§ 2.52 p.m.
§ Lord Molloy rose to call attention to the need for Her Majesty's Government to take the initiative in bringing forward new and realistic proposals for effective world disarmament; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have a degree of pleasure in opening this debate because of the new warmth of understanding which it seems was being generated between the United States and the Soviet Union at the recent discussions in Geneva, for which great credit must go to Mr. Andrei Gromyko and Mr. George Shultz. Therefore, I think it is time that there should be brand-new proposals, because what we are talking about is not a question of war and peace; it is indeed about the entire future of this globe on which we live.
§ As we know, the world is moving rapidly to final medical epidemic; namely, thermonuclear war. This was initiated by a few men—scientists in the United States, the USSR and Great Britain. Orders were given by the Attlee Government and later by Mr. Churchill's Government—and kept totally secret from Parliament and the nation—that this course should be embarked upon. Now, over 36 years, mankind has developed 50,000 nuclear weapons. Russia and the United States can target every town in this world with a population of 10,000 or more. We are indeed hostages on a terminally ill planet. The USSR can kill every American 20 times and America can kill every Russian 40 times and at the same time poison all mankind and practically slay and wipe out "all creatures that on earth do dwell".
§ Our only escape is for the peoples of the world to use their power to influence their governments. It cannot be done by one power, or one people, or one government; it has to be done by us all. We in this country have given a superb example. Under both Conservative and Labour Governments we have deplored the preparation of any form of chemical warfare and have abandoned it. It is to the pride of this nation and to the shame of the two super-powers that they have not followed suit. What we must strive for is to halt the arms race by initiating a United States and 968 Soviet Union freeze on testing, production and deployment of nuclear weapons and their systems of delivery.
§ Of course, the vital element has got to be verifiability. Current monitoring is almost foolproof. Verifiability is not now the threat it once was when it came to the abolition of nuclear weapons. It is possible for the United States satellites SAMOS I and SAMOS II to he able to read the licence plates on cars in Moscow streets and to inform the United States Government and military authorities. So it is not at all an impossible suggestion such as it was a few years ago. With multi-spectral photography the United States, and probably the Russians, can now penetrate all cloud mists and provide simultaneous images of what is happening in different arsenals of the world.
§ This is the other side of the fence, whereby the horrendous discoveries of thermonuclear weapons are now being balanced with the opportunities to try to arrive at some reduction in these horrendous arms, with acceptable verifiability. The United States maintain extensive worldwide radar which will go over horizons. They have tracking stations which keep them in touch with what is happening in every suspect area of the world, every second of every day or night. What we have to ask is: have the Russians got the same? The answer is probably, yes. Will they agree, therefore, to have examination in depth, which would provide a very good chance that verifiability will be not the menace that it was but will come to our rescue in this dreadful age?
§ Will our Government consider urging the start of a series of unilateral initiatives designed to reduce world tension and urge on the super-powers the need to commence graduated and reciprocated initiatives in tension reduction? I believe that that itself could then lead to a much more practical appreciation of what we all claim we want to achieve in the abolition of these terrible weapons. I suppose everybody in the world, in every political party, in one way or another supports the principle of CND; not only the multilateralists and the unilaterialists, but everybody. I have never heard of anybody who has said: "This is a wonderful thing and we ought to have these weapons because just imagine what a great, tremendous thing it would be to have a thermonuclear war and reduce this sphere to something spinning lifeless in space."
§ There have been proposals which we could well have examined and might well be examining again. Ever since 1979 all freeze benefits have not been fully gone into. But, going further back, in 1977 President Brezhnev proposed and urged the reduction of stockpiles. Proposals for negotiations to begin on ending production of nuclear war weapons still exist. Let Britain take the lead. Let us start talking again; instead of threatening, let us get talking.
§ The example was given to us by the greatest Englishman of our time, Winston Churchill, with his proposition that jaw, jaw is better than war, war. One hopes that what happened in Geneva a few weeks ago will be the restart of talking and of being frank with one another in the hope that something good will result. I hope that my nation will declare that we recognise that our security is intimately tied to the security of our opponents, and hence that mutual 969 security must be mutually arrived at. There is an enemy greater than the Soviet Union and that enemy is inaction. Delay could be deadly.
§ In my judgment we must not countenance the doctrine of limited nuclear war either, because once begun there will be no end until life on earth has ended. There is also the terror of error via "launch on warning". I believe that we have to examine this very quickly with our great allies in the United States of America. The top nuclear scientists and technologists of the world say that with launch on warning there is a grave possibility of an error being committed. As Churchill said—and this has now been revealed—if we have United States missiles on this island and they are let off, we will become nothing but a target for the Soviet Union. I do not think that one ought to dismiss too hastily the words of Winston Churchill.
§ We must never equate courage with a willingness to wage nuclear war or equate cowardice with arms control, disarmament, or a reluctance to wage nuclear war. Leading British and American scientists are united in their views on the greatest danger facing mankind. Together these British and American scientists, men and women of top quality and ability, cry out to stop this truly unholy madness.
§ I believe that we should get back to the philosophies of great statesmen of this country; to that of Aneurin Bevan when he urged us to arrive at the frontiers of understanding before some terrible calamity overtook us; and to that of the great Churchill, with his declaration of jaw, jaw being better than war, war. We should underline and demonstrate the interdependence of all nations. Our policies should be at all times to save the world for freedom and to save freedom for the world.
§ I want to conclude on a personal note. I was in America not so very long ago visiting my American born and bred grandchildren. We travelled over a number of states and I watched the ceremony of my granddaughter, Miss Julia Motl, going to her first mass in America with her little sister Ann. In our family over Christmas another little human being was born, a little granddaughter, Lauren. Then I had the privilege to go to Cheltenham Junior College to listen to the carol singing there. As a Welshman, I am bound to say that I give them 10 out of 10—it was lovely. I listened to the young boys—I knew one young boy in particular, Jonathan Bullingham—singing those Christmas carols. It brought home to me the lead that I believe my country above all others can give in this terrible situation. I respect the Soviet Union and I respect the USA. However, I happen to believe that if they will be prepared to listen to our Governments—irrespective of what political colour they might be—there is always something to be gained. If what I have said this afternoon will be at least looked at by the Government, I shall indeed be most happy. I do not want a situation where there will be neither peace on earth nor indeed goodwill allowed to flourish because there will be nobody to enjoy it.
§ The situation is deadly. It is appallingly serious. We have talked about it for years without really trying to understand what it means. Literally within a few minutes of the outbreak of a thermonuclear war our island could be wiped out. We might be in a position in which to destroy an invading Russian Army, we 970 shall—we shall probably say reluctantly—wipe out millions of Germans, Belgians and Frenchmen. One cannot have a thermonuclear bomb which will slay only Russians. That is an absurdity. These are the matters that we must understand. We should at least be prepared to consider some of the proposals that I have outlined—and they are not all mine. My desire is that the world should arrive at a sane situation, and I would feel justifiably proud if the initial steps were taken by my nation. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.7 p.m.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, we are in broad agreement with the broad approach expressed with such eloquence by the noble Lord, Lord Molloy. This is good weather for disarmament and it is time that it was good weather after two or three years of very bad weather.
Just before Christmas the Prime Minister went to Washington and met President Reagan at Camp David. She succeeded in coming back with a four point declaration, the importance of which in history of course remains to be seen, but which I think we should all, in all parts of the House, welcome as a remarkable diplomatic achievement: one which can be only beneficial.
The Prime Minister came back with the agreement of the President, the explicit agreement of the President, that the United States would not procure and deploy the system known colloquially as "star wars" without having negotiations with everybody concerned (which means not only his allies but our adversaries, the Soviet Union), and various other extremely useful formulae which will serve—which have already served—to hold in check the wilder hawks in the United States, who are of course to be found within this Administration as much as they are to be found outside it.
I cannot forbear from taking some pleasure—without making party politics—in the fact that that declaration was quite close to the policy aims suggested to the Prime Minister by my right honourable friend Dr. Owen in an open personal letter—is that a contradiction?—in an open letter, a few days before the Prime Minister went to Washington. We should have liked it closer, but we are glad indeed that she was able to obtain so much of what we thought ought to have been obtained in advance of the Geneva negotiations.
I now turn to the Geneva agreement itself, which, I cannot imagine why, was simply not reproduced in the British press. It was mentioned, it was analysed, it was praised and it was damned, but as far as I can remember not a single paper just printed the wretched thing. I will not read it all, although it is short, but it is worth just reminding ourselves what it says, because the language is new language and indeed good language. It says:The sides agree that the subject of the negotiations will be a complex of questions concerning space and nuclear arms both strategic and intermediate range with all the questions considered and resolved in their interrelationship.It speaks of,preventing an arms race in space and terminating it on Earth and limiting and reducing nuclear arms and strengthening strategic stability"—not strategic might, but strategic stability.971 It says that each delegation—the American and the Russian—shall be a single delegation which will be divided into three groups—the three sub-committees of the delegation. It repeats that the aim of the negotiation is the complete elimination of nuclear arms everywhere.
Those who have been around this House as long as I have—and there are many of you, my Lords—will remember the McCloy-Zorin declaration of 1960 or 1962 and will know that in two ways this agreement is better than the McCloy-Zorin declaration. To begin with, it is signed between Foreign Ministers instead of special envoys. Secondly, it is a great deal broader than the McCloy-Zorin approach. It is, I think, the broadest approach to disarmament which has appeared on the table since the grand old days (or the idealistic old days—whichever way one likes to look at it) when the noble Lord, Lord Home, was Foreign Secretary and we really had a go for general and comprehensive disarmament back in the late 1950s.
