HL Deb 03 December 1986 vol 482 cc821-918

2.59 p.m.

Lord Thorneycroft—rose to call attention to the present state of the nation's defence capability and to the case for retaining a nuclear deterrent; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. It refers to defence and to the interrelation between conventional and nuclear weapons. This is a grave and difficult subject and I think it is one worthy of a quiet discussion in your Lordships' House.

I should like to say at the outset that I want to speak about the world as it is, not about some future and possibly better world but about the situation as it now is. It is a world, I am afraid, somewhat distinguished by man's inhumanity to man, and one in which in our own lifetime we have seen war used as a mere extension of policy. I want to talk about what we do now in the circumstances that we are in and with the weapons that exist. If we stick to that we may make some useful progress.

Forty years ago the atom bomb was dropped upon Japan. That was a terrible event on any understanding of it. It did three things. It ended a war. It also dimmed a little the memory that men had about the effects of conventional war—Passchendaele, Okinawa and the bombing of Coventry, of the East of London and of Dresden. Those events were slightly blurred by the sheer horror of this new weapon. Yet only a few weeks ago we were remembering the men who suffered and died as a result of conventional weapons. I hope that we shall not forget in this debate the horrors of conventional war.

The dropping of the atom bomb also brought in a period of 40 years of peace in Europe for which we must be deeply grateful. During all that time and all my active life in politics this country has been broadly united about defence—Mr. Attlee, Mr. Churchill, Hugh Gaitskell, Mr. Callaghan, Mr. Macmillan, all of them; and Mr. Healey arguing for the independent deterrent with the same vigour and determination as George Younger today. There has not been a deep division among the parties in this House about defence. That was a great thing, for if one thing in the last resort is really necessary in defence it is to have a nation united about it.

The strategy which those men supported was based upon the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, of which the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, who is much respected on all sides of the House, is at present Secretary General. The strategy of NATO has been based upon a mix of nuclear and conventional weapons with the capacity of a flexible response to any attack that was made upon the West; and it has worked. I do not stand here to say that NATO is perfect, that it could not be improved or that it may not one day be changed, but I say that before we change something that has worked for 40 years let us think carefully and gravely about it. Above all, if we want to change it, let us try to carry our friends with us, consult with our allies and move slowly and cautiously forward.

There are three aspects of NATO about which I wish to speak. There is the conventional aspect, the Polaris-Trident issue, and what I might for convenience call the American connection. I start with the conventional aspect. A few weeks ago the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, in a speech of that wisdom and moderation which we always expect and get from him, addressed us upon the subject of the balance of power between the East and the West in conventional weapons. I accept the analysis which he gave. He based it upon the report of the Institute for Strategic Studies, and I do not think that anybody looking at these matters would depart very much from it.

I agree with the noble Lord about one other matter. I know, as he said, that we are outgunned and outmanned, but let us not exaggerate the difference in conventional weapons between the East and the West. I should not like it to go out from any part of this House that the Russians would expect a walkover in a conventional struggle in Europe. There could be no more dangerous message. If there was a conventional attack on Europe, we and our allies would give a very good account of ourselves with conventional arms.

That is right but I think the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, would agree that nothing in the report of the Institute for Strategic Studies lends support to the idea that we could do without the nuclear weapon in reserve. Indeed, the institute emphasises that even if we increase our conventional strength, which I believe we should—and I think the noble Lord agrees with me—we might raise a little the level of the nuclear threshold but we could not possibly abolish the need for nuclear weapons altogether. Therefore, the situation on the conventional side is that if the Russians were contemplating an attack—and I am talking in conventional terms alone—they would recognise that they were taking a very great gamble. But we have to admit that men and countries have taken such gambles before, and for a country superior in guns and men and working on interior lines, the possibility of attack might at some time prove to be a gamble that was worth while taking.

I pass to the Polaris-Trident issue. The first question about Polaris—Trident is whether we should possess it at all. That was the question I asked the Ministry of Defence on the day I arrived there, for I was the Secretary of State for Defence under the noble Earl, Lord Stockton. I had a report from the chiefs of staff. I asked them to ignore the fact that I was a Conservative and anything that the Conservative Party or any other party had said. The chiefs of staff would do that, for the advice of such men and the advice of civil servants in this country is not based on party politics; it is dispassionate, determined and very bluntly put, and we should be grateful to them for it. I also asked the then chief scientific adviser, who is now the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, that question. The advice was overwhelming that we should possess this weapon.

The reason is not often stated. It is rather the opposite of what I read Mr. Kinnock to have been saying in the United States. It is that if a situation arose in which an American Government distanced themselves a little from the British Government, if they became a little more isolationist, if they became disappointed with the activities and the loyalty of the British to the alliance it is just conceivable—or it might be just conceivable in Russian eyes, and it is Russian eyes that we must consider—that if the Russians limited the war to Europe the Americans might stand aside. At such a moment the presence in Europe, and in European hands, of a nuclear deterrent is absolutely vital. That has been recognised by one chief of staff after another, by one government after another and by the Americans as well as ourselves. We should therefore be slow to change it.

I now turn to Polaris. I was Minister for Defence at the time of the Nassau Agreement. Skybolt—the airborne carrier—had just been cancelled. I remember walking across to No. 10 that morning and seeing Mr. Macmillan, as he then was, and he asked the question that Prime Ministers ask in those circumstances: "What then should we do about it?". I remember saying to him that if after the next three weeks of intense political uproar we could come out with the submarine weapon for ourselves we should be doing a very good job for this country. That is exactly what we did do, and we went to Nassau. Let me say, if it is not a digression—and my noble friend is not here today—that the House should be grateful to men like my noble friend Lord Stockton for the skill and brilliance of his mind in difficult discussions of that kind. He did superbly. We came back with a weapon that has, after all, served us very well for 30 years.

I remember, too, at Nassau being asked by the President, Jack Kennedy, whether we would be prepared to assign part of the Polaris force to NATO. I said, "No, we will assign the whole of the Polaris force to NATO". That is where it is today, an important part of the defences of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Now, after 30 years, Polaris is old. I am getting rather old myself; things age after 30 years.

Polaris has two defects. First, it is beginning to creak a little, and, secondly, the Russian defences are of course stronger. The anti-ballistic missile defences are stronger, too. Some people forget, with all the talk of star wars, that the Russians do these things very well themselves. Therefore, the time has come to replace Polaris.

The choice arrived at after much discussion with chiefs of staff, experts and the rest is Trident. Politicians should think for a long time before they disagree with the experts' choice about replacement. The SDP is not anxious to have Trident. I agree with the SDP on its support of Polaris, which I applaud. I am glad that it is going to stand up and fight to keep Polaris by whatever means it can; but the SDP does not want Trident. At one time the SDP was talking about a cruise missile and at another time of a Eurobomb. My dear—my Lords—

Noble Lords


Lord Thorneycroft

My Lords, I have an affectionate relationship with your Lordships. It is like arguing with one's wife.

At one time the SDP was in favour of the cruise missile. However, it is slower and less able to penetrate defences. Submarines have to be stationed much nearer to the target. It is a less good weapon. The Euro-bomb is incredible, even to the Liberal Party. It is certainly incredible to the Russians. By all accounts, both would cost more than continuing with Trident.

Therefore, I ask that the SDP should do what I believe it is inclining to do at the moment; that is, not to make a decision but to wait until it is in office—which may be delayed for at least a few months!—and then have a quiet discussion with the chiefs of staff on the proper replacement. However, when the SDP has discussions with the chiefs of staff—

Lord Kennet

My Lords—

Noble Lords


Lord Thorneycroft

My Lords, I should like to finish this comment before I give way. When the SDP has that discussion I want to warn its members that it is very difficult to sit in a room with the chiefs of staff and try to persuade them that the weapon you are choosing has to be as ineffective as the outdated weapon you are phasing out. I honestly do not believe that that is a sensible way of weapon development. I do not think the chiefs of staff will regard it as a sensible way, either.

I should like to tell the SDP one other thing. If that party is in office it will appoint a Secretary of State for Defence. Knowing the quality of the members of the SDP and their ability, I am sure he will be a very good Minister for Defence. He will advise to keep Trident because it is the only effective answer to a replacement at the present time.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, we have been listening with great attention to the noble Lord's advice. However, he has twice said that the Polaris force is 30 years old. Perhaps he could reconsider that. If Polaris is 30 years old that would mean it was established in 1956, but the noble Lord will remember that he was in Nassau in 1960; or was it 1962? We did not get the force for a year or two after that. Is it not right, therefore, to say that Polaris is about 20 years old?

Lord Thorneycroft

My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord is right. Perhaps it is I who am feeling 30 years older. Whatever its birthday may have been, Polaris will be out of use by the middle of the 1990s or before. Therefore, the time has arrived—indeed, it has passed—when we have to start planning the successor system. The successor system has been chosen and planned. A great deal of time and money have been spent upon it. The other successor systems which the noble Lord proposes will in fact now cost more than Trident.

I now turn to the American connection, which is perhaps the most important part. The contribution from America is not limited to nuclear weapons. America sends thousands of her sons to serve in this country and in Europe. They make an enormous contribution. We must recognise—and until now every party in this country has recognised—that without America the defence of Europe, this country and the West would he virtually impossible. Whatever else we do in policy, in defence matters we must surely keep the Americans broadly with us.

They send their men here. At the back they have and firmly believe in a nuclear deterrent, partly based in America and partly based in Europe and the United Kingdom. Not everything about that strategy is perfect. No doubt there should be—and there are—discussions about reducing numbers, which are too many on all sides. I accept all that. But a sudden attempt drastically to change that basic strategy would be a perilous course for this country. It would strike at the very heart and core of NATO and at the defences of the West.

Yet the proposals that are at present being made by the Labour Party are an attempt at a very serious change. As I understand it, the Labour Party intends to end Polaris altogether, to scrap Trident and to order no replacement. That is wholly against what I believe, for the reasons that I have given. I believe that those actions alone would do grave damage to this country, but the Labour Party is going even further. There are people with whom I do not agree—the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, is one—who would probably go along with such a course, but the Labour Party goes much further. In addition, it is proposed to ask the Americans to remove all their nuclear deterrents based in this country and to tell the Americans that we have no need of the nuclear umbrella which America provides and no need for nuclear support for our troops in Europe.

It seems to me that such an approach will cause the very gravest concern to anybody who thinks about the matter. It looks as though it will leave us, and our troops as well, wide open to attack. We shall be such a soft part of the whole scheme that we should actually be singled out for attack. It is said that in no circumstances will we reply and in no circumstances do we wish anybody else to reply in our defence.

I think that perhaps I have said enough. I believe that this policy is fraught with danger. It will receive the all-out support of CND and of Militant Tendency, but I cannot find it in my heart to believe that it will have the all-out support of noble Lords opposite whom I have known for many years, and I hope that before long one or two of them will say so. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.23 p.m.

Lord Irving of Dartford

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, for the opportunity he has given us to discuss this matter, which is a subject of the greatest importance to our people. Those of us who served with him in another place recall the noble Lord as a very distinguished Chancellor of the Exchequer and Secretary of State for Defence. We may also remember him as an equally distinguished but much more rumbustious chairman of the Conservative Party. Therefore for what he has said today one should not expect to find a note of sympathy on this side of the House. I shall try to deal with the points he made as I make my speech.

One of the matters on which we all ought to be able to agree today is that recently there have occurred a number of extraordinary events which have changed our whole perception of defence, perhaps for all time. The most important of them was the discussion that took place at Reykjavik between President Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev, which was frustrated only by Mr. Gorbachev's insistence that SDI should be part of any deal or ban. On a "Newsweek" broadcast on 24th October Mr. Reagan was reported as saying: We proposed the most sweeping and generous arms control programme in history. We offered the complete elimination of all ballistic missiles, Soviet and American, from the face of the earth by 1996. While we parted company with this American offer still on the table, we're closer than ever to a safer world without nuclear weapons". Mr. Shultz described this as "breath-taking progress on disarmament" and next day the Guardian reported that a well-placed diplomat in Washington had said that it was as if the summit had agreed on the Labour Party policy.

Today, nothing can be the same again in this field. What Reykjavik has done is to force us to decide whether or not we really want total nuclear disarmament. In the Guardian last week Hugo Young said: Mrs Thatcher rushed off to see Mr. Reagan and came away assuring herself that nothing like Reykjavik would ever happen again without her being consulted. 'Trident is saved' she joyously proclaimed". There is therefore no clear enthusiasm there about total nuclear disarmament. But therein, I think, lies a great deal of the lack of realism about Tory defence policy. At a time when the super-powers are proposing cuts of at least 50 per cent. in their strategic nuclear weapons, this Government are seeking, at great cost, to increase their nuclear firepower by 800 per cent. and the huge cost of this must prejudice the effectiveness of our conventional forces.

To afford Trident, the Conservatives intend to cut back spending on new equipment by 30 per cent. by 1990. Of course, many of these decisions are conveniently being left until after the next general election. But we are entitled to know from the Minister when he comes to speak which service is to lose out. Will it be the Navy, the RAF or the British Army of the Rhine, where already cuts are causing a lowering of morale? Our commitment to the Navy was for 50 ships but Mr. George Younger has already reduced the number to 47, because to keep it at 50 he needs to order three new frigates a year and that rate of ordering has not been kept up. Is it to be Trident or the RAF?

Already, postponement of deliveries because of our dispatch of Tornados to Saudi Arabia has had an effect on the RAF. The new batch of Harriers has not yet been ordered and there is also a delay in placing the £9 billion order for Eurofighters. The Government must show that they can avoid damage to our conventional forces which may be caused by the purchase of Trident. It is an illusion to believe that, if America were to give up nuclear weapons under a Reykjavik-style agreement, she could continue to supply us with Trident. We have only to look back at what happened to Skybolt to know that.

The next question that the Minister ought to answer is this. Do the Government intend to make Trident and an independent nuclear deterrent an obstacle to an arms agreement on the lines of Reykjavik? If so, the electorate—the majority of whom are in favour of nuclear disarmament and against Trident—are entitled to know. If the British Government regard a British independent nuclear deterrent as essential, they must tell us what to say to other countries which ask, "If an independent nuclear deterrent is right in terms of prestige and security for Britain, why should we not have one?". As to the worth of the deterrent, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, who is a very distinguished former Chief of the Imperial General Staff, has said on more than one occasion in this House that he can seen no circumstances in which Britain could fire an independent nuclear deterrent without the concurrence of the Americans. And why is this? It is because they control the targeting, they control the maintenance and they control the computers.

As to its being a significant bargaining counter, it is well under 2 per cent. of the total nuclear capacity possessed by the super-powers. More than 20 years ago Aneurin Bevan persuaded the Labour Party not to abandon the nuclear weapon so as not to send him, a possible Foreign Secretary, naked into the council chamber. If he were alive today, he would realise at once that not only are we not at the top table but we are not even in the council chamber. With our deterrent representing less than 2 per cent. of the whole, it is clear that we are not likely to influence events. The negotiations are exclusively between the super-powers, and, as Mrs. Thatcher saw, we are not even consulted. If they decide on the zero option they will certainly not allow us to upset that balance by allowing us Trident.

The special relationship, as Mrs. Thatcher sees it, has been achieved at the price of acquiescence in the policies of the President, sometimes, as in the case of Libya, when the whole world except the Americans disagreed with them, and in the case of Iran where 80 per cent. of Americans disagreed with his policy as well. It is clear in the case of Iran that by seeking to defend the indefensible, Mrs. Thatcher has done the President a great disservice in a situation where the candid advice of an ally would have helped. She has therefore contributed to the weakening of the presidency at a time when all America's friends should want to see him strong enough to see the arms control effort that he started at Reykjavik through to a succesful conclusion.

I believe in a special relationship, but it must be based on something more tangible than the tame acceptance of Mr. Reagan's policies. As Hugo Young said in one of his Guardian articles: Our standing in the world depends on more practical proofs of capacity, like a modernised economy and a poverty free society. Mrs. Thatcher's policies could, first, obstruct the road to arms control; encourage the proliferation of nuclear weapons in some unstable nations; weaken our conventional force contribution in Europe and contribute to an increasing instability in the world situation with a greater risk of nuclear conflict. The only way we can avoid the risk of conflict is by comprehensive arms control and by relying on conventional forces for our defence. That is the first part of Labour's aim in its new policy. We are seeking a new look at the effectiveness of the defence of Europe provided by NATO.

Listening to the radio and television, one might think that it is only the Labour Party that is saying those things. However, Henry Kissinger, former United States Secretary of State, said on 2nd October this year what he originally said in 1979: The NATO threat of the early use of nuclear weapons is suicidal.". A deputation from the British Atlantic Committee to NATO earlier this year was told: In response to a Soviet conventional attack, NATO would use nuclear weapons to show that NATO's bluff could not be called". Apart from the dangers of escalation, the House should recognise that that first stage in the ladder of nuclear escalation would be the use of short-range nuclear weapons such as bombs from tactical aircraft, howitzer shells, and, at sea, nuclear depth charges, causing a great many civilian deaths and, at worst, the destruction of Europe. It would be much worse than what happened at Chernobyl. The nuclear disaster at Chernobyl was minuscule compared with a small tactical weapon. Nuclear depth charges would be used at sea to counter deep-diving Russian submarines such as the Alpha class, but there would be no military advantage.

As a United States admiral, Noel Gaylor, put it: The most concrete objection is that any initial use of nuclear weapons at sea would he very much to the disadvantage of the Allies, because we are the outfit with the big ships and we are the outfit largely dependent on service ships to keep the seas open … In addition it has the interesting characteristic, that if you blow beneath the surface of the sea, you will ring the ocean acoustically for several hours and lose the capability to track anybody. As a tactic that is soft-headed, deeply obnoxious—and militarily futile". But that is exactly what Admiral James Watkins, former United States Chief of Naval Operations, was advocating as recently as January this year. He said: shoot the archer [the Soviet submarine] before he releases his arrows". Admiral Watkins seemingly believes that it is possible to fight and win a nuclear war, and a research programme to that end is being undertaken in the United States.

Other Americans have spoken out. Former Senator Gary Hart, likely to be a leading contender for the presidency, said in an article by Peter Jenkins last week: although there was no serious talk of disengagement he thought they were coming very close to the time when there has to be a rearrangement of the finances of NATO". He went on to say that at the moment the United States could not supply NATO in the event of a war as it did not have the ships or aircraft. In that connection, the Conservative Government also have some responsibility for the decline of the British merchant marine, a vital part of our defence strategy.

The Military Reform Group, to which Mr. Hart belongs, wants to see America's conventional forces restructured and NATO's conventional strategy modernised. That is what Labour seeks to achieve. What he proposes would be expensive, but if we are to be serious about nuclear arms control we must recognise that fact; and Labour, in cancelling Trident, would devote the money to the modernisation of our forces in Europe and keep military spending at its present level of 5 per cent. of GDP. According to Mr. Hart: the world is not going to be destroyed by conventional weapons". Mr. Leonard Sullivan, junior, former United States Assistant Secretary of Defence said in an article in the Guardian last week: Many people, including myself, are coming to believe that a non-nuclear defence of Western Europe is practical and within reasonable cost". This desire for nuclear disarmament and a greater dependence on conventional forces for the defence of Europe is at the heart of Labour's defence policy. NATO's nuclear strategy was formulated many years ago when American nuclear power dominated the world. In that respect, it has been set in concrete ever since. Perhaps we had a nuclear umbrella then, but what we have now is an increasingly high risk policy where nuclear weapons have been piled upon nuclear weapons, and instead of a nuclear umbrella we have a high risk of mutual destruction either by accident or as a result of escalation from existing policies.

One complication over recent years has been the Reagan rhetoric, directed towards keeping up the tension between East and West, by constant reiteration of the threat to the West from Russia, which has been portrayed from time to time as the devil incarnate. It is important that we understand the extent of the real threat to Europe.

General Bernard Rogers, United States Supreme Commander, told the press a few weeks ago: There is absolutely no danger of a surprise attack by the Soviet Union". The highly regarded Institute of Strategic Studies, which the noble Lord mentioned, said last month: The balance of conventional force is not as unfavourable as the Government suggests". It continued: in conventional forces world-wide the ratio is 1-1.02 which is statistically insignificant in Europe, the superiority of the Soviet side is nothing like enough to tempt them into an attack on Europe. Clearly, all arms control agreements need verification, but science has greatly increased our ability to detect that kind of activity, and provision for effective supervision must of course be part of the agreements which are made. Mrs. Thatcher has also given her support to SDI. Newsweek, in an article last week entitled, Star Wars—a Dangerous Illusion", said: No one, with the possible exception of Ronald Reagan, believes that all the Soviet missiles would be shot down". Lieutenant-General James Abramson, who should know because he is in charge of the SDI project, scoffs at the idea that his scientists are trying to set up a perfect astronome defence over the nation. What he wanted was to be able to stop enough Soviet ICBMs to make it impossible to ensure a military victory—another costly deterrent and an extension of the arms race. The scheme is so improbable that 7,000 scientists in 110 research establishments across America have signed petitions opposing SDI as a dangerous illusion, and, what is more, vowing not to accept SDI funds.

Alexander Haig, formerly United States Secretary of State and NATO Supreme Commander, said: paradoxically, Star Wars had started out as the centrepiece of the President's plans for the future and it has now become the centrepiece of the obstacles to arms control". The Minister must tell us how the Government view that scheme—as a technical possibility or just another uncritical act of support for the President. After all, the Government have still not made public the memorandum between the United Kingdom and the United States of America on SDI.

The second part of our policy is: The removal of nuclear weapons from the UK and the desire to shift its early reliance towards a more positive conventional defence role". Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, the Labour Party does not believe in the doctrine of flexible approach. As a first step we would work towards a NATO declaration of no first use of nuclear weapons, and I have pointed to the risks of the flexible approach in early use of nuclear weapons and the escalation on to the world scene.

We would also work towards the establishment of a zone free of nuclear weapons within Europe, particularly close to the German border where there are presently stockpiles of nuclear weapons, not only because we believe it would be a positive measure to reduce tension, and, in the light of much good will which was generated at Reykjavik, would be seen as such a positive step, but also because we feel that if there was a possibility of a Russian attack the forward positioning of nuclear weaponry would immediately pose the question of use or lose decisions. In any event, decisions partially arrived at at Reykjavik have rendered much of the argument in favour of nuclear weaponry obsolete or obsolescent. The willingness of the super-powers to sacrifice intermediate nuclear force weapons, and their willingness to cut back enormously on the ballistic strategic weapons, show that many voices in the American Administration do not believe in NATO's current defence posture.

I quote: For too long, we and our allies have permitted nuclear weapons to be a crutch, a way of not having to face up to our defence needs. We must free ourselves from that crutch. Our goal must be to deter if necessary, to repel any aggression without resort to nuclear weapons. That was not Mr. Neil Kinnock. That was the President of the United States. There are those who would say that the policy being adopted by the Labour Party is a high risk policy; that somehow by these decisions we are going to find Americans ready to quit Europe. First, one of the severest criticisms that Americans have made in recent years, which has led to talk of withdrawal, has been that Europeans are not paying a high enough proportion of their home defence expenditure. It is clear that if we get Trident it will be at the expense of our conventional contribution. Labour would devote the money spent on Trident, as I have said, to conventional defence and would continue to spend what is being spent now on defence as well. This would be welcomed by many Americans.

It is said that our action will greatly weaken our alliance.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, will the noble Lord give way?

Lord Irving of Dartford

My Lords, I have a lot to say.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, there is a point that we want to clarify. Does the noble Lord recognise that if he is to cancel Trident he will have to meet very large costs? By how much will he increase the conventional strength? If it is by 15 per cent., it will cost an extra £1,000 million in military salaries alone, without equipping the extra troops. How can he balance the budget and say that defence expenditure will stay exactly the same, despite the cancellation and despite extra conventional forces? How will he do that?

Lord Irving of Dartford

My Lords, Trident represents £18 billion. We shall have the additional amount by maintaining the 5 per cent. The noble Lord will have the opportunity—

The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, the noble Lord mentioned £18 billion. I would be interested to know where that figure came from.

Lord Irving of Dartford

My Lords, it has been quoted in a number of documents. I shall be glad to supply the references to the noble Lord.

It is said that our action would greatly weaken the alliance and perhaps lead to a neutralist position; that it would lead to the break-up of the alliance and Britain's influence, both on the United States and Western Europe; and that it is a folly to reject the United States umbrella. First, on the point of the United States withdrawal of its troops, it is clear that on the grounds of cost, the United States may have to reduce its costs in Europe for budgetary reasons. But she belongs to NATO for quite proper reasons—she considers it in the United States' interest to be a member. When she ceases to believe that, she will leave; and indeed it would be wrong to stay.

It was Caspar Weinberger who said that the United States of America was in Europe not as an act of charity but to look after vital national interests. The United States further assumes that the only United States interests within the United Kingdom are those of its nuclear bases. It overlooks the fact that Poseidon is being phased out, the use of Holy Loch ceases to be of importance and that weaponry could dissappear, as did the Thor missiles, without any great consternation. After all, if the Americans are to keep within Salt II they will have to reduce the Poseidon force anyway and I think it is likely that they will do that.

The real problem lies with the nuclear bases of the F-111 and other aircraft. For reasons already given, we do not believe that we need to have these tactical nuclear weapons as part of NATO's strategy. But there is a further argument at which we must look. It is that by maintaining these dual weapon capability platforms outside the initial response to a conventional attack the enemy, knowing that they will be present, will be encouraged to take them out. It also means that, when they are kept out of the conventional fight and given the priority for the nuclear role, we shall not have enough aircraft for a conventional defence, and again we are encouraging a first strike by the enemy to take out our second strike capability.

However, there are other assets in the United Kingdom which are far more important to the United States. There are the intelligence facilities that exist at Cheltenham, quite apart from our other stations in Germany, Hong Kong and Cyprus, which make the United Kingdom far more important for the defence of NATO, and indeed the defence of the American homeland, than the mere existence of nuclear bases in the United Kingdom. That is quite apart from looking at such installations as Fylingdales and the part it plays in the defence of the whole North American continent. General Rogers said recently that he could see no conceivable circumstances under which America could leave Europe, and then added that that would be disastrous. As to the alliance being weakened, NATO is a coalition of interests and those interests will continue.

In military terms the alliance is weakened if Britain, because of the pressures of nuclear spending, is not able to fulfil her proper role in terms of the defence of mainland Europe and thus gives reasons for other allies not to play as large a part as they should in conventional defence. As I have already said, the position of any power in Europe or NATO is based not only on the size of its armed forces but on its economic strength, technological base, and political stability.

The argument that we should lose the benefit of the United States umbrella I have dealt with already. We have nothing but a high risk mutual destruction situation which, if tactical weapons were ever used, might escalate and produce a world-wide holocaust. We have often heard—and we shall hear it throughout this debate—that the nuclear weapon secured peace for 40 years. I do not believe that to be true. What has secured peace is the settlement reached after the war; the division of Germany, and the agreements between East and West.

By adopting Labour's policy we shall join the majority of NATO countries that will not allow United States nuclear weapons on their terrorities. These are Canada, Norway, Denmark, Spain, France, Portugal, Luxembourg, Ireland. Greece is supposed to be negotiating out, and the Netherlands also plan to reduce their nuclear role. We believe that the logic of our arguments will become increasingly apparent. But let no one doubt Labour's commitment to the collective defence of Europe. Our policy of determined and strong membership of NATO, of unilateral nuclear disarmament and of no nuclear bases in the United Kingdom, far from being a contradiction, is in fact the direction towards which we seek to direct our NATO allies on both sides of the Atlantic. Lord Carrington, Secretary-General of NATO, said in January this year: Anything is possible in NATO—there are no hard and fast rules". We have seen an unprecedented move towards an agreement to get rid of all nuclear weapons. We must not let this opportunity pass. Many Kremlin-watchers believe that for a variety of reasons a wind of change is blowing through the Kremlin. I do not know whether that is true or not. We should, while ensuring that we secure the maximum safeguards by way of inspection and detection, test the sincerity of the Soviets. Let those who are sceptical ask themselves whether, in the last decade or so, through all the excesses of the cultural revolution in China, anyone could have envisaged that so few years later the Queen could be invited to China, and that she would go there and receive such a cordial reception.

I ask the House to remember this. We should not allow the hardliners, those who want to keep nuclear deterrence at all costs—whether they be in the Conservative Party, in the American military, or in the Kremlin—to get away with preventing the world from working towards total nuclear disarmament. That would prevent us taking advantage of what could be a change of the greatest historical importance—one that could bring about the nuclear-free world that President Reagan, Mr. Gorbachev and all of us want.

