§ Debate resumed on the Motion moved yesterday by Lord Mowbray and Stourton—namely, That a humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament".
§ 3.10 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Young)
My Lords, we debate today the Government's objectives in foreign policy and defence. My noble friend Lord Trefgarne will wind up the debate and will then cover some of the defence issues which I know will be of interest to your Lordships.
In the gracious Speech Her Majesty the Queen stated that Her Majesty's Government,continue to attach the highest importance to national security and to preserving peace with freedom and justice".This is a fundamental proposition. It is the core of our foreign policy.
After 40 years of peace in Europe it is perhaps easy to fall into the trap of assuming that there are no longer any threats to the security of the United Kingdom or Western Europe generally—in other words, the trap of taking peace for granted.
However, this year sees two significant anniversaries. It is now 30 years since the Hungarian uprising was brutally crushed by an invasion of Soviet military forces. It is 25 years since East Germany built the Berlin Wall to stop its own people voting with their feet against the communist system.
The countries of Eastern Europe remain in the grip of a Soviet-imposed system. Some have tried to assert their individuality: we recall the Prague Spring of 1968 and the spectacular rise of Solidarity in Poland in the late 1970s. Any gains have been short-lived. The results of 40 years of Soviet domination have been 25 dismal for living standards as well as for human freedoms. We in Western Europe choose to pay the high financial cost of defending ourselves to keep the peace in Europe. In contrast, Eastern Europe has no choice but to pay a high price of a different sort.
Meanwhile, beyond Europe, notwithstanding the efforts of its public relations experts, the Soviet Union is behaving in a far from peaceful manner. Its invasion of Afghanistan seven years ago has brought untold destruction to that already poor country. There people have voted with their feet: between a quarter and one-third of the entire population, some 4 million people, have fled their own land as refugees.
This dreadful story continues. Some 7,000 to 8,000 people a month are being added to the 3 million refugees in Pakistan. Thousands more have been killed. These facts fly in the face of Soviet statements of commitment to peaceful co-existence. There is no more effective reply to those who assure us of the Soviet Union's lack of aggressive intentions.
The Soviet Union's armed presence in Afghanistan has been repeatedly and resoundingly condemned by world opinion—most recently by no fewer than 122 countries at the United Nations General Assembly last week. Yet they have not responded. Their much vaunted withdrawal of certain troops and equipment in the last few weeks has been cosmetic and irrelevant. Indeed, we have reason to believe that some of the equipment withdrawn was only recently introduced into Afghanistan.
As the seventh anniversary of the invasion approaches, our own position on Afghanistan is clear. The Soviet Union should withdraw all its forces as soon as possible. Until it does, we must and will do all we can to keep up the level of international concern. but Afghanistan is not unique. The Soviet Union gives over 3 million dollars a day of financial and other support to Vietnam, whose army, the third largest army in the world, maintains its illegal occupation of Cambodia. Vietnam's human rights record is also deplorable. Again, thousands of people are still fleeing the country.
These examples show as clearly as can be two inherent features of the Soviet approach to the outside world; its wish to impose its ideology on other countries, particularly its neighbours, and its readiness to resort to military force if necessary. So Europe's 40 years of peace have come about not by chance, nor by blind trust in proclamations of good intentions, but by the determination of the NATO alliance to defend itself against any attack, be it conventional or nuclear.
The Soviet Union's new leadership under Mr. Gorbachev has not changed its long-term objective: that of achieving superiority over the West. Lenin advocated a zig-zag path up the mountain. So the Soviet Union is now seeking to present itself in a favourable light. Nevertheless, we do not doubt the Soviet leadership's interest in arms reductions. Mr. Gorbachev sees that the Soviet Union cannot achieve military superiority in competition with the West. And he also wants to reduce the enormous burden of Soviet military spending, to release resources for the belated task of modernising the Soviet economy. We have recognised these aims. Credit where credit is due!
26 And the West has risen to the challenge. In a range of different fora we have shown that we are ready to do business—provided of course that the terms are right.
The United Kingdom is working actively to broaden political contacts at all levels with the the Soviet Union and the other countries of Eastern Europe. My noble friend the Lord President of the Council led a parliamentary delegation to Moscow earlier this year. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister and my right honourable and learned friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will also be visiting Moscow next year. We have our views, and we express them frankly. In Eastern Europe, the internal situation differs from country to country, and this affects the breadth and depth of our relations. But in each case, as with the Soviet Union, we use this dialogue to make clear our critical view of human rights abuses.
In addition, the United Kingdom's attitude in arms control talks has been one of activity coupled with realism and responsibility. We have welcomed the progress made at the Reykjavik meeting, especially the fact that there now seems to be a real prospect for significant cuts in the two superpowers' nuclear arsenals, provided that progress in all areas is not held hostage to the Russians' proposals on SDI. It does not make sense for the West to stop research into new defences against nuclear missiles if the Soviet Union is pressing on with its research. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister will of course be discussing the way forward on arms control post-Reykjavik when she meets President Reagan this weekend.
Some areas now seem to us to offer particular scope for progress. Efforts should continue towards an early agreement on intermediate nuclear forces. The Russians have no reason to go back on their previous position and to start insisting now that an INF deal should be linked to SDI. Work should continue towards 50 per cent. cuts in strategic systems. If achieved, this would be a dramatic step forward. There is a clear need for international action to bring about an effective global ban on chemical weapons. Wehave been pushing hard in this area, introducing new proposals on the all-important issue of verification.
However, the deeper the reductions in the numbers of nuclear weapons the more important it becomes to address the imbalances in conventional and chemical weapons forces. Nuclear weapons have prevented not only nuclear war but also conventional war in Europe. So, when we examine the future of nuclear weapons, we must address the intractable problem of these other imbalances as well.
Last December, the Government tabled a significant new initiative designed to bring about troop reductions on terms acceptable to both sides. We still await a constructive Warsaw Pact response, although, given the scale of their superiority, it is scarcely surprising that the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies have been dragging their feet. We also led the way in setting up of the NATO task force after the NATO ministerial meeting in Halifax earlier this year. And we played an active part in bringing the Stockholm conference to its successful conclusion. This conference showed that there is scope for progress on these difficult issues. But we will make this progress only by holding firm in 27 patient negotiations which properly take account of all the interests involved, and certainly not by listening to the siren voices of unilateralism.
The United Kingdom will also be playing its full part in the Helsinki review meeting in Vienna. This meeting is about the underlying reasons for mistrust in Europe. One reason is the persistent Soviet abuse of human rights. Another is the fact that the Soviet Union and East European governments, to varying degrees, still block the free flow of information, ideas and people across national boundaries, in clear breach of their Helsinki obligations. We will be pressing hard in Vienna on these fundamental questions. They set the basic context for our approach to East-West relations.
The economic, political and security relationship between the United States and Western Europe has given us 40 years of peace and prosperity. It is folly enough to denigrate these links but a far greater folly to put them needlessly at risk. Just when the economic and political success of the Western way of life is getting results, just when the Soviet Union is, at long last, ready to talk seriously, why now throw in our cards, in a grand unilateral gesture? What a mistake that would be. It would dismay our friends and delight our adversaries.
This Government will not make that mistake. We shall ensure that our nation is properly defended against the continuing military and ideological challenge from the Soviet Union. We shall stay true to our responsibility to preserve peace with freedom and justice.
Of course, this threat from Russia is a relatively new phenomenon for us. Historically our European neighbours have been much more troublesome. That is now a thing of the past. We now see an unparallelled degree of close co-operation.
The United Kingdom has had its turn as President of the Council of Ministers since July this year. We have used this opportunity to press hard on various practical fronts. We have put business and jobs at the top of the EC's agenda by developing community wide strategies for employment, job-creation and retraining, for helping small and medium-sized enterprises and for cutting the red tape that strangles businesses. We have sought to make Europe safe for the tourist but not the terrorist, to confront the menace of drugs, and to advance the reform of the common agricultural policy and the Community's food aid programme, to meet the needs of developing countries more effectively.
These are all valuable areas where we have sought to make the Community work as it should, because the Community cannot adopt a confident and strong stand in the world unless it gets its own house in order. Indeed, world trading patterns are growing ever more complex. So the security and prosperity of the United Kingdom and its European partners are coming to depend just as much on the stability and openness of world trade, as on careful calculation of East/West strategic issues.
This is why the United Kingdom presidency has welcomed the launching of the new GATT round in Uruguay, and has worked with success to manage 28 trade relations between the Community and the United States and hold off protectionist pressures. We have also kept up the pressure on Japan to make necessary structural adjustments in its economy and to remove remaining non-tariff barriers.
We are confident that our presidency has made a valuable contribution in many different areas, demonstrating that the United Kingdom is now a respected and effective Community member. We shall also be taking full advantage of the opportunities which the Single European Act affords. We want to see the Community have a strong and efficient internal market. It is already the largest market in the world. But it is still fragmented. It needs to become the largest single market in the world.
We shall also be seeking closer foreign policy cooperation. These developments will make the Community's voice in the world strong and respected; and the United Kingdom can only benefit from that.
I turn now to a new threat we face: the threat of terrorism. The stand of the Government is quite clear: we deplore and condemn all acts of terrorism. We have made it plain that no government which sponsors, directs or otherwise helps terrorists in their criminal work can expect to enjoy normal relations with the United Kingdom. So, when faced with conclusive evidence of the active involvement first of the Libyan and now the Syrian authorities in plotting terrorist outrages, we did not hesitate: we broke off diplomatic relations. This was the right response.
In addition, this week 11 of the members of the European Community sent a clear message to Syria that the Syrian Government's official involvement in terrorist activity was completely unacceptable. Our partners also agreed on certain specific measures, including an embargo on new arms sales, to bring home to Syria the need to change its policy. This was a highly satisfactory outcome. We believe that the significance of this message and the reasons for it will be well understood in the Arab world. But—and I must emphasise this—it would, of course, be quite wrong to interpret these steps as "anti-Arab". We and our partners in the Twelve attach great importance to our links with Arab states and to maintaining and strengthening the Euro-Arab dialogue. Our diplomatic efforts to bring the two sides in the Arab/Israel dispute closer together are continuing; and at our initiative the Twelve are offering substantial practical help to the Palestinians in the territories occupied by Israel. In short, we want to see peace in the Middle East. But we condemn as totally counter-productive terrorist outrages as a means to that end.
I should now like to mention quite briefly one other area of the world where we have been actively working for peaceful and just settlements; namely, southern Africa. This Government, like successive British Governments, have consistently condemned the apartheid system. The South African Government have taken certain steps towards dismantling it. But these steps have been too few, and too slow; and the South African Government still refuse to take the steps necessary to start genuine dialogue with freely chosen leaders of the black community.
Britain has done more in practical terms to bring home its disapproval of apartheid than many 29 countries whose rhetoric costs them nothing. We have instituted an arms embargo, an oil embargo, an embargo on nuclear co-operation and a voluntary ban on new investment. In addition we have joined our Community partners in agreeing that iron and steel and gold coins should not be imported into the Community.
There is now a new and unsettling dimension. Emotions in the region are running high after the tragic death of President Machel. All governments in southern Africa owe it to their people to proceed very carefully, to avoid precipitate action which could bring disaster for millions. Violence is no answer. There is another way forward: fundamental but peaceful change through dialogue. We say, let the South African Government pursue it.
Finally, perhaps I may say a short word about recent developments in certain of the United Kingdom's dependencies. Your Lordships will recall the Statement of 29th October announcing the Government's decision to establish a fisheries interim conservation and management zone around the Falkland Islands. This was not a step taken lightly. But, faced with alarming overfishing and certain actions by Argentina, we had no choice but to take steps to conserve vital marine resources, in the interests of the Falklands as well as of all those with an interest in the fishery.
I must emphasise again: this is an interim measure, taken solely for conservation reasons. We should prefer—and will continue to work hard for—an agreed and effective multilateral regime to preserve these fish stocks.
Meanwhile, we remain committed to seeking more normal relations with Argentina, itself, putting to one side our differences over Falklands sovereignty. We hope that the Argentine Government will also see the need to proceed on that basis. We look to the Argentine Government to recognise the Falkland Islanders' rights to live in peace under a government of their own choosing.
Five of our remaining dependent territories are in the Caribbean. Our relationships with the region as a whole are thriving and we are determined that they should remain so. We take seriously our responsibility to ensure that our dependent territories there enjoy good government.
As your Lordships are aware, in July we announced the setting up of a commission to review the constitution in the Turks and Caicos Islands and to make recommendations for their future. The commission has started work and aims to conclude its review by the end of the year. We are especially grateful in this context for the considerable support we have been given by Commonwealth governments and constitutional experts in the Caribbean region. Help in this and other areas from Commonwealth partners proves the merit of Dr Johnson's adage about the value of keeping friendships in good repair. I myself look forward to discussions with Commonwealth Caribbean leaders at a conference in Miami next week.
Nearer home, the Government are likewise standing by the long-standing British commitment to Gibraltar. We have discussed our differences over Gibraltar with the Spanish Government in a friendly and construc- 30 tive manner, as befits two EC partners and NATO allies. This dialogue continues. My right honourable and learned friend the Foreign Secretary is to meet the Spanish Foreign Minister in January. These discussions take place against the background of our firm commitment, contained in Gibraltar's 1969 Constitution, to respect the Gibraltarians' own wishes.
Finally, I am sure that all your Lordships will wish to acknowledge the outstanding success of the state visit to China. It demonstrated that the future wellbeing of Hong Kong remains an essential element in our bilateral relations, but also that those relations are now extremely good. This augurs well for the future. British firms should use this new climate to expand trade with the fast-growing Chinese market.
The Government's foreign policy is a success story. As our presidency draws to an end, our international reputation is high. That is because we do not compromise on basic issues, particularly those relating to the defence of our nation. That strong commitment to the defence of democracy gives a firm base for using our good sense and good judgment in many different areas of foreign policy. We are proud to show the world that open societies and democracy work, and that peaceful co-operation is not a soft option but the best option.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Baroness for the wide-ranging speech with which she has opened this debate. The noble Baroness has rightly concentrated on the major issues contained in the gracious Speech, and I shall seek to do the same.
I am sure that noble Lords feel, as I do, that although there have been significant events since we debated foreign affairs 12 months ago, the problems that we dealt with then are still there. I wish I could say that one or more of those world problems have been resolved and that mankind is better off as a result. Sadly, those problems remain unresolved. Tension remains high in the Middle East and Southern Africa. The scene in Central Africa is uncertain, and East-West relations are still bedevilled by suspicion and lack of mutual trust.
On East-West relations, may I pose the obvious question which I suppose is central to this debate: is there more hope today than existed 12 months ago, or is there less? Then, we were on the eve of the Geneva summit and there were high hopes that it would lead to some constructive results. Today, we meet in the aftermath of the Reykjavik summit. The inconclusive talks between Mr. Shultz and Mr. Shevardnadze have taken place in Vienna.
On the Southern Africa front, this time last year we were considering the Eminent Persons group which had been set up, and we had some expectation that it would help to make progress; but despite the group's most commendable efforts, the result was failure—a failure orchestrated by the South African Government.
Again, in the Middle East, 12 months ago it seemed that co-operation between the PLO and Jordan might hold some promise of progress, but, sadly, that did not materialise. I come back therefore to the central question: is there more or less hope today than there was a year ago?
31 I am not a pessimist. I do not have it in me to be a prophet of gloom. I venture to say, therefore, that notwithstanding the apparent lack of progress, and if one can penetrate the thick fog of propaganda which pours out of Moscow and Washington day by day, it is in my view possible to distinguish some credits on the balance sheet; for example, if, temporarily, Reykjavik appeared to be a failure, it showed that there are crucial areas on which agreement is possible.
On 15th October Mr. Shultz went so far as to say that the summit,is perhaps the most productive meeting that has ever been held by two leaders of these two countries.President Reagan said:we are closer than ever before to agreements that could lead to a safer world without nuclear weapons.Similar encouraging statements emerged from Moscow.
As the glittering prize of substantial nuclear disarmament appeared to be within their grasp, both leaders at Reykjavik, and their foreign secretaries last week, retreated, each blaming the other. The rest of the world, with an equal interest in the consequences of success and failure, is naturally becoming fed up with the exercise. What therefore is the snag? What is the real cause of this failure to agree? I hoped that the noble Baroness could have clarified that for us, but she did have a great deal of ground to cover. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, will apply his mind to that question.
Because it is not enough just to say that the Americans are our allies, (and valued allies at that) and that we must trust them, while the Russians are not really to be trusted. That is a point of view, not an explanation. We all know the political, social and economic differences between East and West. We have debated them many times in the House in recent months and years. The question is: what is holding up the chance of progress?
We should like to see SS20s, cruise and Pershing II missiles properly negotiated, but the hope of that has again receded. We are informed that the root of the problem is the failure to agree over the future of the SDI and that that, and that alone, stands between some form of success and failure. That leads us to the ABM treaty of 1972. In Reykjavik, the President and Mr. Gorbachev tentatively accepted a 10-year extension of the ABM treaty, but that agreement foundered over the question of what exactly could or would be permitted under the ABM treaty during the proposed term.
That is where I should greatly value some assistance from Ministers who, after all, are or should be in possession of all the facts. The United States interpretation, as I read it, is that virtually everything short of actual deployment is allowed under the treaty, while the Soviet Union insists that SDI research should be "confined to the laboratory".
I am not an expert. I believe that there are nuances within those interpretations; for example, on the extent of the permissible research. The Government view on this is important. If that is what separates the two sides, do the Government think that it is enough to justify failure? What is the official view?
32 I must concede immediately that since Reykjavik the position has changed rapidly on several occasions. That was made plain in the Prime Minister's Mansion House speech the other night, especially if one reads between the lines. Yesterday's Daily Telegraph, for example, referred to the uncertainty which exists. The leader stated:British Defence Policy is today ultimately determined by decisions taken in Washington and in the last few weeks Washington has been put in several minds over the strategic future.Is that true? Is the Daily Telegraph right? Some clarification of what has become a confused situation is urgently needed.
I also read Professor Lawrence Freedman's article in the The Times of 16th October with great interest. He is a fair and objective commentator. There should be discussion on what is permissible under the ABM treaty and on what the Soviet Union means by "laboratory research".
Many believe—I think that includes the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, who is to follow me in the debate—that SDI is a technological uncertainty and a financial incubus, and that Professor Freedman was right when he said:The governments of America's Allies now have to explain why a remarkable arms control package should be put in jeopardy to protect a programme that is unlikely to yield much of value and can proceed only on the basis of a contrived version of ABM.The ABM treaty was a historic achievement—and in my view we should seek to build on it and not to distort it.
The Prime Minister is to visit Washington later this week, as the noble Baroness said, and perhaps we may be told what her main objective will be during that visit. Is she intending to discuss the relative importance of IBMs in Europe as against conventional forces? The figures of the respective conventional resources of East and West were published by the Institute of Strategic Studies last Thursday, but they did not disclose a great imbalance, as we have been led to believe exists, although the Warsaw Pact have a marked superiority in tanks. We hope the Prime Minister will discuss the nub of the problem. The Vienna talks between the Foreign Ministers ended in stalemate. However, both were very careful to leave the door ajar.
The talks now return to the negotiators at Geneva. We hope that the Prime Minister will discuss the full implications of making the deployment of SDI a barrier to further progress. We all recognise that Mr. Gorbachev desires to see a reduction in arms expenditure mainly because he has considerable economic difficulties to overcome. However, we would also be impressed if the USSR withdrew in strength from Afghanistan.
I think that the Soviet Union have become very skilful propagandists over the last few years, much better than they used to be; and we have to note that as well. However, they have to realise that aggression is the most potent enemy of trust and confidence. We realise that there are reasons why they may not trust the West. The Soviet Union must realise that they must make proposals upon which we can rely. On the whole, the record of the West, in making promises and keeping to them, is, historically, a good one, and the Soviet Union must be seen to respond similarly.
33 The other chink of light discernible through the fog was the measure of agreement referred to in Stockholm on September 22nd, to which the noble Baroness referred. I would certainly give every credit to the right honourable and learned gentleman the Foreign Secretary for his efforts in Stockholm. I was particularly glad that 35 countries in Europe took part. We realise not only that we have a stake in these momentous affairs but that smaller countries such as Holland, Belgium and Denmark have a perfect right to be heard and to take part in the discussions. I frequently feel that I would like to see our representative sitting round the table with President Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev when the fate of this country and of the world is in the balance.
The second area of major concern mentioned in the gracious Speech—South Africa—has also been dealt with by the noble Baroness. In spite of the honest efforts of the Foreign Secretary to find a modus vivendi, it was made plain to him, as to the rest of the world, that there is no real intention on the part of Mr. Botha to move away from the principles of apartheid. That was also the considered view of the Eminent Persons Group. There is no relaxation, and punitive measures continue to be taken by the Pretoria Government.
Her Majesty's Government have said repeatedly that they are against apartheid and that they wish to see an urgent dialogue between black leaders and the South African Government. The Government also want to see Nelson Mandela released from his long captivity. I accept entirely that that is the wish of the Government. The noble Baroness made this plain last year when she pledged the Government's support to the noble Lord, Lord Barber, and his colleagues on the EPG. Since then, all efforts have failed. We are dealing with one of the most intransigent governments of the century in the Pretoria Government. When the Government say in the gracious Speech that they want to see the implementation of Security Council Resolution 435 on Namibia, they must know it is the Pretoria Government who stand squarely in the way of a solution to that long-standing problem.
In the face of all this evidence, of their own declared beliefs and of world opinion, the Government have thus far refused to co-operate in taking firm action on sanctions. On other international issues, in the case of the Argentine and more recently in the case of Syria, the Government have called on our partners in the United Nations to take action. However, concerning South Africa the Government are tardy to co-operate. I fear there is a disturbing inconsistency in some aspects of our foreign policy; I shall refer to this in a moment. The United States Congress supports a stronger line on sanctions and as a result of the recent elections will probably bring a call for even more strong policies. We hope that the Prime Minister will not stand against these when she talks to the President during her visit in a few days' time.
Concerning the Middle East, to which the noble Baroness referred, the gracious Speech states that the Government,will look for solutions to the problems of the Middle East".Can the noble Lord say whether there are any solutions under consideration? The tragedies of the
34 Middle East continue to unfold. The cradle of civilisation seems to have become the graveyard of compassion and hope. All of us hope that the communiqué which followed the Israel/Egypt meeting in September and which said,1987 should be a year for serious peace negotiationswill develop into something constructive. There has been a report that King Hussein of Jordan is planning a conference to discuss the East/West bank problems. Perhaps the Minister of State will comment on this and tell us whether there is to be a United Kingdom representative present at that conference.
We are conscious that our justified break with Syria will inevitably affect our diplomatic position in the area. However, we still have some influence in the Middle East. I believe that, if we are to be serious about tackling terrorism, the Government have no alternative but to face up to reality.
We warmly welcome the initiative taken by Sir Geoffrey Howe in asking Mr. Shevardnadze to engage in talks concerning terrorism. Those who plan the slaughter of innocent people do not recognise national boundaries. We hope that the Soviet Union and other East European countries will co-operate with us in stamping out terrorism. This is another challenge to them. There is no kid-glove method of dealing with this monstrous conspiracy against humanity. The first reaction of many of our Common Market partners to the proposals of the Foreign Secretary at the Luxembourg meeting to deal with Syrian involvement was disappointing. The Community meeting in London under the chairmanship of the Home Secretary on 25th September gave some hope that effective united action against terrorism would be taken where necessary. In the light of this the first response to the Foreign Secretary's measures were quite inadequate. The meeting held last Monday produced better results, especially on the ban on arms sales, even if the measures fall short of the original proposals.
It was disconcerting to read that M. Chirac had doubts about the validity of the evidence following the Hindawi case. Her Majesty's Government have made it plain that the evidence is conclusive. We must concede that it is not easy to obtain agreement on everything when 12 sovereign states, each with its own national interests, are involved. We recognise that we cannot always rely upon achieving something approaching a unified foreign policy. However, this is also an unstable world. There are moments when a strong Community voice on major issues could be crucial in maintaining world peace. There may be occasions when the Community would wish to assert a viewpoint which is independent of the super powers. I hope this will not be regarded as heretical, as I think it is plain common sense.
The noble Baroness referred to the Falklands, Gibraltar and Hong Kong. I will make some brief points. First, the Falklands remain a problem because any hope of a dialogue with the Argentinians seems to have faded away. I believe that every noble Lord in this House had hopes that with the election of a democratic government under President Alfonsin we could at least have had some constructive discussion on matters of mutual interest. In all the circumstances,
35 I believe that the Government were right to take action on the fishing issue. However, I hope they will make plain in the right way at the right time and through the right channels that they are ready to have talks with the Argentine Government. I also hope that Professor Alfonsin himself, whose election to office we have welcomed, will have the statesmanship and indeed the common sense to seize the opportunity to have talks with us.
As regards Gibraltar, I shall make only one point; that is, that an agreement with Spain to ease flying restrictions which were imposed in 1969 could be greatly to the advantage of both Gibraltar and Spain. It could develop tourism to the great economic benefit of the people of Gibraltar without infringing sovereignty. I hope that the Government will be able to make some progress in that direction.
Thirdly, Hong Kong, which I had the pleasure of visiting earlier this year, is inevitably in a state of transitional uncertainty. Again, I warmly support the tribute which the noble Baroness paid to Her Majesty the Queen upon what was unquestionably a most historic and successful visit to China. What the people of Hong Kong are now waiting for is the publication of the draft basic law which it is to be hoped will dispel the doubts which still linger. However, I believe that this remarkable community will survive the difficulties and that China will honour her obligations and commitments.
During her visit, Her Majesty the Queen announced that 90 scholarships in this country were being made available to young Chinese scientists. That splendid idea, which won Her Majesty's immediate support, was conceived by my noble friend Lord Rhodes, and we congratulate him most warmly upon it. My noble friend's efforts to improve relations between China and Britain have been remarkable and he deserves every tribute for his work over several years.
This may be the appropriate moment for me to say on behalf of all of us here how much we have admired the patient, modest and courageous efforts of Mr. Terry Waite. In the midst of terror and fear, his has been the voice of reason and of compassion.
Finally, I return to the Geneva negotiations. It is upon those and their progress that our hopes are concentrated. It is plain that the great stumbling block is lack of mutual trust. It is here perhaps that a British Government can help most. It is here that a unified Community approach could help to build a bridge between the super powers. That should certainly be the great, the essential, objective of our time.
§ Viscount Trenchard
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, did I understand him correctly in quoting the excellent publication of the International Institute of Strategic Studies and in saying that the conventional balance shown in that study published last Thursday does not show a very great balance in favour of the Warsaw Pact except as regards tanks? I have the book open. I shall not weary your Lordships, but would not the noble Lord agree that on land and in the air almost every figure of importance in the conventional area is over two to one in favour of the Warsaw Pact?
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, what I said—and the noble Viscount will be able to read it in Hansard tomorrow—was that the imbalance was not as great as we had been led to believe. I specifically mentioned tanks because the report states that it is in that area that the greater imbalance lies. In the field of other forces the disparity is not as significant as we thought.
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, this, I suppose, is the occasion on which to make a few general remarks on the vastly important and rather alarming subjects of foreign affairs and defence. In the time available it is not possible to say very much and so I shall limit my remarks to what I regard as a few contentious subjects. In any case it is surely absurd to consider foreign affairs and defence together. We should certainly have a full day's debate on defence.
First, I shall refer to Syria. The Foreign Secretary's efforts to rally his Community colleagues in support of some type of concerted action against that country may be considered to be fairly satisfactory; indeed, it is perfectly acceptable. It is true that M. Chirac—as the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, said—apparently, with no supporting evidence of any kind, seems to have suggested at one point that the whole affair may have been the result of an Israeli plot cooked-up with British connivance. In my view we might have done without such insinuations on the part of an all too candid friend. However, in a general way, there was a good deal to be said for the French Prime Minister's analysis of the situation in the Middle East as a whole—I think that it was intelligent. We can only hope that he does not himself now conclude a deal with terrorists regarding the release of further French hostages, although, on the face of it, it certainly looks as though to some extent that has already been done.