Back from Geneva, deep divisions immediately appeared in the United States Administration. The divisions were so deep that Mr Shultz had to write to Mr. Gromyko as soon as he got home, saying that the United States really did mean what they had agreed and were going to stick to their bond, it being understood that this was so whatever Mr. Weinberger might say, because the Pentagon hawks had been saying in effect that the United States did not intend to stick to the agreement. Mr. Shultz was the negotiator. He will be conducting the negotiations—he says that they will keep their word, and that can only be good.
He used in recent days more than once the phrase, "organic relationship" to describe the three baskets, the three sub-committees, of the negotiations, thereby agreeing with the Soviet Union that that is an unbreakable relationship and that progress must be made in all three at the same time. The House will not need reminding that the three sub-committees are: first, space, including "star wars" and so on; secondly, strategic nuclear weapons, the intercontinental end of the scale; and thirdly, intermediate nuclear forces, meaning typically those that are in, or which afflict, Western Europe and Eastern Europe, outside the super powers. All this is very good. The Prime Minister has ensured no nonsense about refusing to discuss the Strategic Defence Initiative in Geneva. She has ensured no nonsense about refusing to discuss even research towards the Strategic Defence Initiative. The United States has agreed to discuss research with the Russians. We on these Benches would have liked to see an agreement by both sides to suspend their research during the negotiations, and we shall be pressing the Government to try to get that agreement even now.
The Strategic Defence Initiative is going to dominate the scene in the next round of negotiations—so much has been clear now for many months. It is worth remembering that those in the United States Administration who are keenest on getting the research done without international objections are the very same people who are keenest on preventing the export of military high technology to any country outside the United States. That paradox waits to be resolved.
972 The German Government is rather inclined to go along with the research programme because it hopes to get some spin-off from it. It hopes to be aided by it to keep up with Japan and the United States in the relevant high tech. But we must all remember, and the Germans must remember too, that the export of military high tech from the United States or any other country runs into severe objections from other parts of the inchoate United States Adminstration, which have perhaps not yet come into action. The Germans must also remember—and we in Europe must all remember—that if it ever came to the installation of Strategic Defence Initiative systems in Europe on the ground—and that has been proposed by the United States—that would break the ABM treaty as certainly as their installation in the United States itself.
Before leaving SDI, I should like to remind the House of one thing that everyone seems to have forgotten: it concerns anti-satellite capability—the capability to shoot down satellites. It is commonly said that the Russians started work on this long before the Americans and the Americans are running after them to catch up. What is forgotten is that before the Russians started work on it the Americans had an operational capability to shoot down satellites. It was not very good and they gave it up, but it was declared operational. It was installed on two Pacific islands called Johnston and Kwajalein in the early 1960s. There is ample evidence that that is what started the Russians off on the subject. I can give the Government, or any noble Lord who is interested, the references in the Western literature to these facts.
What are the lessons of recent weeks for our Government? At the Conservative Party conference in 1983 Mr. Heseltine was understood to say that the United Kingdom ought to join the disarmament talks, and we on these Benches agree with him. We believe that there is a role for Britain at the negotiating table. It is not immediately easy to see what that role is, but there should be one. We are encouraged by Mr. Heseltine having leaned that way in a now largely forgotten speech 18 months ago. Consultation is not enough, on the simple ground of ordinary good government in a sovereign state. The weapons which are to be discussed at the INF negotiations—that is, the third basket of the negotiations—are nuclear weapons under foreign physical control. They are on our soil, it is our people whose lives are at stake and it is our future. How can we not be present at the negotiations?
What weapons should be considered at these INF negotiations? There is a history of forgetting about things. For years and years the Soviet Union had two systems called the SS-4 and SS-5, which threatened this country but not the United States. Nobody asked them to remove them. Nobody worried about them. In this House I was on at successive Governments from 1971 to do something about the position. They did nothing; and because they did nothing we got the SS-20s. The Russians thought we did not mind. The SS-20s updated the SS-4s and SS-5s.
I see a possibility of that happening again about another Soviet missile system. It is never mentioned, has never been negotiated about, and never discussed. It is the system called Shaddock. Noble Lords will remember that a Shaddock got loose last week from 973 Soviet exercises in the Arctic and flew across Norway and Finland. It is a nuclear tipped missile, although I do not know if the one that broke free was armed. It is a nuclear system with a range of many hundreds of miles. It is capable of destroying London, Birmingham, Paris, Frankfurt, or whatever. That system must be included in the negotiations. It was not included on the previous occasion, and I do not know why. Also, let us not forget that a Pershing II exploded last week in Germany and killed three men; they are not safe weapons, any more than is Shaddock.
It is difficult to see how there can be meaningful negotiations about these completely mobile weapons in Europe only. The SS-20s threaten nearly half the countries in the world. They threaten India, Egypt, Israel, China. All those countries are just as steamed up about them as we are. Any which are taken away from European Russia can be trundled along in less than 24 hours to face any of those countries. We ought to be at the negotiations on INF. There is a case for saying that the Indians, Chinese, Egyptians, Israelis, and so on all down the line, ought to be there. I formulate it this way. Any country whose security is affected by the existence of these weapon systems and who wants to be there ought to be there. Perhaps not all of them want to.
Incidentally, who is talking to the Chinese about Geneva? Is the United States briefing the Chinese? Are the Russians briefing the Chinese? The Chinese have said nothing so far. It is about the only country in the world not to have said anything. If the Government have any news, we shall he interested to hear it.
As to the strategic arms reduction negotiations, the same question arises—who should be there? It is not clear that it ought to be only the Russians and the Americans. Of course, one can go to the extreme and say that everyone must be everywhere; and that is clearly impossible. The question arises of our own independent nuclear deterrent being taken into account. Taking something into account can mean any number of things. We take the weather into account. I do not suppose that even this Government will mind our weapons being taken into account in that sense. But it could also mean, at the other extreme, absolutely and finally giving up our weapons.
There is one thing that it could not possibly mean. It could not possibly mean reducing our Polaris force or in future our Trident force. One cannot reduce a four-boat force. If one does, one does not have a deterrent, because there cannot be one boat on station all the time. We have to face the fact that if the Government go ahead and get another four-boat force in the future, with Trident—a more modern and powerful one—it still cannot be reduced. They have to face the fact that either they will have to hang onto it, however much that disrupts the negotiations, or at a given moment and by agreement get rid of it entirely. This is one of the reasons why we on this Bench oppose the acquisition of Trident as a successor to Polaris. We think that there should be a much less expensive, grand, gold-plated and provocative force, and that it should be carried on far more platforms, each carrying fewer and less powerful weapons.
There can be no question of any possiblility of this country giving up its independent nuclear deterrent force after discussion in negotiations at which we are 974 not present. There can be no question of our permitting, tolerating or conniving at discussions or negotiations about the giving up of our nuclear forces in our absence. That is absolutely clear. On the other hand, we here would like the country to be in a position to reduce its weapons when the time comes, and finally to give them up when the time comes, after negotiation, in agreement. I think that it would be about right if we said that we would do that, or be prepared to consider doing it, when the super-powers have come down to about half their present level in strategic weapons. That is the express Chinese policy. They have already said that they will do that. It is compatible with the general French approach. It would be beneficial if this country were to adopt it too.
One last word on the negotiations: if anything, though they are wider than they have ever been, they should be even wider still and more organic. Difficulties can arise in the course of the negotiations, and are likely to, as a result of the military-industrial complex—or, I should now say, military-industrial-academic complex—in either super-power blarneying or tricking their own leaders into doing something which they know will cause the negotiations to fail. That has happened so often before. Difficulties can come to the negotiations from the fact that they have been artificially limited in their scope. If the security of any country, or the efficacity of any weapon system is affected by the negotiations, and that country or that system has been left outside the negotiations, those negotiations will fail, as so many have before. They must cover the right countries—those whose security may be affected—and the right weapon systems—those whose efficacity may be affected.
I fear that it is quite likely that the new negotiations will be wrecked by one or other of these familiar dangers. It would not be the first time, but let us hope, and let us above all work, for their enlargement, and to prevent silly plots by the military on either side upsetting them.
§ 3.23 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of Oxford
My Lords, my interest in this debate is first and foremost that of any ordinary citizen of this country and, indeed, of any sane person in the whole world who prays for peace and longs for his children and grandchildren to live without the recurring threat of annihilaton by war. It is also the particular responsibility of every Christian to care deeply about this issue in virtue of the universal character of his faith.
As it happens, my own ministry has been exercised, partly at least, in the international sphere. For the past 10 years I have been one of the presidents of the Conference of European Churches. This is quite a modest organisation, with a small headquarters in Geneva, but it brings together in an unusual manner Christians from both Eastern and Western Europe of the Orthordox, Anglican and Protestant communions. It also has many close and friendly links with the Roman Catholic hierarchies of Europe from East to West. Since the Helsinki Conference on Peace and Security which aroused such hopes in 1975, representatives of the European churches have endeavoured to keep alive what may be called the Helsinki process and to remind the Governments concerned of the follow-up meetings in Belgrade and Madrid and of the 975 undertakings that were given and the expectations aroused at Helsinki.
