HL Deb 14 January 1988 vol 491 cc1398-415

7.12 p.m.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I beg to move that the Arms Control and Disarmament (Privileges and Immunities) Bill be now read a second time. As your Lordships will be aware, this Bill was thoroughly debated in another place last year and carefully scrutinised in Committee. I do not think this is the occasion for a general debate on the whole range of isms control and disarmament issues, to which your Lordships have rightly devoted considerable time in recent months, perhaps most notably in the excellent debate introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, on 9th December. I therefore intended to concentrate) on the Bill itself: to set out its purpose and to explain some of its provisions.

The main objective of the Bill is to give effect to the outcome of the Stockholm conference on confidence and security building measures and disarmament in Europe. This concluded on 22nd September 1986 with agreement on a substantial package of measures elating to the notification, observation and inspection of military activities in Europe. In addition to the military provisions of the document, the Stockholm accord also calls on participating states to confer privileges and immunities, as laid down by the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations, both to inspectors carrying out on-site verification and to observers invited to military activities notified under the terms of the accord.

This Bill is therefore designed to confer upon both observers and inspectors, as well as on their auxiliary staff, those privileges and immunities which are set out in detail in the Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964. This means that both inspectors and observers will be equated with diplomatic agents while in the United Kingdom. As a result, they will enjoy inviolability of the person as well as immunity from criminal jurisdiction and, with some exceptions, from civil and administrative jurisdiction as well.

Auxiliary personnel will be equated with administrative and technical staff assigned to embassies in the United Kingdom. They will enjoy the same privileges, except that their immunity from civil and administrative jurisdiction will be confined to acts performed during the course of their duties.

The Bill also provides for privileges and immunities to be conferred by Order in Council, subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, to give effect to any international agreement or arrangement superseding the Stockholm document, or making provision for furthering arms control or disarmament. The purpose of extending the Bill in this manner is to avoid as far as possible the need for primary legislation each time there is a new arms agreement involving the granting of privileges and immunities, for example, to those involved in its verification.

The INF Treaty is an example of this. It is the Government's intention, once this Bill becomes law, to introduce an Order in Council to cover the INF inspection arrangements in the UK. But such extensions will be done under the affirmative resolution procedure, which will give your Lordships the opportunity to debate the order when the time comes. The only privileges and immunities which the Bill confers directly are those stemming from the Stockholm document.

I should like to make clear that no changes are made in this Bill to the privileges and immunities set out in the Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964. The present Bill merely extends the category of people who are entitled to them. Nor in practice will the proposed extension to Stockholm observers and inspectors greatly increase the number of people entitled to full diplomatic privileges and immunities in the United Kingdom. Many such observers and inspectors are likely to be diplomats or military attaches already accredited here.

Those coming from abroad will only be granted privileges and immunities for the duration of their stay in the United Kingdom. In practice, this is likely to be about two or three days in each case. Nor will such observations or inspections be particularly frequent. The maximum number of inspections any country must accept under the Stockholm accord is three per year; and we are unlikely to invite observers to military exercises in the UK more than once every two or three years. Moreover, while we are obliged under the terms of the accord to invite representatives of all 35 signatory states, in practice many of the smaller states do not send observers.

I am pleased to report that the provisions of the Stockholm accord have worked extremely well during its first year of operation. Five inspections have been carried out, including one by the United Kingdom on the GDR in September; and United Kingdom representatives have observed 15 exercises in the course of this first year, eight in the Warsaw Pact and seven in NATO countries. At exercise "Purple Warrior" in Scotland last November, we ourselves played host for the first time to observers from Stockholm signatory states, including from all the Warsaw Pact except Romania. The observation programme passed off smoothly. It attracted compliments from both Eastern and Western observers alike, both for the efficiency with which it was organised and for the commitment to openness and transparency in military matters that it demonstrated.

The building of trust between states is an essential concomitant of successful arms control. The Stockholm accord, although not a treaty with legal force, nonetheless involves a political commitment by its 35 signatories to increasing predictability about military activities in Europe, in order to reduce mistrust and the risk of miscalculation in times of tension. It represents a significant advance on the more modest voluntary measures in the Helsinki Final Act 1975; and is the first of its kind to provide for verification through on-site "challenge" inspection within the area of application. Together with our partners in the Alliance, the Government are determined to build upon and expand the results of the Stockholm conference. To that end, at the CSCE review meeting in Vienna last July, Western countries tabled a proposal for further negotiations on confidence building. We hope that these will begin in the course of this year.

I hope that the House will demonstrate its support for the laudable aims of the Stockholm document by giving this Bill the Second Reading I believe it rightly deserves. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Glenarthur.)

