HL Deb 18 February 1988 vol 493 cc836-50

8.51 p.m.

Lord Kennet rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether, at the forthcoming NATO summit meeting, they will propose a new study like that of Mr. Harmel in 1967, of the "Future tasks of the alliance in order to strengthen it as a factor for durable peace".

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the NATO summit which takes place the week after next will be the first for six years. It comes at a time of new opportunities and new pitfalls for the alliance. At last there is agreement on European Community finance, the end of the Reagan Administration is at hand and in the INF agreement the Soviet Union has finally accepted comprehensive on-site inspection and thus removed the main obstacle to disarmament of all kinds.

On the debit side, NATO has not in recent years managed to put together any overall political or economic strategy, otherwise known as burden sharing, nor a policy towards the weapons systems whose costs escalate without end and effectively disarm us, let alone any overall arms control plan or any complementary verification plan.

NATO has always been most at risk from failure to reconcile the interests and perceptions of the United States with those of Europe, and vice versa. There is now an opportunity before the next President takes over, for European NATO to get its act together. If burden sharing between the two sides of the Atlantic is to improve, we must first make up our minds what burdens ought to be shouldered at all, and what is to be done to lighten them. Only then will it make sense to resume the discussion that has gone on for the last 40 years about how to share them.

The recent semi-official US report, Discriminate Deterrence, which is intended to influence the next administration, is unlikely to do so. It pays attention neither to the cost of what it proposes nor to any possible Soviet reaction. In fact, it virtually ignores the existence of Europe altogether. It is only one report of several which have been arguing the same thing; namely, the speedy acquisition and world-wide deployment of a new generation of "smart" non-nuclear weapons, including intercontinental ones, whose use would be more credible than the use of nuclear weapons.

For Europe this is a bad idea, and surely, we may suppose, for the United States. First, these weapons would hardly be less menacing than today's nuclear weapons. You do not now need nuclear weapons to conduct nuclear warfare, nor chemical ones for chemical warfare. An accurate conventional weapon on a nuclear power station or a chemical works will do just as well. Secondly, being non-nuclear, these weapons would seem to be more useable and would make it easier to think of war as once again fightable, especially limited war in Europe. This has to be unacceptable to NATO. Thirdly, they are expensive and complex and would run us straight into the trap that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has warned against, a new kind of unilateral disarmament by way of unmeetable weapons costs. Even Aviation Week, the respected organ of the US aerospace industry, has editorially dismissed the report as "high-tech delusion".

When we talk of the economic burden of armaments, we always take a narrow view of it. It is not just a budget entry; it is forgone economic opportunities on the most enormous scale. The arms and drug industries are the only ones in the world which create negative value. Every weapon made is lost value, every weapon manned is lost value and every weapon used actively destroys value. It is also the lost value of research. Half of government-funded research in this country, I believe, is still military. Compare Japan. It is also the lost value of real estate. There is not even any published estimate of the value of land in military occupation. It is secret whether we, the allied countries, charge one another for it, or, if we do, how the charge is calculated.

It would be shortsighted to try to compensate for the forthcoming INF reductions by new deployments, and it is good that Sir Geoffrey Howe has been so definite on Moscow television in saying that we do not intend to circumvent the treaty. It is also good that he spoke against any breach of the ABM treaty. With the INF agreement in the bag, it is of course right to rearrange and update the weapons that we keep, but to wipe out the intended effects of the agreement by a new weapons build-up would be idiotic, whichever side did it.

As a matter of fact, I have for years been asking the Government to make sure that Soviet submarine-launched cruise missiles should be taken into account in INF or elsewhere. Well, they did nothing about it and now the Soviet Union has apparently gone and armed submarines with the cruise missile called SSN. 21. The Minister of State was kind enough to mention this to me in a letter. These submarines are to be seen sculling round the Norwegian Sea. What a pity! Let us not follow suit; let us get on with another treaty which will preclude any more of that sort of nonsense. I do not know whether the Minister will be able to say a word at the end of the debate about the Soviet contention that it is the United States which is preventing the inclusion of submarine-launched cruise missiles in the START talks. Now that they have been left out of INF we must at least hope that they will be in the START talks.

