HL Deb 15 December 1987 vol 491 cc699-713

10.1 p.m.

Lord Kennet rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will clarify their understanding of the relationship between strategic arms reductions and anti-ballistic missile defence.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have a very limited and precise Question to put to the Government tonight. I gave the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, precise advance notice of it some two or three weeks ago. However, before I put the Question and describe exactly what is meant by it, I should like to mention two general points about the present political situation.

Immediately after the summit last week, Mr. Gorbachev went back to Russia and said that despite President Reagan's belief that it was not, SDI is still an obstacle to further measures of nuclear disarmament. This is certainly the third and perhaps even the fourth time that this has happened. Time and again we in the West are informed that the Soviet objections to SDI have been withdrawn, but time and again we find that that was false information.

It is not a very difficult problem to see what ought to be done. It is a question of interpretation of treaties—for example, the ABM Treaty. The way you interpret treaties is laid down in international law. The first thing that happens is that the two parties who differ sit down together to see if they can agree what it means, what the text means. If they cannot, they look at the preamble together and see if they can agree what that means. If they cannot, they look at the negotiating record together to see what that means. All this is to be done together.

There exists a joint Soviet-American body for the very purpose of looking at the ABM Treaty together, if there is a disagreement about interpretation. The United States is unwilling to use this body. Of course, if the two signatories of a treaty cannot agree on these things together they are free to go to the World Court for an opinion on the meaning of the treaty. None of these things is being done and I think the world is the sufferer for that. The point I wish to make in going into that is that SDI is still alive and that the proper channels for getting over the obstacle are still not being used. Therefore, we have to take it a little further in countries like ours.

A second background point which will be less familiar to everybody concerns ATBM—anti-tactical ballistic missile defence as opposed to strategic anti-ballistic missile defence. Tactical is the shorter-range, middle-range stuff.

The Government have a great contract with the United States, arranged under the memorandum of agreement, which is a bilateral treaty, to study something called European architecture. This is a curious code phrase which means to study how one could have anti-ballistic missile defence against short-range ballistic missiles and even medium-range ballistic missiles (INFs) in Europe; how that could best be arranged and how it could best be done politically between the different countries. They are studying this.

There has been a recent development. Noble Lords may not have noticed that within the past week Israel has been accorded alliance status with the United States on a par with that of NATO. All rights and privileges, as it were, that NATO partners now have in Washington are equally shared by Israel. This reminds us—or should remind us—that it is about now that West European ATBM research is being married up, by the United States army bureau concerned, with other allied ATBM research. That principally means Israel, which is researching hard in the same way as ourselves.

I had a courteous and helpful answer from the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, to a Written Question that I asked last week. My question was about the future of "European architecture" studies now that there was to be no more INF deployment in Europe. The noble Lord said that that would continue for shorter range nuclear weapons. He introduced the, to me, new phrase "theatre architecture studies".

We are now engaged in investigating theatre architecture in the abstract. Western Europe can be a theatre of war. That is familiar. Israel can be a theatre of war. Israel is a nuclear power. That is less familiar. Our research and Israeli research are being mixed up. Will what we come up with be shared with Israel? Is that a fact? If it is not, will the Government state it? If it is a fact, does this House welcome it? I submit not. It is dangerous and should be discontinued.

I shall deal with the Question of which I have given notice. It concerns an apparent contradiction in various passages of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, on the last Unstarred Question on this subject on 18th November. He said (at col. 276 of Hansard): The United Kingdom deterrent is the minimum we judge necessary to deter an aggressor. It is based on a small number of submarines carrying the minimum number of warheads necessary to penetrate the defences of a potential aggressor.

He further said (at col. 277): We have said we would consider associating the United Kingdom deterrent with arms control only if there were very substantial reductions in the strategic arsenals of the super powers and no change in the defensive capabilities of the Soviet Union. That is something we can understand. It is sensible. It makes good sense. We back the Government in that attitude. If the defences must be taken into account in settling the level of a country's offensive nuclear weapons which are held for deterrent purposes, let them be taken into account. That is common sense. They must be.

I shall now quote some other passages of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur. He said (at col. 275): It is widely known that the major obstacle to achieving a START agreement (that is, strategic arms reduction between America and Russia)— is Soviet insistence on linking progress to constraints on SDI. We consider it unacceptable that progress towards those reductions is being held up because of Soviet opposition to research into defensive technologies.