It may be said that our efforts in that direction have been crowned with very little success. Of course, if we are inviting governments to be self-critical, we ought to expect churches to be self-critical as well. If we consider the universal character and vocation of the church (if I may use that word in the broadest sense possible), it has proved itself to be a less effective agent in the realm of peace and disarmament than both its members and its non-members may have had a right to expect. Indeed, when one engages in international meetings of churchmen, one realises the difficulties of a Christian's exercising proper independence of judgment and not simply being regarded as a mouthpiece for the interests of his country and its government. I think that we are all familiar with that criticism when it is applied to church leaders in many of the countries under Communist rule, but we are perhaps less apt to consider whether, even in our democratic societies, there may be a beam in our own eyes which becomes quite apparent as soon as we go outside our borders.
I begin in this way because it is not the object of this speech to heap detailed advice upon Her Majesty's Government but rather to speak about the necessary infrastructure (if I may so call it) of disarmament. No doubt we all have our own pet theories and remedies in the realm of disarmament, but we do not all have the responsibility of Government when trying to put policy into practice. Nevertheless, the interest of the churches in disarmament is not simply that of any old non-governmental organisation. It arises from the fact that the churches contain a great many people, some of whom are politicians, and of many different persuasions, but most of whom are without any special expertise; but all alike are subject to a divine imperative which they may not refuse—namely, to seek the peace and welfare of all humanity.
It was for this reason that a few years ago many Christians besides myself supported a petition by the World Disarmament Movement which was to be laid before a special session of the United Nations. Cynics could, and no doubt did, say that this was a rather futile gesture of pious hope, especially as the citizens of a number of countries would not be free to sign such a petition even if they were aware of its existence. But the worthwhile value of a petition like that seemed to be that it signified the passionate concern of ordinary men and women of different nationalities for a fresh approach to disarmament. It was a welcome sign that peace is always a matter of too great importance to be left to experts of any kind, or indeed to governments, and that public pressure against war, violence and destruction has always to be maintained.
It seems to me, therefore, that the first word of this House to Her Majesty's Government ought to be one of encouragement not to be afraid to persevere, and persevere vigorously, in the face of that kind of fatalism which so easily overtakes our contemporaries when the subject of world disarmament is discussed. The late Lord Noel-Baker who devoted so much of his life to a campaign against the arms race wrote these words 30 years ago: 976No one who has closely followed disarmament negotiations since 1919 is likely to be guilty of facile optimism about the prospect of success. But no one who understands the present arms race should be guilty of facile pessimism, which is by far the graver fault. Defeatism about the feasibility of plans for disarmament and ordered peace has been the most calamitous of all the errors made by democratic governments in modern times".In what ways then could we try to escape the paralysis of what Lord Noel-Baker called "facile pessimism"? In the first place we agree with the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, that we surely ought not to sit back and leave everything to the outcome of negotiations between the United States of America and the USSR, as if any nation less than a super-power had little or nothing of significance to contribute to the cause of world disarmament. That is surely a great fallacy and our Government should be prominent in exposing it as such.
We have recently had a welcome moment of hope in Geneva, where the encounter of Mr. Shultz and Mr. Gromyko was at least several degrees warmer than the weather. But already hesitations and reservations are beginning to be expressed about the future of their negotiations—and one may venture to guess that the mentality of those two great powers is generally so different and the spirit of competition between them is so keen, that they are not always the most hopeful runners in the race of détente. The fact that very heavily armoured creatures are apt to be lacking in mobility is illustrated by the life history of the dinosaur and it is not the duty of the Christian, in particular, when he surveys the origins of his own faith, to think that human history is always governed by colossal power.
It is therefore my own conviction that just as the smallest nation is capable of being a serious trouble-maker, as we know, and of setting a match to the conflagration, in the same way there is no nation so small that it could not, by a wise and pacific policy, make some contribution to disarmament in its own region. We are not a small nation and we still retain some credit in the world for being capable now and again of disinterested action in international affairs. That is why this Motion is justified in asking the Government to take an initiative in bringing forward new proposals and in indicating that these proposals should not consist of mere rhetoric or utopian generalisations but should be realistic in character.
Why should we not begin, for example, by working for the creation of quite a narrow zone in central Europe, free of nuclear and chemical weapons, the zone to be extended in depth as confidence grows? The idea that peace and disarmament begin on a global scale and move inwards seems inherently improbable and quite unsupported by history. On the contrary—if we may go a little into history—the initiatives that have been most successful in the past, such as the Rush-Bagot Agreement of 1817 between Britain and the United States demilitarising the Canadian border or the Karlstad Convention of 1905, confirming the demilitarisation of the border between Norway and Sweden, have been comparatively small, good-neighbour agreements. Yet who shall say that they have not made their useful contribution to peace and prosperity in later generations?
By the same token, in our own day, European powers like ourselves who have a common interest in 977 avoiding the turning of Europe again into a battle ground may be the right ones to take initiatives for world disarmament, first by setting a regional example rather than just waiting passively for the two super-powers to reach an agreement on behalf of everybody.
I make one last observation: a recent survey of all armed conflicts since 1945 (of which there have been about 150) has shown that the most frequent cause was the allegation that human rights were being denied in one way or another. We know quite well that nothing can arouse public indignation so much as the gross violation of human rights—say, in the persecution of some individual or group—by the government of another nation. And we may be sure that the same indignation sometimes applies in our own case, however blameless we may suppose ourselves to be. The acquisition of more and more military hardware—which is sometimes supposed to be our only guarantee of peace and security—hardly touches this matter of human rights at all. It cannot be shown that our world is a better, more just, more merciful place because powerful nations keep improving their weapons systems, and still less because small nations feel compelled to spend money on armaments which they ought to be spending on feeding and educating their people.
One of the curses of the present deadlock between powers with the capacity for overkill is that it makes what may be called chivalrous action almost impossible. As we witnessed in the cases of Lebanon and Afghanistan (to mention two), the fear of massive destruction on a world scale has made it that much harder to prevent anarchy and cruelty on a small scale.
My conclusion is that any proposals brought forward by the Government should not simply be concerned with the well-worn subjects of the calculation of numbers of weapons and the possibilities for their inspection, as if we believed the path to disarmament to be a largely impersonal business governed by monstrous inventions that have reached beyond human control. To anybody, religious or not, who cares about human dignity, such a view ought to he anathema. In spite of the scorn that was being poured on the expression "peace-building" in this House yesterday, it is a plain fact, without the steady building up of mutual confidence between the parties, disarmament negotiations are likely to go on being unfruitful—unless there is an easing of the suspicion with which they are so often poisoned.
It is in the opening of hearts and minds, and the abandonment of national caricatures (which are usually out of date anyway), that any hopeful process has to begin. Included somewhere in that process should he work for human rights on the basis of international agreements, and especially for the better implementation of those agreements which already exist. It is all too easy to use that phrase "human rights" only as a stick to beat other regimes of which we disapprove, but it is much more valuable to work patiently for the recognition of common standards by which governments will abide—and not only when it happens to suit their book. This is surely a crucial part of any multiple strategy for the prevention of war today
§ 3.38 p.m.
§ Lord Brockway
My Lords, my first words must be to congratulate my noble friend Lord Molloy on his fortune in winning the ballot for this debate, on his selection of subject and in the moving speech with which he initiated it. Whatever our views, I think we all appreciated it very much.
On the last occasion when we discussed disarmament I said that over the past few months I had met representatives from six governments—three Western and three non-aligned—and felt that there was a warmer climate in international affairs. I think that view has been justified by the climax of the agreement between Mr. Shultz and Mr. Gromyko for further discussions.
The Motion asks for new and effective proposals. I want to begin by referring to measures which I believe are on the agenda of political reality, and to urge the Government to support those measures. The first is the discussion at the Geneva Conference on Disarmament of an international convention banning chemical weapons. I was disturbed by recent rumours that in this country we were to start manufacturing them again. I welcome the denial of that. The proposals at the Geneva Conference on Disarmament are progressing promisingly. The Soviet Union has agreed to verification measures, and I earnestly hope that the Government will give full support to the conclusion in a satisfactory way of those negotiations.
The second measure which I believe is within political reality is the banning of weapons in outer space. I am glad that that subject is to be discussed between the USA and the USSR. Last month, at the United Nations, when this ban was discussed, a resolution in its favour was carried by 150 to none. The United States alone abstained. I congratulate the British representative for voting in favour of that resolution. That, again, is a proposal—an effective proposal—on the agenda of realities.
I wish that I could say the same about the attitude of the Government to the third proposal which I believe is realistic: the proposal to ban all nuclear weapons tests. We ban tests in the air and we ban them on the earth; they now take place only underneath the ground. All over the world there is overwhelming support for this proposal. At the United Nations discussion the proposal was carried by 123 Governments to 2. I urge the British Government to change their attitude to that proposal.
The fourth realistic measure is a new weapons freeze—a proposal which came from America and which has swept the world. Why are the British Government opposed to this proposal—a freeze not only on the manufacture of nuclear weapons but also on research, on development, on deployment, on travel facilities and on anything else which would contribute to ending the danger of a nuclear war?
The next great measure of hope is the support for nuclear weapon-free zones in Northern Europe, in Central Europe and in South-Eastern Europe. They are already in operation in Latin America. Such zones are now proposed by the Governments for the South Pacific, and there is a proposal for the Middle East. In this world, which is surrounded by efforts for devastating nuclear war, these popular proposals for 979 zones which are free from danger of nuclear war certainly should be supported by our Government.
Lastly, I want to urge very earnestly upon the Government that they should support a treaty against the first use, not only of nuclear weapons but of conventional weapons as well. The Government themselves said in reply to the Soviet proposal for a ban on the first use of nuclear weapons that they were in favour of banning the first use of conventional weapons as well. NATO has endorsed that idea, and the Warsaw Pact has supported it. There are all the conditions in the world now for a treaty banning the first use, not only of nuclear weapons but also of conventional weapons—indeed, of all kinds of weapons. When we speak of effective proposals, surely those six proposals are within the bounds of realistic achievement. I beg the Government to support them.