3.50 p.m.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, neither the Government nor the Labour Opposition offer this country an independent defence policy. They do not offer to this country an independence of decision on how we should deter attack, or the threat of attack—not to this country and not to Western Europe either. It is the intention of the SDP-Liberal Alliance, on the other hand, to do precisely that; to ensure that until disarmament makes such a thing unnecessary, there is in the hands of European NATO a centre of decision distinct from, although in the closest alliance with, that of the United States.

Deterrence is not about posing a threat. A military disposition which is perceived by the other side as being a threat does not deter attack. Its primary effect is to provoke increased armament and thus continue the arms race and make crisis more dangerous.

Deterrence is about posing risks, risks which look sufficient to the other side to make him put from his mind the thought of trying to push us around. But the risks we run in Western Europe are rather different from those they run in the United States. The risks that we in Western Europe think that the Soviet Union may be prepared to run differ from those that the Americans think the Soviet Union may run. They differ by 4,000 or 6,000 miles and by a common frontier. NATO and SHAPE need to be able to recognise and make use of these facts instead of being thrown into confusion by them.

Western Europe needs its own source of risk management within NATO, in which Britain, as the first West European nuclear weapons power, has to be an important factor. An event such as the use in anger of United States weapons within the European NATO area by a NATO commander without consultation within NATO must never happen again. I refer to the United States Sixth Fleet attack on Libya.

I should like to say now why Labour defence policy offers us a reduction of independence. I am referring to the official policy of the Labour Party itself. It was put correctly so far as I can judge by the noble Lord, Lord Irving of Dartford, this evening. That is not often the case from the Labour Front Bench in this House. However mildly he stated it, I believe he did not go against it, although that is not for me to judge.

Labour policy on nuclear weapons has so many follies it is hard to know where to start. Two will suffice. Labour would strip the British Army of the Rhine of its nuclear weapons. The noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, touched upon this point. As a result, the British Army of the Rhine would be the only army on the Central Front without nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are held by armies to prevent the adversary massing. Thus the British Rhine Army would be the one in front of which, if there was a war, the Soviet army would mass for its attack. The policy says, "Aggressors this way! This way to the soft bit!". What are the neighbouring German, American and French armies supposed to do? A party that can threaten its own army with that is not fit to govern any country, and not fit to be part of an alliance.

However, this is only part of Labour's general and unconditional abandonment of our own nuclear weapons and its expulsion of American nuclear weapons. Labour leaders have done a famous deal with the Soviet Union. They have been to Moscow twice. The first time they proposed this deal, and the second time the Soviet leadership was kind enough to play it right back to them so that they could graciously accept it. The proposal was this: if we get rid of our strategic nuclear force—the Polaris submarines and any successor—the Russians will dismantle an equal part of their own strategic force. The Soviet strategic force is about 30 times the size of ours. Therefore, Britain gives up 100 per cent. of its ability to hit Moscow, and the Soviet Union gives up 3 per cent. of its ability to hit Britain.

I doubt that the Russians naturally feel contempt for the Labour Party, but I suppose it is possible to force anyone to feel contempt for you if you go far enough. Nor is it clear with whom this deal was done. It could not have been with the Soviet state, since the Labour Party does not answer for the British state at this moment. Was it with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union? I suppose it was—perhaps we could be told later in the debate.

General Chervov, who speaks for the Soviet Government, has said of this deal: "It has no status in Soviet policy". Nor could it have. I think we should watch with some care the growing habit of Left-wing opposition parties in the West doing deals with communist government parties in the East. I refer not only to this deal but also to the deal between the West German Social Democrat Party and the East German Socialist Unity Party about a very peculiar nuclear weapon-free zone straddling the inner German border. Such deals betray a faint grasp of one of the first principles of multi-party democracy; namely, the separation between state and party, and between government and party.

Lastly—a small point—I should like to ask what is Labour policy about the United States bases in Diego Garcia and Ascension Island. Are they too to be non-nuclear? I think we should be told.

Conservative policy does not give us the European basis for deterrence and risk management which we need. Nobody in the present Government was around when this country was first Hyde Parked and then Skybolted, although the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, who is with us this evening, was there on the latter occasion. Hyde Park is one of the agreements which President Roosevelt signed with Churchill about the joint development and control of nuclear weapons after the war.

When Truman came in, he found the agreement on Tube Alloys (as they called it) in the safe and he was advised to ignore it. He did ignore it, as he was legally entitled to do, because the Senate had not ratified it, or even heard of it. Attlee's response was the famous judgment: We had to hold up our position vis-ávis the Americans. We could not allow ourselves to be wholly in their hands, and their position was not awfully clear always. That was why we got our own first nuclear weapons.

There followed the cancellation of Skybolt, an episode treated fully by the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, and into which I need go no further. We have been Hyde Parked, and we have been Skybolted. We must now face the fact that the Government are running us into danger of being Tridented. When the Prime Minister met President Reagan last month, the President: reaffirmed the United States intention to proceed with its strategic modernisation programme, including Trident. He also confirmed his full support for the arrangements made to modernise Britain's independent nuclear deterrent with Trident. That was agreed wording between the two leaders, and its price was the Prime Minister's protestation, of which I think many of us feel ashamed, that she believed implicitly in his total integrity in the affair of arms for Iran.

Four days later President Reagan was saying that all the American proposals at Reykjavik remained on the table to be taken up as soon as possible, and that had to include the proposal to do away with all ballistic missiles. Trident is a ballistic missile. At the same time, Richard Perle of the Pentagon, whose views do not often fail to previal, was saying that the United States and NATO would get on perfectly well without ballistic missiles.

The present general contusion in Washington (the like of which we have not seen since President Nixon was forced to resign) must make us understand that the risk of our being Hyde Parked or Skybolted again is quite real. The sands are shifting fast. The United States is not like other countries, since so-called executive agreements may be quite legally repudiated by new presidents. To say this is no more anti-American than to say that the United States has a powerful President; it is just a fact of life.

To come at the meaning of this, we have to think about disarmament. The United States and the Soviet Union did agree at Reykjavik in a rough, provisional way that strategic nuclear missiles ought to be abolished. This will have to mean that medium and short-range nuclear missiles are abolished at the same time, and airbreathing missiles, bombers, fighter-bombers and demolition mines, depth charges and chemical weapons. Conventional weapons will have to be brought into balance downwards. Militarily significant countries which do not belong to NATO or the Warsaw Pact will have to be brought in on the act. Such a vast agenda must be encompassed and agreed in broad outline before it is safe to reduce anything very much, let alone abolish it. This is going to take time even with the best will in the world and the highest degree of understanding and self-control.

Let us imagine that ballistic missiles in the world are being reduced. The United States has God knows how many land-based ballistic missiles operational. Apart from the 256 Poseidon missiles in submarines, it has also 384 Trident C4s. These are modern. They began to be deployed only in 1981. If and when the Americans begin to reduce, they will look to some mix of these and their other systems to provide the continuing force which is to be reduced over the 10-year period, or whatever. They can hardly want any new system, such as D5, for themselves; besides constituting a quantitative increase in the age of decreases, D5 would be particularly unsuitable for the minimum deterrent force, which is all that will then be required. Will they keep the production line open for us alone to replace our ancient Polaris force with the new giants? Can we expect it? If they did, could we afford it? On these Benches we take leave to doubt it, and we oppose the policy of the Government because it rests on shifting sands and because it in no way builds up the European pillar of NATO.

The new Soviet Government now speak, for the first time, of the interdependence of communism and capitalism and of the need for collaboration between them in our "already integrated world". They have proposed a programme for general and comprehensive disarmament, just as the United States proposed it through Mr. Eugene Rostow in 1981. If Reagan does not now take up his own old proposal and if he continues to make things as unrewarding for the Soviet Union as he has so far, Gorbachev will go and we shall face once again the ancient and tyrannous sloths whom we have faced over the years.

During the Queen's Speech debate the Government—and no doubt they will do the same today—gave themselves some fun by pretending that the Alliance parties were divided on these matters. As a matter of fact, even then that was no longer the case. The appearance of disunity had been given by a hairs-breadth vote in one organ of one of the Alliance parties. Several weeks ago the situation had been clarified by the organs in our two parties which are responsible for the making of policy. The policy of the Alliance on these matters is as follows.

We welcome the agreement discussed at Reykjavik which would remove all intermediate nuclear weapons. Now that it is clear to all that the Soviet Union will regard this as part of a package which must also include strategic arms reductions and limitations on space-based anti-ballistic missile defences, we propose that the super-powers should initial an agreement that they will at least not increase INF deployments while general negotiations for strategic systems continue. Meanwhile, United States cruise missiles can well remain here, but under dual key.

In government we would withdraw British support for SDI in the form in which President Reagan is pursuing it. It incorporates breaches of the ABM treaty. It is not only destabilising and likely to lead to an escalation of offensive strategic forces; it is also a barrier to any disarmament agreement. We ask the United States and the Soviet Union to maintain the ABM treaty and to extend the notice which must be given if either intends to abrogate it.

In government we would maintain the British minimum nuclear deterrent; we would reassign it to NATO; and we would modernise it as necessary, until it can be stood down as part of a programme of multilateral and verified disarmament in all types of weapons. We would cancel the Trident missile purchase because it would have more warheads and more megatonnage than we need and because it depends too heavily on United States technology.

We listened very carefully to the not unhelpful advice of the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, and we agree that we should go no further than that in saying what we would do instead. In opposition we cannot commit ourselves to the choice of any one system to succeed Polaris. Such a choice can only be made with access to classified information and with the advice of the chiefs of staff, which is available only in government. No, my Lords; we do not know what the advice of the chiefs of staff will be. In this House we have two or three very distinguished recent holders of those offices. Their advice to this House is not unanimous, and we cannot take it for granted that we should obtain unanimous advice from the then holders of those offices.

There are possible choices of successor which would not involve the abandonment of the Vanguard class hulls which are now being built by Vickers at Barrow. As I explained earlier, the question mark over the future of ballistic missiles following Reykjavik, and the possibility that the United States will proceed to deploy SDI, thus forcing the Soviet Union to do likewise, make it necessary that we should also examine other systems, including non-ballistic systems, whether air-launched, surface-sea-launched or submarine-launched, as a means of maintaining minimum deterrence.

Labour policy specifically invites Soviet strong-arm tactics against Britain. Conservative policy ties us again to a single distant and currently erratic friend, and to a technology which is a hostage to fortune. SDP-Liberal Alliance policy prolongs our own minimum nuclear force as part of the deterrence exercised by a group of nearby countries whose nature and interests coincide with ours, though in the closest alliance with our distant friends, until the nations can learn how to live in peace more safely and cheaply.

4.6 p.m.

Lord Chalfont

My Lords, like many of your Lordships, I am sure, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, for giving us the opportunity to debate this important issue today. I want to begin my remarks by stating quite clearly that my own views on this subject have changed radically over the years. I hope that that may save a great deal of research on the part of those who may want to quote from my earlier writings or speeches, because not only do I concede but I claim that my views have changed quite radically. They have not changed on the subject of defence, because I have always believed in and supported an unequivocally strong defence policy for this country. However, I have changed my view on the need for and the desirability of a British nuclear deterrent. I have done so because the circumstances have changed.

In the 20 or so years in which I have been involved in this great debate, many things have fundamentally changed, and I believe that on these matters it is very important that one should keep an open mind and not subscribe to that famous syndrome of the man who said, "My mind is made up. Pray, do not confuse me with the facts". The facts of life have changed and therefore I make no apology for the fact that my views have changed with them.

Before I briefly explain why my views have changed, perhaps I may say that I listened with mounting dismay to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Irving of Dartford. Perhaps one of the reasons for my dismay is that I had hoped he might have drawn our attention to organs of opinion other than the Guardian, upon which the noble Lord seemed to base a good deal of his argument. Incidentally, it is perhaps from that august organ that the noble Lord drew his figure off 18 billion for Trident, because it is a figure that I have not heard mentioned by any authoritative source.

Lord Irving of Dartford

My Lords, I must apologise and say that I gave the wrong figure. The figure should be just under £10 billion, not £18 billion.

Lord Chalfont

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord. That is a difference of about 100 per cent. We must be grateful to the noble Lord for admitting his mistake. However, a more important point is that all that the noble Lord said, in so far as it reflects the defence policy of the Labour Party, seems to me to be based on a fallacy which was implicit in the noble Lord's rhetorical question early on in his speech: do we or do we not want total nuclear disarmament? The answer is simple: no, we do not want total nuclear disarmament in isolation. As part of an overall disarmament agreement, yes, we would want it; but to suggest that we should get rid of nuclear weapons in isolation is in my view not only misconceived but positively dangerous. I shall explain one reason why I believe that that is so.

In the many years that I have been studying this matter, one thing which has not changed is the simple fact of substantial Soviet conventional superiority in Europe. The noble Lord, Lord Irving, mentioned an almost equal ratio between the forces. I point out to the noble Lord that that ratio does not refer to Europe; it is a global ratio. Fundamentally what matters to us is the balance of forces on the northern and southern fronts of Europe. I should like briefly to state the facts on this matter. These facts are not disputed by anyone—not by the Soviet Union nor by the Institute for Strategic Studies.

The Soviet Union, on the northern and southern fronts of Europe, has a superiority in tank divisions of something like 2 to 1; 3 to 1 in mechanised divisions; 2 to 1 in main battle tanks; 3 to 1 in surface to surface missiles with a dual capability, both nuclear and conventional; something like 5 to 1 in anti-tank guns; and 7 to 1 in surface to air missiles. There is a clear, factual, numerical superiority of forces between the Soviet Union in Europe—the Warsaw Pact in Europe—and the NATO forces in Europe.

To that we must add a number of other factors. The first is that the Warsaw Pact has a common range of weapons and total standardisation within its forces. In NATO we have not. The pact has a common tactical doctrine throughout the whole of its national forces. We in NATO do not. It has the ability to reinforce rapidly on internal lines of communication. We in NATO do not. Finally, it has, as a potential attacker, a monopoly of the choice of the point of attack and, therefore, the possibility to increase the imbalance of forces by concentrating in a place of its own choice.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, I am anxious to help the noble Lord make the best of his case. I was listening to discover whether he was going to say anything about the different size of Soviet and Western divisions. I do not think he did.

Lord Chalfont

My Lords, no; the figures I have mentioned take account of the difference in division size, because the difference in the actual numerical strength of the division is less important than the battle efficiency of that division. I take the assumption—which, incidentally, the Institute for Strategic Studies takes—that a Soviet division, although it might be smaller than some NATO ones, is at least as effective.

I differ, therefore, from my noble friend Lord Thorneycroft in this respect. I believe that there is decisive superiority on the Soviet side—on the Warsaw Pact side—vis-á-vis the NATO forces. I assume from that, therefore, that the principal or sole deterrent to any attack—to any thought of attack—by the Soviet Union against numerically, qualitatively and quantitatively weaker NATO forces, is the fear of escalation to nuclear war.

Perhaps I may at this stage take up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Irving: that the Labour Party would save the money to be spent on Trident and use it to enhance the strength of our conventional forces in Europe. I wonder if the Labour Party, or the noble Lord, have costed this and have worked out precisely what they would be able to produce with the money they would save by not spending £10 billion on Trident over the next 10 to 15 years. I can tell your Lordships that the answer is that you would probably be able to produce one fully-manned armoured division, perhaps 10 to 15 frigates, or a squadron of aircraft. That would not in any way affect the substantial ratio of forces as between the Soviet Union and the West. It would hardly affect it at all. I would ask the noble Lord to place himself, for a moment, in the mind of a planner in the Kremlin who might be contemplating a war against the West. What would be more likely to deter him: a Trident nuclear force or a new armoured division in the British Army of the Rhine? I would suggest that the answer is only too obvious and hardly needs underlining by me.

There has been an argument to which I subscribed for some time: namely, that we could rely upon the American nuclear deterrent—the NATO nuclear deterrent—to provide the means of ensuring we were not attacked conventionally by the Soviet Union. The noble Lord has said that Norway, Ireland, Denmark, The Netherlands and Spain do it. Yes, we are indeed, with the dubious exception of France, the only Western ally with a nuclear deterrent. However, since those arguments were advanced—I can only suppose that the noble Lord was relying upon the facts behind arguments put in the 1960s and 1970s—much has changed. I want briefly to mention three areas in which fundamental, vitally important change is taking place in the confrontation between East and West.

The first concerns the perception in the United States of where its strategic and political interests lie. The noble Lord said—and I think he was quoting someone when he said it—that when it is no longer in the interests of the United States to remain in Europe and defend it they will get out. Yes, they will get out, and there are signs that they are beginning to think that way. Many strategic analysts and planners in the United States are now looking to the south, where there are difficulties in Nicaragua and possibly Mexico. Many people now perceive a strategic threat from the south to the United States of America. There are many who point to that and to the great aggregation of economic power now taking place in the Pacific rim. They point also to the fact that while these new threats to American security are emerging, what is also emerging is a sign of a lack of commitment, a lack of loyalty, a lack of resolution in Western Europe.

I pose the question that it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that within the kind of time-scale we are considering the United States will change its strategic perception and will no longer regard Western Europe as the frontier of the United States of America: that it will no longer equate its strategic interests with the defence of Western Europe. We had better bear that in mind because, as the noble Lord said, the moment the Americans perceive that it is no longer in their interests to defend Western Europe they will cease to make it the top priority of their defensive and strategic programme. That is the first change that is taking place.

The second is in arms control. We have heard a number of admiring references to what happened, or nearly happened, in Reykjavik. Let me underline that what nearly happened in Reykjavik was an arms control agreement between the two super powers virtually over the heads of their Western European allies. If that can happen once, it can happen again. Let us not assume that when the super powers come to make their own calculations of their own interests, they will have in mind the views, the preoccupations, the fears, the concerns, of Western Europe. It is quite likely that they will deem it in their interest to conclude agreements which may, in the long run, not be in our interests at all.

It is, therefore, in that context that we must consider our future defence policy. While we must always regard NATO as the cornerstone of our defence policy, and the United States as one of our greatest allies, we must continually bear in mind that the views, strategies and preoccupations of the super powers are not immutable. They can change, and they can change the whole strategic climate and strategic balance virtually overnight.

The third change that is taking place is in military technology, and specifically in the field of strategic defence: the defence against nuclear attack. As has already been pointed out, there is great tendency to talk about SDI—the Strategic Defence Initiative—as though it were some sudden blinding flash of knowledge and revelation in the White House. But strategic defence research has been going on for years. It has been going on for years in the Societ Union, in the United States and—and this may come as a surprise to some of your Lordships—in this country as well. The decision to upgrade the Polaris missile by placing the Chevaline warhead on it was taken because of the fear of increased anti-ballistic missile defence in the Soviet Union. That was the reason why the Chevaline decision was taken.

We have always taken account of the fact that the Soviet Union might at some stage be able to mount an effective defence against our existing nuclear striking force. That position has now developed to a very considerable extent. The Soviet Union is well advanced in a number of areas of strategic defence. It has enhanced the capability of its defences around Moscow; it has undertaken advanced development programmes in lasers, directed energy, kinetic energy missiles, high-definition radar, information technology—indeed, in all that will be needed to mount an effective defence against the kind of nuclear striking force that we have now. That is the third change that is taking place.

I could mention other less fundamental changes in the strategic climate. However, perhaps I have said enough to indicate that this is a time of great uncertainty and it is no time to be meddling with the defences of this country for ideological reasons.

The United Kingdom has a nuclear striking force. It is not Ireland, Denmark, Norway or Spain: it is Great Britain, and it has a nuclear striking force. It contributes to the Western deterrent if only in the way so ably outlined by Denis Healey several years ago: it provides a second centre of decision-making within the Western Alliance.

Therefore, we come to the fundamental conclusion that because of all these changes—and specifically perhaps because of the advances in military technology—Polaris, for a number of reasons, can no longer be regarded into the future as a credible deterrent, not even Polaris with a Chevaline warhead. Thus we come to the question of whether we go ahead with some new kind of nuclear deterrent which will remain credible for the rest of this century and into the next.

It is possible to have an intelligent and constructive debate about what that deterrent should be. Should it be Trident, should it be a ballistic missile defence? I happen to believe, for various reasons mainly to do with the potential enhancement of Soviet defences, that it should be a ballistic missile system which will increase the range of manoeuvre of the submarines; increase the range of the missiles and their penetrative power, and thereby produce the most effective deterrent.

It is possible to argue, as the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, has argued, that there are other ways to do that, and those arguments should continue; they are important arguments. However, that does not undermine the fact that we need strong defences and a nuclear deterrent. Incidentally, I say with all respect to the noble Lord, that the comments of all the Americans whom he quoted as regards tactical nuclear weapons and weapons at sea were comments and criticisms of the tactics of the use of nuclear weapons. Not one of those comments was a criticism of the concept of a nuclear deterrent to prevent an attack by the Soviet Union. I repeat: not one. I noted each comment that the noble Lord quoted.

I conclude by saying that these are very dangerous and uncertain times. We do not know the kind of strategic, military, technological climate into which we are moving. In my view this is the worst possible time to abandon the many years that we have had of consensus on defence policy and on the security of this nation.

We need an unmistakably strong and resolute defence policy. I agree 100 per cent. with the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, when he said that "unmistakably strong" means unmistakable to the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union must never be given the impression that we do not take the defence of the West and the defence of this nation seriously. It is my strong belief—and I say this without any acrimony or bitterness—that what the Labour Party is now proposing to do to our defence policy will send a message to the people in the Kremlin, who are not weak or foolish, that we are no longer serious about the defence of the United Kingdom. They will make their plans and lay their strategic philosophies accordingly.

We need just three elements to keep in mind when formulating our defence policy for the rest of this century and the next. First, a close relationship with the United States of America. That is absolutely indispensable and basic. We must do nothing that will weaken those links. I believe that what is happening in the leadership of the Labour Party at present will weaken those links.

Secondly, we need a clear commitment to the NATO Alliance. I believe that everything that the Labour Party is promising to do if it gets into office has one inevitable conclusion; namely, the fundamental weakening and unravelling of the NATO Alliance.

Finally, we need a credible, effective contribution to nuclear deterrence because without that the overwhelming conventional superiority of the Soviet Union will enable it to take a certain course. I am not referring to the ability to sweep its forces down to the Channel ports—that is the least of the possibilities. We are not talking about fighting on the Westphalian Plain or on the River Rhine; we are talking about the ability of a country to use nuclear power in the classic Clausewitzean sense, of nuclear power; that is, to force political concessions from its adversaries. Once we allow ourselves to be placed in that position vis-à-vis the Soviet Union, Europe is lost and we are lost.

Those three elements are essential in the future defence policy. I genuinely believe—and I hope that there is no partisan content in what I say—that anyone who abandons a single one of those elements is gambling with the safety of the West and the safety of this nation.

4.28 p.m.

The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Thorneycroft has rightly drawn attention to one of the most important issues now facing this country which has profound implications for the stability of the NATO Alliance, the cornerstone of the peace in Europe we have enjoyed for so many years.

With your Lordships' permission, I shall at the end of this debate briefly respond to some of the points raised, but I should now like to take the opportunity to explain the concern that we on this side of the House feel towards the defence policies of the Official Opposition and the Alliance parties.

As everybody knows, the Soviet Union devotes enormous resources to improving the strength and capability of its armed forces. The massive expenditure of the Soviet Union and her allies especially over the past two decades has resulted in a major expansion in numbers and a marked increase in capability in all areas—strategic and theatre nuclear forces; ground forces, air forces, naval forces and air defence forces.

To look at the position in terms of capabilities, there is what is often regarded as a measure of rough parity at the strategic nuclear level. But the Soviet Union has a greater number of strategic systems than the United States. And their concentration on large intercontinental ballistic missiles gives them a significant advantage in this category in the number of missile warheads. They have in fact three times as many as the United States.

In Europe, the Warsaw Pact has a dramatic theatre nuclear advantage over NATO. They have a four to one superiority in warheads on missiles with a range between 1,000 and 5,500 kms; a nine to one advantage, no less, in missiles in the range 150 to 1,000 kms; and an eight to one advantage in missiles with a range below 150 kms. These figures are daunting enough but they do not include the Russians' 350 or so medium bombers, to NATO's 144, or the 3,500-odd dual capable tactical aircraft and nearly 6,000 artillery pieces, deployed in numbers which greatly exceed those on the NATO side.

Turning to conventional forces, on the central front the Warsaw Pact has much greater manpower than NATO—some 57 divisions to our 33. It has about two-and-a-half times as many tanks and artillery pieces and twice as many aircraft. In the broader Atlantic-to-the-Urals picture, the position is just as bad. In manpower terms, the Warsaw Pact has about 4 million to our 3 million. Over 50,000 of its tanks face NATO's 18.000. It has 33,000 artillery pieces as against NATO's 10,000, and, in tactical aircraft, nearly 8,000 as opposed to our 4,000. All this has added significance, since, given geographical factors, the Soviet Union can bring reinforcements to bear in critical areas much more readily than NATO. It has also developed an ocean-going fleet with the potential for global power projection. This includes three Kiev class aircraft carriers, 60-odd destroyers, some 36 cruisers and about 200 nuclear-powered submarines of which over 60—my Lords, over 60—carry nuclear ballistic missiles.

Soviet forces have capabilities in chemical weapons that far outweigh those of NATO including specialist troops responsible for aspects of nuclear, biological and chemical warfare. Soviet Union servicemen are trained in the doctrine and tactics of chemical warfare and its forces can mount a chemical attack by sea, land and air. A range of chemical warfare agents are produced. The Soviet Union is estimated to have a stockpile of some 300,000 tons of nerve agent alone.

This vast military machine is no doubt in part accounted for by the suffering the Russians have experienced in the past, in particular during the Second World War. Their determination that this should never happen again is understandable. But, by any measure, the Soviet Union's military capabilities appear to be far in excess of those required purely for defence, and Soviet numerical superiority over NATO in many key categories of equipment, together with the emphasis in its operational doctrine on offensive operations are a just cause for concern.

I do not believe for one moment that the ordinary Russian people want war any more than we do, least of all a nuclear war, which would be suicidal. But two factors, the troubled Russian history leading to a paranoid over-insurance of their security, and their past preparedness to resort to force in their interests or in the interests of Communism—these two factors, whether we like it or not—pose a threat. The Soviet Union has not shown much hesitation in using force in the past. Remember, my Lords, Hungary in the 1950s; Czechoslovakia in the 1960s; Afghanistan in the 1970s; and the heavy pressure exerted on the Polish government in the 1980s to suppress the Solidarity movement!

The only sure way to meet a massive force of uncertain intention such as the one which faces us is through collective security. That is why this country opted, nearly 40 years ago, for membership of NATO. Successive British governments have seen this as the only effective means of fulfilling a government's most vital responsibility—to ensure the security of the nation and its freedom to pursue its interests in peace and stability. For decades, our contribution to the NATO alliance has featured at the top of our defence priorities. This is still true today, when more than 95 per cent. of the defence budget is devoted, directly or indirectly, to NATO.

The character of NATO is well known and understood; it is a defensive alliance. Its policies and strategies are formulated to respond to attack. Its whole objective, through the policy of deterrence, is to prevent war, any war. We and our NATO allies are only too well aware of the dangers of war between the super powers. In the nuclear age, it is manifestly obvious that neither side could win such a war. But this recognition on our part is not enough to prevent a conflict; it is essential also that the Soviet Union accepts it.

To deter successfully, we in NATO must be able—and must be seen to be able—to respond to potential aggression in such a way as to convince a would-be attacker that he would embark on any aggression only at his peril. This does not mean that we have to match Warsaw Pact forces man for man, weapon for weapon. To do that would involve enormous outlay and there are too many other things that we would want to spend our money on. But what it does mean is that, as an alliance, we must show ourselves determined to act jointly in defence of the NATO area. We must possess the capability to respond effectively, no matter what the level of aggression aimed against us. And if deterrence fails, we must have the means to convince an aggressor, through escalation if necessary, that it would be in his interest to cease his attack and withdraw.

NATO's strategy, the strategy of flexible response, demands a range of forces which, at each level, must be visible and credible. Conventional forces must be deployed in sufficient strength and in such a way as to hold a conflict at the conventional level for as long as possible and convince an aggressor that he can expect no quick or easy conventional victory.

Theatre nuclear forces are the second tier; these are essentially the link between conventional forces and strategic nuclear forces. They provide a deterrent option short of the threat posed by NATO's last-resort strategic strike forces.

