7.59 p.m.
The Marquess of Ailsa
My Lords, I feel that recent events in Ethiopia have served to concentrate our minds on the many problems of the Horn of Africa. I must at the outset congratulate Her Majesty's Government on the manner in which they have responded to Ethiopia's call for aid to deal with the tremendous probems it faced in dealing with the severe shortage of food in its Northern provinces. I equally know that the Ethiopeans and the Ethiopian Government are deeply appreciative of all that has been done, not only by Her Majesty's Government but by the people of this country, in order to assist them in this hour of need.
I am though, slightly mystified about one or two things. I first heard about the problems of Wollo and 97 Tigre 18 months ago. I heard again about them in April of this year. During all the inquiries that I made 18 months ago and in April I was warned that the rains had failed, that there was a shortage of food and that there was a transport problem.
When I went to Ethiopia in June of this year I did not go to those provinces, I went to provinces in the south. Strangely enough, wherever I went, I saw a great deal of food. I was taken to endless markets. There was a lot of food to be sold and there was plenty more in the stores. There was so much to be seen that I had to ask my host where the problem was. I was then told that there was a problem in the provinces of Tigre and Wollo. I mention this because I have an awful feeling that someone has been orchestrating something here. From such inquiries as I have been able to make, it has been the media. As the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, has said, it has been going on for a long time. It has. But, somehow, it has been brought to our attention within the last fortnight. All that I would say is that I just wonder if those who did it knew what they were doing. The problem brought about by the drought and food shortage is not only an Ethiopian one; it affects directly many countries in Africa. Sudan, Somalia and Djibouti, which border and neighbour Ethiopia, are equally affected. Yet nothing is ever heard about them.
The other day my parish minister asked me whether it was true that a television camera team could go to any of those countries in Africa and find similar scenes. I have to answer, Yes. There is nothing more that I can say. The problems of the drought and the food shortage are severe and terrible. I just hope, however, that not too much aid has been pre-empted by Ethiopia. During my recent stay in Ethiopia I had the privilege and honour of meeting the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the provisional military government of socialist Ethiopia, Colonel Goshu Wolde. I think that I am the first member of your Lordships' House to have done so.
We had a long and interesting discussion. Colonel Wolde stressed that Ethiopia felt that it was under pressure from the various states in the Red Sea area. He also stated that the relations between his country and Kenya were very good, despite the total difference of political outlook. He also informed me that Ethiopia was very anxious to reach a settlement of the border dispute with Somalia. Ethiopia was very worried by the aid apparently given by the Sudanese Government to the Eritrean rebels.
In particular, the Minister expressed his belief that we in Britain, the British Govenment and ourselves, were prejudiced against the Ethiopian Government and that we were too ready to listen to those who opposed it. He also stressed that Ethiopia's choice of Marxism was a choice made by that country and that there was no Russian influence behind the choice. But he indicated that continued remarks and comments made by ourselves that there was a Soviet influence was more than likely to drive Ethiopia into Soviet arms.
The other aspect that came out of the meeting, which was at all times very cordial, was the tremendous dislike and distrust of the United States. I would say that this almost amounted to paranoia. I delved into this as best I could. It arises apparently 98 from the fact that during what the Ethiopians term the easterly invasion of the Ogaden by the Somalis in 1977–78, they called upon the Americans to supply the weapons which had been ordered and paid for. Under the guidance of President Carter, these weapons were denied. They turned then to the Soviet Union which was only too willing to give massive aid.
I should like to say a few words about my general tour in Ethiopia. I have now been twice, in October last year and June this year. Wherever I have gone, I have been allowed to go freely. I have always been allowed to speak to whomever I wished. Initially, I found a certain shyness, but as people got used to me—Lords are rather uncommon in that country—they were prepared to talk about any subject I raised, and I carried with me what could amount to seditious literature. They were prepared to read it, talk about it and discuss it very openly. I was up in Eritrea. I visited Asmara. I went down the long Italian road to Massawa. While there was much military in evidence, it was certainly not aggressive nor offensive. I asked in Massawa about a curfew. I was told that it was the most peaceful place there was in Eritrea. On being taken by my host for an evening out in Asmara, I asked him the same question. He replied "Most sensible people in this town are in bed by 11 o'clock, but if anyone is foolish enough to want to go out later he is perfectly free to do so".
I should like to turn briefly to Ethiopia's neighbours, Somalia and Sudan. Both these countries, as I have mentioned, are affected by the drought and the general food shortage. They are also badly affected by the vast numbers of refugees coming out of Ethiopia. I have a figure for Somalia of something around 750,000. I gather that recently about 50,000 have crossed into Somalia. There are over half a million refugees in Sudan already. More are on their way. This is why I referred earlier to the pre-empting of relief supplies. There are other people who are suffering.
Somalia is most anxious, or equally anxious, to have its border dispute with Ethiopia settled. Despite remarks that have been made by Colonel Goshu Wolde, there are still Ethiopian troops on Somali territory and Ethiopian planes still strafe and bomb Somali towns. Somalia itself is anxious for trade with this country. There have been recent changes in legislation to encourage capital to be invested in that country and to enable those who wish to take it out to be able to do so.
In the Sudan a state of emergency was declared in April this year. It was brought about by a number of things—the bombing of Omdurman by a Libyan plane, a certain amount of unrest that came with the introduction of decentralisation in the southern region and the lack, or bad implementation, of the Sharia, Islamic law. Fortunately, at the end of September that emergency terminated. But both Somalia and Sudan are very anxious about the role played by the media, and in particular by the BBC. They feel that it gives a great deal of time to those who are against the accredited governments of those countries and is not willing to listen to, or to give credit for, what the government itself has to say.
Certainly at the time when Sudan was introducing the Sharia the media did nothing to help; in fact, it did a great deal to harm not only Sudan's image externally 99 but Sudan's image internally. Great care must be taken by those who deal with the media as to how it reports the news and the details it gets. I must once again commend the cry for help to Ethiopia, but I would also remind your Lordships that there are other countries which need and will need that aid.
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Lord Lindsay of Birker
My Lords, I want to make a rather fundamental criticism of both defence and foreign policy. I know I am not alone in feeling that there is far too much emphasis on maintaining a balance of military power against the Soviet Union. In the short run, a balance of military power may be the only way to preserve peace. In the long run, it becomes increasingly dangerous. The Western powers build up military strength to defend themselves against the risk of a Soviet attack. The Soviet leaders see this build-up as something to which they have to respond. The result is an arms race with increasing danger of war.
Many people feel that the world is heading towards a completely disastrous war and cannot see any rational policy to get away from this drift. When there seems to be no way out, no rational way of escape from an intolerable situation, people tend to become irrational. A feeling of hopelessness about the future of the world may partly explain the increasing use of drugs, the rising membership of cults and increasing political extremism. I want to suggest that there is a possible strategy that offers a reasonable hope of preventing a major war.
Lenin once wrote:Words are more dangerous than bullets".But a competition in words is less likely to lead to war than a competition in armaments. The Western powers have been strangely reluctant to engage in competition in words, and a good deal of what has been said, especially from the US, has actually been counter-productive. One can make a very strong case for the need to keep a balance of military power against the Soviet Union until there has been a change in Soviet thinking. It follows that the key to peace is to produce a change in Soviet thinking. I think that that is not an impossible task.
Many years ago, I argued that the great slogan for the West was:Any Communist who starts to think is a potential ally".China has shown that Communist thinking can change. I can speak about this from first-hand knowledge, because I served in the Chinese Communist Army during the war against Japan and I have some very good friends in the Chinese Communist Party. What impressed me in the early 1940s was how much more reasonable most Chinese Communists were than Communists I had known in England. The doctrinaires seemed to be a minority.
Then, from 1949 on, there was a long period for most of which the Communists were extreme doctrinaires. After the British Labour Party delegation had visited China in 1954, Mr. Attlee, in a press conference in Hong Kong, said that what really alarmed him about the Chinese Communist leadership was the extent of their delusions about the outside world. They became more hostile to the West 100 and more secretive than the Soviet Communists. When Krushchev talked about the possibilities of détente, Chinese publicity denounced him as a revisionist and said that negotiations with the imperialists could serve no useful purpose except to show up the bad faith of their claim to want peace.
Now, of course, the Chinese Communists are still Marxist-Leninists and still profess an admiration for Stalin, but there are reasonable and fruitful negotiations, as over Hong Kong. Western contacts with China are more extensive and more friendly than with the Soviet Union. The Chinese Communists criticise Soviet imperialism. Some parts of orthodox Marxist-Leninist economics have been revised and the result is a rapid rise in the standard of living. Deng Xiaoping has revived the slogan of the early 1940s,Seek truth from hard facts".and says that practice is the test of all theories.
I believe that a very stupid American policy was largely responsible for the Communist shift to a doctrinaire line; that a sensible American policy could have forced the Communists to a clear-cut choice between Chinese patriotism and loyalty to international Communism led by Stalin. One can also explain the new shift towards rationality. The massing of Soviet armies on the Chinese frontier was a very strong motive for improving relations with the West. The complete failures of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution were a strong motive for new thinking about the parts of Marxist-Leninist doctrine on which they had been based.
If the Soviet Communists became as reasonable as the Chinese Communists are now, the risk of a general war would decline very rapidly. Unfortunately, the chances of spontaneous change seem small. There is a tradition of rationality in Chinese culture which may not exist in Russian culture. What is more important, the Soviet Communists have no motive to change their thinking when they can feel that they are winning, not only the competition in armaments but also the competition in words. They would have a motive for new thinking only if they were obviously losing in competition.
Some leading figures in the West have argued that an increase in Western military strength will induce the Soviet Union to negotiate. This view leads to a very dangerous policy. Potentially, the West has the industrial capacity to beat the Soviet Union in preparations for war, but it would require a diversion of the economy into armament production on the same sort of scale as in the Soviet Union. The resulting arms race would greatly increase the risk of war and the Soviet Union would have a strong motive to start a war while it still had some military superiority. Finally, it would destroy the possibilities for a competition in words which I believe the West could easily win at negligible cost and with negligible danger compared to a competition in armaments.
Large sections of the public in the West have been led to believe that the Western powers, and especially the United States, are at least as much to blame as the Soviet Union for the present international tension. The result has been the rise of movements trying to stop or slow down Western rearmament. In so far as 101 these movements succeed, they shift the balance of military power in favour of the Soviet Union.
The Soviet publicity apparatus has tried to promote this view of the world. It has had a good deal of success because it has been able to operate with very little competition and has actually been helped by reckless or exaggerated Western publicity. One thing that is needed is wide publicity for the distinction between genuine peace movements and propaganda fronts. The test is very simple. Does the organisation judge both sides by the same standards?
What is needed even more is a clear and repeated statement of the evidence that has led many well-meaning, well-informed and thoughtful people to believe that the Soviet Union is an imperialist power with a long record of expansion by the use or threat of military force when the risks involved are not very great. This implies that it is necessary to maintain a balance of military power until there has been a change in the Soviet Union.
When there seemed to be a measure of détente in 1956, I tried an experiment. I wrote a statement in which I argued that the real danger to peace came from mutual suspicion between the Communist and the non-Communist powers that each side had aggressive intentions. To help clear up these suspicions, I suggested that I should write a statement of the non-Communist case for suspicion of the Communist powers. A Communist would comment on this and produce a statement of the Communist case for suspicion of the non-Communist powers, on which I would comment. If genuine reasons for suspicion remained, the next stage would be to discuss the actions needed to remove them.