He continued: The Russians have argued that such US research will nullify their strategic arsenal, and that no cuts can therefore be contemplated: That seems fanciful".

Again: But START reductions should not be held hostage to arguments about an ABM treaty".

My question is: why is what is true for Britain untrue for the Soviet Union? If we cannot start to change the level of our offensive weapons until we know what the level of Soviet defensive systems is, how can the Soviet Union start changing the levels of its offensive weapons without knowing what the level of United States defensive systems will be? It is as simple as that. What is sauce for the goose, is sauce for the gander. Will the Government please look bifocally at this matter?

I look forward very much to hearing whether there is any justification for using a different standard in our calculations from that which we expect the Soviet Union to use in its.

10.9 p.m.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, in last week's communiqué on the INF treaty, the Geneva negotiators were instructed to work out an agreement: that would commit the sides to observe the ABM treaty, as signed in 1972, while conducting their research, development and testing as required, which are permitted by the ABM treaty, and not to withdraw from the ABM treaty, for a specified period of time". As the noble Lord, Lord Rennet, has said, that has been interpreted in the Soviet Union as a halt to SDI research and deployment. It has been interpreted in the United States as a carte blanche for continuing SDI. We need to know where Her Majesty's Government stand.

Perhaps I may first say that 15 years ago my noble friend Lord Brockway wrote a book called The Merchants of Death. I wish to warn noble Lords that the European defence industries, facing a slump in their export markets to the impoverished third world, are already pushing for an increase in high technology projects in Western Europe. This is predicated on the continuing division of Europe. I submit that the INF agreement gives an opportunity to end this division. But military disarmament depends on political disarmament. The objective has to be genuine disarmament and genuine understanding on both sides. As the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, has said, at the moment there is one law for the East and another for the West. I submit that the British Government must not be allowed to block progress towards genuine political and military disarmament between East and West by a subjective attitude to the ABM Treaty.

There is a link in the chances of cutting strategic weapons in half with the ABM Treaty. Her Majesty's Government and in particular the Prime Minister, quickly jumped in to condemn Reykjavik over 12 months ago. They have stated that they are opposed to a nuclear-free Europe. I wonder when they will be prepared to put that to the test of public opinion.

I wish to concentrate on one specific item in the Government's attitude to the ABM treaty. It is an item that I have raised in this House before: the position of the Fylingdales radar system. According to the 1972 ABM treaty, no long-range strategic early warning radar is allowed. Secondly, it is not allowed to be deployed. Thirdly, if it has been built since 1972 it breaks the treaty. Fourthly, if it is built outside the United States it breaks the treaty. The British Government have taken the line that the new developments in Fylingdales constitute modernisation, replacement and upgrading. That is quite irrelevant. The new developments at Fylingdales break the ABM treaty because they will be deployed simultaneously with the existing radar arrangements.

Article VII of the ABM treaty explicitly permits the modernisation only of ABM radars. It does not extend this licence to early-warning radars. Article VI(b) commits each party, not to deploy in the future radars for early warning of strategic ballistic missile attack except at locations along the periphery of its national territory and oriented outward". Fylingdales lies far outside the national territory of the United States. The early warning radars in question are obviously coming into being at the two sites, Thule and Fylingdales, "in the future" with respect to 1972. When it is explicitly stated that the new installation at Fylingdales—what the Government call the modernised installation—will operate simultaneously with the existing installation, can this by any stretch of the English language be interpreted as modernisation?

The new LPARs at Fylingdales will be complete replacements for the existing non-phased-array radars at the existing site. The simple fact that at Fylingdales the old and the new radars will be operational concurrently for a considerable time—perhaps as long as a year—must lead to the conclusion that the United States will in future deploy radars for early warning of strategic ballistic missile attacks at Fylingdales and, by so doing, will be in material breach of the ABM treaty.

This is not my argument only. The case is supported by, among others, Lieutenant-General K. H. Burke, United States Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Research, and by John Rhinelander and Ray Gartoff, respectively the United States legal adviser to and deputy head of the United States SALT I delegation. All three have testified that the LPAR will breach the ABM treaty.