The Government say that they are in favour of multilateral disarmament. I wonder whether the Government realise that over the greater part of the world they are regarded as being opposed to multilateral disarmament. That view rests on the fact that both in the United Nations and in the conference on disarmament at Geneva the British Government are constantly opposing measures for disarmament. The Quaker Peace and Service Headquarters at Friends' House have issued a detailed examination the votes cast at the United Nations last month on the subject of disarmament—the votes cast by China, France, the United States, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union. No one can study that analysis of the votes given by the British representative without understanding the widely-held view that instead of supporting multilateral disarmament we are opposing it.
At the United Nations last month we opposed the abolition of tests for nuclear weapons. We opposed the conclusion of an international convention on strengthening the security of non-nuclear weapon states. We opposed a motion calling upon all states and institutions to terminate nuclear and military collaboration with South Africa. We opposed a motion for a nuclear weapons arms freeze. We opposed a convention on the prohibition of the use of nuclear weapons. We opposed a motion calling for efforts to intensify multilateral negotiations to reverse the nuclear arms race. We opposed a motion for international co-operation on disarmament by implementing United Nations recommendations. We opposed an invitation to all Governments to submit reports on steps to expedite action to prevent nuclear war.
We opposed a motion calling for a report on contributions of United Nations special agencies towards arms limitation and disarmament. We opposed a motion calling on the Geneva Committee to proceed without delay for nuclear disarmament. We opposed a motion in favour of no first use of nuclear weapons. We opposed a motion for the prohibition of neutron weapons. We opposed a motion urging the United States and the Soviet Union to find a way out of the impasse in negotiations. We opposed a motion for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. We opposed a motion for multilateral talks to curb the naval arms race. In view of that record, how can it be otherwise that over such a large part of the world, the 980 Government, despite their declaration, are opposing every kind of move towards multilateral disarmament.
In addition—I shall not delay the House by reading the list—we abstained on a whole series of issues that were moderate in character, much more moderate than those that I have read. At the Geneva conference, which has been asked by the United Nations to prepare proposals for a comprehensive policy of disarmament, and where the subject has been divided into workshops, the British Government are in a minority on the majority of those committees because they are balking the efforts towards multilateral disarmament. My appeal to members of the Government is this—that they reverse their policies in the world upon those issues, reverse them where they are opposed even on the separate measures that I have indicated, but far more deeply, reverse their general attitude towards multilateral disarmament in the world. Otherwise, we are just going forward to disaster. I should not like to have the responsibility of being a member of a Government who have so abysmally failed to prevent this process from going to disaster.
§ 3.52 p.m.
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, I speak with some feeling and indeed with some experience of these matters, having been a Minister in the Foreign Office responsible for arms control and disarmament matters and having followed this subject very closely ever since I left government. When I saw the Motion in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, I thought that I would be very sharply at odds with him because of the phrase which refers to effective world disarmament. However, I found that, in his speech, the noble Lord did not seem to be calling for world disarmament but for some more modest measures of arms control. I should like, therefore, simply to take up one or two of the points that he made in what I hope will be a constructive manner.
In the first place, I would earnestly counsel the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, the noble Lord, Lord Brockway and, indeed, any other Members of your Lordships' House not to become too euphroic about the results of the meeting in Geneva. This was only a first step, a very hesitant first step. Already, since the talks, almost within 24 hours, we have the Soviet Government announcing their conditions for the success of further talks, one of those conditions being the abandonment by the United States of America of its strategic defence initiative. The President of the United States has no intention of abandoning that initiative. If, therefore, the Soviet Union is saying that it will not arrive at any agreements except as a result of that abandonment, then there will be no agreements. I have to tell those who now feel a sense of warmth—that word has been used twice in today's debate—as a result of what happened in Geneva, that, in my view, it is a sensation that might turn out to be tragically false.
The noble Lord, Lord Molloy, spoke about chemical warfare. The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, also, I think, referred to it. Yes, indeed, it would be an excellent idea if we could arrive at a universal agreement or convention on the banning of chemical warfare, the production and deployment of chemical weapons. I would, however, remind your Lordships that in the confrontation that exists in central Europe 981 at the moment the Soviet Union has virtually a monopoly of chemical weapons. We have none. There are none deployed in the British Army of the Rhine. The Soviet Union threatens, in the event of war, to use those weapons. I would suggest that those who are so anxious to arrive at an agreement on chemical warfare should direct their pleas not to Her Majesty's Government, who have already abandoned their right to deploy nuclear weapons in Europe, but to the Soviet Union.
§ Lord Molloy
My Lords. I should like to defend myself. If the noble Lord reads Hansard tomorrow, he will note that I congratulated this country and deplored the fact that the super-powers did not have the courage to follow our example.
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, I apologise if I gave the noble Lord the wrong impression. I understand what he said and sympathise with his view. I am pointing out that it is not the super-powers—that is a phrase used often too loosely in the debate—but it is the Soviet Union that has the monopoly of chemical weapons in Europe. I wish people would understand that this is not a kind of symmetrical competiton between two equals. We talk about the super-powers as if able to say, "A plague on both their houses". That is a false and dangerous road to take.
Verifiability is another matter to which the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, referred. The noble Lord said that the question of verifying arms control agreements was no longer a problem because of such things as satellite reconnaissance and other national means of intelligence and inspection. This, again, is a very dangerous assumption to arrive at. Yes, it is possible by the use of satellites to determine certain things and to acquire certain intelligence. We can, as the noble Lord said, read the number plates of vehicles in the streets of Moscow. What we cannot do, with existing means of national verification, is a whole range of very important things. We cannot, for example, determine by our own means how many warheads there are in a missile when it is being tested by telemetry. We cannot, by national means of verification, determine what kind of research is taking place in the Soviet Union, what kind of development of weapons is taking place on the ground in factories.
It is true that satellite reconnaissance has given us an enormous weapon of intelligence, but we are not yet in a position where we can totally verify arms control agreements without international inspection. I do ask the noble Lord to accept that, because it should affect a good deal of our attitude towards certain proposed arms control agreements of the kind proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, to whose speech I shall refer in a moment.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, will the noble Lord not agree that the way to put that right is by on-site inspection, and that it is a hopeful development within the last year that the Soviet Union has for the first time, in a limited context, agreed to the principle of on-site inspection?
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, yes, I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. The answer to arms 982 control verification is on-site inspection. One of the major obstacles to arms control agreements for the last 25 years has been the Soviet Union's refusal to accept on-site inspection. Again, it is a unilateral refusal. It is the Soviet Union that has refused. The noble Lord says that there are encouraging signs that the Russians may now be prepared to accept a measure of on-site inspection. If they do so, this will indeed be an encouraging development.
Finally, on the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, I should like to say that the noble Lord hinted, unless I misheard him, that there could be, among intelligent people, very little disagreement about the aims of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Let me assure him that there are in some quarters grave reservations about the aims of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. In the first place, I totally reject the concept of unilateral disarmament measures. They are dangerous and destabilising. But I would go further; and this may not please the noble Lord or some of his friends. I believe that nuclear disarmament, even if it were multilateral, in isolation from other forms of disarmament, is equally dangerous.
We must not address ourselves to the problem of nuclear weapons as though they existed in a strategic vacuum. They are part of a whole complex of confrontation, and if we were to remove nuclear weapons without doing anything about so-called conventional weapons or chemical weapons, we would find ourselves then in a position of serious vulnerability and inferiority vis-à-vis the Soviet Union. So I ask the noble Lord to understand that there are some people with modest claims to intelligence who strongly reject the views of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
I now come, if I may, very briefly—I hope something has gone wrong with the clock, because I do not think I have been speaking for 23 minutes—to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. I must say to him, with deep respect and affection, that his characterisation of the position on the Strategic Defence Initiative—the star wars problem—is a parody of the true situation. It is true that the Americans have assured the Prime Minister that they will not deploy any strategic defence systems without consulting their allies; but they never intended to, anyway. The Strategic Defence Initiative is a research programme, as he well knows. It has nothing to do with the deployment of the weapons. As any member of the United States Administration will tell the noble Lord, if he cares to ask, there is no plan whatsoever to deploy strategic defence weapons; there is only a research programme.
The noble Lord spoke of the wilder hawks in the Administration. Well, yes, there are some hawks there. There are here in Western Europe some doves who I fear are doing our cause in the Alliance some damage in their attitudes to the Strategic Defence Initiative. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, suggested that what the Prime Minister had achieved in her talks with President Reagan in some way was a result of, or was consonant with, the letter addressed to her by Dr. David Owen. That is of course not so. Dr. David Owen's letter, which ran to something like four pages, invited the Prime Minister categorically to oppose 983 their Strategic Defence Initiative. Happily, the Prime Minister did not do so. What the Prime Minister said, if the reports in the press may be relied upon, was, "We are at one with the United States on the matter of Strategic Defence Initiative".
