HL Deb 19 April 1989 vol 506 cc775-835

2.55 p.m.

Lord Home of the Hirsel rose to call attention to the importance, while acknowledging all proposals for the reduction of international tensions, of preserving the unity of the Western Alliance and its power to resist aggression; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, some four years ago I moved a Motion in the House in the context of East-West relations that was somewhat similar to the one I move now. At that time 99 per cent. of the emphasis had to be laid on the physical security of the European democracies, because the foreign policy then of the Soviet Union was geared to the militant pattern of Communism, as practised by Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev, who held it as axiomatic that economic, political and social instability anywhere in the world would redound to the Soviet Union's advantage. It therefore favoured subversion, backed up where necessary by military force, as a legitimate means to gain a political aim.

The doctrine did not stop at theory. Public memory is short, but your Lordships will recall as a horrible reality the attempt to isolate Berlin from Western Europe, only countered by the hazardous and perilous air-lift, and the planting of nuclear missiles in Cuba on America's doorstep, denied until it was proved by photography. Those were acts of brinkmanship at that time which stretched the resources and the nerves of democracy to the limit. In that debate four years ago all I could say in terms of conciliation was that should the Soviet Union's policy seem to signal a change we must not miss the signs.

Today Mr. Gorbachev has given a signal far more dramatic than anything that could have been foreseen two years ago. Therefore the question I can properly put before your Lordships today is: how should Russia's neighbours, in particular the European Community and the NATO alliance, react and respond to this change? There is no easy answer as yet. We know too little so far of the goals for the Soviet Union which are in Mr. Gorbachev's mind. So far there has been a certain ambivalence. He declares in favour of glasnost and perestroika. Indeed, he has made them the plank of his appeal. But he says also that he intends to lead a Communist state. On the face of it, in terms of past experience, that is nearly a contradiction in terms, particularly as lately illustrated by the supply of bombs to Colonel Gaddafi's Libya. I shall make the case therefore, because we want no echoes of that kind of past, for a positive and prudent response until perestroika is illustrated and proved by visible, co-operative deeds.

A supplementary reason for prudence is that nobody knows whether after 70 years of discipline and direction the Russian people will be able or willing to absorb the turbulent adjustments involved in what amounts to a counter-revolution. I believe that I am right to attribute the motive behind Mr. Gorbachev's reforms to the imperative need to avoid collapse in the Soviet Union's economy. The system of centralised socialist direction has been seen to fail to deliver the goods on anything like the scale which the Soviet state requires. The economic reforms were therefore born of necessity and were risqué but deliberate and calculated.

I am by no means so sure that the political consequences which will follow the economic changes and give evidence of weakness at the centre have been foreseen—for example, the fact that in Eastern Europe the Soviet Union will in future need to be content with something far short of military domination. That is clear in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland even now. There is also the fact that on the world stage far afield, the retreat from Afghanistan, the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola and the orders to North Vietnam to leave Kampuchea imply that the communist aim for world domination has had to be modified and is very likely to be abandoned.

These matters have been a shock to the Russian people after 70 years of confident propaganda about Russian supremacy and power. In those circumstances Mr. Gorbachev has very difficult choices to make. I believe that two choices are possible. The first is the minimum choice. He can rely on the economic reforms which he has made in order to restore economic viability to the country, and it may be able to accept the drastic limitations of military power and to settle down, if possible, in that way. As I say, that is the minimum option.

However, the second, the maximum option would be to recognise that great nations in the 21st century are not likely to be those which flaunt military might but those which can boast a lively and resilient economy and political institutions which form a stable base for order and which are committed to co-operate with others to ensure that this earth is a habitable place for man to live on. I by no means put that vision beyond Mr. Gorbachev's comprehension or calculations. Should he go for the big prize, what can Russia's neighbours do to help—that is to say, if he puts the most liberal interpretation on glasnost and perestroika?

If I am right about the parlous state of the economy of the Soviet Union and of the satellite countries, then there will be a number of questions which will acutely arise; for example, matters of credit for reconstruction in the Soviet Union and on the fringes in Europe. There commercial judgments will play their part, but practically I should have no objection to extensive credits for those purposes, with this caveat. It would be folly for the European Community to be so forthcoming with aid as in effect to enable the Soviet Union to continue to finance the massive mobilisation of forces and weaponry which it deploys in the Warsaw Pact area. Therefore, I believe that we should be sympathetic to the economic needs, but there must be a strong link between aid and mutual and balanced disarmament.

When I last negotiated with the old Soviet regime Mr. Gromyko refused to sit at a table if the formula "mutual and balanced disarmament" headed the agenda. That obstinacy seems to have gone, and the Stockholm conference brought the acceptance of verification, which in my belief has changed the whole outlook for possible disarmament. Therefore, I can see the prospect of a sequence of negotiations which could end in agreement on elements of disarmament, and the list that I would suggest would be this: the perfection of confidence-building measures making full use of verification, and there has been considerable progress on that since Stockholm but there is room for improvement; which must seem now to be within reach, again with verification; and thirdly, the reduction of conventional weapons to a point where there is no temptation to use them for aggression; in other words, to a low level.

Perhaps your Lordships will allow me a parenthesis for a couple of minutes. There are some in Western Europe who seem to favour the plan that NATO should increase conventional capability so as more nearly to match the Soviet Union's conventional threat. I believe that there is a flaw in that argument. Historically no conventional force and weapons have ever deterred a war. There have been many conventional confrontations; none has deterred a war. The reason why is surely clear. One leadership or another has always persuaded itself that numbers would win. Napoleon so calculated, the Kaiser so calculated, Hitler so calculated, and from what we have been able to measure of the communist battalions facing Western Europe, that was Stalin's calculations too.

So it seems that we have to look to some other method to deter war. I think that there will be long negotiations ahead of us with the Soviet Union, but I suggest that the sequence—that is, the measures to prevent surprise attack, the abolition of chemical warfare and the reduction of conventional weapons and forces to very low levels—should give a good and promising agenda.

At present there is a deadlock on the question of the retention of a minimum number of nuclear missiles. I am inclined to forecast that as the debate proceeds it will become evident that until total trust is restored—and that must be a good many years ahead—there will be less fear both in the Warsaw Pact area and in NATO if a minimum deterrent is retained. It will increasingly become apparent to both sides that the business of deterrence of war, preventing any war starting, is in the interests of all of us, including the Warsaw Pact and NATO. Deterrence is the business we must all be in.

If there are, as I believe, a minimum number of nuclear weapons to be retained, then they must be up to date, because, by definition, if a potential opponent knows that a missile is not up to date, it will not deter. I feel that there will probably be an agreement with the Soviet Union that a minimum number of nuclear weapons should be retained.

I felt that it was right at this time to put such questions before your Lordships so that we could try to discover whether Europe can work together in a positive but prudent response to Mr. Gorbachev's initiative. The question of deterrence is central to all those problems. I repeat, unless we are successful in keeping a deterrent—I see no other at the moment than nuclear weapons—there will be a sharp deterioration in the position. If we in Europe can interpret correctly the signals from the East, if we can contrive a response which I would describe as a prudent response but one with foresight, we may yet construct a firmly based peace on the Continent of Europe.

3.11 p.m.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Home, for his timely Motion and for his interesting and thoughtful speech. I agree with much of what he said. I was encouraged by the note of optimism in his speech, and, as he said, we must not miss the signs. Of course scepticism at the end of a century of world wars is not unnatural, but there are also moments when one is entitled to be more hopeful about the future. With many others, I think that this is one of them. As the noble Lord reminded us, we have had several debates upon this subject and on East-West relations over the past few years. As we look back at them, everyone in the House, save the most pessimistic by nature, must concede that a historic change has been taking place over the past three years.

Perhaps I may refer to one of those debates which took place on 29th February 1984. the House will remember that it was the aftermath of the death of Brezhnev and the short reigns of Andropov and Chernenko. They represented the Soviet old guard. Some noble Lords argued strongly then that it would be a mistake to believe that we could rely on any significant change in Soviet foreign policy. They said that to the old guard détente was just another aspect of continuing confrontation and struggle.

On 9th December 1987 we debated the INF treaty and its implications. The noble Lord, Lord Home, then agreed with me that important changes had taken place with the accession of Mr. Gorbachev. He rightly pointed to verification as one of those changes. I recall that my noble friend Lord Stewart of Fulham, who is to speak later, took the same view; but today in this debate, without being naive, we can say that since Mr. Gorbachev took office changes of historic significance have taken place in the Soviet Union. The future will be profoundly affected, first, by the response of the West to those changes and Mr. Gorbachev's leadership; and, secondly, to his own ability to remain in power long enough for his economic policies to work.

The reduction of food queues and the Soviet's vast arsenal go hand in hand. The noble Lord's Motion deals mainly with the first of those two factors; namely, the response of the West to the changes taking place in the Soviet Union. He stressed the importance of the Western Alliance, and of course we recognise that. This year marks the 40th anniversary of NATO. Ernest Bevin was the chief architect of NATO in Clement Attlee's post-war Administration, and it has been the bastion of Western defence for 40 years, much of which was conditioned by the cold war. We remember 1967 and the Cuban and Berlin crises, when we felt that we were on the brink of war. It was on the whole a period when working for détente and disarmament was a hard and at times a thankless task, but it is also impossible to resist the argument that NATO has preserved the Western democracies when the Soviet leaders were driven to ideological policies. The noble Lord, Lord Home, mentioned that he held office during that period, as did a number of noble Lords now in the House, and his speech reflected the mood of the period with its doubts and disappointments.

Although I was fighting the battles of Wales at the time, I well remember a discussion in Cabinet about the report published by the Belgian Foreign Minister, M. Harmel. The Harmel Report provided NATO with guidelines for coping with the acutely difficult problems of that time; and the British Government and their allies accepted his advice. There is no doubt that the Harmel Report gave NATO new confidence and clear objectives—what have been described as a dual policy of defence and détente—which lasted until recent years.

The question which the Western Alliance must address—this is the gravamen of the noble Lord's Motion—is whether new policies are needed which are relevant to the changes now taking place in the Soviet Union and in other Warsaw Pact countries.

The noble Lord referred to the proposals for the reduction in international tension; but is it not a fact that international tension has been reduced at present to a level that we have not experienced since the end of the war? Western leaders are not considering proposals to reduce tension today; they are puzzled as to how they should react to the remarkable détente which Mr. Gorbachev has achieved.

I should like to return to the Harmel Report for a moment, because that short but historic document has served its purpose. There is a growing belief that NATO needs new and revised guidelines to take account of current developments. The noble Lord discussed that point in his speech. It seems clear that NATO has some difficult problems to resolve. European countries are better off than they were when NATO was founded. There is a strong American view that they should contribute more to the overall budget. This country makes a major contribution, and has done so from the start, but there is a feeling that other European countries should increase their share of the burden.

Another argument is that Europe should manage its own defence and convert into a unified NATO Europe, treating with the United States of America on equal terms. There are other suggestions, as noble Lords will be aware, but they all point to the urgent need for a revised version of the Harmel Report. In his important article in The Times on 4th April which noble Lords will have read, Francois Heisbourg said that a new report: should … provide a sense of political direction for the Alliance, for the leaders of its member states and public opinion, by addressing a number of long term issues and setting bounds for political action. First, it should dwell on the Alliance's overall aims with a view to facilitating moves in that direction in a peaceful and constructive manner". That is something which Harmel could not and did not do.

The formulation of a new NATO policy seems therefore to be the central issue in the forthcoming NATO summit. I am sure that the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, when he comes to reply, will be able to confirm this. It will be a complicated task for the simple reason that NATO faces a different and indeed a continually changing scene in the East. NATO's most urgent political problem is one which has been exercising the attention of the right honourable lady the Prime Minister for some time; namely, the modernisation of short-range nuclear forces (SNF). This presents many real difficulties but it would be unfortunate if it was allowed to stand in the way of a new NATO policy. We know that Chancellor Kohl has strong reservations about the proposals to modernise the Lance short-range missile. Dr. Kohl has said, and this appeared in the Financial Times, that the Lance missile, remains sufficient and intact until 1995". He does not think that it is necessary to take a final decision for two or three years. It is obvious therefore that a good deal of complex negotiation is required on a range of options. But once again, perhaps I may say that they should not be allowed to stand in the way of a constructive and forward-looking negotiation for a new report along the lines of the Harmel Report.

There are still a few people who will argue that the scheme has not really changed and that we must pursue the same objectives exactly as if Stalin or Brezhnev were in control. Is that really the position? Is that what people believe today? I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Home, believes this; the Foreign Secretary does not believe it and the Prime Minister herself has made plain her own view; namely, that President Gorbachev, has the vision, the boldness and the sheer power of personality to change the whole future of his country and to have a profound effect on the wider world as well". We on this side of the House believe that Mr. Gorbachev's reforms are one of the most significant events, if not the most important, to have taken place since the war and certainly the most important events to have occurred in the Soviet Union since 1917. Glasnost has opened the doors and windows of Russia to public debate both on the platform and in the press in a way that was unthinkable even four years ago.

We detect improvement in political freedoms and human rights and we see a very real attempt towards political and economic reforms. To try to argue that there is no change is to be blinkered and prejudiced. To say that it is too slow is to underestimate the size of Mr. Gorbachev's task and to be unfair. He has embarked upon an immense enterprise; he has to tackle bureaucratic obstruction; he has to tackle the lack of economic progress, an impatient public expectation and other daunting problems in a vast federation of diverse nations with little democratic tradition.

All that is known to the House and we are also conscious that the reforms he has achieved thus far are not irreversible. The clock at this moment could be turned back. We must therefore consider the consequences for us and for the West generally if he were to be replaced. It is therefore both right and sensible that we and our partners and allies should encourage the reforms. A reformed Soviet Union is a far more appealing prospect. The world has already reaped some practical benefits from the new approach and we have seen benefits in regional conflicts in Kampuchea and Angola and the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Another notable development is that the spirit of glasnost and perestroika is manifesting itself in other Eastern European countries, notably in Hungary and Poland. Hungary has agreed to move towards a multi-party system and last week government and opposition signed an agreement in Poland. The Solidarity trade union is now legally recognised. The wind of change is not yet blowing through the other neighbouring countries but its sound can be heard along the borders. We must hope and work for the best. I say again that we must welcome these changes in practical ways; if Soviet economic reforms provide new markets for the West we must take speedy advantage of them. I am sure that the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, as chairman of the British-Soviet Association, would agree with me on this. The Soviet Union under Mr. Gorbachev is rethinking its economic and foreign policy. We must respond to that and in turn re-assess our own policies as well.

However, while we welcome the new dispensation with the utmost goodwill, we cannot be expected to ignore the immense military power of the Warsaw Pact. The measures taken by Mr. Gorbachev in the field of disarmament are greatly appreciated in the West, but their scale of force deployment still remains formidable. Apprehension and a degree of suspicion still remain on both sides and I believe that Mr. Gorbachev understands that very well. It is one of the secrets of his success. But we must be satisfied beyond doubt that disarmament—nuclear, chemical and conventional—constitutes a genuine and fair deal for both sides. I think we are nearer to achieving that than at any time since 1945 and we must press on with the task.

Last week the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons published a most valuable report on Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. I am sure that noble Lords will have seen it; it is a lengthy and detailed document which calls for careful study. I propose to read the last paragraph of this all-party report because in my view it summarises the present state of affairs admirably. It says: We make no apologies for raising many questions in our report, the answers to which can only be hazily glimpsed at this stage. None of us can be sure what kind of Soviet Union to expect in the years ahead; where radical reforms in Hungary and Poland will take Central Europe; how relations will develop between the two Germanies; how the balance of power in Europe will be altered; and what the effects of all this will be for the transatlantic relationship. We are certain, however, of two considerations which directly affect Britain and her allies in NATO. First, the sea-change in relations between East and West presents us all with a challenge to which we must adjust and respond. We need to think afresh about the consequences of the changes we are now witnessing, and prepare to adapt our policies accordingly. Secondly, the potential for strains within the Alliance is as great as at any time since NATO was created 40 years ago. It will require a major effort if differences among European allies and between Europe and North America are to be managed successfully. Yet a common Western approach, which has brought us so far so successfully, is as vital as ever, based on shared values, shared interests and steadfast defence. If our survey has revealed anything, it is that only a responsive and unified Alliance can make the most of the new situation between East and West. The total trust, as the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, said at the end of his speech, may take time to come but I feel in my bones that we can for the first time in decades view the scene with optimism; that we can, if we grasp the opportunity in concert with our friends and allies, change the course of history in what the Prime Minister has called "our common European home."

3.28 p.m.

Lord Mayhew

My Lords, I am sure that my noble friends will want me first to express our appreciation for the positive manner in which the noble Lord introduced the Motion this afternoon and in particular to express our agreement with his comments on the importance and hopefulness of the talks on conventional disarmament which have just started in Vienna and with the list of priorities he laid down for those talks. I think we also agree warmly with the striking expressions of the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, about the "sea change", the enormous importance and far-reaching nature of the changes, initiated by Mr. Gorbachev.