I sent my proposal to Chiao Guanhua, who I knew, and got a reply saying that it seemed a valuable proposal and that someone in China would be glad to co-operate. I started to send off sections of my statement covering various topics, each containing questions that the Communists would have to answer to remove reasons for suspicion. The reaction was a refusal to engage in the project. I thought that the explanation might be an unwillingness to criticise the Soviet Union, which was then an ally of China. I then sent my proposal to the Soviet Academy of Sciences and received the same reaction—an initial favourable reception and then a refusal to discuss. I described this project in a book entitled Is Peaceful Co-existence Possible?, published in 1960 by Michigan State University Press, and in it I pointed out that it was easy to refuse discussion with one individual in academic life, but it would be very much harder to refuse discussion if non-Communist governments raised the same type of questions.
Let me give a simple example. Let us take the issue of imperialism. In the 19th and early 20th centuries both the Western powers and Russia were clearly imperialist. In 1917 Lenin described Russia as an imperialist power in Finland, Courland (that is, the Baltic states), Poland, Bokhara and Khiva (Central Asia), and all other areas inhabited by non-Great Russians. Since 1945 the Western powers have given independence to all the subject peoples of their former empires, with very few exceptions. The Soviet Union, on the other hand, has retained all the Tsarist empire except for Finland and Poland and has acquired some 102 other territories which never belonged to Tsarist Russia. If the Western powers pressed hard and repeatedly for public discussion of such questions, Soviet Communists would have to make changes in their thinking to give answers that would not appear ridiculous. And ridicule is what is most disturbing to a real doctrinaire.
People who have had long conversations with members of the Soviet foreign policy bureaucracy report that the latter really believe that Soviet actions since 1945 have invariably been purely defensive and reactive. This could be shown to be obvious nonsense. Take, for example, German rearmament. That actually started first in the Soviet zone of occupation, which had an army of about 100,000 with tanks and artillery before the Western powers had even decided in principle to allow the formation of a West German army.
It is often said that the Soviet régime is not suffering from persecution mania, but is merely reacting to the Russian experience of numerous invasions. That is a bad argument. France suffered German invasions in 1870, 1914 and 1940 and an allied occupation in 1815; and she fought the Hundred Years War against British invasion while the Russians were suffering from the Mongol conquest. But the French feel no need to prepare for the risk of a new German or English attack. George Kennan described actual developments very well when he wrote:It is the undeniable privilege of every man to proclaim truthfully that the world is his enemy, because if he really believes this and takes it as the basis of his conduct, he makes it true".In 1944 there was very wide sympathy for the Soviet Union in both the United Kingdom and the United States, but Stalin's developing paranoia changed that sympathy to hostility. I was glad that one of your Lordships said very much the same thing; we are in agreement.
To understand Soviet thinking one needs to understand Marxism-Leninism—both its power of attraction and its defects. It is attractive because it offers a unified view of the world and a mission in life. In those respects it is far superior to the positivist philosophy accepted by many Western intellectuals which teaches that truth is a matter of opinion and offers no valid purpose for life. The most serious defect of the version accepted by most Communists is the claim that Marxism-Leninism is a science and that science gives certain and final knowledge—not merely what it is reasonable to believe on the available evidence. If someone really believes that he knows with absolute certainty what is best for human society, he is only logical in trying to impose his views on everyone else and in repressing any criticism.
In fact, the real world is different from the world as it ought to be according to Marxist-Leninist doctrines, so Communists live under continual psychological tension. They develop mental blocks against facing the evidence or asking the questions that would disturb their faith, but, if those blocks crumble, they tend to become reasonable people.
Some of the most effective arguments against Soviet Communists could be based on the sensible parts of Marxism-Leninism. Both Marx and Lenin argued that an apparatus of repression and control was needed to maintain the dominance of the ruling class. An 103 obvious corollary is that the size and power of the apparatus of repression and control are measures of the conflict between rulers and ruled. It follows that the monstrous size and power of the KGB reveals that the conflict between rulers and ruled is greater in the Soviet Union than in the Western democracies.
Again, there are passages in Marx that recognise the existence of societies in which an oppressive ruling and exploiting group owe their privileged status not to ownereship of the means of production, but to control of the apparatus of the state. This obviously fits the Soviet system, which also justifies Lenin's warnings that a Russian revolution might degenerate into oriental despotism.
Such a strategy in the use of words would not produce an immediate change in Soviet behaviour but, over a few years, it could stimulate new thinking among members of the CPSU. If members of the CPSU started to think rationally they would naturally conclude that the Soviet Union would have much greater security if its foreign policy became less paranoid. They might even change as much as the Chinese Communists.
Competition in words would not prevent the Western powers from saying to the Soviet Union: "However much we dislike each other, we have one clear common interest; namely, to conduct our competition in a way that does not lead to a war that would be disastrous for both of us". The chief obstacle to all this is the attachment of officials to conventional behaviour. My Lords, I have spoken long enough: I could expand on that point, but I believe that I may as well finish my remarks here.
§ 8.27 p.m.
My Lords, I listened with fascination to the speech which we have just been privileged to hear, and I particularly welcomed the words which the noble Lord, Lord Lindsay, spoke about China. I have often been quite astonished in your Lordships' House, and, indeed, elsewhere, that we can talk about defence, international affairs, the Middle East, Latin America and East-West relations, but there is never a mention of China, never a mention of a quarter of the world's population. Therefore, I warmly welcome what the noble Lord has said about the significance of changes that are going on in China. In recent years I have made two visits to China, and I have some understanding of what those changes mean: and I have in your Lordships' House on an earlier occasion explained why I believe that China is a most important factor in the world community.
However, having already made a speech in an earlier debate on that topic, I want instead this evening to talk about the problem of world hunger. In this debate a number of noble Lords have already spoken on that theme, and I should like to do so as well. I believe that the problems of peace and war, of armaments and disarmament, and of East-West relations will not be solved unless the world economic problems are solved. That is the basis.
About 10 years ago I attended in Rome the World Food Conference. I remember that Dr. Henry 104 Kissinger came to that conference and made a dramatic speech. He recalled that President Kennedy had set the American people the target to reach the moon in 10 years, and that they had succeeded in that objective. Kissinger then went on to say:Should we not now have another target for the next 10 years? Let us ensure that in 10 years' time no child in the world need go hungry to bed".That decade of Kissinger's dream has now come to an end, and, far from achieving his objective, the TV cameras have shown not just hungry children but children dying without having beds on which to die, and doing so on a massive scale.
The truth is that we in countries which are rich have criminally failed the poor people of the world, and during these last few weeks, with the focus on Ethiopia, we have seen pathetic evidence of that failure. But that failure is geographically much wider than Ethiopia. Much of sub-Saharan Africa and Bangladesh in Asia are on the verge of tragedies as stark as that which we are witnessing in Ethiopia now.
I want to ask this question: if we have failed the poor of the world, who is it who has failed? Failure certainly cannot be laid at the door of the voluntary aid agencies. In recent weeks we have seen the dedicated work of organisations like the Save the Children Fund, the Red Cross, Oxfam and War on Want. We all know their work. They were there before the TV cameras came. They had been struggling throughout the years with all too few resources with which to do their job. Moreover, they had been warning governments of the impending disaster. No, we cannot blame the voluntary agencies.
Can we blame the ordinary people of this and other countries? Yes and no. When the evidence is brought before the man and woman in the street, as we have seen, generous response is immediate and impressive. Spontaneous efforts of all kinds by individuals, by churches, by farmers and by newspapers suddenly hit the headlines and much gets done, even if, for thousands of starving and dying people, what gets done is too little and too late. However, the sad thing about this kind of public response is that it is temporary, emotional and all too liable to fade. Hunger in the world in its long-term aspects is unfortunately the continuing concern of only a small minority of the public. The majority respond spasmodically, though generously, but they all too easily forget and turn away in the long term.
Where, then, I ask, does the blame lie? I have no doubt that the blame lies with governments—with our own Government and with the governments of most other countries in the developed world. They have not lacked warning after warning from people of great authority. We can look back to the Pearson report of a number of years ago and we can think of the two Brandt reports, whose message has been so forcefully reiterated in this country time and time again by Mr. Edward Heath, to his very great credit. Then there have been Commonwealth conferences under the leadership of Mr. Sonny Ramphal; and summits, one after the other, at Melbourne, Ottawa and Cancun. Over these recent years they have all acknowledged that crises and mass starvation were threatening the third world, particularly in Africa. Even in your Lordships' House a few of us have tried to sound the 105 warnings in months and years past, notably the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, in his remarkable speech a year or so ago.
Faced with these warnings, how and why have governments failed, and, in particular, how and why have our own Government failed? First, perhaps I may take an example from the very organisation which was set up as a result of the World Food Conference, to which I referred earlier. That conference decided to set up the International Fund for Agricultural Development—IFAD. Its structure, its purposes and its projects are, in my view, ideally suited to meet the needs of the poverty stricken countries now most in need. But what do we read in the president of IFAD's foreword to the recently issued annual report of that organisation? He says:In spite of the urgency of the problems of poverty and hunger, the flow of resources to agriculture and rural development in developing countries appears to be declining. IFAD, like other multilateral financing institutions, encountered a difficult resource situation. For the second year running the level of new commitments in 1983 was lower than in the previous year.Moreover, I read recently in connection with this organisation that negotiations about the replenishment of its resources had failed, and I am wondering what part our own Government played in that failure or in trying to resist that failure.
Among the projects that have been approved by IFAD, I read of one in Ethiopia. IFAD planned to co-operate with the International Development Agency in measures for agricultural development in that country. Yet the funds of both the IDA and of IFAD are now severely under threat because of the failure of Western countries, our own included, to replenish the resources of these two organisations. In the Ethiopian context I am wondering whether even that project is now under threat because of lack of funds.
The supreme irony surely is that, while the attention of the media is focused on short-term rescue operations in Ethiopia, Western governments are failing to support the very organisations which can ensure long-term agricultural development. In Britain, is it not also supremely ironical that at the very time we are at last bestirring ourselves as a nation to respond to Ethiopia's needs, we read that in the Star Chamber on Public Expenditure, over which the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, presides, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is seeking agreement to cut the aid programme still further? I should mention that I was also glad to read that, to his credit, Mr. Timothy Raison, the Minister for Overseas Development, was putting up a fight for his department. We shall be watching the outcome of that disputation with particular anxiety.
However, even if Mr. Raison succeeds in his endeavours, as I very much hope he will, I want to point to two criticisms that have often been made of this Government's policy concerning overseas aid and development. When they took office they lost no time in saying that they would administer the aid programme according to the commercial and political benefits to this country. And so we have had projects such as steelworks in Mexico and India, rather than projects for producing food in Africa. We have been ungenerous in our aid to Ethiopia because it has a 106 government which we do not like. Surely the lesson of the last few weeks is that our objective should not be our own commercial and political benefits: our objective should be to save the lives of those who are starving, irrespective of the political colour of those who rule over them.
Even yesterday, in the gracious Speech, we saw evidence of the wrong-headed approach of the Government to these matters. The emphasis in the gracious Speech was on the opportunities for private investment in developing countries. There is nothing wrong with that investment properly directed, but it is a question of getting the balance and the emphasis right. I quote again from the President of IFAD when he wrote:this Fund is looking at the developing world not merely as an area for investment possibilities, but as a partner in development".That represents the policy of my party, the Labour Party. Those are the criteria upon which we believe an aid programme should be administered. It should be the development needs of the developing countries which are the criteria upon which decisions should be made.
From all this I draw three main conclusions. The first is that the British public will respond to the needs of the third world. It is not an electoral vote winner, but they will respond and support governments who are generous in aid and development; but the public need constant reminders. They need constant information about the situation in the third world; they need constant development education; and I believe it to be the Government's responsibility to ensure that they get those things.
Secondly, to a much larger extent than at present aid must be directed to agricultural and rural development, both bilaterally and, as I have suggested, through the appropriate multilateral agencies. Thirdly—a theme on which I have spoken many times in your Lordships' House—we cannot meet the needs of drought-ridden Africa and of the other poverty-ridden nations of the world unless, as the World Bank insists, we provide much greater resources to rescue the continent of Africa and the other countries. This means—and let us face it—that Britain needs a much larger aid programme. We should at least aim to fulfil the target of 0.7 per cent. of GNP, as other countries do; and we should not run away with the excuse that is so often given—"Yes, we accept that in principle, but we have no timetable". We must have a timetable. The situation is urgent, and the response should be urgent, too.