If she said that—and I believe that she did—I for one am very happy, because I think that at this moment we do not know enough about the Strategic Defence Initiative to condemn it. The noble Lord's suggestion that the United States should suspend its research programme during the negotiations would, it seems to me, be playing exactly the game that the Soviet Union wants us to play. The Strategic Defence Initiative was what brought the Soviet Union to the negotiating table. It would not be there if it were not for that. It said, with a great flourish of trumpets, "We shall not come to the negotiating table while you continue to deploy your cruise and your Pershing missiles". We continued to deploy them, with courage and resolution. The Soviet Union came to the negotiating table. Why?—because of the star wars initiative. If we were now to encourage the United States to abandon that research, then there would be no incentive whatsoever for the Soviet Union to continue with these negotiations.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, I should like to take up the point about the motivation both of the Prime Minister and of the Soviet leadership. May I point out that I did not say that the United States should abandon its research, and correct the noble Lord on this? My suggestion was that the United States and the Soviet Union should both suspend their research while negotiations lasted. I think it might help to put the matter into proportion—I do not think custom would permit me to do it myself—if the noble Lord were to read to the House the Prime Minister's four-point agreement with Mr. Reagan, which is extremely brief.
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, I have read the agreement, and I have read Dr. Owen's letter to the Prime Minister. All I am at pains to point out to the House at the moment is that the Prime Minister did not oppose the President's Strategic Defence Initiative. I am making that clear and I am seeking to commend her for taking that point of view with the President.
The noble Lord, again, sought to make a point about anti-satellite weapons by saying that the United States had been the first to go into the anti-satellite weapon business. The fact of the matter—and he will know this as well as anybody—is that the only fully tested ground-based anti-satellite system in the world today belongs to the Soviet Union. The United States followed that research, and in my view followed it wisely. If I may say so, again with great respect, I find it difficult to understand why the noble Lord, and others of his friends, should continue, in everything he does, to try to vindicate the Soviet Union and to heap excoriation and blame upon the United States of America. I do not want to pre-empt the debate which will come next, but I ask noble Lords to understand one simple fact. The Soviet Union is our potential enemy, and shows itself to be so in almost everything it does and says. The United States of America is our great, valued and trusted ally; and there is no way in 984 which we can create any symmetry between those two—
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord once more, but he is implying that I said that which I did not say. Does the noble Lord differ from my statement of the following succession of events? In the early 1960s, the United States had two operational anti-satellite systems. It cancelled them because they are not very good; that is to say, it dismantled them because they are not very good. The Soviet Union then proceeds to develop its own, later, and, presumably, as a result.
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, yes; I contest that version of events, but this is something which obviously we must not continue in the Chamber of your Lordships' House. Perhaps we can continue it at some other time.
If I may, I want to refer briefly to the speech by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford, on only one point; that is, his desire to see the establishment of nuclear-free zones. I ask him to understand that a nuclear-free zone is really a meaningless concept. It may mean that you do not have in that zone nuclear weapons stationed, nuclear weapons developed or nuclear weapons manufactured, but it does not prevent that place being a target for nuclear weapons. I understand that there are certain boroughs and municipalities in this country which have declared themselves to be nuclear-free zones. If this makes them feel any better, then I do not mind awfully about that, but I hope they do not think that in the event of a war they are going to be secure from the nuclear weapons of the enemy. I beg the right reverend Prelate to believe that the nuclear-free zone, ever since the days of Adam Rapacki, the Polish Foreign Minister, has been a virtually meaningless concept.
I now come. finally—I see that. according to the clock, I have been speaking for 31 minutes—to the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway. I should like, if I may, to go through very briefly the six proposals which he made for arms control and disarmament.
First, he proposed an international convention on chemical weapons. Yes, we should all love that, but, as I have said, we must understand that at the moment the only country that deploys and threatens to use chemical weapons is the Soviet Union. Secondly, he proposed the banning of weapons in outer space. There is already an outer space treaty which deals with the demilitarisation of outer space.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, I rise on a matter of correction of fact. It might be interesting for the House to know that the outer space treaty bans the positioning of "weapons of mass destruction" in outer space, not, as the noble Lord stated, "weapons".
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, it bans the stationing of what are virtually nuclear weapons in outer 985 space—weapons of mass destruction. I am sorry if I misunderstood the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, but I thought it was that to which he was referring. If he was referring to banning in outer space weapons other than weapons of mass destruction, then that, of course is a different matter.
Next, there is the proposal of a comprehensive test ban—the banning of underground testing. Yes, we should all love that, too; but, again, it is a matter for adequate verification. I do not think that we can have a comprehensive test ban when there is the possibility that one or the other side might cheat in their adherence to that test ban.
It is also proposed that there should be a weapons freeze. I am afraid that this, again, is a virtually meaningless concept. A weapons freeze means what—ceasing to research, develop or deploy? If it means ceasing to research, how is it to be verified? There is virtually no way in which to verify research, and I personally would not want to take part in a treaty which could be so comprehensively circumvented by one side or the other.
Next there is the proposal of nuclear-free zones. I have already spoken of those. This is a concept without any meaning at all; as is, indeed, a treaty banning the first use of weapons. The noble Lord said nuclear weapons and all other weapons. If we were to ban the first use of nuclear weapons in war it would be a meaningless treaty because if war broke out no one would take the slightest notice of it. When they are at war, people do not take note of treaties signed in peacetime. If we are talking about the banning of the first use of all weapons, if we are talking about a nonaggression pact of some kind, then I see no reason why we should not have that. However, we are already in a situation where we, the NATO Alliance, have no intention whatever of being the first to use a weapon of any kind at all. It is a defensive alliance, and it is to the Soviet Union that the noble Lord should address his pleas.
I should like to continue speaking on this subject but I cannot do so because there is not enough time. I should like, if I may, to wind up with just one or two brief comments. As I have said, I thought that I was going to be sharply at odds with the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, because I thought that he was going to be talking about general and complete disarmement, which, from the experience of six years in Geneva, I can confidently say I think is an interesting, perhaps desirable, but totally unattainable end. What we should be looking for is arms control, but arms control as an aspect of defence and security. Arms control is not a concept in a vacuum. It is not necessarily a good thing to have arms control. It is only a good thing to have arms control if it improves security. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will continue to use that as a criterion in all their international negotiations.
The noble Lord, Lord Molloy, said something in his speech with which I can totally and unequivocally agree. He said that our aim must be to save the world for freedom. I go along with that 100 per cent. But we shall only do that if we recognise that there is a threat to that freedom, a real and continuing threat from a political and ideological system which is irreconcilable with our own—I repeat, irreconcilable. There is no 986 way in which liberal democrats, who believe in freedom, can live with totalitarians, for whom the individual exists only to serve the state. There is no way in which we can co-exist with such people, and I ask the noble Lord to understand that.
I should like to conclude, if I may, with a comment which I may have made in your Lordships' House before but which I think bears making again. At one time in the 1960s, when in the United States there was a great uprising of anti- war and peace movements, there was a young man seen on a university campus bearing a banner on which was inscribed the words, "Nothing is worth dying for". It seems to me that that is something that we must reject wholeheartedly and passionately, because if nothing is worth dying for then nothing is worth living for. I reject both those propositions.
The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, read out a list of resolutions of the United Nations that Her Majesty's Government had opposed, and he begged Her Majesty's Government to change their ways. I beg them not to do so. I beg them to continue to oppose these impractical, half-baked, half-digested ideas that come out of that place, and to continue a realistic search for arms control based on the strength and security of the Western alliance.
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, it is a great privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, in this debate, for he speaks with such great knowledge of these matters and, indeed, with experience. As he has covered some of the ground that I was intending to cover, and as I agree with nearly all that he said, I am sure that your Lordships will be glad to know that I have been able to shorten my remarks somewhat. But there is one point that he mentioned on which I should like to expand in a moment. The noble Lord said that nuclear disarmament is not enough and that we must apply our minds also to the reduction of conventional armed forces. I was pleased, and if I may say so surprised, to hear the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, for the first time within my knowledge, make the same point. I hope that your Lordships will feel that the time has come in this debate for a contribution to be made by somebody from these Conservative Benches and that your Lordships will think that it is better later than never. I am relieved to find that already I have been speaking for only one minute!
The Motion which has been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, is well-intended and worthy. Indeed, all of us must agree that it was right for successive Governments of this country to do what they could to achieve world disarmament, however difficult were the circumstances. I have a strong suspicion that the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, chose the subject of this debate before it was known that the Soviet Union and the United States were going to get together at Geneva. But that does not reduce the value of the debate: indeed, it enables us to take stock, as we should now be doing, of the situation which has been reached.
The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said that the meeting in Geneva would never have taken place but for the decision of the United States to carry out 987 research on what he called and what is sometimes referred to as the Strategic Defence Initiative. It is also miscalled, in my opinion, the star wars, because, of course, it is intended to be a purely defensive system. However, with respect to the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, I think that there are two other strong reasons why the Russians decided that it would be worth getting together with the United States. One reason, of course, is surely the deployment of the cruise and Pershing missiles in Europe. That, after all, does something to restore the nuclear balance, and must have done a bit to bring the Russians to their senses.
But there is a further reason (is there not?) in that the Soviet Union are already spending at least 15 per cent. of their national income on arms and the men that use them, compared with the spending of the United States, which is 7 per cent. To the extent that it is relevant, I would mention that we spend 5.4 per cent. of our gross domestic product on defence expenditure. So the Russians are presumably worried about the vast financial and economic burden of their aggressive policies and the threats which they constitute.
I feel strongly that those factors have had a most beneficial result in changing Russian attitudes, and in spite of what they have been trying to do to fetter the discretion of the Americans in these negotiations, I hope that this change of attitude, perhaps with some help and persuasion from our own Government, may last.