In the wise words of General Galvin, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, we can choose to seek durable stability by building ourselves up, which we cannot afford, or by building our adversary down. Our adversary of course is just as capable as we are of building himself up through loopholes or circumventions.

The INF agreement was necessary, indeed overdue. It built the stronger Soviet side down. That West Germany has been left in an uncomfortably exposed position should help to keep the process moving. Germany is singularised, in the new word, by geography and history, and we shall forget it at our peril. From now on it will matter very much that our arms control policy is properly thought out. The secret will be, as it always was, not to attempt bit by bit progress without an agreed map of the territory to be covered. Progress anywhere depends on balance everywhere.

There are other lessons to be learnt from the INF agreement. It leaves verification exclusively in the hands of the superpowers. NATO must see to it that the next agreements—strategic and short-range nuclear, chemical, and conventional—do not contain this flaw. Europe it is which is at risk from the SS.20s and so on, not the United States, except for Alaska. To look forward, Europe is more at risk from the intercontinental systems than the United States is.

If for 40 years our supreme national interest has required us to have an independent deterrent, it now requires us independently to verify the destruction of the weapons that our deterrent exists to deter. We are a sovereign state in armament, and we must be the same in disarmament.

The Government have said that the question of compliance is one for the United States and Soviet Union alone. That comes from a Written Answer given recently by the noble Lord. That is how the agreement, unamended, is to operate. Briefly put, I contend that a government who accept that do not understand what national interest is. There must be NATO inspectors going into the Soviet Union along with the national US inspectors. Fortunately the agreement contains full provision for its own amendment. There must also be a NATO satellite verification capability, as distinct from the American national one. The American space programme, as we all know and regret, is in difficulty at the moment. We have Senator Boren's word for it—he is chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee—that the present US satellites are going to need updating if they are to be able to verify a strategic arms reduction agreement.

For many years I have been urging the Government to join France in getting a European satellite verification capacity. France has today offered to put up a couple of NATO satellites on Ariane. My urging has been to no avail. The Government have gone in the opposite direction and have more or less cancelled our own space programme, which would have enabled us to have a hand in this.

As well as on-site inspection and satellite verification, a third layer is necessary; just simple old-fashioned intelligence, meaning people who sit at desks and collate all the evidence for whether or not something is the case. That could be done, and done now, on a NATO basis. Perhaps the Government will tell us that it will be done. But it will not be enough. NATO is an alliance of sovereign states, not a collection of clients. We need on-site inspection and satellites too.

Britain's role at the summit will be important for the usual reasons. We are the only member apart from the United States that has assigned nuclear warheads to NATO, and we are operationally independent from the United States. In economic matters, the Prime Minister has long since learnt to stand up to President Reagan. In military matters, she still knuckles under. That should change now that our security interests are so bound up with our economic possibilities.

In 1967, the former Belgian prime Minister Harmel produced the report that bears his name. It spoke out for, a lasting peaceful order in Europe, accompanied by appropriate security guarantees". That was true then, and it is true now. That should be the aim. The NATO summit should now commission a new Harmel report, to be published this autumn. This time, it should pay explicit attention to our economic interests—which means some concertation with the Community—as well as to our political and military ones. It should also make specific proposals for arms control verification machinery. Increasingly, our security will now depend on just that.

9.3 p.m.

Lord Mayhew

My Lords, I certainly feel that in calling for a new Harmel-type report the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, is on the right track. Whether such a review would have the priorities that he gave, I am not so sure. I can think of things still more important than the economic problems to which he referred with which this report would deal. Nor am I convinced yet that his views that the INF treaty should be verified by NATO and not just by the super powers is really practicable. In principle we have to agree with him that the interests of Europe are bound up with verification of the treaty. But when we think of the problems of getting the INF treaty ratified and executed, I think it is asking a lot to inject at this stage the idea of verification in the Soviet Union by NATO and verification of American weapons by the Warsaw Pact. That might complicate matters a great deal. However, the noble Lord's concept of a new review is certainly right because existing NATO strategy is in a considerable mess.