7.19 p.m.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, for his opening speech and for his explanations of the Bill. It is a small Bill with big implications and we welcome it because it opens the door to greater possibilities than seem apparent at first glance.

The Bill is related to the negotiations which led to the INF treaty which was signed in Washington on 8th December. It goes to the heart of the most difficult obstacle in the way of agreement; namely, verification. Most of us were relieved and glad that: his long-standing obstacle had been overcome by the countries concerned. It would be foolish this evening to say that all the problems have thus been resolved, and no doubt there will be many pitfalls on the road ahead; but the principle of verification has been accepted by both sides. The Bill is part of the practical process of achieving that.

The noble Lord has reminded us of the history of the Bill and of the fact that it goes back to the Stockholm Conference of September 1986 and the agreement made then providing for on-site verification and the observation of military activities. As the noble Lord said, it was agreed in Stockholm that those who came to observe and to inspect and any necessary staff should enjoy the same immunities and privileges as diplomats under the terms of the Vienna Conference and the Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964.

When the Bill received its Second Reading in another place on 22nd October last, the INF treaty had not then been signed; but the Bill made provision for the future in Clause 1(2). The noble Lord has already referred to the Orders in Council which will be needed to cover future eventualities and he has described the procedures. Over the years we have been concerned in this House, as noble Lords I am sure will agree, with privileges and immunities and their abuse by some embassies. The Bill therefore has some implications for what has been discussed in this House over the years.

The impression which the noble Lord has given is that those who come to visit the installations and who come to attend the military exercises will not be numerous. Perhaps he would be good enough to tell the House once again how many people in respect of inspection and visitation of exercises will be coming to this country in all from the Soviet Union over the next 10 years. As the noble Lord said, we had a comprehensive debate on the INF treaty here on 9th December. This Bill was referred to on that occasion by several noble Lords who spoke. Therefore I do not propose to cover that ground again tonight but to concern myself rather more with the provisions of the Bill, especially as we are somewhat limited with time.

We should recognise that territorially we are a relatively small part of the area which will be subjected to verification procedures. The task of inspection in the huge land areas of the Soviet Union and the United States is formidable but that again is a matter for the governments concerned. I must express the hope and the expectation that the necessary procedures will be carried out successfully and with goodwill in those two very large countries.

The INF treaty has raised our expectations that there will now be serious progress towards a START treaty. If such a treaty is signed—that is now said to be the objective of both President Reagan and Mr.Gorbachev—then the administration of the verification process will become even more complex than it is at the present time under this Bill following the INF treaty. We shall need to consider our own involvement as a country, and this may well be significant, in the light of events.

However verification in this country under the INF treaty will necessarily be a less complex affair. We have only two bases which are declared sites; and, as I understand the position, inspection will be restricted to these so that in our discussion of the Bill at this moment as things stand now under the treaty we are only concerned with inspectors from the Soviet Union visiting those two installations of Molesworth and Greenham Common. I should be grateful if the noble Lord would confirm that I am right in that definition.

But the Bill is an enabling Bill and if a START treaty is signed the area of inspection in Britain will presumably be extended. It would be interesting to know by how much. I know that any such extension will need the approval of Parliament by way of the Orders in Council to which the noble Lord has already referred; but it would help if we can be told the extreme boundaries to which privileges and immunities could be extended in those circumstances.

May I also assume that inspectors will be accompanied by appropriate personnel from this country and that presumably their travel facilities will he clearly defined? What we are contemplating at this point under the INF treaty is an arrangement for the inspection of two sites; an arrangement which will come to an end when all the missiles have been removed. We are dealing with a temporary situation and perhaps the Minister will tell us what term is intended. What will be the so-called "draw down" period?

The treaty itself is of course very relevant to this Bill; but I must confess that my heart sank when I learnt that it is a document comprising 31 pages of treaty and a 100 page appendix described as a "Memorandum of Understanding". I understand that the treaty documents published by the United States will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament and I shall be grateful if the noble Lord will confirm that. In my reading of the debates which took place in another place that point was not absolutely clear as the Library of the other place was specifically mentioned there.

I move on to another point arising from the words in subsection (2) of the Bill which are as follows: or otherwise making provision for furthering arms control or disarmament". This is the enabling provision which looks forward to further developments, and this could include not only START but an agreement on chemical weapons too. The Government deserve praise for their initiatives on this front. We hope that further progress will be made; but we should be clear that the implications of verification here are very different from those that we have been discussing. The production, experimentation and storage of chemical weapons pose a different problem, and it may be that the Order in Council procedure will not be adequate to cover it. I make that point in passing; but I do not wish to stray too far from the technicalities of what is in essence a technical Bill.