§ 8.44 p.m.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, first one must obviously congratulate two excellent maiden speakers. Their speeches were a pleasure to listen to. Great thought and intelligence have gone into their construction. What a magic place your Lordships' House is. If I had been looking for a place to find somebody who had fought for the Chinese Communists in 1949, certainly I would have come straight to your Lordships' House—and lo and behold, there he is!
The noble Lord, Lord Oram, blames the successful countries for the failure of the unsuccessful countries.
107 We have succeeded, and they have failed; and it is not our fault that they have failed.The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,But in ourselves, that we are underlings".I would suggest to your Lordships that an over-nannying approach to the third world is colonialism in reverse, which enriches the corrupt régimes which organise and keep their own subjects in poverty.
Last week I was privileged—and I use that word totally advisedly—to visit the Falkland Islands, which is why I do not hesitate to address your Lordships' House today. That visit was an inspiration. But of course as not everything is perfect, as it is always easier to criticise, and as there are factors of Falklands life which merit criticism and aspects of government which deserve censure, I shall start with that which deserves praise and congratulation because by far the greater proportion of our effort there deserves and earns applause and approbation.
Armed forces morale is high, their readiness state is all that could be asked of them, and they give an air of well-trained cleanliness and toughness. The Falkland Islanders are completely and utterly English in a moving way and in a very gentle way. Their development is complicated by the fact that the previous economic government of the islands has been paternalistic in its attitudes and all-embracing in its influence, which has been a very formative one on their lives. However, in spite of this paternalistic background the Falklanders have seen that change is inevitable, and realise that their lives, regrettable though it may be, have been changed by recent events more drastically than could have been realised possible a few short years ago. They accept, and ask for, careful development allied to qualified immigration.
What are these development potentials? Fisheries, obviously. Otherwise there would not be 70 foreign trawlers trawling in the Falkland waters. Incidentally, with unemployment in the fishing ports in the North-East of England, can anybody explain to me why it is only now that one Grimsby trawler is on its way? It would seem quite essential that the 200-mile fishery limit is imposed, and the arguments of lack of ability to protect, which both the New Zealanders around New Zealand and the French around Kerguelen ignore, are not valid. Furthermore, it is sensible to start issuing oil prospecting licences. Incidentally, the sheep farmers there do not get the same sort of subsidy, the same sort of support, as either the Welsh or Scots hill farmers in this country.
Oil and fish development are not only in the interests of the Falkland Islanders and of the British Government but also, in an obscure way, in those of the Argentinians also. Presumably, in the unlikely circumstances—perhaps I had better say circumstances which are inconceivable at the present time—of cession of the Falkland Islands to Argentina, she would rather annexe a country whose fisheries are properly protected and for whose oil sensible provisions are being made.
Before I went there I had heard ideas of tourism, and quite frankly I raised my eyebrows and found the idea of turning Port Stanley into Benidorm mildly absurd.
108 It was only when I had seen the quite outstanding quality of the wildlife that I realised that there is certainly a market for animal and bird viewing and photography which is genuinely comparable with East Africa's. Of course, sensitive and intelligent development are necessary as well as intelligent and clever selling of a specialised product to a careful market and to avoid commercial destruction. It is not well known that sea trout and trout fishing are such that everybody in the garrison wants to do it; and that, for instance, a 221b sea trout was caught not long ago. Iceland and Norway compare, but it is interesting to note that the Norwegians have asked a rent of over £800 per fish a year caught. Admittedly that is for specimen fish, but it shows what the demand is nationally for quality fishing.
Now, criticisms. I start with a criticism of the present issue khaki trousers. I was made aware of this criticism by an officer who had been on the "Galahad" when it was bombed. These particular trousers are issued to the troops, and as they burn they attach to the skin, thus making the wounds more serious. Perhaps my noble friend could look into this.
Incidentally, why is it down there that they buy South African vegetables which go from Cape Town to Covent Garden via the Ministry of Defence and back down to the Falkland Islands again? There is a ship which goes quite happily direct to the Falkland Islands from Cape Town. Not only would this ensure that they would get better fresh vegetables but it would also ensure that the quality is higher. I am certainly not in any way a defender of the South African regime. I think it is rather nasty and squalid, but they produce rather nice lettuces, cabbages and tomatoes which I am sure the soldiers on the Falkland Islands would very happily eat.
The next criticism is the possibility that the Treasury is trying to lay its hands on the £200,000 that it costs for the soldiery to send free letters home and back. This is a very minor cost, but it is perhaps impossible for those sitting in the comfort of the metropolis to realise the very serious effect on morale which would occur if this privilege were withdrawn. It is not easy to walk to the post office in Stanley on account of the state of the road, to which I shall come later. It is impossible to walk to the post office in Stanley when you are sitting 800 feet up on the top of Mount Kent, living for four months in a tin box watching a radar set. I know that the general commanding feels that this is extremely important and not only does he feel strongly but all ranks to whom I spoke feel the same. For the Treasury to remove the "bluey", as it is called, would make Scrooge look like the Danae scattering of gold.
I now come to not a criticism but to what I regard, as does everyone else on the islands and in our delegation, as a scandal of Crimean proportions. The road between Port Stanley and the airport, all five kilometres of it, was repaired after the conflict at a cost I think of about £6 million. The man who wrote the specification for that road repair should never see his index-linked pension, but I presume he will, and I presume he will get a knighthood. Instead he should be made, like Sisyphus, to push heavily-loaded trucks of rock up and down that road all by himself, mending the springs and the punctures as they occur, which 109 they inevitably will do, and he should do that for all eternity!
It appears that the Overseas Development Authority and the Ministry of Defence are arguing about who should pay for the repair of this road. I would suggest to them that it is not the Overseas Development Authority, or the Ministry of Defence, who pays; it is the taxpayer. He will have to pay the cost of incompetence and every hour that a decision to repair properly is postponed the cost increases, not only in regard to the repair of the road itself, but also in regard to the damage to vehicles and the damage to soldiers' backs. Numbers of them are now reporting sick because of back injuries caused by jolting upon that road.
When the road was completed it was possible to drive on average at about 40 mph from Stanley to the airport. It now takes good half hour which is expensive in time, money, vehicles, spare parts and frayed tempers, let alone operational efficiency. I can beg no more strongly that a decision is made to repair the road as soon as possible and, above all, to be careful that exactly the same situation does not arise on the new road from Stanley to the new airport complex at Mount Pleasant. When we went to Mount Pleasant all of us were extremely impressed by the fact that the project is on time and within budget. This is a project costing into the hundreds of millions of pounds, so that is possibly why one gets even crosser about a road to the tune of £6 million.
The same air of high morale was present; hard work was obvious both among the workforce and contractors. The only cloud that appeared was when we asked the Property Service Agency gentleman in charge about the road from Stanley to Mount Pleasant. He shuffled his feet, looked at them, and said, "You get what you pay for". If the same thing arises on that road that has arisen on the Stanley Road, and we expect the taxpaying population of about 1,800 people gross, with a relatively poor standard of living, to pay for the repair and maintenance of a fairly long road—if we get it wrong—it will be incompetence on the part of the Government and unfair to the islanders. Having made these few criticisms, I must reiterate that, apart from them, what I saw was an inspiration, and what I did I shall remember for a long time.
I think it worth, in conclusion, to add that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister seems to be everybody's hero down there. This surprisingly does not apply to Mr. Tam Dalyell. There is no doubt in the military mind that the sinking of the "Belgrano" saved casualties on a grand scale and made what was a risky adventure marginally less hazardous. When one sees the battlefields of Longdon and Goose Green at close quarters it is impossible to understand how the Argentinians failed to hold their positions, and unbelievable to contemplate the skill and courage which enabled victories of such sublime quality to be won against such unreasonable odds. Unlike the Argentinian admirals, the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, seems incapable of understanding this. This may be unfortunate for us, but it is much sadder for him.
The importance of anything that reduced those odds by keeping the Argentinian Navy bottled up in port, and keeping their carrier-borne aircraft firmly based 110 on land, far outweighs any argument about minor changes of course of a fast, well-equipped warship, or whether my right honourable friend should have released information earlier or later than she did. Those are parish council arguments and, compared with reducing the risks to a very large proportion of the Royal Navy and the pride of British infantry, of which we know that Marshal Foy said:They are the finest in the world; thank God there are so few of them";they pale into insignificance.
We are not suggesting to Argentina that she give up her claim to the Falklands. All we are asking is that she does not press it by force. We are, furthermore, asking her to recognise the rights of the Falkland Islanders to choose. That is the linchpin of the Anglo-Argentine dispute. We are not asking them to go as far as Germany in giving up her claim to Alsace-Lorraine, and after all the German claim to Alsace-Lorraine was quite a good one. We are not asking her to go as far as France in giving up her claim to the Saar. We are not even asking her to go as far as the kings of England in giving up their claim to Aquitaine: all we are asking her to do is to allow the Falkland Islanders the democracy that she now claims for herself.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, almost every gracious Speech I have heard or have read has, like the present one, announced the Government's intention to seek and to preserve peace, to contribute to arms control and to disarmament negotiations. Yet over the years arms have got more and more out of control. Governments have announced their intention to stop nuclear proliferation, and yet nuclear weapons have proliferated. While there had been talk of disarmament, in practice there has been rearmament and more armament: more accurate, more deadly.
The Government announce their intention to play a constructive role at the United Nations. Yet they have played a remarkably destructive one, voting against almost every disarmament proposal, as my noble friend Lord Brockway has pointed out. The only thing the Government do not promise to do in this White Paper is to provide a civil defence against nuclear war. They used to do that, but the notion has now become too ridiculous for them even to promise it, let alone to pretend to provide it. All there is is the waste of a few millions of pounds of public money in dressing up an illusion which even those who take part in it do not believe in any more.
Way back in 1957 one of America's most distinguished military men, General of the Army Omar Bradley, one of the few five-star Generals, said this:For twelve years now we've sought to stave off this ultimate threat of disaster by devising arms which would be both ultimate and disastrous.This irony can probably be compounded a few more years, or perhaps even a few decades. Missiles will bring anti-missiles, and anti-missiles will bring anti-anti-missiles. But inevitably, this whole electronic house of cards will reach a point where it can be constructed no higher.At that point we shall have come to the peak of this whole incredible dilemma into which the world is shoving itself. And when that time comes there will be little we can do other than to settle down uneasily, smother our fears and attempt to live in a thickening shadow of death".111 That is how General Bradley saw it, and other distinguished military men, as your Lordships will be aware, have delivered themselves in a similar sense. The situation General Bradley foresaw has in fact come to pass. We now live in that "thickening shadow of death", and we only live, as he said, by "smothering our fears"—at what psychological cost, especially to young people, God only knows.
The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, in his speech, tossed out a phrase in passing.If the world lasts another 20 years",he said. This is the situation we are in. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, and I have argued over the years about nuclear disarmament, unilateral and multilateral. He has been cross with me at times, but now we are together in thinking it possible that our civilisation—perhaps mankind itself—may not survive to see the year 2000.
In the light of that (and the conviction is spreading) the Government must change course. President Reagan must change course. It is no use continuing to talk peace while preparing for ultimate war. It is no use America doing that; it is no use the Soviet Union doing that; and it is no use us doing it. It is necessary to recover the international laws of war which protect the civilian population from mass murder. Those laws still exist in theory, but they have been lost in practice. Perhaps in a very small way that is what the fuss about the "Belgrano" is about: was it or was it not legitimate?