The INF treaty has shot a great hole in the concept of flexible response. It has removed a whole tier from the ladder of escalation which this policy requires. In addition, we have the problem of modernisation thrust at us. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, was not too optimistic when he referred favourably to the statement of the Foreign Secretary that Her Majesty's Government do not intend to circumvent the INF treaty. Nobody ever circumvents a treaty, not at all; all they do is to modernise weapons in such a way as to compensate for what they have given away in the treaty. That is what the British Government are at present doing.

They are proposing to examine carefully the concept of an Anglo-French airborne cruise missile; the same type of cruise missile as we had at Greenham Common and at Molesworth. They are seeking to modernise also by seeking to increase the number of F1–11s in this country. This is called modernisation but it is escalation. In the same way the Soviet Union, when it produced and deployed the SS.20s was not escalating. Heaven forbid! It was modernising its SS.4s and SS.5s. I am afraid that I am not reassured, as the noble Lord seems to be, by the statement of the Foreign Secretary.

What should this review do? First, it should deal with overall strategy which depends on assumptions about Soviet intentions. What are the intentions of the Soviet Union? What is the Soviet strategy? There must be some assumptions about this first. Nowadays we cannot rule out the possibility of very radical changes in Soviet intentions and strategy; and we need to be prepared for them. I was a little distressed to hear the Prime Minister say yesterday that she does not expect change of any kind. She said, while asserting the need for modernising western nuclear weapons: There is a continuing serious military threat from the Soviet Union". That is, the Soviet Union continues to have aggressive military designs on Western Europe. It cannot mean anything else. Perhaps when the Minister replies, he can give the Government's evidence for these statements. Of course no one doubts that in Stalin's day the Soviet Union presented a real military threat to Western Europe. But how true is that fact today? I doubt whether it is still true. I doubt whether the Soviet Union any longer has aggressive military designs against Western Europe. It is more likely that it maintains its huge forces in Europe, partly to maintain physical control over the satellites and partly from illusory but real fears of exposing itself to American pressure to liberate Eastern Europe. That idea may seem ridiculous to us, but it is taken seriously by the Russians. They can quote many American statements, made by representative American people, in favour of liberating the world from Communism. Only the other day I saw a statement from one of the would-be presidential candidates in which he said that he stood for the liberation of Lithuania. No doubt he was speaking to voters of Lithuanian origin. That is a more reasonable explanation for the presence of large Soviet forces in Europe.

As I see it, the review would also consider the threat of Soviet subversion in Western Europe. Is that threat greater or smaller than it was in 1967, the date of the last review, or in 1948? Everyone will agree, and I am sure the review will come to the conclusion, that it is much less than it was then. Indeed, it is not inconceivable that the next challenge from the Soviet Union might be in the opposite direction, a challenge, which would get widespread popular support, to end the political and military confrontation in Europe. Taking advantage of the differences between Germany and her allies, based on real and profound differences of interest, the Russians might call for German unity and neutrality and the disengagement of NATO and Warsaw Pact forces in Europe. They put that idea forward in the 1950s, and it is not inconceivable that they might do so again. The review that I have in mind would consider how NATO should react. I do not believe that it would be impossible to formulate that idea in such a way as to increase rather than decrease Western Europe's security.

Such a reveiw would inevitably come to the conclusion that the best way forward is the achievement of a conventional balance in Europe. I hope that the review will study that problem about which there is a great deal of controversy. I further hope that the review will use its own intelligence and analysis, and here I agree with the thrust of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. We do not want to rely wholly on information from the United States in this field. It should be said frankly that a good deal of the information that NATO has had from the United States Government about, for example, the conventional balance has been shown, with the passage of years, to be inaccurate. One suspects that that was politically motivated. I have in mind the old days, and the American estimate of the number of Soviet divisions in Europe; the proportion of the Soviet income devoted to defence; the Soviet Union's chemical warfare capacity, and of Soviet progress in space defence. All those estimates, which were put out by NATO, no doubt in good faith, have subsequently, for one reason or another, been discredited. I trust that the review, with its own intelligence and information gathering facilities, will study especially the question of the conventional balance.