However, both noble Lords also struck notes of caution. We all agree on the good intentions of Mr. Gorbachev; we all agree he is an honest man. But a question arises concerning the future and whether he can survive. I think it is significant to remember his illustrious predecessor, Kerensky, who was also a man of good intentions and honesty. He helped to get rid of one tyranny only to pave the way for another. It is in the great interests of the West that that should not happen again.

I submit that NATO has two tasks at present. The first is to be prepared for the worst and to stay prepared for the worst. The second is to try to prevent the worst happening. The Motion before us is strange in one way: the Government's policy is, I believe, out of line with it. The Motion talks about "preserving" the strength and unity of the Western alliance, but in two important respects the Government's policy is to increase the nuclear strength of NATO and the United Kingdom. First, they insistently demand—the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, touched on this—an increase in the power, range and accuracy of NATO's short-range nuclear weapons. At present NATO has 4,600 short-range nuclear warheads, some in freefall bombs, some on Lance missiles and some in artillery shells. The Government insist that these should be replaced and modernised. I am sure the Minister who is to reply will confirm, if pressed, that that step means modernisation plus escalation. The power, range and accuracy of the new weapons will be greater.

Perhaps the Minister will also explain the Government's present position as regards when the new weapons must be introduced. Certainly until recently, and I think it is still the case, the Government were insisting that NATO should decide now to start the development and production of these powerful new weapons, and that it should decide now to deploy these weapons when they are ready.

The argument in favour of the Government's policy is that in a few years' time, if the NATO short-range nuclear weapons are not strengthened, the Soviet Union may not be deterred from aggression. If the new missiles come in, we should be all right. However, if we are restricted to the present 4,600 nuclear warheads plus, of course, the British, French, and American strategic deterrents, plus the conventional forces, we may be faced with aggression. We may be faced with a drive to the Atlantic by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and its allies, which means the Russians, the Ukrainians, the Georgians, the Armenians, the Balts, the Poles, the Hungarians and so on. This is the threat against which the Government are basing their immediate updating of the short-range nuclear weapons.

Mr. Gorbachev has made plain that he does not regard this scenario as realistic. There may be something in that, but he has not persuaded the Prime Minister. On the other hand, most of the NATO governments disagree with the Prime Minister on this point. The Belgians, the Dutch, the Germans, and now also possibly the United States, disagree with the Prime Minister. Perhaps the Minister can explain that.

The Motion states also that we should preserve the unity of the alliance. However, the insistence by the Government on what they call modernisation is dividing the alliance. There is no question that the alliance is seriously divided at the moment and the guilty party is Her Majesty's Government.

What should be the Government's line? Ministers argue strongly that while the Warsaw Pact has conventional superiority, the demand of the Warsaw Pact countries for the abolition of nuclear weapons throughout Europe is unacceptable. However, negotiations have now started in Vienna on conventional disarmament, and they are hopeful. Why then do we not agree to negotiate now, provisionally perhaps, for the reduction of nuclear weapons in Europe? How can it be right, at this most hopeful moment in Europe, to deny negotiations and to commit NATO to unilateral increases in its short-range nuclear weapons? Few things could be more helpful to Mr. Gorbachev's enemies in Russia. It helps them to argue that Mr. Gorbachev's new liberal attitude to the West is failing and that the West is taking advantage of the Soviet Union's weakness. They can also argue that if Lance is to be modernised, why should the Soviet reaction to Lance, the SS.21, not be modernised too. Therefore, the attitude of the Government seems to me contrary to what is plainly the wish on all sides that we should do what is possible to forward the disarmament process and to help Mr. Gorbachev maintain his credibility in his own country.

However, it is not just a question of the Government's attitude towards short-range nuclear weapons; there is also Trident. As East-West relations improve, as the Soviet threat recedes, the Government hurry forward with a fivefold or sixfold increase in Britain's strategic nuclear capability. Critics of Trident on these Benches argued from the beginning that for British require- ments the Trident project was much too big, much too sophisticated and much too expensive. We recommended a more modest deterrent, such as the submarine-launched cruise missile. I venture a prediction that, as the months go by, in the deepest recesses of their minds, Ministers will begin regretting they did not take our excellent advice at the time.

We on these Benches would say, in spite of the improvement in East-West relations, that there is a fair case for maintaining the British deterrent at its current level of capability. But a sixfold or sevenfold increase at this time, in this new climate, is an absurd falling away from what the situation requires.

I was particularly glad that the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, referred to the Harmel Report. I warmly endorse what he said. That report came out 22 years ago in a totally different climate. Now is the time for NATO to consider again its strategy and longer term aims in the quite different situation in which it finds itself now.

I hope that NATO will not just confine itself to matters of the balance of contribution between Europe and the United States. Again, I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, said. I hope it will take a large look at what has changed. I liked the phrase of the Commons Select Committee which talked of a "sea change". The "sea change" should be the basis of a new NATO report on the model of Harmel. I personally hope that the main conclusion of such a report would be that NATO's aim should be not to maintain the status quo, but to try for change by agreement, without upsetting the balance of power in the process. That, I hope and believe, should be the future approach of NATO because things are now moving so fast on both sides of the Iron Curtain that maintaining the status quo is probably impossible in any case.

On both sides in Europe people are beginning to raise and discuss the most far-reaching questions. Should there always be Russian and American troops beyond their frontiers in Europe? Should and can the German people always be denied self-determination, prevented from pulling down the Berlin Wall, denied neutrality and denied unification if they want it?

When the Soviet establishment simply urges loyalty to the Warsaw Pact, or when the NATO establishment simply urges loyalty to NATO, they could find themselves opposed by a growing tide of opinion, especially inside Germany. After all, NATO was created to deal with the threat of Stalinist aggression. If the threat had not been so obvious and so immediate it would not have been possible to bring the allies together to form the alliance. I speak as one who was to some extent involved in the process at that time.

NATO has been immensely successful and still has an important role. But the threat is no longer obvious; the threat is no longer immediate. Indeed, I do not believe that it is an exaggeration to say that at the moment the threat does not exist. While that situation continues—and may it long continue—it is perfectly natural that people should ask questions about the future. It is natural that they should question whether it is possible, gradually by agreement, to evolve a system of common security which is not dependent on confrontation, a system of security which extends to both sides of the Iron Curtain. By definition a long-term aim is not immediately practicable, but it can give a sense of direction which is sometimes useful.

To sum up, in a number of fields the Government have responded well to the changes in the Soviet Union and the opportunities which those changes have presented. I think, for example, of the new and valuable diplomatic and personal relationships that have been formed between the Soviet Union and this country. But the picture is spoilt by the Government's obsessive demand for new and more powerful nuclear weapons. They are supported in those demands by the NATO and British military staffs, and the arguments of the military chiefs must always be respected. But there are occasions when they should be overriden in the broader national interest. This is such an occasion.

3.42 p.m.

The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, I should like to start by thanking my noble friend Lord Home for prompting this debate. Past experience and responsibility mean that no one in your Lordships' House is better placed to promote a debate on this subject. I also listened with interest to the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, and the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew. My noble friend Lady Hooper will respond to some of the points that have been raised by those noble Lords when she replies later this evening.

In the excitement two weeks ago of the important and successful visit of President Gorbachev to Britain, it was all too easy to forget that the same week marked the 40th anniversary of NATO. My noble friend's Motion offers a salutary reminder that it is NATO's policies. NATO's firm hand and cool nerve, which have helped bring about the climate in East-West relations in which such visits can be fruitful and worthwhile. And my noble friend is right to remind us of the importance of preserving the unity of the Western alliance and its firmness of purpose if the gains achieved so far are not to be put at risk.

At a time when NATO has just celebrated its 40th anniversary, it is worth returning to the fundamental charter of the organisation, the North Atlantic Treaty, to examine whether the principles and undertakings contained in that document remain valid today. After all, when the treaty was signed in 1949 the world looked very different: then, for example, the Soviet Union was continuing to blockade Berlin, as my noble friend reminded us. It is not unreasonable to ask ourselves whether we still need an organisation such as NATO, which was established at a time of extreme tension between East and West.

The answers to these questions are, I submit, contained in the preamble to the North Atlantic Treaty, in which the parties affirm their determination: to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilisation of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law". That is what NATO is about, and the values which we have undertaken to preserve in the treaty are as essential today as they were 40 years ago. NATO is not simply a military alliance based on an undertaking to treat an armed attack on one member as an armed attack on us all. That is of course a vital element of the treaty, but it would not, I think, have survived the passage of time had the fundamental values of democracy, liberty and the rule of law not been common to all the parties.

Changes in the world have brought with them new challenges for NATO to meet. When East-West relations were at their most adversarial the primary task of the alliance, to maintain adequate forces to ensure the security from attack of our countries, was difficult but essentially straightforward. The remarkable improvement in our relations with the Warsaw Pact is one which we all welcome unreservedly. But we recognise that it brings with it questions which the alliance has hitherto rarely had to face. The most critical of these is how to continue to foster good relations between East and West without jeopardising our security—how, in the words of the NATO Secretary General, to ensure that the Alliance is both an anchor of stability and an instrument of change". We do not doubt that the alliance has the answer to this question. The underlying approach mapped out in the Harmel Report, to which reference has already been made, is as valid today as it was then. The alliance must continue to rest its policy on the twin principles of maintaining adequate military strength and political cohesion while pursuing the search for more stable East-West relations and, to use that rather unfashionable word, detente. I commend to your Lordships a sentence from the recently published report of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the other place on Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, to which the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, referred, A common Western approach, which has brought us so far so successfully, is as vital as ever, based on shared values, shared interests and steadfast defence". In considering the improvement in East-West relations in recent years there is a tendency to give a great deal of the credit to President Gorbachev. Certainly, his achievements have been remarkable by any standard. His ambitious programmes of economic and structural change at home, and his readiness to grasp difficult, even embarrassing nettles abroad, to see what needs to be done, for instance in Afghanistan, and do it, make him a leader with whom the world can indeed, as the phrase goes, do business.

At the same time, we must be clear that within the Soviet Union the process of perestroika is no guarantee of political stability. No changes so far brought about are yet irreversible. It was clear from President Gorbachev's Guildhall speech and his discussions here recently that he is under no illusion about the difficulties lying ahead in the reform process. The economic problems which he faces are massive, with endemic shortage; everywhere evident. Add to these economic problems the nationalities issue and it is only too easy to see the considerable cause for concern which the Soviet leadership must be experiencing. We welcome the recent improvement in Soviet human rights performance but here too there is still a long way to go before fundamental freedoms become a natural and institutionalised feature of Soviet society. We should not delude ourselves into thinking that the Soviet Union is about to become a liberal pluralist democracy with a market economy.

On the military side, Soviet forces will perhaps be somewhat smaller in future. But they will also be, thanks to the reforms initiated by Marshal Ogarkhov, leaner and more efficient. With the uncertainties in the Soviet Union and the lack of any fundamental change so far in Soviet military capabilities, the NATO alliance is thus amply justified in maintaining a sensible policy for the security and defence of Western Europe.

NATO's firmness hitherto has been at least as much the cause of better East-West relations as the commendable rethinking of the Soviet leadership. The milestones that have marked the improvement in those relations, such as the INF Treaty, have long been NATO priorities whose achievement was hitherto blocked by the intransigence of former Soviet regimes. We all know that Mr. Gorbachev is a skilled repacker of Western proposals upon which he stamps the words "made in Moscow".

The INF Treaty demonstrated to us a principle that applies directly to the Motion before us today. The alliance need not be afraid of doing business with Mr Gorbachev provided that we have a clear picture of where our interests lie and an unshakable resolve not to be distracted or deflected from pursuing those interests. I shall go further: provided that we keep our resolve, we shall be able to achieve further success in enhancing the security of the world in which we live. If, on the other hand, we allow our defences to become obsolete, or if we were to accept the denuclearisation of Europe, or if we were to allow Europe and North America to be decoupled, we would leave the Soviet Union in a dominant position which he would surely exploit, if only politically.

There are some who see the debate in progress within the alliance about the modernisation of NATO's short-range nuclear forces, and particularly a successor to the Lance missile, as a test case of whether NATO is prepared to maintain adequate defences. But we should not make more of the differences of opinion within the alliance than they warrant.

A perusal of NATO communiqués and statements by those governments concerned well demonstrates that there is a great deal of common ground on that subject. NATO ministers are all agreed that we cannot accept an ageement leading to no short-range nuclear missiles on either side—the so-called third zero—since those systems play an important role in NATO's strategy of flexible response. We also agree that the current Lance missile cannot be sustained beyond the mid-1990s. Having accepted those two propositions, as NATO ministers have, the need for modernisation is clear and overwhelming. The question is not whether NATO will modernise its short-range forces but when and exactly how that decision should be taken.

We should not forget the very large reductions which NATO has already made in the number of nuclear warheads that it retains in Europe. Since 1979 we have achieved a reduction from 7,000 to 4,600, which amounts to 35 per cent. of the total, and we hope that further reductions will be possible in the future. In achieving those reductions, we have disposed of four types of nuclear weapons: ground launched cruise missiles, Pershing missiles, surface-to-air missiles and nuclear mines. But such cuts make it all the more important that our remaining theatre nuclear systems remain effective and up to date. Obsolete weapons do not deter.

Noble Lords may think, as I do, that the withdrawal of 24 out of some 1,500 Warsaw Pact short-range missile systems, announced with such a fanfare by Mr. Shevardnadze, hardly merits serious consideration by contrast. The fact that obsolete weapons are ineffective is well understood by the Soviet Union, which, whatever Mr. Gorbachev may say, has conducted widespread modernisation of its nuclear forces at all ranges. We estimate that 95 per cent. of Soviet short-range nuclear missiles in the forward area have been modernised in the last five years, four of which Mr. Gorbachev himself has presided over. Having completed their own modernisation programme, the Russians are now trying to torpedo NATO's much more modest undertaking. They must not succeed.

It is undeniable that there are people in the alliance who have a hankering for negotiations with the Warsaw Pact to reduce the level of short-range nuclear forces in Europe. But it is a simple fact of life that to be successful participants in a negotiation must have broadly compatible aims; and, as the recent Warsaw Pact declaration on tactical nuclear weapons in Europe shows, that is not the case. The avowed aim of the Warsaw Pact is the denuclearisation of Europe, which we believe would undermine the stability that we have enjoyed for the past 40 years. For NATO, on the other hand, theatre nuclear forces remain an essential element of deterrence. With such conceptual differences existing in that field, what chance would there be of a successful outcome to any negotiations on short-range nuclear forces? If Mr. Gorbachev really wants to enhance security in Europe, let him emulate NATO and reduce his arsenals to the levels to which we have reduced ours.

The fact that the Government see no prospect of enhancing our security through negotiations on short-range nuclear systems in Europe should not of course be taken to imply that we see no value in nuclear arms control in general. Where common aims and the prospect of enhancing Western security at lower levels of forces exist, as in the case of the negotiations on strategic nuclear forces between the United States and the Soviet Union, the Government enthusiastically support such initiatives.

START will probably be the most important arms control agreement ever. Not only will it result in substantial reductions in warhead numbers, but it will also enhance stability by imposing disincentives to the retention of some of the less stable elements in the superpowers' strategic nuclear arsenals.

It is not surprising that the new US Administration are determined to review their position before they re-enter the negotiations. Apart from the normal review that a new administration might prudently wish to undertake, President Bush also faces difficult decisions on the future structure of US strategic forces, such as the modernisation of its ICBM force. Nevertheless, as regards the overall prospects for a START agreement, we remain optimistic. Of course difficult issues have still to be resolved: none of them presents easy solutions. Of these, the questions of the future of strategic defence, sea-launched cruise missiles and verification will be the most difficult to answer. We believe, however, that a deal is there to be done.

I should like to apply the moral of NATO clarity and firmness to another set of negotiations beginning between the countries of East and West—the talks on conventional armed forces in Europe now getting under way in Vienna. There are those who believe that the onus in these talks lies on the West: that it is up to us to come up with a response to the troop withdrawals already announced by President Gorbachev at the United Nations last December and supplemented by him and others since. That is not so. We are the ones who have already put on the table in Vienna a detailed proposal, intended to increase stability by reducing the numbers of weapons that either side holds which are capable of seizing and holding territory. We are the ones who have proposed that ceilings be placed on specific kinds of equipment: tanks, artillery and infantry fighting vehicles. We are the ones who arrived in Vienna and showed straightaway that we were ready for negotiation.

The talks there have got off to a cordial and workmanlike start. We hope that the Eastern countries will prove to be as ready as ourselves to make a success of them, for the goal is a situation in which it would become impossible for either side to mount a surprise attack or sustain offensive action against the other. NATO, as a defensive alliance, is already in that position. President Gorbachev's New York unilateral cuts, though welcome both in themselves and because of the approach that they illustrate, are less ambitious. They would not substantially reduce the Soviet capability against us; they offer no such dramatic change as our proposals do. What we want is equality in outcome. So let no one expect the West to make equal concessions to those that we shall require of the East.

As Mr. Gorbachev himself has accepted, asymmetries must be eliminated by the side with the larger forces reducing to the level of the other. The negotiations will be more complex than any others yet attempted. But let me apply my moral once again: provided that NATO keeps its resolve, it will be able to challenge the East to co-operate with us in overcoming a problem at the centre of our security concerns; namely, the massive conventional imbalance in favour of the Warsaw Pact. If we are successful, stability in Europe will be immeasurably enhanced.