I ask the Minister to accept this as a rational argument—even though he may disagree with it—supported by United States experts in the field and by many other people who have examined the treaty at diplomatic and scientific level. If the Minister disagrees with it, I ask him to state the Government's case to meet the assertion that the Fylingdales development breaches the ABM treaty. By breaching that treaty, it is undermining the possible development from last week's INF treaty towards bridging the political and military division of Europe.

If the Minister disagrees with the argument, I ask him to put the Government's case against it to show where the weakness lies instead of offering the usual evasions based on dogmatic and unproven assertions. I ask him to treat the argument seriously, put forward as it is by serious analysts of the situation, and to let us know where Her Majesty's Government stand. I ask the Minister to give us the Government's answer to the clear analysis, deduction and conclusion that what is proposed to be done at Fylingdales is in direct breach of the specific clauses of the ABM treaty. Unless the Government can do that, they stand accused of deliberate sabotage of the opportunity that now lies before Europe to put aside the Cold War, to put aside military competition and to usher in a new era of understanding and friendship among European peoples.

10.20 p.m.

Lord Mayhew

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Rennet, has introduced a subject which deserves an earlier hour and a fuller House and he has put forward a clear and interesting inconsistency in the attitude of the Government on SDL When the Russians improve their anti-ballistic missile defences the Government use this as an argument to increase the strategic capacity of the British deterrent, first, by Chevaline and now by Trident; and that is logical. When the Americans propose to construct an anti-ballistic missile system the Government reject the right of the Russians to raise their capacity for offensive weapons to match. This is a clear inconsistency and I am bound to say that I see the logic of the Soviet position.

If an American SDI system can intercept and destroy a proportion—and no one puts it higher—of incoming missiles, surely one quite simple and not very expensive way of countering that is to increase the number of offensive missiles that one launches at the United States. That is absolutely logical. Of course one can do other things. One can increase anti-satellite capacity. One can start on SDI. But the obvious logical consequence for the Russians is to increase their strategic weapons. Therefore if it is true that the Americans are still hard about proceeding with research and development on SDI, that is bound to be a serious obstacle to progress next year towards an agreement and treaty on the reduction of strategic arms.

My question to the Government is similar to that of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. What is the position between the Americans and Russians now on SDI? As the noble Lord said, we have had contradictory reports. We are told from the United States that a formula has been reached and that both sides are prepared, so to speak, to fudge the issue. We also read Mr. Gorbachev's statement that SDI remains an important obstacle to a treaty on strategic weapons. First, we want to be told whether Her Majesty's Government know what the position is between the Russians and the Americans on this issue. They should have been informed. All the NATO allies should have been informed. May we be reassured that the Government know it? Secondly, may we have the Government's view on this subject?

Noble Lords will remember that at the beginning of the debate about SDI a most admirable and sceptical speech was made by the Foreign Secretary. We want to know whether that is still the position of the Government or whether the Government agree with the Americans that SDI must go ahead even at the risk of sabotaging a strategic arms agreement next year. We are entitled even at this late hour to a clear answer to those two questions. Do the Government support the narrow interpretation of the treaty, as the Russians evidently do, or do they support the broad interpretation of the treaty which is the position, as I understand it, of the United States?

I should like to make another point in my brief intervention. This debate gives the Minister another opportunity to explain the policy of the British Government on the question of circumventing the new INF treaty. We now know—the matter is not contested—that consultations with France are at an advanced stage on a new nuclear weapons system, the joint production of cruise missiles with a range of 300 miles to be carried by Tornados. I think this is not denied by the Government, and I read in the newspapers statements by Mr. Younger and the Foreign Secretary confirming what I have just said.

Is this just modernising? That is what we are told. We are told that it is the modernisation of what we have now, which is the free fall bomb, the W177. The Government's position is that they are modernising the 177s. Well, it is obviously ridiculous. It is escalation. Of course the new weapon system will be far more effective. It will be longer range, with the Tornado range added to the 300 miles. It will be longer range than the 177. It will be more powerful. It will have greater penetration. It is in fact escalation.

I draw the Minister's attention to the reply I received in the debate on 9th December from his noble friend Lord Glenarthur. At col. 274 he said, referring to my speech: I cannot, however, agree with his declaration that modernisation is escalation. We are not escalating nor circumventing the INF agreement". Of course it is escalation. Everybody knows it is escalation.