Lastly, we have the strategic strike forces themselves. As with all NATO forces, their strategic effectiveness is paradoxically demonstrated by the fact that they remain unused. They represent the ultimate sanction. They are the reason why wars cannot be won and should never be started and they are essential to NATO's aim of effective deterrence.

Flexible response is not an offensive strategy. It does not encompass any notion of "first strike" nor does it imply a commitment to the early use of nuclear weapons. But to present a credible deterrence policy, we have to show both the will and the means, in the event of an attack, to put at risk non-Soviet Warsaw Pact forces, Soviet forces and if necessary the Soviet homeland itself.

As I have already pointed out, the Warsaw Pact has a considerable superiority over NATO in conventional forces. If we were to renounce the first use of nuclear weapons, we ourselves would be creating a temptation for the Russians to launch a conventional attack on Europe on the assumption that NATO would not use its nuclear forces in an attempt to avoid defeat. To put ourselves into that situation would be patently and absurdly dangerous. It would undermine our basic aim which is the prevention of war. I repeat that NATO is a defensive alliance. It maintains only the minimum forces necessary for effective deterrence. Its leaders have pledged repeatedly that no NATO weapons, either nuclear or conventional, will ever be used except in response to attack. What more stabilising reassurance could we offer than that?

The flexible response strategy has served NATO well since its introduction in 1967 and I believe the policy of deterrence which it underpins will continue to be the basis of our approach for many years to come. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister and President Reagan reaffirmed the importance of nuclear deterrence when they met at Camp David recently. But the success of deterrence should not stop us from attempting to prepare ourselves for what the future may hold. Circumstances change, and rapid technological progress is a feature of our age. Adjustments in policies and strategies to take account of new challenges and new possibilities are a normal part of military and political life. The debate about the strategic defence initiative is about one possible evolution in strategic thinking—no more and no less than that.

The research to determine whether or not an effective system of defence against ballistic missile attack is feasible will take decades. But the simple fact that there are no easy answers is no reason to dissuade us from supporting that research. We continue to support it on the basis of the four points agreed between the Prime Minister and President Reagan at Camp David in 1984. We continue to see it as a valuable hedge against the extensive work in the field of ballistic missile defence which the Soviet Union has been carrying on, undeclared, over the past 20 years and which she is continuing today. I commend to your Lordships a paper published by my department which was placed in the Library of the House in November 1985. The paper sets out Soviet ballistic missile defence efforts in some detail, and it exposes for the nonsense that it is the Soviet attempt to present the US SDI as a new and dangeous unilateral initiative.

I have already reaffirmed the Government's belief that keeping the peace successfully will continue to depend on the policy of nuclear deterrence. Every British Government of both political persuasions for well over 30 years now have thought it right to maintain an independent strategic nuclear deterrent. This policy has consistently received the support of the British people and continues to do so today. The British deterrent makes a unique contribution to the security of NATO, and is the ultimate safeguard of our national security. In comparison with the strategic arsenals of the super powers, the British deterrent is small but the damage it can inflict in absolute terms is immense. Indeed, to be effective as a deterrent it must be capable of inflicting damage on the Soviet Union which would be clearly unacceptable to the leadership.

Deterrence is a matter of perception—not by us, but by a potential aggressor. The United States commitment to the defence of Europe is clear: it is there for all to see in the permanent basing in Europe of some 300,00 of that country's service personnel. So we do not doubt US resolve. But, as always, it is a matter of what a potential aggressor might think. There is no denying that for the United States to use its nuclear weapons in the defence of Europe would be a momentous decision, and it is not impossible that, at some point, circumstances might prevail which would lead the Soviet Union to imagine that it could attack Britain or Europe without risking a nuclear exchange with the United States.

The independent control we retain over our deterrent and the fact that we are prepared to use it in defence of national as well as NATO security goes to the very heart of why the commitment of our nuclear forces to NATO is so valuable. It creates a second centre of nuclear decision-making within the alliance. This complicates the Soviet ability to judge the likely response to any attack on NATO in Europe and thereby reduces the chances of such an attack.

I would have hoped that it was clear by now to all who have eyes to see that any abandonment of our nuclear role—as the Labour Party has proposed—would directly weaken our national security; and I have to say to noble Lords opposite that it is a policy which is dangerously naive. The removal of all nuclear weapons from British soil would not make us any less of a target. In the nuclear age Britain cannot isolate herself from the real world outside. If a Labour Government wished to remain a member of NATO, Britain would continue to be an important base for the reinforcement of Europe in time of war. That alone would be enough to make Britain a target of Soviet missiles. But if the objectives of unilateral disarmament would never be fulfilled, the devastating consequences that would flow from such a decision are all too clear to see.

If Mr. Kinnock's Britain not only abandoned nuclear weapons but rejected the protection of the United States nuclear umbrella as well, with the Russians' retention of nuclear weapons how could we avoid nuclear blackmail? However strong our conventional forces, we should have no choice but to surrender. Where is the morality in that?

In those circumstances the Labour Party intends that Britain should remain a member of NATO, while opting out of its strategy. No NATO country ever rejected NATO's agreed strategy. By its rejection of that strategy a Labour Government would deny British troops in Europe any nuclear protection. The British sector in the front line would become a weak link—an obvious target for the Soviets to concentrate their attack. There can be little doubt that such a development would put Britain's continued membership of NATO in serious jeopardy.

The Labour Party would unravel still further the threads which bind the Atlantic alliance together, by insisting on the removal of all United States nuclear bases from Britain. Mr. Kinnock could embark on 100 lecture tours of the United States to explain his policies, but his actions would still speak louder than his words. And his policies would send the unmistakable signal to the United States that Britain, her most imortant ally, was no longer willing to pull her weight in the defence of Europe.

When the United States Secretary of Defense felt duty bound to point out the dangers of this course, he was accused by the Labour Party of scaremongering. I recall that during his address last month to the Atlantic Institute for International Affairs in Brussels my noble friend Lord Carrington, the Secretary General of NATO, said: NATO must continue to rely on a strategy of nuclear deterrence. Until some fundamental agreements can be reached, only nuclear weapons pose the unacceptable risks which are essential to effective and credible deterrence". When the Government announced in 1980 their intention to purchase Trident as the successor to Polaris, the issue was much more fundamental than a decision about a particular weapon system. The real issue was whether or not the United Kingdom should retain an independent strategic deterrent: for not to replace Polaris at all or to replace it with an insufficiently credible force would amount to an act of unilateral nuclear disarmament.

The noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, during our debate on 13th November—he knows that I am mentioning what he said—outlined what he claimed to be a defence policy for the Alliance. This included the cancellation of Trident and the retention of a minimum deterrent with a capacity frozen at a level no greater than that of Polaris. The noble Lord did not say what that deterrent will be; indeed, he claimed that a decision can wait. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, repeated Alliance defence policy, so-called, today. This policy amounts to nothing less than one-sided nuclear disarmament. There is only one thing that distinguishes that policy from that of the Labour Party. The Labour Party would disarm unilaterally by design; the Liberal Party would do so by default.

If Polaris were to be extended in service, it would mean spending ever-increasing sums of money to maintain an increasingly ineffective deterrent. If Britain's independent capacity to deter is to continue unbroken well into the twenty-first century, work on a replacement for Polaris needs to start now. It cannot wait on the convenience of the Liberal Party Assembly. Polaris represents a minimum deterrent now. To freeze the replacement for Polaris at the same capacity would make it by definition less than a minimum deterrent when judged against improvements to Soviet capabilities. In short, it would be a deterrent that would not work, and that is no deterrent.

When the Government were considering the various options for the system to succeed Polaris, the requirement against which all possibilities had to be judged was very clear. Britain's strategic nuclear deterrent for the mid-1990s and beyond had to be the minimum force which fulfilled our defence criteria and which was, at the same time, affordable. Trident will represent that minimum force and an affordable force. Our strategic deterrent, which is based on one system alone, must be capable of meeting the criteria necessary for effective deterrence. These are—in the Government's judgment—that, first, the force must have the power to inflict a level of damage which is unacceptable to the Soviet Union; secondly, it must possess sufficient capability to convince Soviet leaders that, notwithstanding defensive or other measures, the weapons will reach their target. Trident will meet those criteria—no more and no less.

Trident, like Polaris, will be a four-boat force. A force this size is the minimum which will be required to guarantee that one boat is on patrol at all times—a factor which is essential to credibility.

Trident will also represent the minimum force in terms of the number of warheads. Contrary to some of the wild claims by the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Irving, today, it will carry far less than the maximum theoretical capability of the system but nonetheless sufficient for deterrence purposes. We have made no secret of the fact that there will be more than currently carried by Polaris. But to appreciate why this extra capability will be needed and will indeed represent only the minimum required for effective deterrence, it is necessary to remember the environment in which Trident will be operating. The force will have to cope with Soviet defensive systems which did not exist when Polaris entered service.

The range of the Trident D5 missile will enable the launch submarines to operate over a significantly greater area of the sea than their Polaris counterparts. This will be vital if the boats are to maintain patrol undetected in the face of continuing advances by the Soviet Union in anti-submarine warfare techniques.

The second requirement which the successor to Polaris has to fulfil is that it should be affordable. I have explained to your Lordships on numerous occasions that Trident is indeed affordable. In the peak years of expenditure, it will absorb on average no more than about 6 per cent. of the defence budget. This is a lesser slice than that taken, for example, by Tornado. It remains a fact that if Trident were to be cancelled tomorrow and all the resources thereby saved spent on conventional force, we could not begin to purchase the same deterrent power. I commend to your Lordships the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, who so graphically explained that point.

It is a fact, too, that of all the alternatives to Trident currently being offered by some of the noble Lords opposite, none would be as cheap. To take one example dear to the heart of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet—sea-launched cruise missiles—the range of submarine-launched cruise missiles is shorter than Trident; the sea-room in which the submarines would be forced to operate would be more limited; and they take longer to fire. For all those reasons, cruise missiles would be more vulnerable; their ability to penetrate Soviet defences by the year 2000 could not be assured. To create a cruise missile deterrent force as effective as one based on Trident ballistic missiles could therefore require as much as double the expenditure both in terms of capital and running costs. Even then, it would be inconceivable that an effective cruise missile alternative to Trident could be developed and deployed in time to replace Polaris.

I was also interested to note in a recent SDP party political broadcast that the possibility of air-launched cruise missiles as an alternative to Trident was also raised. A system based on air-launched cruise missiles was of course one of the options studied by the Government in 1980. It was rejected for the simple reason that, when considered as a system on which to base our last resort deterrent force, the disadvantages it carried far outweighed its merits.

An airborne system would of course depend for its basing on major airfields in the United Kingdom and these would be highly vulnerable to surprise attack. Certainly they would not meet the special standard of invulnerability required for the strategic deterrent. You could by no means be sure of scrambling aircraft in time to beat an incoming attack and it would simply be too expensive to keep those aircraft on permanent airborne patrol.

Operationally, air-launched cruise missiles suffer from the same disadvantages as their sea-launched counterparts, and, as launch platforms, aircraft would be much more open to attack than submerged submarines. The attrition rate of air-launched cruise missiles would therefore be high and the numbers of aircraft missiles which would be needed to be sure of achieving the degree of striking power required would make it a very expensive system indeed.

The fact is that Trident will represent the cheapest means of retaining the minimum independent nuclear deterrent that we presently possess, to which this Government remain absolutely committed. We will maintain our good stewardship of the programme to ensure that it continues to represent unparalleled value for money, and, my Lords, I tell you now that we intend to see the Trident programme right through to completion.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, may I intervene before the noble Lord leaves that present point? He is roundly damning all possible cruise missile deployments. In doing so, why is he confining himself only to the range of the current generation of cruise missiles and allowing for no possible extension in the future? Also, why is he ignoring the enormous deployment of strategic cruise missiles which has taken place in the United States navy in recent years? Does he think that is all worthless, and, if he does not, why should it be worthless if we do it?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the United States systems are not systems of last resort, as is our strategic system. As for the other shortcomings of cruise missiles, I invite the noble Lord to study what I have said. I listed more than one.

I have spoken at some length about the importance of our nuclear forces, but the key role nuclear weapons play in maintaining effective deterrence does not mean that there are not too many of them in the world. On the contrary, the Government have consistently supported efforts to reduce the huge nuclear arsenals of the United States and the USSR to produce security at lower levels of weapons.

Much was achieved at Reykjavik to move this process on; and at their meeting of 15th November my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and the President agreed on the way forward. They agreed that the priority should be to achieve an INF agreement with restraints on shorter-range systems; a 50 per cent. cut in US and Soviet strategic weapons; and a ban on chemical weapons. They also reaffirmed that NATO strategy would continue to require effective nuclear deterrence based on a mix of systems, and that reductions in nuclear weapons would increase the importance of eliminating conventional disparities. The President also reaffirmed the US intention to proceed with its strategic modernisation programme and his support for UK Trident.

This is a clear picture of the way ahead, and we now have a real opportunity to achieve very significant arms control agreements. While many details remain to be resolved, the basis for an agreement of 50 per cent. cuts in strategic weapons is there to be had, if only the Soviet Union were prepared to go ahead with it; but they are not apparently prepared to do so, except on their terms in relation to the SDI. Another disappointing aspect of their attitude is the attempt to relink an agreement on INF to the SDI as well.

The differences between the two sides on the SDI issue are well enough known, but the West has always sought to make progress in one area where this is possible without making it hostage to agreement in another. Last November, at the Geneva summit, it seemed that the Soviet Union had accepted this when they made it clear that they were prepared to reach agreement in the INF area independently of the other two areas. Now they have gone back on this, and the knots are tied together again. I hope they will rethink their approach and work to clinch and implement an agreement on INF. The West is ready to do so.

The other issue I should like to touch on is the place of the United Kingdom deterrent in arms control. The Government's view on this is entirely clear. The UK deterrent is tiny in comparison to the super power arsenals and will remain so with Trident, even if the super powers were to agree to 50 per cent. cuts in strategic weapons. It rightly has no place in the current negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union on reductions in their nuclear weapons at the strategic and INF level. Our NATO allies fully support this position. The conditions under which we would review our position and consider what contribution we could make to arms control have been spelt out often enough in this House and I need not repeat them here.

But what has the Russian view been? For many years they have sought to involve the UK deterrent in the INF negotiations, first by demanding compensation for it and, when that did not work, by changing to a demand for a commitment to no increase and no transfer from the United States. The United Kingdom and its allies were equally firm in rejecting both positions. We saw the results of this at Reykjavik, where Mr. Gorbachev said at his press conference on 12th October: We decided today, at this meeting today, to withdraw completely the question of French and British missiles in general, to leave it to one side. And let them remain as an independent force, let them increase and be further improved". Those are the words of Mr. Gorbachev. They are clear enough. If it is good enough for Mr. Gorbachev, I hope it is good enough for noble Lords opposite. We have welcomed this statement as a reflection of reality. It will help to focus attention on the key issue of agreeing US-Soviet reductions, which is what the Geneva negotiations are about. This is also a success for the NATO alliance. By sticking to the position we have always known to be right, we have brought the Soviet Union to admit that their attempts to involve the UK deterrent in the current negotiations have been a tactical ploy, as we always maintained.

In conclusion, no one would dispute that nuclear weapons are horrendous; but they exist and it is the duty of the Government (any government) to ensure our security within that context. All governments for the past 40 years have agreed on the means of achieving this aim. One can only view with alarm the dangerous policies proposed now by both the official Opposition and the Alliance parties. This Government at least will provide the security that this country requires.

5.1 p.m.

Lord Home of the Hirsel

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Thorneycroft always speaks with authority on matters of national and international security. Today he has given the House a clear and careful analysis of the armament situation, as he put it, in the real world as it is now, and the reasons which have led him to conclude that the nuclear element is still necessary in the armoury of the NATO alliance, to which the British Polaris submarines are assigned now and to which Trident will be allotted in future.

I concur in his conclusions, as I agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, in his analysis of the situation. The House will be grateful to my noble friend Lord Trefgarne for giving us the latest statistics of the relative strengths of NATO and the Warsaw Pact. We shall now, I hope, be able to make accurate comparisons.

My noble friend has given such a cogent argument in favour of Trident as a successor to Polaris that I can spend very little time on that matter. I, too, was at Nassau—I am even older than my noble friend, if that is possible to believe—and I remember that at that time I agreed with, and supported, the plan that we should have the Polaris submarine, because I believed it to be the only nuclear weapon that could carry conviction with the Russians. That really is the point.

Polaris cannot do so for much longer. Trident will do so for many years ahead and, if we are to have the nuclear weapon at all as an independent British deterrent, it must be one that carries conviction with the potential enemy. Until a treaty is signed on mutual, balanced and verifiable disarmament, I would retain Trident as the best insurance against attack and against all the situations in the future about which we can only speculate and about which the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has just spoken.

I, too, have learned two lessons from the European wars of this century. The first is that it is not only prudent but vital that the forces of weaponry of Britain and her allies should, in peace-time, be directly and visibly related to those deployable by the potential enemy. In the years before 1914, our defence effort was geared to the protection of garrisons in a widespread Empire and it was seen to be so geared by all outside. In the years before 1939, we allowed ourselves to be diverted for too long along the false trail of collective security and our eyes were taken off Germany which was clearly the potential enemy.

Now, by reason of her formidable military array of manpower and weapons, Russia is unhappily cast in the role of the potential enemy. We have heard a lot about her military deployment, about her massive manpower supported by conventional weapons and by nuclear weapons, the latter integrated at every level—a fact that has not been made clear so far today—into the Russian military machine that is deployed in the field to be capable of offensive warfare. That is the nature of the challenge faced by the NATO alliance to which it must relate its defensive role and be seen to relate that role.

If there are to be no gaps and no weaknesses for the Russian forces to exploit, then NATO's development of tactical and strategic defence must be supported by comparable equipment designed to defeat whatever form of attack the enemy might launch, equipment which can be seen by the Russians to be so strong, efficient and effective—in other words, so credible—that the risk of aggression would be too high.

One cannot emphasise too strongly—my noble friend Lord Trefgarne stressed this—that deterrence is the exercise on which we are engaged; to deter any war between the Western allies and the Soviet Union. For that policy to succeed, the armament of NATO must carry conviction with the Russian leaders and with the Russian military leaders. They must conclude that against such mobilised force the Russians could not win a war and therefore will not start one.

The second lesson that I learned from the 1939 war was that, although the British and Commonwealth effort was prodigious, it would not have sufficed for victory but for the addition of America's overwhelming power. During the first few years of that war, it was money; during the next few years, shipping; and during the last few years, of course, the whole range of America's military might. We forget that at our peril. If such resources were needed to defeat Germany, they will certainly be required to convince the Russians that they could not win a war. Today the deterrence is not a question of the strength of Europe or America; it depends on both working in harmony on an agreed military plan. That we have been able to do during these years in which the peace has been kept. It has been the agreed policy in the NATO Council that has kept the peace.

This brings me to the two elements which, in combination, persuade Russia to keep the peace. The first is the knowledge that the invasion of Europe by an army with conventional weapons would mean Russian soldiers finding themselves in combat with military personnel in the field. The second is that in the course of such a war it is probable that America's nuclear arm, America's strategic nuclear force, would be activated. I thought that my noble friend put the dilemma as between nuclear and conventional forces in the best possible way and his assessment was very wise. By all means, let us add to our conventional arms, as long as we do not deceive ourselves into believing that the modest additions we can make to conventional arms are any substitute for the nuclear power. They are not. They cannot be, and none of us can imagine any circumstances in which they would be.

I have one other thought on the aspect of defence concerning conventional arms. Historically, conventional weapons alone have never deterred war. One or other of the potential aggressors has always calculated that victory could be won provided enough strength could he mobilised. The Kaiser so calculated; Hitler so calculated. Now, for the first time, leaders of the two greatest powers in the world have jointly declared that nuclear war could not be won. That is new. There is therefore a nuclear stalemate between NATO and the Warsaw Pact.

The question now seems to me to be how we can exploit the situation so that it will turn to being more favourable to the organisation of peace. We shall surely not do this by unilateral gestures such as the eviction of American bases in Britain or the denial of Trident to NATO. That seems to me to be totally the wrong approach. As I understand it, those are concessions for nothing in return. There is nothing to be said for such a policy and we should make that clear. I see no merit at all in such a posture and I am afraid it would only encourage the Russians to believe that pressure and more pressure would once again change the balance of power in their favour.

I am not arguing that we should be content with the current level of confrontation forever. However, I am arguing that the disarmament conference which is shortly to sit should enable us to educate each other to accept that the way forward is mutual, balanced and verifiable disarmament. That must be the forum in which to make our point. We need mutual, balanced and verifiable disarmament with an aim to progressively lowering the level of all forces and arms. That is the only way in which confidence will grow, and that sort of confidence is the only basis on which we can build a peace which is real.

At the beginning of 1939 there were no American military personnel in Europe; now they are there, and they are one of the deterrents to war. There were no nuclear weapons; now they are there and they have deterred war. On all the calculations, they should continue to do so. I cannot see any relief from the stalemate other than agreement in a disarmament conference. I do not believe that we shall get relief from any alternative suggestions such as, for example, SDI. Two things about that experiment seem reasonably sure to me. First, neither the Russians nor NATO can change over to an alternative system of defence unless it is demonstrably superior to that existing now. Secondly, such proof will take a long time.

I therefore think we had better get down to business in the conference on disarmament. That is our best hope. Meanwhile, unless we are to expose ourselves to a situation even more dangerous than that which we have been through in this turbulent century, I think we had better, first of all, keep the balance of power, and then try to keep that balance at a lower level from now on.

5.15 p. m.

Lord Stewart of Fulham

My Lords, I suppose that one could begin any debate on defence by asking the simple question, "Why do we need it at all?". If we think of the defence of this country, we think first of that long frontier running through Europe, between the countries of the Warsaw Pact and the countries of NATO. However, the longest international frontier in the world is that between Canada and the United States. That frontier is totally militarily unguarded from one end to the other. That is because the relationships between the two powers are such that each has complete confidence in the other. As regards the frontier we must face in Europe, there is no such confidence.

I make that obvious point because one of the stock questions asked by advocates of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is, "Do you expect the Soviet Union to launch an attack on this country across Europe?". If one says yes, one will be pilloried as a scaremonger; if one says no, that will be taken as evidence that there is no need for defence. The correct answer is, "I do not know, but there are certain risks which I do not wish to take". Having looked at what has happened to all of Russia's Western neighbours—except for Norway and Turkey which belong to NATO—I do not want to take that kind of risk with the liberties of this country. It is that situation with which we are faced.

If we say "defence", we are bound to say immediately "defence with allies". This country alone cannot maintain its defences and we have a defence through NATO to hand. I believe that the next logical step in the argument is that NATO must be an assembly of nations which has nuclear weapons in its armoury. If it does not, I am afraid I am not quite clear from the account given by my noble friend Lord Irving of Dartford whether he wants the abolition of nuclear weapons to apply only to this country or whether he wishes it to be adopted by NATO as a whole. It is important that one should know that. Is my noble friend going to rise?

Lord Irving of Dartford

My Lords, my noble friend has asked a question which I thought I had answered in my speech. What we want is the removal of American bases from Britain. We cannot act unilaterally on behalf of NATO. That is a matter for discussion and persuasion with NATO. However, we can still operate in NATO with nuclear weapons as the main back-up of NATO.

Lord Stewart of Fulham

My Lords, if I may say so, I am still not quite clear, because my noble friend used the word "persuasion". It seems to me that in this context that means persuasion of the rest of NATO to adopt a non-nuclear policy. I am bound to say I find that rather alarming. If that persuasion was successful we would have not only a non-nuclear Britain but a non-nuclear NATO. It is as if one had decided to play a game of cards in which one of the rules was that one's own hand would not be dealt any trump cards. That must be the situation if it is assumed that NATO is a non-nuclear alliance.

I am proceeding on the assumption that in view of what we know about the Soviet Union—and without taking too harsh or unfriendly a view—we are not prepared to rely entirely on its good intentions for the future welfare of this country. Our defences must be concerted with NATO and NATO must be an alliance in which nuclear weapons form an essential part (though not the only part) of its armoury. Also, NATO should not cripple itself by using phrases such as "no first use".

If one says that one will not be the first to use nuclear weapons, one is informing a potential aggressor that he is going to be able to commit an act of aggression in circumstances most favourable to him and least favourable to oneself. It has always seemed to me that one ought to leave a potential aggressor to realise that if he commits an act of aggression he does it at his peril. What one will do in return is a matter for oneself and one's allies to decide when the chips are down. I hope that we shall stick to that, because this phrase, "no first use", is simply throwing away one of our advantages in advance and for nothing. It also increases the danger in that one is tempting the other side to take risks that it ought not to take.

If that is so, and if we are to be members of NATO for our defence, NATO must be a nuclear alliance. We are relying on nuclear power and we must not talk as if what is called a non-nuclear policy for Britain has any moral content. If it is adopted, it will be adopted for other reasons. But if we are a member of an alliance which relies on nuclear power in the last resort, we cannot claim any special moral superiority over those who actually possess the nuclear weapons. Indeed it might be said that they are being the more logical.

I want to take up this problem. What do we mean by a non-nuclear policy for Britain? My noble friend Lord Irving of Dartford set out very clearly what is meant by it, but there are still some matters on which I am not clear. When my noble friend Lord Graham of Edmonton speaks later in the debate perhaps he will be able to clear them up. It is a matter of some interest to me, because I have been a member of the Labour Party now for rather more than 60 years and I want to know exactly what it is committing itself to on so vital a matter at the present time.

My first question is whether having a non-nuclear policy for Britain means that we are going to try to use our influence in NATO, such as it is, to persuade—that was my noble friend's word—NATO to become non-nuclear as well. We want to get that perfectly clear. If that is what we mean it is quite frankly a suicidal policy, and I hope nobody would take our advice. Next, do we mean by a non-nuclear policy that there is to be no independent British nuclear deterrent? It is quite clear that the answer to that is that it means that.

I can imagine, although it does not seem at all likely, circumstances in which the possession by Britain of an independent nuclear deterrent might be of some use as a bargaining counter in an international negotiation. I do not know whether it is very likely but it might occur. The fact that the British independent nuclear deterrent is tiny in comparison with the nuclear forces of the Soviet Union or of the United States does not, as has been pointed out, alter the fact that it could do fearful damage to the Soviet Union, and it therefore has some bargaining power. In that case, why announce in advance and before there is any chance of getting anything in return that you propose to get rid of it? I have never seen an argument in favour of this proposition.

Next, does a non-nuclear policy for Britain mean that we shall have no United States nuclear weapons here? There again it is fairly clear that it means that. But does this also apply to certain installations that are concerned not with weapons but with information and signalling? My noble friend mentioned Fylingdales. Are we to understand that Fylingdales would still be available for the United States to use? I am glad to see from my noble friend that the answer to that is yes. I am not sure that that will please all the members of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and it is not really a logical sequence from requiring the actual nuclear weapons to go. But if you require the nuclear weapons to go, you are requiring the United States to make a massive reconsideration of how it would handle its military power in the event of conflict. We are twisting and distorting the structure of NATO and imposing a very heavy burden on our allies. I cannot quite see what advantage we shall get out of that.

It is argued that if we do not have an independent British nuclear deterrent we shall be able to spend more on conventional weapons. How much more? I think the figure is either £10 billion or £18 billion—I am not quite sure—at any rate, the cost of the British independent nuclear deterrent. It has been suggested that that would not add greatly to the total deterrent power of the British conventional forces, and I am afraid that that is so. But if you wanted to make a substantial increase in the strength of British conventional forces, you would have a problem of manpower which you might feel could be met only by introducing national service again. We are, after all, the only European member of NATO that does not have national service. We should be putting ourselves in a rather odd position if we became not only the only one that did not have an independent nuclear deterrent but the only one that did not have national service as well. The matter needs to be thought out before we proceed any further on this path.

As will be apparent to noble Lords, I have taken an unfavourable view of the policy of non-nuclear deterrence because I believe it to be a contradiction in terms. It ceases to be effective deterrence. However, I do not want to be entirely gloomy about the future of mankind. We can with patience get ourselves—and if not ourselves, our children or grandchildren—very gradually out of the fearful knot in which we are tied at present. But it requires a diplomacy that is neither timid nor provocative towards the Soviet Union. It requires a readiness to pay for our defences and an alertness to notice new developments in scientific thought so that we not only spend enough but spend it in the most intelligent ways, and it involves a good understanding with our allies and a steady willingness to pursue the objective of balanced and verifiable reductions on both sides.