NATO's third major arms control priority is a global ban on chemical weapons. The United Kingdom abandoned its offensive CW capability in the late 1950s. For 17 years from 1969 the United States observed a unilateral moratorium on CW production. Meanwhile the Soviet Union built up the world's largest and most sophisticated CW capability. Until 1987 it did not even admit to possessing chemical weapons. The figure which it has now stated for its stockpile—50,000 tons of toxic agent—is still several times lower than Western estimates. This issue was discussed during Mr. Gorbachev's recent visit, but no further information emerged on Soviet capabilities to allay our concerns. There is thus a need for much greater openness in order to build confidence. We also need practical proposals from all partners in the negotiations in Geneva to resolve the remaining problems in concluding an agreement. The Government have been active in making such proposals and we shall continue to work hard for a CW ban. But in this field as in others, firmness and resolve by the alliance, coupled with imagination, will be the best means of overcoming the complex issues which remain, particularly on verification.

This is the message of the Motion before us today. The value to us of the unity of the Western alliance, and the power to resist aggression which flows from that unity, is not reduced by developments which tend to improve the climate of East-West relations. We do not need NATO less because President Gorbachev has undertaken to reduce the preponderance of Soviet over Western tanks from 3 to 1 to 2.4 to 1. We cannot abandon the collective self-defence arrangements which have brought as 40 years of security just because the prospects for a START treaty or a chemical weapons convention look rosier than at some times in the past. It is not the smiling bear who keeps us safe.

We in the West assure our security by one means alone: by our own efforts. Whatever may be true of justice, it is not true of peace that it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven. We have to work for it with a stout heart and a cool nerve. And within the alliance we have to work for it together. Unity and determination do indeed provide the best means of guaranteeing our security, even through the heady East-West developments which we are now being lucky enough to live through. And that is why I commend my noble friend's Motion to your Lordships' attention.

4.2 p.m.

Lord Chalfont

My Lords, I think we are more than usually grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, for introducing this Motion today. He introduced it with the authority and experience that we should have expected. I suspect that many Members of your Lordships' House will not be surprised when I dissent from some of the more enthusiastic reactions that there have been in the West to the phenomena of glasnost and perestroika. Of course it would be foolish in the extreme to suggest that no change at all is taking place in the Soviet Union. Patently there is change occurring but I suggest that it is taking place on a very limited scale. It is certainly not revolutionary or counter-revolutionary. I take leave to doubt whether we can yet say with any certainty that it is historic.

In spite of the changes that have taken place, there has been no deviation from the basic political or ideological structure of the Soviet Union. The recent elections which took place and created such a sense of sentimental euphoria in sections of the British media were not elections at all. More than 90 per cent. of the people who put themselves up for election were members of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. An election in any democratic sense of the word denotes the ability to change the way in which one is governed. No such possibility was available to the people of the Soviet Union in those so-called elections. As one noble Lord has already said this afternoon, there is no sign whatever—and in my view no possibility—that the Soviet Union is moving toward the status of a pluralist society with a free economy.

Of course Mr. Gorbachev is seeking to make the Soviet Union more prosperous, more self-confident and more self-reliant. All that is very welcome indeed and very good for the people of the Soviet Union; but at the same time I can detect no sign of any fundamental changes in foreign policy. There have been a number of small adjustments. The Soviet Union—much has been made of the point—has withdrawn from Afghanistan. It withdrew because Afghanistan had become a political and military disaster for the Soviet Union, and it was only too happy to get rid of that incubus.

However, I think we should bear in mind that what Mr. Gorbachev is trying to do inside the Soviet Union may not necessarily be good for us, good as it may be for the Soviet people, unless there are fundamental changes in Soviet foreign policy and especially its military policy. At this point I turn to the question of arms control. It seems to me self-evident that one course which Mr. Gorbachev recognised that he had to take was to reduce the crippling Soviet military budget. He had therefore to reduce his own armed strength and, just as any other intelligent statesman, he was concerned to see that the West reduced its arms at the same time. It is for that reason that arms control has been one of the major instruments of the recent Soviet diplomatic offensive.

We should be very careful not to fall into the trap of thinking that an arms control agreement is necessarily a good thing for its own sake. Arms control is a facet of security and defence policy. It is only good if, preferably, it increases our own security but, at the very worst, does not diminish it. I am worried about most of the arms control developments taking place at this moment. I believe that the INF treaty itself contains certain dangers. There is the danger that if it were followed through to its logical conlusion we should soon have a nuclear-free Europe, which has been one of the basic aims of Soviet foreign policy since the days of Adam Rapacki. It is no more welcome now than it was 30 or 40 years ago. That is why I very much hope that the Government will not be deterred from their efforts to ensure that the shorter range missiles in Europe are kept up to date and effective and that the Soviet Union is not allowed to achieve that major aim of its foreign policy.

We are next promised a 50 per cent. cut in strategic nuclear systems. Let us look at that offer also with a somewhat sceptical eye. It is not quite as simple as it sounds. Removing half the missiles on both sides may sound like a very desirable objective but we must remember that there is a difference between a nuclear capability that is equipped and designed for first-strike purposes and one that is designed and intended for retaliation. If one simply reduces the size of those forces without taking account of the kind of missiles that are to be removed, their range, their capability and their ability to penetrate hard targets, then after having made that 50 per cent. reduction, one may find oneself far worse off than before it was made.

Similarly in the conventional field we must be very careful in these very complicated negotiations. It is not only the number of forces that counts; what matters is exactly where they are, where they are deployed, what is their tactical doctrine and what is their training. I hope that we shall be successful in persuading the Soviet Union that any reduction, as the Minister said, must be asymmetrical; in other words, we must find when we have completed the reductions that the forces are balanced. It is the forces that must be balanced and not the reductions. But even if we succeed in doing that, I believe that unless we are careful about the way in which our own forces are deployed and the way in which the Soviet Union carries out its reductions, including where it carries them out, we shall find ourselves once again in graver difficulties than we were before the arms control process began. Finally, there is the question of chemical weapons. Yes, we have given up our offensive capability. The Soviet Union has an overwhelming superiority in this field. I would only point out—and I hope that the Minister will accept this—that the verification of a chemical weapons agreement will be more difficult than the verification of any other kind of arms control agreement. I even go so far as to say that in my view, as the technology stands at the moment, a chemical weapons treaty is unverifiable. I believe that we have to be very careful in approaching it.

I move now to the more political aspect. Mention has already been made by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, of the fact that the Gorbachev changes are not irreversible. Indeed they are not, but this is perhaps a more serious matter than the noble Lord seemed to reflect in his very thoughtful speech. So far there have been no changes of any kind in the constitution of the Soviet Union. There is no sign yet that the rule of law has any chance of being superior to the rule of the Communist Party. The Gorbachev changes are being resisted constantly and powerfully within the Soviet establishment. There are people in the KGB, in the military forces and in the regional bureaucracies who are determined to see that Mr. Gorbachev does not succeed. His difficulties are being compounded now by the unrest among the various nationalities that make up the Soviet Union. The changes are not irreversible. Indeed it is quite possible that they may be reversed, savagely and dramatically, at any moment. If the West is too naÏve in regarding these changes as revolutionary and historical, we will have engaged in measures of arms control which in no way have enhanced our security and may even have diminished it at the very moment when the smiling Mr. Gorbachev disappears from the scene and a Stalinist regime returns to Moscow. I admit that that is the worst case but anyone in charge of the affairs of a nation state in the world in which we live today must never dismiss the worst case entirely. It sometimes happens.

What should the policy of the West be? It is certainly not to ignore what is happening in the Soviet Union. That again would be foolish and imprudent in the extreme. However, I suggest that our first priority is to maintain effective defences, not only military defences—although they are the most important part of our national security—but also our political and psychological defences. I suggest that we must not fall ourselves, or allow our people to fall, into the trap of thinking that the Soviet threat no longer exists. Of course the Soviet threat exists. Even if its intentions may temporarily have changed, its capabilities have not changed all that much. Mr. Gorbachev talks about a reduction of 500,000 men and women in his armed forces. I think that when we welcome that—and some have welcomed it with great enthusiasm—we should bear in mind that the Soviet Union has 5 million men permanently under arms. It has trained reserves of 50 million. It has a military establishment almost equal to the entire population of this country. When it has removed its 500,000 men, and when it has withdrawn its armed forces from Eastern Europe, it will still have a military establishment greater in strength and numbers than all the Western nations put together. That is the context in which we must consider Mr. Gorbachev's unilateral reductions and the context in which we must regard any statement that is made to the effect that the Soviet threat has disappeared.

I believe that we must maintain effective defences and deterrents in this country and in the West. To do that we shall need, as the Minister has said, to pay attention to the political solidarity of the West. That is in danger at the moment. It is in danger partly because Mr. Gorbachev is beginning to succeed in another of the cardinal aims of Soviet foreign policy: to separate, or decouple, the United States of America from its allies in Western Europe. He is beginning to succeed. He is beginning to succeed because of the subtlety and effectiveness of his diplomatic offensive. One of the danger areas will be West Germany. I suggest to your Lordships' House that as we sit here today serious and dangerous developments are taking place in political thinking in West Germany to which we should pay very careful attention. As someone has already said, we shall need to bear that in mind when we are talking to the West Germans and to our other European allies about the timing, the method and the means of modernising our shorter range nuclear weapons.

In this context we should be careful of such expressions as our "European home". That was a phrase invented by Mr. Gorbachev. It suggests that in some way there is a future for us alongside the Soviet Union rather than alongside the United States of America—a seductive proposition but in my view an extremely dangerous one. It is my strong belief that the foreign policy of this country and of our Western European allies should have as its single cardinal aim to ensure that the United States of America remains fully committed, physically, psychologically and politically, to the defence and security of Western Europe.

Am I suggesting then—as I am sure some would believe—that we should do nothing, hat we should resist all attempts at arms control, that we should ignore what is happening in the Sovet Union? No, I am not suggesting that. I believe that there is now room for imaginative and flexible responses to what is happening in the Soviet Union. However, above all we must remain strong and resolute. We must not roll over at the first signs of tentative change in an empire and a regime which has remained cruel and, to us I think, intolerable in its political and ideological implications for 40 years. We must not believe that in a couple of short years all that can suddenly change. If we remain strong and resolute in the face of this diplomatic offensive, I believe it quite possible that within a measurable time—quite a short time—we may see the beginning of the unravelling of the Soviet empire. If we are clever, subtle and strong, we may even see the beginnings of pluralist societies growing up in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. If and when that happens, perhaps we can relax, but not before.

4.18 p.m.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, I join with others in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Home, on this timely Motion. In this quarter of the House we agree very much with what has been said by the noble Lord the Leader of the Labour Opposition. I now turn to the substance.

I should like to start by telling the House a story which may be well known to some. However, it is not generally known. When Mr. Gorbachev came on his first visit to London before he WELS Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, he had a meeting with the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons. Some Peers were courteously allowed to be present.

He was questioned about the possible growth of Islamic fundamentalism in the Soviet Union. The question was put to him: is that a problem? He said, "I think I understand your question. I would answer it thus. Lenin at the time of the revolution bade the Russian people to be very careful that all the other peoples in the nascent Soviet Union should be able to share fully in the expected economic benefits of Communism. If we had not paid good attention to that advice I do not think that I should be sitting today at the head of this distinguished delegation in your beautiful country."

Gorbachev was wrong about that, and that is the main recent event that we must take on board in this country. They did not pay sufficient attention to that, or they did not pay sufficient attention to something, and it is hard for us to know what. It is possible that he will not again come as the head of a distinguished delegation to our beautiful country, but somebody else will. It is possible that 40 different people may come from what are at present the constituent republics of the Soviet Union. There is a risk of total break up; they all have the right to secede.

We may be misleading ourselves if we put the question: is Gorbachevism reversible or irreversible? It would not be like that. If Gorbachev fell we may be sure that there would never again be a Brezhnev or a Chernenko. It will not be like that. But what there surely would be is the end of the Russian empire, which is long overdue in any case. We may remember the Russians got theirs at the same time as we got ours. The only difference was that they walked and we sailed. Once upon a time there were 14 European empires outside Europe. There is now only one left. We may also remember that they reached the Pacific 40 years before they reached the Baltic and 100 years before they reached the Black Sea. That is the kind of historical view which often eludes us when we are considering the consistency of that extraordinary and confused body politic.

Why do we talk all the time using two Russian words, perestroika and glasnost? We do not use the French or the German words for the same things when we see them there. They mean quite simply "restructuring", meaning economic restructuring, and "openness" or "transparency". The fact that we adopt them as motto words, like pets in English, also clouds our vision. They are Mr. Gorbachev's declared aim. He is getting a certain distance forward with them, but not as fast as he would like. Incidentally I was astonished that the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, seemed to believe that the election of Yeltsin in Moscow was of no political significance and that the election of rival candidates all within one party is an innovation which is not of any importance. I differ from him there. I believe it is a good deal better than the automatic election of one candidate from one party for whom you either voted or you stayed at home. That is a great step forward.

There is a danger that we may tend to give the Soviet Union brownie points for its progress in openness in economic reform. That has been a risk for many years now. We tend to mark on a scale from nought to 10 the Russians' performance in human rights, their performance in freedom of the press and in allowing Jews out—many important things. But at the end of the day we have to live with the Russia we get. We have always had to. It has always been difficult. The prime gauge of how we should frame our policy is Russian foreign policy and defence policy. That does not depend on internal liberalisation. There are plenty of historical examples of countries which are despicable despotisms at home, but which have had a more peaceful foreign policy than countries which have vivacious democracies at home. I shall not take time in going into them because that would be contentious, but it has happened. I think that most noble Lords will fill in their own examples.

How to look at them and how to look at their current proposals? The noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, called Mr. Gorbachev "a great repackager of Western ideas." So he is. Should we not be pleased? What do we want him to do? Do we want him to go on bended knee and say that he accepts our wonderful proposal of 27th February 1987 and that he is sorry he has been so long about it? What is against his putting something very like it on the table slightly repackaged and saying "How about that?" If the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, is right, (and I believe that he is) in saying that these are very largely recycled Western ideas, and government propaganda in the West is always saying that, does that mean that they were bad ideas and that we should somehow hold him in scorn for having re-presented them to us? On the contrary does it not mean that we should be rather grateful for him not putting us to the pain of negotiating anything else? Is that not an extremely good reason for going ahead and accepting them?

I come now to the great question of modernisation. It has so often been pointed out that this is not only modernisation but also a range increase. That is the great point. One will get nowhere in arms control or in any form of military planning without looking at what a given weapons system can hit. What it is proposed to put in the place of Lance can hit a great many places that Lance cannot. This constitutes a tilt in the balance or imbalance between East and West. It is a change, and is not something to be done simply because the other weapons are wearing out. If we were to replace them with weapons of the same range, the same power, the same invulnerability on the ground and the same penetration ability, that would be modernisation; but we are not doing that.

I believe that the right way is to relate our need to update the weapons to what the Soviet Union has done and is doing in short-range and medium short-range nuclear weapons, as so eloquently stated by the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne. It is a terrifying catalogue: some 95 per cent. renewed in the last five years of which Gorbachev was in power for four, and all that! If that is so, and he is right to be alarmed by what is happening there, why does he not agree with the Soviet Union in its proposal—which is no doubt a Western proposal, I cannot remember—that we should negotiate for agreed reductions in this category of weapons? The West is standing out against that obvious way of going about it. That would give us the chance of saying, "Look, you have been getting more than us all the time". Instead of insisting on going ahead and catching up or half catching up, why do we not say "Suppose you were to take them away, that would make it easier for us to get rid of what we have". That was not done before we built up the American cruise missile force in this country in response to the Soviet development of the SS.20. We did not ask them to take away the SS.20s, but we went straight ahead and built up the corresponding force. There is a danger of that happening again, and that is a great waste of time.

There is now the question of denuclearisation or not which is supposed to be what is preventing us from coming to grips with the Soviet Union on disarmament at all at the moment. A denuclearised Europe is obviously an impossible concept and will not happen. France would not agree. A great many countries would not agree, but for the moment let us imagine that it were possible. Why should the United States be so very distressed by the denuclearisation of Russia? Russia is a European country. If it offers to have no more nuclear weapons, that, prima facie, would leave the United States (Britain and France also having been ruled out of the game) alone with China as nuclear powers, and would make life a good deal easier for them. It is possible that what the Soviet Union means by a denuclearised Europe is that the Soviet Union would move all its nuclear weapons into Asia. That is possible, but at least we might move forward and talk about it a bit.

Anyhow, that is not practical politics. What is practical politics and is very important is the removal or not of nuclear weaponry from the world. I note that this is becoming a plank of British Government policy. They are against it. The Prime Minister particularly wishes to retain nuclear weapons for the foreseeable future, whatever that means. It depends how far one can foresee. I habitually try to foresee 50 or 100 years ahead. It is great fun, even though it may not be much use. I should hope that there are few in power in the Western world who do not occasionally do that in their bath too.