Of course, we now know that the negotiations have, I think rather strangely, been divided into three parts and are to be considered quite separately. The first part concerns intercontinental nuclear missiles; the second will be about medium-range nuclear weapons; and the third concerns the so-called star wars weapons, although they are purely defensive. The next stage will be for United States and Soviet officials to discuss how, when and where the three separate negotiations are to be held. I think that this may give our own Government an opportunity to make some helpful suggestions, I hope to both sides, as part of our continuing dialogue with both sides at diplomatic level, which is sometimes forgotten. But I hasten to say that I would not ask or expect my noble friend to reveal much about that in this debate.
Although we must obviously hope that those two great powers will reach agreement on reduction, control and supervision of nuclear weapons with beneficial results for the whole world, I suggest that it is even more necessary and important for them, for us, and indeed for the whole world, to reach agreement on the reduction of conventional forces. I hope that that does not sound too unorthodox to noble Lords or appear to raise a paradox. I say it for two main and, I believe, powerful reasons. The first is that since the end of World War II all the wars that have taken place—and there have been some pretty horrible ones, and there still are—have been conventional wars outside Europe. Each of the great powers, including ourselves, has been involved in some of those wars. At least two of those horrible wars continue—the one in Afghanistan and the one between Iran and Iraq. But there has been no war in Europe; there has been no 988 direct confrontation between the United States and Russia; there has been no World War III—and that is because of the nuclear deterrence, and we know it.
The second reason why conventional disarmament is even more important than nuclear disarmament is that the Russians have such a great proponderance of conventional forces on land, in the air and at sea. If all nuclear weapons were abolished, the Russians could hold Europe to ransom and cause even more misery than they have done in various parts of the world, and just as they are still doing in Afghanistan. Let me give some examples, at not too great length, of Russian conventional strength, and here I am attempting to amplify what the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said. However, in considering that one must remember that the scene is complex and changes easily because of transfer of forces from one area to another.
For example, a new precedent was set, a new logistic dimension was given to our strategic thinking by the successful diversion of our forces in order to resist the conflict in the Falklands. I suppose that it was something which had been thought of by someone within the Ministry of Defence who was doing strategic planning but which the great mass of us never contemplated was possible. I mention that simply to illustrate that it is dangerous to ignore the complexities of this matter.
Having said that, let me draw attention to several outstanding facts. First, in the Eastern Atlantic Russia has 83 submarines and NATO has only 36. The figures I give are quoted from Government sources and are available in your Lordships' Printed Paper Office. On the central front, which includes Europe, Russia and her allies have 2,700 fixed-wing aircraft, which is more than twice as many as NATO. Of course, one must remember that the numbers of troops in Europe is not a full test of the strength of armies. We must remember that General Wavell's 30,000 men captured 480,000 Italians in the western desert in 1941. But, in fact, the Warsaw Pact countries have nearly three-quarters of a million soldiers in fighting units—not support units—on the central front compared with NATO's smaller figure of 590,000.
However, perhaps more to the point than the numbers of troops is the fact that the Warsaw Pact countries have 18,000 main battle tanks in Europe compared with NATO's 7,800. The Warsaw Pact countries have well over twice as many main battle tanks. Of course, one could greatly amplify these figures, but I hope that I have given enough information to show that nuclear disarmament is not enough. When my noble friend Lady Young replies to the debate perhaps she could give me some help with regard to a particular negotiation which started in Vienna in 1973. It is called the Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions negotiation, the purpose of which is for NATO and the Warsaw Pact to reach agreement on conventional force reductions in central Europe. Are those negotiations still continuing, as Government sources seem to imply, or have they ground to a standstill? What is the position?
Therefore, I say this, and I say it in particular to the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, who is not himself obsessed with the nuclear scene, although many of his friends are—I do not even say his noble friends; but many of 989 his friends in politics, inside and outside Parliament, are so obsessed with the nuclear scene that they forget the terrible destructive power of conventional weapons. There are now far more conventional weapons assembled in Europe than were ever assembled at the start of World War I or World War II. Indeed, if we eliminate the Russian front, it may well be that there are as many as there were at the end of World War II.
Therefore, I hope that negotiations on this subject will not be confined to the matters on which the Soviet Union and the United States have agreed to negotiate at present. When they are enlarged, of course, they will have to go far beyond discussions between those two super powers. I say that in particular as far as Europe is concerned, because within NATO it is the European countries which provide 90 per cent. of the ground forces and 80 per cent. of NATO's tanks and air combat strength.
I conclude by saying that we must not delude ourselves that the world can be made safe merely by getting a partial reduction of nuclear weapons, merely by getting a degree of control, although it would be satisfactory to get the nuclear terror into balance again; that would be some achievement. It would be a good beginning, just to do that, but it would not be the end.
§ 4.31 p.m.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, it is little more than two months since these matters were last debated in the House, during the debate on the Queen's Speech, and yet so much has happened in those last two months. On that occasion my noble friend Lord Boston of Faversham, followed by my noble friend Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, both raised a number of serious and searching questions of the spokesman at the time. None of us needs reminding of the text that eternal vigilance is the price of freedom, nor that there are always many fronts to watch, many balls to be kept in the air at once.
We on these Benches want to pay tribute to the diligence of the Government over the past two months; in particular we note the productive visit of Mr. Gorbachev last month. We note the discussions by the West European Defence Ministers. I remind the noble Baroness that those have yet to be debated in this House. We note the initiatives played by the Prime Minister in her travels to China and to the United States. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, is wise in reminding us that the China dimension is there, cannot be ignored, will not go away and must always be taken into account. Above all, we see much to lift our spirits arising from the Geneva talks. All these subjects have been referred to, and will again be referred to, in this debate.
These are times of great movement in defence and disarmament matters that call for flexibility in approach, a willingness to consider others' initiatives, and a time for patience. It is against that background that my noble friend Lord Molloy has rendered us a great service in initiating this debate. His deep commitment to world peace is beyond dispute.
My noble friend Lord Brockway raises, and pre-empts for many of us, many questions which were 990 proper to be raised in this debate. We shall listen with attention to the way in which the noble Baroness responds to the challenging reminder given to her by my noble friend to defend the record of Her Majesty's Government in the United Nations.
After 40 years of glaring and staring at each other there is little wonder that there has been mutual suspicion. We have had our ups and downs. The dreadful days of the Berlin wall era are remembered with horror. It is a time-worn ploy, not exclusively employed by the East, to seek to sow dissension among an opposing alliance. Even the visit to this country of Mr. Gorbachev, and Mrs. Thatcher the Prime Minister saying that she could do business with him, was used mischievously in the United States. It is a tenet of sound defence strategy to exploit the cracks in the opposing forces.
Labour is fully committed to Britain's NATO membership and we in the West have a difficult task in seeking and maintaining a united front. How could Labour look upon NATO as a cornerstone of our defence other than with appreciation, when we recall that it was formed in the days of a Labour Government and was so ably inspired by one of the great Foreign Secretaries of this country, Ernest Bevin?
The decision to launch a programme of research—the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, was right to remind us that it is research—into the creation of a defence system not based on revenge, on the retaliatory principle, is a positive change in global strategy, and is welcomed. There are dangers, as has been pointed out. I implore the Government to urge America to take Russia with it, as far as it can, every step of the way.
Time and time again in debates concerning disarmament, world peace, reduced tension and peaceful co-existence we consider the question of national security, and rightly so. I certainly endorse the professions made by Government speakers that a prime duty of the Government of this country is to ensure the defence and the security of this realm. Security from attack and security within our borders is fundamental to peace of mind for all people, but I wonder whether sufficient time and thought is being given by the Government and our allies to striving for our peace of mind by giving others their peace of mind. Why do we burden our economy and deny our people billions of pounds-worth of social needs? It is because we do not accept that Russia's claims to want peace are sincere. So we seek a balance or parity, or mutually assured destruction.
At the same time, the Russians do likewise. They listen to our declarations that we have no intention of starting a war, that we want to live in peace, that we will de-escalate the arms race. Yet the Russians see those sincere declarations—and I accept that they are sincere—against the background of the astronomical, horrific costs of ever-new weapons of mass destruction. If we are entitled to be less than sanguine about Russian protestations, are they not at least as entitled to be suspicious of ours? In other words, can we not accept that both East and West have erred in the past when assessing the intentions of the other? If we can make progress from this moment on in the belief that there is a mutual intention to avoid war and secure peace, will that not be a major step forward?
991 Reference has been made to chemical warfare. My noble friend Lord Boston asked many anxious questions on this matter in our November debate. Much progress has been made by this Government in this respect. Tribute to the Government's unilateral initiatives were paid by my noble friend Lord Molloy in his opening address. That is much to the credit of the Government, in the way they have persisted in the subsequent talks to try to secure that which we want. However, I do not get too excited at the current situation. The Prime Minister has reminded us that the Soviet Union has a massive chemical warfare capability. I do not doubt that. She also reminded us that Britain abandoned her capability 25 years ago. I do not doubt that, either. But to contemplate restarting the production of weapons of mass destruction, which chemical warfare could turn out to be, would be viewed with horror by the people of this country, and might have grave consequences.
Of course the Prime Minister has gone on, goaded by the revelations in a newspaper recently, to assert that she has a duty to keep that policy of abandonment under constant review. I do not doubt that, either, but I draw this conclusion: there are elements of our defence policy which are capable of being unilaterally radically altered. I also conclude that it is perfectly possible for this Government to take initiatives of a substantial nature across the whole gamut of defence and still remain within the parameters of a sound alliance. We want to see the authority and influence of Her Majesty's Government used more often to urge America to conciliate rather than to prevaricate in world disarmament talks.