When the Russians said they were modernising the SS.4s and the SS.5s by producing and deploying the SS.20s the Government mocked them, and quite rightly. They are open to the same derision when they go in with France on a new weapon system of airborne cruise missiles having a range of 300 miles and call it modernisation of the free fall W177. They will open themselves to derision in the same way.

When the Government say that they are not circumventing the treaty, I note that Mr. Younger said yesterday: We are talking about weapons"— the weapons system I have discussed— which are entirely permitted within the INF treaty". Of course, when you say that we are circumventing the treaty, that means being obedient to the letter of the treaty but, in effect, taking action which nullifies it. This is what the Government are apparently planning to do with the new weapons system.

After all, INF deals with the cruise missiles based at Greenham and elsewhere. But the new weapons system that the Government are now considering with the French has just as large a range as the Greenham Common banned cruise missiles. It is just as important and has a similar missile. It is a similar warhead with a similar range. It is in fact replacing the capacity which is banned by the INF Treaty.

I do not dispute that it is compatible with the lettering of the treaty. But it is plainly contrary to its spirit. Therefore, I ask the Government: is this new weapons system not escalation, and is it not circumventing the INF treaty? I hope that we can have a clear and precise answer to these questions from the Government.

10.29 p.m.

Lord Gladwyn

My Lords, I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I profit from this occasion—of not longer than five minutes, I assure your Lordships—by recalling that my own opposition to star wars dates from its actual inception in March 1983. Although the President may, as we know, be among those very few who sincerely believe in his dream that it will result in the total abolition of all nuclear weapons, I assure your Lordships—and I have assured you before—that in my view the real object of the promoters of this unfortunate project was, and still is, in the first place to make immense sums of money for the armaments industry and all those institutions and persons associated with it. Then next to spread abroad the impression that the Republican Party is in favour of what is called peace. Finally, to block any limitation of nuclear arms on the legitimate assumption that the Russians will never willingly agree to any effective violation of the 1972 ABM treaty.

I believe that the so-called broad interpretation of the treaty by the United States is, in effect, a violation of it; and many lawyers agree with that belief. However, we must recognise that the Americans accuse the Russians of violating it, too. None of those alleged violations, distributed by the Pentagon, are confirmed; they are only suspected. The exception is the installation of the phased array system at Krasnoyarsk. There the Russians have accepted inspection by American experts who have visited Krasnoyarsk and looked over the whole show. At Fylingdales, where the Americans are strongly suspected of violating the treaty, the Americans have made no such concessions and no Russian experts have been invited there. I agree with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, regarding that matter.

Some people now say that Mr. Gorbachev's admission that Russia is indulging in some form of special ABM research justifies the proposal of a vast scheme of research and development, and the eventual deployment of SDI; but that is quite irrelevant. There is no doubt that the Russians are experimenting with lasers and directed energy; no one denies that, and Mr. Gorbachev has confirmed it. However, given the obvious necessity on the part of Russia to spend less on existing armaments to rehabilitate its ailing economy, it would be prepared, if necessary, to spend countless billions of rubles on the equivalent of star wars. That makes no sense whatever.

As my noble friend Lord Mayhew pointed out, and as the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, has constantly said, if the Americans press ahead with SDI, the Russians will not reduce—as is now hoped—but conceivably double the number of strategic missiles. In that case, any hope of general nuclear arms restrictions would disappear.

The whole possibility of what is known as nuclearisation of space seems now to be at issue, irrespective of the President's dream of one day establishing a totally leak-proof dome over each super power, if not over Europe. There is always the possibility of the destruction by one side or the other of the other's satellites, and research on SDI may well contribute to that end. Surely, in the present improved climate (I think that it has been improved) the super powers should agree at least to a truce in the fatal rivalry of preparing to destroy each other's satellites. Should it not be the duty of all Europeans, including our own Government, to encourage them to do so? We in this country always allow people to give advice. The Prime Minister is always giving advice to President Reagan; why should she not give advice to this effect? I cannot see why she should not.

As regards star wars, with luck Congress may now substantially reduce funds earmarked for the project and eventually liquidate it after the next election. That must be our hope and it is a reasonable prospect presumably before the ratification by both sides of any agreement on strategic weapons that may be signed next year. That is on the assumption that Mr. Gorbachev is not removed from power by the Nomenkleture or the KGB, and that the so-called hard-line Republicans do not provide a President of the United States. No one can be sure that one disaster or the other will not occur.