The action of Greece only reinforces something which I personally have thought all along; namely, that that country should never have become a member of the Community. It simply does not have what might be called a "European outlook". I do not want to be pejorative in any way but only to make an obvious point. Indeed, that brings me on to something which applies to both subjects under discussion this afternoon.
As I see it, there is no reason why the unanimity rule which rightly applies to many decisions taken under the Treaty of Rome, should apply in the field of "political co-operation", which is not covered by the treaty in any way. Thus, if certain members were, for instance, prepared to contemplate some more rational method of organising European defence and to streamline their production of arms to that end, then they should surely be permitted to go ahead, any decisions taken by them not necessarily, of course, being applicable to other members who did not want to be under any such obligation.
Similarly, in foreign affairs, if a large majority felt that some action was eminently desirable they should surely be allowed to present it as representing the Community. Alternatively, it might possibly be agreed subject to the consent of the European Parliament. I merely throw out these suggestions for discussion. All that I would insist upon—and I have insisted upon this 37 for some time—is that in the whole sphere of foreign affairs and defence we should not be paralysed by the veto of some small and, quite possibly, neutralist member. Is that something with which the Government might conceivably agree in principle?
As for the "arms in exchange for hostages" deal with Iran, apparently concluded by President Reagan behind the back of everybody else concerned in the United States, we can no doubt go along with what I am sure is the Government's view—it can be—and only register acute dismay. That a government officially bent on eliminating terrorism—and, indeed, highly critical of our own efforts in this respect—should act in this way and, in addition, inevitably be assisting the Ayatollah in his apparent intention to overrun the Middle East will, to say the least, hardly encourage our friends in that part of the world, or in any other parts of the world for that matter. Therefore, can we take it—and this is my question which perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, will answer—that when the Prime Minister visits the President tomorrow or the next day, she will leave him under no delusion about our feelings in this respect or the feelings of her closest ally? I should like to know whether or not that is so.
Nicaragua is often held up as something which divides the members of the North Atlantic Alliance, and so it does in that few, if' any, of the European members of the alliance believe that the imposed restoration by force of the appalling Somoza regime would be in the interests of the free world as a whole, or even that the shaky Sandinista Government is much of a menace to anybody. However, Nicaragua is, after all, in America's backyard, just as Ulster is in ours, and it is therefore only by a kind of disapproving silence that the Europeans can effectively respond to the action of the "Contras" as they call them, financed as they now are, to a large extent by Congress.
Further south we come to the Falklands. Here the Government's policy—or perhaps it is only the policy of the Prime Minister—has for a long time seemed to us, on these Benches at any rate, to be self-defeating. Why should we not talk to the excellent President Aifonsin about everything, including the so-called "sovereignty" of the islands? To talk about sovereignty would not necessarily mean consenting to anything unless we thought it to be in the interest of all concerned to do so. Naturally we would always bear in mind the wishes of the 1,700 inhabitants of those islands, but surely it would be absurd to give them a veto on any settlement which, in our view, not only protected their interests but also safeguarded those of the United Kingdom as well. Nobody here—and this is a good point that one must make—would contemplate a simple handover of the islands to the Argentines; and if they insisted on that, then I think they would have to realise that the negotiations would be broken off. But there are all kinds of variants on the sovereignty issue—which we know of and need not repeat here—which no intelligent observer could suppose would be detrimental to the fortunes of the islanders themselves. And so simple insistence on their indefinite and total independence within the British Commonwealth could eventually result in the collapse of the present democratic regime in Buenos Aires and 38 its replacement by another dictatorship which might one day feel obliged to indulge in another war.
As for the declaration of the 200-mile fishing zone without any discussion apparently with the Argentines, or the United States, or anybody else so far as I understand it, well, words fail me. Are we going to send out a number of units of the hard-pressed Home Fleet 6,000 miles south in order to police it? I hardly believe that.
§ Baroness Young:
My Lords, I hesitate to interrupt the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, but on a point of factual information, as the Statement on the interim conservation zone made clear, the protection will be done by two fishery vessels and an aeroplane, as fishery protection is done in other parts of the world.
§ Lord Gladwyn:
My Lords, if you think that two fishery vessels are going to police this area satisfactorily, well you can believe that if you like; but obviously it will not be the case.
We come to Eastern Europe where there are, as we all know, increasing signs of discontent with the regime imposed by the Russians as a result of their victory in the war. Only in Hungary has the regime been modified to some extent so as to make life rather more agreeable to the bulk of the population. East Germany and Czechoslovakia may be tolerable if you can put up with a total absence of personal liberty, but in all—and more particularly of course in Poland—there is a growing discontent. That is obvious. What then should our attitude be towards these manifestations of an evident desire to have close links with the West rather than with what they certainly regard as the more alien East?
That brings me to the main point I want to make this afternoon in my necessarily short intervention. It concerns the whole nature of our relations with the Soviet Union. As I see it, we cannot expect that this enormous centrally-directed totalitarian giant, very strong militarily if pretty weak economically, will ever become something equivalent to a Western type democracy. We cannot expect it. If so, there will always be tension, as it is called, between it and the "free" societies of the West. We must recognise that there will always be tension.
But surely that does not mean, in a nuclear age, that there can never be some sort of co-existence, as they say, between the two fundamentally divergent systems, still less tension that will necessarily result in war which would utterly destroy, if not both participants, at any rate the democracies of Western Europe. How then can tension best be reduced, so as to at least exclude this grim possibility, and coexistence, so to speak, come into its own?
The simple answer is by agreement on arms control, and here my analysis will differ substantially from that advanced by the Prime Minister in her speech in the Guildhall last Monday, and indeed to some extent with the general presentation as we had it from the noble Baroness when she introduced the debate this afternoon. There is little doubt that the conclusion of an arms control agreement would result in a lessening of fear on both sides, but I think more particularly on that of the Soviet Union, and that this would probably result in its turn—I say probably, but we must hope 39 that it would—in more inclination on the part of the Politburo to meet Western views in many fields in which progress is now difficult or even impossible.
It is a truism to say—I think it has already been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn—that the Russians must now make every effort to repair their ailing economy, and a sort of truce with the West is clearly desirable for this purpose. So it seems to me to be counter-productive, to say the least, to make the conclusion of any arms agreement dependent on progress in other fields—in other words, the famous doctrine of "linkage". The proponents of linkage are indeed often those who, more especially in America, for various reasons do not want any kind of agreement, hoping that the increasing pressure by the West will one day result in the collapse of what is called the "evil Empire". I believe this to be an unlikely and in any case a very dangerous assumption.
Of course we should go on pressing the Soviet Union to make further concessions on human rights, and certainly to come to some arrangement in Afghanistan which would enable them to withdraw their troops after the fearful experiences of the last five or six years. Of course we must do that. But it must be obvious—not least to the Russians—that progress in both these directions would be consonant with an easing in commercial and economic relations between the two opposing blocs. But that is a very different thing from linkage as regards negotiations on arms control—that is to say, making one thing dependent on the other—as I have tried to make clear.
The other great impediment to arms control is star wars. Your Lordships may recall that from the outset I have suggested that, however genuine the belief in it of the President—it may be genuine—this unfortunate project has really had three main objectives. In the first place it was designed to further the cause of the President and the Republican Party by giving the American people what one can only suppose is the erroneous impression that it would eventually both protect them from nuclear bombardment and, by inference, restore to them that nuclear dominance which they lost when the Russians gained the capacity to do precisely that.
This was the all-important political point which was grasped by President Reagan when he went ahead with the scheme on the sole professional advice, it would appear, of the Hungarian, Dr. Edward Teller, the elderly and violently anti-Soviet "father of the hydrogen bomb" as he is called, and the director of the great arms laboratory at Livermore, which was after all the most likely to gain from the vast expenditure made available for research. Spreading huge sums all over the country was indeed the second objective which might also be considered to further, if not the cause of the Republican Party, at any rate that of the President.
Thirdly, it was recognised that, for obvious reasons, the Russians would probably be unable to accept, without modification, a plan which, if it ever came about, would obviously put them in a position of strategic inferiority, this fact alone appealing to the strong elements in America who, as we know, do not want any arms agreement at all. As I see it, Russian 40 opposition was therefore evident from the start, and it just will not do to maintain that continued opposition on the part of the Soviet Union is merely a propaganda ploy designed to put the Americans in the wrong. It just will not do to suggest that.
Happily, as I think we have just learned, in spite of his intense campaign in favour of star wars, the President has now lost his majority in the Senate. This will not mean that the project will now be abandoned—too many vested interests may have already been created for that to happen soon, and I believe that some new democratic senators. in order to get elected, had to say that they too agreed with star wars. But with luck, it will mean that money devoted to research will probably be further reduced by Congress and that the President will come under increasing pressure—I think this is certain—to agree to some compromise acceptable to the Soviet Union. We can only hope so.
We must also assume that the Prime Minister—I should like this to be confirmed—during her forthcoming visit will at least seize the opportunity of persuading the President to live up to the undertakings regarding research which he made when I think she saw him at Camp David two years ago, and incidentally not now to violate the famous, if unratified, treaty of 1972 as he seems unfortunately to be on the point of doing.
The SDI project is, in any case, of supreme importance. We should not allow ourselves to be confused by technical details when the political issues stand out a mile. Nor should we be misled by suggestions that the Russians are actually engaged in a star wars programme of their own. Whatever the research in which they are indulging, there is no reason to suppose that they are trying to set up an equivalent of a star wars programme as is now envisaged in America. What they will do, even at great expense, if star wars goes on, is to triplicate the number of their ICBM warheads and arrange for them to be MIRVed, that is to say dispersed, before emerging from the atmosphere, thus rendering them immune from laser or other beams directed from platforms in space or otherwise from the United States. One of the more sinister results of its unhampered pursuit will be the potential nuclearisation of space. In this at least Mr. Gorbachev is right. Even now ASAT, that is to say anti-satellite action, is being pursued by both sides and it simply must be stopped by some agreement which could be easily verified.
More generally, in proposing the total abolition of even strategic, to say nothing of intermediate, nuclear missiles with 10 years, I fear that both sides are merely striving to obtain a propaganda advantage. If there is ever to be a satisfactory agreement on their limitation it must, indeed it can only, rest on heavy or very heavy reductions in all categories of these weapons. As I see it, this could well have been achieved in Reykjavik. It was not impossible and it should have been achieved there, but such an agreement would have had to be based on the continuation in principle of the doctrine of mutually assured destruction; the famous MAD which, after all, has preserved peace in Europe for over a generation. In other words, you simply cannot put the nuclear genie back into his bottle, but you can see to it that he does not become the angel of death.
41 To revert to star wars, I should imagine that hardly any politicians and only very few higher civil servants will have had time to master the enormous literature on the subject now available. Nevertheless, in conclusion I urge them to read the long, dispassionate and admirably reasoned criticism by a certain Mr. Michael McGuire of many recent books on star wars, including one by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, which appeared in The Times Literary Supplement on 31st October. At the end of that newspaper article Mr. McGuire remarks:The world at large needs to recognise that the SDI is unlikely to collapse under its own disabilities, but equally there is nothing inevitable about placing weapons in space. British strategists and commentators do a disservice by assuming that it is inevitable, for they ignore the glory of the American political system—its openness to argument. There is already signifiicant domestic opposition to the SDI, particularly within the arms control community and, more broadly, among intellectuals and former government officials. But it is hard to mobilise effective grass roots support behind that opposition as long as it can be portrayed as being anti-American and pro-Soviet. The only way to outflank that strategem is for America's allies to do their homework and speak up forcefully and publicly on the issue as friends of the United States as well as members of the world communityThese are wise words and we can only hope that Mr. McGuire's advice will be followed. They should be read with his final conclusion that, at the end of the day, there must also be some kind of basic political understanding. A dreadful choice now confronts humanity and must be made shortly if events in our computer age are not to get out of human control. I do not say that this country can by itself exercise any very great influence in Washington or in Moscow. But if there were to be a common front of all European members of the alliance it is possible that we could make an impression on what might be called the hinge of fate. It seems to me that it is high time we tried to do so and, if it cannot agree on anything else, the European Community should at least be at one in urging the President to accept some compromise on star wars. Can we take it that, in principle, the Government accept this view? I should much like to hear on this point the opinion of the noble Lord who is to wind up this debate.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Lord Carver
My Lords, I must first apologise to the House and to the noble Lord who is to wind up that a very longstanding engagement may make it impossible for me to get back before the end of the debate. If all the speeches that follow mine are a good deal longer I should have no difficulty, but I am afraid that if they are shorter it will not be possible.
I welcome the statement in the gracious Speech that theGovernment will contine to attach the highest importance to national security and to preserving peace with freedom and justice"—and that they—will maintain the United Kingdom's own defences and play an active part in the Atlantic Alliance".I hope their deeds will match their words, particularly when it comes to defence expenditure. Also I welcome the statement that theGovernment will work for new agreements on arms control and disarmament".42 I congratulate the Government on the considerable contribution they have made over a long period to what progress has been made towards a ban on chemical weapons.
It seems to me, however, that in this whole field there is a need for clarification of thought about where the Government think they are going. It seems to me that what we are asked to believe went on at the Reykjavik meeting, what has been said and written about it, what went on and was said at the party political conferences which took place at about the same time, have all revealed an extraordinary degree of muddled thinking about nuclear defence matters, and, first of all, about the deterrent value of nuclear weapons. Supporters of the Government's policy are fond of saying that "the deterrent" has kept the peace in Europe for about 40 years; that it must therefore be a good thing; that we must therefore keep it and keep it up to date. By "the deterrent" they are generally referring to Britain's own submarine ballistic missile force, equipped with American missiles, but with our own home-designed and home-produced warheads.
I never have been able to find any evidence whatever to show that the existence of that force, in addition to the much larger United States force, has contributed anything to that state of peace. It is surely not suggested that, had it not existed, peace would not have been preserved. Many things have contributed to the maintenance of that peace and none more than the presence of United States' land and air forces stationed on the Continent of Europe, firmly linked to the fact that the United States of America has the capability to inflict terrible damage and destruction by the delivery of nuclear warheads on to targets within the Soviet Union, just as the latter has the capability to do the same to the United States. It is the fact that this is so, and that any direct conflict between their Armed Forces, in Europe or elsewhere, runs that terrible risk which has been the strongest deterrent to military adventures across the Iron Curtain by either side. The fact that both sides have far, far more nuclear weapons than they need to maintain this overall deterrent to war does not detract from the fundamental value to world peace of this mutual deterrent to war.
But if we are to believe what we are told about Reykjavik, all this is now in danger of being thrown away. This will be done apparently either by the success of the strategic defence initiative in achieving what is called the "President's vision" of rendering nuclear weapons "impotent and obsolete", or else by abolishing all strategic or ballistic (it is not clear which) missile delivery systems within 10 years. What will be the deterrent to war then? Will it rest solely on nonnuclear forces, and will they then be provided? Or is it going to rest on shorter-range, nuclear-delivery systems not capable of reaching the territory of either the Soviet Union or the United States? The latter would be cold comfort for Europe and would be a very foolish step. It would be a weaker deterrent and would make it more likely both that war might break out and that it would then turn nuclear.
If one is to reduce the fantastically excessive number of nuclear weapons on both sides, but yet retain the overall deterrent to war which their possession by the super powers provides, the ones that one should keep are the long-range ballistic missiles in submarines, 43 which are practically invulnerable and pose the least threat of a pre-emptive first strike. The ones to get rid of are the vulnerable, shorter-range ones and the long-range, land-based missiles, all of which are dependent on first use to be effective and are themselves a temptation to a first pre-emptive strike. If the aim is to render all nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete and to rely solely on conventional forces, we shall be in danger of returning to an era in which the major industrial nations of the world could again envisage war, as defined by Clausewitz, as a method of "continuing state policy by other means". The results of that in this century have been bad enough.
Today, even without nuclear weapons, they would be much worse. But, as the Prime Minister herself said the other day, it would not be without nuclear weapons. Everybody now knows how to make them. Even if you thought that they had all been abolished—and you could never be sure of that—it would not be long, once a war had started, before they reappeared; and you would have had the worst of both worlds. You would have lost the overall deterrent to war which they provide; and you would then suffer from their use in the war which you had failed to deter.
I ask the Government, therefore: do they really want to see nuclear weapons rendered impotent and obsolete? And do they support the proposal to abolish all strategic or ballistic missile delivery systems within a fixed period? And if either, what are their reasons for doing so? The Prime Minister clearly has reservations on this issue. She has described the "President's vision" as "pie in the sky". I support her view of the chances of SDI achieving the "President's vision"; however, I do not regard it as pie, but as poison.
Whether it is pie or poison in the sky or in space, what is SDI really intended to achieve? If, after an immensely expensive effort, it provides only a partial defence, what is now known as SDI-2, all the arguments, or almost all the arguments, which led a previous United States administration to reject the proposal to develop an anti-ballistic missile system—even the one that they are permitted under the ABM treaty—apply in that case to the proposed SDI.
Far from leading to strategic stability and a reduction in the number of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems, it could lead, and probably would lead, to instability strategically, to an increase in nuclear weapons and, what is more and very significant, their introduction into space. And if, of course, ballistic missiles are going to be done away with, it will not be needed. Why therefore do the Government support the SDI proposal? Is it just in the hope of jobs for the boys? The prospect of that does not seem to be very great. For a balanced view of the whole SDI question, I would strongly commend to your Lordships the long review (which the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, mentioned) of a number of books on the subject which was published in The Times Literary Supplement on 31st October, written by a distinguished Fellow of the American Brookings Institution.
Another aspect of nuclear policy which is now left in a muddled state is that of intermediate range nuclear forces. Two different reasons were given to us to justify 44 the installation of Tomahawk cruise missiles in this country, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands, and of the replacement of Pershing I by Pershing II in Germany. The first was the need to reassure the Germans that they were still covered by the American nuclear umbrella, and that there was no question of decoupling the threat of escalation to a nuclear strike against the Soviet Union from the defence of the Federal Republic. The existence of the US Poseidon and British Polaris submarines and of the former's F-111 and our Tornado dual-capability aircraft, as well as all the battlefield nuclear weapons, was apparently not enough to provide that assurance.
The second reason was that, while the Soviet Union could threaten targets all over Western Europe with their SS.20s, Europe was liable to be subjected to nuclear blackmail, unless a more or less equivalent force, capable of reaching targets in the Soviet Union, was based on land in Western Europe. The existence of many other Soviet nuclear delivery systems which could strike targets all over Europe, and other United States' systems which could strike the Soviet Union, was apparently considered irrelevant.
Nobody has ever officially suggested that the cruise missiles and Pershings could knock out the mobile SS.20s, although popular opinion tends to think that that is what they are for. If they were to be effective in that role, they would have to strike first, as would the SS.20s, if they were to fulfil the role for which the Soviet authorities say that they are intended—and I see no reason to doubt them; that is, to destroy NATO nuclear delivery systems based on land in Europe.
Now it appears, I am glad to say, from Reykjavik, that both sides have come to the conclusion that none of these systems is needed. If they agree on that, we are back where we were when Helmut Schmidt, in his Alastair Buchan Memorial Lecture in 1977, accused the United States and the Soviet Union of coming to strategic arms control agreements designed for their mutual security which decoupled the US nuclear umbrella from the defence of the Federal Republic, an accusation which is said to have led to the decision to deploy cruise missiles and Pershing II. That German voice is now being heard again, echoed by some of the American military, protesting against the proposals made at Reykjavik. I urge the Government to disregard it, and to persuade other NATO governments to do the same.
If we do not need these systems, and if we were to abandon battlefield nuclear weapons, as I have consistently advocated, does NATO need any nuclear delivery systems other than those considered sufficient to act as the overall deterrent to war, the need for which I have already argued, and which I believe can be provided by the US Navy's ballistic missile submarine fleet?
There is one clear need which the crazy policy adopted by the Labour Party Conference would attempt to remove; and that is to make it quite clear to the Soviet Union that they could not themselves use nuclear weapons in Europe without running the risk of retaliation in kind. I believe that it is reasonable to maintain that a system is required for that purpose, assigned to the NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe. Whether or not it needs to be based on land is
45 arguable. I believe that its control should not be delegated below SACEUR himself, and the longer its range the better, as long as it is seen clearly as a retaliatory force. That is the prime function of our Polaris submarines, and always has been, ever since President Kennedy agreed to let us have the missiles on that condition. I believe that it should be their sole function, and that you do not need a weapon of the characteristics of Trident and its proposed new warhead to fullil it.
It seems to me that all the political parties need to clear their minds on these issues: the Conservatives over their attitude to SDI and to any proposal which seeks to abolish altogether strategic nuclear delivery systems, especially ballistic missile ones; both the Conservatives and the Alliance about the need to continue to maintain an independent British nuclear strike force—and I am sorry to find that the Liberals, with whom I have usually agreed on this subject, appear to have fallen under the spell of some Welsh witch doctor—and the Labour Party about a policy which would place NATO in the same position,vis-à-vis nuclear armed opponent, that Japan was in in 1945 and which would eventually remove the overall nuclear deterrent to war. And I hope that their spokesmen will cease claiming that I support any part of their policy other than that of not wasting precious defence resources on Trident and devoting them instead to conventional forces.
§ The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Lord Trefgarne)
My Lords, before the noble and gallant Lord sits down, I wonder whether he can explain why it is that the views he has expressed about the British independent nuclear deterrent are apparently shared by no other five-star officer in the Western Alliance; and why it is that he was able to continue as Chief of the Defence Staff holding the views that he did?
§ Lord Carver
My Lords, I do not know why no other five-star officer in NATO thinks that way. I think that it would perhaps be more correct to say that no other five-star officer in NATO has publicly expressed his views in that way. I remind the noble Lord that, for most of the time that I was Chief of the Defence Staff the policy of the government of the time was to continue the Polaris submarine force for as long as possible and not produce a replacement for it. I have never in any way quarrelled with the role of the Polaris submarine force—the primary role, for which President Kennedy let us have the missiles themselves—that of being an intermediate range nuclear force for the support of SACEUR. I have never quarrelled with that, and I do not quarrel with it now.
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, in that case, if I have your Lordships' permission to intervene again, may I ask the noble and gallant Lord to make every effort to be in his place when I come to wind up this evening, and I will tell him?
§ Lord Carver
My Lords, I certainly will.
§ 4.31 p.m.
§ The Earl of Cork and Orrery
My Lords, if your Lordships will permit, may I make a small preliminary 46 note by asking whether your Lordships have seen the front page of this afternoon's early edition of the Standard newspaper, a copy of which I have in my hand. The banner headline is "Iran: Regan confesses". What President Reagan is alleged to have confessed is what has been talked about for some days lately: namely, that the United States has shipped weapons—arms of some sort—to Iran. The President is reported in this way:
he defended his action as necessary to improve contacts with moderate elements of the Iranian Government. He added that it would strengthen the chance of setting hostages free. Mr. Reagan denied that sending weapons amounted to a ransom for the hostages. But he said he will contunue contacts with Iran in the hopes of releasing more captive Americans.I believe that it would be prudent to take a deep breath and count a long 10 before commenting on tidings such as that. Your Lordships may care to think long and deeply while you count—I suspect that noble Lords may find some of the thoughts disturbing.
It so happens that this year, unusually, we are debating this Motion on the first day of the loyal Address debate just after rather than, as is more usual, just before Remembrance Day. In this House more than another place, there are many Members whose memories no doubt go back to the real thing, the actual experience of war rather than the imaginary, often academic, forms of war which we are used to discussing. In this atmosphere of what seems to me to be a greater realism than we are normally accustomed to, I should like to suggest that we should manage to talk about it, if we can, with fewer what I call rubber stamps.
Rubber stamps are commonly referred to, I suppose, as clichés, but I prefer the term rubber stamp because I think of it as something which one can put out a hand to and bang down on paper in order to save oneself the trouble of thinking out a word or a phrase. We have plenty of them in all sorts of contexts, such as: "This side up", "Remember the post code", "House of Lords Refreshment Department", "flexible response", "use no hooks", "INF", "MBFR", "CSCE", "Not known at this address", "Mutual assured destruction", "Kilotonne megadeath", "No rubbish to be shot here" and—the great pair of rubber stamps of the age—"nuclear deterrent" and "nuclear deterrence".
The point of thinking about these as rubber stamps, to my way of thinking, is this. We take it for granted that this is something that happens on both sides of the great divide between East and West. We have mutual deterrence: we deter the Russians, they deter us. We forget, therefore, that there is no such word as deterrent or deterrence in the Russian military language. It does not appear in their training manual or in any publication that is known to the West. They simply do not understand the idea of deterrence at all.
What they do understand—I am referring to an authority quoted already, I think by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver—is the Clausewitz idea of war. He said:War is only a branch of political activity; and it is in no sense autonomous. It cannot be divorced from political life and, whenever this occurs in our thinking about war, the many links that connect the two elements are destroyed and we are left with something that is pointless and devoid of sense".47 In my submission, my Lords, this is what we tend to do in the West. We talk about deterrence and we talk about ending war altogether as though it was something entirely on its own in a vacuum. The Russians have never done this, and I have no doubt that it appears to them as a grievous error that anyone should do so.
The nuclear capability, therefore, is not something that exists in order to deter the West; it is part of their whole system of war and it is meant not for deterrence but for use. There is no question about it, this is the Russian attitude to the nuclear capability: it is there to be used, it is part of a war-fighting capacity in which they fully believe.
It is, therefore, incumbent upon the West to make sure that it will never be worth while for them to use it. We call this deterrence on our side, and there is no reason why we should not use our rubber stamp at that moment. If this is so, it means to say that there is no point in discussing with the Russians beyond a certain point the reduction of nuclear arms on both sides. I say "beyond a certain point" because, of course, the discussions have to continue and weapons be reduced as much as possible.
Why then do the Russians want this enormous force—what is the point of this great war-fighting machine? For a comment on that, I refer your Lordships to a remark made in a book by Professor Sir Michael Howard, a very distinguished military historian:Russia has aspired to global power status, as did Germany before 1914; and if the West complains, as did Britain about Germany. that the Russians do not need a Navy for defensive purposes, the Soviet Union can retort, as did Germany, that she needs it to make clear to the world the statuts to which she aspires; that is, so that she can operate on the world scene by virtue of her own power and not by permission of anyone else. Like Germany, she is determined to be treated as an equal, and armed strength has appeared the only way to achieve that status.It is difficult to find a more completely logical and resolute statement of aims and intentions than that.
I find it very remarkable that anybody in the face of that, should seriously propose to do away with the particular part of our own defences that will make it impossible for the Soviets to put that whole machinery into effect. If that is done, if we abolish our own nuclear capability as the Labour Party proposes to do and, as a result of that, dismantle the nuclear capability of NATO, which is the ultimate achievement that will flow from that, we shall leave ourselves defenceless, as practically every speaker has pointed out.
It leaves me in a state of astonishment when I hear a remark coming from such a sage and sensible person as the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition to the effect that the preponderance of Russian over NATO weaponry in the NATO area in Europe is of less significance than he had supposed. In tanks, in aeroplanes and in guns the proportion of Russian to NATO weaponry is at least two to one and in some cases three to one, and there are far more soldiers in the front line than we have on our side. It is perfectly true that, if you had thought that that proportion in all cases was three to one and then you suddenly discovered that it was two to one, the significance would become greatly reduced; but the implication of 48 the noble Lord's words surely must be that the significance is not particularly great. I find this very frightening indeed if the Labour Party seriously believes that two or three to one against us is not a significant disadvantage on our side.
§ Lord Kennet:
My Lords, may I put a question to the noble Earl? It would greatly assist the House now and in the future during this debate if he could let us know whether he has actually looked at this week's military balance published by the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London, which shows that figure of three to one he was giving is, in their estimation, in the order of 1.2 to one and 1.3 to one, and so on. If he challenges these figures, perhaps he would be so good as to reveal the sources he sets against those which are available to the international institute.