There are a good many people on both sides of the Iron Curtain who want balanced and verifiable reductions. There are some who do not. Sometimes military people are convinced that there is nothing like having as many weapons as you possibly can and hope that the result will work out all right. There are also a great many who genuinely want agreed, workable disarmament. We have to go on working for that. It will take a long time and we must not lose our patience. But that is surely better than trying to snatch a hasty solution that seems to me to have nothing to recommend it.

The policy being put forward is not claimed to be cheaper than what we are now doing over defence. It is not going to be safer. It is not more virtuous and it does not promote the process of negotiation. If one thing will put the Russians off negotiations it is the belief that if they hang on for long enough the West will go in for unilateral disarmament on a large scale. As long as they think that that possibility is there they are not likely to be very helpful at the negotiating table. I hope therefore that we shall not go ahead on these lines but shall continue with patience and with skill to pursue the policies in diplomacy and defence that are most likely to be of advantage to us and to mankind.

5.28 p.m.

Lord Gladwyn

My Lords, I must start by saying that, unlike my usual custom and greatly to my regret, owing to a long outstanding engagement which I cannot avoid I shall not be able to stay until the end of the debate. I shall therefore entirely understand if the noble Lord who is to reply for the Government does not make any mention of my speech; but I should be very grateful it', as was the case with my speech during the debate on the Queen's Speech the other day, he will he able eventually to reply in writing to my various questions and indeed to the points that I am now about to raise.

As I understand it, the duty of the Opposition, however divided, is to oppose. It is therefore right that it should put forward what, in its opinion, might be a valid alternative to the present defence policy of the Government, and the Alliance has, for its part, now very sensibly agreed on a defence policy which, I believe, is neither self-defeating like the Tory policy nor disastrous if we should go along with Labour.

The first—namely, pressing ahead with Trident—apart from the disadvantages and dangers so ably outlined by my noble friend Lord Kennet—would inevitably result (I think this at least is certain) in the diminution of our conventional defence capability. The second, in spite of all assurances to the contrary, would, as we see it, result in a grave weakening of NATO and thus endanger the continued presence of American troops in Europe—and here I entirely agree with the noble Lords, Lord Chalfont and Lord Home—on which our security primarily depends. Assuming therefore that after the next election we do possess an adequate deterrent—I repeat, adequate deterrent—it may even now be well to consider what exactly that deterrent would be expected to deter.

In dwelling on this important point I should like to say that my views are entirely my own, although I like to hope that after some consideration they will also be found to be those of my colleagues too. At present our force of nuclear submarines, armed with nuclear missiles supplied by the Americans that can reach the Soviet Union, is a small part of the immense nuclear panoply which is entirely able, we are assured (and it may be the case) to destroy the Soviet Union even on a second strike.

Our Polaris fleet is, however, allocated to NATO and, consequently, in the event of war, would act on directives emanating from SACEUR, who, in turn, would take orders presumably from the President of the United States. True, it can be also used independently by Her Majesty's Government in the event of such action being deemed necessary for the protection of vital British interests. But so long as NATO exists it must be obvious that the chances of this particular option being available are, to all intents and purposes, remote.

However, it is, quite rightly, argued that all this would change if the American forces were ever withdrawn from Europe. In that disastrous event NATO would, in practice, have ceased to exist even if somehow the North Atlantic alliance remained in being. In theory we should then be entitled, if we so desired, to use our force wherever and whenever we liked; conceivably to deter, I suppose, some small power which is threatening to use nuclear weapons against us, although it is difficult to imagine even that on first strike. But in what circumstances could we use it? Could we use it, or indeed threaten to use it, for instance, against the Soviet Union, which would almost certainly still constitute the only real potential threat to our independence and security? So let us consider a possible scenario.

The Russians might, for example, invade the Finnmark and quickly occupy much of northern Norway. Presumably we should still be under an obligation to defend that country. Unless we effectively repudiated that obligation and abandoned the Norwegians, we should then be at war with the Soviet Union, and the latter would presumably be about to invade the Federal Republic of Germany even if the war had not actually started in that way.

Should we then say to the Kremlin, "Unless you call off your offensive and withdraw your troops we shall bomb one or more of your cities"? Could we even say, "Unless you do this we shall use such tactical nuclear weapons as we have against your advancing forces"? In theory, yes, we could say that. Again, in theory the possibility that we might do so could—I repeat, could—in itself deter the Russians from ever taking the offensive even if the Americans were no longer here. But, in practice, surely the Russians, having presumably weighed up all the risks before going to war, would merely reply, "Well, if you do that we will reply in kind". In other words, the probability is that the bluff—for such it would be—would be called.

As we have seen, for so long as the Americans are in Europe and NATO continues to exist, the British contribution to nuclear defence—in spite of all we might say—is largely redundant. Of course it is. But if the Americans should leave, has it no real role? Not so—certainly not in the opinion of the Alliance. For apart from any other consideration—advanced, again, by my noble friend—unless we have a government who favour no defence at all, or in the continuing absence of some agreement on general nuclear disarmament, we certainly should be well advised to possess a nuclear force of some kind, however small in comparison to those of the super powers, which would at least be capable on a second strike of inflicting unacceptable damage on a potential adversary; thus debarring the Russians from successfully applying to us what is usually known as nuclear blackmail.

Therefore, it follows that any war—which, however unlikely, would in the absence of an East-West settlement still have to be contemplated; it would not be out of the question—would in such distressing circumstances no doubt have to be fought in practice by non-nuclear means. Our ability to conduct it would depend on whether, after the departure of the Americans, we in conjunction with our European allies had succeeded in setting up some credible non-nuclear defensive system.

My contention is—and I am supported in this in theory by some people across the Atlantic—is that this would not necessarily be vastly expensive. If the Russians had the impression that they would face something more than a walkover—in other words, they would have to fight their way through—they would no doubt hesitate long before taking any offensive, relying rather on the absence of the Americans and perhaps on the emergence in Western Europe of sympathetic governments with which they might, as in Finland, successfully treat. In other words, the Finlandisation of Europe would be their objective.

Let us pause for a moment to consider the perhaps unlikely possibility of any physical Soviet offensive in the circumstances I have described. What would be the point of occupying a rebellious and bankrupt Western Europe while a war with the United States, and possibly China, was still in the offing? Still less attractive of course is the occupation of a Western Europe largely destroyed by nuclear bombs. If the Russian General Staff have any sense at all there is little doubt that that is how they would be advising the Politburo. The Russians are difficult and, as I believe has been said tonight, slightly paranoiac as a race; but on the whole I suggest that they are a cautious people.

In support of this general thesis I would urge on those who have the time to read it, because it is rather long, the highly intelligent and, as I would think, largely convincing article by Andreas von Bülow, at one time the West German Minister for Research and Technology, appearing in The Conventional Defense of Europe recently published by the influential American Council on Foreign Relations. I would not altogether support his conclusions, but they certainly make one think. In any case, what he says would tend to modify the impression created by the horrifying figures of Soviet strength just read out by the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne.

If what I have said is at all acceptable, it follows that the French are in much the same position as ourselves; for if we postulate the continuance of NATO even they, who are not part of it, must admit that any decision—presumably taken after consultation with their allies—to make first use of nuclear weapons can only rest with the Americans; whereas if we have to defend ourselves without the Americans it would indeed be difficult—whatever the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, may say—to rely on first use against the Russians of the force de frappe in a nuclear war which presumably would be confined to Europe.

Let me put it this way. Even in the event of a war between NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries, the possible first use by the former of nuclear weapons, though I do not deny that it has acted as a deterrent up to now, would, as Kissinger himself has warned us several times, be quite uncertain. In the event of war between the Eastern super-power and a Western Europe which could hardly be so designated, it would be very doubtfully conceivable.

To sum up, we must all devoutly hope that, even after some much desired understanding on arms control and reduction between the super powers—and I agree with everything that has been said about that subject tonight—NATO will probably still continue to exist. If, however, no doubt only as a precaution, we are to think of some new defensive system which might conceivably operate in the absence of the Americans, or indeed in some reduction of their presence, surely it must rest on certain assumptions, the first of which is that any European nuclear weapons, though still functioning, as it were, in terrorem (as a deterrent) in all probability—and we must act on the assumption that it would be a probability—can only be used on a second strike.

Secondly, it must he assumed that both the United Kingdom and France would undertake to retaliate in kind if the Soviet Union itself should make first use against us of nuclear weapons. Lastly, progress must in any case now be made in the construction (of course with the Germans) of a conventional European force, perhaps of a new type that has not so far been conceived of, which might be deemed capable of holding up a Russian advance at least for a considerable period and thus in itself acting as a deterrent, and perhaps the only suitable and convincing deterrent, to any such advance on the part of the Russians.

Therefore it seems to follow that Trident, which will inevitably weaken and not strengthen our conventional forces, if completed, will be a strategic disaster; that any British successor to Trident need not be the equivalent even of the French force de frappe, which is quite adequate to provide a European second strike capability; and, finally, that the exact nature of any British nuclear force can only be decided after we have had talks with our European partners on the best way in practice to constitute what is already necessary—and which is regarded in NATO circles themselves as necessary—namely, the European pillar, as they say, of the whole Atlantic defensive arch.

I should be interested to know how the Government will react to these admittedly rather tentative thoughts and whether in any case they are seriously contemplating the emergence within the North Atlantic alliance of what may be considered to be some credible Western European defensive system.

5.43 p.m.

Lord Hill-Norton

My Lords, I intend to devote the few minutes at my disposal this afternoon to the philosophy of the deterrent rather than to its nuts and bolts. But I should like to preface my remarks by saying that the brilliant speech made by my noble and gallant friend, Lord Lewin, a fortnight ago, which was delivered with all his personal authority and deep knowledge, should have disposed of any doubts that any of your Lordships may have had about the facts of the matter. In particular, it should have settled beyond reasonable doubt the twin questions about the impossibility of prolonging the life of the present Polaris system or replacing it effectively with any other system but Trident. I realise that among those who have spoken today, some of your Lordships believe that they know better about these matters than the noble and gallant Lord, which I find astonishing.

I have a few words to say about the first part of the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, which has hardly been mentioned by any other noble Lord this afternoon. It seems to me that successful defence policy must have the overriding aim of striking the right balance between Trident and the spend on conventional forces, and with the defence budget set to decline in real terms, Trident must not be allowed to force disproportionate cuts in the conventional armament of all three services. For my own service I seek reassurance that the present level of all round naval capability will be maintained. I welcome the commitment, which was renewed in another place earlier this month (despite what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Irving), that the destroyer and frigate force will be maintained at 50 ships. Your Lordships may remember that more than once in the House I have said that that figure is too small, and the Supreme Commander shares my view.

I am also glad to hear from another place that the replacement for the amphibious ships will be decided before the end of the year. I hope that Ministers will have the sense to replace them, because without them there is no strategic mobility or out-of-area capability that makes any sense at all for all three of our services. If the Falklands conflict did not make that fact clear enough to the Government, the recent exercise "Saif Sareea" in Oman should have done so.

I should now like to turn to deterrence, which is a highly subjective matter about which there can be no certainty; one cannot see, feel, hear, measure or touch it. It can be felt in the mind but nobody knows what an opponent may be feeling about one's particular ideas on deterrence. What is sure is that deterrence of any kind—and especially nuclear deterrence—is about influencing the calculations of one's opponent before he makes an aggressive move. That is precisely why the French call their force one of dissuasion. The essence of any deterrence lies in the ability and readiness to convert power into reality, and that in turn depends upon political will, which is at the heart of the whole deterrence business. I have heard only one noble Lord make that point today.

As has been said in different ways by a number of noble Lords, it seems to me that there are two—and only two—purposes of a British strategic nuclear deterrent. The first is to contribute to the whole of the military deterrent posture of the NATO Alliance and the second is to provide our own country with an ultimate sanction with which to protect our vital interests by taking out advance insurance against a Soviet miscalculation that when the chips are down the Americans may hold back. Let us remember what Palmerston said many years ago: Britain has no permanent allies, only permanent interests.". Much later, about 30 years ago, Churchill put it another way when he said: Unless we make a contribution of our own, we cannot be sure that in an emergency the resources of other powers would be planned exactly as we would wish, or that targets which threaten us most would be given what we consider the necessary priority in the first few hours.". I warmly agree with both those great men.

I should like to say a word about what seem to me to be the more respectable arguments that are put against our nuclear deterrent and to say why I think they are unsound. First, there is the moral repugnance which is sincerely felt by many people for the whole idea of nuclear war. All war is hell, but nuclear weapons breach all the recognised rules of discrimination and proportionality. I accept that a strategy of deterrence which depends at least in part on a conditional willingness to use nuclear weapons cannot evade that challenge; but I put it to your Lordships that an even more important moral question that we and our Government must face is whether what I have called this "conditional willingness" can justifiably be borne in order to avert what to me at any rate is the much greater evil of the use by others of force, including nuclear force, as instruments of oppression, domination, injustice or—at the end—for the final destruction of our country. I am prepared to be what I have called "conditionally willing". A glance at Hungary and Czechoslovakia, never mind Poland and Afghanistan, must surely make most of our people share my view.

There is another less moral but more severely practical argument often advanced against our own deterrent, which, put baldly, is that we cannot afford it, or even if we can, the money would be better spent on so improving our conventional arms that the nuclears become unnecessary. We have heard that view today from more than one noble Lord. It seems strange to me that it is possible for noble Lords, or anyone outside your Lordships' House, to take that view, despite the evidence which has been rubbed in again and again in public and has been made luminously clear today by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont.

There is no time for me to go on, and enough has been said about it, but I must remind your Lordships that the costs of running the Polaris system are so small, 1 per cent. of the defence budget, that were it abandoned no improvement could be made to our conventional forces which would be significant in Russian eyes. I readily accept that large sums will be spent on Trident. As has already been said, if that money were spent instead on the same non-nuclear forces, at the end of, say, 15 years we should not have dented the two or three to one superiority which the Russians now enjoy over NATO, as the noble Lords, Lord Trefgarne and Lord Chalfont, have made clear beyond argument.

It is as well to remember when those huge figures are bandied about that the Tornado aircraft programme cost about the same as the Trident programme and took about as long to complete. Can it seriously be supposed that 300 aeroplanes, however fancy, will deter the Russians, who have 8,000 such aeroplanes, as much as our nuclear deterrent undoubtedly does?

I should like to remind the House in this context of what Lord Mountbatten said in his well known speech at Strasbourg, and not what so many people selectively misquote him as having said. His words were: we are most likely to preserve the peace if there is a military balance of strength between East and West". He was of course right.

The final argument which may be claimed to support opponents of Polaris and Trident is that nuclear disarmament must start somewhere, and that if we Brits started it it would force others to do so. Surely the common sense of this nation must tell us that those in power in the Soviet Union today, with their track record since the war and especially since Helsinki, would follow no such example. To them it would be an irresistible opportunity to use an overwhelming advantage handed to them on a plate, as the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, has just said, to complete their moves on the world power chessboard and cry, "Checkmate".

Why, turning to the positive, do I believe so strongly that we should have a nuclear deterrent and that it should be strategic and under our own control? Enough has been said for me merely to agree with other noble Lords that it contributes substantially to the whole allied deterrent posture.

I hope that none of your Lordships supposes that Polaris, or later Trident, is some sort of a fleabite. It provides us, as the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, said, with the ability to inflict what the best military, scientific and political brains have agreed is unacceptable damage on our only likely opponent. The point has been made that it makes a second (or a third if we count the French) decision centre which greatly complicates the calculations of our only likely opponent.

Finally, it is important, as the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, said, to our European partners that an appreciable element of strategic nuclear power should in all circumstances remain on this side of the Atlantic so that no one should be tempted to think that a major attack could be made against Western Europe without the certainty of nuclear retaliation. I know for certain after three years at the top of the NATO military tree that our European allies feel exactly the same as I do and are as glad as I am that we have a strategic nuclear deterrent.

If we had no nuclear weapons we should have abandoned the deterrent to war, to rely only upon conventional forces, which certainly did not deter the two world wars. If war unhappily came, with the present balance of forces or any future balance of forces, we should probably—I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, not certainly—be defeated. Such is the terrifying power of the conventional forces which the Russians have remorselessly created which far exceed anything which they could possibly require for their own defence.

I come to why I believe that our deterrent must be under our control. It is quite simply, as I said earlier, whether we can be absolutely certain when the chips are down that we may not stand alone as we did in 1940. Suppose on those dark days that we had been dependent upon those who were then our closest allies, the French, for some aspect of our defence. It had been proposed formally in the 1930s that they should take responsibility for both countries' air defences. What is certain is that had we fallen into that trap we should not be debating this Motion in the House this afternoon.

Suppose too, that Russia or some other power which becomes nuclear capable in the next few years (there are at least a dozen technically able to do so) became so incensed with the West in general or Britain in particular that they gambled on dealing with us singly, by threats, blackmail or actual force. Should we be absolutely certain that the Americans, knowing what retribution it might bring down on their own heads, could be automatically guaranteed to respond within minutes? That is the timescale about which we are talking. I remind your Lordships that we stood alone for two years in both the world wars.

Let me quote something that I said in a letter to The Times five years ago: President Carter is reported to have said in his 1976 election campaign 'I would not, as President, authorise the use of nuclear weapons except when the security and existence of the United States were in danger' ". Although we have heard more reassuring noises since then, I have no doubt that that grave American dilemma will remain. That is why I believe that we simply must, so far as we can, be the arbiters of our own destiny and not abdicate that to any other power on earth.

I conclude by saying that I agree at once with those who say that any use of nuclear weapons would have appalling consequences; that there is no road to victory in a nuclear arms race and in nuclear war defeat is indivisible with all of us losers. But the role of strategic nuclear weapons is to deter war, not to fight it, and all war, not just nuclear war. That is why I believe we have the weapons now, and why we must keep Polaris and replace it with Trident when its life expires in about 1995.

6 p.m.

The Duke of Norfolk

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, for introducing the debate and to say how much I agree with the speeches made on this side, in particular those of the noble Lord, Lord Home, and, of course, the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, who, I thought, summed up the situation of the Government admirably. I should also like to say how much I agree with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, who has just sat down, and the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, on the Cross Benches.

Some of your Lordships may not know that there are, and have been in existence since the war missions between the allies. One is called BRIXMIS—the British Exchange Mission. The other is called SOXMIS which is the Russian equivalent. That lives in the British zone in Germany. The Americans have a smaller mission in the East zone of Germany, with a Russian equivalent mission in the American zone of Germany. The French also have a mission. I commanded BRIXMIS, which consisted of 11 officers and 20 other ranks, for two years. I saw, living in Berlin and Potsdam, the might of the Russian army in East Germany. I wonder whether your Lordships quite realise how powerful that army is. During my two years there, I never saw a Russian tank that had broken down. During manoeuvres on our side I saw many tanks that had broken down. A Russian genera] gets 65 times the pay of a moujik, a Russian private; our own major generals receive seven or eight times more. The military caste dominating the Politburo is a matter that your Lordships would do well to consider. One has to realise that the Russians have five million men under arms, the biggest airforce in the world, and the sternest discipline possible. One recognises the recruits, on the changeover of Soviet forces in Germany, by their shaven heads. It is an old Russian system for catching conscripts who run away. In the Russian army during the last war, there was no record of anyone below the rank of major. I shudder to think what would have happened to our subalterns and captains if the colonels of the British army had been able to recruit on that basis. I should also like to say that the existence of these missions is a factor that greatly contributes to the stability of the West and the East at this moment.

The Russian officers have a great sense of humour. We met and often talked together. I am, however, telling your Lordships now that the Russian conventional forces—which I think are estimated at 67 divisions compared to our 33—are the most massive conventional forces in existence. We have every reason to be very much concerned about them. But there is no need to fear, because they are not concerned about us. They are concerned with keeping the satellites in order. If the Russians did not have their conventional forces, the satellite nations would revolt. Look at what happened to Poland, to Dubcek in Czechoslovakia, to Hungary in 1956, and to Afghanistan! If the Russian tyranny did not have conventional forces, it would be out at once. That is why those forces are there. They are not kept because of any fear of you, my Lords. The Russians see tactical conventional war in terms of playing village cricket. But a NATO-Warsaw Pact war, they immediately see as escalating into nuclear war.

Russia's confrontation with NATO through the Warsaw Pact and ballistic nuclear weapons is a matter balanced on our side by our forward defence and flexible response. The Russians have all their nuclear weapons. And my Lords, they have chemical weapons. They have bacteriological weapons that most of the NATO forces do not possess. But we, thank heavens, have the Americans behind us, and, above all, we have our British Trident to come. At the moment we have Polaris. Britain must have the Polaris weapon, to be succeeeded by Trident, because we are a founder member of NATO and it behoves us to honour commitments to our allies. Secondly, I do not believe that we could reserve our position as a major power without retaining the nuclear weapon. How are we to take on our commitments to, say, a country like Kenya, the rest of the Commonwealth, and the smaller powers of the Commonwealth and the free world, if they were to be threatened, by, shall we say, Libya, with a nuclear weapon? How are we to have a voice in their defence if we do not have a nuclear weapon ourselves? Let us say that Libya attempted to attack or bamboozle Kenya, Pakistan or Morocco. We would be powerless without our own nuclear weapon.

I think your Lordships will agree that we are very lucky to have had 40 years of peace since World War Two. I maintain that World War Three will never happen for the following reasons. First, the means of delivery are now world wide and cosmic. I remember at Oxford when Baldwin said that the frontier of England was on the Rhine, we thought it a remarkable statement. Now we know that nuclear, bacteriological or chemical weapons can circle the earth and be called down without any problem. Secondly, I think both sides know that the chemical and the bacteriological weapons would destroy them if they went to war. Therefore they will not go to war. Fourthly, we all know the deterrent of the nuclear weapon is there because if either side—the Warsaw Pact or NATO—went to war, that would be self destruction as the noble Lord, Lord Home, has said.

I say, like anyone in this Chamber, that I would do anything to achieve disarmament. But it must be multilateral disarmament. How can one have unilateral disarmament with the Russians? One cannot trust the Russians. Their avowed aim is to destroy capitalism and to conquer the West. Do any of your Lordships want to be naked in front of a hungry Russian bear? How could you, with only your conventional forces, defend yourselves? You must have the nuclear weapons to stop the Russians blackmailing you. We must have the nuclear deterrent.

If you scratch a Soviet senior citizen, you will find that Muscovy has not changed. He has never forgotten the imperialism of the Romanovs. Look at the world situation through Russian eyes, with the Tsars, the Grand Dukes of Warsaw, from the Congress of Vienna to their defeat in 1918 in the First World War! While they were Grand Dukes of Warsaw, Russia controlled Eastern Europe up to 100 miles from Berlin. The Russians still see their reoccupation of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia as restoring the situation and they think that they have every right to do so. I should also add that they regard with particular hate Pilsudski's invasion of Russia, after Russia was defeated and became a disarmed and impotent Communist power, and the way Pilsudski encroached forward increasing the territory of Poland. Therefore, perhaps they regard the Treaty of Riga as one of their most despicable defeats and something that they would always like to right.

My quarrel with the CND, and, I suppose, with the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, is that they want unilateral disarmament. I agree totally on multilateral balanced disarmament.

I telephoned my friend Monsignor Bruce Kent and talked to him about this matter. I never know whether the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, represents Monsignor Kent here, or whether Monsignor Kent represents the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, throughout the rest of the world. Anyhow, they are in great cahoots and believe most sincerely in unilateral disarmament. I find this quite extraordinary and something that would endanger our country and the West in the most terrible way.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, perhaps I can explain to the noble Lord that he shares some beliefs with Monsignor Bruce Kent and I share others. That is the position of both of us.

The Duke of Norfolk

My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord does not think that I speak for the Vatican. That is in no way true. God forbid! I happen to be a Christian who hopes that it is the right way to Heaven, but I do not necessarily support everything that the Vatican does.

Perhaps I may say that I also telephoned Professor Jack Mahoney and went to see him at King's College in Somerset House. Professor Mahoney is a leading moral theologian. I talked to him about the theology of this problem because whatever the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, says, it is sometimes inferred that it is immoral and wrong to have a nuclear weapon as a deterrent. I see the noble Lord nodding his head.

My discussions with Professor Mahoney dealt with the problem, first of all, in this simple way: that man's discoveries in chemistry, in medicine and biology, and in nuclear fission are in no way evil. Indeed, the French use nuclear power to produce far cheaper electricity than we do. Seventy-five per cent. of their electricity is produced by nuclear power, and it is 25 per cent. cheaper than ours. Therefore, we are willingly buying it at this moment. I find it totally heinous that people should think that there is anything wrong in using nuclear power to produce electricity.

Another whim of the CND lobby is that it misinterprets the ethics that Christianity believes in. When you boil it down, we all believe that a just war is self-defence, using minimum force. If you use maximum force, then that is wrong. The CND view is that to have a nuclear deterrent is overkill; so it is more than minimum force. All I can say is that I do not see that to be so. I cannot see that the threat of a nuclear deterrent, for example, on the Soviet listening post in Siberia, is in any way an immoral thing for us to maintain. We are not going to drop it on Moscow. We simply want to have the power to do so to preserve the peace.

It is common sense that we should have the nuclear deterrent. Very often, common sense is what the whole of mankind thinks, and that is very often right. Sometimes, it is called by the bishops and other clerics the sensus fidelium, and now the common feeling is that there is nothing immoral in a unilateral nuclear deterrent.

I have before me part of a speech made four years ago, in June 1982 by Cardinal Casaroli, who is a papal Secretary of State, at a plenary meeting of the United Nations. He spoke in French and he said: Dans les conditions actuelles, une dissuasion … which I take to mean deterrent— basée sur l'équilibre, non certes comme une fin en soi, mais comme une étape sur la voie d'un désarmement progressif, peut encor être jugée moralement acceptable.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I apologise for intervening, but I am afraid that my noble friend is out of order in speaking in a foreign language.

The Duke of Norfolk

My Lords, I am very sorry. I do not know that my Yorkshire-French is a foreign language. If that is so, you can read, shall we say "Hansard French" tomorrow. I quote that only as an example of how the Vatican itself is supporting unilateral nuclear deterrence. I should like to sum it up by saying that the peaceful use of nuclear energy as a deterrent is morally acceptable.

6.17 p.m.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, the Motion moved by the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, is quite clearly a part of the jigsaw of the Conservative Party's election campaign. I welcome that. I consider that it is the responsibility of those of us on this side to take the argument and meet the argument on the grounds on which it is made. I commend the opening speech of my noble friend Lord Irving of Dartford as putting quite clearly and in excellent logic the case which the Labour Party has now overwhelmingly supported—the case which will be put to the people of this country at the next election.

Unfortunately since my noble friend spoke there has not been one voice raised in his support. I do not claim to extend what the noble Lord, Lord Irving, had to say. I am doing no more than hoping to fill out some of the issues which he raised and to take up the points which have been made from the other side.

However, it is quite clear from this debate that the Conservative Party is going to rely on voices from the past, speaking about the past, in the tones of the past and in the context of the past when they use the defence issue in the next election. They have begun by making the classic error of the Conservative Party. Defence should always be the servant of foreign policy, but to the Conservative Party foreign policy becomes the servant of their defence interests. Therefore as the result of the overwhelming influence of the defence lobby within the Conservative Party in this country, and Conservative parties in Europe, above all within the United States, there has developed a rhetoric within foreign policy.

Protracted nuclear war is now discussed as a matter of reality. The Russians are now referred to as the evil empire. This is all derived from the doctrine of nuclear retaliation, but it is an extremely dangerous doctrine today. What comes after this escalation of hatred, which has been built up against one part of the world? It is a hatred which has been built up not on political grounds but as a result of the force of defence demands within the Conservative Party, because the defence demands have a momentum of their own.

In the 1950s, it was sufficient to know that we could destroy 30 Russian cities, Today how many thousands of nuclear warheads are present in Europe and in the deterrence theory? The industrial defence machine in Europe, in the United States and in the Soviet Union has its own momentum. The question of nuclear weapons is spoken of solely in terms of the fighting of nuclear war. This is bound to increase the fear and suspicion from which war is derived. It is bound to increase the conflict between different sections of humanity.