In Western Europe, all we can do is to ensure that reason and not emotion prevails in the crucial years that lie ahead. If we simply plunge ahead with the nuclear arms race (for that is what it will be if there is no agreement) there is no guarantee whatever that we shall be able to avoid what may well be the destruction of the world.

10.35 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I am certain the Minister is anxious to answer the question which is contained in the submission by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, and it is not my business to stand in his way. I certainly would not subscribe to the view of my noble friend Lord Hatch, who asked if we are to be met by his usual evasiveness.

I expect clear answers to clear questions. From all sides of the House for the past 35 minutes colleagues have deployed their arguments, as many did in the very important debate last week. We are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, who has persisted in trying to get answers to the queries he raised in the Unstarred Question on strategic arms reduction on 18th November. The Minister can do the House, and many people outside the House, a service by giving us something more positive than we have had so far.

The major debate last week cleared up a number of things. The summit in Washington clarified a number of others. However, it left some uncertainty on the future of SDI, and the joint statement issued by President Reagan and Secretary-General Gorbachev was ambiguous on that point.

Commentators argue that the Soviet Union has temporarily shelved its opposition to SDI on a number of grounds. First, Congress is placing restrictions on it; as part of the recent budget negotiations, the US administration agreed to adhere to the "narrow" interpretation of the ABM treaty until September 1988; secondly, budget cutbacks will further hamper the project, and Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci is planning to cut 33 billion dollars from next year's defence budget; and, thirdly, given President Reagan's personal commitment to SDI, it may be easier for his successor to strike a deal with the USSR on it. Defence Secretary Carlucci has also said: Mikhail Gorbachev still ties confirmation of a strategic arms deal to the strengthening as well as adherence to the anti-Ballistic Missile treaty". What the House would like the Minister to tell it is not our interpretation of what happens between America and Russia but what is the view of the British Government in this matter. The Minister will recall that the Prime Minister wrote to President Reagan prior to the summit stating that, a mutually agreed timetable for star wars research, and a long-term commitment to the ABM treaty are the two essential preconditions for reaching a strategic arms limitation deal. Can the Minister confirm that this is indeed HMG's position? And can he tell us what Mr. Gorbachev's response to it was when he met the Prime Minister last week?

In our debate on strategic arms reduction of 18th November, the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, stated that the Government, consider it unacceptable that progress towards those reductions is being held up because of Soviet opposition to research into defensive technologies."—[Official Report; col. 275.] However, by 9th December the noble Lord was not only recognising that such opposition existed, but was suggesting a means of defusing it, when he said that, the way to resolve differences would be a commitment both by the United States and by the USSR not to withdraw from the ABM Treaty for a number of years, together with exchanges of information over both sides' research programmes." [Col. 271.] We on these Benches support this more constructive statement. If there were added to it the need to reach agreement on interpretation of the ABM treaty, and provision for negotiation prior to deployment, we should have a very solid basis for agreement between the super powers.

I just want to reinforce the very persistent and proper way in which my noble friend Lord Hatch asked extremely searching questions about the illegality of what is going on at Fylingdales, because Peter Pringle, who writes from Washington for the Independent, said: American lawyers who helped to draft the ABM treaty, among them Gerard Smith, the treaty's chief negotiator, and John Rhinelander, legal adviser to the US negotiating team, say that all three radar deals violate the treaty. A still-secret internal US government analysis of the treaty made at the time also indicates that the three radars are illegal…Those who say it is illegal do so on the basis of Articles Six and Nine of the treaty". I know that the noble Lord is far more familiar with that and other matters than I am. But I am genuinely seeking a reconciliation with my understanding of what that treaty says, because, in respect of large phased-array radar, LPAR, the treaty quite clearly states that it bans LPARs with certain exceptions. They are permitted only within agreed ABM missile deployment areas, at agreed ABM test ranges, for the purpose of arms control verification, for tracking objects in space and for early warning only if sited at the periphery of the national territory of either the USA or the USSR.

Those are my questions. My claim to fame tonight is that I have made the shortest speech in the debate.

10.43 p.m.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, in rising to reply to the Question of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, I am bound to observe that this subject was extensively covered in considerable detail during a five-hour debate in your Lordships' House as recently as last Wednesday, not to mention in the Starred Question on 18th November to which the noble Lord referred. But I make no complaint about that. The noble Lord is entitled to ask whatever questions he likes, whenever he likes, and I shall do my best to answer. But it will come as no surprise to noble Lords who recall that five-hour debate if I say that the Question tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, does not permit of a simple answer.