I am sure that the Minister will confirm that as regards privileges and immunities there is nothing new in the Bill which affirms the position set out in the Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964. By this small Bill an obstacle to progress has been removed. There is a long way to go and no one with any sense will expect miracles; but we can be thankful that we are supporting a significant step in the right direction.

7.30 p.m.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, the Bill has been introduced with exemplary clarity by the Minister. From these Benches, we welcome it for what it does. The next set of inspectors who will have to receive diplomatic immunity will be those for the INF treaty and the subsidiary agreements, as the Minister has said. It was for that reason that the House of Commons gave four Committee days to consideration of the Bill. I do not propose that we should follow suit. However, I intend to speak fully on the Bill tonight in the hope of getting some government comments and explanations of the treaty structure which, I hope to show, are needed. They could not have been sought before because when the Bill was considered for four days in the House of Commons, the package of agreements had not been published. So this is the first time that either House has had the opportunity of discussing the package.

The inspectors will verify the destruction or departure and subsequent non-reappearance of certain classes of nuclear missiles and launchers based both here and in Western Europe. All those weapons are of a range to strike Western Europe from Eastern Europe and vice versa, but not to strike the United States from Eastern Europe and vice versa. Thus, if the removal and destruction of the weapons increases security—and most people believe that it will—the security which will be increased is the security of Europe, including Russia. The security of the United States will not be increased directly.

The two sides in Europe will therefore need the confidence which can only come from verification that what has been agreed is being done. The treaty provides for Soviet inspectors to verify the destruction of missiles which are stationed in Western Europe, which is necessary. However, it does not provide for Western European inspectors to verify the destruction of those which are deployed in Eastern Europe, which is equally necessary. Instead, it provides for United States inspectors to do that. But it is not the United States which expects an increase in its direct security from the treaty. The United States is already invulnerable to those missiles. They cannot get there.

Moreover, the treaty expressly looks forward to a START agreement. We are vulnerable to Soviet strategic missiles in exactly the same degree as the United States. While we have a greater interest than the United States in the good verification of an INF treaty, we shall have no more than an equal interest with the United States in the good verification of a START treaty. If we in Europe get no verification of our own, even when US vulnerability is not at stake, how much can we expect to get when it is at stake, as it will be with a START Treaty for 50 per cent. strategic reductions?

There is a whole structure of interlocking agreements. Perhaps the House does not realise they are all in the public domain. I have been able to study all of them. First, we have the INF agreement itself and its two protocols, respectively on elimination and inspection. That is a bilateral treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Next, we have a series of basing country agreements which the United States has signed with Italy, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and ourselves which regulate various matters bilaterally with each of those countries. It has an annexe on privileges and immunities.

Next, there is the exchange of notes between this country and the Soviet Union regulating—insufficiently, I shall argue—certain matters between us and them. Lastly, there are the deployment state agreements, as they are called, between the Soviet Union and East Germany and Czechoslovakia.

First, I have some general questions about the status of the documents that concern us. Will any of them be registered as treaties of the United Nations? What about ratification by those countries whose parliamentary system, unlike ours, requires that stage before a treaty can come into force? Which countries will have to ratify and which will not? Lastly, are all the basing country agreements the same as ours?

Next, I have some general questions about the intended effects of the agreements. There is one real shock in the text which makes one sit up and think "What on earth is going on here?" That occurs at Protocol I, paragraph II. 7 of the main agreement. I have given the Minister prior notice of that and all the other points I shall raise. Therefore, I shall spare the House the references from now on. That paragraph speaks of re-entry vehicles which have been released by unilateral decision from existing programmes of co-operation. What programmes of co-operation?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I hesitate to interrupt the noble Lord. I understand his interest in discussing the wider question of the INF agreement and perhaps others and how the provisions will affect the United Kingdom. However, I wonder whether that is perhaps stretching our rules of procedure under Standing Order No. 26(v). It may take us beyond the narrow confines of the Bill before us. Perhaps I did not make it plain enough to your Lordships that in any case we shall have the opportunity for a more wide-ranging debate when the Government take advantage of the provisions in the Bill to extend it to the INF inspection agreements and any others which may follow in due course. I hope the noble Lord will accept the spirit in which I say that.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, of course I accept the spirit. However, in point of fact there will be no more justification to go wide when the orders are laid than there is on the occasion when the Bill is being considered which will entitle the Government to make the orders. Indeed, it would be possible to argue that there will be less justification to go wide later.