§ The Earl of Cork and Orrery:
Yes, my Lords, I think I have overdone my figures and, if I have, I apologise. It is my own fault because I have the book here; my noble friend has it and I read it about five minutes ago. The last thing I want to do is to mislead the House; but the point is that, if the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, thought that the significance was much higher against us than that, it is against that significance that his party has proposed total unilateral nuclear disarmament. There is no particular point in pursuing that in the course of this debate because it was the great feature of Labour policy that lost them the last general election, and it is the one that is almost certainly going to lose them the next.
To revert to the Soviets and their history (and it is necessary to remember a little bit of the history) there are factors other than the ones I have mentioned—that is, the wish to be a great power on the world scene—that have brought them into the situation in which we see them now. There are at least three particular ones and we go back to the October Revolution of 1917, which was brought about largely by the Tsarist despotism of the Romanovs. That was a revolution such as we have seen in France and indeed in England in earlier days. On top of that they were forced into revolution by the astonishing incompetence of their own government in waging war, which provided them with no less than 5.5 million casualties in the course of two years. Finally—this is the one that we usually remember and think of—they have the doctrine of Karl Marx (if it still remains in force) according to which the Russian revolution is to be exported to the other countries of the world, with the accompanying downfall of the capitalist system.
This is what we are against and I think we do ourselves no very great service if we discuss the relations between East and West solely in terms of weapons, armaments and disarmament. What we have to acknowledge is the fact that these people on the other side do not think like us. They are motivated by impulses at least as strong as those which motivate us, and what is required on our side is patience and, above all, courage. We need a little less readiness to say that these people are evil. They are not particularly evil; not by their own standards anyway. Above all—and this is what brings me right into the context of the Queen's Speech—what is required is the restoration of the one great casualty to which the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, particularly referred; and that is trust.
49 The revolution in Russia set them upon a kind of stage which proclaimed to the world (and they have since demonstrated this by their own behaviour all over the world) that from our point of view they are not to be trusted. The counterblast to that is to produce measures on the Western side which make us not trustable by the Russians. I do not believe that the Americans—or us, for that matter, but particularly the Americans as the other great power—are any more to be trusted by the Russians than the Russians are to be trusted by the Americans. By that I do not mean that either side is untrustworthy. I mean that neither side can be expected to trust the other, for reasons which have nothing whatever to do with honesty or morals, but simply political acts.
Therefore, the task that faces men and women of goodwill all over the world is one of patience. We have by some means to restore trust, and this is why I applaud the use of that word "trust" in the gracious Speech. It is the one thing that is not often mentioned, and it should be. What is mentioned by implication is something quite different: that is fear. When anybody proposes that we should ourselves disarm in the nuclear sense while leaving the opposition armed, in my submission that is not prudence. It is most highly imprudent.
It is perfectly legitimate to say that we would rather be subjected to Russian domination (which they have promised us if they get the chance) and become a satellite like Hungary. You can prefer that if you like and, if you do, that is perfectly honest. But if you are not doing that at all and if you are simply saying that the situation is so dangerous and these arms are so terrifying that we must abolish the ones which we have on our side, that is not prudence and that is not wisdom. It is not honesty: it is fear. I do not personally believe that any nation, least of all this one, should be guided by a policy of fear.
I would offer your Lordships two thoughts. One comes from the American, Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said:Never strike sail to a fear. Come into port greatly or, with God, sail the seas".The other is from our own poet, Clough, in the hymn, "Say not the struggle naught availeth":If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars;It may be, in yon smoke conceal'd,Your comrades chase e'en now the fliers,And, but for you, possess the field".My Lords, I myself am on the side of those who are holding the field and will never let go.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ Lord Rhodes
My Lords, the visit of the Queen to China has highlighted many opportunities. You might say trade was an important factor, but I think what she did when she went to China was to forge something which was far more important even than trade; and that was friendship. In the Queen's Speech she said about her Government that,They will discharge their obligations to the people of Hong Kong and will work closely with the Chinese Government to carry out the Sino-British Joint Declaration".This can only be done on a smooth basis if in the interim between now and 1997 we have built up such 50 a fund of friendship with mainland China that it will be smooth.
Her Majesty's visit must imply a revival of public interest both in China and in Britain which was very much needed. I predict that it will have repercussions for a long time to come. I have received many reactions to the Queen's visit from China and from delegations in this country. They all agree that it was timely and that it was psychologically a first-class time to go. The fact that the Queen agreed to visit China was a coup for the Chinese as well as for Britain. She was well received in China because her visit had a mark of approval about it which pleased the Chinese.
I wish to make three practical suggestions which I know are realisable. The Queen took with her, when she visited China, a scroll symbolising 30 three-year fellowships as a gift. The idea of post-doctoral fellowships arose from a visit to this country by a group of scientists from all over China. It took place in February of this year. They were of the age group most victimised by the cultural revolution which began in 1967 and ended in 1978. Among many other places, the scientists visited Manchester and they honoured me by being guests in my house. During the course of conversations with them, the leader of the delegation said that there was a superstition in China that the Germans, the Japanese and the Americans have better high technology than we have in this country. Remembering that the Germans make no charge for their Chinese students, I was not surprised.
When I asked my Chinese visitors whether, if we offered post-doctoral fellowships, the gift would be accepted in Peking, Peking was then consulted and the answer was an enthusiastic yes. That is rather different from the experience of Macartny, who was sent by William Pitt the Younger in 1793 loaded with scientific instruments as a gift to the Emperor of China. The emperor did not want to know. He said they had all they wanted and there was nothing in the West that could do them any good. That was a commoner offering gifts which are unacceptable to an emperor. I think, therefore, that there is something romantic about the Queen taking an offering of acceptable gifts to a commoner.
The Royal Society agreed to administer the fellowships and the Queen was enthusiastic. We set to work getting subscriptions, the first of which was from the Overseas Development Administration. Afterwards, contributions came to a total of £1 million and they presently stand at over £1 million. One of the cheering aspects of the whole thing was that the Chinese ethnic group in Manchester came forward of their own volition to offer money, which was accepted.
My next point concerns my belief that a good follow-up to the Queen's visit would be to help to remove all forms of discrimination in the United Kingdom's trade relations with the People's Republic and to treat China as we would any other country which is friendly to Britain so far as concerns trade. I refer to what was known as COCOM, or the Coordinating Committee for Multinational Export Control. The situation is out of hand. There are hints that the list is to be revised and I should welcome news about whether that is being considered. We know that certain unspecified countries are to press for China to 51 be removed altogether from COCOM regulations. Why can we not take the initiative to bring China out of COCOM? We should at least support other countries who are advocating that and then perhaps the officials (who are no small number) who are at present acting to stop trade with the PRC could be transferred to promoting trade instead of stopping it. Perhaps I may also suggest that we might review with our EC partners the quotas of imports from China which are limiting China's capacity to earn foreign currency.
My last point is that many years ago I took the initiative to twin Manchester with Shanghai. The suggestion was referred to the Chinese central government, but it was turned down on the grounds that Shanghai had too many twins already. The alternative proposed by the Chinese central government was Wuhan. It is a great city of 5 million inhabitants in a region of 50 million people in Hupeh Province. The last time I went to China, I went to see them. I found them a friendly and tough community. They have a wide range of both heavy and light industry and a university with a strong tradition. Visits have already been made between Manchester and Wuhan and Wuhan and Manchester. Indeed, only this week I had great pleasure in receiving in Manchester a delegation from Wuhan.
These are practical things that can be done to forge what I have so passionately felt for a long time that we need. The Chinese set great store by treaties of friendship. It is as though they are reaching out for friends all over the world. It is important from our point of view that we take a leading part in this movement. Numerically we are behind the United States, Japan, Germany and France. We need to have a policy on this matter.
As it stands at the moment there are 10 fully-fledged twinnings; nine, you might say, are on the stocks and are ready for acceptance. China is a vast and thickly populated country and I believe that more power and responsibility will be given to the regions when they have learnt how to cope with it. Twinning is part of the learning process. It is absolutely fascinating to study the business of trade with representation in China. At the moment we have two consul-generals, one in Peking and one in Shanghai. I have looked up the Foreign Office Yearbook for 1914, having in mind the revolution by Sun Yat-sen in 1911. We then had in the consular service over 70 people and five of the major regions had consul-generals and a whole retinue of followers. It is too much to expect that we could have the same sort of representation now, but there is no doubt that, if a plan were organised for having consul-generals throughout the regions leading up to the takeover in 1997, there would be an immense fund of good will coming from mainland China towards a smooth transition.
That is all I have to say. I believe passionately that it is possible. I have demonstrated in my own small way many things which could be built on if it was properly organised. We need a central body to co-ordinate not only the regions in China but also the local authorities here and the industries that are identified with localities. We have a tremendous 52 opportunity, and I only hope that we can do something about it while there is still time to build.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ Lord Walston
My Lords, I shall ask your Lordships for a few minutes to stop thinking about all the pressing problems that confront us today and instead to look at how our foreign policy is formulated, because today's problems, which were referred to in the gracious Speech and by all noble Lords who have spoken, and which will be referred to by those who are yet to speak, stem to a very large degree from the actions and the inactions of five, 10 or 20 years ago.
Some 40 years ago when he was Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin summoned to the Foreign Office a group of young and leading diplomatic correspondents. After they had received their cups of tea and dry biscuits, he turned to them and said, "Gentlemen, I have been thinking about Africa. It is a hell of a big continent. I do not know how many hundreds of millions of people live there. I do not know how many hundreds of thousands of square miles it covers and I am too old to learn about these things. In any case, I am too busy dealing with the Germans, with the Russians, and with the Americans. I have no time for that and I shall be dead soon. But you are all young men and you will be alive when Africa becomes one of the most important factors in the whole world scene. I should like you to think about Africa, gentlemen. Good afternoon."
I do not know how many, if any, of them thought about Africa, but the moral of that story, to my mind, is that although even then the Foreign Secretary was too busy to think about one of the areas which he knew would be of vital importance, he had the bigness of mind to realise the need for long-term strategic thinking, for pinpointing those areas which needed thought and a build-up of policy.
Today, the need for that sort of thinking is just as great as it was then, but the pressures today on the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, on his time and on his energies, are even greater than they were at that time. He spends so much of his time jetting from one continent to another, attending this proliferation of high-level meetings where so little is accomplished. He also has his role in the EC which is very time-consuming and, on top of that, of course, to his responsibilities has now been added the whole of the Commonwealth. So the problems facing him are far greater than they were when Ernest Bevin sent for those diplomatic correspondents.
It is no wonder that he has no time for the unhurried thinking, the leisurely sitting down and the discussions which are so essential in the formulation of sound policies for the future. When he is not in his aeroplane or at meetings, not to mention when he is attending Parliament, he has to deal with the short-term crises which, had the right decisions been taken long before he appeared on the scene, might never have occurred at all.
Let me give your Lordships just two examples of what I have in mind. It has been obvious for many years now—one can almost say for many decades—that the problem of South Africa and its neighbouring states was something which would get worse and worse until it reached crisis proportions at some stage, as indeed it has now. We were faced, as we 53 are today, with a clash of interests—of our own interests. We have great investments in South Africa, we have important trade with South Africa and we also have great investments in certain countries of black Africa with which we have very important trade. We also have our responsibilities to the Commonwealth as a whole; the need to hold the Commonwealth together. How much thought has been given to that? I do not know.
We have our responsibilities specifically to our fellow members of the Commonwealth who are most affected by what is now transpiring in South Africa, in the shape of Zimbabwe and Zambia. There is their need of access to the sea without having to go through the unfriendly neighbouring country of South Africa, not to mention the very great length of that journey. The Beira lifeline is, and always has been, of enormous importance. But we are now beginning to tackle this problem as if it were entirely new, whereas we should have been thinking about these things 10 or 15 years ago and preparing contingency plans in case—as, in fact, has happened—the worst transpired.
I shall not labour that point, but let me move on to another aspect where I believe that we are seriously lacking in long-term planning and where the disbenefits, the handicaps, resulting from that have not yet made themselves felt, though they are just beginning to do so, but will make themselves felt in the years ahead. I refer to the activities of the British Council. Your Lordships may think that that is a very minor point to raise in a debate of this kind. But, after all, our standing in the world depends to a very great extent on the number of people who speak English, who know about our culture, who know about our history, who have studied in our centres of learning and of higher education and who have imbibed some of our ideas.
Because the sums of money involved are relatively modest it does not mean that this matter does not warrant serious thought at the highest level. I should like to quote to your Lordships some figures which you may have read in the press, from evidence given by the Director-General of the British Council, Sir John Burgh, to the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs in another place. He said:I am convinced that our total overseas effort, covering the British Council, the BBC External Services and the Central Office of Information, is failing to sustain our standing and reputation overseas …It matters that in Indonesia, the German trained Minister of Technology has mentioned on numerous occasions the absence among his staff and advisers of any British trained experts and hence of any British mafia to lobby for British goods and services.It matters that we cannot give sufficient assistance to English medium schools and universities—that is schools and universities which teach in English, in Hungary and Turkey and elsewhere.It matters that in Uruguay English has been demoted as an obligatory subject in the curriculum and that its place has been taken by French following an intensive cultural relations effort by France.It matters that in West Germany even intelligent and educated people, who have no cause to concern themselves with Britain, build up an image of Britain consisting of 'football hooligans, decline, racial friction and archaic traditions' …Britain, too, needs to recognise the importance of cultural relations as an important and integral aspect of our foreign policy—and then pay it not merely lip service but provide the necessary resources for its implementation".54 Unless serious high level consideration is given to it now, unless a decision is taken that this is an important matter on which the future welfare of this country will to some extent depend and on which its future influence in the world will depend, we shall be too late. These are the problems to which the Foreign Secretary himself and his ministerial colleagues ought to be giving attention but, because of all the pressures to which I have referred, it is to all intents impossible for him to do it.
I want to make it clear that I am in no way blaming the present Foreign Secretary for whom I have the highest regard, as I do for his colleagues: nor am I blaming in any way the officials, who, once again, are of the highest calibre. The system is at fault, not the people. The system, after all, is based on the Victorian days of relative leisure and slow communications. Now we live in an entirely different age and need not an entirely different set-up but changes and thought to be given to how those changes can be made.
The system has a further disadvantage. The fact that Ministers, whether it is the Foreign Secretary himself or his colleagues, can now fly about the world and present themselves to their opposite numbers or to heads of state in different countries inevitably devalues the role of Her Britannic Majesty's ambassadors. I can say without fear of contradiction that our ambassadors are all men of the highest intellectual capacity and of the highest quality and calibre. But the jobs which they have to do as they rise higher up the scale become, paradoxically, progressively less important, and they become more and more the bearers of messages and less and less the actual representatives of Her Majesty.
The result is that an increasing number of the brightest young and middle-aged people in the Foreign Service today are leaving it. There is no shortage of first class recruits for the Foreign Service. It is still sought after by those who are looking for jobs when they have finished their education. But it is an undoubted fact that in their thirties when they are First-Secretaries or Counsellors they look around to see what the future holds for them—it may hold a knighthood, it may hold an embassy, it may hold an excellency, it may even hold a Rolls-Royce—and decide that that is not enough. There is not the responsibility which they are capable of carrying out and which they wish to have. For that reason (more than the fact that other people may offer more money) and in order to gain more responsibility and have a growing amount of responsibility as they move up the ladder, they leave the Foreign Service at that crucial stage and join international business of one kind or another. Good for this country, yes, but a potential danger in the future for the service itself.
I do not pretend that I know the answers to this complex question. I am sure that some noble Lords present with far greater experience of the Foreign Office than I have have given it some thought. They may have some ideas. They may disagree profoundly with what I have said, but I think there is a fair degree of agreement among many people on this matter. One thing stands out. I do not know how possible it is but I believe that there should be a self-denying ordinance not only by the Foreign Secretary himself but by his colleagues in other countries that they will stay at home more and think, and leave more responsibility 55 to the people on the spot—the ambassadors—to carry out the jobs which now the jet aeroplane has made it more possible for them to do. If they stayed at home to think I am sure that a good many future troubles would be avoided.
In conclusion, I urge Her Majesty's Government to give serious and urgent thought to this problem, because unless it is solved and solved quickly we shall lurch from crisis to crisis, most of which could have been avoided had thought been given to the various matters some 10 years earlier.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Leicester
My Lords, before I address the subject of foreign aid as mentioned in the gracious Speech, I ask first that I may have the understanding and forgiveness of the House if I am unable to remain until the end of the debate. It is important that I should return to my diocese this evening, and the timing of the trains may not make it possible for me to remain very late.
I want warmly to welcome the salutary words of the noble Lord, Lord Walston, about Africa, for it is in regard to Africa that we must be particularly grateful to Her Majesty's Government for aid on a wide scale, from Sudan through Kenya, the Ivory Coast and into Zimbabwe, even despite some doubts about the wisdom of this kind of action in multilateral aid.
In particular I should like to welcome the recent decision of Her Majesty's Government to give 10 million dollars over three years to the special fund for Africa of the United Nations agency, the International Fund for Agriculture and Development. The concern that is expressed through the greatly increased awareness of ordinary people throughout our nation to the needs of famine victims in Africa makes this especially appropriate. But the international fund's concern is for food production by the small farmer, and many of the small farmers of the world are women. If we are not once more to witness ghastly scenes like those that were brought to us by BBC television last year, it is vital that the small farmer should be encouraged and better educated, and that the woman farmer in particular should be encouraged. So I urge that Her Majesty's Government's bilateral programme of aid for Africa should put increasing emphasis on this type of project, namely, small-scale food production, and on the further training of the men and women who are doing that sort of farming.
It was hard fully to express the delight that I experienced when I learned earlier in the week of Mr. Patten's success in Brussels with the recent EC decision to buy, when it is available, more food for other countries, and for famine areas in particular. What an encouraging thing that is, particularly since the money that is thus saved will be used for further support for agricultural projects in developing countries. Perhaps I may speak personally, to say that in the long term it may even herald a restoration of the scenery of the English shires; but that would be no more than a by-product for which we are grateful.
Alongside the need for increased food production in the developing world and the proper use of food aid, a matter in which the Government have shown great 56 interest and have given others much help in understanding the position, it is important to remember that those countries also need the development of accessible markets for their manufactured goods. I am glad to note the progress that has been made on this front during the past 12 months. In particular I should like to mention the lifting of restrictions on clothing and textiles exported from Bangladesh that was agreed in July and will come into effect in January next year. This action will relieve some of the deep anxieties about the effects of multifibre agreements.
In view of these positive actions by Her Majesty's Government it would be very disappointing if the EC programme did not expand rather than merely be maintained at its present level. The gracious Speech mentioned maintaining foreign aid. Our national record in the matter is not to be despised. I should like to say in particular how grateful we are to note the proportion of our foreign aid that is being given in the form of grants rather than loans. I trust that in the remaining couple of months Her Majesty's Government will be able to use the opportunity presented by the United Kingdom's presidency of the European Community to ensure that, if at all possible. the level of aid from the Community is increased. I have already mentioned the positive attitude of people in this country to the whole subject. I believe that this is mirrored in most member states of the Community and that for Her Majesty's Government to urge the maintenance—or if possible an increase—in the level of aid would not only encourage the people of this country but those of other countries too.
I listened attentively to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, when she mentioned the death of President Machel of Mozambique, because I want to urge the Government to give very serious consideration to the needs of the frontier states and of Mozambique in particular. On a smaller scale, we have seen the effect of television news enlightening the British public about conditions in Mozambique in a way which can be compared with the earlier presentation of Ethiopia. The death of the President was tragic and a grievous blow to a country already fraught with civil war and famine. Already Zimbabwe is high on the nation's list of concern among the frontier states. I hope that our concern can be expanded, and in particular to Mozambique.
I have urged further generosity and further and deeper concern. but with all that I have said I wish to state my gratitude for the place which this subject takes in the policies of Her Majesty's Government.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
My Lords, I hope that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester will forgive me if I do not follow him down the course he took of aid in Africa, however important that subject may be. In my brief intervention I want to take my cue from the sentence in the gracious Speech in which it is stated that Her Majesty's Government intend:continuing to seek more normal relations with Argentina".I must say that in the light of what happened last month this looks like being exceedingly difficult, but is as important as ever.
57 Last month I had the pleasure and honour of visiting Buenos Aires as a member of the British delegation to the Inter-Parliamentary Conference. I have not attended one of these events before. I found it fascinating and learned a great deal from the experience. Perhaps I may digress for just a minute to say something about the IPU, because I am sure that all noble Lords who have participated in IPU activities will agree with me that it is a most important institution for the promotion of parliamentary democratic traditions and one which is worthy of our support. It provides a forum for legislators of most diverse outlook from 107 countries to exchange views. As the delegates, particularly those from the Western-style liberal democracies, are mainly backbenchers they do not speak for their governments and therefore the resolutions are less important than the mutual understanding created by participation. In this context it is worth noting that the British and Argentine delegations have held informal bilateral meetings at every single IPU conference since the reincorporation of Argentina two years ago. There have also been exchange visits between British and Argentine delegations under IPU auspices.
All these activities have proved most useful in creating an atmosphere of better understanding about the problems of the other side. The recent visit to Buenos Aires was no exception. We participated in a meeting with the Argentine parliamentary group and sought ways to establish more direct diplomatic relations which might lead to a formal meeting between our governments to discuss the problems of the South Atlantic. At that meeting I warned our Argentine friends that both of us must avoid creating any obstacles that might be used as excuses by our respective governments for taking no action. I cited the recent agreement made by Argentina with the USSR and Bulgaria as an example of action that was bound to prove conflictive and create a problem. Unfortunately, this proved all too correct. I was therefore not surprised, but nevertheless deeply shocked, by the unilateral declaration by Great Britain of a Falkland Island conservation zone. Unfortunately, when this move was announced I was away in Brazil; otherwise I would have participated. Both sides have done something wrong, and two wrongs do not make a right.
Perhaps I may go back a little in time, to April 1977, when in this Chamber in a debate on the Falklands I indicated that over-fishing was taking place, that it was a very serious problem and that the solution to the fishing problem—by way of any dialogue that might ensue—presented a perfect opportunity for collaboration between Britain and Argentina, the two most interested nations and the two nations participating least in the fishing operations or exploiting the marine resources in the area. What happened? Apart from that dreadful conflict, absolutely nothing happened until last year, when we put the problem to the FAO to seek a multilateral solution. At that time I expressed my doubts about that manoeuvre because it was no substitute for direct bilateral discussion. As we took unilateral action two weeks ago, I presume that means that the multilateral solution is now dead.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, will my noble friend forgive me? May I correct him on a point of fact? The 58 conservation zone is an interim arrangement. We have made it clear that our preferred solution to the problem is a multilateral one. That is still our wish. There is a real problem about the conservation of fish. and the new fishing season starts in January. It is necessary to do something now.
§ Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
I of course accept the facts as given by my noble friend. However desirable an ultimate multilateral solution may be, it will not work. We have taken interim action, but the two parties to the dispute will still have to resolve the problems between them.
Of course, Argentina should never have signed agreements with Russia and Bulgaria; but they have not yet been ratified, let alone implemented. In the meantime, we have moved in advance of a multilateral decision because of the serious conservation issue. It has been so for the past nine to 10 years. To retaliate in advance ignores the fact that Argentina claims that territorial area. That claim is supported by all Latin American countries and by many members of the United Nations. We cannot ignore the existence of the claim, however much we disagree with it.
I have pleaded time and time again for common sense on this issue. It is more than ever essential to establish direct diplomatic relations and to establish a dialogue directly with Argentina. Multilateral and unilateral solutions will not work.
I was interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, said on that subject. I agree with him entirely. The Labour Party and the Alliance have adopted the policy that dialogue with Argentina must now take place. Her Majesty's Government alone remains intransigent. I hope that they will think again before any further damage is done.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Lord Brockway
My Lords, the Queen's Speech includes a promise by the Government to continue to attach:the highest importance to national security and to preserving peace with freedom and justice".The House may be a little surprised that I propose to cite and welcome two actions by the Government towards "preserving peace with freedom and justice". The first relates to human rights. I was disturbed by the reports of the executions in Indonesia, which is an ally of the West. I wrote to the Foreign Secretary about the matter. I received a most courteous and kind response from Sir Geoffrey Howe, who described in detail how the Government's representatives in Indonesia brought pressure to bear upon the Indonesian Government to end the executions which were taking place. I have of course acknowledged that reply from Sir Geoffrey Howe. I want to acknowledge now the contributions which the British representatives in Indonesia have made on this matter.
I should like the Government to go further. It is inconsistent with claiming that the West stands for the free world when it is allied with countries such as Indonesia and Turkey which so constantly deny human rights.
59 My first purpose is to recognise the actions which the British Government have taken in Indonesia. My second relates to what has happened in the United Nations with regard to peace in the South Atlantic. On 2nd October, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a remarkable resolution by 121 to one votes, with eight abstentions. I wish to read out the resolution because it is an example to the world. It called on all members:to respect the region of the South Atlantic as a zone of peace and co-operation, especially through the reduction and eventual elimination of their military presence there, the non-introduction of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction and the non-extension into the region of the rivalries and conflicts that are foreign to it".What an example to the world that comprehensive resolution is!
I want to congratulate the Government on the fact that their representative at the United Nations General Assembly voted in favour of that resolution. There were eight abstentions. The Government might have abstained. They had the courage to vote in favour of the resolution. The United States of America was the one country which voted against us.
We have recently had the serious development of the breaking off of diplomatic relations with Syria. No private Member can challenge the evidence which the Government have brought about the Syrian Government's actions regarding terrorism. But the decision to break off diplomatic relations and the decision of the European Community to apply sanctions will inevitably seriously affect a dangerous situation in the Middle East. It will inevitably change the balance of power there, enhancing the status of Israel that has carried out revenge raids upon Lebanon, and that is denying the people of Palestine their right to a home state. I wonder whether the British Government could not have taken another course and made these charges at the International Court at The Hague, bringing forward its evidence there and enlightening the world in respect of what has been done by the Syrian Government.
Despite the vote by the United States on the southern Atlantic, there have been two developments in the United States that are surely to be welcomed. The first is the Democratic victory in the elections for the Senate. The Democratic Party is committed to support a nuclear weapons freeze. For that reason, if for no other, we welcome its victory. The second piece of encouraging news is that the Pentagon is prepared to abolish bilateral missiles. I read in the Daily Telegraph a most authoritative statement saying that the Prime Minister was opposed to that move. I hope that this is not true. If it is true, I am sure that the Prime Minister will have public opinion against her. The public will welcome any step that is being taken to deal with the nuclear menace.
I turn to a fact that is sometimes ignored when we are discussing foreign affairs. It is that there are two wars at present proceeding in the world, the first between Iran and Iraq and the second between China and Vietnam. Cannot we do something to bring these wars to an end? Will the Government consider proposing to the Security Council of the United Nations that negotiating commissions, balanced in 60 their membership, should be formed to seek both an end to the Iran-Iraq war and an end of the conflict between China and Vietnam? The fact that discussions are proceeding progressively between China and the Soviet Union gives some hope that such action in that case might be taken.
The last subject to which I wish to refer is South Africa. The European Community decided upon sanctions against Syria but no decision was reached regarding sanctions against South Africa over apartheid. One welcomes the fact that the United States Senate has adopted a series of recommendations which go far in respect of sanctions. But one deplores the fact that our own Prime Minister opposes sanctions and is only ready to apply them in a very limited manner. I personally am in favour of sanctions as a matter of principle. I feel, however, that sometimes we take an exaggerated view of their effect. All history shows that governments are capable of amazing resilience when action of this kind is taken.
What is more likely to happen in South Africa is that the conflict between the black people and the government will intensify. I am pessimistic about the future. I see great danger not merely of a conflict within South Africa, but of actual war upon South Africa by the front line states. It seems to me that there is only one solution to the problem. It is the solution to many other problems as well. The United Nations should establish a peace-keeping force of overwhelming power that would be able to intervene in situations like that in South Africa, particularly in Namibia where the South African Government is illegally legislating.