Let me first set out the Government's position on Alliance strategy, strategic arms reductions, the conditions relating to inclusion of the United Kingdom deterrent in arms control negotiations, and the Government's position on ABM defence. Against that background I shall then attempt to answer the noble Lord's Question.

Our starting point is that the Alliance strategy of deterrence has served us well for 40 years, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. To be credible it must continue to be based upon an appropriate mix of nuclear weapons and strong conventional forces. That is not to say that we oppose strategic arms, reductions. On the contrary, we fully support the Reykjavik goal of 50 per cent. reductions in the Soviet and US strategic offensive forces. It is agreed that the United Kingdom deterrent has no part to play in the present negotiations. Our position is that we would consider associating the United Kingdom deterrent with arms control only if there were very substantial reductions in the strategic arsenals of the super powers and no change in the defensive capabilities of the Soviet Union. As the Prime Minister made clear after her meeting with Mr. Gorbachev at Brize Norton on 7th December, our nuclear deterrent is an irreducible minimum and until the negotiations on nuclear weapons have gone a lot further than a 50 per cent. reduction, there is no question of even thinking of bringing ours in.

It is a fundamental principle that arms control measures must at the very least maintain current levels of security and preferably enhance them. However when Trident is deployed it will still represent a smaller proportion of Soviet strategic warheads after a START agreement than did Polaris when it was first fully deployed in 1970.

To include the United Kingdom deterrent in arms control negotiations until substantially greater cuts had been made in superpower arsenals would not therefore meet that basic criteria. The essential difference is that we maintain as my noble friend Lord Glenarthur-said a minimum deterrent while as both parties to the START negotiations acknowledge their strategic arsenals would still be capable of maintaining deterrents after 50 per cent. cuts. If they did not believe that, they would not be at the negotiating table.

The Government's position on SDI which so exercises the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, is based on the four points agreed between my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and President Reagan at Camp David in 1984. I shall recite them again if I may for the benefit of the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, because I sometimes think that the view he advances on this matter suggests that he has not fully studied those four points, and I hope that he will take the time to do so.

They are these: first that the United States and Western aim is not to achieve superiority, but to maintain balance taking account of Soviet developments. I might say incidentally that General Secretary Gorbachev has recently confirmed that the Soviet Union is working in that area. Secondly, that SDI deployment would, in view of Treaty obligations, have to be a matter for negotiation; thirdly, that the overall aim is to enhance deterrence and not to undermine it; and fourthly that East/West negotiations should aim to achieve security with reduced levels of offensive systems on both sides.

Let me underline that the SDI programme is a research programme to determine the feasibility of a system based upon the principles that have been enunciated. It is not a programme to deploy a system of that kind. That could only take place following negotiation under the Treaty as drafted.

Lord Gladwyn

My Lords, will the noble Lord say whether or not the Prime Minister agrees with the broad interpretation of the 1972 Treaty?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, it is not for the United Kingdom to interpret the ABM Treaty. We are not parties to that Treaty any more than is the noble Lord, if I may say so. The fact of the matter is that, as I say, we are not parties to the Treaty; but we have indicated that we should support the narrower interpretation and hope that the United States will do so as well.

Against this background, the most obvious and topical connection between strategic arms reductions and anti-ballistic missile defence lies In the linkage placed up to now by the Russians on parallel progress in both areas. The Russians' argument that their deterrent could be undermined by SDI is without merit, since it postulates that all cuts in strategic arsenals must hang on the Russian perception of a research programme which falls within US/Soviet Treaty obligations and the deployment of any product of which will be a matter for negotiation.

Even optimistic estimates do not foresee initial deployment of a US anti-ballistic missile system before the mid-1990s. Moreover, professed Soviet concerns appear more than a little hypocritical. Mr. Gorbachev has recently acknowledged that the Soviet Union is itself conducting a considerable research programme into those areas covered by the strategic defence initiative. This confirms a fact which this Government have long known and repeatedly stated. Indeed, the Soviet programme is of long standing. And of course the Soviet Union has the world's only existing ballistic missile defence system. That in itself is sufficient justification for the SDI programme—the West cannot afford to lag behind in this field of research. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, studies what I have said on the matter. I believe that if he does so, he will see the disadvantage of the arguments which I have put forward to the House tonight.