Perhaps I may point out that the House of Commons spent no less than four days in Committee on the Bill. They discussed the entire disarmament field—present, past and future. They discussed not only the INF treaty, which I am discussing, but chemical, conventional and mutual and balanced force reductions. If the Minister is content to hear me out, I shall not be very long and we shall be finished by 8.15. Then I shall undertake that, so far as I am concerned, we shall not have another go at the Bill in Committee stage. The Minister nods, and I am most grateful to him.

I mentioned the re-entry vehicles which have been released by unilateral decision from existing programmes of existing co-operation. Those appear to be exempt from the treaty between the Americans and the Russians. My question is: what vehicles, what programmes of co-operation, what release and what sort of unilateral action? What is going on here? It is obscure from the text of the treaty.

Next, there is to be some destruction of missiles actually in the United Kingdom. If there is an accident, either on the spot or an environmental accident—there will be a lot of burning of pretty hairy military equipment—whose courts will be responsible for dealing with compensation claims? That is a question to consider now and not later, as has been suggested. Worldwide, under START the destruction of weaponry is going to be even greater. It may even be that there is a possibility of a nuclear winter situation arising out of disarmament.

The INF agreement itself contains the usual provisions for its own termination, before the 13 years are up, by notice delivered and so on. However, neither the Basing Country Agreements nor the exchange of letters contain such provisions. It is curious that the Deployment State Agreements among the Warsaw Pact countries do have those provisions. On our side, is it right for us to assume that if either signatory terminates the main agreement under its own provisions, no acts will thereafter be done under the agreement and there will therefore be no question of either the basing country agreement or the exchange of notes remaining in force? I imagine that that is so; can the Government confirm that?

Here is a small puzzle which I hope that the Government will be able to say is due to haste in their own drafting and nothing worse. In the exchange of letters with the Soviet Union, the Government wholeheartedly support the INF agreement and its protocol on inspections. They do not, apparently, support the other protocol on the eliminations themselves. Why is this? One would have hoped they would support both.

I turn now to what I call the edges of the agreement, including the vexed question of circumvention by building up weapons systems not covered in the agreement in order to obtain supposed compensation for some loss. I hope that the Government have no intention of going along with any of this; they might be asked to do so.

The preamble of the INF agreement relates the whole package to Article 6 of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which reminds the superpowers of their duty to get on with nuclear disarmament in general. It would not be disarmament if the INF reductions were compensated for by more air-launched or sea-launched missiles, whether ballistic or cruise, or bombers. Therefore, I imagine that compensation is expressly precluded by that agreement. It is all the more important that it should be because the nuclear warheads themselves are not going to be destroyed and would thus be available, with ill will, for other systems. We must remember that the agreement is not for nuclear disarmament; it is for the abolition of means of delivery only.

Throughout the treaty package, the procedures are Soviet-American procedures and this country has a quite insufficient role. The United States presents us with a sealed envelope containing Soviet-American procedures which we are required to accept without opening. These procedures are objectionable because many of them insulate the British Government, Parliament and press from knowledge of what is going on. We stay in the dark and our confidence in verification remains dependent on American confidence, or on the American wish that we should be confident.

It is surprising that in some respects the Soviet deployment states, that is, East Germany and Czechoslovakia, get a better deal under their agreements with the Soviet Union than we do under ours with the US. A few of the procedures on our side constitute downright infractions of British sovereignty. I shall mention them later.

Under the agreements the superpowers are to notify one another of intended launchings of missiles for research purposes. We are not notified, but it is our security which is at stake. Again and again, the superpowers notify one another of things and do not notify us. This example can stand for many cases.

Besides the inspectors, who will be Soviet officials, there are to be two teams of Americans touring the country with them. They will have some diplomatic immunity, though apparently on a lesser scale; they are the in-country diplomatic escort, and the air crew diplomatic escort. You get the picture? The Americans are escorting the Russians on their mission, just as the Russians will be escorting the Americans in the Soviet Union. There is no objection to that. But what do we do? Do we escort everybody, as it is our country and as one would expect, and as I think we would like to do simply out of courtesy, because we approve of the treaty, even if our highest national security interests were not involved? Well, no; or not much. Probably not! The in-country escort "may" include British people; the agreement does not say "shall". It will be up to the Americans.

Again it is provided that when a party of Soviet inspectors are flying around Britain looking at different places—they may indeed fly from Greenham to Molesworth and back—the American air crew "may" include a British person. That should be "shall". Although the "inspected country"—a reference to the Americans—must clear the members of its in-country escort with the "inspecting country"—that is the Russians—it does not need to do so with the basing country, the UK. This means that the Americans must submit their names for the approval of the Russians but they do not have to submit them to us.