I may perhaps have mentioned this before, but on 5th December 1940 the Clarendon Press in Oxford issued No. 42 in its series of Oxford pamphlets on world affairs. The booklet was entitled What Acts of War are Justifiable?, and it was written by A. L. Goodhart, who was at that time Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Oxford. What Acts of War are Justifiable? was provided by the Bureau of Current Affairs to officers in the three services and I received my copy (I have it here) when I was commissioned in the Royal Air Force in 1941.
A powerful and informative tract, it carried great weight, and at the beginning of the last war British forces were informed by the civilised ideas it enunciated. Under the influence of these ideas, pilots dropped their bombs into the sea rather than risk killing civilians, if they could not find the exact military targets. Aircrews lost their own lives rather than risk killing defenceless old people, women and children. People died rather than be guilty of breaking what Professor Goodhart called, "the greatest triumph of international law"—the separation of civilians from combatants.
How different, my Lords, is the duty of an RAF officer today! In his pamphlet, Professor Goodhart condemned the Nazis for their devastation of Rotterdam and their aerial bombardments of Coventry and London, which were already taking place as he wrote. Nevertheless, he said (and I quote):this need not make us despair for the future. International law as recognised by the civilised nations will not cease to exist because one state has deliberately violated its provisions … It is to re-establish the laws of war in a world threatened by barbarism that this war is being fought.".Poor Goodhart! He could not have been more wrong. If that war was fought to re-establish the laws of war, 112 then it was fought in vain and every man-jack and woman-jill died in vain. Poor all of us! For Coventry was followed by Hamburg and Dresden, and we were breaking the rules of war even more barbarously than the Germans. In the end came Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which perhaps marked the beginning of the end of our civilisation.
Goodhart was right to say that when he wrote we had no cause to despair, but those who do not despair at what has happened since are deceiving themselves. The combination of the capacity to exterminate the human race and the removal of international inhibitions against doing so must be totally lethal in the end unless we stop it. The question therefore becomes not whether but when, and the answer depends, I think, upon whether there is a massive rebellion against all of us becoming the victims of the scientific ingenuity of a few, combined with the helpless resignation of the many. At present there are no signs of such a worldwide rebellion although, as the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, told us earlier, there may be the beginnings of it all over the world. I hope he is right, because I think this is the only way we can save ourselves. At present there is protest and concern, but all over the world those with the power to destroy us all—whether they be East, whether they be West—insist that they must retain that power, and they speak and act as though its exercise was a rational possibility.
Just as the Hague Conventions of 1907 and the League of Nations in 1938 declared civilians to be safe and sacrosanct under international law, so the London Agreement on War Criminals in 1945 reasserted the view. They declared that international law was superior to national law; that government leaders and subordinates were equally guilty when a war crime was committed; that superior orders were no defence; and that a war crime included (and I quote),the wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages".The wanton destruction of humanity, and possibly of our civilised world, was not mentioned as even when these rules were adopted by the United Nations International Law Commission in 1950 understanding of the full horror of the ultimate use of the nuclear weapon in its later forms was still in the future.
However, concern continued, and in 1977, at Geneva, an extensive new protocol was adopted which was said to "reaffirm and develop" the existing protections. Under this protocol, the methods of war were limited to those not causing widespread damage to the environment or causing unnecessary suffering. The "study, development, acquisition or adoption" of new weapons was prohibited if they were in breach of the protocol. Furthermore, not only were civilians protected from attack; they were not even to be threatened with it.
It was hardly noticed at the time that the United States, meekly followed by Britain, entered a reservation declaring that nuclear weapons were not, so far as they were concerned, covered by the protocol! Thus the measure was held by us not to contain within its scope the chief danger to the civilian populations it was supposed to be protecting. It is a melancholy tale and no Government of any complexion is free from 113 responsibility. None of us is free from responsibility. I would not exclude myself as being free from responsibility; or anybody else for that matter.
It seems to be proven beyond reasonable doubt that the deployment of any nuclear missile must be in breach of the principles of international law as enunciated by Goodhart, in spite of the Americo/British reservation on this particular protocol, for all previous conventions protected civilians without qualification and they remain in force. This is made quite clear in the protocol itself. So I do not think we have succeeded in opting ourselves out, even if we wanted to do so. It seems to me to be in the interests of us all that our position in this matter should be clarified and reasserted.
The present position in this country is that under the British Manual of Military Law members of our armed services are forbidden under pain of death to commit war crimes on the one hand, but are under orders to commit them on the other. The British manual upholds the laws of war which, as we have seen, among other things forbids the killing of civilians. The manual specifically says that such things are war crimes punishable by death and must not be committed even when ordered by a superior.
For example, the crew of a Polaris submarine must be constantly in danger of such violation. Coded targets and radioed firing orders imply blind and irresponsible obedience in violation of the Nuremberg principles. City targeting implies a conspiracy to commit war crimes against civilian populations. Yet it is the crew which is subject to regular psychiatric tests and not those whose avowed policy it is to give the order to fire! In the lecture notes on the "Law of Armed Conflict" at Sandhurst, it says that there has been a tendency to forget the rules of war in the concept of total war. They can say that again.
Concern about the incredible situation we are in has been expressed in the United States. The Rand Corporation and the Ford Foundation last year published a report saying:The concept of Mutually Assured Destruction appears to be directly opposed to the most fundamental principles found in the international law of armed conflict".Nevertheless, it continues and has been refined and made much more likely. The view may be taken that it is now perhaps too late to resurrect what Professor Goodhart called:The greatest triumph of international law".If it is, then the future of our species is likely to be nasty, brutish and short.
§ 9.12 p.m.
§ Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
My Lords, this has been a far-ranging debate and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, will forgive me if I do not follow him down the route of the complexities of the rules of war. I want to concentrate very briefly on four points in the gracious Speech which concern Latin America. First, perhaps I may say how much I welcome the announcement of the forthcoming visit by the President of Mexico. Mexico is a most important country in Latin America, strategically located on the southern United States border. During 114 the latter part of the last presidency, the economic situation was in some disarray, but President de la Madrid has inspired a spectacular recovery and come to grips with the problems of international debt. Mexico has a very long connection with the United Kingdom but, regrettably, a very low level of trade. I hope that the president's visit next June will focus attention on this great country and will stimulate both trade and investment.
The gracious Speech also has a line in it which encourages investment in developing countries. I therefore find it somewhat surprising that we have declined the opportunity to invest in the Inter-American Investment Corporation—a subsidiary of the Inter-American Bank which has been set up to promote joint venture equity operations in Latin America in the private sector—an important subject. The other non-regional members of the Inter-American Bank have joined. It therefore seems to me that the British failure to participate in this venture is inconsistent with the words and intentions of the gracious Speech.
Turning briefly to Central America, I should like to congratulate Her Majesty's Government upon sending observers to El Salvador. This was a most worthwhile exercise. They certainly produced a very interesting report. The problems of Central America are many and compex but many noble Lords will, I feel, be full of admiration for the courage and tenacity of President Duarte in his search for dialogue and understanding.
The situation in Nicaragua is slightly more complicated and I am not certain that the recent elections were wholly representative. But they do demonstrate an important move forward, and I am very glad to hear that several noble Lords have visited Nicaragua at this time. Perhaps more important, in the aftermath of the recent United States elections, must be the general hope that the United States will now take a more dispassionate and perhaps less phrenetic view of Caribbean problems.
Turning to the last and perhaps most important topic that I want to mention, this must be the Falkland Islands. The gracious Speech mentions this subject. My noble friend Lady Young referred to twin aims in the gracious Speech and suggested that they were compatible. I question this. It seems to me that United Kingdom policy is based on the status quo, which cannot be acceptable to Argentina and never will be. They will always maintain their claim and they will continue to press it, whatever may be the circumstances.
Nor is the status quo acceptable to the United Nations. At the recent General Assembly there was the same result as last year, but that can hardly be said to be a victory. Argentina on this occasion mounted a substantial lobby. President Alfonsin visited European countries. One might have expected things to be slightly different, but clearly we mounted a counter-lobby and overcame successfully what Argentina was attempting to do. But, I wonder, at what cost? I find it hard to believe that to achieve such diplomatic coups in the United Nations there will not be some price to pay in other diplomatic gestures to the EEC.
115 Also I find it hard to believe that this policy is really compatible with, to use the words of the gracious Speech, playing a constructive role at the United Nations. Surely we cannot turn the United Nations on and off when we wish. The sad fact is that, following the tragic breakdown of the discussions in Berne, a diplomatic impasse has been reached—and a political impasse also. Great patience will be required to get things going again. Great patience will be required on all sides.
I have had long experience of negotiating with Argentina. It has taught me that these negotiations, or any negotiations with Argentina, are seldom easy. It has been suggested in this debate that Argentina is somewhat intransigent, but so are we if we refuse, ever, to discuss sovereignty. Whatever happens, and however long it may take, in the end the solution will require compromise. So let us start at the beginning—with small steps, possibly taken one at a time, using the facilities of our superb and efficient Diplomatic Service.
In that context, I do hope that the noble Lord who is to reply will be able to assure us that the suggestions made last week in The Times about cuts in our overseas representation are unfounded. We are going to need more diplomacy in the future, not less, if these problems are to be solved. But, whatever may be the state of our official relations, I can assure your Lordships that private relations between the citizens of Argentina and Britain are on a good basis.
This year, we have had the visit of a group of parliamentarians. That was not only significant but useful. Likewise, we have seen the reincorporation of Argentina into the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and that must be further encouraged. It is this sort of activity at a private level and informally which will help us to move forward. Every little activity between essentially friendly peoples will help. We must never forget that Argentina—fragile democracy that it is—is firmly part of the Western economic system and therefore is our natural ally in many instances.
Perhaps I may make a passing reference to my noble friend Lord Onslow, who was worried about fresh vegetables and such like. I remind him that a source of supply not only of fresh vegetables but of every other fresh commodity and food is available from one of the most spectacular and successful agricultural countries in the Western world, very near at hand.
In summary, listening to this debate one must regrettably come to the conclusion that making war seems to be easier than making peace. As a direct descendant of a distinguished exponent of the art of war I am naturally glad that we have been successful in those endeavours and that national security remains as the principal plank of our foreign affairs policy. But in a small, remote and relatively unimportant part of the South Atlantic, we are not doing so well in the matter of making peace. The gracious Speech and some of the speeches which followed it—particularly from the Front Bench—give little cause for encouragement in this matter. I hope therefore that, like the famous car-hire firm, we shall soon start to try much harder.
§ 9.22 p.m.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, like the noble Baroness, Lady Young, who initiated this debate, and as I think she herself suggested, it is quite unsatisfactory to have a debate of a few hours on all the problems arising out of foreign affairs and defence. It is really inadmissible in principle, I would have thought, to do anything of the kind. How much better, I suggest, to follow the advice of my noble kinsman and have a debate on some kind of state of the union message concocted by the Foreign Secretary at some other time. Then we could at least concentrate on one subject in relation to certain principles which were laid down. That would be the sensible thing to do. I hope that the Government will consider that suggestion of my noble kinsman.
Apart from that, I quite agree with most of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos—and I agree wholeheartedly with the splendid speech made by my noble friend Lord Kennet. I thought that he was absent, perhaps engaged in some broadcasting activity, but I see that luckily he is here. In addition to agreeing wholeheartedly with his splendid speech, I shall join in the general congratulations on the two splendid maiden speeches we have heard—and in the congratulations to the Government for obtaining considerable success in their negotiations over Hong Kong.