I hope that the day will come when the only armed force in the world will be the peace-keeping force of the United Nations. All military power should be in its hands alone. When that day comes, it may be able to intervene effectively, representing the will of the world against the kind of resistance shown by South Africa today.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, I should like to say something, if I may, about the joint policy of the Liberal and Social Democratic Alliance towards the British nuclear deterrent. It is contained in this document issued by the Liberal Party last month, which also spells out the entire joint Alliance defence programme. It begins by reaffirming our support for NATO and for all the obligations of NATO membership, including the acceptance of allied bases on British soil. It calls for a strengthening of conventional weapons, for a lessening of NATO's dependence on nuclear weapons, for the maintaining of a British minimum deterrent pending a disarmament agreement, for a more resolute approach to arms control and disarmament, for a comprehensive test ban treaty, for strengthening nonproliferation, for a zone in Europe free of battlefield nuclear weapons, for freezing further deployment of cruise missiles while negotiations continue and for withdrawal of support from SDI and the strengthening of the anti-ballistic missile treaty.
All these points are agreed between the Liberal and Social Democratic parties. On all of them except one the two parties have followed faithfully the 61 recommendations of the joint Alliance Defence Commission that reported earlier this year and whose report was welcomed by the two parties. On only one point—the possible replacement of Polaris—does this statement depart from the recommendations of the joint Alliance Defence Commission. Previous Liberal policy held that an Alliance Government should maintain Polaris pending a satisfactory disarmament agreement. This statement now declares that an Alliance Government should also, if necessary, modernise our deterrent, without escalating it. That is the difference, which is plainly set out.
Perhaps, because there are likely to be efforts to misrepresent the Alliance on this point, I may put on record the exact words of the statement:In Government we would maintain (with whatever necessary modernisation) our minimum nuclear deterrent until it can be negotiated away as part of a global arms negotiation process, in return for worthwhile concessions by the Soviet Union which would enhance British and European security. This is in contrast to Labour's 'give-it-away' approach".In the second paragraph it says:In any such modernisation we would freeze our capacity at a level no greater than that of the Polaris system. This is in contrast to the Tories' intent greatly to increase our nuclear deterrent capacity".I see that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, has returned. I would add that we also say that we shall assign the minimum deterrent to NATO. I hope that reassures him somewhat.
That is the long and short of the joint Alliance defence policy. That is the position. So when the election comes the electors will have a threefold choice. If they want Britain unilaterally to scrap all British nuclear weapons and boycott all NATO and American nuclear weapons, they will be encouraged to vote Labour. If they want Britain to increase its nuclear deterrent eightfold, if they want an eightfold escalation in the British nuclear deterrent, they will be encouraged to vote Tory. If, on the other hand, they would like Britain simply to maintain the deterrent pending a disarmament agreement, they will be encouraged to vote for the Alliance. Those are the issues at the general election. If this is plainly put to them I do not have the slightest doubt which of the three choices the British electors will make.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, I hope it will not be considered impertinent if I ask the noble Lord, why was there such a widespread impression, after the Liberal Party Conference, that the party was split from top to bottom?
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, as I have said, as a member of the joint Alliance Defence Commission, I would be the last to deny that the business of bringing the two parties together has been long and difficult. But we have now achieved it, as I have shown. At the election the Government may misrepresent us for a time but it is amazing how, in election campaigns with television available, the truth comes out and we shall gain from it, I assure the noble Lord.
This is the position that will prevail when the election comes. Of course we expect vigorous attempts from the Labour Party, from the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and noble Lords opposite, to misrepresent our party. We do not share the confidence of some 62 noble Lords opposite, for example, in the famous lack of bias of Mr. Tebbit and the Conservative Central Office. We expect the policy to be misrepresented for a time.
There is a point which I know interests the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Lewin. The document does not spell out how, if it were necessary, an Alliance Government would replace Polaris. This is true. This is a question which both the Government and the Alliance may well have to face in the future. I put this to the Government: if the Americans and the Russians agree to deep cuts in strategic weapons the Government concede that they will have to make reductions, too, in British strategic weapons. On Monday last the Secretary of State for Defence stated in the other place:If there were large reductions in strategic systems and no development of any new weapons as a threat to us, we would consider whether we would contribute to further reductions thereafter".He also said:If there were large reductions in strategic weapons of the size suggested by the hon. Gentleman-50 per cent. or so—the Government would be perfectly prepared to go along with the search for such reductions".That is plain enough. It would obviously be unthinkable, at a time when the Russians and the Americans were cutting their strategic weapons by 50 per cent., that the British Government should increase British weapons eight times. At a time when the world was disarming, when East-West relations had vastly improved, that the British Government should insist on increasing Britain's share of the world's nuclear capacity by nearly 20 times would obviously be absurd. I am glad to see the noble Lord the Minister agreeing with me. Even the Conservative Party could not be as foolish as that.
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, I was not in the least agreeing with the noble Lord. I was shaking my head in disbelief and disagreement with the facts that he was alleging to recite.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, perhaps I can recapitulate, and when the noble Lord winds up perhaps he can answer my questions. I have quoted the Secretary of State for Defence last week as saying that if there are major strategic cuts in American and Soviet strategic weapons the British Government would follow suit. That is what he said. I am only saying, yes, I am agreeing with the Secretary of State. I am saying that it is absurd to think that in these conditions the British Government would continue with the full Trident programme, multiplying our nuclear deterrent by eight, increasing our share of world nuclear weapons by up to 20. The noble Lord, Lord Lewin, will bear me out on this. The Government therefore are going to face the same problem as, I admit, the Alliance faces: what would be an appropriate replacement for Polaris? The noble Lord can answer this tonight. For example, would the size of the Trident fleet be reduced? Would the submarines carry fewer missiles? Would the missiles be fitted with fewer warheads? Would Trident missiles be replaced with cruise missiles? What is the answer? We look forward to hearing this from the noble Lord.
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, the answer has been recited on more than one occasion. I shall recite it again later tonight.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, we can hardly wait for this event. I anticipate that the noble Lord will say, "Let us see how the disarmament goes. It is too early to decide." That is obviously the answer. If he says this I shall have great sympathy with him, and so will all my noble friends on these benches. If the noble Lord says it is foolish to decide now exactly how Polaris should be replaced, this of course is the view of the Alliance. We too say that technology is changing very rapidly, that international relations are changing very rapidly, that we need to know how disarmament is going. For that reason, in this document, there is no statement about how, when the time comes, if it is necessary, Polaris should be replaced.
Another feature today has struck me. There was a very strong attack by the noble Baroness on the unilateralism of the Labour Party. We all looked forward to a stirring reply from the Labour Front Bench. I was disappointed. The fact is that for a noble Lord on the Opposition Front Bench in a defence debate to defend Labour's defence policy would be a complete innovation. It has never happened before to my knowledge. Yes, we entirely enjoy and profit from the personal views that noble Lords on the Labour Front Bench put forward on defence policy. But I must say that it would help our debates if they also set out their party's policy, even if they had to say that they did not agree with it. Since they have the privileges of being the official Opposition, there is I think a certain reciprocal obligation on them to explain to us what the Opposition policies are.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, the noble Lord is making one of his usual confused speeches. He must be aware that this is a debate on foreign affairs and defence. As I am the Foreign Affairs spokesman on this side of the House, and my noble friend Lord Oram will wind up and will deal mainly with defence, this is how we have handled it—certainly since I became leader of the Opposition—and this is how we shall handle it now. We are not proposing to change things for the sake of the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, I entirely agree that it is a tradition that we should wait and wait and wait for a noble Lord on the Opposition Front Bench to stand up and explain what the Labour Party's defence policy is. In case we do not get a clear statement later, I hope noble Lords will forgive me if I take it upon myself to set out the Labour Party's defence policy and make one or two comments upon it.
What is the most distinctive and important feature of the Labour Party's defence policy? It is that a Labour Government would scrap all Britain's nuclear weapons and boycott all NATO and American nuclear weapons. If the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, mentioned that point, I did not hear him. If the spokesman who winds up mentions it, I should be very pleased and surprised.
The Labour Party is not pacifist. It calls for strong conventional weapons. It is prepared to call on the 64 British Armed Forces to fight. However, it insists, that the British Armed Forces should be ready to fight with conventional weapons against an enemy armed with conventional and nuclear weapons. That is the distinctive feature. The Labour Party urges that NATO too should adopt this policy, this non-nuclear policy. I am glad to see the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, agreeing.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, I am not agreeing.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, it may be true that even if the Soviet Union had an effective monopoly of nuclear weapons it might not use them. Certainly, if it was winning a conventional war it probably would not use them. But let us suppose it was losing the conventional war. Can we really believe that it would then accept defeat rather than make a small demonstration of nuclear power, knowing there could be no reciprocity and knowing that this small demonstration would lead, as it would have to, to the immediate surrender of all the NATO forces? Therefore, it is a very natural thing that we do not get strong expositions of Labour's policy from Members on the Labour Front Bench. They are too well-informed and responsible.
Finally, I should like to say that we agree with the Opposition that the Government's policy is wrong in several respects. It is wrong in its demand for vast and costly escalation in Britain's nuclear weapons; in its excessive reliance on nuclear weapons; on dragging its feet on the zero zero option and on a comprehensive test-ban treaty. On all these points we agree with the spokesman on the Opposition Benches. Where we part company with Labour is over the basic hard truth about defence policy; namely, that while the Russians have got nuclear weapons we have to have them, too. That is where we differ from them.
As a member of the joint Alliance Defence Commission I am the last to deny that it has been a long hard graft bringing the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party together on a realistic defence policy. But, we have now done this and we shall put this policy fully and with confidence to the electorate at the general election.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ Lord Greenhill of Harrow
My Lords, like the noble and gallant Lord. Lord Carver, and the right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of Leicester, I must apologise for the fact that I shall be prevented from attending the closing stages of this debate. However, I will study very closely what takes place in my absence.
The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, reinforces my view that it is a matter of great regret that the foreign policy of this country on major issues no longer commands anything approaching bipartisan support. Inevitably, this fact deprives the country of some of the authority that it should exercise in international affairs. In particular, it weakens the alliance of democratic powers which, if seen by their adversaries as united, reliable and determined, could bring nearer an understanding between East and West.
65 The gracious Speech has touched with inevitable brevity on some of the issues that will preoccupy the Secretary of State in the coming months. One factor common to all these issues is that few will be capable of quick solution and all the issues will require great patience. Happily, patience is clearly one of the Secretary of State's many virtues. He knows better than most that impatience for quick solutions is often the quickest way to multiply their real dangers.
The meeting between Mr. Gorbachev and President Reagan has shown more clearly than ever before that both sides envisage reaching agreement on arms control. It is hard to believe that either side is deliberately blocking an eventual settlement. Each side will, of course, wish to include points of especial value to itself. The problem is immensely complex, involving matters at the leading edge of scientific technology; controversial questions of military doctrine as well as political questions of overriding importance. Many people are dogmatic on these matters who clearly are not equipped to understand them. The SDI is disparaged and has been described in this House as "useless". I ask myself how these people know that so firmly. As the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, asked the other day, "if the SDI is so 'useless, why is Mr. Gorbachev so manifestly alarmed about it?"
There is no alternative to allowing specialists, with proper supervision, to continue to search for agreement in intensive negotiations. Her Majesty's Government must encourage this search and together with our European allies ensure that European security is carefully safeguarded and not bargained away. American interest in European security is real: however, the European viewpoint must be vigorously asserted. On this side of the Atlantic we must constantly keep in mind four considerations. First, historically, there has never been a conventional deterrent. Secondly, Soviet superiority in numbers of men and in conventional arms is likely to be a long-lasting fact of life. Thirdly, it is likely to be a part of Soviet policy to maintain towards Western Europe an invasion capability for,the foreseeable future. Lastly, the Soviet military dominate the policies of the Soviet State in a way which has no parallel in Western democracy. Inside the Soviet borders the military have a domestic purpose to back up the Communist élite and outside those borders, they have the duty of policing developments in the satellite countries. This is in addition to the protection of the Soviet State itself in Europe and the Far East.
It is both true and desirable that substantial reductions can be made on both sides in nuclear weapons without affecting their deterrent role. However, the problem of the mismatch between Soviet and NATO conventional arms cannot be solved in the short term without nuclear arms. The French Government obviously see it in this way, as is shown by their recent decision to modernise their nuclear forces.
Concerning Anglo-Soviet relations overall, the Prime Minister has said that Mr. Gorbachev is "someone she can do business with". I wish we could do more business. By "business" I mean trade with the Soviet Union. Since the early 1960s there have been frequent promises of expanded trade. Indeed, Mr.
66 Gorbachev made a great point of it on his visit here. However, those promises have not been fulfilled. I hope that when the Prime Minister visits Moscow she will not participate in a routine repetition of those promises without some greater expectation of fulfilment.
The execution of Soviet diplomacy has shown some considerable change in recent times—at least the public relations aspect of it has done so. That no doubt reflects in part the influence and experience of the experts on American affairs who are now in charge of the Soviet Foreign Office. However, I have every confidence that the Secretary of State, if not the media, will be able to distinguish between public relations and the reality of the underlying policies. Historically, people in this country have been strangely gullible whenever the Soviet Union chooses to exercise its public relations capabilities.
The gracious Speech refers to our relations with the European Community. In general, I consider the present situation to be disappointing. The subject has been fully discussed in this House over recent weeks and to good effect. Some genuine doubts have been allayed. However, nothing can disguise the slow progress in drawing together the strength of Western Europe in this highly competitive world. We used to say in the last war that the speed of the convoy is the speed of the slowest ship. Slow ships have joined the EC convoy since it was first assembled and we ourselves have from time to time hindered its progress.
All parties in the United Kingdom should constantly remind themselves how necessary it is for our long-term economic survival to improve the working of the Community and to amend and sometimes abandon some of its outdated economic policies. However, the day when the EC members quickly, unquestioningly fall into line with each other is still far off. Maybe the vision held by so many of a Europe effectively united in purpose and policies may not be attainable in this generation. However, much can be done to improve the present deficiencies and the Government deserve credit for their efforts and for some of their successes.
The Royal visit to China, so eloquently referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, was timely and successful. With the agreement on Hong Kong we must accustom ourselves to a new basis for our influence in the Far East. That basis can only be built on friendship, increased trade and cultural links with China itself. The noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, will have appreciated that the House is very grateful to him for the remarkable and highly successful initiative he took in organising the collection of money which led to Her Majesty's announcement of a substantial scholarship fund. I have not seen the latest Anglo-Chinese trade figures; but it is clear that there has been in part a large increase in British industrial interest. However, it will require stamina, both physical and financial, to secure the place in Chinese trade which our industry should command.
The resolution of the problem of Hong Kong, once so sensitive and apparently intractable, reminds us all that the issue of Gibraltar remains unsettled. There is an air of optimism, but it would not take much for it to develop dangerously. Public opinion in both 67 countries can be very volatile on this subject. No doubt both parties to the dispute will—as we did over Hong Kong—have to make adjustments to long-established historical perceptions. The long delay in past decades to face the facts over the Falklands led to the unhappy dilemma in which we now find ourselves. It is easy to criticise the recent move on fishing zones, and certainly in the short term it has left us in an isolated position. In that position the memory of the success of the Falklands campaign is greatly diminished internationally by the appearance of obstinacy in its aftermath.
I know that the current practice is to disregard the United Nations Organisation as a constructive element in the settlement of international disputes. However, it is in nobody's interest that the organisation should be constantly downgraded. The Anglo-Argentinian dispute must be resolved. I should like to see the Secretary General of the United Nations or an intermediary begin to try to find a way through. He would not succeed at once, but he could begin the process, which will no doubt be long, of bringing to an end the present arm's length situation where positions untenable in the long run are regarded as sacrosanct.
Had there been time, I should like to have spoken more fully on South Africa and the Middle East, which in my view are both questions which are impossible to solve without further years of manoeuvring and negotiations. It is not unreasonable to hold passionate views about apartheid, but it is unreasonable to propose policies dictated only by passion and not by reason. Selective sanctions, very widely agreed and honestly applied, hold some expectation of fruitful result.
All-embracing and punitive sanctions applied for the sake of appearance and against the advice of liberal South Africans—black and white—will make a bad situation worse and prevent the development of an essential dialogue. The dispute over sanctions last summer within the Commonwealth brought some realism into that important and valued relationship. One hopes that the ill-considered statements of those who are not without blemish themselves in matters of discrimination will not be repeated at the projected Commonwealth meeting in Canada.
British foreign policy is often accused of only being reactive. In the short term, I suppose that it is. The noble Lord, Lord Walston, referred to the desirability of strategic planning for the future. However, when he told the story of Ernest Bevin and the diplomatic correspondents, I wondered how near the mark many of those diplomatic correspondents would have been if they had started to write down their forecast of the past 30 years and how totally unable they would have been to anticipate what in fact has taken place.
However, for the present, in my view, the areas in which we should try to take a lead in British foreign policy are: the protection of our own and European security through NATO; the promotion of political and economic unity within the EC; the liberalisation of trade through the GATT; the reduction of the world debt problem; the intelligent use of overseas aid; and the discharge of our responsibilities towards our remaining colonial territories.
68 So far as concerns the Middle East, the policy of the Western powers seems at the moment to be in total confusion. Is it reasonable to ask the Government for a clearer statement of their policy in what is without doubt a situation of great danger? Are we to attempt to play a serious part or have we abandoned any role at all?
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham:
My Lords, I wish to refer to two points. The first is the cost of defence, and the second is the Reykjavik conference and the connected problems of nuclear deterrence. I see that in the gracious Speech the Government say that they will,maintain the United Kingdom's own defences and play an active part in the Atlantic Alliance.Well and good, but I hope it is understood that the cost of defence is steadily mounting because of the increasing complexity and sophistication of the weapons. To maintain the same degree of defensiveness, you have probably to accept increasing expenditure year after year.
Then they say a little further on:My Government will honour their commitments to the people of the Falkland Islands".With that also I heartily agree. I must say that I welcome the suggestion that the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow, has just made that the Secretary-General of the United Nations could set in motion discussions that might lead to the solution of this problem. However the one thing we must not do if we are hoping to get a solution is to give the impression that we have already decided that we cannot afford to defend the Falklands and that we are looking for a way of disembarrassing ourselves of the problem.
If we give that impression we certainly shall not be successful, so I hope that the Government realise, when they give this commitment here, that they are taking on something that is expensive and may become more expensive as time goes by. I hope they realise that.
In that case, why is it that in a later paragraph of the Queen's Speech they say that they want the proportion of the national wealth that goes on public expenditure steadily to decline? We cannot have it both ways. I take it we all hope that the total wealth of the country will go on increasing year after year, and that this should mean an increase both in private personal incomes and in public expenditure. However, there are a number of fields of public expenditure where you are bound to face a considerable increase in expense, and I suggest that this must be so in defence because of the increasing sophistication of weapons.
It is so in health for the same reason—the increasing sophistication of the equipment required to keep people in good health and prolong their lives. Something similar is true of education and housing. It is unwise therefore for the Government to give this general pledge that what is spent on public expenditure will become a continually decreasing proportion of the total national wealth. I do not think that that can fit with the commitments on defence given in the earlier part of the Queen's Speech.
When I have raised this matter before in debates of this kind I have always been told by the Government 69 representative replying for the foreign affairs section of the debate, "Of course we shall deal with this subject next Wednesday, because it is an economic matter". That is all very well. You can divide up policy for the purposes of the debate, but in fact what we propose to do about defence and what we can afford in all fields are closely hound up together. I should like the Government to reflect on this.
The other matter is the Reykjavik conference and the related questions of nuclear weapons. My own reaction to the Reykjavik conference from the time we knew the result to the present day has been one of complete and increasing bewilderment. I am, after all, not a skilled soldier or scientist but a simple politician and I find it harder and harder to discover in what way this conference could be claimed, as it now is in many quarters, as being a remarkable success. So far as I could see, at the end of the day they agreed on nothing whatever. The two principal persons proclaimed their commitment to the desire for peace and disarmament, and they also firmly declared that they were not going to agree with each other. As the conference was being held in Iceland, I could not help being reminded of that hero of Icelandic saga of whom it was related that he worshipped Christ but called upon Thor in emergencies. It seems to be a habit not uncommon among people responsible for national defences.
I am looking forward to hearing the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, taking up the battle with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, at the end of the debate. I think we all will listen to that with great interest. I hope also that the noble Lord will answer the questions about Reykjavik put to him by my noble friend Lord Cledwyn.
My noble friend Lord Cledwyn referred to an article that appeared in the Daily Telegraph In that same article it was suggested that if the proposals for arms reduction that were trailed before us at Reykjavik had in fact been adopted, it would have been difficult for this country to maintain its own defences or its own independent deterrent. Would the Government have liked to see the proposals that were put out at Reykjavik, and which foundered on the question of star wars, actually coming into practice? Are they satisfied that the United States is paying sufficient attention to the needs of its allies' defences as well as its own?
On the whole question of nuclear weapons, I listened with great interest to the account of the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, of how he secured a united policy for his party. I am sure that this great achievement will resound down the ages. But I must admit—and it may seem to be showing a lack of respect to him—that I recognise that this question of an independent British deterrent is important; whether we should have one, what it should be, and what it ought to cost. However, I want to say that it is not the major question in the whole argument about nuclear weapons.
The major question, which is a moral as well as a political, defence and financial question, is, "Do you want to be connected with nuclear weapons in your defence or not? Do you want to be a member of an alliance which is unquestionably a nuclear alliance?" NATO depends in its whole working on the 70 assumption that the United States possesses enormous nuclear power. Any nation that belongs to NATO cannot escape the fact that it is, by merely belonging to that alliance, under the protection of the American nuclear umbrella, and it is no good at all trying to deny that—unless of course we were to try to denuclearise the whole of NATO. I cannot imagine that anyone really wants to do that and see the NATO countries without nuclear weapons in the face of the Warsaw Pact with its present armoury.
I conclude therefore that on this major question the answer must be that we want this country to continue to be an active member of the Atlantic alliance; and that means, irrespective of whether we have our own special British nuclear deterrent, that we co-operate with the United States in the organisation necessary for nuclear warfare. If we were to withdraw the whole British contribution to the nuclear armoury of NATO—not only the weapons themselves but the arrangements we make for where they are to be sited, and so on—that would cause an enormous wrench in the whole structure of NATO and it is difficult to know whether the alliance would recover from it.
I trust therefore that, whatever comes out of all this, this country will remain a firm member of NATO on the understanding that NATO is a nuclear alliance and that the commitment to the alliance is a commitment to nuclear weapons.
§ Lord Kennet:
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord a question before he sits down? I believe that the noble Lord has spoken with great courage. Has he anything to say about the withdrawal of nuclear weapons from the British Rhine Army, which would then leave them holding the only sector of the front where a Western army was not provided with nuclear weapons? Would this not therefore constitute a direct invitation to the choice of that sector for attack?
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham:
My Lords, I do not think that what the noble Lord says can be disputed. I disagree with it for that reason.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Lord Moran:
My Lords, I want, if I may, to make two main points, the first of which follows from what the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, has just been saying.
The experience of my professional life has led me to the conviction that diplomatic initiatives need to be prepared unhurriedly, with very great care and thoroughness, in the fullest consultation with all those in one's own government machine who can tell one what the consequences are likely to be in the areas they know about. What can happen if this is not done was shown very clearly by the collapse of the Suez adventure in 1956. It is therefore worrying that some recent initiatives by the staff of the White House under Mr. Donald Regan appear to have been launched without such consultation. Reports from Washington claim that the recent secret discussions with Iran, whatever their objective, have been conducted without any consultation with the State Department, the Pentagon, or even the CIA.
Of more direct concern to us were the proposals on missiles tabled by President Reagan at the Iceland 71 summit. But here again the Supreme Allied Commander for Europe, General Rogers, let it be known that he had not been consulted about the military effects of the 100–100 option for reducing intermediate-range missiles. According to the knowledgable Senator Nunn, the US chiefs of staff were not consulted either. All this is not reassuring. The 100–100 option—withdrawing all intermediate missiles in Europe, SS.20s, Pershing Its and cruise—sounds attractive, though we must remember that the Americans would have to take their weapons back across the Atlantic while the Russians would only have to take theirs back to central Russia, whence they could easily be brought back. But both General Rogers and the Germans have pointed out that such a step must be linked with measures that balance short-range missiles, in which the Russians reportedly have a nine to one superiority.
The Times on 23rd October, reporting on the Gleneagles meeting of the Nuclear Planning Group, said:the West Germans are seriously concerned that the United States and Soviet Union could strike a deal over intermediate nuclear forces … without taking into account the hundreds of short-range missiles which are based in East Germany and Czechoslovakia … The Germans were adamant that the two groups of missiles had to be discussed together.But the same report quoted British sources as saying:The Germans want a binding commitment to negotiate a reduction in all short-range missiles, but we feel that it would be unwise to put too many weapons systems into the same basket.If the Americans say that the best they can do is an agreement on INF, which would mean the withdrawal of cruise and Pershing II from Europe, then our response would be to take it.I should like to ask the Minister who is to wind up for the Government whether this really is our position. I hope not. The German view seems to the layman to be eminently reasonable. I was greatly surprised that my noble and gallant friend Lord Carver said that we should disregard the doubts of the Germans and the American military leaders. I was somewhat reassured by what the noble Baroness, Lady Young, said about this in opening the debate and by the remarks of the Prime Minister in another place yesterday when she said:The Government would support the conclusion of an intermediate nuclear forces agreement … But such an agreement must be accompanied … by agreement on how to deal with shorter-range nuclear missiles, of which the Soviet Union has many more than NATO—and it is worth remembering that large areas of Britain are within range of those weapons."—[Official Report, Commons, 12/11/1986; col. 23.]Equally serious is the question of conventional weapons, and, as the Prime Minister reminded us on Monday, of chemical weapons. My three years in Hungary brought home vividly to me the great strength of the conventional forces of the Warsaw Pact. I saw very sophisticated amphibious tanks swimming down the Danube, great numbers of Warsaw Pact aircraft in the skies and Red Army transport on the roads.
Earlier in this debate some speakers threw doubt on how great the imbalance with the Warsaw Pact really is. But it seems to me to have been spelt out very clearly indeed in Annex A of the Government's Statement on the Defence Estimates 1986. I quote just two of the comparisions: in artillery, NATO has 3,000 72 and the Warsaw Pact 8,800; in fixed-wing tactical aircraft, NATO has 1,250 and the Warsaw Pact 2,650. That is the current balance of forces on the central front.
If nuclear weapons are removed without arrangements to replace conventional weapons is not the West's deterrent undermined and does not Western Europe become a much more dangerous place? For NATO to match Warsaw Pact conventional forces seems to me to be quite outside the realm of practical politics. After all, we have for 30 years in Vienna been trying to reach an agreement on conventional forces. But the Russians will not even admit that there is an imbalance. I am not surprised that General Rogers is somewhat concerned and that the Germans are anxious. I am very glad that the Prime Minister is to see President Reagan on Saturday. Her robust remarks at the Guildhall on Monday were very welcome. I hope that she can persuade him to be more cautious from now on, for in Reykjavik he seems nearly to have been bounced by the Russians into signing rash agreements—so at least it seems to one dependent for information on press reports. It would be helpful if the Minister, who knows the facts, would spell out in his concluding speech how it looks to Her Majesty's Government.
The second point I want to make is a general point about our foreign policy. It is a plea for rather more hardheaded realism, rather more standing up for what we ourselves consider is right. rather more independence, and rather less make-believe and wishful thinking and less modification of our policies to compromise with others. Sometimes we do adopt a realistic hardheaded approach. We did so over the admirable Hong Kong agreement, on which those who negotiated deserve our warm congratulations. This led to the excellent relations we now enjoy with China, of which the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, and my noble friend Lord Greenhill have spoken. We have done so in the recent announcement on the Falkland Islands fishing zone, though I think we should have encountered rather fewer problems if we had firmly announced that four years ago. The Prime Minister did so robustly over sanctions in South Africa despite enormous clamour to have general and punitive sanctions.