The gear that the Soviet inspectors bring into this country is to be inspected by the Americans but not by us. If any of it is found to be unconnected with the purpose of the visit, that is to say, designed for a bit of espionage on the side, it is to be impounded by the Americans on our soil, indeed on our RAF bases, under a dual key arrangement with the Russians. We are to know nothing about it.

It is curious that under Warsaw Pact deployment State agreements the Russians, the Czechs and the East Germans inspect incoming American equipment together. If the Germans or Czechs do not like it, the Russians are bound to ensure its removal. The Americans are not bound to do any such thing for us. On our side the presence or absence of RAF people at the inspections which are to take place at RAF bases is on the basis of "may" and not "shall". In other words the Americans decide; we have no rights. There is altogether too much "may" and not enough "shall" in these parts of the text.

Since we do not, by right, see much of what goes on during an inspection, how are we to learn about it? The Government will no doubt say, as they always do when it is a matter of Anglo-American consultations, that our friendship is not to be enquired into because it is ipso facto full, friendly, constructive and loving. But what do the agreements say? The basing country agreement says that after an inspection has taken place—after it has taken place—we may request "a briefing", and if we do it will be provided. I ask the House and the Government to consider: how does this wretched wording to cover the removal of the weapons consort with the wonderful rapport that was supposed to make a dual release key unnecessary while these things were operational? And how does the American undertaking to "advise" us that "the inspection has been completed" compare with the Soviet undertaking to "inform" the East Germans and the Czechs "about the conclusion of the inspection?"

I turn to the infringements of sovereignty. The first concerns West Germany but sets a precedent for us later. In the INF agreement, a bilateral treaty between the Soviet Union and the US, the US undertakes to destroy the Pershing IAs. Though the warheads of these missiles are American property, the missiles themselves are German property. Of course the German Government have agreed, but the undertaking should have been given by Germany and not the United States. If that is what happens to undoubted German property under this treaty, what is likely to happen, under an advanced START, to the Trident missiles which, in view of their recycling through a common US-UK servicing pool, cannot be called undoubted British property? At any rate they would certainly be less clearly British than the Pershing Is are German. We should think about it.

In the INF agreement itself the US undertakes to ensure that basing countries admit the inspectors' equipment and supplies duty free. Here we come to a direct infringement of British sovereignty. It is quite unacceptable that the Government should have permitted the United States to purport to promise the Russians that the British Customs will do this or that. Again, in the main INF Treaty, the United States has given the Soviet Union the right to waive the diplomatic immunity which will be conferred upon their people under this Bill when the Soviet Union is of the opinion that an immunity would impede the course of justice and that it would not prejudice the implementation of the agreement. I am not sure that that is a good right for the inspectors to have; or rather I am not sure that the limitation placed upon it is a good limitation for them to be entitled to enjoy. But what I am sure of is that neither the right nor any limitation on it are the Americans' to give. They are ours to give, and their purported giving by another country infringes our sovereignty. The Government must take responsibility for that.

To sum up my judgment of the treaties, the Bill is necessary and useful. The treaties are good enough for their main purpose: that is, ridding Europe of these weapons. But they are severely defective because they are bilateral through and through, reflecting a purely bipolar world which is on the way out, and because they infringe our sovereignty. The deployment of these weapons in Europe was decided by NATO in 1979—an Alliance decision. The role of NATO as a whole in the verification of their removal is nil; and the role of each European NATO country is virtually nil. This is deplorable. Both in itself, and as a precedent for the even more important agreements that we hope will follow it, and which are bound to be influenced by it, the present treaty structure ought to be improved.

The removal of Soviet INF weaponry ought to be made subject to NATO verification. This would require the revision of the INF agreement; and, fortunately, the agreement provides fully for its own revision. Because this country is the only nuclear power among the basing countries, and because it is also the only depository power of the Non-Proliferation Treaty to which this agreement is linked by its preamble, it is our Government which ought to set the ball rolling. They ought to propose a NATO system of verification of the INF agreement so that we can know directly that the Russians are keeping their part of the bargain; and so that we can know directly what the Russians know about how the Americans are keeping their part of the bargain.

As a very first step—though I do not think that the major objective of full NATO verification should wait upon this—there should be a continuing committee of basing countries, perhaps in NATO, perhaps in the WEU, in which they can share their experience and align their policies.