"So far so good" could well sum up the sense and the mood in the first few days after Geneva. I certainly re-echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, who counselled us and cautioned us against too much euphoria in the early days following Geneva. If there is a danger of lurching from peaks of euphoria into the troughs of despondency, we need not be ashamed of hailing the new beginnings with more optimism than events may eventually justify.
As the words of Geneva begin to be translated into specific agreements, or not, we shall adjust. We need to be flexible and patient but always to be looking for the bright side and the right side in negotiations. A sober assessment, post-Geneva, of what is held out as an aim and objective of future talks may seem unreal but we must be prepared to give both Mr. Gromyko and Mr. Shultz the benefit of any doubt. The intentions of both appear to be sincere. I am prepared to leave it at that. There can be few, if any, in your Lordships' House who did not rejoice and feel exceeding glad at the outcome of the discussions that were held in Geneva—such a tiny step out of the darkness towards the light. But, my Lords, it will be with such tiny steps, to talk about talks, that we shall make progress.
What has happened, I asked dramatically last week, to give us hope and confidence, or more hope and confidence, for the future arising from Geneva? First, there has been accommodation. Both parties are too big to be seen domestically or internationally to have given in or have given way to the other side. Yet both America and Russia were able to leave the negotiating table having satisfied not only themselves but the other 992 side that a genuine intention to reach agreement under varying heads is in prospect. Only a starry-eyed idealist divorced from reality could have hoped for more, or have expected positive agreements too soon or too much in accord with everything that we want. Secondly, by keeping the future agenda as wide as it is the objectives can be capable of satisfying the most reasonable of men.
Those objectives, although stated, can bear repeating again and again; and we were grateful to be reminded by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, that inexplicably a full copy of the text has yet to be seen and widely circulated. I for my part rely on much that I read in the newspapers. We read, for instance, that one of the objectives of those talks is to work out effective agreements aimed at preventing an arms race in space; secondly, to work out effective agreements to terminate the arms race on earth; and thirdly, to reach an effective agreement designed to achieve the complete elimination of nuclear arms everywhere. Those are the words which appear in the communiqué. I think that we can all rejoice that they are there. But, in respect of the complete elimination of nuclear arms everywhere, I wonder whether the noble Baroness would tell the House how that objective differs from the zero option which surfaced about two years ago in these discussions and negotiations.
What do we do after Geneva? This indeed has been Question Time for the noble Baroness and I want to put a number of questions to her. Where does Britain come in? What happens to Britain's nuclear weapons? What part will Britain play in the discussions? The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, raised, I think quite properly, the question of whether we were going to be consulted or advised or whether our views are going to be sought. Will the Minister tell us whether there are plans for Britain to be consulted before or during the talks? Will those consultations enable a British input? If so, can the Minister tell the House what we are likely to say? For instance, if we can have our finger on the nuclear trigger now—no launch without our approval at this time—will that agreement be up for grabs in the subsequent discussions? The House is entitled to know whether at the very least we are to be properly consulted, and I believe that the Minister can help us here tonight.
Time does not permit it and neither is it prudent or wise to reflect too long on the sad, bad history of mutual suspicion during the past 40 years. I accept without qualification that this Government, by their own lights, pour billions and billions of pounds into a defence budget when they would much prefer not to have to do so. My noble friend Lord Molloy, in bringing us today the opportunity of this debate, raises the possibility in new and changing circumstances of a whole new world. He puts to the Government the worthy consideration of dramatically reducing expenditure on arms and spending our nation's wealth on supplying a range of much more worthy needs. The ultimate desire of all peoples should be to live in peace. Alas! such simple propositions are challenged constantly by the aggression and the violence which breaks out in the world these days.
Not very often do we hear the aggressor declare that his imperialistic actions are motiviated by a naked bid 993 for conquest, for subjugation, for slavery. More often they are justified by allusions to threats to national security, to subversion, to world plans to dominate or, as the right reverend Prelate has said, are claimed to be in response to a crime against human rights. Central to our national defence imperatives is our alliance with others as members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation—and Labour is committed to that. But, as a national entity, Britain is not wholly devoid of initiatives.
This debate serves the purpose of allowing us to reflect on the role that Britain can play within our alliance and with our allies. Unless the view is held that there can be no initiatives, no proposals, no questioning of the lead given by America, we must serve our allies best by exercising some independence of thought and action. But, just as my noble friend Lord Molloy is without equal in his passionate denunciation of arms expenditure, he has few equals in his desire for that to be translated into social expenditure. He has asked searching questions, He is not alone. The noble Baroness can assist us all by taking us into her confidence on matters which she understands are of vital interest to the whole House.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Young)
My Lords, I welcome the opportunity which the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, has provided for us to debate the subject of disarmament. The Government take this vitally important subject very seriously, and welcome the sort of well-informed debate that we have had today. The debate is timely, coming as it does a week after the important meeting in Geneva between Mr. Shultz and Mr. Gromyko.
The Motion refers to,the need for Her Majesty's Government to take the initiative in bringing forward new … proposals for effective world disarmament".Such a call must be addressed not in isolation, but against the background of international security as it exists today. Her Majesty's Government are wholly committed to the search for balanced and verifiable measures of arms control and disarmament. Like successive British Governments, we have accepted our responsibility to work for peace and security at the lowest possible levels of arms, while always maintaining adequate defences. The record shows that British Governments have played a significant role in negotiating and achieving multilateral arms control and disarmament agreements. But history should also warn that no British Government can achieve "effective world disarmament" on their own. However willing we are, it takes more than one party to achieve disarmament.
In common with our NATO allies and all British Governments since 1945, the Government seek arms controls agreements based on the fundamental principles of balance and verification. Agreements must be fair to all sides if they are to stick. Hence the need for balance. Each party must also be confident that the others cannot successfully cheat. Hence the need for proper verification. As my right honourable and learned friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary has said: 994In arms control, as in politics generally, we must not allow the best to be the enemy of the good".Without diluting these principles of balance and verification, we must apply them in ways which encourage, rather than inhibit, progress towards agreement. Balance does not have to mean matching man for man or weapon for weapon: that has never been NATO's defence policy either.
Equally, while perfect verification is an illusion, we will continue to insist on adequate verification. We need agreements which ensure that, if the other side does cheat or break the rules in a way that threatens Western security, we know this early enough to bring the offenders to book and to take appropriate remedies. Because of the open nature of Western societies, the East has less need of verification than we do. I hope that answers one of the points which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Graham. Nevertheless, all Western proposals have envisaged the same verification regime for East and West. We do not ask the East for anything we would not accept ourselves. But some measures of arms control will demand particularly stringent verification if we are to create the necessary confidence that agreements are being observed.
Several noble Lords raised a number of particular points in the course of the debate. Many of them were in fact answered by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, but, if I may, I will just refer to the point that was raised by the noble Lords, Lord Molloy and Lord Brockway, on the suggestion of a nuclear freeze. A nuclear freeze would perpetuate some important imbalances between East and West in favour of the Soviet Union. It would also remove the incentive for the Russians to reach agreements on major reductions in nuclear armaments. Verification of a freeze would be more difficult to negotiate than reductions, which indeed are preferable.
The right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Oxford raised the question of a nuclear weapon-free zone. We believe that a nuclear weapon-free zone in Europe would in fact undermine, and not increase, security. We would be in favour of the principle of nuclear weapon-free zones in areas where nuclear weapons are not yet a factor in the security balance, and provided of course that all the regional states in that part of the world would agree.
The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, suggested that we should commit ourselves to no-first-use of force. Commitments on this matter already exist in the United Nations Charter and in the Helsinki Final Act. No NATO weapons, nuclear or conventional, will ever be used except in response to attack. The priority is to give practical expression to existing commitments by agreement on concrete measures providing for greater openness about military activities in Europe. Real progress along these lines might create the conditions for an appropriate reaffirmation of the principle of non-use of force.
I will now briefly review the current position, and may I say at the beginning that I was very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, acknowledged the work of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. On 22nd December my right honourable friend the Prime Minister met President Reagan and Vice-President Bush at Camp David. This 995 was a valuable opportunity—the first since President Reagan's re-election—for the Prime Minister to discuss at the highest level how arms control negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union might now develop. They naturally touched upon the United States Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI) research programme in the course of discussions which were thorough and extensive.
Not surprisingly, they saw the prospects for the future in very much the same light. The Prime Minister was able to tell the President, as she had earlier made clear to Mr. Gorbachev, that we would not allow others to create divisions between ourselves and the United States on these important questions. During the discussions the Prime Minister and the President agreed on four specific points: first, the United States' and Western, aim is not to achieve superiority, but to maintain balance, taking account of Soviet developments; secondly, SDI-related deployment would, in view of treaty obligations, have to be a matter for negotiation; thirdly, the overall aim is to enhance, not to undermine, deterrence; and, fourthly, East-West negotiation should aim to achieve security with reduced levels of offensive systems on both sides. This will be the purpose of the resumed United States-Soviet negotiations on arms control, which we warmly welcome.
We have welcomed wholeheartedly the outcome of last week's meeting in Geneva between United States Secretary of State Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko. The United States and the Soviet Union will agree through diplomatic channels within one month on the date and venue of the forthcoming United States-Soviet negotiations on nuclear and space arms. They agreed that the subject of the negotiations would be a complex of questions concerning space and nuclear arms—both strategic and intermediate-range—with all these questions considered and resolved in their interrelationship.
The objective of the negotiations, which the British Government fully share, will be to work out effective agreements aimed at preventing an arms race in space and terminating it on earth, at limiting and reducing nuclear arms, and at strengthening strategic stability. The negotiations will be conducted by a delegation from each side, divided into three groups. The two sides believe that ultimately the forthcoming negotiations, just as efforts in general to limit and reduce arms, should lead to the complete elimination of nuclear arms everywhere.