I remind your Lordships that wars do not start by the deliberate mounting of invasions. Almost every time wars are started by the irrational behaviour of statesmen. Looking round the world today, would it help in the Middle East, in Southern Africa, in South- East Asia or in Central America if there were nuclear weapons in those areas? Surely that kind of irrationality could only endanger the whole of humanity if it were accompanied, as it is in Europe and across the Atlantic, by nuclear weapons.

I should like to take up one argument which was made by the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, and by others, that there is something credible about the possession by Britain of its own nuclear arms. I just do not believe that. In the Middle Ages it would have been possible for one society to defeat another by poisoning the other's water supply. That was never done. Why? It was never done because it was recognised that if it was done not just victory and defeat would ensue but also the collapse of all forms of civilisation.

I believe that we have reached the same stage today. No one who is acting rationally on behalf of the West, the East, the Chinese or the United States would ever release the untold forces of nuclear weapons. Do not let us fool ourselves; those who have spoken about the United States nuclear umbrella will know that it was Henry Kissinger who said that the, American nuclear guarantee cannot be true". He went on to say: It is absurd to base the strategy of the West on the credibility of the threat of mutual suicide". I do not believe that the possession of nuclear weapons can be a deterrence because the Russians know just as well as we do that it is not credible that in any circumstances we or they would release suicidal forces.

Much has been said in this debate and in other debates about the preservation of peace over the past 40 years, and it is claimed that this is the result of nuclear deterrence. Is it? We cannot prove it. The only way in which it can be disproved is if there is war. However, I suggest, as has been suggested earlier this afternoon, that in Europe the peace of the past 40 years is much more due to the post-war settlement than it is to the possession of nuclear arms. However, let us say that at least in the earlier part of that period the nuclear balance had some deterrent effect. Does it have such an effect now? Things have now radically changed. The technology of the whole nuclear world has totally changed from what it was in the 1950s.

I do not bow to anyone in my detestation of many aspects of the Soviet régime—its authoritarianism, its expansionism in Afghanistan, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, and its recent linking of the possibility of disarmament with its opposition to SDI. I totally reject all those. I am one of the few Members of this House, if not the only Member, who has spent 10 years in constant conflict with the last communist Member of Parliament, Willy Gallacher, until we finally defeated him in 1950. Therefore I know something about the communist world.

However, it is not only the opposition which I have to Soviet action in Afghanistan, Hungary and Czechoslovakia which makes me detest the great power system; because I am just as opposed to the United States actions in Chile, Vietnam and Nicaragua, and to the actions of the Government of this country in Suez and the Falklands. We must recognise that the world is not divided into black and white and that those who are talking about the Soviet Union today in the same language and with the same hatred as was shown against the Nazis and Fascists before the war are making a basic mistake.

Indeed, it is very ironic, because I can remember the time when those of us on this side of the House were criticising those on the other side—some of whom have spoken this afternoon—because of their support for Nazi and Fascist aims and their attempt to turn the Nazis and Fascists against the Soviet Union, which was one of the basic reasons for the Second World War.

However, when we look at the Russian situation (as we should do carefully and coolly if we are to understand the world today) as someone on the other side said earlier this afternoon, we should recognise that a large number of their troops are garrison troops. They are troops who are occupying East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, and, as was quite rightly said on the other side, if they were not present there would be revolt in those countries. However, as my noble friend Lord Irving pointed out, they are not fairly counted in a balance of manpower in Europe, which has been shown by the Institute of Strategic Studies to be only 1: 1.02 per cent.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord, again and again the institute's publications have been misquoted in this debate. If people would take the trouble to read the actual tables of figures which we in the institute provide, they could not possibly come out with a ratio of that kind.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, if the noble Lord can show me that the ratio of 1:1.02 per cent. in the balance of manpower in Europe is incorrect, I shall gladly withdraw the statement that I have made. It has been made here; it has been made in another place. So far I know, this is the first time that it has been challenged.

I continue with an examination of the Soviet position. We should not forget that the Soviet Union was an ally of this country during the war; that it lost 20 million people during that war; that today it is insecure in its attitude towards its Eastern European empire; that it has a long border with China and that it is frightened of its future relations with China. These points must be taken into consideration when we are looking at the possibility and the dangers, as has been pointed out so often this afternoon, of Russian invasion. I believe they have been grossly overstated. I do not say they are not there, but I believe they have been grossly overstated this afternoon and that they show a lack of understanding of what is happening in the Soviet Union.

In concluding this part of what I have to say on the issue, may I ask how many of your Lordships have read the speech of Mr. Gorbachev to his party congress? If you have read it you will see that it is one of the most unique speeches made since 1917 by any Soviet leader. In that speech Mr. Gorbachev, speaking in the language of dialectical materialism, rejected the classic foreign policy stand of the Soviet Union that there is a permanent struggle between the two camps in the world. He went so far as to say that science is creating an interdependent world. This is a change (and a change in quality, not just quantity) of the Soviet attitude to the world.

It would be fair for my opponents on the other side of the House to ask: "Where is your alternative?" I and my party suggest that the alternative can be described as defensive deterrence as opposed to nuclear deterrence. The structure of the policy of defensive deterrence is constructive, and it safeguards the interests of this country whether we are right in fearing Russian invasion or whether we are wrong. The nuclear deterrence theory, with its flexible response and—as the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, made clear this afternoon—its refusal to condemn the policy of first strike with its threat of retaliation, is bound to increase, as it has over the past 20 to 30 years, the political conflict out of which war always results.

I should like to ask the noble Lord to answer two questions. The first is: what do the British Government know of the undertakings given by the American Government at Reykjavik, because there have been different interpretations given by the Americans themselves? May we know exactly what the Americans did agree to at Reykjavik? Secondly, in the light of the declared intention by both the super powers to cut their ballistic missile systems by 50 per cent. do the British Government still believe that they are going to have Trident in the 1990s, or is this not contradicted in any case by the agreement or the projected agreement? Do the British Government want this agreement to come into force? If so, do they not accept that this means there will be no Trident? I think that we are due an answer to those two questions.

The difference between the policy of my party, which can be described as both non-nuclear and defensive deterrence, is that we believe the defence of this country should be seen as a shield, whereas the policy of nuclear deterrence is to be seen as a sword. The policy of defensive deterrence would base itself on the denial of access to territory, on the prevention of invasion, on making the price of invasion unacceptably high; but it would not include retaliation, and it would not include national suicide. Therefore it inevitably has to be non-nuclear. The whole of the new electronics industry gives a new power to defence if it is used in defence and deployed in defence, in contrast to where it has been placed before: as the sword in retaliation, in attack and in suicide.

The defence of our country, and indeed the defence of civilisation, depends on our working out and building up that non-nuclear defence policy, because the nuclear policy that has been and is being followed at the moment is a direct threat to the lives and interests of this country and indeed of humanity.

In figures to be published this week it is now revealed that in 1986 there will have been 900 billion dollars spent on military organisation, weapons and equipment. I do not need to tell noble Lords what could be done with those resources in the kind of situation which our human race is now facing. It can only be done by the pursuance of an internationalist foreign policy and by the extensive, careful and thoughtful use of diplomacy, negotiations, and development of conflict resolutions; in other words, by peacemaking.

The species of dinosaur died out because it could not adapt itself to its new environment. The human race today is living in an environment totally different in quality from anything that has ever been experienced before. Unless we can adapt ourselves to that new environment we shall follow the fate of the dinosaur.

Lord Chalfont

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I should like to ask him whether in the interest of strict accuracy he will refer once again to the publication of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. There he will find that the figure of 1.02:1 is a global figure which includes all American forces, even those in the continental United States, and that the figures for the confrontation in Europe are respectively 1.94:1 for tank divisions and 2.94:1 for other divisions; in other words, a superiority of 3:1 in the European theatre of war.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, I accept the noble Lord's correction. I simply point out that when he is talking about global figures he is also referring to the Soviet forces which are in the East—a long way from Europe—and which are pointed towards the East. They have nothing to do with this debate so far as concerns the safety of this country.

6.40 p.m.

Lord Fanshawe of Richmond

My Lords, we are grateful to my noble friend Lord Thorneycroft for arranging the debate this afternoon. It is very difficult for those of your Lordships who, like myself, are speaking later in the debate to cover ground already gone into in depth and with skill by many speakers earlier in the afternoon. The comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, have been answered by his noble friends and others during the course of the afternoon.

It is interesting that the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, gets his figures wrong in the same way as the noble Lord, Lord Irving—for whom I have the greatest respect and with whom I served for many years in the other House. The noble Lord, Lord Irving, spoke about £18 billion as the cost of Trident. However, as he admitted later, he had the figure wrong and he should have said £10 billion. There is quite a difference between £18 billion and £10 billion and there are quite a lot of troops involved in the difference between the figures mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, and the figures which put him right and which were quoted in reply just now by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont.

We were all impressed and delighted to be able to listen to skilful speeches, not just by dinosaurs this afternoon, which seemed to me to be the rather insulting comment made by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, who has just sat down, although I have the utmost regard for his sincerity on other matters. Perhaps we are all in the league of dinosaurs in this House—at least those of us who have come from another place tend to be, although there are many young hereditary Members of this House. However, we are fortunate in having present noble Lords who have had long experience in governing the country. The skill with which my noble friend Lord Thorneycroft introduced the subject this afternoon and the comments which he made were of great value to the House. Indeed, I would also apply that remark to my noble friend Lord Home who, as Prime Minister, and Foreign Minister had great knowledge about our defence policy and our foreign policy over many years.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords—

Lord Fanshawe of Richmond

My Lords, before the noble Lord rises to intervene I should also mention his noble friend Lord Stewart of Fulham, who again I have known for over 25 years in both Houses. He clearly has his views and he is not prepared to support the attitude of his noble friend Lord Hatch or of his Front Bench, because he has had experience in office. He has served as a most distinguished Foreign Secretary and knows how important it is that a Foreign Secretary should have clout when he goes to the conference table, and that clout is provided by nuclear weapons.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I simply wanted to assure him that he had misinterpreted what I was saying about dinosaurs. I was not referring to any Member of this House or any Member of Parliament. I was simply comparing the disappearance of a species with the dilemma, the threat and the challenge which the human race is now facing.

Lord Fanshawe of Richmond

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord and I of course accept his comments.

Those noble Lords who have already spoken this afternoon have covered so much of the detailed ground in this important area that, as I said earlier, it is difficult to find a part of the nuclear debate which has not been touched upon. The comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, were extremely valuable to those of us who perhaps have not had his detailed service knowledge.

However, I had some experience in 1962 when, in a humble way compared to the grander position of my noble friends Lord Thorneycroft and Lord Home, I was involved as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the then Secretary of State for Air with getting briefing papers together for my noble friend Lord Thorneycroft out in Nassau and for my noble friend Lord Stockton and for my noble friend Lord Home, who was also at the Nassau conference. It is interesting that the discussion at that time concerned what was to succeed the manned bomber. The debate was about whether it should be Skybolt, which was an air-launched missile, or whether it should be Polaris. As my noble friend Lord Thorneycroft said in his speech earlier on, the decision came down in favour of Polaris.

It was interesting that immediately CND—which was very busy in those days, as it is now—was up in arms. It was led by a very distinguished member of the Labour Party in the other place called Mr. Fenner Brockway who was then aged 73. He was furious that the British Government of the day should produce nuclear weapons to continue the deterrent policy into the 1960s, 1970s and the early 1980s.

What has happened? For the past 25 years there has been peace between the two major powers. That peace has been maintained by NATO and the nuclear deterrent—not only the British nuclear deterrent, the independent nuclear deterrent which is part of NATO, but also the American nuclear deterrent. The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, seemed to take the view: "Well, we have had 40 years, but that is all in the past. Everything has changed now". I do not think that it has changed; I do not think that it has changed at all. The fact that 25 years later we are now debating a replacement of Polaris weapons with something which will be as efficient as Polaris was in 1962, when Polaris missiles cease to be effective early in the next decade, shows that every British Government have a duty to the people to make certain that the nuclear deterrent is effective and will operate.

It is also interesting that at this time who should spring up but the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, who is now in this House and aged 98. He is still going strong in a very distinguished way. He is much linked with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and feels strongly that we should not have this weapons system. Naturally we admire his distinction but we on this side of the House do not admire his views and are only sad that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, should now have joined the bandwagon. The noble Lord was not here in 1962, or at any rate he was not visible on the streets of London. However, he was certainly visible until a few minutes ago in the Chamber and no doubt he will be visible in the weeks and months ahead in CND. I know that he is speaking tonight.

I should like to make a point which I do not think has been made by any noble Lords who have spoken so far. The point I wish to make is this. Will the NATO alliance be damaged if nuclear weapons are removed? Mr. Kinnock, the Leader of the Labour Party, is at present on an electoral swing around the United States of America—a swing which I do not think has been a great success. He seems to have had some problems in meeting people and I believe that he has had even more problems on the television in selling the Labour Party's nuclear policy, because the Americans do not like it.

I noted that during his speech at the beginning of the debate the noble Lord, Lord Irving, kept on producing long quotations. They were fairly selective. As the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said, they mainly covered tactical weapons. I wonder whether the noble Lord had a chance last week to look—and perhaps it is strange for a member of the Conservative Party to praise the media; but I am praising the media—at the excellent programme on "Newsnight" last Friday evening. During that programme the following comment was made: If you remove the United States nuclear bases—you will jeoparidse the entire alliance and encourage growth of isolationism in the United States". That comment was not made by a Conservative member of Parliament or a Conservative Minister. It was not made by any politician in this country; it was made by a very distinguished radical democrat, who would be described in his own country as very Left-wing; namely, Senator Solarz. He also said that if you have the benefits of the United States nuclear umbrella, you have a responsibility to assist maintaining the nuclear defences. That comment was made not by an Englishman or by a European; it was made by an American Democrat radical Senator.

It was said that the irresponsible plans of the socialist party in the United Kingdom would have a psychological effect on the European Community, and would inevitably destabilise it. That comment was made by Herr Todhofer, who is the arms control spokesman in Bonn. People who are not considered to be figures of the Right are making comments overseas which show the grave effect that any decision to withdraw the nuclear weapons system in this country will have on the alliance.

The main question I wanted to ask this evening is whether any decision to abolish nuclear weapons would be practical? Victor Macklen, who is a former deputy chief adviser (projects and nuclear) in the Ministry of Defence, said the following: If you dismantle all warheads it will take from five to eight years and could not take place in the space of one Parliament. Half your warheads would still remain and you would have a stockpile of plutonium which you cannot destroy and cannot sell but would have to store". Presumably you could not use the stockpile to produce peaceful nuclear energy because a Labour Government plan to run that down too. He went on to say: I find it difficult to see us being able to become a non-nuclear power". I should like to know the answer to that from the spokesman on the Labour Front Bench when he winds up tonight. I should also be grateful if my noble friend Lord Trefgarne could confirm that those comments made by Mr. Macklen are true and that there are practical difficulties in doing that.

Sir Frank Cooper went on to say: It will also be impossible to dismantle the nuclear technology in any reasonable time". He maintained: It would take fifteen years plus for a government to remain in power and complete the dismantlement". I hope and pray that we never have a Labour Party staying in power for 15 years, but it is going to be a long time before they are going to be able to dismantle the technology. This is from Sir Frank Cooper, a former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Defence. It was also confirmed by an assistant chief scientific adviser in the Ministry of Defence who made the same point.

Another point was made, which no doubt will amuse your Lordships, when Clive Pontin was interviewed. He said: Whitehall will slow the policy up and Labour will lose interest". There is some hope that, if the worst occurred and a Labour Government were re-elected, there might be a chance that they would follow the policies which were pursued by the Labour Party in 1964 and again in 1974: that is to say, before they go to the country and during the election campaign they will say that they are going to get rid of the nuclear deterrent, but in fact when they get into office they do not do anything of the sort, because, first, they cannot, and secondly, they do not really want to anyway once they have got back into power.

My final question is, what is the point of having an out-of-date weapon? The Alliance policy was totally destroyed by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, this afternoon and by my noble friend Lord Trefgarne. He exposed it as nonsense, and the suggestion that in some way we do not wish to replace an out-of-date and increasingly ineffective Polaris missile obviously will not wash either in your Lordships' House or in the country.

Maybe that is why we see the Alliance backing in the most recent poll yesterday slumping to only 18 points. I suspect that it may well end up at 12 or 14 points if it goes on the way it is going at the present time in its attitude to its nuclear and defence policy. The comment made by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, that we are living in uncertain times was important. I hope that the Opposition will reconsider their impractical policies and cease putting the future of this country and its people in jeopardy.

6.54 p.m.

Lord Ardwick

My Lords, taking part in a defence debate in this House with its distinguished warriors and ex-Foreign Secretaries, is like playing in a pro-am match on level terms; but we must do our best. The moment I saw the noble Lord's Motion on the Order Paper I made a note in my diary that the general election campaign had already begun. Perhaps I was unjust.

However, I am grateful to him for putting the Motion down for debate now and not later. What we need is a rational and continuing debate about defence before election passions rise and we are all calling one another names. I just wish that the debate had come a few days later, after we had all had a chance of reading the lengthy and detailed case for Labour's new policy which Mr. Kinnock is making in the United States. I may say that the speech that I heard this afternoon from my noble friend on the Front Bench was the first time that I have heard the Labour case deployed at any length.

The subject of Britain's defence cannot, of course, be discussed as if it were self-contained; it can be discussed only in the context of NATO. Without NATO it is nothing, and without America the alliance would be without credibility. As I see it, it is possible to distinguish between two issues. The first is whether Britain should have its name-tag on a nuclear deterrent. The second is whether those of us who are wholehearted supporters of NATO are satisfied with its current military strategy and its political and economic coherence. About its political and economic coherence I have some disturbing doubts—some of these doubts were expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, about the future course of American foreign policy. But those doubts are not for today.

We are all aware of two major political facts. The first is that the British Labour movement has always agonised over the problems of defence. The problem has not always been the pacifist minority. In the period before the war there were as many political ambiguities on the Labour side as there were on the Conservative.

The second important political fact is that in the 15 or 16 years of office that the Labour Party has enjoyed since the war, nobody can accuse it of failing to maintain a stout and efficient defence or of lacking in loyalty to NATO. The most serious charge that can be brought about that, on the contrary, is that Labour maintained a military presence east of Suez longer than we could afford.

The party was riven in opposition by the campaign for nuclear disarmament. The most surprising attitude was that of Aneurin Bevan, then the Shadow Foreign Secretary, who differentiated himself from most of his devoted followers. The party then believed that if it was in power Britain might lead the world in nuclear disarmament and inspire the Soviet Union and the United States to follow the same path, and for Bevan that meant retaining nuclear power for the time being—the kind of argument that my noble friend deployed this afternoon—so that he would not have to go naked into the council chamber. The clothing that our nuclear power would have provided at that time would have consisted of an inadequate fig leaf, let me say.

The next great struggle came with Hugh Gaitskell's determination to fight, fight and fight again to save the party from renouncing Britain's NATO obligations and its NATO protection. Britain, he argued, must stay in a nuclear-armed NATO as long as the Russians had the bomb. That was what it was all about.

Gaitskell's war inside the party was waged on those whom he described as "pacifists, neutralists and fellow travellers". He upset some good people who belonged to none of these categories yet still wanted to abjure nuclear defence. But he was little concerned about the British deterrent. Gaitskell thought that the arguments for and against it were finely balanced. As his biographer, Phillip Williams, put it: He would have been wise, while insisting on staying in NATO, to repudiate the independent British deterrent to which he had never given more than tentative support; but Labour's parliamentary spokesmen George Brown and John Strachey were committed to it and he did not do so". Mr. Williams finally comments that Gaitskell: weakened his own position, and his ability to defend policies he cared about, by refusing to renounce explicitly the British bomb, which he had never thought essential and now thought probably impractical". That was before Polaris. But even after the Polaris arrangement and before Polaris had actually arrived it was still respectable to query British Nuclear power. The other day I was looking up something about the life of Sir William Haley, who was the beloved chief of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, and myself. In his historic leader in The Times of 11th June 1963 in which he attacked the Government of Mr. Macmillan in the aftermath of the Profumo affair, Haley said that it was: the end of the illusion that Britain's greatness could be measured by the so-called independence of its so-called deterrent". I wondered how on earth William Haley, who was a pretty hardline chap, had come to this conclusion.

Before the debate I mentioned to the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, that I might speak about this and he was generous enough to say that I could do so—for the persuader of Sir William was one Colonel Gwynne Jones, his military correspondent, now known as Lord Chalfont. The Times, through him, came to the conclusion that Britain should accept the indivisibility of Western defence and the commitment of America to the defence of Europe, retire from the nuclear race when the current bomber force with its British weapons became obsolete and concentrate on building up conventional defence forces, if necessary returning to compulsory military service.

I am citing this not to accuse the noble Lord of any inconsistency; God forbid. I thought he made some very powerful and convincing arguments this afternoon to account for his change of views. I do so simply to show that it is possible for people to think of renouncing a national nuclear force and that that is consistent with their patriotism and their duty to the alliance.

Lord Chalfont

My Lords, I hesitate to interrupt the noble Lord in mid-speech, but it might be as well to ask him whether he is aware that the memorandum upon which that leader from William Haley was based was part of a memorandum attacking the policy of unilateralism and unilateral disarmament and suggesting that this should be done in the context of multilateral arms control agreements. I think it is important that your Lordships' House should know that.

Lord Ardwick

I am very glad to hear that, my Lords. That is not given in The History of The Times written by Iverach McDonald. I do not think that explanation is given; it is simply an account of the contest between Lord Chalfont and his predecessor, who took a different view of things.

The Labour Party has long been divided into those who believe in unilateral disarmament and those who believe in multilateral disarmament. I do not see why those of us who have always belonged, and still belong, to the multilateralist school, but who are now it seems in a minority in the party, should be alienated by the renunciation of the so-called independent deterrent. I cannot believe that the United States would worry about it. Sometimes I think it might even be relieved.

I have said that to be a NATO supporter does not mean unquestioning approval of NATO strategy. Nor does it mean that, though the leadership of the alliance by the United States is absolutely essential to our security, we must give unquestioning approval to all its external policies or even suffer its rhetoric gladly. We are entitled to question the United States bombing of Libya and to ask what on earth it is up to in its decision a day or two ago to commit a token breach of SALT II. We must always argue that we cannot depart from the search for arms control simply because the Soviet Union becomes involved in some unacceptable policy. It was the Soviet Union's behaviour towards Afghanistan which caused the Reagan Administration not to bring SALT II to the Senate for ratification. That failure induced a good deal of despair, which led to the strengthening of the European peace movement.

We stand now at another moment of hope in the afterglow of the Reykjavik summit. We expected little or nothing from that gathering. We were not surprised when it was hailed as a failure, and were not too depressed. But a day or so later, when we learnt about an attempt that had been made to delineate the goals of arms control, we began to hope for the first time in years. If the summit one is attempting is Everest, the failure to reach it may inspire new attempts.

The hope now is that the Reykjavik momentum will be carried over into the Geneva negotiations. But it was no sudden agenda in Iceland. There had been moments throughout 1986 when there seemed to be prospects of agreement on the IMF and on the strategic forces. It was thought that Reykjavik would merely lay the groundwork for a full-scale summit in Washington, but amazingly they seemed to have reached—I do not think anybody is very certain—a series of tentative agreements both on strategic and intermediate-range nuclear weapons.

It was of course a long way off the Utopian idea of disarmament. One of the suggestions made was that each side would still have the terrifying total of 6,000 warheads. But the possibility of eliminating all intermediate weapons from Europe held out dizzy hopes of a denuclearised Europe. This has aroused immediate fears of a Europe dominated by Soviet superior conventional forces and perhaps deprived of certain American support; a Europe which would be the victim of a brutal decoupling, as it is now called, leaving us all vulnerable at least to Soviet political intimidation.

These are the new problems of the alliance that are presenting themselves and they may overtake the unsolved and divisive problems of no first use and flexible response. They call for some hard thinking from us on both sides of the House. I am rather disappointed that from the other side of the House this afternoon there has come no constructive suggestion for any reform of NATO, almost as though the NATO policy is perfect and that one can sit back and enjoy it as it were.

The Labour Party's policy must be a developing one to meet a developing situation. It is not, I hope, cut into tablets of stone. If Labour wins complete power in Britain the new relationship with NATO is to be a matter for negotiation. Labour proposals for strengthened conventional defence will surely have universal approval.

I have one final matter. I am surprised that nobody has raised the question of our security services; they are intimately bound up with defence. The fact that there is a debate in the other place and that we are to have a debate on this subject on another Wednesday may have prevented people from making any mention of it. Surely when the Sydney drama is over—we hope it will be all over by Christmas—one of the pressing domestic questions will be how to bring these services into a better system of democratic accountability without impairing their efficiency. Sydney is a bit distressing for all of us. It is like a television serial in which the authors of "Yes, Minister" and "Smiley's People" have collaborated on the script. It is not very good for British prestige.

But far more important than our farce is the threatened tragedy that hangs over the White House. If it goes wrong it could put back the hopes of arms control for years. We must hope that Mr. Reagan emerges from it with respect, that he appoints wiser advisers and works with the newly-constituted Congress. Then we could hope that the Geneva conference might be fruitful and lead the way to an historic summit.

7.10 p.m.

Lord Beloft

My Lords, in joining in the thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, I must agree with some noble Lords on both sides in saying that we have at last got what we have found difficult to get in previous defence debates: a statement of what is now Labour Party policy. I must say that I found it a little difficult, nevertheless, to follow the noble Lord, Lord Irving of Dartford, because of his continuous use of quotations from one Hubert Young. I thought I was fairly familiar with strategic literature. I had heard of Clausewitz, Jomini, Moltke, Basil Liddell Hart and General Duohet, but I must say that the name of Hubert Young was not normally on the lips of my interlocutors.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me, he said that he could not readily place the name of Mr. Hubert Young. The name my noble friend gave was Mr. Hugo Young.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that correction. My ignorance remains as it was before—and that is considerable! However, it may be that from this side of the House we can put together from the statements made on the other side, and particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, a fairly clear picture, with some limitations and some questions still to be asked, of what the Labour Party offers. It could be put perhaps in relation—I notice that the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, does not stay to hear other people's speeches—to a period with which he is very familiar: the great age of British imperialism.

Your Lordships will remember that in a satirical poem Mr. Hilaire Belloc wrote: Whatever happens, we have got The Maxim gun and they have not. Put in a nutshell, Mr. Kinnock's policy seems to be to try to reverse that position: that they should have the Maxim gun and we should not. That appears to me to be a serious matter and obviously something which demands investigation. Of course it is possible not to take Mr. Kinnock all that seriously. His speeches seem to differ according to both the time and the place of delivery, and if we were to wait for the full text of the speech he gave at the Kennedy School of Government I dare say there would be some additional glosses. Some people think that we take Mr. Kinnock too seriously because he is after all only the Labour Party's answer to Denis Thatcher; in other words, the inspiration for his policy comes from the boss. But that is as it may be.

I would point out that there are some unsolved questions even in relation to the relationship which would then continue or be attempted with the Americans and with NATO. I do not wish to intrude into the private grief of the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, who is obviously terribly torn between his perfectly reasonable argument that it would be possible, and has been possible, to deny the need for a British independent deterrent and yet remain faithful to NATO, and his undoubted suspicion (which must be there in spite of the way in which he wrapped it up) that it might not be possible to combine the policy in that way.

For instance, Mr. Kinnock is reported as saying that the removal of American nuclear weapons from these shores would not involve any departure from the practice of allowing the visit of American naval units which might or might not be nuclear armed. This is a quite important point, because a great deal of America's nuclear armament is seaborne. Are we to understand that the odd showing of the flag is what is meant; or for certain purposes, even for giving the appearance of joint deterrence, would hospitality of a rather more tangible kind be afforded to such units?

I say that because we have a precedent (and a rather important precedent) that no one has mentioned in the debate so far; namely, the relations between the United States and its former two partners in ANZUS, Australia and New Zealand. Your Lordships will be aware that New Zealand has made a total repudiation of visits by any ships which might be nuclear armed or indeed nuclear propelled. It is part of the South Atlantic nuclear-free zone to which New Zealand adheres. As a result, New Zealand is now no longer part of the defensive plans of the ANZUS alliance and no longer has access to the pooled intelligence of the major Western allies.