A denuclearised world, that is to say, a world without nuclear weapons, is something to which this country is committed. It has been committed to that ideal for 25 years. It is in the test ban treaty and it is in Article 6 of the non-proliferation treaty. We are bound to work in good faith towards it. Every time the present Government go the other way and say that it can never happen, or not in the foreseeable future, they are breaking a treaty obligation. I hope that this fact has not escaped their attention and that they will have a rethink on it.

As regards the immediate future on the arms control front, the new Vienna negotiations on conventional armed forces in Europe are good. For once they involve the right group of countries, and in that they are much better than their predecessor. Unfortunately they stand no chance of achieving anything because the neighbouring territories of weapons (not geographically) are not being addressed. There are no negotiations on chemical or nuclear weapons—except on START at the highest level—and no negotiations whatever on naval forces. The Vienna negotiations cover only land-based forces which are perhaps two-thirds of the problem. In that respect they are not serious; they are guaranteed failure unless and until negotiations are started on naval, SRN, and chemical.

As regards chemical weapons the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, has told us that no further information about the size of Soviet chemical stocks was forthcoming from Mr. Gorbachev during his recent visit. The Soviet Union has given a figure but the Government do not believe it. However, is it not the case, as reported in the press, that Mr. Gorbachev invited the Government to send emissaries to look and form their opinion on the spot? Perhaps in replying to the debate the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, could answer that question. Was the invitation made? Will it be accepted? And if so (as we must all hope) what degree of detail is it hoped the emissaries will be able to see?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, if the noble Lord will give way, last year we were invited to visit a Soviet Union chemical weapons establishment. We sent a team of experts who were shown virlually nothing.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, I know that. I was thinking of the invitation which it was said in the press was issued by Mr. Gorbachev to the Prime Minister during his recent visit. It was in a wider context: it was based not only on one plant but on something which would give an industry view. I base myself on press reports, and if I am wrong perhaps that will be stated.

There are three general principles which alone can produce the arms and reductions which are necessary for economic reasons if for nothing else. There will be no meaningful advance in any large category—INF is not that—without having a plan for negotiation and considering those questions before one begins. First, what is happening in the neighbouring categories of weapons? If one goes too low in category A, a superiority in category B may be revealed which will upset the balance of the first negotiation. Secondly, what about the other countries? Let us suppose that we achieve an agreed reduction in nuclear and conventional weapons in Europe. What then about the Middle East, a Turkish invasion of southern Russia, China and so forth? Reductions beyond a certain point always raise such questions which must be considered before one begins. Thirdly, how far down the ladder of reduction are we going? Do we aim I o go to zero, a little lower than at present, half way lower, or a great deal lower? Unless those three questions are addressed there can be no progress. There has been no major progress during the past 45 years because those questions have never been addressed together.

It goes without saying that verification applies to everything. Without verification sufficient to guarantee a reduction undertaken, there will be no reduction.

We should remind ourselves of public opinion in the United States. Three quarters of those recently questioned by Gallup favour cuts in American defence spending. Only 9 per cent. believe that international tension is the most important problem now facing the United States. That is the reality of the world. The Soviet Union has undertaken to pull back forces and weapons. There can be no reproach towards it for not yet having done so because it recently said that it would do so within two years. That is the reality of the world. NATO has unilaterally withdrawn nuclear weapon systems. That is the reality of the world. It is all going downward.

At the forthcoming NATO summit there is every reason to come up with the famous General Concept for which the German Government have been pressing for three or four years. It should address the three sine quibus non which I have enumerated and thus for the first time there will be a hope of organised arms reductions in Europe. I agree entirely with what has been said by many noble Lords about a new Harmel Report. One is tempted to say that it only has to say the same again, but that is not quite right because the emphasis has changed. It must now begin with the preservation of security by reduced military power and then talk about what that military power should be. Above all, let not the Government and Lord Chalfont stand forth indefinitely in the face of public opinion as being the people who could not take yes for an answer.

4.36 p.m.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, the one point on which all noble Lords present will agree is that of gratitude to my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel for opening the debate and giving us the opportunity to discuss the most important matter in the world today. If we do not resolve the problems of maintaining international peace, nothing else that we do, such as the social reforms and economic developments of which we may be proud, will matter very much. My noble friend speaks with unique authority and he gave the debate a wonderful start.

The issue which has troubled all the speakers in the debate is the way in which one assesses President Gorbachev's policies and approach. I suggest that we have a difficult task in trying to find a sensible way between two foolish extremes. One foolish extreme is to say, "This is just a try-on and nobody will bother about it. We shall go on as before". The other is to say "This is the beginning of every kind of good thing and we can all relax easily with the future assured". The sensible course must be somewhere between those two foolish extremes.

I should be far more reassured if we now had evidence of real disarmament by the Soviet Union. As has already been said in the debate, the Soviet Union has a regular army of 5 million, who, in the absence of nuclear weapons, could sweep across Western Europe without meeting successful resistance.

The matter about which I am even more concerned is that the Soviet Union has a powerful preparation for chemical warfare. Understandably, many people have anxieties about the horrors of nuclear war. But if one must choose between being incinerated by a nuclear bomb or coughing out one's life under chemical weapons, I do not know that there is much of a choice. The Russians have built up a large facility for chemical warfare. We must ask why and whether, if they intend to maintain that, it rules out the possibility of its use.

If Mr. Gorbachev were able to open up completely, with verification, the approach to his chemical warfare establishment and were to show that he had abolished it, that would give an enormous impetus to negotiations and establish a considerable degree of confidence in him. One of the test cases in assessing the validity of President Gorbachev's approach so far as foreign affairs is concerned must be his attitude to this vast chemical warfare installation. Is it being maintained at very considerable expense for fun, or is it contemplated that it might in some contingencies actually be used? Until that aspect of the matter has been cleared up there is a case for considerable caution in assessing Mr. Gorbachev's intentions.

When one refers to President Gorbachev, of course it is entirely right to recall what was so well said by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, that the Gorbachev initiative is not irreversible. It may well be that he will be forced by internal forces to reverse his approach. It may be that he will be eliminated. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, referred to Kerensky, not perhaps a happy analogy because, as your Lordships may remember, Winston Churchill described vividly Kerensky's contribution: He talked and talked at a time when half a battery of artillery, well served, would have changed the history of the world". I do not think that he is a very good analogy for Mr. Gorbachev, who is obviously a much stronger and more formidable character than that well-meaning but rather ineffective Russian lawyer.

The assessment that one makes must be between certain limits. One should certainly not dismiss Mr. Gorbachev's initiative. One should give him no excuse whatever for saying, "The West is not responding to my approach, and therefore I am going to drop it". On the other hand, it is essential that we should remain on the alert. This is certainly no time for dismembering or weakening the Western alliance.

When one refers to weakening the Western alliance I must come to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, when he criticised the modernisation of the West's nuclear weaponry. I do not think that the noble Lord appreciated that the West's nuclear weaponry, be it the Polaris submarine or the Lance missile, is becoming rapidly obsolete. Unless it is replaced by more modern instruments, it will be eliminating itself from sheer old age. It is confronted by modernised Soviet nuclear equipment.

I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, that there is no halfway house between the nuclear disarmers—with whom I happen profoundly to disagree but whose sincerity I recognise—and those who say that if you are to maintain your nuclear equipment you must see that it remains up to date.

Lord Mayhew

My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord would allow me to intervene. He says that there is no alternative. The alternative is to maintain one's nuclear armament and not, as the Government suggest under the term "modernisation", to escalate its power. Perhaps the noble Lord would explain whether he means escalation as well as modernisation.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, it must have been my fault if I failed to make the position clear to the noble Lord. You cannot simply maintain these weapons by doing nothing to replace them. They are becoming obsolete. It is a matter of expert opinion, which I do not claim to possess, but it is a matter of a year or two before they become increasingly ineffective. When the noble Lord speaks easily about escalating, what is concerned here is modernising so that you have at least a modern equivalent in power to what we used to have for the security that we gained from these weapons over many years. You cannot talk about escalating them unless you take into account by way of balance the escalation, to use the noble Lord's own word, of the Russian nuclear and other armouries. The have modernised to a considerable extent.

They have extended enormously the destructive power of their nuclear weapons. To say that we are escalating because we modernise ours, so as perhaps not to keep up with them but at least to maintain a measure of balance, is simply a misuse of the English language. I stress that, while it is perfectly possible logically and intellectually to adopt the nuclear abolition approach, there is no logical justification for saying, "Well, we will keep our weapons, let them rot gradually from old age in our hands and not replace them and modernise them". I beg the noble Lord to understand that.

I wanted to speak—and this is my main point—more about the Western alliance. One of the attractive things about the Western alliance is that it has brought France and Germany together. If you look at the history of Europe for the last 200 years, it has been the hostility of these two countries that has produced the most major and bloodiest wars of history. To have them tied up together in the same alliance is an acheivement which in the light of history is a considerable one indeed. It has removed what certainly was the cause of war again and again in the last century and even in the century before. The fact that they are now allies, co-operating together, is an immense achievement and it is an achievement of the Western alliance for which we should all be profoundly grateful.

Still more important—and here I pick up something said by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont—is our relationship in that alliance with the United States. It is no accident that the United States was not allied to us or to the West in 1914 or in 1939. If it had been in those years there might well have been no disastrous years beginning, as they did begin, in its absence. In both cases they were dragged into it. In both cases they made a decisive contribution to the outcome. It is therefore a great achievement that we now have the United States as a major and most important element in the Western alliance, so that anyone who provokes a conflict—and I hope that nobody will—with the West will know that they are also provoking a conflict with the great United States, with its immense resources both of money and of technology and I would say also of determination.

I stress—and this is the point I want to leave with your Lordships—that the close contact and friendship between our country and the United States is one of the things on which the future peace of the world depends. I do not ask your Lordships to take that from me. I shall never forget, and I recall vividly today, an afternoon about 34 years ago. It was the day when Sir Winston Churchill resigned. He summoned to Downing Street a number of middle-rank Ministers, of whom I was one, to say goodbye.

We sat in the Cabinet Room—I remember it vividly—on a rather stormy spring evening, with the sunlight flickering and fluctuating as clouds came across. The old man—it was his last day in No. 10 and he was in a state of some understandable emotion—talked to us about the future. He was obviously trying to give a message to his younger colleagues. The whole of his message was the necess- ity for friendship with the United States. Indeed he went so far as to say that if we remained in close alliance and friendship with the United States we should all come through, peace would be preserved and civilisation would continue; but if we allowed diversities and quarrels to enter that relationship, he foresaw a dangerous and gloomy future.

That statement by the greatest man I ever met—probably the greatest man of this century—who had a lifetime of experience at the highest level made an immense impression on me, as I think it would on any of your Lordships. I have always believed that events since then have fully justified that statement. Apart from the disastrous solecism of Suez, we have stayed in close relationship with the United States and that has been a major contribution to a system which, whatever its limitations, has kept the peace of Europe and the peace among major nations of the world for over 40 years. That is a longer period of continuous peace than one can find unless one looks back in the history books, at any rate to the beginning of the 19th century.

The Western alliance, including above all the United States and ourselves with the special relationship which I believe we still have, is therefore a major contributor to the peace of the world. We must not allow any of the difficulties which will arise—and sometimes the Americans are difficult—to thwart or break that relationship. If we maintain that relationship, together with our other friends in Western Europe, I remain a profound optimist and believe that civilisation will come triumphantly through the dangers and difficulties of the present era.

4.51 p.m.

Lord Stewart of Fulham

My Lords, I concur with previous speakers in expressing appreciation of the action of the noble Lord, Lord Home, in initiating this debate. The debate is described as being chiefly concerned with the power and unity of the Western alliance. I sometimes feel that we have moved away from that to every part of the globe. I wish to stress again that it is the unity and power of the Western alliance that is in question. I must say that I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, that one of the most important features of the alliance is that it has at last ensured that if the democracies of Western Europe are in danger the United States is their ally. So much would have been saved if that had been true in the past.

There is, I am afraid, even today a tendency in this country to refer to NATO as if it were a kind of health-giving but unattractive medicine that we ought to take. I believe that we should rejoice over the fact that we have this alliance with the most powerful country on earth and that it is an alliance based not on geographical convenience but on shared beliefs. I have heard historians and philosophers argue as to whether nations make their alliances and friendships on ideological grounds. One can produce a variety of examples one side of that argument or the other; but there is no doubt at all that NATO is an ideological alliance. That is what has given NATO its strength and what has delivered us from so many dangers over these past 40 years.

If NATO had not existed or if it had faltered in its purpose West Berlin would no longer enjoy the freedom it possesses and other parts of Europe would have been under threat or under domination. All over the world nobody could ensure what would happen next. Again and again the existence of NATO—its mere existence—and the knowledge of its power and determination has kept the peace. We must rejoice over that.

Recently there have been a number of events which have caused people to look afresh at international affairs. One such event has been the signing of the INF treaty which I regard not as a matter of overwhelming importance but certainly of great significance and hope. Another episode was brought strikingly to my mind a few weeks ago. I was sittting at home having just turned on the television news. The item I was particularly waiting for was the result of the elections in the Soviet Union. Nobody has waited for such an item for a very long time. Remarkably, the result was that an anti-government candidate had been elected.

I accept all the warnings of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, that we should not over-estimate that event, but neither should we under-estimate it. I do not think that the Soviet Government intended or wanted that election to turn out in that way. The fact that it did, however, gives us some reasonable grounds for hope in the future.

The other events, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Home, were the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the retreat of the Soviet Union's influence and power from several other parts of the world. All those events together have given us reason to hope that we may be moving into a more peaceful era. It is remarkable that hardly anyone prophesied that. As far as I can see the world is full of Kremlinologists and people who make it their business to study the working of Soviet communism and what it will do next but who hardly ever seem to get it right. Personally, I have always thought that those who prophesy the future nearly always fail us and we should not devote too much attention to prophecies of that kind.

The matter was well put in the theological context by that witty writer, C. S. Lewis. If I remember rightly he said something to the effect that the Devil wants us to worry about what is going to happen to us but God wants us to be concerned with what we ought to do. I believe those words apply to the political situation. We cannot be certain how reversible or irreversible Mr. Gorbachev's reforms may be. The only certainty is that we do not know and that it is sensible to hope for the best, but not to assume that the best will necessarily happen.

We must then ask: what should we do about it? The right answer in foreign affairs is nearly always a dull pedestrian answer. One must be moderate in judgments. One must not assume that these events, which are important, mean nothing at all. One must not assume that they have solved all our problems. One must not imagine that this sudden change by the Soviet Union changes everything. It is wise to remember the advice that Polonius gave to his son: Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel; But do not dull thy palm with entertainment Of each new-hatched, unfledged comrade". I hope we remember that.

If we then approach the question of what ought we to do in this remarkable, unforeseen and, in some ways, hopeful situation, it is clear that we should do what we can in the field of conventional armaments. The part of the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, with which I found myself most in agreement and I thought most hopeful was his description of what the Government are doing at Vienna. The Government should continue on those lines as I think they may have some success.

As regards chemical warfare, have the Government any reason for believing that solving the problem of verifying a treaty on chemical warfare is any nearer a solution than it ever has been? Ever since I first became acquainted with the problem it has stuck in my mind as being the greatest difficulty. I do not know whether we are closer to a solution, but we must continue trying.

We should also look at the fields of political and foreign affairs activities where we can possibly co-operate with the Soviet Union. We have discussed the possibility in this House of an international conference concerning affairs in the Middle East in which the Soviet Union has shown itself interested. The Soviet Union has a liking for trying to find solutions through the mechanism of the United Nations. We should bear that in mind and make use of it whenever we can. It also appears that the Soviet Union is interesting itself in the affairs of Africa in a way that is more hopeful than we have previously supposed. I hope that we shall devote our attention to that matter also.

We have a chance in the various twists and turns of affairs since the last war ended and since NATO come into being. There is now a hopeful turn. It is not desirable to be foolish about it and it is not necessary to be pessimistic. We must plod along at the available ways of trying to achieve greater agreement with the Soviet Union. I believe that that is the way that would most help Mr. Gorbachev to remain in power and that would render the most service to the alliance as a whole.

5.1 p.m.

Lord Pym

My Lords, I join all those who have expressed their gratitude to my noble friend Lord Home for initiating this debate and for giving us in his opening speech the benefit of his immense and unparalleled experience. At the time of the 40th anniversary of NATO it seems quite right that we should express our profound gratitude for the farsightedness of NATO's founders and to all those who have sustained and managed the alliance ever since. It has achieved its objective of safeguarding the peace in Europe. Through all the anxieties of the cold war and the ups and downs of East-West relations, the alliance has stood steadfast, united and effective.

It grew out of the agony of two world wars and the passion people felt to prevent another. By sticking to this determination resolutely and patiently, we have at last arrived at a moment in history when great changes are taking place in the world scene and when there are opportunities to order international affairs with less tension and fewer arms. The challenge we face today is to use those opportunities for the benefit of mankind.

Over NATO's 40-year life the global situation has changed dramatically. Because of the complexity of any alliance of 16 nations it is inconvenient when the facts alter because the consequential adjustments are difficult to make. There is a tendency in some European countries at least to see the world almost as it was at the beginning of the alliance and a reluctance to make changes when circumstances alter. But the fact is that the changes are very substantial and of course they have implications for NATO.