In the 10 minutes or so at my disposal, I want to refer to two major issues; namely, the arms race and the Falklands. If I have time, I shall also say a few words about Europe. On arms, I fear that it seems likely after the election in the United States that the Americans—while no doubt trying their best to get some kind of summit going—will continue with their present policy of rapidly building up what they claim to be "parity" with the Russians, who for their part of course denounce such action on the part of the Americans as an effort to achieve "superiority". This, the Russians say, they are determined to prevent at all costs. The American effort—so I am assured and in saying so I am sure I am correct—involves the construction of at least a number of possibly mobile MX intercontinental missiles of immense power and accuracy; a whole new Super Trident fleet of nuclear submarines capable of bombarding the Soviet Union, largely undetected, from the sea; a large number of B1 super-bombers known as Stealth, which may well enable them to escape radar detection; many thousands of cruise missiles which could be employed on various platforms and would, I think, be very difficult to intercept; a number of formidable Pershing IIs which can reach the Soviet Union from West Germany within a few minutes; and no doubt, I am afraid, a beginning with the famous Star Wars anti-ballistic missile system which, if installed before the Soviet Union has anything equivalent, would in theory put that power at the absolute mercy of the United States and the sheer idiocy of which has been forcefully brought out by my noble friend Lord Kennet.
Given all this, quite a few people hold that Soviet apprehensions are, to some extent at least, comprehensible. It is quite true that the Russians, with whose form of Government no one here can have much sympathy and whose long-term ambitions are certainly most suspect, are continuing with the 117 production of SS.20s and with their own form of cruise. They are no doubt also rendering mobile, so I am assured—and thus immunising—many of their enormously powerful ICBMs. In addition, they have launched a huge Typhoon class of submarine whose powerful missiles could it seems easily reach North America if launched from the bottom of the Barents Sea, with more of these submarines still to come. I need hardly also say that both the Russians and the Americans are vying with each other in the construction of great aircraft carriers and the latest types of cruisers, destroyers, frigates and landing craft. Moreover, we now hear that the Americans intend to match the Russians in building up in Europe considerable stocks of nerve gases and other chemical weapons.
Most people, at any rate on this side of the Atlantic, find all these developments highly alarming; more particularly when they are accompanied by reports of United States military intentions to adopt the strategy of the so-called air-land battle whereby, as we understand it, local United States commanders would have authority to take nuclear and chemical action far inside enemy territory immediately after hostilities start. Are we to believe that after yesterday's American election the Russians will nevertheless duly return to the negotiating table, all then being well? Even if they do, one must indeed be an optimist to think that, apart possibly from some slight progress in Vienna as regards mutual balanced conventional force reductions, any agreement on arms limitation whether nuclear or conventional, is at all likely. One must be a considerable optimist to believe anything of that kind.
Probably, so far as nuclear weapons are concerned, a freeze on the production on these horrible engines of war, coupled with a mutual withdrawal of battlefield nuclear weapons, is, so to speak, the least unlikely outcome, and no doubt in the circumstances the most desirable, of any talks that may be held. Is it not therefore in our interests in this country to back up such proposals to the limit of our powers? I wonder whether the Government would at least reply to these simple questions.
I must say that I should have thought that they might legitimately favour proposals which probably now enjoy the support of a majority in Congress, even though they may be anathema to a White House which once again, I fear, is very much under the control of a number of hardline Californian Republicans. After all, each super-power already has, and will in all probability retain, sufficient nuclear capacity utterly to destroy the other on a second strike. What more could any sane Government really want?
It is also rather silly, I think, to say, as probably the Government will say, that we cannot have a freeze because it cannot be verified. What is the point of verifying it if your adversary is at your second strike mercy anyhow? Unless he is crazy, the assumption must be that he cannot in the circumstances make any profitable first use of his colossal strength, for if he does he will simply be destroyed also. But, if so, then neither can we.
It must accordingly be our hope that these rather elementary thoughts will penetrate the consciousness 118 of the two great opposing dinosaurs. Unlike individual human beings, nation states have been described by philosophers in the past as "cold monsters", so perhaps it never will. But as General de Gaulle on certain occasions used to say, "In politics one must never abandon hope". He was, of course, quite right.
Such considerations might, however, even penetrate our own national consciousness. Whatever is the point of building up a nuclear force of great capacity, such as Trident, when, first, if the Americans are in the war we shall necessarily rely on them for our second strike capability; and, secondly, if they are not in the war we should no doubt, in default of sufficient conventional forces, be defeated by conventional means and obviously thus have no occasion to rely on our deterrent to Soviet nuclear action, with which we should in all probability not be threatened anyhow? Even if it should be thought that we need a deterrent of some kind, something much less powerful than Trident should suffice. I believe that this argument is gaining ground even in military thinking in this country, which was previously hostile to any such idea.
I come now to the Falklands. It may be that in foreign affairs, too, nations, as I have already hinted, are seldom guided by reason but rather by emotion. If so, we may well never be able to arrive at any agreement with the Argentines but shall have (at the cost, presumably, of seriously weakening the defences of NATO) to maintain indefinitely a very costly ground, naval and air garrison in those unfertile islands in order to ensure that the 400 or 500 British families concerned never share anything approaching the fate of the 30,000 or so British subjects who have for long now, and under many regimes, happily carried on their various activities in the Argentine Republic. I feel that this is so unreasonable that even emotion will soon have to take second place.
Therefore is there any way to reconcile our feelings and our interests? I think that there is. The Argentinians must recognise—and I believe the present Argentine Government would recognise—that the future of the present islanders must be secured in that they should have a prospect of continuing their way of life, no doubt in some form of continuing association with their mother country. We, for our part—as I think the noble Lord who preceded me suggested—should recognise that there is a strong national myth in the Argentine according to which the islands, as a result of tradition and close proximity, in a sense "belong", as they would think, to the neighbouring country and should, thus, look chiefly towards Buenos Aires.
Surely in principle therefore while not surrendering "sovereignty" in the sense of just hauling down the Union Jack and hoisting the Argentine flag, we could agree to some kind of association of the islands also with the mainland, which would leave it open for the islands eventually to become an autonomous region of the Argentine Republic should a majority of the islands eventually so desire. There are naturally many other ways in which the wholly emotional and tendentious issue of "sovereignty" could be blurred and avoided—or so I think.
I consequently suggest that the negotiations should now be resumed on the basis that, after agreement has 119 been reached on means for ending hostilities and arranging for suitable economic co-operation in the general matters concerning the exploitation of the surrounding areas, the question of "the political future"—I repeat, "the political future"—of the Falklands should also be on the agenda. If the United States would be prepared to approve such a formula, as I have little doubt that it would, I also have little doubt that it would be found to be acceptable to President Alfonsin. It would certainly be welcomed by all our European friends and allies who may with difficulty be prevented from voting against us next year in the United Nations unless we do make some such sensible suggestion.
Lastly, Europe. As it seems to me, all recent talk about, "unity" rather than "union" is—as ably explained by Edmund Dell in The Times recently—quite off the mark and I am afraid designed to make out that these islands cannot be "European" in the sense that our continental partners are "European", but rather something exceptional and on a different plane from them.
120 Thus we turn down anything like the Colombo/Genscher plan which was simply designed to draw us all closer and closer together, and as has been pointed out today by the noble Lord, Lord Reay, we even refuse, though part of the system, to join the European Monetary Fund. All this is quite self-defeating. There is logically no reason whatever why we should insist on our being less "European" than France, Germany or Italy. For we are obviously now in the same boat and can easily make the Community work on lines that would not equate it with any kind of old fashioned federation.
The other day, in a powerful article, the noble Lord, Lord Bruce-Gardyne, put forward the case for our at least joining the Monetary Fund, quoting the famous lines of Lewis Carroll, which I think might also now figure in Hansard:The further off from England, the nearer 'tis to France; So do not quail, beloved snail, but come and join the dance".The noble Lord's "beloved snail" was no doubt Mr. Lawson. My own is the British people as a whole.
§ 9.39 p.m.
§ Lord Boston of Faversham
My Lords, this debate has been taking place in the aftermath of the cruel murder of Mrs. Indira Gandhi and in the shadow of the appalling tragedy in Ethiopia—two terrible events that have been in the minds of your Lordships today. I join in the tributes to Mrs. Gandhi and in the welcome to the efforts of the Government and others to bring aid to those suffering in Ethiopia.
I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Eden of Winton, on his most commendable and well-argued speech. I am delighted to have sat with him in another place over a number of years. Indeed, I recall that we sat through long watches of the night on the Committee stage of the steel Bill, then a record breaking Committee stage. I am even more delighted to be associated with him here in this more tranquil but particularly productive place, and he is clearly already playing a productive and, if I may say so, a most able part in our proceedings. I should also like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Moran, on his admirable and thoughtful speech. He brings to the House great and, indeed, distinguished experience in the diplomatic service, culminating in his post as our High Commissioner in Canada. It is excellent that we shall now have the benefit of his valued guidance here.
This debate is also taking place against the background of the continuing failure to get major disarmament negotiations going again because of the refusal of the Soviet Union to resume them. I shall return to those negotiations in a moment. As my noble friend Lord Cledwyn indicated, he was covering certain major aspects of overseas affairs and I shall concentrate on defence. I begin by emphasising that NATO remains, and must remain, the foundation of our defence policy. I welcome the strong commitment to NATO in the gracious Speech. That being so, the policy of deterrence within the alliance remains fundamental to that commitment, as does our relationship with the United States, for she is our principal ally, though we have had our differences from time to time—both Governments have.
The gracious Speech gives arms control and disarmament high priority, after only national security and peace themselves. I welcome that. It is the overriding need of our time. If we could achieve some success there, we could do so much more to help overcome the other vast problem of our time: the problem of the third world—famine, starvation and disease. But let no one think that disarmament itself would produce some miracle cure. It will not. But that it would help defies denial, and my noble friend Lord Oram and others have referred to these matters.
Let us be quite clear and not afraid to say so: there is a real dread among many people of global nuclear war. It is a genuine and sincere feeling. We do no service to ourselves to decry it, or even ignore it. But are we keeping up all the pressure we can all the time? Clearly, the West must continue to be tough in negotiations, but we must also be seen to be sincere in our wish for agreement. There is mistrust on both sides. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester referred to these matters. We must do what we can to break that down and put all the impetus we can into getting the talks going again. I hope that the 122 noble Lord the Minister will say something more about the prospects—a matter upon which the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, dwelt just now.
The strategic arms reduction talks—the START talks—on long-range nuclear weapons in Geneva stopped last December, when the Russians walked out after NATO's new medium-range cruise and Pershing II missiles were deployed in Western Europe. Likewise, they broke off the intermediate-range nuclear force talks, the INF talks, in Geneva last November. As we know, the Stockholm Conference on Disarmament in Europe to improve confidence-building measures ground to a halt last month. I am wondering what the prospects are when it resumes this month. My noble friend Lord Brockway had some optimistic feelings there.
On the conventional side, at the mutual and balanced force reductions talks, the MBFR talks, which are continuing in Vienna, the West has continued to make positive and constructive proposals, I believe. Perhaps there are better prospects there.
It was particularly disappointing that the talks on demilitarising outer space, planned for September in Vienna, failed to take place, it seems because the Russians wanted the Americans to cancel an antimissile test and to put President Reagan's "Star Wars" programme—a matter referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet; and perhaps I may say that I agreed with much of what he had to say—for anti-missile defence into the deep freeze. The United States—"just as provocatively", the Economist called it on 1st September—wanted to talk about offensive nuclear weapons at the same meeting—provocatively, as the journal said, because this was clearly a device to reintroduce the START and INF talks by the back door.
There is one other set of disarmament talks, and I particularly want to ask about that because it deals with chemical weapons—the 40-nation Geneva Conference on Disarmament. I have previously welcomed the initiatives the Government have taken on chemical weapons, and I hope they will continue to take a robust line. There has again been a call from the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Rogers, for a new generation of chemical weapons for NATO to counter the huge stockpiles of the Warsaw Pact, and during Exercise Lionheart Lieutenant-General Sir Martin Farndale was quoted in The Times of 22nd September as saying that NATO should have a retaliatory capability. But according to the Washington Post of that day, he added that that was up to the British Government.