These disarmament arrangements are not secret treaties and we shall not allow them to become so. We shall debate them fully. It is the hope of mankind for its entire future that is at stake. Let us have frank and ungrudging debate both now and later. If any mistakes have been made, let us have considered discussion of them and of how to put them right. I allege that mistakes have been made, and I have suggested how they could be put right.

7.53 p.m.

Lord Mayhew

My Lords, I was following the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, with considerable sympathy until he reached the proposition that NATO should undertake the verification of the INF treaty. I would agree with him in principle that it would be good to have more European involvement in the matter. He argued this very well. The real fear among those who are passionately concerned to see the INF treaty work is that it might not be ratified by the United States Senate and Congress. If a treaty, drafted as it now is, is at risk in the United States Congress—which provided not merely for NATO inspection but for Warsaw Pact inspection of United States weapons—I think that that would severely limit the possibilities of success in Washington.

I wish to follow the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, in addressing myself modestly to the provisions of the Bill. I should hope to return to the very important and interesting questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, when we have the affirmative order and perhaps at Committee stage. We are all welcoming this remarkable stride forward in agreement on verification—so much so, that I forbear to spell out its significance.

I wish to make three points modifying our rapture at this moment. First, it is so much easier to verify a treaty which provides for the elimination of a total class of weapons. It is so much easier to verify that this Chamber is empty—if it is—than if it contains no more nor less than 100 Peers. In the case of the INF Treaty we are asked to verify the position of no weapons of this class at all. On strategic weapons, conventional forces, or chemical weapons (to which the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, referred) we are there dealing with verifying a certain level—neither more nor less. The problems, both political and technological, are vastly greater. I am afraid this is one of the restraints that we must feel as we go into the negotiations on strategic arms. Here the problem of verification will be infinitely more difficult than the one we have successfully overcome in connection with intermediate weapons.

Secondly— the Minister made this clear—the verification provisions will apply only to those sites declared by the superpowers to contain their intermediate nuclear weapons. It will not apply to any other area of any other country. Here it will apply in Greenham, Molesworth, and nowhere else. Therefore it is technically possible to hide up a secret cache of intermediate nuclear weapons which can neither be seen from the air by satellite nor visited on the ground by inspectors. I am afraid that this is true and it will form a considerable part of the discussions in the United States Senate on the question of ratification. I can see opponents of the treaty arguing that it is too easy for the Russians to hide away these intermediate weapons. I hope that it will also be borne in mind that although one can hide from the satellites, and from the inspectors, a precise cache of intermediate nuclear weapons, the moment one starts manning them, supplying them, maintaining them or even having personnel attached to them, that cannot be concealed from the extraordinary technology of inspection which the two superpowers have. I do not therefore think that this provides an operational capacity to either side even if they were prepared to cheat.

My third reservation was touched upon by the noble Lords, Lord Kennet and Lord Cledwyn. This verification procedure does not provide for the possibility of substitution. This is very important. Almost as soon as the ink was dry on the INF Treaty, and the two superpower leaders had given their blessing to it, the British Government announced a project—I am not now discussing its merit—for co-operation with the French Government on airborne cruise missiles carried on Tornadoes. One gets rid of the ground-based intermediate nuclear weapons and everyone cheers. One has verification, and the Russians come here and note that they have gone. Then in the next breath one puts exactly the same type of weapon on to an aircraft. What is the net gain? What has happened?

I am not encouraged by the remarks of the Minister of State at the Foreign Office, Mr. Mellor, in Standing Committee D of the House of Commons. He said: No decisions have been taken on any consequential changes that might be needed in the deployment of Alliance systems"— consequent on the abolition of the intermediate nuclear weapons. It must be clarified that neither air-launched nor sea-launched cruise missiles are part of the treaty… We shall honour to the letter any agreement reached within the INF framework and subsequently, we hope, the START framework, but no more than the rest of our Allies shall we be prepared to bind our hands in relation to other activities outside the treaty". That is a rather long and diplomatic Foreign Office way of saying that we shall have other weapons of a type similar to the land-based cruise missiles. That is a limitation on the effect of this on the verification we are talking about.

I put these three negative points, though not because my noble friends and I are not enthusiastic supporters of the Bill. We regard it as a splendid promise of future agreements in disarmament and future verification agreements of a more complicated but effective kind.

8 p.m.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. I am glad that we all agree that this short Bill, by facilitating the provisions of the Stockholm accord, is in itself a small contribution to the breaking down of barriers of mistrust and suspicion. The Stockholm accord, as I have said, also provides a vehicle for furthering the aims of other agreements in the arms control and military security field.