Lord Gladwyn

My position remains exactly as it was.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, if I may say so, the noble Lord has advanced his position on the matter repeatedly over the past two or three years—ever since I have had the responsibility for answering on occasions from the Dispatch Box. I confess that the noble Lord's position has changed not a jot during that time. However, I believe that if he studies the arguments which I have put forward, he will realise that the position is worthy of further consideration. I shall give way to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, the Minister has recited the alphabet with great proficiency. When we come to this point in it, the Government always repeat that the Soviet Union has the only operational ABM deployment in the world. That is of course true. It is specifically and expressly provided for in the ABM Treaty, and the Americans had one as well until they decided to cancel it unilaterally. Am I right or wrong?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right. There is no difficulty—at least so far as I am aware—as regards the ABM Treaty and the Soviet system, which is land-based and located in the Soviet Union. However, the fact that the United States does not have such a system makes it all the more important that it should proceed with research on a more modern system as it is now doing.

In that context, I remind your Lordships of the third of the four points which emphasised that the purpose of the strategic defence initiative is to enhance deterrence and not to undermine it. It is not realistic for the Russians to argue that progress on ridding the world of very substantial numbers of nuclear weapons cannot proceed until there is agreement on limiting a defence research programme whose feasibility has not yet been proved and which, in any case, is only a long term prospect and subject to negotiation before it could deploy. It is a research programme, incidentally, upon which the Soviets themselves now admit that they are embarked.

Of course we favour measures which allow both sides to reassure themselves that they will not one day wake up to find their deterrence outdated by a new defence system. That is only prudent and must contribute to strategic ability. We advocate confidence-building measures which would allow greater predictability in research into new areas. The Prime Minister has proposed to Mr. Gorbachev that such predictability could be achieved by a combination of an agreed period of non-withdrawal from the ABM Treaty and mutual information on research plans.

Indeed, the outcome of the summit meeting between President Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev gives us some cause for optimism that a solution along those lines may be possible. The superpower delegations at Geneva have been instructed to work out an agreement which would commit the two sides to observe the ABM Treaty for a fixed term of years. Not later than three years before the end of that period, the two sides will enter into intensive discussions on strategic stability. If, after those discussions, no agreement has been reached, both sides will be free to decide their course of action. That instruction leaves open a number of important questions. However, the optimism of the United States and the Soviet Union for the prospects of a START agreement next year suggests that the difficulties over the linkage between strategic arms reductions and anti-ballistic missile defence can be overcome.

As the technical feasibility of the SDI is clearer, we will need to consider its strategic implications very carefully indeed. But it is not a position on which I could take a categorical position today.

Perhaps I may turn briefly at this late hour to the points raised by other noble Lords. I fear that I shall not have time to deal with them all. Perhaps I may touch on the matter raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, concerning the radar at Fylingdales. The ABM Treaty actually says: not to deploy in the future radars for early warning". I underline the words "in the future". Fylingdales predates the treaty and is being modernised. But we are satisfied that such modernisation is not in contravention of the treaty, which is, as I have already mentioned, a bilateral treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union.

It was, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, who asked me a question at Question Time the other day on that very point and I hoped that I had made that point clear on that occasion. I am sorry that I failed to do so. I hope that the explanation given tonight has reassured the noble Lord.

Your Lordships will understand from what I have said that the relationship between offensive and defensive strategic forces is not one which can be made subject to a simple formula. The Government firmly believe that we must strive to achieve 50 per cent. cuts in strategic weapons and that these cuts will in no way jeopardise the strategy of deterrence which is the bedrock of our security. Concerns about hypothetical defences must not stand in the way of concrete cuts which we can make in strategic missiles.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves the question of Fylingdales, is he aware that the Soviet Government have offered to pull down Krasnoyarsk if the United States will pull down Fylingdales? If so, has he any comment to make on that offer?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, that is not a proposition in which we would be involved. That would be something for the United States and the Soviet Union. It does not sound to me like an arrangement which would enhance our security.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, the noble Lord has said again that Fylingdales is being modernised. How does he equate the word "modernisation" with two installations working simultaneously side by side? How can that be modernisation rather than the addition of a new installation?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, that is easy. It is a very thorough modernisation.