I wish to speak to this Motion with two fundamental considerations in mind: namely, the global situation as it is and as it may develop, and the vital necessity for retaining the support of public opinion for our defence and security policy. Among the great shifts that are occurring in the world I wish to mention two. One is the change within the Soviet Union, where the leaders have realised at last that the past 70 years have been a failure. Their status as a superpower is based only on their military strength, where they have been very successful. In every other sphere they are surrounded by failure and the point was reached when something had to be done. Mr. Gorbachev is now tackling the problems head on with a verve and a conviction that no one can fail to admire.

Without the alliance who can doubt that the story would have been different? The patience and endurance of NATO is responsible, in large part at least, for the new opportunities that exist today. The task facing Soviet leaders is so colossal that no one knows how the Soviet Union will finish up, not even Mr. Gorbachev. I do not believe that he has any idea. The country's ethnic problems are already highly visible and all kinds of troubles lie ahead for it. It seems that its leaders are motivated by a brutally realistic appraisal of their own situation. If they cannot bring about a major improvement in their economy they will not be able to maintain their superpower status and they run the risk that the country's miserably low standard of living will fall even further.

This realism has already shown itself in their foreign policy, where I see three particular features. First, there is a totally new approach to regional issues, most noticeably towards southern Africa and Kampuchea—where they must have concluded that their previous policy was not cost-effective and of no value—but also towards Latin America and the withdrawal from Afghanistan and so on. This indicates the seriousness of their reform programme, for which they require international stability.

The second feature is the maintenance, at least at present, of their existing military stength, which in some areas is actually still increasing. They have made unilateral proposals for some arms reductions, and these are likely to happen but have not done so yet. Thirdly, they are making a deliberate dead-set at Western public opinion with a series of carefully contrived ideas with popular appeal so that they, rather than the West, appear to have the initiative and appear to be making the running in the struggle for disarmament.

Naturally that image is appealing to people, but it contrasts starkly with the negative responses that the alliance has received year after year to a whole series of disarmament initiatives which it has made and is still making. As I have said, it contrasts with the existing military situation on the ground. What should be our reaction to this scenario? First, it must surely be to keep our deterrent in place at whatever level is appropriate according to the strength of the armaments facing us. No one knows how things will develop in the Soviet Union. Everyone wants to see it become a different kind of country, however unlikely that may be. We must do whatever is prudent to further the reform process. But that is not at all simple and I believe that there is very little we can do. Some action that we take could be counter-productive. Do not let us think that we are going to have much influence on it.

The past 40 years have proved one thing. If you want to do business with the Soviet Union, its military might must be contained and use of that might must be deterred. That can only be done by the maintenance of a fully effective and credible deterrent force. Any lowering of the guard on the basis of good intentions would be to fly in the face of 20th century history and indeed to fly in the face of NATO's supreme achievement. If Soviet reforms make progress over the years ahead, East-West relations will be different and safer. If the reforms prove a failure or lead to great troubles, which seems very probable, there could be a return to a very cold, cold war with repercussions in the foreign field as Soviet leaders seek ways to distract their citizens from their misery.

We cannot be certain that this will not happen, so we must not be caught unprepared if it does. We must be prepared for any eventuality and be in a flexible position to respond according to events. I believe that our second reaction should be to put ourselves in a more positive position vis-à-vis the Soviet Union than we are today. The Soviet diplomatic offensive must not be allowed to mislead public opinion and the West must regain the high ground and hold on to it.

I believe that this will require a fresh effort on the part of the alliance. The glue that has helped to keep us together in the past has been the self-evident and menacing threat which the Soviet Union itself presented. The Soviet Union is not perceived in that light today, whether rightly or wrongly we do not yet know. That is especially so in West Germany but in other countries too. Yet it is the alliance that has been responsible for endless proposals for arms negotiations throughout its history and we must take the lead here again.

In my view, this calls for a new and urgent initiative leading to a clear and updated statement of strategy. As has already become apparent here today, there has been some discussion in recent years of re-activating the Harmel process and of making a similar kind of reassessment. Some experienced people do not favour this. I know that my noble friend Lord Carrington is one of them. Who could be more authoritative on this point than my noble friend?

That formula may be inappropriate but I see advantages in a process of this kind. The Harmel Report is still relevant but it is 20 years old, since when there has been a vast change in the world scene. Alliance strategy ought to be re-thought and re-argued in the conditions that exist today. The intellectual process itself and the force of its conclusions would be valuable in maintaining unity, as was of course the Harmel Report itself. There is a need for fresh and positive thinking.

I see another advantage. Such an initiative would provide a powerful impetus to our continuing dialogue with our electorates. There is a need for some more ammunition designed for the much more complicated and sophisticated target we are aiming at. There is a need for more dynamism in our presentation, which seems rather flat today. Here, I have the whole alliance in mind, because in our country we are fortunate to have the best communicators on this issue. I refer to the Prime Minister herself, the Foreign Secretary, the Defence Secretary and my noble friend from the Ministry of Defence. I applaud what they say and wish only that their counterparts were half as good.

In this new era of Mr. Gorbachev, the alliance must continue to be relevant to our electorates and be seen by them as such. A new statement of the new realities and the possibilities open to the alliance and how the alliance is poised to take advantage of events, however they move, would help to revive that support, interest and enthusiasm among our electorates which is indispensible to our security. It would also increase confidence. All the points made in this general area by my noble friend Lord Home are very much a part of such a restatement. Events are moving fast everywhere and we must get ahead of events in thought and in preparedness.

The reforms in the Soviet Union and in the countries of Eastern Europe, which I have not mentioned because of time, are not the only major change taking place. The second area of change that I wish briefly to mention is equally significant and perhaps in the longer term is even more significant. It is the massive accretion of economic power built up by the Japanese and the scale of the United States' indebtedness. This is a change in the balance of power but its effects are not very apparent so far. The United States will of course continue to be a major economic power, but the centre of world economic power is, and has been for some time, moving gradually to the Far East.

This foreshadows a potentially big change in the balance of world power and the global context in which our alliance exists. It seems to be of particular relevance to this Motion because the effect of this shift upon by far the largest and most powerful member of the alliance is considerable. The growing economic and military strength of Japan poses uncomfortable problems and choices for our American allies, who defend the peace all over the world and not just in Europe. The United States has to weigh up risks, threats and options on a global basis, whereas in Europe the vision for most countries is much narrower. In our country it tends to be wide but it is not so for most European countries.

The danger of transatlantic misunderstanding becoming greater seems to increase as time goes by. In my view, a prerequisite for a united alliance, which is what we are concerned with today, is a shared appreciation of the world scene and an understanding by Europe of what global responsibilities mean for the United States. The continued presence and support of the United States is indispensible to the security of Europe. I support wholeheartedly what my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter said on this point. Just as the Americans are supporting us in Europe, so ought we to be as supportive of them outside the NATO area as we possibly can be. Obviously there is a limit to this, but a self-centred European view will not make for a united alliance. Again, a new alliance-wide initiative would help to focus minds on the realities of the global situation which must be the starting point for alliance policy.

In the end it all comes down to political will. So long as the present Government are in power the United Kingdom will certainly have that; but by itself that is not enough. Our security depends upon the whole alliance playing its full part. It is to some of the basic issues underlying the achievement of this objective that I have spoken today.

5.16 p.m.

Lord Gladwyn

My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Home, to whom we are all grateful for initiating this debate, I am all for the indefinite continuance of the North Atlantic Alliance, with the early negotiation of which, in April 1948, I had myself something to do. However, if it is to continue, the presence of United States troops in Europe, even if somewhat reduced in numbers, is essential. It is their presence, even more than the so-called "balance of terror", which has kept the peace during the past 40 years or so. Events have surely shown that the last thing the Russians want is war with America. Only in American absence might they be tempted, not so much to invade Western Europe, though that is possible, as to employ their great potential power for the purpose of neutralising the Federal Republic—probably without permitting the reunification of Germany.

This is all on the assumption that Russia remains a great power, if not a super power, which I suggest, on the whole, is probable. Of course, if Mr. Gorbachev does not succeed and the empire, and even the Union, breaks up, then an entirely new situation, and probably a dangerous one, will face the West. It is impossible to say now what our policy should be in completely changed circumstances.

If so, what should the Europeans do to ensure that the Americans stay? Well, they would probably be well advised to agree to take some of the financial burden of maintaining their troops off the shoulders of the Americans. Even if this were only a gesture it would have a good effect on Congress. But they should do much more—presumably now through the medium of the Western European Union—to strengthen and streamline their own conventional defences. It is true that war with the Soviet Union is now to all intents and purposes out of the question, but if it ever did take place it would almost certainly be a non-nuclear war. That brings me on to what is, I think, the main danger to the alliance; namely, the apparent difference between the Americans, or the American Government, and many Europeans as to the real role of the nuclear weapon in European defence.

The fact is that the doctrine of flexible response, whatever exact form it might take, is no longer credible. The maintenance on both sides of enormous numbers of short range, tactical or battlefield weapons and nuclear artillery shells which would almost certainly never be used to repel an attack without involving the destruction of both East and West Germany, no longer makes any sense. Those weapons do not even deter a Soviet attack. The presence of American troops does that. Therefore, in my view, all those weapons should in principle be gradually negotiated away, subject of course to strict verification. That would naturally include both the short range weapons which the Russians are said recently to have modernised and the proposed replacement of the Lance missiles in Germany.

Such negotiations would be materially assisted if Mr. Gorbachev carries out not only the substantial force reductions he has already announced, and no doubt many more, but also the proposed reductions in arms production and in the whole Soviet Defence budget to which he referred in his Guildhall speech.

What, then, should be the role of the strategic nuclear arms, chiefly American, at the disposal of the alliance, including such weapons as submarine-launched Cruise missiles and stand-off bombers on fighter planes? Here, the same principle applies. Those weapons can never be used on a first strike. It is impossible to imagine that. The idea that one side or the other could ever, in any circumstances, attempt to knock out all the strategic missiles and aircraft of an adversary who is capable of even the smallest assured nuclear retaliation is a sort of "science fiction" nightmare. Even if almost all such land based missiles and aircraft were accounted for, a few would no doubt escape the attack and would be capable themselves of causing quite unacceptable damage. In any case, the submarine deterrent, which is for the most part indestructible, could destroy the adversary altogether. That applies to both sides.

The only factor which could invalidate that conclusion would be the construction by one side or the other of an impenetrable space shield such as the original scheme for SDI, which is now almost universally condemned by qualified experts as a useless waste of money.

Even making land-based nuclear missiles comparatively safe by their becoming mobile or by instituting some form of local ABM for them and for aircraft would, apart from being hideously expensive, not make much sense since a first strike by the adversary is out of the question. It is true that there have recently been some advances in ASW (anti-submarine warfare) but the day when it will be possible to sink all the adversary's missile-carrying submarines at one fell swoop, which would obviously be necessary, should it ever come, is still very far away.

Nevertheless, it seems from all the official information I have read, including the brief for the President by the new chief of the National Security Council, Mr. Brent Scowcroft, that US policy is now based on the assumption that such a war may have to be fought if only for the reason that there is still a real possibility, or "danger", of a Soviet first strike against the United States. To guard against that, all three parts of the famous Triad, more especially the United States ICBMs, must be protected at enormous extra expense—and that at a moment when it is evident that the still huge American budget deficit will necessitate some reduction rather than an increase in general defence expenditure.

Such a policy flies in the face of all reason, more especially when the cold war is thawing and prospects for some major limitation of nuclear strategic armaments are quite encouraging.

What then should we do? I have made some suggestions, not all of which coincide with the present policy of NATO. However, there is one other suggestion which I should like to make. We should stop bullying the Germans about modernised weapons and rather seek to convince them that their destiny lies, not in trying to act as a sort of mediator between East and West, but in eventually becoming a full member of some sort of political union of Western Europe. However, that would mean a change of heart on the part of Her Majesty's Government and notably on the par: of the Prime Minister.

It must be admitted that, even if present tension is reduced by the limitation of the existing absurd superabundance of nuclear weapons together with some rectification of the present gross imbalance between Eastern and Western conventional forces, which perhaps need not be total, there may well still be a certain continuing tension between the United States, and indeed the United Kingdom and France, and the Soviet Union. That is more likely if all continue to be nuclear powers, which, pending some world disarmament agreement, we must unfortunately regard as probable.

In the coming years, it may be that all this will be modified by the probable emergence as world powers of China, perhaps in alliance with Japan, and perhaps even India, and a consequent change in the whole sytem of Great Power relationships. We need not fear such developments. A third world war is much less likely than Great Power co-operation to avoid some impending world ecological disaster.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Thomas of Gwydir

My Lords, I join with other noble Lords who have thanked my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel for initiating the debate. Having served under him for some time in the Foreign Office, 25 or more years ago, and having been a ministerial colleague of his when he later returned to the Foreign Office, I endorse with enormous enthusiasm what was said by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter about his experience and quality, which were borne out by his speech today.

Understandably, every noble Lord who has so far spoken has referred to the remarkable changes which have taken place in the past three or four years under Mr. Gorbachev in the policies and attitude of the Soviet Union towards the West. Apart from the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, every speaker has referred to those changes in somewhat complimentary terms. The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, described them as being of historical significance. He also said that they involved the most significant events since the war. I agree with him. I much appreciated his speech. In many ways I should like to follow him.

Since 1985, Mr. Gorbachev has firmly and publicly rejected many of the old dogmas of Soviet domestic and foreign policy. At home in the Soviet Union, reform policies for major internal changes—economic, social and political—have been proposed and pursued. At Oxford last October when he gave the Cyril Foster lecture, my right honourable and learned friend the Foreign Secretary referred to those changes. He was endorsed today by my noble friend Lord Pym. My noble and learned friend said: These changes have been brought about because Gorbachev recognised that the domestic and foreign policies of his predecessors had failed, and the impulse to change is not out of idealism but out of stark necessity". We could agree with that, but we should not allow it to detract from the importance of those changes or the widespread public welcome that is given to them. The immediate worry for Mr. Gorbachev at home is the growing gap between expectations and performance. There is no doubt that he is facing extremely difficult internal problems—indeed crises—but he appears to surmount them with great political dexterity.

As has been mentioned earlier, Sir Bryan Cartledge, our ambassador in Moscow, told the Foreign Affairs Select Committee of the other place that so far as he could see Mr. Gorbachev would be hard to dislodge. He expressed the view that there was no obvious successor. The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, supported by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, expressed the view that the changes that have taken place in Moscow are not irreversible. I thought that that was a pessimistic view. The half-way mark, which has been referred to, with regard to the irreversibility of Mr. Gorbachev's reform policies has now been passed. It would require a major, at present unforeseeable political upheaval within the Soviet Union, to change them. They amount to the most encouraging development in Soviet policy since 1917.

In four short years, Mr. Gorbachev has made a greater contribution to the relaxation of international tension than any other foreign leader this century. Things are moving fast. Over the past few months, the Soviets have demonstrated rapid changes. They confront NATO with a serious challenge. They include several announcements about unilateral cuts in Soviet and East European armed forces; details of Soviet withdrawals of forces from the GDR, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, and proposed cuts in Polish, Bulgarian and Czechoslovakian forces and defence budgets. The Soviets have also published data on the Warsaw Pact armed forces and given an assessment of the East/West balance.

It is a matter of interest that when we in the West were worrying as we did, about the imbalance in conventional weapons, NATO used to say that its estimate was that the Warsaw Pact countries had 51,500 tanks. The Soviet Union, in its recent data which it has given to the West, has given the figure as 59,470. That was a candour which was not only unexpected and surprising, it was one that caused not a little embarrassment.

There are real and important changes in Soviet behaviour. They should not be dismissed, or belittled, as, I regret to say, the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, appeared to do. The Soviet Union is now advocating concepts, once foreign to it, but dear to the heart of the West—concepts of parity, verification, sufficiency and other similar ones.

Those cuts and promises of cuts, and the Soviet Union's restructuring ideas of changing defence industries into consumer industries must be acknowledged, as the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, did, as significant changes; and NATO must make the most of them.

It is right of course, as noble Lords have said, that one should be prudent and cautious and one should probe. It is right, for instance, that the West should ask questions such as: what is the defence budget that the Soviet Union claims to be cutting by 14.2 per cent.; what is the submarine procurement; what are the full details of the chemical weapons? All those questions need to be asked; but the public, in our free democratic West, is not impressed by extreme caution or grudging responses. It welcomes the new thinking and the obvious relaxation of tension. That is NATO's problem. A typical example, which was referred to by the noble Lords, Lord Cledwyn, Lord Mayhew and Lord Gladwyn, and my noble friend Lord Trefgarne, is the proposal to modernise the LANCE short-range nuclear missile.

We must not ignore the fact that that poses a major political problem for the West German Government, especially in the run up to the forthcoming elections. Recent opinion polls referred to in The Times show that 83 per cent. of West Germans trust Mr. Gorbachev, and only one in four perceives any threat from the Soviet Union.

As has been mentioned, Chancellor Kohl, supported by the Belgian Prime Minister and others, would like to see a decision on modernisation postponed until 1991–92. There are obvious difficulties about that for, although a modernised replacement for Lance does not need to be operational for several years, if it is ever to be effective research cannot be shelved. But nevertheless this is an issue which arouses considerable concern in Germany and it is one which requires handling with great sensitivity. I was relieved to hear my noble friend Lord Trefgarne say that within the conflicting views in the Western alliance there is a great deal of common ground. I think that his view is that the issue is a manageable one and I certainly hope so.