However, we still cherish some illusions. The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, said that he thought we still had some influence in the Middle East. Maybe we have, but I am inclined to doubt it. We talk a great deal about our role, but I wonder how much influence we have on key players such as President Assad, Khomeini and indeed Mr. Shamir.
Perhaps I may say a word about terrorism. Here I should like to applaud the tough line the Government have taken, but there are great difficulties in this field too. I noticed that on the very day, 4th November, when we announced that there would be Anglo-Soviet talks on combating terrorism, the Soviet Ambassador to Egypt described our severing of relations with Syria as "an act of state terrorism". That shows that we have a good long way to go in that field. And I think it is perhaps kinder to forget the remarks made by M. Chirac in his Washington interview.
I have argued in earlier debates that efforts to evolve a common Community foreign policy, in which we all 73 move as one, contains for the moment a large element of make-believe. For example, on Greece I agree very much with what the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, said. When I see Mr. Papandreou claiming that President Assad is his good friend and that there is a special relationship between Greece and Syria, and his rejection of our very clear evidence of what Syrian government agents were up to in this country, there come to mind the words of that great lover of Greece, Lord Byron:For what is left the poet here,For Greeks a blush—for Greece a tear".There are other difficulties towards a common policy. I have mentioned before the problem that all but one country in the Community belong to NATO and that Ireland is neutral, which means that on the fundamental questions of East-West they are bound to take a different view; and more recently over the Falkland Islands we have seen the announcement by Spain that they do not recognise our fisheries zone and they seem almost to be inviting their fishermen to defy our regulations. I hope that it will not come to that.
I think therefore that it is very difficult to reach a common view except on matters which are not of fundamental importance to any of the member states. But of course we need to seek the widest support for our views and I hope that we shall continue to pursue policies which we regard as sensible, which are very carefully worked out and which support British interests, and that we shall not be blown off course by the views of others.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Lord Weidenfeld
My Lords, this debate has proved abundantly that lying athwart the whole complex of our foreign relations and defence, of burning urgency and unchallenged priority is our relationship and that of Europe with the United States. As my work makes me spend part of the year in America, perhaps I may be allowed to talk about those United States concerns and European reactions which vex Americans and seem to bar progress on the common road of the Atlantic alliance. Of course it is well understood that grievances are mutual, that true democracies are pluralistic and that no democracy is more pluralistic than the United States. Washington often speaks through more than one voice and, recently and very irritatingly, it speaks through many voices. But basically we have an American Administration who have a deep and courteous concern for European and British interests, a proven record of loyalty and solidarity.
Although America may be moving towards the Pacific and South-West—in the 1984 elections, the President could easily have been elected by the votes of the South and West alone—and although none of the last four American Presidents hails from the Eastern seaboard, the American taxpayer is today fully committed to paying 400 million dollars a day for the defence of Europe. Reagan, Shultz and Weinberger, three Californians, in my view speak more courteously to their Atlantic allies than some of the gruff, Boston Brahmins and putative Anglophiles of earlier post-war administrations.
74 There are deep psychological changes which the sensitive on both sides must take into account—a massive reversal of roles. Before the war, the British had a worldwide vision and an abiding sense of responsibility. The Americans at that time did all the finger wagging, eyebrow raising and backseat driving. Today, this role seems to have fallen to Europe and causes irritation and dismay. It touches nowhere more painfully than on those three sensitive issues; nuclear defence and the pivotal role of SDI, the turbulence in Central America, and the scourge of terrorism and the dilemma of how to combat it.
There is puzzlement, indeed consternation, about the thrust of the nuclear debate in Europe. The confusing signals of European requests for renewed assurances that America's nuclear shield will remain intact and the new desire for nuclear disarmament on any terms, including unilateralism, strengthen the isolationist sentiment in both of America's political parties. The spectre of a Labour Britain, denuded of the nuclear deterrent, casts the whole of NATO's future into doubt. Mr. Kinnock's assurances that a non-nuclear Britain nevertheless could be a NATO loyalist, provokes the answer that NATO, if it still existed, would have no room for a Britain stripped to its conventional waist. Only a political Neanderthaler would honestly believe that a few hundred more tanks or frigates would seriously deter the Soviet power.
There is such a thing as the provocation of weakness, which sometimes tempts even a less than bellicose power—any power—to step into a vacuum and impose its will with a mixture of self-righteousness and greed. The Americans are not so much concerned with arguments about which weapon systems are to be retained, replaced or adapted; it is the principle of the nuclear contribution and the deployment of nuclear arms in Western Europe which is paramount. Opposition to SDI is seen to be a form of defence Ludditism. To stop technological advance is unhistorical and unreasonable. The enormous advantages accruing to mankind from the gigantic strides forward in research and experiment are self-evident. The Soviets know why they are so fiercely opposed. I believe that their real concern with SDI is not only the factor of strategic imbalance but also the dramatic effect of SDI-linked technology, not least on conventional warfare. Laser technology alone can dramatically improve conventional weapons and perhaps give NATO forces incremental strength outweighing their inferiority in numbers.
American observers distinguish between the often muddle-headed ideals of pacifist purists of the younger and youngest generations who "knew not Joseph" and the sophistry of those who should know better. I must say in all honesty that I am amazed by the many orations of Labour's Shadow Foreign Secretary, Mr. Healey, who not only knew Joseph but was one of his brethren. No more persuasive champion of the European and British nuclear deterrent ever held the post of Defence Minister in any NATO country.
The basic grudge Americans hold against those European voices who hector and harass her about her policies in Central America is that people in distant lands forget how close, how immediately relevant and potentially menacing the turbulence in Central America is to the United States. She borders on three 75 countries: Canada, the USSR and Mexico. Presently, there are no US military forces along the whole of her southern border. Yet 55 per cent, of US seaborne trade passes through the Caribbean; 50 per cent. of US crude oil imports pass through the Caribbean; and 50 per cent. of US supplies to NATO in time of crisis would pass through the Caribbean. An unstable border region would require substantial redeployment of US forces, especially in any European emergency.
America's evaluation of what goes on in Nicaragua is not always given sufficient credence by some European governments and media. Whatever the roots of the tragedy in that and some of the surroundings countries may be, nothing is more dangerous than to think in stereotypes and the Manichean formula of good versus evil. Throughout Central America, with the possible exception of Costa Rica, there is no tradition of fair government, parliamentary democracy or human rights on a Western European and especially British scale of values. Corrupt and bloodthirsty juntas relieve one another and vie in excessive practices. Of course past American administrations might have done much more to assert their influence in mitigating social ills, political oppression and human rights violations.
It is fair and good that public opinion everywhere should monitor transgressions and counsel reformist action, but ultimately the enlightened self-interest of a super power must be considered and a country such as Nicaragua that shows every sign of becoming a Marxist-Leninist dictatorship, with Cuban, East German and Russian instructors and militants controlling its Security Services and police, with the PLO for good measure supervising civil aviation, constitutes a threat to the security of the United States.
I have spoken to Nicaraguan dissidents and reliable expert witnesses such as the well-known reporter, Elizabeth Weymouth of the Los Angeles Times Mirror and Washington Post, who have recently returned from the area. They all seem to corroborate the case of the Administration. Washington feels that we in Europe should give an ally the benefit of the doubt and trust the robustly functioning and, on balance, fair democratic system of America to deal equitably with contentious issues in her own backyard.
The judgment at the Old Bailey, convicting, as it were, Syria of state terrorism, has been an historic turning point, for long-held suspicions have been confirmed and grim warnings vindicated. But will they be heeded? Of that triad of terrorist states, Iran may be the passionate heart, Libya the flailing arm, but Syria is the brain and nerve centre. The Syrian record of action of complicity goes back a long way, and is by now well-known. Landmarks of the last five years have been the assassination of the French Ambassador Delamarre in Beirut in September 1981, the bombing raids on American and French headquarters in the Lebanon in 1983, various murders of moderate PLO leaders, especially Issam Sartawi in Portugal in 1984, and terror raids against the French forces of UNIFIL, up to the recent series of outrages on French soil. All these crimes originated either on Syrian-held Lebanese soil or in Syria itself.
76 Syria has at its helm a man whose deft footwork, devious mind and ruthless will mark him as the most dangerous and the most effective culprit. Assad shelters Abu Nidal and other kindred arch-terrorists. He provides them with logistical support, safe houses, arms, passports and, through inter-Arab channels, with more than adequate finance. In the Lebanon, he misused his mandate from the Arab League and, far from bringing peace and order, he fanned the flame of civil strife not only in the Moslem camp but also in the Christian community. The Syrian embassies in London and East Berlin are only two uncovered hornets' nests of international subversion.
The Western world—including, I am afraid, the United States—has often been side-tracked into playing along with terrorist states. Western leaders have been impressed by Assad, even dazzled by the brilliant ease with which he performs his minuets—three steps back, one step forward: a hijack, a kidnap, a plastic bomb, then an offer of mediation; the exchange of a few prisoners; the release of the wooden coffin of a slain victim. It is to the credit—the historic credit—of the right honourable lady the Prime Minister to have reacted with dignity and strength and spoken for all civilised mankind.
Sir Geoffrey Howe's appeal to the EC to take stringent measures against Syria has met with muted positive response. It has been marred by the unnecessary indiscretion on the part of the French Prime Minister. This has been mentioned before in the debate, but I am still puzzled by how and why Mr. Chirac should have made some of the remarks that he undoubtedly did make to Arnaud de Borchgrave, an author and old friend of mine, of whose integrity I am fully convinced.
I have good reason also for believing that the German Chancellor can be wholly exonerated from any allegations against him. I understand that he neither mentioned, let alone endorsed, rumours of Israeli and dissident Syrian involvement, and that he considered this as an example of disinformation and psychological warfare aimed at fudging the effect of the Old Bailey court ruling.
The attitude of the Greek Government is more than disappointing. To be frank, the present stance of the Papandreou regime with regard to European unity and Atlantic solidarity is a veritable Greek gift to Europe.
But we must be watchful that last Monday's London communique is a constructive step towards collective action and not an ephemeral token gesture. Europe must not falter again. What is at stake is not only its political clout but its claim to be a civilising force. A relapse into rank appeasement would put Europe in grave danger of sliding into a processs of Levantinism—Euro-Levantinism.
British public opinion stands squarely behind the Government. Most newspapers have urged wider measures of retaliation. There have been reminders throughout the European press of the barbarian nature of the Syrian regime—the massacre of thousands in the city of Hama, and the recent Amnesty International report which pillories Syria for using torture at every stage of detention. The Editor of the Sunday Telegraph, for example, suggests the idea of endorsing Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights. 77 Whatever its merits, I should think that even the sternest critic of Israel must surely pause and reflect on the need for watchfulness and toughness on the part of any responsible government when confronted with a neighbour such as Assad's Syria.
If we wish to face the brutal truth, is this not also the right hour to reassess the role of the Palestine Liberation Organisation and its record? The PLO has offices in Britain co-ordinating massive campaigns on the campuses of our universities and polytechnics and within trade unions and professions. There is a tendency to stress the distinction between the Syrian-backed bands of Abu Nidal and Abu Moussa and those who keep their fealty to Yassar Arafat. But let me give you one figure: in the 19 years of the PLO's existence, 500 people were killed and over 2,000 maimed in operations outside Israel. Ninety per cent. of all the victims were non-Jews and non-Israelis, chiefly Europeans, Americans and Arabs.
The Syrian-backed faction operated in isolation only in the last four or five years, but, throughout this 19-year period, Arafat's Al Fatah hit men stalked the pavements of London, Paris, Berlin, Munich, Rome and Athens. One of its leaders planned the "Achille Lauro" outrage. Only the other day the PLO claimed credit for murders in Cyprus and Jerusalem. It manifestly opposes each and every effort, including that by Her Majesty's Government, in the direction of peaceful negotiations.
Would a move to delegitimise the PLO office be detrimental, as some appeasers claim, to peace moves in the Middle East? I suppose the very opposite is the case. It would help tens of thousands of peace-loving Arabs on the West Bank to create a new representative leadership which, without surrendering their ideals and aspirations for self-government, would be prepared to parley, either independently or with the help of Jordan, with the Israelis. It would enable the United States to resume its initiative, for which it would seek and, I hope, receive the help of Britain and Europe. It would relieve much of the menace—the deadly menace—of assassination and blackmail that hangs over the lives of West Bank notables and ordinary citizens.
My Lords, compromising and condoning terrorism, finding a rationale for bland inaction, is not only an offence against morality; it is also plain lack of political common sense, and flies in the very face of all canons of real-politik and elementary psychology. Have we not yet perceived that Assad, Gaddafi and company will yield only to strength and tough, concerted action? Financial concessions and clandestine side deals will never sway them. Theirs are fine-tuned ears. They sense the faintest mumblings of dithering, dissent and jitters. Have we not perceived that those paying ransom and bowing down to blackmail among their neighbours and clients in the region listen anxiously for a signal that Europe is resolved to back both Britain and America but that, in the absence of such action, they feel they must join in a chorus of anti-Western chants? The Libyan raid was in my view a textbook case: it shook the Libyan regime and made for a relatively quiet summer. In my view, that quiet would have persisted but for the emotional explosion of European dissent. A hard, united attitude in support of 78 America's act of self-defence might have secured the fall of Gaddafi.
What are the arguments for a muted response to Syria? It is said that, unlike Libya, she has the strong support of the USSR. Does anyone really believe that the Soviet Union would risk a conflagration on an issue of patent state terrorism? Of course she will defend her client by deafening propaganda but, in the face of united diplomatic and economic action on the part of the West, she will not act rashly. The Soviets have always had a somewhat uneasy feeling about traceable state terrorism, for they themselves have not been immune to painful incidents on Soviet soil. Then there is the argument that Syria might be needed for the peace process in the Arab-Israeli dispute. This is a farcical suggestion, since Syria has actively impeded each and every move to bringing about a settlement by negotiation.
Finally, there is the argument that Assad's or Gaddafi's fall might bring about a change for the worse, and that more obnoxious leaders may be waiting in the wings. That was the argument of the appeasers in the 1930s who claimed that Hitler, though bad, was still not yet the worst, and that far more radical fanatics of the Right—or of the left—might supersede him.
No, my Lords, the battle against terrorism and the terrorist states must go on. The United States Government have announced that they are considering further measures against Syria, and we in Europe should correlate ours, for what is at stake is not only human lives, European and British lives, but also European and British self-respect.
Consensus in planning and consistency in action may yet win the day in the battle against terrorism. Moreover, it would open, rather than close, the road to resumption of the peace process. It would enable conciliatory forces in Israel to parley with Jordan and a new, representative leadership of Palestinian Arabs, with the active support of the United States and the European Community, including Britain. Above all, consistency and determination would help to cement the most precious asset that we have in the field of world affairs and peace-making—the Atlantic Alliance.
§ 7 p.m.
Lord St. John of Bletso
My Lords, I wish to take as my text the passage in the gracious Speech referring to South Africa. Worldwide attention is currently focused on punitive measures to end apartheid, to lift the state of emergency, to release political prisoners and to grant Parliamentary representation to the black population.
There has been a plethora of literature on the subject of sanctions—arguments, commissions, newspaper articles. I pose the question to your Lordships: What type of economy and political dispensation would the world like to see in South Africa in 10 years' time? Would they like to see an economic wasteland? I ask this because of the direct effects of sanctions.
I do not wish to debate at length on the subject of sanctions because I know many noble Lords have already spoken on the subject. The most profound effect that sanctions have had is a psychological one of the South African economy. It has weakened the 79 economy; it has worsened the unemployment. There is currently a 2.6 per cent. population growth rate—almost 300,000 new job-seekers enter the market per year. Almost 8,000 jobs are lost per month. It might stagger your Lordships to realise that over 40 per cent. of the population is under 20 years of age. In order to keep blacks, whites and everyone in jobs, the country needs a 5 per cent. economic growth rate. Last year there was a negative economic growth rate. This year it is likely that there will be about a l½ per cent. growth rate.
The majority of surveys show that blacks want pressure to be put on the Government to end the morally indefensible principle and policies of apartheid, but they do not support economic sanctions. Sanctions, I contend, will not in the short term bring the Government to their knees. They have already led to the polarisation of the community. Indeed, sanctions are seen by many as a moral gesture rather than a practical one.
There is no quick "fix" for the situation in South Africa. It is highly complex, with a diversity of different population groups. I believe that what economic sanctions have done has been to place the Government back into the laager mentality. I say this because I have spent all my life in South Africa. I was born in England and I went out there when I was three months old. I have resided for 29 years in Cape Town. What the sanctions campaign has done has been to undermine successfully confidence among investors in South Africa. Note, however, that once confidence is undermined it may never be fully recovered even in a changed South Africa. I would go so far as to say that the sanctions campaign is a violent option.
Much of the unrest has its origins in socio-economic deprivation. I was a solicitor in Cape Town for several years and many of my cases were criminal ones concerning children who really did not have anything better to do than to go out and commit the most trivial crimes. It is frustration. Rising unemployment falls into the hands of the right-wingers as well as of the left-wingers. I notice, as a rather horrifying statistic and a very emotive issue, that over 350 people have died from the "necklacings" horror in South Africa, since the phenomenon appeared last year.
Change is more likely to occur from internal pressure, from industrial strikes and from pressures exerted on the Government by the business community. I mentioned in my last speech in your Lordships' House on 3rd July the position that would occur should every black worker drop tools for just two weeks. They could bring the means of production almost to a total standstill. Would that not be a more viable alternative than punishing the nation with economic sanctions?
If sanctions were to have an effect, it would need to be a universal effort with monitoring of all imports and exports to and from South Africa. It would need to be universally monitored to be short and quick. As I have already said, sanctions, as imposed at the moment, can only bring about a slow decay of the economy. I go so far as to say that for every sanction which is imposed there are two sanction-busters round the corner. Many South Africans are making a fortune out of sanction-busting.
80 In my last speech I stated that the Government was on an unstoppable and irreversible reform programme. I feel that it is necessary to acknowledge that major reforms have taken place such as the abolition of the pass laws, the opening of central business districts to all, the repeal of the Mixed Marriages Act and the granting of full property rights to blacks. However, the backbone of the apartheid legislation remains: the Group Areas Act. I had hoped that the Act would be totally repealed. It is currently under revision by the President's Council. At the recent meeting between President Botha and the business community, he stated there would be grey areas. This indeed is a slight revision of the Group Areas Act. But why, my Lords, do they need to keep that Act? Since they repealed the Group Areas Act in South West Africa (Namibia), it has made no difference whatsoever. I consider apartheid to be totally morally indefensible. What is necessary is a positive move towards the total repeal of the apartheid laws.
I wish at this stage to make brief mention of a few of the recent developments in South Africa. I have mentioned the meeting between the Government and the business community. What really happened there—the positive element—was that it showed a sign of the willingness of the Government to take heed of the pressures being exerted by the business community. The Government were apt not to take full heed of the pressures exerted by the business community last year.
Mention should also be made of last week's cabinet reshuffle in South Africa. I feel that this has performed two functions. First, it has consolidated the power-base of President Botha. Secondly, it has made provision for a siege economy. The South African newspaper Business Day, has outlined the effect as follows:
The essence of the changes, we suspect, is a preparation for sanctions and a siege economy, in which the central government will have control of information, tax, tariffs, prices, costs, expenditures and anything else it cares to take over. It is the opposite of democracy.".That just reinforces my point that economic sanctions are counter-productive.
Thirdly, the recent bomb attacks in South Africa—attacks on soft targets: innocent civilians, whites, blacks, Indians and coloureds, mercilessly killed. Is this the right way ahead for South Africa? I believe all such attacks can do is to fortify the cause of the ultra right-wing Afrikaans Weerstrandsbeweging.
The country is currently in a stalemate situation. It is necessary to build bridges to resolve the deadlock. On one side there is a government which is not prepared to legalise the ANC or release Nelson Mandela until violence, which is arguably their main weapon, is renounced. Conversely, there is the ANC calling for the government to renounce violence. The government has introduced a National Statutory Council whose brief sounds very hopeful:To provide for participation in the planning and preparation of a new constitutional dispensation; the granting to black South Africans of a voice in the process of government in the interim period and the furtherance of sound relations among and the human dignity, rights and freedoms of all South Africans".While this sounds promising, it still does not meet the aspirations of the majority of South Africans. The 81 main hurdle is one of mistrust—mistrust by the blacks of the sincerity of the Government's reforms and conversely, mistrust of the whites of the so-called "swan gevaar", which is an Afrikaans word that means the 'black danger' should the blacks come to power. It is inevitable that there will one day be a black government. I only hope that the people of South Africa can take that stealthy step into the unknown.
One possible starting point and solution which could develop a bridge between the conflicting parties is a mutually agreed bill of rights. All the parties concerned want a bill of rights. The African National Congress Freedom Charter calls for a universal bill of rights. Recently the Nationalist party and the Minister of Justice called for a bill of rights but with protection for property rights. Obviously this would go against the universal bill of rights of the ANC, but surely this is a starting point? In addition, the Federated Chamber of Commerce has called for a Bill of Rights and so has the Opposition, the Progressive Federal Party.
I should like to quote from a recent presentation given by the well-known civil rights advocate in South Africa, Sydney Kentridge.There is still time for change. I have no doubt that one of the most positive things which government could do in the time available would be to accept a bill of rights. By a bill of rights I mean a statute which could provide a real restraint on arbitrary executive action; which would preclude indefinite detention without trial; which would prevent forced removals of communities; which would undo bans on political organisations and individuals, so as to allow them to carry on open political activity: and which would dismantle apartheid by making discrimination on the grounds of race and colour actually illegal.".This could possibly be a bridge in breaking the deadlock.
But what viable alternatives are there to peaceful change in South Africa? Essentially, we all want the South African Government to give us some form of time horizon for their reform programme. What I propose to your Lordships is a recommendation which has also been endorsed by the South African business community. It is a Marshall Aid package drawn up by Her Majesty's Government and their partners in the EC outlining a programme of meaningful reforms and inducements such as the total repeal of all apartheid laws, a unified education system, the establishment of democratic structures, the unbanning of the ANC, a bill of civil rights and representation for blacks at central governments. These inducements would help to create labour-intensive industries, train teachers, build schools, raise housing standards for the poor and fund health care programmes. What is therefore needed is a fiscal support for the private sector initiatives across racial barriers such as the Urban foundation whose objectives are the improvement of housing, education, training and creation of career and employment opportunities. The Urban foundation is not a Government-funded body but a privately-funded body and it is here that I welcome the contribution made by Her Majesty's Government for the improvement of housing and education schemes in South Africa. The private sector and its alliances remain one of the few bridges to peace.
In conclusion, I believe that the South African Government is faced with the options of danger or disaster. The danger is to take the leap into the unknown; the disaster is to take the line that they are 82 currently taking, characterised by Dr. van Zyl Slabbert as the "violent evolution". It is important, as the noble Lord, Lord Barber, stated in his address on 3rd July, that the South African Government bring themselves to take the leap into the unknown. I fully support the policy of Her Majesty's Government in pursuing constructive peaceful change in South Africa, as outlined in the 6th Report from the Foreign Affairs Committee. Both sides (the South African Government and ANC) must realise that a negotiated settlement is preferable to an endless struggle.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords. the noble Lord will forgive me if I do not follow him down that path. The text for my own observations on the gracious Speech comes from an address by Mr. Harold Pinter when earlier this year both he and his wife, Antonia Fraser, were honoured by Hull University. Mr. Pinter said:We live within what seems to me to be a distinct and palpable discrepancy. We are glad to be alive today and look forward to being alive tomorrow. At the same time we draw closer and closer to death, by which I mean the destruction of the natural world and the end of civilization: in effect, the end of the world. The destructive force we have created is both systematic and random, since, while its targets are specific, its effects will be unbounded. The term 'end of the world' is perhaps a cliché, but I suggest that there is nothing banal about the facts to which it refers. What struck me as truly remarkable is that we live in the shadow of utter catastrophe and manage not to think about it".Mr. Pinter went on to say that in the previous year he had visited Turkey with Arthur Miller on behalf of International PEN and had met artists and academics who had spent some time in military prisons and who had been tortured. He said they had been imprisoned for their ideas and had committed no concrete acts against the state. He continued:The American Ambassador said to me: 'Mr. Pinter, I don't think you understand the realities of the situation here. You have to take into account the strategic reality, the military reality, the political reality'. 'The reality to which I am referring', I replied, 'is that of electric current attached to your genitals'. 'Sir', he said, 'you are a guest in my house', and turned on his heel. He found mention of that reality offensive. Indeed, so might you, since I am a guest in your house—but that is my point. We take refuge in finding offence in 'strong language' when it is the reality which is obnoxious, brutal and disgusting".Mr. Pinter then concluded:Some have declared nuclear war to be unimaginable. I don't think so. I suggest it requires only a moment's silence, a moment's thought, to imagine it quite clearly and vividly. We cower behind the fact that we have no language to describe it and, finding no language to describe it, limply assume it won't happen. The contrary is true. It may not happen only if we have the courage to find a language to describe it. At all events, it seems to me that we have a most serious obligation to think precisely, and to insist, therefore, upon accurate descriptions of actual facts. We cannot allow others to do our thinking for us. If we continue to submit to political rhetoric and political abstractions we are doomed".The relevance of what Mr. Pinter said to the gracious Speech is that this House manages to avoid discussion of the true reality within which we live.
One would not suppose from anything said so far that a man who purported to reveal the truth about Israel's development of nuclear weapons has been spirited out of this country and is now revealed to be in gaol in Jerusalem. If it is true that Israel is in possession of nuclear weapons, then it is time for us to think about the "utter catastrophe" to which Mr. 83 Pinter referred, for the Arab states will not tolerate that. They, too, will want to be able to destroy mankind and when that happens will be time to prepare for the end. We must face the reality of our situation. We are in the valley of the shadow of nuclear death. If we are to have any hope of emerging alive on the other side, we must recognise what our position is.
The Labour policy has been criticised and certainly it, in its turn, criticises the United States for its failure to accept anything savouring of peace, for its failure to match the Soviet moratorium on nuclear matters or to accept the target of a non-nuclear world by 2000AD. As I have indicated, it is my conviction that by the opening of the second millennium we shall either have that non-nuclear world or one in which the shattered remnants of the human species are moving painfully towards extinction.
We have not yet heard much of Labour's peace campaign. In the immediate aftermath of the American attack on Libya, Labour shot up in the polls and the Government declined. Since then our leader has been diverted into attacking the lesser target of the Militant Tendency and, whether or not that is the consequence, it happens that the Tories have caught up and passed us again in the polls while that has been going on. The lesson seems to me to he very clear. Forget Militant. Concentrate on peace. It is peace that the people of this country are concerned about. They are really worried about nuclear war and the Labour Party is the only party which puts that at the head of its programme. Therefore I welcome the Government's decision to place defence at the head of their programme and I suggest that we match them, face to face, placing our peace policy against their so-called defence policy. That, I think, is the way to victory for the Labour Party in the coming general election.
The noble Baroness, who has just temporarily left us, said that she is sorry about Libya and that the Government are sorrowful about the civilian casualties that have been inflicted upon the people of that country. But sorrow without compensation may be thought to be lacking in sincerity. And what about our charity organisations and the United Nations? Who has been to Tripoli to see the civilian victims? I happen to know of three people who have. They are not well-known people but one of them is a surgeon. They are recently back and, although I have not yet seen their report, I have seen a preliminary account of what they say, which states that over 50 civilian casualties were admitted to Tripoli central hospital alone, including the dozen or more who have died as a result of their injuries. The attack took place at two o'clock in the morning without any warning and the surgeon among the three said that the psychological results have been catastrophic.
American friends tell me that Mrs. Thatcher's complicity in this barbarous action—the murder of innocent people by the air power of a great nation—has been a great help in concealing from the bulk of United States citizens that their action in Libya was not a brave achievement but a disaster not least for them. For who, in future, will take seriously the complaints of Americans about terrorism when they themselves are guilty of this piece of unsurpassed state 84 terrorism—a crime whose very technical skill was the measure of its total inhumanity?