The present Bill, as I explained earlier, avoids the need for primary legislation each time that there is a new international arms agreement involving the granting of privileges and immunities. The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, rightly drew our attention to the case of a chemical weapons convention. I am grateful to the noble Lord for his kind remarks about the efforts which the Government are making in this direction. Such a convention could contain provisions allowing for international inspection on United Kingdom territory.

It is not clear whether the privileges and immunities of chemical weapons convention inspectors would be more appropriate for primary legislation or for the present Bill. Because no draft of any such convention has yet emerged, it would be wrong to foreclose any options at this stage. I hope that by my saying that the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, will appreciate I take on board the point he made that we have to see what any convention states.

I very much agree with the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, that START, chemical warfare conventions and other matters can throw up greater complications. I take that point on board, as I do also his remark that missiles outside designated sites would be hard to keep operational without very visible support facilities.

At present we envisage the extension of the Bill only to the INF agreement signed last month, in so far as it affects inspections taking place on United Kingdom territory. To that end, it is the Government's intention to avail themselves of Clause 1. This provides for the Bill's application to other arms control agreements. I am unable to tell your Lordships precisely when this will be, as much will depend on the timing of the Bill in its remaining stages. But our intention is to do so at the earliest opportunity.

The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, asked me a number of questions: first, how many inspectors will be involved, and how many observers? As I have said, no country is obliged to accept more than three inspections per year. The inspection team can consist of up to four, plus auxiliary staff, and can last anything up to 48 hours. There have been five inspections to date this year, though none in the United Kingdom.

Concerning observers and observable military exercises in the United Kingdom, it is unlikely that we shall be inviting observers more than once every two or three years. I described earlier the exercise Purple Warrior towards the end of last year. Each of the 34 other signatory states can, in theory, send up to two observers to each exercise, but on the basis of experience so far, including Purple Warrior, the smaller countries tend not to send observers, while for some of those that nominate diplomats already accredited in the country concerned the observation period, as was the case with Purple Warrior, is unlikely to exceed two or three days.

The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, was quite right when he said that only Royal Air Force Greenham Common and Royal Air Force Molesworth are involved so far as concerns verification arrangements on INF in this country. All missiles on those sites will be eliminated within three years and it is likely that those at Molesworth will be eliminated first.

The noble Lord asked about certain practical arrangements to do with escorting. British officials, along with American officials, will meet the aircraft carrying the Soviet inspection team and will form part of the permanent escort of Soviet inspectors during the period of inspection. Neither the inspectors nor the aircrew will be allowed access beyond the two bases, where they will be accompanied by British and American escorts at all times.

The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, asked about the extreme boundaries to which privileges and immunities could be extended This really refers to START and what may stem from that. The verification arrangements are still under discussion and it is not quite clear how it will apply to the United Kingdom. As for accompanying personnel—another of his points—as I have said, they will be accompanied at all times by United Kingdom personnel. As for the drawdown period, to use the technical term, elimination will be within 18 months for shorter-range INF and three years for longer-range INF. There are other aspects to do with the timing and duration of the inspections that would fit within those parameters, but I hope that that has given the noble Lord the answer he sought.

As for the matter of treaties being deposited in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament, I shall certainly ensure that if they are not in the Library of your Lordships' House now they will be placed there straight away. I am grateful to the noble Lord for raising that point.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, raised a number of detailed points. I have listened carefully to all of them. I fear that much of what he said and many of the queries he raised go much wider than the Bill. I should certainly like to study carefully what he said and if necessary write to him. Some of his points are pertinent and relevant to the narrower subject of our debate today and I shall certainly try to answer some of those.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for offering to write to me. I shall read his letter with interest and care. But is there really any point in informing the Government in advance of the points one intends to raise? I let the noble Lord know in a very full letter more than a week ago all the points I intended to raise today. My questions are in Hansard. For proper parliamentary debate I submit that the Government's answers should also be in Hansard, if not now—I think they should appear now, because that is why one writes in advance—then perhaps on another occasion, and if so, what? Or are the Government of the opinion that silence in response to questions of which prior notice has been given before a debate is quite a good thing?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, as I said earlier, the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, was straying very wide of the Bill before your Lordships. I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving me notice of his questions. The fact that he did so merely reinforced in my mind the fact that his points were wide of the Bill. If the noble Lord wishes it, and I think that he does, I can now deal shortly with the subjects he raised that are relevant to the Bill.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, in response to the point about wideness, the House of Commons took four days in Committee, which was eight or 10 hours, to discuss the treaty structure before the treaty had been published. Today is the first occasion on which either House of Parliament has been able to discuss that treaty structure. If the noble Lord rebukes me for taking 25 minutes to do so, is he sure that he wishes to take upon his shoulders the burden of rebuking the House of Commons for taking eight hours before they knew what they were talking about?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I am in no sense rebuking anyone. I was trying to stick to the rules within the procedure of this House. However, I can give a short answer to many of the points although not within the time-frame that we have allowed for this debate. There is a sound procedure whereby any letters written to noble Lords on any subject are placed in the Library, and I hope that that will satisfy the noble Lord. It is all very well to talk about another place but your Lordships' House has its own procedures and we must bear that in mind.