Just how big is the imbalance, if it exists? We know that independent reviewers, especially the Institute of Strategic Studies, have concluded that the conventional forces of the Soviet Union and of NATO are a great deal more balanced than is generally believed.

Nevertheless, I hope that the review will conclude by giving priority to achieving a conventional balance, if it does not already exist; partly by strengthening NATO's conventional forces—where a great deal can still be done without any undue increase in expenditure—and partly by giving a much greater priority to conventional disarmament, following the success of the INF negotiations. The prospects here are a good deal better than they have been in past years. We had Mr. Gorbachev's references to asymmetrical reductions. It is an important concession and an important admission that in certain fields Soviet conventional forces are more powerful than NATO's. Also, the concession of on-site inspection could make all the difference to the prospects of successful conventional disarmament. New ideas have been put forward which should be carefully explored: for instance, the idea of exclusion zones for certain types of agressive weapons, and the whole series of new suggestions put forward to which I drew the Government's attention recently in a report called Common Security.

This achievement of a conventional balance would vastly help to solve these other problems. It is the lack of a conventional balance that presents NATO with the problem of maintaining the option of first use, of excessive dependence on nuclear weapons. It would enable NATO to push nuclear weapons into the background, relegating them to the role of threatened retaliation against nuclear attack. Above all, it might pave the way for a more radical proposal for ending the confrontation in Europe, which deserves increasing attention on both sides of the Iron Curtain.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Irving of Dartford

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, has said that the Harmel exercise was a study undertaken as a result of the proposal of the Belgian Government and its Prime Minister, Mr. Harmel, in 1967. It was a broad analysis of international developments since the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949 so as to determine the influence of such developments on the alliance and to identify the tasks which lay before it: to strengthen the alliance as a factor for durable peace. From the point of view of the future of the alliance, the political decisions taken at the December 1967 meeting were of the highest importance. The 15 governments agreed on a document outlining certain basic principles and listing the tasks which the alliance should undertake in the future.

The report laid emphasis on the continuing relevance of the twin political and military functions of the alliance and the latter's ability to adapt itself to changing conditions. It set the alliance a general goal, the establishment of a more stable relationship, an essential requirement for a just and lasting peaceful order in Europe. It also described the method to be adopted, namely a common approach to problems through consultation.

According to Eugene Rostow, one time Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs in the United States Government, the recommendations of the Harmel report, like those of the NATO wise men, were ahead of their time and they defined the direction in which the allied nations should move if they wished not only to survive but to flourish.

The question tonight is whether we need another inquiry of this kind. I am bound to say from my party's point of view that we have for some time been saying that there has not been a fundamental review of the defence of Europe for 20 years and one should be undertaken. Shortly after the Reykjavik summit I made a speech in this House in which I said that one of the consequences of that summit was that it would make us all face up to whether we were in favour of disarmament. Mrs. Thatcher's dismay was clearly apparent as she rushed off to the United States to persuade President Reagan not to do what he was proposing to do, because he had asserted then, and he has asserted since, that he wants total nuclear disarmament throughout the world. But Mrs. Thatcher later gave way and came round to supporting the INF Treaty.

However, as Peter Jenkins said in his article in the Independent on Monday, 15th February: The spectacle of the leaders of the two superpowers meeting at Reykjavik and mooting there a world free of nuclear weapons was for their peoples, a hopeful moment. People have welcomed the INF Treaty as a step, however small, towards disarmament; their leaders have welcomed it officially but militarily they rue the day. For generations grown up in the shadow of the nuclear age, de-nuclearisation by mutual agreement is an inspiring goal, but for governments it is a spectre hovering over Europe. This is because, first, it destroys the basis of an alliance founded on a grouping of democratic states firmly joined together in defence against an authoritarian empire, what Mr. Reagan called "the evil empire". It has destroyed the idea that in the long run peace can be maintained by nuclear weapons and challenges the view that these are still necessary to keep a balance between nuclear and conventional forces in Europe.