One can understand that view from a military commander. I gather that the day after General Farndale's comment the Secretary of State, Mr. Heseltine, said while visiting Lionheart that there was a military preoccupation with the use of chemical weapons. He added that our view in the West is to pursue an arms control dialogue at the earliest possible moment and that in the meantime we must ensure that our own troops are protected against the threat.
Protection for our troops is plainly essential, but would the noble Minister, Lord Trefgarne, confirm that the Government have no intention of producing new chemical weapons? Indeed, how would they view 123 any United States proposal to make a new generation of them? It is important to have the Government's clear view.
We hope there will be progress with the treaty itself and that a sensible way will be found to deal with verification, which is particularly difficult with chemical weapons. If we insist on a perfect system, there will be no agreement. The Government's own disarmament adviser at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Mr. David Summerhayes, put it well in a lecture published a year ago:Those who insist on absolute verification may be blocking the way to agreement. The difficulty for the negotiators is in finding a satisfactory middle path".That seems an acceptable approach.
What are the overall prospects for progress on arms control and disarmament? Perhaps a glimmer of light came last month, as my noble friend Lord Cledwyn mentioned earlier, in an interview given by President Chernenko to the Washington Post—his first ever interview with a Western newspaper, the Daily Telegraph said on 18th October. According to Time last week, on 29th October, Mr. Chemenko sounded more ready than in the past to accommodate the prospect of new dialogue with the United States, and he said:There are considerable possibilities in Soviet-American relations—very considerable possibilities".The Russian leader cited four matters he thought President Reagan's administration could act on to convince the Russians of its seriousness about resuming broader talks: negotiation of a ban on 'militarising outer space, a mutual freeze on nuclear weaponry, ratification by the United States of two pending test-ban treaties signed in the mid-1970s, and a joint pledge to renounce the first use of nuclear weapons. There is nothing new in those Soviet demands, but, as the Guardian said on the 18th of last month:The importance of his words sprang not from any new initiative but from their tone and timing".As Time observed, this is the first apparent indication that,Progress on at least some of the four issues might permit resumption of the stalled negotiations on offensive weaponry".It is a pity that Mr. Chernenko has not been more forthcoming, but it is a start. I hope that the Minister can give his Government's assessment and say what further positive initiatives and steps they will take to seize this chance and persuade President Reagan to do the same. We congratulate President Reagan on his re-election. My noble friend Lord Caradon referred to the need for persuading the United States in certain other contexts as well.
What is so disappointing about the gracious Speech is that once again there is no evidence of any reexamination of defence policy and strategy overall. We complained of this when we debated the Defence Estimates in June, and, as the Guardian put it the day after they came out:what is lamentably missing so far … is the close inquiry into policy, and especially nuclear policy … Where, in a word, is the beef? … Possibly some enlightenment will come in the White Paper due in July".124 That White Paper was on Ministry of Defence reorganisation. But, alas, no enlightenment came. And, once again, there is no enlightenment now.
Since that last debate concern has continued to grow over the Trident programme, as the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, has said. I am not thinking here of the concern that some people feel about whether or not Britain should still have nuclear weapons; I am thinking of the ever-rising costs of the project and its effect on our capacity to meet our other commitments and whether we could not make a more effective contribution to defence within NATO in other ways through conventional forces. As we have seen already, there is a growing body of expert opinion against Trident. There is now said to be growing concern among Conservative Members of another place. I shall not dwell on all the various substantial arguments against Trident; they were covered last time in our previous debate. But I do want to mention costs.
When the Defence Estimates came out in May the total was put as just over £8.7 billion, but that was based on an exchange rate of some 1.5 dollars to the pound. Yet even in May the rate was down to around 1.38 dollars to the pound. So the Government were already under-estimating, some say to the extent of £400 million. But the exchange rate is now some 1.28 dollars to the pound, so the costs are higher still. But there are other aspects of costs not sufficiently examined so far.
When the Government announced Trident it was said, as the Financial Times noted as long ago as June 1981, that:70 per cent. would be spent in the United Kingdom and 30 per cent. … in the United States".When the Comptroller and Auditor General published his report on 23rd February this year, he noted that of the total costs some 60 per cent. was expected to be incurred in the United Kingdom and some 40 per cent. in the United States. Now we see from the Defence White Paper that the proportion is not 70:30 in our favour, nor 60:40, but down to 55 per cent. to be spent here and 45 per cent. to be spent in the United States.
There is one other aspect of costs that it is important to highlight. The Government say that Trident will cost an average of only 3 per cent. of the defence budget. As the Director of the Centre for Defence Studies at Aberdeen University, David Greenwood, said very early on in an article in The Times:That may be true. But there are other ways of looking at that outlay … at least 55 per cent. of all defence spending goes on pay and pensions, boots and buildings. So the sums spent on Trident will soak up 12–15 per cent. of the money for research, development and production expenditure; and perhaps as much as 20 per cent. of the capital budget, strictly defined".The former Navy Minister, Keith Speed said that the costs would take up 30 per cent. of the Navy's equipment budget, and he called, as we know, for Trident's cancellation. That puts the costs much more into perspective.
David Greenwood adds that where the Government are being most misleading is in claiming that Trident has not meant cutting conventional capabilities. He goes on:The Government says more rather than less is to be spent on new warships, armoured fighting vehicles and planes,125 and their weapons and ammunitions. But although that may be true, he says, it is not the whole truth. For one thing, money previously in the budget for replacing, modernising and the upkeep of conventional forces has actually been expunged to make room for Trident. His inescapable conclusion is that significant improvement in our conventional forces could be obtained for the money spent on Trident.
That brings me at once to the growing belief that we should concentrate instead on making a more effective contribution to NATO's conventional forces, and the calls for a major reappraisal of NATO's policies and strategy. But these calls have been going on for some time. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, in a most powerfully argued case, called very early on in 1982 for Britain to reject Trident and for the European allies to strengthen NATO's conventional capability as an essential contribution to the alliance.
Those arguments have, indeed, been gaining support. This is highlighted in the current issue of the NATO Review in an illuminating article headed "Strengthening Conventional Deterrence", by David Greenwood. But, as he says:There is good news and bad news. The good news is that there is now a clear consensus among NATO nations that a major effort should be made to strengthen conventional deterrence and defence in Europe. The bad news is that there is no real agreement on how best to do this".In fact, he says that it is worse than that because:the Alliance appears poised to embark on investments in so-called emerging technologies and on doctrinal revision, neither of which may achieve the desired result".But the article points out that relatively little attention is being paid to what could be the key to the problem—getting a more effective non-nuclear defence through more efficient use of resources, notably by encouraging role specialisation among member nations. As we know, and as the article points out, theAlliance itself has concluded that it must reduce its dependence on nuclear arms because the existing strategy—entailing as it does relatively early resort to the most awesome weapons we know of—has been shown to be neither militarily ideal nor politically palatable".He is not alone—there are clear difficulties—in concluding thatthe more efficient use of the Alliance's resources through role specialisation might be the way to go",and, indeed,is the direction in which member nations are waiting to be led".It would be interesting to know whether these matters will be raised at the meeting of NATO defence Ministers early next month to consider possible modifications in NATO strategy. This is, of course, linked with arguments and doubts about the policy to strike deep—the deep strike policy (there is too much jargon in our defence matters these days)—behind enemy lines in the early stages of any conflict; the concept of the air/land battle and of follow on forces attack—FOFA (more jargon)—and, indeed, the use of battlefield nuclear weapons; or whether the capacity to strike shallow, as Mr. Greenwood suggests, would be a more effective and safer way to arrest the start of a conflict.
126 Linked with all this is the question about moving to a policy of no first use of nuclear weapons, or at least, as a start, no early first use. It would be useful to know from the Minister whether these matters will be reviewed there, and whether Parliament will be told about the outcome.
I should like to add this on that matter. It is curious that there is really very little discussion in Parliament and, indeed, in this country about defence and NATO strategy and tactics. There is also a reluctance to discuss them. Indeed, there is a dearth of information readily provided. The Americans seem to have far more. After all, we have a very real interest in knowing all we can. For one thing, we have 55,000 troops in Europe. I am not blaming anyone in particular, but I am wondering whether more could be done; and the more we know, the more the Secretary of State will be able to show that we are getting value for money from his £17.033 billion budget.
Before coming to a final matter, I should just say about our debate today that noble Lords in all parts of the House have called attention to a variety of important subjects. It is a pity not to be able to refer to all of them. For example, my noble friend Lady Ewart-Biggs and the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, referred in their constructive speeches to Northern Ireland and relations with Eire; and there was the attractive idea by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, of an annual overseas report.
I come now to a final point that I should like to raise. It concerns the Secretary of State's plans to reorganise the Ministry of Defence—the first chance that your Lordships' House has had to discuss them since the decisions were announced on 18th July. He announced his proposals on 12th March. They were claimed to be a great exercise in open government and were published in a consultation document with the words "Defence, Open Government Document" emblazoned upon the cover—an approach which was most welcome.
The proposals were greeted by prolonged and almost universal criticism from expert and informed opinion, from former chiefs of the Defence Staff, including noble and gallant Lords in your Lordships' House. It emerged that not only had the Chiefs of Staff of the three services not been consulted before the proposals were announced, but that not even the Chief of the Defence Staff, Field-Marshal Sir Edwin Bramall, had been consulted.
I must confess that that struck me as an odd example of openness in Government. I think it is carrying security a little far even in today's difficult times to keep the man to be named one's principal military adviser totally in the dark. I am driven to conclude that the Secretary of State's exercise in secrecy was to keep his mind untarnished by the facts. However, in our defence debate on 14th June I stated that we had no objection in principle to reorganisation, and said how wise he was to float his ideas before deciding, because of the trenchant criticisms from many experienced quarters, and I hoped that he would be wise enough to weigh those carefully before deciding.
127 What happened, my Lords? The day after the decisions were announced, the Daily Telegraph said it all in a leading article on 19th July:Mr. Heseltine declares that the debate stimulated by Defence, Open Government Document has been of great value"—quoting the Secretary of State—in the development of his plans. It is nice of him to say so, but there is no suggestion that the Defence Secretary has modified his most controversial reforms one jot.The Telegraph goes on:Mr. Heseltine's aim is to cut the service chiefs down to size by virtually excluding them from any role in policy and strategy.That was the fundamental criticism, that the single service chiefs would be effectively excluded from decisions on strategy and overall policy, and that it was wrong to have the Chief of the Defence Staff reporting directly to the Secretary of State as his principal military adviser while the three service chiefs reported only to him, the Chief of the Defence Staff, and were concerned with the management side of their services.
One reason given for the changes was said to be because it was wrong for the three services to compete for resources and to bring their perhaps conflicting claims to the Secretary of State instead of, as under the new plans, having the Chief of the Defence Staff sort it all out and then present a single view to the Secretary of State.
For, my Lords, it is no bad thing for those conflicting claims to be fought out at the highest level and stand the test of the most searching scrutiny.
That surely is the way to compel the creation of a system of priorities. That is the sort of creative and productive tension which leads to economy in using resources. It is ironic that this Government, who pride themselves on competition, should spurn and dismantle a built-in system of competitiveness which has so proved its worth. One would pay a fortune for a team of management consultants to devise a scheme like that, yet it is being thrown away by a devotee of management techniques.
I should like to put this question to the Minister. The Secretary of State said in another place on 18th July:We need to satisfy the public … that we are pursuing … the objective of value for money".—[Official Report, Commons; 18/7/84, col. 321.]What savings in money terms will be made from this reorganisation? The question has been asked several times but has not been answered and if the Government do not know the answer how will they, in the Secretary of State's own words, "satisfy the public" about this matter?