The new relationship between East and West is a challenging one. The new thinking of the Soviet Union demands new thinking and readjustment on the part of the alliance. The Motion calls attention to the importance of preserving the unity of the Western Alliance. It is of paramount importance. The unity of that alliance, which has preserved so many of our common interests over the years, is as vital today as ever. I am sure that in the lead up to the forthcoming crucial NATO summit Her Majesty's Government will do all they can to ensure that that unity is firmly preserved.

5.40 p.m.

Lord Paget of Northampton

My Lords, I apologise for some voice trouble but I shall try to be very short as some compensation. At the beginning of his speech the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, said that it is our efforts which for 40 years have guarded our security. Does he really believe that? Do his fellow Ministers really believe it? Will he not pay any tribute to Dame Fortune? Have we not been wonderfully lucky?

My mind goes back very much to the Lisbon conference which met as a consequence of the siege of Berlin to discover how we could meet this formidable threat by the Russians under arms in Europe. I remember the advice which was then given to us unanimously by the chiefs of staff: "The divisions have got at least to be doubled". The operational air force must be increased by at least two thirds, and, much more important still, our forces had to be placed and moved to positions in which they would be able to fight if attacked. They were then, and they still are, placed in fact by Herr Hitler who in his rearmament of Germany arranged the only available barracks for them to live in. The result is that for 40 years we have been and still are further from our deployment positions than the Russians who face us.

The deployment advised by the chiefs of staff was that NATO forces should be drawn back behind the Rhine and kept there so that they would be in a position to move after the Russians had disclosed their lines of advance, as they were quite incapable of defending themselves in their forward positions. We totally ignored the whole of the recommendations of the chiefs of staff. Not one of them did we obey or carry out. We did nothing and we got away with it. We have gone on doing nothing and we have gone on getting away with it. I think it is perhaps historically true that, whether it be a man or a nation, if one goes on being lucky long enough, one's luck must be ascribed to one's wisdom. I think that is the best way in which our Government can put their case. I think that we must acknowledge that we have been astonishingly lucky.

However, what really has given us this luck? It is a very serious proposition and one which I have not heard stated before. The simple fact is that even the dumbest of the Russian leaders, men like Mr. Brezhnev, have realised that it would not pay them to destroy NATO, or to march across NATO. They would only get to the Atlantic Ocean and then they would be marooned. They would not be able to get across; they would be facing the Americans who would be able to get across. With complete control of the sea the Americans would be able to hit them anywhere. It would not pay the Russians to come, so they did not come. But that was not within our calculations; it was within our luck.

I want to say again—and I have promised to be very short—something on deterrence. I remember going to Los Angeles where the Americans were carrying out their strategic study examination and taking part in their examination of the level of nuclear attack necessary to destroy the major powers. I remember our ration as 11 medium nuclear bombs and in the decision of the conference that would reduce us to a position in which our intercommunications, domestic communications, would be so wrecked that we would be quite unable to act as a belligerent power. That was a testament for overlooking; that was what we were facing.

I think that the Russians have no fewer than 250 nuclear bombs which they can place absolutely anywhere on our map without resistance. It is a position in which, if anybody can ever be deterred, we are duly deterred. But deterrence has certain very formal rules. One of those rules is flatly this: the weaker must always give way to the stronger. It is not a game of poker which one can play; one has to give way. That applies all the way down the scale. It is not only we, who are perhaps a middle flea, who have to give way. There are many who must give way to us; particularly among those I mention the Ayatollah and Colonel Gaddafi. They are just as helpless before us as we would be in front of the Russians, if they came. In these days of terrorism, the little fleas are the terrorists. If we are to assert our power in a deterrence society it is necessary that people should see it used.

It is no use having a deterrent if one's only method is to run round saying that one would never dream of using it. That does not deter. The Ayatollah lives in a religious sector which is very largely inhabited by priests, and is segregated. The very smallest nuclear weapon would have an astonishing effect in that district. If one wanted to deter, one could have that district in one's pocket.

I think that the former President of America gave us a very good example of how to deter Colonel Gaddafi. He said, "Get on with it, and make it quite clear that our deterrent weapons are not to deter people who can so effectively deter us; they are to deter people who cannot deter us".

I shall now say a few words about South Africa. After all, she is our natural ally, who alone came across the oceans on two occasions when we were in need and fought beside us. I feel that duties in the great African world come in this order. The first duty is to feed one's people. Of the African nations, only one has achieved that object, and that is South Africa. Every other African nation has had famine problems during the past 10 years. The second most important duty is to provide one's people with employment. South Africa alone has provided full employment for her people, including her coloured people.

Finally, the third most important duty is to provide order. Until the really mischievous intervention to stir up trouble under an anti-apartheid label was operated, South Africa kept admirable order. For us to proceed to search round to make life difficult for the South Africans and talk about—I have forgotten the word, but it does not much matter—what we are going to do to the South Africans, which our Prime Minister so wisely denounced as nonsense—

Noble Lords


Lord Paget of Northampton

My Lords, I said I would be brief and brief I have been.

5.53 p.m.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, I shall not follow at this hour the agreeable flights of fancy of the noble Lord, Lord Paget of Northampton, because we have been summoned by the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, to discuss a very important subject. I, like others, am deeply grateful to him. My gratitude is tempered by the fact that I think none of us—I do not hope to remedy the omission—has been able to give a concrete set of recommendations by which the Atlantic alliance can establish and maintain its unity of action in a situation which, unlike many others who have spoken in this debate, I regard not as one of hope but as perhaps one of the gravest crises we have faced over the period in which NATO has existed.

Change, and rapid change, in an international situation is bound to confront any individual country with the need to think or rethink its position. Some people feel, for instance, that the United States is taking a very long time about doing even that. We still do not know the pattern of thinking of the new American administration. But, if it is difficult for a single country, it must be much more difficult for what is not merely an alliance but a very unusual alliance in the extraordinary discrepancy between the position and the power of its components. That reveals itself, in turn, in their different reactions to what is going on.

I find what has been said about the changes in the Soviet Union, which are obviously central to our concerns, again somewhat disturbing. It is my view, and I have stated it before, that nothing would be better for Europe or for the world than for the Russian people to take their place again among the nations of Europe to which in past centuries they contributed so much in various fields of culture, above all in literature and in music. The separation of the Russian people from the destiny of the rest of Europe remains the major catastrophe of the deplorable events of 1917 and 1918. However, I do not feel, much as I would hope that this would come about, that the reunion of Russia with Europe has been much accelerated yet by what has gone on or is going on in the Soviet Union.

Things go through one's head as one tries to look at these grave issues. A rather familiar old song has been going through my head which runs like this: "Mother, may I go down to bathe? Yes, my darling daughter, hang your clothes on the hickory bush but don't go near the water". Hanging one's clothes on a hickory bush is quite a good expression of glasnost. We have had a good deal of that. However, Mr. Gorbachev has so far not only kept away from the water, if we regard perestroika and making real changes as the water, but has built up for himself a series of barriers which make it impossible for him to succeed in any of his proclaimed objectives.

As other noble Lords have said, the main purpose of any Soviet ruler should be to raise the standard of living by major economic reforms. If we take the economic objective he has handicapped himself from the beginning by saying that any changes must be within the framework of socialism. But socialism as interpreted in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, whatever its interpretations may be in the West, simply means a centrally directed and controlled economy with the public ownership of all the major factors of production. That in itself is the explanation of Soviet difficulties. If that has to be adhered to, only on the fringes can much improvement be made. Khrushchev tried to give more incentives to managers to undertake a bit of decentralisation here and there, but we have already seen that in the agricultural sector there has been a fairly considerable retreat from the original hope of reviving a peasant economy. After all, people test their standard of living by the food that they can purchase.

The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, and others referred to political reform. If we consider political reform, we can see that its object is to bring into play both new ideas and new personalities as the bearers of these ideas. If one says from the beginning that whatever happens in terms of political change the Communist Party must retain its pre-eminent position, and if one says as Mr. Gorbachev has said on at least one occasion, that talk of a plurality of parties in the Soviet Union is nonsense, then there is a barrier between what he professes to wish and what many people in the Soviet Union might wish to see and the possibility of attaining that goal.

Thirdly—and this point was referred to by several noble Lords—there is the important question of nationalities. Do we visualise threats to the system of central control by the Russians (who make up not much more than half the population) of a variety of other nations, the growth of whose self-consciousness appears to have been much accelerated by glasnost itself? It is clear that in the Baltic and in the Caucasus, and tomorrow perhaps in even more vital and less peripheral parts of the Soviet Union, that question is being asked. Those of us who have seen nationalist movements and their repercussions in other parts of the globe can well understand the anxieties which those movements present.

Again there appears to be no solution which can be proposed to those nationalities other than the acceptance of their previous subordination. People are sent to try to disentangle local situations, but it is clear that the map of the Soviet Union—even the boundaries of the republics as they were set over 60 years ago—must be taken for granted. I do not say that anyone could necessarily do better. We know ourselves from experience in other parts of the world that as soon as one nationality claims its rights, a smaller nationality, perhaps embodied within the same territory, will claim its own rights in return. There is no definite and finite point to what can become a self-conscious national cause.

In any event, no one can say that what we see in the Soviet Union—and still less in Eastern Europe where in some cases change has been even more rapid than in the Soviet Union, as the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, said, and in others much slower—is a period of stability. No one can say that there is a clear line ahead which the Soviet Government are likely to be able to follow and which will not present us at some point with the need to make up our minds rapidly as to how to react.

Whether or not Mr. Gorbachev remains in power is an interesting question, but I agree with those who deplore futurology. However, that is not the most interesting question. That question concerns the likely repercussions of those major internal problems upon external affairs. How far is it likely that the military, who have been less touched by change and whose support is even more required in the light of national disturbances, will come to play a role in Soviet society which has long been feared by some students of the Russian revolution and its consequences?

Therefore it is perhaps not surprising that when we look at the panoply of Soviet external actions there is a balance. There are hopeful signs, to which noble Lords have rightly referred: Angola and Afghanistan. But there is also the fact that the Soviet Union is quite unabashed in supplying lethal weapons to the two countries which are generally recognised in the West as the major supporters of international terrorism, namely Libya and Syria. It is hard to believe that a country whose main objective was to win the good will of the West would choose to support the military strength of those two countries.

It may or may not be that the visit to Cuba by Mr. Gorbachev was intended to rein in Soviet communist penetration into Latin America. It is too soon to say. Certainly the fact that, in a tight schedule, three days were spent in Cuba suggests an importance attached to an overseas satellite which makes one wonder what the purpose might be.

Several people have referred to a "sea change" in the Soviet Union. The major sea change is the growth of the Soviet navy. That is a sea change. Evidence of that was provided by the unfortunate accident off the coast of Norway not so long ago. One has therefore to ask how far is the military getting concessions in return for the possibility of budgetary reductions to assist economic betterment at home.

However, I believe that those considerations are secondary to the main problem which we face, which has been referred to. That problem is a changed or differential picture of the Soviet Union, and changes in Europe and the nature of the problems and threats it presents in different countries. After all, we now have to cope with the views and beliefs of a generation which has grown up under the total protection of NATO and which cannot remember a period before NATO existed. It is not surprising that in countries which have military conscription, which have large forces concentrated in them or exercising noisily in their skies, people should say surely we can now get rid of those forces. Those views can be encouraged and exploited by people who do not have the same idealistic or youthful motives for taking a critical view of NATO but who believe that there is profit to be made out of it. There may be, and has been to some extent, an effort by various countries to say that that would provide their industries with new opportunities.

Among the many political errors of Maynard Keynes was his suggestion that after the First World War everything would be all right if the Germans were allowed to exploit the material resources of Russia. I do not believe that that view—which was taken up in rather different circumstances by Hitler, who was not a member of the Bloomsbury group—is a safe one for the world to take. If Russia is to achieve any kind of progress it is important that we should find ways of co-operating technically and economically. But it would be a grave danger if that were done competitively and if the Germans were to believe that it could also bring about national reunification.

In my view, we in the alliance therefore face grave problems in the understanding of the situation and the communication of that understanding to those who represent us, and in finding institutions, or a renewal of existing institutions, that would make certain the two things on which all of us have been agreed in this debate: namely, retaining the consistent interest of the United States in our defence and retaining our confidence in each other.

6.10 p.m.

Lord Greenhill of Harrow

My Lords, after the contributions of so many influential and experienced speakers, it is difficult to make a constructive contribution to the debate at this stage in the afternoon, but I should like briefly to try to do so.

I believe that it would be difficult for any reasonable person, particularly someone who has lived through the past 50 years, to disagree with the basic proposition that the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, with unrivalled authority and characteristic timeliness, has put before the House. But we are all agreed that it is no longer right for the alliance to stand pat on its present positions. It is time for changes.

It is impossible to dispute that there is a new international situation which has arisen with dramatic suddenness from events in the Soviet Union and in Eastern and Central Europe. Few doubted that it would have to come, but few expected it to come so quickly and to be presented so persuasively by a Soviet leader who seems to be a natural member of the Western world, unlike some of his predecessors. That new situation holds out a promise of a relaxation of political tension and a consequent change in military stance. I use the word "stance" deliberately because I mean not only the numbers of weapons, but the positioning of troops in the continent of Europe. How far that new international situation will develop remains to be seen, but it has already developed in a way that makes it sensible, and indeed urgent, to consider a reassessment of the defence requirements of the alliance.

There is a case for saying, "Let's wait and see a little bit longer", but I believe that that attitude is wrong. Mr. Gorbachev claims that developments are irreversible. Some aspects certainly are, and to restore the status quo in the republics of the Soviet empire and in Poland and Hungary is clearly beyond the power of the old style Communist Party. However, the Berlin wall is still there, the KGB still operates domestically and overseas, and excessive armed forces remain virtually intact. The promised reductions lie largely in the future. Old fashioned communists still hold influential posts and, as the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, pointed out, the constitution is not much modified.

Nevertheless, it seems likely to me that a new military stance between the East and the West can eventually be assumed at a much lower level in men and machines than at present. In those circumstances, it is imperative, but not impossible, that the Atlantic allies reach an agreed position among themselves. I think that one or two noble Lords have exaggerated the difficulty of doing that, but the allies should seek it and I believe that they will achieve it. Then they should explore, with our potential enemies—if that is the right word—how far mutual defence adjustments can be made both in Europe and in the Far East. That is a formidable task, but I do not think that there is any need to hesitate. I hope that the allies will agree to set the pace in those negotiations. The pace should be cautious and our negotiators wary, but agreement sincerely sought to achieve a new military balance should be possible.

As the Prime Minister has rightly said, nuclear weapons cannot be disinvented. The justification for their retention in some form is reinforced by their increasing availability not only to the great powers, but to several countries and groups of people with whom it is not impossible to imagine confrontation. A significant reduction need not nullify their deterrent effect. Who can foretell what may happen over the next 50 years? Who foretold what has happened over the past 40 years? The history of chemical weapons is relevant in this respect. They were not used, but were held in reserve for more than 70 years. I believe that their abolition should be sought, but may not be possible. Nuclear weapons should not be abandoned before the chemical weapons problem has been settled much more effectively than at present.

If we are to succeed in the suggested negotiations, it requires a mammoth intellectual and diplomatic effort, greater than has been made at any time since the war. Exactly what can and should be sought will become apparent in the course of negotiations. Much responsibility depends on the experts and those who have knowledge of future scientific possibilities. This country played an honourable part in drawing up the peace settlements after the last war, in creating the United Nations and in encouraging trade and financial organisations to tackle global problems. I believe that we are well equipped to play a role as new opportunities open up following a relaxation of international tension, but the changes in the make-up of our national security cannot be made without public support. Disarmament and force reductions are an extremely complex and technical matter. Few understand them in all their ramifications, but a greater effort must be made to explain their aspects to the general public. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Pym, made that point.

There is no reason why that explanation cannot be made on a bi-partisan basis. Chatham House and the Institute for Strategic Studies do great work. The Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office have been more explicit than in the past, but there is room for much greater effort in the quality press and on television to give information to the public, who must be helped to understand those difficult questions. Unless the public can be more widely informed, progress will inevitably be hesitant. The British public's instincts in defence matters are usually sound but, understandably, people are susceptible to plausible offers from the East which have the attractions of surprise and novelty.

The final point that I wish to make concerns the cost of defence. Nobody who has listened to debates in this House over the past year can fail to have been haunted by the constant call for more resources for health, education, research, industrial developments, infrastructure and so on. Huge sums of money and some of our best brains and talents are absorbed by the demands of defence. We urgently need to apply these material and human resources to our industries, social services and civilian research. We must take no risks with our defence capability but we must be alert for the opportunity to free money and brains from defence demands and enable them to be used to raise our own standard of living and make this country more agreeable and safer to live in.

6.20 p.m.

Lord Reay

My Lords, I should like to follow other noble Lords in thanking my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel for bringing this subject to the House for debate today and for the balanced and immensely authoritative speech with which he introduced it.