According to Rostow, a new phase in East-West relations has begun and prospects for reduced tension are once again promising. The prospect of the removal of intermediate nuclear weapons has had several effects which have disturbed governments, including that of Britain, and also General Galvin, the new supreme commander, who have called for compensatory adjustments, as has been mentioned tonight, to make good the loss to be caused by the removal of the cruise and Pershing missiles. Whether this can be said to be in the spirit of the treaty is questionable. I doubt whether, if the Warsaw Pact countries sought to make similar compensatory adjustments, we would think that they were acting in the spirit of the treaty either.

The Germans are increasingly worried about the short-range nuclear weapons stored close to their Eastern frontier which would have to he used or abandoned at an early stage in any advance made by Russia. Their use would cause thousands of deaths both of British soldiers and of German civilians. It would lead inevitably to the escalation to larger nuclear weapons and to world catastrophe.

The removal of nuclear weapons will need a greater attention to conventional forces, as has been said tonight, and a need for a higher contribution from each country. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has drawn attention frequently to the lack of a positive political strategy for dealing with the Soviet Union.

I have drawn attention myself to changes in the view of some prominent Americans. Senator Dole, a presidential candidate, has urged that one of the most important needs is for a stocktaking review to ensure that we are agreed on such questions as how to deal with Russian arms control and addressing the conventional arms imbalance. Achieving significant reductions to an equal level of conventional arms must be the highest priority goal of the alliance. A major step in meeting potentially higher alliance costs must be the development of a NATO resources strategy.

Senator Dole urges us not to forget the enormous advantage we have over the Russians and their allies. We can compete successfully, he says, with the Russians in any area: military, political or economic. This can only be done, according to the Senator, if we remain strong and united. We would all agree with that. That is from a man who is one of the main contenders in the presidential election.

Another prominent American, Senator Nunn, who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee, has been speaking of the alliance. He draws attention to the conventional imbalance and urges the need for a credible conventional defence. We have been much preoccupied with the risk of uncoupling from America in the past couple of years, but the Senator says emphatically that the link will continue as long as it is wanted. He says that it will continue: unless the Europeans want us out. I think we will continue as long as they want us". The Senator points to a matter which I raised in 1986; that is the difficulty of America reinforcing her troops in Europe in the event of a conflict. The neglect of our merchant marine is serious in this respect.

He also points to the need for Europe to pay more of the cost of defending itself. But he says that the problem is not so much one of money but rather of inefficiency. He said that NATO's procurement policies were the ultimate in protectionism and that everything was done on a national basis. As the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has said, the only thing that the NATO countries have in common is the air in the tyres of its vehicles.

Again, like Senator Dole, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, was not saying that NATO could or should ever match the Warsaw Pact tank for tank or artillery for artillery. He said that in an age of technology that was not necessary if the forces were in the right places, which they were not, and if there was enough communication, which there is not; NATO's job was not to fight the Second World War again but to be able to convince the Soviets that it can fight and fight well. To go back to massive nuclear retaliation, Senator Nunn said—in this connection I am sure he includes the French and British— so-called independent nuclear weapons would be a massive mistake.

This view in tone and substance contrasts most strongly with the views of the Prime Minister and the Government as they have been made known over the past few weeks. The Senator continued that, if one told the people of Europe that in the first few days of a war NATO, because of not having sufficient conventional forces in the right places, would have to use nuclear weapons before the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries used them—in other words, we are going to have to initiate a nuclear war in order to defend ourselves—one would probably get something like a four to one rejection. NATO is at the crossroads not because of INF, other things that have happened recently and other proposals but because it has caused us to focus on many things which should have been focussed on in any case a long time ago. We certainly need to take a new look at the alliance and at our defences, as nowhere is there greater need for clarity and new thinking.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, I got the impression from the noble Lord's speech that Labour policy was that a conventional build-up by the West would be preferable to a conventional reduction to agreed lower levels, both East and West together. Is that correct?