The case of Australia is different, because the Australians included in their acceptance of this nuclear-free zone a statement that this would not impede American vessels in transit. That, at any rate for the time being, has satisfied the United States. What it has not satisfied, however, is the campaign for nuclear disarmament in its Australian guise, where Mr. Hawke is being continually pressurised to remove the signalling, detecting and other facilities which the United States has on the Australian mainland, with the wish that Australia should end up where New Zealand is. And the fear among people who might go some way with the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, in accepting his view that a case could be made that you could have a NATO in which there was no independent British nuclear contribution, is that this in fact would simply be the first step to making demands upon NATO which would in the end be unacceptable not only to the United States but to our European allies.

Of course it is perfectly possible to argue that things are different, that things are changing, and that therefore the strategy and the armaments of a multinational alliance such as NATO must always be subject to revision. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, challenged noble Lords on this side of the House as to why they were not suggesting any changes in NATO's fundamental position. I think the argument must be that if there are to be such changes, it would ill become amateurs to suggest them—people who, like the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, have considerable experience in this field but who are still not part of the alliance in the way in which its permanent officials, its commanders and the ministers who form its council are—and that if there were to be changes suggested, we would expect them to come, as they have in the past, from the defence ministers of the major partners, from the Secretary-General or from some other source where we could guarantee that this was not simply a feeling that we wanted to change things for change's sake but that there was a serious rationale for change.

But if there is no such serious rationale for change, then surely the argument should be to remain where we have been, because on the whole—though a divided Europe, one in which half is kept down by main force, is not what I like calling "peace"—it looks as though it is the least bad of the options at present available to us.

It is after all an extremely elaborate and unusual alliance. Its members have a vast disparity in strength as well as in their national interests; their contributions are different, by agreement; and the danger of suggesting, or still more pressing for, changes is that you cannot then say where it would stop. You cannot say: We will push things rather more in a direction which suits, shall I say, the British Labour Party or, for that matter, the German Social Democrats and then stop; because once you start unravelling—I think the word was used by the noble Lord the Minister—an alliance you cannot be certain where it will stop. It is, if you like, our version of the Brezhnev doctrine, but it does not mean the imposition of our views or America's views by force.

The other thing which I think we lacked in the presentation of the Labour Party's policy, though it was referred to in very general terms, was some description of these new conventional forms of defence. The noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, talked about the important contribution that developments in the electronics industries might offer. I began to think he was going on to suggest a kind of Lord Hatch version of SDI for Britain; but he did not go as far as that and I was left wondering what these new electronic devices are.

There has been another suggestion, which I agree has only been in the dispatches of correspondents in the press but has not, I think, been denied from Labour Party headquarters, that one of the ideas being investigated is digging some kind of explosive tank ditch across the centre of Europe to prevent what I think has now been agreed is the preponderance of Soviet tanks from affecting the early stages of any conflict. I do not know how serious this proposal can be, but when I read about it I was irresistibly reminded of a book which I think will be familiar to most noble Lords— Winnie the Pooh. I do not think it has yet been banned as racist or sexist, even by Mrs. Frances Morrell.

Your Lordships may remember that Winnie the Pooh, whom we may take as a stand-in for Denis Healey, and Piglet, who I suppose we can say was the equivalent of Denzil Davies, went out to catch the Heffalump, who I suppose one could regard as in some way representative of the Soviet army. Pooh's first idea was that they should dig a very deep pit and then the Heffalump would come along and fall into the pit. "Why?" said Piglet. "Why, what?" said Pooh. "Why should he fall in?" Then your Lordships will remember that there was a great discussion as to how you would know where to dig the pit; and the argument was that you must wait to see in which direction the Heffalump is coming.

I had a vision of Mr. Denzil Davies with his spade running up and down the plains of Central Europe, waiting to see which way the Russians were coming so that he could dig a pit. In the end, as your Lordships know, it all came to grief and Pooh remarked "It isn't as easy as I thought. I suppose that's why Heffalumps hardly ever get caught."

It seems to me that there are lessons to be learnt even from Winnie the Pooh. There are lessons to be learnt about not playing with vital issues of life and death. It is a fact—and I am not one of those who believe in an evil Soviet empire planning overland aggression on a grand scale—that there is this imbalance. It is a fact that we live in a dangerous world where people's allegiances—and that is the only reference I shall make to the spy scandal—cannot always be determined by their national citizenship.

It is a world in which there still exists—and in spite of the Gorbachev speech I saw no repudiation in the text of the basic thrust of Marxist-Leninism—a movement which claims to offer the whole of humanity a better future, provided it accepts its norms. There is in Australia, New Zealand, this country, Western Germany and other European countries a movement, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which, whatever its moral claims on us, is in fact working to make that eventual result much more likely than it would be without it. Defence is a serious issue and I hope we shall continue to take it seriously.

7.25 p.m.

Earl Attlee

My Lords, I should like to preface my remarks with an apology to the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, for the fact that I completely missed his opening speech. I had some guests at lunch and I am afraid that I stayed with them for too long. So I apologise to the noble Lord.

I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, and my heart warmed, because that was the authentic voice of the old Labour Party which I knew and loved and which I feared had long since died. I am glad that it has not. The noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, accused the Conservatives of living in the past so far as defence goes. That rather amused me, and the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, the Secretary of the Defence Study Group, and certain other noble Lords opposite will know exactly the stance that I shall take in this debate.

It is claimed, quite correctly, that if we go back in history and we see the mistakes that we made, we can learn by those mistakes and prevent them happening in the future. In 1939, I was a young lad of 12, but I was old enough to see what was happening in Europe as Nazi Germany swallowed up country after country. As one country was swallowed up, the neighbouring countries seemed to say, "If we keep very quiet, if we do not annoy Adolf Hitler, if we do not offer a threat to Adolf Hitler, he will by-pass us and go for another country." As many noble Lords here know, because they fought in the second world war, all that happened was that Adolf Hitler said, "They are defenceless. They are no threat. Gobble them up." Do we never learn by history? I sometimes fear that we do not.

I should like to quote the credo which was put into words in the Liberty song of 1768: Then join hand in hand Brave Americans all. By uniting we stand, By dividing we fall. I think that today has been paraphrased to say: united we stand and divided we fall. Whether or not noble Lords on this side of the House like it, we are part of Europe and will stand or fall by what happens in Europe. We cannot abrogate our responsibility. The idea that we will throw away our nuclear deterrent, that we will be good little boys and then the Russian bear will not be hungry for us, is living in cloud-cuckoo-land, because when they see that we are weak they will gobble us up, in the same way that Nazi Germany gobbled up the whole of Europe until only this country stood to fight them.

Uninterruptedly since 1945 this country has had an independent nuclear deterrent. It was started in that year by my father when he was Prime Minister. When, in one way or another, the Americans reneged on their agreement to share their nuclear secrets with us, it was decided in the inner Cabinet that we as a country had to have our own independent nuclear deterrent. We achieved that, and all governments until now, whether Conservative or Labour, have followed that precept. If we have a change of government and a Labour government comes in, unless they have buried their heads deep in the sand like ostriches, when they see the true facts they too will realise that our only chance of freedom in this world is to show everyone that we are strong and determined and we say, "Don't touch us because we won't half slap you back".

I believe that this was true in the Falklands war. This country had both the conventional weapons and the trained troops to do the impossible. From 8,000 miles away we launched a liberation force to free our own people. It did not result in nuclear war then but if it had, who can doubt that we would have used such weapons in defence of our freedom? As the noble Lord said earlier, it is no good saying, "We will never be the first ones to use it", because then the enemy will say, "Fine, we will use it first". We shall thereby lose an advantage.

Turning to CND and the other people who are so much against all forms of nuclear energy, if one says to an old lady, a young woman or a mother with a child—they are all innocent and cannot defend themselves—that they have a chance of being mugged and then asks them if they agree that, since they do not have a defence, the muggers will leave them alone, they will say, "No way". If one presses further, they will say that the fact that they are female, defenceless and have to think of a young child is one of the major reasons why muggers will attack them rather than a strapping young tough.

Every intelligent person knows that unless we defend ourselves and unless we show all aggressors or possible aggressors that they must not monkey with us, we shall go down. I believe very strongly that the greater the threat, the more positively we must demonstrate that we have the capability and the will to retaliate. If we have no independent nuclear deterrent, putting in one or two brigades or 15 divisions against an enemy with a nuclear capability will make that enemy laugh. One nuclear device could wipe out at least one or two concentrated conventional divisions. Such a device would kill a lot of people and we could not strike back.

Everyone is frightened of nuclear devices, and I do not know why. I have been round Sellafield and seen spent nuclear fuel rods being taken to bits and salvaged. When I left there, I had received a smaller dose of radiation than I should have had had I walked through an ordinary engineering factory. I have been to sea in a nuclear submarine, which was a hunter-killer, and I can guarantee that I received a smaller dose of radiation than had I been wearing an old fashioned watch with a radium dial.

Nuclear power is here to stay. If we give it up, no one else is going to give it up. It has been mentioned that France has 30-odd nuclear power stations on its coast. If something goes wrong there, we shall get far more radiation than we shall get from our own power stations. Let us live in the present and in the future. Let us also take our lessons from the past and defend ourselves.

7.36 p.m.

The Earl of Cork and Orrery

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Beloff has reminded me with his story of Winnie the Pooh that yesterday I came upon a somewhat similar literary allusion—I think it was in The Times. It must have stemmed in origin from Dr. Strabesmos (whom God preserve) of Utrecht. Keen students of Beachcomber will remember him. This was to do with an electronic arrangement to be set up, somewhere perhaps in mid-Atlantic, owned by both the Russians and Americans. It was programmed in such a way that an inter-continental ballistic missile discharged by one side would be instantly shot down by a missile from the other side triggered by the gadget in the middle. This appears the ultimate end of the logic that invented many years ago—I remember seeing it in a newspaper—an electric toaster that throws the burnt toast straight out of the window.

The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, accused the Tory Party of putting down this debate as an electioneering move. I was rather glad to hear him say that. In reply I should like to quote as follows: … unilateral nuclear disarmament, getting rid of our nuclear weapons when other countries did not get rid of theirs, was the most unpopular policy on which the Labour Party has ever fought a General Election.". That was published on 29th July 1983 in Tribune. The author was Mr. Roy Hattersley. I daresay that he has changed his mind since, and I daresay he will change it again tomorrow and perhaps the day after as well.

There are two things I believe to be truths about the bomb which I keep in mind. The first is that no-one attacks a country that has the bomb. The second is that the bomb itself is unusable and will therefore never be used. These two statements appear to contradict one another. In fact, they do contradict one another in logic. If the bomb is unusable, why should anyone be deterred from attacking the country that has it? However, the statements are not contradictory in fact. It is not the bomb that is the deterrent; it is the uncertainty as to whether or not the other side will use it.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, has spoken about the certainty of response if one should fire such a weapon against the other side. I venture to think that it is not certainty that is necessary. I do not believe that there is such a thing as certainty. I do not believe that anyone would ever fire back or would ever fire in the first place. However, the fact that I do not believe it or anyone else does not believe it is no reason for anyone to say that it is not possible that reprisals will come. That is the deterrent. We may not believe that it will ever be used but we do not know.

There are certain confusions in this field and in looking for them we can look in high places—higher even than Mr. Hattersley or Mr. Healey. We can look as far as the President of the United States. President Reagan has done two things which to my mind come under the heading of confusion. One is the offer at Reykjavik, referred to several times this afternoon, to negotiate for the total abolition of ballistic missiles within the next 10 years. As has been said he came pretty close to doing that over the heads of his allies, but I shall not go into that point.

The other example of uncertainty is to do with SDI. When President Reagan announced the beginning of this project, he foreshadowed the day when America would not have to depend on its own missiles to defend itself against an attack from the USSR because its defence would be complete without them. I think he has withdrawn a little from that position now. No-one really believes in such a totality of defence. But my point is this. If the Reykjavik proposal and the SDI proposal were successful, they would have the effect of doing away with the deterrent that President Reagan himself, in common with all NATO countries, says has kept the peace in Europe for the past 40 years.

Where, then, do we stand? It may be thought that this is a dangerous situation. It is not made any less confusing by what is going on in the United States at the moment. I see no reason why we should not refer to this. It is most important that we should take careful, intelligent and sympathetic note of what goes on in the territory of our allies. I am pretty certain that the American President is surrounded by some strange people. He has been for a long time. I could mention one or two names but that would be tactless in this Parliament.

One group I shall mention. I have mentioned it before and I shall mention it again. It is in my opinion, probably or possibly, the most dangerous body in the world. I refer to the American CIA which was almost certainly involved in the transfer of money to Nicaragua. The Nicaraguan issue itself is an example of one country interfering—no doubt for very good reason—in the internal affairs of another and being prepared to go into a foreign country and interfere with it by force because it does not like what is going on there. It must be admitted that this is opposed to natural justice and to all the principles of international law and of the United Nations.

Why is it all right for the Americans to do that because their interests are at stake? It is not; and I am quite certain that the President does not think so either. If he does, there are a great many people in both Houses of Congress who are bitterly opposed to that approach. Whether we feel inclined to interfere or not—I hope we do not—we should hope that these people will be rooted out and that the President will be allowed to surround himself with a more healthy collection of people.

Into the middle of this imbroglio—I think that is the word—in which the whole of Washington must be seething like a cauldron of worry and discontent, suddenly steps Mr. Neil Kinnock who will be received with unfailing courtesy but whose arrival, I suspect, will be about as welcome as that of a hornet in a Turkish bath. I do not wish to pursue this rather distasteful picture.

I should like to say a little more about SDI. I refer to a considerable authority, Sir Michael Howard, whom we all know by name and by his writing. He has written of the USSR making a comparison with the state of Germany before 1914 when Germany was undergoing great expansion, particularly at sea, and was taken to task for this by ourselves. We pointed out to the Germans that they did not need a great fleet. They retorted that they did not need it for their protection but that they needed it to make perfectly plain to the rest of the world that they intended to operate as a world power on their own without asking permission from anyone else. Professor Howard says that this answer could perfectly well be given by the Russians. If it were, we, represented by the NATO allies, would take exception, as indeed we do, and would resist it. Professor Howard goes on to say: In international politics the appetite often comes with eating: and there really may be no way to check an aspiring rival except by the mobilisation of stronger military power. An arms race then becomes almost a necessary surrogate for war, a test of national will and strength; and arms control becomes possible only when the underlying power balance has been mutually agreed". Arms control has been in the air and on the table for years, and continues now. It is one of the great problems, difficulties and strivings of our time. According to Professor Howard, it becomes possible, only when the underlying power balance has been mutually agreed". Some great struggles are going on to attain this balance. How does SDI affect the attaining of such a balance? SDI is purely defensive. I am sure—I invite the House to agree with me—that when one of a pair of contestants perfects his defence, the automatic reaction on the other side is to increase his power of attack. This is so in war, in games, in football, in cricket, in conkers, in lacrosse, in chess and in any kind of occupation in which two people or teams are pitted against each other.

Let us imagine the case of two heavyweight boxers meeting to decide the world championship. One boxer learns that the other has perfected his defence to such a point that he will hardly be able to lay a glove on his opponent when he gets into the ring. What does he do? He gets busy to sharpen up his power of attack. But, according to the SDI argument, which looks for a balance at lower levels of force, he would not do that. He would sharpen up his power of defence so that when the two went into the ring together, both being superlative defenders, they would be likely to amble around each other like a couple of bewildered hens for a few rounds until the spectators lost their tempers and began pelting them with bottles.

How does this apply to SDI? If the defences of the West are such that Russian missiles cannot get through—this is the theory although I know I am exaggerating it somewhat—what will the Russians do? They will strengthen their attack. They are bound to do that. They must be doing it now in order to get through. So far from making a balance, there is a gross increase in imbalance. Defence is increasing on one side and attack on the other. The Russians themselves are subjected to an escalation not only of weaponry but of vast expense which, in their present economic condition, they can ill afford and which they do not need in any case because they have quite enough attacking power as it is. So we have a destabilisation—probably a military one and certainly an economic one. There have been moments in the small hours of the morning when it has occurred to me that perhaps part of the American policy is to produce precisely this destabilisation by the power not of weaponry but of money.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, before the noble Earl passes on from that point, will he comment on boxer Reagan's offer to teach boxer Gorbachev how to improve his defence?

The Earl of Cork and Orrery

My Lords, I do not think he offered to teach him that this afternoon. I think he offered to teach it when he got a bit better at it himself. What is Mr. Gorbachev going to be doing in the meantime, while he is waiting for the American defence to be perfected to the point where President Reagan is prepared to hand it over to him? Will he trust the Americans? Will the Americans trust the Russians? Will either side trust the other?

As I said recently on another occasion in your Lordships' Chamber, what we are going through is a war of trust and distrust. We tend to talk about it as though it was some kind of game of nuts and bolts, of guns, bullets and bombs and not as a spiritual or political matter at all. It is, but I am not going into that now.

I believe that we must keep the bomb. We must keep the nuclear deterrent. Both sides must keep their nuclear power until we can disarm entirely. In the meantime, if we pursue the extraordinary, eccentric policy of the Labour Party, which makes absolutely no sense to me at all, we face the risk of death and destruction. I echo the admirable words of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, who said that this is no time to meddle, for ideological reasons, with the defences of this country.

7.51 p.m.

Lord Kagan

My Lords, I shall try to avoid repetition of what has been said so well and so much better than I could say it, but I should like to draw attention to one aspect. The potential adversary is the Soviet Union. A new leadership is emerging in the Soviet Union and a new leader who is not burdened by, or feels tainted by, Stalinist dogma. He does not have to make U-turns to change policies.

I quote from Tass. This was also quoted in The Times and other British papers. It was a new directive by Gorbachev, who said: Marxism and Leninism must re-think the option of the use of force in support of revolution in the light of the nuclear reality". This was developed over 13 columns. It has gone across the whole of Russia. Is that not a compelling piece of evidence for the effectiveness of the nuclear deterrent?

Russia fears the United States, but it has not as much conflict with the United States as we assume. After all, there are not millions of Americans trying to gain Soviet citizenship. Nor is there any American, to my knowledge, who wants to become the secretary of the Communist Party in Moscow.

On the other hand, the Soviet Union has good cause to fear the interests and intentions of China, Japan and the over-populated Far East. Stalin tried for nearly three decades to bring China under his control—and that is what the rebellion of Mao Tse-Tung was about. However, China would love to have its own appointee in the Kremlin. That is where the real conflict of interests lies ahead; with an over-populated China of 1,100 million people, Japan short of space and Asia in general looking at the empty spaces of Siberia with one inhabitant per square kilometre, and that not even Russian, and with untold untapped resources.

Therefore, the Soviet Union feels far more threatened, and is far more worried, about the Far East and will not seek a confrontation with the United States or even risk an open war with Europe. But that is not to say that Europe should not retain its own deterrent. Reference has been made to boxing. If two boxers respectively weigh eight stone and 16 stone and go into the same ring they are subject to the same rules but they do not look alike when they come out. The Soviet Union is fully aware of that factor. It will not outspend America, nor will it outstrip America in production.

There is, however, a different relationship on the eastern border with China. China is on the way up at present. The Soviet Union has a technological advantage and China has a population advantage. However, in 20 years from now, when China, with a lot of help from Japan and a little help from America, catches up, the Soviet Union will have a real problem on its hands. That is guiding Soviet policy and that is where the conversion to seeking peace in the Soviet Union has come from.

That is why I suggest that an independent nuclear deterrent is absolutely necessary. That point has been beautifully and competently put by my noble friend Lord Stewart of Fulham. It is absolutely necessary, because we take the American protective umbrella for granted. The national awareness of the United States is slowly and steadily moving from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast. Previous presidents have mostly come from European Stock. Reagan is a son of California, and the second official language in California is Spanish. Your Lordships must not forget that.

Moreover, if and when the Russian leadership makes an offer to the United States—and means it—to get out from the Caribbean and desist from interference on the American sub-continent, particularly in South America, and offers to make the Atlantic the barrier, as the Channel was for England to Europe, when that day comes and in the light of what the American experience in Europe has been with helping Europe, and the cost of it, we must not be too sure that the United States will find that solution unattractive.

There are 350,000 young Americans serving in Europe. I believe that it is costing the United States 60 million dollars a year to keep them there. These troops are resented. Their clubs are being bombed. "Yankee go home" is painted right across Germany, Belgium, and and so on. Eventually the Americans will think that they have the same joy in helping Europe to maintain its own independence as perhaps the British Army has protecting Northern Ireland. When the first option to pull out presents itself to America, believe me, we shall not need CND to help us get rid of cruise because the Americans will take cruise and their soldiers home.

As for Europe, if England then abandons nuclear weapons, and indeed the production of nuclear power, it is quite certain that France will not. Under both Socialist and Conservative Administrations, France has gone ahead and developed nuclear power for industry and for defence. France will not be sorry to make Britain a derisory second-hand offer for Britain's atomic know-how and the whole of our atomic plant. By default France will gain the absolute leadership in Europe and we shall almost relegate ourselves to becoming another offshore island like Ireland. Therefore, all these unilateral options are illogical.

If we abandon the nuclear deterrent, France will not. There will be a terrific brain drain from Britain, because France will employ every talented man we have and will probably take over all our plants. So far as atomic power is concerned and the Chernobyl type of danger, the atomic power stations on the other side of the Channel in Northern France, facing England, are a bigger threat to our centres of population in case of an accident than would be Dounreay. It is difficult to understand the logic of these objections.

As the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, said, since July 1945 when his father became Prime Minister and it was decided to adopt an independent deterrent for Britain, 10 administrations (four Labour and six Conservative), headed by competent Prime Ministers, some of whom are still, happily, around, have agreed on one matter; namely, to retain the nuclear deterrent for Britain. This House has not heard even one single voice from an ex-Prime Minister to say that they have come to think that this policy should change. In this debate I have not heard one piece of evidence which would indicate that this policy was wrong. It was instituted to preserve peace and prevent a major war in Europe, and that it has delivered. I thank your Lordships.

8.3 p.m.

Lord Saint Brides

My Lords, like previous speakers, I very much welcome the action of the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, in initiating this debate. At the next general election the British people for the first time will be asked specifically to say whether or not they wish to maintain this country's independent nuclear deterrent, so between us all we had better get the answer to this question right.

There are two logically prior queries which we need to put to ourselves. The first question is whether the deterrent is necessary and the second is whether it is effective. Although in our long history we have usually needed—and had—allies, our proudest moments have been when we stood and fought alone. I can only echo and support the point of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, that it would be a rash man or woman who, looking into the murky future, claimed that never in any imaginable circumstances should we need to do so again. It is precisely the ability to stand up for oneself, if necessary unaided, in today's fragmented and dangerous world that marks off those nations which are truly independent in outlook and potential from those whose apparent freedom would crumple at a touch in similar circumstances.

In Western Europe we live on the edge of one of the world's larger land masses, and the Soviet Union either already comprises or else casts its huge shadow over the rest of it. The Soviet Union is not an aggressive power in the sense that Hitler's Germany was, but it is a relentlessly acquisitive and competitive one and, like its predecessor, the empire of the Czars, it walks over the weak where it can, sometimes—as the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, reminded us—out of paranoid over-insurance. I think a good example of that is the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

The Soviet system of government, though—heaven knows!—harsh and stultifying, has nevertheless raised Russia in fifty years from being a beaten and backward country into a military super-power. The Russian people have shown that under Soviet leadership and given a sufficient challenge, as in World War II, they possess what I think one may call a "surge capability", which is a power to transcend their normal standards of achievement, as was demonstrated just as notably in World War II by the United States and by our own country. The Soviet citizenry is docile and biddable—deplorably docile and biddable by Western democratic standards—but they are also tough and resilient and deeply patriotic people who are at their best in war, even though they let themselves down in peacetime, as they have done. This of course is why every effort is made by the Soviet authorities to preserve, nurture and renew the memory and consciousness of Russia's travails and triumphs in World War II, which to all outward appearance in Moscow and Leningrad might just as well have finished last week.

With its major input of United States strength and purpose, NATO has given us in Western Europe a collective power of resistance to our formidable Soviet adversary; but a crucial part of NATO's credibility stems from the individual resolve and determination of its major members, very much including Great Britain. For us here to set in hand now the unilateral abandonment of our own nuclear deterrent, however robust the accompanying assurances, would inevitably and rightly—as the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, so correctly said—signal both to our partners in NATO and to the Soviet Union that British resolve and determination had become weakened and, with it, the capacity to survive of our Western alliance. We can all imagine—can we not?—the glee and exultation which would be aroused in Moscow by such a victory for Soviet propaganda and also, I must say, for the influential minority on the Left of British politics who espouse and echo Soviet propaganda.

Is our deterrent in its present and intended future form effective? The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Lewin, explained to your Lordships' House during our debate on the gracious Speech on November 13th, why it is that Polaris cannot sensibly be kept on in service after 1995 and why Trident is necessary to replace it. But we are not in the business of building up a great and competitive arsenal of nuclear weapons. A minimal deterrent is what we now have and a minimal deterrent is what we shall need. It may be that the full extra striking potential that Trident will provide when it is put into service will be in excess of our strategic requirements. If so, as I understand the matter, it will be for British Ministers at the time to decide how much of Trident's extra striking potential we might wish to put into service.

I should add this. So far as one can judge the future of technological advance in the field of nuclear weapons, it could be that because of the ever-increasing range, accuracy and penetrative capacity of ballistic missiles, the day of land-based missiles, whether fixed or mobile, is approaching its close and we shall be left with submarine-launched missiles as the most viable form of deterrent. So it is right that our own British nuclear deterrent should be, in the main, submarine-based, and, unless and until means are developed of finding and destroying our submarines while they are on submerged patrol, a British deterrent based on Trident is most likely to be capable of survival and therefore effective.

The noble Lord, Lord Kagan, referred to France and I should like to say one or two words about that country. I see an instructive contrast, as the noble Lord, Lord Kagan does, between the attitude of some sections of the British public to our deterrent and the attitude of our neighbours across the Channel to theirs. No French political party, not even the French Communist Party, let alone the French Socialist Party, proposes the unilateral abandonment of the French nuclear force de dissuasion. On the contrary, there is strong multi-party and national consensus that France must be in a position to resist any nuclear threats and any nuclear blackmail, and that the maintenance, in effective condition of the force de frappe, is the best and indeed the only way of doing so.

The French developed not only their own warheads but their own missiles, their own launchers. To that extent they have preserved a more viable deterrent than ours is, since while producing our own warheads, we chose 23 years ago to depend upon America for our launchers, our missiles, and by so doing, surrendered to another country part of our freedom of action. The French kept theirs, and I wonder whether it may not be for that reason that their force de frappe, which is wholly national, is such a source of national pride and unity.

Be that as it may, we cannot alter the past. We have to deal with the situation as it is and not as we should like it to be. There is no doubt in my mind, in the light of all my experience serving Her Majesty in the Foreign Service abroad over many years, that our British nuclear deterrent is necessary for the reasons which have been given cogently, lucidly and eloquently by many previous speakers in the debate. I believe it to he effective and I believe it can continue to be so when renewed and strengthened by the adoption of Trident.

It would be one thing, as part of a universally agreed programme of general disarmament including conventional weapons, to reduce or even possibly relinquish our deterrent, subject always to similar action by others and to a sure system of verification. But, until the distant day when that happens, the right, far-seeing and responsible course, and the one most in accord with our national tradition of self-reliance, is to maintain a minimal deterrent in effective working order. Not to do so, but rather to abandon it altogether, hastily and unilaterally, will rightly be regarded by the majority of the British people as an act of utter folly.

8.13 p.m.

Viscount Mersey

My Lords, I too am grateful to my noble friend Lord Thorneycroft for introducing this debate. In the debate after the gracious Speech, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton has reminded us, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Lewin, remarked that the first Trident was already half built. That prompted me to go to Barrow to see for myself. That is what I did last Friday. I feel that the most useful contribution I can make to today's debate is merely to describe the state of play with the Trident.

In a nutshell, this is it. The contract for the first boat was signed in April 1985, since when £100 million has been committed. It will be launched in 1992. All the orders for the second boat went out to tender two days ago. The contract will be signed in four months. Some orders for the third boat have already gone out for long lead material, such as turbines and generators. For the fourth boat, a significant part of the reactor plant is already ordered.

Vickers Shipbuilding is already considering the first major refit of the first boat, which will just about coincide with the launching of the fourth boat. Like it or not, we are already a long way down the Trident road. The first boat's reactor plant prototype is now under test at Dounreay, and the second boat's propulsion unit will be under test at Barrow in four months' time.

I must confess that I went to Barrow feeling that however misguided, in my view, Socialist and Alliance policies on Trident might seem to be, it would not be too much of a hassle to chop out the middle sections of the boats or to substitute for Trident tubes a bank of vertically launched cruise missiles. I now know that to be unrealistic. That is not a political point; it is a fact of engineering.