What are the Chiefs of Staffs' views about all this now? The Secretary of State—not usually to be accused of being a master of the understatement—said in another place:I could not pretend … that if the single service chiefs were left to their own devices they would propose the centralisation of the Department along the lines that I have in mind".—[Official Report, Commons; 18/7/84, col. 325].He can say that again! What did the Chiefs of Staff say for themselves? They tactfully and prudently stayed silent, but what an eloquent and deafening silence that was. They were spoken for by the Chief of the Defence 128 Staff, Field-Marshal Sir Edwin Bramall. He was reported in the Daily Telegraph of 9th August as saying:Given the option the Service Chiefs of Staff would have preferred not to have had the reorganisation now, but to have had the previous system strengthened".In the same paper on 19th July he, the Chief of the Defence Staff, was reported as saying:There is complete unanimity in their view that they can live with the new system and make it work".That is at once the most revealing and comforting statement yet. "They can live with it"; you can almost hear them grit their teeth and "They'll make it work"; your Lordships can hear their unspoken words despite all the absurdities and deficiencies. To use a piece of defence jargon we can count on the chiefs to apply damage limitation to the Secretary of State's handiwork and—who knows?—with luck the practice itself might be much as before.
Here, having paid a tribute to all the Chiefs of Staff, I should like now in a more serious vein to pay tribute to all our forces and to our reserve forces as well. Our armed services are a credit to our nation. They have proved their worth over the years and recently, and still in Northern Ireland and elsewhere. Their courage is unsurpassed. They are a great bastion for peace, something that we all trust will continue.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down I wonder whether he would be so good as to allow me to ask one question? He has asked very many factual questions of the Government which I think it is most unlikely that they will answer. He has also made a wide and judicious choice of quotations from the words of other people. Am I right in thinking that the Labour party has recently adopted an identifiable defence and disarmament policy? If so, would he—even now—take half a minute to remind the House what it is?
§ Lord Boston of Faversham
My Lords, I should love to follow the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, into further discussion of these matters; but I fear I should be trespassing a little too much—perhaps I have done so already—upon the kindness of the House. However, if I were to be tempted down that path one of the things to bring into our discussions would be the rejection at the Liberal Assembly in Bournemouth of Mr. David Steel's call about cruise.
§ 10.10 p.m.
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, it is my happy duty at the outset of my remarks to say how much I enjoyed and appreciated the maiden speeches of my noble friend Lord Eden and the noble Lord, Lord Moran. The speech of my noble friend, if I may say so, was a model of what a maiden speech ought to be; and the 129 speech of the noble Lord, Lord Moran, brought to your Lordships a degree of expertise and knowledge which we have come to appreciate from all sorts of noble Lords and which so adds to the strength of your Lordships' House.
My noble friend Lady Young has already emphasised, among other things, the importance the Government attach to arms control and to improving East-West relations. But it would be utterly foolish, as some would have us believe, to seek these things from a position of weakness.
We have to face the fact that there is a massive and growing Soviet military capability across the spectrum. Although the Soviet leadership has repeatedly stated that the Warsaw Pact is strictly defensive in nature, past and present policies belie such statements. Indeed, the Warsaw Pact's military strength is on a scale far in excess of anything that could possibly be required for defensive purposes.
Your Lordships will be familiar with the sort of threat posed by the SS.20 nuclear missiles, with over 700 warheads already facing us in Western Europe, and further bases under construction. Less familiar, but equally relevant, are other elements of the Soviet nuclear menace: up to 3,000 nuclear capable aircraft; nearly 1,000 nuclear capable artillery pieces, a force which is being steadily expanded; well over 1,000 shorter-range nuclear capable missiles; a force which is being modernised by the deployment of the more accurate SS.21 and 22, with another missile, the SS.23, ready for deployment.
Warsaw Pact conventional forces in Europe, when fully reinforced, considerably outweigh the NATO forces facing them. The Warsaw Pact possess over 46,000 tanks against NATO's 18,000, and significantly when one considers that last figure, they possess 35,000 anti-tank guided-weapon launchers to the Alliance's 19,000. Neither are Warsaw Pact forces short on firepower. They have 39,000 artillery pieces—NATO has only 15,000. And, of course they possess huge manpower reserves—outnumbering NATO by 1½ million men when reinforced—and many of our forces have to cross the Atlantic Ocean to reinforce Western Europe.
So what must we do to counter this massive threat? One area where the United Kingdom makes a contribution of unique significance to the alliance is in our possession of an independently-controlled strategic nuclear force.
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, I would prefer not to give way, if the noble Lord will forgive me. Several noble Lords have been critical of our choice of the Trident missile system, to replace Polaris when it starts to phase out of service in the mid-1990s. I would remind your Lordships that by that time Polaris will have been in service with the Royal Navy for nearly 30 years. It cannot go on forever. For our part we have spelt out in open-government documents the considerations which led the Government to favour Trident rather than any of the possible alternatives. I shall not detain your Lordships with a lengthy recapit- 130 ulation of the arguments. In our view, the passage of time has not altered the fundamental conclusions reached either in 1980 or in 1982.
The criteria adopted for determining the nature of a national nuclear deterrent force of last resort must of necessity be demanding. We must beware of "gold-plating" in relation to military requirements, in the nuclear as in other fields. But we must equally recognise that to opt for a system which is less than adequate is not just to choose a system which is second-best. It is to opt for a system which is useless—and indeed worse than useless. If our deterrent force is to be effective it must be capable beyond peradventure of delivering a blow which would inflict unacceptable damage upon an enemy.
This is no short-term aspect. Any system chosen to enter service in the 1990s would have to serve for many years thereafter and have to remain effective throughout that time. It is against that background that the Government were driven inexorably to the decision to purchase the Trident system. We believe that it offers the best long-term future course for providing us with that assured minimum capability essential in a strategic deterrent of last resort.
Trident is indeed expensive, but this should be kept in perspective. Its costs represent a considerably smaller proportion of the defence budget than any of our other major roles. The current Polaris force costs on average less than 2 per cent. of the defence budget, and we would expect Trident's running costs to be similar. Over the period of its procurement, Trident will cost on average only about 3 per cent. of the defence budget and about 6 per cent. of the equipment budget. We are currently reviewing the Trident project estimate as part of the annual recosting of the defence programme. Once that is complete, it will be my right honourable friend the Secretary of State's intention to announce a revised estimate. I can, however, state quite categorically at this stage that no comparable expenditure on alternative systems or on our conventional capability could possibly be of equal deterrent value.
I have spoken at some length about the importance of our strategic nuclear deterrent, but may I turn now to our conventional contribution to the alliance, which is no less vital, because we must ensure that we never allow the Soviet leadership to imagine that they could expect a very rapid or conclusive gain of NATO territory through conventional warfare alone and without the risk of nuclear escalation.
The United Kingdom contributes to alliance conventional forces in a wide area. We contribute 70 per cent. of the maritime forces devoted to the defence of the vital sea area in the eastern Atlantic and the Channel. We defend the United Kingdom itself which, given its crucial strategic position, is essential to NATO strategy. And, of course, we commit large forces to the defence of the Central Region—the forward defence of our own country. We have provided the necessary resources to sustain this major effort. By 1985–86 the defence budget will be about one-fifth higher in real terms (excluding Falkland additions) than it was in 1978–79.
At the other end of the scale, my noble friend Lady Young has already made reference to the provision by 131 the Government of two RAF Hercules to help distribute grain within Ethiopia—one of the most immediate and effective elements of our aid to that country. Your Lordships may already have seen reports that these aircraft have arrived and set to work. Indeed, as my noble friend has already pointed out, the RAF got its aircraft on the spot before those of any other air force.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, will the noble Lord give way? When he says, "got its aircraft on the spot", does he mean into the rebel areas of Eritrea where the famine is, or just to Ethiopia?
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, we got our aircraft into Ethiopia delivering grain, and were the first of any air force to do that. Our Hercules aircraft are now operating from their base at Addis Ababa, picking up grain at Assab on the Red Sea coast and delivering it to the crucial airstrips at Mekele, Axum and elsewhere. In this way they are moving up to 90 tonnes a day into the areas where it is most needed, so making a welcome and significant contribution towards easing the dreadful suffering in Ethiopia.
For the Navy, the assistance which we were recently able to give to the Egyptians in clearing mines in the important shipping lanes of the Gulf of Suez provided an excellent demonstration of the Royal Navy's flexibility to operate far from their home bases, as well as valuable training in an area of warfare of considerable importance to the defence of the United Kingdom itself. The first of the mine counter measure vessels returned to Portsmouth yesterday, having conducted a thorough search of the area allocated to them, and their success in recovering the only mine of recent origin to have been found confirms once again their high level of professionalism.
I have spoken about the military capability that we face from the Soviet Union, and Exercise "Lionheart" earlier this year proved a most effective demonstration of our ability to reinforce the Central Region rapidly and effectively. It underlined our political and military commitment to forward defence which is crucial in terms of alliance cohesion. Some of your Lordships observed various stages of the exercise and will have seen at first hand the skill and morale of our soldiers, both regular and reservist, and the quality of the new equipment now coming into service.
This exercise was a massive undertaking involving well over 120,000 troops, including almost 50,000 United Kingdom regular and reserve troops who travelled with their equipment from the United Kingdom to the Continent, by sea and by air, to take up their deployment stations in BAOR. I should like to convey my apologies to the contractor at one of the ports we used, who found his bulldozer shipped to West Germany with the other reinforcements. These reinforcements included almost 30,000 Territorial Army soldiers and, for the first time on an exercise, 3,300 individual reservists. Throughout the exercise these members of our reserve forces demonstrated by their competence and enthusiasm the invaluable contribution they make to our armed forces, and I should like to pay tribute to all those who took part. I should also like to express my thanks to those 132 employers who allowed their employees time off work to take part. It is not easy to spare employees, and it was heartening to note that employers recognised the importance of the reserve forces to the defence effort.
I have referred to the part played by army reservists in the success of Lionheart, but we must not forget the role of the smaller, but no less effective, air force and naval reserves. This year the Royal Auxiliary Air Force celebrates its 60th anniversary. During recent years it has expanded considerably, and recruitment and retention rates are high. The six auxiliary field squadrons, which were formed to provide much needed local station defence, are proving a most effective force. Additionally, your Lordships will recall that we previously announced the formation of an auxiliary movements squadron, and also an auxiliary aeromedical evacuation squadron. I am pleased to say that members of both these units played an important role in the recent Exercise Lionheart.
In this year's Statement on the Defence Estimates we announced that consideration was being given to further expansion over the rest of the decade. In this connection we are hoping to use auxiliaries to operate the captured Argentinian Skyguard anti-aircraft system. The delivery of new gliders to the Air Training Corps has started, and all 100 will be delivered by July next year. This is very important for the RAF as some 30 per cent. of regular RAF recruits are ex-members of the Air Training Corps. Incidentally, I believe that I am the first Minister to have flown into service with the RAF a new aircraft; namely, that glider—the first, anyway, since my noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye.
Last year we announced an increase of a third in the planned strength of the Royal Marines Reserve and I am glad to say that recruiting is going well for this build-up. Less well known, perhaps, is the crucial role played by the Royal Naval Reserve, to which I particularly wish to draw the attention of your Lordships tonight. The Royal Navy relies extensively on their support in two vital areas. On mobilisation, one-third of those in command and control posts in shore headquarters will be reservists, and similarly the RNR will man one-third of the mine warfare forces.
I have already talked about Operation Harling, whose necessity showed the disruptive effect a relatively small number of mines can have, even in peacetime. In time of war the mine is one of the gravest threats to both the Royal and Merchant Navies, and, indeed, to the maritime forces of our NATO allies. It is vital that the approaches to our ports and anchorages and reinforcement routes to Europe remain open. Today, the Soviet Union has a huge arsenal of modern sophisticated mines capable of being laid not only inshore but also in deeper water further afield.