Lord Irving of Dartford

My Lords, what we argue is that if we are to rely on small nuclear weapons which can lead to escalation, the emphasis ought to be on conventional forces. We accept that the proposals put forward by the Russians for an asymmetry are the important ways of dealing with the matter, and they should be given proper attention.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Glenarthur)

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, has raised an important matter and one in which I know he has a great deal of interest. I must say that I was somewhat astonished by his claim that defence research and development, defence land, and so on, in some way represent negative value, which was the term he used. I find that astonishing when one considers the important part that this country has played as a member of NATO in securing the peace which has existed in Europe for the last 40 or more years. I do not think that it is a valid claim in any sense to say that all the research that has been done can represent lost value. I would have thought that it was probably the best possible value that could be bought.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt the noble Lord. He is seeking to turn my argument into a unilateralist one, as though I were saying that there had been no necessity for that. My argument is that it represents lost value both in the West and in the East.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, certainly from this point of view, if we had not been able to match, as far as we can, that which has been done elsewhere, then we should be in a much more difficult position than any of the scenarios which have been suggested by the noble Lord tonight.

If I may, I should like to reply in two ways to the noble Lord's Question; first, by explaining what the Government's objectives are for the NATO Summit on 2nd and 3rd March to which the noble Lord referred, and secondly, why we believe that no successor to the Harmel Report is needed. Perhaps in that regard I shall disappoint every noble Lord who has spoken this evening.

The NATO Summit is likely to fall roughly halfway between the meeting in Washington last December between President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev, and another meeting between them in Moscow this summer. At the December meeting they signed an agreement on intermediate nuclear forces. In Moscow they may be able to reach an agreement to reduce strategic nuclear forces. It seemed to us right that the alliance should have an opportunity, in these encouraging times, to consider together at the highest level—and to be seen to do so—the implications for the alliance's strategy of these developments, and of developments also in control of conventional and chemical weapons. Her Majesty's Government have enthusiastically endorsed the suggestion of a summit now.

It will give us an opportunity, first of all, to show that, as an alliance, we stand firmly behind the Americans in their pursuit of agreements with the Russians, first on intermediate and now on strategic nuclear forces. Your Lordships have already discussed those issues a number of times and there is no need for me to set out again tonight why Her Majesty's Government support the American effort, as we certainly do.

I must say to the noble Lord, Lord Irving, that there is no suggestion that the INF Treaty disturbed the Government. We fully support it. That support runs throughout the alliance. The Russians may like to imagine that some allies have their doubts about one element or another of those agreements. But the summit will show that there is no scope for wedge-driving.

Lord Irving of Dartford

My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me, the point I was making was that if acceptance of INF requires compensatory adjustments, as the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, has said, to offset the surrenders under INF, that can hardly be a wholehearted acceptance of a very sincere kind.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, it is a matter for the Soviet Union, just as it is for the United States and NATO, to be free to adjust and modernise in the non-treaty-limited areas. The Soviet SSN.21, which the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, referred to, is of course a submarine-launched cruise missile and has been deployed fairly recently.

We shall also be able to consider together the way ahead on conventional arms control. The noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, asked about the conventional imbalance and suggested, with reference to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, that perhaps that imbalance was exaggerated. With respect, I have to tell him that that is not the case. NATO is outgunned and outmanned in every sphere of conventional capability: 4 million to 3 million in manpower, three to one in tanks, over three to one in artillery, and almost two to one in tactical aircraft.

It is not the case that the IISS figures tell a different story, because the IISS use different counting rules for personnel. For example, they exclude Soviet command and general support troops, security forces and border guards. NATO equivalents in Europe are included and if those Soviet forces were added it would increase the Warsaw Pact total by between 500,000 to 600,000. When that is taken into account, the personnel figures tally very closely; and the figures for tank, artillery and aircraft are very close to the figures in the Statement on the Defence Estimates which the noble Lord will have seen.