It seems to me that today we have as much need as we have ever had of a strong NATO, complete with the commitment of the United States to the defence of Europe and a policy of nuclear deterrence. For one thing, so far as developments in Soviet policy are concerned there are too many uncertainties, contradictions and even crises in the making. President Gorbachev has led us to believe that he has withdrawn from the sponsorship of world revolution. The era of aggressive ideological conflict is over, he implies. But in that case why does Cuba apparently continue to receive an annual subsidy which has been estimated at between 6 billion dollars and 8 billion dollars, which enables it to foment trouble and revolution abroad and continue to practise repression at home?

Why indeed have substantial steps not already been taken to dismantle the immense military machine which is perpetually poised, if called on, to invade Western Europe. Where is the reorganisation of forces for defensive purposes which President Gorbachev promised us? Unilateral cuts which still leave the Soviet Union with a vast preponderance of conventional forces hardly fit the description of a move to defensive defence. In Eastern Europe we are witness to what is, if anything, an even more startling contradiction. There the satellite countries are currently being allowed to choose their own way of responding to President Gorbachev's reformation. Apparently they may try to keep their populations immune from and even ignorant of what is happening in the Soviet Union.

Alternatively, if they choose they are being permitted to career at ever increasing speed along the road to democracy, with no evident heed being paid to what happens when this rolling stone runs up against the rock of membership of the Warsaw Pact and the obligation that that is deemed to entail towards the Soviet Union. Perhaps that is another of the barriers which my noble friend Lord Beloff has listed—barriers that President Gorbachev has erected or reinforced against himself or at least has done nothing to weaken and which stand in his way. In the Soviet Union itself we see everywhere perestroika stimulating an awakening of nationalism. Evidently it is not doing as much for the economy. The revelation a few days ago by the Soviet Trade Minister to the effect that the Soviet Union had just made an additional purchase of something up to 8 billion dollars' worth of razor blades and other consumer necessities was a depressing indication of a need to resort to economically unhelpful measures to buy time with the general public. For as long as there is such a gap between the announcement of what is intended and the facts that should follow and for as long as there are such unresolved contradictions, whatever the explanations, NATO should surely keep itself up to the mark.

As my noble friend Lord Pym pointed out, after all it was Western rearmament in the Reagan years that proved to the Soviet Union that it would have to change if it were to be able to keep up with the West in the long-term. Any weakening of NATO's resolve and commitment therefore does not help Mr. Gorbachev if indeed he sincerely wishes to transform the nature of the relationship between the East and West. It hinders him. It is Western weakness which is a provocation to the spirit of military adventure in the Soviet Union, not Western strength. It is only by maintaining NATO's strength that the Soviet Union can be convinced that the military struggle must be abandoned. I therefore regret that, owing to the recent backing-off from unpopular measures on defence by the West German Government, NATO is now being forced to postpone a commitment to proceed to modernise short-range nuclear weapons.

I suggest that it is essential that Europe is not denuclearised for the sake of the credibility of NATO's deterrence and for the maintenance of United States' troops in Europe. I suggest that NATO's leaders, including the Government of this country, should seek to persuade the German people that they are wrong to believe that they will be more secure without nuclear weapons and without the American commitment to defend Europe. Today the Germans enjoy unparalleled prosperity, which would be put at risk if they seek to banish from sight all reminders of their vulnerability— low flying aircraft, tanks at exercise, soldiers in uniform—and to embrace prematurely the vision, which they think they see dangled before them, of peace and prosperity guaranteed by President Gorbachev.

Therefore it follows that there should be no negotiation with President Gorbachev on short-range nuclear weapons, notwithstanding numerical American superiority in this class, at least until Mr. Gorbachev abandons his aim to achieve a nuclear-free Europe. Mr. Gorbachev will not be encouraged to abandon this aim unless NATO itself keeps faith with it. I also think that it is unrealistic to expect NATO to offer further conventional force reductions below the cuts of 5 per cent. to 10 per cent. in its own forces which NATO already proposed the day after President Gorbachev made his announcement of his intended unilateral cuts. Any further cuts would jeopardise the strategy of NATO's forward defence.

Forward defence implies a commitment to defend equally the territory of all member states of the alliance. Any switch away from this policy would be a most serious matter involving all members of the alliance and could not possibly be changed from one day to the next. I believe that it is also important that economic aid in whatever form should not be lavishly made available without a reasonable belief that it will be well spent. I agree with the remarks of President Bush in his speech in Michigan on Monday, when announcing new loans to Poland. He said: We will not offer aid without requiring sound economic practices in return … Help from the West will come in concert with liberalisation". So Western aid should be made available, first, to assist in the introduction of the market economy if this opportunity is given, and, secondly, to help cushion the blow of price rises to the consumer while that process is taking place. Aid on the wrong terms is surely worse than no aid at all.

It is not, I believe, a coincidence that the most obdurate and dangerous member of the Warsaw Pact is East Germany, whose economy has been massively supported for so little thanks by the Federal Republic of Germany, whose feelings of guilt are skilfully played on, and through West Germany by the European Community as a whole. So to me it seems that the message to NATO is that we need more of the same. The battle to maintain theatre nuclear weapons must continue. We are like opposing armies encamped opposite each other in the night. In the obscurity we can see that upheavals are taking place in the enemy camp. In the morning the enemy may have decamped, or it may still be there. As the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, put it in his most attractive speech, the decisions taken are reversible. Our duty is to remain alert while we sit it out. Nothing will be improved. Much will be put at risk if we fail to do so.

6.30 p.m.

Baroness Strange

My Lords, like all noble Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Home not only for initiating this debate but for giving us the treat of such a splendid speech. Among such illustrious company, and coming after so many statesmanlike and brilliant speeches, I feel like an undistinguished domestic cat finding herself opening her mouth among a pride of lions.

Without being too personal, I should hazard a guess that many noble Lords have already begun life having reached the age of 40. This magical age has also been attained by NATO. Forty years ago, on 4th April 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was born. It was four years after the end of the war. The dread bogey of Nazi Germany had gone. Indeed, how lucky that, unlike the late Lord Shinwell, Herr Schickelgruber did not attain his centenary tomorrow. In 1945 the war was ended; we had won. Our American allies retired over the Atlantic to their ivory skyscrapers leaving us to pick up the pieces. We were, as Eden feared, "alone in the cage with the bear".

The Russians were our allies and friends. Indeed, during the war my noble kinsmen and I had entertained Russian airmen to dinner at our home in Scotland. The noble Lord, Lord Inchyra, once told me how, at the Potsdam Conference in the Cecilienhof he had been given a glass of champagne by Stalin. But the Russian system was based on the communist ideology and all too soon it became apparent how different this was from our own principles of freedom and democracy. However, as in the best fairy stories, there were good fairies about waiting to attend the future birth of NATO. Chief among these was our Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin—the "We, Ernest Bevin" so proudly inscribed on my first passport. Another was the United States Secretary of State, General George Marshall, who in June 1947 initiated Marshall Aid to Europe. But the bear was moving his icy paws of communism across Europe as curtain after curtain clanged shut. In March 1948 Norway joined the good fairies. France, Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg were already assembled round the cradle and by 4th April NATO was born.

That was 40 years ago. Everyone in Western Europe born since then has been brought up under the strength of NATO's sheltering wings. There have been terrible wars all over the world since then but there has been no world war such as we in Europe faced in 1914 and 1939. This is because of the strength of our combined armed forces, because of the constant updating of weapons. NATO's life has been one of deterrence. It has preserved our lives, our homes, our democracy and our freedom.

With glasnost and perestroika there comes, we all hope, a lessening of tension and also a reduction in arms. At the moment the Warsaw Pact countries own 1,400 SS.21 missile launchers compared with NATO's 88 Lance missile launchers. Even the most elementary chess player knows—and the Russians are not that—that is is fatal to exchange pieces on an equal basis while your opponent has a preponderance. At this rate, we would soon be reduced to no missile launchers while the Warsaw Pact still had 1,312.

Until parity is reached, we cannot, much as we should like to, reduce our arms. Nor can we allow them to become obsolete. The Warsaw Pact weapons are constantly updated—indeed, they have been updated in the past five years. Ours have not been updated since 1974. The Soviets also have a large stock of chemical weapons: the British have none. There is still a long way to go.

Forty years of NATO have gained us 40 years of life. As my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary said at the concluding meeting of the Vienna Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe on 19th January, The right to live in peace and security is the most basic human right of all". This is what we are all striving for. This is why on its birthday we wish NATO the most important birthday message of all: "Many peaceful and happy returns of the day".

6.35 p.m.

Lord Kagan

My Lords, just as Gorbachev established perestroika and glasnost as his motto, perhaps we would be well advised to adopt the advice of the noble Earl, Lord Home, to use "positive" and "prudent" as our motto.

The Soviet Union, as we have said before, is an empire. Power is its objective and security and survival are its main concern. The assumption that ideology rules in Moscow is dangerously misleading. Ideology serves the state and is changed and abandoned when it is counterproductive. It is merely a tool. It is not a religion. The party, helped from Lenin onwards, to establish and consolidate the empire. But Marshall Tito cracked the mould. He was the first to deviate. Mao Tse Tung followed and from then onwards the party failed to deliver the cohesion of the empire. The only other pillar of state that remained to do so was the army. Khrushchev realised that; he also realised the consequences of the communist rigid ideology as applied by bureaucracy to industry and the extent to which it weakened the economy. He therefore made the first attempt to hand over to the military from the party. Unfortunately he came across the vested interests, the nomenclature, the privileged hundreds of thousands of people in the Soviet Union, and they brought him down.

Andropov picked up the threat again, but he did not live long enough to pursue it. By the time Gorbachev came to power he learnt from Khrushchev's experience that the army will not willingly and easily obtain power. It will not be handed over to it without opposition and a fight from the party bureaucracy. Therefore the only way in which to establish the army's control in the Soviet Union would be to pull the carpet from underneath the party. That is the explanation for, first, discrediting Brezhnev, then Stalin, then the ideology, and I am sure that before long we shall see even Lenin and Marx discredited. In other words, when history judges Gorbachev from the Soviet or Russian point of view, his big contribution will have been to avoid a bloody confrontation between the established bureaucracy and the army. When the bureaucracy or the communist establishment is totally discredited the army will occupy the vacuum because it is only the army which can endure the cohesion of the Soviet Empire.

Recently in a speech Shevardnaze said that even the broadest river has banks. That was a clear warning how far so-called freedom would be allowed to go. If the purpose of giving freedom is to destabilise, to shake the tree of state there is no evidence to show that democracy is, as we understand it, the ultimate purpose in Russia. In any event, free men are not appointed, they are bred. Russia has a history of 300 years or more of slavery. What Russia will accept quite happily is a dictatorship which it hopes will be benign. The country is against tyranny and arbitrary, whimsical, corrupt government.

We have read recently in the papers about what is going on in the Baltic states: Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. After the 1918 war when Lithuania was established, for a short time it tried to copy the British model of democracy. Very soon afterwards, by 1925, a moderate, benign, firm-handed dictatorship was established which ran the country with the support of the people. The fact is that democracy, unless it is matched with discipline, turns into anarchy. It is not established simply by appointment.

To mistake the Soviet Union as an ideologically guided state is a fundamental mistake. Bolshevism has as much in common with Communism as the Inquisition had with Christianity. It was a most unequal state. It was a most privileged state. Incidentally, it is one of the few states where there is no progressive taxation. There is a 13 per cent. flat tax, if someone earns 1 million roubles or 70 roubles as a worker in the country.

How should one respond now to what the Soviets want? The Russians were always very good at one thing. They knew how to turn necessity into a virtue. It is not because of Mother Teresa's intervention that the Russians have moved out of Afghanistan. It is not a conversion to loving peace. It is a pragmatic move. What has changed fundamentally is that up to the middle 1950s the Soviet Union, or the powers in the Kremlin, still believed that they could go on expanding. But China, with the breakthrough in its relationship with America, became the threat and they went straight away onto the defensive and are still there. They are trying to de-couple Europe from the United States. I am afraid that they will be successful because although the Americans may love us, they do not need us. An offer from the Soviet Union to clear out of the Caribbean and hand over to the Americans undisputed control of South and North America and the Americans will send us Christmas cards, but they will not want to send us 350,000 soldiers or incur the expense of defence of Europe, which in their opinion we can well afford ourselves. They are fed up with Europe sitting on their knees. They want Europe to stand on its own two feet.

A united states of Europe would be a much more powerful economic entity than the United States is with 320 million people. Therefore, what will happen, I believe, is that Gorbachev will offer a division. He will call the Atlantic ocean our border. What is done on the other side will not be interfered with. "Please leave us here. We have no aggressive ambitions now because we cannot afford them. We shall be quite content if we are left in peace to develop our land. We want Europe to help us technologically. We shall be suppliers of raw materials and we shall import technology". That is the Soviet Union's purpose at the moment. Thank you.

6.46 p.m.

Lord Ashbourne

My Lords, I too should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Home, for putting down this Motion and thus giving us the opportunity to discuss the global balance of power, in particular the importance of the western alliance. It is timely, coming just after the successful visit of President Gorbachev to London earlier in the month when the special relationship which he appears to have with the right honourable Member for Finchley was further cemented. Let me say how much I agreed with the weighty and imaginative speech of the noble Lord, Lord Pym.

I intend to detain your Lordships only briefly. I ask noble Lords to focus on three points. First, it is well to remember that, even while President Gorbachev and his wife were in this country on their highly successful visit and we were all talking about glasnost and perestroika, the Soviets were busy selling advanced bombers to Libya. It seems to me that actions speak louder than words. We should not lower our guard one whit unless the Soviets show by their actions that their intentions are indeed peaceful.

Secondly, according to the Leader of the Opposition, President Gorbachev repeated his belief that all nuclear weapons should be abolished by the year 2000. This will appeal to the anti-nuclear lobby, but as the Soviets have an enormous superiority in conventional weapons, there would have to be a major adjustment of conventional forces before the West could possibly agree to such a suggestion. How good it is, I say to myself, to have someone with the grit and vision of the Iron Lady in No. 10 on these occasions.

Finally, I should like to mention one further matter which concerns me. That is the possibility that some third world countries, if they do not already have nuclear and chemical weapons, may acquire them in the reasonably near future, either by making them or, perhaps more likely, by receiving them from a superpower or other third party. As some third world leaders could best be described as unbalanced in some cases and positively evil in others, does this not suggest a highly explosive and unstable balance which can only be overcome by united action to control the proliferation of these lethal weapons?

I should like to end by asking whether the Government have any plans to try to restrict nuclear and chemical weapons from spreading to third world countries.

6.49 p.m.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, we are approaching the end of a most informative and useful debate for which, together with other noble Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Home. I enjoyed his speech, although to begin with I thought that it would not be very good because he kept on throwing morsels to the dinosaurs on his own side. However, by the end his vision and knowledge showed and I thoroughly approved.

Many arguments were put forward by Members from the other side for viewing the whole process with immense suspicion. That is in spite of notable speeches from the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, and my noble friend Lord Gladwyn. I also appreciated the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gwydir. That comment may not do him any good with his own side, but I thought that his speech was admirable.

The arguments appear to be that nothing has changed in Russia or the Soviet Union, that from Peter the Great and Ivan the Terrible there has been no change and that in some respects it is still an evil empire though it had to be admitted that there might be a slight change. I find that to be extraordinary in view of the fact that the changes are apparent to everyone and they are deep and real. Speakers from the government side have admitted that they come from real causes. They come from the fact that the present leadership in Russia and the Soviet Union is deeply dissatisfied with the progress it has made in all kinds of fields, particularly in the economic field. That is also true of its total lack of success against the curiously paranoid policy which was pursued since the end of the war, including the Brezhnev period. The changes are enormous.

The history of the Soviet Union goes from the Trotsky period of world revolution to Stalin's concept of socialism in a country which must be prepared to defend itself against the inevitable war. There was then the peaceful co-existence and now there is a natural progression towards the present common sense being shown by an entirely new race of Russian people led by Mr. Gorbachev.

I do not believe that Mr. Gorbachev is an angel but he is a man of enormous good sense. The changes are real and I believe—and there is good reason for doing so—that they are irreversible. I do not believe that one can introduce such extraordinary measures for people who have lived under an authoritarian regime and ever expect them to return to that regime. If Mr. Gorbachev is ever replaced, it is more likely that he will be replaced by someone more radical than himself than by the return to a dictatorship.

However, it must be agreed that we must be cautious. There is no question that it would be foolish not to preserve the alliance. I wholly agree with the terms of the Motion in that the alliance is essential to the peace of the world and that it has held the peace for 40 years. Although I am a little tired of hearing that phrase, it is perfectly true and the peace must be maintained. In spite of arguments over a number of policies, it is now in good shape.

We must therefore take advantage of the situation which to many people—even to the Government—appears to be moderately promising. However, to other people there appears to be genuine change which we must do our best to pursue and encourage. Almost without exception every speaker from the party opposite has revealed an extraordinary suspicion. It is supposed to be the party of business. However, I find to be extraordinary the fact that, when a competitor with whom one has been in conflict in business for some time and against whom one has taken steps to guard oneself suddenly becomes a person with whom one can do business, one catalogues in public his past mistakes. That has been done by eminent persons in the Government and it is an appalling mistake. One cannot do business with someone if one is constantly reminding them that in the past they were the most frightful crooks. That is being done by certain members of the Government at the present time and the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, was tonight as guilty of that mistake as anyone.