The fact that negotiations will now re-open demonstrates that the firmness and political self-confidence of the Atlantic Alliance over the last four years has paid off. Pre-emptive concessions were not made to bring the Russians back to the negotiating table, and it would have been wrong and contrary to our interests to do this. The West has consistently stated its willingness to negotiate in good faith and without preconditions. I am glad that the Soviet side has responded.
Nonetheless, we all know that Geneva was only the first step on a long and difficult road. That was a point that was made very well, if I may say so, by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, and I think it was agreed and 996 accepted by the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton. Patience and realism will be required. The key to success will be to find the right blend of imagination, commonsense and respect for the legitimate security interests of both East and West.
The Government have already been closely involved in consultations about these talks with our American allies, both bilaterally and through NATO. On 9th January my right honourable friend the Prime Minister assured President Reagan's national security adviser of Britain's continued support for the United States in the negotiations, and looked forward to maintaining the closest contacts during them. We will follow the negotiations with great attention and ensure that the Americans know of our views. That was a point, I think, on which the noble Lord, Lord Graham, wanted assurance. This is the way in which we can maximise our influence in this vital field. It has taken a long time to get even this far, and making progress on such complex matters is bound to be a long haul. Plenty of persistence and perseverence will be required.
Pending progress in the United States-Soviet negotiations on nuclear arms in accordance with the agreement reached in Geneva last week, the Government believe that NATO's INF deployment programme should proceed as planned. To do otherwise would be to make unilateral concessions outside the negotiating framework. The alliance has repeatedly made clear its readiness to halt, reverse, or modify these deployments in accordance with the terms of a balanced and verifiable agreement.
In view of recent suggestions that Britain's nuclear deterrent should be included in the negotiations, it may be helpful if I remind noble Lords of the Government's view. It would be absurd, as things stand, for us to seek to trade reductions with a superpower. But, as the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary told the United Nations in September 1983, we have never said "never". My right honourable and learned friend continued on that occasion (and I quote):On the contrary, we have made it clear that, if Soviet and United States strategic arsenals were to be very substantially reduced, and if no significant changes had occurred in Soviet defensive capabilities, Britain would want to review her position and to consider how best she could contribute to arms control in the light of the reduced threat".This is clear and logical. It remains the Government's position. Nothing that has happened recently has given us any cause to believe that it requires amendment.
Despite the current focus on nuclear and outer space arms control, we should not lose sight of other opportunities for progress, nor forget that conventional war is horrifyingly destructive—a point which has been made by many noble Lords during the course of this debate. As events in the Gulf War have reminded us. chemical warfare is particularly odious. The Government are deeply concerned at the growing threat to ourselves and our allies which is posed by the Soviet capability in this field. The answer is a negotiated worldwide ban. There is no truth in last week's allegation that the Government are considering manufacturing chemical weapons. I hope that that answers the noble Lord, Lord Graham.
997 As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said in another place on 10th January, we abandoned our chemical weapon capability in the late 1950s; there has been no change in Government policy since then, nor is any change proposed. We shall continue to keep our defence policy under review. But at the same time we shall go on playing a leading part in the negotiations at the Geneva Conference on Disarmament, and shall follow up our previous initiatives in this forum. Acceptance of the need for comprehensive on-site inspection presents a difficult new challenge. But that is what arms control is now about. Although complex, the problem of chemical weapons is not insoluble. Indeed, it offers a unique opportunity to advance the cause of arms control and disarmament by reaching agreement on a treaty which will deter the covert production of such weapons.
My noble friend Lord Renton referred to the Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions talks which began in Vienna in 1973, with the aim of trying to reduce the level of Warsaw Pact and NATO forces in Central Europe—the greatest concentration of conventional forces in the world—to a common agreed goal of 900,000 ground and air forces on each side. I am glad to tell him that some progress has been made. But agreement has been bedevilled by the East's refusal to acknowledge their superiority in manpower. A force reductions agreement without reliable figures is clearly a nonsense.
Last April Britain and the other Western participants tabled a major new initiative, which offers a real opportunity to resolve the dispute over the size of the Eastern forces in the reductions area. The initiative offered flexibility on the initial data requirement in return for enhanced measures of verification. It built on various aspects of the Eastern position, particularly on the form and timing of reductions. So far the Eastern reaction has been disappointingly negative; we hope the East will take a more positive attitude this year. For our part, we will continue to try and find a way out of the current impasse.
Despite the popular title Conference on Disarmament in Europe, the Stockholm Conference is not at present about reductions in arms, but about confidence and security building measures. It is part of the broader CSCE process stemming from the Helsinki Final Act, something to which the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford referred, which is 10 years old this year. At the start of the Stockholm Conference the United Kingdom and our allies took the initiative, tabling a set of concrete measures designed to reduce the likelihood of an outbreak of hostilities in Europe, through greater openness about normal peacetime military behaviour. This would make the preparation of a surprise attack difficult if not impossible, and thus diminish the likelihood of an outbreak of hostilities in Europe by accident, design or misunderstanding.
The Soviet Union has called this spying. But we are prepared to offer them the same opportunity to observe Western military activities. We remain convinced that confidence and security must be based on such concrete manifestations of goodwill, and not merely on further declarations of good intent. Ours are practical proposals which, if implemented, could have 998 a major and beneficial effect on confidence and security in Europe.
Every autumn the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly deliberates on disarmament and international security questions. The First Committee is not a negotiating forum, but it provides an annual opportunity to involve all member states of the United Nations in discussion of these key topics. The United Nations recognises that all states must participate in the search for effective world disarmament. Virtually all states have armed forces and armaments, and some 90 per cent. of world military expenditure is spent on non-nuclear forces.
But in such a forum there is an obvious temptation to play to the gallery. As in previous years, last autumn's session considered a record number of resolutions. Some of these were polemical and ideological. For our part, as my honourable friend the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office made clear in the First Committee last November, Her Majesty's Government continue to take the work of the committee seriously. I am afraid that I cannot accept the view which the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, expressed when he commented on these debates.
We consider with great care the texts of every resolution tabled. We support all resolutions which in our view will make a real contribution to furthering progress on balanced and verifiable arms control. Last autumn we voted for or joined consensus on 35 resolutions. We played a major role in helping to co-ordinate and promote positive, balanced resolutions covering subjects of key importance including bilateral nuclear arms negotiations, outer space, and the prevention of nuclear war. We shall play a similar constructive role at the 1985 session.
Finally, I should mention the Third Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which is to be held in September in Geneva. The Government are preparing for it, in co-operation with many others among the more than 120 parties. We will work with determination for its success. Twenty years ago, there were fears that by the early 1980s there would be at least 20 countries in possession of nuclear weapons. In fact, since the treaty came into force in 1970, those forecasts have proved wrong, although there is no room for complacency.
The Non-Proliferation Treaty makes a major positive contribution to international security. It represents a security gain for all nations, whether or not they are parties; but clearly, the more parties the greater the gain. The treaty also helps the development of international trade in nuclear materials, equipment and technology for peaceful purposes, by ensuring that such trade may take place with the minimum risk of proliferation. In short, the Non-Proliferation Treaty is worth a great deal. It would be folly to jeopardise the treaty by tying its future to progress on particular measures of disarmament and by ignoring at the same time the Non-Proliferation Treaty's intrinsic value.
This review of the position in the various arms control and disarmament negotiations shows that Her Majesty's Government have been active in taking the initiative in bringing forward new proposals. May I say that I welcomed the note of encouragement that the 999 right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford gave to the Government. There is now no shortage of such proposals. In the course of 1984, with our allies or individually, we tabled new proposals in every current negotiating forum. My right honourable and learned friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary attended the opening of the Stockholm Conference, where the NATO countries soon took the initiative. At Geneva in February my honourable friend Mr. Richard Luce presented a new British proposal for challenge inspection under a chemical weapons ban, which was followed by another British verification proposal in July. At the Vienna talks, which he had visited a few months before, the Western participants tabled a major new initiative in April. My honourable friend completed his year of visits to every disarmament forum at which Britain is represented with his address in November to the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
We will continue to take the initiative in bringing forward new proposals. We are closely involved in consultations with our American allies about the new negotiations on space and nuclear arms control. We will not be participants in these negotiations, but we are taking every opportunity to share our views with our American allies. What we want to see now is a constructive and positive attitude from the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. We will maintain our guard, but we will always be ready to talk about ways of making this world safer.
§ Lord Molloy
My Lords. I wish to make one or two brief remarks about the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, but first I wish to congratulate him. Whereas I am given, I admit, to changing my stances on developments in world politics, the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has been for years, particularly, on this subject, absolutely consistent.
Consistency, as we all know, is the last refuge of the unimaginative. I have on a number of occasions in this House emphasised how vital it is that we have on-site verification. Indeed, I have said that I would be happy if there were Russians on our television screens being shown coming here to make their inspections, and our top flight technologists and scientists going to all their sites. Added to that is what I had to say earlier this afternoon.
I firmly believe that there must be some way between the British people, the American people and the Russian people. There must still be something left of the great alliance in which I participated between 1939 and 1945, when the Russian nation lost 20 million of her people. I am afraid that the tragedy at the moment is that all of us are lying in the gutter of despair. I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, and to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, that some of us are looking at the stars.
I wish to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for the research that has obviously gone into her speech, for which I am grateful. I thank my noble friend Lord Graham, and all noble Lords who have spoken and listened. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.