The United States is undoubtedly the greatest nation in the world and if it is capable of stooping to this, and rejoicing in it, there is little hope for the rest of us. Star wars, or the Strategic Defence Initiative as they call it—once again hiding the truth under words rather than revealing it—is no saviour of mankind. On the contrary, it could be the funeral pyre of our species. The gracious Speech conceals, rather than reveals the situation that we are in, but it is in line with Government policy, which is to use words not to explain themselves but to avoid doing so.
Before leaving Libya and the Americans, I must however mention their one very great saving grace. They always have within themselves the most trenchant critics of their own policy and of their own government. In this case I recommend to your Lordships a reading of Noam Chomsky of the Massachussetts Institute of Technology. On this subject he describes the American relationship to Libya in terms which I personally would hesitate to use—
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, he has asked us to reflect upon the civilian casualties which, sadly, did indeed take place as a result of the American raid on Libya. I wonder whether he would equally reflect upon the murder of Woman Police Constable Fletcher by a weapon shot from the Libyan diplomatic mission in London.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
Indeed, my Lords. I think it is right that we should reflect upon what has happened on our own soil, in our own country, by the action of a person in the Libyan Embassy. But the fact that a man of that country behaved in that fashion in no way excuses the great civilised nation, the great leader of the Christian tradition in the world, behaving in an even worse way. I shall not go on; I think the point is obvious.
In these circumstances there is a tendency for us to ask: What can we do? Is it that we are set upon a course which is bound to lead us in the end to total disaster? Is it the case that, having created the knowledge of the nuclear weapon, we are bound to have it and to deploy it? No, my Lords, that is not so. We have knowledge of many things which we do not deploy, do not use, do not gather, do not grow. We have 50,000 nuclear weapons about the place. We do not need to have them. That is the danger; not the knowledge. We cannot destroy the knowledge. That has been said in this House and it is true enough. But what we can do is to get rid of the weapons themselves and it is to that course that governments are theoretically devoted.
We are ourselves—the noble Lord will agree with me—signatories to a United Nations resolution in which we say that it is our ultimate objective to be rid of the nuclear weapon; indeed, to disarm totally. What I am complaining about is not that the ultimate objective is wrong—I think that the ultimate objective is absolutely right—but that we are not moving in that direction. We are moving in the opposite direction all the time, where the situation is getting more and more dangerous. Consequently, I think that Mr. Pinter's fears were very well justified.
85 Finally, I have just one more piece of evidence for my sad tale. I refer to the Colombian Nobel Prize winner, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. He said this:In the Golden Age of science, it does no honour to the talents of mankind to have conceived the means by which a multi-millennial process, so bountiful and colossal, should he returned to the nothingness from whence it came through the simple act of pushing a button.That is the position we have got ourselves into. I do not say that the Labour Party has all the answers but I do say that when my noble friend on the Front Bench comes to speak at the end of the debate he will be able to point to a policy which at least tries to take the steps towards getting us out of this situation, in contrast to the policy followed by the Government, which is to dig ourselves further into the shambles all the time.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Lord Annan
My Lords, I am afraid that I shall lower the tone of the debate in not following the high principles which the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, has been enunciating. I have only one reason for rising to speak. It is to persuade the Government, if I can, to be more unprincipled in their conduct of foreign affairs.
Should we not rely less on principle and more on following our nation's interests? When I have made this point in the past the noble Baroness has shaken her head sadly and regarded me as an advocate of Realpolitik. But to follow our national interest, as the noble Lord, Lord Moran, suggested, does not necessarily mean riding roughshod over international agreements and ignoring other countries' desires and needs.
The gracious Speech referred to the Falkland Islands. I join the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, in thinking that here is a case where we need to reassess our national interests. If we do we shall find that they coincide with much though, of course, not all of Argentina's national interests. I shall not go over the events of 1980 which led to the Falklands armed conflict. Once General Galtieri had invaded the islands Britain had no option but to retaliate. The noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, will recall that I have vehemently supported the legitimate and tactically sound decision to sink the "Belgrano" against those who want to slander the Prime Minister and were prepared to risk seeing British sailors and soldiers in the task force drown so long as their own precious consciences remained Simon pure.
But ever since our victory British policy in the Falklands seems to me to have been insane. We have spent millions of pounds on fortifying these islands, even though it was clear that Argentina would never again attempt to take the islands by force. We have done nothing to rebuild our fences with other South American countries where we need trade. And having by our action given Argentina the opportunity to overthrow the military junta, did we do anything to help her struggling and courageous democracy under Senor Alfonsin? We did not. We have done everything we can to weaken it and snub it, despite the fact that the discredited army chiefs still threaten its existence.
At the time of the Falklands conflict we put a strain on our most important ally, the United States. The 86 relations of the United States and Latin America have always been difficult and delicate, but when Galtieri invaded, the President and his Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense did not waver. Despite Mrs. Kirkpatrick and those like her who put Latin American relations first, they backed Britain all along the line with Sidewinders and other arms. Ever since then the United States has begged us to reopen discussions with Argentina. Our European allies are frankly amazed and amused by our obsession with this area, and regard that obsession as yet another example of our refusal to recognise that our future lies in Europe. Why should the EC give subsidies to our depressed areas when we squander money on vast airfields in the Falklands? And now there is the fishing dispute. If this goes to the United Nations, will there be one nation that will side with us if the matter is brought to a vote on a resolution?
We keep saying that we are standing on our principles when in fact we are standing on our head. We stand on the principle of sovereignty and self-determination. Those are fine principles but those were the principles which we paraded as our excuse for the Munich settlement when we gave way to Hitler. It is not beyond the wit of man to devise a means whereby the flag of Argentina can fly side by side with ours on those islands and we can retain and maintain the safeguards for allowing the islanders to live as they always have lived. But we cannot guarantee to preserve these islanders in amber like flies, untouched by time to be the marvel in the 22nd century of a rare British sect of quaint speech and customs. Think of the millions of people in the United Kingdom whose lives have changed by immigration and the rough tides of trade cycles.
The notion that a few hundred Falklanders, supported by an intransigent lobby in this country, can veto any agreement that displeases them is, I maintain, an intolerable affront to the people of the United Kingdom. That is why I deplore the statement of the noble Baroness that the islanders have a right to,live in peace under a government of their own choosing".I submit that they have no such right. They have no right to impose upon the United Kingdom an endless defence commitment and inflict unjustifiable taxation upon the citizens of our country.
I ask myself not what principle we are standing on, but what are our interests. Is it in our interest to insist on a self-imposed fishing ban which is to be enforced by a hopelessly inadequate number of surface vessels? What will happen when some foreign fishing fleet challenges the ban and incidents occur? We have here a recipe for confrontation and ultimate humiliation. For we shall find that we cannot enforce the ban by ourselves.
The noble Baroness intervened to tell the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, that we had to take the action we did because a new fishing season is at hand. But the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, had already said that this problem was well understood in 1977. We were taken by surprise because we remain convinced that we can ignore Argentina and indeed other interested nations in that area. Why must we resemble a rhinoceros at hay instead of a questing sheep dog eager to get the flock together? Our Falklands policy distorts and overstrains our defence policy.
87 I am not disputing for one moment that the Falklands fisheries need protecting. Of course a ban is needed. And this gives us the opportunity to safeguard the interests of the islanders and at the same time to repair our relations with Argentina. Why cannot we now in our own self-interest bring Argentina into partnership to safeguard these fisheries? Why cannot we jointly and adequately patrol these waters with vessels from both countries? It is in the interests of both countries that this should be so.
From that co-operation we can begin to go further. Argentina must know by now that we shall never allow the islanders to be ruled from Buenos Aires. Why therefore cannot we begin talks which do not rule out accommodations on the issue of sovereignty but make our commitment to the islanders clear? We are going to have to do this about Gibraltar. If I understand the matter correctly, we have not ruled out the issue of sovereignty in our discussions with the Spanish Government. Moreover, it is in our interest to help Senor Alfonsin and in the interest of every South American state threatened by military rule or communist insurrection. It is no good expecting him to abase himself and lick our boots, begging forgiveness. We did not ask Dr. Adenauer to do that in West Germany after the war. One might as well expect the Pope, as the price of unification with the Anglican Church, to deny that the assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is an article of faith. It is we who have to take the lead in this matter.
Sir Winston Churchill would have known that. The Prime Minister often expresses her admiration for that great man and she will never be forgotten for following in 1982 his maxim: "In defeat, defiance." But she has forgotten his other maxim: "In victory magnaminity." She has not shown a spark of magnaminity in her dealings with Argentina. How unlike Sir Winston, who, despite his hatred and contempt for Prussian and Nazi militarism, never saw the Germans as outside the pale of European civilisation. On the contrary, he saw them as a great, historic race and Germany as a great, historic state with a culture second to none. He wanted Germany back in the Concert of Europe. So I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, can influence the Prime Minister to make that great imaginative leap and take a lead in approaching Argentina; but I am bound to say to him that Mr. Kinnock has a far better understanding of our national interests in South America than has the Prime Minister.
Principles are dangerous if they are treated as God-given laws. Principles in foreign policy are not more than a guide. Follow them blindly and, as at Suez 30 years ago, you will find that the admirable principle of not giving in to dictators ends in disaster. Just as admirable is the principle of never surrendering to terrorism. But let us beware lest that principle, too, makes us neglect our national self-interest.
I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, will join with me in asking the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, to found a literary prize each year for the highest flight of fancy by any world statesman. I have no doubt that this year it will be won by Monsieur Chirac. Monsieur Chirac said that the plot to plant a bomb in the El A1 88 aircraft had been set up by the Israeli secret service, aided and abetted by DI6 who, naturally, operate on their own and never allow the Prime Minister to know of their plans.
Monsieur Chirac made the mistake of judging other intelligence services by his own, because of course the old Deuxième Bureau always operated like that and did so when France planted a bomb on the Greenpeace boat in New Zealand. However, Monsieur Chirac was right on one matter; namely, when we react to incidents of this kind we should always remember our national interest and not immediately apply the rules and punishments that we learnt at school.
I have no love for Syria and I rejoice that the Prime Minister has personally done so much to improve our relations with Israel; but diplomacy needs finesse, because on one point Monsieur Chirac was right: the real danger is Moslem fundamentalism. That is what we need to contain in the Middle East, and we should use every resource that we have to destabilise governments which accept Moslem fundamentalism or harbour its agents. Clandestine action is often better than overt gestures. Let us not adopt the habit of getting in a huff every time something disgraceful and wicked happens here or abroad. That is not diplomacy. Let us remember the adage on which President Kennedy was brought up: Don't get mad, get even.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Lord Saint Brides
My Lords, I look forward to hearing how the noble Lord the Minister will respond to that forthright, lively and eloquent speech. However, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Annan, will forgive me if I do not follow him into that area of the world but rather revert to another theme of the gracious Speech; namely, East-West relations.
Our future here in Britain is inseparably linked with the relationship between the two super powers, the United States and the Soviet Union, and will inevitably be affected by it for good or ill. There are two reasons for this. First, it is because we are close allies of one super power against the threat of attack by the other; secondly, because, as the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, vividly reminded us, like the rest of mankind we have literally a vital interest in the two super powers continuing to refrain from ever using against each other the huge—indeed preposterous—arsenal of nuclear weapons which each has built up in competition with the other.
What happened at Reykjavik between President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev, and more recently in Vienna between Secretary of State Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Shevardnadze, is of the utmost importance to all of us in this country. Two weeks ago at Stanford University in California I attended a conference on Asian and Far Eastern security affairs between American scholars and a group of Soviet scholars from Moscow. It was a conference at which for some time I was invited to take the chair rather to my surprise. I must say that for a British Life Peer to occupy such a role must in the nature of things be a rather rare occurrence and a challenging one even for a member of that versatile group, the Cross-Bench Peers in your Lordships' House.
89 I thought and still think it odd that both at Reykjavik and in this unofficial inter-super power conference at Stanford, whether in the conference itself or in private conversations outside it, the Soviets should have attached such overriding importance to SDI. As one noble Lord has already pointed out in this debate, this suggests that, unlike a numerous and influential group of American and other scientists, the Soviets believe that SDI can be made to work in something like its original form. So they see the continuance of the SDI programme as a serious threat to the Soviet Union both militarily and economically. It is a threat militarily because of the destabilising effect that SDI could have on the strategic balance and thus on mutual deterrence. It would be a new technology which provided America with a means of defence which the Soviet Union lacked; and thus, in default of adequate Soviet counter-measures, would increase the Soviet vulnerability to a sudden nuclear attack by America. America itself in this scenario would—because of SDI—enjoy some degree of immunity from Soviet retaliation. Moreover—and this is a point which has not so far been mentioned in this debate—whatever weapon star wars ultimately puts into space (if in fact it does so) could be used not only defensively against enemy ballistic missiles, but also offensively against targets of choice anywhere on the earth's surface.
The Soviets see SDI as a threat to them economically because they believe that an important faction in the United States Administration believes and hopes that, given its recent economic shortcomings, Soviet society could and would cripple itself in any new and vast technological competition with the United States, such as would be involved in trying to match SDI. So just as the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, forecast in his most interesting speech, the Russian colleagues of ours at this conference told me that rather than enter into such a competition they would choose the simpler option of manufacturing as many new and additional nuclear ballistic missiles as were needed to swamp and saturate any conceivably affordable scale of American strategic defence.
The suspicion and mistrust, amounting to a degree of paranoia, which are shown in those Soviet reactions to SDI are misplaced. Neither this American Administration nor, in my belief, any likely future American administration would ever act so recklessly or irresponsibly as the Soviets say they fear. Yet some feelings of this kind probably do exist fairly widely in the Soviet Union, and particularly among the military. General Secretary Gorbachev must take account of that, just as President Reagan has to take account of public opinion in America, which, for its part, yearns for the general protection against nuclear attack which SDI, at any rate in its original visionary form, promised to provide.
We thus stand, as it were, at a fork in the road. One course, that of continued and enhanced confrontation, leads to a dangerous escalation in the degree of mutual threat posed to each other by the two super powers, and to the rest of us if the worst happens.
The other course is of continued, patient discussion, particularly of the technical possibilities and impossibilities of SDI. That might in due time lead to 90 a revival of the proposals for large reductions in strategic and intermediate ballistic missiles which were also mooted at Reykjavik. My own guess, for what it is worth, is that SDI will be found in the end to provide some extra element of possible point defence, but not, as originally foreshadowed by President Reagan, an anti-nuclear umbrella covering a whole country with all its cities. On that more limited basis of SDI, sufficient mutual deterrence would be preserved to meet Soviet fears and to enable some reductions in nuclear weapons to proceed.
I am sure that our Government were right to urge upon the United States administration that any substantial reduction in the nuclear weapons potential of the NATO countries, including the USA, must be accompanied by not only a like measure of nuclear disarmament by the Soviet Union but an appropriate reduction of Soviet and Warsaw Pact military potential by conventional means.
As I see it, the process of trying to reach a new understanding and a new dialogue between the super powers must begin by their discussing the scope and timing of SDI, based on realism and mutual tolerance. That may sound a tall order, but it should not be beyond the powers of statesmanship which the Soviet Union and the United States showed when in the 1970s they came to a whole series of arms control treaties which, for some years thereafter, helped to preserve the balance and maintain a measure of confidence between them.
In my view, the United States administration have tried hard since Reykjavik to get such negotiations started. I hope that they will now take a long and searching look at SDI so as to see whether the heart of the programme cannot be preserved in a way which both meets the realistic expectations of Americans and at the same time persuades the Russians that their more apocalyptic fears are ill-founded.
May I add this as regards our own country? As we all know, the Americans are a highly competitive people. If you call an American businessman "aggressive", he will take it as a compliment. They are severely practical. They judge one another sternly, and whether we like it or not, they judge us—their allies—sternly too. At present, we stand high in their esteem because they believe that we pull our weight in the boat. Because of that, we have valuable influence in that country, as I know from my yearly sojourns there since 1978. But if we stop being in their eyes an asset to the alliance, and instead become a liability, by denying them the full co-operation in defence matters which they currently enjoy, we shall forfeit their esteem and our influence, much to Britain's detriment. I hope that our countrymen and countrywomen will bear that in mind in the time ahead. There could be no merit and no mileage vis-á-vis either super power—in fact, very much the reverse—in turning ourselves into the New Zealand of the North Atlantic.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I may say that he has spoken with much wisdom about American public opinion and the American people's yearning for the protection which could be afforded by successful SDI. Has he seen the public opinion polls in America which show that a 91 clear majority of the American people believe that SDI, the great shield itself, is already up there and is working very well.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Viscount Trenchard
My Lords, I support the robust but necessarily brief statement on foreign affairs and defence in the gracious Speech. As many noble Lords have already said, these subjects have been much in the news lately through international meetings, through the meeting of President Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev, through party conferences and through many media programmes.
What has struck me about the recent media reporting of all those events is that little regard has been paid to the importance of the facts of the defence situation. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Lewin, tried, in one television programme that I saw, to bring in a few facts, but, other than that, the commentators and the media seem not very interested in the facts. Many politicians give one the impression that they have made up their minds and do not want to be confused by the facts.
I make it clear that I am speaking today as an individual, although last week some of your Lordships may have seen that the Foundation for Defence Studies, a registered charity, launched a Defence Information Council of which I have been asked to be chairman. It is probably unnecessary to say that the views that I shall express today are entirely my own. The Defence Information Council will stop at the provision of information and leave views on the basis of the facts to others.
The Foundation for Defence Studies ran a Gallup poll last December before a conference at King's College. The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, used a phrase to the effect that the preponderance of conventional balance in favour of the Warsaw Pact was not as big as some people had been led to believe. I would draw his attention to the fact that only 30 per cent. of the sample, and thus, roughly, of the electorate, knew that the Warsaw Pact had a preponderance of conventional weapons over NATO.
That is due to the kind of statement—although there have been many that I would criticise much more strongly—that the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, made, because, listened to loosely as I probably did, it gave the impresssion that there is not much in the conventional balance.
The media find the facts boring. I find them rather dramatic. I wish I could encourage the media to give them to the public more clearly, more simply and more often. If defence and foreign affairs, regrettably, continue to be the matters of controversial party politics which they have become in recent years, then Lord Melbourne's old dictum which I have quoted in this House before, that he did not believe in mass wisdom based on individual ignorance, will become true, especially if we do not get the public to understand the rudiments of the facts.
The figures in White Papers, from the Ministry of Defence, NATO, and the International Institute for Strategic Studies are all always slightly different. In that respect, I should like to pay tribute to Colonel 92 Alford, who regrettably died this year, for the military balance produced by the institute and for all the work that he has done to put together, year on year, its excellent publication. Noble Lords may be amused to know the comparisons of arms in the Falklands Islands war, during which the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Lewin, was, fortunately for the nation, at the helm. I ran my eye down the document of the International Institute for Strategic Studies and noted that the Argentinians, among other things, were reported to have Roland surface to air missiles. This struck me as important and totally in contradiction of the MoD statement, which said that they had none. To cut a long story short, I would say, in support of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, that the missiles were, in the end, found to be there.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, I am gratefiul to the noble Lord. He must not misrepresent what I said. I said that the figures produced by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, endorsed by the director, showed that the imbalance was not as great as we had been led to believe. That is true. If one cannot get up in Parliament and make such a statement without one's integrity being questioned by the noble Viscount, then this Parliament has come to a pretty pass. If we are to conduct our debate with integrity, we must accept statements as they come.
§ Viscount Trenchard
My Lords, I do not withdraw my remarks about the noble Lord's statement nor about the opinion poll which showed, as a result mainly of the statements of leaders in this country, the degree of confusion and misunderstanding that exists. As this assessment by the institute—one of the most important, in my view, that has been made—has been raised so often during the debate, I have to ask your Lordships' to bear with me for a moment while I deal with the actual figures.
I have made statements in the past showing that, on land and in the air, the Warsaw Pact has an advantage of over two to one in conventional forces. I have always excluded the navy. Our naval power, certainly in surface ships, is still superior to that of the Warsaw Pact. However the ratios are clear. In main battle tanks, it is one to 2.29; in artillery, one to 2.68; in mortars, one to 2.83; in SSM launchers, one to 3.19; in anti-tank guns one to 5.54; in anti-tank gun launchers one to 1.95. The anti-aircraft gun ratio is only one to 1.04. In fact, in the previous year, NATO had the advantage in anti-aircraft guns. NATO has withdrawn a large number. Frankly, few people believe that modern aircraft will be efficiently shot down by anti-aircraft guns today.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, will the noble Lord give way?
§ Viscount Trenchard
My Lords, I should like just to finish making this point. The ratio in SAM launchers is one to 6.83; in armed helicopters, one to 2.92. When we come to aircraft, the three main columns show ratios of one to 1.03, one to 2.38 and one to 2.089. The aircraft figure shows the biggest difference compared with the Ministry of Defence estimates. By any standard, in what matters—I shall come to men later—it is a ratio of over 2 to 1 on land and in the air as an average.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, the noble Viscount rightly pays tribute to the survey. Would he not give a fairer picture if he read the summary in the survey of the conventional imbalance, which is well prepared? This shows, first, that the imbalance is less than it was in last year's survey. Secondly, it shows that the impression now being given by the noble Viscount is totally fallacious.
§ Viscount Trenchard
My Lords, the impression is entirely accurate. The difference between the two years is marginal and described as marginal in the survey. The trend since 1979 has been a build-up on the Warsaw Pact side in respect not only of items on land and in the air, but also in respect of chemical weapons. Of these chemical weapons, the international institute—here, I criticise it—makes scant mention. My noble friend the Minister will perhaps refer to chemical weapons. However, we know that the figure has grown steadily to some 300,000 tonnes, probably, in the main, nerve agents, quite apart from other pretty obnoxious substances. We have almost nothing to put against them. The other indirect effect of chemical weapons is to render the efficiency of our Armed Forces much more difficult because of the clothing that they have to wear at all times.
The other balance that has swung since 1979—this was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Moran—is that the ratio in tactical nuclear weapons is now nearly 9 to 1. Not the least reason for this is American and British withdrawals. To sum up, we have the 2 to 1 conventional imbalance, the huge chemical imbalance and the tactical nuclear imbalance of some 9 to 1. There are also the trends in terms of expenditure in real terms that are still going up. Some items are slightly down compared with last year. I acknowledge that, in response to the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew. But the trends since 1979 are unmistakeable in the directions I have mentioned.
I am sorry to keep on about the total strengths of the super powers; but sometimes people will say at this stage that the reserves should not be forgotten. The difficulty of getting reserves across the Atlantic is well-known among experts. I shall certainly not repeat it. So often, the picture of the super powers is painted as being equal. However, according to this book, the manpower of the Soviet Union's regular forces is over5 million. This shows a build-up from 3.5 million in 1979. In reserves, the Soviet Union now has well over 6 million. On the other hand, the United States has a little over 2 million in the regular forces and 1.6 million in the reserves.
The tank comparison is even more dramatic. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the United States has over 14,000 tanks on a world-wide basis compared with the 53,000 that the Soviet Union possesses. I do not know what the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, thought some people had said. To me, the figures represent an extraordinarily strong balance in favour of the East and the Warsaw Pact. It should be remembered that while the number of people confronting each other in Europe is a less dramatic figure, a close reading of any of these excellent publications—this will also be within the knowledge of many noble Lords—confirms that the USSR has many more people in the front line 94 compared with people behind it than have the allies. The allies, particularly perhaps the Americans, need an enormous number of cooks, psychiatrists, television sets, welfare, and goodness knows what. In comparing the number of men facing each other, these factors should be taken into account.
I am probably known to have very favourable views about our greatest and strongest ally, the United States of America. I normally sing their praises. At the moment, however, I get worried by the continual reiteration of their President that he will contemplate a nuclear-free situation, either totally, or in the intermediate range weapons, bearing in mind the figures and the trends that I have just given.
I noted that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, who is not in his seat, felt that it did not matter much if we went hack to the 1979 position, where we would not place intermediate range missiles on land in Europe if they withdrew all the SS.20s. Against the background of what has happened since 1979, including tactical nuclear weapon withdrawals, this seems to me to be a dangerous move back towards the trip wire philosophy and the philosophy of mass retaliation. I would find that less credible than some of the matters he criticises for credibility to which I shall come later.
I believe that the Soviets do not want war, but they are run by a dictatorship and we are talking of the long-term through to the next century. On the facts of the situation at the moment, without the nuclear deterrence and, in my view for credibility, without the flexible response possibilities of the current nuclear defence, we would be overrun in days and we would rest entirely on the awful decision of the United States' President or ourselves to release strategic weapons on a major scale.
I have taken longer than I meant to do through answering certain questions. However, let me deal with one other main thesis. It has been argued that if we did not have Trident, and if we were much cleverer in our research and development as NATO, and in our purchasing or manufacturing of modern weapons, we would be able to raise the nuclear threshold enormously. Once again it is the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, who has often expounded this thesis. The allies do not have a Trident to consider removing, but even in the British budget it is naive to think that the politicians would allow the military the 3 per cent. when the military say that they can do something for 100, and the probability is that they can nearly accomplish it for 97. But the thesis has nothing to do with giving up Trident. The only way that a major raising of the nuclear threshold could take place would be if we were very much cleverer than we have been in the past in using modern technology to produce the kind of weapons which would be infinitely more effective for the same costs.
On this subject it is worth once again referring to another publication of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in which all parties have confidence. It is their spring issue of Strategic Survey. I quote the following:Setting aside the state of the East-West conventional balance at the present time (see military balance) … there is no reason to believe that NATO will be able to do much radically to improve its conventional defence and thus significantly to reduce its ultimate 95 dependence on nuclear weapons. The offensive threat from the East is certainly not static and it is not obvious that new technology and new concepts are the monopoly of the West. Nor is it obvious that technological developments necessarily favour defence given that both NATO and the Warsaw Pact will have access to new technology".The paper goes on in the same vein.
I quote that because in the past the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, has asked me and others how we can contradict the highly qualified and important people who contributed to the two surveys of the ECECS study. I think the answer lies in the proposition that if the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, had complete chief executive control of the whole of NATO weaponry he might well be able to do enormously better. But as we are a collection of democracies, and even with all the efforts that are being made—and I wish them enormous success—we simply cannot ignore the fact that over the last 10 years the technological gap has been closing and that the Soviets have the lead in a number of areas. It can remain as a thesis only for a long time to come that, if we manage to be much cleverer like the marketing director of a firm that is going downhill, we shall then do much better.
Let us wait until that day occurs. In the meanwhile, let all of us with knowledge of these matters, including the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, lend all the power we can to keeping the credibility of deterrence, including the credibility of the grotesque power of our own nuclear deterrent even though it be but 5 per cent. of that of the Soviets. The deterrent value of nuclear weapons to a defender, as oppposed to an aggressor, is in my opinion very much greater because an aggressor basically has an objective. The objective may be resources, such as high technology agriculture, the electronic know-how of West Germany, or consumer goods or whatever. I do not say that the Soviets want war, but if, with their appallingly low standard of living, they saw the possibility at any time between now and the next century (which is what we are talking about in planning these weapons) of getting the objective at a cheapish cost, they might try.
It is no consolation to them to know that if we were to use a nuclear weapon to prevent them from doing so—and that would only happen if deterrence had failed, and it need not fail—it would pay them nothing, in terms of their objective, whatever it may be, to use their 95 per cent. more powerful nuclear weapons in retaliation. The threat of 5 per cent. is therefore credible, and the threat of the allies' nuclear deterrence—not of Trident alone, which has never been suggested by anybody, but of the total NATO position, including two centres of decision, with perhaps the French a third—to keep in the potential aggressor's mind the possibility, or even the probability, that no kind of aggression would pay, however powerful his conventional superiority is, is what has kept peace for 40 years, and can continue to keep peace. We must keep that fact in balance with the very important objectives of disarmament, and not let disarmament completely override it.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Lord Lewin
My Lords, sadly the noble lord, Lord Chalfont, cannot be with us so I follow in the next 96 place. I must apologise for arriving too late and missing the opening speeches, much to my regret. I had to take the chair at the annual general meeting of a charitable association, the date of which is arranged from year to year. Although I disposed of the business as briskly as I could, it was not brisk enough.