The noble Lord asked some relevant questions and I am grateful to him for giving me notice of them. First, he referred to the inspection of inspection equipment and of dual key inspection. As clearly stated in Article V(4), the full in-country escort—and we shall always have an escort—will examine such equipment. In the case of inspection to the United Kingdom, the in-country escort will always include British personnel. As regards diplomatic air crew escort accreditation, I do not think that there is the kind of inconsistency that the noble Lord appears to believe there is. The inspection protocol covers inspections in both the United States and basing country territory. The basing countries' agreement covers inspection only in basing countries and in this case it cannot refer to the United States in the way in which the noble Lord feels it should.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, there is a misunderstanding. I am sorry that the noble Lord feels that we are overrunning our time. I should like to state that I urged him most strongly to arrange for a slightly longer time for this dinner time debate. Unfortunately, he did not see his way to take up that possibility. I have since been told that if we overrun a little it will not matter; if we overrun a great deal it will be possible to continue this Second Reading debate at a later time. I received that message from the Government Whip's office, so let us relax about the matter. I hope that the noble Lord will forgive my interruption.

My point was not that the basing country agreement ought to apply to the United States—of course not. The requirement that the Americans should clear the membership of their diplomatic escort with the Soviet Union is one thing. It would have been better if they had been bound to clear it with us too, as it is our country which is being inspected in the cases with which I am concerned.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I still do not believe that there is the inconsistency which the noble Lord seems to think exists. The inspection protocol covers inspections in both the United States and the basing country territory. The basing country agreement can cover inspections in basing countries only. Without studying the noble Lord's remarks in great detail, I honestly do not believe that there is the inconsistency to which he draws attention. The noble Lord indicates that he thinks there is an inconsistency but I beg to differ. I shall of course study his remarks to see whether we can reach an accord.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, if the noble Lord will be patient, I did not use the word "inconsistency" and I have not alleged any inconsistency. I have said that the obligation on the United States to clear the membership of a certain team with the Soviet Union should be matched by an obligation to clear the membership of that same team with us on the occasions when the team is accompanying a Soviet inspection team in this country. There is no inconsistency in what is printed; it is simply a mistake. That is the point that I am making.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, in his letter the noble Lord stated that there was a discrepancy, so perhaps I should have used that word and not the word "inconsistency".

The noble Lord implied that Protocol 253 stated that the United States shall ensure basing countries admit equipment and supplies duty free. He went on to indicate that he considered it to be unacceptable that the United States should enter into an agreement with the Soviet Union to ensure that the British Government do anything. I do not think that that is correct. That form of words is acceptable language based on the commitment given by the United Kingdom in the basing countries' agreement, Article IV(5).

As regards the waiving of privileges and immunities and the noble Lord's concern about the annexe to the BCA, the annexe on privileges and immunities contains the regime applying to US and Soviet inspectors. These privileges have been agreed by the basing countries as applying during inspections in their territory. Article IV(4) of the BCA refers to that and it is appropriate to annexe them to the BCA.

Turning to the question of the waiving of Customs duties and the fact that the noble Lord's eyes should be on the exchange of notes, I believe that on this point the noble Lord may be on the wrong track. The waiving of Customs duties is agreed between the US and the Soviet Union for each other's territory, by the US through basing countries and the BCA for Soviet entry to basing country territory. I shall of course study the other remarks made by the noble Lord which go wider than the Bill.

As the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, said, both the Stockholm accord and the signing of the INF agreement last year indicate that we now have a real prospect of resuming business between East and West in a way which brings mutual benefit. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, made a similar comment. We must build on the achievements that have been registered so far, leading to a reduction in what we can surely all agree, whatever our other disagreements, are the enormously over-swollen arsenals of conventional, chemical and nuclear weapons. We now have the opportunity to open a new chapter in confidence-building between East and West in the hope of creating a climate of trust which makes war inconceivable. We have not, alas, reached that point. But allowing representatives of each Alliance to visit the other with the protection of diplomatic privilege is one small step towards that goal. This is what this modest but important Bill seeks to achieve. Once again, I commend it to your Lordships. I beg to move.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.