Lord Mayhew

My Lords, I am sure that we shall all agree that such statistics are very difficult to handle. Perhaps the noble Lord will say whether the 4 million manpower figure for the Warsaw Pact includes the Rumanians and, if so, which side the Rumanians are on.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I cannot give a specific answer about the Rumanians at short notice. I dare say that I may be able to tell him in a moment or two.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves the question of the conventional imbalance, perhaps I may say that he will of course have studied the IISS report, as will my noble friend Lord Mayhew, and know that the point of the report was not to say that the numbers were in balance but that, though the numbers were out of balance in favour of the Russians, yet the modernity of the forces was in our favour. Although we had fewer deployed, they were on the whole a great deal more modern than those deployed by the Soviet Union. Is the noble Lord also aware that he is contradicting Senator Levine, the chairman of the Conventional Forces Sub-Committee of the U.S. Senate Armed Forces Committee, who says that the conventional balance between NATO and the Warsaw Pact is, if properly viewed, about equal. There is almost a balance.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I am not sure, as the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, himself suggested, that it does much good to bandy around a comparison of statistics, particularly when those who use them sometimes do so to make specific points to defend a particular theory, and when, as has been made quite clear in the Statement on the Defence Estimates, we have a number of figures which, using the IISS figures, match pretty closely the real numbers that we know to exist. As for the Rumanians, perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, that all Warsaw Pact forces are included, and that encompasses the Rumanians.

Lord Mayhew

My Lords, can the noble Lord answer the second part of my question as to whether he considers the Rumanian forces loyal to the Warsaw Pact?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I shall not speak for the Rumanians. The noble Lord can address that question to them if he wishes to find out whether or not they are loyal to the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. However, I think that we must get on to the meat of this debate.

We are moving slowly towards agreeing mandates for the two sets of negotiations: on conventional stability and on confidence-building measures, which should, we hope, not only redress the current imbalance of forces but also reduce the risk to peace posed by the Warsaw Pact's ability to initiate offensive action without warning; and on chemical weapons, where our objective remains a global and verifiable ban. It is also healthy for the members of an organisation such as NATO to come together from time to time to check that all is well with it. We must take advantage of the occasion to discuss some longer-term issues confronting the Alliance.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, has voiced some of his concerns, but I should like to concentrate on three issues in particular which go to the nub of this debate.

First, there is the continued validity of the strategy of flexible response that NATO first adopted more than 20 years ago. Some, such as the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, if I heard him aright, argue that flexible response (because of the INF treaty, I believe the noble Lord said) no longer offers a credible deterrent to aggression by the Soviet Union, or that the INF agreement has deprived the alliance of elements in the nuclear ladder that are essential if the response is to retain its flexibility.

We hope that the NATO summit can firmly demolish those myths. The INF agreement will abolish a class of nuclear weapons and is welcome for that. I do not see any disagreement among any of us on that point. It sets helpful precedents for future agreements in the stringency of its verification provision and the asymmetry of its reductions. But flexible response was valid before the weapons now being removed started to be deployed at the end of the 1970s and it remains valid now. NATO still has a sufficient range of weapons of different capacities to retain flexibility in their use.

But that capacity will not last for ever without future attention. Both conventional and nuclear weapons must be modernised if they are to maintain effective deterrence. That requires difficult decisions of principle and allocation of resources, which are easier to take collectively. I would not suggest, as the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, has done, that there is a gap created by flexible response. There is therefore no weakening of what I have described as NATO's deterrent capability, which depends on totality rather than on one or more specific systems. Major nuclear forces are still available.

As to the question of compensating additions to US nuclear forces in the United Kingdon post-INF—a theme that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, addressed—there is no question of circumventing the INF agreement. NATO is not in the business of building up nuclear weapons, and that is amply demonstrated by the reductions agreed at Montebello and elsewhere. The fact that there are now 4,600 warheads in Europe now whereas there were 7,000 a decade ago is surely evidence of NATO's determination to maintain the minimum nuclear stockpile necessary for credible and effective deterrence. We are currently considering the implications of the agreement so far as that is concerned.

The third issue that we hope the summit will examine is less specific, although it goes very much to the heart of the noble Lord's concerns. It is the important question of the relationship within the alliance of its members on both sides of the Atlantic; the American and the European pillars and the connecting arch between them. The shared ideas and objectives that form the foundation of our alliance are not under threat. Some would argue that our unity is being worn away, but we believe the balance by which the Europen allies contribute most of the in-place forces for the forward defence of Europe, which is also the forward defence of the United States, while the United States nuclear and conventional forces on our continent underline its commitment to the common defence, remains an essential and irreplaceable element of the security of both pillars. We hope that the summit will confront those concerns and reaffirm that nothing should upset that balance.