To change the Tridents to hunter killers is not really on. They would be slow and easy to detect. They would have a bad tactical weapons sweep. Alternatively, to modify them to accept cruise or the French M5 system would be hideously expensive—my noble friend Lord Trefgarne has said that he thinks it would be twice as expensive—and would set back the programme by at least six years. We may not get our first boat until the 21st century.

It is sobering to remember that the original design and development of Trident was authorised 10 years ago by the Labour Government. It was they who started the programme that has given to Barrow a workforce of 12,000, which divides into 7,000 blue-collar jobs and 5,000 white-collar jobs. My most lasting memory of Barrow is not of those huge boats but of hundreds of graduate technicians crammed into the drawing offices manipulating banks of computers. One of them was designing a nitrogen pipe circuit for the third boat's reactor. Many of them were ensuring that the huge hoops of three-inch steel that link together to form the hull will be accurate to within 3 mm. That is a critical undertaking for a steel hoop 42 feet in diameter.

I saw quite the largest lump of submarine structure that I have ever seen: a double bulkhead for the first boat. I could not believe that anything so massive could be so precise. Doctor Rodney Leach, the chief executive and managing director of Vickers Shipbuilding, said: To build a warship is about four times as precise as building a merchantman, and to build a submarine is about four times as precise as building a warship. Our technology is more akin to the moonshot technology of NASA, except that space craft operate in a clean environment whereas submarines operate in corrosive salt water.". That precise submarine technology stretches far wider than the Vickers yard at Barrow. Mr. Doug Callow, the Trident project manager, told me how Vickers had tendered for hydroplanes and steering gear but had lost. They had been beaten by McTaggarts of Scotland. He told me of the many other companies committed to Trident. Babcock, Motherwell and Wesso Darlington are doing steel work and GEC and Lawrence Scott of Norwich are making the turbines.

Vickers Shipbuilding is making the missile tubes for the second boat. The tubes for the first boat will be American. That is part of the agreement. We could make our own for the second, third and fourth boats and even for the American boats. I mention that only to show that the total cost split, which at the moment I think is about 60 per cent. British and 40 per cent. American, is not constant. It could become 65:35 or possibly even 70:30. Thus we already have many factories in this country committed to the massive and precise engineering of Trident. Since it is so massive and so precise it follows that it is not versatile. It will be harder to modify it than to scrap it. To scrap it would jeopardise not just the 12,000 jobs in Barrow but jobs in Babcock, GEC, McTaggarts and a host of other British companies.

In the event of cancellation, the Socialists promise to safeguard all the shipbuilding jobs. To preserve merely the Barrow jobs would mean the immediate ordering at that yard alone of, for instance, five aircraft carriers or 12 hunter killer submarines or 24 frigates. Even immediate ordering would not alter the simple law of shipbuilding, which is that it takes six years to design a warship and five years to build it. It would certainly be back to the drawing board at Barrow were government to order, say, 12 extra hunter killer submarines.

I cannot myself understand the remarks made by Mr. Denzil Davies—Piglet to my noble friend Lord Beloff, who is no longer with us—on Radio Furness. When he was asked by the interviewer, Mr. Steve Barber, to explain Labour's position more fully he replied: The Barrow yard will continue to build nuclear power hunter killer submarines for the Royal Navy. There will be no hiatus: no gap in the work whatsoever". Then the interviewer, Mr. Barber, asked: So literally from day one you will have work available, even though we are looking at quite long lead orders in these matters? Mr. Davies replied simply by saying: Well, we arc committed to building quickly new hunter killer submarines for the Royal Navy". That simply cannot happen from day one of Trident cancellation. There must be a hiatus, not just at Barrow, and not just of days but of years.

Speaking quite practically, this is surely what will happen. Should a Labour Government get in at the next general election, at least two Trident boats will be built but their missile tubes will be left empty. Should the Alliance hold the balance of power, Trident will be built and most of the missile tubes will be left empty. Should the Conservatives win, the Tridents will be built and some of the missile tubes may be left empty.

I go back to the remarks made by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Lewin. He said, "The Alliance say that they will maintain a minimum deterrent. Trident is as minimum as Ministers may care to make it". How right the noble and gallant Lord was to say that it would be perfectly feasible to invite Russians to go and look in the missile tubes to see to what extent the boats are underweaponed, as the jargon has it.

I speak in this speech less of political matters than of practical matters. The practical matter is this. Trident may be expensive or it may be cheap, depending on how you look at it. But all that is by the by as we are so far down the Trident road that any other system will cost more and take longer. Therefore I predict that whatever the colour of the next government we shall have a fleet of Trident submarines.

8.24 p.m.

Lord Bruce-Gardyne

My Lords, the night is wearing on and I do not want to delay your Lordships for long. I should like to join with all those who have congratulated my noble friend Lord Thorneycroft for introducing this most important debate and for the marvellous skill with which, as always, he did it. I so much agreed with everything that he said about the vital importance of the NATO alliance and of the American connection. I so much agreed also with the anxieties expressed by my noble friend, by other noble Lords on this side of the House, on the other side of the House, and even, I detected on at least one occasion, on the Labour Benches, about the professed intentions of the principal Opposition Party.

I do not want to delay your Lordships with those points of agreement but rather to add a small qualm that I still have. Fortunately, it is a qualm that is totally unshared on this side of the House. I trust therefore that it is quite uncalled for. I must confess that it concerns the purchase of the Trident missile. I listened very carefully to what my noble friend Lord Mersey told the House. I am sure that all he says about the progress of this programme is correct. But my anxieties are not altogether diminished. These rest basically on two grounds. The first is, I suppose, philosophical. My noble friend Lord Thorneycroft and others have pointed out what is surely the essential nature of the deterrent. That is the impact that it has upon Russian perceptions. What has always worried me a little is that we are supposedly confronted with a situation in which the Soviet Union has reason to feel that the risk of encountering the overwhelming might of the American deterrent has diminished. We therefore meet with circumstances in which it is no longer deterred by what must surely still be a risk, albeit a much remoter one, of encountering the enormous weight of that deterrent, but that it would be deterred by the risk of encountering the much smaller and proximate British deterrent.

I have always found that proposition a little hypothetical. I would not dare to argue the case tonight in front of so many more highly experienced in the field of defence than I can pretend to be. But even supposing that the acquisition of Trident were deemed to be like a Rolls-Royce bought to be put up on blocks in a garage and displayed to admiring visitors, there might be a very good case for such a presentation, subject to two considerations. The first consideration is that it is the kind of Rolls that one can afford to buy and to insure for display on blocks in one's garage to admiring visitors without inhibiting one from acquiring a runabout to get one down to the shops.

I remember that when the Trident programme was first announced in 1980 and we debated the matter in another place, I sought an assurance from the then Defence Secretary that if, by any chance, contrary to the assurances that he had given us, the Trident acquisition should turn out to be incompatible with the successful fulfilment of our other major conventional commitments and with the observance of adequate and sensible restraints on the growth of the defence budget, then that decision could be reconsidered. He assured me that the decision had been taken and it would not be reconsidered.

I listened with care to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, this afternoon, I think that I quote him correctly. He said that Trident must not be allowed to force disproportionate cuts in other commitments. We have had the assurance again from my noble friend Lord Trefgarne tonight that it is an entirely affordable programme which will be entirely compatible with the fulfilment of those other conventional commitments.

I have a few modest moles in the Ministry of Defence. They lead me to believe that not all currently serving senior officers entirely share the confidence of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton in this respect. I accept entirely what my noble friend Lord Mersey told us about the progress of this programme. What worries me is that if by any chance—I submit that it is not an inconceivable eventuality—the fulfilment of the Trident purchase programme turned out to be incompatible with either the fulfilment of our other essential conventional defence commitments to the alliance, or to our intended projections of future defence expenditure, then, presumably, one or other of those two desiderata would go by the wall.

It might be argued that it would be a curtailment of one or other of the other major conventional commitments. If it were, I submit to your Lordships that not only should we have a great deal of trouble with the alliance, but we should also be likely to find that there could be very considerable repercussions for employment in this country. A future government might not find it easy to face up to those repercussions. I may be quite wrong. My instinct is still however that the likelihood must be that the completion of the Trident programme, in conjunction with our other major conventional commitments, would lead to a significant stretch in the defence budget.

I tend to believe that one reason (not by any means the major reason) why we found it so difficult and indeed impossible to achieve our ambition, in the first period of this Administration, to bring down the proportion of our total resources pre-empted by central government, was precisely that we had committed ourselves, perhaps through absence of mind, to fulfilment of the 3 per cent. real growth in defence expenditure of the NATO programme. In a perfect world, it must be true that one can choose to expand the commitment of resources to defence, and to diminish them elsewhere. That may be a very logical thing to do if we put the defence of this country first and foremost in our considerations. However, in the real world of politics, I venture to suggest that there is no way in which it is possible to expand one's defence budget significantly as a proportion of the call made by the state on total resources and, at the same time, diminish, as many of us wish, the total proportion of national resources which are pre-empted and allocated by central government.

My concern is that we will find over the years, as this programme advances, that it may be affordable, as my noble friend has assured us, but that it may well turn out to be affordable only against a background that requires an acceleration in the totality of the defence budget substantially beyond the projections which have now been made, and which we will find sadly, is not compatible with what I believe to be a desirable reduction in the overall proportion of the nation's resources pre-empted by the state. That is the worry that I have. I hope that when my noble friend comes to reply to the debate, he will be able to assure me that I have got it all wrong.

8.34 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, although I found much of what the noble Lord, Lord Bruce-Gardyne, said very persuasive, he will not expect me to follow him long down that particular path. Instead, I should like to say that this Motion, moved with such patent sincerity by the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, calls attention to the case for retaining a nuclear deterrent. This is equivalent to calling attention to the charms of death as against those of life.

I had thought that I might wish to traverse the Labour Party policy on this matter. However, this has been done for us (and it is with great pleasure that I say this) from our own Front Bench explicitly and persuasively by my noble friend Lord Irving of Dartford. Therefore, I am relieved from the necessity of taking up your Lordships' time further in doing what has already been done better than I could do it.

Instead, I should like to deal with the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, referred to Japan. I reflect that ever since the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima—I think a number of Lords on both sides of the House will agree with me about this, even if they disagree about the solution to it—it has been self-evident that here was the means of terminating our civilisation. The progress that has been made in the last few years by the nuclear disarmament movement has been not so much to persuade people of the right way to deal with the problem as to persuade them of the nature of the problem. I think a large number of noble Lords will agree that we are concerned with the survival of the human race and nothing less than that. If we can get that one point over and generally accepted, although this House will possibly be the last to accept it, there is a reasonable possibility that in the long run we may have a consensus that we ought to do without the nuclear weapon.

As the bomb was made more and more lethal over the years and proliferated in numbers, it became clear that men now had the power to exterminate their own species. There is nothing in the record of mankind which leads us to believe that that power will not be used. Therefore from the beginning I have argued against what was given the euphemistic title of "the nuclear deterrent"—rather like calling a sword a shield, or a gun a shelter. Those noble Lords who recall the last war will know that the purpose of euphemisms in war is to conceal from ourselves the reality of what we are doing because deep in our hearts we are ashamed of it. The nuclear fans faced with this glimpse of reality will say, "Oh no, if you press us we shall admit that what we have here is no shield but a new type of sword capable of killing a million people at one stroke, but we like to call it a deterrent because we do not intend to use it. It is just to stop him from using his great people-killing sword which is even bigger than ours".

This argument ignores a number of facts: for example, "That is exactly what he says and to prove that he means it he has even stopped testing bombs, a step which we have not followed"; "Our side is the only side which has actually used the people-killer for the purpose of killing people"; "We invented the weapon and had sole use of it for years before he caught up with us". These uncomfortable facts are not much dwelt upon in your Lordships' House or in the West generally. However, they are the common parlance of knowledge elsewhere, particularly in the Soviet Union.

The argument that it is just a deterrent is unconvincing when it comes from the side which has used the bomb in war and which refused to stop testing new versions of the weapon and continued to develop more and more bombs even when there was no nuclear threat from the other side to deter. In short, it is a totally unconvincing argument that is drummed up to justify hanging on to a power of destruction which gives a totally false sense of security. I say "false" because what is the use of a sword, however powerful, which can be used only at the cost of killing yourself and all your family? We are saying, "Look, if you hit me with your conventional sword, I shall commit suicide, so you be careful". That is the absurdity of the situation which we are in.

This is what the noble Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, calls the political will. I prefer the verdict of his superior and senior, the late Admiral of the Fleet, Lord Mountbatten, who said: As a military man who has given half a century of active service I say in all sincerity that the nuclear arms race has no military purpose. Wars cannot be fought with nuclear weapons. Their existence only adds to our perils because of the illusions which they have generated". The truth is that conventional weapons can only be opposed by conventional weapons, and that is Labour Party policy, the truth of which will I think become apparent between now and the general election, although possibly not in this House.

Why then, in the face of these realities, has the campaign against the bomb not been more successful? We on the anti-nuclear side must also face the facts, and the truth for us to swallow is that, so far from banning the bomb, all our years of endeavour, all our talking, marching and writing have not succeeded in preventing the development, manufacture and deployment of one single nuclear weapon. On the contrary, throughout the years of the life of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament the bomb has burgeoned and now, spread all over the world, there are enough of them to kill everyone on earth several times over. So much for banning the bomb.

The truth is that we anti-nuclear people have to accept that up to now we have failed. When we got together in Hyde Park—a crowd of the size that goes to a cup final—we thought that we had achieved a miracle, and of course it was a political miracle. It gave us the sense of achievement without its reality.

The reality is that none of the nuclear powers, with the possible exception of the Soviet Union, accepts our argument, and the Soviet Union itself insists on parity and will disarm nuclearly only if its adversaries do the same. The reality is that, with the exception of the British Labour Party, no party in sight of political office in any of the other nuclear powers is in favour of nuclear disarmament. On the other hand, the policy of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, the SPD—not the SDP, because nobody knows what its policy is—is close to that of the Labour Party.

I think that it is in the acceptance of these realities that the case for independent action by Britain is to be found. In this mad nuclear playground we are a small child with a small nuclear sword. Hitherto our governments have argued that we must individually be able to kill the boy over there with the big sword or he will kill us—or at least he will threaten to do so and we shall have to conform to his wishes. It is a crazy idea, but that does not stop its widespread acceptance, because it has some sense in the pre-nuclear world in which this type of so-called military thinking takes place.

We are always being told that the nuclear weapon has preserved the peace during the 40 years of its existence. I suggest that it has done no such thing. There has been war in many parts of the world and the fact that sometimes one of the participants in Vietnam or in Afghanistan—the USA or the USSR—has been a nuclear power has had no effect whatever. Of course there has been no outbreak of fighting between those two powers, but there never has been war between those two countries. The claim that it is the possession of nuclear weapons which has prevented it during the last 40 years is a thin one, which can neither be proved nor disproved. Certainly it is no reason for arming ourselves up to the hilt with such dangerous and expensive weapons.

Britain is well placed to take independent action. If we could demonstrate that we, a nuclear power, can denuclearise ourselves and be no worse for it—I am satisfied, and I think that more and more people are becoming satisfied, that that would be the case; in fact, I suggest that we would be the better for it—we might start the process of nuclear disarmament which still has to tread the path from Reykjavik to reality. It may seem a slim chance, but it is the only chance. The alternative is to sit back and wait for the end, whether it comes by accident, out of international tension or individual madness, or out of human error, technical failure or perhaps proliferation—there are a number of other possibilities. However, whatever source is the reason for the arrival of nuclear weapons, while they are spread about the earth in such quantities at present the end must come, and no one need bother to make plans for the next century because there will not be one.

8.46 p.m.

Viscount Trenchard

My Lords, I do not propose to be diverted by the usual scaremongering efforts of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins. I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Thorneycroft for introducing this interesting debate and in phrasing it in the terms which he has used. In recent months and years there has been great concentration on arms control, and in my view perhaps too little on the balance between that and defence and deterrence. I believe that my noble friend's Motion has gone a long way towards putting that right. I would accept that arms control is an object on its own. If, due to disarmament, we could get a much lower level of arms which was verifiable and balanced—and I point out to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, that he did not quote the most important passage in Lord Mountbatten's speech, which stressed the need for balance—then arms control would be a desirable object on its own.

As my noble friend Lord Bruce-Gardyne, said, there are many things which we need to spend money on rather than arms. However, peace is the overall object together with the security of the country. Defence and deterrence are essential while the slow progress of mutual disarmament takes place, forced by the question of cost. When we think about defence questions we have to think long-term. We have to think long-term about the threat. Most speakers have agreed that the potential threat still comes from the Soviet Union. We have to think about that country not in terms of whether a particular leader today has made encouraging statements or has a very attractive wife; but we have to look at the system and at the very small number of people who are in total control of that great country.

It has already been said that the Soviet people are peace-loving, and after the terrible experiences which the older generation of that country encountered, it is clear that they will be. However, we have to deal with a situation where the media are totally controlled and where those returning from Soviet Russia, who—and I am fortunate enough to meet them from time to time, including those taking the railway journey from Vladivostok to the West—report on the most appallingly low standards of living,—the near-desperate standards of living—in the areas that one can see around the railways as opposed to the areas that one is shown.

They also report on the continuous propaganda being given out to the Russian people which perpetuates the fear of every Russian of the West and the belief that they may be attacked. This propaganda gives them a totally false impression of the military balance. In such situations, even if the leadership of the Kremlin at present is better disposed towards the type of things that the democracies stand for, we must think long-term. In such a situation there must be a potential threat for as far ahead as we can possibly see.

In terms of the alliance we must think long-term. There may be a slightly muddled moment at present in relation to some of the defence policies of our great ally, the United States of America. We must assume that there will be muddled moments in democracies. We must pray that we do not all have muddled moments at the same time, and that the extreme degree of muddle now being proposed as a defence policy by the party opposite will never become the policy of this country.

However, we must look long-term, and we therefore cannot afford simply to say that all that defence will be left entirely to the United States. That is perhaps one of the strongest reasons for having more than one centre of decision in the nuclear area: to build up the credibility of deterrence and thus to keep the peace.

The third area where we must think longterm—which is relevant to this debate—is weaponry. It has already been mentioned that the design and development of Trident was authorised in 1978 by a Labour Government. It will not come into service until the mid '90s anyway and it may stretch even longer.

The other matter we must beware of when thinking about defence and deterrence issues for this country and the alliance is the number of hypotheses. These have been mentioned already and I will not go into them in any detail. SDI is a hypothesis and no more. While one must think long-term and take note of hypotheses, to base one's policy on totally unproved hypotheses is something one cannot afford to do.

The idea that this country could enormously increase its conventional defence power, if in planning and purchasing we were much more intelligent, and that NATO could do the same, is a good one. It is an idea that I know my noble friend the Minister of Defence and his predecessors and staff have been working on for a long time. It will be hard work, to reverse the trend of the past 10 years, where the Russians have been closing the technological gap, and in many areas have a technological lead. Wishful hypotheses that we can greatly strengthen conventional defence for only a small cost are dangerous until they have been proved. Let us keep trying.

There is another hypothesis over which I must be critical of Her Majesty's Government. The chemical threat has built up enormously in recent years. The British Government have taken a desirable lead, on which the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, complimented them in a speech on 13th November, in trying to get a ban on chemical weapons. I am all for the abolition of chemical weapons, but we need to keep sight of the fact that no known verification system for the enforcement of such a ban exists. Chemicals can be made in almost any factory. They can be stored in every farmyard. They are not detectable by satellite photography or the like. I am all for banning them, but I am not in favour of a wishful hypothesis that within a short time we shall have the chemical-weapon threat under control.

Enough has been said today about the conventional balance to save me from my usual role of detailing the enormous conventional balance against us. The noble Lord, Lord Irving of Dartford, managed to find the lowest figure in a double page column of comparisons, that of total ground forces, upon which the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has already commented. In col. 93 of Hansard of 13th November your Lordships will find that I was encouraged by the, in my view, wishful thinking from the Benches opposite, to read the full ratios of fire power—which is what counts—on land and in the air contained in that International Institute publication. I shall not repeat them. They are enormous. Although there was a slight decrease in the past year, the trend since well before 1979 has been for a steady swing in the balance in favour of the Warsaw Pact. With chemicals added, and with our withdrawal of tactical nuclear weapons, the balance, before we think of intermediate or strategic nuclear weapons, is pretty horrifying.

The trend is bad, and it is my view, which was formed when I was at the Ministry, that if we were to set out to reach parity in conventional forces we should not need to double our expenditure. Our people cost much more, and we need more people for every unit of fire power. We should certainly need to add about 50 or 60 per cent. to the NATO Alliance budgets in relation to defence in Europe if we were to reach parity.

As has been said over and over again in this debate, NATO depends on the nuclear back-up for its deterrence posture to remain credible and to ensure peace. The real question is whether we go back to the much criticised trip-wire philosophy based simply on mutually assured destruction (MAD) with huge strategic forces—if an aggressor goes over the margin he will receive the full, awful effect of a strategic nuclear strike—or whether we stay with the policy which has been adopted, and which most of us in this debate feel is far more credible: the doctrine of flexible response and the doctrine of two decision centres (if we add the French, a third decision centre) to make overall deterrence more credible and the risks, to a potential aggressor's mind, greater. I believe that nearly all the top military thinking goes along those lines.

There is a notable exception, and his views are used by the parties opposite: that is the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver. I read his speech of 13th November more than once. It seems to me that by the late 1990s he would have us back to a MAD, or tripwire situation. By then he would not have Trident; he would not have intermediate nuclear weapons and he would not have tactical nuclear weapons. By then our bombers and the American bombers—certainly as they exist today—would not have very great penetrative power. I do not believe that that is a sensible way to keep deterrence credible in the mind of the Russians.

I know that the noble and gallant Lord is not present today but I am quoting at some length what he said in the previous debate because his views are used so extensively by the party opposite and are therefore extremely important to our debate today. I noticed that the noble and gallant Lord accepted that Polaris—and he said this in reply to an intervention by my noble friend Lord Trefgarne—was OK when assigned to NATO as the NATO back-up in his day, but that in his day as Chief of the Defence Staff the policy was not to replace it.

It has already been said by the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, that the design and development was authorised in 1978, which was the year when the noble and gallant Lord gave up as Chief of the Defence Staff. If Polaris was right then, Trident is right and necessary for the late 1990s, for the reasons that have been given both in the debate on 13th November and today in terms of the ever growing strength of anti-ballistic missile systems and the vulnerability of the submarine.

My noble friend Lord Bruce-Gardyne raised the question—and in this respect he gave a little support to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins—of whether a much smaller deterrent than was held either by the Americans or the Russians was on its own capable of being an adequate deterrent. First, it is not on its own; it is part of an alliance defence situation. Some members of that alliance may at times feel weaker, and some stronger. It is an important fact—which has been expounded on at great length—if there is more than one decision centre.

However, I should also say to my noble friend that I agree with those who say that we have so many nuclear weapons that we could destroy the world many times over. By the same token, under 5 per cent, of the Soviet power in nuclear weapons is a tremendous deterrent. Furthermore, we must think of it from the aggressor's point of view. It is the aggressor who decides, for whatever reason—it may be concerned with his own standard of living, German electronics or whatever—that the right moment has come to move the Iron Curtain. It is the aggressor who wants something, but he will not dare to move the Iron Curtain just because he has more nuclear weapons than we have, because he would never get German electronics or German farming if either we used the nuclear weapons or he retaliated. Nuclear weapons stopped the war in relation to Japan. It is true that that experience is not valid because now both sides have nuclear weapons. Therefore, it is a thesis and only a thesis. It is often quoted by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, that it would be suicide for a relatively small nuclear power ever to contemplate using its nuclear power against a larger one. If one thinks about the aggressor's mind and what he wants, I do not believe that it is more than a thesis and it is not a very logical thesis at that. The Polaris deterrent today and the Trident deterrent in the future have enormous deterrent power on their own, but I trust that they never will be on their own. However, they can be a powerful help to keeping the alliance together.

My noble friend has raised the question of the cost of Trident. The silliest thing that was done in the days when I was at the Ministry of Defence—perhaps we could not avoid it—was to quote originally £7 billion, as one figure. The figure is now £10 billion spread over 18 years. I am aware of the moles who are in touch with my noble friend in the Ministry of Defence. I am aware that there is an unholy alliance between all those who always want more—and it is all those who always want more that my noble friend used to complain about—and all those who do not want us to have it at all. I am thinking of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, and some of the right reverend Prelates who have been with us at some time during today. Therefore, I am not a bit surprised. I met and knew those moles.

However, when we pin it down to a percentage we find that this £10 billion over 18 or 20 years, bearing in mind that we are spending £18 billion a year, will only provide the kind of extra armament that has already been mentioned in the debate today. It is a marginal increase in conventional forces for Britain only, but not for the rest of the NATO allies. It is so marginal as to be unnoticeable in the alliance as a whole. We are talking of an average of 3 per cent. over those years on our budget.

My noble friend must realise that if he refers again to the International Institute publication he will find that in no year since 1979 has the Soviet Union spent less than a 3 per cent real increase on defence. Last year, in spite of the fact that the figures for our armaments had not increased in the last two years, they spent over 4 per cent. more.

Therefore, if security of the realm comes first, the problems of the Treasury may be greater, and the importance of disarmament in terms of spending less may become greater too. However, do not let us, for economic reasons, gamble with our security. Do not let us exaggerate the fairly marginal cost in the total defence budget. If we look at the total cost of Polaris with Chevaline, and bring it down to common units of cost in present day terms, we find that Trident, with a fixed research and development expenditure fee, which we negotiated with the Americans at the same level as Polaris, will, in real terms, be substantially cheaper than the whole of the Polaris programme. It is also cheaper than the whole of the Tornado programme.

I cannot understand the statement of the Leader of the SDP, Dr. David Owen, in saying how excited he was at the idea of the European deterrent with the French. I can imagine the French getting excited. It was one of the many possibilities that I made a lot of very weary, very expert, people in the Ministry of Defence go over yet again in 1982 when I went to the Ministry of Defence. I came to the conclusion not that any alternative of co-operating with the French would be twice as expensive, but that it would probably be four times as expensive.

Let me end on a plea. Let those in the parties opposite whom I have known for many years bring pressure to bear on their leaders to stop this sad situation, where the defence and security of this realm and the preservation of peace have become a subject of party political controversy. This is going to remain so, and it is going to get worse, if statements continue to be made which forever minimise the East/West balance of conventional, nuclear and chemical forces and the trends in them; if statements are made which forever exaggerate the cost effect of keeping the deterrent on defence budgets—and these are continually made at the moment. Whether it is true or not, this morning's papers report Mr. Kinnock as talking of the threat of a 30 per cent. cut in all three services. On 3 per cent. of the budget over twenty years, that is deceitful rubbish.

It is sad beyond belief that people on the Benches opposite should be prepared to be associated with these statements. They are having an effect. Even last year an organisation in which I play a part carried out a Gallup opinion poll, and the public—and particularly younger members of the public—are becoming more and more confused and ignorant of the facts. The fact that nearly all of us here know the policy to be crazy, and have said so this afternoon, must be set in stark contrast to the degree to which these statements are influencing the minds of ordinary young people who have no proper access to what the Russians have got or what these things cost.

I support my noble friend's Motion and I hope that it will play a part in leading a way back towards a bipartisan defence policy which will help to preserve the peace and security of this country.

9.12 p.m.

Lord Reay

My Lords, the strategic outlook at the present time, to adapt a phrase, presents the picture of a mystery within an enigma. The mystery is what will United States policy be over the next few years. Will President Reagan push for a major arms control agreement in his last period in office? Will his sudden political weakness allow him to do so? If there was such an agreement would it be a good or a bad one from Europe's point of view? If there is no agreement what will be the policy of President Reagan's successor? Will a new administration take up one or other of the radical proposals that flew like ping-pong balls over the table at Reykjavik, or will Reykjavik prove to be an aberration best forgotten; a propaganda exercise staged and, some would say, won by Chairman Gorbachev?

The enigma which encloses the mystery is where we are anyway in the evolution of strategic doctrine. Are we reaching the end of the era of mutual, assured destruction, because nuclear deterrence is losing its credibility? If so, will the credibility of deterrence be recovered by introducing an element of strategic defence which will ensure the survivability of nuclear retaliatory capabilities and hence provide a new way to deter a first strike? Or is nuclear deterrence to be abandoned in a great orgy of nuclear disarmament as sketched out at Reykjavik?