I was glad to catch the speech of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, because I shared his satisfaction with that part of the gracious Speech which dealt with the maintenance of our defence capability. However, I could not share his views on the retention of the United Kingdom's strategic deterrent. Neither, I believe, would any of our NATO allies share his views.
It was only in March this year in the communiqué of the NATO Nuclear Planning Group that the alliance collectively acknowledged the value of the United States' and the United Kingdom's nuclear contribution to the alliance and they particularly welcomed the United Kingdom's plans for the replacement of Polaris with Trident.
I must say I cannot understand the rationale for the retention of United Kingdom nuclear capability below strategic level if we abandoned Trident. Surely it would be incredible to a Soviet leadership that the United Kingdom Prime Minister would authorise the release of a British battlefield or intermediate range nuclear weapon without strategic deterrent to back it up.
I was on the fringes of the chiefs of staffs' committee when the noble and gallant Lord was Chief of the Defence Staff. I was the Vice-Chief of the Naval Staff. I sometimes attended chiefs of staffs' meetings when my boss was away. My recollection is that it was the chiefs of staffs' collective view at that time that possession of an independent strategic deterrent by this country was a first priority in the allocation of our resources. Certainly, I can assure the Minister that that was the case when I was a Chief of Staff and when I was Chief of the Defence Staff.
I do not aspire to be a politician. I spent many years as a professional adviser to a succession of Ministers of all political colours. It is in that vein that I should like to speak tonight, first on the Alliance nuclear deterrent policy. I studied with great care the joint Alliance defence document and I wondered that among the membership there was no one who had any intimate knowledge of a submarine-launched strategic deterrent. I do not know, of course, who they applied to for professional advice.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, perhaps the noble and gallant Lord will allow me to say that I was responsible for building the strategic deterrent when I was Naval Minister, and I was a member of this commission.
§ Lord Lewin
My Lords, I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, said. I was coming on to him as I warned him in a note that I should do.
Having read the defence document, I then watched and listened to the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, when he addressed the Liberal Conference on television. He said—and I wrote it down at the time—that:We could run Polaris until at least 1997, that the lead time for a replacement was between three and five years, so no decision on a replacement for Polaris need be taken until 1991 at the earliest.97 The noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, was the Navy Minister and was responsible for taking Polaris decisions around about 1965 and 1966. I fear that the level of his professional advice has slipped a bit since then.
The Polaris submarines will all reach their 25th birthdays between 1992 and 1994. We have never operated a nuclear submarine for that length of time but the experience we do have with our older nuclear submarines is that as they get older the refits take longer, unscheduled maintenance is required more frequently, and the risk of unexpected breakdown arises. Since the Labour Government in 1964 cancelled the fifth Polaris submarine we are left with no margin for the unforeseen. Any unexpected major breakdown would mean that we could no longer keep one submarine on patrol and the credibility of our deterrent would be destroyed.
The Polaris system itself, the weapons and the onboard system, is based on the technology of the 1950s, before silicon chips and in the early stages of the transistor. It first became operational in the United States Navy in 1961 and they gave it up in 1974, when it became unique to the Royal Navy. Since that time we have been responsible for monitoring reliability and for putting right things that go wrong. In 1980 we discovered cracking in the first and second stage solid fuel propellant motors. We had to pay to open up production lines which had closed in the United States factories to get new motors made. Quite recently one of our Polaris submarines fired four missiles to test their reliability, and one failed. Telemetry told us what went wrong: as the jargon goes it was well within the matrix of reliability.
However, by the early 1990s the Polaris system will be into its 40th year of life. Some of the delicate electro-mechanical systems could well start failing and we should have to reopen production lines in the United States factories which have long since switched to more modern technology and reassemble workers with the expertise to make good these defects. There can be no absolute cut-off. They do not all stop on the 1st July, 1994, but it would be culpably irresponsible, from a professional viewpoint, to plan on running the Polaris force beyond 1995.
There is another aspect, and that is credibility. Credibility in the eyes of the Soviet leadership is measured by the number of warheads they might expect to land on them, not how many missiles would be fired at the other end. Some of the missiles will fail for technical reasons. No system can gauranteee 100 per cent. reliability. Some missiles will fail to get through Soviet defences. The Soviets have the only anti-ballistic missile system in place. In 1972 when they started deploying the system, it was obvious that we had to improve Polaris because we did not have the resources of a fifth boat. So the Chevaline improvement was designed, developed and produced.
Since 1978 the Soviets have been making further improvements to their anti-ballistic missile defences. They have been developing another missile which has a capability inside the atmosphere, and this is now being deployed. Our intelligence experts expect it to be deployed to the maximum allowed by the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. They have developed surface to air missiles, the SA 10 and the SA l2, which have a 98 capability against ballistic missiles. They are building in Krasnoyarsk a phased array radar with an enormous aerial the size of the Ministry of Defence building, which will give them a capability when it is finished (it will take some years to build) to deploy a nationwide ABM defence. Both this phased array radar and the deployment of a nationwide ABM defence would be in breach of the ABM treaty. The deployment, once that radar is finished, could be achieved in months, not years.
I heard the Secretary of State for Defence say on a television programme recently that Polaris with Chevaline could not be expected to remain credible beyond 1995. The Secretary of State for Defence sees top secret intelligence reports, I no longer do. I would not be prepared to argue with him. The professional advice is that if you are going to replace Polaris you must do it by 1995. The Trident programme is six years down the road.
The noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, asked what would replace Trident. Indeed, he asked the Minister how he would replace Trident. Two alternatives have been proposed. The first alternative is to go with the French and buy the M.4 missile. My own professional advice would be that as the French are already developing the M.5 such a course would not make much sense, because by the time we have the M.4 the French would be phasing it out. Therefore, it would make more sense to go for the M.5. It is now generally acknowledged that at least to go with the French would be more expensive than Trident. I shall not go into the technical details, although I could do so if noble Lords so wished, but it could take longer than the time we have available.
Cruise missiles have also been suggested. There is only one available and that is the Tomahawk—the submarine-launched version of the missile which is already deployed 'at Greenham Common. It is relatively cheap, costing about £1 million a time; it is small; it is easy to store; it has a range of 1,350 miles; it is accurate; and it has one nuclear warhead. However, it has disadvantages. Because of its short range and for other technical reasons it has to be fired quite close to the coast and that exposes the firing submarine to Soviet anti-submarine capability. On the other hand, Trident has 15 times the sea-room of Polaris and provides the submarine with much more room in which to hide in an era when we can expect Soviet ASW defences to improve. However, even more important for Tomahawk is its vulnerability to air defences. I could perhaps best explain that by comparing it with the V.1, which will be familiar to many.
The V.1 was also a cruise missile. However, it was slower; it flew a bit higher; it was much less accurate; it did not have a nuclear warhead, but it was a cruise missile. Once we organised our defences, only 15 per cent. of the V.1 s fired reached the target area—the target area being Greater London. During the whole of the V.1 campaign only 23 per cent. of the missiles fired reached the target area, and that was in the face of the air defences of the 3.7 AA guns, the Spitfires and the Typhoons.
The Tomahawk is a better missile than the V.1, but I suggest that the Soviets' AA defences have increased in much greater proportion. By the period about 99 which we are talking they will have airborne early warning to give early detection of low-flying missiles; half their fighter force, some 2,000 aircraft, will be equipped with a look-down/shoot-down capability with air-to-air missiles capable of firing at targets close to the ground. The SA.10 and the SA.12 mobile missiles will be grouped around strategic targets, and the assessment is that to provide the same capacity as Polaris, which is what the Alliance is pledged to do, would require two submarines on station, each equipped with at least 60 vertical-launch cruise missiles. No one has yet designed a battery to fire vertical-launch missiles.
By the time the decision to cancel Trident is taken, the first Trident submarine will be half complete. We would have to build three more submarines to keep two on station and two to relieve them, and later some more. Quite palpably, such a programme could not be achieved in time and would cost very much more than Trident.
There is another overriding restriction and that is the production of nuclear warheads. It is a very specialised branch of technology. Nuclear warheads have to be designed, developed, tested and manufactured. Testing of the non-nuclear components must take place in the vehicle for which they are intended to ensure that they will stand up to the stresses of launch and flight. The nuclear warhead as a whole must be tested in underground tests and at least three such tests are required. Once that is complete, the warheads have to be manufactured. That is a slow and difficult process and, as your Lordships can imagine, it is not a production line that can be switched on and off. The whole programme can take at least 10 years.
The Trident warhead programme is now in its sixth year and, from the press reports of United Kingdom nuclear tests in Nevada, it must be nearing production. To take a decision to cancel Trident and to replace it with something else in 1988 would mean that we could not possibly equip the replacement with its warheads before the end of the century. The Alliance policy to cancel Trident but to maintain the deterrent may have electoral attraction. However, I believe that it would be more honest and more realistic to accept that if Polaris is to be replaced then Trident is the only replacement.
I should like to say a few words about those who condemn Trident as an enormous escalation in nuclear fire-power. Each Trident submarine will have 16 missile tubes. Each Trident missile can take anything between one and 14 warheads. Therefore, the maximum potential of the one submarine which can be kept on station from a four-submarine force, is 224 missiles—not the 500-plus which are so often quoted. However, the number of missiles that are bought; the number of missiles that are put into tubes; the number of tubes that are left empty; and the number of warheads that are put on each missile is a ministerial option and a decision that does not have to be taken yet. The Alliance say that they will maintain a minimum deterrent. Trident is as minimum as Ministers may care to make it.
I intend to turn at this point to the Labour policy, but I see that time is running on and enough people 100 have already dealt with that matter. However, finally, it is to my great regret that I missed the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, because so many have referred to his quotation of the military balance. I personally view statistics with a great deal of scepticism. I place much more value on the views of those who actually have the responsibility for planning and conducting military operations and who have responsibility for the lives of the men who have to carry them out. I know that politicians think that war is too important to leave to the generals, the admirals and the air marshals, but they might perhaps sometimes listen to our advice.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, I listened with the greatest attention to the powerful exposition by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Lewin, of the case for Trident, just as I read with the greatest attention the very same words which he published in the press a week ago. I must say a few words in defence of the position of the Alliance on this matter. The argument which the noble and gallant Lord advances is of course a well-trodden one and the answers to it are well-trodden. I do not pretend that it is not a powerful and important argument.
We in the Alliance do not propose to prolong Polaris beyond 1995, or at least very much beyond 1995, and we shall not be risking human life—as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Lewin, at one point implied—once we have taken the professional advice which will be available at that time. It is not in our programme to send sailors to sea in rusting boats. If the world situation makes it necessary—and my noble friend Lord Mayhew spoke at length about this—we shall replace Polaris with something else. From the way in which we are going at present it is perfectly obvious that much to our regret, the world situation is very likely to make it necessary.
As regards the question of what to replace Polaris with, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Lewin, did not really look beyond Tomahawk. But we are not necessarily bound to Tomahawk in the way of cruise missiles; we are not necessarily bound to vertical-launch cruise missiles; we are not necessarily bound to cruise missiles at all; we are not even bound to submarine-launched missiles. When the Government ordered Trident they did not consult British Aerospace about what it could build. I see that the Minister is indicating that they did do so, but British Aerospace thinks that they did not. I dare say that there was communication, but the producer, the industrialist, thought that they did not do so. The noble Lord the Minister will be speaking in a moment. We would consult everybody we could about what was available and then take our decision.
Lastly, on the possible underweaponing of Trident—I think the House knows what I mean—I do not believe this for a moment. When we say that it is overweaponed, overpowerful, we mean it creates a destabilising effect because the Russians, if they were reducing, would think it was a destabilising effect, a step-wise upwards jump. The only way we can convince them that it is not is to invite them on board the boats every time they go to sea, and say, "Look at this tube. It has not got a missile in it. Look at this 101 missile. It has only got three warheads, or one, instead of the 10 it might have". There is the possibility of changing all that once we get to sea. Are we not going to have to have a Soviet inspector going to sea on every Trident submarine if the underweaponing of them is to carry conviction in Moscow?
§ Lord Lewin
My Lords, will the noble Lord give way? This is the solution that I proposed myself as a valuable arms control initiative. It is perfectly feasible to invite the Russians to go and look in the missile tubes and see whether the missiles are there. It is quite impossible to magic up a missile once the submarine has gone to sea, and put it in the tube. It is also perfectly possible for the Russians to inspect the number of warheads, but it is equally technically impossible to add warheads once the submarine is at sea.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, let us accept all that, and then we are just stuck with about five times the expenditure we ever needed. If this is what has to be, then the original decision to buy it looks crazier than ever because it is incompatible with a disarming world all round it. That is a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, earlier.
§ Lord Lewin
My Lords, will the noble Lord give way again?
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, I should like to get on with the rest of my speech, if I may.
May I now turn to Syria? Sir Geoffrey has performed well. He kept his head during the inevitable confusion at the first European meeting, and he guided through the European Council of Ministers a reasonable package of retaliatory measures. He was helped in the first place by the professional skills of our own diplomatic service and police, and evidence was produced which was good enough to convince that really quite sceptical body, a modern English jury. The Syrian state was conclusively implicated in this attempt at mass murder, and Sir Geoffrey has been rewarded by a practical and useful endorsement from all the members of the European Community except Greece, and to a lesser extent France.
Our record in this matter is good, and I for one cannot fail to compare it with that of the United States President, who is prepared to bomb cities on evidence which was not so good, and to buy hostages out of terrorist hands by sending arms to a terrorist country behind the backs of his Congress, his Secretary of State, his Secretary of Defence, and even his CIA. I trust that Britain has not been involved in this commerce as some other of the United States allies have.
Everywhere in the world there are geopolitical disputes. Nothing can excuse terrorism, but nor can anything excuse the rest of us from knowing why it is that the terrorist acts as he does. Today international law, because it is so widely breached, more than ever needs our active support. Some countries invade their neighbours and hold foreign territory under military occupation. They raid the military and transport installations of their neighbours and of other 102 countries. Others set up sanctuaries for their neighbours' rebels and arm their neighbours' rebels, and also those in countries which are not even their neighbours. Others again deny their own peoples their human rights in a way that justifies internal rebellion, thereby tempting other countries to arm those rebels.
The principal countries doing one or more of these things at the moment are the Soviet Union, South Africa, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Israel. Libya, the United States and Turkey. All the great documents of our generation from the United Nations Charter to the Helsinki Final Act and the Stockholm statement of this year are more honoured in the breach than in the observance.
Our country and the other members of the European Community are very largely innocent of these breaches, and we must see that we remain so. But we must be equally careful not to get dragged along by those outside who are less careful of the law. In the long run international state terrorism in the world cannot be faced down without some juridical arrangement. What that arrangement could be now needs to be thought out and discussion opened. That should have already begun.
When it thinks of South Africa the world is convulsed with horror and indignation, and rightly so. I was there last week. The media have been reporting accurately within the limits of a censorship as strict as it is unaccountable. What we read is true. The tragedy now is that the oppressed blacks are killing each other. I think this always happens when an insuperable and implacable tyranny continues for decades. The anger of the oppressed turns inward. They begin to fight each other about how to fight the tyrant. If you can do no direct harm to an impregnable oppressor, it is easy to believe you are indirectly harming him if you harm someone who does not seem to he trying to harm him as hard as you.
This reaction is fostered by the very apartheid that the blacks are fighting. Because of the emergency laws the new militant youth—the so-called Comrades—cannot meet people from other provinces, other cities, other townships, even from other streets to discuss who, or what, the real enemy is and what it is best to do. They cannot have political meetings. They cannot quote each other's words.
So far, 20,000 have been arrested this year and thrown into prison without charge or trial. Whole communities are moved by force. Many of the Christian priests and pastors are afraid, so even the routine preaching of peace and love is diminished. Other priests and pastors have aligned themselves fairly and squarely with the oppressed and reach out to them with help and education. They do not advocate or further violence, although of course they have to discuss it.
The rest of the world hears the shots and the shouts. We reach for what we can, short of invasion; and that is sanctions. Black South African opinion is divided about this, so it is quite natural that there should be confusion and delay among our countries. One well-travelled and well-informed white industrialist, having told me how many blacks would be put out of work in his province, which was a very great many, said: "If you must do it, do it to the hilt and do it in one move. 103 Get it over with. Ratchet sanctions are the worst of all solutions for two reasons. Firstly, they constitute a dare to the South African Government: if you don't do what I say before I count to 10, I'll biff you again, and harder'. Who can give in to that? And secondly, in sanctions the businessman will always outsmart the politician, and the more steps you introduce in your sanctions, the more time you give the businessman to keep ahead of the game. Therefore, throw the whole lot at us at once, and do it now. If sanctions are going to work at all, that kind will work quicker and thus inflict less poverty and less of its attendant violence." I think that this argument has an intrinsic plausibility which deserves to be weighed against the practicalities of European and United Nations politics.
At any rate, tail end Charlie is not the best place for our Government to be. The foot-dragging of our Government and the German one earn us great hostility there among people who are in the right, who are in a life and death struggle, and who will form the government there when the tyranny is overthrown, as of course it will be sooner or later. The United States—the United States Congress, not the Administration—are the heroes now, despite the Administration's much-resented record in Namibia and Angola. We are outflanked.
I now turn to arms control. Since Reykjavik, Western governments seem to have forgotten something which was well known to the last generation of governments: you cannot reduce one type of armaments without reference to other types of armaments. If you do, you will merely expose any imbalance which may exist in the others and lay the world open to the risk that that imbalance will be exploited by the stronger side. Linkage, for instance between strategic missiles and INF—or between either of those and strategic defences—is not a matter of choice. These things are linked in the nature of things. Linkage inheres in every picture the mind may form of how to achieve arms reductions: only the naive or careless can doubt this.
In particular it has been quite careless of our Government to suppose the Russians, as the inferior party in this matter, can ever have been prepared to unlink either strategic weapons or INF from SDI. Mr. Gorbachev said this in his proposals of 15th January, and in his epoch-making speech to his party conference. Apparently our governments later made the mistake of taking Soviet statements that they might be prepared to negotiate an INF package separately from an agreement on SDI as meaning that they would be prepared to sign and put into effect such a package separately from an agreement on SDI.
It is in the nature of things that the Russians will not allow their adversary, any more than we will, to develop a safety shield from behind which to threaten them with impunity. They, and we, as the Government continually and rightly say, will take whatever measures are possible and necessary to prevent that impunity from retaliation being achieved. The cheapest, the safest and the most obvious of those measures is of course disarmament.
The press reports that Western leaders were surprised at Mr. Gorbachev's proposal in Reykjavik 104 that strategic nuclear weapons should be reduced by 50 per cent. over five years. Where were they on 15th January when he first made it and was fully reported in the world press? The Prime Minister seems concerned about the possibility that deep nuclear arms reductions in Europe will expose the very well-known Warsaw Pact superiority in conventional and chemical arms, much discussed this afternoon, especially by the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard. That superiority is now estimated by the IISS at 1.25:1, in a way that I shall not go into again. Where was the Prime Minister on 27th February when Mr. Gorbachev said to his party conference that disarmament had to be approached in its entirety? Where was she on 13th June when the Warsaw Treaty meeting in Budapest made specific public proposals in its "appeal" to NATO for conventional as well as nuclear disarmament? Was it not specifically in response to these Soviet proposals that NATO Ministers, at Franco-British initiative in Halifax, set up a high level task force on conventional arms control?
I fear that the Prime Minister may even tomorrow say to the President in Washington, "Do not engage in nuclear disarmament". If she does she will be ignoring the present opportunity and not serving mankind or her own country well. What she ought to say is: "Let us go back to the Russians with proposals for improvements to their overall disarmament plan. Let us not seek to remove the conventional imbalance by increasing Western levels of armament. Let us do so by reducing Eastern ones—better still, by reducing both, not by equal amounts but to equal levels. All these matters—and others, equally relevant—are covered in the plans Gorbachev has put forward publicly this year, even if, as you say" (she might say to President Reagan) "there was some doubt about what was being said at Reykjavik. So let us take Gorbachev at his word. Let us put him to the test." That is what we hope to hear she has said.
When it comes to conventional reductions, we face the preliminary question of what forum they should be discussed in. For each element of disarmament one needs a different cast of countries. For conventional disarmament we need at least all the members of NATO and the Warsaw Pact, and this rules out the MBFR talks in Vienna, which the United States unfortunately favours, because France and Hungary are not there. It would also be absurd to leave out Sweden or Finland, given the importance of the Nordic balance in the European jigsaw. So we have to go to the Committee on Disarmament in Europe, which France favours, because it contains all the NATO and Warsaw countries as well as the neutral countries.
We must not forget how ruthlessly Krushchev was overthrown, and how quickly. Mr. Gorbachev is manifestly the most constructive and imaginative Soviet leader we have faced since then, perhaps since 1917. I want to hear our Prime Minister telling President Reagan that this is a golden window of opportunity in the 40 years search for hard-nosed disarmament agreements, and urging him to use it with all the imagination and constructiveness he possesses.
I want to hear her tell him that Sir Geoffrey Howe's entirely convincing questions about SDI have not been 105 answered; that he is mistaken in sticking to it through thick and thin; that it is a chimera which should be gracefully laid to rest, or pared down to some minor and non-provocative military reality. I want to hear her tell him that he is a wiser man than those of his own advisers who have taken him into illegality; that it is his duty to himself and to the world to overrule or dismiss them and bring his great country back into communion with the rule of law.
This House ought to be increasingly concerned by the way our Government increasingly compound with international illegality. Later this year, when Mrs. Thatcher has gone, because she disapproves of it, the United States will break SALT II. I am thinking also of the implausible episode in the United States when on 1st May last year the President declared that Nicaragua constituted,an extraordinary threat to the security of the United Statesand consequently declared a state of emergency, of all things, in the United States. I do not like to hear the Government go along with that nonsense at all. I do not like to hear our representative in the United Nations say that Nicaragua has brought its troubles on itself. It has not: it has had its troubles thrown at it by the United States Administration.
I do not like the prospect of British-made weapons, such as Blowpipe. being given by the Americans to the Contras. I recently questioned the Minister of State about it and she has answered that she knows nothing of that and that we would never do anything so insubordinate as to require end-use certificates for arms we have sold to the United States. I do not like to hear the Government pretend that they do not know that the United States National Security Council staff have been covertly threatening to reduce aid to Costa Rica, Honduras and El Salvador to wreck the Contadora process. I do not even like the way the Government have ignored the report of an all-party group from this Parliament, and reports from many other such observers, that the 1984 Nicaraguan elections were, on the whole, fair and valid; not as valid as ours, but more so than El Salvador's and far more so than Mexico's.
This overall effort to make life as difficult as possible for a very' small, poor country whose politics the Administration dislike is a breach of the United States own Helsinki commitments (which do not only apply within Europe) and to which the United States recommitted itself only a few weeks ago in the Stockholm statement. The actions are also undertaken in defiance of the direct finding of the international Court of Justice that they are against international law—a court from the jurisdiction of which the United States Administration have withdrawn that country with the sole purpose of avoiding that judgment, which they saw coming.
The Government should be using their famous special relationship—and Members of the Government still use this archaic phrase—to persuade the President of the United States that justice is justice all round the world and that he should bring his country back to its own honourable tradition. It is not too late; and indeed we Europeans shall now, since the mid-term elections, have many friends of justice in Washington. Senator Nunn, the new chairman of the 106 Defence Committee, knows NATO is in disarray and needs putting together again.
Senator Pell, the new chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, knows full well what legality is and what it means for his country. Western Europe—and we are still president of the Community for a few more weeks—should now be making strong common cause with the new American Congress. It will be in the interests of the United States as well as in our own to do so, because democracy moves.
§ 8.59 p.m.
My Lords, on previous occasions when I have taken part in foreign affairs and defence debates arising out of the gracious Speech I have dealt, always from the Back Benches, almost entirely with the problems of the third world, much as today the noble Lord, Lord Walston, and indeed the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester were speaking. On those occasions I have stated my belief that the conquest of poverty is the only foundation for a lasting peace in the world.
Clearly, on this occasion I cannot follow that course since I have a much broader canvas to cover arising from the debate. However, I wish to make one point from my more familiar role, and that is to pay a genuine tribute to the new Minister for Overseas Development, Mr. Chris Patten, for the way in which he has so quickly made his mark with two policy initiatives which will help to overcome some of the basic problems faced by the destitute populations of Africa.
The noble Lord, Lord Walston, drew our attention particularly to the problem of that continent. Mr. Patten has brought before Parliament a proposal to support the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and only this week we heard of his success in persuading our European partners that food aid to Africa should neither be a means simply of disposing of our unwanted food surplusses in Europe, nor should it be provided in a way which prevents the proper development of Africa's own agricultural resources.
The noble Baroness, LadyYoung, will recognise that these are policies which have been constantly urged by us from this Dispatch Box, but without success until now. That means that the action by the new Minister is all the more warmly welcomed by us.
Before I turn to the defence aspects of the debate to which we have listened, I should like to follow the speech of my noble friend Lord Rhodes, who raised the important question of China. I am constantly surprised in discussions about world affairs that China gets so little attention, because China has one-quarter of the world's population and therefore at least it should have one-quarter of the attention of debaters when we consider international affairs. My noble friend Lord Rhodes (as my noble friend Lord Cledwyn has said) has played a particular role in relation to China. We congratulate him on all that he has done and not least on the particular success to which he referred in obtaining enough money from the Government to provide for a proper exchange of science students between China and this country.
§ Lord Rhodes
My Lords, it was not all from the Government. That was about one-third of it.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that correction, but I am sure that he was instrumental in getting money from both quarters. Of course, the matter of the Queen's visit to China was mentioned in the gracious Speech and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, referred to it in her introductory speech. But she seemed to concentrate only on the trade aspects of our relations with China. This seems to me to be an unwarranted limitation. My noble friend Lord Rhodes said—in agreeing, I think, with what I have just said about it not being just trade that matters—that friendship is what he asks for, friendship with China. Yes, indeed! I, myself, have been some three times in recent years to China. I remember that when I was in Chungking I sent a card to my noble friend Lord Rhodes because of his leading role in these matters. When I got back, he said, "Thank you for your card. I was there in Chungking when you sent it"—which shows that we are both diligent watchers of China.
The important thing for the future, as I envisage, is that here we have a communist country anxious to play its role in the world. We should be not only friendly, as my noble friend suggests, but working in close collaboration with them in international circles with a view to using their influence, which will be increasingly important in all our approaches to world problems, particularly those that are arising in the third world.
A number of references have been made to my party's defence policy. I am flattered that so many people are taking an intense interest in our policy. It indicates that they think we shall soon be the government of the country. There are three pillars upon which the policy of the Labour Party rests. The first—and let there be no mistake about this—is that the Labour Government will ensure the defence of this country and will provide the resources necessary for the most efficient achievement of that objective. There is no doubt that that is our intention; there is no doubt that it will be our duty.The fulfilment of that duty will be made all the more difficult by the rundown of our manufacturing base and by the running out of the wealth from the North Sea. But, despite those difficulties, we shall recognise the need to provide all proper resources to our defence services and we shall not fail in that duty.
The second pillar of our policy is our country's membership of NATO to which we are firmly committed and within which we shall play our full, appropriate part in a firm and continuing alliance with both our European and our North American partners. There is no doubt—we have made it clear time and again—that we consider our defence to be part and parcel of NATO's strategy and the other way round.
The third pillar is that we shall make our contribution to that NATO alliance in the field of conventional armaments believing, as we do, that this country will be safer and more defensible than if we rely upon the so-called independent nuclear deterrent. Let there be no doubt that there is no difference of opinion as to whether we should provide adequate defence for our country. The vital question is how to do so. 108 We have had a number of exchanges in the course of the debate about the balance of conventional forces in Europe. The noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, dealt with this subject at considerable length. Just as differences of opinion have been expressed in your Lordships' House, so there are differences of opinion on the subject among the experts. I was watching a television programme the other evening in which experts from various prestigious quarters gave different views one from the other on the question of whether conventional forces are in serious imbalance.