We recognise that the Europeans must shoulder their fair share of the burden and we shall be able to continue discussions on how best to do so. We are already involved in moves (for example, within the WEU and the IEPG) intended to increase the cohesion of the European allies and to produce more cost-effective equipment in much the same way that I believe the noble Lord, Lord Irving, would have us do. I suggest to the noble Lord that the more we can do, the more attractive we shall be to the Americans as allies.

Those are our objectives for the summit. They may not sound radical but the course set out by Harmel in 1967 remains as valid for the alliance today as it was then. The twin pursuit of, on the one hand, a strong defence and, on the other, a stable political relationship between East and West. remains the best way of achieving as Harmel put it, "a just and lasting peaceful order in Europe accompanied by appropriate security guarantees". The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, has quoted various Americans this evening. He may be aware—perhaps he is not—that General Galvin the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, said in London last week at the Royal United Services Institute that he saw no need for the alliance to seek a replacement for the Harmel Report; and who could be more up to date than he? I go further. I find it remarkable to read a blueprint for alliance activity written so long ago and to find so much in it that could have been written yesterday.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, has raised a number of specific questions. One was whether or not submarine-launched cruise missiles would be included in START. The answer is that the two sides have agreed to find a mutually acceptable solution to the question of limiting the deployment of long-range nuclear armed SLCMs. That was in the Washington summit statement. On the question of NATO inspectors going to the Soviet Union, the noble Lord will be aware that the INF and the START agreements are bilateral and our own weapons are not involved.

On the suggestion that a new Harmel Report could make proposals on verification, the answer to the noble Lord is that individual agreements must contain effective verification arrangements. I do not think that one blueprint can necessarily be the answer to every single individual agreement.

It is also important that the noble Lord bears in mind—in connection with his concerns about no arms control plan existing within NATO, or being promoted by NATO—that at the Reykjavik NAC we joined our NATO partners in setting the direction of future arms control activity after an agreement on long-range intermediate nuclear forces and short-range intermediate nuclear forces. This should be towards agreements on, first, 50 per cent. cuts in strategic offensive weapons; secondly, global elimination of chemical weapons; and, thirdly, the elimination of imbalance in conventional forces in Europe, which we have just mentioned.

In connection with the elimination of conventional imbalance, and chemical weapons, NATO is ready to contemplate reductions in the US and land-based missiles of shorter range. I cannot see how the noble Lord can make the charge that somehow there is no arms control planned within NATO, because those are the very elements of it.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, I was only quoting the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, who has often lamented the absence of arms control thinking in NATO's general plan for the future, and the absence of all structured thinking in NATO's general plan for the future.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, that may be a view. On the other hand, what was achieved at Reykjavik nevertheless are important elements in the very concern that the noble Lord has addressed.

A number of other questions have been raised. The noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, suggested that perhaps another report would conclude that we should have a conventional balance. But that is already a NATO arms control priority. I cannot see that a new report to decide that would in any way add to what has already been considered.

Of course we should consider how the precepts of the Harmel Report should be applied to defence and arms control today. As I said, that is why at Reykjavik in June 1987, the Alliance Foreign Ministers instructed the NATO Council in permanent session to consider the further development of a comprehensive concept of arms control and disarmament. The Foreign Ministers recognised that the arms control problems faced by the Alliance raised complex and inter-related issues which need to be evaluated together. Bearing in mind the requirement of Alliance security and its strategy of deterrence, much work has since been done by permanent representatives in Brussels, and a report is likely to be presented to NATO Foreign Ministers at their meeting in Madrid in June.

Although Her Majesty's Government see no need for a new Harmel, we do not take the complacent view that no further consideration of our policies is required in the East-West situation in which we now find ourselves. Much consideration is needed; and I am glad to say that it is being undertaken.

House adjourned at 14 minutes before ten o'clock.