About the short-term future of American policy there is little that we can do but speculate. The Prime Minister in her Camp David meeting with President Reagan did as much as anybody could have done—perhaps more than anybody else could have done—in the way of trying, in the atmosphere of the uncertain aftermath of Reykjavik, to make sure that the United States understood and took account of Europe's defence interests. President Reagan's continuing commitment to Trident was obtained; the elimination of ballistic missiles was not referred to. Instead priority was to be given to an INF deal, a chemical weapons ban and a 50 per cent. reduction over five years by both sides in strategic offensive weapons. Agreements would have to be the subject of verification, which the Soviet Union has never permitted except by so-called national means, at least until the yet untested Stockholm agreement.

I should like to comment on certain points in the agreed statement issued at Camp David. On the question of theatre nuclear forces, I must confess to a considerable reluctance to accept a zero-zero option. I do not see why the West has to accept the zero-zero option just because it was the West that originally proposed it in 1981. The situations then and now are entirely different. The West proposed the zero-zero option when only the Soviet Union had deployed theatre nuclear weapons. The Soviet Union did not agree to the proposal because until the very last moment there was always a chance that NATO's theatre nuclear forces, Pershing and cruise, might not be deployed. Those who remember the political debates in Europe at that time will realise that from a Soviet point of view there was a very good chance that they might not be deployed. But once they were deployed the Soviet interest immediately changed.

Now the Soviet Union favours the zero-zero option because it is to its advantage. It would be much easier for the Soviet Union to reinstall theatre nuclear weapons once they had been removed than it would be for the United States, which would again have to pass through the European political barrier.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, may I—

Lord Reay

My Lords, if the noble Lord will wait a moment. In just the same way the Soviet Union used to propose the disbandment of the Warsaw Pact and NATO forces, knowing that the Soviet Union would find it a great deal easier than would the United States to replace those forces once they had been withdrawn, even if the United States had the will to do so.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, is the noble Lord not aware that the Soviet zero-zero option for INF in Europe is for the dismantling and the destruction of those forces, not their withdrawal?

Lord Reay

My Lords, I do not think that essentially alters the nature of the problem.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, with respect to the noble Lord, it does alter it, because he has just said that it is easier for the Soviet Union to bring those forces back than for the United States. That would indeed be so if they had only been withdrawn, but if they had been destroyed that distinction would not arise.

Lord Reay

My Lords, I must say that I was not aware that it was the proposal of the Soviet Union that those forces should be entirely destroyed. I thought there was an element of removal involved. Obviously if they were to be destroyed, that could be verified and one could be certain that they would not be replaced. Then my argument would not apply. But it seems to me most unlikely that that situation will ever come into effect.

It seems to me that the Soviet Union, having once forced NATO to go through the political hoop over theatre nuclear weapons, should not now be able to say, "Well, never mind, we had a go anyway. Let us put them all away now", and for the West obediently and helpfully to do so.

I should like to turn to the question raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, about chemical warfare. It is government policy to try to secure a verifiable treaty banning chemical weapons. I do not believe this is possible. Here I would go further than the noble Viscount. It seems to me extremely unlikely that the threat to deploy chemical weapons in Europe by the United States will ever be sufficient to secure an act of unilateral disarmament from the Soviet Union (which is what is being asked for), since only the Soviet Union has deployed a modernised and plausible chemical warfare capacity, just as the threat to deploy Pershing and cruise was insufficient to secure the withdrawal of Soviet intermediate nuclear weapons. A matching deployment is required before the Soviet Union would contemplate a ban.

But we are light years away from deployment. The United States is at last moving slowly in the direction of the manufacture of modern chemical weapons but it does not at the moment look likely that they will be deployed in peace time in Europe. Only deployment is likely to produce a ban, but even if deployment took place it might be better not to have a ban, since the temptation to cheat, especially for a closed society like the Soviet Union, would be well nigh irresistible, given the ease with which chemical weapons can be manufactured and stored without detection, as the noble Viscount said. The best solution surely would be to deploy and treat the deployment as an upgrading of our conventional forces, which is so much needed, and thereby raise the nuclear threshold.

It seems to me a mistake to assume that since the Soviet Union is willing to enter into negotiations, even into detailed negotiations, this means that it also wants to see a ban agreed on chemical weapons. That is not necessarily the case at all. The interest of the Soviet Union—and the Soviet Union has a consistent record of acting in its own interest—is to preserve its position as the sole possessor of an effective chemical warfare force in the field. What better way of maintaining the status quo than by always allowing the West to feel that a negotiated agreement was just around the corner, which is not very difficult, given the West's wish to believe exactly that?

The West, I suggest, commits the same mistake over the MBFR talks. It would like to see a reduction in the Soviet Union's massive conventional forces in central Europe; but the Soviet Union has no interest at all in negotiating away an advantage which it has on the ground; and so the talks have got nowhere in 13 years.

It is unfortunately the case that European governments try to calm the nervousness of their populations by being excessively optimistic over the outcome of arms negotiations. One of the several dangers of this collective wishful thinking is that a false picture of the actual European interest is presented to the United States because governments find themselves forced to pretend that certain things are in their national interest when they are not. It is just not the case that all arms control agreements are, by definition, in our security interest; yet there is a danger that we give that impression to the United States and thereby risk an unfavourable agreement being reached over our heads.

On conventional forces I should like to say just one thing. There are those who question the figures given out by the British and American Governments with respect to the magnitude of the disparity in conventional arms and forces in favour of the Warsaw Pact over NATO. Today we had these figures most forcefully presented to us by the noble Lords, Lord Chalfont and Lord Trefgarne. I think that we should trust the word of those whom we appoint or elect to have responsibility for our defence.

All the authorities are agreed on the massive superiority and quantity, no longer offset by inferiority of quality, held by the Warsaw Pact. The present SACEUR, the remarkable General Rogers, who impresses all who meet him with his integrity and dedication, emphasises that this gap grows wider each year. Of course there will be minor discrepancies. That is a consequence of the secrecy of the whole Soviet system. Because we cannot ever be certain of the facts, those responsible for our defence correctly feel that they have a duty not to underestimate. This may on occasion lead to overestimates; but surely we should not reward Soviet secrecy by undermining the credibility of those who do the best they can on our behalf in the face of this wall of concealment.

I am quite sure that in the short term the policy adopted by Her Majesty's Government is correct. Unilateral disarmament is an absurdity, and it is achieved almost more easily by permitting obsolescence to take place than by any other means. Polaris has to be replaced, and Trident is evidently the best replacement. But in the longer term a lot of thinking has to be done—and here I would agree with what was implied by the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, that we must not become wedded to the status quo, protesting all the time at any threat of change which is likely to take place.

There are fortunately other governments than our own in Europe who are alive to the present dangers. It was encouraging that M. Chirac, the French prime Minister, should yesterday have addressed the parliamentary assembly of the Western European Union, Europe's principal defence forum—the first French Prime Minister to have done so since M. Pompidou. What he is reported to have said in today's papers is also instructive in that it reflects almost exactly the concerns and conclusions of the British Government.

In the light of this evidence of a convergence of concern in Europe, I hope that the greatest possible amount of sustained consultation will take place with, in particular, the German and French Governments in order that as far as possible common positions can be arrived at and then clearly reflected back to the Americans. The principal European governments need to make a sustained effort to make sure that they have a say in decisions which vitally affect their security. It did not look as if this was the case at Reykjavik.

But looking further ahead, if the era of mutual assured destruction is coming to an end, then major changes will follow, whether it is the addition of an element of strategic defence or whether it has the image of Reykjavik stamped all over it. Both offer the vision of protection from nuclear weapons—the one by defence, the other by elimination.

Having looked down the road that leads from Reykjavik, with the prospect of Europe near naked before Soviet might, European governments had perhaps better take another look at SDI and brace themselves for the abrogation of the ABM Treaty—an abrogation, incidentally, which is permitted within the terms of the treaty. And if there is thought to be a chance that the United States might abrogate the ABM Treaty, it will then probably he better if we do not manoeuvre ourselves into a position whereby we are forced to criticise the United States for doing so. At the same time we should think hard about the implications for Europe of the arrival of SDI in some form or other, because I think the chances of this happening tend to be underestimated.

In conclusion, I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Thorneycroft for having introduced this debate and for giving us all the chance to air views on this vital but complex subject at an exceptionally uncertain time.

9.27 p.m.

Lord Gisborough

My Lords, about 10 years ago on a nice summer evening, I left Westminster and I went for a walk along the Embankment, across the Albert Bridge and back through Battersea Park and over Chelsea Bridge. When I was half-way through the park by myself, a youth detached himself from a tea wagon and came on a converging course. I was in no doubt that I was in for a "duffing up". I had three choices. I could have run, which would not have been very effective, because obviously I would not have got very far; I could have lain down and said "I am a non-violent man; I do not believe in violence and therefore you must not attack me"; or I could have done what I did, and what I am sure anybody else would have done in the same circumstances. I slowed my walk, I flexed my shoulders and fists and gave the impression that I was going to fight, which of course I was not. But in fact the chap disappeared. Deterrence always works.

However, it is interesting to see what has happened. If one goes back into history and looks at the battles that Marlborough had to fight—he fought battles when he was approaching 60—one sees that there were about four of them. After every battle he fought, the peace party of either England or Holland got into power and the British-Dutch guard was lowered. On each occasion, Louis XIV rearmed and got ready another army which Marlborough had to fight two years later. Some of the most bloody battles were Blenheim, Oudenarde, Malplaquet and Ramillies.

In 1850, Lord Aberdeen declared, I think in this House, that on no account would England fight. That was just what the Tsar wanted. The Tsar went into Asia Minor and Britain found itself fighting the Crimean War. Recently I read a most delightful book, which stated at the beginning that Sir Edward Grey was worried that he had not adequately warned the Kaiser that Britain would fight, and that if he had done so the Kaiser would not have started the first war. We all know the story of the Oxford Union and the motion that the young of England would not fight, which undoubtedly encouraged Hitler. I wonder whether the Argentinians would have gone into the Falklands had they had an inkling that we were capable of sending out a force to stop them. Now that lesson seems to have to be learnt all over again on the other side of the House. Those on that side are going to get rid of the deterrent and will not use nuclear weapons in any case.

Nuclear weapons are not for use in war. They are to stop wars. I am sure that the Labour Party and Mr. Kinnock mean well. But history shows that there is no better way of encouraging aggression than by saying that you will not fight. That is exactly what the Labour Party is saying. We all want peace. We all want nuclear disarmament. The achievement of that does not lie in negotiating for nuclear armaments directly. By itself, that would lead to a political domination and even to a conventional war. That sort of war is every bit as nasty as a nuclear war if one happens to be involved in it—ask the survivors of Coventry and Hamburg!

In order to dispense with nuclear weapons it is first necessary to get rid of the danger from which the nuclear deterrent was designed to protect. That danger is the huge threat which is posed in Europe by the Warsaw Pact armies. It is the reduction of those armies to which all efforts and negotiations should be directed.

Let us consider the two sides in Europe. On the one hand, we have the NATO armies. They are by comparison small in number; they are trained solely in defence, having virtually no offensive training; they consist largely of reservists who cannot go to Germany without being obvious to the other side; and they operate under a political system which, if they were to go on the offensive, would result in opposition parties stopping that happening. If we were to go on the offensive, what would happen? We would lose our armies in the wastes of the Russian snows. NATO does not present any offensive threat whatsoever.

What about the Warsaw Pact? Their armies are huge in size; their training is exclusively offensive; their philosophy is exclusively concerned with the offensive and their political dogma is concerned with the offensive. We have heard statements such as, "We will wait until the plums are ripe and then shake the tree" and so on. They have publicised and continue to publicise threats against capitalism. We have seen their actions in Hungary, Afghanistan and elsewhere. They are the sole possessors of chemical weapons in great quantities. Their ammunition is stored forward so that they can spring without warning. Their navy is unnecessarily large for defensive purposes. As has already been said, they are controlled centrally and public opinion plays very little part in the actions of the Kremlin.

There should be little wonder that the West is frightened of the Soviet position and feels that we need a nuclear deterrent. Of course the USSR wants a nuclear deterrent to match ours. If the Russians really want peace, if they have no intention of attacking the West and if they wish to create a situation where a nuclear umbrella on both sides can be reduced, the first thing they must do is reduce their armies facing the West.

To my mind, negotiations should be concentrated on transforming the armies of both sides into strong defensive armies, rather than on nuclear disarmament. They should be armies which are effectively incapable of offensive action by their philosophy, their training, their weapons, their ammunition stocks and the position and location of those ammunition stocks. In that way it would be made almost impossible for those armies to mount an offensive without preparations being obvious to both sides. After all, if they do not intend to attack why do they need an offensive army? As defensive status was achieved, so the conventional threat would disappear and the nuclear umbrella would then no longer be necessary. Economic forces and political forces would make agreed reductions comparatively simple. Has the USSR not noticed that there is no nuclear umbrella between the United States and Canada, France and Germany or Spain and France? The reason is that there is no conventional threat.

I wonder whether anybody has ever told the USSR of the old fable of the sun and the wind. The wind was quite determined that it was the strongest force of all the elements. Eventually the sun said that the wind had to prove it. They decided to see who could get the overcoat (the nuclear overcoat, shall we say?) off the scarecrow. The wind blew and blew. The more the wind blew, the more the overcoat flapped, but it did not come off. The wind blew harder and harder but the scarecrow just held the overcoat to its side. Eventually the wind gave up and said to the sun that it could try. The sun came out through the clouds and shone warmly, and the scarecrow took off his overcoat and put it on the ground.

The way to nuclear disarmament is through conventional reductions—exactly the opposite of the policy of Mr. Kinnock. I believe that any serious loss of deterrent through nuclear forces or a declaration of non-use of nuclear forces without a reduction of the Soviet offensive capability and conversion to defensive capability would be dangerous and would be an invitation to aggression; and history is littered with comparable examples to prove it.

9.36 p.m.

The Earl of Kimberley

My Lords, you will all be very happy to know that I am the last unofficial speaker in this debate. We live in worrisome times and at the risk of repetition I should still like to thank my noble friend Lord Thorneycroft for his Motion. Only by constant nagging and reminders can we keep our defences up to the mark.

I have just returned from the North Atlantic Assembly autumn meeting in Istanbul. On the whole there was general agreement among all the 16 NATO countries there. Naturally there were some differences of opinion, mostly from the Socialists, the Greens and the Left-wing liberals. On the whole the majority of delegates were rock steady and firm behind the Supreme Allied Commander, General Bernard Rogers, who made a marvellous speech, and they were also behind my noble friend Lord Carrington, the Secretary General.

In spite of the fact that the assembly was a great success there are one or two unsatisfactory undercurrents in NATO. I watched Dimbleby's television programme last Sunday on the possibility of America withdrawing from Europe into isolationism. No doubt some of your Lordships saw it too. For the benefit of those who did not, I should like to show some of the risks and dangers which could occur and which might help, wrongly, the United States to withdraw.

Shortly after his election in 1945 President Truman said: We must be prepared to pay the price for peace or assuredly we shall pay the price of war". His policy has been followed for the past 41 years and has been implemented even further by the formation of the North Atlantic Alliance. NATO has had many crises in its life, all of which so far it has overcome, but perhaps the one that it faces today is the most serious. The threat to NATO is like Gaul—it is divided into three parts.

The first part is the incessant propaganda which is churned out 24 hours a day, seven days a week, ad infinitum from the Kremlin. This takes two forms. The first is that President Reagan is a cowboy and is senile, stupid and mad. A large part of Western television, newspapers and wireless never tires of telling us these lies. Secondly, our Prime Minister is ridiculed and lampooned on every possible occasion in order to try to sow doubts in the minds of European NATO leaders as well as of our own electorate.

The second part is how Mr. Gorbachev is presented to us. He is much younger than his predecessors. He is much nicer. He is more gentle and more reasonable. He must be because he smiles and he has a young, attractive, fur-coated wife. But we must not kid ourselves. Mr. Gorbachev is just as hard, tough and ruthless as his predecessors; otherwise he would not have got where he is. The only real difference is that he is more subtle and astute and he has the Soviet public relations machine running at full bore.

The Reykjavik summit was not a failure, as many people would like us to believe. Further, we should all be more than pleased at how President Reagan stuck to his task, with unswerving determination not to give up the strategic defence initiative. SDI must have something going for it, otherwise why do the Soviets put so much emphasis on it? We must not forget that the only thing that the Soviets understand in negotiation is negotiation from strength. Therefore, it was the cruise missiles and the Pershing II deployments that brought them back to the conference table.

I make very brief mention at this point of the Iran arms deal. It was not the President's greatest success story and the question we and our allies have to answer is how to put the pieces back together again. The Left, including much of the media, are overjoyed at the President's dilemma. No doubt they will try to smear the same mud on the Prime Minister, saying that she is a willing accomplice and a friend of the President.

However, with two years to run for the present Administration we and our allies should do all we can to prevent the President from becoming a lame duck president. Should that happen Congress would start controlling American foreign policy, and that would be even worse. In Europe we do not give enough recognition to how vital a strong United States president is to our interests. Bad presidents are bad, but a weak president is an even greater liability.

Let the Americans chastise him but let us keep our criticism to ourselves. The Prime Minister realises that, as did the late Sir Winston Churchill with President Roosevelt, my noble friend Lord Stockton with President Kennedy and the noble Lord, Lord Wilson, with President Johnson. European security depends on how President Reagan gets on with Mr. Gorbachev and that is very much influenced by the statesmanship that the Prime Minister shows over her dealings with the President.

The third and last part is the Labour Party's so-called defence policy. Even now as we debate the defence of the United Kingdom and the Western world the Leader of the Opposition, one hopes misguidedly and not with malice aforethought, is trying to sell to the United States his party's policy for the defence of our country. If it were not so serious it would be a joke. Kick out all the American bases—naval, military, and everything else—is a call that has been repeated again and again this afternoon.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, only nuclear bases.

The Earl of Kimberley

My Lords, I am not surprised that in America today there is thought of leaving Europe to its own devices. But let us thank God that in the past governments of both parties have always maintained and supported Britain's independent nuclear deterrent and the American bases on our island. Long may that policy last, because should the Americans leave Great Britain their departure will sound the death knell for NATO.

9.44 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I begin as I believe almost every other speaker in this debate has begun—and as I look around the Chamber I know that everyone present now has been here, like me, for almost seven hours—by saying to the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, that we are all indebted to him not only for what he said but also for the conviction and the seriousness that he introduced into the debate.

I took a very careful note. The noble Lord said that he thought that the topic was worthy of quiet discussion. I think that is a fair phrase to use. During the debate things have been said with which people disagree—sometimes noble Lords used extreme language—but it has been a very serious debate. I certainly have learnt a great deal, not least to appreciate that there are other points of view besides the one which I hold.

The noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, said that he would like to deal with the subject taking the world as it is now. I picked up that phrase because, as more than one noble Lord has said, the world even now is changing just as the world of five years ago has changed. When we begin to look at this subject we know that there are nuances and variables now present which were not there before. All we can do is look to the future, anticipate it and be prepared.

The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, to whom I listened with a great deal of respect, as I always do, pointed out that his views and attitudes have been coloured by the passage of time, and at the end of his speech he drew the attention of the House to three important aspects of the matter to which I shall return later. I know that the House will listen carefully to what I have to say on behalf of the Labour Party. It will not be possible to deal with all the points that have been raised but I shall try to deal with as many as I can.

I have never labelled those who support policies which depend on the possession of nuclear weapons as evil and not interested in preserving peace. Those people are perhaps misguided but they are not evil. None of us is more desirous of preserving the peace than those like myself who want to get rid of all nuclear devices. I happen to believe that the leaders of nations which possess nuclear weapons are desirous of world peace but no more so than the leaders of non-nuclear powers.

In this debate tonight, as I believe we have always done in general, let us dispel the nonsense which all too often has been levelled at those who share my views; that the people who conclude from their studies and judgment that the world will be safer without nuclear weapons are more dangerous to mankind than those who hold that for 1986 and beyond, with all our experience, nuclear weapons are essential for the survival of the human race. Let us accept that we all want peace and security. What we are concerned with is how in fact we shall achieve it.

My noble friend Lord Irving, in what I believe was a vigorous and well constructed speech, made clear our position and intentions. Just as the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, and his noble friends have quite rightly used the debate not only to entertain and educate the House but to set out for the people outside it what may be in store from his party after the next election if they are successful, so we on this side of the Chamber have sought to do precisely the same.

Our goal is a nuclear-free Europe, which will contribute to the ultimate goal of a nuclear-free world. Both President Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev have agreed that that is their aim. They both want to see a nuclear-free world. We recognise that changes in the balance of conventional armaments and political relationships between East and West will also be needed, but we are also realists and know that it will take time. We realise that we shall be involved in lengthy and often difficult discussions. We also recognise that the path of nuclear disarmament is not an easy one and, even though nuclear wars cannot be won and must never be fought, the super-powers will not abandon all their nuclear weapons while other countries retain them.

It is our belief that there is growing support for Labour's non-nuclear defence policy, which reflects the growing transatlantic consensus on the need to change NATO strategy and to take action to halt the arms race. Labour will therefore get rid of Britain's own nuclear weapons and secure the removal of American nuclear weapons from Britain. At the moment Britain has submarines armed with Polaris nuclear weapons which are now old and out-of-date and which cost at least £500 million a year to operate and maintain. The United States has already phased out Polaris submarines and has begun to phase out Poseidon submarines, which are the follow-on to Polaris. As has been mentioned by one of the noble Lords opposite, the Soviet Government have offered to match the decommissioning of Polaris by making equivalent reductions.

More than one speaker—and indeed the last speaker, the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, to whom I listened with respect—made the bull point of his speech the continuation and strength of NATO as an organisation. I believe it is important that we put the British contribution to NATO into perspective. Over 95 per cent. of the British defence budget goes toward NATO expenditure. That was a point confirmed by the Minister. In European terms both as a percentage of GNP and in absolute terms we spend far more on defence than any of our European allies apart from Greece, and we will continue to do so despite the planned reductions in defence expenditure over the next few years. It is not the intention of the Labour Party to depart from that expenditure, because we believe that there are important gaps in our conventional forces which have to be filled in order to maintain our proper conventional role and prevent structural disarmament.

I listened with respect to the disparaging remarks that were made by a number of Members of the House, not least by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, and the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, about the puny replacement that would be obtained in saving the expenditure on Trident—and the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, told us precisely what that would be. The House will understand that we believe that improving our conventional defence, even to that limited extent, and gainsaying whatever has been the worth of the nuclear shield, is money better spent by this country. Members opposite can disagree but that is our belief.

NATO is not a fixed, rigid, monolithic structure which is incapable of change or of direction. For instance, we know that when NATO Defence Ministers met at Gleneagles in October, our Secretary of State for Defence told them that Britain was prepared to remove all US cruise missiles if that became part of an eventual deal between the superpowers. He said that we could live with that. Let us not talk about abandoning weapons or systems. When it suits us, or more importantly, when it suits America, we shall reach agreements affecting our defences.

It is said that the policies Labour will pursue will be damaging to NATO. I shall remind the House what well placed individuals have said about NATO's structure and the Americans' part in it. The Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, General Bernard Rogers, to whose sagacity tribute has been paid and from which I would not detract, recently said: I can see no situation, militarily or politically, which would cause me to withdraw American forces from Europe". He must have had in his mind, among other things, the prospect not just of Labour's policies but its ability to put them into effect. I respect his views. He said that he could see no situation which would cause the enormity of the withdrawal of American troops in Europe. We should respect his views.

I listened to what the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said would be America's imperatives at all times.

Lord Fanshawe of Richmond

My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but will he tell us when General Rogers said that?

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, he said it in October 1986. If the noble Lord will allow me, I shall give him the quote and its source tomorrow.

We should take on board the possibility that the American Administration would be disenchanted if Labour were to gain power and put those policies into effect. We should not be under any illusion about why America and American troops are in this country. The American Defence Secretary, Caspar Weinberger, in his report for the fiscal year 1984 to Congress said: US forces are maintained in Europe directly in support of US political and military interests, not as an act of charity towards our allies. Withdrawal would weaken our credibility both with our allies and with potential adversaries". I ask the House to reflect upon those two phrases when considering this important matter. The prime American interest in the United Kingdom is its nuclear bases. Now that Poseidon has been phased out, Holy Loch ceases to be important and weaponry could disappear from the United Kingdom, as Thor missiles did, without consternation being felt.

I turn to the three points mentioned by my noble friend Lord Stewart. I confirm that we intend that under Labour Britain will have no independent nuclear deterrent; we shall pursue a non-nuclear policy; and we shall insist that there be no US nuclear weapons on British soil, which would mean that the nuclear bases would be closed. He asked about the many other facilities. They have been listed. They can be obtained. We seek to remove nuclear bases and the ability to use nuclear weapons from Britain.

Another argument put forward is that the alliance will be weakened by British nuclear disarmament. As has been said more than once on all sides of the House, NATO is a coalition of interests—those of the United States as well as Europe. Those interests will continue. In our view, the alliance is weakened militarily if because of the pressure of nuclear spending Britain cannot fulfil her proper role in the defence of mainland Europe. The noble Lord, Lord Bruce-Gardyne, tangentially dealt with the same point. The Minister of course told us that Trident is affordable. We must wait to see what the overall reductions in defence expenditure which have been announced mean. There will clearly be a need for balance and we shall see whether conventional forces or nuclear weapons will suffer.

Let us reflect on the situation post-Reykjavik. Now that the dust has died down there is confusion and uncertainty. There is a need for clarity. George Shultz, the American Secretary of State, said: We came close to a breathtaking deal to cut strategic arms in half, the elimination of all intermediate nuclear arms, leaving only 100 in Asia and 100 in the United States, and a pretty fair measure of agreement for working towards a nuclear test ban treaty". I do not talk about failure. I talk about failure to reach agreement. There was no failure. The Government have yet to tell us whether they were privy to what was put on the table, and we have heard all kinds of stories about bids, counterbids and matters getting out of hand. But if those proposals were on the table that was a considerable achievement.

The sham, deceit and fraud which pervade many of the disarmament talks need to be swept away. It is breathtaking nonsense to pursue a disarmament policy by arming more heavily, more costly and more dangerously. That is what is happening in the world today. The fact is that at Reykjavik President Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev alone, without consultation or prior agreement with their allies, including ourselves, almost took us to what I believe would have been undreamed of heights of de-escalation. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, was frank enough to ask, if that was what they could do by themselves, without consultation, what other kind of agreements could they reach without consultation? No wonder the Prime Minister was appalled at the audacity of those super-power leaders and hot-footed it across the Atlantic to put the President right. Whatever he wanted to get rid of she did not want to jeopardise Trident.

One of the points I have certainly appreciated from a number of noble Lords opposite during this debate is that even if the two super-powers ultimately get rid of nuclear weapons they will still try to maintain the case for Britain having a nuclear device. Even if both superpowers achieve their ends, they are trying to make the case for an independent nuclear device; Trident is not wholly independent. I think that all those factors, together with the elements of Labour policy, will he considered by the electorate at the next election.

I conclude by saying that there is one matter beyond dispute or doubt and that is that if Labour takes power, or when Labour takes power, after the next election there will be no doubt that the British people will have fully understood what our defence policies are and also the consequences, militarily, politically and economically. Even if we had wanted to fudge the issue, because of this debate, which is being televised, and because of statements that will be made next week, the public will be in no doubt about the kind of defence policies that they will be accepting if they elect a Labour Government. I should simply like to tell your Lordships that if we are successful in convincing the British people that our non-nuclear defence policy is the best for Britain, we shall go forward into the phase immediately after that election armed with our most important weapon—a mandate from the British people to put that policy into effect. We will do just that.

10.3 p.m.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I am on the list to speak now if I have your Lordships' permission to do so for a second time in this debate. However, it occurs to me that much that needs to be said in answer to the various points that have been raised has already been said. Therefore, I should like to say to your Lordships that I shall cull carefully the columns of Hansard and reply in writing to those noble Lords who have raised appropriate points. I hope that that will he sufficient for your Lordships this evening.

10.4 p.m.

Lord Thorneycroft

My Lords, I should like to thank those Members of your Lordships' House who have spoken to this Motion and indeed to thank those noble Lords who have listened to those who have spoken to this Motion and indeed to thank those noble Lords who have listened to those who have withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

House adjourned at four minutes past ten o'clock.