§ Lord Fanshawe of Richmond
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, for giving way, and I am sorry to interrupt his speech. I was slightly puzzled by the noble Lord's comments earlier, when he said that we would remain in NATO and would rely on the NATO Alliance as part of our defence policy, but we would not have anything except conventional forces as the third pillar of defence. Does that mean that we are going to rely on NATO to provide a nuclear shield for us?
My Lords, I propose to come to that question later in my speech, if the noble Lord will exercise patience in the matter.
§ Viscount Trenchard
My Lords, I want to know whether the noble Lord and his colleagues do, or do not, accept that the international institute figures have never been seriously challenged and are approximately correct.
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Cledwyn adequately answered the noble Viscount on that matter.
In making my point, I am not taking sides on that issue. I do note that the Government's policy is based on the assumption that the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, makes that there is gross imbalance and that nuclear weapons in the West are therefore necessary to rectify what he sees as an imbalance. However, if that is the case, surely there is another conclusion that can logically be drawn in that situation. If there is such a dangerous imbalance, ought we not to ensure the build-up of NATO conventional forces on land, sea and air. That is what we in the Labour Party believe to be necessary, and that is the role that we shall play within NATO.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, can the noble Lord deal with the point that I put to Lord Stewart and that Lord Stewart answered very frankly? If a Labour Government withdraw nuclear weapons from the Rhine Army and make the Rhine Army the only sector of the central front without nuclear back-up, is that not an invitation to the Russians to choose that sector to attack, if they are going to attack anyway?
My Lords, I would welcome the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, explaining how nuclear weapons in that situation could be used defensively because in my view, if they were used in that situation, the victims of that dropping of the bomb would be our own forces: we would kill our own people. Surely the lesson from Chernobyl—a much less tremendous explosion but 109 tremendous enough—is that nuclear fall-out is no respecter of frontiers. If an explosion of that order occurs in the Ukraine and can affect sheep in Cumbria, what sort of situation will there be in a battlefield if nuclear bombs are dropped in so-called controlled use?
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, I should like to answer that, if I may. If what the noble Lord says is correct, the British Army of the Rhine will be killed by bombs dropped by the Germans, Belgians, Americans and so on, on other sectors of the front.
My Lords, that may well he, but I think that we have had sufficient exchange on this point, and I rest on what I said earlier.
As to expenditure on Trident—which is the basis of Government policy, and was the basis for a very trenchant speech from the noble Lord, Lord Lewin, who I thought sufficiently answered the middle-of-the-way policies of the Alliance parties—from our point of view, the reason we would cancel Trident is that expenditure of that order in that area will inevitably involve cuts in the expenditure on conventional armaments on land, sea and air.
As an example, I would refer to a recent report by the defence correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph, I think two Sundays ago. He set out detailed cuts in the Army's equipment, quoting from what he claimed to be a briefing document for senior staff officers. He concluded with a quote from an Army source to the effect that the cuts will result in a plunge in morale in the Army and that Army spending will be at a mimimum safe level. I believe that similar cuts are planned in respect of naval forces.
It is therefore becoming increasingly clear that we shall be compelled through the force of economics, quite apart from the strategic questions, to choose between adequate conventional forces on the one hand and the next generation of nuclear weapons on the other. We in the Labour Party opt for adequate conventional forces and we shall play our part in NATO on that basis.
Some commentators have raised the question as to whether Britain can remain a member of NATO if its contribution is confined to the provision of conventional armaments. The members of NATO are sovereign nations and it is for each one of them, after negotiation with its partners, to determine what contribution it can best make to the collective defence of the Alliance. Indeed, different nations, as we well know, make different commitments to NATO, including commitments in relation to nuclear weapons. France, for instance, does not commit its nuclear capability to NATO: nor indeed does the United States commit its major nuclear forces to NATO command.
Therefore there is absolutely nothing in principle—I know the noble Lord, Lord Annan, does not particularly like principle, although I very much enjoyed listening to his speech about the South Atlantic—to bar Britain from being a full and loyal member of NATO on a non-nuclear basis and making the most effective contribution to NATO which our resources 110 allow. We recognise of course that all this implies many difficult negotiations, particularly with the United States. We shall enter into those discussions in the framework of being allies and friends, but not sycophants.
We do not take everything that comes from Washington as suitable for application here or anywhere else, because the most reliable friends are those who speak frankly when differences emerge. If I may, I shall briefly quote two such examples where I think we ought to make it clear where we stand. I refer, in the field of defence, to star wars and, in respect of foreign policy, to Nicaragua. I am sure those two issues will be discussed by the Prime Minister when she goes to see President Reagan this weekend; but I am afraid that it is a bit too much to expect that she will give him the right advice when she sees him.
It would appear from press reports, and indeed from the Prime Minister's Mansion House speech, that European governments are now worried that the two super powers came near to agreement at Reykjavik on a mutual reduction over 10 years of strategic nuclear missiles. I rather fear from that Mansion House speech that the Prime Minister will tell President Reagan that he was in danger of going too far at Reykjavik. My view is that he did not go far enough. If he had abandoned his fantasy of SDI, that conference in Iceland would have marked an historic turning-point in world affairs with a massive reduction of armaments. Our Prime Minister should seek to persuade President Reagan to go back to that negotiating table, because I believe there are the seeds of a genuine international breakthrough.
I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and my noble friend Lord Brockway drew attention to the significance of the recent American elections, because whatever message our Prime Minister gives to the President, he already has a salutary message from his own electorate. The new voices in Congress are opposed to President Reagan's escalation of the arms budget, to his SDI proposals and to his support for the Contras in Nicaragua. That was the message which the American electorate gave him, and I hope that he will listen and change his policies.
In this debate much attention has naturally been given to the East-West confict and to the European theatre. However, it is my view that there is a greater likelihood of war or of the spread of Soviet aggression elsewhere than in Europe. It may be in South-East Asia, in the Middle East, in Central America or perhaps in southern Africa. Therefore the other message which I should hope that a British Prime Minister would deliver to President Reagan is that in the third world Soviet-style communism cannot be stopped by force or arms.
When there is a situation, as there is at this time in Nicaragua, of a poverty-stricken country in which there is a broad-based (and I stress the words "broad-based") movement, which in that case is in government and which is in revolt against social injustice, such as landlessness for the peasantry and conditions of extreme poverty, it is not possible to resist that movement by force of arms. Ilan attempt is made to do so, it plays straight into the hands of the communists who are able, whatever role they may 111 play in the early part of the movement, to step into positions of leadership in the broad-based movement. That is what happened in Cuba many years ago, it is surely the lesson of Vietnam and in today's world it is the lesson to be learnt in Nicaragua.
It is not only from the Opposition Benches in this country, but also from large and powerful sectors of public opinion in the United States, that the dangers of military interference in Nicaragua from outside are seen. Those interventions will not succeed in their objectives. On the other hand, it is all too likely that they could cause a situation reminiscent of the Vietnam disaster. Our efforts should be put behind those who want to stop that disaster.
Before I close, perhaps I may give another illustration as there is another area which has not been mentioned in the debate today where similar issues are at stake. That is in the Philippines where President Cory Aquino is now walking on a tightrope. She is currently on her way to Japan which is perhaps a long way to walk on a tightrope, but politically she is indeed on a tightrope. We have a situation in which the United States, understandably anxious to maintain its military bases there, has to decide (as I think it has not yet decided) what kind of government and what kind of economic and social policies it will support. It would be a tragic mistake for it to support a military coup, which appears to be all too imminent.
At the same time, if the communist forces of the PLA are not to seize power, then President Aquino must be enabled and willing—and I am not sure that she is willing, but she must be enabled if she is willing—to bring about these fundamental antipoverty policies which alone can be the basis for a stable government there. If she does not succeed, the communists will; that message is again one which should be delivered to the White House.
What I have illustrated in relation to Nicaragua and in relation to the Philippines is, I believe, a worldwide problem. That problem can only be met by a massive attack on the problems with which the teeming masses of the third world are confronted. That should be the direction in which all our efforts in diplomacy and in economic affairs should be directed. If Iceland had succeeded, that would have released the resources which we need to tackle these vast problems. Therefore, I hope that we shall not criticise what happened at Reykjavik. We should bend our energies to return to the spirit of Reykjavik.
May I conclude, since the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and others have made this point, on the argument that the existence of nuclear weapons on both sides, terrible and awful though they are, has at least kept the peace for 40 years. I concede that there is some truth in that. It is a horrific truth that we have to rely on that sort of imbalance in order to keep the peace. But I believe, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, indicated, that there are factors other than the hydrogen bomb which have kept the peace.
Let us therefore recognise that it is a highly precarious and highly dangerous form of stability upon which we are relying. I would paint the picture of a pyramid. It can find equilibrium if carefully poised on its apex. It is that sort of peace, that sort of 112 equilibrium, which hydrogen bombs ensure. We now have to strive to achieve a situation in the world of a pyramid firmly on its base. That is our objective, and I believe that we could move gradually towards that more stable peace if the Government would only listen more attentively than they have done over the years to the voices that come not only from this side of the House but from the other parts.
There was the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, speaking from the other side of the House, with his understanding of the Falklands situation. I do not refer just to the speech of my noble friend Lord Cledwyn, and certainly not to my own. There have been speeches from the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. We had our controversy, but there was much in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, with which I thoroughly agreed. Then, as I have indicated, the noble Lord, Lord Annan, made a notable speech about the South Atlantic. Also, as so often, I found myself in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Walston. The Government have to listen to the other way of going about the world in order to make sure that the world continues to live.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I wonder whether he would clear up one point. We are much obliged to him for making clear the Labour view that Britain should dispense with nuclear weapons, even though the Russians retain them. But is it also the Labour view that NATO should dispense with NATO weapons, even though the Russians retain them?
My Lords, I listened with care this afternoon to the opening sentences of the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew. I regretted that I was not able to hear all of his speech, but I heard him say that the Alliance policy includes persuading NATO to adopt a position of less reliance on nuclear weapons. I share that view that we aim to reduce NATO's strategy as being a nuclear strategy.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, may I just make my question plain? The noble Lord has plainly misunderstood my question. My question is, is it Labour's view that NATO should dispense with nuclear weapons while the Russians retain theirs?
My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord would look at his notes again. That is what he said in relation to the Alliance policy, and I said that I agreed.
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, this is the fourth successive year that I have had the privilege of rising to reply to this debate. As always, the quality of the contributions has been high, as is only to be expected in your Lordships' House, where so much experience resides on the subjects of foreign affairs and defence. A number of telling points have been made and I shall try to deal with as many as possible in a few moments. But before I do so I should like to make one or two general remarks.
113 I have the privilege of speaking to your Lordships wearing a number of hats. But the office which I assumed earlier this year—that of Minister of State for Defence Procurement—could not be more relevant to the subject of this debate. To defend the nation effectively the Armed Forces need the right equipment. And with technology moving ahead at a great pace what is adequate for the job one year may not be the next. The halcyon days when it took decades, or even centuries, to move from one generation of equipment to the next are long gone. But the more sophisticated the equipment the longer it takes to develop and bring into service. For the most advanced equipment this process can take as long as 15 years. For example, work on the Tornado aircraft began in the 1960s and the aircraft entered service in 1982.
But not only must we plan far ahead into the future—equally we must be ready to bear the costs of the high technology now so essential. To help meet this the Government increased the defence budget in real terms in seven successive years from 1978–79. As I indicated when repeating the Autumn Statement to your Lordships last week, the defence programme now benefits from the substantial real growth in previous years and the wide-ranging action to improve efficiency and value for money.
Furthermore, the more effective deployment of defence resources has enabled us to increase the proportion of the budget spent on equipment from 40 per cent. in 1979–80 to about 45 per cent. now. This percentage represents some £8¼ billion being spent this year for these purposes.
Meanwhile, we are pressing on—and this takes up a great deal of my time—with getting better value for the money we spend by, for example: measures to avoid so-called gold-plating of equipment; increased competition (which has produced substantial savings, as this year's White Paper has demonstrated), and increased collaboration with our NATO partners to share, and thereby reduce the cost to us of development.
These measures produce economic benefits not only in terms of supplying our own services. They also increase the attractiveness of British equipment for overseas buyers, and we must not forget the importance of these exports in specifying our requirements for new equipment. Such exports contribute to our balance of payments and, through longer production runs, help a good deal in our crusade for better value in defence expenditure. In addition, defence exports currently sustain some 120,000 jobs in the United Kingdom, and last year new contracts signed amounted to almost £3 billion—a figure which does not include significant orders finalised this year.
As a timely example of the continuing process of updating equipment I am happy to announce today that the Government have placed an order with British Aerospace for the new Rapier 2000 air defence missile system. It has evolved from the Rapier system which first entered service in 1974. The Rapier family has contributed greatly to the defence exporting successes I have just mentioned. It has achieved more than £2,000 million-worth of orders from some 12 different 114 countries. This new order will give the Army and the Royal Air Force an effective capability against high performance aircraft well into the 21st century. The order is worth about £1,000 million, and we expect it to provide employment for about 10,000 people at the peak of the programme throughout Britain and within a wide range of industry.
There was a time when the raw material of a debate on defence was just such matters as the effective equipping and deployment of our forces. There used to be a broad consensus as to what our policy was. The argument was not over what, or even how, but over whether the Government were doing it properly. As is all too evident, that consensus has now broken down—a breakdown that I view with apprehension and sorrow, because we are talking not about the proper stuff of party politics but about the security of the nation.
The sort of defence policy proposals which we have been hearing from some noble Lords opposite and their honourable and right honourable friends would very greatly damage our ability to deter aggression, and thus put at risk the peace that we have enjoyed in Europe for over forty years.
Let me take just two examples. First there is the proposition that NATO should commit itself in all circumstances to meet a conventional attack only with conventional weapons—combined with the proposition that NATO's conventional forces should have only defensive capabilities, unable to retaliate against attack. Let us set aside the question of whether the necessary build-up in conventional weapons could be achieved without a massive increase in defence expenditure. What lessons would the Russians draw from this? Could they not conclude that they could launch a conventional attack and, win or lose, Warsaw Pact territory would not be at risk? Would this not be very, very dangerous?
Secondly, what lesson would the Soviet Union draw if Britain were to throw out the American nuclear bases? We are a senior member of the alliance who has traditionally played an important and cohesive role. Would the Soviet Union conclude from our actions that NATO was united and strong, or divided and weak?
This Government remain committed to effective deterrence through NATO. The objectives of NATO strategy of flexible response are quite clear. First and foremost the alliance aims to maintain a range of conventional and nuclear forces sufficient to deter aggression or intimidation; its secondary objective, should aggression occur, is to have the ability to respond to any attack at the right level—which means the level it would take to make the aggressor cease his attack and withdraw. In meeting both these objectives, it is quite right that NATO should resist any commitment to a "no first use of nuclear weapons". To reduce the risk of war, NATO must ensure that the Soviet Union can never be certain of fighting or threatening to fight a successful conventional war in Europe. And, since the fostering of uncertainty in the mind of the aggressor is an essential factor in a successful deterrent policy, it would clearly be utter folly to comment in any detail, as I have sometimes been 115 asked to do in your Lordships' House, on the use of nuclear weapons in any particular scenario.
The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, directed us toward what he termed "the valley of the shadow of nuclear death". If asked to contemplate which policy most clearly signposts us toward the apocalyptic vision, I would unhesitantly suggest that it is the policy of noble Lords opposite. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister made clear again the other evening, we depend and will continue to depend upon nuclear weapons for our defence. No other means of preserving peace is yet at hand. The Government therefore remain committed to the Trident programme which will contribute to the credibility of NATO's deterrent and provide this country with a degree of security out of all proportion to its cost well into the next century.
As for alternatives to Trident, quite frankly there is no other system which could conceivably do the same job for the same price. Sea-launched cruise missiles would be neither cheaper nor as effective. They have only one warhead, so that many more would be needed to equal the minimum deterrent provided by Trident. That means that we should need more submarines, which are by far the most expensive component of the system. It is no answer to deploy cruise missiles on existing hunter-killer submarines. This would involve one submarine trying to do two incompatible jobs and doing neither adequately.
There are two further points to consider. First, the range of a cruise missile is much less than that of its ballistic counterpart—as well as taking longer to fire and thus being more vulnerable to improvements in Soviet defences. Second, there is a limit to how far offshore a sea-launched cruise missile can be fired to ensure that it makes landfall accurately enough to carry out successful overland navigation to its target. These two factors combined mean that the launching submarine would be restricted in the sea-room in which it could operate effectively, with all that that implies for its possible detection by enemy forces.
As for Dr. Owen's Euro-deterrent, I am a firm believer in the need to get to grips with European collaboration and make it more effective. But it really is illusory to suggest that there is readily available some kind of European alternative to Trident which would be cheaper and adequately effective. It is illusory because there is no sign that a joint European force is on offer and because there is no alternative system which could provide a credible deterrent more cost-effectively than Trident. Above all, by removing—as I presume is proposed—Britain's right alone to use the deterrent when our supreme national interest so requires, we simplify the calculations of a potential aggressor and make an attack upon us more likely, not less.
I undertook to explain to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, the contribution that Trident will make to deterrence. We have no doubt of the commitment of the United States to the defence of its European allies by whatever means are necessary. But deterrence is a matter of perception. What is important is not how we see things, but how a potential adversary does. It 116 would undoubtedly be a grave decision for the United States to use nuclear weapons in defence of Europe with all that that could mean for the United States homeland. It is therefore possible that the Soviet Union might at some stage calculate that it could impose its will on Britain and Europe by military force without becoming involved in strategic nuclear war with the United States.
An independent nuclear force under British operational control means that in those circumstances the Soviet Union would have to consider our reaction as well. Our nuclear deterrent is small in comparison with the superpowers, but in absolute terms it can inflict massive damage.
§ Lord Carver
My Lords, will the noble Lord permit me to intervene? The explanation which he has just given is a familiar one and was in a White Paper produced some years ago. It implies the first use of weapons. Will the noble Lord explain how he reconciles that with the Prime Minister's statement that Trident would be a weapon of last resort?
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, the position upon our use of nuclear weapons is plain. We have said that we shall never be the first to use nuclear weapons—or any weapons—save in response to an attack. That is the scenario, as the noble and gallant Lord knows well.
The existence of the British force would enormously complicate Soviet planning, and in the view of successive British Governments and of our NATO allies, it strengthens deterrence and reduces the danger of attack. That is the contribution that Polaris makes to deterrence now and that Trident will make in the future.
I must add that I find it frankly incredible that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, could have felt capable of carrying out his role as Chief of the Defence Staff if he did not accept the key contribution that the United Kingdom deterrent makes to effective deterrence.
The noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, recited a new version of Alliance policy. I must tell him that his policy, and I know that he claims to have had a significant hand in its creation, is nothing short of foolish nonsense. By the mid-1990s, Polaris will be nearing the end of its useful life for a range of technical reasons, well enunciated by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Lewin—not least the enhanced defences by then available to the Soviets. The noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, knows that, or he should do because he was Navy Minister for a time in the mid-1960s when, as he said, Polaris was under construction.
If by the mid-1990s no arms control agreement has been reached, we shall be totally naked unless we produce a replacement. What incentive will there be for the Soviets to reach an agreement if they know that they have to wait only a year or two and our Polaris system will be of no account anyway? No, the absurd policy enunciated by the noble Lord is a policy of unilateral nuclear disarmament, and he should not pretend otherwise.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, we cannot let the noble Lord get away with that. The Alliance has no intention whatsoever of indulging in unilateral nuclear disarmament, Will he please record that?
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, in that case, the noble Baroness had better prepare a replacement for the system that is about to wear out.
Perhaps I may now turn to the issue of warship design, and the short, fat/long, thin argument. Since I announced the resignation of Professor Caldwell from the chairmanship of the inquiry into hull forms for frigates and destroyers, there has understandably been interest in the appointment of a new chairman. I am now pleased to be able to tell your Lordships that Lloyd's Register of Shipping has agreed to conduct the inquiry under the chairmanship of Mr. H. R. MacLeod. I hope that Lloyd's will produce a report which will help us when we come to decide the designs of future frigates and destroyers for the Royal Navy. It is my intention that, subject to the requirements of security and commercial confidentiality, the report should be published.
I turn now to some other points raised during the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, asked what is holding up progress on agreements reached at Reykjavik. It is not the West. The United States has made clear that it is ready to go ahead with an agreement on 50 per cent. cuts in strategic weapons and on INF. But the Soviet Union is holding this hostage to agreement on SDI. The SDI research programme is investigating the feasibility of strategic defences. President Reagan has spoken of SDI as being the insurance policy of the United States and the Alliance. Whether this insurance will be necessary at some future stage cannot be answered now. It is therefore clearly right that the SDI, particularly in the light of the Soviet Union's own activities—I recall that your Lordships were told at some length a year or two ago of Soviet activities in this area—should not be abandoned now. The United States made clear that the SDI is being conducted within the ABM treaty. We have welcomed this. However, the Soviet Union is insisting on severe new restrictions while its own comparable activities remain unacknowledged. It is hardly surprising that President Reagan has refused to accept this one-sided proposal. We hope that agreement on this issue can be reached. In the meantime, there is no reason why agreement on reductions in nuclear weapons should not go ahead.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, is the noble Lord in a position to say what are those severe new restrictions demanded by the Soviet Union?
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, I believe that they have been widely canvassed in the press. I shall perhaps write to the noble Lord with the details. Both the noble Lords, Lord Cledwyn and Lord Gladwyn, asked about the forthcoming visit of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister to Washington. The objective of the visit is to continue at the highest level our very close bilateral consultations with the United States Administration, including discussion on arms control, 118 East-West relations, and regional and bilateral questions. I cannot at this stage give further details about confidential discussions that have not yet taken place. I dare say, however, that my right honourable friend will be making a statement when she gets back.
The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, my noble friend Lord Cork and Orrery and the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, referred to the figures of the military balance in Europe produced by the International Institute for Strategic Studies. My noble friend Lord Trenchard also mentioned them at some length. These calculations are extremely complex for reasons that we explained in this year's Defence White Paper, which, of course, includes our own figures. The institute's military balance is widely consulted and widely respected. By any measure, it is clear that the threat that we face is a substantial one and, as your Lordships will have noted, the conclusions reached by the international institute are not far different from those that we reached in our own White Paper. I am sure that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary will note with interest the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Walston, about the British Council and the diplomatic service, and I assure the noble Lord that we share his appreciation of the value and importance of these two national assets.
I undertook to the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, to repeat our position on the involvement of the United Kingdom deterrent in arms control. It is that if very substantial reductions in United States and Soviet strategic forces were achieved and there was no significant change in Soviet defences, then we would consider what contribution we could make to arms control in the light of the reduced threat. The reasons why we do not speculate on the precise conditions or what our contribution to arms control might be are obvious enough. The noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, suggested that this put us in the same position as the Alliance. But, my Lords, there is a difference. The Trident programme is well under way and will come into service in the mid-1990s as Polaris reaches the end of its useful life. The Trident programme will continue while the search for arms control goes on. I have already expressed my views on the Alliance position at that juncture.
The noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, and I think one other noble Lord referred to the large number of warheads carried by the Trident submarine. The Trident force will have to sustain the British independent nuclear deterrent well into the next century. It must therefore be able to cope with likely developments over that period, including developments in Soviet ballistic missile defence. While I am not prepared to discuss the total number of missiles and warheads concerned, I can however tell the noble Lord that we do not propose to deploy the maximum theoretical capability of the Trident D5 force. The noble Lord had an interesting exchange with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Lewin, on that matter.
My noble friend Lord Montgomery talked, as he often does, about events and matters in the South Atlantic and I think is looking for a restoration, for example, of diplomatic relations with Argentina. But 119 it would be difficult to restore diplomatic relations until Argentina said that hostilities towards us had permanently ceased. But there are intermediate stages and the normalisation of commercial, cultural and other links would, we hope, go in tandem with a progressive upgrading of consular and other official relations.
We remain ready to explore with Argentina how to achieve these more normal relations, but they insist that there can be no discussion of bilateral matters in the absence of negotiations on sovereignty over the Falklands.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, are the Government really going to insist on the fact that there cannot be any negotiations with the Argentines unless we include on the agenda sovereignty, it being obvious that we need not give away anything on sovereignty? But we could discuss all kinds of variants of sovereignty which have been widely discussed in the press, and President Alfonsin has already said that he is prepared to do that.
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, we are ready to discuss a wide range of matters with Argentina, including the normalisation of relations between our two countries. We have made our position on sovereignty absolutely clear time and again. If the Argentinians have any doubt about it, that must be very surprising. We did indeed start negotiations at one time, as the noble Lord will recall, some years ago in Switzerland, and the Argentinians torpedoed those negotiations almost at the first breath.
The noble Lord, Lord Annan, expressed a view about the Falkland Islands with which, if I may say so, I profoundly disagree. The fact of the matter is that the people of the Falkland Islands are just as entitled to live under the government of their choice as is the noble Lord; as I am, and as are the people of Argentina. That is a right which is enshrined in the United Nations Charter. I think that the noble Lord does such matters no service by suggesting that that right is of no account.
The noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, in a powerful speech, related particularly to his experience in the highest office. I commend the conclusions of the noble Lord to his noble friends opposite and hope that he will repeat them again and often.
I greatly welcomed the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes. If the noble Lord will allow me to say so without sounding too presumptuous, I have a slight soft spot for him because I know that he served in the Royal Flying Corps with my father a great many years ago. I think that the noble Lord has made a singular contribution to Sino-British relations, and I commend him for that.
The noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, in a powerful and interesting speech, made a number of points almost all of which I agreed with. I commend him for that. I was pleased to hear the comments of the noble 120 Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, on Her Majesty's Government's policy of supporting fundamental, peaceful change to a non-racial and nonrepresentative system of government in Southern Africa. As he well knows, while we have adopted a series of measures designed to impress upon the South African Government the need for urgent reform, we remain opposed to general economic sanctions the effect of which would be to polarise the conflict and punish ordinary working people here and in South Africa. We are also fully committed to a programme of positive measures to assist black South Africans, and announced in July an additional aid programme for this purpose of £12 million over five years.
I hope that the noble Lord will spread his views widely in his native land. It is perhaps views such as his, widely held, that will eventually persuade the South African Government to move away from the grisly system that they now support. It is worth adding that together with our European partners on the 16th September we adopted a new package of positive and restrictive measures designed to send a further political signal to the South African Government. This package, including bans on new investment and the import of iron, steel and gold coins, has now been fully implemented. We shall continue to work with our European partners and other like-minded countries to promote peaceful dialogue. Advocacy is the only realistic way forward. Progress will need patient but determined effort.
The noble Lord, Lord Oram, during his wide ranging speech, referred to the possibility of big cuts in the Army budget. I can assure the noble Lord that such stories are pure speculation. The suggestion that big cuts are planned in the Army budget is quite without foundation. None of the various measures referred to in recent press reports form a part of our current forward plans.
Defence and foreign policy are inseparable. My noble friend Lady Young, in opening this debate, spoke of the new impetus given to the search for effective measures of arms control at the Reykjavik Summit. I spoke earlier of our commitment to deterrence. Let us be clear that the policy of the NATO Alliance is to follow both these tracks. Our purpose is to prevent war—any kind of war—not just nuclear war. To that end we shall, while maintaining deterrence, seek out and pursue the opportunities for real disarmament and genuine detente.
This is the policy which has been consistently expressed in the gracious Speech for the past seven years—and indeed before that in the gracious Speeches inspired by the noble Lords opposite. I commend it to your Lordships again tonight.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask whether he is going to ignore totally the argument put forward about linkage? Do the Government really think that there can be no agreement on arms control unless the Soviet Union agrees at the same time to notable concessions in human rights, the evacuation of Afghanistan, and so on? Does the noble Lord not believe that?
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, the blockage in the way of arms control at Reykjavik was the Soviet Union.
§ Baroness Hooper
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Caithness I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned until Tuesday next.
Moved, That this debate be now adjourned until Tuesday next.—(Baroness Hooper.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to and debate adjourned accordingly.