The question of the way in which the alliance approaches the issue is of supreme importance. I agree entirely with anyone who says that and with the mover of the Motion. But I believe that the way to do so is to put honestly the hope that here is a chance for making the world a more peaceful place. One is more likely to obtain public support in doing so rather than in continuing to remind the public of the past of the Soviet Union.

It is evident to many people that the Government are being childish. Today several speakers have said that we should welcome with open arms the proposals of the Soviet Union to back previous proposals of the alliance. Certainly we should not continue to tell the public that we must be suspicious of the Russians. They will not believe that and public opinion polls in Germany and elsewhere show that to be true.

The terms of the Motion are unexceptional. I believe that it is essential towards the progress we wish to make and to the Warsaw Pact that NATO should be held together. Given the desire to advance, the practical proposals made by the West in the Vienna talks will receive a reasonable response from the Soviet Union. I believe that we should reconsider the modernisation of our nuclear short-range weapons. We have time to do so and it is the kind of gesture which may make more possible a genuine reduction on the other side.

I believe that if we in the West tell the people that there is hope and if we genuinely demonstrate to the Russian people that we believe that they wish for peace and that their proposals are reasonable and acceptable, we shall have a chance of obtaining agreement and retaining in power the peace movement in Russia—for that is what it is—instead of fulfilling the fears which are expressed too much from the Benches opposite.

7 P.m.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

My Lords, I should like to join other speakers in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Home, for giving us this timely opportunity to debate this particular subject. I was happy that the noble Lord took the opportunity to measure the chance that has occurred in this area since his previous debates. In presenting his Motion he took the two major questions: what should be the response of the West to the present Soviet policies and can Europe work together to deal with that present position?

The response from other speakers has covered a wide spectrum. I am happy to be following the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, because, as the speeches went on, I myself became worried about the general note of despondency rather than hope that seemed to come out of so many of them. Although the Minister gave a comprehensive speech, I too felt that there was a general note of mistrust in what he said, rather than the mixture of caution and hope that I should have liked to hear from the Government.

In the wide range of thinking that emerged I think everybody might agree that the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, was at one extreme, because he showed a total distrust of the motives of the Soviet leader.

Lord Chalfont

My Lords, would the noble Baroness give way? This is the way that myths are created. I never said that I had a mistrust of the Soviet leadership. What I said was that they had motives of their own and that they might fail. I never used the word "mistrust", nor did I indicate it.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

My Lords, I am glad to hear that from the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. I must have misunderstood him, because I felt that his general tone rather conveyed a sense of unease—I put it no stronger than that—about what the Soviet leadership was doing. I would say that the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, ended his speech on an interesting theme, where I completely agreed with him. He hoped to see the emergence of a pluralist Eastern bloc, and I think that this is what we may well see happening, but perhaps he and I saw a different way for that to come about.

The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, spoke of the crisis that the Soviet reforms are bringing about. That is true, and I agreed with him when he asked how far the Soviet leaders would go in the reassessment of socialism. He felt that economic and political reforms could therefore only happen on the very fringe, which was an important point to make. We then moved towards an interesting speech, which I enjoyed, from the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. He asked how one assessed Mr. Gorbachev's approach. Indeed it is difficult to assess. He said, quite rightly, that both extremes in the way that we look at it and try to assess what he is doing were wrong. I agreed with him when he said that the bonding of Germany and France was central to the Western alliance. I think it would be right to say that we have the founding fathers of the new European Community to thank for that. That is one of the reasons why we see the European Community as such a vital mechanism for peace.

The noble Lords, Lord Pym and Lord Greenhill, both wished to see us in a more positive position vis-à-vis the Soviets, and wished that we should take the lead in defence decisions. They also made the important point that the Government should explain to the electorate the policy that is being pursued and try to enrol our support for what is being done.

The most hopeful of all the speeches that I have heard came from the noble Lord, Lord Thomas. I was happy to hear him say that he felt that the Soviet changes are historic and that they should be encouraged by the West. He believes that the arms reductions are significant and the Gorbachev changes are, in his view, irreversible. I think that perhaps he was the only speaker who was quite certain that they are irreversible.

For my part, perhaps I may make a few brief points. My noble friend Lord Stewart spoke of the examples of the visible changes in East/West relations that we have all seen. That reminded me of the interesting and memorable morning that I spent in the Guildhall a few weeks ago when I heard the Soviet leader speak. I believe that what he said had a great relevance to this debate. I should like to make some comment on how the West is responding to the policies he described in his speech that day.

He told us in simple terms of the progress of perestroika. I remember that it was in his speech last year to the United Nations that he made the necessity of perestroika clear. He said: The world economy is becoming a simple organism and no state, whatever its social system or economic status, can develop normally outside it. I do not think there would be any argument about that. At the Guildhall he said: Perestroika takes time, patience, perseverance and creative effort. We are aware that tests and trials are still ahead for us. We are faced with problems resulting from a lack of political culture and the imperfection of mechanisms that safeguard democracy, and protect it against destructive, anti-social activities. How has the West responded to these new economic policies? There is little doubt that, led by the Prime Minister, we all applaud the Soviet leader for his courage and wish him success in his reforms. But it could be said that there is some disparity between the Government's vocal support for perestroika and what they are doing to help Mr. Gorbachev succeed.

As other noble Lords have done, I should like to mention here the report recently published by the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, many of whose proposals we on these Benches strongly support. One of its recommendations was for the Government to give the Soviet Union the technical expertise it needs to help introduce a market-based economy. It also recommended proposals for enhancing trade with the Eastern bloc, and for supporting Soviet efforts to improve the environment.

The report calls for Britain to exert its voice and influence in the European Community, NATO, and the Western European Union, and in particular within European political co-operation. It adds that we need to use such organisations in order to develop common strategies for security, arms control, and economic and trade agreements. In particular, the report picks out the role of the British Council and the BBC World Service in improving relations and co-operation. That is something we strongly support. It is a thoughtful and important report that has come from the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, and I should be interested to hear from the noble Baroness when she replies the Government's view of the report.

Mr. Gorbachev then moved to the part of his speech that concerned defence. He mentioned the failure of the philosophy of confrontation. He said: reliance on force is a dangerous approach which leads to an impasse [and] the decade of the Cold War has cost too dearly both to East and West. He was at some pains to express his point as strongly as possible.

The response of the West towards the Soviet proposals on defence is as follows. First, it must be said that the response from the White House and its new administration has not been very audible. But the same cannot be said about the response from Britain and her EC partners. The British Prime Minister has made her position clear. While welcoming all that Mr. Gorbachev had to say about the need for arms reduction, she nevertheless wishes the West to keep on its guard. The Prime Minister was impatient for a decision to be made in favour of modernising short-range nuclear weapons even before NATO has assessed the progress of the new round of conventional arms reduction talks in Vienna. The noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, went into that point in great depth.

Since then, as the Minister told us this evening, the Government have relented over requiring an immediate decision. We welcome that postponement, as there is no doubt that this new position is again more in line with what the Foreign Affairs Select Committee wanted; namely, to hold early negotiations and reduce short-range nuclear forces while at the same time seeking success in conventional arms negotiations. The committee stressed the importance of these two processes going on simultaneously.

However, we should note that the Warsaw Pact goes even further and, as Mr. Gorbachev has done, proposes not just a reduction in these systems but their elimination. Indeed, so do the West German Foreign Minister, Mr. Genscher, the SDP opposition in Germany and, indeed, many ordinary Germans who have grown tired of living in a potential nuclear battlefield. The negotiations offered by the pact are not conditional on prior agreement to seek complete abolition but according to the Foreign Affairs Committees' own logic that if enough progress is made in conventional reductions they might head in that direction.

In a debate of this nature about the unity of the Western alliance one cannot put enough emphasis on what is at present happening in Germany. Indeed, it is central to the Western alliance, as the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, said. The fact that the Germans are concerned not only about defence issues but also, most fundamentally, about their own position vis-à-vis the Eastern bloc and, indeed, their own future as a nation surely must lie at the centre of the whole question of the cohesion of the Western alliance. However, there seems to be some reluctance, or lack of haste, to discuss Germany's delicate internal situation and to try to work out alternatives to the present position.

Finally, as my noble friend Lord Cledwyn said, the Labour Party supports strong and effective defence for Britain within NATO but the guidelines within which NATO operates perhaps need looking at and readjusting. We recognise that, while the justifiable doubt about the eventual success of Gorbachev's reforms, and indeed his own survival, persist, the West must remain on its guard. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, said, in the Government's wish to attain a balance between prudence and action there is a danger that they may err towards an excess of prudence. We feel that we have not sufficiently registered the significant change in East-West relations and the sign of hope for peace that this most definitely gives. Even the vocabulary that we sometimes use contains cold war jargon. The Motion before us presupposes that Russian aggression is on the cards. However, when contemplating the problems that the Soviet leader is facing in his own back yard—Armenia, Georgia and Afghanistan—one might well believe that his hands are full for the present.

It would, of course, be naive to assume that there are no threats to world peace, but the West needs to analyse exactly what that threat now is and adjust its policies of the 1960s and 1970s to meet it. Indeed, it is in direct contrast to the Foreign Secretary's sombre reference to the Russian bear in a recent speech. Surely there are opportunities here for East and West to bury old prejudices and the cold war for ever. Mr. Gorbachev and Mrs. Thatcher have both spoken of a common European house. That is an attractive concept, and one from which I believe a great dialogue could ensue. The Soviet leader sees his new order with great clarity and it is worth attention. The time is now right to articulate our vision and proclaim it, too.

7.15 p.m.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, we have had a valuable debate. Your Lordships have raised important points and made contributions based on long experience of the issues. My noble friend Lord Trefgarne has already stated the Government's case and in winding up I shall endeavour to respond to some of the points that have been raised. However, before I do so I should like briefly to refer to the context of NATO and what it has already achieved.

My noble friend Lord Home, in so eloquently opening the debate, and my noble friend Lady Strange, so enjoyably, reminded us that this year is an important anniversary. It is hard for us to remember what Europe was like in 1949: exhausted, discouraged, overshadowed by the menacing military power of the Soviet Union. Its economies were in ruins, its instincts for political co-operation stunned. Yet, within very few years from the signing of the Washington treaty, 40 years and two weeks ago, our vitality had revived; our sense of a common political destiny was firmly established and our common defence was assured. That is no coincidence.

From the beginning NATO was more than just a security arrangement. It provided the means of expression of a common purpose and a common political vision; it established a community of values which—and this is a fundamental point—brought together both the North Americans and the Europeans. It is a tribute, as the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, reminded us, to the enduring success of that community of values, that transatlantic link, that we are debating NATO's unity today after 40 years in which the world has changed dramatically—and we are all agreed that we are seeing important changes. The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, gave us an optimistic picture which was re-emphasised by the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, in his own words, gave us the worst case.

My noble friend Lord Home said at the outset that he was putting these questions to see whether Europe could work together for a prudent response to Mr. Gorbachev's initiative. Most of your Lordships have addressed that point extremely appositely. I think we are all agreed that we must make the most of the new atmosphere. We would be most unwise, however, to plan on the assumption that Gorbachev's changes are not reversible. Much as we all hope that they become permanent, and indeed that they will be further developed, many of your Lordships have referred to the great economic problems facing the Soviet Union. There is the nationalities problem and the long way to go before anything approaching democracy or human rights, as we know them, become permanent features of Soviet society. Of course let us hope for the continuation of reform and help in any way that we can; but the alliance has never based its plans on hope in the past so it would be unwise to do so in the future.

A particularly striking point in Mr. Gorbachev's Guildhall speech and his conversation with the Prime Minister was the emphasis he placed on his continuing commitment to the process of reform. He is clearly under no illusions about the difficulties that lie ahead. I remind the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, that Gorbachev therefore appears, to some extent, to agree with this side of the House. Equally, he is in no doubt that change is essential. It is in all our interests that he should succeed. However, may I also say to the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, that it is not mistrust on the Government's side, it is caution. After all Gorbachev is a man with whom we have done business. In President Reagan's words let us, "trust, but verify".

In this context, perhaps I may say how grateful I am to those, including my noble friends Lord Beloff and Lord Reay, who reminded us of the importance of perestroika in the Warsaw Pact countries and particularly the fact that economic assistance to the Eastern bloc countries must be on right but not soft terms. As my noble friend Lord Trefgarne said earlier, for the alliance the underlying approach of the Harmel Report is as valid today as it was in 1967. I ask my noble friend Lord Pym: if Mr. Gorbachev is beginning to accept Harmel I for adequate defence and dialogue, is it wise for the alliance to try to construct Harmel II? My noble friend Lord Trefgarne also welcomed the Select Committee report on which the noble Baroness asked for a further response. The Government have not yet made their detailed response.

The noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, among others, asked how NATO is responding to the Gorbachev initiative. He also asked whether NATO had the right vision. No multilateral alliance in modern times has kept the peace so effectively and for so long. The prospects for the development of our values, security, freedom and prosperity throughout Europe and across the world are better than they have ever been. NATO has set the agenda. Reasonable sufficiency in defence, now espoused by Mr. Gorbachev, is a Western concept. The INF Treaty resulted from a Eastern proposal. The bases for discussion in the START, chemical and conventional arms control negotiations are all of Western origin. NATO will carry its winning agenda into the 1990s. Its overall aims in security will remain to make military aggression in Europe or North America an option that no government could rationally contemplate or hope successfully to undertake; its aim politically is to guarantee the human rights of every individual and in every state the principles of political and economic freedom of choice without which there can be no genuine and stable peace.

NATO will therefore clearly remain guarantor of our security for the foreseeable future. But there is no immutable logic which decrees that the balance between American and European obligations should never change. As Europe grows comparatively richer it seems likely that the future balance will shift towards a more Eurocentric structure. As the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said we should not be seduced by the concept of the common European home. We agree on the importance of the United States' commitment and the need to remain on the alert so that the alliance is not weakened, as my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter enjoined us. It is Western Europe, and in particular the EC, that has constructed the most successful common structure in Europe.

It is some of those countries who are most eloquent about Europe's vocation in defence which are nevertheless those whose forces will soon be affected by what is euphemistically known as structural disarmament. If the trend of static or declining defence spending is not reversed, that static structural disarmament will take place. In this context, I take note of what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow, concerning the cost of defence. Can a coherent European defence be plausibly advocated by countries which do not participate in the alliance's integrated command arrangements? Governments will also need to provide a procurement framework in which genuinely competitive forms can thrive and prosper. We must try to bring down the barriers and restrictive practices within and throughout Europe.

A number of your Lordships addressed themselves to the question of deterrence. Though my noble friend Lord Trefgarne dealt with this earlier, all 16 NATO allies agree that for the foreseeable future there is no alternative to the alliance strategy of deterrence based on an appropriate mix of effective and up-to-date nuclear and conventional forces, only the nuclear element of which can confront a potential aggressor with an unacceptable risk. My noble friend Lord Home said that defence is a business we must all be in. We must therefore be up to date. As my noble friend Lord Trefgarne made clear, there is much common ground in the alliance on the question of modernisation. We and Germany are opposed to the elimination of short-range missiles. We agree that the present missile, Lance, will become obsolete in the mid-1990s. The question is really one of timing of the necesary decisions. I emphasise to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, the deterrent as opposed to the war-fighting role which some believe that the present short-range nuclear systems have.

The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, suggested that a flexible response strategy was no longer credible. On this matter I disagree and so does every alliance government, not least that of the United States, which would surely be unlikely to keep its troops in Europe if, as the noble Lord suggested, all theatre nuclear weapons were to be negotiated away. My noble friend, Lord Ashbourne raised a specific question as regards the Government's plans to restrict the spread of chemical and nuclear weapons to third world countries. The answer is yes, we do have a plan. We are working with a number of Western countries to control the spread of missile technology and of nuclear and chemical weapons. We take all these issues very seriously.

The noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, also asked a specific question concerning the verification of chemical weapons and whether we are nearer any solution. In that respect there are still complex problems to overcome. However, the Government are active in the work of verification in Geneva and will continue to be so. To continue to apply its successful formula, NATO will need to be able to continue to rely on the support of public opinion in its member countries. Again, I believe it was the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow, who asked that more effort should be made to explain NATO policies to the public. That is why debates of this kind are important because they help to make clear that NATO still has a role as it approaches the period which in human terms would be called middle age. I hope there is nobody in your Lordships' House today who is in any doubt that NATO still has work to do and an essential role to play, and perhaps we may even say that life does begin at 40.

7.28 p.m.

Lord Home of the Hirsel

My Lords, events have conspired to ensure that this debate is topical. I am very grateful to your Lordships who have taken advantage of it and who have made so many very informative and interesting speeches. In particular perhaps I may say how happy I was that the Leader of the Opposition, the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, felt able to take part. One can sum up the debate by saying that it has revealed a strong wish for the continuance of NATO as an effective alliance. That has been combined with the desire that the Western democracies should be able carefully and with prudence to adapt themselves to change. I hope that the ideas that have come up in the course of the afternoon are helpful to the Government. With that, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.