To counter this deeper water threat a new class of fleet minesweeper has been developed, and the Royal Naval Reserve will become the specialists in its operation. Our programme to re-equip all 11 Royal Naval Reserve divisions with these new minesweepers is on target, with two already delivered and the remainder due to be accepted into service within the next 16 months. I was very pleased to be present recently at the commissioning ceremony of the first of 133 these new vessels, HMS "Carron", and I am hoping to have an early opportunity to see at first hand what they can do. It is worth noting that this is the first time that the Royal Naval Reserve have operated a new class before the Royal Navy, which illustrates our confidence in their proven mine counter-measures ability.
I have sought to emphasise the importance of minesweeping, but of course the Royal Naval Reserve's contribution does not end there. In view of the importance of the reserves to our planning, we have recently carried out an examination of all their tasks in war, and I am very pleased to be able to announce tonight that we intend to increase the strength of the Royal Naval Reserve from the present 5,400 to 7,800 over the next few years—an increase of well over 40 per cent. The communications branch will be significantly larger, and we are carrying out a trial of an RNR diving branch for port defence which, if successful, will be extended.
We shall be building up an RNR relations branch; and we are also working on substantial enhancements in the RNR medical branch, in the air branch and in those employed on interrogation and intelligence work. This is a good start, but I am very keen indeed to build up the role of this versatile force still further. Looking to the future, when RNR numbers reach the new target and the requirements of the vital minesweeping role are met, the way will be open to take on other tasks. I hope the members of the Royal Naval and Royal Marines Reserves who give so selflessly of their spare time will recognise the enhancements I have announced tonight as a token of the confidence the Government and the regular armed forces repose in them.
May I turn to some of the points which have been raised during the course of the debate? I shall deal with as many of them as I can. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, raised during his remarks the question of the Strategic Defence Initiative. Of course we are anxious to help prevent an arms race in space. The SDI has far-reaching implications and is being carefully studied. It is important to stress—as I did when the noble Lord and I had an exchange on this matter during Question Time a few days ago—that the US programme is a long-term one and is limited to research. So I think we should beware of reacting too hastily.
The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, asked about the position of Gibraltar. Exchanges with the Spanish Government at a technical level have been taking place for some time. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will meet the Spanish Foreign Minister again soon and we are working towards early implementation of the Lisbon statement. It would not be right to give further details now while talks are thus continuing.
The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, and at least one other noble Lord raised the question of no first use of force. NATO Ministers have said that the alliance will never use any of its weapons except in response to an attack. In our view, no further declaration or treaty could be a substitute for the patient pursuit of specific arms control agreements. The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, asked me also about Cyprus. The proximity 134 talks are of course confidential between the parties to them—the noble Lord referred to them in his remarks—and the UN Secretary-General. But I can assure him that we shall continue to give the Secretary-General every support for his initiative. The noble Lord asked me about Iran and Iraq, and particularly about the safety of British tankers and about arms sales to Iran. On tankers, we have stressed to both sides the importance of freedom of navigation in the Gulf and have protested strongly following attacks on British ships. On arms sales, I can only say again that we supply no lethal equipment to either side.
The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, asked me also about Namibia. The main hope lies in current US diplomatic efforts and in the direct contacts between the parties immediately involved. We have made clear to the South Africans our commitment to early implementation of Security Council Resolution 435.
The noble Lords, Lord Cledwyn, Lord Kennet and Lord Hatch, raised the question of Nicaragua. One or two of my noble friends referred to this matter too. We welcomed the decision to hold elections—but, as the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, himself noted, there was room for serious doubt about whether the campaign conditions were fair. Opposition leaders were harassed, there was continuing censorship, and the Sandinista Party had institutional advantages. These factors should be borne in mind as we interpret the results.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt, but may I make one point clear? In my opinion, the degree of fairness of the Nicaraguan elections was quite remarkable, given the historical disadvantages under which they started. The burden of my remarks was that it was a remarkably good achievement and my criticisms should not be taken as the main part of what I said.
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, I am happy to note the noble Lord's views on that matter but I can assure him that we reached our own independent decision on whether to send observers to the elections—contrary to the views which I believe have been expressed in some elements of the press in America.
My noble friend Lord Thomas asked about the possibility of an annual White Paper on foreign affairs as there is on defence. We are grateful to him for that suggestion but one difficulty is that international affairs move very fast. Therefore, there is much to be said in favour of our present practice of making up-to-date statements on specific issues. Parliament is kept fully informed about foreign policy and asssociated expenditure. In addition to debates such as this, material is given to the Select Committee on foreign affairs, and foreign policy documents and background briefs are published regularly. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office also contributes to the annual White Paper on public expenditure. Therefore, I am not sure that it would be right in present circumstances to divert scarce resources to the task of producing an additional White Paper on foreign affairs.
The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, referred to the Irish question. On the question of Anglo-Irish co-operation, Her Majesty's Government and the Government of 135 the Republic have close relations and co-operate on a wide range of issues—including security against the common terrorist threat. Her Majesty's Government found many aspects of the New Ireland Forum report positive and welcomed in particular recognition of the need for consent in Northern Ireland for any changes in sovereignty. Other aspects were more disappointing; for example, that the report did not confront the implications for policy if the Northern Ireland majority continued to withhold consent to Irish unity.
On the question of the Kilbrandon report—and I think the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, participated in the preparation of that document—we have noted with interest the publication of the report of that independent inquiry. The Government will certainly give careful consideration to the report's analysis and ideas as we continue our discussions with the political parties in Northern Ireland and as we continue the regular contacts we have with the Irish Republic.
The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, asked about our general attitude to disarmament matters. I can only say again that we are deeply committed to the search for disarmament, but it must be brought about in a way which preserves international security. That means seeking agreements which preserve the balance and which can be verified. We believe that anything less would undermine, not strengthen, the prospects for peace. As for the British contribution to disarmament negotiations, we are closely associated, through NATO, with American attempts to reduce strategic and intermediate range missiles. We have participated in the Vienna talks on balanced conventional force reductions, and we intend to play a full part in the conference on disarmament in Europe. We are active in the conference on disarmament in Geneva, particularly in the negotiations to ban chemical weapons.
On that topic, which the noble Lord, Lord Boston, raised, I can say that the United Kingdom has had no chemical weapons for very many years and that this policy is unchanged. United States chemical weapons policy is of course a matter for that Government, but in fact no United States weapons have been produced since 1969 and I understand that Congress has not so far authorised funds to modernise the ageing and limited United States retaliatory capability.
On the question of follow-on forces attack—another point put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Boston—that was something which I think emerged from the defence planning committee. The proceedings of that body are, by their nature, normally confidential but communiqués are issued after meetings. I think my right honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces made a statement in another place on that matter a short while ago and I shall send the noble Lord a copy of that statement.
The noble Lord also had considerable fun talking about the recent White Paper about the re-organisation of the Ministry of Defence. As that paper indicated, there will be significant savings in top posts—I refer in particular to paragraph 16 of that document—and further savings will follow at the lower levels. It is too early to put a figure on the cost 136 savings but we are confident that the changes to be introduced at the start of 1985 will make for greater efficiency throughout the defence organisation. I have been concerned with some of the changes envisaged by that document, particularly with the medical structure of the Ministry of Defence, and I can assure the noble Lord that the changes we have made will be effective. Indeed, we have altered what we originally proposed in some respects to meet the anxieties expressed to us.
The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, who I see is still in his place, attacked almost every aspect of our policy. But I wonder whether he agrees that in fact both of us in the end have the same objective: to ensure that war does not take place. The difference of course is how we propose to achieve that.
The noble Lord Lord Oram, asked about the Government's aid policy. He is a great expert in that matter and I fear that nothing I can say will convince him; but I can confirm that it is still the Government's intention to attain the 0.7 per cent. of GNP target for overseas aid. However, like previous governments, we are not committed to a date for achieving it. The noble Lord castigated us for not setting a date; but the Administration of which he was a member did not set a date either, so I do not think that we need take any lessons from them on that. Our recent performance in aid matters has been very close to the OECD donor average. Of the major donors we are below France and Germany but ahead of the United States, Japan and Italy.
I must say that I was puzzled by some aspects of the speech of my noble friend Lord Ailsa, particularly about the history of Soviet influence in Ethiopia. I am not sure that I would agree with what he said about that.
The noble Lord, Lord Molloy, referred to what I think he would regard as British Government intransigence in our attitude to the Argentine and the Falklands matter. But we have taken several initiatives to achieve more normal bilateral relations with the Argentine, and we remain ready to do this. We had hoped for a more favourable response from President Alfonsin. The Prime Minister herself welcomed the return of democratic rule to the Argentine in December 1983; but President Alfonsin has recently restated the linkage between normalisation and sovereignty which brought the Berne talks to a premature end. We are not prepared to discuss sovereignty, and we look to our friends not to encourage the Argentine to pursue unrealistic objectives. I hope that my noble friend Lord Onslow will reflect on what he said about that matter during the course of his remarks.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, what do the Government think about my suggestion that we should discuss the political future—not sovereignty?
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord will forgive me if I do not give him a detailed critique of the proposals that he has put to me. The important thing about the situation here is, of course, the views and the position of the people of the Falkland Islands.
137 My noble friend Lord Onslow asked me specifically about the Stanley airport road. We are, of course, aware of the current state of the road leading from Stanley to the existing airport. There are many views as to why it has deteriorated so rapidly following its resurfacing barely seven months ago. Deficiencies in the original construction have been suggested as one factor. Other causes include a heavier than anticipated traffic load regularly using the road, and the lack of routine maintenance since the road was completed. The Royal Engineers are doing what they can to carry out emergency repairs and to keep the road open, but these efforts are only an interim solution, and ways of finding an adequate long-term solution are being actively considered.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the Royal Engineers say that they can repair that road up to decent levels within three and a half months? That is the received view of the commanding officer of the Royal Engineer regiment in the Falkland Islands at the moment.
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, I am obliged to my noble friend for news hot off the press from the Falkland Islands. But, of course, it is not just a question of finding the men; we have to find the money and the equipment as well.
The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, asked me, too, about press speculation—which he was fuelling, I think—about possible cuts in Foreign Office expenditure. I am afraid that I cannot make any comments on the outcome of the annual public expenditure survey in advance of the Autumn Statement of my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I believe that the Statement is usually made at some stage in November.
My noble friend Lord Beloff asked me about the continued United Kingdom membership of UNESCO. I am not sure that he asked me; I think he told me what he thought it ought to be. This is an important question to which the Government are currently giving attention. My right honourable friend the Minister for Overseas Development wrote to UNESCO's director general in April setting out the reforms that we felt were necessary for UNESCO. He recognised that time would be needed to achieve all these reforms, but he said that by this autumn we would wish to see significant indications of change and would review our position before the end of the year. Since then a number of relevant decisions have been taken both by the director general and the executive board, who are now assessing the progress that has been made.
The defence of this island and our remaining dependencies is, I believe, a duty binding upon every Government, regardless of their political persuasion. It is not subject to elections, manifestoes or mandates. I believe that this Administration have discharged that duty to the full. We are content to be judged by our record, and we seek your Lordships' support accordingly.
§ Lord Molloy
Before the noble Lord sits down, my Lords, I wonder whether he will answer one point that I raised. Is it the Government's policy that in certain circumstances, if they felt it necessary, they would not hesitate to initiate an exchange of nuclear weapons?
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, I have to say that there are certain circumstances when that would be possible.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, may I ask the Minister one question before he sits down? May I ask him whether he is prepared to reply to my inquiry about the desirability of a freeze on the production of nuclear weapons and also the desirability of mutual withdrawal of battlefield weapons from the centre of Europe?
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, the problem with a freeze is that it freezes the present imbalance, and I cannot think that that would contribute to a stable situation.
§ Baroness Trumpington
My Lords, I beg to move, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Elton, that this debate be adjourned until tomorrow.
§ Moved, That this debate be adjourned until tomorrow.—(Baroness Trumpington.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.
§ House adjourned at twenty minutes before eleven o'clock.